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The Moon Thieves
(Dou Yeut Ze,
盜月者)

Director – Yuen Kim-wei – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 107m

**

A gang including a counterfeit watchmaker and an amateur safe cracker attempt to steal a watch worn by an astronaut on the 1969 moon landing – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 23rd

This heist movie is built around three members of hugely popular Cantopop boy band Mirror: Anson Lo, Edan Lui and Keung To. Vincent Ma (Lui) is a watchmaker who builds counterfeit (i.e. non-brand name) watches out of genuine parts. He takes great pride in his work and his watches are very reliable as a result. Yoh (Lo) desperately needs money to pay for the operation that will save the ailing eyesight of his mom Ms. Hong (Luna Shaw), so he signs up to work with the ruthless young crime boss heir known simply as Uncle (Keung) despite the fact that Yoh’s elder brother was previously killed by gangsters, so he ought to know better.

Uncle has enlisted Ma to look at three watches in Tokyo that might be worth stealing – he is to take them apart, examine their insides and confirm as to whether or not they are genuine.… Read the rest

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In Broad Daylight
(Bak Yat Ji Ha,
白日之下)

Director – Lawrence Kwan Chun Kan – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 106m

***1/2

A woman uncovers a catalogue of abuse visited upon the residents of the Hong Kong care home in which her grandfather lives – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

This opens and closes to the strains of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and images of Hong Kong buildings reaching towards the sky.

Ling Hu Kay (Jennifer Wu from The Shadows, Glenn Chan, 2020; Tracey, Li Jun, 2018) enters the Rainbow Bridge Care Home in search of her grandfather Chow Kin-Tong (David Chiang from Election, Johnnie To, 2005; The Adventurers, Ringo Lam, 1995; Once Upon a Time in China II, Tsui Hark, 1992; Yes, Madam!, Corey Yuen, 1985; Shaolin Temple, Chang Cheh, Wu Ma, 1976) who she hasn’t visited for a while as she’s been abroad in Canada. He doesn’t remember her. Chow’s roommate is the amiable Shui (Woo Fung). Shocked at finding a dead rat in their room, she finds the manager Cheung Kim-wah (a memorable Bowie Lam The Crossing, 2014; Hard Boiled, 1992, both John Woo) who informs her both that while they are always understaffed, the place is like a family where everyone pitches in.… Read the rest

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The Goldfinger
(Jin Shouzhi,
金手指)

Director – Felix Chong – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 126m

*****

Director Felix Chong reunites his two Infernal Affairs stars for a lavish, if frequently incomprehensible, 1980s tale of cops and robbers, corruption and fraud – out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, January 5th 2024.

The experience of watching The Goldfinger is a lot like watching the classic Hollywood private eye movie The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946). There, you know that the hero is investigating a string of murders, and the narrative is completely engrossing, even for the viewer watching the film for the umpteenth time, yet it’s also impenetrable and incomprehensible. And so it is with The Goldfinger, which is based not on a novel but on a real life financial scandal.

Real life Hong Kong conglomerate The Carrian Group, founded in 1977 by one George Tan, expanded rapidly and made huge profits until it was declared bankrupt in 1983. The whole operation turned out to be mired in fraud. In the film, set in the late 1970s / early 1980s, the central character Ching (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) is modelled on Tan, starting off penniless but wearing suits that look like a million dollars and blessed with an understanding of what’s required to gain people’s confidence, secure deals and make money.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies
(and more)
2023

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2023, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add / sort.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/23 and 31/12/23.

This version includes re-releases, but those aren’t numbered. It’s hard to imagine movies improving on Powell and Pressburger’s i know where i’m going or The Red Shoes, Powell’s Peeping Tom or Von Trier’s Melancholia.

In addition to re-releases, this version also includes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2023.

The star ratings may occasionally differ from the star rating I gave a particular film at the time of review.

Beyond the first 25 numbered titles, there may be numerous errors (missing links to reviews where I wrote one, year of release, country, and maybe more). All this will be fixed in time, but I wanted to get something online in the holidays.

Finally, last year’s list is here.

Top Ten Movies (and more) 2023

Please click on titles to see reviews. (Links yet to be added.)… Read the rest

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Where
The Wind Blows
(Feng Zai Qi Shi,
風再起時)

Director – Philip Yung – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 144m

***

The parallel careers of two dishonest Hong Kong cops plays out against the backdrop of corruption in the Hong Kong Police Force between the end of WW2 and the end of the 1960s – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 8th

Out of the ashes of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War, two men join the Hong Kong Police Force only to discover that it is riddled with corruption, a fact of life they embrace in different ways throughout the 1950s and 60s even as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) under George Lee (Michael Hui) attempts to investigate them and shut them down. The well-dressed Nam Kong (Tony Leung Chiu-wai from Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Destin Daniel Cretton, 2021; Lust, Caution, Ang Lee, 2007; Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002) is quietly building a corrupt empire with links to the triads, while Lui Lok (Aaron Kwok from The Storm Riders, Andrew Lau, 1998) attempts to eschew corruption but find its pervasive presence in the force irresistible.

The latter falls for and marries the beautiful Tsai Chan (Du Juan), subsequently taking on Siu Yin (Yixuan Zeng) as his mistress because she reminds him of former girlfriend Xiao Yu (Chun Xia aka Jessie Li) who disguised herself as a male soldier to find her lost brother, was discovered by the Japanese and pressed into service as a comfort woman.… Read the rest

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Creation
Of The Gods
I:
Kingdom
Of Storms
(Feng Shen
Di Yi Bu:
Zhao Ge Feng Yun,
封神第一部
朝歌风云,
lit.
Investiture
Of The Gods
Part I:
Zhaoge Turmoil)

Director – Wuershan – 2023 – China – Cert. 15 – 148m

****

A king’s infatuation with a beautiful woman possessed by a vixen demon threatens to bring down a terrible curse upon his kingdom – first part of epic, period, mythological adventure trilogy is out in UK and Irish cinemas on Friday, September 22nd

This first trilogy instalment of an adaptation of the Xu Zhonglin-attributed novel Investiture Of The Gods, written towards the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), deals with the downfall of the Shang dynasty (which existed well before a thousand years BC). While the tale may well contain elements of historical truth, it also mixes in supernatural deities and creatures to cover an awful lot of ground in its two and a half hours’ running length.

The novel is known by a number of titles in Chinese, one of which is Fengshen Bang, an artefact of which name turns up in this film as a sort of MacGuffin, here a mystical scroll endowing its owner with great power which at least one major character seeks to possess, others seek to help him do so and immortals want to make sure it gets into the right (i.e. righteous or deserving) hands rather than his.… Read the rest

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A Chinese
Ghost Story
(Sien Lui Yau Wan,
倩女幽魂)

Director – Ching Siu Tung – 1987 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 95m

*****

Some of the most seminal offerings of the commercial Hong Kong cinema are the product of creative wizard Tsui Hark. The producer who first gave John Woo his niche as bullet strewn action director on A Better Tomorrow (1986) also ensured director Ching Sui Tung’s place in fantasy film’s Hall of Fame with this stunning little offering.

The Hong Kong supernatural, fantasy genre is itself defined almost single-handedly by Tsui’s groundbreaking epic Zu: Warriors From the Magic Mountain (1983). CGS both typifies the genre and proves one of its finest examples. CGS spawned two sequels for what Tsui describes as “sentimental reasons – when the ghost died at the end, we want her to come back pretty badly.” He admits the sequels weren’t as good, though.

CGS opens in a downpour as a rain sodden Leslie Cheung (known to Western audiences from such diverse fare as A Better Tomorrow and art house hit Farewell My Concubine, Chen Kaige, 1993) watches a grim, head lopping argument between two bandits as he does his cowardly best to look inconspicuous. His work as a debt gatherer suffers something of a setback as he discovers the ink in his books has run with the damp, so once he arrives in the nearby town he’s unable to collect the payments he’d expected.… Read the rest

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A Moment
Of Romance
(Tin Joek
Yau Ching,
天若有情)

Director – Benny Chan – 1990 – Hong Kong – Cert.18 – 92m

***1/2

When a biker and gang member on the lam from a jewel heist takes a well-to-do girl hostage then falls for her, their romance is doomed – out on Radiance Blu-ray from Monday, August 21st 2023 following its screening in the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2021

Gang member Wah (Andy Lau) is the archetypal bad boy who, in the opening sequence, speeds through a narrow gap between two lorries and wilfully breaks a wing mirror on a stationary police vehicle as he rides past. Director Chan keeps up the mayhem with a sequence of two competing lorries on a makeshift racing circuit, each with a pretty girl standing on top – until one of them crashes into a stationery car sending the falling girl through its windscreen and scattering the onlookers as the police approach.

Ascendant gang member Trumpet seems to have it in for Wah and puts him on getaway car duty for a jewel heist. Wah must improvise when cops happen by chance to turn up outside the building while the crime is in progress and during the ensuing pursuit by car, in which he gets the robbers successfully away from the scene, and on foot, his only way of escaping the cops is to take an innocent bystander hostage.… Read the rest

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Ride On
(Longma Jingshen,
龙马精神)

Director – Larry Yang – 2023 – China – Cert. PG – 126m

****

Ageing stuntman Jackie Chan must fight to retain ownership of the horse he has befriended and trained since rescuing it at birthout on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital in the UK on Monday, July 24th following its release in UK, Irish, Chinese and US cinemas on Friday, April 7th

Why does one go to see a Jackie Chan movie? The usual reasons are the incredible stunts coupled with the likeable, knockabout comedy which is his trademark. Perhaps the star’s winsome personality also plays a part. His best films over the years have probably contained a mixture of all three. While these elements, notably Jackie’s personality, are all present to some degree here, they aren’t really its strengths – which are (1) the depiction of a career, reviewed by a person who is old, past their prime, and forced to confront the fact and (2) the relationship of a man with a horse which he has known from the time of its birth.

The day Ride On was released in both the UK and China was also Jackie Chan’s 69th birthday. While I don’t doubt he keeps himself in good condition, he is clearly no longer the young man he once was.… Read the rest

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Nomad
(Lie Huo Qing Chun,
烈火青春)
4K Director’s Cut

Director – Patrick Tam – 1982 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 tbc – 92m

*****

A group of young Hongkongers fool around with sex and search for a cultural identity – plays in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2023 at BFI Southbank which runs from Wednesday, July 12th to Saturday, July 15th

Opening with a curious conversation in a typically cramped Hong Kong apartment between a man embarrassed about being a father and his own father advising against lowering interest rates before moving swiftly through an equally cramped scene with the dour and concerned families of a young teen and the coquettish girl he has got pregnant, this freewheeling, slices of Hong Kong teenage life drama moves swiftly on to the man’s son Pong (Kent Tong), a lifeguard at the local swimming pool who in a complete switch of tone fails to get a rowdy and playful group of girl swimmers under control with the result that they throw him in the pool and humiliate him by stealing his shorts.

Before that, Pong has a run in with a confident young woman Kathy (Pat Ha) who sits in and refuses to move from his lifeguard seat unless he physically lifts her down.… Read the rest