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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

This Week’s Reviews

Yesterday, Kozo updated the main site, adding reviews he wrote for Lover’s Discourse, Marriage with a Liar and Reign of Assassins as well as Kevin Ma’s take on The Road Less Traveled. I contributed three reviews this week, and here’s a rundown of the films for any interested parties.

The Green Hornet (2011)

Green Hornet 01

Seth Rogen and Jay Chou in The Green Hornet

Despite a tortured production history and a non-traditional choice for its leading man, The Green Hornet turns out to be a welcome surprise, delivering an entertaining buddy comedy that successfully lampoons the superhero movie genre through a clever subversion of the conventional hero/sidekick dynamic. Stepping into shoes once filled by Bruce Lee, Taiwanese singer-actor Jay Chou shines in his Hollywood debut, taking the role of Kato and making it his own. To understand why I liked this movie — that’s getting panned left and right — you should read the review posted here.

Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Peter Cushing explains why Twilight sucks in Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

For its next-to-last horror film and the final entry in its prolific Dracula franchise, England-based Hammer Film Productions joined forces with Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers Studio for one of the first cross-cultural, kung fu/horror mash-ups in cinema history. The result is a schlocky, largely goofy film made watchable not only by the welcome presence of the inimitable Peter Cushing and David Chiang, but also an intriguing subplot involving interracial love amidst a martial arts-infused vampire plague. Without a doubt, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is the very definition of a cult classic. For those unafraid of the vampire’s kiss, you can check out my full thoughts on the film here.

White on Rice (2009)

White on Rice

When Banana Met Monkey

A rare coming-of-age story in which the hero simply fails to come of age, White on Rice is a peculiar, largely unsatisfying film that occasionally milks laughs from its immigrant manchild protagonist, but delivers little else. If you’d like to learn more about why I didn’t like this movie, you can take a gander at my take on White on Rice  here.

Retro Review: THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN

One Armed Swordsman

Hong Kong cinema is replete with iconic figures. Whether it’s the high-flying swordsmen in numerous wuxia films, the stylish urban killers that populate the bullet-riddled filmographies of John Woo and his heirs, or the various cinematic incarnations of Chinese folk heroes like Wong Fei-Hung and Fong Sai-Yuk, it’s become abundantly clear that Hong Kong filmmakers know a thing or two about creating unforgettable on-screen heroes.

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THE BLADE (No, not Wesley Snipes)

Blade

Vincent Zhao Wen-Zhou gets bloody in Tsui Hark’s The Blade

If you can get your hands on The Blade (1995), Tsui Hark’s bleak-as-hell re-imagining of the Shaw Brothers classic, The One Armed Swordsman, do yourself a favor and check it out. My pal Kozo at LoveHKFilm.com had this to say about the film, so be sure to check out his review. Watching The Blade all these years later, I have to say I tend to agree with his evaluation, although in retrospect, I really question Tsui Hark’s filmmaking choices at times. To put it simply, this film can be messy as hell at times, a quality that would unfortunately be present in his 2005 return to wuxia pian, Seven Swords.

And really, why do we need to cut away from our hero On (Vincent Zhao) to see what’s happening with the characters played by Moses Chan and Sang Ni? I didn’t care about them, and I think the original Shaw Bros film handled those characters (or at least their equivalents, anyway) in a much better fashion. Really, the point the film is trying to put forth about “Living La Vida Jiang Hu” amounting to nothing more than largely empty, meaningless, and totally non-heroic existence was already made quite well in the first act when the heroic monk got totally f-ed up and nobody cared. It ain’t all fun and games in The Blade. It’s a harsh world, baby. Harsh. For those looking for a story with happy-go-lucky swordsmen, do go elsewhere.

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You want to name the movie WHAT?

Pom Pom

Stephen Tung and Jacky Cheung in the improbably named Pom Pom and Hot Hot

Jacky Cheung and Stephen Tung partner up in Joe Cheung’s weirdly titled Pom Pom and Hot Hot (1992), a somewhat typical buddy cop/action comedy that boasts — seemingly out of nowhere — an impressive guns ablazin’ finale that could stand next to some of the best action sequences Hong Kong cinema has to offer. Kudos have to go to star Stephen Tung who served double-duty as the film’s action director.

In addition to the two main stars, Alfred Cheung, Loletta Lee, and Bonnie Fu provide entertaining, if uneven laughs in supporting roles, but really, it’s Lam Ching-Ying who steals the show as the duo’s superior officer, a ridiculously entertaining gunplay savant who wouldn’t be out of place in a classic John Woo film. His brief confrontation with a villainous hitman prior to the big climax ranks as a major highlight of the movie.

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Little Bitty Jackie Chan

Little Big Soldier

“Err…it’s not what it looks like.” — Leehom Wang and Jackie Chan in Little Big Soldier.

For quite a while now, Jackie Chan has seemed pretty cognizant of the need to re-invent himself as an actor in order to stay relevant to a contemporary audience. He’s made it clear in interviews that he knows he’s getting older, and he can’t keep (and hasn’t kept) playing the young romantic lead doing the same death-defying stunts with any degree of believability. Over the years, Chan has made several attempts at reinvention as a dramatic actor, but he’s always reverted back to the comfortable “Jackie Chan-type” character in Hong Kong and American films. More recently, he’s tried to walk on the dark side as reluctant crime lord in The Shinjuku Incident and tried to act his age as the Sifu in the recent remake of The Karate Kid. But in my view, the most successful attempt at reinvigorating Chan’s career was 2010’s Little Big Soldier.

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2011 Preview: FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Jet Li returns to wuxia pian in Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Said to be a reworking of King Hu’s Dragon Gate Inn (1966) and New Dragon Gate Inn (1992, aka Dragon Inn), Tsui Hark’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate reunites the director with his Once Upon a Time in China leading man, Jet Li. Budgeted at a reported $35 million USD, the film will be the first 3-D wuxia film. Chuck Comiskey, who served as a visual effects supervisor for James Cameron’s Avatar, has been hired as the 3-D director in charge of managing special effects. (more…)

P-P-P-Pokerface!

Poker King 01

Louis Koo and Lau Ching-Wan square off in Poker King

Two of Hong Kong’s top-rated actors  — Louis Koo and Lau Ching-Wan — face off in Poker King, a 2009 film from co-directors Chang Hing-Ka and Janet Chun, the team behind 2008’s La Lingerie and 2010’s La Comedie Humaine. However, whatever promise was held in the casting of these two likable, fairly frequent co-stars nearly gets squandered in the opening act of the film. I would imagine that the first ten to twenty minutes of Poker King would test the patience of even the most die-hard Hong Kong cinema fan. As the film wore on, I was starting to seriously question  why either of these guys agreed to do this movie in the first place. Characters are saddled with childish and annoying personalities, the plot seems to have zero forward momentum, and everything just oozes with the stench of lowbrow HK comedy cheese. Luckily for both the film and its prospective viewers, the film gets better, although I’m not sure it  makes a whole lot of sense.

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