Posts tagged "Jeff Lau Chun-Wai"

A Chinese Odyssey Part Two – Cinderella

A Chinese Odyssey Part Two – Cinderella

aka 西遊記完結篇仙履奇緣 aka Sai yau gei: Daai git guk ji – Sin leui kei yun

1995
Written and directed by Jeff Lau Chun-Wai
A Chinese Odyssey Part Two - Cinderella
Thus continues the fairy tales and romantic adventures of a guy named Joker who is really Monkey King with A Chinese Odyssey Part Two – Cinderella. The sweeping action and epic timescope of the original is expanded on, while the extra time gives us a chance to get to know a few of the characters we saw little of in the first part. Don’t worry, there are generous amounts of ridiculous slapstick, special effects fights,

Part of the fun of these Hong Kong films is the varying quality of the copy that is used for DVDs. In this case, the copy has burnt in subtitles, which calls some characters slightly different names than in Part 1. I’ve done my best to try to rectify the situation, but welcome to planet reality. If you missed the review of A Chinese Odyssey Part One – Pandora’s Box, it is here.
A Chinese Odyssey Part Two - Cinderella
Even more fun, the plot of Part Two is vastly more complicated, and is rendered further difficult because several characters switch bodies in the second half. And yet, despite the zaniness, it works, as actors get more to do and the danger of repetitiveness is staved off for a while. While a tale as large as this can run the risk of becoming far too long, the brisk pace prevents fatigue from setting in. Some reviews I read thought this section was confusing and ruined the film, but I see it more as helping things from getting too stale. And if you try to follow things too logically, your brain will explode, as the timeline gets completely disrupted by all the time travel. Let’s just say there is probably a reality where King Bull opens a casino in Hill Valley…

The lovers on the roof scene at the end has become an iconic shot that is instantly recognized by people who haven’t even seen the movie in years. It’s also one of my favorite moments in Hong Kong cinema, because the whole thing is perfect. The closure of the lovers story, the chance for Monkey King to talk one last time to the woman he loved but cannot love, the looks of the torn emotions of the two characters on the roof, the look back as Monkey King walks away, and especially the music, all making a perfect storm of awesome.
A Chinese Odyssey Part Two - Cinderella
The tales of destined true love that endures lots of hardships and doesn’t usually end in happy endings are common themes in the works of both Lau and Chow. This time they even have characters literally speaking to the heart to learn the heart’s desire and true love. Another common thread in Steve Chow’s films is him having a whole host of women who fall for him. It’s good to be the king! Add to that to his reputation as a playboy and how different the women are in some of Chow’s later films, and you get the feeling there is some sort of hangup about women. But that’s a whole article to itself.

The Chinese Odyssey films would end up becoming so beloved that attempts would be made to recapture the magic. Lau would return with A Chinese Odyssey 2002, and try again with A Chinese Tall Tale, and then Yet Another Pandora’s Box. While each of those films have their own merits, none of them achieve the level of special significance that the originals did. Chow also used the nostalgia of these films to excite everyone with his return to directing for Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, though that film is so tonally different that they are only connected by the true love theme. Several other adaptations of Journey to the West are in the pipeline, the popularity of the stories will ensure their retelling for generations. Some will attempt to be creative and unique, while others will rely on the past and be lazy and derivative. We may one day see a challenger to the throne, but for now, it is time to hail to the Monkey King, baby!
A Chinese Odyssey Part Two - Cinderella

Joker/Monkey King (Stephen Chow Sing-Chi) – Joker is trapped in the past and realizes he is also Monkey King. But his whole thoughts are based on trying to get back to the future to be with his love Jing Jing. Except now this new lady Lin Zixia is insisting that he is her true love. And Monkey King’s old friends and foes show up, leading to a confrontation between powers.
Lin Zixia/Lin Qingxia/Purple/Spider Web Immortal (Athena Chu Yun) – Lin Zixia escaped from Heaven to find her true love, along with her twin sister Lin Qingxia. This gets confusing as they are in same body, Qingxia comes out at night and is the crazy one. Zixia looking for a lover who can pull out her magic sword from its sheath, proving that he is the one. This has so much sexual innuendo going on they might as well just have done it XXX style to be more subtle! Zixia is called Purple in most references to this film, but not in the subtitles of the version I have.
Longevity Monk (Law Kar-Ying) – Thanks to time travel monkey shines, Longevity Monk is still around and is very annoying. That’s his super power. He’s also targeted for becoming dinner, and is fond of singing song by The Platters.
Pigsy/Assistant Master (Ng Man-Tat) – Ng Man-Tat spends most of this film as Pigsy, underneath the pig mask (though for a good chunk of the film he’s bodyswapped!) Is usually with Sandy trying to follow Joker to find out what he’s up to this time.
Sandy/Blind Bing (Johnnie Kong Yeuk-Sing) – Last member of the Journey to the West crew, as is tradition he doesn’t do much except be around Pigsy as Monkey King does his thing. Is the level-headed one of the trio.
King Bull (Luk Shu-Ming) – Villain who captures Longevity Monk to eat, desires Joker to marry his sister to get rid of her, and wants to marry Lin Zixia so he can have a mistress. Something his wife Iron Fan Princess does not approve of.
Miss Xiang Xiang (???) – King Bull’s sister who is set up to wed Monkey King, though Monkey King just agrees to it to try to recapture the Pandora’s Box to escape this time.
Iron Fan Princess (Ada Choi Siu-Fan) – King Bull’s wife, who is none too pleased that he’s off trying to collect mistresses. But that doesn’t stop her from chasing after Joker/Monkey King, who was her former lover.
Jing Jing/Boney M of Spider Devil (Karen Mok Man-Wai) – Jing Jing shows up 500 years in the past, having not studied under Spider Web Immortal for all that time and with no memory of her love affair with Joker, as it hadn’t happened yet.
Spider Woman (Yammie Lam Kit-Ying) – If one of the two sisters shows up, you know the other one will, and as soon as she figures out who Joker is and that he can lead her to Longevity Monk, all bets are off!

A Chinese Odyssey Part Two - Cinderella
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 31, 2013 at 6:17 am

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A Chinese Odyssey Part One – Pandora’s Box

A Chinese Odyssey Part One – Pandora’s Box

aka 西遊記101回月光寶盒 aka Sai yau gei: Dai yat baak ling yat wui ji – Yut gwong bou haap

1995
Written and directed by Jeff Lau Chun-Wai
A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box
Stephen Chow and Jeff Lau’s classic masterpiece, the A Chinese Odyssey films are among the most important cinema to come out of Hong Kong. And I don’t just say that because I love the films. A combination of many factors at just the right time collide and create a lightning in a bottle event that films have been attempting to repeat ever since.

The Chinese Odyssey flicks are a mish-mash of classic literature is melded with Jeff Lau’s love of hugely complex plots with dozens of characters and love stories through reincarnation, combined with Chow’s singular wit, fast talking, and physical comedy making cinematic bliss. A classic tomb is hijacked and reworked into a sprawling tale that still uses much of general mythology of its source.
A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box
The complex plot and phone book of characters (with most of the headliners playing dual roles) does not help with an easy description, but the basic idea is Monkey King has been punished and trapped for 500 years. In the interim, he was reincarnated as a local head of a gang of thieves, a group largely incompetent and filled with lovable losers. Now named Joker, he runs the gang as they dress fierce to claim control of the area. His chief lieutenants are Assistant Master and Blind Bing, who we also know as Journey to the West characters Pigsy and Sandy.

The actual world of Journey to the West has not stopped during this time, so there are still creatures searching for Tripitaka/The Longevity Monk to devour his flesh, and they plan to use Monkey King to find him. Of course, they first have to find the Monkey King, only knowing where he was imprisoned. Those who knew Monkey King recognize him in Joker on sight, despite Joker’s insistence that he is no one special. Regardless, he gets dragged into a world of spider demons, ghost ladies, bull men, giant goddesses, and reincarnated characters.

Despite the large amount of plot going on, the films aren’t adverse to just stopping for a while to let Stephen Chow do his thing. Which is a wise decision, because the comedy is great! The physical comedy transcends all languages and cultures, while many of Chow’s zingers manage to produce laughs despite terrible subtitle translations. It’s a testament to just how good things are when it overcomes some of the usual stumbling blocks.
A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box
Monkey King is historically a defiant character, he stands against the forces of Heaven and against anyone who stands in his way. His adventures feature a lot of visits to fantastic lands and fighting gods and demons. Pandora’s Box brings him down to a more human level, which is even a point in the sequel, as his human emotions are what must be shed to continue on his journey, even though in these films he falls in love repeatedly. That’s called conflict, people!

While Joker doesn’t remember anything Monkey King did, he gets involved in the consequences of Monkey King’s various shenanigans. In the course of Joker’s lying and double lies and triple lies to get out of trouble, he ends up connecting with someone Monkey King hurt as well as dealing with Monkey King and Longevity Monk’s enemies, the huge crowd of characters who want to eat the Longevity Monk’s flesh.

Monkey King ruined the marriage of Jing Jing, and then left her waiting alone. A hard lesson in not trusting Monkey King to do anything right, but thanks to Joker being Monkey King, Jing Jing is able to confront the person who messed up her love life, and Joker is able to make a sort of amends as he falls for Jing Jing. Due to even more convoluted plot development, Jing Jing is poisoned, Joker is imprisoned attempting to get her the cure, and she believes he abandoned her and tries to kill herself, though is saved by King Bull.

The reprieve is temporary, as later she does kill herself amidst a battle in the middle of the Cave of the Silken Web after thinking Joker betrayed her. Joker is then desperately attempting to go back in time just in time to save her, but keeps being just too late. If you think repeatedly watching someone kill themselves can’t be funny, then here is a way to change your mind.
A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box
The Chinese Odyssey films have gone on to be cult classics, and are one of the first Hong Kong films I saw back in the days of getting movies from the one cool video store. Luckily for me, a roommate had vcd versions, which I managed to watch just after watching Black Mask – thus Karen Mok became a reoccurring theme in Hong Kong cinema for me, and eventually an avatar I use in many locations online. The films themselves were just so unlike anything I had seen to that point, only some of the Hong Kong films I had watched at that point had fantasy elements. At that point I was totally unfamiliar with the Journey to the West story, so everything was new to me. So while Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan may have been my gateway drugs into Hong Kong cinema, Stephen Chow became the chocolate-covered crack that kept me coming back. And decades later things are very different, the films still remain and still entertain. Thanks to the internet, many are just a few clicks away. Gone are the days of wandering through the “Foreign” section hoping for anything new, but the films I saw then – Chinese Odyssey, Drunken Master, A Chinese Ghost Story, Hard Boiled, many others – will always have that nostalgic feeling.

A Chinese Odyssey is ultimately about love. The gags and costumes and violence is all dressing for a tale about love. Not about finding love, but about love itself. Love that is destined. Love of a master and a disciple. Love that is joyful. The pain of love, and of love lost. Of love and duty, of casting love aside, or taking chances for love. Even the final ending pushes this home. The dealing with love of all types and not just romantic love expands the universal appeal, reaching audiences who don’t respond to just your average romance tale.

As we shall see with Part 2, one love can just be a stepping stone to your true love. But even then other things may be destined for you. Life can be funny that way…
A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box
But let’s first knock out the Roll Call for A Chinese Odyssey Part One – Pandora’s Box, and the drop a huge plot recap and discussion! Because that’s how we roll…

Joker/Monkey King (Stephen Chow Sing-Chi) – Joker is just your average leader of a gang of thieve who is also unknowingly an immortal trickster monkey. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me! Joker then gets involved in all sorts of supernatural shenanigans as the truth of his past begins to come out. Check out our takes on Out of the Dark and Kung Fu Hustle for more Chow fun!
Spider Woman (Yammie Lam Kit-Ying) – Spider woman who arrives to hunt down the Legacy Monk to consume his flesh and become immortal. Usually takes the form of a beautiful woman, but becomes a spider at night. Is a great fighter and can hypnotize and poison enemies.
Jing Jing/Boney M of Spider Devil (Karen Mok Man-Wai) – Companion to Spider Woman, both are deciples of Spider Web Immortal. She was (or was to be) married to Chilian Devil, but that was ruined by Monkey King when he seduced her, then ran off because that’s what Monkey King does. She becomes a ghost zombie in the full moon, though can be stopped by kiss.
Assistant Master/Pigsy (Ng Man-Tat) – Joker’s second in command who then becomes hypnotized by Spider Woman and forced to spy for her side. Eventually accidentally fathers a child with her. Is also the mortal form of Pigsy, though he doesn’t realize it for most of the film.
Longevity Monk (Law Kar-Ying) – Monkey King’s master who sacrifices his life in exchange for Monkey King, who is then imprisoned for 500 years. But the Longevity Monk will be reborn, and Monkey King will be released, and that will cause great excitement in the world of the supernatural.
Blindy/Sandy (Johnnie Kong Yeuk-Sing) – Joker’s third in command, who also happens to be the reincarnation of Sandy, though he is also unaware of who he is. Is the whiny comic relief character.
King Bull (Luk Shu-Ming) – Local tough boss of all the cows and cow demons, who also wants to eat the Longevity Monk’s flesh, so he comes in to cause trouble.
Spider Web Immortal (Athena Chu Yun) – This mysterious woman shows up at the very end of the film as Joker is trapped in the distant past. Could she be a main character in Part 2? Of course!

A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 30, 2013 at 6:33 am

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East Meets West 2011 (Review)

East Meets West 2011

aka 東成西就2011 aka Eagle Shooting Heroes 2011

2011
Directed by Jeff Lau Chun-Wai

East Meets West 2011 is an update in tone of Jeff Lau’s 1993 film Eagle Shooting Heroes, a classic comedy film that boasted a huge cast (many of whom were borrowed from Wong Kar-Wai’s Ashes of Time, which was running over budget and needed another film to be made with the core cast to balance the books!) and has become one of the mainstay comedy films due to the crazy and energetic feel to the picture. East Meets West 2011 takes inspiration from that, transports the reincarnated gods to modern day, and adds super hero trappings and some philosophical discussion into the mix. And though it isn’t non-stop zaniness, it is still a good time and is one of my favorite recent Hong Kong films.

While Eagle Shooting Heroes/Ashes of Time are largely based on Jin Yong’s Condor Heroes trilogy, East Meets West 2011 instead takes from another of Jin Yong’s wuxia works, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. The eight major characters known as the Eight Heavenly Dragons are based on the eight races of non-human entities described in Buddhist cosmology, called Tianlong Babu (天龍八部) the “8 kinds of beings that protect the Dharma” The Eight Races are the Deva, Nāga, Yaksha, Asura, Garuda, Kinnara, Gandharva and Mahoraga. Tianlong 天龍 means Heaven Dragon, but can also translate to deva-nāga “Devas and Nāgas”, the 2 highest categories of tianlong. The lower 6 categories are: yecha 夜叉 “Yaksha; cannibalistic devils; nature spirits”, gantapo 乾闥婆 “Gandharva; half-ghost music masters”, axiuluo 阿修羅 “Asura; evil and violent demigods”, jialouluo 迦樓羅 “Garuda; golden bird-like demons that eat dragons”, jinnaluo 緊那羅 “Kinnara; half-human half-bird celestial music masters”, maholuluojia 摩睺羅迦 “Mahoraga; earthly snake spirits”. And, yes, I ganked all that from Wikipedia.

Jeff Lau’s films are almost always crazy awesome, and he’s very good at bringing Western elements into his work. Lau’s films often look more advanced than their counterparts from the same year, and hold up much longer than normal. His vision can take the simplest tale and give it a grand scope. Even the title of East Meets West 2011 shows the clash of Western and Eastern styles, with the Eastern gods taking up Western super hero visuals in a modern Hong Kong, while still being connected to the ancient past and Jade Emperors and all that jazz. Even the music comes from both the West and East, with a remake of Happy Together used several times, as well as a redo of the James Bond theme (this might be one of the first times I’ve heard the score legitimately used in an overseas film, as I’ve been spending too much time watching old genre films that have been ripping it off wholesale), but also Karen Mok songs.

It is almost impossible to discuss parts of this without spoilers, so I am declaring this review SPOILER FILLED. Don’t come crying to me if you keep reading and everything is ruined.

Sammi (Karen Mok Man-Wai) – Sammi is the burnt out non-love-believer who spends her day doing effects makeup at a haunted house where her father works. But things change when she meets Charles and this whole being an immortal thing happens. Sammi transforms into Ashura. Karen Mok has never looked more glamorous than when she’s flying around in Heavenly Dragon mode. Karen Mok pulls off the awesomely beautiful super hero outfit, as well as the schoolgirl outfit, and the goth outfit, and the normal attire. See Karen Mok in Task Force and Haunted Office.
Kenny Bee (Kenny Bee) – Kenny Bee plays Kenny Bee as Kenny Bee. And his involvement in his former band the Wynners is a plot point. He’s Sammi’s dad and is married to Scarlet. Kenny transforms into Naga.
Wen (William So Wing-Hong) – Wen is a super cabbie who wants to be actor, and spends the film trying to convince people of his acting skills and critiquing other actors. Wen transforms into Garuda.
Jade (Tan Wei-Wei) – A wannabe singer from an affluent family, Jade has an antagonistic relationship with her abusive and philandering father, and is often seen covered with soot. Jade transforms into Deva. Tan Wei-Wei is a singer who gained fame winning a televised singing competition.
Bing (Jaycee Chan Cho-Ming) – Bing transforms into Mahiraga, whose randomly determined form appears as deformed heroes from Hong Kong cinema: a one armed swordsman, someone from the Buddha’s Fist movies with a giant leg, and a hopping vampire. Jaycee Chan is also in Tracing Shadow.
Scarlet (Crystal Huang Yi) – Scarlet is a half crazy, fashioned obsessed spoiled young bride of Kenny, who was a classmate of his daughter Sammi. The two women have an antagonistic relationship because of this. Scarlet often is wearing different expensive and elaborate fashions. Scarlet transforms into Gandharva. Huang Yi is also in Treasure Inn.
Da Xiong (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) – A mute bun maker perpetually covered in flour. His wife has left him and his son, Xiaofang. Da Xiong transforms into Kinnara. Ekin Cheng is also in Future Cops.
Charles (Eason Chan Yik-Shun) – Charles is a ruthless hairdresser turned businessman. Can anyone melt his heart of stone? Charles transforms into Yaksha. His ever-present secretary is played by Stephy Tang Lai-Yan (All’s Well Ends Well 2011 and Nobody’s Perfect)


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

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Out of the Dark (Review)

Out of the Dark

aka Wui wan yeh

1995
Written and directed by Jeff Lau Chun-Wai
Out of the Dark
Stephen Chow is known as one of the funniest people to come out of the Hong Kong film industry. His films have become favorites around the globe and he has legions of fans. Chow’s mo lei tau films cross all sorts of genres, from spies to action to historical to gambling to sports. People argue over which of his films are the best. But one film that rarely is brought up is Out of the Dark, and here at TarsTarkas.NET we believe that is a crime. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that Out of the Dark is my favorite Stephen Chow film. But it isn’t a non-stop wacky film, it’s a comedy that’s also a pretty spooky ghost film with a very high body count. Most of the look, costumes, and even a few character names are ganked from Besson’s Leon: The Professional. Heck, there’s even a plant! Director Jeff Lau previously directed several ghost movies, and Chow in the Chinese Odyssey flicks. He moved on to Metallic Attraction: Kung Fu Cyborg among other films.
Out of the Dark
Out of the Dark doesn’t fit the mold of the normal mo lei tau films, it spends time transcending the genre of wackiness while simultaneously embracing it (yes, that’s possible!) Out of the Dark shows much of the genius later captured by Kung Fu Hustle as a mo lei tau that is more. But instead of following a hero arc, we instead follow a group of people caught up in the sins of an evil family and their revenges from beyond the grave. There are kids brandishing knives, creepy old ladies, possessions, and the one man crazy enough to not be scared of this crap. Someone’s gotta bust ghosts and take up where Lam Ching-Ying left off! So let’s get our Dark on!
Out of the Dark

Leon (Stephen Chow Sing-Chi) – He’s Leon, he’s nuts, he ain’t afraid of no ghosts! Leon can defeat the forces of darkness thanks to his superior will and superior insanity. Leon takes the security team under his wing, attempting to save them from the wrath of poltergeists.
Qun (Karen Mok Man-Wai) – A girl at the crossroads who stumbles across Leon and is instantly smitten. Qun has what it takes to follow Leon into the abyss. Qun is sometimes subtitled as Kwan. Karen Mok later dealt with ghosts in Haunted Office, and also appeared in Task Force.
Tieh Dan (Wong Yat-Fei ) – A suicidal security officer due to his wife running off during the beginning of the film. Spends most of the first 1/3rd trying to kill himself, and the last 2/3rd fighting for his life.
Lily (himself) – Leon’s flower that can see ghosts. This is not the first time a plant has gotten a credit in Roll Call.

Out of the Dark
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 30, 2011 at 2:20 am

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