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Midnight Caller (1995) Directed by: Raymond Wong

A poor showcase for everyone involved but then again, barely anyone involved possesses any true talent. Diana Pang is a radio DJ and dancer stuck with a stalker calling himself the Hungry Wolf. Michael Wong is the cop protecting her...

We first wish that Raymond Wong would unashamedly utilize busty Pang like the commercial element she clearly is because she's not in this vehicle to act. First X in the protocol then and Wong is not the guy ready to make a stalker thriller either so predictably this production is ill from the getgo. When then making sure to occasionally let us know Pang's stance on ALMOST nudity in film, Midnight Caller does become even more sad. Favouring the easily shot light over the easily shot and devoid of suspense, Michael Wong is a drooling cop with relationship troubles, his boyish partner is played by Joyce Ngai and various clueless, technical detours via oddly chosen slow-motion and inserted cartoon sound effects also haunts us. While Wong injects a dig at himself at the end, it doesn't turn the film into a product of note. About one minute of almost decent final reel tension isn't enough either and the minute positive gets erased by a typically predictable twist ending only Hong Kong cinema can manage to make dull.

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Midnight Conjure (1991) Directed by: Mo Keung-Bong

Rival swordsmen battle for supremacy once in the past and again 3000 years later in the modern age. Simple yet somehow extremely muddled with no skills to conjure up viewer commitment, Midnight Conjure (aka Fatal Umbrella) is the kind of new wave Wuxia emulation the likes of Tsui Hark wouldn't be threatened by.

Reportedly a Taiwan production (with added star power in the form of Carrie Ng and a brief appearance by Lam Ching Ying), any time high flying action is carried out, there's a sense on director Mo Keung-Bong's behalf that he wants to keep proceedings as clear and flowing as possible. However he left out rhythm and energy from the equation so it's rather embarrassing to watch this wire-fu xerox, even though Hong Kong cheapies of this kind could very well fare as bad. Only minute recommendation of Midnight Conjure goes out to those Lam Ching Ying fans who wants every piece of footage with the man. Can't say I blame you.

Midnight Girls (1986) Directed by: David Lai

Terribly uninteresting hostess melodrama by David Lai (Possessed, Saviour of The Soul). Getting no distinction out of his main casting of Kitty Chan and Ng Man Ling, the film portrays the usual rise, fall and the ones you take with you on the way down. It's done with such disinterest that you comes to a point where you wish Lai will screw his characters over (and he does to a certain extent), just so that our attention can be held just for a small amount of time. Another lackluster script by Johnny Mak and Stephen Shiu and even when having the a dynamite cast for the similar genre entry Moon, Stars & Sun, they provided no distinction whatsoever. Midnight Girls only notable trait is a feature debuting Francis Ng in a supporting role.

Midnight Revenge (1994) Directed by: Chang Tso-Chi

Receiving a one day cinema run in Hong Kong, writer/director Chan Tso-Chi decides to take his (what turned out to be sparse) audience on a slow, mundane, vague journey that by design will have an understated payoff. It's somewhat there and has something but nearly not enough. Jack Kao (one of Taiwan's premium bad guy actors, never missing a beat when it comes to having a dangerous aura and presence in him) plays a cop that essentially carries with him something, a burden and goes off on his own while cases of a pyromaniac and a cop killed in the line of duty occupies the police force. Featuring numerous long takes lingering on Kao (who is expressive but is relied on way too much to convey the vague material), moody music reminiscent of Mamoru Oshii's Stray Dog, Chang goes for the non-verbal and mysterious flashbacks to a kid having experienced tragedy. Midnight Revenge is mildly involving and we're not at all annoyed it keeps us in the dark but the ultimate pay off is plagued by the fact that there's few if any pieces added to the puzzle of Jack Kao's character. Things conclude but if any throughline is there, it's the mystery and that shouldn't have run all the way through the movie.

Midnight Whispers (1988) Directed by: Michael Mak & David Lai

Depressing drama but dedicated directing from Michael Mak (Sex and Zen) and David Lai (Saviour of The Soul) makes many of the quite evil events towards the main characters immersing, valid cinema. Josephine Koo (A Fishy Story) plays a strict mother that has her daughter kidnapped by her Chinese mother in-law (Mama Hung). While in China, the kid gets swept away by the political times, losing her grandma in the process and ended up being an outcast without much of an identity. Meanwhile the mother's long quest to find the daughter pays off and the reunion becomes a fact (in teenage form, the daughter is essayed by Moon Lee of Angel fame) but there's scarring underneath that prevents the relation from blossoming..,

An epic lasting 90 minutes, Mak and Lai manages to somehow not only make things clear as to where we might be in the timeline, make further tear in the characters as we move through the rough eras but also created is fairly immersing family drama that doesn't rely on the biggest melodramatic outbursts either. Josephine and Moon's characters are realistic snapshots, despite the overabundance of poor luck launched at them. A choice that as always kills a movie for many but this push into the dark fates of characters is at times needed. It's especially welcome when it's executed surprisingly well. No classic and the director's rightly dabbled in other genres but it's an interesting footnote nonetheless. Wong Chi-Keung co-stars.

The Mighty Gambler (1992, Wong Jan-Yeung)

A busy plot and unnecessary sub-plotting aside, The Mighty Gambler comes loaded with era specific commercialism, firepower, gun powder, explosives and blood packs. Wong Jan-Yeung treats the movie and that his sole purpose as a filmmaker is to convey a heightened blood bath compared to his own Dreaming The Reality, Devil Hunters etc and it's a rousing success. The main core of Sibelle Hu, Alex Man and Alex Fong plus the stunt team surrounding action director Chui Fat gets a workout that hovers somewhere around John Woo and Chu Yen-Ping in terms of heroic bloodshed excess (heroic goreshed rather). With dips into some acrobatic choreography but mainly focusing on raw, primal gunplay, the highlight is not necessarily the borderline splatter nature to it all but environment pyrotechnics. Impact-explosions go off constantly around the main actors, stuntmen and combine this with a terrific sense of filming it and you have yourself an action-gem proudly proclaiming that this is what it exists for. Also with Francis Ng and Michiko Nishiwaki (using her brief screentime very well in the film's fight scenes).

The Mighty Peking Man (1977) Directed by: Ho Meng-Hua

By Shaw Brothers standards, a pretty atrocious production and King Kong rip off that is infused with ambition the studio simply can't execute, making the final special effects tally closer to Paul Leder's A*P*E (1976) in actuality. However the charm and fun on display stems from the fact that Shaw Brothers were so transparent with their story intent (few tweaks to King Kong are made, aside from our Jane of the jungle, played by Evelyn Kraft that's raised by the titular gorilla) and the lack of convincing special effects. Almost every process shot merged with separately shot action, miniature work etc is so poorly handled and acting direction so awkward, you can feel the regular players were all struggling to find comfort. But since this is a story of exploiting a wonder, Ku Feng becomes the sole performer having a ball as the money- and as it turns out rape-minded Lu Tien. With Evelyn Kraft running around in a animal skin bikini and causing no one in the Hong Kong streets to take notice and some sections being pornography of the more transparent kind as Danny Lee sucks poison out of Kraft's snakebite VERY close to her nether regions at one point, the awkward energy is highly memorable. The rampage on Hong Kong by the gorilla is a lot better in special effects execution though. Miniatures are highly noticeable but the editing and destruction is verging on exciting... at least compared to earlier parts of the picture.

Reportedly a flop on release, Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder outfit resurrected the film for re-release in 1999 and it has since been made available as part of the remastered Shaw Brothers catalogue.

Millionaire Cop (1992) Directed by: Cheung Gon-Man

Initially Millionaire Cop seems to be portraying the lives of very different cops. One with concern in the form of his kids and lack of money to pay for water vs the one with no concerns. Soon we know it's instead all about the cop with the coolest motorbike. They are Fish (Ng Man-Tat) and Ball (Aaron Kwok), partners and in the opening reel on the hunt for a molester that does the town regularly. To dress up as school girls themselves doesn't work and Fish (after getting stuck in a giant condom) instead unknowingly catches the pervert during a game of mahjong. Then enters the plot somewhat, with vicious robbers taking down the parlor, chopping off the hands of the cop and his prisoner in the process. Cut quickly too, because quick is a key in in the film, Fish with the hand re-attached but in actuality it's the hand of the pervert so unwillingly it tries to molest whatever it can. Get a sense that Wong Jing is involved? He is but director Cheung Gon-Man paces matters well and injects the needed energy to make described gags enjoyable, even if going low places with it. The actual plot concerns millionaire Mr. Lee (Dennis Chan) fearing his son Jessy Lee (Deric Wan) might be kidnapped so they send in Ball undercover to act as the son. Can't tell his girlfriend Shun (Chingmy Yau, playing a character with a penchant for cleaning... quickly!) but as she works in the company Ball is working undercover at, situations will arise. Especially so since Jacky (Maggie Cheung) was the child love interest of Lee's and becomes awfully clingy whenever she sees round objects. All leading to more fast paced hijinxs that work more often than not, especially during the view of Jacky's apartment that contains little to no circular objects, including her cd's and coke cans. It's a free for all in a way, that is capped suitably shamelessly when the end fight between Hung Yan-Yan and Aaron Kwok has the latter turning into his Silver Fox character from Saviour Of The Soul! Also with flat chested Kingdom Yuen (leading to breasts jokes of course) and Lee Siu-Kei.

The Millionaires' Express (1986, Sammo Hung)

Sammo Hung goes to town with scope, cast and design for his thankfully short and simple action-adventure. Leading us through an opening set in snow and then into more of a rural Western look, Hung is at least UNDERNEATH the stress of handling a big movie having the time of his life and it's transferred to screen in the form of a pleasant vibe, energetic performances, stunts and fight-action. All suitably well exposed during 97 minutes. Not under- or overexposed. There's a joyous energy present as the movie becomes cameo, bit-part, and supporting part heavy with tons of recognizable actors, actresses and stuntmen of the time (a list that would cover an entire review on its own). All fun to spot but all fun because of said vibe and some scene stealing performers like Richard Ng's. Confident touches by Hung that also extends to the almost throwaway in nature type of moments that still require stuntwork. Which is a choice that's wholly approved and therefore you don't long for fight choreography to light up the scope-frame. But it comes and Hung manages to get the balance right by making sure key performers are given a spotlight of appearing (and excelling) within his trademark fast, powerful, impactful (i.e. painful) choreography. Always an inspiring trademark but especially the way it's handled here. No one feels wasted. Everybody seems happy to be there. Including the viewer.

Mini-Skirt Gang (1974) Directed by: Lu Chi

Depicting a gang of beautiful, sexy female pickpockets (led by Danish actress Birte Tove from Bamboo House of Dolls), Lu Chi has a great, fun idea in Mini-Skirt Gang (done at Shaw Brothers) but chooses not to utilize it. Structurally there's nothing wrong with showing different scenarios, the different schemes the girls employ in order to achieve their goals and at the end of the day, in fine exploitation fashion, they undress and shower in slow-motion. All while a very voyeuristic camera catches in particular the hideout of the girls from a top angle. Oh there's the subplot of the girls taking in two bumbling male thieves (one being cross-eyed To Siu-Ming) but after they've been expectedly humiliated for peeping, you'd expect the movie to kickstart a little bit of plot at least. Not counting the prostitute ring which a girl runs from, in fact it's soon very clear the film has settled on the formula of lighthearted fun with sexy pickpockets. It's fun initially, fun towards the end where some creative cartoon action kicks in (Birte Tove goes into Mulan territory, Peking Opera-style for her big fight) but in between we get tired of repetitive voyeurism and sexy pickpockets.

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