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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Archive for the ‘John Woo’ Category

My Top Hong Kong Films of the 1990s — A Cop Named Tequila

Tequilla

C’mon, who HASN’T wished they could do this?

I first saw John Woo’s Hard Boiled on Cinemax.The cable company gave us a free trial, and I timed my VCR to record this film, along with A Better Tomorrow, Vampire Hunter D, and The Wicked City. Although I can’t speak for those who lived in major metropolitan centers, in my day, both Hong Kong films and anime were damn hard to come by, especially if you lived in rural Oklahoma. Don’t worry, I’ll avoid the obligatory “You kids today don’t know how easy you’ve got it!” spiel and continue with my stroll down memory lane.

In my childhood, the only Chinese movies that I ever got to see on TV or on VHS were Bruce Lee films, Brucesploitation flicks, and badly dubbed chopsockies that were probably produced by studios other than Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest. As a result, Bruce Lee was probably the only identifiably positive image of an Asian man in American popular culture, and, of course, his appeal was very much tied up in his proficiency in the martial arts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. My point is — for those of us very much stuck in an American pop culture perspective, for an Asian guy to be cool, he had to know kung fu.

All that changed with Hard Boiled and Chow Yun-Fat.  As silly as it may sound to those of you who are either a bit younger than me or who were always culturally plugged into Asian cinema, Chow Yun-Fat was the first Asian actor I’d ever seen who was undeniably cool. Of course, Cinemax showed the dubbed version, so Chow sounded like a pissed off Aussie, but it didn’t matter to me — Chow’s Tequila Yuen was a cool customer very much in line with the heroes I admired in Hollywood films — Dirty Harry, Snake Plissken, John McClane, etc. Role models aren’t that important to me anymore, but as a youngster, Chow Yun-Fat’s Tequila Yuen meant the absolute world to me.

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Calvin’s Top 10 Hong Kong Films of the Last Decade (7-5)

With the results of the LoveHKFilm.com reader’s poll slowly trickling out, I give you a few more of my personal top ten. Will they in any way reflect the choices of the readers? I have no idea. Let me know what you think!

7. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Kung Fu Hustle

Stephen Chow is all out of bubblegum in Kung Fu Hustle

How great is this movie? Well, let me put it to you this way: Kung Fu Hustle is so great that comic genius-turned-filmmaker extraordinaire Stephen Chow can disappear for long stretches of the narrative, and I didn’t even miss him. Think about that for a second. The star of the film (and likely the singular reason why people bought tickets for the movie in the first place!) occasionally gives up screen time to lesser known actors in an A-budget picture. Sure,  familiar faces like Yuen Wah and Shaolin Soccer alums Chan Kwok-Kwan and Lam Chi-Hung round out the supporting cast, but a lot of the story hinges on the performances of a bunch of relative unknowns — the residents of Pigsty Alley. During my first viewing, I found myself asking, “Who are these guys?” And better still, “Why am I so riveted to what’s happening to them?”

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Red Cliff — The Condensed Version

Red Cliff Tony

In the early press releases for John Woo’s Red Cliff, it was announced that the film would be split in half for Asian audiences. Part I was almost two-and-a-half hours long, while Part II was only slightly shorter than that. With the split-release of Kill Bill already well behind us, this announcement was certainly nothing new, and I’m sure most John Woo fans were glad that he wouldn’t have to compromise his vision by cutting his film to fit a conventional theatrical running time. However, that wasn’t the only announcement that was made in regard to the film’s release. It was also mentioned that there would be an American version of the film, one that would run only two-and-a-half hours total. For purists, this probably seemed heretical, and for the rest of us, it just seemed odd. How can you squeeze over four hours of story into a movie that’s only a little over half its original running time?

Well, while watching the first installment of Red Cliff I became convinced that it could be done. Later, I watched Red Cliff II and started to have other ideas, but whatever my reservations, I’ll transcribe my thoughts on how to rework the first installment for your amusement.

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Welcome to RONIN ON EMPTY!

 Sanjuro Logo

Hello, my name is Calvin McMillin, a.k.a. Sanjuro. You might remember me from such film reviews as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Swordsman 2, or perhaps the strangely infamous Flowers of Shanghai. I’m here today to give you the skinny on my new blog, Ronin on Empty. Now, you might be aware that I once had an irregularly updated column on the site called A Man Called Sanjuro or that I most recently maintained a blogger account also called Ronin on Empty. Those previous writing venues have been folded into this brand-spankin’ new LoveHKFilm.com blog. I wasn’t sure how or where to begin, so I did a few test posts to start out, which you can read underneath this one. With that initial tomfoolery out of the way, I thought I might use this first substantive posting as an opportunity to reflect on the past, consider the present, and speculate on the future.

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