# 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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Chinese Box (1997, Wayne Wang)

From the warmth of Smoke to the improvised nature of Blue In The Face, Wayne Wang takes the looseness of his previous works and blends it into the story of characters in a Hong Kong that is waiting for the 1997 handover. Some with fear, fire and fury in their heart. Some with cynicism, rationality and terminal illness. Jeremy Irons plays a journalist who is tired of his work as nothing is long lasting or meaningful. Plus, the feelings for Mainlander Vivian (Gong Li) are not fading and he isn’t shying away from admitting that, even in front of her partner and businessman Chang (Michael Hui). When diagnosed with leukemia, John sets out to capture one last thing, shed pessimism and find some semblance of hope in his heart. Among other things, this manifests itself in following Maggie Cheung’s character and getting her to tell her story on video.

Not a bad gig for Jeremy Irons to be shooting with male- and female legends of Hong Kong- and Mainland cinema: Gong Li as the Mainlander stuck in a benefacting relationship that’s not destined to go anywhere because of her past, a scarred Maggie Cheung living with abandonment in her heart (and selling fake watches and cans of the last Colonial air) and Michael Hui in a rather undercooked role as a businessman (externally) mixing that and wanting to stand by and protect the woman beside him (internally). To see the famous comedian lose it in a pivotal dramatic scene is worth the price of admission alone. No doubt there's interesting paths within the serious storytelling here which is shot quite loose and channeling the unconventional, Wayne Wang’s take on coming alive at the end of an era and chapter deserves a look. Even if it struggles to be emotionally involving because of atmosphere and choice of style. Perhaps a more conventional, steady hand at work, despite telling multiple stories, would have benefited his frame and given Hui’s character a greater sense of closure for instance. A lean running time doesn’t make the unusually looking and feeling structure tough to sit through however. Plus the location work and attention to capturing the bright, open, cramped, beautiful and even perceived ugly of Hong Kong is a treat in itself.

The Chinese Boxer (1970) Directed by: Jimmy Wang Yu

Jimmy Wang Yu made his directing debut at Shaw Brothers with The Chinese Boxer, a movie that was on the frontlines defining the very familiar and now clichéd content of the kung fu genre. A template for Bruce Lee's best vehicle Fist Of Fury which was then followed by a gazillion other movies trying to cash in on the formula, Jimmy does get things started quickly and before you know it, he's also done. Meaning very little substance aside from a healthy dose of audience please revenge. The story of how Chinese martial arts was adapted by the Japanese into Karate and that they're now using it against Chinese sets up a patriotic saga in its most simple form and Jimmy, having honed his screen charisma well by now, does communicate well enough for this to hit home locally. Having worked with director Chang Cheh, some of the cues definitely come from that filmmaking source, such as the substantial bloodshed. Even One-armed Swordsman gets a minor nod by the use of a mask that Jimmy's character wears while on his rampage. Anything shot on the Shaw Brothers lot is bound to look good also and Jimmy takes advantage of that but still lingers and overloads his particular cinematic style at times (especially in regards to editing). It’s one of the most loud and visually intense movies out of the studio but Jimmy would apply out there ideas in different ways as he became more experienced as director.

Tong Gaai lends his action directing talents to the project and the styles (mainly Judo, Karate and the powerful punching techniques Wang Yu's character excels at after training) on display echoes both the new genre direction of hand to hand combat but also the notion of amped fury. Which makes for an entertaining view (the finale in a cold, snowy landscape is a memorable image in particular) and listen (this movie was made when post dubbed fighting foley was extremely loud). When subsequently going independent, Jimmy went even further out there with certain action aspects but keeps it subdued in The Chinese Boxer, with the biggest, mad touches coming from Lo Lieh's Japanese villain (and his hair). It's overkill to use the term important but The Chinese Boxer is. As a movie, it's painless, entertaining and neat early 70s kung-fu that represents a starting point of note. Released in America as The Hammer Of God in 1973, presumably making it an easier sell after King Boxer had made its impact as Five Fingers Of Death. The sequel was lensed independently in Taiwan in 1974.

Chinese Cop Out (1989) Directed by: Chan Chuen

Buddy-cop formula that suitably combines the Hong Kong side (represented by Melvin Wong) and the Mainland Chinese one (on behalf of Lam Wai) in the quest for über-ruthless robber Rayban (Simon Yam). A case to be cracked, revenge to be taken, along the way there's laughter, cultural differences and understanding. It's very automatic but with its solid pairing (although it's tough to buy Melvin as the fairly wacky cop that he is), director Chan Chuen logs a watchable effort. Much more in tune with this material compared to the youth drama esthetics of Energetic 21, here he lets Fung Hak-On direct his tough, aggressive action cinema but it's often an effective, automatic time here as well. Especially so since Simon Yam's performance signals he will do just about anything brutal... and growl while doing it. Elaine Kam is fun in a supporting role while an unrecognizable (due to the removal of the stache) Ng Man-Tat also appear.

The Chinese Feast (1995) Directed by: Tsui Hark

For this 1995 Lunar New Year comedy, Tsui Hark brought in kung fu cinema narrative staples and sensibilities into the competitive world of cooking with, pun intended, tasty results. We certainly get our share of manic and exaggerated Hong Kong comedy but most of it produces enjoyment, and definite growls in your stomach (speaking of cooking). Leslie Cheung actually proves to be a bit of a drawback at times as he doesn't feel totally right for this broad comedy but it's a fairly minor quibble when Anita Yuen, Law Kar-Ying, Kenny Bee and Hung Yan Yan gives us engaging performances. The true standout though is Vincent Zhao, as the noble and kind master chef (yes, characteristics not far from Wong Fei Hung, a role he inherited from Jet Li in the Once Upon A Time In China-series). Tsui also enlists the cinematography talents of Peter Pau to drench the wonderful scope frame in visual flair, in particular for the cooking sequences.

In various home video versions, an extra fight scene between Vincent Zhao and Hung Yan Yan was added but reportedly, that was never part of the theatrical print. The current Hong Kong Widesight release does not have this scene while the out of print Malaysian Mercury disc, Japan's Asmik Ace dvd and Korea's Yedarm release does. The latter is most likely a port of the anamorphic Japan dvd but sports long overdue optional English subtitles (the original theatrical ones were very hard to read due to their microscopic size).

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A Chinese Ghost Story The Tsui Hark Animation (1997) Directed by: Andrew Chen

Pu Song Ling's "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio" gets another helping hand from Tsui Hark via the animated version of A Chinese Ghost Story. Produced and written by Tsui Hark, his main character Ning (voiced in Cantonese by Jan Lam) has not been able to maintain the love of Siu Lan (voiced by Vivian Lai) so he continues his work as debt collector while trying to impress Siu Lan again. Encountering adventures around every corner with his trusted K9 companion Solid Gold (Tsui Hark providing the squeaks and grunts of the dog), when walking into a ghost town he falls under the spell of Shine (Anita Yuen) who initially treats him as fodder for her madam but falls for him instead. All while rival ghostbusters are trying to help Ning in their own righteous way...

Obviously a thinly plotted re-thread of classic events but with a few more percent of Tsui Hark's imagination being able to be translated thanks to the animated medium, the blend of traditional animation and computer generated imagery naturally doesn't fit but within the wildness of the sights concocted together with director Andrew Chen, Tsui Hark gets acceptance as much as he gets when employing this wild sense in live action. Standout sights such as the reincarnation train and the pop idol like Mountain Evil (Jordan Chan) signals modern elements being brought into the surroundings and coupled with the energy provided, A Chinese Ghost Story The Tsui Hark Animation makes a strong case for being a valid, colourful reprisal of the 1987 movie. So therefore, it maintains its Hong Kong identity and doesn't become a cheap imitation of a Japanese anime. The terrific voice cast across the Cantonese and Mandarin dubs of the film also includes Sylvia Chang, Eric Kot, Sammo Hung, James Wong, Charlie Young, Kelly Chen, Ronald Cheng, Rene Liu, Nicky Wu and Yonfan.

Chinese Godfather (1974) Directed by: Lui Gin

On the strengths of Bruce Lee showing support and co-star Betty Ting Pei (who was rumoured to be romantically linked to Bruce), Chinese Godfather launched into atmosphere, bringing nothing but the utmost generic taste to the popular basher side of martial arts cinema. Michael Chan is asked by a dying man to deliver jewels to his wife (Betty Ting Pei) and kid. More folks want them jewels though, including Hu Chin's character, who seduces Michael Chan, and gangleader played by Cheng Lui. Possessing a gritty look to it but no needed grit for its fight scenes, even at a shortened 75 minutes, Chinese Godfather is boredom until it lights up for approximately 2 minutes. You should wake up right at the moment where you thought you saw Bruce Lee and indeed, the filmmakers inserted still shots of him during one of the fight scenes. Subliminal Bruce. Reportedly even more of the action contained this shameful device in the uncut version. The end fight between Chan and Cheng Lui also goes amusing places when it starts to feature a forest of traps and part of it is set in a snake pit. 2 minutes. Remember that. Also with Wei Ping-Ao.

Chinese Heroes (2001) Directed by: Douglas Kung

Ignoring the plot for a minute or totally really as it's a way too busy template starting at the ninja fighting spectrum and ending up at a familiar place of China vs Japan by the end, production company My Way and director/action director Douglas Kung proves with Chinese Heroes yet again that their intentions can be translated very well by the right, passionate filmmaker. Making throwback 80s/90s action vehicles (in this case an early to mid 90s wire fu flick) but managing to not make fools out of themselves in 2001 with that backtrack desire, the Shaolin Vs Evil Dead movies are further proof of a desired mix to bring back something loveable. A decent sized budget and physical leads (the presence brought involves the supporting cast such as Chin Kar-Lok), Kung orchestrates some rather imaginative action. His eye is very well trained, with camera stability being a particularly sound idea but today's camera trickery is even put to use in exciting fashion. Fun ninja trickery such as throwing stars turning into scorpions rank as a surprisingly well done CGI effect and for My Way, Chinese Heroes really is one correctly laid brick that would continue in mentioned horror-action and in 2009 coming together extremely well in Kung Fu Chefs. My Way are hungry and now a low budget force to be reckoned with. Starring John Zhang, Leila Tong, Lee San-San, Kent Wong & Sik Siu-Lung.

A Chinese Legend (1991) Directed by: Lau Hung-Chuen

Although hard to fully appreciate on home video due to a massively cropped presentation being the only option in circulation, Lau Hung-Chuen's (Devil Fetus) movie rightly tagged with the "yet another A Chinese Ghost Story-clone) transcends it and manages to entertain and affect. Swordsman Kar Yat-Long (Jacky Cheung) encounters woman Ku Moon-Cher (Joey Wong) who's about to be sacrificed by her village in order to save it from destruction by the King Of Ghosts. Saving her but watching her opting to return to the village to fulfill her duty, eventually destruction occurs and Moon-Cher drowns herself. Yat-Long also encounters a deadly, blood drinking Fox Goblin (Sharla Cheung) whose spell he does not fall under. Treating her nicely and naming her Ching-Er, longing is planted firmly in the creature. She eventually helps out Yat-Long and a seasoned master (Wu Ma) in their attempts to save Moon-Cher's soul from the grasp of the King Of Ghost...

Although the full frame Taiwan dvd ruins the beautiful 2.35:1 composition, Lau Hung-Chuen's intentions to provide a haunting, often downbeat atmosphere comes through. Clearly made on a limited budget (much of the film is dedicated to the three subjects with only sparse epic scope sprinkled throughout), the visuals created around his trio and the emotions within it ranks as unexpectedly affecting considering it's another movie that clones an effort that was 4 years old by 1991. Almost unmotivated and unexplained emotions are valid here as characters are taken onto this journey of love and sacrifice while the fantasy elements are consistently creative and even eerie. Lau Shun appears briefly.

A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box (1995) Directed by: Jeff Lau

Combine Jeff Lau's always energetic direction, Stephen Chow's trademark comedy and you've got perhaps their finest collaboration in this hilarious adaptation of the Journey To The West novel (also interpreted back in the 60s at Shaw Brothers in movies such as The Monkey Goes West). Chow's is on top form while the production boasts impressive sets, make up-design and, as with other Chow films, features affecting sentimentality amongst all the craziness. One potential danger was that Western viewers would be lost in the plot revolving around the Monkey King but the filmmakers (and the subtitles) do a good job of conveying the different, often bizarre, events in the plot. Ching Siu-Tung's fine choreography involves a small dose of martial arts but mostly outrageous fantasy elements, the spider set piece being the best of the bunch in combining his, Chow's and Lau's talents. A Jeff Lau helmed sequel followed the same year. Also starring Ng Man Tat, Karen Mok, Yammie Tam, Law Kar-Ying and Jeff Lau himself.

A Chinese Odyssey Part Two - Cinderella (1995) Directed by: Jeff Lau

Everyone returned for the sequel (with the addition of Athena Chu), probably because it was simultaneously with part one, but one thing's for sure, while very much worthwhile, the best creative energy ended up in the first installment. Production values are consistently excellent, in particular the make-up design (Chow and Ng Man Tat are unrecognizable as the Monkey King and Pig respectively) but for Western viewers, the step down in physical humour creates a somewhat slow paced and confusing experience (the addition of below par subtitles doesn't help). The basic story of the journey to the west continues in a well enough developed manner but the character relationships seems somewhat spotty, making us more scratch our heads at certain development in the plot. However, I do reserve the right to completely change my mind upon a second viewing. Special mention to Law Kar-Ying who is terrific as the very boring Longevity Monk plus the stunning Athena Chu logs a playful and affecting performance.

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HK Flix.com

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