New Hong Kong fantasy Meow features a family that adopts a giant cat, who just happens to be a vanguard of an invasion of Earth to turn people into pets. If this sounds ridiculous, you are correct, it is ridiculous. It’s also very very real! Emperor Motion Pictures is the production company behind Meow, and it’s directed by Benny Chan Muk-Sing (Gen-X Cops, New Police Story)
“There are very few fantasy films in Hong Kong and that’s precisely why we made this one,” said director Benny Chan. It was produced on a budget of over $14.5 million (RMB100 million).
Meow stars Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Mary Ma Li, Liu Chu-Tian, Louis Yuen Siu-Cheung, Wong Sing-Yuen, and Michelle Wai.
If the giant orange cat doing things looks vaguely familiar, it might be because of the Mannings Cat advertising campaign that started in 2011, where a cat searches for a magic herb to heal its master, only to be defeated by the herb wilting and then just buying a cure from Mannings:
Obviously very inspired. Meow looks ridiculous and I hope it does well just to help fund other ridiculous stuff, but I honestly don’t have that much confidence. Still, how many movies have giant alien cats shooting laser eyes? Avengers, eat your heart out!
aka 白骨陰陽劍(四集) aka Bai gu yin yang jian, si ji aka Ingenious swords, part four 1963HKMDB Link Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun
American elections in gif form!
This is it, the final chapter of the saga of The White-Boned Sword, the thrilling tale of some powerful swords that everyone wants so of course it attracts a bunch of jerks! Don’t leave yet, we still got one more brand new monster showing up later in the film, but first we have the amazing battle of the undead happening! When last we left, Wong Tin-ho had been poisoned, so Wu Sheung-fung was in search of the rare White-bone Grass to save him, but there was a pack of dancing skeletons in the way! Luckily, Luk Fong-fei and Vampire Lady were also around so Vampire Lady could send her pack of hopping vampires to fight the dancing skeletons. Thus the battle is joined…
Wong Tin-ho (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – Poisoned at the end of the last part, after Wu Sheung-fung rescues him by getting the antidote, he can help the group with several adventures before the final fight against the villains!
Wu Sheung-fung (Yu So Chow) – Spends the first half of the film questing for the White-bone Grass to save Wong Tin-ho, and impresses Taoist White-bone with her bravery that he gives her the Grass. Later helps the gang battle against he Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon.
Luk Fong-fei (Connie Chan Po-chu) – She’s certainly around and probably does stuff, but nothing exciting enough to get a blurb.
Vampire Lady (Kong Bo-Lin) – Vampire Lady and her vampires return to kick butt of both the skeleton and normal variety!
Kam Yan-kit (Yu Kai) – Still looking to avenge his father against Chung Ching, but he’s not so avengful that he doesn’t have time to hit on Luk Fong-fei! Stay focused, buddy!
Chung Ching (Sek Kin) – Evil conspirator who works with the three devils Heaven, Earth, and Man to possess the White-boned Swords and thus rule the martial world. Also has a dragon, which seems cooler than some swords, but what do I know?
Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon (Himself) – A dragon who hangs out at Devil Mountain, he’s either part of Chung Ching’s group or he just chills on Devil Mountain and is angry when people bug him.
Tree Spirit (Himself) – Everyone’s favorite tree monster is back, this time to fight the Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon in a battle of the sparklers!!!
aka 白骨陰陽劍(三集) aka Ingenious swords, part three aka Bai gu yin yang jian san ji 1963HKMDB Link Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun
Me after seeing the Kong: Skull Island trailer!
It’s now SOME UNKNOWN TIME LATER, a few things have happened. Okay, mainly one thing happened, which is Black Girl ran off and possibly recovered the White-Boned Swords only to hide them somewhere else. Exactly what happened to her will have to remain a mystery as the actress doesn’t appear in the series any more and there are no subtitles, so we can only assume she got on a bus to Mars. But who needs Black Girl when we got Wong Tin-ho, Wu Seung-fun, and Luk Fong-fei to wander around looking for Black Girl and/or the White-Boned Swords? Plus, if you are a fan of Vampire Lady, you will be happy to know that she is back as well, with an even larger squadron of hopping vampires to command! This leads to some amazing fight sequences later on with skeleton men. And there is a cool gorilla, which is all you need to know that it’s time to watch!
Wong Tin-ho (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – At one point Wong Tin-ho dresses up as a pregnant woman, and later he gets poisoned. And he’s the main star!
Wu Sheung-fung (Yu So Chow) – She doesn’t get poisoned, and goes on a journey to get to cure for Wong Tin-Ho. As well as getting involved in more martial intrigue and searching for Black Girl and/or the White-boned Swords.
Luk Fong-fei (Connie Chan Po-chu) – Now a martial arts veteren, but uncovers that Chung Ching is up to no good and that the White-boned Swords are loose once again and need to be tracked down!
Vampire Lady (Kong Bo-Lin) – Vampire Lady now has a full dozen hopping vampires, ready and able to take down the biggest threats! All hail Vampire Lady!
Kam Yan-kit (Yu Kai) – The son of Kam Tin-fung, who is killed by Chung Ching. Chung Ching convinces him that Wong Tin-ho and Wu Sheung-fung killed his father, which causes Kam Yan-kit to seek revenge against them.
Chung Ching (Sek Kin) – Sek Kin 3.0! An evil guy who does stuff that appears less evil and gains friends, though he really does what he does for more selfish reasons. Appears to have the missing White-boned Swords, killed Kam Yan-kit’s father, and conspires with his partners Heaven, Earth, and Man to poison Wong Tin-ho!
Old Devilish Eccentric (Ling Mung) – The mad wondering monk is still around and still helping people in need. This time it’s Kam Yan-kit.
Awesome Excited Gorilla (Himself) – Excited gorillas are the best gorillas, especially when they are excited to find wounded people that their master can then rescue. Awesome Excited Gorilla belongs to Old Develish Eccentric, because of course he does. He’s far too awesome to be owned by anyone else, and you can bet he’s only owned voluntarily.
aka 白骨陰陽劍(下集) aka The Yin Yang Blade aka Ingentious Swords, Part Two aka Bai gu yin yang jian, xia ji 1962HKMDB Link Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun
Dancing with the Trees never took off like Dancing with the Stars did…
The magic of The White-boned Sword continues with Part 2, which features slightly less monsters but slightly more martial intrigue. Which means the entry is less friendly for watching without subtitles. There is some nice sword fights, nice animated martial effects, and the return of the Tree Spirit. But there is also a bunch of people arguing, a pointless martial tournament, and weird pipe fighting that sounds cool but gets old really quick. A disappointing second entry, but the next two parts give us some more monsters so I’ll take this brief break in the fun.
Wong Tin-ho (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – Helping Luk Fong-fei and Black Girl train along with Wu Sheung-fung, but is drawn into more sword-related martial intrigue. Doesn’t really do much amazing stuff in this entry.
Wu Sheung-fung (Yu So Chow) – Still helping Wong Tin-ho train Luk Fong-fei and Black Girl, she proves her martial superiority early in this entry, and even tricks some of the dumbest villains in martial history.
Luk Fong-fei (Connie Chan Po-chu) – Daughter of a murdered family and training to get revenge, while also being a rebellious teen who sneaks out to do more martial arts stuff. Like teens do.
Pak Ha-mui aka Black Girl (Yip Wai-Ngai) – Daughter of a murdered mother and possessor of magic swords. She also is easily offended when you blame her for people being killed. She’s so over being part of a franchise and being responsible for magic swords
Vampire Lady (Kong Bo-Lin) – Vampire Lady is back in domino form. This is probably her weakest appearance in the series, but she makes up for it in the other entries.
Tree Spirit (Himself) – He’s dead but he’s back, because you can’t kill a spirit. Or at least a spirit that is connected to the sword via magic and it can summon him to fight evil.
Ghost Mother (Kam Ying-Lin) – The nefarious Ghost Mother returns, now teamed up with a new group of baddies who don’t give her any respect. She’s graduated from being the big bad to being the person killed by worse villains just to show how evil they are. At one point the synopsis calls her Blue Flower Ghostly Mother so that’s probably her full, legal name for you trivia buffs out there!
Pipe Guy (Chow Gat) – Part of a pipe-based martial sect who briefly orchestrates posession of the White-boned Swords before his group is easily tricked out of them. That must not be tobacco they are smoking in those pipes!
Sek Kin 2.0 (Sek Kin) – I never figured out what his character name was, but Sek Kin 2.0 keeps up the tradition and dies just like his identical twin brother did in Part 1. He works with the Five Element Taoists in a sword-snatching scheme that backfires because they are the villains and not the heroes in the story, you see. His name might be Three-hand Lohan Mak Tin-lung, which is a cool name but as I couldn’t prove it was him, it will go unassigned until I use it in a story I write years form now…
Old Devilish Eccentric (Ling Mung) – A mad wondering monk who is good and trains Black Girl after she runs off after fighting with Luk Fong-fei. The world needs more crazy martial guys who wander around and live in trees, so I support him 100%!
aka 白骨陰陽劍(上集) aka White-Boned Sword (Part 1) aka The Yin Yang Blade aka Ingentious Swords, Part One aka Bai Gu Yin Yang Jian, Shang Ji 1962HKMDB Link Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun
Break out the vintage machine because we’ve got some classic Cantonese fantasy wuxia for your entertainment. The White-Bone Sword dates from 1962, and is a four-part epic that features plenty of kung fu battles, along with lots of animated martial effects and three wonderful monsters to add to our Field Guide to Cantonese Fantasy Monsters and Creatures!
The White-Bone Sword (which also goes by a lot of names such as The Yin Yang Blade and Ingentious Swords, “Ingentious” isn’t even a real word so someone done goofed up the translation machine! The Chinese title 白骨陰陽劍 has “white bone” in the name so we’re going with The White-Bone Sword as the “real” English title) is based on a serial novel by Luk Yu featured in the newspaper Wah Sing Pao. I am guessing the story has the same name in the paper, but that wasn’t explicitly stated, so don’t take that as gospel. We’re going to call the sword the White-Bone Sword, but don’t be too shocked if a stray White-Boned Sword or two slips in.
The White-Bone Sword was the inaugural film series from Longway Movie Enterprise production company, which would make about six or seven other films before disappearing. It’s directed by Ling Yun (who would go on to direct the excellent Buddha’s Palm films!) and the scripts are by Sze-To On, who wrote over 250 Hong Kong movies and if you’re even a moderate fan of Hong Kong cinema you will have seen something he wrote. Basically, this is a great creative pedigree that helped produce an above average fantasy flick series that has some cool monsters and effects even as it suffers from some of the conventions of the day, such as a slower pace and weird filler spots. As usual with these rarities, there are no English subtitles, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!
Wong Tin-ho (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – Martial arts hero selected by his sifu to track down the White-Bone Sword along with Wu Sheung-fung. Ends up saving Luk Fong-fei and Black Girl again and again.
Wu Sheung-fung (Yu So Chow) – Martial arts heroine selected by her sifu to track down the White-Bone Sword along with Wong Tin-ho. Ends up saving Luk Fong-fei and Black Girl again and again.
Luk Fong-fei (Connie Chan Po-chu) – Daughter of a nice local dignitary until he’s murdered and their house is torched by Ghost Mother and her gang. Flees with Black Girl and her servant with the gang in pursuit until Wong Tin-ho and Wu Sheung-fung begin saving them.
Pak Ha-mui aka Black Girl (Yip Wai-Ngai) – Her mother Pak Ching-wah has a secret knife that can kill the Tree Spirit that guards the White-Bone Sword, but luckily she hid it by giving it to her daughter. Pak Ching-wah was murdered along with Luk Fong-fei’s father by the Ghost Mother gang, and Black Girl seeks revenge. Yip Wai-Ngai is sometimes called Yip Wai-yee.
Vampire Lady (Kong Bo-Lin) – Though we don’t know her real name, Vampire Lady was ubiquitous in the series and often saves the day after our heroes get in trouble bumbling into villains. She commands an army of hopping vampires with flag commands.
Tree Spirit (Himself) – A spirit who controls the weather, has a magic sword stuck in its body, and is outfitted with mouth sparklers!
Ghost Mother (Kam Ying-Lin) – A woman who uses a skull prop as a conduit to magical powers. She is the boss of Monk of Black Wind and Cheng Hang.
Monk of Black Wind and Cheng Hang (Sek Kin and Ho King-Fan) – One of them is played by Sek Kin, and the other is Ho King-Fan I don’t know which one is which, but as Monk of Black Wind has the cooler name and Sek Kin is the cooler guy, I’m assigning the roles that way. Both of them are thugs who work for Ghost Mother.
Animated Skeleton (Himself) – Ghost Mother sends this animated skeleton to attack the heroes. It can shoot animated flames from its mouth. Totally not a prop guy off camera waving a skeleton around on a string.
aka 刺客聶隱娘 aka Nie yin niang 2015 Written by Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Chu Tien-wen, Hsieh Hai-Meng, and Zhong Acheng
Based on a story by Pei Xing
Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien The Assassin is a great film that will bore the living crap out a whole bunch of people thinking they’re going to see something that it’s not. It’s one of those films that makes me feel like a bad movie review website guy because it should be a film I’m jazzed for, but I just don’t really have strong feelings for it. I’ve even seen some of director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s other work, thanks to a particularly well-stocked Blockbuster that had Millennium Mambo (great!) and Flowers of Shanghai (greater!). This was before I moved to an area with great independent video stores, and also way before movies became easy to find on the internet, but that’s a whole different topic! But that meant The Assassin should have been right up my alley. And yet, I never really connected with it.
The Assassin has beautiful cinematography, some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. If anything the cinematography is too beautiful, every shot of the landscape looks out of a storybook, it’s a wonder how anything was ever done in 9th century China as everywhere people looked they would just see beautiful landscapes and spend all their time admiring them. The plot is steeped in historical characters as the story is literally dropped in the middle of actual history. I don’t know if Shu Qi’s character actually existed, but much of the rest of the characters are actual historical figures. Historical spoiler alert, Tian Xing, the guy who is exiled, will eventually have Tian Ji’an’s job. If anything, The Assassin got me to read up more on Chinese history, something I hadn’t done as much as I would have liked before. Read more…