Crystal Hunt (1991) Review

"Crystal Hunt" American DVD Cover

“Crystal Hunt” American DVD Cover

Director: Hsu Hsia
Producer: Chui Fat
Cast: Donnie Yen Chi Tan, Carrie Ng Kar Lai, Ken Lo Hui Kwong, Sibelle Hu Hui Zhong, Fujimi Nadeki, John Salvitti, Tin Ching, William Ho Ka Kui, Hsu Hsia, Chu Tiet Wo, Chui Fat, Leung Kar Yan, Gordon Liu Chia Hui
Running Time: 90 min.

By Tyler

After some great work with Yuen Woo Ping in films like Tiger Cage and Iron Monkey, there was a period in which Donnie Yen ventured into the super low-budget films before going into TV. During this period he made Holy Virgin vs. Evil Dead, a campy category III film, and Cheetah on Fire, a sister film of Crystal Hunt (they both contain a similar cast).

Crystal Hunt is the superior of the three, but that isn’t saying much. Crystal Hunt was a troubled project. The editing, storyline and the continuity is very bad. Also, a stuntman was severely injured during a bike stunt (during the credits they do a Jackie Chan-style bloopers thing). All these problems do not distract from the grueling fight scenes, and some pretty funny comedy. The fight scenes are choreographed great, and you can see that Donnie used a lot of Escrimina and Wushu is the film.

The plot is incredibly horrible and has an equally horrible subplot (Carrie Ng and Ken Lo looking for the crystal to cure her father’s illness). The opening scene has nothing to do with the overall film (look for a cameo by Gordon Liu), just fast foward to the fight scenes.

GAME OVER!

Tyler’s Rating: 7/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Legend of the Wolf | aka The New Big Boss (1997) Review

"Legend of the Wolf" Japanese DVD Cover

"Legend of the Wolf" Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Donnie Yen
Producer: Donnie Yen
Cast: Donnie Yen, Dayo Wong, Carman Lee, Ben Lam Kwok Bun, Edmond Leung, Mak Wai Cheung, Bonnie Lai, Tony Tam, Kenji Tanigaki, Mandy Chan Chi Man, Hoh Choi Chow
Running Time: 90 min.

By Joe909

Ah, Donnie Yen: the Dolph Lundgren of Hong Kong cinema. The Boston-bred brat finally proves himself with this one, an old-school type kung-fu flick with a modern edge. Donnie goes the full mile, producing, directing, and starring in this often-hated, sometimes-liked underground classic.

I like this movie a lot. The plot’s standard, the directing is passable, the budget obviously wasn’t very high, and even the “artistic” way in which the movie unfolds, via incongrous flashbacks within flashbacks, doesn’t really help things. But all that aside, you still have a fairly decent movie with excellent action. Each kung-fu battle is good enough to be the “end fight” in any other martial arts film. The shots are sometimes too close or too blurry, and the editing is as jarring as MTV’s, but it still looks great.

Donnie pulls a “Van Damme” here, with plenty shots of himself bare-chested and flexing. But I’m sure that’s just for the ladies, right, Donnie? Anyway, he pulls off some impressive martial arts. He starts the film doing a basic movie style, but as the film progresses he adopts what seems to be a jeet kune do approach, even mimicking Bruce Lee’s war cries. Perhaps this is why Legend of the Wolf is called “The New Big Boss” in parts of the UK.

Just about every fight in this movie is a highlight, but the best is the sequence that begins with Donnie chasing through a forest after his enemies, and culminates in him taking on his main rival beside a waterfall. The running fight in the forest is one of the best Hong Kong action sequences ever, with Donnie taking on legions of henchmen, a guy with a revolver, and a guy who fights with claws. The sequence proves that there’s still some amazing things going on in Hong Kong cinema.

As an aside, the dvd release is terrible; it’s full-frame with no menu selections or extras. Plus the subs are burned into the print, just like they were back in the pre-dvd days. At least the chapters are numbered, so you can skip from fight to fight, cutting out the extraneous moments of “plot advancement” and getting right to the good stuff.

Joe909’s Rating: 8.5/10


By Numskull

I had a dozen reasons to dislike this movie, but I liked it anyway. It’s a spiffy little tale of blood and cheese directed by Donnie Yen, whose talent is more evident here than in the bland Ballistic Kiss (the film with the greatest literal title of all time: “Kill Some People Dance A Little”).

Donnie Yen is Fung Man-hin, an amnesiac with (surprise) tremendous fighting prowess. He wanders around seeking out temples…don’t ask why…and befriends a local rogue named Wai (Chi Wah Wong). Violence seems to follow in his footsteps as marauders plague him incessantly…but for what reason, he does not know. This story takes place shortly after World War II, with somewhat nonsensical modern-day segments presenting it in the past tense.

The film opens with an MTV-style fight; dark and ridiculously fast with way too many cuts. This isn’t necessarily just bad film making on Yen’s part, though. At this point, the viewer isn’t SUPPOSED to know what the hell is going on.

Actually, ALL of the fights in this movie are sped up to some degree, unless you count Wai’s slow motion scuffle with some other villagers during the old woman’s prayer (“Yes! Kick him in the dick!”). In a lesser film, this would piss me off, but Legend of the Wolf has some not-quite-definable, cheese-flavored X-factor that makes you just go along with it. Maybe it’s Chi Wah Wong’s charismatic performance. Maybe it’s the catchy and memorable musical score. Maybe it’s the fact that almost every scene is shot in either black and blue (like many modern HK films) or in various shades of orange. But it sure as hell isn’t the crappy romantic element with Man-hin’s old sperm receptacle Wai-yee (Carman Lee) filling him in on the details of their past together and trying to turn unrequited love into…uh, regular love. Why must they always ruin perfectly serviceable stories by adding this garbage? I swear, when I rule the world every hack screenwriter out there is gonna change their tune on this subject or else be relegated to careers in the field of picking the scabs off of STD-afflicted porn stars’ genitals.

If undercranking annoys you regardless of its extent or of the quality of the actual fighting, perhaps the sheer amount of combat here will at least partially redeem the film in your eyes. Wither goest Donnie Yen, so cometh carnage. Wai gets in on some of the action, too; the scene where he valiantly tries to defend the villagers from slaughter-happy bandits is a highlight. Man-hin’s numerous duels are also very enjoyable.

I had my doubts, but I was pleasantly surprised. A good time killer.

Numskull’s Rating: 7/10


By Vic Nguyen

Donnie Yen embarks on his directorial debut with this low-budget martial arts actioner that is low on brains and high on action.Yen stars as the legendary Wolf, a martial artist whose exploits are recounted through a series of flashbacks peppered throughout the duration of this film. The screenplay is one big cliche; the main characters are uninteresting, the villains are tedious and unmotivated, and it also uses the old amnesia subplot which has been done to death. Even the performances are below par, which is a given considering the quality of the script. Yet despite these obvious shortcomings, it’s the action sequences that makes this film worthwhile. They are plentiful (there are no less than 4 big bouts), well choreographed, highly stylized (eg. Tsui Hark’s The Blade), and do a good job showcasing Yen’s fabulous bootwork. All in all, a flawed, but entertaining piece that is worth the rental for the martial arts alone.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 5.5/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Gymkata (1985) Review

"Gymkata" American Theatrical Poster

"Gymkata" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Robert Clouse
Writer: Dan Tyler Moore, Charles Robert Carnes
Producer: Fred Weintraub
Cast: Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Richard Norton, Edward Bell, John Gilbert Barrett, Conan Lee, Bob Schott, Buck Kartalian
Running Time: 90 min.

By American Ninja Man

I’m not sure how the meeting went for these coke sniffing, green lighters; but we do know that someway, somehow, someone figured that the next heir to the Bruce Lee throne would be none other than Kurt Thomas.

Robert Clouse is in my heart and I can smell the stink, and when I watch his movies I can only curse his name. (Yeah, I ripped off Six Pence None The Richer’s Breathe Your Name to insult Clouse, wanna make somethin of it!)

Clouse had already given us the equally dreadful Big Brawl (easily Jackie Chan’s worst film next to The Protector); but because some dumbasses like it, Clouse was given the opportunity to give us this little classic.

The movie starts with some old guy, who’s supposed to be the best the U.S has, probably because American Ninja and Chuck Norris were booked. Anyway, the main bad guy is Richard Norton, who didn’t kill Mary Louise Weller off in Forced Vengeance, but does sport a giant mullet, hence, that’s where this aussie’s talent lies. He kills the old schmuck as he cheats at the game and…voila! We are introduced to our gymnast hero, Kurt fucking Thomas!

I have to get this off my chest, I’m a former kickboxing champ. State gold medalist in 1998 and 1999 and I must admit that this movie was so bad and such a disgrace – not only to legit martial artists like Bruce Lee, Jet Li and the Bruce Li’s of the world – but a personal disgrace to me.

So to score some honor for the genre of martial arts, I went to a gymnastics class, kicked the asses of all the male gymnasts for sheer principle and had an orgy with the female gymnasts. Those weenies tried to claim assault for me giving them a good kicking (no complaints from the women though, cause the ninja orgy caused them to score perfect 10s on their next acrobatic challanges.), but once the cops heard my story, they cleared it as justifiable.

As happy as it should’ve made me, this didn’t make me feel much better until I heard Chuck Norris was so disgusted that he drove to L.A (with a diaper, because we all know that pit stops are for pussies, right on Lisa Nowak!) and raped Kurt Thomas repeatedly. (why else does Thomas appear in Chuck Norris’ Total Gym informercials? Not for money and certainly not because it works but out of fear that he take a workout in his ass.)

Unfortunately, this still didn’t make me feel much better because the movie was begging me to believe that against ninjas the best man for the job would be a gymnast.

A gymnast? A fucking gymnast? What am I dreaming? I can just picture MGM discussing the topic “Hmmm, let’s see here, I don’t like the script for Amadeus but I do feel somewhat intrigued over the aspect of a gymnast who kicks ass to save the world.” It’s no secret that Gymkata turned out as terrible as one would expect but did we really need the one-two punch of not only a gymnast hero, but also having it directed by Robert Clouse? Well, suffice to say I walloped myself in the head with a tire iron when I witnessed Kurt Thomas do backflips and mimic dialog because the princess refused to speak to him. Just a tip, it could be the mullet. Also, our dumb ass hero is only a couple inches taller than a midget and that mullet makes him look, well, not very manly. He also tries to say hilarious one-liners despite the fact that “I know, I’ll out sleep them!”, “Keep your hardware in your pants” is not the making of an action hero.

Oh, but Richard Norton is in this clunker, he’s the main bad guy and he has a showdown with Kurt Thomas and this is where I finally felt sorry for the fucker, not because he was in this movie; Norton has always been a quality source of shitty movies so it’s hard to feel sorry for him. I mean his movie Kick Fighter is awful beyond compare.

I felt sorry for him because he gets to get his ass whumped by what is easily the wussiest protagonist that would be the wussiest until Lorenzo Lamas joined the scene in 1990’s suckfest known as Final Impact. Still, as lame as Thomas is, I admit that I was often fascinated by the sheer ambition of this production, and by that I mean how many bad ideas are contained. A princess who goes all the way with our gymnast hero on the first date. Check. A completely unnecessary action sequence for no reason other to pad out running time. Check. A hero who has to play a game, all so the U.S Government can place a satelite before the Russians. Check. A hero very low on charisma. Check. A hero who relies on sheer chance to prevail in tough situations. Check. A king who shouts “Yakmallah!” and at least a 100 mullets. Check, Check, Check!

By the way, the sheer luck factor means that during the action sequences are moronic gymnast star finds a bar, does various back flips and even finds a pommel horse to beat up people on. Holy crap this movie is terrible. With all the directing style of a substandard porno knock off of Enter The Dragon (which I imagine would be called, “My Dragon Enters Uou”). But it’s from Robert Clouse, so what do you expect? Coherence, a narrative structure, decent action sequences and some okay acting? Well, it’s about a gymnast who kicks ass only because the bad guys are dumb enough to leave pommel horses around.

So who is the one to blame? The moron who thought of the idea? The moron who thought to cast Kurt Thomas? The moron who hired Robert Clouse? The moron who directed this? And of course, the moron who watches this? In other words, there’s enough blame to go around, and hey even Milli Vanilli doesn’t blame the rain on Gymkata. Thats how bad this movie is.

Laughable. Ridiculous. Stupid. Incompetent and of course, hilarious.

American Ninja Man’s Rating: 1/10

Posted in Asian Related, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) Review

"Universal Soldier: Regeneration" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Universal Soldier: Regeneration" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Universal Solider 3: A New Beginning
Director: John Hyams
Writer: Victor Ostrovsky
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Andrei Arlovski, Zahary Baharov, Garry Cooper, Mike Pyle, Corey Johnson, Emily Joyce, Aki Avni, Kerry Shale, Kristopher Van Varenberg, Violeta Markovska, Yonko Dimitrov, Jon Foo
Running Time: 97 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

A group of terrorists kidnap the Russian prime minister’s children, demanding the release of their comrades. In addition, they have taken over a nuclear power plant and threaten to detonate it if their demands are not met. Thanks to a rogue scientist – and co-founder of the UniSol experiment – the terrorists possess another secret weapon: a Next-Generation UniSol (Andrei Arlovski), that is programmed to protect the plant and kill anything that comes near it.

After a number of failed attempts to seize the plant and rescue the children, U.S. forces finally call Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) into action, an older UniSol model. However, another surprise lives within the plant… a cloned version of Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), Luc’s former enemy.

I haven’t seen the original Universal Soldier since it came out in 1992, but I remember it being decent (mind you, as a kid living in the 90’s, every action movie was decent). Its sequel, Universal Soldier: The Return (1999), was a major disappointment. As far as those other wacky, unofficial, made-for-TV sequels – Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms (1998) and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business (1998) – never seen them, probably never will.

This brings us to John Hyams’ Universal Soldier: Regeneration, which is simply one of the best sequels ever made. I’m one of those guys who is still keeping my fingers crossed for a full blown Van Damme comeback (a la Mickey Rourke). I doubt it’ll ever happen in a big way, but the positive reception he received for his flawless performance in JCVD (2008) was close enough.

Much respect to director John Hyams (son of distinguished filmmaker, Peter Hyams, see below). There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s on his way to do even bigger and better projects in the future. His skill is a HUGE improvement over what we expect from your typical Van Damme popcorn action flick.

So why is this Universal Soldier: Regeneration so good?

The Action: Some of this stuff is close to what you’d expect to see in a Hollywood Blockbuster (come ot think of it, this was planned for a theatrical release, but went straight-to-DVD, last minute). There’s that certain cinematic something about the way the action is filmed, which makes sense, since the cinematographer is Peter Hyams, who is best known for directing 1984’s 2010 (the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), as well as directing Van Damme in Time Cop (1994) and Sudden Death (1995). Martial arts fans rejoice: the fight scenes are thorough, well-staged and definitely satisfying. If you’re a fan of long shots, there’s a hallway bit you’ll get a kick out of.

The Violence: Possibly the most brutal and bloody film Van Damme has ever appeared in. The gore is all over the place. On the camera. Splashed against walls. Spraying on peoples’ faces. We also have pipes being chugged through chests. Heads exploding. A lot of slicing and dicing. VERY fulfilling.

The Tone: There’s a very moody feel to it. In fact, there’s barely any contrast or color, which gives it personality. Also, Van Damme’s character isn’t exactly your typical hero. He’s a troubled soul who has mental problems (I mean, he was brought back from the dead, ya know?) and he uncontrollably attacks innocent, random people.

The Casting: It’s good to see Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren working side by side again. And the addition of former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, is an excellent touch. Unlike professional wrestler Bill Goldberg’s performance in Universal Soldier: The Return, Andrei has some depth and charisma to offer. Awesome job.

The Story: Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Oscar worthy, but it is interesting enough to give it some credit. The problem with most sequels is they just throw together scenario around our returning characters without any real thinking. You can tell that the writer carefully mapped this one out. I LOVE the final scene before the credits roll.

Keep in mind that Van Damme doesn’t appear until later in the film. Same goes for Dolph Lundgren, who has a small, but meaningful role. Their lack of screen time works with the flow of the movie’s structure. If you’re still worried, mark my word, this IS a Van Damme movie.

Seriously, check this one out.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in Asian Related, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) Review

"Kill Bill Vol. 2" American Theatrical Poster

"Kill Bill Vol. 2" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Lucy Lui, Vivica Fox, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, Bo Svenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Helen Kim, Michael Jai White (cut)

By Dave Bell

I think most people are going to compare Vol. I and Vol. II and they shouldn’t. These are two totally different movies, each touching on the same subject, from different points of view. I think THAT’S why the film was split in half, not because of length. I think it was planned to be split all along, if it was (and I’m not sure it was because that would be one weird movie – even with an intermission) I think it would have detracted from both halves impact.

QT demonstrated in Vol. I that he could make a movie minus his brilliant dialogue (except for Sonny Chiba, who was amazing!). In Vol. II he shows us that he can make a movie without stilted dialogue (Carradine was every bit as good as Chiba, if not better).

The people talked, they communicated not gave speeches, which is my only real problem with QT. His characters tend to be addressing each other. Which is annoying unless what they’re saying is compelling, which it almost always is. But this time the characters spoke as if they were actually speaking WITH each other. Not AT each other.

The only down side, Uma Thurman. She really doesn’t deliver her dialogue naturally. Then again, most of her dialogue is the silly “We have unfinished business” lines, so who can blame her. She did go through an emotional roller coaster in this thing, so I call it a wash.

My only real problem with the movie? QT misses the point on Superman. Clark Kent is real and Superman is the disguise. Batman is real and Bruce Wayne is the disguise. But then again, I’m a major comic geek and QT banged Mira Sorvino, so I think he wins.

I give Vol. I 10/10 and Vol. II 10/10. But even though connected, these films should be considered separate views of the same event. Think Roshamon.

Dave Bell’s Rating: 10/10


By Sideshowsito

I don’t think I ever watched a movie that made me think so much that it made my head feel like it was gonna burst. Was I not ready to see Kill Bill Vol. 2? Was it all the anticipation build up? Or is it because I got a little carried away? Whatever it is, I finally decided to write a review for Kill Bill Vol. 2 for the Cityonfire.com Dynasty.

I don’t really have too much to say because I’m not really a person to point out my opinions and make it seem like I’m the only one in the world; but I do want to point the fine points about Kill Bill Vol. 2 that really made it a memorable experience:

Warning: Contains spoilers!

DARRYL HANNAH as ELLE DRIVER

The chapter “ELLE AND I” would be the highlight fight segment of Vol. 2. Apart from the 80% dialogue driven movie Kill Bill Vol. 2 has become, the way the “B” and “E” squares it off in Budd’s trailer was just RAD!!! It was brutal, brutal, BRUTAL! It wasn’t your elegant samurai Oren-ishii style fighting, but more of a sight you see on an episode of Jerry Springer. Darryl Hannah as Elle – we see more of her as this ruthless bitch who is remorseless to her colleague(s) and boy is she BAAAAAAAD! It’s this very scene where we find out WHY SHE LOST HER EYE, and you’ll be shocked as to how and who had done this to her beautiful blue eye.

The last words exchanged between the two femme fatale’s facing-off was quite memorable. Again, don’t wanna spoil too much for those who haven’t seen it.

The Bride’s custom “Hattori Hanzo” sword in this film seems to shine a lot more than it did in Vol. 1 (quite similar to how it made me drool over the Green Destiny Blade in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The way they describe it’s value and how you hear the silent “ssshiiinggg ” sound when they extract it from the Katana Shard made the sword possess more personality; and at one point I gave a mental note to myself, “Great , I know I’m gonna end up looking for one of those on Ebay when I get home…there goes my credit card again!” 🙂

DAVID CARRADINE as BILL

David Carradine IS the man. Warren Beatty was originally considered for the role of Bill, but I couldn’t possibly oversee that, after seeing Carradine’s performance as the grandmaster daddy of the DiVAS. The man has pure charm. He has the voice. And he is BILL. Period. Everything that Bill said in the movie I payed close attention to. It was something about the way he was talking and how he delivered the words. Boy, HE WAS JUST TOO COOL .

I think for me though, the most important scene that really made me think was the way David Carradine pointed out the metaphor about the Superman alter-ego comparison to “BEATRIX KIDDO” being an assassin even after she switched her lifestyle as Arlene P. Shit, from all the years I’ve grown up watchin Christopher Reeve as the man of steel, never at any point in my life had I even thought about it. And it;s so fuckin’ true. Bill is right . Superman is unique and making this point across, I was totally blown away by how he compared the bride being “killer” and will always be no matter what she tried to become.

See, it’s stuff like that that make films like this so interesting – when I exit the theatre driving home and still thinking things over with what has been said. I didn’t mind the fact that this movie was pretty much dialogue driven and less of the action packed pace that Vol. 1 was. I wasn’t such a big fan of the way Bill was defeated (quite predictable, to be honest). Being a crazy Battle Royale fan that I am, his defeat reminded me the way of how Kitano died in Battle Royale (getting up and walking away ). Nonetheless, this film had all the elements a Quentin Tarantino film should possess and it was successful in every possible way.

This was all about Beatrix Kiddo and how she was ready to answer bills $64 million dollar question in the end : Why did she leave him?

Slowly, I couldn’t move from my seat… and it was this point, this immense feeling of melancholy began to slowly overwhelm me… I think it was because of the mere fact that this was it. The movie finale… the end. That’s probably the only real negative feeling I have right at this moment – that the movie is finally over.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, both as one: I just absolutely loved this fuckin’ movie. Keep in mind Vol. 2 is definitely different from Vol. 1; but still met my expectations of what a great movie is meant to be. It ended just right and it made me miss our favorite characters from Vol. 1 (Oren, Vernita, Gogo, Sophie ); seeing them on the big screen once more, as the credits began to roll .

Most audiences will truly love this this film as some will become disappointed. As far as my opinions go, the kind of person who will admire such films are the types who admire such films because of what it has to offer, rather than what they have WANTED to have been: Kill Bill Vol. 2 ends off the masterpiece epic and is surely not to be missed.

Sideshowsito’s Rating: 9.5/10

Posted in Asian Related, Cults & Classics, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) Review

"Kill Bill Vol. I" American Theatrical Poster

"Kill Bill Vol. I" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Lucy Lui, Vivica Fox, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Chiaki Kuriyama, Michael Parks, Jun Kunimura, Kazuki Kitamura

By Joe909

This is my first review for City On Fire in a long time, and it will probably be my last. The reason is simple. What was once a cool site is now a haven for losers. And I mean losers of the worst type. Worse than D&D geeks, computer nerds, and the like. I am referring to the lowest of the low: the Asian movie fanboy.

It’s all obvious. It’s all petty jealousy. If not jealousy, then a lame attempt at sounding “different” (and therefore smarter, right, fanboys?) from the pack.

I will tell you why I think Kill Bill Volume 1 is a great movie, but first I must educate the Asian movie fanboys out there. Because you see, unlike them, I actually know my ass from a hole in the ground. I have been watching the same movies that inspired Tarantino since I was a kid, in the ’70s. I was there when you had to search high and low for any Asian movies at all. I was there when things weren’t so easy. The fanboy of today merely logs onto Hkflix.com, orders some titles, reads a few message board posts, and instantly thinks he knows everything about the genre.

The fanboy is wrong. The fanboy is ALWAYS wrong. The fanboy is beneath contempt.

From “Shaolin Fox Conspiracy” to “The Chinese Mechanic,” I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the trashy US movies, the Italian exploitation, the spaghetti westerns. I’ve seen the samurai movies: new, old, and boring. And I can tell you that, even if Tarantino has lifted an image here, a scenario there, he’s nowhere near the level of creative thievery that Asian filmmakers have committed on Hollywood movies.

Yeah, yeah, yeah; we all know about the City on Fire/Reservoir Dogs connections. Fanboys use this day in and day out to keep the fire alive. But the fanboy, again, knows nothing. Let’s look at some Hong Kong movies that have pilfered from Hollywood. We’ll start with one of my favorites, Pink Force Commando. Here’s a movie that not only lifts images from Evil Dead (the heroine, Bridgett Lin, replaces a missing arm with a shotgun), but also takes liberally from Indiana Jones, the Dirty Dozen, and the Road Warrior. Moving on, there’s Red Wolf, a movie that takes from both Die Hard and Under Siege. And how about the Andy Lau movie Crocodile Hunter, another one that borrows from Die Hard?

But the fanboy is incapable of making such comparisons, because the fanboy is unaware of these movies. The fanboy has only seen Jackie Chan’s classics. The fanboy has only seen those films available at Blockbuster. The fanboy has no knowledge ? other than what he has read online ? of movies made before 1980. The fanboy merely reads that Tarantino “rips off” other movies, and believes it, without seeing those movies for himself.

Having seen so many of these movies, I can safely say that not one single frame of Kill Bill borders on plagiarism. When Uma Thurman shows up wearing Bruce Lee’s tracksuit, you don’t stand up and scream “Scoundrel!” Instead you just shake your head at how cool and how RIGHT it seems. Uma now owns that tracksuit as much as Bruce Lee ever did, and I say that as a bona fide Bruce Lee fan. This movie is vibrant, colorful, masterful, and original. Like Ebert wrote, “It’s kind of brilliant.” I agree. I agree entirely. Tarantino does what so many HK film buffs have dreamed of: he’s made a cinematic love letter to all those movies he loved as a kid.

When I reviewed the script on here a while back, I worried that the movie wouldn’t work on screen. After all, there wasn’t much story involved, not much plot beyond the standard “revenge” theme. I don’t know what I was worried about. The Shaw empire was built on films that basically revolved around the same theme, the theme of vengeance. And each of those films worked just fine: simple yarns about men seeking vengeance, yarns that reached near-mythic proportions due to their simple natures.

Like those movies, Kill Bill is mythic. Kill Bill is more mythic than any sci-fi or fantasy movie I’ve seen. These characters are not real-life; they’re comic book caricatures come to life. That’s another thing I worried about, that viewers wouldn’t care for the paper-thin characters. But I was wrong. Tarantino enjoys many triumphs with this movie, but possibly the greatest is that he and his actors make these mythic characters seem so flesh and blood; the actors in the X-Men movies looked like what they were, actors in costumes, but the actors in Kill Bill BECOME their characters. That’s not Darryl Hannah on screen, that’s Elle Driver. That’s not Uma Thurman. That’s the Bride. There have been only a few times when I so believed that the characters on screen were real, not just the writer’s creations brought to life. With only a modicum of dialog to work with, the actors successfully bring their characters to life with expressions, with the way they carry themselves. It works brilliantly, and the spaghetti-western soundtrack only serves to heighten the mythic proportions. The movie plays like Once Upon a Time in The West with samurai swords.

The movie works. The story works. With this film, Tarantino proves that he can make a moving, unique film out of the most basic of stories. His directorial skills are through the roof. The static shots that characterized Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction have been replaced with some of the most inventive shots I’ve seen. The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves is directed with such flair and mastery that it’s instantly become one of the best sword-fights ever filmed. Like I suspected he would, Tarantino made a few changes to the story, but nothing major. For example, the brief segment in which Go-Go kills some poor fool in a bar was originally scripted for her sister Yuki, and was featured in the unfilmed chapter “Yuki’s Revenge.” One thing that interests me is the internet claim that the Blue Leaves segment is in color in the Japanese version of the film. What’s strange is that Tarantino specified in both drafts of the screenplay that the scene would be in black and white.

Re-watch value is high. There are no slow spots in Kill Bill. At first I doubted the wisdom of cutting the film in half, but now I see it was a good decision. The Blue Leaves sequence leaves the viewer breathless. I couldn’t imagine sitting there for another 90 minutes. It also serves to whet your appetite for the rest of the story. I cannot wait to see Volume Two. I absolutely cannot wait. I haven’t been this excited to see a movie since I was a kid, and saw the commercials for Star Wars. The fanboys are excited, too, of course. This means that now they have someone to bash, so they can fool others into believing they’re intelligent people with intelligent opinions.

I have another theory why the fanboys don’t like Tarantino’s movies. From the start, Tarantino has made cool movies for cool people. His earliest and greatest supporters, after all, were the jet-set crowd. By nature, however, the fanboy is not cool. The fanboy doesn’t understand cool. Kill Bill is a benchmark of cool. The fanboy doesn’t get it, because the fanboy is as cool as an overweight, acne-ridden, mullet-headed D&D freak.

I’m not going to bore you with details. Everyone knows the story. The fact is, Kill Bill is a fantastic movie, a movie made for those who love movies. Tarantino’s passion for cinema is evident in each and every blood-spattered, ingenious frame.

It’s simple. If you don’t see Kill Bill just because you have a juvenile hatred for Tarantino or Miramax, you’re an asshole.

Joe909’s Rating: 10/10


By Mairosu

*SPOILERS* I sure took my sweet time on watching this film eh. Well, I have a very low concentration span. If I see a movie which is a part of some trilogy or whatnot and the sequels are connected to each other, I would fancy seeing the related sequel somewhere between the ending credits of the first one and next week, or I lose interest. Now, that I have both Kill Bills in my reach, I finally sat down and saw the first part yesterday.

Well, I kinda like Tarantino. I really like Reservoir Dogs. And Pulp Fiction. I didn’t like Jackie Brown, but I loved From Dusk Till Dawn. True Romance wasn’t bad. Natural Born Killers either. Sure, the man’s everything but original, his style a mish-mash of various French and oriental schools, but he’s got something going for him. He’s, as much as I hate this word, “hip”. He writes a good, solid dialogue and that definitely sells his films for me. The action and the direction you saw all before, but the dialogue ? Classic material most of the time.

I was sorta amused when I heard that Quentin was going to do a homage to asian cinema with his latest effort called Kill Bill. Kill Bill (I still find this a very, very daft title mind you) took good 2 years or so to bake, and it arrived in two installments as a part of clever moneymaking ploy by our dear friends at Miramax. And after hearing all those ungodly great critics about Kill Bill, I, well, feel slightly underwhelmed.

Well, more than slightly. For once, the dialogue doesn’t save it for me. And, when you remove the Quentinesque ditties about, oh say, Madonna getting dicked from every angle or about mayo on fries in Holland, you get a film which you’ve seen before. Or feel like you saw before. Which is exactly how I felt with Kill Bill.

Story starts with a black and white shot of a blonde broad simply called “the Bride”, who is lying down all bloody. She is read her “last rites” of sorts by a bloke called simply Bill, who then proceeds to drill a bullet straight into her forehead. Cut to four years later, Bride, amazingly still alive, tracks down one of the assassins which hacked her back then and indulges into a finely choreographed fight scene with her (Vivica Fox is the other party). After a brief pause caused by Fox’s daughter coming back from school, the two settle their score and Bride returns to her grotesque pickup truck (the popular “pussy wagon”) and scratches another name off her hit list. We see that one name – that of O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) – has been already scratched, and that starts the flashback sequence which, well, lasts until the ending credits of part 1.

So, story goes, the pregnant Bride is for reasons unknown (to me at least, I missed some lines because I was watching without subs) beaten to death and left to die by the dangerous “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad” (a quirky reference to the “fox force five” from Pulp Fiction I would assume), which we learn later that the Bride was a part of as well. The chief of the organisation is the aforementioned Bill. Bride SOMEHOW survives the massacre (without her baby), and is in a state of coma. She nearly gets finished off by one of the deadly vipers (Daryl Hannah), but Bill opts to leave her in coma – killing her like that would not be honourable.

Well, a big mistake that one. Four years after the incident, Bride suddenly wakes up and is hungry for revenge. She gets her first taste of it after mauling the guy who turns out has been whoring her while in coma (quite repulsive, I know), but afterwards, she sets her sights on Japan. And O-Ren Ishii. Prior to that, she indulges into a 13 hour session of reviving her limbs while in a car of the hospital parking lot. Naturally, no one even bothers to notice that she left two dead men in a pool of blood somewhere at the hospital and that no one noticed a strange blonde in a VERY distinctive car inside of a parking lot saying “wiggle” to her toes. But oh well, it’s just a movie. Speaking of toes, I knew Quentin was a huge foot fetishist, but this surpassed anything so far. I didn’t mind seeing Lucy Liu’s feet, or the feet of the 5,6,7,8’s at the House of Blue Leaves (read on to find out), but Uma…man, those feet are ugly. And he overkills on zooming her toes. But to each his own. Anyhow, after we’re informed about O-Ren’s past through a very well-done little animated feature (a mini-anime actually), Bride takes off for Okinawa, looking for this Hattori Hanzo character.

Now, Hanzo, played by Quentin’s fanboy icon Sonny Chiba, is reportedly the direct descendent of the Hattori Hanzo from the cult 80’s series called “Shadow Warriors”. He agrees to make a sword for the Bride, as he learns that one of his former students (Bill, again) rubbed her the wrong way. So, Bride gets her sword, jets further to Tokyo, finds her way to a fancy joint called “House of the Blue Leaves” (their in-house band is a all-girl rockabilly/surf/garage trio called “5,6,7,8’s” which perform…you got it, barefoot)…and all hell breaks loose.

O-Ren was a busy girl in the past four years, apparently she became the head honcho of all the yakuza in Tokyo and assembled a private mini-army (all with Kato’s “Green Hornet” masks, a nod to Bruce Lee) to protect her, along with her personal bodyguard, a 17-year old happy-go-ballistic schoolgirl GoGo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama of Battle Royale fame) who wields something reminiscing a “kusari-gama”, an old ninja weapon consisting of a spiked ball on a chain which is tied to a sickle. After lopping off a head of a yakuza oyabun because he commented on her “unpure” (American-Chinese-Japanese) heritage, she proceeds to have some fun at the House of Blue Leaves’ exclusive suit. Which is where Bride comes in, in her yellow-black jumpsuit (another nod to Bruce Lee) and with her trusty Hanzo steel sword next to her.

What happens in the following half an hour or so is pure uncontrolled mayhem. Bride slashes, blood spurts from about everywhere, it all leads to a climactic encounter in a snow-covered garden in which O-Ren gets killed…and Bill gets informed of his former colleague who is on the lam. That wraps up the film along with a neat little cliffhanger (find it out yourself).

And as curtain falls…I’m duly unimpressed. It started good. It finished good. It had good bits around. But it just didn’t do it for me. There were no quirky speeches about Madonna, or Pam Grier, or foot massages (there were copious shots of female feet, but that’s not the same admittedly). And as I noted above, I just felt I saw it all before. The revenge plot, for one, smells of Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime), which I think Quentin even confirmed. The whole big picture of “good guy gets almost killed, then retreats, recovers, learns new skills and whups arse” was also rehashed to infinity. All the fighting choreography was exceptionally good done (choreographed by Woo-Ping Yuen, who directed such classics as Snake in Eagle’s Shadow, Drunken Master, Magnificent Butcher and recently exported his talents to the US where he helped with the Matrix trilogy et al), but it was nothing groundbreaking (minus points for every idiot who thought that “flying” sequences and the house of blue leaves fights were lifted out of Matrix) – it’s all been done before. Simply put, Kill Bill is one huge compilation of various things, and it will work for you if you are already not too acquainted with them. It is probably a great introduction to someone who wants to explore Asian film, but for me, it was just a rehash.

Not a bad rehash at that. It’s pretty watchable, and great fun at times. But with Quentin, you grow to expect more, and he just didn’t deliver for me this time. I don’t know what to expect from part 2, as part 1 got universally rip-roaringly great grades and part 2 was supposedly more subdued. I hope it will feature more fun dialogues, if nothing else.

(I’ll still buy the DVD. Damned completionist that I am.)

Mairosu’s Rating: 7/10


By Reefer

As I watched the highly anticipated fourth film of Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill, I wondered to myself about how I was gonna review this film without giving too much away. Well, please understand that this is an especially difficult chore since there is simply nothing to give away. Aside from withholding details as to who dies and how, any plot synopsis you can give would BE the actual movie.

Summary: The Bride (Uma Thurman) wakes up from a coma, inflicted by members of a cheesy-named assassination squad, and commences to eviscerate members of said group and its mysterious leader, Bill.

And that’s exactly what happens.

Sure, the fourth film of Quentin Tarantino loads up on the gore, features a pretty great soundtrack, and some fun performances (especially by Japanese film legend, Sonny Chiba) but the narrative is nearly pointless. For example, if the subject of this film is revenge, then I believe the audience got the point in the first fifteen minutes. The Bride, as the heroine of Quentin’s fourth film, simply travels from place to place slicing-and-dicing as the story requires. Mixing up the chronology of the story’s happenings seems to only be an attempt to hide the fact that nothing new IS happening. In fact, the quality of Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film’s screenplay is certainly in question because each segment of the film is divided into nothing more clever than simple chapters instead of cinematically literate story transitions. I ask you, shouldn’t we expect something more?

Inspired by Miramax, I have decided to split my review in half and withhold my rating so that I can double the readership, thus rake in more profits. So, we’ll talk again in February. . . . . . .
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Hold on. Hold on. I am not getting paid for this. Am I? Screw this then.

Kill Bill Volume 1 Review Volume 2

Now where was I?

Oh yeah.

Now, the homage paid to Asian films and some of Quentin’s other stylistic touches do well the heighten the experience, but again, shouldn’t we expect more from the fourth film of Quentin Tarantino? I mean, really, its his fourth film isn’t it? Least that’s what the ads and the opening credits so proudly proclaim in huge font. Shouldn’t this be an achievement second to none? Well, that is, of course, for the masses to decide, but I would be lesser a film reviewer if I didn’t let it be known that it really isn’t.

Nope.

At least not in this form. Yeah, those who really want to know if the entire film is good will have to wait until February of 2004 for Volume 2, and for some, it may be too long a wait. In my mind, anyway, this clearly financial decision ironically “killed” Kill Bill. Sure, Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film leaves you with some tidbits of info to chew on until then, but unfortunately that transforms this installment into very simple back story.

Restoring the film to it’s full 3 hours-plus would truly do wonders for it. Such a “radical” idea would make the long-winded exposition of many of the supporting characters seem more practical and, I am guessing, symmetrical because I predict that there are similar narrative excursions in the next volume about the other characters. I am speaking mainly of an excellent anime story, that probably runs over ten minutes, about how O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) became the icy assassin that she is, but there are many such sequences in Quentin’s fourth film that could be cut. Moreover, the audience needs someone to root for. I hope the next installment softens The Bride up a bit because what we are left with here is an unlikable killer who has been done wrong, even though we can all assume that she has only done wrong her entire life. So who cares? Isn’t she getting what she deserves?

Ok, this is an action film. Quentin’s fourth film does not fail to deliver in that department. That is, it doesn’t if you don’t care about characterization and motivation. It doesn’t if you don’t care that Uma is nothing but a revenge robot. And finally, it doesn’t if you don’t mind your gore sudden and shockingly messy. Limbs, heads, torsos and the like are shredded, lopped, and severed while much blood is splattered, sprayed, spilled, and squirted for all to see, making it one of the most violent American films in years. It is for this reason, I believe, that in the middle of the final bloodbath the screen inexplicably goes black and white. Maybe the level of bloodshed is temporarily tamed by the loss of color. Otherwise, I have no explanation to why this film did not receive the dreaded NC-17 rating.

While I did mention that the wait might be too long for some, I will not be passing on Volume 2. After all, I have 110 minutes now invested in it. But for those of you who haven’t been as eager, you can skip this one. The next one will probably be better.

So congrats Miramax. You have another sucker. Why don’t I just mail you my $7.50 now.

Reefer’s Rating: 6.5/10

Posted in Asian Related, Cults & Classics, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Obsessed, The (1975) Review

"The Obsessed" Chinese VCD Cover

"The Obsessed" Chinese VCD Cover

Director: Mak Pang Chin
Cast: Nora Miao Ke Hsiu, Kwan Sang, Ko Keung, Lee Keung, Guan Shan
Running Time: 90 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

A newlywed couple’s (Kwan Sang and Nora Miao) relationship turns into a nightmare when they start to witness paranormal activity. A “spiritualist” (Ko Keung) is hired to investigate the strange phenomenon, and discovers a deep, dark secret within the marriage that’s bringing back a vengeful spirit.

The Obsessed (I have no idea why it’s titled this) is cheap-looking and tacky, even for 1970’s Hong Kong film standards. I imagine the cost of this film was as low budget as a Philippine-produced Godfrey Ho flick; probably worse, since barely any stunts or fight choreography were involved. There are some special effects, but let’s not go there.

It’s supposed to be a horror movie, but it’s not scary or creepy at all. It’s actually unintentionally funny in every possible way. It’s one of those “so bad, it’s good” movies, so if you think of it that way, it will entertain you.

Maybe I should give this film more credit. After all, it predates similar Hollywood films like The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), which were both very successful around the world. But then again, it’s not like The Obsessed was the first film of this kind.

If there’s a legitimate saving grace, it’s the presence of Nora Miao. We’re so used to seeing her as a sword-wielding heroine, or Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan’s strong co-star, but never as a helpless woman who’s having some marital problems and serious issues with ghosts. Also, where else would we get to see her make out with a guy (in this case, Kwan Sang) and scream her ass off?

It’s very important to keep in mind that the version I saw was a pan & scan, poorly dubbed, Ocean Shores english-language version. I’m sure this has a lot to do with why it came across as bad as it did. If I saw it in its original Chinese language, I’m sure it could be taken much more serious.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 5/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Review

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" American Theatrical Poster

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” American Theatrical Poster

Director: Ang Lee
Producer: Bill Kong, Hsu Li-Kong, Ang Lee
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, Chang Chen, Cheng Pei Pei, Lung Sihung, Betty Huang Yi
Running Time: 115 min.

By Numskull

Pretty much everything that has been said about this movie is true.

The cast is superb. Chow Yun-Fat, who gets top billing, turns in a fine performance as usual but actually has a smaller role than his female co-stars, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi. Yeoh is great as an middle-aged female warrior weary of the travelling lifestyle, and I was most pleased to see that she didn’t get dolled up too much to make her look younger (and therefore sexier to Studio Joe) than she really is (don’t take that as a slam on her, as I have more respect for her than for any pair of big tits posing as an actress that you can name). New kid on the block Zhang Ziyi has immense screen presence and, quite frankly, steals the show. You can’t take your eyes off her. She displays a vast scope of talent in one role played to perfection; she portrays multiple facets of Jen’s personality, from the sweet and innocent girl next door to the troubled loner with the mysterious secret to (most memorably) the cocky little bitch who stops at nothing to get what she wants. If there is any justice in this world, she’ll be a mega-star.

The story, despite the presence of a few cliches which most of us have seen before, is also very well done. Yes, Li Mu Bai wants to avenge his murdered master; yes, Jen is the unfulfilled daughter of a wealthy man who doesn’t want to go through with an arranged marriage; and yes, Lo is the thief with the heart of gold who falls for the rich and dignified princess type. But never mind that. Those points may be familiar but the plot’s progression is something else.

The visuals are very impressive indeed. Images of the overcrowded city streets that China is known for in this day and age are juxtaposed with sweeping shots of harsh deserts and wild forests, enforcing the idea that even the greatest fighter and the wealthiest nobleman was at the mercy of Mother Nature to some degree “way back then”.

The soundtrack is quite fitting, with the ethnic tones having a very strong presence while not being so abrasive to Joe Average with his Eminem and Jane Typical with her Backstreet Boys that they’re likely to cover their ears.

The subtitles, as far as I could tell, are flawless. I did not spot a single grammatical error. The only problem is that this probably cuts into the film’s profitability, as the average American hardly ever reads anything requiring a longer attention span than a bumper sticker.

The fighting (which, let’s face it, is the biggest reason why lots of people, myself included, watched or want to watch this movie in the first place) is magnificent. They’ve got that super-hero mentality where people can jump 30 feet in the air, but it’s all done smoothly. In particular, the two duels between Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi are so jaw-dropping that you’ll never be quite as impressed with the action in most other movies again. After watching these two ladies go at it with such frenetic energy yet so much grace and fluidity at the same time, I wished, for the first time in my life, that standing ovations were permitted in movie theaters.

Now, with all of that having been said, I have some gripes with this movie. They weren’t nearly enough to keep me from enjoying it but they’re substantial enough to put here. First, the treetop battle. Chow Yun-Fat and Zhang Ziyi engaging in a fight-chase hybrid while leaping from treetop to treetop may sound like a cool idea, but it looks ridiculous. There’s a line between poetic visual fantasy and cartoon super-hero fantasy, and this scene definitely crosses it. Still, the movie as a whole is so good I almost felt guilty for snickering. Also, there is no final fight at the end. In a straightforward martial arts action movie this would be unforgivable, but CTHD is really a drama with the battles serving as plot points rather than gratuitous eye candy, so it isn’t as big a deal. The final result of this drawback is that Li Mu Bai’s revenge is not of the most satisfying variety.

Somebody somewhere has surely referred to this as “a martial arts chick flick”. This is not entirely unfair, as a pivotal part of the story is the doomed romance between Jen and Lo, which may or may not make you think “Get on with it, for fuck’s sake”, but that is just too bland a categorization to do this movie justice. It deserves better than to be pigeonholed as a faggy art-house film. Watch it with an open mind and I think you’ll agree.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10


By Vic Nguen

“One of the greatest movies ever made!”
– Joel Siegel, Good Morning America

“The most exhilarating martial arts movie I have ever seen.”
– Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

“A work of astonishing originality.”
– The Wolf, Inside Out Film

“This film was so great that I literally shit my pants, and the excruciatingly horrific smell, along with the sheer brilliant greatness of the film, brought tears to my eye!”
– Random movie goer quoted at an overpriced multiplex; Fucktown Virginia

Okay, so that last quote may have been derived from my own twisted mind, but I concocted that obscenity-laden tripe for a reason. I’ll admit, CTHD is a good film (especially when compared to most of the shit Hollywood big-whigs shove down America’s collective movie-going asscrack (can’t remember if that was a Numskull quote, oh well, subconscious plagiarism isn’t really plagiarism)), but to go as far as to say that it is the greatest movie of all-time, that’s pushing it. I went into the movie theater with all the hype and hoopla stuck in my mind, and when I left, I found myself asking the question, “so that was it?” Now that I think about it, I probably would have liked the film a lot more if it wasn’t for the fuckin media overkill. Then again, I’ll probably end up going off into another one of my “FUCK HOLLYWOOD” tangents, so let’s discuss the actual film, shall we.

Most of you guys know the plot synopsis, so I won’t waste your time with it. First things first, the singular aspect that impressed me the most from this film is definitely the cinematography. Peter Pau, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the best cinematographers working in the film industry today. He can master and adapt to any genre at a moments notice (just take a look at his subtle work in Anna Magdalena, and juxtapose that to his inventive genius in The Phantom Lover, and you’ll see what I mean). His work on CTHD is no different. The film is filled to the brim with painstakingly elaborate compositions that are picturesque and beautiful. The scenes that take place in the desert flashback definitely come to mind. Another great thing about Pau’s work in CTHD is the fact that he knows how to film a fight scene. Take a look at all the fight-flicks that Hollywood churns out today, and you’ll notice that ALL of the fight scenes are shot so close that it is impossible to appreciate the actors true skills. You won’t see any of that crap in CTHD, however (or any other competent martial arts film, for that matter). Pau utilizes wide shots, which, along with conservative editing, makes CTHD’s fight scenes all the more exhilarating then compared to say, Romeo Must Die (or Rush Hour, or Lethal Weapon 4, or Mortal Kombat, or Shanghai Noon, yada yada yada….) Pau’s win at this years Academy Awards finally gave him the international recognition that he deserves, and hopefully he’ll get better work in the future, instead of making more shit like Dracula 2001.

When you’ve got a cast that includes Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, and the legendary Cheng Pei-pei, you know that acting wasn’t a major concern for the filmmakers. Chow Yun-fat, as always, gives a noteworthy performance as the aging martial arts master. I agree that he appeared awkward in many scenes with copious amounts of dialogue, but I’ll let it slide since Mandarin isn’t his native language, and because he’s Chow fucking Yun-fat. Michelle Yeoh doesn’t wear any skin tight leather in this one, but she still really hot for a character that’s supposed to be an aging hag. Oh yeah, and she gives a good performance as well, especially considering since, like Chow Yun-fat, Mandarin is not her native language. Zhang Ziyi (who could easily pass off as Gong Li’s younger sister) is now one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood, based solely on the strength of this film. It’s easy to see why. She’s got great screen presence, and she handles her vast amount of screen time with confidence and ease. Can’t wait to see her in Rush Hour 2. Chang Chen was quite good in Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together, and he handles his role in CTHD well enough. Looks to me like he will be another one of those stars “on the rise” (better if it’s him, and not some talentless hack like Edison Chan, who stunk up Gen-Y Cops, which was a piece of horse manure by the way). Cheng Pei-pei starred in one of my personal favorite films (Come Drink With Me), so her turn as the evil-martial-arts-master-filled-with-vengeance brought me back to the days of King Hu (who obviously influenced Ang Lee, and whose films are infinitely superior; seek out A Touch of Zen if you got the chance.)

Of course, a vast majority of the people that contributed to the $200 million+ box office gross could give a dingo’s dick about storyline, acting, cinematography, etc. What they wanted was pure, adrenaline pumping wire fu. So how were the fight scenes, you ask? Good, to say the least, but nothing I haven’t seen before. Call me crazy, but I can think of about a dozen or so other fight scenes that I’d prefer over the ones in CTHD. Maybe it’s that hard-bitten, cynical-elitist side of me speaking, but face it, the fight scenes in CTHD are not the “be-all, end-all” as far as kung fu flicks go. Yuen Woo-ping has done a lot better (with the exception of The Matrix, I just couldn’t get past Keanu and his pseudo-Bruce Lee impersonation). Despite the bitter ranting, I can honestly say that Michelle vs. Zhang Zhiyi in the dojo was loads of fun. Plenty of aggressiveness and athleticism on display there. Their opening chase/fight was good, albeit a bit anti-climactic. The much talked about bamboo forest scene is a tad disappointing as far as fight scenes go, but the cinematography was astounding the entire way. There are others peppered throughout the film, but they were nothing to write home about (although the restaurant scene had some good laughs). The entire wire-fu thing has sharply divided many viewers. Either you love it or hate it. I personally love wire fu, that is, if it’s done right. The wire fu in CTHD is executed well enough, but appears stilted and shoddy when compared to superior efforts.

Hmm, what else have I yet to discuss (assuming you have been reading the entire way through). Oh yes, Tan Dun’s wonderful musical score provides the perfect complement to the films melancholy tone. Occasionally haunting and very elaborate, it is a job well done (thank god there aren’t any grating rap interludes). I could have done without the sappy pop-stylings of Coco Lee though, but its a minor quibble since she only has one song throughout the entire film. The editing by Tim Squyres allows CTHD to develop at a slow, VERY deliberate pace that works well for this type of film. So those of you who grew up nurtured by the evils of MTV, this isn’t the film for you (assuming, of course, that you have the attention spans of an acorn, which is probably the vast majority). Ang Lee’s direction has been endlessly discussed and praised by film critics everywhere, so I have no real incites regarding the subject. But if someone refers to the fuckin movie as “Sense and Sensibility with kung fu” again, I swear there will be hell to pay.

Anyway, with that out of my system, let’s get down to some closing thoughts. I am ecstatic that CTHD has been a mega-success worldwide, because that could only lead to increased exposure of not just martial arts films, but Asian cinema in general. In the last couple of months, films that Hollywood studios would usually ignore are now getting picked up for US distribution (ie- Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer and The King of Comedy). Yes, there is the possibility that these films will be butchered and dubbed (ie-every single non-US Jackie Chan flick), but there is also the inherent possibility that these films will be released subtitled and uncut (ie-Gen X Cops, Miracles, Takeshi Kitano films, etc.). No, CTHD is not the best film of all time, but hopefully it will inspire others to further explore a genre brimming with better films.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 8/10


By David Reiffer

All the super positive reviews for this movie simply amazed me. Don’t get me wrong, this is a ground-breaking film. Action movies will never be the same. But I couldn’t believe such praise was laid upon a kung fu movie. I rarely take seriously the criticism of kung fu movies. Many because I believe its impact depends on the “WOW! Fact or” of its contents.

After seeing this movie, no, living this movie, I can understand the hype which is all very well deserved. There was great acting by all the principle characters and mind-blowing action along the way. After successful releases such as The Matrix and this film, mainstream movies with never be the same.

David Reiffer’s Rating: 9.5/10


By Klotera

First off – this is NOT an HK martial arts movie. Don’t expect it to be like one. This is not Fist of Legend, Drunken Master II, or Iron Monkey. What is it? A beautiful character based story rolled into a unique martial arts film experience. Much in the vein of Ang Lee’s earlier “Eat Drink Man Woman” (another brilliant movie), this film is about the characters, their situations, how the deal with their situations, and how all their situations come together to affect the others.

In this, Ang Lee’s new masterpiece succeeds just as much as that earlier effort. This is combined with a beautiful setting, featuring amazing locales, cinematography, and score. Martial arts sequences are beautifully choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping who manages to really make the fights fit in perfectly with the style of the film. There are plenty of wires, but the fighting itself is more grounded than your average wire-fu. While it isn’t quite Fist of Legend, the martial arts here are quite memorable, particularly the Yeoh/Zhang fight in the armory.

Performances all around are great, with Zhang Ziyi’s confused and angry character stealing the show. The somewhat forced Mandarin of Chow and Yeoh may be a slight point of controversy (much less so for those of us who don’t speak Mandarin) – but it doesn’t change the fact that you can see the emotion in their faces and in their actions. Some people say this movie is overrated. As a martial arts movie, maybe. As a film overall – no way. This character based film is engaging and unforgettable. It is the perfect way for Ang Lee to pay tribute to the martial arts and wuxia stories he loves. Truly one of the best movies I have ever seen and one of only a handful that would get a 10/10 from me (the other couple being domestic films).

Klotera’s Rating: 10/10


By James H.

From the very first shot until the very end of the credits, I was glued to the edge of my seat, with my eyes glued to the screen in front. I watched for 120 minutes, this epic story of love, honour, freedom and revenge.

The complex story follows the search for the Green Destiny sword. Retiring warrior Li Mu Bai (a simply phenomenal Chow Yun-Fat), gives his sword as a gift. However, the sword is stolen by a mischievous young martial artist Jen (the gorgeous Zhang Ziyi, who will be in “Rush Hour 2”). Li Mu Bai’s close friend, fellow warrior, and object of his affection, Yu Shu Lien (a marvelous Michelle Yeoh), then vows to get it back. Watching this story unfold is one of the most exciting things one will ever see.

The acting is above top-notch. I was absorbed by every facial expression and every movement. Normally, when you watch a film with Chow Yun-Fat, it’s always Chow Yun-Fat as so-and-so. But in “Crouching Tiger”, the character absorbs Yun-Fat, and you forget that it is him.

However, the film belongs to Michelle Yeoh and new-comer Zhang Ziyi. When they take the screen, they leap off of it. Both command enormous screen presence, and could easily carry this film on their own.

As well, this film could have easily collapsed under the weight of the complex story and the actors, but director Ang Lee superbly manages to gracefully holds everything together, and keeps the film at a lightening pace.

Also, Lee creates easily some of the most awe-inspiring fight scenes ever committed to celluloid. Forget “Police Story”, forget “Fist of Legend” and forget “Drunken Master 2”. They are nothing compared with this film. Yeoh and Ziyi move with grace and fury; they are unbelievable.

The year 2000 has been an abysmal one for filmgoers. We watched all summer, month after month, as mediocre films came and went leaving little impact. Not only is “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” the best film of the year, it will leave an impact on filmgoers for several years to come.

James H’s Rating: 10/10


By Retter

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” stars Chow Yun Fat as a retiring warrior called Li Mu Bai who is giving up his prized sword to a master. He has come from a period of meditation, which he found disturbing, and wants to put his warrior days behind him. He is co-stared by Michelle Yeo who plays Yu Shu Lien, an equally gifted warrior in martial arts, who once was in love with the brother of Li Mu Bai, but he was killed in battle. She now has feelings for Li but won’t show them to him in respect for his brother. Li, after giving his priceless sword to a master and close friend, finds the sword is stolen by the beautiful Jen played by Zhang Ziyi. Li must get the sword back, and he is aided in his quest for what is right, by Yu Shu Lien. Zhang is a student of Jade Fox ,a ruthless martial artist who is known for her stealing of a secret martial arts manual, and the murder of Li’s former Master.

With these main characters, and also Zhang Ziyi’s true love interest, unfolds a truly engrossing story which although is long travels at a lightening pace. The acting by all the leads is brilliant, and all the supporting cast are flawless. The story is complicated but is easy to follow, with Ang Lee showing the world what a great director he is. The cinematography is brilliant especially in the beautiful natural surroundings where the film’s characters often are. The plot is excellently constructed and all the characters are well developed. The films music score has a variety of classic chinese music pieces, and are often emotionally stirring, and add to the films authentic atmosphere. The film settings are beautifully colorful and very realistic for the time period the film tries to replicate.

Just the things I have said so far are reasons to go and watch this film, but it is all topped off by amazingly choreographed fight scenes, which are furious and dazzlingly over the top. These fight scenes were directed by Yuen Wo Ping who is famous for his work on “The Matrix”, but “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a far superior film in every aspect. I was highly impressed by And Lee’s direction because he blended classic story telling with jaw dropping action to produce one very entertaining film. The use of “wires” was brilliant in this film, where warriors can fly from rooftop to rooftop. This is a great example of excellent world cinema which is hugely vibrant, fresh, and acclaimed by both critics and audiences.

If you only see one foreign movie this year, make sure you see “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, because it is such an outstanding film which is guaranteed to satisfy.

Retter’s Rating: 9/10 (I can’t give any film ten because there can always be room for improvement although this is near perfect)

Posted in Asian Related, Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Together | aka Buenos Aires Affair (1997) Review

"Happy Together" American DVD Cover

"Happy Together" American DVD Cover

Director: Wong Kar Wai
Writer: Wong Kar Wai
Producer: Chan Yee Gan
Cast: Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Chang Chen, Shirley Gwan Suet Lai, Linda Wong Hing Ping
Running Time: 97 min.

By Woody

Ignore your homophobia for an hour and a half and watch this film. It is a brilliant meditation on a failing relationship, and will definitely strike a chord with anyone who has been in a relationship nearing it’s end.

“Happy Together” concerns the failing relationship between two gay men in Buenos Aires, Yui-fai (Tony Leung Chui Wai) and Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung). Shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires and getting lost along the way, the bitchy Po-Wing leaves Yui-fai, only returning when injured or in need of money. As Yui-fai slowly spirals into a deep depression, the only time optimistic thing that he experiences in Buenos Aires is his platonic relationship with co-worker Chang (Chang Cheh). After Chang leaves Buenos Aires to return home to Taiwan, Yui-fai is faced with a dilemma. Should he stay with Po-Wing in Buenos Aires or return home to Hong Kong?

If it weren’t so downbeat and depressing, this would be, hands-down, Wong Kar-wai’s greatest film. It works on all levels. The acting, direction, set design, and more than anything, the cinematography, are brilliant.

Let’s start with the acting. Tony Leung Chui-wai is great as ever here as the tortured Yui-fai. No one is as good at looking down and sad as Chui-wai, and his performance came really close to winning best actor at Cannes (one more vote and the award would have been his). This is the film that made me stand up and realize just how great an actor the man is…imagine how hard it must have been for the guy when he arrived in Buenos Aires to learn that Wong Kar-wai had changed his role from a son searching for his gay father to being a gay man in a relationship with Leslie Cheung, and that he would have to shoot a sex scene with him.

Leslie Cheung’s performance as the bitchy Po-Wing is also perfect…he gives what could have been a really one note role a lot more depth than one would expect. Po-Wing does indeed love Yui-fai, but has too many personal demons and problems with himself to be able to love another human being in a normal, healthy way. Chang Cheh is a revelation here. His character is very much like a male version of Faye Wong in “Chungking Express”. Much like that character, he brings optimism and hope to the proceedings, something a film as depressing as this one desperately needs. He plays his character with just the right note of wide-eyed innocence and shows that he is really one to look out for.

The directing and writing are, as expected, great. Wong Kar-wai seems incapable of making a bad film. Everything here gels so perfectly. The jump cuts, the black and white to color, the editing…it all fits the film perfectly. Interesting fact: The film was originally three hours long, and was edited to it’s current running time (an hour and a half) a day or so before it was to premiere ar Cannes. Among the cut and unused footage is a whole performance from Shirley Kwan and a suicide attempt by Yui-fai.

What really makes this film work, though, is the cinematography. Christopher Doyle is the world’s best living cinematographer…you can press the pause button on your remote at any point in the film and it could make a great still photograph. He uses black and white film, oversaturated color, and slow mo to great effect and caps it all with the most amazing shot I have ever seen…Doyle was able to film the Icuazu falls from above in a helicopter. That scene is simply astounding in it’s beauty and is just amazing.

The music is also really great, featuring Piazolla’s “Tango Appasionado”, Frank Zappa’s great foray into jazz “Chunga’s Revenge”, Danny Chung’s great, upbeat cover of The Turtles’ “Happy Together”, and another great Zappa song, the Peter Frampton parody “I Have Been In You”, among others.

All in all, if it weren’t for “Chungking Express”, this would undoubtedly be Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece. Trust me, it is great. Don’t feel uncomfortable just because it concerns two gay men. This isn’t a gay film, it is a relationship film. It gets my fullest recommendation. See it and you’ll never forget it.

Woody’s Rating: 10/10


By Vic Nguyen

Inspired by author Manuel Puig’s The Buenos Aires Affair, this 1997 picture is the latest to come from art house filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. Presented in a non linear narrative, the story follows the lives of a bickering gay couple, who split up during their trip to Argentina, only to reunite and split up again. Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing play the couple, and give real depth to their underwritten characters (this is a given, since Wong Kar-wai doesn’t prescript his own films), while Taiwanese actor Chang Chen is fares well with his excellent performance. Once again, Christopher Doyle complements the film with an exotic look, alternating between classic black and white and bright and lush colors. Another Wong Kar-wai masterpiece.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 9.5/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Fallen Angels (1995) Review

"Fallen Angels" German Theatrical Poster

"Fallen Angels" German Theatrical Poster

Director: Wong Kar Wai
Writer: Wong Kar Wai
Producer: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai
Cast: Leon Lai Ming, Michelle Reis, Kaneshiro Takeshi, Charlie Young Choi Nei, Karen Mok Man Wai, Chan Man Lei, Chan Fai Hung, Benz Kong To Hoi
Running Time: 96 min.

By Alexander

“Fallen Angels,” Wong Kar-Wai’s follow-up to “Chungking Express,” is as stark a movie as “Chungking” is bright and airy. Notable, really, only for Takeshi Kaneshiro’s inspired performance as an amicable, mute “thug,” “Angels” is simply too bleak to enjoy. The lingering scene of a character “satisfying herself” (ahem) is daring, sure, but only succeeds in beating us over the heads with something we already know: These characters are REALLY lonely. Yes, this film is “different,” and I’m all for taking chances, but despite the fun of Kaneshiro’s odd character, there’s just not enough here to like. I’m just glad I saw “Chungking Express” before this or I might never have given WKW another chance.

Alexander’s Rating: 6/10


By Yates

This is one of those movies that kind of grows on you. The first time I saw it, I had mixed reactions. I liked it, but thought it had nothing on Chungking Express, and for that reason I thought of it as a dissapointment. Now, after watching it a couple of more times, I like it even more than Chungking Express. It’s a really wonderful film in it’s own right. I think the main reason people dislike it is because it is a very dark film. Every shot, save the last one, takes place at night in a virtual monsoon, and all of the action takes place in small, dirty hallways and deserted subways, and other rather undesirable places. Another reason people probably dislike this film is that the characters are downright bizzare. Not quirky, like in Chungking Express, but downright strange. I think the two strangest performances are by Charlie Yeung and Karen! Mok. Especially Karen Mok. Her charector is like Faye Wong’s Chungking Express character on crack. Trust me, this is one off the wall performance.

I think yet another reason this film is not as well received as Chungking Express is that it does not have a particularly happy, upbeat ending. While it is a nice ending, the audience knows that no one in the movie will be any happier in the future. I still dont know why people dislike this film so much. It’s meant to be dark and bizarre. If you watch it expecting Chungking Express, you will be dissapointed. This is not a romance film, it is more along the lines of film noir. Out of all the people who deserve mention for this wonderful film, three names stick out in particular. Takeshi Kaneshiro, Michele Reis, and Chistopher Doyle. Takeshi Kaneshiro gives the performance of a lifetime in the role of mute ex-convic! t He Qiwu. The section of the film concerning his character is funny, sad, and in the end, very touching.

Michele Reis… well, what can I say, she looks great! Wong Kar Wai deserves major props for casting her in this role. I really felt bad for her charecter, The Agent. And the person who deserves more props than anyone? Christopher Doyle. You can press the freeze button on any part of this film and you will have an amazing still portrait. Thanks to the cinematography, this rises above film and into art. Chris Coyle is just as much a genius as Wong Kar Wai. This, in my opinion, is the best HK film I have ever seen, and it is my personal favorite film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Wong Kar Wai is a genius.

Yates’ Rating: 10/10


By Yi-Long

First of all… this movie is DARK. With dark I mean the whole movie takes place at night, the characters are mostly the outcast of society and there is (almost) no humour in it. Unlike Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece Chunking Express, where most characters were very likeable, this movie just has some “interesting” characters in it. You never really get any kind of relationship with any of the characters, because they are either immoral, or they are just plain crazy (in a funny way).

The acting in this movie is pretty good, most notably Takeshi Kaneshiro’s portrayal of the mute who breaks into other people’s stores at night to EARN some money. This is the only character you will really feel for in the end. Visually this movie is pretty good, but the best thing about this movie must be the soundtrack: Every time Leon’s character goes out, you get to hear a great song. The song that plays at the end of the movie is also extremely suitable. This movie is technically a great movie, but both story and characters are alot less interesting than WKW’s other movies.

Yi-Long’s Rating: 7.5/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chungking Express (1994) Review

"Chungking Express" French Theatrical Poster

"Chungking Express" French Theatrical Poster

AKA: Chung King Express
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Writer: Wong Kar Wai
Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle
Cast: Brigitte Lin, Kaneshiro Takeshi, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Faye Wong, Valerie Chow Kar Ling, Piggy Chan Kam Chuen, Piggy Chan Kam Chuen, Joh Chung Sing
Running Time: 102 min.

By Lady Tequila

Wong Kar-Wai’s Hong Kong is an offbeat, stylised, slow-motion blur of colours, sounds, tastes and smells which roll off the screen with the vividness of a dream. The ever-present, streaking neon of the city night is just unforgettable, and provides a great backdrop for this simple slice of life, in which two stories run concurrently, with many similar themes explored between them, such as lovesickness and being alone in a world of people. Nothing is rammed down our throats. Nothing is spelled out. Subtlety is everything here, and in a film where narrative and plot is forsaken for imagery and emotions, a simple moment can mean so much. Just like in ‘real life’.

Even the music kicks ass. California Dreaming never sounded so good. There are some top-notch performances. Brigitte Lin reminds us why she was famous in the first place and fills the screen with a wonderful presence – and the blonde Marilyn wig is a scream! Much was made of Faye Wong…I’m going to be radical and say, yes, she’s OK but after a while it seems like she only has the one expression: a sort of “I’m-yearning-and-poetic-but-also-kookie” thing, but she does bring a nice sense of innocence to the role. Takeshi Kaneshiro is kind of cool, and there’s an almost exuberant feeling about him. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is brilliant, as ever; he just has so much charisma, and in this movie there are several shots of him doing nothing much at all – but he fills that screen, nonetheless. His character is the archetypal Wong Kar-Wai male: aloof, mysterious, untouchable, and very alone. Favourite hobby – leaning against the wall and smoking cigarettes.

On the downside, the fact that there are essentially two different stories going on at the same time, with equal time given to each, can mean that some of the simplicity Wong Kar-Wai seemed to try so hard to evoke becomes lost. I think a much more powerful film could’ve been made if just one of the stories was taken and concentrated on. Also, there are times when some of the ‘symbolic moments’ meander a bit down paths not so easy to follow – tinned pineapple, anyone? I confess I found that a little tortuous. But in a way, those kind of moments are all the more reason to like this movie, where imperfections seem more like cinematic explorations and experiments. And anyway, with themes of imperfect and unrequited love (and mouldy tins of pineapple) surely a little imperfection is a good thing?

Lady Tequila’s Rating: 8/10


By Alexander

Certain films offer the same nostalgic feelings that often envelope us when listening to a favorite song or catching a familiar scent. For example, “Reservoir Dogs” and Woo’s “The Killer” will forever remind me of one memorable summer seven years ago when I caught both on video, back-to-back, for the first time. Wong Kar Wai’s “Chungking Express” also stirs feelings of nostalgia for another summer not too long ago. Not everyone will revere this film like I do, but most will agree it’s a wonderfully simple, quirky film with outstanding, energetic performances by Takeshi Kaneshiro and a beautiful Faye Wong. Sure, it meanders off-course a couple times (expired pineapples?!), but that’s part of the appeal. To date, Wong Kar-Wai’s best — and certainly most fun — film.

Alexander’s Rating: 9.5/10


By Yates

This is the best Hong Kong film I have ever seen. Hell, this is the best film in any country I have ever seen! There is not one bad thing I can say about this film. The acting is amazing, the direction superb, and the cinematography (courtesy of Christopher Doyle) is beautiful. After seeing this film, I had such a huge crush on Faye Wong. She is great in this film. Another great performance was that of Takeshi Kaneshiro. He is too cool, and if you dont crack up when he starts yelling at the employee at the store about the feelings of the expired pineapples, there is something seriously wrong with you. I never grow tired of this film. I watch nearly every other week. I can’t praise this film enough. Wong Kar Wai is a genius.

Yates’ Rating: 10/10


By James H.

Wong Kar-Wai’s film, “Chungking Express”, is easily one of the most visually pleasing films I have ever seen. The film revolves around two separate stories about two police officers who have recently been ousted from their respective relationships.

There’s not much that can be said about this film that hasn’t been said before. The cinematography is perfect, the acting is great, and the music is superb (although, you may be sick of “California Dreamin” by the end of it).

The one problem I had though, was with the subtitles. The version I have is the American release under Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder company. I would have thought that because he liked the film, he would have re-mastered it and made the subtitles just a little clearer.

I’ll have to agree with Jeff on this one, I did not find anything wrong with the film. It’s fun, it’s uplifting, and we can all relate, because I’m sure we’ve all been there before.

James H’s Rating: 10/10


By Vic Nguyen

Art-house director Wong Kar-wai, in a brief hiatus from editing his epic Ashes of Time, found the time to film this little masterpiece, which is considered by many to be a superior effort. Two intersecting stories about lost love and isolation are enhanced by superb cinematography and delightful performances from Faye Wong and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Although the soundtrack is plagued by repetition (The Mama’s and Papa’s California Dreamin is played at least 6 times, maybe more), that in no way alters the enjoyment one receives when viewing this delightful production. Also features Valerie Chow, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Brigette Lin in her final screen performance.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 10/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beast Stalker, The (2008) Review

"The Beast Stalker" UK DVD Cover

"The Beast Stalker" UK DVD Cover

AKA: Beaststalker
Director: Dante Lam
Writer: Jack Ng
Cast: Nicholas Tse Ting Fung, Nick Cheung Ka Fai, Sherman Chung Shu Man, Derek Kwok Jing Hung, Ringo Chan Ka Leung, Joe Cheung Tung Cho
Running Time: 111 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

I just realized it’s been years since I’ve seen a Dante Lam flick (last one I saw was 1998’s Beast Cops), let alone any Hong Kong movie. I have to say, popping in a modern Chinese crime film was a nice change of pace for me. I’ve been sort of pissed off at current films lately (all genres, all countries); so most of what I’ve been watching are ones I already love or classics that I’ve never seen. It’s films like Avatar and Transformers 2 that steer me to that backwards direction (God, those movies sucked).

This brings us to Dante Lam’s Beast Stalker (which has nothing to do with Marc Singer or barbarians). This moody action-thriller centers around a hot headed cop (Nicholas Tse), some asshole gangsters, a murdered child, a grieving mother, and a kidnapping by a psycho called “Beast” (Nick Cheung). Without giving too much away, the way the story unfolds would make Paul Haggis proud.

Beast Stalker starts out typical, then mellow drama starts to pour in. The next thing you know, tension comes out of nowhere; now you’re glued, and what started out as something you didn’t want to watch, turns out to be very watchable.

Nicholas Tse – who is looking more like a man these days; and less like a long-haired teeny bopper with highlighted hair – gives us an outstanding performance. To a lesser extent, Nick Cheung carries the weight with some solid acting.

There is a major car accident sequence that is visually impressive. This is very rare for me to say, but I actually appreciate the use of cgi in these particular shots. I never thought that little pieces of glass and slow motion could look so awesome.

Now, if they could only put a stop to that shaky camera and constant zooming crap; why in the hell is everyone still going for that Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay bullshit? It got old more than 15 years ago. Enough.

All in all, Beast Stalker is passable flick, just don’t expect to remember it years from now.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 6.5/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beast Cops (1998) Review

"Beast Cops" Danish DVD Cover

"Beast Cops" Danish DVD Cover

Director: Gordon Chan, Dante Lam
Writer: Gordon Chan, Chan Hing Kar
Producer: Gordon Chan, Dante Lam
Cast: Anthony Wong, Michael Wong, Stephanie Che Yuen Yuen, Kathy Chow, Sam Lee, Patrick Tam, Roy Cheung, Arthur Wong Ngok Tai, Raven Choi Yip San, Michael Lui
Running Time: 104 min.

By Tequila

Beast Cops, for me, was the best film out in 1998, just beating Milkyway’s fantastic and even more seedy The Longest Nite at the post.

Why? Well, the acting (from award winners Anthony Wong and Patrick Tam to the lesser roles of Roy Cheung and the excellent Stephanie Che, nominated for an award in this, her first film) is completely first rate. I would say that Anthony Wong has put in his best performance to date here, with some fantastic thespianism (ooh!) and anyone who’s seen Beast Cops knows what I mean when I mention the balcony scene with Stephanie Che. I think that some of the praise heaped on Michael Wong here is a bit overdone as he doesn’t really DO anything of note as an actor but he fitted the role like a glove and the character development is all done visually (he shoots to kill as an SDU, drives a Hummer, smokes cigars, solves things “The American Way” – shoot everyone). Sam Lee is great in his second film and an interesting note is Gordon Chan gave him time off so he could finally finish his electrician’s course in college. Kathy Chow offers great support in a breakout role that should get here away from the “girl next door” stereotype, but I fear it’s too late for the excellent Roy Cheung who was pigeonholed years ago unfortunately. Patrick Tam shows that he’s one to watch as he turns in a great performance as the youngblood who doesn’t give a damn.

And that brings me on to the next point of the film. On the surface, Beast Cops is corrupt cops and triads with a shake up that provides the action, but look deep and Beast Cops is unique. The comment on youth – no one cares about the kid Michael Wong just shot and arrested; everybody loves violence until it is used against them, the young triads pissing their pants and hiding under baskets as a drug-addled and blood soaked Anthony Wong storms around singing and holding his blade in the air. The use of Ecstacy and steroids by on duty cops who openly use whores and have evidence of other business out of work (Tung’s house, full of arcade machines, cornershop coolers and boxes of old stock) is shocking as it is the first time it has ever been shown to my knowledge and it gives a whole new meaning to the term “bent cop”. As a comment on HK’s seedy underworld, Gordon Chan and his team have done a great job.

Chan’s direction and screenplay are other big, big plusses. Chan is one of those unique directors who can have a film that is as deep as you want it to be, as throwaway as Young and Dangerous (albeit better) or deeper than classics like A Better Tomorrow. Chan never shouts at his players and knows what they are going to do, sitting down with them for a chat rather than giving them 30 seconds and multiple takes and so he gets the best from them and it is one reason why he is becoming one of my favourite directors. His style of filming makes the visual aspect very striking, with harsh lighting and small amounts of slow-mo that really enhance the film – the result being brutal yet almost anime style action that really gets you riveted to the screen. Chan makes the kind of movies I want to make and he is an inspiration. Beast Cops is never dull during even the most trivial of scenes because it looks so damn good. With a budget lower than that of the catering for your average Hollywood production, Chan has worked miracles.

The finale is the part of this movie that will be the most talked about in years to come, but with good reason. Chan’s aim here I believe was to make a dig at those Triad pictures that glorify the violence, as the blood flows at an amazing pace but it is never unbelievable and it would certainly discourage potential Triads from getting into knife fights. The visuals are fantastic and the look on Anthony Wong’s face as he charges toward Pushy Pin Wah immortalizes his performance – the rage is so believable. The morale of the combatants is also used by Chan, as he has the cocky Pushy Pin turn into Pussy Pin when Tung laughs while gripping the blade of his machete bare-handed. The final showdown is almost Kurosawa-like because of this. The next twist in the plot is never predictable in Beast Cops, as it goes against the norm so many times.

Beast Cops is a movie that both nerdy movie buffs and stupid inbreds can get enjoyment from, even more so than Star Wars (more specifically The Empire Stikes Back) and that is a big stamp of approval from someone who has seen that certain film 20 odd times. It is a brilliant spectacle.

And as a bonus, is contains the immortal name Punk-Punk. I’m calling MY kids that.

Tequila’s Rating: 10/10 – A classic movie, one of the best of the nineties.


By Alexander

Early in the film, Anthony Wong’s character says “I am a…I’m a cop!” You’d never know this, however, as he doesn’t do anything in “Beast Cops” that’s even remotely cop-like. His partner, played by Sam Lee, is also very un-cop-like and not just because of his trademark frizzy ‘fro. Both enjoy the whores, drinking, smoking, gambling, protecting neighborhood triads, and generally being admitted lazy-asses throughout the entire film. Not that all police officers in real life are virtuous crime-fighters with huge hearts of gold. I’m sure they enjoy their vices too. In fact, living in L.A., I hear stories all the time about cops stealing cocaine from evidence lockers; cops beating the hell out of innocent teens simply for wearing baggy clothing and bandanas; and cops who spend a few too many of their overtime dollars in establishments like Deja Vu Showgirls. So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with portraying unsavory policemen in a movie aptly titled “Beast Cops”. However, what irked me most about this film wasn’t the general do-nothingness of Lee’s and A. Wong’s characters, but rather the general do-nothingness of the usually heroic Michael Wong.

M. Wong, a favorite of mine despite his monotonous delivery and expressionless responses to both romantic advances and guns being held to his head is supposed to join forces with A. Wong and Lee to vanquish some local triads. He drives a menacing Hummer, wears cool outfits (Banana Republic?) and grimaces on cue. He is supposedly thrust into A. Wong’s life to whip the cop led astray into shape. However, despite the fact he drives a big-ass black Hum-Vee (a Hum-Vee in Hong Kong! How cool is that?!); despite the fact he can score the head whore simply by looking cool (the HEAD whore by simply looking COOL!); despite the fact it’s even Michael “I’m in Every HK SDU Movie” Wong, he inexplicably fails to bring the expected discipline and morale to A. Wong’s unit. And not because M. Wong is particularly wooden here, but because his character is severly under-written. Whose ass inexplicably gets kicked the most in “Beast Cops”? Michael Wong! And he’s ex-SDU! WTF?!

Anyway, maybe I’m getting too bent out of sByhape about how M. Wong’s character is portrayed in “Beast Cops”. Because despite this, “BC” is an enjoyable, refreshingly well-written film that includes some of the best dialogue I’ve ever heard in a HK film. All of the performances (even M. Wong’s) are commendable. The violence is kept to a minimum until the final third when all hell breaks loose and knives are frequently thrust into the exposed necks of many a victim. I won’t mention the ridiculous sub-plot involving a triad boss and his love of custard cups or the equally ridiculous collection of silly-monikered gangsters like Man-dick, Custard Thui, Big Fucking Brother and Pushy Pin.

Despite the film’s flaws, this is definitely a must-see for any fan of the HK “heroic bloodshed” genre. Hell, it’s a must-see for ANY fan of intense, well-acted, well-written detective tales. Recommended.

Alexander’s Rating: 8/10


By Numskull

Beast Cops: A breath of fresh air after being stuck in an overflowing port-a-potty all day.

Much of the film strives for in-your-face realism to the point where you feel like a fly on the wall observing real-life events. It’s not slick, it’s frank. The world in which it takes place bears a much stronger resemblance to the one in which we actually live than those presented by many other films, Hong Kong and otherwise.

No elaborate kung fu bouts…just people beating the shit out of each other. No dazzling swordplay…just people getting cut and stabbed from behind and bleeding into their shabby clothes. No storybook romance…just people exercising their genitals and spending time together out of loneliness, not affection. No condoms within easy reach when you need them…just…well, mustn’t give too much away.

Sometimes the impression Beast Cops gives is more like that of a documentary than a drama, and not just because the actors sometimes turn towards the camera and speak directly to the audience. It’s also because, in a good number of scenes, the camera holds still and there’s no music…thus, the performers don’t have all the additional perks that cinema typically provides in order to get the point across. Nothing is rammed down the viewer’s throat; instead, we’re given a chance to look in on these cops, as if through a one-way mirror, during some of their most private moments, instead of just the glamorous, heroic parts of their lives where they save the day, get the girl, and walk off into a nauseatingly cheerful sunset.

Michael Wong, not as flat as usual, is a consummate cop who drives a Hummer (in the days before the Suburban Yuppie Mommies of the world started switching over to them, having decided that their SUVs just didn’t hog enough of the road). Anthony Wong is more charismatic as a less admirable character, a cop who freely indulges in Hong Kong’s seedy night life. Also, Kathy Chow is quite good as the emotionally unstable Yo Yo, a woman who dresses like those 13-year old sluts who get sent to boot camp on daytime talk shows, and Sam Lee and Roy Cheung fill their smaller roles nicely.

While not categorically an action movie, Beast Cops has a share of adrenaline-charged sequences that don’t hold anything back. The most memorable part of the movie by far is when Anthony Wong attacks the treacherous young gangster Pushy Pin in an alcohol-fueled frenzy…he gets stabbed and bludgeoned and shot and beaten around like a human pinball but he absolutely refuses to fall over and die like he ought to because his thirst for blood is just that damn strong.

Whether you’re tired of straightforward, balls-out HK action flicks or not, Beast Cops is well worth 110 minutes of your time.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10


By Vic Nguyen

Sweeping the 1998 Hong Kong film awards this past year (including best picture and best screenplay), the Special Administrative Region’s films in 1998 have never been better than Beast Cops. This latest work from Gordan Chan Kar-seung and his protege Dante Lam is an immensely entertaining character study, layered with shining performances, bouncy camera-work, and an intelligent script with heavy doses of wit and humor.

*SPOILER WARNING* The films plot centralizes around a decorated cop named Michael Cheung (Michael Wong Man-tuk). Cheung has been appointed to the anti-triad division of the force, and subsequently moves in with his cohorts, Tung and Sam (Anthony Wong Chau-sang and Sam Lee). Sam is the slacker-type who drives around in a scooter, and prides himself as the “ladies man”. Tung is a pleasure seeker who’s quick mouth makes himself popular with his aquaintances. This feature makes himself especially popular with a local triad group, with whom he’s working for. As Tung shows Michael around the various hangouts littered in Hong Kong, he brings him to a popular triad spot, where Michael meets, and eventually falls for Yo Yo (Kathy Chow), a hooker who has been left behind by the local dai go who promised to run away with her. This dai go, or big brother (Roy Cheung), who is a friend of Tung’s, had fled to China in order to escape an unintentional murder rap. As big brother is gone, his sai lo, a young, arrogant triad named Pushy Pin, takes it upon himself to over. Pushy Pin has his own type of infatuation with Yo Yo, and unsurprisingly, is furious to hear of Michael and Yo Yo’s relationship. He attempts to have Michael “bumped off”, but his efforts falter. This is where the film takes a sharp turn in the other direction when big brother returns, only to be killed by Pushy Pin himself. Every single twist and turn ultimately leads up to the over-the-top conclusion, where it pits everyone, more particularly Tung and Pushy Pin, in a no-holds-barred knife and fist fight. *END SPOILERS*

As mentioned before, the main reason that drives Beast Cops ahead from the rest as one of the best of 98 is because of it’s script, which was jointly written by Chan Hing-kai (A Better Tomorrow, Hitman) and Gordon Chan. The screenplay manages to blend drama and violent action with scenes of hilarious, and often dark comedy. The film even takes a documentary turn, in which the actors speak to the camera, therefore breaking the fine line between them and the viewer. Hell, even the typical romantic subplot doesn’t drag the film down (like so many other Hong Kong movies, ala Black Mask), in fact, it provides a good chunk of the humor (a particularly memorable scene features Wong desperately searching for a substitute for condoms).

As mentioned in plenty of other reviews, the title Beast Cops, often misguides the viewer, leading them to believe that the film is a hardcore action film, in the tradition of other Gordon Chan Kar-seung efforts, like the Option series (which also stars Michael Wong). Instead, they are treated to a character study, leaving very little room for over-the-top action. Instead, realism sets in, and once again, they take the documentary turn, as a handheld camera bounces around shooting all the carnage that surrounds it. Of course, those gore hungry fans who are disappointed in the limited action sequences that Beast Cops offers will definitely not be disappointed in the gore factor. The film’s action, especially the finale, features plenty of brutal stabbings and shootings, in the tradition of Hong Kong cinema. The finale is a prime example, as Tung is literally drenched in blood by the end, although I might gripe that it gets a bit too over-the-top, with derivative, music video music in the tradition of hacks like Brett Ratner (not to say that Gordon Chan is at the same level as Ratner, Chan is eons ahead when it comes to talented filmmaking)

Whew! While citing the superb script and how not to view Beast Cops for the action, I forgot to mention my single favorite element to the film, the powerful and superb performances. Wait a minute, powerful and superb performances and Michael Wong don’t go together. Wong, who is undoubtebly the most criticized actor in HK cinema history, breaks that typecast by delivering the best performance of his entire career. His use of the English dialogue to get around the tougher Cantonese phrases is used to a minimum here, and he manages to stand out during his key sequences. But as much as he stands out, he cannot, even on his best day, make himself stand out when the great Anthony Wong Chau-sang is on screen. Wong, who appears a bit bloated in this film (due to the fact of an illness he is recovering from), is the strongest out of the ensemble cast. His lines are delivered with his characteristic wit and sarcasm. His dramatic scenes are also well handled, making this an all around jaw dropping performance. Add this to one of the many awards Wong has received for best actor. The actor who plays Pushy Pin (I forgot his name), is also impressive, and earned the film another award, a Best Newcomer trophy at the ceremonies this year. Sam Lee, whose appearence is reduced to a small role, gets some funny scenes, and basically provides some of the comic relief the film contains. Kathy Chow is very effective as Yo Yo, while Roy Cheung for once doesn’t play an irritating bad ass (from his work with Ringo Lam), and settles down to deliver a restrained and impressive performance. To sum it all up, none of the cast disappoints the least bit.

With 1998 long past, in my opinion, nothing in Hong Kong has ever topped Beast Cops. Although Milkyway film companies The Longest Nite comes close, it’s tiny subtitles have taken the enjoyment factor out of me. Beast Cops is a pleasant change of pace in a cinematic community where Hollywood films are currently dominating the territories own box office receipts. With Hong Kong’s decline in the quality of films, Beast Cops (and virtually every Milky Way production) is a step in the right direction. Ever since I read the first wave of reviews for the film, I have been anxiously awaiting the day when I finally saw it. Let’s just say I share the enthusiasm contained in most of the reviews, and that the wait was well worth it.

(Note: The sources that I viewed this film under were the Megastar VCD and it’s far superior DVD (duh). Although the VCD is LBX with readable subs and a trailer, the DVD blows it away in every aspect, and is well worth the extra money. The picture is sharp, with slim to nil artifacts. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is intense and mindblowing, and is far from the screwjobs that the company has released previously. Extras on the disc include trailers for Gordon Chan’s other works (Stephen Chiau’s starring vehicle King of Beggars, Michael Wong’s First Option, Dante Lam’s directorial debut Option Zero, and the Beast Cops trailer are featured), with a music video montage for other Media Asia releases, and some behind the scenes footage, activated when you view each individuals bio. Chapters are included, but are sparse, including only 9. Optional languages include Cantonese, Mandarin, and an English dub that is horrible to hear, and makes the film seem cartoonish. You can activate multiple remastered subs, which include English. )

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 9/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Treasure Hunt | aka American Shaolin (1994) Review

"Treasure Hunt" Chinese DVD Cover

"Treasure Hunt" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Jeff Lau
Writer: Edward Tang, Fiba Ma, Lee Wai Yee
Producer: Linda Kuk Mei Lai
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Wu Chien Lien, Gordon Liu, Philip Kwok, Chin Han, Choi Yue, Roy Chiao, Michael Wong Man Tak, Giorgio Pasotti, Jun Kunimura, Jeff Lau, George Saunders
Running Time: 105 min.

By Numskull

“Lag.” Verb. To fall behind; to straggle; to fail to keep pace. In other words, to proceed at an inadequate rate.

Treasure Hunt lags.

Boy, does it EVER lag.

It lags so much, it sets a new standard in lagging.

Lag, lag, lag.

It lags by day, it lags by night. It lags so much, it’s out of sight. It lags left and it lags right. It takes lagging to a whole new height.

Yes sir, this movie sure does lag.

So, anyway…

Chow Yun-Fat plays a cop or a secret agent or whatever living in the United States, and he gets sent to China, and he’s supposed to find some treasure, and he stays at the Shaolin Temple, and there’s a nosy fat kid, and he gives the nosy fat kid his Game Boy, and the Game Boy actually has a cartridge in it unlike the Sega Game Gear in Rumble in the Bronx, and there’s a girl with supernatural powers, and she takes Chow Yun-Fat flying through the snow in a scene that lags and lags and lags and lags and lags and lags and lags and lags and lags and lags, and by the time the plot has actually taken a step forward the movie is half over. There’s one funny scene where a cab driver thinks Chow wants to fuck a donkey, and there’s the obligatory “show the kid’s ass” scene, and there’s a shootout where Chow pulls a shotgun out of nowhere, and there’s some hand to hand fighting, and then there’s more shooting, and there’s way too much romance. The details aren’t worth getting into.

Normally, I have a long attention span, but this friggin’ film knew just the right buttons to push to make me want to stop watching it and pretend that I finished it for review purposes. (Despite appearances to the contrary, I DID, in fact, watch the whole thing…except for the last 20 seconds or so, because the DVD began to skip and then totally stopped. Big loss.) A tear-jerker ending is set up reasonably well, and then almost immediately gets knocked down by a lame, commercialized conclusion. In a better movie, this would have annoyed me. In this movie, I was just happy the damn thing was over.

Numskull’s Rating: 4/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Twin Dragons (1992) Review

"Twin Dragons" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Twin Dragons” Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Brother vs. Brother
Director: Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark
Producer: Ng See Yuen
Cast: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Nina Li Chi, Teddy Robin Kwan, Johnny Wang, Guy Lai Ying Chau, David Chiang, Jamie Luk Kim Ming, Kirk Wong, Philip Chan, Alfred Cheung
Running Time: 100 min.

By Numskull

One thing you have to admit about Jackie Chan, whether you like him or not, is that he’s not afraid to admit it when one of his movies is a disappointment. Besides the Lo Wei years (his own personal dark ages), he has gone on record and criticized several of the films in which he has starred, including Thunderbolt and Rush Hour (“Too much talk, not enough action.” My God! Somebody else noticed!!!). Some people have accused him of playing favorites and crediting only those films directed by himself and sometimes Sammo Hung and Stanley Tong as his “best.” Well, look at it this way: which double bill would you rather watch, Project A and Police Story or City Hunter and The Big Brawl?

I rest my case.

Twin Dragons…not one of Jackie’s favorites and certainly not one of mine…is substandard but still moderately enjoyable Chan fare, with an ungodly amount of lame mistaken identity humor and a huge cast of characters (many played by HK cinema notables) who never stop to think that maybe, just MAYBE, there is somebody out there somewhere who looks like this guy they’ve been talking to or beating up or whatever…instead, they chalk up “his” tendency to seemingly travel from one side of a room to the other, change clothes, change hair style, and get “his” ear pierced all in the blink of an eye to “blurry vision.”

The way the Jackies swap female companions reeks of American Saturday morning cartoon show. The “mannered” Jackie seems to have no qualms whatsoever about letting Maggie Cheung into his car and…well, uh, okay, I guess that’s not a very good point. Still…lame.

Action is somewhat lacking here, but what’s there is generally pretty good. The final battle in the vehicle testing facility brings back fond memories of the days when Jackie would fight a bunch of people at the end of one of his movies, rather than running amok in a monster truck or hovercraft or whatever. The beaten-to-death mistaken identity aspect rears its ugly head here, too, but doesn’t detract too heavily from the ass-kicking.

All in all, a lesser latter-day Hong Kong effort from the esteemed Mr. Chan, but preferable to anything with Brett Ratner’s name on it. To get a good sense of how annoying the obligatory twin humor can be, read this review twice.

Numskull’s Rating: 6/10


By Ro

Jackie plays twins, separated at birth. One is a mechanic (Boomer), who can fight; and the other is a world class conductor (John), who can’t. Some gang boss wants Boomer to participate in a car race and of course they keep trying to kidnap the wrong guy. The twins wander around Hong Kong for a while before they discover each other. The plot’s pretty silly and some of the mixed identity stuff drags on too long, but most of it’s funny and on the whole, the movie’s still a lot of fun.

The scene at the end in the car testing facility is wonderful! We all know that Jackie never gets in a car normally, but in this scene he shoots out of the window and kicks somebody in mid air! Wow!! Jackie overdoes the low- class Boomer, but he gets to show off his acting muscles in playing the laid back, sophisticated John perfectly! Who says he just ‘mugs for the camera’? Another plus – this film includes the best love scene in a Jackie Chan movie (that I’ve seen so far) – the incredibly sweet kiss shared by John and Barbara at the piano. One negative, Jackie doesn’t dub his own voice and the one they used is perfectly awful!

Ro’s Rating: 6.5/10


By Master of the Stick

I’d heard good things about this movie, so I was pretty excited to find it on the bargain shelf at my local Borders bookstore. However, when I got home to watch it, I found that I had been duped! “Original Subtitles,” my ass! The sound also faded in and out, and the screen was filled with lines of white snow – the tracking did nothing. It’s a damn shame buying Jackie Chan films is such a gamble. Anyway, before I went back to Borders and gave the clerks hell, I figured I’d watch the whole thing. (After all, a poorly dubbed, muffled sounding, extremely fuzzy Jackie Chan movie is still a Jackie Chan movie.) Well, it was worth watching, but I’m not about to go buy another copy.

The fight scenes were cool, though few and far between, and there were some decent action sequences. Unfortunately, the weird attempts at humour just weren’t very funny, and the whole twin thing was stupid. It’s a pretty unoriginal concept, and it wasn’t done very well in my opinion. Maybe it’s the the fact that I got gypped, but I really didn’t like this movie very much.

Master of the Stick’s Rating: 5/10 (7/10 if you’ve got a good copy)


By Marcia

OK, it’s stupid, but you had to know that just by looking at the title and the cover art. You also had to know there were going to be the obligatory mistaken identity gags. Even the twin-A-does-and-twin-B-feels schtik is predictable, and though usually annoying, makes for a good lewd comment when the two first meet up in the hotel bathroom.

Actually, I’m surprised that the Boomer character flew at all with Jackie’s audience (OK, it was the fighting that saved him), considering his ultra nice guy reputation. Maybe the smokin’, drinkin’, womanizin’ Jackie was acceptable in context because there was the contrasting “every woman’s dream guy” (so the producers hope) Jackie as well. Whatever the reason, I thought it was kind of a nice change of pace and allowed Jackie to showcase two very different sides of his public appeal (great fighter, “sweet” guy). Don’t go watch this if you’re looking for something even remotely serious; unless you go in expecting it to be one bad cliche after another, you’ll be disappointed. Otherwise, it’s surprisingly good.

Marcia’s Rating: 7/10


By Shazbot!

The film opens up with good action and a serious tone and deviates into slapstick, almost farcical. It might be less annoying subtitled. The best element of the film is the running gag (which doubles as the plot) of mistaken identity with girls, friends and enemies. The best bit is in the apartment bathroom (The Marx brothers would’ve been proud). The movie ends with the greatly underrated battle in the auto plant, which is also a great comedy bit. JC plays his most arrogant and confident character here. He looks like he enjoyed it. The effects are decent, and not nearly as bad as JC pans them. It don’t look fake- as least not on grainy EP VHS.

Shazbot!’s Rating: 7/10


By James H.

I was at Wal-Mart recently. While there, I happened on a big bin of movies on sale for $4.88. So the curious fellow I am, I looked through. To my surprise I found “Twin Dragons.” Hot damn, I thought. So I quickly bought it and I was on my way. (Note: other titles in the bin were “Fearless Hyena” and “Fantasy Mission Force.”) I must say there was some sort of hype to this movie, at least in my mind anyway. Having two of the biggest names in the Hong Kong film industry (Tsui Hark & Ringo Lam) directing this movie meant it was big. Despite the half-assed dubbing, I was very impressed. Jackie’s acting was great, doing double time as twins. Let’s also not forget Maggie Cheung putting in a great performance and looking as sexy as ever.

It has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster: action, comedy and romance. The mix of action and comedy was perfect, almost too perfect. Near the end of the film, it was as if they were laying it on a little too much. Generally, the scenes with two Jackies were hilarious as were the scenes of mistaken identity. The action is top notch: boat chases, car chases, shoot outs, and plenty of fist fights. This one’s got it all. The fight at the Mitsubishi car testing area was flat out amazing. The choreography was very good as well.

Before I mentioned that there was some romance in the film. It’s something that usually isn’t in a Jackie film, and in this one it worked quite well. The scene with Jackie (as John) and Maggie at the piano was one of the best in the movie. “Twin Dragons” is a great piece of Jackie that everyone should see it’s plenty of fun for the whole family. For $4.88, something has to be too good to be true, and to my dismay, there were no outtakes during the credits.

Note: My copy is the full 100-minute version, distributed by Front Row Entertainment. Check your local Wal-Mart now for more Jackie!

James H’s Rating: 8/10


By Sean Johnson

Chan plays two parts in this slapstick comedy about twin brothers seperated at birth. One is a Hong Kong mechanic (Boomer), the other is a world famous conductor from NY (John Ma). Things get wild when the two meet up with each other in Hong Kong while Boomer’s having trouble with the cops, and John just wants to give a concert. Once the two find each other things get crazy and slapstick prevails. The comedy is funny to an extent, then grows tiresome. However, because of the excellent hard pounding action scene at the Mitsubishi Testing Factory (with cars racing at Jackie) the video is worth buying for about ten bucks.

Sean Johnson’s Rating: 6.5/10


By Andrew

This film is Jackie’s take on the “Double Impact” premise that Van Damme did. Four words: Jackie did it better. There’s a few good fights early on, and an awesome sequence at the end that puts the “Rumble in the Bronx” gang fight to shame. The action drags in the middle, but the confused relationships between the two Jackie Chans and their girlfriends keeps the story moving. The one problem I had with this film was with the three stooge-esqe moments thrown in gratuitously immediately after the boat chase scene. This one is a must see for anyone who enjoyed Rumble or First Strike.

Andrew’s Rating: 7/10


By Vic Nguyen

Twin Dragons is basically a Hong Kong version of Double Impact, only 50 times better! Jackie Chan takes the roles of twin brothers seperated at birth, John Ma and Boomer. John Ma is a successful pianist from New York and Boomer is a trouble making car mechanic from Hong Kong. When John goes on tour in Hong Kong,everything goes wrong. They run into each other and because of confusion, each lives the different lifestyles that the other one has. Caught in the mess are both of their girlfriends. There are some great action sequences, but the one that stands out from the rest is the final fight scene in a Mitsubishi car testing facility. This movie was made to raise funds for the Hong Kong Directors Guild. Recommended.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in Chinese, Golden Harvest, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thunderbolt | aka Dead Heat (1995) Review

"Thunderbolt" International Theatrical Poster

"Thunderbolt" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Gordon Chan
Producer: Chua Lam
Cast: Jackie Chan, Anita Yuen, Michael Wong, Thorsten Nickel, Ken Lo, Chu Yuan, Yuzo Kayama, Annie Man, Daisy Woo, Chin Kar Lok, Hon Chun, Michael Ian Lambert, Bruce Law, Michael Lui, Eguro Mari, Rebecca Penrose, Paul Rapovski, Kenya Sawada
Running Time: 107 min.

By Raging Gaijin

“Thunderbolt” is the only Jackie Chan film from the 90’s that never saw wide release in the US, whether on DVD or at the theatre. After watching it, I still don’t know why. It’s great! Sure, it’s rather dark and serious for a Chan flick, but hey they still put out “Crime Story” here. Okay, it has quite a bit of car racing (not something that Chan is particularly known for) but it’s all a lot more exciting than when he rode a bulldozer at the end of “Mr. Nice Guy”. Besides, the fight sequences are fantastic! Somebody needs to buy the distribution rights to this movie and get it out on video store shelves. This is a must see for any self-respecting Jackie Chan fan.

So what makes “Thunderbolt” so great? For one thing, it’s pretty unique among Jackie’s films. Case in point: Jackie smiles maybe once the entire movie. It manages to be serious and sober without being overwhelmingly grim. I love Jackie’s blend of comedic hijinks and action just as much as the next fanboy, but I have to admit that I enjoy it when he does a darker movie every so often. It’s just a good change of pace. And Jackie really gets put through the wringer in this one: his family is tortured and nearly killed, then kidnapped, and Jackie has to fend off dozens of opponents and drive in a Japanese acing tournament just to get them back. Can he do it? Well, come on now… he’s Jackie Chan.

As a director, Gordon Chan is either hit (Fist of Legend) or miss (The Medallion). Fortunately, he does an adequate job filming “Thunderbolt”, although that may be due more to Jackie’s interference than his own talent. Either way, the fight scenes and racing sequences are all handled very well. There are two fights in particular to watch for: one in Jackie’s car shop and another in a Japanese casino. Both scenes are absolutely incredible and rank as some of Jackie’s very best fight scenes. The casino fight is extremely long and even has Jackie up against some members of the Yakuza. For Asian cinema buffs, this is something like a dream come true. Jackie Chan vs. the Yakuza… all I can say is “hell yeah!”

You might expect that putting Jackie in NASCAR-style races just wouldn’t work. It’d come off as “Days of Thunder” with Jackie instead of Tom Cruise. But these aren’t your typical racing scenes… these are done Hong Kong style. What does that mean? It means Gordon Chan has seemingly sped up the footage to make the cars look even faster. As a result the racing scenes are so fast that there’s a car crash at least every twenty seconds. Naturally, they’re pretty exciting to watch. Look for the part where a car flies off the track and crashes into a watchtower as a helpless bystander leaps out of the way.

So what marks the film down? No offense to Anita Yuen but her character is positively annoying and seems to add very little to the story. She plays a driven news reporter who trails Jackie’s every move and often puts the lives of others at risk all for the sake of getting a news scoop. Whenever Jackie is onscreen fighting or racing, the movie is great. Whenever he has to deal with Anita, the movie just drags. Also, there’s a twist during the third act that is completely out of the blue. It somewhat makes sense and it’s not that big of a deal but… let’s just say there’s a character in the movie for all of thirty seconds who shows up an hour later, out of nowhere, to save the day. Far-fetched but it thankfully doesn’t ruin the movie.

To sum things up: if you love Jackie Chan, chances are you’ll enjoy “Thunderbolt”. It’s a little darker than the usual Chan fare but in my book that’s a good thing. It’s got action, suspense, a cheesy gweilo villain, and Jackie Chan doing what he does best: fighting bad guys across the globe. Not even Michael Wong’s presence can ruin this movie.

Raging Gaijin’s Rating: 7.5/10


By Mairosu

Foh (Jackie Chan) is a trained race car driver who is now working as a mechanic in Hong Kong. His life will turn upside down when a renegade street racer Krugman (Thorsten Nickel) comes into the town – two of them quickly meet each other in a chase through the city in which Krugman gets arrested, the event earning Foh a big deal of media coverage and praise. Soon after, Krugman is busted out and he sets his sights at revenge – by demolishing Foh’s house and kidnapping his two sisters. In order for them to come back in one piece, Foh must travel to Japan and race with Kougar, with his sisters’ lives as a stake.

Thunderbolt, aka Dead Heat, is an entertaining, if not a bit atypical, Jackie Chan action flick from his latter stages of Hong Kong career. Shot in 1995. in Hong Kong and Japan, Thunderbolt benefits greatly from involving a racing aspect to the already trademark kung-fu shenanigans and martial arts – though this time, “shenanigans” turn a bit evil at the times.

As I said above, it’s an atypical Chan fare, most notably because it’s devoid of his trademark slapstick, down to the point that it can be considered as a “serious” action film. There are no trademark Chan grimaces here, or his off the wall (literally) kicks and punches – those are replaced by more no-nonsense fight sequences and an unusual (for Chan) number of on-screen deaths and mild violence spruced with some bloody close-ups. The villain, in this case “Cougar” Krugman, is not the usual pompous-wannabe-world-leader-tyrant goof, he is a really devious character who gets his kicks from aggressive driving and street races – the sole form of comic relief comes from the character of Amy Yip (Anita Yuen), an opportunist journalist who follows Foh determined to make him the next media darling of the Hong Kong populace.

The action sequences – both fighting and racing – are very well done. The races – notably the first Foh/Krugman chase and the final showdown in Japan – are exquisitely shot and choreographed, with some fine camerawork and an interesting effect of slowing the picture down, then letting it go in fast forward for about few seconds. Fight scenes don’t appear as frequent as we’re used with Chan, but the scene in which Foh thrashes a pachinko parlour, decimating the local Yakuza branch to rubble in process, is a definitive standout.

The issue with this film is a muddled character interaction and communication. The film intertwines Cantonese, English and Japanese with mediocre success – Foh’s driving instructor talks sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English to him, a Interpol police officer switches from Cantonese to English literally sentence after sentence, Foh himself is addressed as Foh and “Jackie” throughout the film, which is nothing new as Chan’s characters are, probably intentionally, called “Jackie” in majority of his films regardless of his on-screen name, but at the ending credits Chan is credited as “Alfred Tung”, leaving me in state of total confusion. Also, Chan is a talented polyglot here, understanding all three languages and responding in all three without particular logic (when addressed in English by the Japanese characters, he responds in Japanese and when addressed in English by Chinese characters, he answers in Cantonese…?!). Now it might be of course I got a dodgy dub-undub copy on my hands (see Drunken Master Columbia Tri-Star disc which “fills” Cantonese voice track gaps with English), but I doubt that as there is a fair number of non-Hong Kong characters who are supposed to speak other languages in the film. Also, this movie can get slow at the times, but that is a minor remark as the fast-paced action sequences pick up the tab for the rest.

Anyhow, Thunderbolt is a fairly good action film and well worth seeing, if nothing then for the fact that this is probably one of the best Chan films from his late HK period. Just don’t rent this awaiting something similar to Operation Condor and you’ll be fine…oh, and the opening/closing credits theme song, a delightful slice of Cantonese (I presume) pop, is horribly catchy.

Mairosu’s Rating: 8/10


By Vic Nguyen

Ah, here is another addition to the long line of mediocrity starring Jackie Chan, which consists of Rumble in the Bronx, Thunderbolt, First Strike, and Mr. Nice Guy (I’m surprised New Line hasn’t released a box set yet). Thunderbolt has possibly the worst plot ever contained in a Jackie Chan film. It has as much imagination as a porno. The villains have absolutely no personality (the person that plays the bad guy gives possibly the worst performance in a film, ever) , and they appearently have no motive for what they do. The “heroes” are no better. Amerasian Michael Wong Man-Tak gives another half-assed mediocre performance, mostly because he relies on his English much more than his Cantonese, something that does not belong in this, or any other Hong Kong film for that matter. Jackie is surprisingly bad in his usual underdog role. That is not his fault though, he isn’t given a decent script (or anything resembling one) to work with.

The film also has a very uneven pace to it. The most logical explanation would be because so many different units worked on a piece of the production. Gordan Chan Kar-seung (who is previously not known for action films) directed the dramatic scenes (if they are any). Frankie Chan, a heralded composer and actor, was brought in to direct the racing scenes. Jackie Chan directed some of his scenes, and Sammo Hung Kam-bo took control of the good ole fight choreography. How did he do? It is explained in one word, amazing. If one man can direct and choreograph an incredible fight scene, it’s Sammo. The first nock down, drag out fight scene is held in a body shop, and is a spectacular display of power on Jackie’s part. Here, he literally wipes the floor with his opponents in a series of stunts, split kicks, spin kicks, and head bashing.

The second noteworthy encounter is undoubtebly the best, and most imaginative scene in the film. It takes place in a Japanese packinko parlor. It starts off slow with some exchanges in dialogue, but when Jackie instigates the encounter by stealing a mallet from a game, it leads to a fight to the finish. This action scene is pure Sammo. He uses all the goods in his filmmaking artillery; acrobatics, wire work, extreme camera angles, and pure, adrenaline pumping choreography. What I like most about the fight though, is the use of environment in the traditional widescreen scope. The Japanese parlor provides the perfect backdrop for this type of fight, and with Sammo at the helm and Jackie as the featured combatant, it is even more perfect.

You cannot give all the on screen credit to Jackie though, because it is not him fighting nearly half the time. The double for Jackie on some of the more difficult moves is a Sammo discovery, Chin Kar Lok. Although he has appeared in numerous films, he has not made a name for himself as a box office champion as of late. Despite this, he is a wonderful talent, both acting and martial arts wise. His best films include Operation Scorpio and Martial Arts Master: Wong Fei-hung while as an actor, Ringo Lam’s Full Alert and Derek Yee’s Full Throttle. You also have to give credit to the combatants that fight Jackie. The two featured fighters are Ken Sawada, and our favorite high kicker Ken Lo Wai-kwong. I have never seen a Ken Sawada film before this one, so this is my first taste of his skills. He is very talented and gives Jackie (or Chin Kar-lok) a run for his money.

Ken Lo is pretty disappointing in the film, but still gets to show off some of his trademark bootwork. The movie should have ended after this amazing fight, but the filmmakers probably thought that the film needed some more zest, so they added a terrible, incredibly disappointing racing finale that is better off gone. Although some of the stunts are impressive (the car through the tower bit), that is basically it. The cars are so sped up that it reminds me of the old Speed Racer shows (I actually found myself humming “go speed racer, go speed racer, go speed racer go). And of course following the feature is an outtakes reel, which features a catchy tune and some classic moments. Overall, the only thing to recommend to this film are the fights, choreographed in pure Sammo fashion, and a tune that you can’t get out of your head. There is little else to recommend.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 5/10


By Ro

Alfred? Alfred? They named him ALFRED!!!! Oh no, no, no, no – Alfred it Batman’s butler, he’s the guy in Mad Magazine, he is NOT a Jackie Chan character! What DID I like about this movie? I liked that fact that he actually has a family life and he’s a complete person – work, home, play. The relationship with his father and sisters worked for me. I liked the house wrecking incident, even though it was too long. I liked the way he came to defend his sisters’ honor after a whistling construction worker grabbed one of them. The shootout in the police station was great (even though only the policemen bled – not any of the bad guys). and I LOVED tha fight scene in the car shop – pure Jackie!

What didn’t I like? Forget the lack of plot – that’s only to be expected. However, in return, I expect humor and fights and stunts. There was almost NO humor in this movie! And OK, I knew the cars were the main action, but the fight in the pachinko parlor – the main BIG fight was filmed so badly it would have been better to leave it out entirely. It looked as though they tied a camera to a stunt guy and threw him into the fray! Between the fast cuts and the motion of the camera that blurred the action, I was so frustrated I wanted to strangle the director (if I could figure out which director was responsible)! And the use of wires! I like to ‘wonder’ if a wire is being used, I don’t like seeing the actors flying around like Superman (shades of Lo Wei! Or do I mean, Lo Wei’s shade?). These are tricks for action directors who have stars that can’t fight, not for Jackie and his stuntmen. I kept getting glimpses of a great punch or kick and then the camera would cut to something else – and Ken Lo was doing some great stuff, I could tell – but I couldn’t SEE!!! What a tease! And the trampoline – MY GOD, the possiblilities of that trampoline! Just wasted! And, lastly… I can’t belive they named him ALFRED!

Ro’s Rating: 5/10 (would have been 6.5 if they’d filmed the pachinko scene properly!)


By Steve Lawson

This movie seems to cause mixed opinions – some people love it and others hate it. Well, I’m a bit of both, I love parts of it and hate others!

First of all I saw the original synch-sound Cantonese version, and I must say the acting and drama scenes are excellent. Jackie plays a real character for once, and isn’t called “Jackie” (well, for most of the film he isn’t called Jackie, but at the end when he goes to Japan suddenly everyone calls him Jackie – it’s really wierd!), and his romance with Anita Yuen is well done.

What I don’t like are Sammo Hung’s fight sequences, which don’t fit with the style of movie and use too many wires and fancy camera effects. I suppose all this was to hide the fact Jackie used a double for the fights, but it doesn’t work cos you can spot from a mile off when it’s Jackie and when it isn’t. If Jackie couldn’t fight they should have just done some smaller fights with easier moves he could do himself and then had more car chases or something to make up – if I want to watch a stunt-double flying around on a wire I’ll watch a Jet Li movie!!!

The car stunts in the movie are good but are too speeded up to be taken seriously, so basically it boils down to: good drama, characters and music, but silly action scenes. New Line are gonna have great fun chopping this up for the US market.

Steve Lawson’s Rating: 6/10


By James H.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, scanning the other reviews on this site, I noticed a lot of 5’s & 6’s, with some 7’s and 8’s. But when I popped the tape in and heard the theme song, I knew I was going to like it. It is sung by Jackie and is very catchy and upbeat. “Thunderbolt” is Jackie Chan meets “Days of Thunder” with great results. Unfortunately, there are only two fights in the film. The first one is very entertaining and whets the appetite for more. The second is even better. There is even a kick-ass shoot out about half way through the movie.

When you have a movie about a mechanic/race car driver, you have to have car chases. The chase at the beginning is just superb. The direction in this movie is great, as is the cinematography. The only time that this film falters is at the end, which is why I didn’t give it a higher rating. The end car chase is nothing compared to the one at the beginning. It is rediculously sped up and boring because it is on a fixed track; it’s predictable.

I think I’d have to stick this film in the same pile as “Crime Story.” It is not the usual “fight-every-ten-minutes” deal. If you want that rent “Mr. Nice Guy” again. If you want something a little different, pick this one up.

James H’s Rating: 7/10


By Marcia

As of this writing, I’ve only seen Thunderbolt once. My gut reaction was that it was pretty good. The points that several other reviewers make about the poor plot and “boring” race finale are valid, but I didn’t find them distracting when I was actually “watching” the film. In retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t so hot, but at the time I enjoyed it quite a bit. I guess Jackie wanted to do something like this because of his great fondness for stock-car racing, but that will likely leave most of his fans with a bad taste in their… um, eyes. Aside from the questionable slo-mo camera work, the fight scene in the pachinko parlor with Jackie doing some almost-sumo moves against the well-tattooed Yakuza was probably my favorite part.

Marcia’s Rating: 7/10


By Silent Fighter

This is a hard movie to approach. The fight scenes are dis-jointed, the stunts are relatively low tech and usually in slow motion. The story makes no sense and the direction is un-even. What we have here in Thunderbolt is a confused Jackie Chan. In wanting his picture to be more American, the film loses focuse on what makes a Jackie Chan’s movie so unique. In the American action films, slow motion fight scenes and car chases are common. But the sight of unbelievable and inspired action is largely absent. Thunderbolt is better than most American action movies, but it falls short, way short, of a true Jackie Chan movie. The American actors used in the movie are horrendous, the fights seemed either ultra-slow or unbelievably fast.

Thunderbolt does have its moments. The battle in the car factory is pure Jackie. But the poor directing, combined with the very un-exciting finale leaves you wanting more. Had Dimension films released a new version of Thunderbolt, the film could have been better, and possibly a success in American markets due to its Hollywood feel. This film was completed after Rumble in the Bronx and was schedule to open in the states. The bad press surrounding the making of Thunderbolt (Jackie Chan reportedly used stunt doubles in key areas of the film due to the production’s relatively short schedule) is a key factor in why this film was never released.

Silent Fighter’s Rating: 5.5/10


By Jim Carrey

I review here today to bring you a commentary on a masterpiece which is usually not appreciated. “Thunderbolt” is on my top 10 Jackie list and I’ve seen all his films, with the exception of ones he has only cameos in. Talk about a great movie, it manages to mix action, martial arts, stunts, emotional drama, suspense, and MultiEthnic themes without it seeming to be a lousy everything to everyone flick like “Mr. Nice Guy”. Not only that, for the first time since “City Hunter”, which is also in my top 10, Jackie goes back to being a big filmmaker instead of being too self-indulged with himself to cast more than 3 other stars.

The cast includes Jackie Chan, Anita Yuen, Michael Wong, Dayo Wong, Ken Lo, Cho Yuen, Chin Ka-Lok, Henry Sanada, Corey Yuen Kwai, & Shing Fui-On. Many complain that there is no plot – well here it is to prove them wrong: The film starts off with possibly my favorite Jackie song during the opening credits. Jackie works as a test driver for Mitsubishi and is about to go back to his family and auto shop back in Hong Kong. Right before he leaves, there is a funny bit about him helping find the ear ring of a daughter of one of the heads of the Mitsubishi corporation, she slams his hand. Anyways, next we see this anglo racer who is also wanted internationally for drug dealing, and they had to fit Michael Wong in there somehow. Next stop for this bad anglo is Hong Kong, he obviously has yet to find an opponent to equal to his racing abillity. Jackie works with his father and has two sisters, they own an autobody shop. He and his father also work as car inspectors for the police in their spare time.

One night while inspecting cars, they see this maniac racer go by and strike a policeman in the process. Also, on the scene is a pesky TV reporter, Anita Yuen and her cameraman, Dayo Wong. Now comes Michael Wong, an interpol agent after the blonde anglo racer who’s name is Cougar. One night Jackie and co. run into Anita and her jackass cameraman cause their car broke down, the jackass forgot to fill her up. While Jackie is testing the car from the inside to make sure it runs good, along drives the wanted Cougar, without hesitation Jackie chases after him in the car he was repairing, not remembering that Anita is still inside. A great car race ensues, which involves great maneuvering and excitement coreographed by Car Stunt Director Frankie Chan Fan-Kei. Jackie wins this race of course and they put Cougar in custody, but Michael can’t arrest him because he has a fake passport from Libya, so they have to let him go because Jackie couldn’t positively recognize him from when he struck the cop the night before. Cougar, impressed by Jackie’s racing skill, challenges him to a race, but Jackie declines so he sends goons over to Jackie’s autobody shop.

Jackie kicks their asses out of his shop in a great fight scene that is like the one he has sliding through railings in “Dragons Forever”. This obviously pisses Jackie off, so he then tells Michael that Cougar was the man who ran into the policeman. Cougar gets arrested, then eventually breaks out but his girlfriend dies in the process, so now he’s really mad. He then trashes Jackie’s house and autobody shop with a crane and challenges him to a race in Japan. For insurance, he kidnaps Jackie’s two sister so Jackie can’t call the cops again. Jackie realizes he must race this gwailo bastard to get him thrown in jail and get back his sisters. At the same time there is a subplot about Anita trying to get an interview with him. She is the one that gives him money to build a car for the big race.

After this long summary, you watch the rest to find out what happens.There is barely any comedy in the film, but Jackie gives one of his greatest performances on screen and this film has my favorite Jackie Chan fight scene of all time in the Pachinko Parlor. It only helps that this is the only film he used wires for, and he utillizes them great with his style of fighting. This proves that he is much better than Jet Li, although, you have to give Sammo credit for chhoreographing the fights, which I think is his best coreography scene of all time. This film is also directed by a truly great director names Gordan Chan Ka-Seung, who also directed “Fist of Legend”. “Thunerbolt” is a must see.

Jim Carrey’s Rating: 10/10

Posted in Chinese, Golden Harvest, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sleepless Town | aka Fuyajo (1998) Review

"Sleepless Town" Chinese DVD Cover

"Sleepless Town" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Lee Chi Ngai
Writer: Lee Chi Ngai
Producer: Masato Hara, Tsuguhiko Kadokawa
Cast: Kaneshiro Takeshi, Mirai Yamamoto, Lung Sihung, Eric Tsang Chi Wai, Kathy Chow Hoi Mei, Seijun Suzuki
Running Time: 122 min.

By Alexander

“Now it all makes sense,” says Kenichi, Takeshi Kaneshiro’s character near the end of the noir-ish thriller “Sleepless Town”. Well, not quite. This meandering, slick and very Wong Kar Wai-like film is so confusing, you’ll instantly ignore the deluge of plot twists amidst a huge cast of characters and instead focus on the beautiful cinematography and adept direction. Director Lee Chi-Ngai is amazing here, as are stars Takeshi Kaneshiro (“Chungking Express”) and Mirai Yamamoto.

“ST” is based on the book of the same name, which is apparently one of Japan’s most popular and critically acclaimed contemporary detective novels. The film opens with a spectacular, uninterrupted lengthy tracking shot of Kenichi walking through the neon-washed streets of Kabukicho, Japan, which instantly reminded me of the similarly lengthy and uninterrupted introduction to “Boogie Nights” and the single-take hospital gun battle in John Woo’s “Hard Boiled”. The director’s skill is evident and this lingering, expertly planned shot sets the tone for the rest of this gorgeous film.

If you’ve seen WKW’s masterful “Chungking Express” and “Fallen Angels” you will undoubtedly make comparisons between them and “ST”. The meandering pace and gritty settings are akin to “Fallen Angels”. Takeshi Kaneshiro appears in all three aforementioned films. The soundtrack is at times both eerie and airy, including popular songs and a moody score, similar to “Fallen Angels” and “Chungking Express”. There’s even a sly reference to “Chungking Express” when Takeshi and Mirai hear a song by “Express” co-star and Hong Kong pop singer Faye Wong on the radio. Takeshi switches stations quickly prompting Miria to ask, “You don’t like Faye Wong?”, an obvious nod to Wong Kar Wai’s masterpiece.

Ultimately, even as the film sometimes slogs through it’s own convoluted plot, “ST” is interesting and engrossing and serves as a great alternative to traditional HK action and romantic-comedy fare. There’s little action and most of the dialogue will leave you scratching your head in bewilderment (and frustration), but “ST” is nonetheless a worthy film and thus, recommended.

Alexander’s Rating: 7.5/10

Posted in Chinese, Japanese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shaolin Wooden Men | aka 36 Wooden Men (1976) Review

"Shaolin Wooden Men" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Shaolin Wooden Men" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Shaolin Chamber of Death
Director: Chan Chi Hwa, Lo Wei
Producer: Lo Wei
Cast: Jackie Chan, Kam Kong, Doris Lung Chung Erh, Chiang Kam, Miu Tak San, Liu Ping, Li Min Lang, Miu Tin, To Wai Wo, Weng Hsiao Hu, Chang I Fei, Lam Fai, Lee Siu Chung, Luk Yat Lung,  So Kwok Leung, Yuen Biao, Hwang Jang Lee
Running Time: 103 min.

By David Bell

Lou Anne came into the Bistro and threw her lug wrench right into booth number four, where it hit a cushion, bounced up and dented the napkin holder. Lou Anne treats her tools better than most of us treat our kids so we all knew something serious was up.

Hey Lou Anne, what’s the problem?

“That lousy O’Malley kid!”

Jimmy O’Malley just turned 17 and bought himself a junker that he’s been bringing into the shop side of Crazy Willie’s 24 Hour Bistro and Diesel Station (on South Palo Verde) for the past few weeks. Lou Anne’s been helping him get it street ready.

What did he do?

“He said his father made him watch a Marx Brothers movie! He said he hated it!”

Big deal. You hate the Marx Brothers too.

“That’s not it! He said he hates all that old stuff made during our generation! I’m 32! The frigging Marx Brothers started in the 1920’s!” As Lou Anne went off to cry under the hood of a 1992 Taurus, Willie and I made an important discovery. Those napkin holders can take a fair amount of punishment.

While Lou Anne wept over the points and plugs, Willie and I watched ShaoLin Wooden Men. Jackie is this mute guy that gets lead platform shoes that the monks want him to wear to look taller when he goes to the discos. The other guys call Jackie Dummy not just because he can’t speak but because he has these weird flashbacks of the Elephant Man smacking his old man around. While Jackie is doing all the regular temple stuff like chop firewood with his hands and carry water eight miles instead of using the indoor plumbing, he sees some monks try to take some food to this prisoner that looks like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead during methadone withdrawal.

Jerry Garcia yells and the monks split but Jackie gets the guy some food so Jerry offers to teach him some Kung Fu in return for some wine and any heroin he might have lying around. Meanwhile one of the other students thinks he’s ready for the outside world, but first he has to run the gauntlet of giant wooden Rockem Sockem Robots. They knock off the kids block and Jackie figures he needs the Jerry Garcia treatment. So Jackie trains and learns the vicious style that a nun says sucks and she offers to teach Jackie Grease Fu. She takes Jackie over to a pit of Oleo and jumps in singing “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee” and shows Jackie her moves.

Jackie tries it but slips and slides and figures he either needs to learn more or get a couple chicks in bikinis in there and try to sell the show to the bars in Ft. Lauderdale. After some Rocky style training, Jackie is ready to take on the Rockem Sockem Robots but first Jerry Garcia asks Jackie to take this note out to Ken Kesey. Jackie kicks wooden robot but and wins the right to brand himself with a hot boiling pot in this place with candles that looks like the set of the “Every Breath You Take” video. Out in the world, Jackie finds Kesey who hasn’t had a good novel since “Cuckoo’s Nest” and gives him the note. Then Jackie save a family restaurant from six gang members who try to play Sharks and Jets with the daughter. Kesey gives the note to the other members of Jerry Garcia’s band who then bust him out of the joint. The Merry Pranksters go on a mad cap, whimsical tour of the small villages and towns, killing everybody they see. And they kidnap the daughter so Jackie volunteers to find her.

The ShaoLin monks catch up to Jerry Garcia and tell him “Free form jazz this, you dried up hippie” and they all fight. But Jackie comes to Garcia’s rescue and gets him out without the monks seeing. Jackie hangs out with Jerry until Jerry decides that the fish they all had for dinner was a little salty and kills a family. Then Jackie returns to find the gang released the girl. Then a guy picks a fight in the restaurant and Jackie recognizes the style from his flashbacks earlier in the fill so he thinks it’s the Elephant Man that killed his dad. But the guy splits. Then Jackie finds this guy that looks like the blind guy on the TV show “Kung Fu” that called David Carradine grasshopper.

The grasshopper guy tells Jackie he has to whale on Jerry Garcia, but not before he autographs a copy of the script because he has the far sight and can tell that “Rumble In The Bronx” will be big in the US in about 20 years. So the big showdown comes and Jackie has to take on Jerry Garcia but not before he finds out that the guy in the restaurant that fought like the guy that killed Jackie’s dad is trying to find the real killer. So Jackie saves him from Garcia, who does the same move and then Jackie speaks for the first time. “He says, “Hey man, this is one weak plot device” and proceeds to wipe out not only Jerry Garcia, but the Grateful Dead’s drummer and bass player too.

Willie and I thought that this was like three movies in one, with the temple one part, the helping the restaurant the second, and the final showdown with the evil guy third. Unfortunately none of the three parts is entertaining enough to want to watch. On the plus side Lou Anne came in during the final fight and said she saw some moves she’s going to try on O’Malley. “I’ll show that punk what my generation can do.”

David Bell’s Rating: 2/10


By Numskull

SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN – THE ONLINE CHAT SESSION

(Never actually happened but it’s fun to pretend)

JEFF: Yo everybody! It’s great to have you all online at the same time for the sole purpose of ripping into SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN! Check it out! DAVE BELL is here! Plus his friend PHIL! TIGERLILY is here! So is DAN-O! LOUIS STEVENS is on board! We got THE GREAT HENDU in the house! DANIEL is with us! NUMSKULL, as well! And…and…uh…who else? Oh yeah, that joseph yana guy. Say hello everybody!

DAVE BELL: Hello everybody!

LOUIS STEVENS: Nice to be here.

DANIEL: hi

THE GREAT HENDU: Hello folks bla bla bla.

TIGERLILY: Hi everyone!

joseph yana: Greetings mortals. It is an honor and a privelege for you to review this film in my online company.

DAN-O: Hell-O! Pretty funny huh?

JEFF: Hey Phil, aren’t you going to say hello?

PHIL: I dunno. Yeah, I guess. Hi everybody.

NUMSKULL: What the fuck! I’ve been last in line ever since first grade when they made you line up to go to lunch.

JEFF: Uh…okay everybody, start your VCRs!

(Ten VCRs simultaneously go into action. Shortly…)

DAVE BELL: Poor bastard. Has to haul all that water before he learns how to kick the Elephant Man’s ass!

LOUIS STEVENS: Maybe he’ll drain his bladder in the well to get even, that’s what I’d do!

DAN-O: What the hell are you guys talking about? All I see is fighting!

THE GREAT HENDU: Stop kidding around, critiquing crap movies like this so nobody else ever makes the mistake of seeing it is serious business!

JEFF: “Nobody else” meaning those who are smart enough to hit my site! Everyone else is doomed! hahaha

joseph yana: “Doomed”? What do you mean? I think this movie is enjoyable! You wretched fools should try watching it through unbiased eyes.

THE GREAT HENDU: To do that I’d have to gouge out yours and stick them in my sockets, so count me out.

LOUIS STEVENS: Lord does this suck.

DANIEL: oh yeah. not much too it…

DAN-O: No way! This rocks! Tons of fighting! What are YOU watching?

JEFF: Quit clowning Dan!

DAVE BELL: Look here! Jackie is about to meet Jerry Garcia.

LOUIS STEVENS: I hate the Grateful Dead! They’re a shite band.

DANIEL: I agree, not much to their music…

DAN-O: Huh? Doesn’t look like Jerry Garcia to me…

DAVE BELL: Adjust the tracking then! Hey Jeff, who have we NOT heard from yet?

JEFF: Uh…Tigerlily, Numskull and Phil. You three speak up!

TIGERLILY: Hi Jeff!

JEFF: What do you think of the movie so far?

TIGERLILY: Boo! Let’s have some more action! That Jerry Garcia guy is awful rude. Kick his butt Jackie!

JEFF: OK, how about you Phil? Aren’t you going to offer us some words of wisdom about the movie?

PHIL: I dunno. Yeah, I guess. It’s not very good.

NUMSKULL: What’s that yellow shit?

DAVE BELL: Don’t you know Oleo when you see it?!?

DAN-O: I don’t see it…

LOUIS STEVENS: Come off it man!

joseph yana: The nun just said it was GREASE you puny mortals! Pay attention!

THE GREAT HENDU: SIR, YES SIR!

DAVE BELL: Hey, that nun is getting pissed! She’s trying not to show it though.

NUMSKULL: “Angry nun is always comedy.” -Jhonen Vasquez

DAN-O: Huh? What nun?

DANIEL: check it out here’s where jackie has to fight the wooden robots! not much else to it though…

JEFF: This shit is so fake. Look, you can see the people in there!

TIGERLILY: Talk about cheese! They call this action?

DAN-O: What wooden robots? I don’t see them!

DAVE BELL: Get serious you-

DAN-O: Oh wait, there they are.

daniel: check it out jackie just got hit in the stomach

NUMSKULL: I bet he shat blood that night.

DAVE BELL: Look at this…Jackie just graduated from Shaolin and they send him out into the real world without a degree or a letter of recommendation or a new suit or anything! He’s fucked!

THE GREAT HENDU: No, he’ll be OK. He has that note to deliver.

(Three minutes later…)

THE GREAT HENDU: All right, NOW he’s fucked.

JEFF: Oh check it out! Here’s where he meets that restaurant guy’s daughter! Man is she HOT!!! She can wait on my table any day!

DAN-O: What? Where? All I see is ass-kicking!

DAVE BELL: And of course there’s a clique of perpetually aroused men hanging about that want a piece of her.

NUMSKULL: Gang-bang.

LOUIS STEVENS: Wrong, mate. The woman always gets kidnapped, everbody knows that, it’s all the women in these shite films are good for.

JEFF: Hey, I wouldn’t mind rescuing her a few times!

TIGERLILY: If that were Michelle Yeoh from SUPERCOP she would be kicking all their butts!

DAVE BELL: This is getting more contrived than WWF Raw by the minute. Don’t you agree, Phil?

PHIL: I dunno. Yeah, I guess.

DAN-O: Hey, what gives? Mine just stopped!

NUMSKULL: Are you sitting on the remote?

DAN-O: No! Let me take the tape out and see what’s…HOOOLLEEEEE CRAP! All this time I’ve been watching the “Best Fights” tape that comes with Wooden Men in the 2-pack!

DAVE BELL: O, the mortification!

joseph yana: You pitiful peon! Didn’t you notice that it didn’t have a plot?!?

DAN-O: So what? Neither did Fantasy Mission Force!

NUMSKULL: AND LOOK WHO DEFIED THE LAWS OF MATHEMATICS BY GIVING IT AN 11/10!!!!

DAVE BELL: Play nice, kids.

DAN-O: Piss on you all! You’ve all been bitching about how much the movie sucks, right?

THE GREAT HENDU: Hmmmm…sure looks that way.

DAN-O: And all I’VE been seeing is non-stop fighting, right?

DAVE BELL: Um…right.

DAN-O: SO WHO’S LAUGHING NOW YOU BASTARDS!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

(Exit DAN-O)

LOUIS STEVENS: Bloke’s got a point.

DAVE BELL: Yes, I think Mr. O has stuck all our faces in it.

joseph yana: Not me!

TIGERLILY: Hey look! Jackie is fighting Jerry Garcia!

DAVE BELL: How’d that happen? Did you catch it Phil?

PHIL: I dunno. But I was thinking maybe that guy was the one who killed Jackie’s father in the flashbacks because he’s the head of this evil gang that killed all those people and since Jackie’s father was a good guy who knew kung fu maybe he was friends with the Shaolin temple and that’s why they had him chained up. You think?

THE GREAT HENDU: Now you’ve lost me.

NUMSKULL: And me.

DANIEL: and me

TIGERLILY: And me.

DAVE BELL: And me.

joseph yana: Not me! I knew it all along. And that’s not even because I’ve seen this movie before!

DAVE BELL: Hey Jeff, we haven’t heard from you in a while.

JEFF: That’s because I’ve got my hands full trying to keep all these beautiful screaming women at bay!

DAVE BELL: Any Chinese among them?

JEFF: No! I only wanna see Chinese if they’re bringing me spare ribs! Hahaha! It’s all right, just go on without me!

DAVE BELL: Roger.

TIGERLILY; Finally some real action! Jackie’s kicking butt! Why couldn’t the rest of the movie be like this ?!?

DANIEL: oh yeah its a great match! not much else to say about it though.

DAV BLL: You know, h was kind of a pain, but now that h’s gon I rally miss Dan-O.

THE GREAT HENDU: Uh…could you repeat that?

DAV BLL: Crtainly, Hndu. I said, “You know, h was kind of a pain, but now that h’s gon I rally…what th hll? Oh for th lov of Jrry! Th “” ky on my kyboard is brokn, just lik in Stphn King’s “Misry!”

DANIEL: ha ha ha thats funny!

THE GREAT HENDU: Do we really have to sit through the rest of this crap? We all know Jackie’s gonna beat the bad guy.

NUMSKULL: Oh sure, go and spoil it for the rest of us!

LOUIS STEVENS: I hear you. Let’s wrap this thing up.

TIGERLILY: Hey Jeff, are you still with us?

JEFF: Whew! Yeah…I had to block the front door with the fridge and the side door with the couch, but I’m back. What’d I miss?

NUMSKULL: Bad choice of words. “Miss” implies that it was actually worth seeing!

JEFF: Oh well, I’ve seen it before anyway. Man did it SUCK! What does everybody else think?

THE GREAT HENDU: Pure crap. In fact, I’ve found LESS pure crap in the toilet bowl!

TIGERLILY: Boo! Not nearly enough action! Hey jackie, if you’re reading this, don’t even think about making more boring movies like this!

DANIEL: good fighting but the storey was to complicated. not much else to say about it…

NUMSKULL: This was a low point, even for LOW Wei! Get it? Huh? LOW Wei?

LOUIS STEVENS: I’m with that Hendu bloke, this film is pure shite. It ranks #47 on my JC film list!

NUMSKULL: Y’know, LOW as in “opposite of high”? LOW Wei? Guys?

DAV LL: This movi suckd, and that’s not vn counting th fact that I’m all pissd off at my “” ky ing rokn…what! Not my “” ky too! What th fuck!

NUMSKULL: I’m gonna go lie down…

(Exit NUMSKULL)

joseph yana: This film is incredible! It’s one of the most original and creative films that Jackie has ever been involved with. I guess you need a graduate’s degree in film studies like me to appreciate this film. Lo Wei did a great job and if there were any justice he would still be hailed as a master film maker today. I give SHAOLIN WOODEN MEN a 12/10!

JEFF: Phil?

PHIL: I dunno. It was pretty bad. Not as good as Hudson Hawk.

JEFF: Well, your opinion is appreciated. Time to wrap things up, wouldn’t you say?

PHIL: I dunno. Yeah, I guess so. (Exit PHIL)

TIGERLILY: Bye everybody! Let’s try this again sometime, only with a REAL Jackie Chan movie with lots of action in it!! And let’s leave that dork joseph yana out of it next time!

LOUIS STEVENS: I’m with you there! If I have to listen to that bollocks spew any more shite about how Jackie’s worst movies are the Chinese versions of GONE WITH THE WIND and CITIZEN bleedin’ KANE I’ll lose me lunch!

(Exit LOUIS STEVENS and TIGERLILY)

joseph yana: I can’t stand the company of you pathetic mortals any onger! I have better things to do!! I’m out of here!!!

(Exit joseph yana)

DANIEL: if he goes i go!

(Exit DANIEL)

DAV LL: Jff you gotta lp m man! If my kys r sk glkdxl qzr cvgo s !

JEFF: Uh-oh! Sorry Dave but that banging at the door is getting ouder! You’re on your own!

(Exit JEFF)

DV L: O ths ust ukin reat!

(Exit DV L)

(Only THE GREAT HENDU remains. His cursor closes in on “QUIT”. Then, all of a sudden…)

DAN-O: Hey everybody! I’m back! Sorry I bailed out on you all but that yana guy was really annoying the hell out of me. Is he gone? What did I miss?

THE GREAT HENDU: The movie’s over. He’s gone. Everyone’s gone except us.

DAN-O: …Oh.

(Somewhere in the distance, a cricket seeks out a mate)

DAN-O: So, uh…you seen any good movies lately?

THE GREAT HENDU: No…

(THE END)

For the record: I don’t know how Louis Stevens really feels about the Grateful Dead and I have no idea whether or not The Great Hendu has seen any good movies lately. No offense is intended and no familiarity is implied with either of them. The same may also be said of Dave Bell, Tigerlily, Dan-O, Phil, Yummyspam, Sang W. Park, Victor Nguyen, and Andrew. Thank you and goodnight.

Numskull’s Rating: 4/10


By Marcia Franklin

Given that we’re still talking about a Lo Wei film here, it’s not too bad. The mute thing is almost cute — watching Jackie nod his head overenthusiastically to get his point across, for example. There is something of a plot, though it’s completely formulaic; what else do we expect from this era of kung fu movie? It seems to be my nature to take these films with a huge grain of salt, so given the fact that it falls in the “bad kung fu movie” genre, it’s pretty good. One thing that really stood out for me though: this is the first Jackie film I remember seeing with the red flashback filter to inform you that what you’re seeing is actually a memory. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last…

Marcia Franklin’s Rating: 5/10


By The Great Hendu

I wonder… if Lo Wei could have only gotten his act together and produced ONE film that incorporated all the GOOD aspects of Chan’s early stuff might he have made Jackie a star a long time ago? I say yes. This film does what no other Lo Wei film ever did. It actually, successfully provided a plot that was coherent, understandable, and likable. Unfortunately the traditional stuff that Jackie is known for is missing… Not much fighting, not much humor, and Jackie only speaks at the end. If only Lo Wei knew what we know now, “Let Jackie do HIS thing and you’re guaranteed a hit”.

Oh well, no use crying over Lo Wei. The one thing that rather bothered me about this film was the uncanny likeness that Jackie had to Bruce Lee. Maybe it was the hair, but I think Lo was trying to cash in on THE LOOK. What ever the case, I hold no grudges against JC personally. Lord help anyone who does, ’cause Jackie could kick their collective butts into next year!)

The Great Hendu’s Rating: 5/10


By Andrew

This was your usual Kung Fu theater quality film. By “Kung Fu Theater” I mean that there are lots of training sequences set to old style music, a shaolin temple, a few flashbacks, and revenge. There were really only two things that distinguished this film from others of its type: first there was the throng of wooden robots that the shaolin used as their final test for membership. These “Shaolin Wooden Men” actually reacted to trainees trying to pass through their ranks, which was amusing. The second thing that made this film different from the rest was that the protagonist (Jackie Chan) didn’t speak throughout most of the film. He had to express himself entirely through his actions and expressions, something most actors would have difficulty with…

Andrew’s Rating: 6/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heart of the Dragon | aka The First Mission (1985) Review

"Heart of the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Heart of the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Sammo Hung
Producer: Leonard Ho
Cast: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Emily Chu, Lam Ching Ying, Meng Hoi, Peter Chan, Yuen Wah, Chin Kar Lok, Melvin Wong, James Tien, Anthony Chan, Billy Chan, Chan Chuen, Billy Ching, Chow Kong, Chu Chi Ling, Chung Fat, Fung Hak On, Fung King Man, Huang Ha, Jeng Maang Ha
Running Time: 89 min.

By Vic Nguyen

This is the first film that I cried through. Jackie and Samo’s performance’s are astounding. Jackie plays a cop that dreams of sailing around the world, but the only thing that is stopping him is his mentally ill brother, played by Samo. While playing, Samo unintentionally mugs a person, making him drop the persons bag. Little does Samo know that the bag contains stolen jewels. Now Samo is wanted by the police and its up to Jackie to clear his name. I really liked this film, with great dramatic performances by Jackie and Samo. This film has little action, but the performances and the plot make up for that.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 10/10


By James H.

As you most likely already know, “Heart of the Dragon” is not your typical JC fare. It is, however, quite the touching film. Jackie plays a cop who gives up his dream of being a sailor to take care of his mentally challenged brother played by Samo Hung.

The film has a little bit of everything: drama, humour, romance and action. Notice how I put action last? Good, because this is not an action film. It is a drama. Generally, the acting is good, but it’s hard to gauge due to the sub-par dubbing. There are two scenes that prove that Jackie and Samo have the ability to act.

The action scenes were well down, but darker and more hash than those of, say, “Police Story”. It is very rare to see a JC movie where Jackie himself shoots a baddy at point blank range. I really enjoyed the film, especially the ending. It completely took me by surprise. The direction was top notch thanks to Samo. The ending montage was just marvellously put together.

James H’s Rating: 8.5/10


By Jordan

Call me soft, but this movie to me was very sad and depressing. It is the only movie that ever made me cry! There are some funny bits though involving Jackie’s retarded brother (a great performance by Samo Hung, but no action for him) and the fights were pretty impressive, but there weren’t enough of them. In “Jackie Chan: My Story” it shows two of the fights cut from the movie and I must say “Heart Of Dragon” would have been better had they been left in. It is a quality movie but most of it is far too dramatic for my liking.

Jordan’s Rating: 6/10


By Ro

A lot of people liked this movie and I don’t know why. The story line involves a CID detective (Jackie) and his mentally challenged brother (Samo Hung). He really wants to be a merchant marine, but is giving up his dream to take care of his sibling. It’s supposed to be funny, but most of the humor was at the expense of Samo, and I didn’t find it amusing. There’s only one fight, at the end, and it’s bloody. I found the whole movie dark and the end was incredibly depressing! I just couldn’t believe they ended it that way! Maybe it was more realistic, but who wants that much realism anyway? And I found the acting way over the top. I don’t know if it was the direction, the script or the acting, but if you want to see a movie with the same basic plot, see the powerful Dominick and Eugene instead.

Ro’s Rating: 4/10


By The Great Hendu

DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE EXPECTING ACTION! Watch this movie because you want to see a serious drama with a twist of humor and a touch of action. Sammo plays the mentally challenged brother of Jackie. It makes for a few comical scenes and a good drama between Jackie and Sammo. If any movie could be called a tear jerker, this is it. Sammo does a tremendous job in his part. I believed the role he played. And Jackie does equally well as the sympathetic brother. I think it was well written and concieved. I might actually enjoy seeing a sequel sometime. So, was there any fighting? Yes. At the very end of the film, Jackie threw a few kicks and punches. They were good, but not spectacular. I think anything more would have detracted from the art of the film. It was a good blend of all aspects. Definately worth a look.

The Great Hendu’s Rating: 8/10


By Rintor

This was a very sad ‘drama’. When I sat down to watch this movie I was expecting another beat-’em-up-crazy-stunts-with-lots-of-laughs JC flick. However, I got a heart warming drama with the beat-’em-up-crazy-stunts- with-lots-of-laughs mixed together. The product of this was a very good movie. Both Jackie and Sammo played their roles very well. Although it was difficult for me to get the full effect of Sammo’s mental handicap at first with the bad English dubbing. Friends don’t let friend Dub. It doesn’t help the film a whole lot. The fighting was pretty good, and I was surprised to see Jackie put a machete half way through a guy’s neck. The wall flip was impressive too. Shaol!nDrunkMonk, the last time I fought Dick Wei and did a wall flip and killed twenty people was yesterday. I was asleep. So, where’s the toilet bowl full of chunky peanut butter?

Rintor’s Rating: 8.5/10 (9/10 without bad dubbing)


By S!DM

As if being one of the very best, if not THE best, Jackie Chan movies I have ever seen, this one has to top my list as being one of the very best films I’ve ever seen period. This movie is greatness beyond comprehension, action beyond belief, “the chunks of ‘hearty’ peanut in the chunky peanut butter that sticks to the roof of your mouth when you try to scrape it off” type of movie that is so great. Firstly, this one has better acting than I’ve seen in most American movies, and it is this top-notchness that almost brings you into the character and story development. Contrary to what the other reviews say, this is not just a drama movie with no action. While it is true that this is a very sad drama, this one has plenty of action. Jackie and Sammo pull of their roles the best I have ever seen them do, as a younger brother and retarded older brother, respectively. The story moves along very well. Next, the action.

While it is true that this doesn’t have as much action as in his other movies, Jackie is mesmerizing in the final sequence, when he takes out all his anger on the baddies for the years of torment people gave to his older retarded brother. It is kind of like the way he dishes out punishment in Police Story. He just walks in, loses it, and bashes heads in without any hesitation…sweet and to the point. In one scene, a character begins(Keyword-“BEGINS”) to point a gun at Chan’s head, and Jackie doesn’t even show any fear before jacking him up. Now, the last fight scene is cool incarnate. Other people say, “OH MY! This one absolutely is over-rated, MY GOODNESS!”, and other whiny things…well, when was the last time YOU fought Dick Wei and did a wall flip and kill twenty people (if anyone answers this I will make them eat chunky peanut butter from the toilet bowl…)? This fight is short, sweet and to the point…two incredibly guys meet, exchange about two sentences, them beat the sweet cucumber chips out of each other…This is one of the 4-5 movies I would ever give a ten out of ten to… so THERE!

S!DM’s Rating: 10/10


By Dan-O

Now don’t misunderstand me – I like this film. But does anyone else out there notice that the last fight sequence is rediciously sped up? No one I’ve shown this film to ever seems to catch onto this. Seriously, if you own this film, go back and watch the last 20 minutes. Its almost laughable. Jackie IS quick, as are his stunt monkeys, but this is stupid. It doesn’t even make the movie more exiting (which is what they were obviously goin’ for). Another gripe: a couple of the scenes felt scotch-taped on, like that goofy-ass chase scene and the equally goofy-ass military training scene from the beginning. It’s almost as if those scenes came from an altogether different movie. Yes, I know, at it’s heart this is a Jackie Chan film, so I simply dismiss such incongruities with a shrug and a smile and a twinkle in the eye. Other than that, this is a heartwarming, and at times, depressing film, and Sammo gives a superb performance as Jackie’s turnip of a brother. Go see it, buy it, rent it, whatever it takes. You’ve obviously got nothing better to do.

Dan-O’s Rating: 7/10 (would’ve gotten an 8 if not for Sammo’s butt-crack)


By Andrew

This was a fun film, but also needs to be filed away under “Sammo Hung” in the grand scheme of kung fu film history. Do we really have to see Hung’s @$$ while he’s in the bathtub? I’d rather forget that part. The action scenes in this one are pretty fast and furious. One thing that bugs me though is just how mean everyone is to Sammo’s character. I just can’t imagine a bunch of chefs beating the $#!+ out of a guy who can’t pay his bill (although they did the same to Jackie in the first Drunken Master) The best stunt in this flick was done by a supporting character who falls out of a restaurant and lands on the ground instead of the specially prepared car (same problem they had in Police Story). The car chase stuff was good too, but not quite like the ones in Armor of God and Operation Condor. Despite my references to other JC films this one was pretty unique and really not all that bad. See if you can spot the guy who played “Panther” in Supercop. Ok, I’ll stop now.

Andrew’s Rating: 6/10


By Aloho

The thought of Jackie playing a dramatic role propelled me not to buy this surprisely realistic flick. The reason I did buy it though is because I heard all this mumbo-jumbo about the spectacular finale. I got more than expected when viewing this. It keeps you alive through the whole movie because of the plot. Jackie did good playing his part. Sammo did a good job directing. This movie gets your emotions going. In some parts, I just wanted to kill those bastards teasing Sammo’s character. It’s kinda like I wanted to be in the movie and just change matters around and just unleash on the bad guys. Well, that is exactly what Chan did towards the end in a construction site. He does not wait for the enemy to throw a punch or anything, he just gets in there and kicks ass. Jackie knocks out a guy that put a gun to his (Jackie’s) head before that guy could yell out “freeze.”

When Jackie and Dick Wei meet, they don’t exchange looks or blab some corny catch phase, they just duel till death. Chan does a wall flip, those are cool. There is a semi-entertaining chase scene, but it never really picks up. In the beginning, there is a police training thing in a forest. That was just O.K. Some funny parts, like Sammo almost drowned himself in a bathtub claiming he was teaching a toy to swim underwater. Another scene, Jackie holds hands with Sammo giving the appearance they are gay. I got the Taiseng video; the dubbing was awful! Of course most dubbing is said to be bad, but face it, the mouth will never really move in sync with another language. What makes the dub so horrible and much worse than other dub jobs is that mouths move when there is no sound, vice versa. That’s like Godzilla quality. If you see it, buy a subtitled one over a dubbed one. Otherwise, just cope with it.

Aloho’s Rating: 7/10


By Clint

This DRAMA contains a good car/motorcycle chase scene and the spectacular finale. The only scene I found semi-amusing was when JC was holding hands with Samo walking down the street and he had to point out to everyone that they were brothers and not a gay couple. It does entertain you for the entire hour and a half, despite the lack of action or comedy, because you actually feel for the characters. I must say i got a little angry at that guy when he made Samo slither on the ground like a snake. All in all a decent film. You can get this one at Blockbuster too, under the name “Heart of Dragon.”

Clint’s Rating: 6/10

Posted in Chinese, Golden Harvest, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sexy and Dangerous | aka Sexy Undercover Angels (1996) Review

"Sexy and Dangerous" Chinese DVD Cover

"Sexy and Dangerous" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Billy Tang
Writer: Philip Kwok
Producer: Wong Jing
Cast: Mariane Chan, Mimi Chu Mi Mi, Maria Cordero, Vincent Kok, Deon Lam Dik On, Michael Lam, Spencer Lam Seung Yi, Lee Kin Yan, Rachel Lee, Lee Siu Kei, Teresa Mak, Karen Mok, Francis Ng, Ng Sui Ting, Shing Fui On, Michael Tong, Johnny Wang, Wong Wa Wo, Wong Yat Fei
Running Time: 92 min.

By Alexander

I picked up this film because of its promising premise: “Sexy” Karen Mok plays a motorcycle riding hustler whose boyfriend is a gang leader embroiled in a turf war. After two minutes, however, I knew I was watching what could possibly be the worst film of all time.

10 reasons why this movie absolutely SUCKED:

1. Ten seconds into the film, a character utters the unforgivable line, “Yeah, I am eating fish ball at the pimp’s place.”

2. There are characters named “Muscular Man,” “Dirty,” “Fatty,” “Marble” (Karen Mok), and “One”.

3. Another dialogue gem: “You look ugly. Are you coming to clean your asshole?”

4. And another: “If your phone is out of battery, don’t come for shitting! Take me the paper now. I won’t let you clean your ass, as your punishment.” (I am NOT making this up.)

5. The only thing even remotely “sexy” in this film is a five-second scene of Karen Mok clad in black leather stepping off a motorcycle.

6. There is a character named “Aids”.

7. Gun shots AND punches to the face have the same sound effect. And there are A LOT of punches to the face.

8. I dig slapstick. Jackie Chan. Charlie Chaplin. Gilligan. I dig them all. But there is something really unnerving about casual references to rape; face slashings; and women beatings in a film billed as an action-comedy.

9. The line, “Bitch, your tits stink.” (And you thought it couldn’t get any worse?)

10. The worst thing about this movie? That it even exists. There should be laws protecting us against ever accidentally stumbling across this garbage.

You’ve been warned!

Alexander’s Rating: 1/10

Posted in Chinese, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
Pages: Prev 1 2 ... 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 Next