Once you start getting serious about film you can't get around the influence a director has on the final product. Directors can make or break a film and I'm going to use this feature to put some of them into the spotlight. I'm not just going to list my favorite directors though, instead I'm going to single out the directors of whom I've seen at least 10 films, providing a little introduction into their work.

Tony Scott

October 15, 2014
Tony Scott

It's not completely unseen to have two brothers working as directors in Hollywood. There are the Coens, the Wachowskis, the Pangs and the Farrelly brothers, what's unique about Ridley and Tony Scott is that they each went to find their own path. They never co-directed a feature film, they never formed a team. They are both A-list blockbuster directors, but where Ridley Scott has a somewhat more diverse oeuvre, Tony Scott is the king of fast-paced, high octane action cinema.

I haven't seen too many of Scott's older films. I'm pretty sure I must've watched classics like Top Gun and Days of Thunder when I was a kid, but I remember little to nothing of them. The oldest Scott film I do remember watching is Beverly Hills Cops II, the not so good sequel/remix of Brest's buddy cop film. Still, these films were all the rage back then, so Scott went on to make The Last Boy Scout. The formula is always the same, only the lead actors change. I can't say I'm a very big fan.

While these film brought Scott mainstream success, he had to wait until 1993 before the critics started giving him some credit. True Romance is a fan favorite, mostly due to Quentin Tarantino's involvement with the script. I never really saw the appeal though. It's not a terribly film, but it feels lacking to other films in the genre. It's also one of the few Scott films that isn't straight up action, but ventures into more crime and thriller oriented territory.

With Enemy of the State and Spy Game Scott would test the water with different variations of the action genre, but it wasn't until 2004 that things would really get interesting. Man on Fire is one of the big milestones in Scott's career. It would be his first time working with Denzel Washington in the lead, but it also meant a complete change in style for Scott. He would adopt a very young, fresh and hyperactive style of film making that was pretty much unheard of in Hollywood. His film had always been slick and flashy, but this was clearly something else.

With Domino (my favorite Scott film) he would take it even one step further, sadly alienating his audience just a little too much. The film is a real blast though. Fun, daring, entertaining, extravagant ... everything most Hollywood actions films lack. But money talks and after Domino Scott would once more team up with Washington to try and relive the success of Man on Fire. Even though it brought forth some fun films (Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable), Scott would never rise to those heights again.

It's a shame Scott decided to end his life prematurely as he was a unique voice in Hollywood. He was a bit too flashy and in your face for most people, but he made good, simple action flicks and left an oeuvre that harbors a lot a fun. That is, if you can stand the Hollywood nonsense embedded in their roots.

Best film: Domino (4.0*)
Worst film: Beverly Hills Cop II (2.0*)
Average rating: 3.00 (out of 5)

Kim Ki-duk

September 11, 2014
Kim Ki-duk

Kim Ki-duk is the enfant terrible of South-Korean (arthouse) cinema. Even though South-Korean cinema is known to push the boundaries (often of good taste, but that's my personal opinion), Ki-duk is always struggling to get his films through the censors. And no matter how well-respected he may be internationally, even after 20+ films he still needs to work real hard to get the necessary funds for a new film.

Ki-duk started off mid 90s. His earliest films were diamonds in the rough, almost completely void of stylistic qualities and relying solemnly on unique characters and rugged settings. Ki-duk's main characters are always enigmatic, hard to predict and ultimately self-destructive, but they help to set his films apart from the rest. Ag-o (Crocodile), Yasaeng Dongmul Bohoguyeog (Wild Animals), Paran Daemun (Birdcage Inn) and Shilje Sanghwang (Real Fiction) are all worth watching, but they are clearly the works of someone still figuring out his place.

Seom (The Isle) marks the start of Ki-duk's international conquest. It's also the first film in his oeuvre with clear poetic qualities. The crazy characters are still present, there are still plenty of scenes that can be described as twisted and/or shocking, but there's a softer side that makes for a unique tension. In the following years Ki-duk would hone his skills with films like Suchwiin Bulmyeong (Address Unknown), Nabbeun Namja (Bad Guy) and Hae Anseon (Coast Guard), all working up to his first big "hit".

2003 saw the release of Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring), one of Ki-duk's most revered films. It's the start of a golden period for Ki-duk, including releases of Bin-jip (3-Iron), Samaria (Samaritan Girl) and Hwal (The Bow), all personal favorites that fine-tuned Ki-duk's trademark style. These aren't quite my all-time favorite Ki-duk films, but the quality is consistently high nonetheless.

Shi Gan was a small setback. While the plot was interesting and challenging, there was a remarkable amount of dialogue and the characters just didn't gel. Luckily he quickly scrambled back to his feet and released Soom (Breath) and Bi-mong (Dream), my two favorite Ki-duk films. Things weren't all well though. A near-fatal accident on the set of Bi-mong led to a dire and dark period in Ki-duk's life.

He suffered a depression and retreated to live a secluded life. How do we know? Well, he documented the whole thing in Arirang, a (semi-staged?) documentary by Ki-duk, about Ki-duk, shot as he was recovering from his depression. A strange piece of film that offers a rare view in the director's personal life. In combination with Arirang there's also Amen, a film that wasn't intended for public display but ultimately found its way to the masses. An interesting project, if only because it was meant as a stepping stone back into the world of commercial cinema.

Ki-duk recovered but some darkness clearly remained. Pieta and Moi-bi-woo-seu (Moebius) see the director return to form, but there's a harsher, meaner undercurrent compared to his more popular films. They're every bit as good though, as long as you can handle Ki-duk's darker side. Finally there's Ki-duk's entry in the Venice 70 anthology, a project centered around the future of cinema. Sadly it's a piece of throwaway garbage that has little or nothing to do with with the theme of the anthology (to be fair, many other shorts had the same problem, the project failed in its entirety).

Kim Ki-duk is a unique director, a man with typical traits (mysterious, impenetrable characters, minimal dialogue, harsh violence covered by a layer of poetic beauty, rich symbolism) who struggled with his own ups and down and wasn't afraid to involve his audience to pull himself back together. It's probably best to start with one of his softer films (Bin-jip, Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom ) and start from there, but apart from his entry in Venice 70 Ki-duk hasn't made a bad film yet.

Best film: Soom (Breath) (4.5*)
Worst film: Venice 70: Future Reloaded (1.0*)
Reviewed film(s): Moi-bi-woo-seu - Bin-jip - Hwal - Soom - Pieta - Bi-mong
Average rating: 3.80 (out of 5)

Isao Takahata

August 21, 2014
Isao Takahata

Isao Takahata will forever live in the shadow of Hayao Miyazaki, though die-hard animation fans will more than likely tell you that Takahata is the better director of the two. And they are right. While I wouldn't want to discredit the work of Miyazaki, Takahata made a few masterpieces that rise far above the works of his former pupil. He has made a bigger impact on people's views of Japanese animation than any of Miyazaki's films could ever dream to do.

Back in 1969, Miyazaki and Takahata teamed up for Takahata's feature film début. Taiyou no Ouji Horusu no Daibouken (Prince of the Sun: The Great Adventure of Horus) is a cute little adventure, not unlike the outline of your average J-RPG. The animation is impressive for its time and it's a fun diversion, but it isn't exactly masterpiece material. Over the course of the next 15 years (and in between his TV work) Takahata managed to direct three other feature films. Panda Kopanda is cuteness overload directed at younger children, Jarinko Chie is a little harsher and arguably Takahata's worst film, while Sero Hiki no Goshu (Goshu the Cellist) shows the first signs of Takahata's true skills.

Right before releasing his big breakthrough film Takahata went on to direct a massive documentary on the Yanagawa canals. Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari is an in-depth look at all things related to these canals, though it must be said that the subject is a little dry (pun intended) and 167 minutes is rather long for a documentary that talks about nothing else than waterways. Unless you're really really interested in them of course, then it's a treasure trove of information.

One year later Takahata would release his first film under the Ghibli flag. Released back to back with Tonari no Totoro to soften the blow, Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies) is a deeply moving and strangely critical story of a young boy who loses his parents during wartime and ends up raising his younger sister all by himself. A film that opened the eyes of film critics around the world, most notably Roger Ebert who vehemently promoted the film at a time that nobody even considered Japanese animation to be a force to be reckoned with.

Hotaru na Haka was a tough act to follow up, but Takahata managed wonderfully when he made Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday). Equally mature, but dreamier and a lot softer in nature. It's the ideal couch-vacation combined with a sweet yet respectful love story. In comparison, Pom Poko (his next film) felt more like an eco-themed filler project. Not a bad film by all means, but not up to the standards of Takahata's previous Ghibli projects.

Right before the turn of the millennium Takahata went on to direct Hohokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun, the first fully-computerized Japanese animation feature. Based on a 4-panel comic, it's not a typical plot-driven film, rather a collection of vignettes held together by a selection of Basho quotes. The hand-painted look might sounds like an odd option for a CG film, but the result is nothing less than stunning. To me, Yamada-kun remains Takahata's best film to date.

It's only a week ago that I watched Takahata's latest (and possibly final) film, Kaguyahime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya). Based on Japan's oldest narrative, it tells the story of a princess born from a bamboo sprout. While visually amazing, there are some pacing issues that keep it from becoming the masterpiece that's hidden away in its 137 minute running time. It's still a great film, but at the same time it's also a red flag that hints at the fact that Takahata's career as a director is nearing its end.

Takahata has never been happy with the status quo. He pushed the boundaries of Japanese animation time and time again and transcended the niche that Japanese animation was. There's no other director like him, animation and live action alike. He made a few absolute masterpieces and rose to heights Miyazaki would never dream of reaching. A wonderful man and a superb director that deserves all the praise he can get.

Best film: Hohokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun (My Neighbors The Yamadas) (5.0*)
Worst film: Jarinko Chie (Chie the Brat) (2.5*)
Reviewed film(s): Omohide Poro Poro - Hohokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun - Hotaru no Haka - Kaguyahime no Monogatari
Average rating: 3.70 (out of 5)

Robert Zemeckis

August 12, 2014
Robert Zemeckis

Some directors I pursue, others I just bump in to from time to time. Zemeckis is of the latter kind. Even though I've seen 10 films by the man, it all came about somewhat "by accident". There were various reasons why I picked out his films, but never because they were directed by him.

Zemeckis is somewhat of an ideal Hollywood director. He hasn't got much of a trademark style but he often manages to make his projects into something unique without coming off as too weird or different. He can work in different genres and doesn't mind exploring new techniques. Over the years he's directed quite a few memorable films, even though I think it's fair to question the praise that some of these films received.

Zemeckis started his career in the early 80s, with Romancing the Stone as his first breakthrough film. One year later Zemeckis would hit the jackpot when he released Back to the Future. A fan favourite (especially people from my generation) that spawned two sequels, though when I watched it again a few years ago it served as little more than a personal reminder that nostalgia is often wasted on me. The first two films are pretty lame and I cringed quite a lot.

In between the two first BttF films Zemeckis made Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the first testament of his love for animation. The film's a great technical feat, but is pretty grating on every other level. It would take 16 years before Zemeckis would try his hand on another animation film. The Polar Express is the first of a trio of motion captured films that would keep Zemeckis occupied throughout the second part of the 00's. Beowulf and A Christmas Carol were solid follow-ups that refined the technical accomplishments, but they never managed to become much more than technical showcases.

Mid-90s Zemeckis struck gold again. Forrest Gump is probably his most famous film and remains a quirky, fun and off-kilter Hollywood project even by modern standards. Sadly it also marks the start of a lesser period, with complete (artistic) failures like Contact, What Lies Beneath and Cast Away (Hanks is absolutely terrible in that one) messing up Zemeckis' track record.

I'll never be a fan of Zemeckis. Some of his films are better than others, the man has enough skills do to a decent job, but he lacks vision and a signature style. It makes that his films don't age all that well and that I'm never truly amused by what he directs.

Best film: Forrest Gump (3.5*)
Worst film: Contact (0.5*)
Average rating: 2.00 (out of 5)

alfred hitchcock

August 07, 2014
Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock needs no introduction. Above everything else he's the director of Vertigo, a film that occupies the number two spot on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list and the number one spot on the Sight & Sound 2012 list, probably the most prestigious movie rankings around. Crowned the master of suspense, Hitchcock directed numerous classics that still have an avid following today, sadly I haven't been quite able to share in people's enthusiasm.

To me Hitchcock is probably the most lifeless of all the big classic directors. With a strong focus on plot, suspense and characters, I usually end up bored and apathetic while watching his films. The characters in Hitchcock films feel too forced to be witty (not helped by some horrid actor choices - I'll never be a James Stewart fan). His scripts are generally too detailed and long-winding, ending up spoiling too much for the viewer and effectively erasing whatever suspense there is and his affection for indoor studio shooting often resulted in needlessly fake-looking scenes.

It's a rare occasion when Hitchcock tries to break out of his own little safety zone. With The Trouble with Harry he dropped the suspense and used one of his scripts to set up a dark comedy, with Rope he made a film without (visible) edits. Not surprisingly I consider these two films his best works, even though they remain quite tepid and uneventful and offer little beyond their gimmicks.

At their worst, Hitchcock films radiate a certain amateurism that I can't match with his image of being a perfectionist. Awkwardly edited scenes (Vertigo) and setups that feel so unrealistic they take all the tension out of a scene (various moments in Notorious and North By Northwest spring to mind) are rampant, but for some reason I'm one of the few people on this Earth that seems to mind. And it's not an age/signs of the times thing either, I've seen older films that come off as way more convincing.

I've tried all the famous ones. Rebecca, Strangers on a Train, Dial M For Murder, Rear Window, even Psycho. There isn't a single Hitchcock film that had anything to win me over. The only thing I can appreciate so far is his sense of wit when it comes to staging his own cameos. Hitchcock himself is a peculiar presence but even then he does manage to hide himself quite well from time to time. These are rare moments of joy in otherwise lifeless films.

Not that I'm giving up already, but with his biggest works behind me Hitchcock clearly won't be a priority any more.

Best film: The Trouble with Harry (1.5*)
Worst film: North by Northwest (0.5*)
Average rating: 1.05 (out of 5)

Lars von Trier

July 09, 2014
Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier is one of the most infamous bad boys in modern day cinema. Always in for a little shock, always trying to provoke people, even at festivals and during interviews. Sometimes it leads to superb films, at other times the result is little more than hollow provocations. Whatever the case, following von Trier is never dull.

I haven't seen anything made by von Trier before Idioterne, a film that coincides with the foundation of the Dogme movement (and which also marks the start of his international career). Dogme is a school of film that preaches the complete opposite of what I tend to like in films. It denounces all stylistic additions in an attempt to find better stories, truer emotions and more realistic characters. While it seems to work for some people, it pretty much has a reverse effect on me. All I see are ugly films and grotesque characters. Needless to say, Dancer in the Dark didn't do it for me either.

But then Dogville came along. While it still borrows ideas from the Dogme school, von Trier turns all his axioms around to make an explicitly stylistic film. Instead of forsaking the audiovisual department, he takes away the setting and ends up something extremely abstract. The entire film is acted out on a stage without a true set. Chalk lines on the floor indicate houses and walls while a bare minimum of props remains (chairs, beds, a car) to make it possible for the actors to at least sit or fake sleep. A superb experiment that found a strong sequel in Manderlay.

In between von Trier kept experimenting with smaller projects. De Fem Benspænd (The Five Obstructions) and Direktøren for Det Hele (The Boss of it All) bear interesting premises that never truly materialized into good films. von Trier's addition to the Chacun Son Cinéma anthology was a bit livelier, but a little too short to be truly impressive. Back then it looked as if von Trier was past his prime, but the man himself clearly didn't agree.

He fought back with Antichrist. A stylish, harsh and mysterious film that is almost impossible to categorize and still stands as my favorite von Trier to date. His follow-up film (Melancholia) is a worthy attempt but falls short due to an unfortunate split halfway through and a failure to bring the drama to life. With Nymphomaniac von Trier continued his decline, delivering a 4-hour film that aims to be an uppercut but simply lacks punch.

It's impossible to predict where von Trier will go from here, but chances are I'll be there to keep an eye on him. It's clearly not a director for everyone and I'm not a blind fan of his work, but from time to time he produces something truly unique that makes it all worth it.

Best film: Antichrist (4.5*)
Worst film: Idioterne (The Idiots) (0.5*)
Reviewed film(s): Antichrist
Average rating: 2.90 (out of 5)

Hirokazu Koreeda

June 25, 2014
Hirokazu Koreeda

There are exceptions to any rule, and Hirokazu Koreeda is one of mine. Usually I'm not big on character-driven dramas, but with Koreeda it's different. There's a special kind of humanity that graces his films that is pretty much impossible to find elsewhere.

You could say it's a rare talent, but dig just a little deeper and you'll find that Koreeda's knack for human drama isn't purely genetic. In his younger years Koreeda made a couple of character-driven documentaries centred around the bond that would develop between his crew and his subjects. Kare no Itai Hachigatsu Ga (August Without Him) was an early attempt let down by the lack of a truly interesting subject, but Kioku Ga Ushinawareta Toki (Without Memory) is by far one of the most interesting documentaries I've seen to date, following a man who has lost his short term memory.

In 1995 Koreeda released his first feature film. Maboroshi no Hikari (Maborosi) is a dark and stilted drama that is a definite fan favorite. For the first time Koreeda would show his rare talent for fictional drama while giving the careers of Makiko Esumi and Tadanobu Asano a welcome boost. But it wasn't until 1998 when he released Wandafuru Raifu (After Life) that he would win me over completely. It's still a maddeningly beautiful film boasting with integrity and leaning on a concept that is both subtle and genius.

Before his big international breakthrough he would release one more film: Distance. A close relative of Maboroshi no Hikari that should appeal to the same audience. But that's peanuts compared to the praise that would befall his next one. Dare mo Shiranai (Nobody Knows) may not be my own favorite, but it's the film that launched Koreeda internationally. Its a solid drama with some memorable scenes and it's probably the most accessible introduction for those who want to break into Koreeda's oeuvre.

Sadly it's also one of Koreeda's last great films. Hana Yori mo Naho (Hana), Aruitemo Aruitemo (Still Walking) and Kiseki (I Wish) are all solid dramas, but they never reached the heights of his earlier works. There is one exception though. Kuki Ningyo (Air Doll) is a return to form, a superb combination of a great concept with subtle drama that stands as Koreeda's best film to date. Opinions are split about this one, but that's merely an indication of its genius.

If you're looking for some good, warm and heartfelt drama then Hirokazu Koreeda is your man. Start with Dare mo Shiranai and if you like it you can work your way down from there.

Best film: Kuki Ningyo (Air Doll) (4.5*)
Worst film: Kare no Inai Hachigatsu Ga (August Without Him) (2.0*)
Reviewed film(s): Wandafuru Raifu - Air Doll
Average rating: 3.69 (out of 5)

paul ws anderson

June 02, 2014
Paul WS Anderson

Paul WS Anderson is not a very popular director, looking at his oeuvre it's not all that difficult to see why. He's an action director that more than happily trades in a solid plot and subtlety in favor of more, bigger and louder action scenes. He's the Michael Bay of B-cinema, using the mid-size budgets he has to his disposal to maximum effect.

I kinda like him. Anderson hasn't made a great film yet, but he has made some pretty entertaining ones and when it comes to mindless action cinema he's actually one of the better directors cruising around Hollywood. He didn't start off there though. Anderson made his first feature (Shopping ) in the UK, his home turf. The film can be seen as the spiritual predecessor of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, though Boyle was clearly the more talented of the two.

Soon after Anderson transferred to America to helm the adaptation of popular video game Mortal Kombat. While not a very good film, it gained a pretty avid cult following that survives even to this day. Event Horizon has a similar history. Not a great scifi by all means, but in certain circles it's a much-quoted and generally well-loved film.

Anderson's big breakthrough came in 2002 when he released the first Resident Evil movie. Another adaptation of a popular game series that would turn out to be Anderson's cash cow. Five feature films and two animation features later, it stands as one of the most successful zombie series around. It has long since abandoned its horror roots though, focusing more on action and cool, explosive gadgets to raise the adrenaline.

Sticking with tried and tested formulas, Anderson would go on to adapt Alien Vs Predator to the big screen and he ventured a remake of '75 cult classic Death Race. That last film in particular is one Anderson's most fun endeavours to date. His return to the Resident Evil series (part 4) would count as the current highlight of his career, though part 5 isn't all that much worse.

In recent years Anderson seems to be getting somewhat bigger budgets, making his films more prominent when visiting the movie theater. The Three Musketeers was somewhat hit and miss, sadly Pompeii (his latest film) was nothing but miss. Bad CG, no guns and too much plot and drama killed the film. Anderson should probably stick to what he does best rather than try to diversify.

Anderson's oeuvre is filled with films that try to be as fun and amusing as possible. They don't always quite succeed, but at least Anderson gives it his best shot, not compromising action and explosions for plot and character development where none is needed. If you like that sort of thing, delving through his oeuvre won't disappoint you.

Best film: Resident Evil: Afterlife (3.5*)
Worst film: Pompeii (1.0*)
Average rating: 2.60 (out of 5)

brian de palma

May 28, 2014
Brian De Palma

Brian De Palma is one of those directors who's been in the business for more than 40 years. Even though I'm not a big fan of his oeuvre, De Palma's films have a certain flair that makes them easy to digest. There's always at least a handful of scenes that make his films worth watching.

The first De Palma I ever saw was Carrie, still one of the very best Stephen King adaptations around. With his characteristic split screens and amazing camera work De Palma created one hell of an ending, following a somewhat slow but solid build-up. It's a scene that, through the years, became part of our cultural collective. By then De Palma already had 8 years of experience.

Seven years later De Palma would go on to make his most iconic film, a remake of Scarface (1932). While I didn't like the film, it's impossible to ignore its global impact. And it's not just a landmark film for De Palma's career, Al Pacino too realized one of his most lauded roles. Four years later De Palma would stun the world again with The Untouchables, yet another landmark film that saw its ode to Eisenstein's staircase scene become legendary.

The 90s were a lot tougher. Raising Cain has nothing of De Palma's lavish style, Mission to Mars and Snake Eyes are failed attempts to relive his successes of the past. He did release Carlito's Way along the way, not quite as important or iconic as Scarface but still a film that helped to define the 90s.

From then on De Palma's films didn't amount to much any more. Femme Fatale and Passion are two sub-par failures, sporting only meagre glimpses of De Palma's former talent. It's a shame because at times De Palma is capable of great things. He shot some memorable scenes and made some big films, though he's never been able to convince me for the length of entire film. It's still fun to walk through his oeuvre though, as you never know when De Palma will flex his muscles.

Best film: Carrie (3.0*)
Worst film: Raising Cain (1.0*)
Average rating: 1.90 (out of 5)

sammo hung

May 02, 2014
Sammo Hung

Sammo Hung is a legend. Ask any martial arts fan about Hung and he'll tell you he's one of the most unique martial arts actors ever to have worked in the business. To put it plain and simple: Hung is a fatty. But despite his body mass, he's as agile, fast and deadly as the other greats of Hong Kong action cinema.

Hung isn't just an actor though. He's been in the business for more than 50 years, acted in more than 150 films and directed 36 films of his own. Add a bunch of producer, writer and stunt choreographer credits and you'll know he fits the profile of your typical Hong Kong renaissance man. While he deserves the proper respect for these stats, directing clearly wasn't his strong point.

Sammo Hung is one of Jackie Chan's buddies, which is clear once you start going through their oeuvres. Not only do they feature in many films side by side, they also share a love for action cinema with a strong focus on comedy. Hung's range is just a little broader though, covering some horror territory too from time to time.

Hung started off his career in '77 with a series of martial arts films. San De Huo Shang Yu Chong Mi Liu (The Iron-Fisted Monk) and Za Jia Xiao Zi (Knockabout) weren't even half-bad attempts, though they are in stark contrast with some of his other films from around that time (Fay Lung Kwo Gong - Enter the Fat Dragon). Hung's first attempt to cash in on the horror hype (Gui da Gui - Encounters of the Spooky Kind) wasn't all that memorable either.

In the early '80s Hung, Chan en Yuen (Biao) would go on to conquer Hong Kong with their unique blend of action and comedy, but it wasn't until '85 that Hung's films would start to gain on actual quality. Foo Gwai Lit Che (Millionaire's Express) and Qun Long Xi Feng (Pedicab Driver) form the highlights of this period. If possible, it's best to stay clear from Gui Meng Jiao (Spooky, Spooky) and Wu Fu Xing Chuang Gui (Ghost Punting), Hung's second and third attempt at mastering horror cinema.

Unsurprisingly, '93 turns out to be the best year to start exploring Hung's films. Yat do King Sing (Blade of Fury) and Zhan Shen Chuan Shuo (The Moon Warriors) are two strong martial arts epics, not quite up there with the greats (Tsui Hark, Corey Yuen, ...), but still amazing films in their own right. Like the rest of Hong Kong, Hung would come tumbling down, though his final twitches as a director did lead to Wong Fei-hung Chi Saiwik Hung Si (Once Upon a Time in China and America), the fifth entry in the Once Upon a Time in China series and a surprisingly fun entry at that.

That same year ('97), Hung would release Yat Goh Hiu Yan (Mr. Nice Guy), his final film as a director, teaming up with Jackie Chan one last time. He never disappeared from the film set though, turning up in action gems like SPL, 14 Blades and Ip Man 2. He's still active to this day, but it's safe to assume his directing days are over.

Hung's oeuvre is a treasure trove for those who are finished with the big names of Hong Kong action cinema. Even his lesser films contain at least some decent action scenes and there's always a few memorable moments that will please the avid genre fan. '93 is the place to start when looking for good Sammo Hung films, his horror work is best avoided until you're certain you want to explore his entire body of work.

Best film: Yat do King Sing (Blade of Fury) (3.5*)
Worst film: Fay Lung Kwo Gong (Enter the Fat Dragon (1.5*)
Average rating: 2.43 (out of 5)