Friday, January 27, 2023

Film Rolls, Round 11: From Vegas to Macau II and The Knack… and How to Get It

I call the shelving that serves as the game board "recent arrivals", but that's either a misnomer or relative, because as this big of blog archaeology shows, some of these discs were at least on the way five years earlier, so this has clearly been a problem for a while!

So, Mookie rolls a 15, going from the start of Ringo Lam to the end of Wong Jing and landing on From Vegas to Macau II, and what can I say, you've got to laugh when you finally get to something purchased to watched at a very specific point finally taken off the shelf through a purely random process almost five and a half years later.

The oddest thing about this disc is that it has an ad for allergy medicine before the main menu, which I'm pretty glad didn't catch on, although I suspect it has been considered more than we might like to think as disc releases became less of a thing over the years.

Bruce, then, gets a 3, and stays in 1960s Europe with The Knack… and How to Get It.

How did this work out?

Du cheng feng yun II (From Vegas to Macau II)

* * (out of four)
Seen 3 September 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Hong Kong Blu-ray)

The trouble with the From Vegas to Macau movies, other than them never actually spending any time in Las Vegas, is not so much that they are bad than that they include callbacks to much better things director Wong Jing and star Chow Yun-fat have done. Not that the God of Gamblers movies were great movies - Wong cranked them out just as fast in the 1990s as he did these in the 2010s, to the point where he apparently forgot he'd already made God of Gamblers 3 at one point - but they were serviceable little things,

Although I suppose this one could be called that in this era - it's full of bright color, fast action, a pretty nice cast. It's a slick 2020s Hong Kong movie with enough decent if not remarkable CGI and appealing young faces to appeal to a Mainland audience, as opposed to a scrappy 1990s one. There are some flashy bits of action (bikini jetski assassins!) and confident moments at casino tables. There are more stretches that aren't really funny or demonstrate that there are more characters than really necessary, but it's seldom boring.

I probably like it a little more than I did the others when I saw them because Chow Yun-Fat doing goofy slapstick no longer seems like a bit of playing against type that doesn't work and thus offends the sense - having seen enough others, this just isn't one of his best comedies. It's nice to see him play off Carina Lau, even if they don't get a lot to do.

Chow hasn't been seen much on screen lately - I suspect he's been dark-gray-listed - and it's interesting that his current project is apparently called "Don't Call Me 'God of Gamblers'", a drama about a lifelong gambler hitting bottom. Might as well go the other direction considering how weak this silly remaining of one of his most iconic parts has been.

The Knack… And How to Get It

* * (out of four)
Seen 5 September 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

The Knack… And How to Get It is so obviously director Richard Lester's next film after A Hard Day's Night that I'm almost surprised that "Richard Lester's followup to A Hard Day's Night" isn't its actual name. It's very much the same sort of thing - shaggy story, black-and-white film stock, a fair amount of the British pop the Beatles were making popular on the soundtrack - but just goes to show how thin the line between something great and something mediocre can be.

Of course, the obvious thing that it lacks is The Beatles, and not just because people who already love the group are more apt to like a movie with them than without them. Still, their collective onscreen personae was settling amid the off-kilter and absurd moments, even with how weird and parasitic Paul's Grandfather could be. This movie, on the other hand is built around two of the main male characters not just being horny but almost predatory in their mindset, with the third less seeing this as not cool than an asexual but knowledgeable mentor. It's probably giving too much credit to say this couldn't get made today, as this attitude hasn't exactly gone far underground, but it hasn't exactly aged well.

It's not hard to fall for Rita Tushingham's leading lady, a big-eyed dreamer who gets into various misadventures on the way to the YWCA before meeting the boys, though, even before setting the actress's delightful name. I wouldn't be shocked if she was one of Edgar Wright's inspirations for a similar character in Last Night in Soho, and she's the one that injects a lot of the energy that keeps things moving along when the film is otherwise kind of sitting back and archly presenting situations that are inherently absurd or funny, but not necessarily getting that much out of them.

For something that started as a play by Ann Jellicoe, Lester and screenwriter Charles Wood do nice work opening it up to encompass all of London when it's not in a very tight apartment; it never feels stage-sized or stage-shaped. It's a hangout movie that can't quite get past how there's something odious about the reasoning behind the hanging out.

Well, that was an underwhelming round, leaving things more or less unchanged:

Mookie: 37 stars
Bruce: 44 ¼ stars

Bruce is still ahead, down to the next row, but we'll see what's coming.

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