Everything, Everywhere, All At Once


Viewed – 08 June 2022 Cinema

I was quite hyped going into this. This tells the story of Evelyn, a middle aged Chinese woman who runs a laundromat with her husband and father, who is in spiralling debt and being leaned on by the local IRS. However during one meeting to work out her finances, another version of her husband contacts her and tells her he’s from another universe, explaining that there are many more multiverses where Evelyn’s life turned out differently and that he needs her to help him stop a looming threat.

We’re probably accustomed to the concept of the multiverse with movies like Doctor Strange and Spider-Man No Way Home. However this movie takes that idea to the extreme, creating a chaotic and quite bonkers experience. Hong Kong Cinema veteran Michelle Yeoh delivers a commendably demanding performance, that although her grasp of English isn’t great, physically she’s put through the ringer in many dazzling and intricately edited sequences. With all the multiverse stuff the movie jumps rapidly from place to place as Evelyn adopts various abilities, including Kung Fu. The various action scenes are imaginative, well choreographed and often hilarious. The ideas here clearly come from a pretty out-there mind as we get fights with dildos, and at one stage a Chihuahua used like a whip! Jamie Lee Curtis proves memorable as the IRS lady, and movie legend James Hong also makes an extended appearance.

I did feel this got a bit much after a while. The concept means that the possibilities are endless but doesn’t mean a movie need go that far. Also why things were happening got a bit muddled – at times it’s simply odd for the sake of being odd (a multiverse with everyone with hotdogs for fingers!). I was entertained though, just maybe a little restraint would have gone a long way.

Verdict: Good

Licorice Pizza


Viewed – 15 May 2022 online rental

This got quite a bit of buzz towards the end of last year and from director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) and a setting of seventies America and young love, this sounded right up my alley. Gary is a child actor who becomes infatuated with an older woman, Alana who begins working at his school. With no end of confidence and charm he befriends her and soon brings her into his rather chaotic life.

This authentic recreation of seventies America is given a unique spin due to lead characters having an age gap. You could say it’s a unconventional love story. However as Gary leads Alana from one scheme to the next, for me he began to come off as a bit of an obnoxious dreamer. Alana fairs slightly better, seeming more level-headed and mature, even if she kept coming back to this guy. It made me think of La La Land at times with its pairing similarly not meant to be. However due to the movie jumping randomly from different events, such as Gary walking by a water bed shop, and next thing he’s staring up a water bed business (how’s he managed this, how’s he know anything about water beds?) …I began to feel a tad frustrated. Doesn’t help that none of his schemes are particularly engaging.

What the movie lacks in plot, it makes up for in two solid performances, especially singer turned actor Alana Haim (of the band ‘Haim’). I really liked her and she has many of the movie’s best scenes. There’s also two weird cameos, one by Sean Penn as a rather eccentric actor, and another by Bradley Cooper as one of Barbara Streisand’s husbands(?). Both of which come across like they’re in the wrong movie. Anderson’s direction is decent and atmospheric though, and the movie is often beautifully shot. However for a seventies set story, the music is mostly forgettable (apart from one scene using Bowie’s Life On Mars). Overall an interesting yet ultimately uninvolving comedy-drama that’s not as great as it thinks it is.

Verdict: Good

Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon


Viewed – 07 May 2022 Blu-ray

Generally, you can’t go wrong with a movie starring veteran action star Sammo Hung. He grew up with Jackie Chan, and although he has remained in Chan’s shadow, mostly due to not making his name in America – his movies and his Kung fu skills are clearly on the same level. This 1990 buddy cop movie has never had much fanfare outside its native Hong Kong, and after watching it … I’m surprised.

This is top-drawer Sammo Hung with some fun comedy and several quality Kung Fu fights. The plot is rather none-sensical though, serving more as an excuse from Hung and Karl Mak’s often funny squabbling banter. Karl Mak is comes across a tad misogynistic but still entertains, and proves a capable fighter in his own right. However as a vehicle for Hung, this showcases his comedy skills equally with his fighting, this time doing a spot-on Bruce Lee impression throughout – which I’d have liked a bit of explanation for, but it’s never explored.

Direction by kung Fu veteran Lau Kar-wing is decent with the fights well framed and delivered with often clever camera work (especially during the climactic warehouse scene). I’d say if you enjoy Hong Kong action cinema, this is one of the more immediate fun ones, with the action spread throughout the movie (not just at the end) with entertaining characters and decent comedy. Just a shame about that er… plot.

This new release from Eureka Classics boasts decent image quality. Not incredibly sharp but clear and detailed enough. The soundtrack offers up original Cantonese mono, or 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio English dub. Although this isn’t a showcase for your surround system. Dialogue is clear though and the English dub is surprisingly good. There are two audio commentaries, the first from Asian film expert Frank Djeng and martial artist / actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels. The second has action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema. Then there’s a collector’s booklet featuring an essay by James Oliver. Add to this interviews with crew and stunt co-ordinators. There is also a second disk covering the career of stuntman Mark Houghton. No interview or anything with Sammo himself though seems a strange oversight.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good+

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Armour of God


Viewed – 05 February 2022 Blu-ray

Asian Cinema Season

(Hong Kong extended cut)

When a religious sect set their sights on an ancient collection of armour known as the ‘armour of god’ – a pop singer turned adventurer seeking the same collection finds himself caught up in a kidnap plot. Along for the journey is a rich collector’s daughter.

First time watching of this 1986 Jackie Chan ‘classic’ and I must say… I was disappointed. I found the story to be weak and it often dragged, with too much focus on an awkward love triangle and long scenes of silly banter rather than adventuring or action. Speaking of action… a five minute brilliantly choreographed end fight, does not make for a great movie. The chase sequence half way through was good though. As a Hong Kong take of movies like Indiana Jones, this had little of the depth or personality and only managed to deliver on a several (admittedly) eye catching locations. Not one of Chan’s best.

I picked up the recent 88 Films limited edition and intend to check out the other cut of the movie, namely the 88 minute international version, which may benefit from a shorter run time. There’s a wealth of extras here, including interviews, music videos, clips from chat shows, a stunts featurette and 3 commentaries. The set also comes with a detailed booklet, cardboard slip case, art cards and double sided poster featuring newly commissioned artwork. The movie itself has a detailed, yet occasionally very grainy image. The soundtrack has original Cantonese on the extended cut, along with an English dub. The international version is English dub only, but is fairly well done. So I’m guessing this made for a worthwhile purchase in the end. However, considering how famous this movie is (I’m guessing more for Chan’s almost died accident than anything else) I found this one of his least entertaining efforts. For a better time, check out the sequel ‘Operation Condor’.

Verdict:

(the movie) Poor

(the Blu-ray) Essential (for fans / collectors)

Millionaire’s Express


Viewed – 03 February 2022 Blu-ray

Sammo Hung has long been for me one of my favourite go-to Kung fu stars, and his output from the seventies to the early nineties could rival Jackie Chan, even if he’s not achieved the same level of fame outside of his native country. This 1986 ‘Kung fu western’ has Hung as an outlaw who returns to his home town to make good. Yet his criminal ways lead him to attempt to blow the train tracks to force a train to stop near the town and bring its wealthy occupants to spend their money. All the time various groups of people are heading to the town, including a group of ruthless bandits.

This is first and foremost a comedy, and a broad, slapstick one at that. The humour is silly but amiable and there’s some good gags that gave me a few chuckles. Veteran comedy stars of the Hong Kong film industry like Richard Ng and Eric Tsang are joined by names such as Yuen Biao (on fine form in some great acrobatic fights and a stunning three story jump from a burning building), Hwang Jang-lee and American star Cynthia Rothrock.

The action is mostly left to the end, although it’s certainly worth the wait. Also the various groups of people are all interesting and the anticipation for all these to come together is palpable. An entertaining, well made movie with several stand out scenes that makes this, whilst not necessarily up their with the very best, well worth a watch.

This release from Eureka Classics is packed. We get four cuts of the movie, the original theatrical release, the extended international version (which I watched), Shanghai Express version and the hybrid cut. The soundtrack has both the original Cantonese language with subtitles and there’s also a decent English dubbed soundtrack. There’s two audio commentaries, scene-specific audio commentary with actress Cynthia Rothrock, interviews, behind the scenes featurettes and more. There’s also a poster with newly commissioned art work. All in all, impressive stuff.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended