Posts tagged "Taiwan"

The Fate of Lee Khan (Review)

The Fate of Lee Khan

aka 迎春閣之風波 aka Ying Chun Ge Zhi Fengbo
The Fate of Lee Khan
1973
Written by King Hu and Wong Chung
Directed by King Hu

The Fate of Lee Khan
King Hu’s works are amazing, and he is one of the most influential artists in martial arts film history. That being said, The Fate of Lee Khan was made after Dragon Gate Inn and A Touch of Zen, and the biggest flaw is it just doesn’t live up to those classics. It is a good story, full of intrigue and great choreography. But it just feels smaller scale and lacks some of the smaller character moments that a smaller story should have. Lee Khan just doesn’t seem as dangerous as he should be considering he is supposed to be this big ultimate villain. The best way to describe him would be as the mediocre villain of the second film in a super hero series who bridges the gap before the more memorable villain in the third film.

The word is The Fate of Lee Khan was one of two productions of King Hu’s under his company, Gam Chuen (the other was The Valiant Ones). The films were to be distributed by Golden Harvest, who would gain the rights to Lee Khan while Hu would own The Valiant Ones. As usual, Hu’s films fell behind in filming, Lee Khan was barely finished by 1973, while The Valiant Ones wasn’t completed until 1975, and Gam Chuen then petered out.
The Fate of Lee Khan
It is a time when the Mongols have overstayed their welcome and General Zhu leads an army to fight them, spies are rife and everyone is paranoid. Lee Khan is a local overseer of two provinces and prince of the royal family, with his sister Lee Wan-Er as his loyal assistant. He found a member of General Zhu’s army to sell out and leaves to personally receive a map of battle plans. But this leads to opportunity and intrigue at a local inn, as these matters often do…

Madam Wan Ren-Mi (Li Li-Hua) – Runs the Ying Chun Inn, where Lee Khan is rumored to be staying at when meeting with a traitor that works for rebels. Is friends with benefits of the local governor Magistrate Ha Ra-Ku (Wu Jia-Xiang). Hires the waitresses who are all members of the rebellion, as is she.
Lee Khan (Tien Feng) – Leaves the safety of his palace to personally receive a map of the battle plans of the rebel general (the spy would only deliver to him personally) The map is legit but it is also an opportunity to attack Lee Khan out of the safety of his palace and numerous guards Tien Feng excelled at authoritative villainous roles in the 50s-80s, appearing in films such as Black Falcon, One-Armed Swordsman, Vengeance of a Snowgirl, King Boxer, Fist of Fury, By the 90s he had reduced his screen appearances, though still managed to appear in Green Snake and Sex and Zen.
Lee Wan-Er (Hsu Feng) – The sister of Lee Khan. Deadly villainess in her own right, including much more of a violent streak of wanting others to die for their crimes than Lee Khan. She seems to be the only person he cares about besides himself.
Black Peony (Angela Mao Ying) – Waitress dressed in black clothes. A former infamous pickpocket, Black Peony has mended her ways (sort of) by helping the Chinese resistance to the Mongol rule, and becomes a waitress at the Ying Chun Inn. I think she’s the only waitress whose character gets a name spoken on screen. Had her character been born rich, she’d probably be robbing from her rich friends and distributing it to the poor while wearing a super hero mask. For more Angela Mao films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Blue Waitress (Helen Ma Hoi-Lun) – A former bandit whose past makes her a poor choice as a waitress, but a good choice for someone you need in a fight. For more Helen Ma films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Red Waitress (Woo Gam) – A former street performer who now works for the rebels, she is adept with dealing with customers who have naughty hands than the other girls. For more Woo Gam films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Green Waitress (Seung-Goon Yin-Ngai) – The fourth waitress, she’s given the least amount of characterization except her character is hinted to be a con artist.
Wang Chun (Pai Ying) – A rebel sent to help, pretends to be Madam Wan’s cousin helping look over the books. Pai Ying was also in Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and Lady Whirlwind
Sha Yuan-San (Han Ying-Chieh) – Wandering singer and annoying rebel sent to help pretends to be Wang Chun’s assistant. Another King Hu regular who was in Come Drink with Me, Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and the non-King Hu film Sword of Emei.
Tsao Yu-Kun (Roy Chiao Hung) – High-ranking bodyguard to Lee Khan but also plotting against him. Roy Chiao had a prolific career including The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa, Enter the Dragon, and Bloodsport.

The Fate of Lee Khan
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 9, 2017 at 7:45 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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Iron Swallow (Review)

Iron Swallow

aka 鐵燕 aka Tie Yan aka Shaolin Iron Eagle
Iron Swallow
1978
Story by Chu Yu
Directed by Cheung Pooi-Shing (as Chang Pay-Cherng)

Iron Swallow
Revenge is a dish best served cold. That’s what some Klingon guy told me, anyway. Iron Swallow is basically a kung fu version of I Know What You Did Last Summer, except it’s a decade later and the children of the slain are the ones having revenge. Revenge is the topic of discussion, because it’s the topic everyone is talking about.

The elders did a horrible crime they refuse to talk about to anyone or even each other. It quickly becomes obvious that it involves rape, murder, and bribes to cover up their deeds. Many of them spent years worrying about the crimes, some throwing themselves into philanthropy out of guilt. None of the characters will call the authorities when attacked, because they don’t want to drag up their sordid histories. This leaves their younger relatives confused and frustrated, knowing something bad is happening and seeing their parents unwilling to do anything about it.

The revenge plot is so much the sole focus that there isn’t some of the usual kung fu tropes. No one seeks out a great master, there is no training montage. There isn’t a gallant knight hanging out in disguise to set things right. It is just pure revenge. The purity of the focus of Iron Swallow is welcome, sometimes films try to do too much and end up accomplishing nothing, while Iron Swallow does what it is supposed to do and does it well.

The problem with all these lovely dubbed kung fu features is it is impossible to get anyone’s name correct, so please excuse me if the character names I use don’t sound exactly like the ones you hear when you watch the film. There is rarely consensus on just how the characters’ names are said by the dubbers, changing depending on who is speaking or what accent the ex-pat in Hong Kong/Taiwan who is doing the part has. Occasionally, the dubbers pronounce the same name differently in two concurrent sentences. Thus, all references to Chia Ling’s character will just be Iron Swallow.
Iron Swallow

Iron Swallow (Chia Ling) – Iron Swallow is the daughter of a murdered man, out to avenge his death by maiming those responsible for his death and the subsequent coverup. She arrives in town with her Aunt, who is also a victim of the incident that started everything. Iron Swallow has focused her entire life on getting revenge. She leaves trademark iron swallow darts with red tassels, which the enemy later uses to frame her. Iron Swallow’s actual name might be Chin Yeh.
Ko Fang (Ting Wa-Chung) – A kung fu student being raised by his single father, who is marked as a target by Iron Swallow. Ko Fang soon learns that all he thought was true was a lie, and that he’s more involved in the revenge drama than he knows. He is best friends with Tu Lung, who is like a brother to him.
Tu Lung (Don Wong Tao) – Son of Chu Hsaio Tien and best friend of Ko Fang. Tu Lung is the idyllic youth who soon learns that things weren’t as clear cut as he thought they would be when he was learning about the world. He’s soon dragged into the confrontations due to familiar and friendly connections, torn between the two sides and his reluctance to join in the violence.
Wu (Wong Wing-Sang) – A Fortune Teller who is really a skilled kung fu assassin hired by Mr. Chu to kill everyone connected to the case before it comes back on him.
Chu Hsiao Tien (Yee Yuen) – Kung Fu Master and local bigwig responsible for a horrible crime and the resulting cover up, which dooms everyone a decade later when it comes time for revenge. Even then, he refuses to take responsibility and tries to kill his way out of it.
Mo Tu Ping (Hung Kin-Wing) – A Mystery Man who keeps popping up to aid Iron Swallow for reasons unknown. It is eventually revealed his father was Mo Shing Yee, Iron Swallow’s father’s best friend, and died alongside him in the original incident. Now the son continues his family’s legacy.

Iron Swallow
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

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Fight for Survival (Review)

Fight for Survival

aka 十大掌門闖少林 aka The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique aka Shi da zhang men chuang Shao Lin aka Lady Wu Tang
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
1977
Written and directed by Hou Cheng

Hold on to your hats with shock, as here is a Polly Shang Kuan film where things are weird! I know, right? Who would have thought! As usual, it’s a good weird, part of the kung fu comedy atmosphere of the late 1970s. Fight for Survival/Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique (the much cooler name I first learned of the film as!) is packed with a bunch of big named cameos, characters who developed odd body modifications thanks to whatever kung fu specialty they have, gender bending, cornball comedy, and terrible dubbing. If you enjoy characters with extending arms and legs, who employ weird headbutts and walk on their hands, or who are randomly painted up as animals and waiting in rooms at the Shaolin Temple, then you are in for a treat.
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
The version I have is fullscreen and dubbed, which is a shame, as this film has a lot of neat choreography and costumes that requires a widescreen high-definition transfer to get the best effects. I guess I can expect that the same day the widescreen Monkey War shows up on remastered Blu-ray, aka NEVER! What a shame the wildest and craziest movies are also the most ignored when it comes to high quality.

In this film, Polly’s character Shih Pu Chuan sets out to recover 10 books stolen from the Shaolin Temple, each volume teaching one kung fu technique, and each technique has been mastered by the respective theif of that volume. But, if you only learn one of the kung fu skills, your body soon begins to modify itself based on that kung fu skill. Thus, the guy who learns to extend his arms has permanent long arms. The guy who stretched his legs looks like he’s walking around on stilts. The woman who stole the Positive Kung Fu book turns into a man, and the guy who stole the Negative Kung Fu book turns into a woman. The only way to not get physically screwed up is to learn all the skills so there is a balance. Even Shih Pu Chuan isn’t immune, her female character begins to turn into a man, and her sifu can’t remember how to do Negative Kung Fu. That leads him into discovering the Temple let the books get stolen and her subsequent quest. At one point it is declared that the villains can’t turn back to normal because they are evil, which might be saying that without balance, you are evil. Just remember, folks, every thing in moderation.
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
Of course, that also leads to yet another film where Polly Shang Kuan plays a gender bending character. This time she’s officially playing someone who is both sexes, though her long term goal is to stay a female. The only real disadvantage of turning male is gaining a faint mustache and having lots of ladies falling in love with you. As the main lady is the woman who used to be the man who stole the Negative Kung Fu book, things become tragic irony.

The main tale of the training and quest only eats up about an hour of the running time, we then have extended scenes where the many cameos attack Shaolin Temple because their followers (some of the followers were involved in the theft and some weren’t) are arrested in public. Now Shih has to defend her home from all these new people, but thankfully she now has lots of skills with which to do so.
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
The crazy specialties of the thieves gives us some awesome goofy kung fu, along with a whole host of guest stars who pop up when the thieves impersonate them in the beginning, and then return in the end when the real versions of the masters attack the temple. The cast is one of those ridiculously huge casts that makes me want to do a Roll Call 30 people long, and is filled with actors who aren’t identified very well. Luckily, I came to my senses, and it’s only 4 people long! We’re aren’t obsessively stupid at TarsTarkas.NET for nothing!

Like most of the Taiwanese kung fu comedies, the humor is a mix of slapstick and reaction shots. These aren’t films that are taken seriously by hardcore martial arts fans. Add to that the ridiculous dubbing and often awful fullscreen vhs presentation, and you can see why these flicks don’t get any respect. Which is a shame, because the ri-donk-ulousness is awesome! I’ll take a film that knows how to have fun over a dramafest that takes itself far too seriously any day!
Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique

Shih Pu Chuan (Polly Shang Kuan) – Wants to become a student at Shaolin Temple despite the “no girls” rule, is tricked into performing the first step, then accepted as a student by an eccentric monk. Eventually initiated into the Temple and restores its honor by recovering lost sacred texts. And she beats people up! Almost becomes a man.
Uncle Lin Chiu (Chan Wai-Lau) – The 109th Abbot, who trains Shih Pu Chuan despite the fact that she’s a girl! He’s an old former abbot who lives under a waterfall and is generally bitter to everyone. Fakes his death to help Shih Pu Chuan recover the stolen Ta Mo Classics.
Ching Fang (???) – One of two apprentice monks who attempt to take advantage of Shih Pu Chuan and end up punished, while she becomes a kung fu heroine, and enlists them as servants. I do not know the name of the guy who plays him. Both this unknown actor and Che Chi-Sang appear with Polly Shang Kuan as her two goofy followers in both Zodiac Fighters and Little Hero. I can only theorize that this means all three of these films are part of the same series. The fact that Fight for Survival is the first of the three released and features the two meeting only supports my wild unsubstantiated claim.
Ming Yuen (Che Chi-Sang) – The other, goofier, fatter monk. Is Ching Fang’s partner in crime. Becomes a loyal servant to Chih Pu Chuan.

Fight for Survival 十大掌門闖少林 The Fight for Shaolin Tamo Mystique
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 22, 2014 at 8:54 am

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Machi Action (Review)

Machi Action

aka 變身
Machi Action
2013
Written by Giddens Ko
Directed by Jeff Chang

Machi Action
Machi Action is a hilarious tale of a tokusatsu hero actor who is replaced and must find a new purpose in life. The film will resonate for anyone who has lost a job and struggled through the uncomfortable period of trying to readjust their life to the new actuality. Unfortunately thanks to the Great Recession, far too many of us have experienced that reality.
Machi Action
A unique film in the tokusatsu genre due to the focus on the actors and decisions behind the series, instead of just a parade of easily replaceable teenage heroes. Machi Action covers all the bases, from the lame effects to generic monsters to shows growing stale due to lack of drama and repetitiveness. The visuals are largely inspired from the various Kamen Rider series, with bits of Super Sentai and Ultraman thrown in for good measure.

The success of Machi Action is due to the mix of Tie Nan’s employment struggles and the tokusatsu genre humor. The balance keeps the film grounded enough for you to feel for the character while providing plenty of joke fodder of not only the effects heroes shows, but the entertainment industry in general. 10 years and a ratings nosedive cause Tie Nan to be on the unemployment line, the hero fighting his greatest battle, trying to stay relevant in a world that has moved on. As an ongoing plot thread shows, modern children have changed, and the show’s greatest failure is being stagnant instead of moving with them. People fear change, and it’s all too easy to get stuck in a routine that becomes a rut. But the longer you put off the inevitable, the bigger the pain will be when things are finally altered. Had Space Hero Fly kept up with the times there would have been no danger, but no one looked at the big picture.

The struggles of Tie Nan becomes the struggles of everyone to adapt and change with what life gives you, while still living up to your principles and doing what you believe in. There is always the danger of someone newer and younger coming in to replace you. But don’t give up the fight!
Machi Action

Tie Nan (Wilson Chen Bo-Lin) – Actor who has portrayed the tokusatsu hero Space Hero Fly for the past decade, and soon finds himself without a job. He was born to play a super hero, having pretended to be one as a child to help his sick brother deal with his illness.
Monster (Chiu Yang-Shiang) – Actor who plays all the monsters on the Space Hero Fly show, and best friend of Tie Nan. Opened a noodle shop with his pay. His face is never seen on tv because it’s always under a rubber suit.
FACE (Owodog Zhuang Ao-Quan) – FACE is the new exciting Space Hero actor brought in as Space Hero Face to replace Space Hero Fly and Tie Nan. Is a recording artist and dancer for maximum multi-media penetration.
Jingfen (Chen Ting-Hsuan) – A makeup girl on the Space Hero Fly show who secretly crushes on Tie Nan. They end up together, but his esteem freefall dealing with his home shopping network stint takes a toll until Tie Nan regains his own self-respect.
Su Ying Ying (Puff Kuo Xue-Fu) – Daughter of SUTV Chairman Su and takes over programming after being educated in America. Her first task is to deal with the ratings disaster Super Hero Fly and fix the problems. Hates the super hero show.
Chairman Su Wu Xiong (???) – Owner of SUTV and creator of the Super Hero Fly program. It’s his wish to keep that show on the air to help give the youth good morals to look up to. Has a distant relationship with his daughter after he sent her overseas for education so she’d have a better life.

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 31, 2014 at 5:37 pm

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Trailer for cool looking Taiwanese flick Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?


Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (明天記得愛上我) is a Taiwanese romantic comedy that looks like it treats relationships as a real thing and not a fantasy 6 couple wedding event. This is Arvin Chen’s second feature (after 2010’s Au Revoir Taipei) and stars Richie Jen, Mavis Fan, Mavis Fan, and Kimi Hsia. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? will premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February. I for one an looking forward to seeing it when it hits DVD, unless it manages to get a screening somewhere nearby.

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Kimi Hsia

Kimi Hsia likes to wear fruit on her head. This is a fact.

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 31, 2013 at 12:18 am

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