The Lizard (1972)

thelizard_1The Lizard [壁虎] (1972)

Starring Yueh Hua, Connie Chan Po-Chu, Lo Lieh, Yeung Chi-Hing, Goo Man-Chung, Lydia Shum, Cheng Kang-Yeh, Chan Ho, Ou-Yang Sha-Fei, Wu Ma, Choi Yuen-Ping, Ma Chien-Tang, Chung Wa

Directed by Chor Yuen

Expectations: Moderate.

threestar


Director Chor Yuen’s previous film in this review series was the multi-genre masterpiece Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, and with The Lizard he applies the same principles to different genres. The Lizard is a simple film on the surface, but once it gets rolling it reveals itself as a fairly dense hybrid film, mainly mashing kung fu together with comedy. There were Shaw Bros martial arts films that had some laughs prior to this, but none that go directly for the laughs throughout like The Lizard. So, at least in terms of the Shaw output, this is most likely the first attempt at a true kung fu comedy.

For this alone, The Lizard is notable and actually kind of subversive for its day; as Chang Cheh was pushing the martial arts genre forward into dramatic, male-dominated bashers with each subsequent film, Chor Yuen dared to go in a completely different direction. The Lizard takes a well-worn wuxia storyline (the tale of a Robin Hood-like masked figure) and transports it to the modern era. Chor Yuen then adds a couple tablespoons of romance, a pinch of thriller, a dollop of the casino film (actually outright stealing the ability to accurately hear dice rolling from The Casino‘s main character, who was also played by Yueh Hua), and a few sprinkles of wuxia so that his characters can leap around the wonderfully constructed Shaw Bros. sets.

Continue reading The Lizard (1972) →

The Cannonball Run (1981)

cannonballrun_1Starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Elam, Adrienne Barbeau, Terry Bradshaw, Jackie Chan, Michael Hui, Bert Convy, Jamie Farr

Directed by Hal Needham

Expectations: Moderate.

twostar


I haven’t seen The Cannonball Run since I was about five or six years old, and I remember it being hilarious. As you might imagine, a person’s sense of humor changes a bit after 25 or so years, so I unfortunately can’t list The Cannonball Run as a film that holds up very well. On top of that, I’m watching the film as part of my Jackie Chan series, which is not the best way to approach this film AT ALL. Jackie probably has less than five minutes total screentime throughout the film, and every one of his short appearances is heralded with the most stereotypical Asian music imaginable. He’s also supposed to be Japanese in the film, even though Chan and his co-driver Michael Hui (also a huge star in Hong Kong at the time) clearly speak their native Chinese throughout. Sigh.

But I should try to focus on the bulk of The Cannonball Run instead of Jackie’s glorified, dumb cameo. The story here is as loose as the pants that Jared from Subway used to wear. There’s a cross-country race called the Cannonball Run, and all kinds of drivers show up to take part in it. That’s it. I don’t recall there being a prize to be had (other than side bets and bragging rights), and there’s no actual plot running alongside the race. The Cannonball Run is just that, a wacky race across country. Also the race doesn’t really matter, it’s just a means to put crazy characters into crazy situations along the way. There’s never any tension or sense of time as the race is on; it’s all freewheelin’ fun!

Continue reading The Cannonball Run (1981) →

Stephen reviews: New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning (1996)

summersbeginning_1New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning [新きまぐれオレンジ☆ロード ~ そして、あの夏のはじまり Shin Kimagure Orange Road - Soshite, Ano Natsu no Hajimari] (1996)
AKA New Kimagure Orange Road: And Then, The Beginning of That Summer

Starring Tohru Furuya, Hiromi Tsuru, Eriko Hara, Kenichi Ogata

Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama


I’ve never been a huge fan of Kimagure. Its humor always struck me as bland and uninspired, but its first movie, I Want to Return to That Day, was such an odd and compelling title that I have wanted to delve into the series more. Summer’s Beginning tries to do what IWTRTTD did by losing the comedic tone and making it a more straight-up romance. But it doesn’t really have the nerve to go all the way with it, and it leaves in a lot of the sillier elements of the series. I’m not too fond of this approach as it only serves to dilute both aspects of the story without achieving the depth of emotion that IWTRTTD had. This may just be that I never really did care for the humor of Kimagure, but hey, at least it’s still better than an American sitcom.

Summer’s Beginning is not a sequel to IWTRTTD; it’s actually a sequel to the later series New Kimagure Orange Road, though I’m not exactly sure whether the second series is a sequel, a remake, or something else entirely. Summer’s Beginning starts off after IWTRTTD ends, and as far as my fading memories go, there are no contradictions to the story. There are even several flashbacks to events that happened in IWTRTTD, making it seem like Summer’s Beginning might well be a sequel to it. What Summer’s Beginning does differently, however, is keep all the psychic powers that IWTRTTD conveniently forgot about. In fact, those powers form the crux of the entire plot in Summer’s Beginning.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer’s Beginning (1996) →

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

thor2_1Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård

Directed by Alan Taylor

Expectations: Moderate, but these Marvel movies are pure fun for me.

threestar


Well, they’ve done it again. These Marvel movies continue to impress, and while Thor: The Dark World is definitely not a great film, it’s a rip-roaring good fantasy film filled to the brim with excitement, thrills and all kinds of cosmic shit. I’m surprised how hard they went into the fantasy realm for this film; the intro felt like a sort of sci-fi influenced version of the Lord of the Rings films. Consequently, Thor: The Dark World is chock full of stuff to excite every nerd in the audience. That’s probably what surprises me the most about these Marvel films. They’re relentlessly nerdy, yet they are also some of the most popular mainstream movies of the last few years. The nerd paradigm is truly upon us; the weak have inherited the Earth!

Thor: The Dark World centers around the Convergence, a celestial event that only happens every few thousand years. It aligns the Nine Realms, and makes the borders between these realms thin, allowing people to pass through them. The last time this happened the Dark Elves tried to plunge the Nine Realms into a neverending darkness but Odin’s father Bor was able to defeat them. The elves’ ultimate weapon was the Aethor, a powerful, shape-changing fluid, but instead of destroying it, Isildur Bor decides to lock it away in some dark recess of the Nine Realms. See… Thor: The Dark World is in full-on nerd mode.

Continue reading Thor: The Dark World (2013) →

Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967)

whosthatknocking_1Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967)
AKA I Call First

Starring Zina Bethune, Harvey Keitel, Anne Collette, Lennard Kuras, Michael Scala, Harry Northup

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Expectations: Moderate and very interested to see where Scorsese began.

twohalfstar


There’s no dispute that Martin Scorsese is one of the great American filmmakers, so watching his debut film for the first time is something of a loaded experience. Who’s That Knocking at My Door? is definitely not at the same level of quality that his later films deliver, but it shows flashes of his brilliance throughout (though, surprisingly, no Rolling Stones songs :) ). Harvey Keitel also makes his debut here, so even if it’s not an exceptionally great film, it marks the beginning of two great careers in American cinema.

The story is rather loose and free-flowing, like something of an American take on the French New Wave style. There are also elements of the great neorealist Italian films of the ’50s and ’60s, so Who’s That Knocking at My Door? carries a distinctly European flair while also being rooted deep in its New York setting. While this is interesting and admirable, Scorsese is rather blunt about this, having Keitel go on and on about a picture of John Wayne in The Searchers appearing in a French magazine read by a woman he meets (and later falls in love with). At the time I just thought it was a way of Scorsese slipping in references to movies he liked, Tarantino-style (and it is some of that), but it’s clearly a way to push the film’s American identity forward while also tell us something about the main character’s psyche.

Continue reading Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967) →

Year 4… Engage!

se_4thanniversaryTime flies when you’re distracting yourself from life’s constant struggles! Here I am again, staring at the calendar and realizing that yet another year has passed and I’m still writing reviews. I started way back on April 12, 2010! Hard to believe.

April 2013–April 2014 brought many great movies, but I’m too lazy to look through the reviews and see exactly what they were. :) I did run through all the Superman movies, as well as Peter Jackson’s filmography. There were a couple of cool milestones the site hit during this year also, most notably breaking the 1000 post barrier and Stephen reaching 100 reviews (with this week’s look at Birth)! So let’s dream big! 2000 posts total and 200 reviews from Stephen next year!

It’s my anniversary tradition to write about what I hope to do in the coming year, as well as check in on last year’s predictions and see just how far out in left field I was. I remember thinking I would be done with the Full Moon series two years ago, and yet still in 2014 there’s quite a bit more to go. Hahahaha. Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” but at this stage of the game my plans don’t get that far. I plan and I laugh, because I almost instantly see through my own bullshit. In any case, here’s another load of false promises and ideas of what Year 4 at Silver Emulsion might be like!

Continue reading Year 4… Engage! →

Man of Iron (1972)

manofiron_6Man of Iron [仇連環] (1972)
AKA Dirty Chan, Warrior of Steel

Starring Chen Kuan-Tai, Ching Li, Wong Chung, Chu Mu, Tin Ching, Bolo Yeung, Yeung Chi-Hing, Pao Chia-Wen, Chiang Tao, Li Min-Lang, Wang Kuang-Yu, Cheung Ging-Boh, Chan Chuen

Directed by Chang Cheh & Pao Hsueh-Li

Expectations: Moderate.

threestar


Man of Iron immediately sets itself up as a sequel to The Boxer from Shantung, but the only returning character is the street where everything happens. I’ve also heard the film referred to as a remake of the previous film, but this is also a misnomer as the stories are vastly different. The Boxer from Shantung is a re-telling of the classic gangster tale Scarface, but Man of Iron bears little resemblance to this rag-to-riches gangster tragedy. Instead, we just have Chen Kuan-Tai playing a character who wants to move up in the gangster hierarchy, but the characters themselves, while sharing some similar goals, are pretty far from being actually similar.

Man of Iron is set 20 years after the end of The Boxer from Shantung. The street and the people who populate it have moved on, and new gangs have grown to control the area. There are two major gang bosses: Chang Gen Bao (Chu Mu) and Yu Zhen-Ting (Yeung Chi-Hung). One day, Yu Chow-Kai (Tin Ching), the son of the gang boss Yu, is gambling and has all of his money taken by Qiu Lian-Huan (Chen Kuan-Tai), a man with a small gang of friends that’s tired of being small time. Yu’s son is a man who has inherited his place in the gangster world, so he is easily bested and intimated by Qiu, a man who has fought to be where he is.

Continue reading Man of Iron (1972) →

Page 1 of 156123...10...Last »

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.