Bolo (1977, directed by Bolo Yeung)


The plot of Bolo is almost indescribable but I shall give it a try.

As far as I can tell, the film is supposed to take place during the final days of the Ching Dynasty in China.  The sheriff of a tiny rural village has been beheaded by gangster so the decision is made to have all of the local prisoners pull straws, with the two winners getting to leave the prison and become the town’s new law enforcement officers.  The winners are the hulking but well-meaning Bolo (Bolo Yeung, for once playing a good guy) and Ma (Jason Piao Pai).  Ma is a con artist while Bolo is in prison for killing his wife because he hadn’t seen her before their arranged marriage and was horrified to discover how ugly she was.  (Ha ha, I guess?)  Bolo and Ma are told not to try to escape and are then sent on their way to the village.

After a visit to the local brothel ends in a fight, Bolo gets down to trying to clean up the village.  That’s not going to be easy because almost everyone in the village is a gangster and the village’s mayor would rather appoint the local pimp as the new sheriff.  Bolo, however, starts to get results so the mayor plots to poison Bolo.  That doesn’t work but he does frame Bolo for a crime that he didn’t commit which leads to Bolo and Ma committing a real crime.  Bolo also falls in love with a 7 foot woman.

Bolo is like a Kung Fu version of the type comedic spaghetti westerns that Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill used to make in the 70s, with the exception that it’s far more incoherent than anything that ever starred Spencer and Hill.  Friends become enemies and enemies become friends and back again with shocking regularity in Bolo and, though there’s many fights, it’s rarely clear why anyone’s fighting.  A typical scene features a woman asking Bolo to watch her baby and then stabbing him in the stomach when he makes a face about the baby’s dirty diaper.  A wounded Bolo staggers into a doctor’s office, where the doctor bandages him up and then the two of them have a fight, during which time the bandage falls off and we discover that Bolo is apparently no longer wounded.

The film is also a comedy but it’s difficult for me to judge how effective it might have been because 1) I saw a poorly dubbed version and 2) much of the humor appeared to be very specific to China and Chinese culture.  For instance, there’s a lengthy scene where Ma and a woman play something called “the numbers game.”  The film presents it as being a big deal and I think it was meant to be comedic but I have to admit that I have no idea what they were doing.  To me, it seemed like they were just shouting out random numbers while holding up their hands.  To everyone else in the movie, it appeared to mean something else.  So, I won’t judge the film’s comedy beyond saying that Belo Yeung, who also directed as well as starred, appeared to have a gift for physical comedy that he didn’t get a chance to show off in his other films, mostly because he was usually cast as a villain.  There’s also a scene where a grocer attacks someone with a cucumber and that’s funny just because cucumber’s are funny.

Even if it’s never clear why anyone’s fighting and the sound effects often don’t match the actions of the combatants, some of the fight scenes are exciting.  That’s really the main reason why anyone’s going to watch something like Bolo and in that case, the movie doesn’t disappoint.  The fights are cool.  It’s just too bad that the plot keeps getting in the way.

Love On The Shattered Lens: The Souvenir (dir by Joanna Hogg)


Well, here we are.  It’s the end of February and tomorrow, March begins.  That also means that it’s time to end Love on the Shattered Lens, our series of reviews of films about the wonders of love.  Tomorrow, it’ll be time to start reviewing films about Spring Break and paranoia, two topics that go together like Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson.  Perhaps Love on the Shattered Lens will return next February.  It’s always hard to say what the future will hold but, by this time, our regular readers should know how much I love tradition.

With all that in mind, our final entry in Love on the Shattered Lens is a film that I personally considered to be the best film to be released last year, The Souvenir.

Taking place in the early 1980s, this independent British film tells the story of Julie (Honor Swinton Byne, the daughter of Tilda Swinton) and Anthony (Tom Burke).  Julie is a film student who hopes to make a documentary about a family living in a slum.  She’s very idealistic and very much concerned about the state of the world.  Though it’s not obvious at first, she’s also extremely naive and rather innocent about the world that she wants to document.  For all of her desire to capture reality on film, there’s much that she had yet to experience.

Anthony is older than Julie, though not too much older.  He’s a handsome, charming man who is always well-dressed and who has what would appear to be an exciting and interesting job with the Foreign Office.  It’s not long after first meeting that Julie and Anthony become lovers.  After her roommates abandon her, Anthony even moves into Julie’s flat.  He seems like he’s perfect, even though observant viewers will automatically have some questions about him.  For instance, if he’s so successful, why is he so quick to move into Julie’s flat?  Why is he always so vague about the details of his job?  He disappears, for one week, to Paris and when he returns, he brings the gift of lingerie.  He claims to have purchased it for her in Paris but was that really where he was?  Later, when Julie notices some strange marks on his arms, Anthony is intentionally vague about what they are.  (Of course, most people people watching the movie will immediately realize that they’re a sign that Anthony is a heroin addict.)  When the flat is broken into and Julie’s jewelry is stolen, we know what’s actually happened even if Julie doesn’t.

Just reading the paragraph above, you’re probably imagining that it’s very easy to hate Anthony but that’s not the case.  Every sign tells Julie that she should get him out her life and yet, it’s not as easy as it seems.  Even after Julie learns the truth about him, she still finds it difficult to just push him aside.  For all of Anthony’s flaws, he’s got the addict’s gift for manipulation and, at times, his love for her does seem to be real, even if it will always be second to his addiction and his need to get a fix.  Much like Julie, the viewer find themselves occasionally falling into the trap of thinking, “If only Anthony wasn’t a drug addict, he would be the perfect for her.”  Of course, the point of the matter is that Anthony is a drug addict and no amount of wishful thinking or fantasizing is going to change that.

The Souvenir is a rather low-key film.  Whenever you expect the film to go for easy drama or a showy shouting match, The Souvenir surprises you by going the opposite direction.  Instead of being a traditional “drugs-are-bad” type of film, it’s a character study of two people dealing with their addictions.  Anthony is addicted to heroin and lying while Julie finds herself addicted not so much to Anthony but instead to the fantasy that Anthony sans drugs represents.  By the end of the film, Julie is sadder but she’s wiser and, if nothing else, she’s a better artist than she was at the start of things.  If nothing else, she’s been forced to start dealing with reality.  The film’s title comes from a painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.  Julie thinks that the girl in the painting looks sad while Anthony says that she looks determined.  By the end of the film, Julie is both sad and determined, just like the subject of The Souvenir.

Director Joanna Hogg has described The Souvenir as being semi-autobiographical.  That said, you don’t have to be an aspiring filmmaker to relate to Julie.  Everyone has had the equivalent of an Anthony in their life, that one thing that you seemingly can’t give up even though you know that you should.  Tom Burke is both charming and heart-breaking as Anthony while Honor Swinton Byrne (in only her second film and her first starring role) gives a fearless performance as Julie.  At times, it seems like it’s impossible not to want Julie and Anthony to find some sort of happiness.  At other times, it seems like it’s just as impossible to forgive them for their flaws.  You get angry at Anthony when he falls back into his addictions and you also get angry at Julie for her inability to accept who Anthony truly is.  But, at the same time, you always feel empathy for them.  You always hope the best for them.  You always wish that they could have met under different circumstances, that things could have been different.

Though the film may be too low-key for some, the quietly powerful The Souvenir is my favorite film of 2019.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S3, Ep2 “Drag Me to Hell” (Dir Alex Pillai)


sabrina

Have you have ever been in a relationship that goes sour, but occasionally you get the hang out phone call and it’s really fun? That is what this show is.  It’s usually terrible, but every now and again, it has an episode so good that you’re like- Why can’t it be like this all the time?!!! Why’d you marry Tom?!!!! I mean…TOM?! REALLY?!

This episode through me for a curve because the director – Alex Pillai is not known for horror, but he really knows the soul of this show.  It’s supposed to be suspenseful with some shots that show that we are in comic book reality with practical effects.  The episode established the stakes early on, built up the tension, and pulled you into the characters. In short, this director has a gift for horror and should be hired right away!

The writing by Ashley Chin was really well done as well. I was seeing a lot of dramatic pieces and wondered? How did he have such a great head for horror/thrillers? Then, I saw it: The Walking Dead!!! BOOM! I hope he writes more horror; he is gifted! WHY WHY WHY can’t it be like this anymore?!!!!!!

Sabrina is getting used to her job as the new Lucifer all while juggling being a…. cheerleader? Sure, why not? Fine.  It turns out that Sabrina needs to be like Sam in Reaper and take sold souls to hell.  The first soul she meets is this elderly chess master and she….lets him go? Why? Well, this does not sit well with Hell’s bureaucracy!

So, the next soul to take is this seemingly nice ice cream van vendor.  Sabrina was about to get all mushy with him too because she is preternaturally incompetent, but this changes when he says that he should get another 7 year extension by killing a child.  In fact, he already kidnapped her, sending Sabrina (and her much happier friends when Sabrina is not around) to find the child and send the ice cream man to Hell.  Side Note: could they have gone Reservoir Dogs on the ice cream man and shortened the episode by 45 minutes? Yes, but this poor judgement is in character for Sabrina to NOT think of that because as stated before she is BAD AT EVERYTHING!

Sabrina searches and searches and when she discovers the whereabouts of the child, she ignores her friend who says she should not do the rescue alone and…. she gets captured because of course she does.  Don’t worry Sabrina finds a way o….just kidding no way not Sabrina; she needs to be rescued because she is BAD AT EVERYTHING! Despite Sabrina’s incompetence, the episode did not let up the suspense, the plot moved nicely and there is a great practical effect pay off when the ice cream man is caught.

Other events: Blackwood is captured, becomes the new vessel for Lucifer, and the Eldritch terrors are coming.  So you know what that means: Nick is back and there’s gonna be trouble. Hey na, hey na, Nick is back!

Get ready for Lisa’s reviews of 3 and 4!!!

cheer!

 

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 02/23/2020 – 02/29/2020


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

We might get an extra day this year, and it might even be today, but there were still only seven days this week — don’t ask me how that works. In any case, there was a hell of a lot that hit LCS shelves this week, and I’ve chosen four brand-spanking-new debuts to give the once-over, so here they are, arranged in descending order of quality —

Tomorrow #1 comes our way courtesy of editor Karen Berger and her Berger Books imprint at Dark Hose, and teams veteran scribe Peter Milligan with artist Jesus Hervas, continuing this line’s interesting pattern of pairing the old with the new. Milligan, for his part, used to be one of the most interesting and radical writers in the business — Enigma still ranks among my top ten comics of all time —but he’s been a pretty serious hit-or-miss proposition in recent years, with certain…

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Music Video of the Day: Fine Time by New Order (1988, directed by Richard Heslop)


“My car had been towed away and I had to remind myself to go and pay the fine. I just wrote “Fine Time” on this piece of paper to remind myself to go get it and thought, that’s a good title.”

— New Order’s Steve Morris on Fine Time

That’s a good story but what does Steve’s car getting towed have to do with a kid having a weird Christmas dream?  Probably nothing.  It is a New Order song, after all.  One of the great things about New Order is that everything about them, from their name to their songs to the videos, is open to several hundred interpretations.  It’s hard to know what the future may hold but one thing can be said for certain.  People will still be arguing about what Blue Monday is about.  And when they get tired to arguing about Blue Monday, they can talk about this video.

I guess the kid is dreaming.  But what’s going on with the dog?  Is the dog barking at his master’s dream?  Is it actually safe to allow that dog to sleep in a bed with a child?  Is it a good idea to tie a dog to a bed?  I don’t know.

Richard Heslop also directed videos for Ace of Base but we won’t hold it against him.

Enjoy!

Cinemax Friday: Forbidden Sins (1999, directed by Robert Angelo)


There’s been a murder!  A stripper named Virginia Hill (Kristen Pierce) has been found dead and the evidence suggests that she died as the result of sadomasochistic sex play gone wrong.  Lead detective John Doherty (Myles O’Brien) immediately suspects that the murderer is David Mulholland (Corin Timbrook).  Mulholland is a millionaire who owns the club where Virginia used to dance.  He has a reputation for being into some kinky stuff.  (A cashier at the local adult bookstore swears that Mulholland only buys BDSM-related magazines.)  Detective Doherty is convinced that Mulholland not only killed Virginia but that he’s killed before.  For this detective, this case is personal.

It’s about to get a lot more personal because, after he’s arrested, Mulholland hires Maureen Doherty (Shannon Tweed) to defend him in court.  Maureen is John’s ex-wife and she knows firsthand how obsessive her former husband is.  For reasons that she can’t fully explain, Maureen feels that Mulholland has been set up.  Working with Virginia’s best friend, Molly Malone (Amy Lindsay), Maureen sets out to prove that Mulholland is innocent.  But is he?

Yes, it’s yet another remake of Jagged Edge, with Shannon Tweed more than capably stepping into the Glenn Close role.  The chance to see Shannon Tweed play a high-powered attorney is the main reason to see Forbidden Sins and she does a pretty good job with the role.  Among the stars of the Skinemax era, Tweed was one of the more talented and she was always as credible delivering dialogue as she was disrobing.  Other than Tweed, the rest of the cast is okay but nothing special.  For instance, one reason why Jagged Edge worked was because Jeff Bridges kept you guessing.  In this film, the same cannot be said of Corin Timbrook.  The script and the direction are all pretty much standard for what you would expect from a 90s direct-to-video sexploitation flick and, again, the main thing that elevates this film above others of its type is the conviction that Shannon Tweed brings to her role.

For those who are only watching this film for the nudity (and, to be honest, that’s probably going to be the majority of the people who go to the trouble to track down something called Forbidden Sins), Shannon Tweed has one scene while Amy Lindsay has several.

My favorite thing about Forbidden Sins is that the murdered stripper was named after Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend.  My second favorite thing about Forbidden Sins is that the working title was apparently Forbidden By Law.  That’s one way to describe murder, I guess.