Posts tagged "Hong Kong"

Shy Spirit (Review)

Shy Spirit

aka 九月初九之重見天日 aka Shyly Spirit aka Pa xiu gui
Shy Spirit
1991
Written by Jeng Man-Wa
Directed by Chong Yan-Gin

Shy Spirit
Shy Spirit is about one thing, which is a nude ghost girl. The film then sets up a nice and ridiculous scenario to get the nude ghost girl, who is nude far less than you would expect for this being a movie about a nude ghost girl. Despite the nude ghost girl being the draw, Shy Spirit is not one of those smutty Cat III ghost films. Though it’s a spooky comedy, like many Hong Kong films the tone will jump around, daring to become suddenly serious or becoming a well-choreographed action film before jerking right back to the comedy.

Shy Spirit also isn’t very good. It takes too long to set up the complicated plot, which then rambles around a while. Large portions of the film focus on Long-Life like he’s supposed to be the hero, even though he does all sorts of bad things like inadvertently kill Hsio, turning her into the “shy spirit” of the title. Sing ends up becoming the hero, though he
Shy Spirit
Shy Spirit features rival families and innocent people who are caught in the crossfire. The Wang family and the Ko family are rivals, dating back to when both patriarchs were chasing after the same girl as youth, Mrs. Hu. She ended up choosing neither of those idiots, instead picking a sickly guy. All three families have kids at the same time, Mr. Wang celebrates the birth of his son Sing, Mr. Ko celebrates the birth of his son Long-Life, and Mrs. Hu celebrates the birth of her daughter, Hsio. This means another generation of the rivalry. Not only that, but it’s time to tell the fortunes of the three babies, thanks to a traveling priest and his hopping assistant. The priest is Lam Ching-Ying essentially playing his one-eyebrow priest character from the Mr. Vampire movies, and the fortune for Long-Life is more of a misfortune – he’ll age rapidly and probably die at age 23. But if he doesn’t, he’ll live a long life. Also he’ll be weak during the full moon. Does that make him a were-weakling? Strangely, he gets the bad fortune, even though other bad stuff happens.
Shy Spirit
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 23, 2015 at 7:58 am

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Super Energetic Man (Review)

Super Energetic Man

aka 戇豆豆追女仔
Super Energetic Man
1998HKMDB Link
Written by Johnny Lee Gwing-Gaai
Directed by Dung Do Cheung Mei

I’m off-brand Popeye the Sailor Man!

A bootleg Hong Kong version of Popeye? Yep, Super Energetic Man transplants Popeye to Hong Kong cinema, brings a good portion of cartoon violence, and then goes completely nuts! Super Energetic Man plays like it’s trying to be a Stephen Chow comedy: It’s got copious copyright “borrowing”, cartoonish violence, scenes that make little sense to fill out the mo lei tau, and Lee Kin-Yan. As a Popeye film, it barely qualifies, with much of the plot running off in random directions, sometimes not even involving any of the main characters. But it just qualifies enough on the rare occasions On Do-Do whips out a can of spinach, shoots it up in the air (the spinach being played by green confetti), munches it down dramatically, inflates his arms, and does superhuman deeds.

Super Energetic Man

Oh no!


The fake Popeye is named On Do-Do (Edmond Leung Hon-Man), and he’s a humble newbie lifeguard who mysteriously often dresses in a sailor suit. His first appearance is disrupting the complicated seduction plans of Captain Lorento (Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong), who throws rats at women who are in rafts, then “saves” them from fake sharks. This overly-complicated plan fails when On Do-Do tosses a skewer into the “shark”, and earning the unwanted gratitude of hot babe Maltese, who will spend most of the film chasing after him and declaring him her boyfriend. But On Do-Do’s heart belongs to another…

On Do-Do and Princess Lychee (Gigi Lai Chi) are in love, they met on the internet. In 1997. “But ours is internet love, I can’t retreat from it,” says On Do-Do. Also they’ve never sent photos to each other, so when they do meet, it is a mystery what each one looks like. But once they do meet, sparks fly, at least until the many many times someone comes in to disrupt their union. Princess Lychee is a real princess, from Kuwite, and because of her great beauty, many men have turned heel in obsession with stealing her away to make her their bride. Hence, her Uncle Pat spends the beginning of the film battling some random soldier who professes her love and tries to kidnap her (Lychee protests that she’s never even met him!) and later Captain Lorento and Mad Dragon also try to steal her away. With all these creepy dudes stalking after her, On Do-Do becomes the best guy in the country simply because he’s the only one who let’s her choose who she wants to date. Also he helps save her from the creeps who take her agency, which often makes up for the various lovers’ quarrels.

Super Energetic Man

So say we all!


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 22, 2015 at 7:07 am

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Hapkido (Review)

Hapkido

aka 合氣道 aka He qi dao aka Hap Ki Do aka Lady Kung Fu
Hapkido 合氣道
1972
Written by Yan Ho
Directed by Feng Huang

Hapkido 合氣道
When you need villains for your martial arts movie, the Japanese are very handy. Not only did the Japanese actually do a bunch of bad stuff that seems only cartoon supervillains would do, but depicting them doing so helps stir up nationalistic feelings and potentially increases your box office bang. Thus martial arts schools are the setting for rebellion against Japanese occupiers in Hapkido, and Angela Mao Ying is more than capable of beating the snot out of all sorts of Japanese jerks.

Hapkido is one of Angela Mao’s earliest films for Golden Harvest. You can still see legacies of the Shaw Brothers influence, from the Golden Harvest logo having a strangely familiar shape to the film being advertised in “Dyaliscope”, whatever the heck that is!
Hapkido 合氣道
We start out in 1934 Japanese-occupied Seoul, where three Chinese students are studying Hapkido before harassment by Japanese occupiers cause them need to return to China, but that also means they can open a Hapkido school in China. Just as Japan now controls Korea, Japanese influence in China is not something to be ignored, their impending invasion of the whole country means their people act arrogant and criminally. The watchword for Hapkido is “forbearance”, which works fine except when the Japanese are assaulting innocent people and Sammo Hung’s character has a wicked temper. Then it gets put on the wayside while people get punched.
Hapkido 合氣道

Yu Ying (Angela Mao Ying) – Hapkido student who just wants to set up a school and teach everyone Hapkido, except the Japanese have other ideas. So it’s time to kick those ideas out of their heads and also kick many other parts of their bodies to get them to go away!
Fan Wei (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) – Hot-headed Hapkido student who constantly gets into fights and causes trouble for his friends. But he also just happens to be around whenever the Japanese are doing something evil, so he also has very bad luck.
Kao Chung (Carter Wong Ka-Tat) – Hapkido student who tries to calm down all the trouble happening only to get a brutal beatdown to emphasize how the Japanese school is beyond reason.

Hapkido 合氣道
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - September 8, 2014 at 7:11 am

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Executioners (Review)

Executioners

aka 現代豪俠傳 aka Heroic Trio 2 aka Jin doi hou hap cyun aka 蓬萊之戰
Executioners Heroic Trio 2
1993
Story by Sandy Shaw Lai-King
Screenplay by Susan Chan Suk-Yin
Directed by Tony Ching Siu-Tung and Johnnie To Kei-Fung

Executioners Heroic Trio 2
While I consider The Heroic Trio one of the essential pieces of Hong Kong cinema, the follow-up, Executioners, is unfortunately a weak entry that you might be better off not knowing it exists. Displacing the optimistic heroism of the original, Executioners takes places in a future dystopia, where nuclear war has irradiated the water supply. The only clean water is controlled by a corporation run by a madman named Mr. Kim, who has aims on controlling the world. The government is little help, having become weak and despotic, factions of which ally with Mr. Kim and his world domineering goals. The worst sin of the sequel is the addition of an annoying whiny kid, who is Wonder Woman’s daughter and spends a large portion of the film crying out for her mother.

Normally I’m all cool with sequels shaking things up a notch. But Executioners bungles the execution, making even its own name ironic. The constant sense of bleak sadness as tragic thing after tragic thing happens to our heroines who overcame evil in the last installment while still having good outlooks on life is jarring. The film creates a credible dystopian world, but the characters don’t really fit into it. It’s telling that it takes so many tragedies to happen to them before they feel like they belong. Only then can they battle the one responsible for all the problems.
Executioners Heroic Trio 2
The light-hearted tone of the original is tried to be replicated in a few scenes, but it comes off as artificial, especially with all the dark things going on. Strangely enough, Thief Hunter seems like the character who would do the best in this world, and she’s the strongest proponent in ending it. The friendship of the three women is strained via plot devices. Ching/Invisible Woman works for the government, and due to secret orders is unable to help or even talk about certain things. Wonder Woman is sidelined by being a mother who made a promise to her husband to not become a super heroine any more. She spends a good chunk of the film in prison, which keeps her out of most of the action, but also highlights that even with minimal makeup, the late Anita Mui was strikingly beautiful.

The political allegory of the original film is now knocked on its ear, with a terrible future society that’s no longer holding together, a weak government, strong corporate control, religious leaders with influence over the populace, and conspiracies on both sides for control. The government forces wear military uniforms that feature red armbands. Both the villains and the government gun down innocents to protect themselves. Parts are pulled from Mad Max films, more from Total Recall. The quest to find water becomes similar to Quaid’s adventure with the oxygen machine on Mars.
Executioners Heroic Trio 2

Wonder woman/Tung/Dong Dong (Anita Mui Yim-Fong) – Former hero Wonder Woman is now retired and raising her young daughter Cindy. Despite hanging up her mask, the problems in the city demand a hero, and it’s hard for her to stay out of costume.
Invisible Girl/Sandy Ching (Michelle Yeoh) – Sandy Chine now drive medical supplies and battle bandits who try to steal thos supplies. She has a loyal flute-controlled hunchbacked masked mutant buddy named Kau as a sidekick.
Thief Catcher/Chat (Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk ) – The mercenary Thief Catcher spends her days robbing Clear Water Corporation trucks, though mostly for herself even if the water eventually ends up in the hands of the needy.
Chief Ken Lau (Damian Lau Chung-Yan) – The now very busy Chief Lau tries to hold Hong Kong together in the midst of the apocalypse, water shortages, religious cults, government coups, and vast conspiracies. He fails.
Mr. Kim (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) – A masked villain who dresses like a member of 18th century aristocracy. Is head of the Clear Water Corporation and has his sights set on controlling the world, or at least what’s left of it. Or at least Hong Kong. Basically, he’s evil and that’s all we need to know. EVIL!

Executioners Heroic Trio 2
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 25, 2014 at 10:09 pm

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The Heroic Trio (Review)

The Heroic Trio

aka 東方三俠 aka Dong Fang San Xia
The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
1993
Written by Sandy Shaw Lai-King
Directed by Johnnie To Kei-Fung

The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
Next up in Tars reviews classic examples of global cinema that he should have damn well reviewed years ago is The Heroic Trio. Instead of again explaining how this was one of the first couple of Hong Kong films I saw and how it cemented me into a lifelong fan of Hong Kong Action Cinema, I’ll just remind you with this sentence that dismisses the topic while reaffirming it.

Make no mistake, The Heroic Trio is an awesome and classic piece of Hong Kong cinema from the last golden age. Johnnie To directing before he became a film festival darling. The ever-amazing Anita Mui being the most glamorous and moral super hero imaginable. Maggie Cheung as the rebel outsider hero who never looks before she leaps, and whose antics cause worse problems than the ones she tries to solve. Michelle Yeoh as the conflicted hero forced to serve evil. Anthony Wong in a surprisingly restrained performance as an unhinged psychopath.
The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
The Heroic Trio both riffs on and celebrates the glamor of cinema. Characters can often be found posed while events are going down, an off screen fan conveniently nearby to make their hair flow in the wind. They go so far as to have Thief Catcher bring along fashion clothes for the women to wear after the job is done so they’ll look extra spectacular, and shots of the women all doing their model walk as Cantopop sings us out. The obvious Western influences are the Batman films from Burton, but there is a heavy Terminator vibe going on as well. For a more inward look, the vast amount of girls with guns films helped position female-driven action films as a good idea, and some of the set design look straight out of Zu: Warriors from Magic Mountain. At one point a character uses a flying guillotine! The mixmash of films and ideas is one of the factors that makes Hong Kong film so great for the fans. Director Johnnie To lets the mood build not just with the actresses and their poses and expressions, but with a heavy use of Cantopop on the soundtrack, with Anita Mui showing why she was a legendary singing star at every note.

Johnnie To isn’t one to shy away from political metaphors, and The Heroic Trio is no exception. As 1997 and the turnover to China loomed in the minds of every Hong Kong citizen, it naturally became reflected in film. One reason why “Evil Master” seeks out male children is that one will be destined to become the new Emperor of China, under Evil Master’s control. Thus a return to Chinese rule would be a return to the olden days of Emperors, throwing out democratic rule. Mainland China is hardly a beacon of democracy, but the parallel is there. The fear is torn down by empowered women with fashion sense, who preserve the free way of life.
The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
One of the problems with great looking HD releases of films is it makes the wires way more apparent than the second generation VHS tapes I first saw the films on. The Heroic Trio had some shots that you could see the wires on even then, but now things are far more obvious in giving away the magic. Still, someone going through and CGing out all the wires would lose some of the charm, so it’s time to learn to live with such things.

In short, The Heroic Trio is a fun action filled adventure that borrows the best elements of decades of Hong Kong and American cinema to create a new classic.
The Heroic Trio 東方三俠

Tung, The Wonder Woman (Anita Mui Yim-Fong) – The glamorous Wonder Woman is also Tung, the unassuming housewife of Inspector Lau. Remarkably capable, Wonder Woman is the gold standard of awesome in the super heroine world of Hong Kong. Armed with dart blades and a ribbon sword.
Ching, The Invisible Woman (Michelle Yeoh) – Ching was childhood friends with Tung when both were being trained by a good master, but Ching left, only to fall in with Evil Master (and was known as San during that time). Despite literally working for evil, Ching isn’t a bad person, and eventually flips sides. Is invisible due to an invisibility cloak designed by her boyfriend, who is slowly dying as he works on the cloak.
Chat, The Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk) – A motorcycle-driving, shotgun brandishing heroine who is not afraid to break out her boomerang knife on anyone. Bounty hunter who is trying to break into being a super hero for hire. Thief Catcher’s haphazard methods result in a lot of dangerous situations, with occasional tragic consequences. That Wonder Woman is so perfect at the super-heroine job just drives Thief Catcher batty. Was childhood friends with Ching when both were taught by Evil Master, but Chat fled after a few years.
Inspector Lau (Damian Lau Chung-Yan) – Loving husband of Tung, and top cop who works with Wonder Woman. And, yes, he’s not so stupid he doesn’t figure out who his wife really is.
Kau (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) – Kau uses a flying guillotine when sent to kill wonder woman Anthony Wong was the go to guy for creepy in the 90s, and here he’s a slightly sanitized version of one of his gross characters from his many turns as Category III horror villains.
Evil Master (Yen Shi-Kwan) – When you are named Evil Master, you don’t really have a lot of choices in life on what to do for a living. Is looking for a new emperor for China, who he will control and thus rule China.

The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm

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She Shoots Straight (Review)

She Shoots Straight

aka 皇家女將 aka Huang jia nu jiang aka Lethal Lady
She Shoot Straight
1990
Written by Yuen Gai-Chi and Barry Wong Ping-Yiu
Directed by Corey Yuen Kwai

She Shoot Straight
An underloved classic, She Shoots Straight gives us a healthy dose of female fighting action that will satisfy even demanding Hong Kong Action Cinema junkies, as well as throwing in family drama and even a few funny scenes. Corey Yuen helms and shows off his action movie chops that have kept him producing cool cinema for decades.

Despite the awesome fights, She Shoots Straight failed to do well at the box office and has gone down in history as a failure. Despite the effort of many cult film fans and bloggers, it remains relatively obscure, lacking a lead who is one of the better known Girls with Guns actresses. It deserves a larger audience, the fight sequences are brutal and well choreographed, and several of the supporting actresses are legends of Hong Kong cinema. An English dub exists, but it is terrible, so avoid it like the plague.
She Shoot Straight
Joyce Godenzi is a former Miss Hong Kong (1984), whose big break in the acting world was 1987’s Easter Condors, directed by her future husband Sammo Hung. Mixed Australian and Chinese, it is even mentioned in the film. Her Eurasian ancestry and accusations of being a homewrecker (Sammo Hung was married when they met) may have had a hand in her disappearing from the spotlight. This is one of several films Hung put together for her.

Agnes Aurelio is an American-born body building champion, and I’ve seen her claimed to be the daughter of former President of the Philippines (though I can’t figure out which one, so take that with a grain of salt!) She apparently makes a fleeting appearance in JFK(!!), which gives her a Kevin Bacon number of 1.

Tang Pik-Wan plays the Huang family matriarch. A classic Hong Kong actress with credits dating back to 1950, She Shoots Straight would be among her last work, passing away in 1991. Her credits largely consist of opera or comedic roles, and she had a long career on television serials as well.
She Shoot Straight
With Carina Lau and Sandra Ng as sisters, the Huang family is well represented with legendary actresses and 1980s hairstyles. Rounding out the four sisters are Angile Leung and Sarah Lee (who is somehow Loletta Lee’s sister!), who are short on lines thanks to the already huge cast. Sammo Hung pops up as an adopted member of the Huang family who is also a cop. Yuen Wah is almost unrecognizable as the Vietnamese gang leader. His hair style and nerdy glasses hide the ruthless individual beneath who cares for nothing except his own family and revenge, innocents be damned.

The action sequences are solid, opening with Mina Kao showing her stuff saving a diplomat. There is a lot of leaping through windows and shooting while flying in the air. There is also a huge body count, with not only villains but many police and innocent people getting killed and maimed as the fights continue. The villains are presented as a force of pure destruction, the cops can only hope that they’ve brought enough men and ammo to slow them down and contain them. The final fight is classic, and the assault on the cargo ship is filled with some awesome moments of butt kicking. Ignoring the family drama, the action alone is enough to bump this up to classic territory.
She Shoot Straight

Inspector Mina Kao (Joyce Godenzi) – Decorated police inspector headed for a high ranking position. Also a new bride of a husband feeling pressure not only to carry on the family line, but because she’ll soon outrank him. A tough cop who gets results.
Huang Chia-Ling (Carina Lau Ka-Ling) – Hot-headed sister-in-law of Mina, doesn’t like her one bit. Her anger issues endangers a mission, then help lead her into a trap that she’s saved from at the cost of her brother. Forms a bond with Mina after that event.
Mrs. Huang (Tang Pik-Wan) – Matriarch of the Huang family, was the wife of a cop and saw her four daughters and one son become cops.
Inspector Huang Tsung-Pao (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) – The only son of a three-generation police family. You might as well call him Inspector Dead Meat, because he’s way too nice to survive. And that’s not just an opinion, it happens.
Huang Chia-Ju (Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu) – While a more minor character, Sandra Ng is a welcome sight as another of Tsung-Pao’s sisters who is involved in a few of the action scenes.
Yuen Hua (Yuen Wah) – Vietnamese refugee who is a veteran of guerrilla warfare, came to Hong Kong to cause trouble and rob for money. Life is cheap to Yuen Hua, except that of his family. Leaves a bloody trail at all of his crime spots.
Yuen Ying (Agnes Aurelio) – Sister of Yuen Hua and a huge body builder and fighter. Just as ruthless as her brother, and more perceptive about the police. Has a big fight scene with Mina Kao.

She Shoot Straight
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 24, 2014 at 3:09 pm

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