aka 鐵血嬌娃 aka Five-Star General aka 五星上將 aka The Five aka 5星上將 2013 Written by Fu Huayang and Xu Shalang
Directed by Fu Huayang
Break out the pillows, because Angel Warriors will cure your sleep disorders. In fact, you might find yourself reflecting at how you are wasting your brief time here on planet Earth watching something that’s a complete mess of a film. But maybe you’ll then be motivated to go out and achieve something, lest watching Angel Warriors end up your final act.
This lady finds more tiger cubs before 6 AM than you do ever!
Angel Warriors began life as Five-Star General, which we actually reported on in 2011, though it sounded completely different and I didn’t even realize this was the same film! But true to my word, I checked it out and now regret saying I would look into it. The two year turnaround to get a release hints at the problem the completed film had. And there are a lot of problems. It is time to address them in list format, because that is efficient, and we’re all about efficiency at TarsTarkas.NET, a site that regularly has rambling reviews that never get to the point. Wait a minute, ignore that last part!
[adrotate banner=”1″]Naked Soldier (which we’ve written about before) has been pushed back again and again to the point where it is a mystery to everyone when the film will come out. But that mystery might be close to being solved when current rumors pinpoint the release date as July. Just when in July is not clear, nor how wide the release will be. What is clear from the trailer is Marco Mak saw Naked Weapon and thought that was far better to base the film on than Naked Killer. This is sad, and makes me wonder if Marco Mak has some sort of substance abuse problem, because only drugs of the highest caliber could explain Naked Weapon being held to a higher regard than Naked Killer.
You might think that means we won’t bother watching this once it pops up at DVD stores in Chinatown. You couldn’t be more wrong, for Jiang Luxia is in this and we’ll watch whatever awful film she’s in just to support one of the few actual female martial artists in Hong Kong cinema.
Interpol agent CK Long busted a billion-dollar drug deal fifteen years ago. The cartel has avenged itself by hiring Madame Rose’s organization of assassins to kill CK Long’s entire family. Long himself survives and believes his young daughter is still alive. In fact, for these fifteen years, the girl has been kidnapped by Madame Rose, brainwashed and trained into beautiful, sexy killer Phoenix.
Phoenix has now become the top-ranked killer in Madame Rose’s organization. She is skilled in combat and always completes her missions. Thanks to her band of killers Madame Rose has expanded her criminal organization and now assigns missions in many parts of the world. CK Long has never imagined that he would one day become the target of his own daughter’s mission.
2011 Written by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Lau Ho-Leung, Frankie Tam Gong-Yuen, and Maria Wong Si-Man
Directed by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung and Danny Go Lam-Paau
Mural is another attempt from China to make bigger Hollywood-style pictures, which is both a good and a bad thing. It is good that money is being brought into make epic films. It is bad because the films being produced are all generic garbage. And as the money flows away from Hong Kong into the pack of upstart Mainland production companies, things are changing rapidly in both Hong Kong and Chinese cinema. But this review isn’t about that, it’s about Mural, a story about a guy who goes into a painting full of fairy women.
While Mural certainly looks nice, the story doesn’t hold up to the visuals and things become very bland. The visuals of creatures and monsters make good spectacles, even if the CGI isn’t up to par with Western films yet. Monsters and beauties are the two main attractions to Mural, there is enough of both you can let some things slide. Some good scenes and creativity in monster design help make certain points more memorable, but the underlying uninteresting characters and the obvious conclusion of the main love story cause things to not be so much a journey as just a trip through a museum.
Like Gordan Chan’s prior film Painted Skin, it is a tale from Pu Songling’s story collection Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. The tomb contains nearly 500 tales, and has been the basis for dozens of films and tv series, including the Chinese Ghost Story films.
There are far too many of the models/actresses/singers playing the fariy women to list them all in the Roll Call, but I should name drop a few, like model-actress Monica Mok Xiao-Qi, Xia Yi-Yao, and Bao Wen-Jing. And now we will never mention them again! Even Eric Tsang Chi-Wai shows up with ear extensions as a goofy monk.
Zhu Xiaolian (Deng Chao) – A scholar studying for government exams at the capital who runs into adventure while on his journey there. Zhu likes to speak big talk of responsibility and becoming a good person, his sense of justice propelling part of the plot. Deng Chao is also in Detective Dee.
Meng Longtan (Ngai Sing) – A thief who is caught trying to rob Zhu and his servant. Ends up joining him on his trip into the painting and marrying a good chunk of the fairies.
Hou Xia (Bao Bei-Er) – Zhu’s servant who spends most of the film following Zhu around like a puppy, though he does manage to grow a tad as a character.
Queen (Yan Ni) – The nameless vain Queen of the fairy realm. Her rants against men hint at a greater insanity and bitterness, living in a world of her own creation for years. Her dress is reminiscent of evil queens from Disney films. Yan Ni is also in All’s Well Ends Well 2011.
Shaoyao (Betty Sun Li) – The Queen’s main servant, who is disliked by the rest of the fairies due to her closeness with the Queen. Suffers from self-esteem issues. Betty Sun Li can also be seen in Kung Fu Cyborg.
Mudan (Zheng Shuang) – Carefree childish fairy who travels to the human world briefly and encounters Zhu, and is then punished for what she did. Zheng Shuang is a Mainland newcomer to film who graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 2011. Since 2009, she has starred in several tv series and has been releasing albums.
Yunmei (Ada Liu Yan) – Fairy lady who both dates Rock Monsters and is married 2 times to Meng and then Hou Xia, both really without her consent. Ada Liu Yan (主播柳岩) is a tv hostess turned actress/singer who will look completely different if you find some of her old pageant photos, and is one of the few actresses honest about it.
Cuizhu (Xie Nan) – Mudan’s best friend and a carefree spirit, Zhu pretends marriage to her in order to stay in the fairy world and find out what happened to Mudan. Xie Nan is a TV host and anchorwoman turn Mandopop singer who debuted in 2010. She’s briefly in All’s Well Ends Well 2011
Golden Warrior (Andy On Chi-Kit) – Golden Warrior is the only male-looking character allowed in the fairy world, he transforms from a bronze owl to defend the realm. Has a longing for Shaoyao that is not reciprocated. Totally isn’t He-Man.
[adrotate banner=”1″]Five-Star General – 五星上将 – (Just a direct translation for now as I couldn’t find an “official” English title) is a China/Thailand coproduction that’s influenced by Charlie’s Angels, Tomb Raider, and the action in Avatar (I’m guessing from the helicopters and jungle scenes) that is also aiming for 3D action. What we do know of the plot seems to involve a group of female mercenaries or Amazon warriors. Doing something. In the jungle. That is adventurous. And there are some dudes around as well (Collin Chou Siu-Lung, Ryu Kohata, Shi Yanneng, and Andy On Chi-Kit.) Mavis Pan Shuang-Shuang is one of the females, and Renata Tan Li Na is somewhere in there as well.
The director is Fu Huayang of Kung Fu Hip-Hop fame. And now some pictures!
Sina via HKMDBNews
Look for more news when they announce the first of what will probably be several Western names until they settle on one.
Bad Blood is a Hong Kong crime film that is about Triads and betrayal and having too many characters to give enough of them proper character development. And it isn’t very good. It is saved from being completely boring by one character going absolutely crazy and by Jiang Luxia beating up lots of dudes.
Granted, the only reason I even bothered to see this film was Jiang Luxia was in it, and from the trailer and description it made it look like she was going to be a deaf evil hit girl. And though she is deaf and dumb, she isn’t an evil hit girl and her character actual does stuff and is likeable, more than in Coweb, but no one still has bothered to use Jiang Luxia in a real capacity. Someone get of your duff and do it right, before I fly to Hong Kong and then quickly fly back home after having breathing problems in the bad air quality.
But Triad films are still the rage thanks to affairs of the infernal kind and dudes who are youthful and menacing. So for every HK Triad film you will sort of remember, there are many more that you will not. This might qualify as a film you will remember, but not because of the intriguing Triad relationships.
Audrey Lok (Bernice Liu Bik-Yi) – Audrey Lok is the female heir of a crime family who wants to go straight. Or does she? Beware, for when she cuts her hair she goes from normal to insane! No one will stand in her way. Bernice Liu’s picture was on the wall of a dim sum place I was eating at soon after I watched Bad Blood, so now she is following me and soon will try to tie me to an SUV and set me on fire as well. Too bad she has to wait in line for that chance!
Funky (Simon Yam Tat-Wah) – The default new leader of the gang who presides over most of the gang getting killed and himself killed. What a great leader! Simon Yam was on TarsTarkas.NET before with Fatal Termination and Future Cops.
Calf (Andy On Chi-Kit) –With a face deformed by a birthmark, this illegitimate son of a hooker is the heir to the crime family that is only barely tolerated by the rest of the family. Finds Dumby and takes care of her, but he is used by Audrey to get revenge on everyone. Andy On was Jet in Lethal Angels, so he’s got that going for him.
Dumby (Jiang Luxia) – Dumby is deaf and dumb, hence her name. Dumby talks via texting and sign language. She knows kung fu, having been trained by Calf who found her as an orphan on the streets. Spends her spare time doing amateur super-heroish work. Is not related to the Seven Dwarves or Gumby.
Brother Zen (Michael Chan Wai-Man) – An older gang member with grey hair and smart enough to figure out things despite being a lower-tier guy. But he gets killed regardless. That’s what you get for being named “Brother Zen”!
Kong (Xiong Xin-Xin) – Kong is a gang member who also runs a gym. That’s about it for his character, and then he’s killed. Xiong Xin-Xin has probably done action choreography in many films that you have seen. Or maybe not, because I don’t know what you’ve been watching. He also directed Coweb.
Hung (Ken Lo Wai-Kwong) – Another member of the gang who does stuff and then gets killed. You gotta love characterization like that! Ken Lo has been an HK actor for decades, and has made appearances on TarsTarkas.NET in Future Cops and Nobody’s Perfect.
Hong Kong used to have some of the best action films in the world. Than the bottom fell out of the industry, due to several factors (a rash of bad films, talent leak to the US, influx of flash over substance, etc.) and terrible junk began streaming from Hong Kong like diarrhea from a sick newborn. The problem was compounded due to the rise of South Korea as a cinematic powerhouse about the same time. Still, Hong Kong kept coming out with horrid junk such as Naked Weapon and soon their films became irrelevant. But then as few good films such as Infernal Affairs and Shaolin Soccer caught on in the US. Inspired, a few films from Hong Kong dared to increase in quality. There was still plenty of junk, but now the junk flew less freely, and moments of actual good filmmaking crept in. Still, moments of weakness are rampant, and films like this thrive in those moments. An unmemorable action thriller in the same veins as Naked Killer and Naked Weapon, Lethal Angels even was tentatively titled Naked Avengers and at one point. It now sports a title that is a throwback to earlier female action films, back when they all had “Angel” in the title. Yet they all look like action masterpieces compared to this dreck (and some of them were action masterpieces, but that’s another article.)
Problems abound in Lethal Angels. From uncharismatic characters to lethargic action sequences, the excitement never seems to get going, stalled like my car’s engine in -30 degree weather. Even the gunplay gets dull, and the CG muzzle flashes are obviously fake and very distracting. Never try to make an action sequence where cartoons get plastered all over it at random. That’s your tip of the day. Female action is supposed to be sexy and exciting, not dull. How can you make it dull? And yet, time and time again, I encounter films that can’t put together an exciting action sequence to save their lives. This movie is DOA, watching it is lethal and you will become an angel.
Yoyo/Mango (Tin Sum as Tien Hsin) – Our heroine and female assassin is a mild-mannered girl who one day saw her entire family killed by the Triads after they found out she was going to watch Hitchcock’s Notorious and/or her dad was going to testify against them. After being saved by Winnie, joins the assassin squad until she runs into her former boyfriend, who is now a cop. So she turns good. Tien Hsin is probably best known over here for her minor role in The Duel, and with her making movies like this, that will be all she’s known for.
Winnie (Jewel Lee as Jewel Li Fei) – Madam Winnie is are archetype female assassin trainer who is a former assassin herself. She’s brought to life here by Jewel Lee, who played the role of one of the female assassins in Naked Weapon. The circle is now complete, the student is the teacher.
Emma (Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi as Cherrie In) – Her character has zero motivation, we know little to nothing about her or why she suddenly turns on her master. Yet she does, and also inexplicably winds up with Big Guts. Her character is deadly with a shovel, she must have worked at the Shaolin Temple as a gravedigger. Cherrie In has been in a lot of films the past few years. I’d list some but then I’d just steal the joy from those who like to Google. Okay, fine, Election and Rob-B-Hood.
Dora (Viva Wei as Wei Hua) – Her name is Dora, but she’s no explorer, she’s a crazy killer who will rip out your guts and hit a 9.5 on the Orgasm Scale while doing it. Don’t mess with this woman unless you like breathing through holes in your neck. Killed by a hail of cops bullets.
Macy (Meme Tian Pu-Jun) – The other evil girl also gets little back story, except how she was turned out by the evil Triad Big Eyes. She also is killed because she’s evil and they never win. Is never seen shopping at Macy*s.
Big Guts aka Darren (Jordan Chan Siu-Chun) – Veteran cop who is a big braggart. Ends up with Emma because sometimes you just gotta write a bad script. Jordan Chan is famous for the Young and Dangerous movies, and he was also in Haunted Office
Jet (Andy On Chi-Kit) – Young cop who knew Mango/YoYo before she became an assassin. Is single-handedly responsible for a Hitchcock film running for thirty years straight in Hong Kong due to all the girlfriends he takes. Can’t dance. Can’t play basketball. The only thing about him is the way he walks.