Yes, even more The Monkey King with Kong!

Kong isn’t about King Kong, but is instead about a different famous ape, Sun Wukong the Monkey King. In yet another Monkey King movie news, we’re getting yet another animated Monkey King origin film. The difference is this time, one of the riches men in China is bankrolling it. As you can tell, that’s an obvious difference that will change the game. Or become a gigantic fiasco. Or just be not that exciting. As movies tends to be where the new Chinese rich go to blow lots of their money, this could be spectacular for any of several reasons, both good and bad.

Whatever the case may be, Robin Li – one of the cofounders of Baidu – is backing Aquamen Entertainment, to be run by Korean director Kim Jeong-Jung and Chinese producer Gary Zhang. The first feature from Aquamen will be the $40 million 3D CGI Kong, which will give an origin story to Sun Wukong, who according to Journey to the West was born in the Earth’s core. Never fear, there will be aliens and robots, just like in the original tale. Okay, maybe they aren’t in the original tale, but I’m sure they are in the unabridged version.

A director will be announced in May, and perhaps by then we’ll have more than just a poster for information. Until then, just keep Kong in your knowledge centers for easy access in case something does happen.

via THR

Kong the Origin

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

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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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

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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Haunted House Elf (Review)

Haunted House Elf

Directed by ???

Haunted House Elf is what the title of this film translate to. There are little to no records of this hardly anywhere, especially records in English. Whoever did the subtitles decided that the vampires would be called “The Living Dead” He also decided that checking spelling was for pussies and that he was a real man. I’m here to tell you this guy is no real man and probably couldn’t spell “man” correctly if it was tattooed on his hand, much less any other word.

There was a period of time where tons of hopping vampire flicks popped up in the shadow of the Mr. Vampire films. Because hopping vampires are wacky, kids loved them, and it was inevitable that hopping vampire kid movies appeared. There was a ton of them at one point, you couldn’t shake a magic paper tract without it hitting the forehead of some hopping vampire kid. Then, like most fads, it quickly died and was replaced with Pokemon or something. Hmph…kids.

Wang Chi-Chiang aka Shiao-Chiang (???) – His mom is dead, his dad is a drunk, and Shiao-Chiang has anger at his mom for dying. But he’s too busy trying to please and comes off as a normal kid, which is good. Shiao because means little, as you should know had you seen that Karate Kid remake or speak Chinese.
Shiao-Ming (Lin Hsiao Lan) – The daughter of the family that owns the house. We never find out her full name. Not very good at being low-key that they are up to something, but mom is too busy. Lin Hsiao Lan is best known for starring in a bunch of Peach Boy films.
Lee Chung-Chiang aka Shaio-Tai (???) – Bratty son of the family that owns the haunted house. Is a big jerk, yells at people for no reason, and the rest of the kids ditch him to go on their comic book adventure. Jerks always finish last, buddy!
Tong-Tong (???) – A Hopping Vampire Kid who was trapped in a coffin for 300 years, then gets his new friends trapped in a comic book where they almost die like 50 times. A real friend. Now let’s stake him!
Tribal Chief (Wu Ma) – An evil tribal chief who is about to feast on some princess when these kids and a vampire show up in his comic book story and ruin the plot. Tribal Chief switches more costumes than an evening of Saturday Night Live trying to defeat the invaders, but eventually dies when the comic book burns up.

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The Boy and a Magic Box (Review)

The Boy and a Magic Box

aka Shen Tong Bao He aka Boy With His Magic Box

Directed by ????
The Boy and a Magic Box
Screw The Boy and screw his Magic Box, the only reason you should see this film is for all the freaking weird monsters that show up! We got dinosaurs, we got three-headed guys with swords, we got dinosaurs with beards, we got flying monkeys, and we got unofficial Japanese Kaiju cameos. Sure, most are defeated by some kid, but the monsters are the reason to watch because monsters rule and stupid kids drool. This is the THIRD Taiwanese film we have watched with giant monsters that has a kid running around like he is Kung Fu Superman (Flyer of Young Prodigal and Young Flying Hero are the two others) so I can only conclude this is a popular genre in Taiwan and there may be many more such films waiting to be uncovered. And many more annoying pseudo-Kennys. Oh, well. So let’s get to seeing these monsters!
The Boy and a Magic Box

The only evidence of the film seem to be a few entries on film databases, most of which is in Chinese. So what we have been able to find out is this is a 1975 Taiwanese production, and the two surviving prints (by prints I mean VHS tapes that have been dubbed to DVDR) have either subtitles in Korean or cropped off English subtitles that you can’t read. So, essentially, no subtitles. But at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! I am guessing a widescreen remastered print is too much to ask for, especially since this is probably a children’s film. I hope some day 35 years from now a Chinese neo-blogger is reviewing Elmo’s Potty Time as if it is a serious film. Because, then, I win. TarsTarkas.NET victory!

The Boy and a Magic Box

Hey, no subtitles and a confusing script lead to confusing reviews. So just go with the names we made up for everyone, it will help you in the long run.

And this review got bumped up a bit to answer the challenge thrown down by Todd at Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill over Taiwanese kaiju films. Your move!
The Boy and a Magic Box

The Kid (Choi Foo-Gwai) – The Kid is the product of love, too bad for his parents who are torn apart by fate. And then royal guards try to kill him when he is saving his little brother, but he is rescued and trained in the martial arts, which come in handy when a batch of dinosaurs try to kill him. Everyone tries to kill him, but at least he has a magic box. Because otherwise, The Kid would be The Dead. Choi Foo-Gwai spends most of the film emoting with various pained faces of rage.
Wong Lau Yeh (Leung Sau-Geun) – The father of The Kid who can’t be with the mother Yeung, what with her being one of Monkey King’s brides. So he heads off to marry some other lady and then does nothing else.
Yeung (???) – Yeung is The Kid’s mother and the lover of Wong Lau, except she’s been promised to Monkey King! So she gets thrown into Heaven’s jail. Bet you didn’t know Heaven had a jail!
Old Guy (Cheung Kwong-Chiu) – Old Guy is Yeung’s dad and let’s his daughter get with Wong Lau Yeh after misreading a book or something. That turns out to be a problem when she gets knocked up. One of the few actors I identified.
Monkey King (???) – Monkey King is the Monkey King of Journey To The West fame. Has magic Pregnancy Detection Eye Rays.
Triclops (???) – Possibly named Ar-lang, Triclops guards Heaven from invading punk kids and pregnant fiancees. His magic third eye gives him the name I gave him, inspired by He-Man.

The Boy and a Magic Box
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The Forbidden Kingdom (Review)

The Forbidden Kingdom

Directed by Rob Minkoff

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.

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