Classic Film Review : The Killer (1989)

IMDB Score – 8.10
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%

Directed By – John Woo
Starring – Yun-Fat Chow, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh, Kong Chu, Kenneth Tsang, and Fui-On Shing

A disillusioned assassin accepts one last hit in hopes of using his earnings to restore vision to a singer he accidentally blinded, only to be double-crossed by his boss.

Am I an asshole? Am I an asshole for not liking this film? Look at those ratings. 8.0? 100%? I’m going to just assume that I’m a horrible person for thinking this film was one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever watched. I’m a bad person and you should stop reading. Seriously John Woo? SHRIMP HEAD?

I’ll be honest off the bat, I haven’t seen many Woo films. Growing up I had a steady dosage of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, but anything related to John Woo fell by the wayside. I’ve seen his American films but this was my first dive into his films with Chow Yun Fat. It started poorly.

First let me state that the police in this film are horrible. They may possibly be the most insanely inept squad of men I’ve seen in film. They let people get assassinated easier than whoever ran the parade in Dallas. Chow Yu Fat was sitting on a boat with a gun pointed at a very important man whom the police force KNEW could be assassinated and nobody spotted him. They were at a goddamn rowing race. There was literally a thousand people watching the water and they couldn’t see Chow Yun Fat with a bad mustache and a rifle. Then when a bullet blasted through his head, they covered him up and said he fainted. I could have spread that cheese on toast.

The whole film was cheese. The WHOLE film. Woo tried to portray serious emotion but when one of the characters is screaming over the loss of his buddy Shrimp Head, yeah you lost me. The movie also suffered from cliche action movie tropes such as endless ammo, endless villains, and endless times you get shot in the chest before you die. I guess I should be appreciating the action scenes and taking an 80s film for what it’s worth but I’m not going to do that. I hope Hard Boiled is better than this or I’m not even going to touch John Woo again.

Wait, Red Cliff was fucking awesome. This must have just been a mistake. Also, I know get the John Woo dove jokes now. I have arrived to that level of movie reference.


Film Review : Return of the Dragon (1972)

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IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Bruce Lee
Starring – Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Nora Miao, Ping Ou Wei, Chung-Hsin Huang, Tony Liu, and Jon T. Benn

A man visits his relatives at their restaurant in Italy and has to help them defend against brutal gangsters harassing them.

Okay, I’m going to have to admit something here. This is the first time, in my life, that I watched a Bruce Lee film from start to finish. You can now take the time to yell at me through your screen because I most certainly deserve it. The thing is, I haven’t really been into film my entire life. I first started getting into movies in high school and by then the television was so flooded by MTV crap that reruns of old Kung Fu movies just wasn’t readily available. I’ve known about the story behind the man and the events surrounding his death, as well as his sons death, but just haven’t been able to sit in front of the tube and watch his films. Hopefully now that most of them are available on Netflix, I’ll be able to view most of them. However, I must say, this movie was really bad.

Hear me out.

Did I enjoy the film? Hell yeah. Was it horribly dubbed, acted, written, and shot? Hell fucking yes it was. Oh my god was it bad. I didn’t expect Scorcese but my god it was like ever single film that ever parodied any Kung Fu movie. I guess that’s why the parodies exist. I just didn’t expect them to be so spot on. The dub over was so comically bad that I had trouble holding in my laughter throughout the course of the film. Have you ever seen “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist”? That’s one of my childhood movies that I know every line to. I remember thinking that they must have found the worst Kung Fu movie to parody cause there is no way films like that actually existed but I think this may be worse. Every line from any character was dubbed over like they were trying to make it sound horrible


Seriously. It was like a bad bad movie mixed with amazing Kung Fu from the legend himself. I wish I had gotten drunk while watching it because it would have made it that much better. By the way, watching a whole film amazed me more than watching a few youtube clips of Bruce Lee. The man was just a lightning bolt and seemed to have super human physical ability. The nun chuck scene and the final fight with actual Chuck, Chuck Norris, were both amazing and it was great to see them in the actual film rather than on the internet. I could have watched those two fight all day and the way Bruce Lee kicked the living shit out of the most inept henchmen every assembled left me in stitches. It was a blast.

This is going to be hard to rate because the movie from a film nerds point of view was a piece of shit, but from an entertainments point of view was amazing. Just watch it if you haven’t already because it’s a lot of fun.

1/5 Film rating
5/5 Fun rating

Film Review : Still Life (2006)

IMDB Score – 7.3

Directed By – Zhangke Jia
Starring – Tao Zhao, Zhou Lan, Sanming Han, Lizhen Ma, and Hongwei Wang

Citizens return to a flooded town to salvage what they can and say good-bye to things they lost.

It’s funny how my Netflix queues tend to come together at weird points. Two films directed by Zhangke Jia managed to find their way into future viewing by me and I didn’t even plan the damn thing. “Still Life” came in the mail yesterday and I have “A Touch of Sin” lined up for my next viewing in my Instant Queue. I’ve never seen any of his films before and did not plan this is the slightest. Weird.

Anyway, obviously I sat down to watch Still Life” first, as the mail service is longer and more expensive. Gotta get those discs out of here quick so that my monthly bill is worth it. The film ended up being a pretty interesting watch, albeit very slow, which is not a negative. The film centers around two people who never meet during the duration of the film, as they try to seek out their spouses whom they haven’t seen for years. The story told in the film is a loose one. Neither story arch comes into full focus and only briefly concludes by the end of the film. However, this is a unique film. Zhangke Jia managed to tell and show a lot more than what was most likely written down in the script. The film takes place in the area near the Three Gorges Dam that is to be demolished before eventually being flooded by the dam. Some parts have already been flooded and the rest is being taken care of as the Dam project begins to progress. We are literally seeing people having to move out of areas where they spent the majority of their lives, and they can’t take everything. They have to choose. What is important? What is to stay behind. It is this theme where the emotion comes from in the form of our two protagonists quests to find their spouses. When they find them, will they try to salvage what is left? Will they let them go to nature? Powerful stuff.

The film is gorgeous by the way. In an almost Michael Haneke style, Zhangke Jia let the camera sit a lot and just take in the silence and body language of what was being shown. There were many shots of characters standing before a lush and open landscape that was both beautiful and frightening due to its humongous scale. Images of boats traveling through huge gorges painted most of the scenes and still camera shots of town inhabitants smoking who knows what as they take a break from their labor fill in the cracks. I love this kind of film making. By leaving the camera still on a subject, and letting the scene play out, I get a more realistic feel and can enter the world easier. It also lets the powerful moments register with more weight when you’re not having a rising maelstrom of lights and music to scream to the viewer that what they are witnessing is important. Don’t pander to me film. Let me do the work occasionally.

“Still Life” is a very unique but ultimately rewarding film with subtle imagery galore and packed with symbolism. It may not be a re watchable film, but the photography and heavy message of letting go gave me a unique experience and a good reintroduction to Chinese cinema. I’ll be watching Zhangke Jia’s most recent film “A Touch of Sin” next.


Suggested Viewing – Still Walking, Poetry, Certified Copy, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Film Review : Man of Tai Chi (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 71%

Directed By – Keanu Reeves
Starring – Tiger Hu Chen, Keanu Reeves, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, and Iko Uwais

A young martial artist’s unparalleled Tai Chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club.

This was crap.

I don’t really know another way to put it. I pretty much hated it. This film marks the first time Keanu Reeves has ever been behind the camera and while the camera work is promising and occasionally impressive, the end result of his labor is a complete corn fest that seems like it was written by a 8th grader who likes karate. It’s a B level script that makes sense but takes the same generic story arcs from every bad American TV show and terrible 80s kung fu movie. We have one of the following…

1. Ambitious but naive protagonist that falls down the wrong path only to see the error of his ways
2. A gritty detective that will stop at nothing to avenge the death of an innocent, EVEN IF IT MEANS THROWING THE BOOK OUT THE WINDOW.
3. A villain who is never ever seen fighting who just so happens to be the hardest fight of all.
4. A comic relief henchman who likes American slang and rap music.
5. A disappointed master.

It all just felt so silly. If this was all just an homage to old fashioned kung fu movies and not to be taken as a serious attempt at a film then I owe Mr. Reeves an apology. Somehow I don’t don’t think that was the case. Tiger Chen happens to be an excellent and legendary martial artist so the impressive fight scenes were enough to keep my attention but just not enough to keep this film from spoiling. This also might just be the worst acting role from Keanu Reeves. He’s comically bad. The whole thing was comically bad. Maybe I didn’t get it.

No, I got it. It was bad.


Film Review : The Grandmaster (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 74%

Directed By – Wong Kar Wai
Starring – Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang, Xiao Shen-Yang, and Zhao Benshan

The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.

When I first heard that Wong Kar Wai was going to be directed a film about Ip Man, I was both excited and a little peeved. We’ve seen the Ip Man films. We’ve seen them recently. We really don’t need another film about Ip Man. However, when a person like Wong Kar Wai is directing a film like this, you have to have faith. What we finally end up with in The Grandmaster is a very serviceable film.

What I liked…

If Gravity didn’t come out this year, The Grandmaster would be the most beautiful film of 2013. It is visually stunning. The film starts out with an amazing fight scene taking place in a torrential downpour. It’s dark. It’s wet. Yet, every punch and kick is seen and felt which has been a problem in action movies recently. Wong Kar Wai uses a slowed down camera to make sure that each fight seen is taken in as whole instead of a frantic flash of limbs and bodies. Each frame is a carefully constructed painting and honestly, I’m not surprised. Wong Kar Wai has been making beautiful films for two decades and this is one of his most visually achieving films that matches 2000’s In the Mood for Love. The acting was great as Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang has wonderful on screen chemistry. The soundtrack, which is a key character in every Wong Kar Wai film is also fantastic.

What I didn’t like…

The story was a bit muddled. Wong Kar Wai has always had a non linear storyline. This is more linear than usual but what we are given instead is a very bundled plot trying to do way too much This is a biography not only of Ip Man but also a telling of what the country of China looked like from the 1920s until the 50s. There’s a lot og history in there and I really couldn’t get a grip on what was going on emotionally. This led to me not really caring too much about the charcters involved. There were also a bunch of annoying cue cards displaying history information and time changes. I felt Kar Wai was being a little to nice to American viewers but like I said before, it helped make things less confusing. It was just aesthetically ugly.

Overall it was a gorgeous film and an average story rolled up into one. It’s definitely a film to check out of you like Wong Kar Wai and kung fu films.