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chazgower01 last won the day on April 29 2019

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  1. In the process of writing a book about Yukari Oshima, and did a review of A Punch to Revenge, which I didn't see in the guide - here's a condensed version of it for you: A Punch to Revenge (1989, Hong Kong, dir. Lee Chiu) 3.5/5 An impotent man (Eddy Ko), who is tortured by his wife’s prostitution to pay the bills and care for their seriously deformed son, decides to talk his visiting cousin and friends into taking part in a robbery for a Triad boss (Chan Ging). Yukari is a social worker trying to help him and his family and tries to see the best in him, while jaded Policeman Ben Lam tries to convince her otherwise. The Triad boss is Ben Lam’s former partner on the Police force, who went crooked. Of course the Triad boss screws them over and all hell breaks loose. He convinces Eddy Ko to cheat his visiting cousin and friends. Ben Lam and Yukari have to whoop some butt to get everything sorted out… rather Ben Lam does in the finale. This has a category listed as action, but I look at it more as a Crime Drama with some good action in it. They’re definitely trying to make a statement here while still delivering some HK-style action. It’s a pretty entertaining small budget film. Yukari in the ‘sort of’ budding romance role is better than she has been. She actually is dressed cuter and shows a genuine warmth at times. You can still tell, it’s not what she does best though… Stanley Fung has a small part… as a Police Captain (big surprise).
  2. I really SHOULD update it to a 3/5 because I would most definitely watch it again, just for the fighting!
  3. chazgower01

    My Pedro Almodóvar movie review thread

    Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988, Spain) Criterion Channel 4.5/5 For the first half hour of this movie, director Pedro Almodovar introduces us to his cast, and sets the stage for one of those smart, funny comedies, that are full of hilarious co-incidences. And within this first half hour, I noticed something that would forever endear him to me: A director who perfectly frames every shot. Don’t get me wrong, I love the dialogue. (Do NOT watch the dubbed version on DVD). Despite the language barrier, I GET the humor - its timing is exceptional. The co-incidences, if they happened in a SERIOUS movie would be eye rolling, but work perfectly here. The physical comedy is well done. No moment is wasted and much of it comes back to play a part later on, fitting together like a perfectly put together puzzle. But the look of every frame of this movie is by a consummate visual storyteller, who doesn’t just make movies - he makes great films. I’m not sure if he was able to continue this throughout his entire career (I haven’t seen everything), but for THIS movie, he’s made something that works on technically perfect aesthetic level, while still making a movie that’s funny and has well put together story. Carmen Maura plays the mistress of a man who leaves her, and in the midst of her grief she finds clues that lead to many discoveries about why… and somehow those things end up fitting into other things going on around her. That’s about as simplified as I can make the plot, but let me just say that once her friend Candela (María Barranco) shows up at Pepa’s apartment (where much of the movie takes place) about the same time as Antonio Banderas (in an early pre-USA role) with his girlfriend - the movie becomes a lot of fun and starts a roller coaster ride to the finish. Maura as Pepa is on edge the whole movie without ever quite falling off while her friend Candela literally tries to: Pepa: You could’ve killed yourself! Candela: That was the idea. I’m desperate! Pepa: So am I, but I don’t go jumping off of balconies! Candela: I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t face my folks. It’s bad enough that I became a model. Both are Almodovar regular’s, though I believe this would be Maura’s last movie with him (Actually they had a falling out and wouldn’t work together again for 18 years!). Add in a colorful but helpful cab driver, a Shiite terrorist plot, and a deadly gazpacho, and this movie has always been of the highest recommendation for me.
  4. Matador (1986, Spain) Criterion Channel 3.5/5 Director Pedro Almodovar likes to filter his ideas through a unique sense of vision, humor, and style. His theme has softened over the years, but in his early days he certainly put his flair on a host of controversial topics. Matador is a movie about the relationship between sex and violence, and though not as well-defined as some of his later work, it’s still a movie worth seeing for the performances, the story, the direction, and especially the ending. There’s a serial killer on the loose and when Angel (a young Antonio Banderas) rapes the girlfriend (Eva Cobo) of his Bullfighter teacher (Nacho Martinez), he turns himself in for the crime and admits to killing four people. His lawyer María (Assumpta Serna), who we see kill one of the men in the opening montage; has a strange relationship with that Bullfighting teacher, who in the same opening montage we see masturbating to ultra gore video footage. And there’s the police detective (Eusebio Poncela) who slowly begins to see not everything is as it seems. It all, of course, pulls together - a very non-traditional whodunit and how they did it, spiked with Almodovar’s special visual flair, middle finger to social norms and smart dialogue. But the key is his ability to venture further into normally cliched territory, and taking those weird turns and making them fit within the context of the story. He only falters here when Banderas’ Angel, a product of his mother’s Catholic Guilt conditioning, regresses into predictability in the last act of the movie. It’s a great performance by Banderas, who does most of his best work in the films he’s made with Almodovar, but that last act for his character seems shallow compared to the complexity we see of all the main characters throughout. And especially that amazing ending... Recommended.
  5. Outside the Window (Taiwan, 1973) youtube 3/5 This was Brigette Lin’s first movie, immediately making her a star, and it would set the course for the early part of her career, in melodramatic romance movies. In this one, she plays a school girl (she was no more than 18-19 at the time), who falls in love with her teacher. Being a long ways away from any sort of Category III setting, we get poetry and unrequited feelings and crying, and string music and other school girls’ gossiping… As Sting once sang, “Sometimes it’s not so easy to be the teacher’s pet.” It’s a beautiful, sad story told many times before (a sexless Lolita), and filled with seemingly endless exposition, but Brigette Lin somehow makes it work. The camera loves her from the start and she’s just so convincing, you forget sometimes just how cliche the dialogue is. Mostly though, this is for Brigette fans...
  6. Millionaire’s Express (aka Shanghai Express) (1986, Hong Kong) Amazon Prime 3.5/5 Last year I wrote about this movie: "The fights are good - this is 'Dragons Forever' era Sammo putting this together, I just wish there'd have been more of it. But I still feel I'll like this movie better upon repeated viewings." And it's TRUE, I do. I upgraded it to a 3.5. Watching it now, for Yukari Oshima's performance, I did fast forward through a couple of Eric Tsang parts and the Rosamund Kwan group was really fairly annoying, but most of the rest of it was fun to watch. Yukari's part is pretty short (maybe 3 minutes total screen time in a huge cast) - she plays a ninja with Karata Yasuaki and Hwang Jang-Lee, and looks impressive in both her sword work and her fighting. And even though, Western audiences might've seen this performance and been impressed by it; the Chinese most likely saw it from the perspective of "She's Japanese". Still impressed by it, but she'd have to put up with that bias for most of her career in Hong Kong. Still... it got her foot in the door and she would certainly make the most of it...
  7. My bad... can moderation move this?
  8. And here's that quick battle: Yukari Oshima - Funny Family (1986).mov
  9. Funny Family (Hong Kong, 1986) youtube 3.5/5 Wow, I enjoyed this a heck of a lot more than I thought I would. One of three Taiwan cheapies Yukari Oshima did in her first year (there’d be many more to come), it tells the story of a young man (Hu Kua) and young woman (Pauline Lan) living next door to each other who are in that awkward phase of wanting each other. The young man’s Dad and the young woman’s Mother, however, have an over the top dislike for each other and naturally keep the two of them apart. Even this is pretty funny, especially when the parents physically fight each other in an early scene. So they end up both sending their kid off to the city to find a rich mate, and find (his) mother and (her) father - traveling together, arguing and of course getting caught up in the excitement AND pitfalls of the city. They DO find their parents (who naturally live together) and help them keep their sporting goods store thru a series of competitions. A full hour and 8 minutes into the movie Yukari finally shows up, as a tattooed Japanese athlete named ’Tempura’, the opponent in the tennis match and then the boxing challenge. I kinda like this look! Her fight with Pauline Lan, though short, is a highlight of the movie as Yukari is a ball of super energy - kicking, punching, jumping off the ropes - the camera may be a bit under-cranked here, but the action is still furious and fun. Pauline Lan, though obviously using a fight double at times for some of the amazing acrobatics (though still doing SOME of this action), and Hu Kua as the young man - provide some very entertaining fight scenes. These may be Taiwan cheapies, but the action is top notch and enjoyable. If you like this type of comedy, you’ll really enjoy this with the added fight action. Even the Bowling scenes were a hoot! Note: The unauthorized use of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ and Prince’s ‘Kiss’ was kinda cool to hear. Pauline Lan would go on to be the ‘Taiwan Madonna’ with a hugely successful Pop singing career, appearing in TV shows, commercials, etc. for decades in that country. She still has a presence on Facebook and Instagram even now. The two movies I’ve seen her in (of only 6 listed), she’s very much a noticeable on-screen force.
  10. And here's that fight scene... Yukari Oshima - A Book of Heroes (1986).mov
  11. A Book of Heroes (Hong Kong, 1986) youtube 2.5/5 One of Yukari Oshima’s first films, this Taiwanese cheapie is a convoluted story about a treasure map, with way too many characters chasing it and acting silly. The main bad guy (Yasuaki Kurata) lives in a Scarface-style house and unknowingly has an undercover cop, Yukari Oshima working for him as a hired ass-kicker. I’m not exaggerating when I say that, 15 minutes into the movie, Yukari has maybe one of her top ten movie fights, when she takes on five thugs as an exhibition of her talent for the boss. If this IS her first movie, I can see why she made a quick transition to Hong Kong, because it’s spotlight impressive. And it’s her second fight of the movie! Unfortunately, most of the movie isn’t about her, though we do get some decently entertaining fights from some of the other characters - from Taiwan - including Pauline Lan who is superbly body doubled in the first fight with Yukari and Elsa Yang (aka Pauline Yang) who they get creative within her fights. And some little kid too, in a cleverly body doubled fight. The finale is a welcome relief, even though it features some of that silly comedy still, but super tall Black actor Eugene Thomas gets some impressive kicks in as one of the bad guys squaring off with everyone. Literally ‘Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting’. And after disappearing for most of 45 minutes, Yukari is back, though somewhat limited in the 15-minute finale, sharing fight time with everyone else. The fighting, the stunts, and the creativity is such that, it’s hard for her to stand out here - they really did a great job filming these fights scenes and it’s an entertaining part of an otherwise mostly forgettable Hour and a half. Then in the final two minutes, after the police congratulate each other - Yukari and Pauline have a sparring match at the gym (Maybe Pauline DOES have some skills) and we see Yukari practically fly through the air, flip, kick, and gymnastically do what she does best in an added display of her talent. A great debut in a very uneven movie. Note: Sammo Hung recruited Yukari Oshima for Millionaire’s Express, which came out in January of 1986, so THAT was her first film in the Hong Kong market. (She played a regular villain in the Bioman series in Japan previously). She made three other Taiwan movies in 1986, most likely to keep working until her next Hong Kong feature the following year.
  12. It most definitely could be, but two things make me think it isn't: a) that body frame looks just like her and b) if you're going to use a body double, I'd think you'd be a little more revealing - if it isn't her, we'd get a little better view of the back side. If it IS her, they'd do it like they did, where they kind of keep it dark and partially obscured. I hope someday to get a chance to interview her and ask!
  13. Never Say Regret (Hong Kong, 1990) youtube 3/5 Yukari Oshima stars in this low budget action drama from no-name director Lau Kwok-Ho. Yukari gets framed for drugs and sent to prison where she quickly makes an escape attempt, and later tries again. Caught a second time, she is then sentenced to death. Shing Fui-On plays the warden. Meanwhile, Dick Wei, as a good guy here, and Max Mok are a part of a team that comes to rescue Yukari. A lot of it is shot at night, and my copy had no subs, but luckily most of the first half of the movie is in the prison, and most of the second half of the movie features a lot of ‘war movie like’ violence out in the wilderness. The finale is well done, though Yukari could’ve been used more effectively. If this had been subtitled and on Blu-Ray, I suspect it could’ve been rated higher, as it's pretty well done considering a story that’s nothing new. I’d definitely see it again under those circumstances - all the performances are top notch, especially for a low budget movie like this. Of note: When Yukari is first booked into the prison, she’s sent to get hosed off, and I suspect this is one of the few, if not only times she’s naked in one of her films. It’s from behind and very brief (and a shitty copy of the movie as well), but still surprising to see from her. That first pic is a production still. I had a hell of a time trying to get a good pic...