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Osmanthus Alley (1987) Directed by: Chen Kun Ho

Splendid Taiwanese drama, telling the biographical tale of Tihung (Lu Hsiao-Fen - Rosa) and her seemingly predestined choices in life being filled with grief and unjust bad luck. Losing her parents and brother at an early age as well as her husband Ruiyu (Emil Chow - Purple Storm), she wanders between resigning to fate and looking for hope that not only her sons life will turn out prosperous but her own as well. Writer/cinematographer Chen Kun Ho asks his characters and us all eventually if we actually have lived a full life and should our hearts therefore be fulfilled? It's definitely a cruel and dark story, shot within a static cinematic landscape with the low-key style working well as an advantage to director Chen. He never is clear with his intentions, such as the jarring time jumps in the story, but doesn't have to resort to that kind of exposition to affect through the theme of the film. Therefore Osmanthus Alley is highly affecting but never on the weepie scale, which is an intention that does work. Anchoring all this and embodying Chen's intentions is Lu Hsiao-Fen, displaying a much needed professionalism in her performance, ranging from a sweet innocence to the authoritative leader figure in the Hsin family with an inner emotional turmoil throughout most of her life.

Simon Yam appears briefly as a small but ultimately important character for the full circle of the film as well as Emil Chow. As Raymond Chow was the executive producer, the injection of Hong Kong talent was probably a decision on his behalf.

A Chinese subtitled dvd has been released in Taiwan but those in need of English subtitles will have to hunt down the Hong Kong laserdisc by Winson.

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The Other 1/2 & The Other 1/2 (1988) Directed by: Clara Law

Clara Law's feature debut is largely lighthearted and at times typically overly broad for the genre. However Law (working from partner Eddie Fong's screenplay) venturing deeper into theme of financial crisis in the light of the 1997 handover and emigration issues in the end creates a tale that springs to life as a human and real story, with humans and real issues. Helping along are leads Kam Kwok-Leung (in a rare screen appearance far from the sadistic side of him in The Killer Snakes or Purple Storm) and Tien Niu, with chemistry between them that grows nicely alongside Law's more somber directorial choices. The Other 1/2 & The Other 1/2 makes relatively little impact overall but is worth the effort for the times it breaks out of genre staples to deliver poignancy. Also with Eric Tsang and Cora Miao.

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HK Flix.com

The Other Half (1990) Directed by: Jeffrey Chiang

The romantic comedy template and even its outcome can be spotted miles away but that's alright for The Other Half. Carol Cheng's Sue is married to woman zing and cheating jerk (Mark Cheng), starts working for a buddy of his (Eric Tsang) and develops feelings for the little, sweet guy over the course of the movie. Although Tsang's superior is both mean and manipulative at the start, the beats signaling change and more easy going bonding between the characters also signals a flow for the movie. All due to good chemistry between Carol and Eric. Thoughts of predictability lingers but not constantly thanks to stars getting the basic job done along with director Chiang (The Killer Has No Return). Also with Ellen Chan.

The Other Side Of Gentleman (1984) Directed by: Ringo Lam

Jojo (Brigitte Lin) and a group of intellectuals are about to perform a sociological experiment where they set up her with care free jeans salesman/plastic jacket fan Alan (Alan Tam) to basically direct a relationship. Along the way, she begins having doubts and develops feelings for Alan...

Maybe someone at Always Good Film told Ringo Lam that fluff sans darkness and downer endings is the only way to go for their Barry Wong scripted project. The master, in early, early development instead was brought onto a project of light proportions and delivered the film. However the end result of The Other Side Of Gentleman is not only a step down from the entertaining/eerie/felt debut of Lam's, Esprit D'amour, it's completely empty in all areas of romance and comedy.

It could be argued that Barry Wong's script leans heavy towards the broad hysterics of the local comedy and at the same time being a form of satire of the youth of that era. Regardless, Wong and Lam comes up painfully short and at best the film is a showcase commercially for its star Alan Tam. All well and good if he had possessed any charisma or sparks with Brigitte Lin but he instead drains much life out of the romance. Lin has never looked more uninspired and clearly is too good for this particular project. When it all culminates in the final reel partly set in a church, proceedings turn downright embarrassing as it's the typical example of characters feeling everything emotionally but the audience never being convinced at all.

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The Other Side Of Romance (1994) Directed by: Go Yik-Chun

Se-Wai (Vincent Wan) lives marriage bliss with wife Kei Kei (Amy Kwok, Lau Ching-Wan's real life wife), whenever he's home from the factory work in China that is. Se-Wai injures his finger at work and through dire circumstances later contracts AIDS after being tended to by immigrant Sung Tim-Yuk (Rain Lau - Queen Of Temple Street). They are quickly separated and so is Se-Wai from his wife who won't believe any other story than the fact that he's cheated on her. Both Se-Wai and Tim-Yuk are looked after by off-beat Dr. Lo (Cheung Chi-Gwong) who plays the keyboards and violin in his little office but is a positive life force on the two...

Director Go Yik-Chun seems rather hellbent to punish bad and good people any way there is, just because there is a will to do so. While that's a choice for cinema I can agree with, the execution needs to be tended to. The Other Side Of Romance may display a thoughtful nature in the long run but several sloppy, preachy and naive aspects go by us as well. For instance what looks like a government controlled experiment carried out on Tim-Yuk in her opening scene is never explained and feels more like a fantasy sequence at first. This is how bad Mainland China is? Officials are also quite obsessed by condoms and when out of this slightly odd part of the film, various detours into prejudice and ignorance surrounding AIDS are featured but are more like Public Service Announcements than felt surrounding character choices. Proceedings do get less dumb as we move along and Amy Kwok shines quite well in the wife role but being quite ordinary and not particularly devoted emotionally hurts the chances for The Other Side Of Romance. Meg Lam appears in support.

The Other Side Of The Sea (1994) Directed by: Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee's colours as director without the aid of Tsui Hark remains interesting to follow. Police Confidential had plentiful cool style while The Other Side Of The Sea sees Lee in action-drama territory. In an emotionally felt and ass kicking performance, Michelle Reis stars as Yip, a contract killer fleeing to Tai O island, injured and secretive about her past towards the friendly villagers, one of which she falls in love with. With her issues unresolved, violence draws closer to the united group of villagers and Yip is forced to take action...

Lee's threatens to go sledgehammer with the melodrama in an earlier scene but mixes the acrobatic gunplay with a decently executed subtlety with characters trying to start anew after diving deep down in the spiral of violence. He provides direction that is filled with fine touches, not just the most vivid ones but it's a satisfying ride nonetheless. Also with Lau Siu Ming, Hung Yan Yan and Vincent Wan.

Out Bound Killing (1994) Directed by: Sek Bing-Chan

Cheung Kwok-Leung steals money during a transaction between gangsters, leading to chase involving them, the Hong Kong and mainland police. Poor on every front, Out Bound Killing can't elevate itself from the low budget but instead the small means comes off as sparse and small on screen. Dull cinematography, no snap to the pacing or the chase-scenario at hand, it puts all its stock into action and fails there as well. Admittedly, some flow and power crop up for a few seconds but weak and tired spells doom for a movie as well as this commercial element. Also with Kara Hui and Billy Chow.

The Outlaw Brothers (1990) Directed by: Frankie Chan

Frankie Chan and Max Mok play two car thieves, everything is going sweet, love is possibly in the air (with a cop, played by Yukari Oshima) but then they stumble on a large batch of cocaine belonging to Nishiwaki Michiko's crime boss and the already initiated action- and stunt-fest gets its suitable payoff. Competently made but clearly focusing on having a firm and memorable place as an action piece first and foremost, Frankie achieves that and then some. While he yet again favours a youthful and cool image himself for the on-screen portrayal, he's also delivering some of his finest work as an action performer. Throughout there's intricate, fast exchanges and the packed action directing team goes for the painful stunts factor as well. Featuring a large number of Western fighters as well (including Mark Houghton, Steve Tartalia, Jonathan Isgar and Jeff Falcon), the finale is a time-warp and all ideas thrown in at once as fights take place amidst live chickens and snakes, there's sword- and fan-fights and none of it is deadly serious. Which is the fine choice and The Outlaw Brothers still comes off as painful, intricate reference work for the key performers. Also with Miu Kiu-Wai & Sheila Chan.

Outlaw Genes (1982) directed by: Stanley Siu

Stanley Siu directs Michael Chan in the role of Lo Kan, a newly released prisoner wishing to at least ATTEMPT to get on a legal path in his life. But as these things go, bloody brotherhood and rivals always makes sure to pull you back in. Documentary style during certain violent parts and an age old story painted in blood where your loved ones always get more or equal amount of hurt as you do, Lo Kan's story is rehashed, calculated stuff that explodes merely mildly when turning violent. Going huge was otherwise something that was the only saviour in Siu's otherwise sloppy Don't Kill Me, Brother. Michael Chan shows real emotions at times but isn't allowed to lead that way throughout the flick. Wong Ching and Phillip Ko also stars.

Out Of The Dark (1995) Directed by: Jeff Lau

Jeff Lau plants himself in familiar territory with this horror-comedy effort. From what I've seen, Jeff has never been a director of great storytelling but instead one that will entertain you, sometimes greatly. He's got his 'comical' interludes in between the horror interludes but sadly the energy seen before in the latter is not really present. It's a good thing that this is a Stephen Chow movie then.

Playing mental patient Leon (casual film fans will instantly know which character Leon is modeled after) he has to teach a group of apartment complex security guard to battle ghosts. The movie gets off to a slow start but Stephen shows up and we get the usual comedy we expect of him. When I say usual I mean silly and when I say silly I mean funny. Take comedy and mix it with moderate gory horror and you've got yourself some winning Stephen Chow scenes in Out Of The Dark. I say scenes because without him in the frame the horror is dull even by Jeff Lau's standards. It wasn't a hit upon it's release in 1995. Possibly because of it's slightly darker tone. A subbed Taiwan dvd release is on the market but only with a Mandarin dub. The Cantonese language vcd is also out of print. Thanks to reader Doug Sulpy for the dvd info.

Outside the Window (1973) Directed by: Sung Chuen Sau & Yuq Jeng Chuen

This Taiwanese 1973 melodrama marked a successful debut by arguably one of the most beautiful Asian women to grace a movie screen, Brigitte Lin. The young Lin is quite astonishing for a newcomer and conveys many melodramatic traits of the character of Chiang well.

Chiang is part of a tragic love story about the struggling romance between her and elder teacher Kang Nan (Woo Kei). She comes from a broken home where the father figure is seemingly gone in her view. You might see her falling for Kang Nan as a way of getting that male figure into her life but a theme also touched upon is that of the ignorance of the struggling couple as they know society aren't about to embrace them. It may be true love but life truths overpower. All told in heavy handed melodramatic style and in the end, going only decent places emotionally. Pace is slow and this isn't exactly exciting filmmaking but a story that involves slightly in combination with the young Brigitte Lin makes for highly recommended viewing for fans of the ageless beauty. She would continue to enjoy great success in Taiwan before she conquered Hong Kong cinema through effort such as Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain, Police Story and The Bride With White Hair. Outside The Window also sees Chin Han (Lin's real life husband at one point) and Sun Yueh (City On Fire) in supporting roles.

The success of Outside The Window reportedly and strangely enough did not happen in Taiwan but in Hong Kong since the author of the autobiographical book it was based on requested it to not be released in Taiwanese theatres to avoid further shame to be put on the family.

Over The Rainbow, Under The Skirt (1994) Directed by: Joe Ma

Dubbed the "Banana Ripening" series, Over The Rainbow, Under The Skirt is the direct, slightly inferior sequel to Samson Chiu's wonderful Yesteryou, Yesterme, Yesterday. Still designed to be just like The Wonder Years, this Lau Ching Wan narrated continuation of Bo's (John Tang) development towards adulthood needs to replicate the original vision. However, director Joe Ma does not feel like he's being saddled with a lazy task and he comes through in spades as the new head of the series, from a career point where he had not yet become way too comfortable in his industry position. We still get very direct and frank views when with Bo's trains of thoughts, usually concerning sex but at center is Bo's very fragmented character still in development. Possessing hints of being a bully, a homophobic, he equally learns from his past wrongdoings and appreciates what he has; a true on and off love with Ting (Ellen Lo) and a family to look up to. The poster art with Eileen Tung's character alongside a kid is very telling as Bo is quite far behind everyone else. Anyone who wants to become a man, can. Bo's love affair with the university student played by Tung is one of many stepping stones towards that, all wrapped in an off-beat and sweat atmosphere by Joe Ma. Samson Chiu simply had a better grasp on all issues and emotions but slightly inferior is nothing to be ashamed of. Aside from Fung Bo Bo, who is replaced by May Law, most key cast returns in addition to Leslie Cheung and Clifton Ko making cameos as themselves.

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The Owl Vs Bumbo (1984) Directed by: Sammo Hung

Bumbo (Sammo Hung) is a thief having gotten away with robbing a bank with blanks ammo in his weapon. Owl (George Lam) is a swindler and both have subsequently retired (Bumbo working as an aerobics instructor) but an anonymous letter says someone is on to the duo's past wrongdoings and forces them to perform two tasks. One to work as career advisors for disillusioned youths and the other to take part in a bidding for a piece of land...

Quite lighthearted coming from Sammo and mostly we get a semi-enjoyable, only half-sincere comedy spiced with an enjoyable, trademark Sammo cake of action. The key banter between Sammo and Lam is hit and miss but in particular during the auction the pair are in sync with each other and silly humour finds a valid place in the package. Less successful when trying to strike a meaningful chord when focusing on the kids (whose teacher is played by Michelle Yeoh), it's well-meaning what Sammo is doing but also very half baked. No, the true delights come in the form of Sammo's dance number with Deannie Yip and it's not out of place to make the action feel powerful. It's suitably enough not violent though. Also with Season Ma, Stanley Fung, Phillip Chan, Tai Bo, Dick Wei and Ronald Wong.

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