aka 九月初九之重見天日 aka Shyly Spirit aka Pa xiu gui 1991 Written by Jeng Man-Wa
Directed by Chong Yan-Gin 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 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. Continue reading →
2012 Script by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Frankie Tam Gong-Yuen, and Maria Wong Si-Man
Directed by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung and Janet Chun Siu-Jan
Emotionless spends 99% of the film looking at people like this
What if X-Men was a confusing mess with too many characters, little character development, and an over-reliance on visual effects vs. telling a good story? Besides X-Men 3, you’d also get The Four! Gordon Chan trades mutant powers for qigong skills in this big budget production that follows the trend of Mainland cinema relying far too much on visual effects to carry weak scripts and bland characters. While The Four does deliver some nice looking sequences, overall it fails to achieve its goal of being entertaining, and even fails to wrap up any plot lines in the film. The Four seems to go out of its way to make sure nothing happens.
Don’t worry, the obligatory scene where all the main characters fight for no reason still happens.
The latest update of prolific (and troubled) Malaysian writer Wen Ruian’s work, The Four has been adapted numerous times for television in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China. Featuring four male detectives with special powers who work directly for the Emperor and solve problems, this version is distinct for two reasons: It is the first big budget film adaptation, and one of the male characters has been made female. Even China is changing characters around to try to attract broader demographics! In general, I have no problem with that practice. But this specific case causes some problems, as discussed below.
I’ll show them, I’ll build a real clockwork orange!
Emotionless (Liu Yi-Fei) – Emotionless can read minds/souls, has telekinesis, in a wheelchair…but she’s not a Roman numeral professor or anything! The most powerful and smart member of the Divine Constabulary, but also has handicaps because why else would there need to be three more of them? In the original stories, Emotionless is a man.
Cold Blood (Deng Chao) – Cold Blood has a demon trapped inside him that comes out when he’s angry and a sword that glows green, but he’s totally not a rip off of the Hulk. Don’t think like that! Cold Blood has legendary sword skills, and legendary puppy finding skills. He worked for Department Six Constabulary until he was fired and then got a job with Divine Constabulary, but he still reports to his old Department Six Constabulary boss.
Iron Hand (Ngai Sing) – Despite the fact he’s named Iron Hand, he seems to be a bit closer to stark copy of a Marvel hero, thanks to his great ability to built things in the forge. Electrical powered things. Including wheelshairs. In ancient China.
Life Snatcher (Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei) – A bounty hunter who specializes in tracking down people who have debts for a price. He gets mixed up in the mess in the beginning of the film, but Zhengwo recognizes his skills and offers him a job. He’s reluctant at first to join up due to it interferring with his criminal underworld connections, but ends up becoming one of their best agents (he is one of The Four, after all!)
Zhuge Zhengwo (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) – Leader of Divine Constabulary working directly under the Emperor. His unorthodox working styles is often criticized for not showing the proper respect, usually by stuffy-shirt nobles who are up to no good. It is sort of funny to see the star of films such as Ebola Syndrome given the wise and respected leader role.
Ji Yaohua (Jiang Yi-Yan) – The leader of a new crew of female constables that were hired by Division Six Constabulary. She starts crap from the moment of her introduction, and is working for the bad guy. A Penglai kung fu master with questionable loyalties… aka she’s evil!
I’ve heard of the Bride with White Hair, but this is ridiculous!
2011 Written by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Lau Ho-Leung, Frankie Tam Gong-Yuen, and Maria Wong Si-Man
Directed by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung and Danny Go Lam-Paau
Mural is another attempt from China to make bigger Hollywood-style pictures, which is both a good and a bad thing. It is good that money is being brought into make epic films. It is bad because the films being produced are all generic garbage. And as the money flows away from Hong Kong into the pack of upstart Mainland production companies, things are changing rapidly in both Hong Kong and Chinese cinema. But this review isn’t about that, it’s about Mural, a story about a guy who goes into a painting full of fairy women.
While Mural certainly looks nice, the story doesn’t hold up to the visuals and things become very bland. The visuals of creatures and monsters make good spectacles, even if the CGI isn’t up to par with Western films yet. Monsters and beauties are the two main attractions to Mural, there is enough of both you can let some things slide. Some good scenes and creativity in monster design help make certain points more memorable, but the underlying uninteresting characters and the obvious conclusion of the main love story cause things to not be so much a journey as just a trip through a museum.
Like Gordan Chan’s prior film Painted Skin, it is a tale from Pu Songling’s story collection Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. The tomb contains nearly 500 tales, and has been the basis for dozens of films and tv series, including the Chinese Ghost Story films.
There are far too many of the models/actresses/singers playing the fariy women to list them all in the Roll Call, but I should name drop a few, like model-actress Monica Mok Xiao-Qi, Xia Yi-Yao, and Bao Wen-Jing. And now we will never mention them again! Even Eric Tsang Chi-Wai shows up with ear extensions as a goofy monk.
Zhu Xiaolian (Deng Chao) – A scholar studying for government exams at the capital who runs into adventure while on his journey there. Zhu likes to speak big talk of responsibility and becoming a good person, his sense of justice propelling part of the plot. Deng Chao is also in Detective Dee.
Meng Longtan (Ngai Sing) – A thief who is caught trying to rob Zhu and his servant. Ends up joining him on his trip into the painting and marrying a good chunk of the fairies.
Hou Xia (Bao Bei-Er) – Zhu’s servant who spends most of the film following Zhu around like a puppy, though he does manage to grow a tad as a character.
Queen (Yan Ni) – The nameless vain Queen of the fairy realm. Her rants against men hint at a greater insanity and bitterness, living in a world of her own creation for years. Her dress is reminiscent of evil queens from Disney films. Yan Ni is also in All’s Well Ends Well 2011.
Shaoyao (Betty Sun Li) – The Queen’s main servant, who is disliked by the rest of the fairies due to her closeness with the Queen. Suffers from self-esteem issues. Betty Sun Li can also be seen in Kung Fu Cyborg.
Mudan (Zheng Shuang) – Carefree childish fairy who travels to the human world briefly and encounters Zhu, and is then punished for what she did. Zheng Shuang is a Mainland newcomer to film who graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 2011. Since 2009, she has starred in several tv series and has been releasing albums.
Yunmei (Ada Liu Yan) – Fairy lady who both dates Rock Monsters and is married 2 times to Meng and then Hou Xia, both really without her consent. Ada Liu Yan (主播柳岩) is a tv hostess turned actress/singer who will look completely different if you find some of her old pageant photos, and is one of the few actresses honest about it.
Cuizhu (Xie Nan) – Mudan’s best friend and a carefree spirit, Zhu pretends marriage to her in order to stay in the fairy world and find out what happened to Mudan. Xie Nan is a TV host and anchorwoman turn Mandopop singer who debuted in 2010. She’s briefly in All’s Well Ends Well 2011
Golden Warrior (Andy On Chi-Kit) – Golden Warrior is the only male-looking character allowed in the fairy world, he transforms from a bronze owl to defend the realm. Has a longing for Shaoyao that is not reciprocated. Totally isn’t He-Man.
Some people are upset over the fact the first time Jackie Chan and Jet Li meet on screen has to be a Western film with a white kid as the main character. I will admit that at first I was skeptical, especially with Michael Angarano’s more than passing resemblance to Shia LaBeouf and how much I hated Transformers. From the surface, this film looks like another example of weak Asian men needing a White Man’s giant magic rod to save the day and show the Asian woman love. The film doesn’t follow that convention, and even ends up not being a terrible film. It’s not a great film, but it could have been much, much worse. Instead, it’s a love letter to old-school kung fu films, even if it isn’t expertly executed. References to older films permeate the movie and help speak to the fans in the audience while giving newer martial arts watchers nuggets to go seek out for themselves. Jason doesn’t become a kung fu master overnight, he gets regularly beat up even though he’s training.
Jackie Chan and Jet Li have both been around for a long time, time in which any number of Chinese film companies could have made a movie with both of them. Heck, Jackie Chan even has his own production company, and still nothing with Jet Li! Maybe the whining should be redirected towards those that did nothing instead of directed at those that finally did got around to it but failed to make whatever dream movie you wanted.
Christy Chung (!!) as Lai
Kenny Ho as Alan
Elaine Lui as Elaine
Directed by Yuen Woo Ping !!
Die Hard on a boat done Hong Kong style. Done better with Under Siege, but at least this film has Yuen Woo Ping directing, one of the best action choreographers to ever live. So the fight scenes are well-choreographed crap. And it’s got some nice eye candy with Christy Chung playing a waitress/pickpocket. That more than makes up for the rest of this mess. Yes, it’s a mess. If you’re gonna go Die Hard on a boat, you gotta have the Segal. The plot is pretty straightforward, terrorists, hijackings, we’ve all seen it a thousand times before.