Movies


Anand (Salman Khan) committed murder but was declared insane and placed in an asylum, where psychologist Dr. Sunil (Jackie Shroff) and Tanvi (Kareena Kapoor) look after him. Anand is a endearingly cute, simpleminded madman, and as it turns out, his father helped Dr. Sunil earn his degree, while Dr. Tanvi treats him cruelly at first, but is finally softened by his charm. Her father (Om Puri), the director of the asylum, on the other hand, prefers handling him with electroshock therapy, especially as punishment for his many minor infractions.

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Viewers of Hong Kong Cinema in 1980 could be forgiven for thinking the world was coming to an end. The old societal customs no longer held, and the new was open to endless possibility in the imagination, but narrowed by poverty and circumstance into a futile struggle to find some purpose, any purpose, worth having. In Patrick Tam's Nomad, teens hung out and tuned out of a society in which they couldn't find a place, but which wouldn't let them go except in death. In Tsui Hark's Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind, the bored kids turn to a darker place, and get their kicks killing cats and making bombs, with however similarly disasterous consequences. Somewhere in the middle, then, sits THE HAPPENINGS, its teen protagonists neither dropping out of society nor willfully destroying it. Instead, they just carouse through life, drinking, dancing, partying, stealing, for no other reason than listless boredom. And very quickly, things start getting out of control.

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A complete rip off of the classic 1976 film Nagin. While it isn't quite scene-for-scene, a la Gus Van Sant's PSYCHO, it is pretty damn close. As if pretending otherwise, the movie opens with a disclaimer that "All the characters in this film are fictitious and bear no resemblance to any communities, person living or dead." I half expected the disclaimer to also state, "And the film is nothing like NAGIN. Really, we're being totally serious." The director even puts his name above the title, so it reads, "Kishan Shah's PYAASI NAGIN," as if putting his name in front somehow helps him own the material.

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Two Snake Spirits are about to consummate their love in human form when some idiot shoots the male snake (Jeetendra). The female snake (Reena Roy), deprived of a good shag, vows revenge on the people who killed her lover. It's sort of a rape-revenge film, except instead of revenging a rape, she's revenging coitus interrupted. "Those rascals changed our copulation night to a mourning night," he says before breathing his last.

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For a little while, there, Chinese movies once again had international audiences, the size of which they hadn't seen since Bruce Lee. For that, they had to thank Ang Lee's Croutching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and Zhang Yimou's Hero (2002). In addition the mainland market was for the first time wide open, provided that films were made as "co-productions" including mainland cast members, and did not concern themselves with banned politically charged topics like, say, letting the bad guy get away at the end of a movie, or showing supposedly real supernatural events, or, I don't know, mentioning Tibet. So what better way to rake in cash in both the international and mainland markets than to create a big, slick, epic, historical action picture? But the boom years are over. Chinese cinema forgot to diversify their portfolio, and the epic market has crashed. And burned. Or, if not the market as a whole, certainly, AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIOR did.

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CHINA TOWN opens like any number of "Yellow Peril" Hollywood B-movies from the 30's: The classic "Oriental Riff" kicks off while the opening credits appear like chopsticks. Sometimes I wonder if movies are set in Chinatown just to enable a perverse desire on the part of the director to sink into these tired cliches. But CHINATOWN almost immediately steps ahead, as the opening song transforms into a delightful Ravi song picturized on everyone's favorite item-number dancer, Helen, playing the bar girl Suzie (Wong?). And then: two Shammi Kapoors, one good, one bad, prefiguring the classic DON.

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Nicholas Tse is a cop searching for redemption, Nick Cheung a killer for hire. When a dedicated, crusading attorney (Jingchu Zhang) goes up against a triad killer (Patrick Keung), he authorizes the kidnapping of her daughter, and promises she will be killed unless she destroys the incriminating evidence against him. From there on it's Nic vs. Nick, fighting it out over the fate of one seriously adorable little girl. A well crafted, well acted, high tension thriller, let down only by the complete pointlessness of it central organizing conceit: a car accident in which everyone's lives are "changed forever".

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Siblings Ah Ling (Patricia Chong) and Ah Wah (Eddie Chan) join a fresh-faced group of city teens to take a weekend camping trip in the mountains outside of Hong Kong. Alas, the villagers don't care for visitors, much, and a group of vile, thuggish, "disco boys" have taken up residence in town, where they steal hens, hunt and butcher wild boar, and drink snake blood. They also like to rape girls, as no doubt consensual sex is pretty much out of the question for them. When these beasts run into the campers, the encounter leaves one girl brutalized and insane, and another camper impaled on a boar trap. When the police are unable to convict the gang, the teens father (Chan Sing) takes it upon himself to make sure justice is served.

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The Iga and Koga ninja are at each other's throats again, this time because Dr. Kikuchi, head of the Iga ninja, has developed a serum that cures everything, and an evil arch-villain named Brian (Waise Lee) wants it, and has the Koga kill Kikuchi to get it. Only trouble is, the serum is in a box that can only be opened by the "key" -- an unemployed, flute-playing street musician named Copy (Dayo Wong). Purple, red, and green-clad ninjas led by Hong Kong action veteran Eddy Ko hop about trying to save, kill, or kidnap Copy.

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A Cantonese Opera troupe gets mixed up with a platoon of ghost soldiers seeking revenge. Lots of atmosphere, little action.

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