# 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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John Rabe (2009) Directed by: Florian Gallenberger

A French-German-Chinese co-production based on the 'The Good Man Of Nanking' (a collection of personal journals by Nazi party member and German businessman John Rabe who headed the Nanking Safety Zone during Japanese occupation in 1937 and reportedly kept over 200 000 people alive during the Nanking Massacre). The topic always sparks heartache, feelings of being disheartened, horrified and the film is a well produced, not overly graphic account of Rabe's struggles to protect as many men, women (as well as Chinese soldiers) as he could. Excellent performance by Ulrich Tukur and Steve Buscemi as American Surgeon Robert Wilson help move this along and ultimately John Rabe comes off as a very honorable portrayal of someone who may have used his Nazi credentials but humanely. To protect from inhumane ways. Also with Zhang Jingchu (Beast Stalker). Awfully re-titled City of War: The Story Of John Rabe in the UK with poster art playing up an epic, war feel that isn't fair to the film at all.

Journalist Story (1993) Directed by: Zhang Ren-Jie

Far from the highs director Zhang Ren-Jie reached with The Devil, Journalist Story feels like vague ideas to populate your Category III movies strung together into one somewhat too long and overpopulated 1993 production. Lam Wai (My Wife's Lover) is a cop who has a history of bumping into a woman he calls Jinx (Tsui Man-Wah) and the bad luck she brings takes him away from police work to instead be the tool of an old man wanting to bed young girls that he can't pick up himself. So the handsome, lost man does it, unconfused drama enters and so does Charlie Cho as a drug dealer/pimp. Further character connections and an action ending INVOLVING Charlie signals somewhat fun but Journalist Story is also so low-budget, sloppy and timid about what it does that it doesn't register a whole lot. A LOUD, probably stolen score overpowers certain scenes and the subtitles offer up a record in errors that in itself leads to bearable fun with a product that 1993 had room for.

Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons (2013, Stephen Chow)

Acting as a prequel to the often depicted events in the classical Chinese novel 'Journey To The West', Chen Xuanzang (here played by Wen Zhang of Ocean Heaven) is an aspiring demon hunter being taught the ways of love and kindness to be employed in his various hunts. This is contrasted against Shu Qi's Miss Duan who's in the game for the kill. Along the way they fight a fish demon, a pig demon and an enraged Monkey King (Huang Bo). Decidedly dark but also a recognizable Stephen Chow-comedic in feel and performing-style, no one is forcing Chow to headline his own movies anymore but the main failing point of his 'Journey To The West' is poor casting. There's not a heavy reliance on Chow trademark nonsense comedy via physical gags or dialogue but seasoned viewers will recognize a fair amount of situations placed in the hands of Wen Zhang that are very true to his comedy-style. But Wen Zhang does not have the timing or skill to make these either outrageous or even subdued jokes come to life. Chow does offer up a packed 110 minutes though, with entire story beats gleefully taken out of Jaws, his own movies such as God Of Cookery (and of course Stephen himself essayed the Monkey King in the two A Chinese Odyssey films from 1995) and the computer generated imagery is used quite well for cartoony effect mostly. Imagination is strong and there is belief in the material being decidedly dark as well as wacky. Perhaps not attempting to be profound when focusing on the romance between Shu Qi (who brings great energy to the role) and Wen Zhang, it nonetheless is a confusing element because of how hard Chow pushes for poignancy come ending time. In a way, Chow was almost there with Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons and he had MOSTLY the right people to pull it off. But when a main component isn't, it's hard to build a compelling time around it.

Joy To The World (1980) Directed by: Gam Yan

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Early days of Chow Yun-Fat and especially comedy Chow Yun-Fat aren't pretty, nor good. In fact, there's little the future superstar could do around this time to salvage matters and Joy To The World is further proof. He plays Lung, a medicine salesman who gets thrust into the position of a manager at a garment company. All being part of a bet between rival heads. One of the designers at the company is Tung Tung (Cora Miao) and Lung dare not reveal the fact that he's her boss and into a double life he goes. Actually, it seems very hard to find the plot in this stinker of a film on all fronts. Direction is stale and stagey without taking on a fine aura of theater like it could have plus director Gam Yan is clearly a bit of a voyeur as there are a handful of scenes of gratuitous nudity thrown in just for the heck of it. Desperate indeed and it's the only "talent" Gam Yan can show as his cheap cartoony comedy is sleep-inducing (despite Tin Ching running around with a Hitler moustache and a mirror on his foot to sneak a peak of women's panties). Chow Yun-Fat and Cora Miao's scenes are cute however, borderlining on cheesy in a joyous way. Of note especially is a scene at a club where the biggest laugh comes from the translation of the happy song performed before them. Available on Hong Kong dvd as King Of Comedy.

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

Judgement Of An Assassin (1977, Sun Chung)

Despite the dizzying clan intrigue-plot, Sun Chung (Human Lanterns, The Avenging Eagle) manages to argue that we should just sit down with Judgement Of An Assassin and not worry too much. As much disposable as it is thrilling before, Chung's direction is swift and the genre imagination fairly strong. Conveyed by his action directors Tong Gai and Wong Pau-Gei, despite weapons- and fantasy-based concepts, a lot of the hugely primal and frenetic action is actual grounded martial arts in a surprise move. Genuinely thrilling and electrifying when dominating the screen, the lack of full story-clarity isn't that much of a problem therefore. Starring David Chiang, Chung Wa, Ching Li, Wai Wang and Ku Feng.

July 13th (1996) Directed by: Wellson Chin

Continuing producing his brand of horror-comedies involving writer Abe Kwong, Wellson Chin is again out to echo the notion of pairing up cop-characters. Chin, David Wu and Michelle Reis are out there making quite a valiant attempt but July 13th for all its positive aspects can't quite reach an acceptable level. Wu and Reis are cops and former lovers tackling a case of mysterious suicides where it's said an old woman (Helena Law Lan) has always appeared as well. In need of diving deeper into the case, they turn to former cop turned mental patient Pierre (Dayo Wong) who once was on the very same assignment...

A haunting passage from a suicide book opens the movie and it is to become a key to the mystery on display. First thing you notice is the extreme lengths Chin goes to evoke dread, both on the audio and visually. Always having one colour dominate and choirs on the soundtrack, July 13th comes off as having the higher division tools but ultimately trying way too hard to use them. True to his trademark form that but when comparing this film to the likes of The Third Full Moon, the aura of wacky banter and dread worked so much better when Michael Chow and Lau Ching-Wan had the frame. David Wu and Michelle Reis aren't quite that pairing. When bringing in Dayo Wong, the character may be an unpredictable loon but the low-brow gags (in particular one involving flatulence) doesn't gel. This overall really is Wellson Chin's arena of expertise though and the movie is on the verge of being that combo of playful and eerie but having featured exactly that doesn't bring the movie home effectively. Shame about the effort therefore.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Jumping Ash (1976) Directed by: Josephine Siao & Leung Po-Chi

Headed by directorial rookies Josephine Siao (award winning actress in Summer Snow) and Leung Po-Chi (Hong Kong 1941), this gritty, documentary-esque Hong Kong cop thriller has the marks of stuff seen before and since. But thanks to a keen eye for placing the narrative amongst the Hong Kong people and the world they would be familiar with, Jumping Ash immerses well. Ga Lun is Callan Leong, whose cop life and straight line of administrating the law gets a bit blurred at times. Working in the Kowloon Walled City for instance, a little corruption, immoral attitude and bribes solves crimes in a society that's heading downhill. The big fish in the pond is drug king Tung (Nick Lam) however and the two killers from Amsterdam (Michael Chan and Chen Sing). The former protects Tung, the other wants him dead and the closer Callan gets to Tung, the closer he gets to co-operation with the opposite side....

Placing their camera quite effectively in the midst of environments alive with activity, the realism of Jumping Ash isn't a fashion statement at all. It adds to a sense of doom, grit, danger and the obvious social commentary about the struggles of the outnumbered cops. There are equally important moments of lightheartedness such as one scene with a stakeout at a brothel and Callan is both the clichéd movie cop and suitably struck out of a mold the filmmakers have witnessed on their beloved Hong Kong street. That mold contains some quite grave stupidity in terms of decision-making which leads to a questionable scene towards the end but no doubt, Jumping Ash remains important today. As a statement and view, even though it probably rightly won't be looked at as an edge of your seat work. Crude isn't bad in this case either and the worse print quality you can find of the film, probably serves of it. Josephine Siao also appears as Callan's wife.

Just For Fun (1983) Directed by: Frankie Chan

Getting no heritage from his foster father, Big Light (Frankie Chan) will have to learn to earn money the hard way. Earning some cash when he's mistaken as a gigolo, he mostly helps out friend Lemon (Liu Wai-Hung) in romancing Sally (Sally Yeh). Lessons of friendship and earning a living looming... or something. Because Frankie Chan's comedy is really hard to penetrate (especially at an excessive 100+ minutes). Often loud exchanges, situation comedy and misunderstandings are elements that dominate but without any distinction, the fun between characters does not travel to an audience. There's some momentum created when the trio of Chan/Liu/Yeh all take charge of the frame but situations such as Chan getting a bee beard and the slightly action-oriented ending are merely glimpses of what would've made Just For Fun actual fun. Frankie only realizes at points that excessiveness needs to be cranked up to cartoon-levels in order to at least suffice as escapist entertainment. Co-written by Wong Kar-Wai and co-starring Wu Ma, Melvin Wong, Wong Wan-Si and Charlie Cho.

Just Heroes (1989) Directed by: John Woo & Wu Ma

Just Heroes was conceived as a charity movie for legendary but struggling director Chang Cheh. Rounding up most of the old school stars alongside some of the contemporary profiles (sans heroic bloodshed icon Chow Yun-Fat) and the hottest director of modern Hong Kong action cinema should've resulted in overwhelming success right? Disappointingly no as Just Heroes flopped and Chang himself ended up donating the money to further the study of cinema. So one of the greatest Shaw Brother's directors sadly had to fade out as someone whose movies was not desired anymore.

Veteran screenwriter I Kuang, John Woo & Wu should've known it had been proven that a little substance and depth to a triad actioner did lure people into the theatres during the era (although the presence of Chow Yun-Fat also helped). Here they stack the triad movie clichés high instead, messes up any entertainment value by talking the movie to death and even the action sees Woo on autopilot. Out of that grows a generic filmmaker of heroic bloodshed. To be fair, the film was co-helmed officially by Wu Ma and unofficially by Danny Lee and David Chiang.

The sole fun of this film is the plethora of old school performers in major to walk on roles but the most jarring casting when viewed today's eyes is Stephen Chow in a purely dramatic role prior to his breakthrough as Hong Kong's King of Comedy. Also, in a clever touch, Woo has fun mocking the impact A Better Tomorrow had on the Hong Kong youth as the film features an all too avid fan of the film, leading to the all so standard subtext that triad life is bad for ya!

Hong Kong versions were cut for violence as was a few minutes of plot twists before the action climax. MIA released both an uncut VHS and Laserdisc in the UK and currently there is a French uncut edition on dvd (no English subtitles).

Justice, My Foot! (1992) Directed by: Johnnie To

A monster hit for Stephen Chow in 1992, Justice, My Foot! very much seems to lean towards a local appeal through a fast talking show and many verbal exchanges. But even if this non-Cantonese speaking viewer only picks up a fraction of the possibly IMPOSSIBLE to translate jokes, fact remains that it's a very entertaining outing as directed by Johnnie To. Essentially Chow is a fast talking lawyer who's earned a living winning cases for moral and immoral people by any means possible. Securing a ton of wealth but a lot of children of his that has passed on early, he makes a promise to his wife (Anita Mui) to retire and focus on running an inn business instead in order to save the life of the next son. The wife does stumble upon a case she convinces him to take though, despite their agreement.

At least as translated on the remastered dvd by IVL, the movie is very easy to follow, often funny but the majority of the aura present here leans towards highly amusing. Which is not an alienating thing when the performers like Chow and Anita Mui (as his kung-fu wife always getting him out of trouble in wonderful Ching Siu-Tung directed action) banter extremely well and our leads are simply on here. It doesn't make Justice, My Foot! THE Stephen Chow recommendation. Far from it but in remastered and re-translated form, it comes through as a very funny, comforting and energetic period comedy. Imagine what it was like for audiences clued in to references and knowing the language. You don't rake in nearly 50 million Hong Kong dollars at the box office just by showing up. Also with Carrie Ng, Ng Man-Tat, Paul Chun, Eddy Ko, Leung Kar-Yan and Kingdom Yuen.

Just Like Weather (1986) Directed by: Allen Fong

Allen Fong (Ah Ying, Father And Son) portrays the strains of marriage through the eyes of a very young couple (Christine Lee & Chan Hung-Nin). They're trying to agree on whether moving to America is an option but they have conflicts of their own to solve regarding pregnancy, work situation etc etc. The content and makings of a sappy drama...normally.

Blurring the line slightly between fiction and documentary with a non-linear narrative, these aspects becomes puzzlers at times as Fong clearly stages fiction but seems to bring in real life at the same time (he appears as the interviewer). But in the end, Just Like Weather is far from sappy and instead all about Fong the excellent, low-key observer. Kirk Wong appears in an uncredited cameo.

Fong got his third Best Director prize at the Hong Kong Film Awards as well as his editing team and lead actress Christine Lee.

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

Just Love (1992) Directed by: Lam Yi-Hung

There's a certain comfort watching a director like Lam Yi-Hung direct Cat III movies. Low budget cheapies with little aspirations other than to provide the hungry adult crowd with hopefully a sensation or two, Lam also proved to be at times an excellent visual artist when it came to erotica. Scenes that stood out amidst an otherwise zero budget frame. No such luck in Just Love though with its reincarnation story line and wizard on the hunt for the reincarnated Chan Pooi-Kei. Muddled, told like a soap opera and with erotic scenes with zero visual passion or even passion to want to be there shooting them, mark Just Love down as non-essential Lam Yi-Hung and hit up The Other Side of Dolls instead.

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