Dealer/Healer (Review)


aka 毒。誡
Dealer Healer movie
Written by Chan Man-Keung and Sana Lam Wai-Kuk
Directed by Lawrence Lau Kwok-Cheong

Dealer Healer movie
The true story of redemption, Dealer/Healer spans the life of a gangster addict who turns his life around and begins helping others break their addition. The story is inspiring and jumps around the years between the 60s and the 90s (thus giving some nice costumes), but even with some great performances, the film just doesn’t gel together correctly, seemingly disjointed with the different time periods. It is a good story, too bad parts are rushed to get to the rest of it.

Hua (Sean Lau Ching-Wan) leads a gang in the late 60s (the 13 Warlocks, which is a neat name) with compatriots Bullhorn (Gordon Lam Ka-Tung) and Cat (Zhang Jin), the trio are confident and powerful, and definitely look like they are going places. Except as we see from the time jumps, by the 70s they are a bunch of addicts low-lifing in Kowloon Walled City while secretly dealing behind the local triads’ backs. But we also know from the jumps further ahead that Cheater Hua (a nickname he brashly takes for himself as a youth) is clean and works at a rehab center helping other young people get clean. Despite the three timelines, there is really only two tracks followed, the youth gang activities are just added as background flavor.
Dealer Healer movie
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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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Midnight Angel (Review)

Midnight Angel

aka Ng ye tin si

Directed by Jonathan Chik Gei-Yee
Written by Abe Kwong Man-Wai

Midnight Angel

Masked female crimefighters used to populate Cantonese cinema like the buffalo used to inhabit the Great Plains. Then all the buffalo got shot, and all the female crimefighters stopped being popular after the Shaw Brothers helped eclipse Cantonese cinema. But in the late 1980s, Cantonese cinema came roaring back and by the early 90s, there were lots of action films being pumped out. So it only makes sense that there would suddenly be a masked female crimefighter film in the middle of the action fest, as the buffalo have come back. Sure, this analogy is a stretch, but just go with it!
Midnight Angel

Like many Hong Kong films from the 1990s, Midnight Angel has a billion titles, including Justice Women, Wu ye tian shi, Ng ye tin si, and The Legend of Heroism.

Midnight Angel

Our copy is an exciting VHS dub, complete with extra darkness and soft images. So don’t complain about the quality, because I’ll just ignore those complaints as that’s how we roll at TarsTarkas.NET.
Midnight Angel

Ying (Yukari Oshima) – The oldest of three sisters and a cop. Her boyfriend Tak is also a cop, except he gets killed dead by bad dudes. Until it turns out he isn’t, then he is really killed dead. Yukari Oshima can be seen on TarsTarkas.NET in such films as Angel’s Mission, Deadly Target, and Godfather’s Daughter.
Cherry (Angile Leung Wan-Yui) – The middle sister and also a cop. The last of the sisters to become a masked vigilante. Angile Leung was in The Isle of Fantasy, which was my wife’s favorite film back in the day.
Jee aka Rabbit (May Lo Mei-Mei) – The youngest of the three sisters and the only one who is not a cop. Either because she is too young or because she too much of an independent spirit to be a cop. In any event, she instead becomes a costumed vigilante named Cotton Flower.
Grandpa (Shek Kin) – Grandfather who adopted three girls. I am not sure how that makes him Grandpa, but just go with it. Back in the day he was the original Cotton Flower, a secret he shared with only his best friend until his daughters start taking up his legacy. Shek Kin is also on TarsTarkas.NET in How the Ape Girl Stole the Lotus Lamp, The Furious Buddha’s Palm, and Lady Black Cat.
Police chief (Ng Man-Tat) – The chief of police who is getting orders from on high not to go after the gang causing trouble, though he can’t say why. Only notable because he’s Ng Man-Tat.
Inspector Chao (Walter Tso Tat-Wah) – A police inspector who failed to catch the original Cotton Flower, so he vows to catch this new on to regain his honor. Because masked vigilantes stopping wifebeaters is more important than the giant gang also in the city that is offing cops left and right. Walter Tso is also on TarsTarkas.NET in The Furious Buddha’s Palm, and How the Ape Girl Stole the Lotus Lamp.

Midnight Angel
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The Eight Hilarious Gods (Review)

The Eight Hilarious Gods

aka Siu baa sin

Directed by Jeffrey Chiang Gu-Jun

Hong Kong does their take on Hakkenden, the tale that gave us Legend of Eight Samurai and Message From Space. Except it is a pure comedy and no one marries a dog. That’s good, as this film is about as related to the traditional Japanese story as Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter is to the Gospel of Luke. It does have some recognizable Hong Kong stars (even to Western audience members only slightly familiar with Hong Kong cinema) and some nice fantasy fights for a comedy, but isn’t afraid to dwell in the poop jokes or to murder children just so the audience can go “WTF?” So let’s all go “WTF?” together!

This version of the film comes from one of those double-VHS tapes, found in the double-size VHS boxes that old-school video stores had. The only video store I know by name that still carries those is Le Video in San Francisco, but some of the old-school Chinatown rental stores have this as well. The double-tape explains why there are numbers after the title, because there are two title screens, one for each tape. Old school is the best school, baby! There ain’t no forced commercials here like on DVD. Sure, the picture quality isn’t the best, but it’s not like this film is begging for a remastered DVD. It should be remastered.

Ben (Adam Cheng Siu-Chow) – Ben is a high-level fairy who misplaced six magic pearls that just happen to be the pearls Lucifer is going to use to try to destroy the world. Except there is also this prophecy that says six people will show up to help defeat Lucifer, so now Ben is looking for them. Adam Cheng was in a film entitled Sup Sap Bup Dup as well as playing the boss of the female tribe in Fantasy Mission Force, so that’s enough street cred for me to give him a thumbs up!
Buddy Wall (Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu) – One of Heavenly Goddess’s fairies who attempts to stop Satan. Not powerful enough to face him alone. Has a crush on Ben, and is part of a running gag where no one finds her attractive. Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu is a famous Hong Kong comedienne.
Lotus (Rosamund Kwan Chi-Lam) – Brutal proprietor of the Dragon Gate Inn, who beats those who complain about her service. The whole Inn is a scam to rob customers with a freezing mist, and she collaborates with Uncle Cheung in this scam. Rosamund Kwan is probably best known here for playing Aunt Yee in the Once Upon a Time in China series. Prophecy mark – Love for one’s elders.
Lousy Han (Ng Man-Tat) – Lousy Han is a loyal friend who lets his buddy Smart Hon walk all over him. He gets into trouble constantly, but always with a smile on his face. Ng Man-Tat is in a whole mess of Steve Chow films, as well as many other efforts. Prophecy mark – Loyalty.
Uncle Cheung (Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui) – The effeminate tour guide leader and fellow conspirator in Lotus’s robbery scam. Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui has made a career of playing stereotypical homosexual goofballs, from his own shows to films like this and The Storm Riders. Prophecy mark – Mercy.
Smart Hon (Deric Wan Siu-Lun) – Smart Hon is the brains behind the Hon/Han group, but he isn’t as smart as his name implies. His greatest ability is avoiding getting into trouble. Deric Wan Siu-Lun is probably most recognizable as Emperor Kang Xi in the two Royal Tramp films. Prophecy mark – Justice.
Sheriff Lee (Shing Fui-On) – Looking like a crazy wild-man, Sheriff Lee is desperate to solve a case before he’s demoted. He is willing to do anything. ANYTHING. Even his mother won’t stand in his way. Shing Fui-On has appeared in more films than I can count, probably most notably in God of Gamblers. Most of them were without the crazy makeup. Prophecy mark – Filial Piety.
Uncle Tsao (Peter Lai Bei-Dak) – Information collector and informant. Likes Lotus, but instead ends up with Uncle Cheung! Not a happy camper. Prophecy mark – Faith.
Lucifer (Lau Shun) – The devil is an evil mo-fo! Did you know that Lucifer has clawed hands, metal hair, a voice sounding like one of the Visitors from V, and spends all his free time terrorizing a random small village in China? Because he does. This movie proves it. And he enjoys tossing children off roofs.

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