# 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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Burning Ambition (1989) Directed by: Frankie Chan

There is ambition behind this actioner but in terms of storytelling, the end result is a bit of a mess. Besides Frankie himself there are a slew of familiar faces appearing such as Oh Jung Hung, Simon Yam, Yukari Oshima, Kara Hui, Roy Chiao, Eddy Ko, Shing Fui On and Fung Hark On. Judging by some of those names it's not hard to then guess that Burning Ambition features action and that proves to be the movies saving grace. Action comes hard and fast with a handful of typical 80s Hong Kong cinema insane stuntwork. The grueling parking garage fight stands out in my mind but there is quality to be found in each set piece.

To me it seemed that filmmakers could, during this era, do good action almost blindfolded. No wonder you miss it. A Universe vcd was once on the market but is now hard to find.

Burning Sensation (1989) Directed by: Wu Ma

Kin (Kenny Bee) is a fireman who sees Ling (Carol Cheng) in peril in a burning building. It turns out he's fetched a spirit tablet though and he's subsequently let go from his job on the grounds of being insane. The spirit within the tablet turns out to be an actress who died in a fire at a movie studio many years earlier. On the scene also comes a Syren (Lai Yin San) who's after men and their souls. Kin's brother (Wu Ma) thinks he's romancing the Syren though and it all culminates in a battle between the spirits and humans...

Distinctly middle of the road but highly enjoyable, it isn't all due to an irresistible 80s atmosphere but Wu Ma keeping matters snappy and energetic. Even skits like him and his friends (among others Teddy Yip) playing mahjong with their blind buddy (James Wong) is fine entertainment and having Kenny Bee amidst this as a good reactor benefits Wu Ma's work too. There's no affecting romance as such here but Kenny Bee and Carol Cheng are dependable stars for the story and both the comedic and more serious spirit battles are shot with an infectious energy. Lai Yin San also stands out as the Syren and Wu Ma's character doing the famous A Chinese Ghost Story rap as his character entrance (he plays a radio DJ) is hilarious.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Burning Snow (1988) Directed by: Patrick Tam

One of Patrick Tam's (My Heart Is That Eternal Rose, After This Our Exile) lesser known movies (lack of instant availability being one reason) and co-produced in Taiwan by Chu Yen-Ping (Island Of Fire), Tam tells the story of the abusive marriage arranged for young Cher (Yip Chuen-Wan). Verbally and physically abused, even when she's raped she is blamed but a more safe presence arrives in the form of convict Wah (Simon Yam). Shot largely at night and in an isolated setting elevating the despair of Cher even more, while it at times is quite on the nose (mostly thanks to the sporadic voice over), Tam achieves both naturalism that leads to realism that is felt. The various scenes of abuse are frightening and the counter balance to that in the form of Cher's happiness and sexuality is quite lovingly shot by Christopher Doyle. It may not be the deepest of doomed love stories (it's barely 90 minutes after all) but Tam pushes cinematically within this naturalistic frame at key moments to make the brief affair take on fair poignancy.

Bury Me High (1991) Directed by: Tsui Siu-Ming

Tsui Siu-Ming juggles a very Eastern style plot (concerning the use of feng shui for world domination) and accessible action-adventure filmmaking that does scream Indiana Jones at various times (it's another production featuring the character of Wisely, created by Ngai Fong and played here by Chin Ka-Lok). Which is in itself a very good idea for Hong Kong cinema as the action directing could definitely make it a standout. Cinematographer Peter Pau certainly responds to this and is highly playful with his camera, creating an unusual epic feeling for a Hong Kong production. Director and co-action director Tsui does not thoroughly provide excitement though. While entertaining, he delivers only impressive fight scenes and epic warfare towards the end but Bury Me High easily comes recommended as the talents of Chin Ka-Lok especially gets ample times to shine eventually. Also with Moon Lee, Yuen Wah, Sibelle Hu, Paul Chun, Corey Yuen and Tsui Siu-Ming.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com
Yesasia.com

Butterfly & Sword (1993) Directed by: Michael Mak

A dizzying, fast paced Wuxia spectacle made in Taiwan (schlockmeister Chu Yen-Ping was the executive producer and has even been credited with the direction elsewhere) that I recommend visiting a second time because it's not easy to be prepared for the assault that comes at you during a virgin viewing, mainly referring to Ching Siu-Tung's action choreography. Centering around a group of childhood friends turned assassins in the martial arts world, director Michael Mak (Sex And Zen) has a focus, just not the greatest on this story that benefits the most from Michelle Yeoh's fine performance as a conflicted woman in this world. The star of the show is however Ching Siu-Tung's mentioned contribution and his team is in top form here. While the editing of the action leaves a little to be desired, the outrageous (and gory) high flying concepts here are some of the best during the 90s streak in the genre. In particular Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's human arrow technique has to be seen to be believed. A bravura fight in a bamboo forest would of course later be echoed by Ching in House of Flying Daggers. Co-starring Joey Wong, Donnie Yen, Elvis Tsui, Tok Chung-Wa and Taiwanese singer Jimmy Lin. The latter being a grating inclusion because it's purely designed to appeal commercially.

The Hong Kong print ends rather abruptly, leaving out the actual downbeat fate of a few of the characters. The Taiwanese version was available on dvd as Comet, Butterfly & Sword and featured the full ending. Tai Seng's US dvd includes it as an extra but "blesses" the feature Cantonese track (that is just as suitable to watch with) with a 5.1 remix. The Ku Long novel the film is based on was also made at Shaw Brother's in 1976, as Killer Clans (directed by Chor Yuen). The John Charles book The Hong Kong Filmography 1977-1997 also discloses the fact that Chu Yen-Ping recycled sets, costumes and footage for his Slave Of The Sword (also in 1993).

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com (Tai Seng)
Yesasia.com (Mei Ah)

The Butterfly Murders (1979) Directed by: Tsui Hark

Though finally available in widescreen and sporting readable subtitles, Tsui Hark's directing debut still comes off as a bit incoherent. Sure, these wuxia stories are about supremacy in the martial arts world so latching on to that story strand isn't impossible but what it all means on a deeper level and how everyone and everything relates, is trickier (but probably crystal clear to Tsui Hark). Despite that, it's a decent, though unspectacular debut from Tsui and a movie that ignited the new wave of films and directors (including Ann Hui and Allen Fong).

On a visual level (one of Tsui's trademarks) the film offers some imaginative cinematography with nods to both Eastern and Western classic imagery. The ending battle is quite spectacular also and features some nifty ideas either from wuxia stories or Tsui Hark's mind. Could be either really.

Mei Ah's newly remastered dvd looks good in terms of sharpness and detail considering the age of the film but suffers from heavy color staining that is highly apparent during several sections of the film. It's reportedly a negative damage trait that not only this Seasonal production has suffered from. HK Video's release in France also features this damage. Further more, as per the old pan and scanned vcd, the movie is clearly a missing a piece of footage detailing the reading of a letter. As it stands now, we get a really abrupt cut at the hour mark. The BBC showed a print during the 90s, in Mandarin, and its running time suggests that it was up to 3 minutes longer which could mean it contained the cut scene from the Hong Kong dvd but additional minutes of footage!

As If this wasn't enough of a mess already, people have recollections of a screening at the 1997 Hong Kong International Film Festival that at least had a print in much better shape. If it was uncut however, no one has at the time of writing confirmed.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Yesasia.com

By Hook Or By Crook (1980) Directed by: Karl Maka

Thank god there's Sammo to balance up this very local kung-fu comedy that comes with an overload of Dean Shek. When he's at it, there's no stopping because he was a creative force behind the scenes usually. Who's to protest but us Westerners because I'm sure crews and audiences in Hong Kong could stand this a lot more. Director Karl Maka does try and be clever by injecting modern movie references into this period piece, mainly from Westerns but it's mostly tiring humour. Just because you feature it as an element, doesn't make it funny. Example: Eric Tsang has an easy 2 minutes of work as the Chinese Clint Eastwood. I'm not snickering even.

It has to be said though that the latter half has a director with a better focus on how to deliver wit, in particular evident during a training sequence and a mock fight involving Lam Ching Ying and Wu Ma. Oh it's a character gallery with obnoxious and unsympathetic traits but Sammo is a fine standout here, flexing both his endearing comedic chops and bringing the expected power to the fight choreography. By Hook Or By Crook is for the majority of the time intolerable but ends up being entertaining eventually, despite the sins it commit. Chung Fat also appear.

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