Iron Monkey (1993) Right away I have to call out the fight choreography – there are times when it is so much fun to watch. In addition to the precision moves, they keep it fresh with some askew camera angles, fun poses, clever use of wire-fu, judiciously peppering in slow-motion, and all put together with great editing that always allows the viewer to follow the action. I found the second half of the movie is much more enjoyable than the first, and the climactic fight is a great time. Donnie Yen has such a commanding screen presence. However, that first half hour has some god awful fight close-ups that look too fake and silly, and in the English dub version I watched too much “humorous” dialogue that gets eyeroll-inducing. I was thinking of that exchange between Falcon and Spider-man in Captain America: Civil War “First time in a fight? There isn’t usually this much talking.” Perhaps I would have enjoyed this much more in the original Chinese with English subtitles. Overall, the great fighting moments are overshadowed by the cartoon-y and childish dialogue, especially in the first half. I guess we should be thankful they didn’t go as far as to use cartoon sound effects as well.
Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito are two of my all-time favourite actors, so it’s a mystery to me why until this week I had never seen 1987’s Tin Men, in which both actors play rival duplicitous aluminum siding salesmen in 1963 Baltimore. Writer/director Barry Levinson is always great at creating natural dialogue and true-to-life conversations, doing so both here and in 1982’s Diner, and while the tone here is a tad uneven at times, Levinson luckily has two amazing actors who can slide between wacky comedy and hard-hitting drama in a heartbeat. It’s perhaps not as funny or well-rounded as Diner was, and Barbara Hershey is wasted in a role that was begging out to be expanded, but this is still worth watching if you’re a fan of the stars or the director.
You know what movie has a pristine reputation yet is somehow still underrated and under-discussed? Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959). Going into this movie for the first time, I only knew it for its high regard and that image of a suit-clad Cary Grant running away from a crop duster gunning for his head. It’s an evocative image, but it’s just one scene in a movie full of memorable and daring scenes. It’s a classic Bond film without the British poshness and pretensions. It’s a star-crossed romance on a train across the U.S. And the climax is up there with any of the era’s action movies. Hitchcock is at his peak in terms of his technical skill on display–the shot compositions, the practical effects, the designs, all of it are simply on point. It’s hard for me to believe that Hitchcock put this out just before his other favorite of mine–Psycho. Just two absolute classics in a row in very different genres. High recommend for North by Northwest.