Police Story 3: Supercop (1992) Dir: Stanley Tong

Police Story 3: Supercop    Police Story 3 Supercop Film Poster

警察故事3超級警察 「gíng chaat gu sih sāam: Chīu kāp gíng chaat

Release Date: July 04th, 1992

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Stanley Tong

Writer: Edward Tang, Ma Fibe, Yee Lee Wai (Screenplay),

Starring: Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Yuen Wah, Bill Tung, Kenneth Tsang, Jospephine Koo

IMDB

Considering it is the third entry in the franchise, Police Story 3: Supercop has a lot of firsts.

It was the first film not directed by Jackie Chan as Stanley Tong took charge.

It was the first film not entirely set in Hong Kong.

It was the first film to give Jackie Chan a co-star with equal-billing – a woman no less and not one who is never a damsel in distress.

Together, these firsts inject innovation into the franchise while meeting audience expectations of an action-packed experience. Indeed, this may be the best entry in the franchise following the first film (which is perfect, in this writer’s opinion!).

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Detective vs Sleuths 神探大战 (2022) Director: Wai Ka-Fai

Detective vs Sleuths    Detective vs Sleuths Film Poster R

神探大战 「San taam daai zin

Release Date: July 21st, 2022

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Wai Ka-Fai

Writer: Ryker Chan, Lu Jia, Li Jie (Screenplay),

Starring: Sean Lau, Charlene Choi, Raymond Lam, Carmen Lee, Kai Tan,

IMDB

A serial killer thriller meets explosive Hong Kong action in Detective vs Sleuths, the latest work from veteran director Wai Ka-Fai and his long-time favourite star Sean Lau.

A murder spree strikes Hong Kong. The victims vary but the crimes are attributed to a masked vigilante group known as “The Sleuths.” Their calling card is leaving the crime scenes daubed with graffiti of police case file numbers from cold cases or cases with wrongful arrests or wrongful killings. According to The Sleuths, the present-day murder victims were the real criminals that the Hong Kong police failed to bring to justice.

Trying to put a stop to the extrajudicial killings are the OCTB taskforce but their investigations pale in comparison with those of disgraced ex-detective named Lee Jun (Sean Lau), a man who had previously suffered a mental breakdown after coming into conflict with OCTB superiors and been booted off the force. Homeless and half-crazed, he now has visions of murder victims, both past and future, all connected to the vigilante case. His most useful ability is seeing someone just before they get whacked by The Sleuths.

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The Passenger (1975) Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

The Passenger    The Passenger Film Poster R

Release Date: August, 1974

Duration: 126 mins.

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Writer: Mark Peploe, Michelangelo Antonioni, Peter Wollen (Screenplay),

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Maria Scneider, Jenny Runacre, Ian Hendry,

IMDB

The Passenger is an absorbing film. Billed as a thriller and neo-noir, it has some of the genre hallmarks but doesn’t feel related to classics like Out of the Past and Kiss Me Deadly for the longest time. Until it does. And then it moves through the motions but to its own rhythm before transforming into a potent existential horror movie that leaves one breathless with fear.

The plot revolves around a British-born American journalist named David Locke (Jack Nicholson). His work has taken him to Chad where the government is locked in a war with rebels. His work isn’t going so well. Lost in a desert. Unable to get to any truth. Stranded at a hotel where his only fellow guest is a shady British businessman who he shares whisky with. The two muse about how to be genuine with others, how to be authentic, and starting life over.

“Wouldn’t it be better if we could just forget old places. Forget everything that happens. Just throw it all away, day by day.”

Locke gets his chance to start over when said businessman dies in his room and Locke steals his passport and identity. In doing this, he leaves behind an unfaithful wife, an unfulfilling career, and an unsatisfying life.

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Hong Kong Family 過時・過節 (2022) Dir: TSANG Hing Weng Eric [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

Hong Kong Family    Hong Kong Family Film Poster R

過時・過節 

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: TSANG Hing Weng Eric

Writer: Lou Shiu-Wa, Leung Chuen-Yeung (Screenplay),

Starring: Teresa Mo, Tse Kwan Ho, Edan Lui, Hedwig Tam, Angela Yuen,

IMDB

Family can be like shoelaces. The tighter they are, the more they hurt. That sentiment is on display in Hong Kong Family, the feature film debut of Erik Tsang. Drawing on personal experiences, Tsang cooks up a feast of an ensemble drama where each character’s inability to communicate forms the ingredients for the split experienced by a working-class family of four during a Winter Solstice dinner and the slow process of washing away the bitter aftertaste years later.

Even before the dinner tensions are cooking away as the family dip in and out of arguments while trapped together in a car as they deliver ingredients to the matriarch’s house where the meal will take place. The hen-pecking mother, Ling (Teresa Mo) and taciturn father, Chun (Tse Kwan Ho), bicker over his job loss, tight finances, and moving home. Their shy daughter, Ki (Hedwig Tam), uses her ear phones to confine herself to her own world while their hotshot son, Yeung (Edan Lui), overconfidently plays peacemaker when not playing his Sony PSP. Nobody is communicating. All are stewing away with different flavours of resentments.

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Swallow Flying to the South 燕南飛 (2022) Director: Mochi Lin [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

Swallow Flying to the South   Swallow Flying to the South Film Poster R

燕南飛 

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 17 mins.

Director: Mochi Lin

Writer: Mochi Lin (Screenplay),

Puppets, Sets, Props. Costumes, Animation, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, MusicMochi Lin

Website IMDB

From around 1966 to 1976, children and teenagers from across China were separated from families and sent to different cities and impoverished villages across China as the harbingers of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. This tumultuous time and the unhappy memories that were made is reportedly glossed over in contemporary China but it is vividly brought to life in Swallow Flying to the South, an emotionally moving stop-motion animation made almost singlehandedly by Mochi Lin.

The film finds its genesis as a tribute to Mochi Lin’s mother. Her name is Swallow. Her memories of being a 5-year-old at a public boarding preschool in central Beijing in Spring 1976 is the basis of the story. She is one of many children who are enduring a harsh lifestyle but while the others seem inured to various privations, she still bears her heart through her tears as she tries to keep up with exercise routines and lessons.

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The Narrow Road 窄路微塵 (2022) Director: LAM Sum [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

The Narrow Road    The Narrow Road Film Poster R

窄路微塵 

Release Date: December 22nd, 2022

Duration: 115 mins.

Director: LAM Sum

Writer: Fean Chung (Screenplay),

Starring: Louis Cheung, Angela Yuen, Patra Au, Tung On-na,

IMDB

In recent years there has been a push from specialist festivals to expand the range of Hong Kong films available to audiences beyond the policiers and Triad movies the island territory is synonymous with. Programmers have a rich field of titles to pick from as a new generation of local filmmakers have picked up the torch carried by the likes of Ann Hui, Mabel Cheung and Patrick Tam and tell stories about the lives of the “little people”. You know, those often relegated to collateral damage in heroic bloodshed films, the butt of a joke in raucous comedies, or a background presence in romances. Mad World (2016), Still Human (2019) and My Prince Edward (2020) are examples of portraits of common folk just trying to live life. Seeing whether they can overcome their obstacles or not often prove more electric and revealing of life on the island than any crime thriller. Narrow Road is another film to add to that list.

We are taken to Hong Kong in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our lead character Chak (Louis Cheung) runs a contract cleaning company. Burdened with debt and light on cleaning supplies due to shortages, he struggles along stringing together a meagre supply of work with tools and a vehicle often on the verge of breaking down. With the city closing up due to the virus, his only support comes from a few garrulous friends and his kind-hearted mother Ying (Patra Au) and a strong inner morality that sees him work hard in the belief that his honest efforts will pay off. It just has to.

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Heart of Glass Dir: Werner Herzog (1977)

Heart of Glass    Heart of Glass Film Poster

Release Date: December 17th, 1976

Duration: 94 mins.

Director: Werner Herzog

Writer: Herbert Achternbusch (Script/Scenario),

Starring: Josef Bierbichler (Hias), Stefan Guttler (Huttenbesitzer), Clemens Scheitz (Adalbert), Volker Prechtel (Wudy), Sonja Skiba (Ludmilla), Brunhilde Kickner (Paulin)

IMDB

“A prophet is rarely welcome in their homeland” is a line from the Bible that can be applied here as a lonely cowherd predicts an apocalypse for his hometown.

Werner Herzog’s period drama Heart of Glass was one of two films he made that called back into the rich realm of German history (the other being The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser in 1974) at a time when he was busy making documentaries.

Set in the 18th Century, it tells the story of a town nestled somewhere in the rocky escarpments of Bavaria. The town, though rural, has a glassblowing factory and that provides income because this is a time when wealthy families across Europe collected the most lavishly decorated ceramics and glassware available, be it the high-quality but expensive pieces from China and Japan or the many factories in Europe that sprang up to imitate superior Asian works.

The unique selling point of this particular glassworks is its ruby red pieces that shine with a rich colour that mesmerises all who behold it. However, when we enter the town, it is at a time of crisis as the master glassblower has died and taken the secret of making ruby glass with him to his grave. The glasswork’s owner, an aristocrat named Huttenbesitzer (Stefan Guttler), a predatory fop who looks like he could hang out with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire (1994), becomes obsessed with finding the formula and his obsession turns into madness that infects other townspeople.

Enter our prophet, Hias, a cowherd who inhabits the forested hills with his cows.

Heart of Glass Film Image 2

Hias (Josef Bierbichler) is an observer, a loner. He is a man of nature and is first seen staring into the distant landscape as he offers ominous pronouncements of the future dressed in poetic language. The despair he rakes up is something which seems to have driven him to isolation. The aristocrat asks him for help finding the secret of the ruby glass but all Hias predicts is that the glass factory will be destroyed in a fire. Despite this danger of destruction, Hias descends from the mountains to the town and is on the ground as madness sweeps over the citizens and they descend into abasement and violence as they seek the secret of how to make ruby glass to save their town.

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Earthquake Bird Director: Wash Westmoreland (2019) Netflix

Earthquake Bird    Earthquake Bird Film Poster

Release Date: July 10th, 2022

Duration: 93 mins.

Director: Wash Westmoreland

Writer: Wash Westmoreland (Script), Susanna Jones (Original Novel),

Starring: Alicia Vikander (Lucy Fly), Naoki Kobayashi (Teiji Matsuda), Riley Keough (Lily Bridges), Jack Huston (Bob Johnson), Kiki Sukezane (Natsuk),

Website IMDB

“I think that’s what I like about Japan, it gives you a second chance.”

Japan is a country that attracts a lot of a certain type of person. People unhappy with their lot in life or looking for adventure. Sensitive, misguided, naïve, whatever you want to call them, they are people looking to immerse themselves in something different and possibly change their reality. This is what I found to be most interesting in Earthquake Bird, the Netflix adaptation of Susanna Jones’ same-named novel. 

The need to become someone else is definitely the case with Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander), a translator living in Tokyo circa 1989. When we first meet her, she is working on a Japanese translation of the dialogue of the Michael Douglas film Black Rain (1989). She’s soon arrested by police investigating the disappearance of an American nurse named Lily Bridges (Riley Keough). When body parts wash up in Tokyo Bay and Lucy confesses to having killed the woman, it seems like an open and shut case. Except it isn’t.

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Laundromat on the Corner Director: Tetsuki Ijichi (2020)

Laundromat on the Corner    Laundromat on the Corner Film Poster

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 18 mins.

Director: Tetsuki Ijichi

Writer: Tetsuki Ijichi, Doris Chia Ching Lin, (Story), Judith Redding (Screenplay)

Starring: Eric Slodysko (Josh), Stephanie Pham (Ming), Keizo Kaji (Old Chef), Josh Hammond, Nico Chang Lynch, Heather Plank,

Website IMDB

In what one might see as a modern twist on Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), a man eager to escape his bleak existence finds himself entering an unconventional relationship. While not a terrifying time, it has a good horror atmosphere and effectively mixes Eastern and Western culture together for something unique.

The Ugetsu update takes place in working-class Philadelphia where a desperate man named Josh (Eric Slodysko) has washed up following divorce and money problems. We learn of his woes from exposition-friendly sources like text/voice messages on smart phones that get viewers up to speed quickly about the depths of his despair. From there, we see how he falls under the spell of a mysterious lady love.

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My Sister 姊姊 Director: Pan Ke-yin (2021) Taiwan [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

My Sister    My Sister Film Poster

姊姊 Zizi

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 25 mins.

Director: Pan Ke-yin

Writer: Pan Ke-yin (Screenplay),

Starring: Huang Pei-chi, Chu Yi-ming, Kao Yi-ling, Lan Wei-hua, Chang Kai-jhe,

The title My Sister may make audiences think this film is told from the perspective of the main character’s sibling – a little terror who breaks the peaceful sleep of the lead by playing a tooting tune on a recorder in the opening seconds of the film – but it is really the closely observed portrait of a teenage girl as we get details her younger brother could never know and we are let into her interior world as she begins to doubt her place in the pecking order of the family.

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