Posts tagged "Hong Kong"

The White-Bone Sword Part 1 (Review)

The White-Bone Sword (Part 1)

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
White-Boned Sword
1962HKMDB Link
Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun

White-Boned Sword
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!
White-Boned Sword

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.

White-Boned Sword
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 5, 2017 at 8:53 am

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The Assassin (Review)

The Assassin

aka 刺客聶隱娘 aka Nie yin niang
Assassin
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

Assassin
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.
Assassin
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - July 5, 2016 at 10:52 am

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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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