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Drive (1997)

Drive (1997)

Kadeem Hardison is Malik. Mark Dacascos is Toby. James Shigeta is the bad boss - who you might recognize him from the original Die Hard!

The sidekick villains are prolific ones too - I recognize hedgehog at least...

Brittany Murphy was the girl - RIP 2019! Just 32 y/o. She's been on some diverse works, from 8 Mile to Sin City. I like her.

And this movie's just full of pleasant surprises! Like The Samu Hung reference. And the shoe fight. And the unexpectedly brutal chainsaw swing with the self-remedying hand. And the crazy but lovable young lady. And for a brief moment I'm also reminded of how unfortunately underrated Mark Dacascos really is, in both action AND acting. For a moment.

Okay never mind the acting. Not as much the acting. But definitely the action.

The choreography's both ferocious and witty, complete with traditional HK action stunts, fireworks, bullet marks, breaking glass and one fieeeery explosion - but also American bits, like the motel, and the car, and the ever so ominous quarry.

It feels like they tried to abridge Asian and Western a bit with both the choreography and theme. And with an Asian and Black duo instead of the typical black and white one. Before Jackie Chan came along for real - or around the same time? They have stunts that remind of both Jackie's old and concurrent movies, like the creative City Hunter, or earlier Police Story with the netted crate. Or zipline. Or glass. A lot of elements really. Same choreographer?

It's strange how this movie feels both ahead of it's time and behind it. Ahead in the US. Behind, as far as HK action goes. And thus it's become the forgotten gem it is, with a simplicity and style I look back on as... comforting somehow. And yet it's new! I definitely hadn't seen this one before, and though certain stunts and themes feel familiar it's not like they don't require skill to execute as well as they are. The actors and stuntmen make them stand out, and some of the co-ordination really is next level. Between Maiek and the other guy too. Just moments before Rush Hour. One year. They just changed the formula a little with that one, and voila, it's a hit.

Chow Yun Fat and Black Mask feels with the flying scenes too. With the mist. With the atmospheric blue light. With the bar. With the bridge. With the machines. And with the corporation and the perfect assassin... it's almost like RoboCop 3 meets Speed. Or older. Go back. To the days of Bullit and other classic automobile chase counterparts.

How many movies fetched inspiration from this? Or vice versa? There's so much. Just unfortunately also a level of comedy that sometimes just doesn't feel that suitable, and Mark is kinda distant as main man too. Maybe he's all the more used to being a villain; he does THAT so well.

JJ Perry on stunts here too?! Same guy who made Day Shift now. I recognize the crash test dummy work. Explains in part why the choreography was so good - but beyond the directing the actors definitely do their thing too!

Also: Too many loose ends. It ends too fast after the blast.

I'm somewhat comforted by the simplicity though... not that simplicity is synonymous with loose ends.

I wonder if the simplicity is more so in the style or the characters. The pace. How they interact.

There's something very human about it too. You'd think crazy stunts might take that away but no... very wholesome.

 rated 4.5/5: almost awesome

Blonde (2022)

Blonde (2022)

Marylin Monroe. The movie. And it's so friggin' sad!!! I need to watch something cheerful after this. Stepped into Blonde right after Remember, and though I do love a beautiful movie the both of these is a bit much.

She was born into trauma. Had a mother who didn't want her. Who tried to drown her in a bathtub. Was taken in by neighbors who sent her to an orphanage. Made her way to Hollywood and was raped. Married and was betrayed. Tripped and lost a baby. Got involved with the president and had a forced abortion. And yet she was just a sweet, innocent child, thrown to the wolves, to fame and celebrity, searching for a dad she never found.

They portray her as a bit dumb, the stereotype blonde, but also genuine and kind. Always willing. Always seeing the best in people. Quick to tears, emotional and probably a little crazy, but who am I to make a psychologic evaluation based off of the impression I'm given? A supposedly fictional one at that. The footnote is if you need help: call a hotline. There are people who care. And the Hollywood of all was passionate, and pompous, but not all glitter and glamour and good vibes. There's a darkness there.

I need to watch a happier movie ASAP. But Ana de Armas killed it as Norma here.

It feels true to the time too, and you do get a feel for how big a deal she really was, and why. Fictional or no she was wonderful.

I don't see why the critics bash this. The tabloids are a part of her story too. You wonder... who would she have been without them? Would she have found peace in another live? The one husband who truly stuck with her through thick and thin? Would be nice with a fictional recount with an alternative; more optimistic angle too.

A Marylin who's loved, and appreciated, and needs not say adieu.

 rated 4.5/5: almost awesome

Code Name Banshee (2022)

Code Name Banshee (2022)

Kinda took female empowerment a step too far with this one didn't you?

I do like the style. I do like the brooding, and the talks, and the scarred one, and at the initial shootout when the girl is pushed into the car it does feel pretty real - her expression's telling, but for the most part the gunners are just all over the place and nothing feels legit. A bit too flashy and a bit too close-up and a bit too psychotic.

The plot's a mess too, and it never gets anywhere. Feels like it was scripted by kids. Or they wanted something like both Memento and the Matrix and ended up mixing them carelessly. The balance is off.

It does have a few good names though, like Antonio Banderas, Jaime King and Catherine Davis.

And the filming's good. The gunfights do reel you in. Some bits are merciless. But some ends are just too loose, and the characters don't feel affectionate for five cents. Especially not the daughter.

 rated 3.5/5: not bad at all

Remember (2022)

Remember (2022)

The story of Pil-Joo, an Alzheimer's patient in his 80s, who lost all his family during the Japanese colonial era, and devotes his lifelong revenge before his memories disappear, and a young man in his 20s who helps him.

It's a bit like Memento ain't it? Or like the Korean version of Oldboy. A forgetful old soldier seeks vengeance, with the names of his aggressors tattooed onto his fingers.

It's an emotional story, starring mainly Lee Sung-min and Nam Joo-hyuk, with plenty of plot twists along the way.

critics were cold on this one - is there maybe a certain bias towards the Japanese - the war crimes they did not perceived as terrible as they really were? Listen to some Jocko podcasts if you doubt. The Japanese were RUTHLESS. This doesn't even begin to do it justice, yet I'm positively surprised they attempted to bring parts of their past to life, even if I'm a huge fan of Japanese content and culture now. Even if vengeance feeds vengeance, and you wonder if it really was worth it after all.

And dementia is such a scary thing... makes this one all the better.

 rated 4.5/5: almost awesome

Hard Target (1993)

Hard Target (1993)

I've watched a lot of JCVD movies in my day, and I've watched quite a few John Woo movies, but I didn't realize I'd watch both of the two at once before! I remember this. It's iconic. An action movie that looking back maybe could've inspired the swamp hunt in The Marine (2006?). The villain's played by an equally talented cat there, and the theme's similar, the location's similar; it feels like a real big homage now that I think about it. But THIS, this was the original if so.

It stars firecrackers, exploding barrels, arrows and JCVD's trademark butterfly kicks, and the charming
Yancy Butler, as well as the suitable sidekick Wilford Brimley - though he jumps into the story relatively late.

There's one worthy adversary too, played by South African Arnold Vosloo. Lance Henriksen ain't bad either. It's a story about hunting humans, with a fiery finale, going from New Orleans out to the Bayou with snakes and alligators, though you don't see any of the latter.

Interest too how it starts out a hunt for a human in a very different sense. A girl just looking for a father, but it escalates fast, and it's a blast. Action choreography's a bit messy sometimes but so pompous. A bit much slow-mo maybe. A lot of coolness. Killer thriller. Old not newness. But I love this style...

That iconic homeless man in need of help scene too. Makes you think a bit.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

High Heat (2022)

High Heat (2022)

When the local mafia shows up to burn down her restaurant, Ana, a chef with a meticulous past, defends her turf and proves her knife skills both in and out of the kitchen.

Romantic action starring Olga Kurylenko.

She's great. The choreography's simple, but works. It's a violent relationship comedy, a bit like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but in a more limited location. Maybe a bit like Bullet Train, or like Assault on Precinct 13. Or maybe Stormy Monday. It has a simple premise and limited set, but it builds up nicely. Which is a style that seems to be coming back lately. With an upbeat outro track, and it's not perfect,but I love it.

Credit song? Gotta look that up...

 rated 3.5/5: not bad at all

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