Minimal story, all vibes – and they’re mid-90’s post-Pulp Fiction hitman-in-sunglasses fisheye-lens trip-hop vibes. Stories spun off from Chungking: crazy dude Takeshi Kaneshiro meets crazy chick Charlie Yeung (a Tsui Hark regular), and hitman Leon Lai (A Hero Never Dies) wants to quit the business so his lovestruck partner Michelle Reis (Flowers of Shanghai) sends him on a fatal job. Stephen Chow costar Karen Mok shows up in both sections as man-thieving Blondie.

Two decades into the Blog Era and probably a decade since Katy turned a Fallen Angels poster-turned-giftwrapped-box into a permanent decoration in our house, I’m finally rewatching this (in the re-colored, re-framed Criterion edition). Sadly for my loyal fans I got nothing in the way of analysis or screenshots today, just happy I got around to it before the 20+ hour Blossoms Shanghai comes out in English.

Michael Fassbender is a reportedly excellent assassin, but after his long, confident voiceover and setup, he botches the first job we see, hitting someone other than the target then escaping to find that his bosses are trying to erase him, getting to him through his girlfriend (Sophie Charlotte of a bunch of Brazilian films Filipe did not like). Fass proceeds up the chain, killing according to personality – physical smashing through walls with “Brute” Sala Baker, cool chat with Tilda Swinton, bloodless faceoff with client Arliss Howard (a fellow film producer of Mank). Fass’s second spy-revenge action movie which I found enjoyable enough, nothing more (Nayman found more). This is the most I’ve wanted a movie’s soundtrack in a while (I mean the Reznor, but yes it’s also prompting a Smiths re-listen).

Killer in Florida:

Sicinski:

Since The Social Network, he’s seemed dead-set on making incredibly detailed films about stupid things. As is so often the case these days, we cannot be certain whether The Killer is just a lunkheaded, self-important project or whether it is a film about lunkheaded self-importance. Based on the reviews I’ve read, one’s appreciation of The Killer seems to be directly proportional to the extent that the viewer believes it’s a comedy. But even then, how are we to take the jokes that don’t land?

JW kills some guys in desert, incl The Elder. Whitebeard Harbinger Clancy “Mr. Krabs” Brown tells McShane the hotel has been condemned, then the Marquis kills Cedric Daniels, blows the place up, and sends blind swordsman Caine after JW. Every scene dramatically drawn out – you get the sense that everyone is playing their assigned role according to fate, except for this fuckin’ Marquis guy, who is annoying and evil.

The Osaka hotel goes down next, Hiroyuki Sanada in charge and his daughter Rina Sawayama in the Cedric concierge role, while a dog-loving bounty hunter called Nobody sits back, waiting for the bounty to get high enough to go after JW. Deals are made: Marquis fucks up Nobody’s hand (why would you do this to a hired assassin) and gets him after Wick, and JW agrees to take on a big metal-teethed dude named Killa to get back into his Russian family’s graces so he can duel the baddie. RIP the big baddie and also Wick – happily, this movie was much better than part 3.

As the Marquis, Bill is the campy SkarsgÃ¥rd, who gets murdered in Barbarian before the even campier Justin Long appears. Blind Donnie Yen was in the Ip Man series and some stuff I’ve seen but don’t remember (Iron Monkey is due a rewatch). As “Nobody” (a Ghost Dog reference), Shamier Anderson, who has been in unrelated movies named Bruised and Bruiser. The guy with the metal teeth, that’s Scott Adkins, the dude you all love so much? Y’all really want me to sit through a Jean-Claude Van Damme sequel to see more of this guy?

Irene barely survives a violent home invasion, her family killed, her dad Johnny Hallyday (Man on the Train) visits in a Macau hospital and swears revenge. But Johnny’s not an elite killer getting dragged back into the business, he’s just a French restauranteur with a fading memory. He runs across a team of hitmen played by the Johnnie To superstars Suet Lam, Anthony Wong and Lam “Bo in Sparrow” Ka-Tung and they can fit his revenge scheme into their schedule. Of course since their boss is Simon Yam and he barely appears in the first half of the movie, I guessed the (very satisfying) second half would pit our doomed men against their own organization. Since there’s a French lead actor, this was able to play in competition at Cannes, but got robbed by Haneke and Audiard.

Just trying to chill with some Chinese action movies on Easter, I end up choosing a film where a Mary and Jesus statue explodes.

Mouseover to blow up the statue:
image

Before the church job, Chow’s hit in a restaurant goes bad and he blinds a singer after killing 12 guys while using the infinite ammo cheat code on his dual pistols. Danny Lee is a disgraced supercop who also hurt a woman on a job, sent to protect a guy who Chow is sent to kill, but after witnessing the supposedly ruthless Chow save a girl from the line of fire, Danny falls in love with him and they end up fighting together.

Danny Lee was in City on Fire with Chow, had portrayed Bruce Lee in the 70’s:

Thanks to Woo, I learned it’s hard to lipsync when the song plays at normal speed and everything else is in slow-motion. Also dig the trick of burning gunpowder to seal a wound, which I just saw in Monster Hunter. It’s a just-pretty-good movie beloved by people who need to see invincible sunglasses-wearing heroes firing two guns whilst jumping through the air, Woo’s followup to the Better Tomorrow movies. Tsui Hark produced, while Woo produced Hark’s Better Tomorrow III.

Sally Yeh starred in Hark’s Peking Opera Blues, a singer who retired from movies after this:

TV roundup for the second half-ish of 2020


On Cinema at the Cinema seasons 1-? (201?)

On Labor Day, since I’d already seen Bisbee ’17 I watched season one of On Cinema on the Adult Swim roku app while repainting the furniture… then I drank some, and watched seasons two and three? Or maybe also season four… or just season two, I don’t know how to figure this out.


Search Party season 3 (2020)

Dory and the gang become absurd anti-celebrities during their murder trial. We know she is found guilty because of the flash-forward intro of the first episode, but this turns out to be a good fakeout – after being declared innocent, she’s kidnapped by a maniac. Not my favorite season – I’ve never loved court dramas, and the final episode is too Seinfeld, but I’m still here for whatever’s next.

Newbies: Dory’s rookie lawyer is Shalita Grant of the series You, and Drew’s lawyer is Louie Anderson. The all-business prosecutor is Groundling Michaela Watkins, lately of Brigsby Bear and Sword of Trust. Wallace Shawn is a shady businessman who gets Chantal arrested by the FBI.


Russian Doll season 1 (2019)

“This is like The Game. I’m Michael Douglas!” Writing this up is a lotta pressure because since finishing this I’ve watched time-loop movies Tenet and I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Bill & Ted Face the Music, and it seems like there are a lotta details in this four-hour existential comedy that I’ve forgotten. Natasha Lyonne keeps dying then waking up back at her birthday party hosted by Greta Lee (Inside Amy Schumer) with “Gotta Get Up” playing, and tries to discover why this is happening, then runs into fellow time-looper Alan (Charlie Barnett of TV’s You). I think it’s possible that everything gets fixed at the end, but maybe not since a second season is rumored.

The slimy-Cagney-lookin guy she goes home with is Yul Vazquez… her psychiatrist is Elizabeth Ashley of Treme… her drug dealer is Waris Ahluwalia (The Life Aquatic)… Tinfoil Kevin is a regular at the bodega run by Ritesh Rajan (Mowgli’s dad in the latest Jungle Book), and her mom in flashback is Chloe Sevigny. Co-created by Amy Poehler, directors include Leslye Headland (Terriers) and Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader).


The Tick season “two” (2019)

“Destiny is on the phone. It’s a party line and we’re all invited!”

Such good writing – even if I saw some of the season-long story endings coming, each episode is full of pleasures. Dot discovers she has powers, can see the near future, and their father-in-law Walter has been an agent under deep cover. Tick’s new nemesis/partner is a bank-robbing lobster. Aegis Commander Ty Rathbone, who has a black-hole heart, recruits Arthur and Tick and Lint to the Flag Five, which is sabotaged by Dr. John Hodgman. Superion spends a few episodes depressed on the moon deciding whether to spin the earth backwards to reverse time. Lint’s sidekick is a computers/weapons whiz named Edgelord.

Writers include original Tick comics creator Ben Edlund, two Detective Pikachu writers, two writers of teen comedy On My Block, and Kit Boss (King of the Hill). Directors include a DP of Dexter and True Blood, a Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Black-ish director with over a hundred other credits, the script supervisor of Mallrats and Dogma, the editor of Roger & Me, and an AD on Buffalo Soldiers. Flexon is on the new Snowpiercer series, the Aegis paperwork twins are in The Assistant.


Documentary Now! season 2 (2016)

The Bunker is a War Room parody, Hader doing a southern accent.

Juan Likes Rice and Chicken is a celebrity-chef doc about a difficult little restaurant that makes a basic dish but with impossibly high standards.

Location Is Everything is a Spalding Gray parody! Lennon Parham (personal advisor to Veep) plays his girl Ramona, who is onstage refuting all his stories.

Globesman is of course Salesman, which I’ve still never seen, but I doubt the original involves a rival atlas salesman who stalks and torments our protagonists.

Final Transmission is a really specific Stop Making Sense parody with Armisen as Byrne, Hader as Tina, Maya Rudolph and Jon Wurster, I am in heaven. Why did they stick a Tom Waits parody into this?

“As a bald kid with a dead dad, movies became my refuge.” Double episode Mr. Runner Up is doing The Kid Stays in the Picture, which I didn’t realize, about an awards-obsessed movie producer who’s only constitutionally able to create schlock, mostly starring his unfunny Italian comic friend Enzo.


Primal season 1 (2019-2020)

Gruesome and lovely. Caveman and Dinosaur each saw their families eaten by predators, but found each other as friends and protectors. Perfect show, with one heck of a finale – introduction of a woman with metal implements and a spoken language, collapsing even more of history together. I think of Genndy as the Dexter’s Lab/Powerpuff guy, but everyone involved in this also worked on Samurai Jack, which I probably should not have skipped.


Barry season 2 (2019)

Maybe less fun than season one, but deeper, as Barry tries to control his rages and stop killing people, and leads the acting class in experimenting with telling personal truths. In the end, of course, he falls into a massive rage and kills many people, Fuches turns on him tragically and repeatedly, and the people who cop out on personal truth and tell lies are rewarded for it.

Noho Hank’s Chechen bestie Cristobal (Michael Irby of True Detective s2) forms an unstable alliance with Ester, head of a Burmese crime family (a deadpan Patricia Fa’asua). Sally’s abusive ex Sam (Joe Massingill of Die Hard 5) returns to stalk her. Gene tries to reconcile with his estranged son Leo (Andrew Leeds of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), and is told that Barry killed his girlfriend Janice. Janice’s ex-partner Loach (John Pirruccello, a Twin Peaks s3 deputy) tracks down Barry and gets Fuches to wear a wire. And most wonderfully, the Loach plot ends in the one time Barry and Fuches work together all season, when Loach “hires” Barry to kill the guy sleeping with Loach’s wife, a stoned Tae Kwon Do master (stunt/action regular Daniel Bernhardt) with a feral daughter.


Also sampled quite a few shows:

Star Trek Lower Decks seems bad
Central Park seems good, going to see if Katy wants to watch it (we still haven’t returned to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)
Black Jesus is good but I dunno if it’s got a whole season in the tank.
Infinity Train looks imaginative, but for kids, not for me.
Los Espookys seems up my alley, would watch more.


And of course I watched a pile of concerts and livestreams and other things, including Nick Cave’s Idiot Prayer, which probably would’ve gone to theaters, had there been theaters.

Waco Brothers:

Robyn & Emma:

Cave:

Pigface:

John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)

A cigar-chomping, weirdly Jon Benjamin-looking drug lord awaits the return of Wick, who steals back his car and immediately totals it. Then Wick calls John Leguizamo to fix the car, and buries his guns under concrete – gonna be a peaceful movie!

“No one gets out and comes back without repercussions.” Oops, Wick is retired and refuses to honor some old blood oath with a dude named Santino (Italian Riccardo Scamarcio of Loro and Go Go Tales), so baddies blow up his house – but the dog survives this time! Back to the hotel, Cedric Daniels shows him to Ian McShane.

Off to Rome, which also has a Hotel Continental – the movie is expanding its mythology to Avengers-level proportions. Also, Wick is “the ghost, the boogeyman,” but wherever he goes everyone knows him by name. Sent to kill mafia boss Gianna (Claudia Gerini of an upcoming Diabolik remake), he gets new guns from Peter Serafinowicz and bulletproof suits, meets Franco Nero, then goes to a rock show (like a more chill Sleigh Bells) and follows Gianna to the hot tub, where she helps him execute her. This doesn’t go over well with her bodyguard Common, and after an exhausting fight where Wick videogames dozens of dudes, they end up back at the hotel.

Open contract on Wick, underground homeless anti-assassin league, a couple of boss fights with handheld weapons. I dug the silencer shootout, but the Lady From Shanghai hall of mirrors ending is really something special. Big news, Keanu getting (expensive) assistance from his Matrix costar Larry Fishburne. Finally, the movie’s mythology is strong, since the only time I felt shocked was when Wick shot the baddie on sacred Continental ground.


John Wick Chapter 3 (2019)

“We’re the same, you know.”

Wow, I’d just finished watching Chaplin shorts, and this opens with a Buster Keaton scene projected on the side of a building, which I suppose connects the ensuing motorcycle chase/crash to the slapstick tradition. Picks up exactly where the last one left off, a wounded Wick given an hour headstart before every assassin in the world comes after him. Ian and Larry and Cedric are gonna be fired for collaboration, but if Wick can complete a task for the Nomad King, his excommunication will be reversed… along the way we meet Derek, Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, boss of bosses Asia Dillon (Billions), and one of the stars of Double Dragon.

I dunno, I was in a bad mood. It seemed like part 2 opened the Wickiverse further, then part 3 closed it abruptly, becoming a parody of itself (I also wrote “movie promotes fascism”). It’s more videogamey than ever – of course Wick teams with Ian and Cedric for a climactic shootout against faceless bureaucrat invaders, but the writers seem like they’re either making this out of contractual obligation or they’ve developed a bad drug problem since the last one. The lighting is the main thing it’s got going for it – super cool lighting.

A gritty, efficient movie… hit man Vince Edwards is sent by his unseen boss to knock off a guy at the barber, a guy at hospital, then one of his own associates Mr. Moon. Vince gets a big head about being good at his job, suddenly making self-important speeches to everyone and being shitty to waiters. Then he loses his composure upon finding out his next target is a woman. He wires her TV knobs to a high voltage line but she defeats him by using the remote control, and the whole criminal conspiracy starts to fall apart.

“The only type of killing that’s safe is when a stranger kills a stranger… now why would a stranger kill a stranger? Because somebody’s willing to pay.”

Vince the Barber:

Kathie:

Vince’s hired hand, Herschel Bernardi of TV’s Peter Gunn and Arnie, gets a side plot where he learns to shoot a bow and arrow for one of their attempted hits. Their loud annoying partner Phillip Pine was in a sci-fi apocalypse movie the same year, later directed a 1972 anti-drug movie which potheads watch to laugh at. The girl, Caprice Toriel, was never seen before or since, but Kathie Browne, the hard-drinking party girl who lets Vince know that his second attempted hit killed a cop instead of the intended target, appeared in the late Howard Hawks comedy Man’s Favorite Sport?

Vince, almost getting away with it before falling into a police trap:

First movie watched on the new Criterion Channel! Irving Lerner would not go on to direct The Empire Strike Back – that’s Irvin Kershner, and I get them confused. Lerner also edited films for Scorsese, Kubrick and Vic Morrow and made two other crime dramas in the late 1950’s. Lead killer Vince Edwards was in Too Late Blues and played the wife’s boyfriend who gets everyone dead in The Killing. Composer Perry Botkin must’ve recently watched The Third Man.

Ah shit, this is one of those movies I had to write up twenty seconds after watching because once I get outside its particular headspace it is impossible to remember – and it’s been a month. Anyway, this sounds like an action-grime classic: a hammer-wielding hitman on the edge of sanity is sent to rescue a senator’s daughter. Joaquin Phoenix and the director and editor and the incredible sound design keep things from becoming as generic as that sounds.

Phoenix is given a job by his boss (Major Rawls from The Wire), pops some pills, grabs a hammer and rescues the girl. She’s taken back from him by cops (!), then his contacts and his mom are killed, and he has a touching moment with a dying rival hitman before rescuing her again from the governor, who was part of the pedophile ring she’d been handed into in the first place. I think that’s what happened, but the movie is all nerves and makes you feel crazy for watching it, so I can’t be sure. I’m happy to see Ramsay redeemed after We Need To Talk About Kevin.