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Rating History

Dangan Ranna (D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner) (Non-Stop)
4 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes


There's a Japanese film festival going on right now and I was fortunate enough to carve out some time to attend one of today's screenings.

Dangan Runners or Non-Stop starts out slow and meditative and I wondered if I'd been deceived by the synopsis, which described it as a fast-paced yakuza action comedy.

But after a bit, this loser guy, who decides to rob a bank because he's failed at everything else, ends up in a convenience store to buy a mask. He shoplifts the mask and another item, probably some dried seaweed snacks or prawn crackers or something, and is caught by the clerk. The would-be bank robber pulls out his gun and shoots the clerk in the arm. He then tries to run out the door, but bumps into another customer, falls and loses his gun. The clerk, spoiling for a fight, grabs the gun. The robber takes off and the clerk chases him. They run and run and run and eventually crash into another guy, a very angry yakuza, who it turns out is after the clerk, who's a junkie and owes the yakuza money. So the yakuza is chasing the clerk who is chasing the robber.

The yakuza, it turns out, shares a connection with both the guys. This is revealed in some flashbacks into each character while they are running.

The photography was great, lots of handheld running behind the guys running. It's all jumpy, very active.

At one point, they pass a sexy woman in a short dress who bends over to pick something up. Each one of them sees something different in the encounter and fantasizes about it differently. This adds an erotic vignette to the film.

Meanwhile there's a group of yazuka spoiling for a fight, and some cops have been tipped off as well. I was kind of confused about who the cops were at first. One of them is a geeky guy in glasses who never says anything until the conversation turns to guns. One of the other cops mentions Dirty Harry's gun, and the geek notes that it's a 44 magnum. And then he won't shut up about guns and the various advantages of certain models.

It all wraps up in a big Reservoir Dogs-like standoff. All in all, a lot of fun.

Rain Dogs (Tai yang yue)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes


Entering the world of Malaysian cinema, [url="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0851579/"]Rain Dogs[/url] is a 2006 film by Yuhang Ho, which offers a snapshot of the ethnic Chinese experience of living in rural Malaysia.

At the center of the tale is Tung, a teenage guy from the country, who comes to Kuala Lumpur with a friend. Tung hopes to track down his older brother, who left home some time ago.

But before Tung can get started on his search, a prostitute invites herself into his guesthouse room. He shoos her out the door, but pretty soon, a couple of tough guys show up and demand he pay her, whether he had sex with her or not.

So, five minutes into the film, the main character finds himself robbed.

Eventually, he tracks down his brother, who's hanging out with a tough crowd that runs a gambling ring out of a snooker hall. Through their conversation, its explained that their father is gone, and their mother is single. She has a boyfriend who comes over to their house and freeloads, and steals her money.

Tung heads home, but soon has to return to KL under tragic circumstances, which leaves him shattered.

He returns to the countryside, and grows more and more fed up with the situation of his mother and her freeloading boyfriend, and he lights out on foot for the next town, where he stays with his uncle and aunt and their little boy. The little boy has a tutor - a key-yute Chinese girl, who provides a love interest for Tung, and the girl also has a hot older sister, so naturally Tung is confused. The older sister has a dirtbag ex-boyfriend whom Tung feels obliged to beat up.

It's a coming-of-age movie for Tung, who wants to follow the footsteps of his tough brother, but can't. He wonders who the heck his father was, and is a bit lost.

The uncle, Tung's mom's brother, tries to be a father figure, and takes Tung to shoot a pistol. But mostly, he's concerned about his own son's trouble at school, and he spends much of his time drop-dead drunk on beer.

A piece of music, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child by Odetta, is used to set the mood of the film about midway through. Coupled with beautiful cinematography of the forested hillsides of rural Malaysia, Rain Dogs is something to see and experience.

The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again
12 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

A pair of Western comedies with a concept - make the sidekicks the stars. The made-for-TV (by Aaron Spelling) result is servicable enough, but too sterile for my taste.

In the first, Pat O'Brien plays an aged former Texas Ranger captain whose daughter summons him to Boulder, where the town is being run into the ground by a corrupt mayor and his cronies. Her husband, Ricky Nelson, is running for mayor but doesn't stand a chance. The captain sends out the call for the best of his former crew - all guys who are washed up and slowed down by age.

So we have Walter Brennan, Chill Wills and Edgar Buchanan. The cast also includes squeaky voiced Andy Devine (as a corrupt judge), and Jack Elam as the bad sheriff.

Good enough for a sequel, part two leaves out Pat O'Brien and concentrates on Brennan, Wills and Buchanan. They get word that a former Ranger friend is in trouble in Waco. They arrive and find out that he is dead. They head to the saloon for a drink and notice an old drunk at the end of the bar. Well, that's their friend, the Baltimore Kid, played by Fred Astaire. They take him and get him sobered up and cleaned up. Soon, he's ready to be town marshall, with the help of the three aged Rangers.

These were part of a four-movie disc that was purchased for $5 at Farm and Fleet in Bloomington, Illinois. I beginning to believe this was a money losing proposition all around - for me, for the store and for the company that packaged these crap movies on DVD.

Spooky Encounters (Gui da gui)
19 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes


Happy New Year -- Lunar New Year that is.

And what better way to celebrate than with three classic kung-fu films?

First one was actually a couple of nights ago -- Spooky Encounters, in which Sammo Hung invented the hopping vampire genre. He plays a cuckholded husband whose wife is having an affair with a government official. The official, wanting to get rid of Sammo, hires a sorcerer to cast evil spells, which involve the waking of the dead, which the sorcerer can manipulate in a puppet-like fashion. The "vampire", zombie really, has to hop because its dead and its movement is restricted. But that's only for the first fight. In the next fight, the corpse is a bit more limber. It goes all out towards the end, when Sammo is befriended by a drifter who just happens to be highly skilled in the black arts himself. The best part is the patented freeze-frame ending, in which Sammo gets his comeuppance. Not many films go as far as this one does.

Magnificent Butcher takes a minor character from the Wong Fei Hung stories (most famously depicted in the Once Upon a Time in China series) - the Butcher Wing - and fleshes out his story. Sammo portrays Wing pretty as he's portrayed elsewhere, a bumbler who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The story's pretty complex, though I could follow it. It's too much to get into here, but as far as the story goes, I liked this one best of all. There's some rivalry between the Fei Hung school and another master, which is heated up by some lies on the part of the other master's son. As comedic as it gets, it's also pretty grim, with a murder taking place and Wing ending up framed for it. Out of the Wong Fei Hung's I've seen portrayed - by Jet Li on Once Upon a Time and Jackie Chan in the Drunken Master movies - the Wong Fei Hung [url="http://www.kungfucinema.com/people/kwan_tak_hing.htm"][color=#800080](Kwan Tak-hing[/color][/url]) here is probably closest to how he really was - a wise, old and just master, but also a somewhat cruel teacher. Of course it's only fitting - Kwan Tak-hing portrayed Wong Fei Hung in a series of around 100(!) films from the 1940s to the 1960s. Wing is left to fend for himself and comes under the tutelage of a wandering drunken boxer master [url="http://www.kungfucinema.com/people/fan_mei_sheng.htm"][color=#800080](Fan Mei-sheng[/color][/url]). Did I mention this is a Yuen Wo-Ping film? Yuen Biao has a small role as Foon, and gets in a fight with the rival master's deceitful, fan-wielding son.

Knockabout is one that Sammo directed and takes a co-starring role in. Yuen Biao stars as Little John, who with [url="http://www.kungfucinema.com/people/leung_kar_yan.htm"][color=#0000ff]LEUNG Kar-yan[/color][/url] as Big John, are brother conmen, always looking to pull a scam, especially at the gambling hall (gotta have a gambling hall brawl, as well as a restaurant brawl). None of their scams work, and there's always this beggar (Sammo) hanging around and causing trouble for them. After one scam too many, they end up tagging along with a silver-haired stranger (Lau Kar-Wing), who teaches them some kung-fu and they improve. But then the older man (the Fox) has a dark past that catches up with them. He's a stone-cold killer. Little John then teams up with the beggar, who teaches him even more kung fu, including a maniacal monkey style, and Little John's ready to take on the old Fox. Great action by Yuen Biao, who has excellent comic chemistry with Leung Kar-yan as well as Sammo.

This is the Fortune Star set I bought, so no Bey Logan commentary tracks. But there are some interviews with Sammo on two of the discs. They're in English! There's also an interview with Leung Kar-Yan, and it's subtitled in English, which is always a plus.

Ride in the Whirlwind
20 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes


Continuing my binge on westerns, I turn to this 1966 gem by Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson.

With a name that's grander than the story it tells, Ride in the Whirlwind stars Jack and Cameron Mitchell as a couple of cowhands turned fugitives due to a case of mistaken identity. They had the misfortune of stopping for the night at a cabin where a gang of outlaws led by Blind Dick (an eye-patched Harry Dean Stanton) are holed up. The atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion is powerful, even after a plate of beans and biscuits.

In the morning, the camp is surrounded by a vigilante necktie party. The cowhands make a break for it, but end up trapped in a box canyon. They abandon their horses and set out on foot, while the vigilantes track them. The cowboys eventually come upon a farmstead, where they try in vain to explain they aren't outlaws. But no one is going for it.

With money put up by Roger Corman, Ride the Whirlwind was shot on a 75,000 budget in the Utah desert in 1965. The production closely followed another low-budget western by Hellman, The Shooting, which starred Warren Oates and had Jack in a supporting role. Ride the Whirlwind is the better of the two - better story, better characters, better production.

The Shooting is way too enigmatic for its own good, though having Oates in it is a bonus. I've watched The Shooting sometime ago, and it's probably due for a re-evaluation. Ride the Whirlwind was one I've been wanting to see for awhile now. I'll probably be more apt to give it a repeat view than The Shooting.

At some point, I hope to come across Hellman's Two Lane Blacktop and Cockfighter (both with Warren Oates).