Go Back To China (Review)

Go Back To China

Go Back To China movie
Written and directed by Emily Ting
Go Back To China movie
Next up on the 2019 CAAMFest slamfest of movies is Go Back To China, a movie about someone who goes back to China. Hold on, because we also have unexpected Richard Ng! Go Back To China has homespun indie cred and delivers a well-trod story (spoiled girl learns responsibility) with new and exciting settings and characters. The film is at its best when Sasha Li (Anna Akana) is still in fish out of water mode, but it unfortunately fails to stick the landing and just sort of ends, which is a darn shame considering the potential it had.

Spoiled trust fund kid Sasha Li can’t get a job and is blowing through her money on parties and shopping, until she is blackmailed by her father Teddy (Richard Ng Yiu-Hon) to return to China to help out at his toy factory, or she’ll be cut off from the rest of the money. Once there, Sasha has to adjust to both a new culture (she was raised in California) and dealing with her cranky father and her many half-siblings. She has an older half-sister, Carol (Lynn Chen – Saving Face), who already had to go back to China and work with dad, as well as two younger siblings from her dad’s next upgrade wife (since divorced, and dad now has a live-in girlfriend with whom he has an “arrangement” with that is the same age as Sasha)

The different aged family members even becomes a plot point, as they both have their own layers of resentment for the families that they were replaced by but also see the same new families get replaced in turn and the kids get filled with the same resentment. Sasha and Carol spar due to both seeing the other as the favored daughter, Carol longing for Sasha’s freedoms while Sasha seeing Carol as just a goody-goody who does whatever dad wants. Teddy shows he still hasn’t learned to be a real father yet when he upsets the next generation of his kids, leading his daughters to have to lead in picking up the mess. As someone with disappointing family members, this is sadly truer than it ever has to be.
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Magnificent Warriors (Review)

Magnificent Warriors

aka 中華戰士 aka Zhong hua zhan shi aka Dynamite Fighters aka Yes, Madam 3
Magnificent warriors
Written by Tsang Kan-Cheung
Directed by David Chung Chi-Man

Magnificent warriors
Magnificent Warriors is a required Michelle Yeoh film to watch. There is so much energy and joy here as she gleefully beats the tar out of dozens of people while cracking whips, flying planes, and firing guns. She’s a pure pulp action hero who runs guns for rebels, flies her own plane, dogfights fighters despite being outmatched, goes on secret missions, does her job, helps inspire the people to fight, and stands tall against impossible odds.

Yeoh easily outshines costars Derek Yee and Richard Ng and the entire film is built around her mission against the invading Japanese. I don’t mean to cut Richard Ng short, he does hold his own as a live-action cartoon drifter con man who bumbles into all the action. Ng’s unnamed Drifter comes complete with his own cartoonish theme music that completely contrasts with the rest of the film’s adventury score, which totally works for hammering in the point that his character is a completely different archetype plopped into this mayhem. Together Ng and Yeoh overshadow Derek Yee so much that despite his character being a James Bond analogue he can barely keep up with them (and it stands out even more with Yeoh moving on to being an actual Bond girl!) Yee was from a prominent entertainment family and would eventually move into producing and directing and based on his output he seems to have found a good fit, several of his films being acclaimed as classics.
Magnificent warriors
Magnificent Warriors is one of the Hong Kong films I rented from the late, lamented Le Video in San Francisco, I was working through Yeoh’s filmography (shockingly, most of her movies weren’t available in video stores in the Midwest!) and this one was amazing enough I watched it twice and ended up with a DVD myself soon after. It also begot my love for Richard Ng, as he popped up in some of the films I rented in rapid succession but was first memorable here.
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Vampire Cleanup Department (Review)

Vampire Cleanup Department

aka 救殭清道夫 aka Gao Geung Jing Dou Fu
Vampire Cleanup Department
Written by Yan Pak-Wing, Ho Wing-Hong, and Ashley Cheung Yin-Kei
Directed by Chiu Sin-Hang and Yan Pak-Wing

Vampire Cleanup Department
SFFilm had their annual Hong Kong Film Festival and due to the power of having two tickets leftover from the last festival I went to see two films in this festival! This time, all the films were at the fabulous Vogue Theater, which is a bit of a headache for me to get to but at least parking around there isn’t terrible (also a skunk sprayed my car as thanks for me stopping in time to not hit him as he ran across the road, lol!) While my car now stank, Vampire Cleanup Department did not, but it wasn’t a new paradigm in Hong Kong horror comedy, either. Unfortunately it is one of those middle of the road flicks that are hard to write about, due to me not wanting to slam it too hard due to the parts that were good, but not wanting to praise it to the heavens due to the parts that were bad. It’s sort of a modern take on the Mr. Vampire flicks, except imagine if the one-eyebrowed priest was employed by the Hong Kong government in a secret department. The squad takes down vampires when they pop up, and since this is a Hong Kong film they are of the hopping variety.

We follow Tim Cheung (BabyJohn Choi Hon-Yik) as he moves from hapless schlub to member of the Vampire Cleanup Department. It helps that he is the son of two former members who were killed while on duty, his mother’s last act was giving birth to him after a vampire attack. This makes him a legacy hire but also means he’s got some vampire immunity that is explained just well enough when needed for plot purposes. As the new guy he gets all the garbage details including cleaning up the office via constant sweeping and also memorizing and making the different vampire amulets (the strips of paper with writing on them that the priests put on vampire heads to freeze them or control them.) This framework lets them follow the traditional hero’s journey arc, except with some extra films stuffed along for the ride.
Vampire Cleanup Department
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Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (Review)

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

aka Di Renjie

Directed by Tsui Hark

What they say: This is Tsui Hark’s best film in years, it’s one of the best films of 2010, Tsui Hark, Tsui Hark, Tsui Hark!

What you really need to know: Andy Lau gets into a kung fu fight with CGI deer.

Do you like yo-yos? Yo-yos go up and down, and so does Detective Dee. Some sequences in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame are awesome, but other parts of the film are embarrassing and make you wonder why people were lavishing praise upon it.

If you’ve read any book on Hong Kong cinema that came out in the 90’s (which is when most of the books started appearing in the US), then you remember every single one had chapters on Tsui Hark. Tsui Hark was one of the Hong Kong New Wave directors that shook the industry to the core, and helped modernize Hong Kong film. Many of his earlier films are classics, though he had a few misfires. But even as the industry changed, Tsui Hark has seemed incapable of making film that is watchable since the mid-90’s. Those Jean-Claude Van Damme films were terrible, the Zu Warriors redux was boredom, and Seven Swords is a film so long that no one has ever gotten to the end of it. Despite all the technological achievements, Tsui Hark just wasn’t making good films anymore, and no amount of technology can change that. While Detective Dee isn’t a great film, it is at least the most watchable Tsui film since Black Mask, and something you should eventually get around to watching. You know, when it’s raining outside or something.

With Tsui Hark in the director’s chair, we are at least assured the film will look good, and it does. The cinematography is top notch. Elaborate CGI effects are needed to create ancient Chinese cities, palaces, giant Buddha statues, and underground meeting places – some are more believable than others, but you always know you are looking at a bunch of 1’s and 0’s in picture form. We do give props to action director Sammo Hung, as the actions sequences are the best parts of the film.

The stylized elements Tsui loves sometimes help the film, and sometimes hurt. As the opening scrawl is stylized to appear and disappear in wisps of smoke (which is nice), but a problem is the crawl is Star Warsian in length. In fact, the long text openings of Reefer Madness and Alone in the Dark are brought to mind. We are forced to read like half a sentence at a time, and have to wait for each piece one by one. It is what I like to call “annoying”.

Detective Dee (Andy Lau Tak-Wah) – Detective Dee is based on the real Di Renjie, who is a famous official during the Tang Dynasty. There have been countless books and references to Di Renjie over the years in both the East and the West. You should probably look them up if you want more information, this is only a small character box. Andy Lau is in every movie ever made! Just click on the Andy Lau tag to see all we’ve done…
Empress Wu Zetian (Carina Lau Ka-Ling) – Empress Wu Zetian is another real historical person, China’s only Empress and legendary for her ruthlessness. Though supposedly Di Renjie helped calm her down some. Carina Lau is also a real historical person, being an actress who has been in the industry for over 25 years and is married to the Tony Leung who is not in this movie.
Shangguan Jing’er (Li Bing-Bing) – Shangguan Jing’er is a made-up version of Shangguan Wan’er, famous female poet. As events transpire you can see why they went with a fictitious person for this character to keep with the stunning historical accuracy of the rest of the film. Li Bing-Bing was here before with white hair in The Forbidden Kingdom.
Pei Donglai (Deng Chao) – It’s an albino who isn’t a depraved mutant torturer! Although he does threaten people with torture… Pei Donglai is an investigator in the case who assists Detective Dee and whose own boss has burst into flames. Deng Chao is primarily a television drama actor.
Shatuo (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) – A former buddy of Detective Dee who now works in building the giant Buddha statue. This is the Tony Leung who was in 1992’s The Lover, not the one who was in Lust, Caution. Keep them straight!
Donkey Wang (Richard Ng Yiu-Hon) – A famous doctor hiding in the Phantom Bazaar, probably to escape taunting schoolkids over having the name “Donkey Wang”! Please don’t reveal the shocking secret of Donkey Wang. It’s good to see Richard Ng working again, as he is at the point in his career when he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to and can live in semi-retirement. I am a big fan of his through much of his earlier work through the 80’s and 90’s, including when he pops up in Future Cops.

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Future Cops (Review)

Future Cops

aka Chao ji xue xiao ba wang

Directed by Wong Jing

They’re cops from the future, FUTURE COPS! Actually, these future cops look a lot like characters from Street Fighter 2, because they are! This is a film loosely based on the manga adaptation of Street Fighter, and great liberties were taken with some of the characters and the story. Granted, this is a Wong Jing film (writer of Naked Weapon, director of My Kung Fu Sweetheart) so it will be pretty silly regardless. Street Fighter characters would return again in Wong Jing’s City Hunter, based on a different manga and starring Jackie Chan, who becomes Chun Li at one point there. For this encounter, I went to help from others to organize just who is who in the movie, as I was not a big player of Street Fighter games. Mortal Kombat, yes. So besides a vague knowledge that some creepy guys are obsessed with Chun Li and her high kicks in skirts, I knew little to nothing about the characters before beginning. Thanks to my girlfriend and Wikipedia, I was able to piece together most of the characters. Wong Jing took many liberties, including changing most of the names, flipping people from hero to villain and vice versa, and throwing in a few random things just because he’s Wong Jing. There is also a parade of famous Hong Kong celebrities, too many to list in this paragraph, we will deal with them in the lengthy Roll Call section. This would be like taking the Oceans 11 casts and putting them in a Super Smash Brothers movie. Future Cops is full of wild action, crazy stunts, and zany antics. And it is a whole lot of fun! So sit right back and prepare, this video game don’t need extra quarters or furious button smashing, it is on autopilot!

The Future Cops:

Broom Man (Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau) – Broom Man is the representation of the character Guile. Called Kwan-lo in the film, he is actually used as a broom in the movie, and he goes undercover as a teacher, wooing one of his students. Broom Man gets the music video that spontaneously happens in the middle of the film. Special weapon/move is Crescent Knife. Jacky Cheung has been a popular pop singer in Hong Kong for over twenty years now, a rare feat to last that long. One of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Ti Man (Andy Lau Tak-Wah) – Ti Man (or Ti-Men) is the representation of the character known as Vega in the US and Balrog in Japan. In the video game storyline he is a villain, but in the world of Future Cops he is a hero. Takes Chun Li on a date, and into a video game. His metal claws and mask makes him look like some sort of Wolverine/Phantom of the Opera hybrid. Nice trivia for Andy Lau: he used to wash my girlfriend’s mom’s hair when he was a young hairdresser before he became famous. One of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Ah Song (Simon Yam Tat-Wah) – Ah Song is the representation of the character known as Dhalsim. His people are called Sa Ah Men in the film. Has fantastic stretchy powers, and overacts with the Indian guru-ness. Simon Yam is usually an action star, and often costars with Chingmy Yau.
Lung (Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing) – Lung is the representation of the character known as Ryu, he stays behind in 2043 during the mission because the Captain married his sister. Therefore, he’s not in the film much. His Special weapon/move is marrying relatives of important people. Aaron Kwok was a big pop star in Hong Kong in the 90’s, his popularity had dwindled for much of the new millennium but seems to be hitting an upswing recently. There was a scandal about a “sex tape” that someone tried to blackmail him with, he won the case and the tape is sealed, supposedly it is just him touching a girl’s thighs, but you never know. One of the Four Heavenly Kings.

The villains (Future Rascals):

General (Ken Lo Wai-Kwong) – is the representation of the character known as M. Bison in the US and Vega in Japan. He is the super evil leader of the Future Rascals, and his trial is set to be judged by Yu Ti Hung, sparking the rest of the Future Rascals to go back into the past to find Yu Ti Hung and hypnotize him to let General go. Eventually escapes and goes back into the past as well, only to be defeated by the combined Future Cops team. Speaks without moving his mouth. special weapon/move is Flaming Bison. Is a robot, and is nuked. Ken Lo was in Rush Hour.
Kent (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) – is the representation of the character known as Ken, he is the most honorable of the Future Rascals. Armed with rejuvenate serum, and special weapon/move is Swaying Fist. Ekin Cheng is in most of the Young and Dangerous films, as well as Protégé de la Rose Noire.
Thai King (Billy Chow Bei-Lei) – is the representation of the character known as Sagat. Has an eyepatch and a goatee, which all evil people have. Billy Chow is probably best known here for Fist of Legend with Jet Li.
Toyoda (William Tuan Wai Lun) – is the representation of the character known as E. Honda. I hope you caught the automotive joke. He doesn’t say or do much in the film, probably because the actor isn’t a Hong Kong superstar. In fact, I’m not 100% positive I have the actor right!

The People of 1993:

Chun Li (Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching) – Chun Li is Tai Hung’s sister, who is popular with the boys, so many that they are constantly hounding her. Special move is the whirlwind kick. Chun Li is the character all the guys play, then hit pause while she does high kicks and rotate the camera trying to get a panty shot. Chingmy Yau was a big star in the early 1990s, as she dated Wong Jing she was in many of his films, most notably Naked Killer, but hasn’t done that much since she got married to a businessman.
Chun Tai Hung/Yu Ti Hung (Dicky Cheung Wai-Kin) – Age 28 but still in school. Will become the famous judge Yu Ti Hung that the Future Rascals are looking for. Befriends the Future Cops. Becomes Akuma (Gouki in Japan), but called Ng Hung by Toyoda, and says he is Ng Kwan Yu in response. I have no idea. Dicky Cheung was a low paid movie actor until he starred in a Journey to the West TV series as Monkey King and became super-famous. He then went to Taiwan to do more TV series, which he continues to this day both there and back in Hong Kong.
Choy-Nei (Charlie Yeung Choi-Nei) – The love interest for Tai Hung. A big star in Hong Kong in the mid-90s, Charlie Yeung was previously seen here in Task Force. She retired in 1997, but went back to show business in 2004, starring in New Police Story and other films.
Kei-On (Andy Hui Chi-On) – The local school bully, with giant hair. His huge lock of hair will destroy all those who oppose him. Joins up with the Future Rascals to betray Tai Hung, only to be betrayed himself. Andy Hui is a hardworking singer who is only recently being recognized for his pop styling. One of the New Four Heavenly Kings.
Siu-Wai (Winnie Lau Siu-Wai) – Also known as Crab Angel, is Kei-On’s girl until stolen away by Broom Man. Future Cops seems to be Winnie Lau’s biggest movie roll.
Tai-Hung’s Mother Chun Tai (King-Tan Yuen) – Does the whirlwind kick like her daughter. King-Tan Yuen is in tons of films as supporting roles. Was also seen here in My Kung Fu Sweetheart and Haunted Office.
Uncle Richard Yu (Richard Ng Yiu-Hon) – Uncle Richard is Tai-Hung’s mom’s boyfriend. He can speak a few lines of English, which excites his girlfriend. (Actor Richard Yu knows more than a few lines.) He will become Green Wolf (Blanka.) Usually enters attacks while spinning in a Green Ball. His special move is Electrical discharge. Richard Ng is a famous comedian in Hong Kong who is semi-retired now.

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