1. Du bei dao / The One-Armed Sworsdman (Cheh Chang, 1967)
2. The Three Museketeers (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2011)
3. Mission: Impossible (Brian DePalma, 1996) (re-watch)
4. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Roy Ward Baker/Cheh Chang, 1974)
5. Tang shan da xiong / The Big Boss (Wei Lo/Chia Hsiang-Wu, 1971)
6. To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985) (re-watch)
7. John Paul Jones (John Farrow, 1959)
8. Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)
9. Wong Fei Hung / Once Upon a Time in China (Hark Tsui, 1991)
10. Lung hing foo dai / Armour of God (Jackie Chan/Eric Tsang, 1986)
11. The Wild Geese (Andrew V. McLaglen, 1978)
12. Mission: Impossible II (John Woo, 2000)
13. Fei ying gai wok / Operation Condor (Jackie Chan, 1991)
14. Stander (Bronwen Hughes, 2003)
15. Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird, 2018) (cinema)
16. Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (Michael Anderson, 1975)
17. Black Eagle (Eric Karson, 1988)
18. Code of Silence (Andrew Davis, 1985) (re-watch)
19. Foo gwai lit che / Millionaire's Express / Shanghai Express (Sammo Hung, 1986)
20. Mission: Impossible III (J.J. Abrams, 2006) (re-watch)
21. Dip bi / The Butterfly Murders (Hark Tsui, 1979)
22. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird, 2011)
23. Air Force (Howard Hawks, 1943)
24. Hung fan qui / Rumble in the Bronx (Stanley Tong, 1995)
25. Wong Fei Hung II: Nam yee tung chi keung / Once Upon a Time in China II (Hark Tsui, 1992)
26. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie, 2015)
27. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1992) (3rd viewing)
28. Long men kezhan / Dragon Inn
(King Hu, 1967)
My second King Hu, after the 1966 Da zui xia
, a Shaw Brothers production and looking like their other films from the era, though certainly superior. This, his first film after moving to Taiwan, is a different kettle of fish, with lots of location work and a sense of visual and perhaps to a certain extent narrative freedom that would never fly at Shaw. The way Hu films landscapes... Anthony Mann comes to mind, and that's as high a complement as I can give. And the "classical" editing also strikes me as reminiscent of American classic cinema, in this case John Ford. Everything seems just so, the movement between action, stillness and dialogue is so well judged. As to the story, it's familiar enough, with a couple of kids sent to the frontier after their father has been murdered by the area warlord, only to have the warlord's men come after them, and a motley band assembles to defend them. The way the group comes together seems both random and fate-appointed, and the characterizations though not deep are nicely drawn; I particularly liked the contrast between the rather serious Lingfeng Shangguan, whose art is both graceful, perfectly timed and strong, and Chun Shih, a rather comical figure here but almost Man With No Name-like in his casual deadliness - and the hints of romance between the two are delicious and not at all overdone. The fight sequences and wire-work are a bit primitive I suppose but all in all it's exciting enough and the battles around the inn and the final conflict are perfect in scale and length.
29. Sun lung moon hak chan / New Dragon Gate Inn
(Raymond Lee and (uncredited) Siu-Tung Ching/Hark Tsui, 1992)
Lee is the only credited director on this very, very loose remake, and I'm not really familiar enough with his work or that of Siu-Tun Ching, who also co-produced, but this has the mark of co-director/co-writer/co-producer Tsui all over it, full of crazy whip-speed indoor combats, wire-work, jumps, spins, an even stronger emphasis on the female characters (the original only had one main female role), played in this case by the magnificent Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin. It's an all-star affair, with Tony Ka Fei Leung as the main good guy and Donnie Yen as the main antagonist, and it probably cost a fair bit of money by HK standards, but on the whole it falls a little flat I think. Oh, I do love parts, particularly my dream girl Maggie as a sort of comic femme fatale, and the last fight sequence is totally outlandish, but much of the action and plot in the middle third are fairly incomprehensible and I gave up really caring what was going on even while still enjoying the crazy action. A better video copy probably would have helped, it's a shame so much Hong Kong cinema is hard to find in top-notch condition.
30. Xia nü / A Touch of Zen
(King Hu, 1971)
I won't call it a disappointment exactly, but I'm afraid that on one viewing this didn't live up to it's lofty reputation (or number of Official Toplists) for me. Chun Shih returns as the central character in another film set in the medieval era involving soldiers from the Eastern Chamber after a young girl...but there the similarities to the earlier Long men kezhan
pretty much end. Shih isn't a warrior, and the story ends up being a lot more complex and rather weird and even perhaps abstract in the final act, as Shih's intellectual-painter character falls for the warrior-woman he plans to protect, finds out that a couple of his buddies in the town are actually generals also protecting the woman (who doesn't need a lot of protection, naturally) and that a new friend isn't who he seems to be. Lots of action of course, all of it well done though it must be said that the night sequences are really hard to follow - Hu probably didn't have the money for really sophisticated lighting and the natural light just doesn't cut it always - and I never felt bored during the three hours, but the last 35-minute sequence which goes into new territory including a religious apotheosis of sorts just felt out of place to me. It's got a great fight sequence embedded so I'm glad it's there but what it all means in the context of the film as a whole is probably beyond me at this point. Perhaps the long Tony Rayns review on the disc will help out.
31. The Foxes of Harrow
(John M. Stahl, 1947)
Action? Who am I to gainsay the opinions of the good person or people who listed this as such in their IMDb categories...anway.... A pre-Civil War southern melodrama meant to capitalize on the enduring popularity of such tales a few years after Gone With the Wind
, this is less offensive certainly than that film, but also less well-made in every single regard. Rex Harrison is OK I guess as the Irish-born gambler and ne'er do-well who wins a plantation in Louisiana and proceeds to woo, and then mostly abandon, Maureen O'Hara (who is NOT playing an Irish woman but a Creole!). The first half hour is OK, kind of fun and reasonably eventful, but after that it's really GWTW-lite, and none of the cast is all that interesting (I've never been a fan of O'Hara and she's just very ordinary here) and it's in b/w so even the settings and production design pale compared to the earlier film. As far as "action", there is a fairly good horse-chase sequence, and a fight or two, but that's about it. I watched this with my mom, who had read the book, and apparently this covers only about half of the novel, surprise surprise, and has a totally different ending.
(Zack Snyder, 2009) (re-watch, though 1st watch of "Ultimate" edition)
I wrote a fairly long review of this - the theatrical version - when it came out, and I was pretty unimpressed, but I'm also unimpressed with the quality of that review so I'm not going to duplicate it here. Suffice it to say that my main problems were with the sheer dumbness of many of Snyder's directorial/production choices - the blunt, heavyhanded usage of songs
- and the general need to underscore everything for the dummies in the audience - and the rather weak ending being the main issues. I was pretty disappointed, having been a huge fan of the comics since they came out, but I'm pretty used to poor comic book adaptations at this point, and I figured it was time to give it another go, and while my problems certainly didn't go away, I'm glad I watched it again. First off, the added scenes (don't know what's new at this point apart from the motion comic stuff) and running time actually make the film flow much better and it seems actually tighter and almost shorter despite being an hour longer; the ending bothered me a bit less, after reading about some of the reasons why it was put in, and it just made a little more sense - though it's still not explained all that well, and Veidt's whole master plan simply doesn't come across elegantly as it does in the comics, where everything seems to develop so organically and consistently from issue to issue. I still don't like Snyder's color choices, though I'll admit finally that he does have his own visual style, and it's less obnoxious here than in any of his other work. What makes it all work - and makes me able to actually say I "like" it overall now, is the cast, and I found a lot of the performances that I had thought weak, particularly Malin Akerman's, much better this time around; Matthew Goode's Ozymandias is really the only serious problem in this regard. And on the other side, we have Patrick Wilson's excellent portrayal of Nite Owl, and Jackie Earle Haley's incandescent turn as Rorschach, which stands right up there with Christopher Reeve's Superman as the best-ever performance in a superhero film. The pathos he engenders, particularly towards the end when the film really needs him, almost lifts the whole film out of mediocrity into something special; what he might have done under a more imaginative director!
33. The Quest
(Jean-Claude Van Damme, 1996)
Started out fairly well with JCVD as the head (and only adult) of a street gang in New York in the 1920s, somehow through Dickensian contrivances ending up heading towards a "world's greatest fighter" championship in Thailand (I think, I was starting to get bored by that point). And hey, there's Roger Moore too as a charming con artist; but by the halfway point you realize this is going to be another one of those let's get a bunch of different fighters with different styles together and have them fight a match and of course one of them is going to be evil and our hero will defeat him last...that sort of thing. And the fights aren't that good, and there's little to no explanation of the fighting styles or how they work/don't work against each other, it's all very slapdash. On the plus side, nice photography, and reasonably short. But overall not one of JCVD's better films - and even his better films ain't that great.
34. Sudden Death
(Peter Hyams, 1995)
What a difference having a professional director makes! OK...not really. Here JCVD is a Pittsburgh fireman, off work because he failed to save a woman in the first scene, called back into service when he takes his kids to the Stanley Cup finals (hockey for those who don't know), and it just so happens there are a bunch of terrorists led by Powers Boothe who have kidnapped the Vice President at the game and are threatening to kill him and blow up the stadium if they don't get lots of $$$. Obviously influenced by Die Hard
and also similar in some ways to the Steven Seagal vehicle Under Siege
, this isn't anywhere close to as good as either of those, though it's marginally better than the above film because it does have some nice tension-building towards the end and a couple of surprises that while not that amazing at least give you *something* to keep you awake between the kicking.