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masterofoneinchpunch

February 2017 Mutual Review Thread

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Ah, I remember this review, @One Armed Boxer. I'll watch almost anything with Biao, but I'll pass on this. And speaking of Yuen Biao...

A KID FROM TIBET (1991)    Run time: 90 mins.

Stars: Yuen Biao, Michelle Reis, Yuen Wah, Nina Li Chi, Roy Chiao Hung, Wu Ma

 

Director: Yuen Biao

Action Directors: Yuen Biao & Ka Lee

 

A lame lawyer named Robinson (RCH) visits Potala Palace in Tibet to see the Dalai Lama. Robinson is there to broker a deal to bring 2 pieces of an artifact, the Babu Gold Bottle, back together. There he encounters a young lama named Wong La (YB), who casually heals Robinson’s leg using his chi. After the lawyer leaves, Wong La meets with Saka Lama of the Yellow Division (WM), learning he is to travel to Lhasa to meet the lawyer’s assistant, Miss Chiu (MR). He is to bring along the bottle’s cap and travel with her to Hong Kong to reunite it with the bottle and then return them to Potala Palace. Saka Lama even divulges to him the mystic curse, via Tibetan magic, that activates the artifact.

 

However, there is an evil man, the Sorcerer of the Black Division (YW), and his sister (NLC), who desires the magic bottle for themselves. The artifact contains great power and can be used for reincarnation. The sorcerer seeks to use it to rule all esoteric Buddhist sects (which are apparently broken down into 5 color divisions). He and his sister steal it from Mr. Bao, a wealthy old man who has the bottle in his possession and plans to return it to the Tibetan masters.

 

In Lhasa, Wong La encounters Miss Chiu, whom he is to meet to take the cap to Hong Kong. A chase ensues with thieves trying to rob her and the sorcerer’s goons after him. There are some standard action and comedy bits here. Especially comical is the leader of the thieves, who happens to be a rather dapperly dressed midget. When the mini-mobster pulls a pistol, Wong La uses Tibetan magic to cause the gun barrel to bend.

 

After some high-jinx on arriving at the Hong Kong airport (which include a “blink and you’ll miss him” cameo of Jackie Chan), Wong La and Miss Chiu attend Robinson’s birthday party. The young lama is asked to perform some Tibetan magic. He begrudgingly does, but his trick goes awry as he’s unaware that the sorcerer’s sister is in attendance, and she manipulates his feat to create confusion and embarrassment. She then lures him into a car ride, taking him to a tunnel that is under construction.

 

There she tries to seduce him and find the cap on his person. This scene is rather intriguing as she is dressed all in black with a bedazzled boustier and knee-high boots, and Biao plays the bashful and morally stoic lama quite well. (It’s a great acting job because what man could truly resist Nina’s coy charms?)When he understands what she’s trying to do, a fight ensues. I can’t remember ever seeing Nina Li Chi perform fight choreography before, but here she looks to be quite apt, reminding me a little of Joyce Godenzi. Her weapon of choice is a bullwhip. The fight is pretty good, showcasing Biao’s agility and kicks; and in one jaw-dropping moment, he headbutts Nina Li’s bosom. (How many people can say they’ve done that and lived to tell?) Ultimately, she is outmatched and resorts to black Buddhist magic to make her escape, failing to get the cap. She leaves a fire in her wake. Wong La, not knowing how to drive, uses Tibetan magic to start and drive the car to safety, wrecking it in a fiery explosion. (I know that sounds odd, but it’s exactly what happens.)

 

Finally making his way back to Miss Chiu’s place, where she discovers him roasting himself over an open fire like a rotisserie chicken via Tibetan magic, they go the following morning to Mr. Bao’s mansion to reunite the Gold Bottle and its cap. The sorcerer is there, passing himself as Mr. Bao, and when Wong La tries to leave with the complete artifact, a fight ensues pitting the young lama against the sorcerer’s 3 goons. This is a classic display of Biao’s agility and bootwork. It’s exciting to watch. One particular rewatchable moment features of a double kick with a single leg, as he front kicks one thug in the face and brings the same foot down in an axe kick to another thug’s head. Still, he resorts to more Tibetan magic, firing energy blasts from his hands at one point and then levitating his foes up in the air to drop them to the floor. Then the sorcerer jumps in, and after a brief skirmish (and the promise of more to come), Wong La and Miss Chiu are captured.

 

Wong La comes to, his arms outstretched and dangling from chains, in a large unfinished room in the lower reaches of the mansion. Threatened with Miss Chiu’s death if he doesn’t cooperate, he talks the sorcerer through an incantation to release the Gold Bottle’s power. Blue vaporous energy wafts about the room, turning into powerful bolts that zip around, killing the sorcerer’s henchmen and his sister. Freeing himself, Wong La recites a spell that bottles the deadly energy once again. Then he and the sorcerer engage in a martial arts battle, at one point summoning their chi and causing barrels to explode. Biao and Wah have at one another in a fantastic fight full of dazzling footwork and physical contortions. The exchanges are fast fluid, and the choreography is a cinematic magic all its own. Is it their best celluloid battle ever? No, but it smokes any of the tripe coming out of Asian cinema today. At the end, they brandish wicked-looking broadswords. Wong La cuts off the sorcerer’s right hand, and ultimately thrusts him through.

 

I have to admit this is only the second time I’ve watched this movie. When I originally came across it, I’d seen a clip of Biao’s film Kickboxer, but I didn’t know the movie it was taken from. I thought this might be it and snagged it. I was disappointed on watching it to learn it wasn’t the movie I was wanting to see, and thus was not as impressed with it as I am on this second screening. This was Biao’s directorial debut, and the end of the film shows segments of him working on it on location, as well as a filmed photo op of the cast and crew with the Dalai Lama himself.

 

Generally, I’m not a fan of Asian movies showcasing Taoist/Buddhist magic. Most of the ones I’ve seen have a lot of corny comedy aspects that bore me. The special f/x are usually cheesy (they are here, too). Oh, the props, sets, and costumes are always rather extravagant and look great (they are here, too). The thing that tends to irk me is the use of martial postures and movements. They certainly sell the magical action, and it even makes sense they would be used, but usually there’s never any really good fighting, and if there is, it’s wire-work-laden.  However, I find that A Kid From Tibet is right up my alley. It has a few moments that make you smile. The magical aspect of it works without it being the main focus of all the action, and the choreography is fun and awe-inspiring at times to watch. So, if you’re a Yuen Biao fan or into hokey Asian magic movies, this is one you’ll want to see. I’ll certainly be revisiting it, and not waiting 20 years to do so.

Edited by ShaOW!linDude

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45 minutes ago, ShaOW!linDude said:

A KID FROM TIBET (1991)    Run time: 90 mins.

 

Great review. I rented this on VHS back in 2001. It was interesting because it was dubbed in English, but still had the original burned-on subtitles on it. This created the occasional humorous moment where the dialog and subtitles were quite different. My favorite moment was when the subtitle reads: "Let me send you to hell" and the dialog says, "Let me send you to a not-so-nice place." I wonder if Yuen Biao joked to Jet Li on the set of OUATIC, saying, "I got to headbutt your girlfriend's boobies!" 

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7 hours ago, One Armed Boxer said:

Despite Ng pulling double duty as action director, assisted by Yuen Cheung Yan, what action is there is hardly worth writing about. Biao barely gets to do anything, instead left to play it straight faced and stoic throughout, with Luxia only given a few brief moments to shine.

How does this compare with the other Jiang Luxia vampire movie, Vampire Warriors (2010)?

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1 hour ago, DrNgor said:

How does this compare with the other Jiang Luxia vampire movie, Vampire Warriors (2010)?

While both are hardly stellar examples of the genre, if you forced me to choose I'd go with 'Vampire Warriors'.  Onscreen Yuen Biao usually walks away the victor against Yuen Wah, but this is one example where Wah just edges it.

 

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On ‎2‎/‎8‎/‎2017 at 2:19 AM, DragonClaws said:

The Spiritual Boxer    (1975)

Liu Chia-Liangs directorial debut is claimed to be the first Kung Fu comedy. While there's plenty of comedic elements, it’s hard to say if it was the first real Kung Fu comedy?. The film dabbles with the super natural, ...

...

Hsiao Chien is played by Shaw Brothers star Wong Yu, who spent most of his career with the studio.

...The Spiritual Boxer is an unusual entry in the director/choreographer’s filmography. You can’t deny the talent on display on screen and behind it. Yet it doesn’t quite reach the same levels as Liu Chi-Liang's later efforts, such as 36th Chamber Of Shaolin and Dirty Ho. With this being his first project as director, he was clearly still finding his own style. ...

I had seen this for the first time this month as well.  I wanted to be prepared for your review and the fact is was a Lau Kar-leung film I had not seen (3 more to go to complete his oeuvre.)

It really is not an unusual entry in his filmography.*  It never plays the spiritual aspect as real (which really means there are no real supernatural elements to the film).  He is respectful of martial arts.  Lau uses comedy, but not over-the-top which is characteristic of several of his films.  He would reuse Wong Yu.  It's just not as strong to me in the plot department (Wong Yu's character is pretty bad-ass from the beginning, but doesn't have much of an arc in gaining abilities -- nothing wrong with this per se.)

After any 70s MA film I watch I check Craig Reid's book: The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s.  There is a nice entry for this film. He times that MA Percentage of the  film at 19.71 percent.  In comparison Dirty Ho has 32.56 percent.  Shadow Boxing has 30.42 percent.

Chang Cheh in his memoir stated he helped with the story on this.

It is often debatable when discussing firsts such as that this one is mentioned as the first kung-fu comedy as DrNgor mentions Win Them All.  Craig Reid mentions: "...introduced the idea of a teacher screaming out the names of kung fu movements to his pupil during a fight as a way to remind the student which technique to use..."  Now for me there are some other tropes that are pretty early: the accidently touching the breasts of the person that was thought to be a male, but is not (of course almost never do the women pretending to be men actually look like men.)  This often leads to falling for that male/female.  This was hilariously done in Futurama.

* On a completely non-MA note: I had seen Martin Scorsese's first full-length film: Who's That Knocking at My Door and it is similar to this debut where you can recognize so many facets and themes of the director in the later movies.  Even more hilarious is watching Christopher Nolan's first film Following and seeing that Batman sticker in the film.

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15 hours ago, masterofoneinchpunch said:

It really is not an unusual entry in his filmography.*  It never plays the spiritual aspect as real (which really means there are no real supernatural elements to the film).  He is respectful of martial arts.  Lau uses comedy, but not over-the-top which is characteristic of several of his films.  He would reuse Wong Yu.  It's just not as strong to me in the plot department (Wong Yu's character is pretty bad-ass from the beginning, but doesn't have much of an arc in gaining abilities -- nothing wrong with this per se.)

I have much more limited experience of Lau Kar Leung, and of the films I've seen this one was the most unusual. The action certianly takes a back seat to the story and characters, while was more centre stage in the other movies I've watched. My opinion may change, when I've seen more of his movies. When you have watched a performers entire filmography, it certianly gives you a much better understanding of his work.

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Kung Fu Zombie (1981)

Originally posted here - http://cityonfire.com/kung-fu-zombie-1981-review/

Thanks to the success of recent movies such as 'The Raid' and its sequel, Indonesian action stars like Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian have quickly become familiar to fans of the martial arts genre. However, the first Indonesian star that made a significant impact on the kung fu cinema scene came a whole 35 years before, in the form of Billy Chong. Chong shone briefly and brightly over a period of around 5 years from the late 70’s through to the early 80’s, before he returned to his native Indonesia and became a local star in his homeland.

As it happens, Chong, who now goes by the name of Willy Dozan and is in his mid 50s, is currently having a career renaissance of sorts, with his movies 'Duel – The Last Choice', in which he stars with his son, and 'Garuda 7', best described as an Indonesian version of 'The Expendables', soon to be hitting local cinema screens. With both Indonesia and Chong back on the action genre radar, I decided to visit one of the movies that originally grabbed people’s attention, the wonderfully titled 'Kung Fu Zombie'.

It’s no secret that enjoying the old school kung fu genre is rather like navigating a minefield. For every classic that reminds you how much you love watching people kick the living day lights out of each other, there’ll be 10 duds waiting in the wings full of teeth gratingly bad comedy, sloppy fight scenes, and dubbing that makes your ears bleed. Titles can be deceptive things, so I find myself always erring on the side of caution. Yes, 'Kung Fu Zombie' sounds fantastic, but then so did 'Deadly Snail vs. Kung Fu Killers', and you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered there wasn’t a single deadly snail to be found it its entire run time.

So, my cautious viewing began. First up 'Kung Fu Zombie' is that rare form of Hong Kong kung fu movie in that the two principal cast members are both non-HK natives. Apart from Chong who takes on the lead, he’s given an opponent in the form of Korean boot master Kwan Yung-moon. Kwan, who affectionately became known in the kung fu community as the ‘Crazy Korean,’ for his trademark moustache and wild eye brows,  is another performer who left his mark in kung fu cinema history, due to his ferocious kicks and villainous demeanor.

Thankfully, 'Kung Fu Zombie' turned out to be one of those diamonds in the rough. The influence of 'Encounters of the Spooky Kind' – a movie directed by and starring Sammo Hung, which essentially kicked off the whole kung fu/comedy/horror hybrid made just a year earlier – is clear to see; from the wacky rituals performed by the Taoist priest to the presence of hopping vampires. However, while clearly operating a tier under the work of Sammo, director Wa Ya Wang seems determined to entertain us by having proceedings move at a breakneck speed, which almost makes 'Encounters pf The Spooky Kind' seem slow in comparison.

The story revolves around the character of Chong, who lives at home with his strict father, and who also happened to foil a bank robbery several years earlier. When the thieves are released, they come to seek out Chong to get their revenge, but it quickly becomes clear they’re not his match and the head of the thieves is killed. When Chong’s father has a heart attack and dies, the ghost of the thief asks a Taoist priest to reincarnate him in the father’s body, so he can take the ultimate revenge on Chong by killing him using the hands of his own father.

The above description actually makes it sound much more deep and meaningful than it really is, mainly due to the fact that despite being the crux of the plot which everything revolves around, more time is spent of Kwan Yung-moon. So, I need to make sure I explain this clearly – early on the Taoist priest is roaming through a morgue with the ghost of the thief in an initial attempt to find him a new body to reincarnate into. While there, they stumble across Kwan Yung-moon, who is sleeping in a coffin, because, well, he’s a vampire. There’s some nonsense about the vampire holding a long time grudge against Chong’s father, but it’s mentioned almost in passing.

So then Kwan’s character of the vampire becomes the primary threat to everyone, and 'Kung Fu Zombie' is fantastic for it.. In an age which is obsessed with providing the origin story of every character we come across, it’s refreshing to have a movie which features a kung fu fighting vampire with no other explanation except that it’s just a damn cool idea. True to his nickname of the ‘Crazy Korean,’ Kwan spends more of his screen time yelling out battle cries as he tries to kick someone to death than he has actual lines. But when he does speak, it’s almost always something worth saying, such as this gem – “I have made many ghosts from the living, and I will make more!”

If he’s not kicking some poor saps head off and enthusiastically drinking the blood from the spurting stump of the corpse’s neck, chances are Kwan is in a fight scene with Chong. Chong also does a lot of yelling, and so whenever they fight, it’s best to have the volume turned down, or said scenes may give your neighbors the impression there’s some serious domestic violence going down. The fight scenes between these two guys are kung fu cinema gold: both can bust out some very impressive kicking, and the fights are under cranked just enough to make them look like they’re moving scarily fast, but not enough to no longer be able to appreciate the choreography.

Watching Chong in action makes you wish he’d made more movies in Hong Kong, as he clearly had the rare combination of being able to bust out some serious moves, with a likable screen presence and charm. For the first time in a long time, the fights had me glued to the screen. The finale is a great mix of fists, feet, and some supernatural action as Chong and Kwan go at each other so aggressively that the fight reaches cartoon levels of hyper violence. At one point, Kwan has both his fists and his feet set ablaze, and they still go at each other, before things culminate in one of the most OTT death scenes I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. It’s a joy to watch.

At just short of 80 minutes, it’s almost impossible for 'Kung Fu Zombie' to outstay its welcome, although some of the original movie definitely appears to be edited out of the English dub. There’s one scene involving a group of characters having a conversation, and then suddenly it cuts to Chong throwing down against some Asian guy with an afro who we’ve never seen before up until this point. Amusingly, once the fight finishes, it cuts to another scene, and the first character to speak says “This doesn’t make any sense.” Indeed, it doesn’t, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

KungFuZombie_GoldenSwallow_WWW.jpg

 

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Magic of Spell (1988)

Aka Child of Peach 2

Starring: Lin Hsiao-Lan, Chen Shan, Yeung Hung

Director: Chiu Chung-Hing

Action Director: Chiu Chung-Hing

Magic of Spell is the second in a trilogy of Taiwanese fantasy films based on the Japanese folk tale of Momotaro, or the Peach Boy. According to the story, an old, childless couple receive a giant peach that was sent from Heaven. While opening the peach, a little boy is discovered inside who declares himself to be their new son. The boy is named Momotaro, or “Peach Taro” (Taro being a common boy’s name), and he’s raised by the old couple. Meanwhile, the region is being terrorized by an army of oni, or demons. So Peach Boy teams up with a trio of talking animals—a monkey, a dog and a pheasant—and invades the demon fort. He defeats them, brings back their plundered treasure, and lives happily ever after with his family. I personally find it odd that the Taiwanese would mine Japanese folklore for their bizarre fantasy excursions, but I can only assume that the story had shown up in Taiwan in the form of manga or anime and were popular with younger audiences who lacked the WW2-era anti-Japanese baggage that older Taiwanese people would have no doubt had.

This story continues the adventures of Peach Boy (played by actress Lin Hsiao-Lan of Heroic Fight and Kung Fu Wonder Child) and his animal comrades. There’s an evil old man named Elder (Chen Shan?) who wants his youth and power restored. For the record, the old, wrinkly mask the actor wears is simultaneously goofy and creepy. So he sends his faux-Taoist sorcerer son to procure the ingredients necessary to make a youth-restoring bath. Said ingredients include the blood of virgin boys, and the flesh/pulp of the 1,000-year-old Ginseng King (played by a kid dressed as root), or the flesh of Peach Boy. The sorcerer tries to get Peach Boy, but only succeeds in killing his mother instead. The sorcerer and his cohorts—a white lady ghost (apparently played by a man), a gill man, and a strong guy carrying a boulder—then try to kidnap the Ginseng King. It flees and finds protection with Peach Boy. Peach Boy and his friends, Dog Boy, Chicken Boy (played by an adolescent girl) and Monkey Boy, invade the Elder’s palace and lots of magic and fighting ensues.

One of the weird things about Asian movies is how violent they are, even when the target audience is obviously children. Early on, the Elder’s army of samurai ghosts are kidnapping children to use their blood for the youth-restoring ritual. The mothers try to plead with the soldiers for their children, but are mercilessly cut down onscreen by the bad guys. In an American movie, the plot would deal with the attempt to save the children before being exsanguinated, with them being rescued in the end by the heroes. No such luck for the poor souls in this movie. Exit children, stage left. That’s like if the witches in Hocus Pocus successfully drained all the children’s lifeforce at the end. Can you imagine how traumatizing that would be? And this film doesn’t even bat an eye at this horrible atrocity (which is portrayed offscreen, but heavily implied). Lots of people die on both sides, sometimes even gratuitously, which you’d never get in a children’s film made in this hemisphere. Try showing this in a theater today. Those hysterical mom’s organizations—those same people who wanted to ban sweatshirts with snowmen imprinted on them because they thought it was some secret cocaine lingo—would have their heads explode after having a heart attack.

Fans of the supernatural and outright bizarre will find a lot to enjoy here. You have laser-shooting Buddha statues, a bazooka-wielding fish man, gender-bending on an epic scale, an evil albino ghost who almost literally screws the life out of one of the good guys, bathing in blood, ginseng-powered kung fu, a giant boulder monster, a Pheasant Boy (played by a girl) whose arm turns into a pheasant head which pecks the eyes out of its enemies, and all sorts of other crazy stuff. There’s a fair helping of kung fu, including some katana action from Lin Hsiao Lan, choreographed by the director himself, Chiu Chung-Hing, and his Stuntman Team. I looked up his credits on the HKMDB and he had done some assistant action director work on Yuen Woo-Ping’s Miracle Fighters. I think that particular experience inspired him to make this trilogy in Taiwan, since he choreographs the weirdness with similar verve to that seen in those Yuen Clan sorcery films. The fighting is frequently sped up and wired-up, but in the context of the film, it sort of works. We’ve definitely seen better—Yuen Woo-Ping and his brothers did a better job of balancing utter weirdness with some excellent fight choreography-- but there’s just so much going on, that either you get caught up in the strangeness, or dismiss the film outright.

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3 hours ago, DrNgor said:

Magic of Spell (1988)

Aka Child of Peach 2

Starring: Lin Hsiao-Lan, Chen Shan, Yeung Hung

Director: Chiu Chung-Hing

Action Director: Chiu Chung-Hing

Another great review Doc, really enjoyed reading about this oddity of a film. Love the line about character with chickens for arms, that peck at opponents.

My next review wil be for this months theme, hope to have it added early next week before February is over.

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Human Lanterns (1982)

Directed by Sun Chung

This will be a quick one because I just watched Human Lanterns for the first time and I haven't collected all my thoughts about it together just yet.

The first thing I noticed off the bat was the editing. Sun Chung's editing is well known for being somewhat unorthodox and the opening credits as well as an early opening scene show case this brilliantly. The opening credits showcases an assortment of creepy images, cutting each image to the rhythm of the thunder sound effects and inserting lightning imagery in between each cut. These images help to set the tone for the rest of the film - you know there's some weird stuff going down and you really want to know what that weird stuff is going to be.

We then move onto another scene where we have our main guy Master Lung, played by Lau Wing, practicing with his sword. This is interspersed with his wife preparing her makeup and jewellery. The way it is cut makes it almost feel like they're just in the next room from each other, but at the end of this sequence, we find that they're at opposite ends of the house in an absolutely stunning shot (sorry for the blurry screenshot):

humanlanterns.PNG.56273a98063ecd5271b5a2599015a215.PNG

Which helps to further cement that the film is going to be somewhat unsettling because we can't quite trust the editing to give us a sense of spatial coherence.

This sets off a sequence of events where Master Lung, a guy who wants to be the best at everything, tries to upstage Master Tan, played by Chen Kuan-Tai, which leads them to declaring that they will compete to see who ends up with the best lantern. Master Lung tracks down a lantern maker, Chun Fang (Lo Lieh), who happens to be an old rival who he had almost killed. He asks Chun Fang to make him the best lantern to upstage Master Tan, but little does he know that Chun Fang agrees to this only to kickstart his revenge plan.

Human Lanterns is a gorgeous film. Every shot feels purposeful. Lighting is always atmospheric and changes at the blink of an eye to suit the mood. The fight choreography isn't even all that amazing, but it's just as much fun to watch because of how Sun Chung shoots his action. There are many long shot long takes in the fights which puts us in a kind of observer status to the fights. These are intercut with more traditional fight cinematography where the camera moves with the action to give us the best possible view of the movements. This is not to mention that the costumes and special effects are pretty great as well - Lo Lieh dresses up in some Chewbacca-like costume with a skeleton face and as he peels the skin off his poor victims, it totally looks real.

I've barely scratched the surface of early 80s Shaw Brothers films, but it looks like their efforts to reel viewers in with all sorts of craziness mixed with the talent of great directors led to incredibly entertaining movies with high artistic value just like this one. I'm sure pretty much everyone else on the forum has seen it, but I'm gonna go ahead and give this a recommendation anyway. Easily in my top 5 SB films.

PS: I apologise if this doesn't exactly fit the requirements - I watched this expecting it to be a ghost movie, but it ended up not being one. But anyway, hope you guys like the review.

Edited by Writ

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5 hours ago, Writ said:

Human Lanterns (1982)

Directed by Sun Chung

Always hear good stuff about this one, but I've never seen it either. Probably ought to remedy that. Your review was concise and intriguing to me. It's a good read, Writ.

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6 hours ago, Writ said:

PS: I apologise if this doesn't exactly fit the requirements - I watched this expecting it to be a ghost movie, but it ended up not being one. But anyway, hope you guys like the review.

Even if it's not completely supernatural, you sure sold it on me. I never had much desire to see this, despite its reputation. Well played.

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10 hours ago, Writ said:

...

The first thing I noticed off the bat was the editing. Sun Chung's editing is well known for being somewhat unorthodox and the opening credits as well as an early opening scene show case this brilliantly. The opening credits showcases an assortment of creepy images, cutting each image to the rhythm of the thunder sound effects and inserting lightning imagery in between each cut. These images help to set the tone for the rest of the film - you know there's some weird stuff going down and you really want to know what that weird stuff is going to be.

...

I've barely scratched the surface of early 80s Shaw Brothers films, but it looks like their efforts to reel viewers in with all sorts of craziness mixed with the talent of great directors led to incredibly entertaining movies with high artistic value just like this one. I'm sure pretty much everyone else on the forum has seen it, but I'm gonna go ahead and give this a recommendation anyway. Easily in my top 5 SB films.

PS: I apologise if this doesn't exactly fit the requirements - I watched this expecting it to be a ghost movie, but it ended up not being one. But anyway, hope you guys like the review.

Always be a little wary on ascribing all aspects of a movie to the director.  There were three editors (all relatively new though Ma Chung-Yiu especially would have a nice career at it) on this film. Also with Shaw Brothers and their filming process the director was not necessarily involved with postproduction and was usually working on the next feature and it was rare (like Hollywood) for the director to have the final cut -- I remember Chang saying he had that in his heyday, but I currently cannot find the quote(s) I am looking for.  Now I'm not sure on the particulars for Human Lanterns, if someone has any information on it please post. 

For me this is easily a film worth watching (though probably not in my top 25).  I love these hybrid movies from Shaw Brothers, but I like this studio in general (even when I do not necessarily like a film though there is usually an actor or a scene or something to like.)  And there are so many films to watch so it is like there is always something to look forward to (plus you can always adventure into the non-MA films) :D. 

3 hours ago, DrNgor said:

Even if it's not completely supernatural, you sure sold it on me. I never had much desire to see this, despite its reputation. Well played.

I definitely think you should watch this.  A nice hybrid of a film.

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51 minutes ago, masterofoneinchpunch said:

Always be a little wary on ascribing all aspects of a movie to the director.  There were three editors (all relatively new though Ma Chung-Yiu especially would have a nice career at it) on this film. Also with Shaw Brothers and their filming process the director was not necessarily involved with postproduction and was usually working on the next feature and it was rare (like Hollywood) for the director to have the final cut -- I remember Chang saying he had that in his heyday, but I currently cannot find the quote(s) I am looking for.  Now I'm not sure on the particulars for Human Lanterns, if someone has any information on it please post. 

That's something I should note. Did editors not communicate with the directors at all on how the film should be cut up in this case? I find it interesting because the Sun Chung films that I remember tended to have unorthodox editing. Avenging Eagle even won an award for it while even something as early as The Sexy Killer before he really got a chance to do the kinds of films he preferred had moments that felt very Sun Chung to me. I even recall To Kill a Mastermind being a little different as well, but I can't recall specifics.

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1 hour ago, Writ said:

That's something I should note. Did editors not communicate with the directors at all on how the film should be cut up in this case? I find it interesting because the Sun Chung films that I remember tended to have unorthodox editing. Avenging Eagle even won an award for it while even something as early as The Sexy Killer before he really got a chance to do the kinds of films he preferred had moments that felt very Sun Chung to me. I even recall To Kill a Mastermind being a little different as well, but I can't recall specifics.

I do not know in this instance and I cannot state with exact films without sources.  But with Shaw Brothers films in general it was very much a factory approach like combining Hollywood practices with even a bigger Henry Ford mentality so for that studio it would be my default answer (one of the big reasons King Hu left the studio*). I do know that Chiang Hsing-lung was the editor for all three Avenging Eagle, The Sexy Killer and To Kill a Mastermind.  He edited over 600 films.  That is insane. This creates even more questions: how much did Sun Chung have influence over the editing process (or postproduction in general or vice versa like you stated above)?  How much was Chiang responsible for the style of the films he edited?  Often editors will look at old films to copy a particular style: was that the case in later Sun Chung Shaw Brothers films in copying Chiang?  How much did Chiang influence/teach others at Shaw Brothers? 

* I find it interesting that some directors can do quite well in a studio system (Alfred Hitchcock, Chang Cheh, John Ford) while others can suffer with it (Jean Renoir, sometimes Terry Gilliam, King Hu of course.) 

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9 minutes ago, masterofoneinchpunch said:

Since I could not access this site for a couple weeks this month (not sure anyone noticed I was gone :)) and I do want to put something here: I am not going to close this until probably next week.

I noticed you were not as active this month @masterofoneinchpunch, look forward to your last review.

Posting my final contribution tonight, just need to finnish it off.

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Child of Peach (1987)

Starring: Lin Hsiao-Lan, Chin Tu, Pang San, Wong Chung-Yue, Yau Mei-Fong
Director: Chiu Chung-Hing, Chan Jung-Leung
Action Director: Chiu Chung-Hing

Child of Peach is the first film in the Taiwanese "kiddie" fantasy trilogy about Peach Boy, or Momotaro in Japanese, which places the folk hero in a faux-Japanese/Chinese setting and fills it with wire-fu and the sort of strangeness that defines Chinese comedy. It's also rather violent, so if something sounds weird in my description, just repeat to yourself, "It's only a kid's film. It's only a kid's film."

In the Himalayas, there's  a magical peach garden inhabited by a magical swordsman and his wife, plus their newborn son. Joining them is a tiny little fairy and three magical animals--a pheasant, a dog and a gibbon--who can turn into acrobatic kung fu kids as the plot demands. I must point out here that the pheasant, whose alter-ego is played by a female actress, goes by the name of "Little Cock." It's only a kid's film. It's only a kid's film. Trouble brews when the evil Devil King shows up in the Garden and steals the powerful Sword of the Sun, which immediately renders the garden a desolate, snowy wasteland, and kills the swordsman and his wife. The fairy places the baby inside a giant peach and sends it to Japan...or China...or Asiaville. Something.

The peach is found by an old, childless couple and raised as their own son. Meanwhile, the Devil King goes to hell and frees his mother and her zombie followers. The zombie grandma (as she's referred to in the movie) begins a reign of terror in the land, slaughtering entire villages and burning them to the ground (It's only a kid's film). A local warlord, an overweight samurai named Melon Knight, gets his best men together to defeat the Devil King. He's joined by a Peach Boy, who has grown up rather quickly due to the fairy's magic. Can they defeat the villain and save the random princess who's been kidnapped because, well, of course there has to be a kidnapped princess!

This is a pretty loopy film, but much (not all) of the wire-fu action is reserved for the final half hour, much like Wolf Devil Woman. The fighting itself, brought to you by director and occasional Yuen Clan collaborator Chiu Chung-Hing is passable. It's not as undercranked as it would be in the next film, Magic of Spell, and there are some decent acrobatic moves. But until then, there's a lot of comedy that the filmmakers try to mine from the bickering old couple and an extended comic interlude involving a giant, flying and pissing peach. There's some comedy mined from Pang San, who plays the fat samurai, which is of the stereotypical "He's fat, and that's funny variety." But he does get to bust out a few choreographed moves and he does walk away with the hawt princess in the end, so that's ok.

Then you get to the final act, and seams keeping the weirdness begin to burst. You have a human-sized Peach Man that our hero and his (remembering that "he" is played by a "she") animal pals can enter into and control like a Power Rangers Megazord. Little Cock's (It's only a kid's film) method of attack is bend over forward and fire explosive rockets out of her back. You can bet that one major villain character will be blown to pieces before the film's over. And let's not forget a "blowing contest" between Peach Boy and a villain who controls the wind, where both of them blow on opposite sides of a hollow pole until the one of their heads explodes...It's only a kid's film. 
 

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On 27/02/2017 at 8:34 AM, Writ said:

Human Lanterns (1982)

Directed by Sun Chung

This will be a quick one because I just watched Human Lanterns for the first time and I haven't collected all my thoughts about it together just yet.

Good review Writ, despite being into Asian cineam for sometime this is one title I've only read about. Your review was a nice reminder that I need to get hold of a copy.

10 minutes ago, DrNgor said:

Child of Peach (1987)

Starring: Lin Hsiao-Lan, Chin Tu, Pang San, Wong Chung-Yue, Yau Mei-Fong
Director: Chiu Chung-Hing, Chan Jung-Leung
Action Director: Chiu Chung-Hing

Another strong review DrNgor, you have reviewed some weird and wacky movies this month.

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Woochi: Demon Slayer    (2009)

a.k.a Woochi: Taoist Wizard

Fight Choreographer- Doo Hong-Jung

Directed By- Dong-Hoon Choi

Starring- Im Soo-Jung, Kang Don-Won, Hae-Jin Yoo, Yun Seuk-Kim, Soo-Jung Lim, Kim Yuen-Seok, Kim San-Ho, Jung Ah-Yuem, Sunwoo Sun.

Plot Synopsis- During the Joseon Dynasty, pranskter and student wizard Jeon Woo-Chi(Dong Won-Gang) is set up for the murder of his master. For this he is bandished along with his sidekick Chorangyi(Kang Dong-Won). This is no ordinary banishment, with the pair being imprisoned, in a drawing on a scroll. Five hundred years later, and modern Korea is being terroized by shape shifting demons. The three ancient Taoist priests who imprisoned Jeon and Chorangyi, must now release them in order to restore peace to the 21st century.

"Shhhhh, I’m emptying my soul"

 

Collaborative big budget super natural Korean production from CJ Entertinament, UP Pictures and ZipCinema. Which created the biggest ever Korean box-office opening, back in 2009. I’m not sure if this record still stands to this day?. Some inept Taoist gods accidently unleash shape shifting demons, on Joseon dynasty Korea. One of these demons takes the shape of a giant rat when provoked. Cross Master Splinter with the Incredible Hulk, to get an idea of what the evil spirit looks like. Luckily young cocky prankster wizard Woochi, is on hand to sniff out the unwanted giant vermin. However, there's also a gnarly version of the Easter bunny, to deal with too. Who can hop onto the roofs of buildings with ease.

The film is a comedy, if the giant rabbit and rats didn’t give that away already. Therefore the super natural is dealt with in a light hearted way. The introduction of Kang Don-Won's character sets up the tone of the film nicely. Jeon Woochi descends from the sky on a floating cloud, pretending to be a god. Fooling an earth bound king and his entourage. I didn’t find the humour grating at all. As any western viewer of Asian cinema will know, the comedy doesn’t always translate well between cultures.

All the oddities have something to do with an ancient flute, that controls these spirits and keeps them in check. Veteran wizard Hwadam(Kim Yuen-Seok) and three Taoist wizards visit Woochi’s Master, played by Baek Yuen-Sik. They decide to split the flute in half to avoid any further super natural shenanigans. Only Woochi's master is killed and his half of the flute is stolen. Woochi and Chorangyi are blamed for the crime and imprisoned, once the demons have been dealt with. We then cut to modern day Korea, five centuries after the murder of Woochi's master.

The three Toaist wizards have been living in Korea ever since. Only they now have new jobs, one is a Christian priest(Kim San-Ho), another one a shaman (Joo Jin-Mo), and the third one is a monk(Song Young-Chang). When strange things start happening again, they decide to release Woochi and his friend from their imprisonment. Leading to a fight with a two demons who have taken human form in the shape of a man(Kim Hyo-Jin) and woman(Sunwoo Sun). This leads to much carnage and comedy, as our heroes try and deal with the entities. Including a frantic chase through the busy down town Seoul streets.

A entire back street gets wrecked, as Woochi struggles to detain the demons with the use of his magical Talisman’s(Talisman- an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck). In this case, small pieces of paper with magical symbols on them, which turn into flames once used. He keeps these in a handy leather belt, with small talisman sized pockets. Making him look like some sort of magical cowboy, who rather than using a gun, draws his talisman instead. In one humorous sequence, he creates multiple version of his himself. Similar to the fight Neo has with agent Smith in The Matrix sequel, only much funnier.

This is not a Martial Arts movie, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any featured in the film. The movie still packs a lot of action into its run time. It’s just not done in the style of a more traditional Kung Fu movie. From my limited Korean contemporary movie experience, the fights had their own unique look. There’s some really- nice wire work on display, along with some effective CGI. The scene at the start of the film, where Woochi disappears into the painting, being a good example of this. Similar to a scene featured in the Yuen Biao movie Portrait Of A Nymph(1988). There’s still some poorly done computer generated effects in parts, but on the whole it was much better than I expected.

This comedic fantasy actioner certainly packs a lot into its two hour long run time. For me this was my first modern Korean movie, since catching A Tale Of Two sisters many years ago. I've not made a conscious effort to avoid the latest offerings from Korea, but I’ve also never made a big effort to seek them out either. After enjoying this movie a lot, that’s something I hope to remedy some-day. Lead actor and ex model Kang Dong-Won(In The Company Of Wolves) is charismatic, as the charming wizard Woochi. Who appears to have more interest in chasing the ladies, than being diligent with his magical studies.

Shortly after arriving in the present day, his clothing soon starts to resemble Vampire Hunter D, meets an early 1980s Michael Jackson. He also accidently stumbles upon a lady, whom he fell in love with over five hundred years earlier. Somehow she's been re-born in present times and looks exactly the same. It's best not to question this movie, or even attempt to try and look at it through logical eyes. Film and T.V actress Im Soo-Jung(A Tale Of Two Sisters), does a fine job of playing the level headed jobbing actress Seo In-Kyung. She plays a much greater role in the overall story. Which I won’t go into detail about, for the sake of spoilers.

The Cine-Asia DVD release says the hero faces an army of elite shape shifting goblins. It's more like a handful of shape shifting creatures, that you could describe as either goblins or demons. I've referred to them as demons, because they don't really resemble the western idea of a goblin. The short green creatures who often carry an axe or other weapon, that feature in so many fantasy books/films. The demons found in Korean folklore are called Dokkaebi, and old illustrations present them as being blue skinned troll like creatures. They can also take the shape of humans. Which is their only connection to the creatures featured in this story.

Overall I really enjoyed this Dong Hoon-Choi directed movie, a lot more than I expected to. It’s not a title I would have seeked out myself. My girlfriend brought it back for me, after a day’s shopping. With @masterofoneinchpunch choice of theme for this month reviews. Now was the best time to give it a chance. I’m by no means an expert on the subject of modern Korean movies. Expert is not a term I’d apply to myself full stop. There’s some really, strong character performances, with Kim Sang-Ho as the unkempt priest being a favourite of mine. I should also briefly mention composer Young Gyu-Jang. Who’s catchy main theme is still stuck in my head.

My only gripe is the film seemed to keep delaying the ending. Setting the viewer up for the finale, only to keep it going a little more. Which can be a good effect if done right. It just felt a little over used in this production. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone with a dislike of fantasy themed movies. However, if you like quirky movies with a comedic super natural theme. Then this film is more than worth watching.

(Some of the facts in this review have been taken from the excellent, Mke Leeder and Bey Logan commentary. Featured on the 2-Disc Cine-Asia R2 DVD release)

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3 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

Woochi: Demon Slayer    (2009)

Collaborative big budget super natural Korean production from CJ Entertinament, UP Pictures and ZipCinema. Which created the biggest ever Korean box-office opening, back in 2009. I’m not sure if this record still stands to this day?. ...

 I've not made a conscious effort to avoid the latest offerings from Korea, but I’ve also never made a big effort to seek them out either. After enjoying this movie a lot, that’s something I hope to remedy some-day. ...

Thanks for the review. I think The Admiral now holds that record.  I do not watch as many South Korean films as I would like either -- nowhere near as much as Hong Kong film.  I do plan on watching this soon (just liked I watched Spiritual Boxer recently.)  I liked the trailer and I do own the film.

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4 hours ago, DrNgor said:

The fairy places the baby inside a giant peach and sends it to Japan...or China...or Asiaville. Something.

This owned me.:tongueout To quote Tina Fey from the TV show 30 Rock, "I want to go to there."

Great review!

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On 28/02/2017 at 4:20 PM, DragonClaws said:

Woochi: Demon Slayer    (2009)

 

a.k.a Woochi: Taoist Wizard

The review itself is very good. I suppose at some point in the next few years I'll do a countdown to 100 Korean movies watched, at which point I'll see about checking this one out.

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Magic Warriors (1989)
aka Child of Peach 3, Prince of Phoenix

Starring: Lin Hsiao-Lan, Chen Shan, Alexander Lo Rei, Lee Hoi-Hing
Director: Lee Tso-Nam, Chuang Yan-Chien
Action Director: Alexander Lo Rei, Lee Hoi-Hing


Although one of this film's alternate titles suggests a second sequel to the 1987 "kiddie" fantasy Child of Peach, it's not quite that. It's more of a spiritual successor. The impishly-cute Lin Hsiao-Lan is back in a male role as a supernaturally-powered kung fu fighting boy, but this time goes by the moniker of Xiao Fei Long, or Little Flying Dragon. Her (his) outfit is still the same, and Lin still wields a katana as her (his) principle weapon, but Peach Boy's animal sidekicks are gone, as is the giant magical peach that helps him from time to time.

The story is alternately simple and complex, very reminiscent of Kung Fu Cult Master. Years ago, there was a huge war between the forces of Heaven and the forces of the Devil (who'll eventually be played by Lee Hoi-Hing, who did the action choreography for Iron Monkey 2). During the war, a swordsman fighting for heaven, Wu Cham (Alexander Lo Rei), deserted his side to marry an evil witch from the side of the Devil. They went into hiding, where they had a blond-haired Chinese child. Both Heaven and Hell spent so much time looking for the forbidden couple that they eventually forgot about the war, and peace was established. However, as is par for the course in these things, the child of this union could tip the balance in the war between good and evil.

Fast-forward ten years, where Little Flying Dragon is gallavanting around doing nothing of importance. He saves some women from a killer gill man, who turns out to be Evil Witch in disguise. Evil Witch needs some mortal energy to cure her sick son, and takes Little Flying Dragon home to help. Unbeknownst to them, they are being followed by the Snail Spirit, who works for Devil King and his son, Kid of the Worst (Chen Shan in a turquoise wig). Snail Spirit reports back to his master, who gathers his other Spirit underlings (including a female fly spirit and a guy in a red wig) to launch an attack on the home of Wu Cham and his wife.

A huge fight breaks out and Wu Cham is badly wounded. Little Flying Dragon is left to care for the little boy after his parents are whisked away to the Devil King's castle. Wu Cham is unceremoniously dipped in a vat of acid and reduced to a skeleton, while the Fly Spirit uses mind control powers to find out where the two are going. Little Flying Dragon prepares a Lone Wolf-esque baby cart for the boy and they arrive in a city, where a rich noble transforms them into gorillas with the intent of killing them and serving them to his guests. And that my friends, marks the first 35 minutes of so of this insane little project.

So a lot goes on in this movie, with the forces of Heaven and Hell constantly trying to kidnap the little boy (only in an Oriental film could the forces of Heaven be construed as secondary antagonists). Near the last act, the duo finds Wu Cham's older brother (also played by Alexander Lo Rei), and some more hijinks ensues before they finally storm the Devil's castle and administer the kung fu justice.

Fight-wise, this film has more and better martial arts than the previous two movies, which I imagine could be expected from Alexander Lo Rei and Lee Hoi-Hing, each of whom has a pretty petigree in that area. Yes, there is a lot of wirework and over-the-top fu, but as a children's fantasy, it's pretty excusable. Lo Rei gets to perform some nice bootwork, especially in his role as Wu Cham's brother. Chen Shan also gets to fight quite a bit, although his moves are little more muted. His signature weapon in this movie is a whip. Lin Hsiao-Lan fights with a pair of axes in the finale, which makes for a nice change of pace from the katana she wields earlier (and the other films). There are also lots of bombs and explosions used in the fights as well. It feels like a 90s Ching Siu-Tung film made two years earlier on smaller budget and written by a 10-year-old kid running his own D&D campaign.

When the characters aren't fighting, they're engaging in vulgar comedy (pee drinking, a naked kid's bum shooting liquid poo into a character's face, the like) and all sorts of supérnatural shenanigans. There are teleportation spells, lots of spirits (in addition to the ones I mentioned, there's a Mushroom Spirit and an Evergreen Spirit on the side of Heaven), magic potions that transform people into gorillas, kung fu used to heal people, Lin Hsiao-Lan vomiting a fountain of blood as part of the healing process ("It's only a kid's film"), and more. It's just that insane and for that, I recommend this to anyone interested in the most bizarre films that cinema has to offer.

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