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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 July, 2010

Great Moments in Hong Kong Cinema #2: The Final Gun Battle in A BETTER TOMORROW 2

ABT2

Periodically, Ronin on Empty will be taking a look back at some Hong Kong cinema classics, albeit with a specific emphasis on “Great Moments” — i.e. classic scenes that no Hong Kong cinema fan (old or new) should miss. Of course, “classic” will not only entail super-cool, gobsmacking moments, but also the downright ridiculous stuff, too. The numbers — #1, #2, etc. — are not indicators of ranking, but merely a way to keep a running tally of how many “great moments” we can list here. Readers are welcome to send in their own fave scenes as well.

A Better Tomorrow 2 is not exactly a great film. Aside from Chow Yun-Fat’s “EAT THE RICE!” scene (itself a candidate for a “Great Moment” retrospective), there’s not many memorable moments in the film’s first half. For the most part, A Better Tomorrow 2 seems like a dud, as it doesn’t quite live up to the dizzying heights of its illustrious predecessor. But thankfully, that initial disappointment evaporates the moment the film enters the climax. Almost immediately, director John Woo and producer Tsui Hark are pretty much forgiven for what came before.

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A Man Called…Are You Frickin’ Serious?

While browsing DVD shops in SF’s Chinatown the other day with forum moderator, Wongsaurus, I noticed a stack of Korean dramas, each in snazzy packaging and selling for an impossibly cheap price. I rifled through a number of familiar older titles, but of the newer stuff, I only recognized the Lee “Storm Shadow” Byung-Hun drama, IRIS. Despite seeing a familiar face, I refrained from purchasing  the show.

Why? Well, I made a personal vow awhile back not to buy Korean dramas anymore — largely because a) I’d feel obligated to review them, b) they are a huge time commitment, and c) they are rarely rewarding in the same way that my favorite American television shows are. Frankly, I’d rather watch Dexter, Supernatural, LOST, Glee, et al.

To preface my discussion, I should mention that before starting Ronin on Empty, I used to write an irregular column at LoveHKFilm.com entitled A Man Called Sanjuro. I named it after a novel idea I had (a rough draft of which I just finished), which in turn was named in the tradition of movies and books like A Man Called Hero, A Man Called Horse, A Man Called Django, A Man Called Trent, and The Man Called Noon. Well, while browsing that huge, largely disorganized stack of Korean dramas in Chinatown, I noticed the newest installment in the unofficial “A Man Called…” series.

A MAN CALLED GOD!

 Buddy Christ

No, not Him.

South Korea is the second largest supplier of Christian missionaries in the world, so you might suspect that with a title like that, this show would be about some amped-up Korean Jesus or something. But it’s not. Here’s the official English synopsis:

Michael King vows to revenge his parents’ death. He believes that he can use his power as head of an underground drug kingpin to punish those who hurt him. However, his beliefs are shaken when he falls in love with a reporter named Jin Bo Bae.

I don’t know what any of that has to do with God, but whatever. In the posters for this K-drama, lead actor Song Il-Gook likes to adopt quasi-Christ-like poses, and I suppose he does have the oddly eroticized abs of a supernatural carpenter:

God?

God is back, and he’s been working out.

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Ip Man 2 (AKA: White People Are Eeeevil!!)

 Ip Man 2

I know Rocky IV. Rocky IV is a guilty pleasure of mine. And Ip Man 2 is no Rocky IV. Oh, it certainly tries to be. As Kozo said in his review, the second half of Wilson Yip’s 2010 film “is basically a blow-by-blow retread” of the fourth installment of the Balboa legend. Remember when Apollo Creed told Rocky not to throw in the towel? Remember when Apollo went ahead and got killed by the Russian, Ivan Drago? And remember when Rocky beat Drago, won the Russian crowd over, and gave a speech about cross-cultural understanding, which the announcer translated for a no longer hostile audience? Yeah, well, so did Wilson Yip. Except he didn’t do it half as well as Sly.

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Shaw Brothers Action Figures — Series 2?

In a follow-up of sorts to yesterday’s post about NECA’s Shaw Bros. action figure line, I did some additional digging and  found out that a series 2 has been planned. According to the website TOYSREVIL, Series 2 actually dates all the way back to New York Comic Con 2008! Characters in this wave include one of the Abbots (Lee Hoi-Sang) from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Short Axe (Chiang Sheng) from The Kid with the Golden Arm, and To Sheng (Lu Feng) from The Crippled Avengers. According to online toy wholesaler BBCW Distibutors, Inc., both Series 1 and Series 2 may be available for August/TBD 2010 pre-order, although I’ve not received any confirmation from NECA on an actual release date. Here are some NYCC 2008 photos courtesy of Figures.com via the aforementioned TOYSREVIL (go here for uncropped full-length shots):

Abbot

Abbot (Lee Hoi-Sang)

Short Axe

Short Axe (Chiang Sheng)

To Sheng

To Sheng (Lu Feng)

So which one will you be buying? And what about a Series 3 wish-list? In addition to Super Inframan, here’s hoping for a Dirty Ho two-pack! (Newbie note: If you’re not familiar with that very entertaining Shaw Bros movie, you probably just think I’m being gross. I’m not.)

Shaw Brothers Action Figures!

I used to collect action figures, but I honestly cannot remember the last time I bought one. Now, don’t get me wrong, my lack of toy purchases has little to do with “maturity,” and more to do with the need to conserve personal finances. Oddly enough, collecting toys has become an oddly expensive proposition. Not only is the collector-centered “cool stuff” usually higher-priced, but even the mass-produced products that are actually intended for kids has increased considerably in the last few years. Yesterday, I saw that Target was selling DC Comics’ JLU line for $8.99.In fact, suggested retail price on these figures — no bigger than four inches tall — is $9.99. That’s highway robbery, if I ever saw it.

But money issues aside, the fact is, it might be fun to display a toy on my desk or bookshelf, but let’s face it, the dang thing inevitably ends up in a drawer or a box somewhere, so what’s the point? But I digress…

However, just because I’m abstaining from frivolous purchases like these, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them. In fact, just recently I was browsing the online toy retailer, Big Bad Toy Store, and lo and behold, I discovered an interesting shipment for June 2010 — Shaw Brothers Action Figures!

Liu Chia Hui Shaw Toy 2

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The Green Hornet and Kato Strike Back!

GHK2011

Seth Rogen as Britt Reid and Jay Chou as Kato in The Green Hornet (2011)

I’m honestly surprised that The Green Hornet has finally been made. For a while there, it looked like it’d never see the light of day. The film has had a long, tortuous production history. In the 1990s, there were vague rumors of an impending film involving George Clooney, but the most concrete development came when Kevin Smith (Clerks) wrote a screenplay in 2004. However, Smith got cold feet about helming the film himself and backed out of the director’s chair (although he did later adapt the script into a comic for Dynamite Entertainment).

Without Smith’s involvement, the project then languished in development hell until we got the surprising news  that Stephen Chow would both direct and star in the new film, alongside Seth Rogen, who would play against type as Britt Reid, the titular Green Hornet. But soon enough, Chow was off the project as both actor and director due to “creative differences” and announced he would be instead pursuing a different superhero film with Jack Black (!). More delays ensued.

And then, Michel Gondry, director of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, came aboard as director and Taiwanese actor-singer Jay Chou was cast in the role of Kato. Still more delays ensued when Sony decided to post-convert the film to 3-D, which isn’t a good sign if it’s true what people have been saying about post-converted 3-D films like Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender (i.e. the 3-D sucked).

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Great Moments in Hong Kong Cinema #1 — Mark Gor Gets Revenge in A BETTER TOMORROW

 ABT 01

Chow Yun-Fat in John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1984)

Periodically, Ronin on Empty will be taking a look back at some Hong Kong cinema classics, albeit with a specific emphasis on “Great Moments” — i.e. classic scenes that no Hong Kong cinema fan (old or new) should miss. Of course, “classic” will not only entail super-cool, gobsmacking moments, but also the downright ridiculous stuff, too.

The May 6th episode of the NBC comedy Community  featured a dead-on parody of some of John Woo’s films (particularly those featuring Chow Yun-Fat), which got me to thinking about some of the best scenes from Woo’s filmography. For the first installment of “Great Moments in Hong Kong Cinema,” I chose a stylish action scene from John Woo’s 1984 classic, A Better Tomorrow. The sequence, partially an homage to Martin Scorcese’s Mean Streets, features a dashing gangster named Mark (Chow Yun-Fat) getting a little payback for his friend, Ho (Ti Lung). What’s so “great” about it? Well, you’ll just have to watch for yourself.

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