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# 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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Prince Of The Sun (1990) Directed by: Wellson Chin

Despite a screenplay by Abe Kwong (Visible Secret II) and Lawrence Lau (Spacked Out), it's not an production aiming for substance and not even Lau assisting director Wellson Chin means extraordinary things ending up on screen. Bringing in the usual Hong Kong cinema decisions structurally by giving us what we expect (I.e. the special effect driven adventure) and then for the middle section testing the patience of its audience through local comedy isn't my preferred choice.

Sheila Chan, being Chin's Sandra Ng for this movie, has initial fun, completely outrageous character traits to work with as we see her gambling and abusing kindergarten children who happens to aggravates her. Meeting the Mainland country bumpkin played by Conan Lee is the setup for the middle section sit com with the titular character (Jeng Paak-Lam) caught in between. The black humour takes on satisfying proportions (especially a recurring gag involving a loose window frame) but the majority of the bickering is grating. You do wish director Chin would've stuck with making the movie the opening reel promises as it then it would've been unspectacular but generally hokey, diverting fun for the short running time. These rare diverting sections involves the on- and off presence of Cynthia Rothrock, an at times nicely choreographed playground fight that sees Conan doing his best stunt and also when Chin allows the script to let Conan display fighting skills, some is forgiven. Ultimately Prince Of The Sun is a minor to poor showcase for most involved though. Also starring Lam Ching Ying, Jeff Falcon and Lau Shun.

Princess Fragrance (1987) Directed by: Ann Hui

Ann Hui's direct follow up to The Romance Of Book & Sword, the adaptation of famed Wuxia novel author Louis Cha's first novel The Book & The Sword, probably would survive without the first movie as a backbone but more rewards come as elements are expanded upon that were only given a small spotlight the first time around. While Hui explored families bound by blood but not thoroughly loyalties in regards to Chen Jalo and Emperor Qiao Long's relationship, she gives us a first half here that merely seems interested in the visual splendor and the battle at hand.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing as Hui continues to bring a muted, natural handling to her direction while still utilizing the vast Chinese landscapes to great effect. Martial arts is also kept to a minimum and the army battles are suitably non-stylized. There's no shame going in this direction but you do wonder what happened to the small aspects within the large scale happenings that made The Romance Of Book & Sword so compelling.

Hui does a quick 180 by the time you start cd 2 of your vcd as both an outspoken and unspoken romantic triangle is allowed to dominate as well as the low-key skills of director Hui. Elements aren't fresh as such but nonetheless affecting. Never one to forget what the main story is, the films in the end become compelling glimpses into Louis Cha's work in condensed form. It's a rare thing to allow the actual trademark of an acclaimed director to matter in an obviously epic story but that freedom is why Hui definitely comes out on top.

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

Princess Madam (1989) Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Although suspicions do arise that Princess Madam might be a composite of two movies, Godfrey Ho constructs it so that it doesn't appear as evident compared to the hatchet jobs he and IFD made money of (and there's no ninjas either, just recognizable gwailos). In this flick, Ho showcases a basic competence as he echoes Moon Lee's success with Angel while pairing her up with another toughie, Sharon Yeung (Angel Terminators). Aside from spicing it up with some minor smut, mostly Ho showcases what Lee can perform dependently, giving us a fair amount of bone crunching fights and stunts. Featuring what might be perceived as a thematic strand of both spouse revenge, vigilante acts and the creation of new relationships, in fact it's merely basic storytelling combined with the tangent of Liu Kai-Chi going amusingly over the top as the man longing for Sharon's character. But an ejection of his act happens and a quite extreme melodramatic element enter as Yeung's character gets into conflict of what to favour: a criminal father or the law? While basic competence still comes from director Ho, there's really the odd moment or two of affecting acting by Yeung that then carries over in a pretty solid two gun-toting, dressed in white finale. Yueh Hua acts up a storm as the cartoon villain of the piece and Nishiwaki Michiko also appear.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Prison On Fire (1987, Ringo Lam)

Possibly Ringo Lam and his writer (as well as brother) Nam Yin are demonstrating life on the inside versus the outside is not drastically if at all different. Politics and environment fueled by turmoil could exist on either side of the wall but the feel of Prison On Fire is that of being ultimately stripped of commentary. The focus instead is to deliver an effective, brutally violent prison-drama and Ringo had showcased his often unmatched vision for explosive and gritty violence in City On Fire already. Not a fluke occurrence as it turned out, the almost meticulous staging of whatever violent act or occurrence is eerily chilling. Ranging from the opening car accident that gets Tony Leung's career his manslaughter sentence to Roy Cheung bashing Shing Fui-On's head in or the enclosed, animalistic finale. All this is Ringo in his element as he's clearly confident letting this be his voice. But bad, bloody times are of course also balanced against even-tempered times as Chow Yun-Fat in particular gets to be charismatic and fun as a respected veteran of the prison. Teaching the newbie played by Tony Leung the ropes, negotiating terms and trying to avoid violent altercations with triads such as William Ho's Mickey, this plays out at a blistering pace that shows a keen eye for punishing an ensemble cast physically as well as letting them add veteran-faces and presence to make the realism come to life. As masterful and confident as City On Fire is, it is Prison On Fire that shows a filmmaker having found and now happily is extending his cinematic voice.

Prison On Fire II(1991, Ringo Lam)

Trying to craft new themes and angles to this follow-up, thoughts and concepts registers as all valid but Ringo Lam has a bit of trouble trying to elevate Prison On Fire II. Once again Chow Yun-Fat is in the middle of rivalry between inmates (this time it's Hong Kong versus Mainlanders), trying to expose the Correctional Services (headed by another vicious prison guard, played by Elvis Tsui) while making plans to be with his son on the outside. Chow is invested to a good degree, he turns on the irresistible charm that is his survival instinct as a character while also being haunted by his conscience. His chemistry with the Mainland gangboss played by Chan Chung-Yung is crucial because they represent that these two sides can get along (especially when outside of prison walls and internal politics). These are enjoyable, mature, even gentle thoughts by Lam and offers up the best parts of the movie. Not that the switch back to hard and gritty violence isn't welcome. Because execution is above average for any Hong Kong film but this sequel doesn't match the heights set by the first movie. Therefore admirable conceptually but a bit forgettable. Thankfully not unnecessary. Supporting actors from the first pop up here too including Tommy Wong, Frankie Ng and Victor Hon Kwan.

The Private Eye Blues (1994) Directed by: Eddie Fong

Eddie Fong and Clara Law logged their last Hong Kong cinema contribution with The Private Eye Blues, this time with Eddie directing (and Law acting as visual consultant) this marvelously entertaining comedy/drama. Jacky Cheung stars as a derailed private detective, having lost his wife (Kathy Chow) and kid and now given the task of finding a Mainland girl (Mavis Fan). She turns out to be more trouble and more hot property than he could've ever imagined...

Surely one of the, if not THE wildest ride of 1994, Eddie Fong injects all moods conceivable yet manages to succeed with every attempt. Shot by Jingle Ma the art way, with dutch angles, blue and green filters, Fong immerses us immediately despite the storyline being that age old of the downtrodden detective. His wit is super sharp and the visual style works splendidly with the low-key humour and off-beat narrative. Events may seem random and surreal but it nonetheless registers very favorably. Even when dabbling with human drama, Fong shows skill in making his audience affected despite the insanity on display. On board with Eddie Fong's script is Jacky Cheung who doesn't miss a beat, almost always carrying a beer bottle and being generally abused before having to pick himself up again. His chemistry with newcomer Mavis Fan is excellent and supporting acts from Chin Ho adds on to the fine package The Private Eye Blues is.

The Private Eyes (1976) Directed by: Michael Hui

It's never too late to catch up on the classics of Hong Kong cinema and The Private Eyes is my first encounter with the Hui brothers. Michael Hui's movie is pure comedy gold despite an almost nonexistent plot (Shek Kin and his henchmen are it) The top quality of the comedy segments make up for any complaints about that. Especially Michael who is the one messing up most of the time is on top form and the timing from him, in all it's simplicity, is exceptional. I don't know how their other movies were structured but the brothers respective roles in terms of comedy is clearly defined here. Michael gets the most laughs, Sam plays it more straight and Ricky is in the background performing much of his bits low key (looking at his wonderful face is enough to chuckle at least). Sammo Hung also choreograph two action comedy set pieces with the famous kitchen fight being a highlight.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

The Prodigal Boxer (1972) Directed by: Choi Yeung Ming

The martial arts action by Lau Kar Wing (who also appears) and Wong Pau Gei doesn't set the screen on fire but director Choi Yeung Ming possesses some unusually strong storytelling abilities and a genuine cinematic sense. The featuring of Chinese folk hero Fong Sai Yuk (Meng Fei - Five Shaolin Masters) will no doubt make viewers comfortable with characteristics early as we're given the trademark ignorant and rash behaviour to the young hero. Unlike the Jet Li and the Hsiao Hao interpretations, things leans more towards subdued here and the revenge drama at times comes with fine dramatic instincts for the genre. Some mundane events go on forever though, showing a definite inexperience in director Choi but the fact that the actual drama outdoes to the action is an unusual final verdict on an independent martial arts effort. Also with Maggie Lee, Yusuaki Kurata and Wong Ching. Fung Hark On, Yam Sai Koon and Yuen Cheung Yan can also be spotted.

T.H.E. Professionals (1998) Directed by: Wilson Tong

Remaking Michael Mann's Heat with so few means, amidst a crisis period of Hong Kong cinema and with less than powerhouse actors facing off (Louis Koo and Norman Tsui in the Al Pacino and Robert De Niro roles respectively), Wilson Tong merely gets a response sporadically with his street shootouts and violence but everything in between is very dull.

Project S (1994) Directed by: Stanley Tong

Re-titled in the US to Supercop 2, it's not entirely inappropriate as Project S features another adventure with Michelle Yeoh's Mainland police woman Yang Chien Hua. Her colleague and boyfriend Chang Fung (Yu Rong-Guang) decides to leave for Hong Kong to pursuit riches but it's done in the form of robbery and killing. Yang is called in to Hong Kong to assist on the robbery case Inspector Lee Ming (Emil Chow) and Lung (Fan Siu-Wong) are on and naturally comes into contact with Chang Fung...

With its main core being the relationship between Michelle Yeoh's and Yu Rong-Guang's characters, Stanley Tong rather poorly conveys their connection and Chang Fung's quick transition into crime. The usual Mainland vs. Hong Kong ways of policing, prejudice against Yeoh's female cop, some comedic shenanigans as Emil Chow trying to romance Yeoh follows before Project S turns into the action entertainment it should be. It survives silliness and lapse in logic. Tong begins crafting an efficient and fast moving plot, with the main excitement coming in the bank vault finale. It's hard to rise Tong's action up to a high standard as the movie isn't very stunt- or fight heavy but what's here is solid and exciting, with Yeoh's bout with one of the big Westerners being the prime recommendation. Shot in synch sound and also with Athena Chu, Bill Tung, Dick Wei, Bowie Lam and Yukari Oshima. Jackie Chan (playing his Police Story character Chan Ka Kui again) and Eric Tsang (both in drag) appear in a very silly 3 minute scene that may contain action but could've easily been cut out of the film.

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