Posts tagged "Hong Kong"

Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers (Review)

Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers

aka 天螺大破五行陣 aka Tin Loh Daai Poh Ng Hang Chan
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
1977
Written and directed by Heung Ling
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
Deadly Snail vs. Kung Fu Killers is one of those films where you see the title and think “this movie will be AWESOME!” and then you watch it and it can never live up to your expectations from the title alone. Especially since it isn’t some sort of genre exploitation monster flick but is instead a reconfiguration of an old Chinese fairy tale/opera into a romantic comedy with increasingly weirder and weirder kung fu. So judging it as the exploitation flick you mistake it to be is sort of unfair. It isn’t the type of movie that you can readily explain to someone that doesn’t watch a lot of weird stuff, but for the affectionandos, Deadly Snail vs. Kung Fu Killers has some fun things you don’t often see, and the rest of the film could be a lot worse to sit through while waiting for those scenes than it is.
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
We do have chicks who are fairies of the snail variety fighting some kung fu killers who are actually various elemental demons and a lizard guy. But I guess Fairy Chicks vs. Elemental Dudes doesn’t pack ’em in at the movie houses. The story at first follows the standard tale of a young man whose family is dead and his evil uncle and aunt are using him just to waste away his inheritance that he knows nothing about (at least they don’t make him live under the stairs!) But then thinks get more magical and the film gets more awesome!
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
The opening credits have red and blue sparlking lights, then a montage of snakes and a snail shell. This was the time when kung fu movies would have someone doing a bunch of jumps and kicks in the opening credits, so instead having snakes slither around and snail shells is sort of fun. I am not sure if a snail was killed at some point, though, so boo to that if it happened! What we do see is a bloody snail shell, but by the amount and color of the blood it is just fake human blood. A guy grabs the snail shell which has rolled over to him away from the snake. I can’t tell you how many times I see snail shells rolling away from snakes. Probably 19 times a day. But I live on a farm that raises rolling snails and also snakes that practice bowling, so maybe I’m biased.
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 12, 2019 at 10:07 am

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The Mermaid (Review)

The Mermaid

aka 美人魚 aka Mei Ren Yu
The Mermaid
2016
Written by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Kelvin Lee Si-Zhen, Ho Miu-Kei, Lu Zheng-Yu, Andrew Fung Chih-Chiang, Ivy Kong Yuk-Yee, Chan Hing-Kar, and Tsang Kan-Cheung
Directed by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi

The Mermaid
It isn’t really a secret that I’ve been less than enthused with the movie industry coming out of China in the past decade. As more and more Hong Kong stars and directors get lured away by big budget Mainland firms to pump out soulless imitations of Hollywood blockbusters, my interest in what they do great grows less and less. A few directors are working against the trends, but the only one with the clout to basically do whatever he wants is Steve Chow. Though Chow took extended time off in front of the camera to work more on the production side, his return to directing has been a welcome development. First he came back with Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, and soon after with The Mermaid, where Chow returns to his roots with a love story buried beneath a bunch of other movies. The Mermaid went on to slay at the box office, becoming the highest grossing film in China (not any more, lol!)
The Mermaid
The Mermaid feels like a first draft of a love story that everything else was stapled around. Some of the side scenes are amazingly awesome, while others fall short and seem weird. Overall there just isn’t enough in the rest of the film to seem like a filling meal. Chow obviously saw the Dolphin Cove documentary as we even get actual footage of the dolphins being slaughtered multiple times throughout the film, and the imagery is used again when the humans attack the mermaid hideout. The US military’s sonar that kills sea life is also mentioned, though here it is sonar developed by a company that causes fish to explode and damages the mermaids, leading to their hiding out in a cove. Tossing this stuff into a comedy is a brave move, and while not pleasant to see, helps put actual stakes on the table both within the film and in real life. Some people might think twice about where the food they eat comes from.
The Mermaid
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 22, 2019 at 6:34 am

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The Brink (Review)

The Brink

aka 狂獸 aka Kuang Shou
The Brink
2017
Written by Lee Chun-Fai
Directed by Jonathan Li Tsz-Chun

The Brink
The Brink is a return to old school Hong Kong action complete with huge brutal fight sequences and piles of bodies. The hook is this film largely takes place on and under the water, with the final battle sprawling across a ship rolling in the waves of a massive typhoon. I can’t recall an action film with anywhere close to this many scenes that involve water, and the choreography takes advantage of all the rocking boats and waves and characters. The action scenes alone are fantastic enough to make this a recommendation, and the story and tone is perfect for those of us who grew up renting dodgy Hong Kong action VHS tapes long ago. In fact, it might be a bit too on the nose in that aspect, with some of the characterization not really translating well into a modern setting.

Jonathan Li Tsz-Chun makes his directorial debut here, having spent 15 years serving as an assistant director on a number of high-profile productions (Infernal Affairs III, Love Battlefield, Blind Detective) and now ready to make his own mark. The Brink is a strong debut with plenty of distinctive action that you won’t see anywhere else.

Police detective Sai Gau (John Zhang Jin) plays by his own violent rules, and has to live with the consequences of those rules when tossing a guy out a window causes the victim to land on a police cruiser and kill the patrolman inside. Despite being acquitted in the resulting investigation, Sai Gau still has a violent reputation and often taunts his boss as a pencil-pushing fake cop. Sai Gau is raising the daughter of the man he accidentally killed (played by Cecilia So Lai-Shan), and doing such an attentive job that she’s 18, pregnant, and alone. This leads to some awkward scenes that normally would provide some characterization, but here just seem to be characters sitting around in near-silence.
The Brink
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 6, 2018 at 6:58 am

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Vampire Cleanup Department (Review)

Vampire Cleanup Department

aka 救殭清道夫 aka Gao Geung Jing Dou Fu
Vampire Cleanup Department
2017
Written by Yan Pak-Wing, Ho Wing-Hong, and Ashley Cheung Yin-Kei
Directed by Chiu Sin-Hang and Yan Pak-Wing

Vampire Cleanup Department
SFFilm had their annual Hong Kong Film Festival and due to the power of having two tickets leftover from the last festival I went to see two films in this festival! This time, all the films were at the fabulous Vogue Theater, which is a bit of a headache for me to get to but at least parking around there isn’t terrible (also a skunk sprayed my car as thanks for me stopping in time to not hit him as he ran across the road, lol!) While my car now stank, Vampire Cleanup Department did not, but it wasn’t a new paradigm in Hong Kong horror comedy, either. Unfortunately it is one of those middle of the road flicks that are hard to write about, due to me not wanting to slam it too hard due to the parts that were good, but not wanting to praise it to the heavens due to the parts that were bad. It’s sort of a modern take on the Mr. Vampire flicks, except imagine if the one-eyebrowed priest was employed by the Hong Kong government in a secret department. The squad takes down vampires when they pop up, and since this is a Hong Kong film they are of the hopping variety.

We follow Tim Cheung (BabyJohn Choi Hon-Yik) as he moves from hapless schlub to member of the Vampire Cleanup Department. It helps that he is the son of two former members who were killed while on duty, his mother’s last act was giving birth to him after a vampire attack. This makes him a legacy hire but also means he’s got some vampire immunity that is explained just well enough when needed for plot purposes. As the new guy he gets all the garbage details including cleaning up the office via constant sweeping and also memorizing and making the different vampire amulets (the strips of paper with writing on them that the priests put on vampire heads to freeze them or control them.) This framework lets them follow the traditional hero’s journey arc, except with some extra films stuffed along for the ride.
Vampire Cleanup Department
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 31, 2018 at 6:38 am

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A Hero Never Dies (Review)

A Hero Never Dies

aka 真心英雄 aka Chan Sam Ying Hung
A Hero Never Dies
1998
Written by Yau Nai-Hoi and Szeto Kam-Yuen
Directed by Johnnie To Kei-Fung

A Hero Never Dies
Johnnie To takes the heroic bloodshed genre and does a three card monte of deconstruction and chaos to make an entry that is a great example of all the genre’s tropes while simultaneously lampooning them and also pointing out how serious and sad they are in reality. It’s so over the top it wraps around back below and then swings back over the top again. At the time A Hero Never Dies came out, the John Woo movies that popularized it worldwide were over 20 years old, and while that turned things into overdrive, there was still plenty to mine out of the concept.

The two Triad fighters here are both introduced at the top of their game, but as they are from rival factions they know that one day they will be forced to face each other in battle. Until then, there is a mutual respect for the only other person who can approach you in quality and honor. The song Sukiyaki plays constantly, it is the theme of the heroes at the bar where they have a drinking and shooting showoff contest, and later when the heroes are in tragedy, the theme is a constant reminder of their former lives.
A Hero Never Dies
Lau Ching-Wan is Martin (Dealer/Healer), the larger than life killer with a cowboy hat with ridiculous gunslinger vibe. He borrows his look from so many films at once and spends many of the action films popping up to save the day for his crew. Leon Lai Ming is Jack (Three), the cool slick loner assassin character that spends much of his time being in quiet disapproval at how things are run badly by his boss. Both of them wear sunglasses constantly, often while indoors, and each is their own one man army. Martin’s girl is Fiona (Fiona Leung Ngai-Ling), who is experienced with being the girl of a Triad, while Jack’s girl Yoyo (Yoyo Mung Ka-Wai) is more naive with what the eventual end will be.

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 2, 2018 at 7:14 am

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Goldbuster (Review)

Goldbuster

aka 妖鈴鈴 aka Yao Ling Ling
Goldbuster
2017
Written by Cha Muchun, Wong Yee-Hing, Zhou Yunhai
Directed by Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu

Goldbuster
Despite the movie being called Goldbuster, no ghosts are defeated by beating them with a gold bar. Sorry to disappoint. The directorial debut of comedian Sandra Ng tries to invoke the spirit of Hong Kong comedies past, and nearly succeeds with some good sequences and plot (and genre!) twists. It doesn’t quite come all the way together into a satisfying result, but there are enough bits of goodness floating around in the soup to give you some nice slurps.

The complete transformation of China in the past 20 years where cities are constantly churning out new high rises and modern developments haven’t been without a cost. There are plenty of scandals with land deals, holdout tenants, holdout owners, nail houses that are just build around and stripped of all amenities. Goldbuster jumps right into this with the last few tenants in an apartment building scheduled to be demolished refuse to leave.

The tenants include a widowed doctor who wishes that the ghost of his dead wife would appear so he could apologize for misdiagnosing her, and his young son who hasn’t spoken since she died. There is also a camgirl and failed actress who constantly wears bright outfits that stand out from the dull tones all around her. There are a pair of former Triads who have been hiding out from people trying to kill them for so long they’ve grown old and forgotten (and one believes he is some sort of deep cover cop), and there is a husband and wife who mismanaged their personal businesses and have nothing left. They’ve formed sort of a family by having nowhere else to go.
Goldbuster
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 30, 2018 at 7:25 am

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