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Hard Cash

The worst film I've seen in a decade
The trailers looked interesting.

As the first sequence unfolded, I began to suspect script problems. After 15 minutes, I watched only because I could not believe how bad it was. Structural chaos. Yelling and random fighting instead of character development. Gaping plot holes. Cardboard villains.

But it was not only the script that stank up the two hours. the directing was self-conscious and overly gimacky. Freeze frames at every crash. Rapid dissolve to's to get a character down a hallway. Very distracting.

Don't bother to watch it.

Fight Club

Pretentious... dreck
How do you know you're crazy?

When your masculine side is banging your feminine side and all you can do is listen.

This highly regarded film is nihilistic garbage. Offensive and pretentious. All attitude and Jungian stereotypes.

Skip it.

Flight of the Ibis

Very good little thriller
I once owned a house on Sint Maarten and this little movie brought back fond memories. It captures the spirit of the Caribbean quite well. It was shot on Trinidad and has the feel of a local production. The plot is nothing special, but the execution is wonderfully atmospheric. The characters are interesting; the acting, quite good.

This is an old fashioned film that tells an interesting story about interesting people. That is all it tries to do. And it does it very well.

Song jia huang chao

Distorts history -- but a fine film
Yes. this film distorts history. And misrepresents one of the great leaders of WWII: the G'mo as the Americans called him. But, the imagery is extremely powerful. And so is all the acting. Especially the actor playing the father and all three of the daughters.

Keep the truth in mind (for example, Chiang did not capitulate at Xian when he was kidnapped) and enjoy this wonderful film.

A Jin de gu shi

Yeoh is Superb -- the film, a flawed masterpiece
The film tries too hard. It tries to be a behind the scenes look at Hong Kong action film making. And a thriller. And a love story. It also intends to give Michelle Yeoh a chance to play three very different aspects of the same woman. The film spends not enough time on the first theme and too much on the others.

That said, it is an extremely effective little film And more important: it gives Michelle Yeoh the chance to do some of the best acting of her career. She creates a wonderfully complete and charming character as a stunt double getting her big break.

The woman she plays is, especially in the first third, different from anything you have seen her do before. It proves that she is one of the greatest living actresses -- and not just in action films.

Wing Chun

Wonderful Period Film
This is a wonderful film.

It is full of action and humor. Yes, it is over the top. The plot is cartoon like. But Michelle still gives a delightful performance. Sensitive and funny. The Tofu fight scene is one of my favorites.

Tai ji: Zhang San Feng

Very good action film
The plot is a bit obvious in many ways. But it moves quickly and contains some wonderful martial arts scenes.

Michelle Yeoh interests me very much as an actress. and I was interested in her acting in this film. I realized, watching it, who she reminds me of. Toshiro Mifune. Both were supreme physical actors.

There is also a small comedy bit involving attempts to subdue an insane Jet Li. A fan once wrote that she was not really good at comedy. She has not been given many chances to play pure comedy, but scenes like this one (there is another example in Holy Weapon) prove she is a natural at comedy.

Sing yuet tung wa

Nice bittersweet little love story
This is, essentially, a love story. A young Japanese woman is about to marry a Japanese man who works in Hong Kong. He is killed on the eve of the wedding. She goes to Hong Kong and meets an undercover cop, Karbo, who looks just like the dead fiance. Fate then throws them together when he is framed for a crime.

For me, the highlight of this film is the cameo performance of Michelle Yeoh near the end of the film. She plays Karbo's former partner. Karbo had been engaged to her sister, who committed suicide years before.

Yeoh gives an amazingly subtle and nuanced performance. In five or so minutes on the screen, she creates a character of great depth with an established history. All with facial expressions -- not a word of exposition. In a way, her secondary little story becomes as powerfully moving as the main plot. Once again she proves herself one of the best actresses in film.

Picking Up the Pieces

Bad beyond belief
I had high hopes for this film because of the cast.

My wife and I sat through it looking at one another and wondering if it was all a joke. I kept expecting someone to yell, "CUT" and have it turn out to be a film within a film about the making of a terrible film.

The screenplay is a mess. Lines that may have seemed cute to the writer on a lonely night, but which are painful on the screen. A plot that is truly idiotic.

But it is not only the writing. The directing is terrible, too. It literally looks like an attempt to portray a really bad film in a film about film. Decent actors stand around looking as if they have no idea what to do. In crowd scenes, people run around waving sticks -- looking like the ending of Blazing Saddles.

The acting is generally bad -- although with this plot and these lines, how could it be good? Sharon Stone is not too bad not playing herself -- but the role she plays is not very interesting. Others make fools of themselves. Even Woody Allen is bad as himself.

A couple of well known actors are so bad that you don't even know who they are. They screw up their faces (FD) of wear caps that cover their faces (LDP). I suspect they were hoping not to be recognized.

The casting is strange. All the Mexicans are played by Hispanics. But all the Catholic clergy are played by Jews. There is no reason why a Jewish actor should not play a Catholic priest or nun. But what is the possible reason for having only obviously Jewish actors play Catholic clergy? I guess because it's supposed to be funny. It wasn't. It worked about as well as a SNL skit.

I suspect that the offensive language and treatment of the Church was also supposed to be funny. It was only offensive.

I went to a performance at Second City in Chicago a while back (it used to be one of my favorites). I noticed that it is now considered humor to simply make some extremely offensive comment about Catholicism. Not a comment that is itself funny or that even tries to be funny. But a comment that is supposed to be funny only because the act of saying it is funny. Much of this film is at this level of "sophistication."

My wife and I speculated that whoever got the actors to play in it must have gotten somebody's black book with which to blackmail them. Why else would talented people have allowed themselves to be humiliated?

MAYBE this will turn up on VHS. I hope not

The Thomas Crown Affair

This is actually the second remake. The Hong Kong version is better
A slick Hollywood remake. Full of gadgets and sex. Unfortunately, not much romance or character development. And the acting is mediocre at best. The surprise ending is not. My wife liked it. I thought it passed the time.

Let me suggest an alternative: a 1987 film from Hong Kong starring Michelle Yeoh (as the Thomas Crown character) and George Lam as the insurance investigator. It's listed here -- look under Yeoh -- and is available as an import from Asian Xpress or Poker Industries. (I wish Amazon carried some of the Hong Kong imports.

The Chinese film is not a caper flick as much as it is a romantic comedy built around the investigator's efforts to retrieve the loot -- and around his increasing enthralment with the svelte Michelle. Don't expect a big budget Hollywood movie. But the film ranges from Hong Kong to London to Switzerland to France and back.

If you like gadgets and sex, though, stick to the Hollywood remake.

Ging chaat goo si III: Chiu kup ging chaat

We see in this film three of Yeoh's special qualities
This is, of course, one of Jackie Chan's best films. And one of Michelle Yeoh's, too. In fact, it is the chemistry between the two that makes the film stand out.

I have, for a long time, been trying to put my finger on what makes Yeoh so special on screen. This film provides three partial answers.

First, the chemistry. Her best roles have been those in which she is paired with a strong co-lead -- usually male, but at least once a female -- with whom she has a somewhat adversarial relationship marked by growing mutual respect. In a sense, her unique character is best seen by the sparks thrown off as others try to deal with her as a conventional woman. This is what made TOMORROW NEVER DIES so entertaining.

Second, watch the scene in the smugglers boat when she springs to alert as the police boats spot them. It is a small, incidental moment. But I suddenly realized, as I watched it for the fourth time recently, who she has so much reminded me of all this time. Toshiro Mifune. My favorite actor as a youth. What made Mifune unique was that tightly coiled intensity, that explosive athleticism, that he brought to all his roles. It came out notably in his dramatic use of facial expressions -- to express emotion or exertion. And in his body movements -- at turns muscular, fluid and explosive. Michelle Yeoh is a female Toshiro Mifune. She uses her face the same way. And her movements have the same power.

Third, watch the outtake in which Jackie Chan is struck by the martial arts training wheel. Michelle Yeoh never leaves her character. As everyone scurries around laughing and joking, Inspector Yang strides serenely with her hands clasped behind her back. Even her look of amused surprise has Yang's condescension. She is inside her role. Mifune, I have read, used to stay in character through an entire day of shooting. In 1941, he even insisted on drilling his Navy crew for days to get the right feel. I sense that Yeoh is equally dedicated to her roles.

Tong tian da dao

Michelle Yeoh plays Thomas Crown with interesting results
This is not a typical Michelle Yeoh vehicle: no martial arts!

It is, in fact, a low budget remake of the original "Thomas Crown Affair" with a Michelle Yeoh playing that role. It is also an excellent film. The chemistry between the insurance investigator (extremely well played by George Lam) and the thrill seeking millionairess (played with quiet nuance by Michelle Yeoh) is as fine as anything I've seen on film.

Yeoh starred in four films before she married Poon, an owner of the studio. Three of them were actions films in which she played a short-haired, sweet tomboy -- generally wearing print shirts and jeans. This film was a distinct departure. She plays a long-haired, sophisticated beauty -- who knows exactly how many bottles of 1960 Petrus there are in Paris. My hunch is that Poon had his eyes on her and wanted to "upgrade" her image in preparation for marriage. I may be wrong. The result is certainly unique.

Yeoh's is an interesting performance. We never really know her character. She is always something of an enigma -- but this is the idea, I think. One senses the tomboy lurking beneath the svelte sophistication. And the trade mark little girl giggle (hand over mouth, head bowed) is always ready to burst out. And that sweet, taunting smile is there too, just before she totally humiliates the adversary male. And that self-contained strength she brings to all her performances underlies it all. It is a convincing portrait of a disturbed young woman looking for something she does not know how to enjoy.

For an example of the range in the role, watch the chase scene through Paris. She is the excited little girl stealing a police car. A daredevilish stunt woman leading the police on a mad chase through the streets. But then, as she hears the police beating the poor insurance investigator (whom she has left stuck in the stolen car), a profound melancholy wells up on her face. It is not fun anymore. The real world has intruded on her fantasy.

In all her post-retirement films I have sensed an underlying sadness in Yeoh. A kind of isolation -- sometimes verging on desolation. It is even used as a subplot in several of those films: Wing Chun, Butterfly and Sword, Supercop 2, Tai Chi Master. Something of this mood also emerges for the first time in Easy Money.

A very well done film. And Yeoh is a much more interesting Thomas Crown than was Brosnan in his remake.

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