Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Movie Roundup: Chinese Lightning Edition

The Mission - Maybe Johnnie To's best movie, the first part of a thematic trilogy with the equally great Exiled and the pretty good Vengeance.  All three are about a group of hired killers who, for the sake of honor, find themselves at war with their boss.  There's a shoot out in an empty mall (which looks like the same mall as the one in the climax of Jackie Chan's Police Story) that's a perfect distillation of To's style: complex but comprehensible geography, Leone-like stillness, Woo-like cool.  The #3 film of 1999.

Election - Simon Yam and the other Tony Leung compete to be the leader of the local gang.  This first of two films relates the present day organized crime gangs (triads) to their history as anti-Manchu insurrectionist groups.  The sequel demonstrates the ways in which Hong Kong's gangs are regulated and manipulated by both the local police and the mainland Chinese government.  Johnnie To strips all the pomp out of The Godfather and mixes it into an action movie.  The #5 film of 2005.

A Hero Never Dies - Tweaking a favorite John Woo trope, Johnnie To pits two superhuman hitmen against each other and they find they have more in common than their bosses' rivalries should allow.  Woo plays it straight, with Catholic notions about the duality of man.  To nods to Weekend at Bernie's.  The #25 film of 1998.

The 14 Amazons - After all the men of the Yang family are wiped out by insurrectionists, the women take up arms against the villainous army.  Along the way, a bridge is shattered (inspiring Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and they rebuild it out of people.  It was a big hit on its release: people always like to see women fighting.  Action director Ching Siu Tung went on to direct as well, he did Swordsman II and the action choreography in Zhang Yimou's 2000s epics.  The #17 film of 1972.

My Young Auntie - Kara Hui stars in a comic Lau Kar Leung film.  She's the titular auntie  who inherits an estate and tries to keep it from being stolen by her dead husbands evil brother.  She's intrigued and terrified by the modern world, mocked by her nephew (Hsiao Ho) and his friends but everyone joins together to beat up the bad guys in the end.  It's the best of Lau's comedies, but I like him better when he's serious.  The #5 film of 1981.

The Lady Hermit - Cheng Pei-pei is the kung fu master hiding out while she recovers from her last battle with her archenemy.  A young man and woman discover her identity and the three of them work on some new kung fu moves and a love triangle.  Eventually, everyone fights the bad guy.  Cheng is as great as ever, and Shih Szu as the young woman who idolizes her is pretty adorable, but Lo Lieh is relatively bland as the male lead.  Better than the other two films by Meng Hua Ho I've seen (Vengeance is a Golden Blade and Shaolin Handlock) but none of them really stand out as great.  The #15 film of 1971.

God of Gamblers - Chow Yun-fat is the coolest guy in the world, the best gambler ever who looks fantastic in a tuxedo.  In the midst of preparing to defeat a bad guy in a gambling showdown, he falls down a hill and hits his head on a rock.  When small-time hustler Andy Lau (so young as to be nearly unrecognizable) finds him, he's got amnesia and has mentally regressed to a child.  Lau discovers his gambling talents and begins to exploit him, but when Chow's old acquaintances discover him, he and Lau have to find a way to get his brain back in working order (apparently never having seen the episode of Charles in Charge where a blow to the head changes Charles into his evil alternate personality "Chaz".)  In the end, Chow is back to his awesome self.  The first film in a long running series of sequels and parodies, it's easy to see why it's so popular: Chow's awesomeness mixed with director Wong Jing's lowest common denominator humor is nearly irresistible.  The #13 film of 1989.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Top 100 Albums of All-Time

1 The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs
2 Bob Dylan Bringing it All Back Home
3 The Beatles The Beatles (White Album)
4 Bob Dylan Love and Theft
5 Miles Davis Kind of Blue
6 The Clash London Calling
7 The Pogues If I Should Fall From Grace With God
8 Pavement Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
9 Weezer Pinkerton
10 Beck Odelay
11 The Beatles Abbey Road
12 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico
13 Radiohead OK Computer
14 The Beach Boys Pet Sounds
15 Sonic Youth Daydream Nation
16 Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street
17 Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde
18 The Beatles Revolver
19 Neil Young & Crazy Horse Rust Never Sleeps
20 Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
21 Fleetwood Mac Rumours
22 Parliament Mothership Connection
23 Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks
24 The Pogues Rum, Sodomy & the Lash
25 Leonard Cohen The Songs of Leonard Cohen
26 Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers
27 Pavement Slanted & Enchanted
28 Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited
29 Led Zeppelin IV
30 The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced?
31 Joni Mitchell Blue
32 David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust
33 Neil Young Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
34 Tom Waits Rain Dogs
35 Nirvana Nevermind
36 Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
37 Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
38 Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon
39 Bjork Debut
40 Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
41 Yo La Tengo Electr-o-pura
42 The Pixies Doolittle
43 Paul Simon Graceland
44 Frank Sinatra In the Wee Small Hours
45 Radiohead Kid A
46 Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream
47 Amy Winehouse Back To Black
48 Bob Dylan The Basement Tapes
49 The Pixies Surfer Rosa
50 The Grateful Dead American Beauty
51 Rolling Stones Beggar's Banquet
52 Neil Young After the Goldrush
53 Miles Davis Birth of the Cool
54 Morphine Cure for Pain
55 White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan
56 Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
57 Lou Reed Berlin
58 Jeff Buckley Grace
59 Radiohead Amnesiac
60 Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
61 The Pogues Red Roses for Me
62 Nirvana In Utero
63 PJ Harvey Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
64 Van Morrison Astral Weeks
65 Lou Reed Transformer
66 Tom Waits Mule Variations
67 Michael Jackson Thriller
68 Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
69 They Might Be Giants Flood
70 The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
71 Violent Femmes Violent Femmes
72 Dave Brubeck Time Out
73 Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man
74 David Bowie Hunky Dory
75 Prince Purple Rain
76 Sufjan Stevens Illinois
77 Ornette Coleman Free Jazz
78 Leonard Cohen Various Positions
79 The Beatles Let it Be
80 Cannonball Adderly Somethin' Else
81 Brian Eno Here Come the Warm Jets
82 Yo La Tengo And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
83 Neko Case Furnace Room Lullaby
84 Charles Mingus Mingus Plays Piano
85 Rush Moving Pictures
86 Modest Mouse The Moon & Antarctica
87 Stephen Malkmus Stephen Malkmus
88 NWA Straight Outta Compton
89 PJ Harvey To Bring You My Love
90 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground
91 Frank Sinatra Songs for Swingin' Lovers
92 The Clash Sandinista!
93 Wilco Being There
94 Elvis Costello My Aim Is True
95 The National High Violet
96 Tom Waits The Heart of Saturday Night
97 LCD Soundsystem This is Happening
98 Devo Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
99 Bjork Homogenic
100 Yo La Tengo I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One