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Pavilion Of Women (2001) Directed by: Yim Ho

Based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck, who had movie adaptations of her work done before such as The Good Earth (1937) and Dragon Seed (1944). Daughter of Christian missionaries, her focus on writing about China, being somewhat of an outside view looking in, is transferred by Yim Ho (Red Dust, Homecoming) in his adaptation of Pavilion Of Women (book appeared in 1946 originally but was banned in China well into the 90s). Very much a pet project for star/co-producer/co-writer Luo Yan, the film tells the story of how Western influence can make actual, human emotions manifest themselves within a strict Chinese 1930s society, on the brink of being invaded by the Japanese. That influence is embodied by doctor/priest Andre (Willem Dafoe)...

A rich tapestry of themes and emotions...on paper, even without having read the book the treatment here feels watered down, merely ticking off the excellent content in a standard manner. Shot with fair grand style by Poon Hang-Sang (Kung Fu Hustle), Yim Ho certainly has never been about making it easy for his audience to feel but in fact, we never do outside of some tender moments between Madame Wu (Luo Yan) and Father Andre in the latter sections. Corny symbolically towards the very end as well, Yim Ho isn't necessarily out of his league here shooting in English (where all Chinese speak English naturally) but it all is felt only on the surface and makes one want to read the book only, never to touch the film again. Willem Dafoe is likeable enough and has passable chemistry with Luo Yan. Shek Sau is particularly weak as the husband, an overly clownish creation that also has the actor suffer a pretty poor dubbing job (which is strange because in the TVB series Triumph In The Skies, the actor was spouting English left and right that would've ranked as sufficient for Pavilion Of Women). John Cho and Yi Ding co-stars.

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HK Flix.com
Yesasia.com

Peacock King (1989) Directed by: Nam Nai Choi

A Hong Kong/Japanese co-production (loosely based on the Manga cartoon Kujaka-Oh) helmed by Nam Nai Choi (Story Of Ricky, also a Manga adaptation). Peacock King doesn't come out on top but provides enough sporadic bursts of cheesy entertainment to please fans of the director. There's again very visible signs here of a filmmaker not really able to provide polished traits to a production but Nam rarely had to be anything more than that. He did his acclaimed Cat III revenge tale Her Vengeance just prior to Peacock King but I guess different genres got a different kind of attention from him. This movie had a lot more funds for the makers to play around with and that mostly shows up in the visual effects department. Most of the time we get the regular painted on animated visuals but there's a fair amount of decent stop-animation work here that no doubt is the result of the higher budget. Uneven, drags at times but when the director does decide to hit, it's generally pleasing. I would say he saved his most insane filmmaking to last though, with 1992's The Cat . Besides main star Yuen Biao we see Gordon Liu, Eddy Ko, Gloria Yip and Mikami Hiroshi.

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HK Flix.com

Pedicab Driver (1989) Directed by: Sammo Hung

Sammo Hung's fan favourite is too episodic to rank as a good film but he manages to get some minute poignancy to the story of the lower classes as well as showcasing his own marvelous skill to those subtle, dramatic moments. Since the story of these pedicab drivers involve a clash with local thugs, action is just around the corner and Sammo and his Hung Ga Ban deliver. Aside from some ever so slight over the top undercranking in the finale, the fights are typically powerful coming from Sammo with the highlight being a fantastic duel between him and Lau Kar Leung.

In perhaps an answer to Jackie Chan's cameo filled Miracles, the film is decently filled to the brink with walk on appearances and supporting acts by recognizable players. Have fun spotting your favourites.

Home video rights somehow ended up in Warner Brother's hands and no sign of a dvd release is on the horizon. The Made In Hong Kong tape released in the UK is currently increasingly hard to obtain and no vcd exists in Hong Kong.

The Peeping Tom (1997) Directed by: Ivan Lai

Opening moments of Ivan Lai's Category III thriller recalls the atmospheric and horrific imagery of Dr. Lamb, the film that seriously kick started the wave of true crime films in the early 90s. The Peeping Tom soon turns into a rather flat thriller that only occasionally springs to life via some shocking imagery though. Jade Leung is a blank lead, Mark Cheng more silly than menacing and it's a little disappointing to see Ivan Lai not being able to expand on the fairly well-honed visual skills he displayed in The Imp (although he had Diana Pang Dan at his disposal there). Then again, The Peeping Tom isn't much better or worse than the majority of the Category III output that we saw a few years prior. Miho Nomoto co-stars.

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HK Flix.com

People's Hero (1987) Directed by: Derek Yee

Although Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon looms over this Hong Kong take on the scenario, Derek Yee's second film holds rather terrific strength to make it an individual winner. In debt triad punks played by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Ronald Wong gets disarmed by the bank robbing situation they are the "masterminds" of and by the arrival of another robber (the character of Koo, played Ti Lung). The warm/calculating/ruthless robber is heading out of the country with a bit of pocket money but not without his girlfriend (Elaine Kam) who sits in jail. All while the media watches and certain fractions of the police force are trying to look their best rather than work in the interest of the hostages...

Utilizing his select locations very well for tension, characters that will be stuck in the bank are setup to good effect, where Yee touches upon awakenings in the face of a tense situation and a developing Stockholm syndrome in the way the regular people relate to their kidnapper. Overpowering all that good stuff is Ti Lung at center with a powerhouse performance that doesn't miss a beat. With a costume design that says it all (his tattoos barely looking out but setting a tone), Koo is a dangerous force but a love torn one as well that threatens to seize functioning without a nearby warmth. It's easy to detect though that Koo and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's failed robber are facing doom but Yee's social commentary about the gung-ho/media driven mentality of the police means an earned win over potential predictability. In short, People's Hero is a tough, gritty winner. Elaine Kam and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai was awarded for their supporting roles. Tony Leung Ka-Fai is kept mostly to the back while Paul Chun, Bowie Lam, Tin Ching and Teddy Yip also appear.

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HK Flix.com
Yesasia.com

Perfect Exchange (1993) Directed by: Wong Jing

Also known as The Sting II, the hyper and dead on fun Nico Wong movie starring Andy Lau didn't make much of a blimp at the box office but for the unrelated Perfect Exchange, Wong Jing plays it "smart" and parks himself in comfortable, commercially (successful as it turns out) territory. Andy Lau is Mandy Chin, a gambler/swindler who's forced to go into prison by his opponent Lau (Wan Chi-Keung) in order to retrieve bonds Robinson (Kwan Hoi-San) has been hiding. Mandy's warden (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) tries but often fails at containing Mandy. Wong Jing echoes what is his often tried and often tired recipes but the whole contrasting package does pack a bit of funny-punch. Feeling very confident in shooting the opening gambling scenes, Wong goes on to provide a partial parody of Prison On Fire (cue cast members from that movie such as Tommy Wong and William Ho) so soon the inmates opposing Mandy Chin are more impressed with his revolving dick skills. Even Tony Leung's Chong Chor Hung becomes a disciple and a pretty good one at that so that's a taste of the lows, in this case very funny lows Wong Jing takes the movie. It helps that a performer like Tony Leung is very game and while Andy Lau is the cool presence in addition to a character rarely being in danger, he's the lesser part of the double act. It just doesn't seem like a fit to have Lau this time around in such a jarring Wong Jing film that mixes the crazy, the silly, Lau going into prison on a rape charge and various, jarring pieces of violence scattered throughout. But it's bearable and actually funny in parts so therefore great success coming from Wong Jing. Also with Liu Kai-Chi, Nat Chan, Christy Chung, Teddy Yip, Johnny Wang and Anita Lee.

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

The Perfect Match (1983) Directed by: Frankie Chan

A freshman in the director's chair, a few of his fellow cast members from Carry On Pickpocket, a genuine cinema queen (Josephine Siao), comedic banter, slapstick and a car stunt team working their buns off. Yep, Frankie Chan is indeed very eager to please and while The Perfect Match isn't a reference point for filmmaking, it's pleasant 80s fluff with fun dosage of car mayhem that takes its cues surely from Aces Go Places. If not earlier, then the finale definitely echoes those feelings. Co-starring Kent Cheng and Jamie Luk and Danny Lee briefly appear as well.

Perfect Match (1991) Directed by: Stephen Shin

Professional with its use of synch sound, photogenic stars, a pleasant tone and yet Stephen Shin largely fails to make anything fly in Perfect Match when not filming his male and female lead. Koo (George Lam) is a conductor temporarily visiting Hong Kong. He's essentially bullied by a gang of young thieves and con artists led by Jacky Kim (Jacky Cheung) and when Jacky's sister Carrie (Maggie Cheung) gets wind of her brother getting in trouble again, she literally imprisons him in her apartment. Koo treats the connection with this small family quite elegantly though, trying to push for the brother and friends to express themselves through art and of course, Koo falls for Carrie in the process...

Largely because Jacky Cheung in hamming it up to annoying levels and nothing is particularly interesting or follow, a lot is therefore riding on George Lam and Maggie Cheung. Thankfully Lam is given a more thoughtful character to work with and despite it only being mildly interesting, it's him and in particular Maggie Cheung's picture. A pleasant, if somewhat ill-fitted couple, it doesn't hurt that Maggie is gorgeous and radiant whenever she's on screen. A movie star carries something light like Perfect Match, thankfully. Also with Lydia Shum, Vivian Chow, Hui Siu-Hung, Manfred Wong, Dennis Chan, Cynthia Khan and Kingdom Yuen.

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Yesasia.com

The Perfect Wife?! (1983) Directed by: Dean Shek

Dean Shek is Dean Shek, a successful lawyer and womanizer (quite a stretch...) who comes to the great conclusion that he needs to settle down, on his own terms though. He brings in a Mainland girl (Linda Lau - Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?) and aims to teach her to be his woman of choice, in 3 months. When his old friend James (Eric Tsang) comes home from Canada, he falls head over heels in love with the girl who uses "I Love You" as a farewell phrase. The rivalry is on...

It's totally alienating to have a movie where the world's most annoying actor both is sitting in and steering the boat. But that's what The Perfect Wife?! is and Shek goes through the running time contorting his face and generally acts silly in the most unfunny of ways. Although this is a full on assault with a premise that at least is entertaining on paper, there are still moments where Shek manages to win us over (the sequences in Spain are best examples, including a scenario where Shek/his stuntman goes into a bull fighting ring), if only for short bursts at a time. He occasionally proves basically that insistence will get you places as well as stealing Monty Python skits. All of this ending up on a grade that equals masterpiece on the Dean Shek scale of movie grading. Paul Chun, Raymond Wong, Wellington Fung and Wong Ching also appear.

The Phantom Killer (1981) Directed by: Stanley Fung

Stanley Fung's murder mystery with possible supernatural undertones won't rival the greatest story ever told but coming from the martial arts genre where plot in many cases is secondary to the action, Fung's contribution is welcome, if not overly special. A decent eye for the macabre and suspense in combination with limited doses of action makes The Phantom Killer a worthwhile curiosity if you can find it.

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