|# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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|Anna And The King (1999, Andy Tennant)
Chow Yun-Fat's third Hollywood film sees him utilized not for action but his acting persona playing King Mongkut in the fictionalized account of Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster) tutoring his 58 children while Siam (now Thailand) is on the brink of military conflict. The two clash morally but grow to respect each other and eventually romance is in the air. Just like the Yul Brunner musical The King And I, the 1999 movie was banned in Thailand but Andy Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama) does grandeur and scope well working on standing locations and an immense set of the palace built in Malaysia. It's especially gratifying that you recognize such technical qualities but don't think about them after a while as Tennant zeroes in on the character drama. Fine verbal sparring occurs between two comfortable actors and the getting to know each other-phase is as much about proceeding in your heart and not tread water as it is about brewing emotions for each other. The political unrest and a subplot involving Bai Ling as a reluctant wife of King Mongkut isn't of great interest but nonetheless it's paced very well and stays quite far away from any notions of cookie cutter romance. A sense of the non-verbal and maturity is present, which feels both old fashioned and approachable as well as fairly poignant. Also with Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from the 'Harry Potter' franchise).
|The Anonymous Heroes (1971, Chang Cheh)
David Chiang and Ti Lung play a pair of robbers who teams up with a revolutionary (Ku Feng) to bring down a ruling warlord. The usual fine production values found at Shaw Brothers (outside of some poor miniature work) is firmly in place just like the great charisma and interplay of stars David Chiang and Ti Lung, flanked by a stunning Ching Li in a thankless role. Chang Cheh's pet themes of brotherly loyalty and a climax of expected bloody mayhem also turn up but in terms of audience sympathy and participation in the character's cause, The Anonymous Heroes comes up short. With the mentioned technical- and acting talent in their prime, it certainly comes easily recommended despite. Lau Kar Leung and Tong Kai's action choreography obviously stays away from traditional forms due to the era the film is set in but they provide solid brawls along the way, with their work peeking during the violent final sections of the film. Chen Sing and Cheng Lei turn up in supporting roles plus many recognizable bit players.
|Another Chinese Cop (1996) Directed by: Lam Yee-Hung
Usually gathering a cast like this for Category III material, Lam Yee-Hung (Erotic Ghost Story - Perfect Match, The Story Of Lady Sue) can't inspire Anthony Wong, Diana Pang Dan or Elvis Tsui and therefore can't ignite this thriller. Ironically enough then, some of the explosions are well captured which is connected to Pang Dan and Billy Chow luring in men via her and then blackmailing them. Armed with explosives too, the cop duo (Wong and Tsui) banter in supposedly comedic ways while trying to crack the blackmail operation. Stakes are personal too as Tsui and Billy Chow's characters are friends (shown in flashback with Tsui sporting a baaaaaad wig). Suspense and comedy is pure flatline all throughout Another Chinese Cop, with high annoyance coming in the form of the duo trying to compose a love song at one point. Lam Yee-Hung shows his true colours during Pang Dan's long dance sequence and also shows a comfort the rest of the movie clearly doesn't allow for as this isn't adult material. Lam may not have been perfect working with the III but more assured than in Another Chinese Cop.
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|Arhats In Fury (1985) Directed by: Wong Sing-Lui
Mainland Chinese production that attempts to echo much that have been said in martial arts cinema before, including in Shaolin Temple (Jet Li's breakthrough film). What we get here are generally finely lensed landscapes, buddhism vs. violence rationales and what I assume is a bunch of genuine Wushu performers adding authentic skill to the film. Director Wong Sing-Lui manages with a heavy hand examine the theme of the film in a slightly above average way but what's missing in the equation is a constant quality showcase for the action performers. The first real fight stands as the best in the film, combining fast, clear and acrobatic traits but the time subsequently offers up more messy and large scenarios than anything else. There's an art in making an epic immersing. That art isn't fully practiced here but Arhats In Fury earns a minor recommendation for the serious nature it does possess.
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|Armageddon (1997) Directed by: Gordon Chan
With this sci-fi/romance combo, Gordon Chan goes deep on us with train of thoughts concerning mankind and adds a little of the good old X-Files feeling for his successful 1997 movie. Maybe we should give credit to the minds of the paying audience but star power was probably more recognized than intelligence during the cinema run. Fact of the matter is, Gordon's written and directed template barely edges into interesting territory but that's only on the very edge of the surface. The actual filmmaking is dangerously stale, despite the competently put together production. Armageddon lacks a razor sharp edge and more importantly, a logic that is needed to bring all facets of the story to the audiences different mind sets and while some twists surrounding the Michelle Reis character wakes us up, the film puts us mostly to sleep (location work in Prague does not enhance matters). Andy Lau looks seriously disinterested as well but kudos to Anthony Wong for brining a relaxed persona to immersing effect. Usually a bumbling cop act but the character reveals heart as we move along. It's effort largely wasted sadly. Wayne Lai rocks in a role no one will understand while co-writer Vincent Kok, Michael Lui, Claudia Lau and Kim Yip also appear.
|The Armed Policewoman (1995) Directed by: Cheung Gon-Man
One of those times where Hong Kong cinema's unique mix doesn't charm but registers on the silly and dumb-scale instead. Carrie Ng is a timid policewoman about to go into training in order to patrol with a gun. Her and younger partner played by Valerie Chow bust a huge arms smuggling ring led by Ng Man-Tat (and his huge steel mallet) and with this loss, the gangster boss goes after the family of Carrie's...
Making its points about the role of a woman in this particular household via comedy-dialogue spoken in choir and doing a little wacky Police Academy style (or The Inspectors Wears Skirts) montage, The Armed Policewoman bores when employing this structure as we pretty much know no effort will be made to beef up this scenario. When later making quite a terrible, morbid joke about the horrific death of a lost one, intentions to stay light in almost all areas (including violence) are horrifically off. Admittedly tweaking Carrie Ng's glamorous image to that of a housewoman that then goes undercover as a sexy lawyer generates the sole chuckle of the film but that and some small excursions into worthwhile action (where Valerie Chow and doubles do admirably well) doesn't save anything. Plus, a seriously deranged sub plot about Roy Cheung needing to smell a 20 year old, never washed rag in order to function is just gross. Also with Lau Siu-Ming.
|Armour Of God (1987) Directed by: Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan's Indiana Jones-style adventure is more renowned for nearly killing the star (after a seemingly harmless stunt jumping from a castle to a tree where a branch broke and he hit his head on a rock on impact. Chan had emergency surgery and now has a permanent hole in his head. Production resumed a few months later) than for its qualities as a movie. Fairly swift and admirable because of Chan's continually evolving vision to his art (focus on a larger scale adventure, stunts and fight action), after an action-filled opening the movie features very sparse action. Middle part is a standard and at times even sub-standard double act between Chan and a very weak Alan Tam trying to save Rosamund Kwan from a religious cult. Chemistry between the stars is lacking, the political correctness dropped in favour of cheap comedy (including against homosexuals and women) but thankfully an overall grade of recommended gets reached via the extended action ending. As Chan takes on the monks in the religious cult headquarters, the mix of dangerous choreography involving fire, painful flips, falls and martial arts shows Chan finally feeling comfortable making this particular production. Using Westerners such as Ken Boyle, John Ladalski and Wayne Archer very well, highlight is the fight versus a number of muscular, black women (and their stunt doubles) beating the crap out of the up to now invincible Chan as Asian Hawk. It's all warm up for the more well conceived and executed sequel.
|Armour Of God II - Operation Condor (1991) Directed by: Jackie Chan
Bigger, better, extremely expensive and one of Jackie Chan's best and last movies where the focus on daredevil stunts and martial arts mixes superbly well. Although featuring a trio of women (Carol Chen, Eva Cobo De Garcia and Ikeda Shoko) essentially there as windowdressing and constantly in need to be saved (and the comedic Arab characters played by Jonathan Isgar and Dan Mintz are pretty offensive too), Chan's shortcomings in the political correctness-area is made up tenfold due to a terrific adventure production. Shot on international locations yet again (including Spain and Morocco), Chan wisely spreads out tiny to bigger stunt- and action concepts that in turn generates a fine pace. From small skirmishes in apartments and hotelrooms where Chan's creativity shines and a dangerous looking bike and car chase, rightly the long finale in the German underground base is quoted as a highlight. Perhaps THE reason the film went over budget to the degree it did, nevertheless there's jaw dropping highlights here including the famous wind tunnel finale. After this Golden Harvest asked Chan to work with smaller budgets and other directors and as the decade (and career) went on, it became clear this was the last of the greatest, high concept movies Chan directed. Excellent usage of the Western cast is another highlight, including extensive action involving Bruce Fontaine and Kenneth Goodman.
|Asian Connection (1995) Directed by: David Lam & Yuen Tak
Irrational Hong Kong cops (Danny Lee and Michael Chow) mess up and as punishment are sent to Taiwan to retrieve information. They of course get into the thick of things, trying to nail gangster Chan Gin Shui (Blacky Ko) while they also manage to annoy the hell out of their Taiwan superiors (main one played by Chan Chung-Yung from Her Fatal Ways III). However in David Lam and Yuen Tak's corporation, Asian Connection takes a step back to have cop characters in need for so called irrational behaviour and those following the book, meet to develop a constructive way of working. Undoubtedly this tangent of the film works and is a credit to Danny Lee's track record of featuring sincere, sometimes cheesy ultimate messages.
David Lam and Yuen Tak's direction is quite sharp, getting a fairly fun dual act out of Danny Lee and Michael Chow (the latter is particularly great when being forced to go undercover) while also in a heartbeat giving us shocking and finely paced action. Character driven and competent effort shot in synch sound Cantonese and Mandarin. Also with Jean Wang, Jack Kao, Ricky Yi and Nick Cheung.
|Asia-Pol (1967) Directed by: Matsuo Akinori
Shaw's on a tear producing spy movies during a hot era for James Bond and teaming up Japan's Nikkatsu results in a slick looking co-production but it's so down to earth and stripped of genre outrageousness it becomes rather boring. Jimmy Wang Yu travels Japan, Macau and Hong Kong hunting gold smugglers, getting out of sticky situations involving car bombs, is after personal revenge, meets a long lost sister... it's all set to a decidedly familiar theme inspired by said hot movie series but Asia-Pol rarely shows the spark it needs to to maintain interest. Very evident in the casting of Jimmy Wang Yu who looks a tad too young for the role, Japan's Shishido Jo projects an aura of quiet menace and director Matsuo Akinori (one of a handful Japanese directors that became a part of Shaw Brothers) maintains somewhat interest with the location work (working with cinematographer Iwasa Itsusen). A version for Japan was shot simultaneously, starring Hideaki Nitani.
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