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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Archive for the ‘Hong Kong cinema’ Category

LoveHKToys: PHANTOM SERVANT

Shadow

Photo courtesy of Limited Edition Toys

As promised, here is the second figure in Dragon Models’ A Man Called Hero collection, Phantom Servant. Also known by such names as Ghost Servant, Ghost Server (sounds like a scary waiter), and Shadow (played by Dion Lam and voiced by Jordan Chan) in the 1999 Andrew Lau film, the character serves (get it?) as a trusted ally of the comic book’s main protagonist, Hero Hua Ying-Hung. Setting him apart from the pack is Phantom Servant’s curious appearance, as he is distinguished by a) his complete lack of arms and b) a horribly disfigured Phantom of the Opera-style mug. Sadly, I don’t own this figure, but you can check out pictures of this curious 12-inch figure just under the cut.

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Retro Review: THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR 2

Bride 2

When we last left swordsman Cho Yi-Hang (Leslie Cheung) in the original Bride with White Hair, he was meditating on the snowy slopes of Mount Shin Fung. Due to Yi-Hang’s mistrust of his lover, Lien Ni-Chang (Brigitte Lin), the poor woman’s hair went from black to white and she slipped further into a bloodthirsty rage. Guilt-stricken by his betrayal, Yi-Hang stands ready on the frosty, precipitous mountain in the hopes of plucking a magical flower that may very well hold the key to healing his beloved Ni-Chang.

In the meantime, Ni-Chang is content with slaughtering the remaining male members of the prominent clans. At the top of her list is Yi-Hang’s nephew, Fung Chun-Kit (Sunny Chan), the last descendant of the once-powerful Wu Tang. Chun-Kit takes a wife named Lyre (Joey Man), but their wedded bliss is short-lived when Ni-Chang pays a visit to the clan. The witch kidnaps Lyre, indoctrinating the newlywed into her cadre of lethal, quasi-lesbian women warriors. Naturally, our substitute hero leads a ragtag group band of do-gooders, including the beautiful Christy Chung as the tomboyish Moon, in an assault on the white witch’s inner stronghold.

As the sequel to one of the best Hong Kong movies of the 1990s, The Bride with White Hair 2 had its work cut out for it. If you’re curious whether the honeymoon is over, check out my review here. I’ve even embedded a trailer of the second film under the cut.

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Retro Review: THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR

Bride with White HairTold in flashback, The Bride with White Hair details the ill-fated love story of Wu Tang swordsman Cho Yi-Hang (Leslie Cheung) and Lien Ni-Chang (Brigitte Lin), the top assassin for the rival Supreme Cult. When we meet Cho at the beginning, we find that he has been waiting on a mountain for ten years in order to pluck the “majestic flower,” a rose that blooms every twenty years and can cure any illness. But at that point in the narrative, we don’t know his reasons. What unfolds next is a an exciting tale of divided loyalties as the heroic Cho finds himself falling for the “villainous” witch, who in turn comes to love him, a man she was ordered to kill by her hideous master, the misshapen Siamese twin, Chi Wu-Shuang (Francis Ng and Elaine Lui).

Strong performances by Leslie Cheung and Brigitte Lin are just part of the thrill of this 1993 Ronny Yu film. The Bride with White Hair is a fantastic introduction to not only the fantasy swordplay genre, but to the HK film experience as well. The film is based on on a novel by Liang Yu-Sheng which was previously adapted into several films and a handful of subsequent television series. The character of Ni-Chang even appeared in the long-awaited Jackie Chan-Jet Li vehicle, The Forbidden Kingdom (2008).

My very brief review was written early in my tenure at LoveHKFilm.com, so it’s not as in-depth as I’d prefer, but you get the gist — I liked it. I’d love to take another look at the film, if only someone would release a Blu-Ray to give me an excuse. Until then, you can read my barebones review here. You can watch the French trailer (with the alternate title Jiang Hu: Between Love and Glory!) under the cut.

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THE KILLER 2011 in 3-D and Smell-O-Vision!

Killer

“Jung Woo-Sung, huh? I’m holding out for Colin Firth.”

While composing a review for the surprisingly good remake of The Karate Kid yesterday, I happened upon the news that John Woo’s The Killer is also being remade — in 3D, no less. A Moment to Remember’s John H. Lee will direct and Korean star Jung Woo-Sung will headline the film. John Woo himself has apparently given the project his blessing, as he, along with his partner Terence Chang, will be serving as a producer on this 3D, Los Angeles-set re-imagining of his 1987 classic. How involved he’ll actually be remains unclear.

Personally, I like Badass Digest writer, Devin Faraci’s idea that Woo is basically taking a John Carpenter-style approach to the remake, as the legendary horror director (Halloween, The Thing, They Live) served as a producer on the updates of The Fog and Assault on Precinct 13, but really didn’t have anything to do with the creative process. If I remember Carpenter’s words correctly, he had no problem with remakes, “as long as the check clears.”

As some of you will remember, there was an earlier remake of The Killer planned by Walter Will in 1992, set to star Richard Gere and Denzel Washington in the Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee roles. According to Christopher Heard, however, some American producers balked at the seeming homoeroticism between the two male leads. Homophobia, it seems, derailed plans for the 1992 version. That was almost twenty years ago. God, I feel old.

Anyway, what do you think of the prospect of a Killer remake? Are you excited about its potential? Angered at the heresy? Resigned to the fact that every movie you ever loved will be remade in 3-D? Whatever your take, you can read the full press release under the cut.

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Retro Review: DRUNKEN MASTER (1978)

Drunken Master

An essential kung fu classic for every HK fan’s movie library, Drunken Master is a film that not only gave a comedic twist to the Wong Fei-Hong legend, but allowed Jackie Chan the chance to hone his kung fu/comedy shtick. Just as Evil Dead 2 can be called both a sequel and a remake of the earlier Sam Raimi flick The Evil Dead, so too can Drunken Master be viewed as a “re-imagining” of its immediate predecessor, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, a film released only months before with practically the same cast, crew, and storyline. But make no mistake: Drunken Master isn’t some quickie rehash. Instead, the film takes the best elements from Snake to craft not just an excellent kung fu comedy, but a landmark film in the Jackie Chan canon.

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Hong Kong Round-Up

Sandra NgIp Man 2Andy LauRun Run ShawJet Li

With the weekend upon us, I thought I’d give a brief round-up of Hong Kong cinema-related news, notes, interviews, and gossip in today’s edition of Ronin on Empty.

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The Occasionally Magnificent Seven

Seven Swords Leon Lai

Despite my professed love for Hong Kong cinema, sometimes a movie slips through the cracks. For some odd reason, I never got around to watching Tsui Hark’s 2005 wuxia epic, Seven Swords, even though I’ve owned the movie since it was first released on DVD quite a few years ago. I gave the movie a try one weekend when I lived in Hawaii, but I seem to remember being somehow vaguely put off by the look of the film (or, more likely, the running time of 2.5 hours when I had a master’s project to finish) and moved on to other Hong Kong movies that had captured my interest in a way Seven Swords didn’t.

Recently, I had a chance to finally watch Seven Swords, and in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t waited so long, as Hark delivers a mostly entertaining, if overstuffed swordplay epic. It’s not one of Tsui’s best, but it’s a film that’s rousing in small passages, coasting on a handful of intriguing characters and some stellar wuxia iconography that it never quite capitalizes upon.

You can read Kozo’s full critique of the film here, while I share my thoughts below.

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