DECEMBER'S VIDEO PICK: Still sticking to the Hong Kong vein, this month's pick is EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED directed by Patrick Yau. I'm unfamiliar with the director, but it stars an ensemble cast of some of Hong Kong's best and brightest. Including Lau Ching Wan who did such an excellent job in FULL ALERT and Simon Yam of FULL CONTACT fame. Another police drama, in the vein of FULL ALERT, this is a well-told story of a closeknit family of cops hunting down a sadistic band of criminals. While not a flashy, stylistic film like the works of LAM or WOO it compensates with substance, with detailed fully fleshed characters, and an involving layered storyline. Great flick. A must see. One note about this director, he has a great eye for color, the movie draped in rich, lush tones, and sprinkled with red. ***1/2 Get it today.
NOVEMBER'S VIDEO PICK: This week's Video Pick is Ringo Lam's FULL ALERT. Ringo Lam ,along with John Woo and Tsui Hark, is one of the directors that defined the HongKong Renaissance. Ringo Lam is the lesser known of Hong Kong's celebrated directors, perhaps because he does smaller more personal films. Rather than the fantastic scope of Tsui's films, or the screen shattering action of Woo's, Lams movies are more personal and straight forward dramas, with common themes of crime and the pursuit of justice.
His use of camera angles and framing and pacing making him the most advanced of Eastern directors, bringing scenes of John Ford like framing to Mean Street type stories. He is an exciting filmmaker, his films always addictive and compelling moments of time, he moves you at breakneck pace with the camera, while never sacrificing the brutal honesty, realism, and humanity that sets his flicks apart. In his flicks there are no blood ballets, you seldom need a thousand bullets, he shows you the damage of one, the damage of the idea of guns. And it lingers, his scenes of tortured violence. They linger.
FULL ALERT showcases this sense of minimalist style, and subdued emotion better than his previous movies, showing a mastery of style and substance, and garnering nothing short of astounding, understated performances from his leads. Said to be inspired by Michael Mann's HEAT, FULL ALERT is a far superior movie, and far more compelling. Another winner from Hong Kong's most complete Director. ***1/2. A very hard movie to find, if you can't find it at your local video store, click here to buy or rent a copy today.
Today's question of the week: "What's the real difference between a 31/2 star movie and a 4 star movie?"
A ***1/2 movie is a great viewing experience the first time, but 1) has some little drawback, a little slow in the middle, bad story twist, bad scene and /or 2)does not hold up as well to repeated viewing, and/or 3)is a movie that you have to be "in the mood" to enjoy. A four star movie, you never get sick of. You can put in any time, for the 100th time, and be as enthralled as the first time. Most of my four star movies are black and white, and were made before I was born, by men like Welles and Hitchcock. These are movies larger than the times they were made, these are movies that endure.
Having said that, it is still completely subjective. What you get out of a movie has a lot to do with what you bring into it? Your personal morality. I believe in heroes, the need for them, the need for outmoded ideas like right and wrong. So movies about people who hold the line, or straddle that line, between right and wrong, predator and prey tends to appeal to me. The western, the American Myth of it, appeals to me. That's why RESERVOIR DOGS gets a **** while PULP FICTION, which is clearly a more complete movie, only gets a ***1/2. RESERVOIR's structure of men bound by a code, and what happens when that code begins to fray I find a far more riveting viewing experience. It speaks to me.
While we're on the subject, TIM ROTH whose performance in RESERVOIR DOGS was nothing short of screen shattering, delivers perhaps the finest performance of his career in a straight to video movie called DECEIVER. If you haven't seen it run out to your local video store, and if they don't have it click here.**** not to be missed! Now onto the reviews: