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Too many movie reviews

From 2005 to 2010 I watched a lot of movies. As an aide-memoire, I wrote short reviews. Many contain significant spoilers.

10 mph. Two guys drive a Segway across the US. Light, fun.

12 Monkeys. (Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt.) A really tedious piece of filmmaking by Terry Gilliam about a guy from the future sent back to 1990 and 1996 to stop the release of a virus that wipes out most of mankind. Completely manipulative and unrealistic (especially the mental ward scenes).

2 Days in the Valley. Hey, it's another intertwined stories plot, with rather direct, bordering on leaden, direction/scripts. This is supposed to be a character driven film, but the characters are too weak to support that idea.

2009: Lost Memories. A very slick high-tech Korean alternative history thriller. An assassination in 1909 fails, leading to Japan winning WW2 with the US, subjugating Korea. A band of resistance fighters tries to alter time to turn Korea back into a free nation. A solid effort, and not completely predictable, but has a weak script and is nearly ruined by terribly overly melodramatic music.

2046. (Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Zhang ZiYi, Gong Li.) Probably the best of Wan Kar Wai, which in my book isn't saying much. TL is a hack writer, and he tells the story of several of his loves, in flashback, and with a weird futuristic blade runner like world in the year 2046.

21. A bunch of MIT undergrads learn to count cards to be the dealer. Barely amusing, gratuitous "heavy" (Lawrence Fishburn), and sleazy math prof (Kevin Spacey).

3 Needles. A very interesting drama with three stories about HIV: blood smuggling in China (with Lucy Liu), a male porn actor in Montreal, and a village in Africa where villagers take needles used by Western doctors and repackage them. A bit like Traffic for HIV, marred mostly by annoying voiceover.

3-Iron. (Dir: Kim Ki-Duk.) Guy breaks into stranger's homes, fixes things, takes a photo, and then leaves. He encounters an abused wife in one house, and she joins him on his adventure until they are arrested. (The movie slips a bit here for me.) He ultimately leaves jail and acts as a shadow of others, finally kissing her while she hugs her husband.

“It's hard to tell that the world we live in is either a reality or a dream.”

300. A rather dreary, wooden, CGI-laden, and cartoonish take on the Battle of Thermopylae.

301/302. A creepy Korean almost-thriller about two women who are neighbors in an apartment building. 302 is an anorexic writer, who, was repeatedly raped by her step-father, and who saw a young girl freeze to death in their freezer. 301 is a divorcee who loves to cook, so much so that she cooked her ex's dog, Fluffy. And wouldn't you know it, she cooks 302, also. Not great, but interesting and fun, although a little predictable. It's a little too single-minded.

3:10 To Yuma. Russell Crowe as a 19th century sociopath. He robs stagecoaches and just about everything else. He gets captured, and the posse has to deliver him to 3:10 train to Yuma, which is hard to do because his sociopathic gang comes to save him. Lots and lots of bullets. There's some small hint of remorse or mild redemption, not that believable, but otherwise very fine work.

44 Minutes. A dramatic reenactment of the North Hollywood bank shootout from 1997 involving an intense amount of firepower. Quite moving in its own way.

5 Fingers Of Death. 1973 film with young kung-fu artist trying to win some tournament, and multiple bad guys of various factions trying to stop him, even by breaking both of his hands to keep him from using the Iron Fist technique. This was apparently the film that introduced kung fu to American audiences.

50 First Dates. (Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore.) Memento meets Groundhog Day. Her head injury means every day is the same day; he's attracted to her but has to get past the memory problem. Blandly pleasant, and nothing more.

6ixtynin9. Very good Thai comedy/thriller about a young woman, recently laid off, who finds $25,000 on her doorstep, and gets involved in a gang revenge. The plot keeps thickening. Lots of fun.

9/11. A documentary by two French brothers who were following a new recruit through his probationary period when the planes happened to hit the WTC. Amazing photography of the planes, the collapse of the towers (from the inside), and the aftermath. In a small miracle, none of the firefighters from that station were killed by the collapse.

99 Pieces. Indie crap. A guy and wife are trapped in their house and subjected to slow torture, while being asked to solve a “puzzle.” Pure sociopathic garbage.

A Better Tomorrow. (Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung. Dir: John Woo.) One of JW's first big action films, with lots of drama/tragedy (family values vs the law). Interesting, but a bit dated with relatively poor production values.

A Better Tomorrow II. (Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung, Ti Lung.) Sequel to ABT, CYF is Ken, the brother of his character in ABT. LC and TL are brothers who go up against the gang leader who replaced the guy killed at the end of ABT. Same themes: loyalty to family, gang, honor. More guns, many more dead bodies. Bad acting by Americans in the NYC scenes. Weird acting by Dean Shek, the gang leader who goes crazy after his daughter is killed. Small part by Chindy Lau, who was the daughter of the city leader in Magnificent Warriors. Also, small part by Ng Man Tat, who has been in a lot of Stephen Chow's films.

A Better Tomorrow III. (Chow Yun-Fat, Anita Mui.) Actually, this is ABT 0, a prequel that find Mark and his cousin Mun in Vietnam. Anita Mui is some big crime boss, the girlfriend of an even bigger boss. There's smuggling, they go back to Hong Kong, and then return to VN to find her. Obviously directed by Tsui Hark, with blue smoke and dutched camera angles. The usual themes: loyalty to family, revenge, requited and unrequited love, and lots of slo-mo gunfights and spurting blood.

“The more hopes you have, the greater the pain.”

A Bullet In The Head. (Tony Leung, Jackie Cheung, Waise Lee, Simon Yam.) John Woo's Vietnam film about three HK hoods who go to VN during the war to make some money. They get involved in the VN gang life and the war. Lots of guns, blood, torture, dying. I think this film is better than the ABT series, along it runs a little long.

A Chinese Ghost Story. (Leslie Cheung, Joey Wong, Wu Ma.) LC is tax collector who runs into a haunted house. JW is a ghost, who he falls in love with (and she with him). WM is a swordsman who battles the ghosts. Produced by Tsui Hark, this has lots of wire fu, zombies, and a very large tongue. Fun, although the crazy action messes up some of the dramatic tension and love interest.

A Chinese Ghost Story II. (Leslie Cheung, Joey Wong, Michelle Reis.) A weird sequel to ACGS. People pretending to be ghosts, evil priests, a large ugly monster, a very large flying centipede, and a nearly endless series of plot devices. Not very good.

A Fishy Story. (Maggie Cheung.) MC comes to the big city to make it big as an access, and takes an apartment below an illegal cab driver, who she hires to be her chauffeur. An odd story that's hard to get into. Great color design, but too much Western music, eg., “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Anyhow, they fall in love, go broke, hock everything to buy a cab for him, lose that to thugs in a transportation strike, and she's just about to take the boat to America when he shows up at the very end. At least I finished watching this one.

A Hard Day's Night. The 1964 Beatles film (about a day in their life), with zany action, quips, and, essentially, music video that set the stage for just about every rock movie that followed. I found it a bit tedious in parts.

A Hero Never Dies. (Leon Lai, Lau Ching-Wan, YoYo Mung, Fiona Leung.) Another stylish bad guy vs. bad guy film from Johnnie To. LL and LCW are the head killers for two different gangs, both are nearly killed, and then they unite to kill the two gang leaders. Good use of the song “Sukiyaki” as part of the soundtrack.

A History Of Violence. David Cronenberg's film about violence that comes to a small Midwestern town. Turns out the innocent husband is actually a former gangster who ran away from that life. A bit creepy and unpredictable.

A Man And A Woman. (, dir: Claude LeLouch.) A widow and widower meet at their children's school. They fall slowly in love, and she withdraws at the end, when they're in bed, because she can't shake the memory of her late husband. This film holds up much better than most 40 year old films.

A Man Escaped. Robert Bresson's 1957 B&W film about a French prisoner held captive during WW2, and his steadfast attempts to escape from the prison. Spare, linear style without much drama.

A Moment Of Romance. (Andy Lau, Wu Chien-Lien, Ng Man Tat.) AL is triad member/bike racer who kidnaps WCL during a jewelry heist. She falls in love with him, she represents lost innocence. Good story, great acting, and slightly silly love songs.

A Simple Plan. Noir psychological thriller. Some guys find a downed plane with $4 million of ransom money. They agree to hide it, but then bad things start happening.

A Soul Haunted By Painting. (Gong Li.) Another great acting job from GL. She's a Chinese woman forced briefly into prostitution, but who then moves on to become a respected artist, Pan Yuliang. Based on a true story, it follows her career in Paris and back in China, where her background haunts her. I found it hard to really get the feeling of this film.

A State Of Mind. Documentary about two young female gymnasts in North Korea, preparing for the “Mass Games” for their leader, “The General.” Amazingly intricate and vast physical performances, which seem designed to entirely subjugate any individuality under group identity.

A Thin Blue Line. Errol Morris's documentary about Randall Adams, who was arrested, convicted, and nearly executed for the murder of a Dallas police officer that was really committed by David Harris, a young sociopath.

A West Lake Moment. (Zhou Xun.) A dull romance that pretends to use the themes of destiny and accident to show, well, I'm not sure what. Very artsy, but without feeling. One character talks to her inner child, literally. Not truly awful, but not good.

A World Without Thieves. Andy Lau is a thief. He and his female accomplice befriend a rube carrying 60000 yuan, and then protect him from a rival band of thieves on a train. Some clever plot turns, but some sappy music and hip (terrible) editing.

Ab-normal beauty. A HK pseudo-horror non-thriller from Oxide Pang. Just boring and bad, I stopped after 15 minutes.

Absolute Power. Clint Eastwood is a thief who witnesses a murder by, urk, the President and his Secret Service agents. Completely unbelievable, but well done and fun.

Advise And Consent. Behind the scenes in DC when the President nominates a left-wing candidate for the Secretary of State, and then the mud slinging starts. Charles Laughton steals the show.

After Life. Odd Japanese film about people who, after dying, go to a way-station where they are asked to pick a single memory from their life, which will be filmed for them, and then they will live with that sole memory for eternity. Starts strong, and then totally flags. I had to fastforward through the last 30 minutes. Big yawn.

After The Sunset. Pierce Brosnan is a retired jewel thief. Salma Hayek is his hot accomplice and lover. They retire to some tropical island. Woody Harrelson is an FBI agent on their trial. Light banter ensues as each tries to outwit the other. Fun, but completely fluffy and forgettable.

After This Our Exile. Story of a family falling apart in Malaysia. She's in some affair. He catches her trying to leave. They make up briefly, but then she splits. He's lost his job, has an affair with someone in cheap hotel, and then he presses the kid into stealing, which the kids rebels against. At the end, the kid, 10 years older, return a watch he stole from the family of a classmate. Mixed acting, some odd editing, but doesn't sugar coat the problems.

Against All Odds. A surprisingly effective noir from 1984 (which have ordinarily been a big handicap). There's little I remember from first viewing except the car chase up Sunset. The “Wyler canyon” development appears to be the unbuilt Getty Center in Brentwood.

Ah Kam (The Stuntwoman) (Michelle Yeoh, Sammo Hung, Jimmy Wong, Lo Wing Hang.) An interesting dramatic turn for MY in a story that loosely parallels her own career. She's a stuntwoman who gets SH's attention and is promoted in his organization. LWH is his wise-ass son. JW is MY's suitor, who ultimately cheats on her. MY and LWH ends the film by escaping to mainland China. There are about 3 or 4 movies here, including an inside look at HK film stunt action, a romance, a father/son drama, and some gang action thrown in also. The pieces don't all come together. The end of the film shows the outtake with MY nearly getting killed during a jump onto a truck.

Aliens Of The Deep. James Cameron and team of scientists using submersibles going about 3000m beneath the sea to study life, e.g, tube worms. Fascinating photography, trite performances from hip and attractive young scientists.

All About Ah-Long. (Chow Yun-Fat, Sylvia Chang, Ng Man Tat.) Story of interrupted romance. SC had CYF's child 10 years ago, and then left for the US, after having been told by her mother that the newborn had died. CYF is a wild and a bit irresponsible truck driver and former motorcycle racer. SC reconnects with the kid, and CYF died in a motorcycle crash at the very end of the film. Some of the melodrama is overdone, but it's actually a touching film about two people rediscovering their love for each other through the kid.

All About My Mother. (Cecilia Roth.) CR is mother a young man killed in a car accident. She travels to Barcelona to find the father, a transvestite. Blah, blah, blah. Nice acting, and photography, but not nearly as engrossing as I was expecting from an Oscar winner.

All For The Winner. (Stephen Chow, Ng Man Tat, Corey Yuen, who also directed.) An early SC film. He's a country kid who comes to HK; he got supernatural powers which he uses to win at gambling, but the powers are erratic. He wins in a final showdown because his true love arrives just in time to inspire him. Silly, and with some significant dead spots.

Almost Famous. An enjoyable film about a 15 year old aspiring rock and roll writer who gets to follow an aspiring band on tour, and hey, guess what, he grows up.

Amelie. (Audrey Tautou.) Amelie finds some old toys hidden behind a baseboard in her bathroom and the journey to find that man who left them there sets her on a path to explore the mysteries of everyday life. As the liner notes say, “reminds us of the small wonders that abound around us … if only we paused to look.” Directed with his quirky photographic style by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

An Autumn's Tale. (Chow Yun-Fat, Cherie Chung.) CC goes to NYC to study, with help from her cousin, CYF, who falls in love with her. A simple story, but not sappy or predictable.

An Inconvenient Truth. (Al Gore.) A very slick documentary about Al Gore's global warming talk, and also about him. He comes across as much warmer than he ever did on the campaign trail. He must have had help with the excellent photos and Keynote presentation. No real science, but that's not his point. It's hard to imagine how he wasn't thinking of using this as a way to buff up his political image.

Anatomy Of A Murder. (James Stewart, George C. Scott.) JS defends a man accused of killing his wife's rapist. Long, but it keeps moving, with great acting.

And I Hate You So. (Aaron Kwok, Kelly Chan.) He's an obnoxious radio DJ, she's a newspaper columnist. They accidentally connect over an old vinyl record discarded by her former lover. He insults her, she fights back, and, hey, they fall in love. Predictable, and not very believable.

Another Meltdown (aka The Blacksheep Affairs). (Zhao Wen-Zhao = Vincent Zhao, Shu Qi.) Chinese security officer is sent to Lavernia, which is somewhere in Eastern Europe. There he encounters a Japanese super-terrorist. Blah, blah, blah. Predictable. A couple of great martial arts action sequences, and the rest of the movie is pretty much a dud, except that it is another opportunity to watch SQ.

Armageddon. Bruce Willis and company depart for a very large asteroid that's headed for Earth. Predictable but mildly amusing.

As Good As It Gets. (Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt.) He's a crotchety old guy with OCD; she's a waitress. They gradually fall in love. Rich but schmaltzy.

As Tears Go By. (Andy Lau, Jackie Cheung, Maggie Cheung.) AL is the “big brother” to struggling low-life criminal JC, and cousin to MC, with whom he falls in love. JC keeps getting beat up, AL keeps rescuing him. It's about how people keep doing really stupid self-defeating things in order to save face or strive for power – even if it kills them. AL is very good, JC and MC are great.

Ashes of Time. I lasted five minutes. Confusing story, bad transfer from film. It's crap.

Audition. A Japanese widower auditions for a movie (and new wife), and the young woman he chooses turns out to have a twisted past, having been burned by her step-father and dance school owner. She tortures the guy at the end (or was it all a dream), cutting off his foot before being pushed down the stairs by his son. Really great setup, but only middling payoff.

Awaken Fist (aka Village On Fire). (). An early (1973) Yuen Woo Ping film with guy who helps protect citizens from gang member who shake them down. He promises not to fight on his father's deathbed, but then the gang kills his mother and sister, so he seeks revenge. As his love interest gets on the train at the end of the film, he's arrested. A straightforward revenge film, but more likeable than Red Wolf or Magnificent Butcher.

“You should have left retribution to the law… to the law… to the law.”

Babel. An exploration of linked stories about random violence (and other bad deeds). The wife of a couple gets shot in the neck in Morocco by two kids with a rifle. Their kids are taken to Mexico by the nanny for wedding, and they get lost in the desert on the way back. A deaf teenager in Tokyo is trying to get laid, and her father is the guy who gave the rifle to his Moroccan hunting guide. Some amazing photography marred by unnecessary handheld camerawork (yet again).

Babylon A.D. A really bad sci-fi “thriller” with Vin Diesel being paid to transport some young woman to NYC. Michelle Yeoh is her religious protector. Terrible directing and editing.

Bad Guy. (Jo Jae-hyoun, Seo Won.) Another creepy film from Kim Ki-Duk. SW is 21 year old college student framed and then forced into prostitution by JJ. Although he seems like a total psychopath, he's got a never fully revealed secret about a relationship with another girl, who SW ends up substituting for. Not entirely satisfying and a bit too enigmatic, still, this is an interesting, weird, and complex film.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. (Zhou Xun, Wang Shuangbao.) Adaption of the novel, by the author, Dai Sijie. Nicely done, but it lacks any dramatic punch. ZX is ultra cute, though.

Battle Royale. A Japanese film about some students who are placed on an island and forced to kill each other so that only one remains alive. Pointless, terrible.

Be With Me. A film from Singapore with three intertwined stories about: (1) Theresa Chan (a real) deaf and blind woman, (2) two teenage girls in love, and one jumps off a building after seeing the other with a third, and (3) creepy security guard in love with a beautiful woman who work in his building; he's killed by the falling teenagers. Interesting more for the views of Singapore, than for the very slow moving stories.

Beast Cops. (Anthony Wong, Michael Wong, Kathy Chow.) Very interesting character study with AW as corrupt cop, MW as his new straight-laced boss, and KC as the triad leader's girlfriend who MW falls for. We've seen most of these elements before, but this film is well-done, with a light touch and some elements of unpredictability. AW, as always, is fantastic.

Beauty Investigator. (Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima aka Cynthia Luster). A really poor HK cops and robbers flick, with decent action sequences interrupted by a silly plot about infiltrating a nightclub for “hostesses.” Completely skippable.

Beijing Bicycle. Nice story about a country kid who comes to Beijing and finds work as a bike messenger. His bike is stolen, and sold to a young preppy jerk. They steal it back from each other, but end up sharing it. The jerk brains a young bicyclist who stole his girlfriend, and they both get beaten up, and the bike is wrecked. A little too arty (slo-mo shots, music), but still very good.

Betty Blue. Somewhat crazed woman moves in with plumber/writer. French weirdness ensues. I lasted a hour.

Beyond Hypothermia. Beyond comprehension? She's a cold-blooded (literally) killer with a lesbian minder, who is chased down by a Korean thug after she kills his boss. Also, she finds nourishment in the noodles of Lau Ching Wan (oddly cast), a reformed triad member turned chef and a love interest. Lots of marginally shot and edited shootouts, with a final death fest with bullets and crashing cars. Everybody dies.

Big Shot's Funeral. (Ge You, Rosamund Kwan, Donald Sutherland.) DS is American director is China, who dies. GY is aspiring Chinese filmmaker who turns DS's funeral is a product placement exercise. Nice idea for a satire, bad execution. Runs far too long, and it's dull. Still, RK is a doll, although, unfortunately, dubbed.

Black Narcissus. Deborah Kerr is the new head of convent perched in the Himalayas. Things start to go wrong as one of the nuns falls in love with a man, and gets very Hitchcock-creepy at the end as she attempts, but fails, to push Kerr off the bell ringing stand. Fantastic Technicolor photography.

Black Widow. 20 years old but still fun. Theresa Russell does a fantastic job with the sociopathic but narcissistic and immature serial killer role.

Blind Shaft. This is harsh and uncompromising view of life in the Chinese coal mines, and what some people will do to make money. Two buddies kill another worker for his insurance benefit, and then try again with a young kid they pick up. Except that one of them starts to like him. Has a documentary feel to it. How the heck did they ever get permission to film in real mines? No annoying music, either.

Blood Diamond. A very solid film about the diamond trade in Sierra Leone the late 1990's under a crumbling political regime. Leonardo DiCaprio is a smuggler who help an SL man find his family in return for getting a honking huge diamond. There's an American journalist/love interest, of course. LD gets shot in the end, but does help the guy, and the journalist exposes the subterfuge behind the smuggling. Crap music.

Boarding Pass. Just terrible.

Body Heat. Average direction, but great writing and lots of fun.

Bounce: Behind The Velvet Rope. A documentary about bouncer's and their mixed relationship with violence on the job. One is Lenny McLean, the deceased star of Lock, Stock, Two Smoking Barrels. Occasionally interesting or amusing; would benefit from a better description of how they do their job. Bad editing and music cues.

Box Of Moonlight. John Turturo as an OCPD EE project manager. The project to install a power system is ended early, and he ends up following a series of adventures with a young free spirit named Buck that loosen him up a bit. Quirky and unpredictable.

Breach. The (true) story of Robert Hanssen, who spied for years for the Soviets. Very nicely done, with more drama and characterization than silly car chases.

Breaking News. (Nick Cheung, Kelly Chen, Richie Ren.) Another fine police-action film from Johnnie To. Bad guys get discovered, they steal a police van in a shootout and hole up in an apartment building. KC is a media wise police commander who manipulates the news. NC is a straightforward cop just trying to get the bad guys. Clever, fun, but the media satire is too heavy-handed to be believed. The first scene has 7 minutes of amazing camera movement (including up to the second story window and all the close ups on the ground) in one take, and there's another long single-take scene on the minibus at the end.

Brick. A film noir set in a Southern California high school. Interesting concept, but hard to take seriously because people that age would not act or talk that way.

Broken Arrow. 1950 film with Jimmie Stewart as white man trying to broker peace with the Apache. Notable for enlightened view of the Native Americans, although Stewart at 41 was to marry 16 year old Debra Paget.

Broken Flowers. (Bill Murray.) BM's GF leaves him, he learns he may have a son, and his friend (Jeffrey Wright) convinces him to go on a road trip to visit old ex's to find out who is the mother of his son. Being a Jim Jarmusch film, not much happens, but the setups are great, as is BM.

Bullets Of Love. (Leon Lai, Asaka Seto.) LL is a cop who with the help of his prosecutor girlfriend puts away a bad triad dude. They vacation in Paris, where girlfriend is shot in a elevator by a mysterious female assassin. LL lives with his family on some HK island, and there meets a Japanese photographer who is the spitting image of his old girlfriend. They fall in love, but it turns out, oops, that she was the assassin. There's a violent showdown, and chick shoots herself, having tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to leave her old assassins ways behind. Bizarre mix of love and cop action in a way that only HK films can capture. Oddly affecting, and disturbing – love me, I'm a reformed sociopathic killer.

Bus 174. A documentary about a street kid who took a bus hostage in Rio after a failed robbery attempt. Ultimately, a hostage is killed accidentally by the police and he's suffocated to death by the police in the van afterwards. Lots of backstory about the street kids of Rio.

Butterfly Sword. (Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung, Donnie Yen.) A rather confusing period martial flick, with the usual good vs evil, along with some unrequited love. Very energetic action sequences with confusing direction and editing that make it hard to follow. It gets better on repeated viewing. MY sings over the closing credits. Alternative ending: MY sees TL with his wife, jumps off cliff, DY jumps off to die with her.

TL:“The one holding the rock below is not having any fun!”

“Why didn't you just walk in? You're acting like a thief.”
DY:“Because I'm a kung fu master.”

DY:“I am a serious person, and I don't know how to make girls happy. I might as well become a monk for the rest of my life.”
“Don't be so pessimistic. You can change.”
DY:“How?”
“Your face is always expressionless. You have to learn how to express yourself. Just tell others what's on your mind. But the most important of all is to smile.

C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri. (Anita Yuen, Lau Ching-Wan.) Boy meets girl, girl's youthful energy and love of life rescue boy (actually, man, a frustrated musician) from despondency, girl dies from recurrence of leukemia. Well-acted and touching. I wish they translated the song lyrics, and the writing at the end of the film.

CJ7. Stephen Chow is a day laborer who spends all his money to put his son in private school, where rich bullies pick on him. Son finds a toy left by an alien spacecraft, which becomes an animated toy dog. Father falls from a building during construction, the dog shoots life energy into him, but dies in the process. Simple, sweet, sentimental.

Caddyshack. A very dumb and not very funny comedy.

California Split. (Elliott Gould, George Segal.) Altman's gambling film from 1974 that doesn't hold up particularly well. It's got the overlapping dialog, slow pans and zooms, and not much else. Unfortunately, I remember liking this so much more.

Carrier. Documentary about the USS Nimitz on a six month deployment to the Persian Gulf. It's a giant soap opera starring 20 year olds. Some of it is quite touching, especially the effects on families. However, it doesn't explain very much about how the boat works.

Casino Royale. A new take on the Bond theme, this time more psychological (hey, he's a sociopath who can stand extreme pain and isn't bothered by killing others). Also, way too long with significant dead spots (the poker game, the love interest). I can usually relax into the Bond fantasy world and just let go; I rarely did in this one.

Casino. Terrible HK gangster flick. I gave up way early.

Cassandra's Dream. A moderately entertaining murder film by Woody Allen. It's marred by a rather stagey feel, and it runs a bit long, especially for him. Not nearly as good as Match Point.

Cavite. A low-budget film by two guys about a Filipino-American man who returns to the Philippines for his father's funeral, only to be drawn into a terrorist plot. His mother and sister have been held hostage, and he spends the whole film being ordered around by cell phone. Interesting idea, but only fair execution: pretty bad camera work and editing, and an annoyingly simplistic steel drum soundtrack.

Charlie Wilson's War. Wilson was an inconsequential Congressman from Texas who in addition to enjoying drugs and attractive women managed to significantly boost covert funding for the CIA to help the Afghans defeat the Soviet invaders.

Chi-Hwa-Seon: Painted Fire. The story of the Korean painter Chang Seung-up, whose talent is recognized early, apprentices with a master, and then struggles to find his way as an artist in a changing Korean. Slow, but great painting. He incinerates himself in a kiln at the end, although according to legend described in the end titles, he vanished without a trace.

Children Of Heaven. An Iranian film about a boy who loses his sister's shoes. They share his sneakers, making him constantly late for school. He enters a foot race to win the third prize – a new pair of sneakers – but ends up winning the race instead.

Children Of Men. A vivid and tense view of the near dystopian future, when there are no more children, and society is falling apart. It gets a bit maudlin, but the action, production design, and camera movements are amazing.

Chinatown. (Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway.) Fantastic in every way.

Chinese Box. (Jeremy Irons, Gong Li, Maggie Cheung, Ruben Blades, dir: Wayne Wang.) Story of love between British journalist in HK and Chinese woman, GL, who used to be a prostitute. Set against backdrop of turnover of HK to Chinese in 1997. Great acting, enigmatic characters, unsatisfying story, and annoying hand-held camerawork. Maggie Cheung turns in great performance as young woman with a badly scared face (cause unknown) who had been, years ago, in love with an English schoolboy; after getting dumped she made a suicide attempt. JI somehow hooks them up again, only that the boy, now man, doesn't remember her.

Chinese Ghost Story 3. (Tony Leung, Joey Wong, Jacky Cheung.) The same idea as before, with TL as young monk, who helps his master, and JC, a swordsman for hire, along with JW, a beautiful ghost, get the Tree Devil Princess. Still silly, but faster pace, and funnier than the others. All the marks of Tsui Hark production, even the giant tongue.

Chop Shop. Young kid and his teenage sister live in a body shop. They're trying to save up money to buy a beatup taco truck. He hustles for money, and she turns tricks for truck drivers. Very documentary feel, and without any Hollywood-esque plot amplification devices (or crap music, either).

Chungking Express. (Brigette Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Valerie Chow.) Quirky, enigmatic, and not as bad as the rest of his films. Still the characters, while unpredictable, are poorly motivated, do completely irrational things, and make statements like the last two lines:

“Where do you want to go?”
“Where ever you want to take me.”

Chunhyang. The son of a governor secretly marries the beautiful (commoner) daughter of a courtesan. Dad's transferred back to Seoul, and the son must accompany him. She beaten by the new governor; he comes in first in the state exam, returns to the province and has the governor arrested. “But who knows what will happen after this story.” The story is told by an annoying singing (screaming) narrator.

Cinema of Vengeance. A perfunctory documentary about kung fu films. Unfortunately most of the clips aren't well labeled.

Circle. (Eddie Izzard.) On par with Dress to Kill. A live EI show in NYC.

Cirque du Soleil: Dralion. Also good (but mixed). The gymnastic juggler is fantastic. The clowns are also very good.

Cirque du Soleil: Nouvelle Experience. A good but not great performance. Most memorable were the Chinese gymnasts with the umbrellas.

Cirque du Soleil: Quidam. A bit off from their usual work. Some good acts: a guy moving inside a set of parallel rings, and a four Chinese “yo-yo” juggling acrobats. Less humor, less good plot, and the music isn't as good.

Cirque du Soleil: Saltimbanco. Another great performance, with less story and more great music and high-quality gymnastics. Also, a great juggler who bounces the balls in addition to juggling.

Cirque du Soleil: Varekai. My first exposure to CdS. Some of it is a bit gaudy, but some is very funny, and their physical prowess and technique shines through. Highlights: pairs of men who balance the other on their feet (called “foot juggling”), and the real juggler.

Citizen Ruth. (Laura Dern.) One of Alexander Payne's earliest films. Not as polished as Election or Sideways, but a great social satire about abortion rights. LD is Ruth, a drug abuser pregnant low-life, who shows, in her stupidity, that she's cleverer and saner than all the extremists (on both sides) that surround her.

City Hunter. Jackie Chan stars in this flat cartoonish story about a crime fighter who encounters some thugs trying to rip off rich folks on a cruise. Bad all around.

City Lights. Little tramp tries to help a blind flower girl, gets befriended by a millionaire (at least while the guy is drunk), finally gets money to pay her rent and get her eyes fixed. He's then jailed and when he gets out she finally recognizes him. Top notch writing, and stunt acting by Chaplin.

City Of God. A film about growing up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Most become gangsters or thugs, by the narrator becomes a photographer who ultimately documents the inter-gang warfare and deaths of the two gang leaders. Gritty, excellent acting, a good story, but it runs a little long.

City On Fire. (Chow Yun-Fat, Carrie Ng.) Ringo Lam's 1987 tough-cop thriller, apparently the model for Reservoir Dogs. CYF is an undercover cop who is accepted into a gang of jewel thieves, and he dies at the end. CN is his fiancé, who leaves him for another man, but then changes her mind at the end, but too late. This version is marred by a bad English dub, and the music is punched-up Western blues/rock groove, which probably wasn't on the original soundtrack.

City of Industry. (Harvey Keitel, Stephen Dorff, Lucy Liu.) Four dudes rip off some diamonds, and one decides to take the entire loot for himself. HK spends the rest of the movie trying to track him down. Very well done in parts, but humorless. LL is a stripper in a brief role.

City of SARS. (Eric Tsang, others.) Three stories about HK's response to SARS. (1) Doctors and nurse in hospital confront the dangers of treating infected patients. (2) Residents of apartment building are quarantined; women realizes that her current BF is a heel and she falls instead for a guy who then gets sick. (3) ET runs restaurants and clubs, loses money because there is no business, and decides to kill himself to pay off his debts with the insurance money. The script, acting, and directing aren't very strong, but the idea of seeing how a city responds to a medical crisis makes this not a complete waste of time.

Cleaner. A reasonably effective noir starting Samuel Jackson as an ex-cop who cleans up death scenes as a business. He's asked to clean up a murder scene, apparently without the knowledge of the woman who lives there.

Clear And Present Danger. Harrison Ford does his wounded-ferret look as a senior CIA analyst who encounters an American government involvement in an drug cartel. Some good action sequences, but too long. Clueless. Entirely fluffy but well-written and fun comedy about Beverly Hill high school student who remakes everyone else's life unless she runs into her own trouble, but ends up falling for her ex-stepbrother.

Code 46. Some futuristic sci-fi bullshit with Tim Robbins as a intuitive something (detective?) who is hired to find out who is diverting something (drugs?) in a Shanghai company. Interesting photography of Shanghai, but I gave up after an hour.

Coffee And Cigarettes. (many people.) Another fine, although uneven, film from Jim Jarmusch. It's all vignettes about drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The best ones: Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan, and the last one with Bill Murray.

Collateral. Tom Cruise is a sociopathic hitman in LA to do five kills. He hires a cab (WTF?) to drive him and things get complicated. Excellent photography, unbelievable Hollywood-ish plot with all the right plot twists.

Colour Of The Truth. (Anthony Wong, Raymond Wong, Jordan Chan, Lau Ching-Wan.) A solid police-action revenge film, in which RW, LCW's son, toys with the idea of killing LCW's partner, who may have killed his dad. Good character development, interesting action, great acting from AW, and all-around average camera work.

Comrades, Almost A Love Story. (Maggie Cheung, Leon Lai, Eric Tsang, Kristy Yeung.) A missed-opportunity romance. Good script, good direction, and simply great acting, especially from MC. Great scenes: he gives his coat to her, struggles to button it up, they kiss, and tear off the coat; after he walks away from her car and her head hits the horn. And others.

Contract Killer. (Jet Li, Eric Tsang, Gigi Leung.) JL is hitman looking for work, ET is conman who pretends to be an agent putting together a big hit to collect a reward for the killer of a Japanese businessman. GL is ET's daughter, who is a lawyer. It tries to show more of the personal side than in a typical action film, although the script and JL's acting aren't quite up to it. GL is a tall leggy knockout. Dubbed, with a rap soundtrack, yuck.

Crank. Jason Statham is injected with a poison, the only temporary antidote for which is to keep his adrenaline level up, which he does by driving at high speed, having shootouts, and having sex with his girlfriend on the street in Chinatown. Not great, but amusing entertainment.

Crash. (lots of people.) Alternately unpleasant and well-done, it's a story about how much we all hate each other, especially those of other races, especially in LA. I can appreciate the cynicism, but the dreamy music, and the appearance of Mother Nature (snow) at the end of the film, a gimmick, straight out of Magnolia, I couldn't handle. Rather than telling a real story, everything had to be punched up several notches. But to what end?

Cronicas. TV reporter searches for serial killer of children, focusing on one guy who was jailed after accidentally striking a child with his car. He appears to be the killer, but ambiguity abounds. Interesting, but lags in the middle.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang ZiYi.) A great mixture of pseudo-Victorian era repressed-love drama with wire-fu martial arts action. CYF is martial arts master with the Green Destiny sword. MY loves him, but can't act on her love. ZZ is the daughter of governor, and she steals the sword. She's set to be married, but secretly loves a bandit who stole her comb and kidnapped her before. There's also the Jade Fox character, who had killed CYF's master, and who poisons him while he kills her at the end. ZZ goes back to the bandit, but then jumps into the valley to die (there is an old legend about jumping to your death from a certain Buddhist temple to save the life of an ill parent; in the movie, this stands in for the extended suffering she undergoes in the other books). MY just suffers. Ok, it's a tragedy. There wasn't as much wire-fu over the rooftops action as I had remembered.

CYF: “I have wasted my entire life, but I did find enlightenment, and at last I realized that I love you.”
MY: “Whatever path you take in this life, be true to yourself.”

Cruel Intentions. A curious, sexy, teen remake of Dangerous Liaisons set in high-fashion Manhattan, with Ryan Philippe trying the seduce the virginal Reese Witherspoon. Fun and actually more memorable than the original.

Curse Of The Golden Flower. An opulent court drama set in the Tang dynasty. The Empress is having an affair with the oldest son (not her's). She's being poisoned by the Emperor. That son is also having an affair with the daughter of the Emperor's medical man, who's wife is the mother of the oldest son. (Got it?) Vibrant, saturated color, and legions of armies.

Dancing At The Blue Iguana. (Sandra Oh, Jennifer Tilley, Darryl Hannah.) A slice-of-life, improvised, and dark view of a SF Valley strip club (supposed to be in North Hollywood, but actually shot at club in Van Nuys). Like most improvised work, it lacks coherence at times, but many of the scenes taken individually are quite good, and some are even funny (JT at an abortion clinic, DH trying to take a picture of her own billboard and getting busted by a cop, SO wearing a scuba mask from a 99 cent store). SO is a knockout.

Dangerous Liaisons. A well-crafted intrigue to corrupt (with sex) a young virgin (Uma Thurman) and a virtuous woman (Michelle Pfeiffer). Well done except that Keanu Reeves can't act.

Dark Days. An unnarrated documentary about people living in the Amtrak tunnels in NYC. Interesting, but not worth a whole film.

Dawn Of The Dead. Run-of-the-mill remake of a zombie movie.

Days Of Being Wild. (Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Jackie Cheung.) Ok, another well acted enigmatic story. LC picks up women and then treats them badly, starting with MC and then CL. AL is a cop who befriends MC and listens to her. JC is LC's friend who also falls for CL. Who cares!?

Deadful Melody. (Brigette Lin, Yuen Biao, Carina Lau, Elvis Tsui.) A very good flying swordsman action piece, involving a special lyre that shoots deadly energy. BL is daughter of guy with lyre who is killed at beginning of film. YB is her brother, who she thinks was also killed. The bad guys try to get lyre back. Lots of martial arts action, heavy wire-fu, fast moving, and with some character development. Good photography and transfer to video. I wish I knew who played “Cold Seductress” Ha Ching Fa, who is also a babe. I think the message is about how vengeance and power are ultimately destructive.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about his Father. An amazing documentary about a young MD who is killed by his jealous borderline older lover.

Definite Article. (Eddie Izzard.) A brilliant show from EI. Early stuff, with a strong British slant, but he was really on.

Definitely, Maybe. Guy tells his precocious daughter about his romances, disguised by using different names, and one leading to her birth (and his divorce). Starts very slow, with some questionable writing and acting, but really picks up, becoming at least a emotional melodrama in which you root for your favorite candidate (for the mom).

Dejohnette, Hancock in Concert. A high quality video of D, H, Dave Holland, and Pat Metheny, whose distinctive sound grates after only a few tunes.

Delirious. Steve Buscemi as a crazed paparazzi, who takes in a young homeless struggling actor. The love story between the young actor and a hot music star is a bit trite (but enjoyable), but Buscemi is great. Great music video:

“You can take your love and shove it.”

Demonlover. A terrible French film about some business intrigue involving a deal with a Japanese adult anime something or other. I gave up after 20 minutes.

Deng Xiaoping: A Legend. A bland political documentary that does nothing to illuminate either his psychology or his insights into the economic reforms of China. A waste of time.

Densha Otoko (Train Man.) A Japanese geek protects a young woman on the subway from the drunk businessman, and he pursues her with the help from a group of online buddies. Cute, fun, a little touching, and the script is too thin for the length of the story.

Desk Set. (Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn.) He's an efficiency expert. She's the head of some network's research department. She's being courted by the new VP, but Tracy gets her in the last scene. A bit slow and predictable.

Dial M For Murder. A very clever living room detective drama, with a great mixture of detection, drama, and wit. Husband plots to kill his wife, who's having an affair with an American mystery writer. He blackmails an old schoolmate to strangle the wife, but she ends up killing him with scissors in his back. Husband then tries to frame her for the murder. It all hinges on the identity of the proper front door key.

Die Hard 2. Somewhat less fun Bruce Willis film; he has to rid an airport of terrorists, and save his wife on a plane that they won't let land.

Die Hard With A Vengeance. #3 in the series. Fun and dumb.

Die Hard. Reasonably fun Bruce Willis film; he has to rid a high-rise office building of terrorists, including Alan Rickman.

Diva. A visually flashy French music/action/romance. I remember loving it when it came out. Some of the photography is still stunning, but it didn't grab me like before.

Domino. A stinker from Tony Scott about a female bounty hunter. Jerky camera work. Voice over (always a bad sign). Nonlinear editing between interview by FBI psychologist (Lucy Liu in a throwaway role) and some bounty hunting action. Dull and predictable.

Double Indemnity. (Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck.) A top-notch (maybe the top-notch) film noir about insurance guy who gets suckered into killing a woman's husband to get the insurance money. Unfortunately, she's set him up and plans to run off with another man. She shoots him in the shoulder, he shoots her and she dies. He goes back to the office and dictates the entire series of events. Brilliant, classic.

Double Tap. (Leslie Cheung, Ruby Wong.) A tortured guy film masquerading as a police action thriller. LC is a shooting expert who has to kill a crazy cop at a shooting range. He ends up with a showdown against his cop rival. Interesting psychological drama, but the motivations aren't clear, and it turns needlessly violent and nihilistic at the end. RW does a decent job as LC's girlfriend, but what do those orange tinged flashbacks refer to?

Double Vision. A Taiwanese horror cop buddy film (!?) that sucks. Head of big corporation is found dead in his office; he froze/suffocated somehow. Weird Taoist cult gets involved. American FBI investigator gets involved. Fortunately, the disk got stuck at 30 minutes, rescuing about one hour of my life.

Dr. Mack. (Tony Leung, Lau Ching-Wan, Christy Chung, Gigi Yeung.) TL is HK doctor who treats everyone in his street clinic. Various things happen, but it's more about the value of seeing his patients as people.

Dragon Heat. Crap HK action “thriller” (term used ironically). Group of young Interpol hot shots go after a gang that kidnaps another gang leader to get to his brother, the super gang leader. The saving grace is that various main characters start getting killed starting about half-way through, so at least there is less bad acting to go around. Some HK eye candy, including Maggie Q and Shengyi Huang.

Dragon Inn (aka New Dragon Gate Inn). (Tony Leung Ka Fai, Brigette Lin, Maggie Cheung, Donnie Yen.) DY is evil eunuch trying to kill children of his opponent. TL and BL are protecting the kids on a journey to the border, but get stuck at the Dragon Inn, where MC is the proprietor, and who has eyes for TL. Lots of swordplay (maybe too much), horses, camels, and wire-fu at the inn. Good unrequited romance, better characterization than the typical flick of this genre. On the commentary track, Ric Meyer gives a political interpretation of this film involving the impending transfer of HK from British to Chinese control.

MC: “I'll open all my passages for you if you look at me like this forever.”

Dragon Lord. (Jackie Chan.) Annoying English dub of early 1982 JC (starring and directing) flick. Inconsequential plot about some gang trying to steal Chinese treasures, and JC trying to win the hand of some girl. Good stunts, including shuttlecock game, but not much else going on.

Dreadnaught. (Yuen Baio.) A solid film from Yuen Woo Ping. White Tiger (a killer) joins the theater to hide, and wearing a mask goes around killing people. YB impersonates (badly) his master, Wong Fei Hung. Many complex fight scenes, some humor, much slapstick.

Dress To Kill. (Eddie Izzard.) A hysterical funny British comedian who I've never heard of, who performs in drag. I laughed so hard I had to turn it off briefly.

Drive. (Mark Dacascos.) Extremely silly, medium budget, action flick about MD whose a bioengineered something or other that some HK corporation wants back. Basically, an extended road chase from SF to LA. MD has great fight scenes throughout, with some fun at desert motel run by a nymphomaniac. Cheesy and fun.

Drunken Master. (Jackie Chan). JC suffers humiliating fight with Thunderleg, then studies with drunken boxing master before seeking revenge. Early Chan, classic Cantonese stage humor, very good fighting. JC's second big film.

“The fact that you're pretending to lose lets you win.”

Duel To The Death. (Norman Chu, Damian Lau, Flora Cheung.) A classic 1982 kung fu flick. A Japanese samurai comes to China to fight a Chinese martial artist from the Shaolin Temple. Then, to makes things complicated, another Chinese school wants in, this time from the master's daughter. And finally a group of Japanese ninjas go flying around, kidnapping Chinese fighters. There a classic showdown at the end, and both sides die. Great color photography and amazing sound.

Déjà Vu. Bruckheimer/Scott production with all that entails. An absurd sci-fi time-warp allows federal agents to track a terrorist/bomber who's blown up/going to blow up a New Orleans ferry boat. Exciting until you start thinking.

Eagle Eye. Junk thriller that recycles a lot of themes including the malicious omnipotent AI brain trying to protect/overthrow the current government. Bad.

Eastern Condors. A surprisingly fun low-budget war action film about a group of prisoners recruiter to enter Vietnam to blow up a ammo storage facility. Great action from top names: Sammo Hung, Yuen Baio, Corey Yuen, Yuen Woo Ping, Joyce Godenzi, etc.

Easy Money. (Michelle Yeoh.) HK remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, with a female lead. It's interesting to watch MY act in a quasi-dramatic part with no martial arts action, but the weak script and bad direction really limit this film. Nice to see MY in a tight dress, though.

Eat A Bowl Of Tea. (Russell Wong, Cora Miao, Eric Tseng.) Son of Chinese immigrant marries woman from China. He's impotent because of the stress of running a Chinese restaurant in NYC and pressure from his father, and he's never home, so she has an affair, gets pregnant and brings shame to both families. His father chops the guys ear off, and somehow everyone lives happily ever after in SF. The ending is unbelievable, and Russell Wong can't act. Highly overrated.

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. Ang Lee's 1994 film about a widower and his three daughters. He's a retired master chef. The three daughters each fall in (and sometimes out of) love and move out. The pace is slightly too slow for me, but otherwise very solid work. Fantastic cooking scenes, too.

Electric Shadows. A very touchy story about a family and movies. A water delivery guy runs his bike into a brick wall, and unbeknownst to him, kills a woman's dog. The rest of the movie is told in flashback: he was a goofy kid who was befriended by a young girl living with her single mom, and they used to watch (or sneak into) movies. At the end, they're all reunited to watch an outdoor movie. Very solid writing and acting.

Encounters At The End Of The World. Werner Herzog's documentary about Antarctica. His intelligence, cynicism, and misanthropy all come through. Volcano shoots up globs of lava. Dangerous scuba dives under the ice to see weird sea creatures. Broken frozen yogurt machine. Nutty scientists.

Encounters Of The Spooky Kind. Samo Hung wrote, directed, and starred in this kung-fu horror comedy. He's a braggart who takes a bet to stay in a haunted temple overnight. His wife's lover (and his boss) has hired a bad dude to animate corpses to get him.

Endless Summer 2. A fluffy and fun documentary about two guys who travel in search of the perfect wave – although they seem to enjoy all of them.

Enemy Of The State. (Will Smith, Gene Hackman.) A surprisingly exciting film about a lawyer accidentally caught up in an NSA-sponsored murder of a US Senator. It has the usual plot impossibilities, but it's fun and fast paced.

Enter the Dragon. (Bruce Lee.) Bad James Bond-esque film with Lee and other martial arts stars going to island where women mysteriously disappear. Final fight with Han in room of mirrors. Jackie Chan is one of the stuntmen. Other than that BL has incredible power and speed, there is nothing remarkable about this film.

Equilibrium. Derivative sci-fi flick (Matrix, 1984) about dystopian world, cured of war by a drug that wipes out all emotion. One “cleric” misses a dose, starts to feel, saves a dog, meets the underground, has some spectacular acrobatic shootouts, and ultimately kills The Leader. Very mildly amusing, but mostly a tedious ripoff.

Eraser. Arnold is a Federal Marshall assigned to protect witnesses. Entirely predictable, but good escapist fun.

Eros. (1). (Gong Li, Chang Chen). GL is a high priced prostitute, guy is her tailor. Her fortunes decline, then she gets TB. He remains loyal to her to the end. Directed by Wong Kar Wai. Slow, enigmatic, dull. (2) (Alan Arkin, Robert Downey, Jr.) RD is trying to sell alarm clocks, which he explains to his analyst, AA. He then describes a dream while AA is snooping out the window and then flying a paper airplane. This one, too, is enigmatic, but at least it's really funny. (3) Michelangelo Antonioni's boring, enigmatic piece about a couple and a woman who lives in an old tower and with whom the guy has sex, once. The two women end up romping around naked on the beach. Dull.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. (Jim Carrey, Kate Winslett.) An arsty, fuzzy attempt at showing the poignancy of love, which doesn't really click until late in the film. Part of the problem is that previous scripts from Charlie Kaufman, directed by Spike Jonze, set the bar so high that this film, by a different director, doesn't have a chance.

Europafest: Jazz Highlights. Very brief highlights of a 1990 show, with fair sound and terrible camerawork. I got it for one song with Naked City/Frisell, but it was too brief.

Evil Dead 2. (Bruce Campbell.) The classic cult horror flick by Sam Raimi. Surprisingly not-very-scary, and some of the effects are mighty cheesy. Some people are trapped in a forest cabin, where the professor had originally spoken the words of the dead. Various body parts are chopped off, and BC ultimately falls through a time tunnel into the Middle Ages.

Exiled. Another Johnnie To film about brotherhood, good and evil. I can't be bothered to describe the plot, which was improvised and nearly nonexistent.

Exotica. Guy goes to strip club, we don't know why. Guy sits in car with young teenage girl, gives her money, we don't know why. Another guy works in a pet bird shop and picks up other guys to watch the ballet. Guess what? We don't care what happens.

Expect The Unexpected. (Lau Ching-Wan, Simon Yam, Ruby Wong, YoYo Mung.) Good but mixed HK cop action film, with several intersecting plots: incompetent mainland thieves try to rob a jewelry store, some HK gang goes around killing cops and others, and SY and LCW vie for the love of YYM. The ending is an expectedly brutal shootout between the two of the thieves and six cops – all get killed.

Eye In The Sky. A surveillance unit follows members of a gang that robs jewelry stores. Very slow start, but then it becomes an interesting detective film with a overly dramatic and predictable ending. Still, surprisingly strong effort.

Faithfully Yours. (Stephen Chow, Max Mok, Jacky Cheung, Cheung Man, Richard Ng.) A silly, fluffy, and not-very-good 1988 HK comedy about CM and three suitors SC, MM, and JC, all of whom think they got CM pregnant and who vie for her hand. RN is her father, a barber. Mildly amusing, and nothing more.

Fallen Angels. (Leon Lai, Karen Mok, Michelle Reis.) Wong Kar-Wai's stylized, enigmatic, tortured tale of an HK hitman, two chicks, and a mute. I had to fast-forward through the last 10 minutes. Yawn. What is all the fuss about?

Farewell China., (Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Hayley Man.) A spare, uncompromising look at a couple who come to New York separately, and suffer as immigrants. TL looks for MC, enlisting HM, a young punk prostitute for help. Realistic feel, almost no music, dark photography, some amateur acting from HM, but overall a solid piece of work.

Farewell My Concubine. (Leslie Cheung, Fengyi Zhang, Gong Li.) An extremely long story follows two young Peking Opera trainees (and later, stars), and a prostitute who becomes the wife of one of them, through 50 years of Chinese history. Interesting story, great acting, and quite tedious in sections.

Fast, Cheap, And Out Of Control. A very tedious documentary that manages to suck the life out of what should be four interesting lives: a topiary gardener, a wild animal trainer, an expert on naked mole rates, and Rod Brooks, robot scientist. Annoying music, and blatant analogies made through cutting to circus acts.

Fighting For Love. (Tony Leung, Sammi Cheng, Niki Chow.) She damages his car, they fight, they fall in love, and, oops, he's engaged to someone else (NC). Not completely annoying, but it's a weird script with unusual changes in character, and could easily be missed. TL has done much better.

Final Destination. A high school student, about to board a flight on a school trip to France, has a dream about the explosion of the plane, freaks out, and gets off the plane (with several others). Then Death kills them in the order they would have died on the plane. Plodding, without any cleverness or wit.

First Shot. (Ti Lung, Waise Lee, Maggie Cheung, Simon Yam.) A rather perfunctory HK cops story about one honest cop who puts together a small group, with solicitor MC, to drive out corruption from the HK police force. Typical cheesy music, fast cuts, and violent action. Nothing special going on here.

Fist Of Fury: Sworn Revenge: Disk 1. (Donnie Yen.) The prequel to Fist Of Fury. DY and his young sister escape to Shanghai after their village is ransacked, and their other relatives are killed. He has to join a gang to get money. She's killed. He seeks revenge but is stopped by Master Fok, who tells him he's too impulsive and direct. Shot on video with moderate production values. The young sister is cute and her role touching.

Fist Of Fury: Sworn Revenge: Disk 2. (Donnie Yen.) DY kills his sister's killer, and then tries to quit the Shanghai gang but has to fight his way out. He joins the Jin Wu martial arts academy, whose “Big Brother” objects to his presence (and prowess), and who he ultimately beats at the end. It shows how Big Brother's arrogance and striving was his downfall. Unfortunately, these two disks are a small subset of the entire TV series.

Fist Power. (Vincent Zhao aka Man Cheuk Chiu, Anthony Wong, Lam Suet, Cheng Pei-Pei.) AW is ex-British Marine who holds a school hostage to get his ex-GF's son, who he helped raise, back from his evil father. VZ is a security expert who help gets the son back, kung fuing just about everyone in sight. Energetic fights, but bad direction and editing, and a washed out print limit the appeal. VZ was also in Green Snake, The Chinese Feast, and Fong Sai Yuk.

Fist of Legend. (Jet Li). JL must help protect Shanghai during 1937 Japanese invasion, and revenge the killing of his master. Big fight with Japanese General Fujita. A remake of Bruce Lee, The Chinese Connection (aka Fist of Fury).

Uncle: “Brutality, as I've taught you, is never the way to win a battle.”

Fists of Fury. (Bruce Lee). BL's does battle with boss of ice factory who hides drugs in the ice. Boss has BL's family and friends killed, and girl kidnapped. Final battle between BL and boss.

Fitzcarraldo. Guy obsessed with opera gets natives to pull a boat over a mountain in the jungle of South America. Sedate pace with some very intriguing shots.

Flash Point. (Donnie Yen.) Well photographed, good fight scenes, and a mixture of predictable and confusing triad vs cops plot that isn't worth explaining.

Fletch. (Chevy Chase.) A non-funny comedy that just doesn't work.

Flypaper. (Lucy Liu, others.) A low-budget pseudo-noir. Some losers kidnap the (possible) daughter of a rich real-estate developer. LL is a meth chemist who they also kidnap (briefly) before she escapes to be helped by a weird snake venom chemist; they have sex on top of snakes. Persistently weird, clever, and at times hysterically funny (guy with knife stuck in the top of his head picked up by a family, for instance).

For All Mankind. A nice documentary about man's flights to the moon, with impressionistic narration from the astronauts themselves, lacking a bit in coherent explanation.

Fracture. Anthony Hopkins is a creepy engineer who finds his wife in an affair and kills her, and then makes no attempts to escape arrest. Ryan Gosling is the DA who takes what he thinks is an easy case. Rosamund Pike will be his boss in the private law firm he's about to start at. Then things go haywire.

Frantic. A rather fun thriller from Roman Polanski. Harrison Ford comes to Paris with his wife, who's kidnapped because she picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. He tries to find her with the help of the young woman who was smuggling a nuclear detonator inside a Statue of Liberty. I'm sure I saw this when it first was released but don't remember a thing.

Friends. Korean film about four kids and what happens when they grow up. Two becomes gangsters, and one kills the other. The first part, which shows how they bonded as kids, was very strong, but the second half is far too long. Also, the disc was damaged so I never saw the last few minutes.

From Beijing With Love. (Stephen Chou, Anita Yuen.) 007 spoof, with SC as pork vendor called into spy service to look for head of dinosaur. AY is agent of his evil boss sent to kill him, except she falls in love with him. Very silly. Probably would be funnier if they translated the signs and other writing.

Frontline: Storm Over Everest. Documentary about 1996 accident and deaths during severe storm; covered also by Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

Fulltime Killer. (Andy Lau, Takashi Sorimachi, Simon Yam, Kelly Lin.) Strange action thriller from Johnnie To. Two top hitmen vie for number one. Simon Yam is a cop who goes crazy trying to catch them. The girl tells him the ending, that AL shot TS, but then you see the opposite happen in flashback, so I guess truth is hard to determine.

Funny Ha Ha. A surprisingly well-done low-budget film about the low-rent life of recent Bostonian college grads. Marnie is a young woman who occasionally drinks too much, and can't get Alex, her current obsession with his own problems (and who suddenly get married). She rebuffs the attention of Mitchell (played by the director), a totally dorky guy working for a temp agency.

Fuzz. 1973 Boston cops flick. Very dated, but since I remember seeing it in the theater (barely) it was a small nostalgia trip. Raquel Welch, Tom Skerritt, Burt Reynolds.

Gen X Cops. A fluffy big-budget HK cops vs bad guys flick. Three young rebellious dudes are just about kicked out of the police force before being recruited by Eric Tseng to go undercover. The plot is just a vehicle for stunts, such as parachuting off the roof of a skyscraper. Blandly entertaining, plus some HK eye candy.

Get Smart. Dull and not very funny.

Glorious. (Eddie Izzard.) Another fine show by Izzard, although not as good as Dress to Kill.

God Of Gamblers 3: Back To Shanghai. (Stephen Chow, Gong Li, Ng Man Tat). Silly but mostly amusing SC film that has him sent back to Shanghai of 1937. He falls in love with GL, she is killed, so he falls for her retarded twin sister.

Goddess Of Mercy. (Zhao Wei.) ZW is a police officer, who's husband died, and who is juggling a romance with her fiancé and a mobster, with whom she gets pregnant. It's a weird hybrid of a character study and police-action, and doesn't quite satisfy on either grounds. Just about everyone dies at the end. Slow and distant direction.

Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues. (Yukari Oshima, Dick Wei, Ken Lo.) About 10 minutes total of great fights and the rest a sub-par HK action revenge flick with terrible white-on-white subtitling.

Gone Baby Gone. A very solid film by Ben Affleck about a young girl abducted from a lower case family in Dorchester. The plot has some twists, it's morally complex, and the acting is great.

Gone In 60 Seconds. (Nicholas Cage, others.) Completely lame big budget (Bruckheimer) production about the best car thief who comes out of retirement to save his brother's life by stealing 50 cars in one night. Huge plot holes, completely artificial motivation and characterization. Compare The Italian Job for how to do this the right way.

Good Times, Bed Times. (Sammi Cheng, Lau Ching-Wan, Charlene Choi, Louis Koo, Sandra Ng.) A sexy HK romantic comedy. SC breaks up with LCW after she catches him cheating. She's a tabloid reporter, and does a story on LK, who's widely thought to be impotent, and falls for him. LCW, a judge, is pursued by CC, who he first meets in a sexual harassment court case. It's all very silly, but more lively and fun than many of SC's films. CC, in particular, pulls off the nymphet temptress act nearly perfectly. And there's a great scene with, ah, genital strengthening exercises set to “Under the General's Orders” (the Wong Fei Hung theme). Sure, none it makes much sense, but who cares?

Goodbye Mr. Cool. (Ekin Cheng, Karen Mok, Rain Li, Lam Suet.) EC is Dragon Cool, an HK gangster just released from 6 years in a Thai prison, and is now straight, helping LS as a busboy in a cafe. Various forces conspire to pull him back into the crime world. KM is his hard-case sociopathic ex, with whom he now finds out he had a son. RL is the son's teacher, who has a thing for EC. Slower and more serious than the typical triad flick, and with more family values. Still, EC dies in a fight at the end. Too many flashbacks, too much searing guitar work, and, basically, too Western.

Gorgeous. (Jackie Chan, Shu Qi, Tony Leung.) Romance with a small amount of martial arts action. SQ find message in bottle (from the gay TL to his boyfriend), and goes to HK to find who sent it. She wooes JC, a rich HK garbage tycoon. Although not great, it is so light and fun that it's more enjoyable than I would have expected (although it doesn't hold up to a re-watching). SQ overacts the part of a young spunky and pouty ingénue. JC has boxing/kickboxing match with short white guy (Bradley James Allen), which is very well choreographed and shot. Still, it's a bit weird to make a movie about a 45 year old guy in a relationship with someone who looks and acts likes she's 18.

Great Expectations. Young Pip helps an escaped convict in the graveyard and much later is rewarded that benefactor. Meanwhile Miss Havesham, who was dumped at the altar, adopts young Estella. Good story, but nothing special. Not so crazy about the book, either.

Green Snake. (Joey Wong, Maggie Cheung.) Weird costume fantasy in which JW and MC are sister snakes who can take human form. JW takes a human husband, but MC shows him her snake form and he nearly dies. Final showdown with upset monk. JW dies, MC stabs her husband so he can be with her. It's about how the snake creatures have to learn about the flaws and hypocrisy of being human. Bad transfer to video, and illegible subtitles.

“There are many restrictions to be a human. It's difficult to be a good person.”

Green Tea. (Zhao Wei.) ZW is a demure literature graduate student who goes on lots of blind dates. One, shown at the start of the film, is with a creepy guy who won't take no for an answer. As their affection builds (sort of), he meets a lounge pianist who looks exactly like ZW. All atmosphere, very little plot. Excessive close ups. Long quasi-meaningless romantic dialogues. Lots of panning across opaque or transparent objects. Pointless.

Guardian Angel. (Cynthia Rothrock.) Well, I ordered Guardian Angel (Yukari Oshima, Philip Ko), but got this one instead. CR is a cop, her (cop) fiancé is killed, she's seeks revenge on the killer, the sociopathic girlfriend of a counterfeiter. Action scenes are nothing other than average, and the movie suffers from weak writing, directing, and acting, and the worst digital transfer I've ever seen.

Guns And Talks. Slick Korean hit-men comedy. They kill, one falls in love. Some laughs about the younger brother who can't bring himself to kill an attractive pregnant woman. Sort of a Korean Pulp Fiction lite.

Hancock. Will Smith is a drunk, debauched superhero who causes as much trouble in fighting crime as he ameliorates. He meets a gung-ho married PR guy, who tells him to clean up his act. Guy's wife has a thing for him, and it ultimately turns out that she's his superhero mate. Oops. Like just about everything that Will Smith does, it's fun and entertaining. This one leaves on a upbeat note that appears to be a direct setup for a sequel.

Happy Times. Man tries to win a fat woman as his girlfriend, and ends up taking care of her blind step-daughter. He and his friends pretend to run a massage parlor in which she can work. In the final scenes, he is hit by a truck after writing a fake letter from her father to her, and she goes off, presumably in search for him.

Hard Boiled. (Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu Wai). John Woo's gritty film of cops against very bad gun-runners. Plot makes no sense at the end, guns fire endlessly with very little reloading, there's an intense final shootout in a hospital, and 230 people get shot or killed. Very well done for what it is, but by the end of the film, you feel brutalized.

Harlan County, USA. Documentary about mine workers strike in Kentucky and the violent techniques used (unsuccessfully) to break up the strike.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. (Audrey Tautou.) Alternatively interesting and annoying, this is a story of unrequited erotomanic love. The characters a fairly unlikeable, distant, and the light tone mocks the seriousness of the obsession.

He's A Woman, She's A Man. (Anita Yuen, Leslie Cheung, Carina Lau, Eric Tsang.) An HK remake of Victor/Victoria. Sweet, but too long and lacking in any kind of energy.

Healing Hearts. (Tony Leung, Michelle Reis, Valerie Chow.) MR is a woman in a coma, and the GF of the friend of TL, a doctor. She wakes up while he's in the room – hey, it's a miracle. He lets her stay in his apartment, they fall in love, he finds she's got an AVM, he can't remove it, and she flies away to somewhere else. Touching love story, uneven writing and direction, remarkably bad subtitling for a year 2000 film, and several completely unnecessary subplots, such as VC as a lawyer representing the family of a dead patient.

Hearts and Minds. Very interesting documentary about Vietnam War, with some rather explicit war (and sex) footage.

Helvetica. Who would have thought that a documentary about a type face would be so interesting and so well done (and so well photographed)?

Hero Among Heroes. (Donnie Yen.) An early unwatchable film directed by Yuen Woo Ping. I lasted less than 15 minutes.

Hero. (Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Donnie Yen). Story about assassins trying to kill Qin Emperor who wants to unite China. Themes of love, revenge, and loyalty to nation to achieve unity and peace. Lots of color, fancy photography, and beautiful sets. I'm unimpressed by the editing of the action sequences, and the overly dramatic tone of the music, and quite honestly don't quite understand the fuss.

Red/Nameless (bullshit version): I killed Sky, and then told Sword that Snow and Sky had been lovers. Snow kills Sword, then Nameless kills Snow.
Blue/King: You convinced Sky to let you kill him to get to me, and then told Snow and Sword that he needed also to kill one of them. Snow wounds Sword so that Nameless can kill her instead. Sword and Nameless then have feckless fight over the lake near the dead Snow. Moon gives Sword's sword to Nameless so that Sword's and Snow's swords will be together as Sword and Snow are together in life and death.
White/Nameless (what really happened): I come from Zhao. Qin soldiers killed my whole family. My sword is so accurate I can miss all the vital organs, as I did with Sky. Sword says that as love as I live, I will stop you from killing the King. Snow says she will help Nameless and stabs Sword. Nameless stabs Snow in a fight.
[Green (inside White)/Sword: He describes how he and Snow practiced calligraphy and swordsmanship, then stormed palace 3 years ago to kill the King, but Sword does not kill the King, as he has learned through the study of calligraphy.] Nameless says he is motivated by hatred and revenge.
Sword: I give you two words: Our Land. The war between our kingdoms is nothing if ending it leads to peace for all. Nameless does not kill the King: the warrior's ultimate act is to lay down his sword. Snow finds out and fights with Sword, who drops his sword so that she stabs him. “I'm taking you home now, where there are no borders.” She then pushes the sword through him into herself. Nameless is killed by the King's archers.

High And Low. Akira Kurosawa's detective/noir film about a kidnapping for ransom involving a rich businessman. It's long and slow in parts, but the detective work is just fantastic.

High Noon. (Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly.) He is the marshall who cleaned up the town, they get married, and then immediately learn that a bad guy he put away is on the noon train. He tries to get the support of the town's people but they rebuff him. He sticks to his values, protects the town, and then drops his badge on the ground at the end.

High Risk (Meltdown). (Jet Li, Jackie Cheung, Chingmy Yau, Valerie Chow, Billy Chow, Wu Ma.) JL's wife and son are killed by a mad bomber who then plans a big jewelry heist in a hotel exhibit. JC is a vain Jackie Chan clone for whom JL does his stunts. A mix of action, madcap comedy, and a little bit of romance. VC is bad, and hot. Silly, but fun.

His Gal Friday. (Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell.) Newspaper publishing CG is trying to win RR back after their divorce, and keeps putting obstacles in her way so she won't leave town with her fiancé. She gets roped into a covering a story about a man on death row. Very stagey, and well-known for its rapid fire dialog, it didn't really hold my interest.

Hit Team. A rather routine HK cops-gone-bad film. Undercover cop is paralyzed. His buddies resign from the force and steal money from gangsters to fund his special hospital treatment. Meanwhile, the good cops are after them. Mostly fun, but nothing special, other than Jo Koo, who is a rather cute female cop. Terrible subtitles.

Hitch. (Will Smith.) He's a dating advisor for men. He helps a schlubby accountant hook up with a gorgeous babe. Meanwhile, he starts to fall for a gossip columnist. Problems ensue. Not a great movie, but parts are fantastically funny, mostly because of Will Smith and Kevin James.

Hitman. A weak Bourne Identity clone about a hitman raised from birth (bald head, tattoo on back of skull), who is set up in a double-cross with a double Russian leader. Not terrible, just not at all good.

Hong Kong 1941. (Chow Yun-Fat, Cecilia Yip, Alex Man.) A romance in the time of war film that doesn't quite work for me. The characters, while complex, are too distant, and the film moves too slowly to draw me in.

Hopscotch. (Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson.) A 1980's spy farce about the disgruntled CIA field agent who rebels against his bone-headed boss and writes an expose, while on the run from the agency. Fun, but dated, and of no lasting significance.

House Of Fury. (Stephen Fung, Anthony Wong, Gillian Cheung, Wu Ma, Michael Wong.) A another slick but vacuous HK production. AW is SF and GC's father. WM is an old spy who he is protecting. MW is an American assassin who was foiled years ago by WM, and he's out to get him, from his wheelchair. Some good action sequences, inexplicably over-the-top wire work from Yuen Woo Ping, great production values, and predictable plot. Charlene Choi has a very small part.

House of Flying Daggers. Two cops battle blind female assassin, with many plot twists and turns. Basically, a story about the conflict between duty to one's group and to one's love.

House. The first four episodes of these TV series about the misanthropic MD, named House, who's modeled after Sherlock Holmes. Fun, but with all the expected TV annoyances: crap music, artificial plot devices, etc.

How Art Made The World. A BBC documentary about art, with a focus on how perceptual psychology influenced the development of art.

How To Cook Your Life. A documentary about Edward Espe Brown, his cooking, and his Zen practice. Great insights into him, Zen (mostly about feeling angry and letting it go), with some absolutely wonderfully saturated color photography.

How To Draw A Bunny. A documentary about the life of Ray Johnson, an avant-garde collage artist and free spirit who killed himself by jumping into Sag Harbor, perhaps as his final work of art. This film really captures the bohemian world of 1950's and 60's art in New York City.

How To Lose Your Lover. A low-budget but very fun take on breakups and romance. This might be the perfect LA romantic comedy. Guy tries to leave LA and end every relationship, but can't.

How To Steal A Million. (Peter O'Toole, Audrey Hepburn.) A fun 1960's comedy romance. PO has a steal a fake statue owned by AH's father before it can be examined for authenticity. A clever (although not particularly tense) theft, and a lot of stagey romance. Pleasant, but nothing special.

I Love Maria. (Tsui Hark, John Sham, Sally Yeh.) Very silly high-tech robot-fu film, with evil female robot who is reprogrammed to help the good guys. This looks like a lot of Hark's films. Cheesy music, bad subtitles.

“Perfect order can only be found in machines. The more advanced it is, the more we enjoy life.”

I, Spy – “Bet me a dollar”. (Robert Culp, Bill Cosby.) Watched entirely for nostalgia reasons. Cosby bets Culp that he can find Culp anywhere in Mexico. Unfortunately, Culp's leg was infected with anthrax in a knife fight, so will die in 24 hours. Some very good location shooting. The rest of it lags a bit. This show was very good for 1965, but not for 2007.

Iceman Cometh. (Yuen Biao, Maggie Cheung.) A fun and completely unbelievable historical time-travel romance kung fu action film. He's a royal guard in the Ming dynasty who's fighting a bad guy. They get frozen and wake up in modern Hong Kong. She's a hooker who he rescues. She helps him acclimate to the future, and he protects her. Other bad guy also got defrosted in HK, so they have to fight it out. YB wins, and takes the bad guy back in time. Then a YB looking a lot like Clark Kent shows back up in HK in the very last scene, without any explanation.

Igby Goes Down. The story of a bohemian teenager who hates his family, especially his mother, and spends the whole movie acting out. Mom dies at the end, and he takes a plane to California. So what.

Il Mare. Two people communicate through a special mailbox even though they're separated in time by two years. Great idea, rather weak execution that meanders.

In The Company Of Men. Two guys, both recently out of relationships, are in a new town on business; they hatch a plan to manipulate a naïve, dependent girl to fall in love with both of them, and then dump her. It backfires, slightly, as she falls in love with one, dumps the other, who spills the beans about the plan, and who ends up trying to go back to her (unsuccessfully) in the end. The other guy admits that he wasn't out of a relationship, he was just playing the woman because he could. Creepy and manipulative, with a very stagey feel.

In The Line Of Duty 3. (Michelle Khan, Michiko Nishiwaki.) Actually, the second in the series of films, so go figure about their numbering scheme, and the first without Michelle Yeoh. Two Japanese Red Army terrorists steal some jewels and kill a Japanese cop, setting up his partner for revenge. This movie is nearly all action sequences with brutal fights and not much in the way of characterization. New to me, MN is a good fighter and a babe. This film actually has a sex scene, which is unusual for an HK action flick. Cheesy music, typically bad subtitling.

In The Line Of Duty 4. (Michelle Khan aka Yang Li Qing, Donnie Yen, dir: Yuen Woo Ping). Police action with MK picking up for MY. Drugs, money, and a missing film canister along a path from Seattle to Hong Kong. Adequate script, excellent action work from MK and DY. MK was only 21 when she made the film. Bad subtitling, e.g.:

“Why care on him?”
“He's just a suspected. If anything happens, you will get trouble.”

In The Line Of Duty 5. (Cynthia Khan.) A rather perfunctory entry in this series. Her cousin is an American Marine framed (or somehow implicated) in the theft of American military secrets. Some good action work from CK, but otherwise a boring and confusing plot. More cheesy music and bad subtitles.

In The Mood For Love. (Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung.) MC and TL are married, but unfortunately not to each other, so they have an very slow moving Wong Kar-Wai kind of affair, because, hey, guess what, their spouses are having an affair. I enjoyed this movie more than his others, but that isn't saying much.

In the Valley of Elah. A top-notch murder mystery with Tommy Lee Jones as the father of a soldier just home from Iraq gone AWOL. Realistic, without excessive music, or plot stupidity. The lives of the returnees rings very true to what I know from the VA.

Incident At Loch Ness. A great meta-mock-documentary about Werner Herzog's expedition to Loch Ness to study those who believe in the monster. Brilliant work all around.

Infernal Affairs 2. (Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang.) A prequel of IA. Complex, textured, slower, longer, and probably better. The plot is too hard to summarize. It's trying to be epic, tragic, and a bit like part of The Godfather series. Again, too much annoying music.

Infernal Affairs 3. (Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Kelly Chen, Leon Lai, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang.) This episode tries to fill in more details before and after TL's death. It's a nice try, but lacks the drive of the earlier films, and they tried too hard to pack everyone in. The romance between KC and TL and AL isn't very believable, and she's pretty but not a great actress. The rest of it is more double cross mole stuff with some mainland gangsters. I think everyone was setting AL up, but it's hard to be sure.

“Continuous Hell.”

Infernal Affairs. (Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Sammi Cheng, Kelly Chen.) Great cop-mole vs gang-mole undercover thriller. The music is annoyingly overly dramatic Western, but the script is clever, the photography sharp, and the acting is great all around.

Initial D. A silly manga-inspired Japanese/HK film. Son of tofu shop owner has quietly acquired supreme driving skill and blows all comers away. Dumb. I stopped after about 60 minutes, which was at least 30 minutes longer than I should have.

Inner Senses. (Leslie Cheung, Karena Lam, Valerie Chow, Waise Lee.) A ghost-story psychological drama romance. KL sees ghosts, LC is her psychiatrist with his own problems. It was reasonably creep and interesting until he starts dating her and gives himself ECT. It turns out, gee whiz, that he was seeing the ghost of a long-dead girlfriend, and once he comes to terms with that, hey, he's cured. Curiously, this was LC's last film before he committed suicide.

Into The Night. (Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, zillions of cameos.) I saw this 1985 John Landis film when it came out on the big screen 20 years ago, and remember almost nothing except I fell for MP at the time. Well, the film isn't great – basically an extended low-key chase around LA – but the locations are fun, the acting is at least passable, and MP is still attractive. I remembered almost none of it.

Into The Perilous Night: PTU. (Lam Suet, Simon Yam, Maggie Shiu, Ruby Wong.) LS is a sergeant who loses his gun after being beaten up by a bunch of punks. SY is a PTU officer who helps him find the gun. RW is a cool CID officer who is doing something obscure. Beautifully photographed scenes that are meant to impress but which have absolutely no meaning (the four punks, shaved, naked, in cages?). I could do without the guitar based soundtrack, also.

Irma Vep. (Maggie Cheung.) A French film about making a French film, with MC as Irma Vep, a cat burglar. The film production falls apart in a uniquely French way, the director has a nervous breakdown, the costumer wants to start a lesbian relationship with MC. It never quite clicks, and seems to rely on too many French film in-jokes.

Iron Fist. This appears to be a made-for-TV, shot-on-video series ended down to a 3 hours movie. The editing carries the story along, very quickly, and it returns to the characters in contexts that make it possible to keep it all reasonably straight. Northern Kick vs Southern Fist. Moon Lee is very good, and cute.

Iron Man. Super-rich, super-smart weapons engineer gets kidnapped by terrorists and force to copy his missile weapon. Instead, he builds a crude iron suit that jets him to freedom. He refines it, and then commits himself to peace. However, his business partner has secretly made deals with the enemy, and copies the suit. Big showdown. Cartoonish, and only mildly amusing.

Iron Monkey. (Rongguang Yu, Donnie Yen). Nice wire-fu work, good acting, story, photography, directed by Yuen Wo Ping. Story of the Iron Monkey (a Chinese Robin Hood), plus Wong Kei Ying (WFH's dad), and a young Wong Fei Hung.

JSA (Joint Security Area). A Korean military murder investigation at the area separating North and South Korea. Told mostly in flashback. Very interesting political background. A Swiss-Korean officer comes to investigate murders that took place in a N. Korean guardpost at the border. It turns out soldiers from both sides had formed a (obviously forbidden) friendship, which when accidentally discovered, turns to murder. Definitely well done.

“Here the peace is preserved by hiding the truth.”

Jagged Edge. A good murder mystery/courtroom drama from 1985. Wife of publisher (Jeff Bridges) is killed, he's suspected. His attorney (Glenn Close) falls in love with him.

Jesus Camp. A great documentary about the effect of fundamental religion on kids, and how they are indoctrinated.

Jet Li's Fearless. (Jet Li.) JL is a wushu master who kills Mr Chin, his opponent; he then falls into a state of despondency, is nursed back to health by a young blind villager, and he returns to the ring in an international competition. He's poisoned by the Japanese manager, but the Japanese fighter declares him the winner. (This is apparently Jet Li's last martial arts film.)

Jonestown: The Life And Death Of Peoples Temple. A documentary about Jim Jones, his church, and the death of 909 people (mostly by suicidal ingestion of cyanide) in 1978. Fascinating interviews, but little in the way of social or psychological explanations of why.

Ju Dou. (Gong Li.) GL is the new wife for a crusty old cloth merchant. He's impotent, but she falls in love with his nephew, and they have a kid who they pass off as the merchant's. The merchant is crippled, so they go public with their love, at least at home. The kid finds out. Bad things happen. Once again, GL is great.

Juliet In Love. (Francis Ng, Sandra Ng, Simon Yam.) Confusing triad crime/drama/romance in which FN is thug who ends up caring for the illegitimate son of SY with SN, and guess what, they fall in love. The acting is good, but everything else is slightly off.

July Rhapsody. (Jackie Cheung, Anita Mui, Karena Lam.) JC is high school Chinese literature teacher, AM is wife. KL, his student falls in love with him. He has a brief affair with her. Interesting, non-manipulative movie, but it's a bit hard to follow the details, and I'm not sure what to conclude about it.

Juno. A clever and witty film about a pregnant 16-year old. She's too precocious, but still, it's fun.

Jupiter's Wife. Documentary about a schizophrenic women who lives in Central Park. Interesting, although not great, and I didn't feel too bad when the disc stopped playing 30 minutes in.

Just One Look. (Anthony Wong, Charlene Choi, Gillian Cheng.) A teen romance with two young couples, and AW is a low-level gangster who one of the guys thinks killed his father in a movie theater. Nice acting turn by AW in a more complex role for him. Fluffy and not particularly clever or satisfying. Small cameo by Shu Qi at the very end. (On second, and accidental, viewing, I enjoyed this film more. It's sweet, tender, funny, and parodies the martial arts film crowd, and has reasonably good production values except for the insipid “Melody Fair” tune on the soundtrack.)

Kamikaze Girls. Live-action adaptation of a J-pop-cult comic book. The beginning is so spritely and bizarre that it looked to be amusing, but then you realize that you don't care about either the characters or the story.

Kill Me Again. (Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Michael Madsen.) John Dahl's first direction, a fun noir piece with JWK and MM as some low-life thugs who steal a large stash from the Nevada mob. She konks him, and takes the cash. VK is a PI, who she convinces to fake her death, but she splits on him. He tracks her down, and then things get complicated. They both die, and VK drives off in the back of a truck driven by some Indians. Lots of double-cross action, with mostly good direction and a little uneven acting. Lots of fun overall.

Kill Zone. (Sammo Hung, Simon Yam, Donnie Yen.) SH is a very bad dude. SY is a cop dying of a brain tumor who is trying to get SH for killing a key witness. DY is to replace SY. Some action. Lots of slow music and disquisitions about fate and family. Surprise ending: you think that DY has killed SH in a fight, but he picks up DY and throws him through a window, falling to crush SH's wife and child in the car below. Still, not great.

Killer Of Sheep. A low-budget film about Watts in the 1970's. Or so I'm told. I lasted less than 15 minutes.

Killer's Romance. A terrible HK action (?) film about Simon Yam who takes over a gang and revenges the late leader's death, running into Joey Wong in the process. Bad writing, bad direction, bad photography, and surprisingly slow. I only could watch about 20 minutes.

Kiss Me Deadly. A Mike Hammer noir. He almost runs over a woman running down the middle of the road wearing a trench coat. They're captured, she's killed, and he spends the rest of the film putting the pieces together. Some great shots of old LA (including the Angel's Flight trolley). Overall, good but not great. Keeping with the year 1955, the secret involves a box filled with radioactivity that burns up whoever opens it.

Kiss Of The Dragon. (Jet Li, Bridget Fonda.) A Luc Besson production, which means slick photography, a dynamic camera, excessive violence, and huge plot holes but it moves fast enough that you don't care too much. JL is a Chinese security officer sent to Paris to do something, but he's framed for the murder by a corrupt French security officer, who is also the pimp of an American, BF. Basically an extended chase, lots of fast action (choreographed by Corey Yuen), holds your attention but nothing more.

Kissing Jessica Stein. A light, intelligent (and funny) romantic comedy about a woman who tries, after many bad dates with men, dating a woman instead. It's great up to the end, when you see her drawn back to her ex-boss who's interested in her.

Klute. Jane Fonda's star turn as a prostitute in NYC and Donald Sutherland as a PI trying to find a missing man. The villain is predictable, but Fonda's acting is very good, and I can see how this film attracted a lot of attention in 1971.

Knocked Up. Overweight schlub and beautiful cable reporter have alcohol-fueled one night stand, and she gets pregnant. She wants the baby, and he has to clean up his life. Long, but sweet and quite funny in parts.

Kung Fu Hustle. (Stephen Chow.) A completely over-the-top kung fu parody with the Axe Gang taking over old Shanghai. The residents of the Pig Stye slum rise up against the gang. Too loud, with overly done cartoon style violence, but many laughs, and very creative. Lots of CGI. Lots of references to other kung fu films that I only appreciated on later re-watching.

Kung Fu Master. (Jet Li, Chingmy Yau.) Completely crazy and confusing kung-fu flick with multiple sects battling, JL trying to revenge his parent's deaths, and much more. I gave up after an hour.

Kwaidan. A famous Japanese film from 1964, with four parts. (1) “Black Hair”: young samurai leaves his wife for a rich woman in Kyoto, but things don't work out. He returns to the first wife, only to awaken the next morning to find that both she and the house he saw the night before where ghosts. (2) “The Woman of the Snow”: Two woodcutters are caught in a heavy snowstorm. A ghostwoman kills the older one, but spares the younger, on the condition that he never tell the story. Years later he marries a young girl on her way to Edo; they have three kids. He realizes she looks like the ghost, tells her the story, and finds out she is the ghost. She runs out; he leaves he slippers in the snow; they disappear. (3) “Hoichi, the Earless”: This starts with another screaming narrator sequence, so I stopped.

La Brassiere. (Lau Ching-Wan, Louis Koo, Gigi Yeung, Carina Lau.) Ultra-silly HK romantic comedy: two guys get hired to design a new bra, and, guess what, they don't know what they're doing! A couple of great scenes, a fair amount of tedium. Basically, a vehicle for lots of attractive women.

La Samourai. (Alain Delon.) AD is a very cold, stylish killer who is observed at a hit, and he spends the rest of the film trying to outwit the police, succeeding until the very end when he is gunned down tried to shoot the black female piano player with an empty gun. Very little talking, letting the camera tell the story.

Lars And The Real Girl. Very tedious story about a schizoid guy who buys a life-sized doll, and then I didn't find out what happened because I gave up.

Last Hero In China. (Jet Li, others.) JL is, again, Wong Fei Hong in this rather long, and over-packed film by Wong Jing (with action direction by Yuen Woo Ping). Lots of rip offs (smoke and blue light). Some humor. JL fights a centipede in the Lion Dance. JL is poisoned and goes deaf. Some good fast-action fight scenes. JL fights dressed as a chicken.

Last Hurrah For Chivalry. (Dir: John Woo.) An early JW film that explores honor, friendship, and loyalty. Long sword battles with intricate choreography, but otherwise undistinguished.

Last Life In The Universe. Weird Thai/Japanese film about a depressed librarian whose yakuza brother has a shootout in his apartment, and then gets involved with a Thai girl. Slow, at times interesting, and ultimately pointless.

Laura. Interesting “noir” by Otto Preminger. Laura has been found dead, shotgunned in the face. Suspicion is cast among many: her creepy fiancé (Vincent Price), her aging ex-lover (Clifton Webb), and a few others. Interesting plot twists.

Lawrence Of Arabia. Very long, well photographed, and the acting is a bit stagey. However, the film maintains great relevance to today: partially cooperating tribes of Arabs (lead by Lawrence) sought to fight off the Turks, but get caught up in their own squabbles. Also, shows well Lawrence's internal conflict about the morality of what he was doing, with its considerable bloodshed.

Layer Cake. Daniel Craig is a cocaine dealer trying to get out of the business, but first he's got to sell a million Ecstasy pills. Overly complex, and the commentary track is marred by the director forgetting the actor's name, the writer's heavily accented soft voice, and the noise of a package of crisps.

Legend Of Speed. (Ekin Cheng, Cecelia Cheung, Simon Yam.) EC is a tough dude who races cars and bikes. His girlfriend is killed when he races against his rival. He escapes to Thailand, finds his father, and returns to HK for the final revenge race against SY. Rather straightforward, nothing special.

Lethal Angels. A ripoff of Naked Weapon – women seek revenge. Just bad.

Life Show. A woman runs a street stall selling duck necks. She cares for her nephew. She has a dispute with other family members over ownership of a family home. A rich guy (and customer) and she have a brief affair, but she dumps him because he spends all his time on business (?). Interesting in parts, but lacks drive.

Lifeline. (Lau Ching-Wan, Ruby Wong, others.) A very strong gung-ho firefighters film from Johnnie To. It starts with a lot of melodrama, but ends with an extended set piece with the firefighters trapped in a burning factory. Unfortunately, this was a lousy print, but the movie was quite moving – well above average.

Limelight. A total loser from Charlie Chaplin. He saves an invalid dancer from suicide, and then …. I gave up. Too slow, too maudlin. Sorry, Charlie.

Little Children. A very dark comedy about several suburban families in Massachusetts. Stay at home dad has affair with stay at home mom. Child molester is harassed by ex-cop who shot a kid at the mall. Solid work, but not worth a repeat view.

Little Dieter Needs To Fly. Documentary by Werner Herzog about Deiter Dengler, who joined the US Navy to fly (his lifelong dream), only to be shot down over Vietnam, captured, and tortured. He escaped and lived to tell his tale. Harrowing.

Little Miss Sunshine. A very cute comedy about an eccentric family and remaining true to your goals. Alan Arkins steals the show, at least until he dies.

Living In Oblivion. A very fun independent film about the foibles of making an independent film, when just about everything that could go wrong does.

Long Way Round. (Ewan McGregor, Charlie Boorman.) Two guys (with some help) bike east from London to New York. Some amazingly beautiful terrain, and some very tough roads, some accidents, frame fractures, and some wonderfully helpful and friendly folks all along the way. Some gimmicky camerawork and editing, but these guys make it all seem human and fun, with a smile (mostly) on their faces.

Looking For Mr Perfect. (Shu Qi, Simon Yam, Ruby Wong.) A very silly cops-and-robbers comedy romance. SQ is a HK cop who has bad dreams after killing a suspect. Her friend is a model, and then both go to Malaysia for her work. Subplot of the model agent trying to sell a missile tracking system. SY is the heavy. RW is a tough moll with red-streaked hair. Overall, pretty bad, especially considering the talent involved.

Lost And Found. Kelly Chang is young woman who hired Takeshi Kaneshiro (Mr Lost and Found) to track down a Scottish sailor who she's only just met. The search ensues, slowly, but he finds him, and she follows the guy to Scotland before deciding to return to her homeland, Hong Kong, where she marries Mr LAF, and then dies from leukemia. Quirky, but it definite bogs down until the end when she appears as a ghost at her funeral party for an effective, sentimental, wallop.

“Every bit and piece of life can be magic, and everyone can be a magician.”

Lost In Beijing. Yes, they are, and they're wasting my time.

Lost In Time. (Cecelia Cheung, Lau Ching-Wan.) A very sweet romance between CC, who loses her fiancé, and LCW, a bus driver colleague of her fiancé, and who helps her raise her fiance's son. It's a simple story, but done with great finesse and wonderful acting. It takes 1h30m before they kiss, and it's feels right.

Lost In Translation. Bill Murray is famous American actor in Tokyo for a commercial photo shoot. Scarlett Johansson is a young and bored wife. Slow, dreamy, it does a great job of capturing the exotic, poorly translated, and jetlagged world of modern Japan. I thought it was too slow and incomplete the first time I saw it (years ago), but it's really quite moving as a tale of misaligned love interests.

Love Battlefield. (Eason Chan, Niki Chow.) A couple meets, is together, later fights just before taking a vacation to Europe. The guy, a nurse, is kidnapped to help an injured gang member, and the girl tries to find him. At the end, guy kills thugs, girl thug drives car into water, guy goes to get his girl out, and drowns himself. She lives. Sad ending. Uneven, but unpredictable plot twists. Ok, so love is precious.

Love For All Seasons. (Sammi Cheng, Louis Koo.) A completely mediocre kung-fu love story, about SC, a temporary master at a temple who has to fight “Big Sister” using Heartbreak Sword technique, except that she hasn't had any heartbreak. LK is a womanizer who shows up at the temple at just the right time, and proceeds, for the bulk of the movie, build up their relationship so he can break her heart. Nothing works in this film: the story, the characters, or anything else.

Love Me, Love My Money. (Tony Leung, Shu Qi.) A very average love story about TL, a billionaire and plundering capitalist, and SQ, who first uses him to show off to her father, a village leader, and get out of an arranged relationship. Modestly enjoyable in parts, but the script and direction are lame.

Love On A Diet. (Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng.) HK/Japan romantic comedy. SC is woman who gained weight after losing her pianist boyfriend. AL is also fat, and helps her lose weight, but they fall in love in the process. It starts out very silly (and grotesque), but you do care about the characters by the end. SC is a knockout.

Love On The Rocks. (Louis Koo, Gigi Yeung, Charlene Choi, Rain Li, Donnie Yen.) Beautiful photography, professional sound, annoyingly continuous camera movement, annoying music. All the backdrop for a sappy romantic comedy. LK and GY break up. He gets CC, playing the part of a young mystic, to give him advice about romance. He flashes back to his first two loves. Meanwhile, GY is romanced by DY. Too much formal exposition about romance, but the women are all hot, and the ending with their tearful reconciliation is almost believable.

Love Undercover. (Miriam Yeung, Daniel Wu.) Romantic comedy with MY as incompetent police cadet drafted to work undercover to bug son of triad boss, DW. He falls for her, she falls for him. Amusing, but extremely silly and fluffy.

Lucky Number Slevin. (Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley.) Guy overhears a tip on a fixed horserace, the horse falls, but he and his family are killed to set an example. Years later, another guy in NYC falls into a system of mistaken identity. It turns out he's the first guy's son, back for revenge. The original script was of very mixed quality, but turned into a rather fun mystery/comedy/romance/revenge thriller by clever editing and tight direction. I really started to live in this film world, which rarely happens.

“I was just thinking that if you're still alive when I get back from work tonight maybe, I don't know, we could go to dinner or something?”

Lust, Caution. Lots of fuss over the NC-17 sex scenes, which I'm not sure added much to this film. A young drama student gets close to a Chinese collaborationist in WW2 as part of a plot to kill him. She falls for him, and at the last minute gives it away; he escapes; they're caught and killed. Great acting, too long.

Maborosi. (Makiko Esumi.) Girl loses her grandmother, she grows up, husband commits suicide by walking on the train tracks, she remarries, and moves to a remote fishing village where nothing much happens, except that she appears to be somewhat happier. A very distant photographic style (no close-ups) and the slow pace make this well-made movie about life and loss far less than great.

Madam City Hunter. (Cynthia Kwan, Anthony Wong.) A 1992 entry in the standard female HK genre. She's framed for some murders, AW is a private detective who she encounters along the way, he's got a goofy girlfriend named Blackie, her dad is dating a younger woman who dates older men and kills them, and CK's police boss is in love with her. Decent stunt action from CK, weird HK silliness, and at least CK wears a short dress most of the time. AW does some good action work himself. Not a very good film.

Magic Cop. (Lam Ching-Ying, Mishiko Nishiwaki.) LCY is a cop, but also a Taoist priest. He uncovers a plot to use walking dead bodies to transport drugs and money. MN is the baddie. Amusing and fun, but nothing special. MN doesn't do any fighting. It's all voodoo.

Magnificent Butcher. (Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao.) Classic HK kung-fu with just a few too many intricately choreographed fight scenes. Typical duty-to-master and revenge for killing family flick.

Magnificent Warriors. (Michelle Yeoh, listed as Michelle Kheng.) One of her early big action films. Action comedy in the mold of Indiana Jones. Lots of hand-to-hand combat, good stunts, decent production values, and bad music. She's a Chinese pilot who must rescue a spy from Kaal, an area in Inner Mongolia, in 1938. MY has shorter hair, seems a bit more fleshed out (literally) and smiles with an excessively sunny disposition. Apparently the filming was so tough she considered dropping out of action movies.

“Men are such a pain in the ass.”
“Look lady, forget about your boyfriend till you can get a room.”

Man On Wire. Phillipe Petit walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Simply amazing.

Manda Bala. Fascinating documentary about frog farms, kidnapping and plastic surgery in Brazil.

Manufactured Landscapes. A fascinating documentary about the photographer Edward Burtynsky and his photos of man's effect on the planet. Great opening dolly shot in Chinese factory lasting 8 minutes, and interesting tour of Shanghai real estate agent Diana Lu's palatial house.

Marnie. (Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery.) A rather formulaic psychodrama, with TH as a sociopathic thief, and SC as a businessman who falls in love with her, and decides to help her. It turns out that as a child she killed a sailor (Bruce Dern, in a bit part) who her mother had picked up. There are a few interesting scenes, but it runs long, and the pseudo-Freudian theorizing seems quite dated.

Master Of The Flying Guillotine. A kung fu classic. Master of FG seeks to kill the One Armed Boxer because he killed the Master's two disciplines. They meet at a kung fu-off. One Armed guy sets up for a final fight using bamboo and weapons hidden in a casket factory.

Match Point. (Jonathan Rhys-Meyer, Scarlett Johonsson.) One of Woody Allen's best in a very long time. A tennis pro is befriended by a rich family, moves up in their business and marries the daughter. But he has an affair with his brother-in-law's ex-girlfriend, who he gets pregnant and then kills her. Nice London scenery, some stylish dialog, and great acting all around. There's some weird editing and a major plot hole (did the police not figure out that SJ was pregnant?). Also, it's a bit hard to believe that the guy would kill the woman he loves – other than being careless and besotted with her, he's not the type to commit premeditated murder.

Matchstick Men. Nicholas Cage is a con man who meets his long-lost daughter (except that she is actually part of a con); he, in the final scene, kisses his pregnant wife (formerly the grocery clerk), demonstrating, I guess, the true value of family.

Meerkat Manor. Not that interesting.

Memoirs Of A Geisha. (Zhang ZiYi, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li.) Given the bad press, I was surprised that this was a good, but not great, film. Weak accents, and too much music.

Men Suddenly In Black. A completely strange HK film about four guys whose wives leave town to visit Thailand. The guys go on a mission to have affairs, although their wives never actually leave town and spend the rest of the movie tracking them down. Shot as if it were a Tarantino action film, it's hard to figure out if it is a completely cynical view of marriage or if it's trying to be realistic. Stars a huge quantity of Asian eye candy.

Menace II Society. A very gritty and depressingly real slice of life in LA's South Central. A bit uneven in sections, but there are some extremely effective and brutally violent scenes.

Miami Blues. (Alec Baldwin, Fred Ward, Janet Jason Leigh.) Another repeat noir. A great portrayal of a sociopath, AB, who steals (and sometimes kills) just for fun. He picks up JJL, a dumb, young, call girl. FW is the cop on their trail, who loses his gun, wallet, and false teeth to AB. Solid fun.

Miami Vice. (Colin Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li.) A gritty, okay, tedious MV movie. They go undercover. She's the assistant/woman of the head of the Colombian drug gang. CF and GL fall in love. JF's woman, also a cop, get kidnapped and almost killed. Annoying editing, slow, and mostly predictable. However, GL's always fun to watch.

Michael Palin: Himalayas. A BBC travel documentary. Palin starts in Pakistan, goes through India, and Tibet. There's Pakistani city with loads of custom gun shops, a polo game at 12,000 ft. He meets the Dali Lama. All with an inquisitive mind, and bit of goofy humor.

Mighty Aphrodite. Terrible.

Millennium Mambo. (Shu Qi.) An enigmatic, nothing happens, everyone's alienated kind of movie. SQ keeps coming back to a loser meth smoking jerk, for no good reason. Basically, one long cigarette advertisement.

Millionaire's Express. (Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Rosamund Kwan, Eric Tsang, Yukari Oshima, Cynthia Rothrock, etc.) Stellar and nearly all-inclusive cast in this rather silly train robbery (sort of) caper. Yuen Biao really shows his stuff in great stunts.

Minority Report. Boring.

Miracle Fighters. A 1982 film from Yuen Woo Ping. Hard to get into, jumps around a lot, great fight scene direction but little else. I gave up early.

Mission Impossible: 2. A John Woo production about some bad dudes with a bad virus (and a good virus antidote) that Tom Cruise has to recover. Some good stunts (mostly by Cruise himself), but surprisingly lame writing, direction, and editing.

Mister Roberts. (Henry Fonda.) A dreadful “comedy” with stagey overacting. I lasted 30 minutes, and I was being generous.

Modern Times. A great Chaplin film with some incredible stunts, including being pulled through a machine with very large gears, and roller skating blindfolded near the edge of a second floor. Female co-star (Paulette Goddard) very attractive in a modern way. Actually a silent movie with synchronized sound effects (including some voice).

Monsieur Verdoux. Late Chaplin. A very dark comedy, with him as a married man with child who is pressed into working as serial killer of rich widows. Some physical comedy, and some very dark statements, especially at the end, comparing the violence of nations to individual killers, and finding the later wanting. He goes off to get guillotined at the end.

Moon, Star and Sun. (Maggie Cheung, Cherie Chung, Carol Do Do Cheng.) An average 1988 piece about three girls stuck working in a night club. MC has escaped her nasty step-father as virgin, only to be raped by a grossly obese Westerner. The second girl helps her husband win release from prison, only to find out that he's cheating on her; and she gets date raped by gangsters. The third is waiting for a guy who she knew 10 years prior to return from America, only to find out that he's a fat boorish lush. At the end, you see a freeze frame of them walking together in the nightclub, from which, apparently, there is no escape. It's got the ruthless harshness of the HK films that I like, but the story is lacking. Period dubbed sound and cheesy synth score. A very young looking MC turns in another great performance.

Moonlight Express. (Leslie Cheung, Takako Tokiwa, Michelle Yeoh.) Romance thriller. TT's fiancé is killed in car crash; she meets LC, who is an undercover HK cop who looks just like the dead guy. Romance ensues. In a small role, MY is a former colleague of LC who runs a stable/bar/restaurant and provides them shelter; there appear to be a few unspoken ties between MY and LC, too. Very good acting, and the sappiness never takes over. Average direction and camera work (esp focus), though. Songs have English (“country”) lyrics, yuck.

MY: “Ok, don't ever come back. Forget the past.”

Mr. Brooks. An uneven but generally entertaining “psychological” thriller about a guy who's addicted to murdering people. He gets photographed by a guy who wants to do the same. There's another plot about a female cop (Demi Moore), and the psychopath who she put away who's just escaped from prison. The coincidences pile up just a little too neatly, but still fun if you don't think too hard.

Mr. Vampire. (Lam Ching Ying, Chin Sui-hou, Moon Lee, Pauline Wong.) A silly, camp kung-fu vampire film, with hopping vampires.

Munich. A very long and moderately entertaining of the actions taken to revenge the killings of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich by Palestinian terrorists. However, it's just a series of killings with minor (and predictable) complications, but gets more psychological as the toll of the killings mounts.

Musa The Warrior. (Zhang ZiYi, Woo-sung Jung, Rongguang Yu.) Band of Korean soldiers in China rescues Ming princess and tries to protect her from Yuan army. Lots of bloody battles, nearly everyone dies. Very hip, modern photography (which is to say, bad) with lots of close ups, and other tricks so that you can't figure out what is going on. Yuck. Characters, although they do develop a bit, are pretty close to stock. Weird pop Korean song over the end titles.

“Only those on journeys will see the dim roads that lead the way home.”

/Mutual Appreciation() /. A very low-budget B&W film about a musician who comes to NYC, and his 20-something friends. An Asian radio chick falls for him, he falls for his friend's GF. Not much happens, but it's excellent at depicting the details of the awkwardness of slacker life and love.

My Kid Could Paint That. Documentary about 4-year old Marla Olmstead, who paints abstract painting that garnered considerable attention and high prices. But: did she paint them herself?

My Left Eye Sees Ghosts. (Sammi Cheng, Lau Ching-Wan.) SC almost dies in a car accident, and after that her left eye sees ghosts, in particular, the disguised ghost of her late husband, whom she doesn't recognize, and who teaches her to let go. Rather silly.

My Little Bride. A hyper-cute Korean film about a college student married off to a high school girl to satisfy her dying grandfather. Hijinks ensue.

My Lucky Star. (Tong Leung Chiu-Wai, Miriam Yeung.) There's some silly old curse and TL is a feng shui master. I gave up after 30 minutes.

My Lucky Stars. (Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Sibelle Hu, Richard Ng, Eric Tsang, Mishiko Nishiwaki.) A 1985 cop comedy with great stunts and long Cantonese comedy interludes that don't add up to much. JC and YB are missing from the vast majority of the middle of the film. SH is fun, and MN and she have a good fight at the end. Mediocre overall.

My Sassy Girl. A weak remake of the winning Korean film of the same name, that follows most of the plot closely, but with weak acting, writing, direction (and music).

My Wife Is A Gangster 2. A complete bizarre Korean film that starts off light and humorous, and then devolves into a silly gangster flick. A young woman, the head of the Scissors Gang, falls off a building into a chicken truck, is found by a drunk restaurant owner, and he takes her home. She spends most of the movie amnestic about her past, but recovers her memory in a fall, and then fights off her old gang enemies, including, Zhang ZiYi in the last scene's cameo.

Mythbusters. Discovery channel show with two special effects guys who test “myths” such as can you kill someone with a bullet made of ice (hard to do, because the bullet falls apart). Too much MTV style photography and editing, but they seem to be having fun.

Naked Killer. (Chingmy Yau, Carrie Ng.) Bad lesbian psycho killer flick. Also, no one is naked, and there is more than one killer so the title is a total lie.

Naked Weapon. (Daniel Wu, Maggie Q, Anya, Cheng Pei Pei.) Ultra-corny teenage girls kidnapped and forced to be assassins flick. DW is the most clueless CIA agent ever.

Nanking. Japan invaded Nanking, China in 1937; their army killed hundreds of thousands, and raped tens of thousands of women. This film combines documentary footage of the events with dramatic talking-head reenactments by the major Westerners involved in helping the Chinese.

National Geographic: Guns, Germs, and Steel. A documentary about Jared Diamond's ideas of the reasons for relative success of certain cultures.

National Treasure. A mildly amusing action film about an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

National Treasure: Book of Secret. An effective rehash of Indiana Jones themes with Nicolas Cage as a professor who gets caught up in mystery that stems back to John Wilkes Booth and an ancient gold-hoarding American civilization.

Near Dark. An early Kathryn Bigelow film about some vampires who are on the run from the law and who must kill for blood. One of them, the girl, bites a non-vampire guy, who ultimately rescued with a transfusion from his father. She rescued by another transfusion from the guy, and the other vampires burn up. Interesting concept, but hard to connect with the characters, and the slow droning Tangerine Dream music doesn't help.

Needing You. (Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng.) A light and fluffy HK romantic comedy, with AL as SC's boss in some faceless corporation. First they hate each other, then they love each other. There is a rather funny scene that parodies “A Moment of Romance” (in which AL rode the motorcycle; this time he gets a lift from some guy on a motorcycle). Light and fun, but there's too much bad music and flashy camera work, and SC's character alternates between extreme ditsy flakiness and business-like competence in a way that's completely unbelievable. How did she ever learn so much about motorcycles?

New Police Story. (Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tze.) A glossy JC showpiece in which a group of gen-X extremes sociopaths kills cops, including most of JC's squad. He's becomes a despondent drunk, but is helped by NT, a cop-wannabe. Overly melodramatic, slick action photography, and not worth very much.

Night Moves. (Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, Susan Clark, Melanie Griffiths, Ed Binns, James Woods.) A very solid 1975 noir piece from Arthur Penn, about GH, a LA private eye who is hired to find a missing teenage daughter. He finds her in Florida, where he has slept with her step father. Then things get messy, with a sunken plane, piloted by the stunt guy who has previously seduced her. MG is killed is a stunt car crash, because she figured out why the stunt guy was killed (because he knew about treasure smuggling). And so on. GH figures out it's the stunt director behind it all at the very end after a plane crash in which stunt director is visible in the cockpit of the sinking plane.

Nine Queens. A great Argentinian con film, about two guys who meet and set up a large scam. You never know who's conning who. Much fun.

Ninja Scroll. This anime flick finds Jubei, a ninja for hire, drawn into a quest for stolen gold, and a complicated scheme for domination. He's aided by Kagero, a female poison-tasting ninja, and Dakuan, an old dude. Violence and nudity, cartoon style.

No Country For Old Men. Really great for about 1.5 hours, then it slows down. Some wonderful scenery, lighting, camera movement, and very little music, all make (at least the beginning) great.

No End In Sight. Charles Ferguson's damning documentary about the lack of thought that went into planning the post-invasion management of Iraq.

Nobody Knows. Japanese film about four kids whose mother leaves them to fend for themselves. Akira, the oldest, scrounges for food and they somehow get by. The cute young girl dies after falling from a chair and he and a friend have to bury her. Amazing acting, and very moving (but distressing) story.

North By Northwest. (Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason.) You know the story. It doesn't get much better than this.

Not One Less. Thirteen year old girl takes over as substitute teacher in a village classroom, and follows one of her students to the city to find him and return him. Simple story, amazing acting, and extremely touching. Great portrayal of rural vs urban China.

OSS-117: Cairo, Nest of Spies. Also terrible.

Ocean's Eleven. (everybody.) A film about a con (Clooney) who is just out of prison and he sets up the next heist: steal the money from a vault in a Las Vegas casino. Mostly clever, but a little too into itself for my tastes; somehow, everyone thinks that star power trading barbs makes for character development, but, sadly, it doesn't. Fun but overrated.

Old Boy. A monstrously bad Korean pseudo-David-Lynch fight club clone that apparently some people managed to enjoy. Truly awful. I couldn't finish it.

On The Edge. Interesting view of what happens after someone comes out of undercover life in the triads.

On The Run. (Yuen Biao.) He's an HK cop. His soon-to-be-ex-wife is murdered by corrupted cops. YB has to team up with the hit woman to escape from the bad dudes. Total noir: not only is his wife killed, but so is his mother and daughter. And the final credits explain that YB and the hit woman are caught and are serving long prison sentences.

Once A Thief. (Chow Yun-Fat, Leslie Cheung, Cherie Chung, dir: John Woo.) This is a first: a boring John Woo film. The story of a trio of art thieves who can't agree on when it's time to retire, it's nicely photographed and not much else.

Once Upon a Time in China. (Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan). JL is Wong Fei Hong, who must battle a gang, a rival kung fu master, and the Americans with guns. Final battle in warehouse with ladders. Explains how Foon first meets Aunt 13 and develops his romantic interest in her. This is a very good film. Many themes: foreigners unfair treatment of China, importance of (and lack of) solidarity of the Chinese, kung fu vs gun, romance (and unrequited love), stealing Chinese women, slave trade with the West (particularly for help finding gold). The movie is not entirely historically accurate, but still very insightful.

WFH: “Fists can't fight guns.”

Once Upon a Time in China II. (Jet Li). White Lotus Sect is killing foreigners. JL is Wong Fei Hung, doctor and martial arts master. He, Foon, his disciple, and Aunt 13, help fight off the WLS. There is also a confusing subplot involving an insurgent group planning an uprising. The transfer to DVD was of very low visual quality.

Fei Hung; “Gods are useless. You must rely on yourselves.”

Once Upon a Time in China III. (Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan). JL battles leader of group trying to win Lion Dance competition, while Aunt 13 discovers plot to kill Chinese president. More romance, less action than II, and some rather long sequences with of lion dancing. There is poor image quality in the Chinese version, but normal on the dubbed version.

Once. A sweet Irish musical about a busker who meets a young Czech woman with a very young daughter. They write and perform together, and almost fall in love before he buys her a piano and heads to London. Good music that really lingered in my mind (although maybe too much of it), and fair acting, especially from him.

One Missed Call. Takashi Miike's take on J-horror. A phone call from your own cell phone dated several days from now heralds your death at that time. An effectively creepy horror film, the gist of which is that child abuse by a child can get a whole bunch of other people killed, sort of.

One Nite In Mongkok. (Daniel Wu, Cecelia Cheung.) A gang rivalry results in the death for two street racers, setting things up for a revenge killing. DW is hired from mainland China to kill the rival gang leader. CC is a prostitute, also from the mainland, who gets mixed up in the affair. It's impossible to feel anything for the characters, so the action means very little.

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. (Tony Jaa.) TJ opens a can of Thai kickboxing on various asses to recover the stolen head of his village's Buddha. Great scene jumping over cars while being chased by a mob. Dumb stunts scenes with gas-powered tricycle taxis that repeat the same footage in slo-mo from different angles (to make it more impressive?!?).

Onmyoji 2. A straightforward, and overly long, sequel. The plot is more accessible (revenge for the prior attack on a city, by the demons placed inside a brother and sister), but it all comes to a head in a rather dull climax of special effects.

Onmyoji. (Hiroyuki Sanada, Mansai Nomura, Hideaki Ito.) Japanese Historical/Fantasy (and a little Horror) film with lots of CGI ghosts, butterflies, etc. Dramatic and touching in parts, but too long and a bit confusing.

Opening Night. Boring theatrics about people behaving badly (and theatrically).

Operation Condor 2: Armour of the Gods. (Jackie Chan, Rosamund Kwan.) Another silly JC action/adventure piece. This one is uniformly bad: writing, directing, editing, and even the stunts are lame. RK, while cute, has very short hair, and her part is too small for her ever to get a chance to act. The story, such as it is, is JC has to collect various pieces of the Armour of the Gods to ransom her back from kidnappers.

Operation Condor. (Jackie Chan.) Yet another JC as secret agent film. He's in the African desert, looking for a cache of hidden WWII gold. Some great stunts and action choreography, silly plot and bad acting.

Operation Filmmaker. An Iraqi film student is seen on MTV, so American actors and producers give him an opportunity to break into the business. It turns out he's a lazy narcissist, but he somehow manages to keep getting help, even from the director of this documentary. Interesting personality study in the context of the American invasion of Iraq.

Organized Crime And Triad Bureau. (Anthony Wong, Danny Lee, Cecilia Yip.) DL is tough cop who bends the rules to track down AW, a gang leader. CY is AW's girlfriend, who he rescued after she was raped. Good action, some plot twists, characterization is better than paper-thin clichés. Overall good, not great. Note: Fai Li is the female cop (she was also the witch in Iron Monkey).

Out Of Sight. (George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez.) A really fun although completely unbelievable cops vs robbers film with GC as a bank robber who just can't quit, and JL as a Federal Marshall whom he kidnaps during a prison escape. Great casting in supporting roles (Catherine Keener, Ving Rhames).

Pan's Labyrinth. A fantasy/history piece about a girl who's the princess of the underworld, and has to retrieve various objects as per instructions from a faun, while her mother is married to a Fascist jerk in the Spanish Army.

Payback. Mel Gibson in an unusual noir film. He's trying to get paid back for some money (which he helped steal) that was stolen from him and used to pay off a mob debt. He muscles his way forward, and lots of people get killed along the way. Funny in parts, and with the total tough-guy feel of older noir films. Has Lucy Liu (pre-plastic-surgery) as an Asian S&M prostitute.

Pineapple Express. A dumb stoner film about two low-lifes trying to escape a drug mob. Not very funny.

Pistol Opera. (Makiko Esumi.) A completely bizarre film about some kind of hitmen (and women). Interesting visual style, but the plot is completely confusing, and the characters too distant to connect with. I gave up after 50 minutes.

Planet Earth. Amazing BBC documentary. The best scenes use a gyro-stabilized camera on a helicopter to follow dogs chasing impala in Africa.

Platform. Another documentary-like film by Jia Zhangke, about the evolution of an entertainment troupe over the 1980's. Somehow manages to be fascinating and dull at the same time.

Playing By Heart. (Angelina Jolie, Gillian Anderson, Sean Connery, Ryan Phillippe, others.) A solid ensemble/vignette piece about love in LA. All the parts converge, a bit too neatly, with all the stories turning out to be related at the end; some of the early scenes stray close to cliché, but the stories are touching, and mostly work for me. Not a home run, but a definite surprise.

Please Vote For Me. Documentary about a third grade class in China who get to elect a class monitor from three candidates chosen by the school. They engage in all the backstabbing and subterfuge you'd expect from adults, much of it stage managed by the parents.

Police Story. (Jackie Chan, Brigette Lin, Maggie Cheung.) Weak writing, plot, etc, but great stunts and some moderate humor. He's a cop who has to protect the girlfriend of a crime boss. With an incredibly young looking MC, and BL with short hair, and whom I didn't recognize.

Pom Pom and Hot Hot. (). Police buddy flick with light romance along with major gun-fu mayhem at the end, with people shooting at shotgun cartridges to make them go off, tossing guns back and forth, and lots more. Completely over the top. The rest of the film is basically uninteresting.

Portland Street Blues. (Sandra Ng, Kristy Yeung, Shu Qi, Ng Man Tat.) A really great HK triad flick. SN is NMT's bisexual daughter, who eventually runs the Portland Street branch of the gang. The film runs a little long, and has a clichéd violent gang showdown, but the rest of the film has great acting, writing, and direction, with true character development.

Presumed Innocent. Prosecutor is charged with murdering his ex-lover. Most of the evidence points his way but the case falls apart during the trial. The surprised ending is that his wife did it. Well done, but better as a book.

Primal Fear. Competent and a bit perfunctory murder courtroom drama with Richard Gere defending Edward Norton who appears to be an innocent boy charged with the gruesome murder of a priest with a sex addiction problem.

Primer. Some crap about time travel that goes bad. I found it exceeding difficult to enjoy. The flat acting, ridiculous dress (why do they look like Mormons??), and really bad "pretending to be cool because the dialog is overlapping, confusing, and the cameraman can't sit still" makes it very hard to like the characters, and without believable characters, the film is lifeless. The dialog was painful to listen to. The idea might be clever – a brief glimpse at various websites certainly suggests that someone spent a lot of time trying to plot it all out – but I can't be bothered. The last 15 minutes got a bit more interesting, but the only reason I persisted was so that Jim and Jeff wouldn't yell at me for giving up.

Project A 2. (Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Rosamund Kwan, Carina Lau.) JC is back as a HK cop, who goes up against a crooked cop, some political revolutionaries, and some other bad guys. MC looks very young, RK looks great, and while there are some good stunts, it flags a bit. Just above the threshold of enjoyable.

Project A. (Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Samo Hung.) Silly sailors vs pirates flick with lots of hand-to-hand combat, a good bike chase down narrow alleys, and a JC's fall from a clock tower through canopies. Otherwise dull.

Project Grizzy. Troy Hurtubise has been designing and testing body armor to protect him from grizzly attacks. His tests include getting hit by a large tree trunk, shot by a shotgun, being rammed by a truck, and falling down a sleep slope. The suit is so heavy that if he falls, he can't get up without help.

Puppetmaster. Slow, boring, I gave up.

Quantum of Solace. A really bad Bond film. Robotic. Bad editing.

Rainy Dog. Yet another enigmatic gangster hitman movie, which didn't resonate with me.

Raise The Red Lantern. (Gong Li.) An early GL film. She's Fourth Mistress, the newest concubine of a rich old guy. He sleeps with only one a night, and the red lanterns are raised outside the quarters of the chosen one. They get into various disputes with each other. One is old, and has a grown son who GL eyes. Two is a master conniver. Three is a former opera singer who feigns illness to get attention from the husband. GL fakes a pregnancy. Three is found to be having an affair with the doctor, and is hanged in a rooftop chamber. GL sees it, goes into the chamber, starts yelling, and goes mad. The film ends with Fifth Mistress showing up. Great colors, although spotty subtitles, and poor print quality. Long, and a little slow, but a great film, and, as always, a great performance from GL.

Ransom. Mel Gibson's son is kidnapped, and he over acts to get his son back. Generally good writing with plot twists that don't involve huge changes in characters' motivations.

Rashomon. The classic multiple versions of reality film. Once again, I find it hard to fully enjoy. I find that Japanese style of acting extremely alien and inaccessible.

Ratatouille. A vastly overrated animated film about a Parisian rat with a great sense of taste, who helps a clueless kitchen assistant become a great chef. Not funny, and overly long. Highly recommended if you like talking rats.

Rebels Of The Neon God. Two low-lifes steal money from coin-operated machines. They meet a girl who works at the skating rink. Another semi-low-life quits his tutorial school, takes the tuition and spends it on himself. The first two guys damage the rear-view mirror of third guy's father's taxi, so he takes revenge and trashes one guys motorcycle. Very slow, mostly meaningless slice of (low)life stuff. Definitely falls into the enigmatic category.

Red Cherry. Two Chinese students are sent to an international school in Moscow, but WW2 breaks out. The boy ends up writing fake letters to families that have lost their sons in battle, and the girl is captured by the Germans, and is forced to get an elaborate tattoo on her back. Apparently based on a real story. Fantastic acting.

Red Corner. (Richard Gere, Bai Ling.) A surprisingly effective crime thriller set in Beijing. RG is an American there doing a big media deal, and he's framed for the murder of a runway model during a one-night stand. BL is his Chinese defense attorney, who comes to believe his story and works to uncover the involvement of someone high up in the Chinese system. A bit Hollywood, with some annoying mini-flashbacks (is our memory so bad?). They shot some of the outdoor scenes on the streets of Beijing without permission from the Chinese government.

Red Rock West. (Nicholas Cage, Dennis Hopper, J. T. Walsh, Lara Flynn Boyle.) A totally fun noir flick about stupid people who get themselves into big trouble. NC comes to town, is mistaken for the hitman who JTW wants to off his wife, LFB. Then things get complicated.

Red Trousers. An interesting documentary about the HK stuntmen making a really bad sci-fi action film. It shows the combination of machismo and HK work ethic. These guys really get hurt.

Rescue Dawn. Well-done film about Dieter Dengler by Herzog. Interesting pacing makes it not your typical war movie and much less predictable.

Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino's 1992 film about a botched jewel robbery. A couple of briefly good flourishes, and the rest of the film just sags and drags.

Resident Evil: Extinction. Passably entertaining zombie attacks movie. The plot makes little sense, but it's not supposed to.

Return To A Better Tomorrow. (Ekin Cheng, Lau Ching-Wan, Chingmy Yau, Michael Wong.) Wong Jing's take on the ABT world (but with no discernable character overlap) is a typical HK triad story of double-cross and revenge. The plot is complex. The action scenes are short, brutal, and unpredictable. The subtitling is sub-par. Just about everyone dies at the end, and leaves CY stranded waiting to get married.

Return of the Dragon. (Bruce Lee.) BL goes to Rome to help protect Chinese restaurant from thugs. Fights Chuck Norris in Coliseum at the end. Yawn.

Rick Steves' Europe: Travel Skills & “The Making Of”. An entirely pleasant breezy introduction to travel in Europe. Amsterdam looks particular easy to navigate, but most of Europe has great public transportation.

Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles. A very touching film by Zhang Yimou, about a Japanese father whose dying son had filmed a Chinese opera troupe. Father goes to find one of the actors, only to learn that he's in prison. He work the Chinese bureaucracy to gain entrance to the prison to film the guy, and learns about the guy's son, who he visits.

Rififi. The classic French robbery flick. Four guys spend the first half of the film breaking into a jewelry store. They succeed, but one gets greedy and gives a ring he found to a girl; the gang is discovered by a gangster, who holds one the robber's kid hostage. Just about everyone is killed, and the gang leader, bleeding to death, returns the kid home.

Ring of Fire. Two British brothers spend 10 years (!) bumming around Indonesia. They sail with pirates, find Komodo dragons and a dangerously poisonous (but cute) hand-sized octopus, watch violent native contests, and trance ceremonies. Low rent, high on smarts.

Rivers And Tides. Fascinating portrait of Andy Goldworthy's art with nature. Very creative, and he's a bit of a nutter, too.

Roman Holiday. (Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn.) She's a princess visiting Rome, who elopes to escape the pressures of being royalty. He's a journalist, trying to get her story, but instead they fall in love during one day of adventure. Ultimately, she has to return to her role and he holds back from writing the expose.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. HBO documentary about the famous “unlawful sexual intercourse” case. What I didn't know what how manipulative, publicity seeking, and duplicitous the Santa Monica judge was. I do wish the “victim” had spoken more directly about what had happened, and the motivations.

Romeo Is Bleeding. (Gary Oldman.) A strangely sentimental film noir about a crooked cop who's in love with: his wife, his mistress, and (sort of) a mob killer who he is supposed to rub out. Too much voice over, and a jerky video transfer. Some great plot turns along with some dead spots.

Rouge. Boring historical drama.

Rough Science. A vaguely interesting PBS series with five scientists in remote New Zealand who, over a series of episodes, have to find gold and make something of it. Too much “gee whiz” and too little explanation.

Roxanne. (Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah.) A fun, light, romantic comedy that I very much enjoyed when it first came out. It seems a bit small, but still lots of fun.

Royal Tramp. (Stephen Chow, Ng Man Tat.) Silly wu xia piece that is badly translated and nearly incomprehensible. I gave up.

Royal Warriors (aka In The Line Of Duty). (Michelle Yeoh.) One of her early female fighters movies finds her portraying a Hong Kong police officer who joins forces with a Japanese officer and an HK air marshal (or is he a cop?) to fight four ex-army bad dudes. Grittier than Magnificent Warriors. The air marshal is her suitor, although she's not interested. Fight on airplane, fight in bar with much broken glass, and she gets to drive a bizarre armored dune-buggy. All hand-to-hand combat (and some swordplay), and guns. No wires. MY shows some acting ability, with a full range of emotion, smiling, crying.

Running On Karma. (Andy Lau, Cecelia Cheung.) An exceedingly strange HK film, starts with AL in a body builders suit in a strip club. CC is a cop who busts him to indecent exposure. Meanwhile, an Indian kung fu dude is killing people and generally escaping from the police. So, it's a cop film. But then religious karmic elements get introduced, CC is eventually killed, and AL lives in the wild to find her killer. CC looks great, but otherwise the genre clashes work against both the swift action and philosophical themes, making this a confused mess.

Running On The Sun. A competently produced documentary about a fascinating topic: the Badwater 135, a 135 mile ultra-marathon through Death Valley in July. Some vomiting, considerable dehydration, some foot damage.

Running Out Of Time 2. (Lau Ching-Wan, Ekin Chang, Kelly Lin, Ruby Wong.) A silly and boring retread/sequel of ROOT. EC is a magician/criminal who runs LCW ragged all around HK. Lacks the drive of the first film; this is actually boring: long sequence of coin tosses all of which come up tails. Yawn.

Running Out Of Time. (Andy Lau, Lau Ching-Wan, Ruby Wong, YoYo Mung, Waise Lee.) Stylish, and very well executed cop vs robber film with AL as terminally ill thief out to revenge his father. LCW is the police negotiator on his trail. Great entertainment.

Rush Hour. (Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker.) Predictable, but amusing in a brain-dead kind of a way. JC is an HK cop working with CT, a loose cannon from LAPD, tracking down the kidnapped daughter of the Chinese consul.

Sabel. Another Filipino film, this one about a man who gets out of prison after being wrongly accused, who marries a former nun who he raped while still in prison (!). It then becomes a boring family drama. I gave up after about 40 minutes.

Saboteur. A good (but not great) Hitchcock war-time film. Innocent guy sees other aircraft assembly worker killed in fire, and figures out who did it, but gets accused himself. Extended chase, leading ultimately to the bad guy falling from the Statue of Liberty. Kind of North by Northwest lite.

Sabrina. Audrey Hepburn, the daughter of the chauffeur, moons over a playboy (William Holden) while his older workaholic brother (Humphrey Bogart) falls for her. A bit long and only mildly funny.

Samaritan Girl. Story of two Korean girls, one who prostitutes herself to get money so they can both fly to Europe, the other manages the money. The first dies, the second reenacts the prostitution, but giving the money away. Her father, a cop, finds out and seeks revenge. Weird, slow, creepy. Dir: Kim Ki-Duk.

Samurai Fiction. Weird anachronistic samurai flick involving getting back a sword stolen by a samurai. Yawn.

Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic. SS's stage show (shot at the El Portal Theatre). Very edgy, sharp standup with some rather silly music and filmed interludes.

Sausalito. (Maggie Cheung, Leon Lai, Richard Ng, Suki Kwan, Valerie Chow.) This movie tries very hard to be a hip modern sophisticated adult love story, with MC as a cab driver, and LL as a playboy software entrepreneur. Ok, so the story has some twists and turns, but it's hard to understand why she forgives his infidelity with the very attractive investment banker VC, and then there's the annoying camera movements, cuts, continual pop music soundtrack. Another great acting turn from MC. San Francisco looks pretty good, too.

Say Anything. (John Cusack, Ione Skye.) Cameron Crowe's well-known film about the high school low-life who dates the valedictorian. Her father runs a nursing home, and has been stealing from the patients there. JC puts in a strong performance, but the emotions feel a little forced, and the film isn't as good as I remembered.

Scream Queen. Tatiana Bliss's film, which froze after about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it's a pretty bad film all around. Sorry, Tatiana.

Secretary. Adapted from a (much better) story by Mary Gaitskill. Excellent acting, but the power of the story does not translate particularly well to the screen.

Seven Grand Masters. (Jack Long, Lee Yi-Min.) Classic kung fu story about master who takes on other masters in series before retiring. Along the way, a novice fighter wants to apprentice himself to the master, and finally is accepted. He then learns that the master killed his father (incorrectly) and they both take on the true killer in the final showdown. Crappy sound and film techniques, but solid story and lots of fighting make this at least enjoyable.

Shadow Magic. (Jared Harris, Xia Yu.) British photographer brings motions pictures to China in 1902. He meets with resistance until he's aided by a forward-thinking Chinese man, who breaks from tradition, leaves his still photography job, and abandons his impending marriage to a older widow. Simple, sweet, perhaps a bit too melodramatic, but overall a nice piece of work.

Shadow Of A Doubt. Hitchcock. Man on the run shows up at his sister's family's house in Santa Rosa. His niece figures out who he is (a murderer of rich widowers), and he tries to kill her. Classic Hitchcock: evil invades the sleepy normal life, the husband and his friend imagine themselves to be students of crime and yet have nothing to do with solving this crime, the brainy kids.

Shall We Dance. An extremely pleasant (and accessible) Japanese film about an uptight businessman who takes dance lessons because of the beautiful teacher he spies in the studio window from his train.

Shanghai Noon. Standard Jackie Chan fare with a good comedic performance from Owen Wilson. JC has to travel to Nevada to return the kidnapped princess, Lucy Liu.

Shanghai Triad. (Gong Li.) Fourteen year old kid comes to Shanghai to work as servant for the mistress of a gang leader (GL, who is smoking hot). Told from his perspective (although he rarely reacts to what he sees), it shows the death of his uncle, the manipulations of the mistress, and the doings of the evil gang leader. Great acting, photography, and story. Slow moving, but worth it.

Shaolin Soccer. (Stephen Chow, Zhao Wei). Very over-the-top kung fu soccer film that combines creative use of martial arts and CG with sappy and overused theme about team of losers struggling against the odds to beat evil team. Several laugh out loud scenes. A bit long.

Shaolin: Wheel of Life. Filmed live in front of an audience, this stage play shows off the amazing physical skills of the monks (two finger handstand), but, it's unfortunately tedious and boring.

Shape Of The Moon. Documentary about an Indonesian family, with tedious handheld camerawork, and no discernable plot. I give it over an hour. There was some interesting slice-of-life sections, but generally just dull.

Shaun Of The Dead. A deadpan zombie comedy about two British low-lifes who are slow to catch on that their country has been invaded by zombies. Clever in parts, but relatively few laughs.

She Shoots Straights. (Joyce Godenzi.) She's the wife of an HK cop killed by vicious Vietnamese thugs. She and her sisters (all cops) seek revenge. Straightforward action/melodrama. JG does some very good stunt work, but this is otherwise very ordinary.

Sherman's March. (Ross McElwee.) A documentary filmmaker sets out to make a film about Sherman's march through the South, but spends 98% of the film tracking down old girlfriends in search of love (or at least an understanding of love). It's a long winded, self-obsessed, neurotic mess. Parts of fascinating, and parts very funny in a deadpan way, but it's in terrible need of a real editor. Jim recommended it because of a section where RM's old teacher gives him dating advice, essentially, to tell the woman (or maybe any woman) that she's the only reason to live, and the perfect love – even though he barely knows her: (what he should be telling a woman.)

“The only thing that matters to me is seeing you and being with you – (to Ross) you're not as interesting because you're so self-effacing and polite. Now, it's alright to have lovely manners. You must have them. Deedee wants you to have them. I want you to have them. But I'm also telling you that that doesn't mean that you can't be passionate. Passion is the only thing, the important thing. You must say: you're the only woman I've ever seen. I would die for you. I live for you. I breathe for you. Please, for God's sake, take your vacation and be with me because this is the most important thing in my life. Now, you've got to learn to talk like that. You've got to learn to feel like that.”

Shiri. Korean spy thriller about a female NK assassin in SK who also happens to love the SK agent tracking her. The romance is better than I would expect given how obvious it was. This film cost $5 million, the most expensive Korean film at that time. Rather brutal shootouts, a silly new explosive that looks just like water, and lots of fish swimming in tanks.

Shooter. A very exciting political action about Mark Wahlberg, a Army sniper who is recruited to predict how an assassin will try to kill the President, only to find himself framed for the job.

Short Cuts. (Too many to list.) Robert Altman's 1993 extended series of stories about relationships and families in LA, based on stories by Raymond Carver. Funny, moving, sad.

Shortbus. A bunch of quasi-alienated 20-30 somethings in NYC have rather explicit sex and learn about themselves. Touching in parts, but doesn't quite click for me.

Shower. Man returns to visit his father and his retarded brother who run an old bathhouse, and he discovers the pleasures of their slower, simpler lives. He has to care for the brother after the father passes away.

Sideways. (Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh.) Well, I had seen this in the theater when it was first released, but I'm on an SO kick, so: this is a really fun, and complex film. It's not great because there is too much travelogue like footage, but the acting is top-notch, the script is great, and the ending, where Miles drives back up to VM's apartment, knocks on the door, and the film ends before you know if she answers it, packs a rather large emotional punch for me.

Silver Hawk. (Michelle Yeoh, Richie Ren, Luke Goss.) Urk. MY is Silver Hawk, a cartoonish doer of good, fighting crime one step ahead of the cops. RR is the new, well, supercop. He's out to get Silver Hawk for embarrassing the police, but it turns out that he knew her as a kid when both were studying martial arts. LG is the evil bad guy, who puts a brain control chip into cell phones. Slo-mo fights, bad acting all around, and lots of silliness. Pleasantly bland entertainment and nothing more. MY is trying hard to act well below her age, and can mostly pull it off – but not completely because they needed a fair amount of soft focus. This appears to be a MY vanity project, and an embarrassing one at that.

Sisters Of The Gion. Life of the geisha, unvarnished.

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow. (Jackie Chan.) JC's first big hit, and first film directed by Yuen Woo Ping. He's a factotum in a kung fu school who is helped by an old man (Simon Yuen, YWP's father), who he later helps in return in battle of kung fu styles. Lots of classic kung fu style fighting (snake-fist vs eagle's claw). JC wins the final fight by combining snake-fist with cat's claw to form snake in the eagle's shadow. Terrible sound.

Sniper. Military sniper goes to Latin American country to kill some bad political leader. Not great but entertaining.

So Close. (Shu Qi, Vicky Zhao, Karen Mok). Two sisters are high-tech assassin for hire, and go up against KM, a tough talking HK forensics expert. Good fights with women kicking ass but very sappy plot. Note the homage to MY in Yes, Madam, with KM flipping backwards over a railing and punching through the CGI glass to pull bad guy under railing. (Cory Yuen directed both films.) Also grabbing towel in bathroom scene is reminiscent of Brigette Lin and Maggie Cheung in Dragon Inn.

Southland Tales. A weird dystopian post-nuclear war in 2008 movie that seems like a camp sendup but then takes itself too seriously. I gave up after an hour.

Species III. A renegade scientist saves alien DNA and grows a new alien. The human-alien hybrids come looking for her. College student scientist gets involved. Bad acting. Not very suspenseful. Etc.

Spring In A Small Town. A mainland classic from 1948 (apparently banned for years), about a love triangle between guy with TB, his wife, and his friend a doctor who comes to visit. Doctor and wife have some history between them (not much explained), but a love develops between them. TB guy also has a young sister, who he and his wife ostensibly set up with the doctor. Guy gets sick (OD?), but recovers, and doctor heads off on the train. Sister says come back and see us next spring. Remade as Springtime In A Small Town.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … And Spring. Another Kim Ki-Duk film. Spring: old monk brings up younger monk who is punished for tying rocks to animals. Summer: teen-age monk has affair with young girl brought to floating monastery. Fall: grown monk returns to island after he has killed the girl, who became his wife, after she has an affair; he's arrested by the police, and old monk immolates himself. Winter: grown monk returns to island, trains in martial arts, and takes in the baby of a woman wearing a scarf on her face. Spring: the baby, now a boy, teases a turtle.

Springtime In A Small Town. Guy returns to visit hometown friend, his wife (who he loved 10 years ago), and the guy's younger sister. Friend has some unspecified respiratory ailment. Guy falls in love with woman again. Friend and wife try to set up guy with younger sister. Well acted, and very, very slow.

Spy Game. A surprisingly effective spy thriller, with Redford as a spy master who has to extract Brad Pitt from a Chinese prison within 24 hrs from within CIA headquarters, all the while under scrutiny from within. I'm not a big fan of Tony Scott or flashbacks, but it's fun anyhow.

Spygirl. Very light Korean romantic comedy involving NK spy who comes to SK and works in Burger King. It's rare for a romantic comedy to get better at the end, but this one does. The very last scene, shown over the credits, pits two groups of SK girls, Burger King vs McDonalds. I'm still laughing.

Stay. (Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts.) EM is an NYC shrink who picks up a new pt in coverage. The guy hears voices and is going to kill himself. The shrink has to track him down and stop the suicide. NW is the shrink's GF, apparently a former patient who cut her wrists. The film is not completely satisfying, but the psychiatry aspects are not overblown, the visual style (with lots of computer animated dissolves between scenes) is creepy and effective, and the surprise ending (oops, it's all the dream of a guy who just crashed his car) mostly works for me.

Still Life. Jia Zhang-ke's film about the 3 gorges dam and its effect on those displaced. Sort of. Coal miner comes back to find his wife and daughter, and woman goes looking for her husband. At first, you think they're looking for each other. That's about as much plot as you'll get. The photography is wonderful, as is the nearly complete absence of music, but there's just not enough to hold this together.

Stone Reader. A documentary about a book, The Stones of Summer, rediscovered by the filmmaker, who sets out on a quest to find the author. Captures the personal power of reading, and how a special book can connect with the right reader.

Stranger Than Fiction. Guy figures out he's a character in a novel, and tracks down the author, along the way finding love. Pleasant enough, but incredibly manipulative, that, of course, being the point.

Stray Dog. (Toshiro Mifune.) TM is young police officer whose gun is stolen on a bus, and used in several crimes. His guilt about the loss drives him to find the gun thief. Both he and the thief were launched on their respective paths by having their backpacks stolen after the war.

“They say there's no such thing as a bad man, only bad situations.”

Street of Shame. 1956 dramatic expose of life of Tokyo prostitutes. One rips off her businessman trick by promising to marry him. Another has to deal with her son seeing her working. Stark, with minimalist, eerie, haunted house style music.

Sugar: Howling Of Angel. Another Japanese exploitation flick. Women's husband and son are murdered. She's kidnapped, hooked on, and ultimately trained as a killer. Finally she hunts down those who killed her family and tortured her. It's not bad, just dull, humorous, and not very sexy. It seemed long even at 1h18m.

Summer Holidays. (Sammi Cheng, Richie Ren.) SC loses job and boyfriend, wants to sell beach that she co-owns with her cousin, but he's sold out to RR. They dislike each other, then they love each other. Pleasant, lacks any cleverness, and the weak direction make this a definite see-once film.

Sunset Blvd. (William Holden, Gloria Swanson.) WH is a struggling writer, GS is a silent film actress whose star has faded. He finds her house while escaping from two guys trying to repossess his car. WH becomes GS's gigolo. She shoots him when he tries to leave for a young script girl, and she imagines that the reporters' cameras are from the studio.

Sunshine. Story of ill-fated mission to restart the dying Sun. Weird combination of elements of Alien (crew getting killed off, people running around ship in a tizzy), 2001 (mystical connection with God and talking computer), and probably others. A bit of a downer with great special effects.

Super Troopers. A very lame, dumb comedy about a bunch of goofball Vermont State Police. Hardly a laugh in the whole film.

Superbad. From the same guys who make 40-year old virgin, this is story of two nerds trying to get booze for party two weeks before the end of high school. Endearing in a way, but I was hoping that the humor would be riotous, which it wasn't. Average.

Supercop 2. (Michelle Yeoh, cameo by Jackie Chan). MY is cop on mainland whose BF moves to HK. Six months later he is head of para-military criminal gang, whose activities she is called in to investigate. She kicks butt. Reasonably good action and stunts, and the romance was ok but this movie overall seems undistinguished. MY can move, but rarely shows any emotion.

Supercop. (Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh). JC goes undercover with MY to bust drug lord. Funnier, and better acting by MY than in Supercop 2. Great stunts (and outtakes): she jumps off bus onto hood of car driven by JC, and also rides motorcycle onto top of moving train.

Survival Res Labs: 10 Years Robotic Mayhem. Tedious documentary about SRL, with loud ponderous, noisy “robots” and tedious posturing explanations.

Survivorman. (Les Stroud). An amusing and instructive series of adventures in the wilderness, in which has to survive for a week by himself (with his camera equipment).

Suzhou River. (Zhou Xun.) Interesting searching-for-love film. Main character is videographer, who shoots film about the mermaid. A courier tells him the story of his love, who, after he helps kidnap her, jumps into the river with a mermaid doll. Are they the same characters?

Sweet Smell Of Success. (Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster.) Classic film about sleazy PR flack who will do anything to make it big. Great performances, but the film is so dark and down that it's hard to truly enjoy it.

Swordsman 2. (Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Brigette Lin, Michelle Reis.) Another Choi Hark production: fast moves, blue light, lots of swishing noises, and completely confusing plot. BL is Asia the Invincible, who has some connection with some Japanese ninja dudes; also, she's changing from a man into a woman. JL loves RK, MR loves JL, RK's father is Master Wu, who has the rather nifty Essence Absorbing Skill. I have no idea what's going on, and the terrible subtitles don't help, e.g., “I've been bored because of the unpredictable world.” What a waste of three gorgeous women.

Swordsmen in Double Flag Town. Young martial artist goes to small town to meet the girl to be his wife in an arranged marriage. He kills some bad dude trying to rape her, and his brother, a superbad dude and his gang come to the town. Young guy saves the town, not surprisingly. Interesting mostly because it was created by a film studio in the northwest of China.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One. Weird 60's experimental film about the making a film in Central Park. Utterly dull.

Syriana. (George Clooney, and everyone else.) A very complex political thriller about the oil business. It is too diffuse and has too many characters to be fully effective, but the acting and sets are fantastic.

Taboo (aka Gohatto). (Beat Takeshi.) A slow, and dull story of homosexual relations among the samurai in 1865 Kyoto. I had to fast-forward through the second half.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War. Two brothers get drafted into the South Korean Army in 1950, and the older one, a cobbler, spends most of the film trying to protect the younger one and win a medal so he can send his brother home. It's a bit too melodramatic with a few overly talky scenes, but the battles scenes are gritty, tense, and realistic. A very moving film in spite of its flaws.

Tai Chi Fist (aka Tai Chi 2). (Jacky Wu, Christy Chung, action dir: Yuen Woo Ping.) A very well done romance/comedy/kung fu action film: JW tries to win CC away from her fiancé, and avoid the wrath of his retired martial arts star father. Who the hell is Jacky Wu? He's great. Lots of wire work. Not brilliant film making, but a great piece of the tradition.

Take Care Of My Cat. (Lee Yo-won, others.) Story of five Korean girls and how their relationships change after leaving school. It's hard to flesh out five stories in one movie, and to that extent this movie doesn't quite succeed. But it's fresh, not clichéd, and without syrupy music or mushy messages, unlike most coming-of-age movies. LYW was in A Tale Of Two Sisters (as Mun Geun-yeong or IM Soo-Jung, or whatever her name is.)

Tank Girl. (Lori Petty, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell.) A part-cartoon sci-fi farce about an evil corporation in the future that controls all the water, and LP is a renegade who fights back. Energetic, but it never takes itself seriously, and not that funny. A definite miss.

Taxi To The Dark Side. Damning expose of the torture techniques used by US intelligence (and military police) in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Base. Part of the explanation is political: the guys at the top get away while the guys at the bottom get punished. It's also an example of how the situation shapes the individual behavior, “he was always a nice guy,” etc.

Tears Of The Black Tiger. A completely bizarre Thai modern spaghetti “Eastern” love story with crazy saturated hues, and, oh yes, rocket launchers.

Temptress Moon. (Leslie Cheung, Gong Li.) Lots of opium, soft focus, and family drama. I can't figure out what is happening, nor do I care. I gave up after about 30 minutes.

Ten Things I Hate About You. Antisocial guy is set up with antisocial girl so that hunky guy can date her sister, except that nerdy guy is also interested. A completely pleasant and well-acted teen flick without the Hollywood baggage.

Tequila Sunrise. Mel Gibson is a (overly nice and polite) cocaine dealer trying to get out. Kurt Russell is an old and LA narcotics detective. Michelle Pfeiffer runs a restaurant and becomes the love interest for each in turn. Not very believable but it has a nice laid-back coastal LA feel.

Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines. (Arnold.) Mildly entertaining but mostly predictable, with bad writing and weak direction. Periods of action interspersed with periods of artificial explanation.

Thank You For Smoking. Terrible, I gave up after 30 minutes. Why did everyone have a weird color hue?

The 40-Year-Old Virgin. (Steve Carell, Catherine Keener.) A rather funny look at the life of the title character, and the way that his friends in the electronics store alternatively encourage and goad him into sexual activity. There's a lot of very good improv in this film.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai. (Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin.) Another blast-from-the-past, but this one doesn't age very well. A cult classic only for the very hardcore.

The Advocate. Historical drama about a lawyer in France who is forced to defend a pig charged with murder. There is, of course, a more sinister subplot.

The Aristocrats. (many.) At Steve Erhart's behest, I watched this documentary about the million ways of telling the dirtiest joke in the world. Interesting sociology, mostly a bad joke, with just a few funny tellings. Trash humor is just too easy to be truly funny.

The Art of War 2. Junk.

The Attractive One. (Lau Ching Wan, Joey Yung.) A completely dull and lifeless romantic comedy. I could barely watch 30 minutes.

The Bank Job. A bunch of amateur thieves are “hired” to break into a bank vault; they think they're in it for the money, but the UK government wants to retrieve some compromising photos from the safe deposit boxes. A bit of a slow start, but it finally takes off. Jason Statham is quite good. Saffron Burroughs is quite thin.

The Big Bullet. (Lau Ching-Wan, Anthony Wong, RongGuang Yu.) Very solid HK police action flick, marred mostly by some weak acting by the minor characters. LCW is a police officer busted back to patrol for punching his superior. He spends the rest of the film chasing after RGY and AW who are drug dealers planning to steal money back from Interpol.

The Big Heat. (Waise Lee, Philip Kwok, Joey Wong.) WL is HK cop whose former partner is killed by gang leader, so he must get revenge. Blamo, blamo, blamo. JW is love interest of rookie cop killed in the end.

The Big Sleep. Raymond Chandler's complex detective story, completely staff by Bogart and Bacall. Not a good as I remembered, mostly because it's too confusing (worse as a movie than as a book).

The Bird People Of China. (Masahiro Motoki, Renji Ishibashi.) Takashi Miike's film is rather sedate, lyrical and in a couple of spots hysterically funny. Businessman and yakuza go to rural China is search of jade, and find a village with a tradition of learning to fly with primitive strap-on wings.

The Blue Kite. The story of a family set against the Communist changes in China in the 50's and 60's. Teitou's first father is sent to a labor camp and dies there. His mother remarries, and her second husband also dies. Her third husband is charged with being a counter-revolutionary, and dies. A good film, but it lacks the narrative drive to really sustain my interest.

The Boss Of It All. An actor is asked to portray the formerly unseen (and made up) boss of a Danish software company, only to get stuck playing the role. A great idea at the beginning, but the film keeps losing energy. I had to fast forward through most of it.

The Bourne Identity. A rewatch of the original Bourne film: he's found floating in the Mediterranean with two bullets in his back and no memory of his identity. It turns out he's a special CIA assassination weapon gone bad.

The Bourne Supremacy. Seen it before, but a fun action thriller with too much handheld camerawork.

The Bourne Ultimatum. Starts about 10 minutes after #2 ends, and pretty much doesn't slow down until the end. Terrific fun if you don't think too hard.

The Bow. Another film from Kim Ki-Duk. An old man lives on a boat with a girl who he found as a 6-year old 10 years ago. He's going to marry her when she turns 17. He occasionally brings men out to the boat for fishing; she falls for one young man, causing trouble. (When the old guy gets upset, he shoots arrows at people.) She leaves with the young man, but finds the old guy trying to strangle himself with a rope attached to the escape boat. She then, apparently, changes her mind, and goes off to marry the old guy in costume. Then the DVD became unplayable, so I didn't find out what happened.

The Bride With White Hair 2. (Brigette Lin, Christy Cheung, Leslie Cheung.) LC is waiting in some frozen wasteland for some flower, BL gets pissed off, and decides to kill men, starting with members of the Eight Clan. She makes serious headway before some guy decides that he wants his wife, who BL kidnapped, back. CC and others help him. BL shoots white hair into various others, until LC comes back and they both die in each others arms. Too much sappy canto-pop love song action in the soundtrack, but generally competently constructed and true to form. Moderately enjoyable, but it's been so long since I saw part 1 I can't remember if this is connected in any way.

The Bride With White Hair. (Brigette Lin, Leslie Cheung.) LC and BL are lovers on the opposite sides of some inter-clan dispute. Lush and more erotic than most of this genre, but it takes a while to get going and the characters don't grab me much.

“Fear not the criticisms of others, as long as you are at peace with yourself.”

The Bridge. Documentary about people who jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. The making-of segment on the DVD is the best part: how did they film those intending to jump?

The Buddhist Fist. Yuen Woo Ping's 1980 kung-fu film. Usual complicated plot: someone's trying to steal a jade statue, a godfather goes missing. Many very carefully choreographed fight scenes.

The Candidate. Robert Redford is the progressive, lawyer son of a famous California governor who is convinced to run for the US Senate. Lots of impressionistic shots of crowds, and little in the way of plot – feels like a weak Altman film. I think it's historically important for being so cynical about politics, but it looks a bit dated now.

The Cell. Terrible.

The Chinese Connection. (Bruce Lee). BL returns to Shanghai to investigate the death of his master, who was poisoned by the Japanese. BL gets revenge, but is gunned down in final shot (crime does not pay, but he dies with honor).

The Chinese Feast. (Leslie Cheung, Anita Yuen.) Lukewarm Tsui Hark piece about a restaurant chef cook-off. Subtitles only one step above terrible, and weird subplots involving LC love interest AY. It might have played well in HK, but it doesn't translate.

The City Of Lost Souls. (Michelle Reis, Teah.) Bizarre gangster couple-on-the-run film from Takashi Miike. It's too hard to summarize either the plot or his unique style, except to say that it's pretty confusing across the board. Some great scene set-ups and camera angles, but hard to rave about, and the characters remain emotionally distant.

The Coast Guard. (Dir: Kim Ki-Duk.) A very sad film from KKD about the military protecting the coast of South Korea from NK spies. One of them shoots one of a couple who have gone to the beach at night to have sex; he goes crazy as does the woman of the couple. She seduces remaining members of the platoon, gets pregnant, and they forcibly abort her. The ex-soldier kills or causes to be killed others in the platoon. KKD says in the intro that this is basically an anti-war film about how it is not possible to be happy during times of militarization.

“No matter how much I regret, the past has already gone.”

The Constant Gardener. (Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz.) Big drug companies do bad things in Africa, including kill RF's wife. Tedious handheld camerawork. Way overrated.

The Counterfeiters. Jewish counterfeiters are pressed into service by Nazi to make fake pounds and dollars. Highlights the moral quandary of helping the enemy to stay alive. Good, but characters are a bit distant and the hand held camera work is terrible and distracting.

The Croupier. (Clive Owen.) A moral ambiguous tale of a writer who takes a job as a casino dealer. Everyone's cheating at something, and ultimately he finds out he is set up as a distraction in a foiled casino robbery staged by his father.

The Cruise. Describes as an “urban poet,” this NYC tour bus guide appears to be schizophrenic. Interesting in very short doses, I only lasted about 20 minutes.

The Darjeeling Limited. Another eccentric Wes Anderson turn. Three brother take a train ride in India after the death of their father for an “experience.” The small things click, the larger plot doesn't.

The Departed. A remake of Infernal Affairs. Longer, grittier, definitely more Hollywood, and rather less compelling.

The Detective. Weird guy shows up. Detective is supposed to find the woman who's out to kill guy. Finds hanged body. Starts tracing leads. Another guy gets blown up when he rings guy's doorbell. It all comes down to five people in a burned Polaroid photo, and some owed cash. Somehow the detective also manages to (major) coincidentally find his parent's long dead bodies. How? Who cares. Interesting mostly for its mixture of noir with horror.

The Devil Came On Horseback. A documentary about Brian Streidle, a former USMC captain who joined an African Union observer force, only to find massive genocidal action by janjaweed militia in Sudan. Well done and very effective.

The Dinner Game. A highly amusing French farce. A group of intellectuals are supposed to bring the biggest idiot they can find to dinner. One idiot, who makes sculptures out of matchsticks, is found by a publisher whose wife has just left him, and he's just sprained his back. The idiot intervenes, to great comic effect.

The Disorderly Orderly. (Jerry Lewis.) I couldn't watch it after 8 minutes: loud yelling, mugging, and just awful.

The Duel. (Andy Lau, Ekin Cheng, Nick Cheung, Zhao Wei, Kristy Yeung.) A slickly produced, well photographed flying swordsman film about – guess what – a duel, with some very funny dialog (esp Nick Cheung's character), unbelievable romance, silly plot devices, movie references, anachronisms, and unnecessary and ultimately silly CGI effects (why fight with swords when you can shoot bolts of energy?). Amusing, funny, and not wholly satisfying, all at the same time.

“Do you love me? Do you know that every girl wishes the one she loves would answer that question?”

The Emperor And The Assassin. (Li Xuejian, Gong Li.) A rather long and tedious palace drama involving the machinations behind the attempt to unify the six provinces of China under the Qin dynasty. I could only get half way through.

The Enforcer. (Jet Li, Anita Mui, Xia Miao, Rongguang Yu.) JL is undercover cop who help gang member escape from jail to HK. AM is HK cop. XM is JL's son. RY is the overacting bad guy. Lots of action/martial arts, including guns, and the kid, XM, rocks. Also lots of family/love interest/drama/tragedy with JL's wife dying, and AM falling in love with him and his son. Touching, in a way, although not great drama.

The Eye 2. (Shu Qi.) A boring and vacuous Thai/HK ghost story. SQ is having an affair with a married man, tries to kill herself, then sees ghosts for the rest of the film, one of whom is the late wife of that married guy who killed herself after finding out about SQ. Oh yes, SQ is also pregnant by the guy. So what.

The Fog Of War. A Errol Morris documentary about Robert McNamara, whose comes across as thoughtful and sensitive, but who avoids saying that he actually feels guilty about the Vietnam War. This film is much better than others by Morris.

The Foliage. (Shu Qi.) She's a Red Army member who wants out to care for an ill family member. She meets a guy on the bus home; he immediately falls for her and pursues her through the rest of the film. She ultimately marries her childhood sweetheart, has a kid, and meets the suitor at the end. The last scene shows her NOT meeting him while chasing for the bus. Enigmatic, no?

The General. The Playhouse. Cops. (Buster Keaton.) Great physical comedy from the silent era master. The Playhouse, in particular, is chock full of sophisticated visual comedy, multiple exposures, twins, etc.

The God Of Gamblers II. (Stephen Chow, Andy Lau, Ng Man Tat.) A weird combo sequel to both God of Gamblers and All for the Winner. Both SC and AL have special gambling powers and they team up to fight the evil bad guy. Nothing special going on here, although SC steals the show in a scene with nunchuks made from a toilet plunger.

The Gold Rush. (Charlie Chaplin.) More excellent physical comedy from Chaplin, although it sags a bit in sections.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. One fantastic spaghetti western from Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee van Cleef, all in search of $200,000 of buried gold. It's long, but the story keeps moving, and mixes the typical double-cross stuff with the action of the Civil War. Great writing, photography, music, and acting.

The Great Dictator. A strange mixture of slapstick, pathos, and dark political humor. He's both the Dictator and a Jewish barber. Ends with a schmaltzy indictment of war.

The Heroic Trio. (Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung). Silly fantasy about three women with superhero powers and 18 kidnapped babies. Corny, bad writing, bad acting, boring stunts and fights, bad special effects. How could a movie with such stars be so bad? Essentially unwatchable.

“What does that old monster want with so many babies?”
“He's waiting for the next eclipse to chose one to be the emperor.”

The Host. Korean comedy/monster film. Quirky pacing and plot development makes it both fun with some dull interludes. Chemicals poured into a river lead to the growth of a huge salamander monster. It grabs the young daughter of a low-life guy, and his family spends the rest of the movie trying to retrieve her, while being sought and captured by the authorities. Fun but not great.

The Hot Rock. I only watched this because I had fond memories of seeing it on first release (junior high?). Very dated and mildly amusing at best.

The Hot Spot. (Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Connelly.) A fine noir romance with DJ as a drifter who comes into town and takes a job selling cars. He, variously, robs a bank by setting a fire across the street as a distraction, has an affair with the boss's wife, and starts a romance with a young employee in the finance division. It's got a slow, even pace, with good action and interesting characters.

The Ice Harvest. (John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton.) A noir piece about two guys who steal $2 million, and then run into trouble. Because the plot and characters are so fake, the action is dull, and who basically cares.

The Illusionist. A young magician falls in love with a noble girl. Years later, they reunite, but she's about to get married to the Prince, who kills her out of jealousy. The magician conjures the dead, including her, and the Prince kills himself. In flashback at the very end is revealed that she's alive, and they staged her death. A bit of a cheat, but fun.

The Inspector Wears Skirts. (Sibelle Hu, Hui Ying Hung, Cynthia Rothrock.) A silly and forgettable female action film about a group of policewomen who go through commando training, with some extra silly romance and even a super extra silly musical performance at a roller rink. Good action though.

The Interpreter. Nicole Kidman is a UN interpreter with an African past, who hears a veiled threat to kill a despised African leader. Skulduggery ensues, with some clunky dialog, but generally entertaining. Catherine Keener does well as a wise-cracking Secret Service agent. Sean Penn suffers through his role as a love interest.

The Iron Ladies. A story (apparently true) of a transvestite volleyball team that won a national championship in Thailand. Predictable story elements, but sincerely made and acted, all with good charm.

The Isle. More creepiness from Kim Ki-Duk. Ex-cop retreats to a small floating house, tended by a prostitute. They fall in love, in a physically abusive and utterly strange way. This might be his best film.

The Italian Job. (Mark Wahlberg, etc.) The very high quality remake. It's got good characters, good writing, good direction, good acting. Not high art, but a lot of fun. Good driving, and good music, also.

The Italian Job. (Michael Caine.) An entertaining 1969 flick, that uses Mini Coopers to steal Chinese gold from Turin, Italy. Parts are dated, but the action is fun.

The Joy Luck Club. Four stories about Chinese women and their daughters. Way too much voiceover, excessive use of melodramatic music serious mars this film.

The Kid. Early Chaplin. He raises a young orphan boy. Boy breaks windows with rocks so Chaplin can fix them for a fee. Ultimately, the mother finds the orphan and gets him back, apparently also with Chaplin.

The King Of Kong. A documentary about two obsessives in their quest to set the world record score for Donkey Kong.

The King of Comedy. (Stephen Chow, Cecilia Cheung, Karen Mok.) SC is a movie extra with grandiose delusions of being a real actor. He wins the heart of a prostitute and helps an undercover cop. This movie tries to be too many things, and neither the comedy nor the romance really worked for me. Also, poor production values, out-of-focus shots, etc.

The King of Masks. (Zhu Yu, Zhou Renying.) A touching story about a 1930's street performer with a special mask switching trick and who is looking to pass his secrets along to the next generation. He adopts a young son who, unfortunately, is a girl, and therefore not in the line of succession. She causes some trouble (burning down his boat, and giving him a kidnapped “grandson”), but ultimately rescues him from imprisonment. The kid is fantastic. Directed by Wu Tianming.

The Kingdom. An exciting political thriller that doesn't sacrifice all believability for action. There's a great chase/shootout at the end.

The Lady Vanishes. An early, and very fun spy/comedy about an old woman who vanishes from a moving train. Some of its elements appear borrowed (such as smuggling a person off a train wrapped in bandages), but that's because everyone stole from Hitchcock later.

The Last Boy Scout. Bruce Willis is a burned out private eye, drawn into a completely predictable plot. Some good laugh lines.

The Lavender Hill Mob. Alec Guinness is a bank clerk who's plotted for years to steal gold bullion. Most of the rest of the movie is how they try to get the gold out of England as statuettes of the Eiffel Tower, and the problems that ensue. The script is clever by 1950's standard, but a bit dry for today.

The Legend 2. (Jet Li, Michelle Reis, dir: Cory Yuen). JL as Fong Sai Yuk has to take a second wife to return a box of secrets to Mr. Chan. Better photography and dubbing than in the first film. Fun, but not worth a second viewing. Once again, Josephine Saio is Sai Yuk's mother, a martial arts expert.

The Legend of Drunken Master. (Jackie Chan, Anita Mui). Mixture of slapstick comedy and martial arts with JC working to help protect Chinese artifacts from the British ambassador who is stealing them from China. This has the reputation of being one of Chan's best films, and there are certainly some good action sequences, but otherwise, I'm skeptical. Casting AM as Jackie's mother?

“It is more important to forget than to fight.”
“Tomorrow brings a whole new journey. Let's move forward.”

The Legend. (Jet Li.) A pleasant but inconsequential light romance, comedy and action dud, directed by Cory Yuen. The plot is hard to summarize. Nothing quite works in this film, and the dubbed voices make it worse.

The Long Arm Of The Law. (Lin Wei and a bunch of people you've never heard of.) Gritty, uncompromising story of hoods from the mainland who come to HK to pull off a jewelry heist that goes wrong. Everybody is at least a little bit bad, and there are no heroes.

The Long Goodbye. (Chow Yun-Fat, Rosamund Kwan.) A rather low budget HK flick from the early 80's with very young looking CYF and RK.. He's a former Vietnam vet, now a hired killer. She's a news reporter, and daughter of triad guy who's killed by CYF. A former fellow vet, who he left for dead, kills his ex-girlfriend. CYF and RK fall in love. He's gets burned in a movie stunt when trapped by a killer. She rescues him from the hospital and nurses him to health, but in the final showdown/shootout in a large house, he kills the other bad guy, but she shoots him. Uses a Cantonese ripoff of “Take My Breath Away.” Poor production values, utterly average.

The Longest Nite. (Tony Leung, Lau Ching-Wan.) A cynical, brutal film noir set in Macau. TL is corrupt cop trying to prevent a gang war, but ends up getting framed, and he literally pulls the trigger to kill one of the triad leaders. It's hard to like any of the characters, and the plot is rather convoluted, but it's still quite compelling.

The Magnificent Seven. The seven are a collection of cowboys who protect a Mexican village against the local despot.

The Man Who Knew Too Little. (Bill Murray.) A silly, fluffy spy farce, about an American who becomes unintentionally involved in an attempt to kill some political leaders in London. A pretty dead script with a few good lines for Murray.

The Man Who Skied Down Everest. The documentary story of Yuichiro Miura, who skied down part of Everest in 1970. Nearly all of the film documents the planning leading the run. He fell near the end, but survived.

The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human. An amusing but straightforward and predictable comedy about the difficulties in dating, as told by a narrator from another planet.

The Missing Gun. Cop loses his gun while drunk at his sister's wedding, and spends the rest of the film looking for it. It was stolen by the village noodleseller who was trying to kill a guy selling illegal liquor (but he accidentally shoots his girlfriend instead). Cop gets shot at the end, but then walks away. Slick photography, but very tedious.

The Mission. (Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Lam Suet, Simon Yam.) Interesting gangster film that's more about the interactions amongst the gang member than about any particular plot structure. One of them gets involved with the bosses wife, and is targeted for death.

The New Legend Of Shaolin. (Jet Li, Chingmy Yau, Xie Miao.) Standard flying swordsman fare. A map of Ming treasure has been tattooed on the backs of five kids, and JL must protect them from, well, somebody bad. CY and her mom are scam artists, but eventually she falls for JL. XM is JL's kid (again) and he kicks butt (again). Fun, silly, and basically non-stop action.

The Night Porter. (Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling.) A disturbing picture of masochism resulting from torture of CR by her Nazi captor DB, with a subplot of a group of former Nazi's trying to get him to confess to what he did and to CR's identity. Hard to enjoy and not very satisfying.

The Pentagon Paper. Good docu-drama about Ellsberg, the writing of and the release of the Pentagon Papers. Marred a little by a made-for-cable feel.

The President's Analyst. (James Coburn.) He's an analyst recruited to serve the President, but the stress causes his to become paranoid, and skip town with the CIA, FBI, and foreign intelligence agencies in pursuit. Amusing at the start, it develops into a very 1960s trippy farce that falls apart.

The President's Last Bang. A strange film about the assassination of Park Chun-Hee by the head of the Korean CIA. Slow, and hard to get inside the characters.

The Prestige. One magician accidentally facilitates the death of the other's wife, and they feud for the rest of the film. Very clever, and great acting, but the characters never quite draw you in.

The Princess And The Warrior. (Franke Potente, Benno Furmann.) FP is a psychiatric nurse who is almost killed by a truck. BF is a budding bank robber who saves her life. She develops an obsession for him, which she carries through his aborted bank robbery. I suffered through over an hour of this before fast forwarding. Slow, meaningless, and just generally terrible, and quite a letdown from the brilliant, manic energy that pervades Run, Lola, Run.

The Princess Bride. This was the first time I'd see it all the way through. Pluses: Wally Shawn's character. Minuses: Billy Crystal wasn't as funny as I'd remembered.

The Prodigal Son. This is supposed to be a kung-fu classic, but I gave up after 30 minutes.

The Proposition. An Australian cowboy flick about the Burns gang and the police captain who sets one of the gang against the leader. Great photography, but the dialogue was overwrought poetic speechifying, with a predictable ending.

The Protector. (Tony Jaa.) An incredibly badly written and photographed film. There's one notable four minutes Steadicam shot as he moves up four floors of a restaurant. The rest of it sucks, badly. It feels long at 1h23m.

The Pursuit of Happyness. A predictable sob-story starring Will Smith as a struggling single dad trying to take care of his son and get a paying job. The best part is the special feature on Rubik's cube solvers, including a guy who solves cubes blindfolded.

The Real Blonde. Another film by Tom DeCillo, about actors and models in NYC. It's very funny in parts, but the characterization and pacing is a little flat.

The Red Wolf. (Kenny Ho, Christy Chung, Elaine Lui). A Bruce Willis/Steven Seagal ripoff. Bad guys try to steal uranium out of the safe on a cruise liner (huh?). Directed by Yuen Woo Ping, it has good action sequences, and little else. Well, Elaine Lui is cute.

The Ritchie Boys. Documentary about young German-Americans, trained in intelligence work at Camp Ritchie, who returned to Germany during WW2 to do interrogations and information gathering.

The Road Home. (Zhang ZiYi, Zheng Hao.) Son returns home after father's death to help mother, who wants body carried back to the home village. Flashback tells the story of how the mother, at 18, met the father, the new teacher for the village. Simple tale, and a bit schmaltzy with the music at the end, but very well photographed and acted.

The Searchers. John Wayne spends five years tracking down a young girl kidnapped by an Indian tribe. Fantastic desert vistas in great color. The staging and acting is a bit too dramatic.

The Sentinel. Michael Douglas is a Secret Service agent having an affair with the first lady. He gets caught up in a plot to assassinate the President. Terrible camera work and editing, but realistic portrayal of Secret Service activity. Fun.

The Shanghai Affairs. (Donnie Yen, Rong Guang Yu) DY is doctor and kung-fu protector of the poor, RGY is leader of the Axe Gang. DY restores the voice of RGY's sister, and falls in love with her. She killed accidentally in a gang fight, and RGY and DY have a final showdown. I didn't see the end of the film because the disc was damaged. The photography and lighting were especially bad.

The Shape Of Things. A fascinating film by Neil Labute, about a woman who meets a man in an art gallery while trying to deface a sculpture, and their relationships with a couple who he knows. Creepy, manipulative, disturbing, stagey, and fascinating to watch. I liked this better than In The Company Of Men.

The Shop Around The Corner. (James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan.) The famous romantic comedy that I found strangely unmoving and stilted. Best line is from the doctor:

“It appears to be an acute epileptoid manifestation and a pan phobic melancholiac with indication of a neurasthenia cordus.”

The Simpsons Movie. Homer adopts a pig, disposes of the pig crap in the lake causing an ecological disaster, and the EPA encases Springfield in a giant dome. Just not funny.

The Soong Sisters. (Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Vivian Wu.) Story of three famous sisters growing up in China. The oldest (MY) marries a rich Chinese businessman, the middle (MC) marries Sun Yat-Sen, who led the revolution against the Qing dynasty, and the youngest (VW) became Mrs. Chiang Kai-Shek. Well-done drama with good balance between personal stories and political conflicts. Nice photography.

“I've heard she's already engaged in America.”
“If she can get engaged, she can get disengaged.”

The Spanish Prisoner. A complex and completely fun Mamet film about a huge scam to steal “The Process” (a notebook filed with mathematical formulas and graphs). Sure the language is stilted, but that's Mamet.

The Squid And The Whale. A great indie film (with star acting) about an NYC intellectual family that is falling apart. Sad, moving, and very funny.

The State Within. This might be a great political thriller, but I'll never find that out because of the jerky camerawork and terrible editing.

The Story Of Qiu Ju. (Gong Li, Lei Lao-Sheng, Liu Pei-qi.) GL's husband is injured in a fight with the town chief, and she escalates her appeal through various levels of the Chinese bureaucracy. Shot in a realistic style, it shows the contrasts between rural and urban Chinese life. Extremely well done.

The Story Of Ricky. (Fan Sui Wong, Yukari Oshima.) Ricky is sent to prison for killing his girlfriend's murderer, where he encounters a gang of sadistic thugs and corrupt prison warden. Ricky fight back with a vengeance, mostly by punching through various bodies. Spurting blood, punctured eyes, etc. A classic of sleazy exploitation films, this time from HK.

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three. (Robert Shaw, Walter Mathau) An exciting heist with a hijacked subway car being held for one million dollar (!) ransom.

The Tao Of Steve. An overweight schlub who can talk women into bed meets a thin, blonde, drummer/set designer (who, he has forgotten, he slept with in college), and he tries to get her back. The title refers to his philosophy (of all the great Steve's, McGarrett, Austin, McQueen) of pretending to not want to sleep with women into get them to chase him. Sweet and fun.

The Touch. (Michelle Yeoh.) A mediocre action-adventure film, with MY as a circus performer whose family gets involved in the quest for a magic thing, which unlocks other things, leading to something, and who cares. Some modestly interesting action (directed by Philip Kwok), but MY is getting old and slowing down. Still, better acting on her part than in Silver Hawk.

The Transporter 2. He's a driver for the son a DEA bigwig. Some bad dude kidnaps the son to infect him with a supervirus he'll pass to his father. Of course, there is a sociopathic supermodel killer. The plot seems to violate common sense, and laws of psychology, physics, and probably even metaphysics. The colors are weird and a bit desaturated. Brainless.

The Triplets of Belleville. An animated surrealistic tale (in French) about a boy whose grandmother trains him for the Tour de France, from which he is kidnapped by some rather rectangular guys in black. She and the dog set off in search, and are ultimately assisted by the triplets of Belleville. Crazy car chase at the end.

The Trouble With Harry. Deadpan humor, but a bit dated, and not as enjoyable as I remembered. Still, it has some great lines and wonderful New England scenery.

The Twilight Samurai. (Hiroyuki Sanada, Rie Miyazawa.) HS is a minor samurai who turns his attention to caring for his demented mother and raising his two daughters after his wife's death. He is called back to fight for his clan, and must also resolve his love interest in RM, a childhood friend, now divorced. A full, rich, emotionally complex film. Note that HS was in Royal Warriors.

The Twins Effect 2. (Charlene Choi, Gillian Cheung, Donnie Yen, Edison Chen, Jackie Chan.) A completely disposable glossy fantasy comedy action drama. CC is mega-cute as always, but the film is a conglomeration of CGI, excessive wire work, and lame plotting. Barely entertaining, not worth a second viewing.

The Two Jakes. (Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel, Meg Tilly.) A sequel, years later, to Chinatown. JN is hired to investigate the affair of HK's wife (with his business partner, who HK kills). JN hears the recording of the shooting and they mention Kathryn Mulwray, the illegitimate daughter (and sister) of Faye Dunaway's character in the original. Investigations ensue. Less compelling and not as well directed (by JN himself) as the original. Still, it does communicate a certain feel about LA in the post-war period.

The Vampire Effect (aka The Twins Effect.) (Charlene Choi, Gillian Cheung, Ekin Cheng, Edison Chen, Anthony Wong, Jackie Chan, Karen Mok.) Silly, cute, and fun vampire film. CC is brother of EC1, a vampire hunter with GC as assistant (and love interest). CC falls in love with a vampire, EC2. Meanwhile, some bad vampires are trying to get EC2 in order to acquire the ability to walk around in daylight. Passable special effects, bad acting – it's a great popcorn movie. Note: The Vampire Effect is an edited version, minus 19 minutes from the HK original.

The War Tapes. Documentary about three guys who fight in the Iraq war and take video cameras along. Some fighting, some day-to-day stuff, and then coverage of what happens to them (predictably, relationship problems, PTSD) when the come home.

The Way Home. A wonderful Korean film about a bratty city kid who goes to live with his mute grandmother in the country. It's quiet, funny, and his character evolves nicely. Very touching, and hardly any music, which makes it great.

The Wedding Banquet. They're gay. She's a hot, but poor artist renting from them. She needs a green card. Let's get married. Unfortunately, the new gay hubby impregnates her, all while his parent's are visiting from Taiwan. Why, it's a comedy of errors as all the various stereotypes struggle to get out the front door first. Even the acting isn't uniformly good. Somehow, interesting, and not terrible.

The Wooden Man's Bride. In rural China, a bride is being transported to her marriage when bandits kidnap her. The groom is killed when his gunpowder blows up. The guy doing the transporting falls in love with her, but that love is forbidden.

The World. (Tao Zhao, Taisheng Chen.) A very long, slow moving, but interesting portrait of the lives of those who work at a large theme park in Beijing. Directed by Jia Zhangke, who also did Unknown Pleasures. This film is bigger budget, but too solemn for its own good. Nice music. Actually, on repeated viewing, this movie really grows on me. It is quite slow, but the acting is extremely realistic.

This Is Kung Fu. Old style documentary about kung fu, with terrible English subtitles. Some shots of a very young Jet Li. The crazy Qigong family which breaks rocks and spears on their kids. Some nice competition work at the end.

Three Times. (Shu Qi, Chang Chen.) Three films with the same actors. The first takes place in 1966. She's a pool hall hostess; he's in the Army. They meet and he spends time trying to track her down. The second film takes place in 1911; all speaking appears in the subtitles. Boring. The third film, in 2005 finds her as a bisexual disaffected something. Not much happens. Boring.

Throne of Blood. (Toshiro Mifune). Kurosawa's Macbeth. Reasonably straightforward story line and not too long, but I quite frankly don't understand the fuss.

Thunderbolt. Jackie Chan + tuner race cars = movie. Fairly lame plot with great fights and stunts.

Till There Was You. A slightly sappy but cute Filipino romance. Guy see girl on bus, and she leaves her book with a photo. He uses the photo as the basis for his daughter's fictitious mother. They finally meet, and he hires her to act as the mother, they fall in love, the daughter gets the real story, things fall apart and they reconcile at the end.

Time Code. Because of when I first watched this, it's loaded with sentimental connections. Four camera, 90 minutes, real-time. Some very good acting, hilarious scenes, and I can't imagine anybody ever feeling the need to make another film this way.

Time and Tide. Tsui Hark's homage to John Woo, with a couple of amazing kinetic camera movements (out the window then following someone rappelling down), but it's very hard to like any of the characters, and hence, the movie.

Timecrimes. Fun twist-in-time-travel horror film. Don't go back in time!!!

To Have And To Have Not. (Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall.) A lot of fun, but thinner than I had remembered from first viewing.

To Live And Die In LA. (William Petersen, Willem Defoe, John Pankow, Darlanne Fluegel.) A morally complex cop film from 1985, which I watched as a pure nostalgia trip. The script has great twists and turns. The Wang Chung music is dated, but marks the era.

To Live. (Gong Li, Ge You, dir: Zhang Yimou.) A truly great historical drama that follows the lives of one Chinese couple through the decades of 1940's through 1960's. The political changes are the backdrop for the story of these two lives.

Together. (Liu Peiqi, Tang Yun, Chen Hong.) Father takes violin-prodigy son to Beijing in search of fame and fortune. Very pretty, straightforward, and predictable melodrama. Great acting. CH is a hot 20-something neighbor, who the kid falls for and who ultimately helps out the kid.

Tokyo Story. A simple story about an elderly couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their various children. The mother falls ill on the return trip and dies. The children react to the death differently, one immediately asking for some of her clothes, and her daughter-in-law appearing to express the truest mourning. Very long (2:15) and moves at a stately pace.

Tomb Raiders (aka Avenging Quartet, aka Ba Hai Hong Ying, 1993). (Cynthia Khan, Moon Lee, Michiko Nishiwaki, Waise Lee, Yukari Oshima aka Cynthia Luster). There is no tomb, there is no raiding. A cheesy but fun film about a painting with a hidden description of old treasure. CK is WL's old Chinese lover, ML is his new HK girlfriend. MN and YO are just beautiful and evil. CK gets stabbed, WL is gunned down, and only ML survives. Very bad print quality.

Tomorrow Never Dies. (Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh.) Ok, not really an Asian film, but whatever. MY does a reasonably good job in this rather undistinguished Bond flick. Brosnan is quite good. Decent stunts: fall down face of building using ripping banner to slow them, fighting several guys in her Saigon “lab”, and motorcycle race across the rooftops of Saigon (really Bangkok). The rest of the film pretty much sucks: Jonathan Pryce as psychotic media mogul, Bond restarts old romance with JP's wife, threat of major war, etc.

Top Fighter 2 (Deadly Fighting Dolls). A very cheap historical documentary about female fighters in HK (and other Chinese) films. Would be better if narration were louder, and if the film excerpts were identified in a written label. Cheng Pei Pei (first female lead in Kung Fu film), Hsu Feng, Shih Szu, Polly Shang Kwan, Judy Lee, Yeung Pan Pan (great technique and devotion to training, and she does a back flip over a railing to grab a guy's legs, looks great with short hair). Hui Ying Hung (“Auntie” also very strong technically), Moon Lee (worth checking out), Yukari Oshima (ditto), Elaine Lui, Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Khan, Sophia Crawford (mostly a stuntwoman), Michiko Nishiwaki (yow), Lien Kwai Yi, Kathy Long, Cynthia Rothrock, Angela Mao.

Touching The Void. Utterly harrowing documentary about a mountaineering accident in the Andes. The level of physical prowess needed to crawl off the mountain is beyond belief.

Traitor. Former American special forces guy gets involved in an Islamist terrorism group. The first hour keeps you guessing about which side he's working for (us), but then it gets more predictable.

Transsiberian. An effective psychological drama (not exactly a thriller) about an American couple on a train across Russia, who meet another couple. Drugs and infidelity ensue.

Treasure Hunt. (Chow Yun-Fat, Chien-lien Wu, Philip Kwok, Han Chin.) Hey, it's the everything movie. CYF is a CIA agent who after brutally gunning down a bunch of bad guys, goes on a mission to China to get national treasure, who, it turns out, is CLW, a babe with supernatural powers. She been stashed away at the Shaolin Temple, where CYF is having a grand old time giving a gameboy to the fat young monk, and teaching the monks to play baseball. There's a violent showdown, and then, the separation before our lovers find each other at the very end. It's got: violent gun battles, kung-fu, humor, romance, political intrigue, and supernatural powers. Watchable and fun, although not a great film in any respect.

Triad Election. Five guys vie for election to head a triad. One, a businessman, really wants out, but ends up brutally murdering, dismembering, and running the body parts through a meat grinder. Interesting, but stark, spare style, and somber music all made it hard to really enjoy.

Tropic Thunder. A mixed but at times hilariously funny farcical sendup of Vietnam movies such as Apocalypse Now and Platoon.

True Romance. Comic book store clerk marries call girl, kills her pimp, and then I stopped watching because who cares?

Truth Or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat. (Karena Lam, Candy Lo.) A weird, but at times entertaining 20-something youthful dreams tale. Lots of pajama parties, truth or dare games, and everyone sets out their one-year goals. It's understated and sweet, but not much happens, and it's rather inconsequential.

Twin Dragons. (Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung.) A very straightforward mistaken identity separated twins farce. One is an orchestra conductor, the other a thug. Lots of hijinks, little humor, some good but undistinguished stunts. Mildly amusing, but completely forgettable.

Twin Warriors (Tai Chi Master). (Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh). Two young friends become enemies, one an army officer, the other JL a rebel. Fights ensue.

Chin-bo: “Find the spiritual among all the worldly. It will open your mind.”
Jun-bo: “The past makes us who we are. Don't make it your burden.”

Jun-bo: “Free yourself. Make light your burden.”

U.S. Marshals. Tommy Lee Jones heads a crew that's searching for Wesley Snipes character, from a plane crash to NYC. Exciting, but dumb: wouldn't the marshals wear bulletproof vests when chasing a suspect?

Unknown Pleasures. A slow Chinese slacker film, about two guys who hang out and smoke. One doesn't seem to care much about his girlfriend, a student studying international finance. The other tries to date a singer, who is the girlfriend of some thug with a gun. Not much happens, and what does happens, happens slowly. Still, an interesting commentary on disaffection in modern Chinese society, and likeable because of the complete absence of a soundtrack, except for ambient radio and TV music.

Unrepeatable. (Eddie Izzard.) An early good but not great show from EI. Rather British, as he had not yet performed for an American audience.

Up the Yangtze. Interesting documentary about two young Chinese (19 year old guy, and teenage woman sent off from her family instead of going to high school) who work for a cruise line that ferries rich foreigner's up the Yangtze River (nominally to see the 3 Gorges Dam, although that gets about one minute of screen time). Obnoxious American woman:

“You were less intrusive than I thought you were going to be.”

Used Cars. Unfunny later 1970's “comedy” that doesn't hold up well. I lasted 40 minutes.

Vantage Point. Multiple perspectives on a political assassination, each view revealing more than the previous one. Well done and fun.

Vantage Point. Political thriller shot from multiple points of view, and which cleverly reveals more information in each replay.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona. A rather vapid Woody Allen film about two young women who take a vacation to Barcelona. They have differing views on love and hey, guess what, things don't turn out as originally portrayed. Dull.

Visitor Q. Takashi Miike's take on a dysfunctional family. The father has sex with the daughter. The son beats up the mother, and is in turn tortured and finally killed by bullies. A visitor hits the father in the head with a rock and then joins the family. The father rapes and kills his coworker, and then rapes her dead body before cutting it into pieces. It's less shocking than it sounds because of the ironic tone. I can't imagine who I'd recommend this to, though.

Volver. A well-acted film from Aldomovar. Daughter kills sexually abusive father. Mother covers it up and hides the body in an unused restaurant, which she then opens. Her aunt dies, and her mother “comes back to life” except it turns out she was never dead in the first place. Lots of talking, very good photography, and, again, who really cares.

WALL-E. A little garbage robot is left on earth with a cockroach, years in the future. A rocket ship leaves a white female robot who he's (implausibly) attracted to. She finds a planet, and returns it to a megaship in space, where obese humans are waiting for Earth to get cleaned up and become sustainable for life again. Some great animation shots, some very good humor, and a way too sentimental PC message.

WWII: The Lost Color Archives: Disc 1. A moderately interesting documentary with color footage from WW2. Unnerving scenes of ships crossing the North Atlantic in heavy seas, some eastern Europeans being shot/hanged.

Waco: The Rules Of Engagement. A documentary about the ATF assault on David Koresh's compound near Waco, TX. ATF and the FBI made many mistakes, including using force without being forced to. A conspiracy? I'm not sure, but it does highlight how bureaucracies make and explain bad decisions.

Wait 'til You're Older. Andy Lau is a young kid who hates his step-mom. He gets exposed to a growth potion, becomes an adult, helps his friends, dates his hot teacher, and ages prematurely, all the while learning about the importance of experience life while we've got it. I usually fall for this sentimentality. Unfortunately, this film was well shot, but otherwise rather vapid.

Warm Spring. A simple, very touching tale in rural China. A young girl is taken in by a poor but generous old man, “Grandpa.” His son and daughter-in-law initially reject her because they are trying to have a child of their own. Her charm and intelligence eventually win everyone over. It's also revealed that he adopted his son, too, but he's rewarded by the girl graduating from college and returning to the village as a teacher.

Warriors Of Heaven And Earth. Complicated, boring, skipped.

Water. Indian film about very young widows who are requires to live in an ashram for the rest of their lives. One, who has been used there as a prostitute, falls in love and is about to marry a man, except it turns out she's been servicing her father.

We Own The Night. Solid, exciting, and unpredictable cop drama: father and one son are cops, the other is a night club owner who comes around to help them after the drug lords kill the father in a rainy car chase.

Wedding Crashers. (Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn.) They crash weddings to meet women, but by accident both meet women who they end up loving. It's silly, and starts slow, but warms up.

When We Were Kings. Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman in Zaire, 1974. Fair filmmaking, great story. Ali completely set up Foreman to think that Ali would be using his fast footwork, but instead hung out on the ropes (rope-a-dope), enraged Foreman to pound him and wear him out, and then knocked Foreman out. Amazing strategy.

Where A Good Man Goes. (Lau Ching-Wan, Ruby Wong, Lam Suet.) LCW is thug just out of prison, RW runs the hotel where he stays. She cleans up after him, while he's out shaking down people for money. A kind of romance develops. LS is a corrupt Macau cop who's trying to put LCW away. It takes a while to get going, but it has a touching ending.

Whispers And Moans. A bright-lit but otherwise dreary expose of the prostitution in Hong Kong: demanding clients, drug use, STDs and the opportunity to make money. I haven't seen that many people smoking in a movie in years.

Who Am I? (Jackie Chan.) Chan is special ops agent who loses memory in accident, spends rest of film running from rogue CIA agent who is trying to sell secret energy formula from weird rock. Mostly silly, attempts to mimic the international chase of a Bond film with very limited success. Has well-known fight on rooftop at the end.

Why We Fight. A documentary about the military-industrial complex and the Iraq war, which provides some insight into the political force of the MIC, but little in the way of understanding of psychological or social influences.

Wild Things. A complicated noir sleaze fest about a Florida high school guidance counselor who is accused of raping a student. It gets very complicated with about a zillion plot twists. A lot of fun if you don't think too hard.

Wing Chun. (Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen). Wing Chun protects village from bandits, Donnie Yen is suitor from long ago. Mistaken identities, sexual innuendo, extremely good action sequences (esp MY in tofu shop). Seems targeted at Chinese audience. Bad print quality with hard to read subtitles, but otherwise a great film.

“If you can smash this tray of soya bean cube, you'll be the winner.”

Witness For The Prosecution. (Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich.) A fabulous adaptation of an Agatha Christie story. A man is charged with the murder of a woman, and CL is the barrister for the defense. Filled with twists and turns, the real gem is CL's witty and sarcastic banter with his nurse.

Wo Hu: Operation Undercover. Yet another tedious politics of the triads film, with some undercover mole threads thrown in. I gave up.

Woman On The Beach. Korean director takes assistant and his GF to the beach to break some writer's block, seduces the GF, and another woman he meets there. Men behaving badly. Too long.

Women Of The Night. Life of some Japanese women, forced into prostitution by financial straits.

Wordplay. A very entertaining documentary about the best crossword puzzle players (and constructors) in the US. They're obsessed, but seemed to be having fun at the same time.

Wu Yen. (Sammi Cheng, Anita Mui, Cecelia Cheung.) A long and silly costume comedy with AM cross-dressing as the Emperor Qi. SC is in love with AM, but has a disfiguring facial stain. CC is in love with SC, who rebuffs her, so CC gets married to AM instead. Starts strong, but runs way too long. Energetic silliness.

Y Tu Mama Tambien. Two high school students go on a road trip with the wife of the cousin of one of them. Just about everyone has sex with everyone else, and then breaks up. I feel like I'm supposed to think this film is deep, but it isn't.

Yes, Madam. (Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock.) MY's first female fighter flick. Long sections devoted to subplot involving some bumbling thieves. Rothrock is clearly a martial arts champion, and has stronger moves, while MY is more graceful. Bad subtitles, and not a very good film overall. Directed by Corey Yuen. MY does back flip over railing through glass to grab two assailants legs, pulling them off the balcony.

Yesterday Once More. (Sammi Cheng, Andy Lau.) Another stylish film from Johnnie To, but this one falls flat. SC and AL are ex's and both thieves. SC's going to remarry, so he steals the necklace from her mother-in-law to-be. Lots of flirting, but little in the way of motivation, and somehow this film is supposed to redeem itself by having AL die of some long-lasting terminal disease.

Yi Yi. (Nobody you'd know.) Great story of three generations of a Taiwanese family. Very stately pace, few camera movements, little action, and very long (nearly 3 hours). Extremely good acting; the kid in particular is great. A slice of life without being annoyingly enigmatic.

You Kill Me. Ben Kingsley is an alcoholic hit man sent away to SF to sober up. There he meets Tea Leoni, they fall in love, and she (unbelievably) accepts his profession and helps him with his final kill. The acting is great, the plot is hard to take seriously.

Young And Dangerous 2. (Jordan Chan, Ekin Cheng, Anthony Wong, Chingmy Yau.) A sequel to a HK triad flick, the original not being available on Netflix. It's HK triads against the Taiwanese, partly set in Macau. It's hard to get excited about this film. Poor print quality and bad subtitling didn't help.

Young Master. (Jackie Chan.) Standard story: JC loses lion dance and is sent away from his school. The usual fights ensue. Some great action work: lion dance, fight using fan, and extended (overly long) fight at the end. JC loves to punish himself and he shows it here.

Your Friends & Neighbors. Another Neil LaBute film about the difficulties of modern adult relationships. Ben Stiller is living with Catherine Keener, but he wants to have an affair with the wife of his best friend. His other friend, Jason Patric, is the ultimate in narcissism; a doctor who tapes himself having sex and who treats everyone badly. After CK finds out, she has an affair with a woman who works in an art gallery. Very stark portrayal of adult problems and themes.

Zero Woman 3: Assassin Lovers. She's out to kill members of a bad organization; they've sent a hitman to kill her. They have sex, and he tries, lamely, to kill her. Because he's failing, the bad organization kidnaps his girlfriend. At the end, hitman shoots handler, she shoots handler, handler shoots hitman. Handler is wearing bulletproof vest. She kills hitman, and tries to shoot handler, who shoots the girlfriend. More action than in most.

Zero Woman Returns. (Natsuki Ozawa) An odd, sleazy soft-core exploitation hit man film about Zero Woman, who apparently works for a super secret organization that kills bad guys. She's sent to work undercover and infiltrate the business of a bad guy who, it turns out, is setting up to kill her and her boss. He appears to fall for her, although it is hard to tell in these films. She kills him and, finally, her boss (although you don't see what happens, maybe the boss kills her.)

Zero Woman: Dangerous Game. Again, completely different. She's got to protect a gangsterette of a mob that sells organs for transplant, and, hey, they end up in a lesbian tryst. Also, some homosexuality, cutting up of dead people, and cannibalism. Feels like a soap opera, lots of fixed scenes with rather pointless (but enigmatic?) dialog. Worse direction and acting than in others.

Zero Woman: Final Mission. Actually, this might be the first in the series, so the title is a lie. This one is a bit different: higher production values, and ZW actually smiles and seems to be enjoying herself, at least at the beginning.

Zero Woman: The Accused. (Mai Tachihara.) Another zero woman flick, similar idea, but completely different tone, feel, and actress. She's very distraught over each killing, and drinks herself silly afterwards. She befriends a bisexual guy, who turns out to be a man-killer. He's shot (but not killed) by her boss, and she carries him to the roof building, realizes there's no way out, and kills the dude. Actually better than the first one I saw, but thin even at 1h10m.

Zero Woman: The Hunted. She falls in love with a waiter at a restaurant. Her handler warns him to stay away, but he doesn't, so gets killed. Also, she sees a woman nearly raped with a scar on her arm, and flashes back to when she saw her (then a girl) get raped and cut; this woman works in a massage parlor; she also turns out to be another Zero Force assassin who ZW shoots at the end. The handler tells her “The only place you can return to is Zero Force,” and that if he dies someone else will come for her. She shoots him. “I have yet another memory that cannot be erased.” Oh yes, along the way she blows away a few dudes. More action, but still lots of existential pondering of the role of an assassin. (This actress isn't very attractive.)

Zhou Yu's Train. (Gong Li). A rather artsy romance with GL as a ceramicist in love with a poet, who lives far away. She visits by trains. Lots of shots of trains. She has an affair, or almost has an affair, with a veterinarian she meets on the train. GL turns in another stunning acting job, about as sensuous as she's ever been.

“I finally understand that a lover is a mirror through which you can see yourself more clearly.”

Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain. (Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Brigette Lin, Moon Lee, Adam Cheng, dir: Tsui Hark.) Lots of blue light, odd camera angles, inexplicable plot twists, flapping cloth, flying just about everything, and cheesy optical effects. In other words, Tsui Hark. Good vs evil, and a search for the Twin Swords, green and blue. Very fast paced, and in spite of the silliness, more enjoyable than others films of the same genre.

“You women have nothing else better to do than to hide here and make up these ridiculous rules. You were the reason I became a monk!”

Author: Steven Bagley

Created: 2017-05-29 Mon 10:05