Ann Hui plays the director who casts passer-by Lee as a body floating in the river, after which he starts having serious pain in his neck and back. Running into his dad in a cruisy bathhouse doesn’t help (dad Miao Tien is a Goodbye/Dragon Inn star), while mom (Lu Yi-Ching of Stray Dogs and everything else) deals with water leaking into their apartment. The same three actors play the family in Rebels of the Neon God, so I’ll have to go even further back.
Miller’s Crossing (1990, Coens)
Crooklyn (1994, Spike Lee)
Slice-of-life stuff, a grab bag of childhood memories. Not as egregious as Apollo 10.5, and with better music. The daughter Troy gradually becomes the lead character, things amp up cinematically when she stays with family in Virginia and Spike smooshes the aspect ratio as hard as Troy’s aunt’s dog gets smooshed in the sleeper sofa – and then amp up emotionally when mom Alfre Woodard dies after a very short (screentime-wise) illness.
Zelda Harris didn’t win her Young Artists Award category, but she was up against Kate Winslet and Natalie Portman, and they were all trounced by Anna Chlumsky anyway.
Bitter Moon (1993, Roman Polanski)
I wondered if this would be an appalling erotic thriller, but it turns out to be a weird sex comedy – the only film adaptation of culture philosopher Pascal Bruckner, with an outstanding Vangelis score. Cruise ship hottie Emmanuelle Seigner and her confessional husband Peter Coyote are weird to Hugh Grant, who finally bows out after Coyote starts going on about his wife’s clitoris. To Grant’s credit, he tells his own wife Kristin Scott Thomas the details later on. The creepy couple aggressively tries to rope Grant into their whole thing, and tell him more stories (they’re in love, doing everything, “headed for sexual bankruptcy,” he falls out of love but she won’t leave so he torments her), and Grant is convincingly standoffish about it, until he stops telling his wife the details and starts making excuses to sneak off and hear more (Coyote ditches her on vacation then gets hit by a bus, she fucks up his spine while he’s recovering then gives him a loaded gun for his birthday). Hugh thinks his reward for hearing all these perverse cruelties will be to end up with Seigner, but she sleeps with his wife instead, then Coyote shoots Seigner and himself.
Coyote would star in an Almodóvar movie the next year… Seigner was married to Polanski, returning from Frantic… Grant and Thomas a couple years before Four Weddings stardom, but well after his Lair of the White Worm.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992, James Foley)
Alec Baldwin is the guy from headquarters issuing ultimatums, Kevin Spacey the boss with the promising leads that he isn’t handing out, Al Pacino the loudest, most confident salesman, and Jonathan Pryce as Al’s customer and drinking buddy from last night who wants to back out of his deal. They’re selling property in Arizona or something, all real scumbag scam artists, and washed-up old-timer Jack Lemmon is the most desperate with family issues. Ed Harris decides to steal the leads, gets the very nervous Alan Arkin caught up in it before turning to Lemmon.
Foley (also Who’s That Girl and the Fifty Shades series) knows that movies aren’t just guys talking, however great the talk and the guys, so he injects strong colored lights – red, blue, green. Good seeing this again in high quality… RoboCop got me thinking that it’s time to rewatch EVERY movie I saw before 2000 or so.
Running Out of Time (1999, Johnnie To)
I thought it’d be funny for my last movie of the year to be called Running Out of Time. Better than A Hero Never Dies but still pretty mainstream-looking. The Mission came out only two months later, and seems more evolved, more of a signature To film, with more grounded characters – despite his cancer-death-sentence, Andy Lau is an unstoppable mastermind in this.
That’s not to dismiss the great pleasure of watching Andy Lau as an unstoppable mastermind. Hotshot cop Ho is Lau Ching-wan (a lead in Hero Never Dies and Life Without Principle, and the Mad Detective himself). Lau successfully and singlehandedly robs a bank, and uses that robbery to stage another robbery, settling a score with some diamond-dealing gangsters. Ho comes to respect the guy and even help him out – and will return solo in the sequel, since Andy’s cancer diagnosis wasn’t bullshit. Hui Siu-Hung is the chief inspector always fucking up his own crime scenes, Yoyo Mung the cute girl Andy meets, Waise Lee (Bullet in the Head) the gangster with lucky henchman Lam Suet.
also featuring: great disguises:
Bride of Chucky (1998, Ronny Yu)
Campy from the opening scene, a police evidence locker with Freddy/Jason/Michael artifacts in view. Humor isn’t always what we want from horror sequels, but this murderer-possessed-doll franchise had worn itself thin by part three. Creator Don Mancini didn’t even bring on new writers (not credited ones, anyway), just a director (Ronny of The Bride with White Hair) and actor (Jenny Tilly of Bound) who could bring this thing over the edge. There’s more visual interest over the opening credits than in entire Branagh movie (good music, too).
Tilly is the pre-doll Chucky’s badass girl, who is friends with fake-goth Alexis Arquette (a Patricia/Rosanna sibling) and neighbors with a young dude named Jesse, who is dating Katherine Heigl (whose cop dad is John Ritter), also friends with Nickelodeon kid David. This provides a steady stream of dupes and victims as the central story progresses: Tilly and Chucky’s reunion, betrayal, her death by electrocution watching Bride of Frankenstein in the tub (yes this is the third in my Frankenstein triple feature) and ensuing dollification.
Further references to Hellraiser (arguably, when John Ritter catches a car airbag full o’ nails) and Natural Born Killers. A couple of swingers die via the shattered ceiling mirror trick from A Very Long Engagement (but six years earlier and on a waterbed). One of the Hocus Pocus witches plays a hotel maid. “Kiss my shiny plastic butt” a year before Futurama premiered. The dolls die as usual: “We belong dead… goodbye darling, I’ll see you in hell.”
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994, Kenneth Branagh)
Unexpectedly this starts the same way as The Terror, with a ship becoming icebound and seeing mysterious things on the ice, but this takes five minutes to get where Terror got in a couple hours. Dr. Kenneth Branagh Frankenstein is traveling to the ends of the earth to escape his creation, or something. Clearly this movie was an answer to Coppola’s Dracula, but Branagh turns in a faithful literary adaptation, one of those prestige pics where none of the actors are strictly bad in it, but the overall effect is weak. It’s nice when the camera whirls slowly through the middle of rooms during long conversations, anyway.
Also the monster can fly in this version
More than anything else, I liked this staircase:
After the framing story with Captain Aidan Quinn (In Dreams, the bad Handmaid’s Tale), Young Dr. Frank meets Helena Bonham Carter via family friend Ian Holm, then Frank’s mom passes away. “No one need ever die. I will stop this.” At school, Frank pals around with foolish Tom Hulce (Amadeus himself), challenges intolerant professor Robert Hardy (he starred in Demons of the Mind), and learns creepy secrets from John Cleese as Professor Snape, before the professor is murdered by anti-vaxxer Robert De Niro (no shit).
The classroom pet: a cursed monkey’s paw
The part where Frank floods the creature with amniotic fluid then releases electric eels into the chamber is the first thing worthy of Unbound, but Ken quickly goes too far into kookiness when the floor becomes slippy with fluid and nobody can stand up for a long minute, then Frank accidentally kills the monster through clumsiness and bad placement of ropes. But of course the monster survives, wanders off and bonds with a blind grandpa (Shakespeare specialist Richard Briers, also in Spice World). No orderly trial for Justine like in the previous movie, just mob violence. Helena B.C. is angry when Frank gets to work making a lady monster instead of planning their wedding, and even angrier when she’s murdered then wakes up as the lady monster.
Frankenstein Unbound (1990, Roger Corman)
John Hurt in the future year of 2031 creates an atomic weapon that disappears things into a time vortex, and as a side effect, causes time-storms. Hurt gets sucked into the past along with his silver Knight Rider-ass car (a 1988 Italdesign/Audi Aztec) ending up in 1817 Switzerland, running into Dr. Frankenstein and Mary Shelley and telling them he loves their yet-unpublished work.
Tooling around the 1810’s countryside in a futurecar:
Hurt wanders into court where Corman’s daughter is being unjustly accused of witchcraft, and tries to intervene. When writing letters doesn’t work, he grabs an axe and storm the gallows. This doesn’t work either, and the girl hangs, but it establishes Hurt as a good guy, so Mary has sex with him. Yes, Hurt is full of empathy and passion, the moral center of the movie, but wasn’t he just creating energy weapons that destabilized the universe?
Bridget Fonda and her pretty boys:
Finally the monster creates good mayhem, ripping some people apart and murdering Victor’s fiancee, looking like the DJ cenobite from Hellraiser III with the disc-shaped electrodes on sides of his head. Hurt zaps the castle, transporting them all to his own lab in a post-apocalyptic future, where he uses his hand-signal-operated lasers to burn up the monster.
I guess if you’re gonna adapt Frankenstein for the hundredth time, have some fun with it – this is the rare movie that would make a good double-feature with Gothic. The author also wrote the source book for A.I. Corman’s first credited directing gig in 20 years, and his last to date.
Myriam Cyr says “remember me from Gothic?”