Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 Wrap-Up: Drug War (2012) by Tranquil Dreams

Hello, friends!

Welcome to the final entry in the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022! Today’s part 2 of the blogathon’s wrap up comes from my wonderful co-host, Kim! I’m sure she needs no introduction at this point so let’s get right into her review of 2012’s Drug War!


Drug War (2012)

Director: Johnnie To

Cast: Louis Koo, Honglei Sun, Yi Huang, Michelle Ye, Yunxiang Gao, Wallace Chung, Guangjie Li, Tao Guo, Jing Li, Hoi-Pang Lo, Eddie Cheung, Ka-Tung Lam, Suet Lam, Ting Yip Ng, Philip Keung

“A drug cartel boss who is arrested in a raid is coerced into betraying his former accomplices as part of an undercover operation.” – IMDB

With a filmography spanning from 1980 until 2020, Johnnie To is no doubt a Hong Kong director that has quite a few titles in his filmography which has been renowned especially in the action and crime area. Billed as his first action film entirely shot and film in Mainland China, Drug War is a 2012 action crime thriller that centers around a drug cartel boss that makes a strategic deal with the police officers to trade information and help out their police operation to stop a big deal going on between Uncle Bill and Bro Haha.

Drug War is led by Louis Koo as Timmy Choi, the drug boss that gets caught and tries to work the situation to his favor. Louis Koo has been thriving in the crime and action films in Hong Kong for a while and this role does give his character a pretty decent trajectory as his trust and where he stands constantly is put in question. He delivers a great performance to say the very least. Most of the rest of the Hong Kong cast appears only later in the film with some familiar faces like veteran actor who seems to find cameos in almost everything (it’s an exaggeration but it feels that way sometimes), Hoi-Pang Lo with some familiar faces like Philip Keung, Ka-Tung Lam, Eddie Cheung and Suet Lam. On the Mainland China cast, there are also some big names with Honglei Sun who plays Captain Zhang and the man running the operation with his main police officer Xiaobei Yang played by the talented Yi Huang. The whole operation also tags along a police car tailing this drug cartel from another police division where Wallace Chung and Yunxiang Gao make their appearance as well. It’s a packed cast for anyone that is familiar with Mainland China and Hong Kong films and that helps the whole film become really fun to watch.

With that said, Drug War’s shining point does also go to its script penned by three writers Ka-Fai Wai, Nai-Hoi Yau and Ryker Chan who has all been a part of scripting a lot of Johnnie To’s work. The script does wonders for the film as it creates the wild cat and mouse chase and almost musical chairs sort of deal as they play a game of pretending to be one side and then swapping over and playing the other side while using Timmy as the person to keep things in line hopefully. The whole situation becomes thrilling to watch especially as the deal starts to unravel towards the end and the big bosses, the smokes and mirrors and the loyalties all come into play. Nothing seems too far-fetched. Being a Johnnie To film, it does feel rather calm for the most part in the first half with a lot of the action taking place in the second half as the cops start to realize they have lost their grip on the situation.

There’s a lot to love about Drug War and while 2012 does have a lot of very good Hong Kong films released that year, notably Cold War and The Bullet Vanishes, and Johnnie To has done some grittier crime features like Election and Exiled and some action-packed ones like PTU and Fulltime Killer, Drug War stands out because it sets itself in China with different stakes at hand like the death penalty and having to deal with different threats and organizations. The whole film executes in a well-paced structure and it all fits together really well to create this entertaining and thrilling crime film experience.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 Finale: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

Beginning the blogathon wrap-up is me! My second and closing review of the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 is the beloved 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Check it out over on Tranquil Dreams.

Tranquil Dreams

Welcome back to Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022. After almost 2 weeks, we are winding down with our finale posts over today and tomorrow. The first of the two posts is from my awesome co-host Drew with his pick of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Drew is diving into Steven Spielberg’s films over the course of 2022 so you should definitely make sure to keep checking his blog out to make sure you don’t miss any of those reviews (and all his other reviews and weekly trailer round-ups).

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Synopsis 
When E.T., an alien visiting Earth, gets left behind when his ship quickly leaves, Elliott (Henry Thomas) helps him contact his home world.

Review 
When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial released 40 years ago in 1982, no one, not even Steven Spielberg, predicted that it would be the phenomenon that it has become. After finally viewing it myself, I can see why…

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Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022: The Pianist (2002) by Rhyme and Reason

Hello, friends!

We’re midway through the second week of this year’s Ultimate Decades Blogathon. Today’s entry is also the final participant before Kim and I wrap up the blogathon to close out the week. And our last participant is one of the most unique film bloggers I know: SG from Rhyme and Reason. I describe his blog as unique because he is the only blogger I know who combines his passion for poetry with his love of film. If you aren’t familiar, you can see what I mean below. Follow his site to keep up with all of SG’s poetic musings. Today, SG reviews 2002’s war film The Pianist.


What would you do were you hunted and hated?
What if your value were hotly debated?
What could you share with the Cain to your Abel
To sway them to see you as more than a label?

What if your neighbors were hunted and hated?
What if their murders were premeditated?
What would you wager with apathy reigning,
Invisible blood on your consciences staining?

What can be said to a world homicidal
Or to the sane few who decide to stay idle?
What can be done in the face of offenses
But pray and wait for them to come to their senses?
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MPA rating:  R

I find it hard enough keeping up with modern Best Picture contenders, so there’s still a vast number of nominees from decades past that I have yet to watch. When I finally get around to them, they often feel like films I should have seen long ago, and The Pianist is no exception. While its reputation may be dimmed by the distasteful scandal surrounding director Roman Polanski, it’s hard to argue with the quality of this story of survival, based on the memoir of Polish Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman, which won Polanski the Oscar for Best Director.

Adrian Brody won a deserving Best Actor Oscar as well for playing Szpilman, a Warsaw pianist whose life is irrevocably changed when the Germans invade Poland in 1939. Instead of playing classical standards on Polish radio, he is forcibly relocated to the walled Warsaw Ghetto, along with his parents and siblings, where money and hopes gradually dwindle. While occasional news of the Allies provides distant optimism, Szpilman is progressively stripped of everything he held dear – his home, his family, his career, food, housing, and any form of security – mirroring the relentless destruction of the city as the German occupation and the war drag on.

At first, I was a little disappointed at how passive Szpilman seemed as a protagonist. He often says he wants to “help” others’ plans, but more often, things happen to him, and he would have died many times over if not for the kindness of strangers. But I soon realized that this was the point and part of how Szpilman survived, since being proactive was a likely way to get killed. He acts as a spectator to the struggle of his city, often looking out a high window and watching events play out on the street below him, from Nazi cruelty to the efforts of Polish rebels. His passivity highlights the helplessness of those who could do little more than endure in the face of rampant inhumanity; the sane rarely have a solution when the world goes mad around them.

The Pianist can feel like one of those films one feels obligated to see, not just for its accolades, but for its important role of preserving history in all its ugliness. Films like Schindler’s List, United 93, or Grave of the Fireflies are not “entertaining” in the conventional sense, even if they present compelling stories. They can feel like slogs through suffering, especially since The Pianist is quite long at two and half hours, but the reality of what is depicted deepens them beyond a run-of-the-mill movie. Even if the style strives for objectivity, they become a vicarious window into documented tragedy which engenders more true empathy than a textbook or documentary ever could. In this case, it presented Szpilman’s harsh lived experience, which clearly meant much to Polanski who also survived a Polish ghetto as a child during World War II.

It’s hard to believe that The Pianist lost Best Picture to Chicago of all movies, which seems like a Shakespeare in Love-level steal to me. The period detail is impeccable, and the script is moving in its simplicity, from the irony of the Szpilmans rejoicing at the news that Britain and France have entered the war to the subtle heartache Wladyslaw squelches during a rushed reunion. Brody is at his best, especially during the piano scenes that he at least partially played himself (overdubbed by a professional pianist), and his interactions run the full spectrum of cruelty and kindness that is never limited by nationality or race. I rather wish that the film had included more details at the end, such as the fact that Szpilman went on to have a family of his own, but The Pianist is still a landmark Holocaust film that shows that the horror was not confined to concentration camps but extended to every moment of survival.

Best line: (Szpilman) “I don’t know how to thank you.”  (a kind German captain) “Thank God, not me. He wants us to survive. Well, that’s what we have to believe.”

Rank:  List-Worthy

© 2022 S.G. Liput

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Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022: Nosferatu (1922) by Plain, Simple Tom Reviews

Hello, friends!

Welcome to week two of the seventh annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, where this year is all about movies released in years that end in “2.” Starting off this week is Ultimate Decades regular Tom from Plain, Simple Tom Reviews. Tom has been blogging for quite a while now, and as such reviews all kinds of movies for all kinds of tastes. Be sure to check out his blog if your unfamiliar with it already (and check it out anyway if you are!). Like last year, Tom is reviewing a film turning 100-years-old in 2022. Let’s check it out!


Here we are again at another of Drew and Kim’s “Ultimate Decades” blogathons and as this one is all about release years that end in a “2”, I knew that there was only one film that I wanted to talk about (seriously, I didn’t think at all about any other films that I could’ve chosen) and as I chose 1921’s The Kid for my blogathon entry last year, I’ve again decided to represent a film that turns 100 years old this year and will be talking now about F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film Nosferatu.

A very popular and memorable silent film of the German expressionist era, Nosferatu is a film that’s loosely based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula (an adaptation that the Stoker family was NOT happy with, leading them to attempt to destroy all copies of the feature) and sees young property agent Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), a happy and carefree man who is married to Ellen (Greta Schröder), sent to a far away residence in Transylvania by his sinister boss, Knock (Alexander Granach), to negotiate a property deal for the mysterious Count Orlok (Max Schreck), arranging for him to purchase an abandoned property that just happens to he located opposite Hutter’s own house. While in the company of the Count, Hutter soon notices strange bite marks on his neck, eventually coming to the conclusion that Orlok is, in fact, inhuman and that he has his sights set on Hutter’s wife and when he witness the vampire abandoning the castle, Hutter soon sets off in pursuit. But the monstrous Count Orlok does eventually arrive in Hutter’s small town, bringing a plague to the citizens and having killed all the men who were working on the ship that brought him over, and the young Ellen soon finds herself at the mercy of the master vampire . . .

Murnau’s 1922 film really is a good adaptation of the classic story that we’ve subsequently seen play out in many different films and TV shows – with Tod Browning’s 1931 version with Bela Lugosi, Terence Fisher’s Hammer horror with Christopher Lee, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 one with Gary Oldman, the latest BBC series starring Claes Bang, and the “Nosferatu tale” was remade by Werner Herzog in 1979 and will even be told once again sometime in the future by emerging horror maestro Robert Eggers – but the German director’s version of the classic tale is still a highly regarded one today and it contains much iconic imagery and a memorable movie monster; it tells a relatively simple story (in a professional way) and the cinematic techniques, production design, cinematography and character design really bring the tale to the big screen in a timeless manner.

The image of Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is surely a recognisable one for classic film fans: a far cry from Lugosi and Lee’s more elegant appearances and definitely not a “sexy vampire” that we occasionally see in modern movies, Schreck’s grotesque vampire is all furry and pointed ears, bushy eyebrows, hooked nose, rat-like incisors, mad eyes, hunched shoulders, and long, talon-like fingers – quite appropriate for a bringer of a plague, a rat, or a “deathbird”, as he’s sometimes referred to in this movie. The images of him standing on the deck of the ship, in doorways, and standing over his victim’s bed have become staples of the horror genre (heck, I can even find him on a bookmark that is currently being used in a book that I’m reading) and furthermore, we can also observe scenes and tropes that have been referenced and copied in other, similar films; we have the scene involving a naive traveller who is warned of the upcoming evil by a tavern of concerned locals, we see Orlok rising cross-armed from his coffin, as we now know vampires to do, and we even have an angry, desperate mob who rally against the destructive and evil force.

And the film succeeds because it is very well put together and shows off some innovative (for the time) cinematic techniques; we often see Orlok appearing as a spectral figure, disappearing through doorways and eventually fading away at the very end, and Murnau also makes use of what is essentially stop-motion in scenes involving the journey of a “phantom carriage” and when he “packs himself up” and leaves the castle – these parts, these “jerky motions”, give the film an unreal quality and we can infer that Orlok is here employing some kind of magic or maybe even super speed. Nosferatu also makes great use of shadows – which is something to be expected from a great piece of German expressionist cinema – and the memorable images of Orlok’s shadow slowly creeping up the stairs or hovering, claws out, over his victim’s bed have stood the test of time and remain very memorable movie images. And furthermore, this film has a good accompanying score that helps escalate the feelings of dread and horror.

But despite Nosferatu being an undeniable silent classic – an important film in cinema history whose images are still recognisable today – I actually have to admit that the film has some flaws that would prevent me from “awarding it” a full five star rating and chief among these is that, in a similar manner to Bride of Frankenstein, I suppose, it’s actually disappointing that the titular vampire is only on screen for a combined total of about nine minutes and that a lot of the film (far more than I remember) is dedicated to Hutter and Ellen and even a scientist who, at one point, is seen demonstrating how a Venus flytrap is “a lot like a vampire”. Now, the few scenes involving Orlok, as well as the accompanying “spooky stuff”, is obviously really memorable but in those scenes wherein we see Hutter and Ellen’s family life, or else some of the other things that are happening with the town, interest really dips and the non-Orlok scenes seem to “stray too far” and aren’t as absorbing as the more horror filled parts of the feature. It’s also a shame how the classic villain is given very little fanfare, no pomp and circumstance, in his entrance and simply just . . . appears to us, the audience, and his entrance doesn’t fill us with the requisite tension or dread that we would expect. If I’m being perfectly honest, in rewatching this film, I initially assumed him to merely be one of the servants!

So that’s what I have to say about this 100 year old horror classic; the imagery contained within has surely stood the test of time – with Max Schreck’s Count Orlok proving to be an iconic movie monster – and although certain parts show their age and despite the story suffering when the Count isn’t around, Nosferatu remains an important and memorable film that I hope will still be talked about in another hundred years! Thanks to Drew and Kim for hosting this blogathon, thanks to all who read this, and now you can go and read all of the other entries!

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022: The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972) by Film Miasma

Closing out week 1 of the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 is Eric from Film Miasma with his review of 1972’s The Case of the Bloody Iris. Head over to Tranquil Dreams to check it out. See you next week!

Tranquil Dreams

Welcome to the next guest entry wrapping up the first week of Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022. Let’s all give a warm welcome to my old blogging friend coming to us from his new(er) blog Eric from Film Miasma. If you don’t know Eric from before, basically he used to run the extremely fun and legendary Shitfest which in some ways does make sense that he now runs Film Miasma where he goes and watches bad horror movies and gives entertaining reviews about them. Eric has a unique writing style in the blogging world that is an all around fun time whether you like the same movies as him or just want to use his reviews as a guide to avoid the crappy B-horror films. Remember to head over and check out his blog and give him a follow!

Film Miasma comes to us with the 1972 Italian giallo film…

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Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022: A Trip to the Moon (1902) by MovieRob

Hello, friends!

Today’s guest is the movie review monster Rob, of MovieRob. Rob has reviewed literally thousands of films on his blog. If you’ve never read any of them before, where have you been!? Also, Rob’s podcast, MovieRob Minute, will be starting season 2 February 28th with Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Be sure to give that a listen as well. Now, as for this entry in this blogathon, Rob is reviewing one of cinema’s landmark and earliest science-fiction films. Taking us way back to 1902, here is Rob’s review of A Trip to the Moon.


Number of Times Seen – Twice (30 Aug 2015 and 21 Feb 2022)

Link to original reviewHere

Brief Synopsis – A group of scientists build a rocket ship in order to visit and explore the Moon.

My Take on it – This is a film that I knew so much about before I finally got around to watching it for the first time nearly 7 years ago.

The first time that I was exposed to this film was in the Mini-Series From the Earth to The Moon (1998) since one of the episodes of that series (the final one actually) depicts how the dream of Georges Melies was realized as he was able to create a story with great special effects that could help transport the viewer to the Moon itself through the new medium of Motion Pictures.

More than a decade later, I saw other parts of the story expanded on in Hugo (2011) which helps me get an even better understanding of the genius of Melies at a time when no one knew how to create the wondrous effects like he did.

Since then, I have really enjoyed the films of Melies and this is among my favorites of his eclectic and mindblowing short films that were so groundbreaking when filmed and released at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th.

When Kim and Drew announced this years blogathon, I eagerly was interested in revisited this film and since it fit in so perfectly with the theme of a film that was released during a ‘2’ year, I decided to use it as my entry.

The way that Melies created movie magic back in a day when it was unheard of is so amazing to me.

Every aspect of film making is visible in this movie and one must always take into consideration that at the time this was made, there wasn’t many known techniques to create this kind of film and Melies and his crew needed to make things up as they went along.

The story is great and through effects, they help take the viewer to a far off place so vividly despite the simplicity of the way it all looks 120 years later.

The set design, the costumes, the props, the special effects and the ideas presented here are great to watch and despite only being 13+ minutes long, this film is truly captivated from beginning to end.

This film is a milestone in movie making history and the fact that it still stands up after 120 years says so much about the talent of Melies who’s ideas and vision were used as a springboard for thousands upon thousands of films that would come in the century plus since this was made.

Highly Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – By the end of 2021, this film will actually be sent to the moon. On the first commercial lunar flight, it will be attached to the Peregrine mission, which will stay forever on the moon. It will be stored on a micro SD card and protected in a cone-shaped sealed aluminum capsule, together with 1000 other cinema classics, selected by the VLC team. (From IMDB)

Rating – Oscar Worthy (10/10) (no change from original review)

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