• Yes, Madam!

    Yes, Madam!

    ★★★★

    "Let's see how good you ladies are without your weapons."

    I honestly don't have a lot more to say about this movie than it says right on the tin: it's a Corey Yuen–directed martial arts actioner starring Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. It delivers the goods. To answer the above quote, the ladies are, in fact, quite good without their weapons.

    Yes, Madam! feels precisely calibrated to be relentlessly entertaining, both for better and for worse. It's edited to within…

  • Bullet in the Head

    Bullet in the Head

    ★★★★★

    "Hong Kong sucks! We'll never get anywhere in this place!"

    Three childhood friends, Ben, Frank, and Paul, now slightly grow up and dabbling in a life of crime, attempt to rescue a singer from being forced into prostitution by going to war with the mob boss who controls her, and in the ensuring aftermath of this battle they essentially stumble right onto the frontlines of the Vietnam War. This is no accident: their violent lives are a reflection of the…

  • A Better Tomorrow II

    A Better Tomorrow II

    ★★★

    "In our time, we had a code of behavior. You respect me and the respect is doubly returned."

    The impossibility of going straight in a crooked world: unchangeable Goliathan power structures, their unbreakable vice grip on the rest of society, and the self-destructive nature of David's only means of resistance. The only people who can successfully "go straight" under such a broken social system are ironically the crooked businessmen who allow society's corruption into their souls, the syndicate that becomes…

  • A Touch of Zen

    A Touch of Zen

    ★★★★★

    “It’s beyond reason to hear a monk criticize imperial policy!”

    Mounting violent resistance against the corrupt, oppressive power of Empire with just a bit of nonviolent spiritualism, call that hitting ‘em with a touch of zen

    Still my favorite first-watch of the year

  • The Tatami Galaxy

    The Tatami Galaxy

    ★★★★★

    "You cannot use the word 'possibility' without limitations. Can you become a bunny girl? Can you become a pilot? Perhaps you could. If you keep focusing your gaze on that which is unrealistic, you never will. The root of all your evil is in always relying on one of your other possibilities to get your wish. You must accept that you are the person here, now, and that you cannot become anyone other than that person."

    A journey of 1000…

  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

    Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

    ★★

    Basil Exposition: "A lot's happened since you've been frozen. The Cold War's over!"
    Austin Powers: "All right! Finally those capitalist pigs will pay for their crimes, eh? Eh comrades? Eh?"
    Exposition: "Austin... we won."
    Powers: "Oh, smashing, groovy, yay capitalism!"

    Another post–International Spy Museum rewatch, another selection from my wife and her sister, and another (not gonna win any friends with this) just not really my taste, but I’m a pretentious dork and happy to watch a movie with the…

  • Salt

    Salt

    ★★

    "I hate math."

    My wife and I visited her sister in Washington DC and we decided to check out the International Spy Museum, which is a fine place even if it's unsurprisingly uncritical of US military intelligence practices. We left with a vague hankering to watch a generic spy movie (not quite an MI or a Bourne or a Bond or a Ryan or a Reacher [I was hoping for a Man from UNCLE rewatch, but we couldn't find it…

  • Death on the Nile

    Death on the Nile

    ★★

    "It's bad enough we have to stay in this bourgeois nightmare."

    Kenneth Branagh's Chinese Roulette, even down to the countless shots reflected or fractured through fragmented glass, only here, unlike in the Fassbinder, the specific identity of the killer does matter, it attests to the deadly nature of love, to the way some folks are too willing to kill for it, some are tragically fated to die for it, and some will throw their lives away because they lost it.…

  • The Batman

    The Batman

    ★★★

    "This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown."

    Noir Batman as emo terrorist Rorschach, fighting crime with the force of fear. He can't be everywhere, so he makes horrific examples of the few criminals unfortunate enough to fall into his grasp as a warning to all the others, the threat of his…

  • The River

    The River

    ★★★

    "I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me."

    But we're always a product of our environment, whether that environment is also a product of us or not. Tsai Ming-liang is fascinated by people and their environments, whether it's the cinematic confines of an old movie theater, the romantic space of a shared vacant apartment, or the alienating expanse of Taipei City more generally, and with The River he…

  • Vive L'Amour

    Vive L'Amour

    ★★★★

    "Together?"
    "Okay."

    A study of spaces and bodies

    We all need a space for our bodies, but society doesn't give it to us for free, we have to carve it out for ourselves. This is why liminal spaces are so crucial in Tsai Ming-liang's filmography: they offer a space that does not (yet) belong to anyone or anything, a space for outsiders to exist safely and authentically — outsiders like May Lin, Hsiao-kang, and Ah-jung, who all in different ways…

  • Rebels of the Neon God

    Rebels of the Neon God

    ★★★★★

    "Best things should be shared among best friends."

    Disaffection and disconnection vs. overproximity and interconnectivity

    Early opening contrasts set the scene, thematically speaking: the loneliness and isolation of stepping over your flooded floors to lie in bed and smoke the butt end of a crumpled cigarette on the one hand; the crowded, claustrophobic spaces of the cram school (never a more fitting name), students sitting shoulder to shoulder, the busy cafeteria, the jam-packed parking lot full of motorcycles and scooters…