Monday, January 30, 2012

Submarine

Ayoade poster

Richard Ayoade's (Moss from The IT Crowd) directorial debut Submarine, adapted from Joe Dunthorne's novel, tells the story of Oliver Tate's (Craig Roberts) struggles to build and maintain a relationship with Jordana (Yasmin Paige), while simultaneously trying to prevent his parent's (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) crumbling marriage from falling apart.

Craig Roberts screen capture

Set in Swansea, sometime in the mid eighties (it's never specified but Crocodile Dundee is playing at the local cinema), Submarine's strengths are his cast of British eccentrics and Ayoade's own keen visual eye. Oliver and Jordana are the films best developed characters (as they should be, being the focus of the story), with a marked contrast in style between the two. Jordana is initially feisty and aloof, treating Oliver as something of a plaything, before the story opens her up and shows us the real girl. Oliver on the other hand is a familiar archetype for the coming of age movie and yet still feels different at the same time, maybe this is down to him being British and most films mining a similar theme are American. The geek tendencies Oliver flaunts (the outfit of Duffel coat and briefcase to his dictionary reading), draw inevitable comparisons with Rushmore's Max Fischer. The main character trait the two have in common is an immense talent for self delusion, which really helps Oliver remain loveable, despite the fact he's actually a bit of a twat.

Oliver Tate screen capture

The adults in the film, while less well developed are enough to add weight to the proceedings, particularly Oliver's repressed parents who are delightfully deadpan. As ever with this kind of story there has to be a villain and Submarine has one of the best, in the form of Graham Purvis (Paddy Considine) a new age speaker, who happens to be the ex of Oliver's mother and who moves in next door to the Tate family. Considine, complete with a long spiky and mullet combo hairdo, creates a laugh out loud funny prize tit of a character who is worth watching the movie for alone. Genius.

Paddy Considine spiky mullet

Referring to Rushmore maybe a lazy comparison but I'm running with it, Ayoade's film does feel heavily influenced by Wes Anderson's style (albeit more dynamic than Anderson's) and if you aren't a fan of Anderson I could see you losing interest in this quite quickly. The comparison maybe lazy but it's also true nonetheless, while Ayoade uses more techniques than Anderson, and in particular is influenced by French new wave directors, it makes for a heady concoction that leaves me excited to see his next movie.

Yasmin Paige screen capture

Submarine is an anti-romantic romantic movie, that cleverly sidesteps the sickly saccharine despite having plenty of sentiment, much of which seems to be for the analogue era in which the film is set. Helped by superb performances from it's two young leads, with excellent support from the rest of the cast, teens and adults alike. Alex Turner of Arctic Monkey's fame provides songs for the soundtrack that enhance the feel of the movie, I'm not a fan of the Monkeys but loved these songs. Another huge help in keeping the anti-romance feel are the locations used by Ayoade for growing the budding romance, nothing says unromantic like a grim backdrop but this isn't a traditional romance and romance is where you find it!

Paige Roberts screen kiss

Despite the good reviews Submarine received upon it's release last year, I was surprised by how good it is, had I seen it during last year it would have easily made my top ten list and probably been top five. I found it extremely funny, smart and although I hate to say it sweet. Probably the most impressive aspect is how through a combination of clever writing, Ayoade's identification with the character and Roberts performance, made me fall in love with the pompous, egotistical and narcissistic Oliver Tate.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

December's Hong Kong Movie Pick Ups Part Four

Following on from part three

The fourth and final installment is a Fortune Star remasters special, each of these being a significant upgrade from any previous editions I've personally seen before.

Leslie Anita dvd cover

Stanley Kwan's Rouge, a wonderful movie and it looks simply beautiful on this dvd. I had previously only seen this on TV and VHS, and having looked at a few scenes on the dvd the difference is incredible. I have ordered this a couple of times before and it either got lost in the post or was unobtainable, so it's nice to finally have it. A real classic!


Yuen Biao dvd cover

Clarence Fok's The Iceman Cometh starring Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah and Maggie Cheung. Haven't seen this for a long time but I remember it being really fun. Soon to be remade in 3D with Donnie Yen.


Yuen Biao dvd cover

More Yuen Biao magic in Sammo Hung's The Prodigal Son. Again I haven't seen this for years, so it's long overdue a revisit, and from having a quick look at the dvd this looks like the best way to see it.


Michael Wong Woo Ping

Yuen Woo Ping's Tiger cage 3 is the only film from this batch of dvds I haven't seen before, it's reputation isn't as high as the first two but I'm hoping for a solid action flick.


Jackie Chan dvd cover

Jackie Chan dvd cover

A couple of Jackie Chan movies, both of which I haven't seen since the VHS days. I'm especially keen to rewatch James Glickenhaus' The Protector after recently watching The Exterminator again. Winners and Sinners I can hardly remember anything about.


Chow yun Fat dvd

Joe Chung's Flaming Brothers, with a screenplay by Wong Kar Wai and starring Chow Yun Fat and Alan Tam. Once I had exhausted the HK films readily available to me, Flaming Brothers was one of the first I saw through illegitimate means, virtually the only way back then. A fellow film fan in Leeds was lucky enough to have a place close to him that rented Hong Kong movies to the local Chinese community, and having gained the owners trust, a steady stream of HK movies were available. I would trade original tapes for VHS copies of the HK goodness he had access to. I suppose some of those tapes would have been worth a fair bit now but it was a great trade for me as it completely cemented my love for Hong Kong film. Flaming Brothers was an early pick as I would choose anything starring Chow Yun Fat, I loved it at the time but saw it again a few years later and thought it was pretty average, aside from the blistering shoot out. I was persuaded to give it another shot by Hong Kong Rewind's excellent review.

That's all for December.

Friday, January 27, 2012

My 15 Nano Seconds Of Fame

Many thanks to Matt @ Chuck Norris ate my baby for highlighting my blog being featured on Total Film's website. For those who don't know, Total Film is arguably the best mainstream film magazine from the UK.
In truth the link has made little difference to my traffic but it's still very cool. Check out the page here or on the decidedly low tech solution below, two screenshots lined up as well as I could manage!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stephen Chow In Jeff Lau's Out Of The Dark

Stephen Chow poster

Before hitting worldwide stardom with his incredibly popular duo of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow was one of, if not the biggest box office draw for the local Hong Kong audience. His home popularity built to start with at least on a succession of cheap and quickly made comedies, that the local audience lapped up, leaving Chow with some of the highest box office earning films in Hong Kong's history. Considering how bankable Chow was during the mid 90's, some of his output looks incredibly cheap, which brings me to Jeff Lau's Out of the Dark.

Karen Mok Stephen Chow

I'd seen Out of the Dark before (it was one of the masses of vcds I brought back from my first visit to Hong Kong in 1998) and remembered liking it quite a lot, for this revisit I watched the remastered Shaw Brothers dvd release and I'm sad to say time hasn't been kind to the movie, I found sitting through it again quite a grating experience. Director Jeff Lau brings his customary energy to the proceedings but the film has so little story, this energy is wasted on what is effectively a sketch movie with horror overtones, filled with the obligatory movie references, Chow's trademark Mo lei tau verbal humour and hit or miss slapstick. Chow's critics may argue this is the template (minus the horror part) for his movies but the plot here is so slight it's laughable. The film is also darker in tone than most of Chow's other work and pretty mean spirited with Chow really pushing this side of his persona, perhaps too far, as of all his movies, this is apparently one of his least popular movies in Hong Kong.

Stephen Chow poster

Out of the Dark does have it's amusing moments of course (the dynamite scene in particular) but it really is so hit and miss, this is by far one of Chow's weaker efforts considering the talent involved. The feature of the film I enjoyed most is Karen Mok's performance, sending up her own character in Wong Kar Wai's Fallen Angels. Based on my recollections of the film, I was really disappointed on my revisit of Out of the Dark, while the film does have it's fans within the HK film community, I would no longer consider myself as one of them, and it's definitely a film to "enjoy" with judicious use of the fast forward button.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

December's Hong Kong Movie Pick Ups Part Three

Following on from part two

Another selection of crime movies, with a couple of more horror themed titles in there too and what is this, a romantic drama?


Maggie Cheung and Kenny Bee in A Fishy Story, the romantic drama I mentioned above. Extremely highly recommended by Michael at Hong Kong Rewind and Phantom of Pulp and recommendations don't come anymore informed than from those two.


A Bloody Fight, with it's generic title, I expect little more than a generic HK action/crime movie but it has a great cast of old school stars and is heavy on the violence and sometimes that's all you need.


I know little of this late 70's triad crime thriller other than that it has a reputation of being action packed (for it's time), sometimes it's great to take a gamble, you win some, you lose some!


Gunmen, Kirk Wong's 1930's set action film exec.produced by Tsui Hark and with a category III rating. I saw this in the early 90's but haven't seen it since, kind of like a Chinese version of The Untouchables if I remember correctly. It features another good cast including Tony Leung Ka Fai, Waise Lee and Elvis Tsui.


Vice Squad 633, another late 70's crime flick and again one I took a chance on, I lap this stuff up!


The Island, No not the Michael Bay movie but seemingly a mid 80's Deliverance inspired horror, with a cool poster.


The Beasts, Picked this up on reputation alone, a Hong Kong nasty by all accounts.

Keep an eye out for the fourth and final part, featuring a bunch of Fortune Star remasters.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Nameless Gangster Trailer And Cool Song

A new bad ass (unsubbed) trailer has been released for one Nameless Gangster, I've already posted twice before about this movie and it's fair to say I was already excited for it. Having seen this new trailer I need to see it now!


I love the track playing in the trailer and found it on youtube, for your aural delight.


Yet more stills and another poster.








Love these last two stills in particular, not only is Nameless Gangster set to be the hair movie of the year, it could also be the fashion one too, check out the sartorial elegance on show in the second to last still, Choi Min Sik in his finest. The last one looks like the two actors have stepped out of a song and dance number from a broadway show.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fantasia


Wai Ka Fai's Fantasia is a wonderfully silly, imaginative and star studded romp through the history of (mainly) 70's Hong Kong comedy cinema, particularly the films of the Hui brothers. Released in 2004, the film performed admirably well at the box office for a movie where many of it's references would have been lost on much of it's audience. It's to Wai Ka Fai's great credit that the movie is such a good time even without the benefit of it's rich and rewarding nostalgia, and for the few who care for Hong Kong's cinema history, even more so.


Fantasia being a Lunar New Year movie, the plot is little more than a loose framework to hang a series of skits on, similar to many movies being made these days I suppose. However Fantasia, under the guidance of Wai Ka Fai positively revels in the freewheeling energy and enthusiasm this approach allows. Much of the film takes it's inspiration from The Hui brothers classic The Private Eyes, from small references to full blown scenes reworked to fit the crazy Fantasia world. I picked out many more homages throughout the film but I'm certainly not going to claim I picked up anywhere near all of them.



A film such as this regardless of the skill of the writer and director really comes down to it's performers, if they aren't prepared to look completely stupid then the film has no chance, and it's here where the film truly excels. A huge cast led by Lau Ching Wan and Francis Ng, completely go for it, delivering performances imitating, in some cases perfectly, stars from the films of the past being referenced here. Lau Ching Wan has Michael Hui down to a tee, Louis Koo does a reasonable Sam Hui and Jordan Chan makes for a remarkable Ricky Hui. The film also features an almost unrecognisable Cecilia Cheung, along with The Twins and plenty of cameos from other Hong Kong stars. I could go on and on but I'll leave it with Francis Ng's hilarious version of Shek Kin (the villain from Enter the Dragon and The Private Eyes), he's worth seeing Fantasia for alone.


If you're in the mood for a fun film, Fantasia has enough funny moments and silly comedy to hit the spot. It won't be for everyone as Hong Kong comedy is certainly an acquired taste and if you're looking for sophistication with your laughs, this probably isn't the place, however much of the comedy in this film is timeless, the old fashioned kind of comedy that transcends the barriers of language. For Hong Kong cinema fans the film is a densely packed treasure trove of joy, one of my favourite Lunar New Year movies, and a masterclass from two of my favourite actors Lau Ching Wan and Francis Ng.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Resident Evil 6 trailer Wow.


I am of course talking about the game rather than the latest film which is number 5 in the series. After the African jaunt in the 5th game of the series, we're back in a city setting for this one. All of the required elements are present for this new installment, huge monsters, biting zombies and amusingly horrible voice acting. While the series may not be the most innovative around, I can't get enough of it. Expect a significant drop in the number of posts on this blog throughout November and December, as the release date is the 20th of November, and I'm already counting down the days. For more check out Nohopeleft.com

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Death Wish 3 - Greatest Comedy Of The 1980's?


Having covered Michael Winner's original Death Wish back in June last year, I've used my editorial power to bypass the second similar but inferior movie and go straight to the all out insanity of Winner's Death Wish 3. Made over ten years after the first sequel, the film's production company Cannon and director Winner must have decided more of the same wasn't going to cut it with the mid 80's audience and so any attempt to inject the movie with genuine social commentary was jettisoned in favour of guns, more guns and bigger guns, along with a whole army of "punks" to use them on. The series' star Charles Bronson was reportedly less than happy with this approach, falling out with Winner in the process.


The script doesn't even really give us a story, Paul Kersey (Bronson) arrives back in New York to see an old war friend, who coincidentally is in the process of being killed just as he arrives. The cops mistakenly arrest Kersey and in a ridiculous series of exchanges with cop Shriker (Ed Lauter), ends up being "employed" to clean up the out of control neighbourhood. You see Gang leader Fraker (Gavan O'Herlihy) has taken over, terrorising the good folks with his men including The Giggler ("He laughs when he runs") and the future Bill S. Preston Esq. Holy shit, who wouldn't be scared?
Essentially that's it, Bronson becomes the kiss of death for just about anyone he ever speaks to, before the movie ends as a warzone, with military grade hardware substituted for any semblance of reality, subtle it ain't!


All of this of course is a great thing, Death Wish 3 is one of the most fun movies ever made, dismissed as trash by almost everyone who saw it back in the day, who didn't recognise it as the greatest comedy ever made. I refuse to accept that anyone involved ever thought they were making a serious film, as that would clearly make them insane. Filled to the brim with great villains, some of the most quotable lines ever committed to celluloid, and violence that's only outdone in it's outrageousness by the "punk" fashions on display. All this without mentioning Kersey's love interest Kathryn Davis, a city public defender, played by Deborah Raffin, who despite being approximately half his age, is desperate for some Bronson action. After a short but epic courtship, that puts Gone With The Wind in the shade, during which they discuss the merits of chicken for dinner, Davis, "I hope you like chicken. It's the only thing I know how to make." Kersey romantically replies,"Chicken's good, I like chicken", eat your heart out Mills and Boon! As is the case with many great love stories, tragically the budding romance is cut short (but not before Bronson has his wicked way, of course) when Ms. Davis is killed by a combination of head butt, car crash and said car exploding, while Bronson looks decidedly nonplussed.


I could go on for days about the greatness of Death Wish 3, there are so many areas I've barely touched on here, including Bronson himself. If he was genuinely unhappy making this film then he's a way better actor than his critics give him credit for, as I don't think I've ever seen him seemingly enjoy a movie this much before. The film is decidedly 80's in it's attitude towards race but no more than hundreds of other films from the era, many of which demanded to be taken far more seriously than this amazing movie. Must stop typing now or I'll never stop.....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Almost Human

As mean spirited and nasty a movie as I've seen in some time, Umberto Lenzi's Eurocrime flick Almost Human stars two greats of the genre, Thomas Milian and Henry Silva. It's a pairing made in heaven or more to the point hell, as the two stars butt heads together.


Milian plays Giulio Sacchi, a smalltime petty criminal and sociopath, despised by even his criminal associates after unnecessarily killing a cop on a job. After killing a second cop for what turns out to be small change, Sacchi has an idea for a huge score and enlists a small team to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy businessman for a ransom of half a billion Lire. The kidnapping becomes a sadistic massacre and Silva's cop Grandi is quickly on his tail but always a step behind. Grandi becomes so angered by the case, he's determined to to get his man no matter what the consequences.


Milian takes great pleasure in his role, seemingly enjoying the suffering and humiliation he causes his victims. Sacchi has delusions of grandeur along with his sociopathic tendencies, a dangerous and volatile mix, which Milian accomplishes with ease, keeping the audience constantly wondering what atrocity he will commit next. He pushes the boundaries of descending in to parody but he stays just the right side of the line. Silva makes a great foil for Milian, and has some excellent lines he spits out with suitably outraged venom and his great trademark stare. Good support comes from Gino Santercole and Ray Lovelock as Milian's partners in the kidnapping. The beautiful Laura Belli is given little to do but then this is not a film where women count for much, you only have to see the Shameless dvd cover to see that! Ennio Morricone's thumping score propels the film along at pace, it may not be one of his better known scores but it's excellent in it's own right. The action is quite sparse but brutal and to the point when it does come.


Almost Human has quite a reputation and having finally seen it I can understand why. It's strong stuff and easily one of Umberto Lenzi's best directorial efforts, as with his Cannibal Ferox, this movie boasts a mean streak a mile wide but where Ferox was impossible to take seriously, Almost Human really revels in it and is all the better for that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Favourite Older Movies Seen For The First Time In 2011

I was going to do one of these lists last year, they have so much more scope than a simple top ten of the year, and by their nature are extremely varied from blogger to blogger. By the time I got around to thinking about the list last year it already felt too late to bother. This year I decided to make sure I got the list up in reasonable time, and we're only just halfway through January.

No restrictions here, other than no 2011 films and they had to be first time views and they are in no particular order.


Herman Yau's Taxi Hunter


I originally picked this up thinking it was a category III movie for the series of such movies I covered last year, turns out it was only a IIb, it didn't matter, it was great fun anyway. Full review here


Riley Yip's Just One Look


I've had the dvd of Just One Look ever since it's release but never watched it, now after finally viewing it, I was completely baffled why it took so long. A wonderful film, full of nostalgia and warmth but without the sugar that usually comes with the territory. Full review here


John Flynn's Rolling Thunder


A great movie that's been stupidly hard to find for many years, all that should change at the end of the month when the long delayed blu ray of Rolling Thunder is released, I'm keen to re-watch this asap. Full review here 


Bosco Lam's The Underground Banker


Easily one of my favourites of the category III movies I've seen. Lam's film features another great Anthony Wong performance and although hard to find, it's totally worth the effort. Full review here


Billy Tang's Run and Kill


Another category III movie, Run and Kill is simply mind blowing. It's crazy fun from start to finish and while it may not exactly be high art, it packs a powerful punch and Simon Yam is awesome. Full review here


Peter Yates' The Friends of Eddie Coyle


Along with Drive from the new releases, The Friends of Eddie Coyle was my favourite movie I saw in 2011. A truly great genre film. Full review here


Alfred Cheung's On The Run


I was aware of On The Run's reputation I just never had chance to see it before. The film more than lived up to it's billing, a great reminder of how good Hong Kong cinema could be. Full review here


Michael Mann's Thief


Can't believe I hadn't seen this before really, being a fan of Mann and Caan. This is Mann's best film for me, with Caan's best performance and a cracking soundtrack from Tangerine Dream. Full review here


Johnny Mak's Long Arm Of The Law


I thought I'd seen this before but I was wrong, a magnificent movie, recommended to film fans regardless of if they are HK cinema fans or not. Full review here


Takashi Nomura's A Colt Is My Passport


The only Japanese film on this list and it's a cracker, blending European pulp cinema influences into a uniquely Japanese whole. A great starting point to enter the world of Nikkatsu. Full review here


Ringo Lam's School On Fire


School On Fire is probably one of the most powerful and angry film's I've ever seen, a full review will follow soon as part of a series of Ringo Lam reviews. I don't mind letting the cat out of the bag a little early by saying this film blew me away.


A decidedly Hong Kong bias to the list I know but I've seen so many excellent HK movies in the last year or so it was always going to be that way. Here's hoping no matter how 2012's releases pan out it will be a great year for older films for all of us!

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