Posts tagged "Yuen Biao"

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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Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain

Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain

aka 新蜀山劍俠 aka Xin shu shan jian ke
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
1983
Written by Shui Chung-Yuet and Sze-To Cheuk-Hon
Directed by Tsui Hark

Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
My life having gone through the binge period of renting blurry Hong Kong VHS second generation dubs with hard to read subtitles from locally owned video stores in the 90s, Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain is one of those films that unleashes giant waves of nostalgia. Despite the bad conditions it was being viewed under, the energy and effects magics caused it to rise above the masses. I’ve since seen it on first generation VHS, vcd, and DVD, each time being a fun experience as an idealistic young fighter is caught in the world of wuxia masters, who turn out to have just as many problems as the normal folk (only their problems are a million times more dangerous!) With Tsui Hark’s direction (and choreography work done by Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Biao, Fung Hak-On, and Mang Hoi), Zu is visually distinctive. The choreography and effects jumpstarted the look of modern Hong Kong film from the 1980s, while the color and humorous tone helped distinguish it from the Shaw Brothers films that it often shared rental store space with.

The effects look a bit dated now, flying people on obvious wires, old school makeup effects, and cartoon lasers zapping around. But a lot of the practical effects still look nice, and the pulsating monster seems more dangerous as a jiggling puppet than it would as just a bunch of lifeless CGI. The effects were pushed to show that Hong Kong could produce films on par with Star Wars and other early 80s effects-laden films from Hollywood. While I don’t think they quite match the talent, much is accomplished on what is obviously an insanely smaller budget (and Hong Kong effects would develop much further thanks to experience from producing films like this one!)
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
Despite the effects, much of the film is character driven. Dik Ming Kei’s endless idealism, Ding Yan’s tough exterior hiding a lonesome and good man, Yat Jan being a royal screw up, and the Ice Queen being the total opposite of her name when it comes to Ding Yan. It’s Moon Lee’s first major role, she would go on to be a major player in the Girls with Guns films of the late 80s/early 90s. Brigitte Lin began her domination as a martial arts queen that would ripen with Swordsman II and The Bride with White Hair.

The energy of Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain is infectious, it covers so much that we’re sprinting from concept to concept. Despite that, the basic story is simple to follow. They even stop to remind everyone that it is just good vs. evil!
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain

Dik Ming Kei (Yuen Biao) – A former scout turned man fed up with war, who then gets entangled in drama in the martial world. He will become involved on a quest to literally save the planet. Through it all, his optimism and hope for the future becomes almost as powerful a weapon as the martial art skills he learns along the way.
Ding Yan (Adam Cheng Siu-Chow) – Ding Yan of Nam-Hoi, a lone martial fighter who fights against evil and lives a solitary life. Ding Yan is proud and stern, but he’s also loyal to his friends.
Yat Jan (Mang Hoi) – The student of Hiu Yu, a goofy klutz who doesn’t feel he is worthy to carry on the legacy of the Kwan-Leung school. Needs a healthy dose of confidence. Wears a turtle shell on his back.
Hiu Yu (Norman Chu Siu-Keung) – Leader of Kwan-Leun school and trains his student, Yat Jan. Is called Heaven’s Blade. Poisoned early in the film, requiring the help of the Ice Queen.
Ice Queen (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia) – the Lady lives in her secluded palace and has the power to heal those injured by supernatural means. But it also costs her much energy to heal them, and she usually decides to heal or not to heal based on fate, things ouside her control. Her isolation is argued to cause her to be cold, but she does have humanity in her (as evidenced by her interactions with Ding Yan)
Ice Queen’s Guard (Moon Lee Choi-Fung) – One of the guards of Ice Queen’s palace, she is tricked by Dik Ming Kei and Hiu Yu when they embarass her to try to get past. She gets revenge on them by embarrassing them much more, and is the only member of Ice Queen’s crew to escape her palace. She joins the heroes on their quest as she has nowhere else to go.
Chang Mei (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) – Founder of Ngo-Mei School and fighter against evil. He holds the big villain at bay for 49 days with only a mirror and his eyebrows, surviving only with the hope the dopey goofs he sent on the quest to save the planet actually get their act together.

Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm

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Tai Chi Hero

Tai Chi Hero

aka 太極Ⅱ:英雄崛起 aka Tai Chi 2: The Hero Rises

2012
Written by Chang Chia-Lu and Cheng Hsiao-Tse
Directed by Stephen Fung Tak-Lun

Tai Chi Hero
How do I pee in this thing???

While Tai Chi Zero spent most of it’s running time setting up an Eastern tradition vs. Western modernism dichotomy that clashed with the very editing processes used to make Tai Chi Zero visually entertaining if nothing more than fluff, Tai Chi Hero tries a different tact. A method of uniting the different aspects of not only the film series, but of the culture clashes and personal clashes. The film is all about reconciliation, reunion, and combining into a greater whole. A balanced whole between the yin and yang, which is a part of the philosophy of tai chi.

Tai Chi Hero
Suddenly the movie goes all Forrest Gump!

There are still lots of plot lines to resolve, since the last film didn’t bother to finish anything up. And don’t expect everything to get resolved this time, either, though at least most of the problems are solved. At the last minute. Tai Chi Hero‘s attempts to have more of a story feels better, but conflicts with the flashy editing and choreography that was the only charm of the first part. So while being a better film on the whole, Tai Chi Hero manages to disappoint in the area that gained it fame, while not making enough up in the other aspects. Instead of the parts balancing together into a better whole, instead we just a big confusing mess, which defeats the whole message of the film! This is where Homer Simpson would say “D’oh!”

If you see one Tai Chi -ero movie, make it Hero, but seriously consider grabbing something else. Make it a balanced viewing where you also watch a decent film.

Tai Chi Hero
Rah rah, ah ah ahh
Roma, Roma ma ah
GaGa, Ou lala

Yang Lu Chan/The Freak (Jayden Yuan Xiao-Chao) – The hero from our last film is marrying into the Chen clan so all his tendon’s aren’t ripped out. And also to learn the kung fu he needs to survive. And to help save his home. And also because he loves Chen Yu Niang.
Chen Yu Niang (AngelaBaby) – Daughter of Master Chen Chang Xing, marries Yang Lu Chan despite not loving him nor wanting to be tied down with the responsibility, but Yang Lu Chan will prove himself over time. Helps him achieve balance.
Chen Chang Xing (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) – Master of the Chen clan and Chen Village. His strictness has caused family problems which are brought up again during a plot against Chen Village. Manages to play roles of both the wise elder and the antagonist of one of the minor heroes, before achieving redemption and thus, balance.
Chen Zai Yang (William Fung Shiu-Fung) – Oldest son of Chen Chang Xing, who was run out of town do to his preference of technology over martial arts. He returned in a complicated plot and eventually tries to redeem himself. His wife Jin Yun Er is a capable woman and partner despite being mute.
Fang Zi Jing (Eddie Peng Yu-Yan) – The villain returns with a complicated plot of revenge against Chen village involving working and bribing his way to getting an East India Company funded army to blow the crap out of the town. Which he does, and probably killed dozens of people, so I guess he sort of gets revenge even though he’s stopped.
Tai Chi Hero
More clockworks than A Clockwork Orange!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 1, 2013 at 6:09 am

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When Taekwondo Strikes

When Taekwondo Strikes

aka 跆拳震九州 aka Sting of the Dragon Masters aka Kickmaster aka Tai quan zhen jiu zhou

1973
Written by Gwak Il-ro and Chu Yu
Directed by Wong Fung

When Taekwondo Strikes
When martial arts movies are talked about, there is the practice by certain people of just labeling all martial arts films as kung fu films. Of course, fans of the genre know there are many different types of martial arts cinema, from kung fu to karate to taekwando to Pencak Silat to Muay Thai. And all of those have their own subgroups and subsubgroups, and films will mix styles, often as a selling point. For When Taekwondo Strikes, taekwondo is obviously the featured martial art, even Jhoon Rhee – “the father of American Taekwondo” – is one of the stars in his only film role. You can also spot Sammo Hung, Lam Ching-Ying, and Yuen Biao in the stunt teams, which is always a fun game with these older flicks.
When Taekwondo Strikes
When Taekwondo Strikes is one of hundreds of films that takes place during the Japanese Occupation, this time on the Korean peninsula. It also scores points for mention the use of Korean women as comfort women to the Japanese troops overseas, as the evil Bansan Karate School engages in this practice.
When Taekwondo Strikes
When Taekwondo Strikes features some great cinematography tricks that make it a far better film than just your random basher. The shots while the Japanese are threatening work great in establishing a mood. In the beginning, the Japanese men are shot from an upward angle, thus making them look more powerful and threatening. The Koreans who are victimized are shot at a downward angle, making them look weak. As the heroic Koreans get more brave and powerful, standing up to their oppressors, the shots become even. Eventually, the triumphant Koreans tower over their former oppressors as the camera angles reverse.

There is also a lot of religious imagery, especially crucifixion. Both the captured Father Louis and then the captured Li Jun Dong are both tied up in a crucifixion manner. In the beginning of the film, the Japanese chase a Korean who knows taekwondo (thus marking him as anti-Japanese) into a church run by Westerners. The priest will not talk, and when the Japanese slap one of his parishioners, he slowly turns his other cheek towards them.

Besides the cinematography, the fight choreography is well done, the battles being consistently entertaining and feeling furious and dangerous, even if Angela Mao is always in control. The Japanese villains are always presented as threatening, and even though they can be defeated they will not hesitate to harm the loved ones of anyone who dares resist them.
When Taekwondo Strikes

Huang Li Chen (Angela Mao Ying) – A Chinese who grew up in Seoul, works in her mom’s restaurant. But due to her sympathies with the Koreans who share the same fate of being invaded by the Japanese as her homeland, she gets caught up in the intrigue and fighting. Luckily, she’s more than skilled in the fighting department.
Li Jun Dong (Jhoon Rhee) – Gardener and secret resistance leader for Japanese occupied Korea. Jhoon Rhee was the father of American taekwondo, this looks like the only film he had a role in.
Mary (Ann Winton) – The niece of Father Louis and resistance fighter once the Japanese start hassling her uncle. Ann Winton was on of Jhoon Rhee’s followers who came with him to Hong Kong to make When Taekwondo Strikes. As far as I can tell, this was her sole movie role.
Jin Zheng Zhi (Carter Wong Ka-Tat) – Fellow resistance fighter who helps free Li Jun Dong. Is in a lot of the film but is surprisingly underdeveloped because he’s taking a backseat to Angela Mao and Jhoon Rhee.
Father Louis (Andre E. Morgan) – French missionary in Japanese-occupied Korea who stays to support his flock. Father Louis looks like George Lucas. In the subtitles, he’s called Father Lu Yi 

When Taekwondo Strikes
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Categories: Bad, Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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