# 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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So Close (2003) Directed by: Corey Yuen

When talking about pure entertainment, popcorn flicks, there seems to be a movement among fans that those films automatically become good if you just turn off your brain and enjoy. I agree with that but it takes, a risky word to use, skill to pull that off. This year's The Twins Effect was a perfect example of how to not do braindead entertainment. Corey Yuen's So Close is a good example of well executed braindead entertainment. The recipe for success in this case; the ladies!

No, it's not the saviour of a declining Hong Kong action cinema. No, it's not very good as a film but forget all about that and let Shu Qi, Zhao Wei and the under-appreciated Karen Mok be your companionship for 2 hours of Hong Kong action cinema the way it's done in 2003. Corey Yuen takes quite a huge leap forward in action directing compared to his Hollywood work and what's on display in So Close I would say is what you get out of main performers that aren't classically trained. You hide it with a frenetic camera language and quick-cuts but as the movie progresses, the action becomes quite a delight. The ladies perform as much as they can which I admired in the neat fight between Shu and Karen. Plus the movie is so stylistically over the top, practically a fashion showcase, that you can't help to be sucked into the outrageous action feats the women perform.

With a script that is overly melodramatic at times, the biggest surprise comes in the emotional punch the Shu Qi/Zhao Wei sister relationship packs. It's so much thanks to enough dedication from the bonafide moviestar Shu Qi and rising talent Zhao Wei that it's not a tedious wait between the action. Considering it's this genre, I was thoroughly surprised at what director Corey Yuen managed to do with this Columbia Asia financed project. Thumbs up believe it or not but again, Hong Kong action cinema hasn't been saved. So Close however is a standout, despite it being quite laughable, much like China Strike Force was.

Both Chinese language tracks have dubbing but I prefer the Mandarin track since it features Shu Qi and Vicky Zhao's sync sound performances as opposed to the Cantonese track where they're dubbed by someone else.

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Solar Adventure (1990) Directed by: Roy Thomas

Now for something very one-sided. Joseph Lai once again turned to Korea to pick up some cheap animation for the international market and with a distinct flavour of 'Transformers' in the original 1985 movie, that just makes sense to try and cash in on. It's quite an unusual entry in this batch though as Solar Adventure (original title Roboteuwang Sseonsyakeu) is part live action. Dealing with the invasion of the baaaaaad North Korean spies (yes, this is therefore a South Korean production), just as the concept of an alien space craft crashing in a lake makes itself known, the switch to cheap and threadbare animation happens. With the sole, oddball delight being that North Korea's leader Kim Il-sung is working with the evil aliens (footage that turns up in Space Thunder Kids as well), the rest of this brief time with this Adda Audio Visual release is made up of repetitive action and awful animation at points (the slow motion death scenes are a hoot therefore). To boot, despite the inspiring brevity of it all, our original director (both in live and animated segments) does filler in the most heinous of ways. Ranging from static shots of trees for a good minute in the beginning to countless tanks driving alongside a mountain cliff side (Space Thunder Kids "fans" will recognize this too).

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1996) Directed by: Patrick Leung

Patrick Leung's (Task Force) boxing drama, starring Aaron Kwok, Carman Lee and Sammo Hung, obviously is going to run into cliché territory but in the end fails to make much of an impact because its intentions can't rise above those clichés. Also, Leung's handling of the melodrama is far from subtle, making the effect less heartfelt than it should be. Sammo Hung's veteran presence helps but it's not a role with much to work with but the boxing scenes do come off well from a technical standpoint. I suggest you re-watch Rocky again though. Michael Tong, Vincent Kok and Law Koon-Lan also appear.

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The Son Of Dragon (1992) Directed by: Addy Sung

Deathly dull and complex triad affairs and family melodrama with fear of more of the children ending up in the gangster world, all round in front and behind the scenes force Addy Sung's execution is stiff but focusing solely on the action reveals promising sparks. In particular two sequences, starting with a parking garage fight that doesn't skimp on the power and Addy running through a mall blasting away cops (and having actors and stuntmen loaded up with squibs) is compelling as it's also very tense. Reference clips rather than a reference movie for Addy.

Son Of The Swordsman (1969) Directed by: Joseph Kuo

Protecting a valuable cargo on behalf of his adoptive father Wong I-Hsia, Wan Fu (Peter Yang Kwan) has to fight his way through hordes of henchmen belonging to Master Leung. Eventually Wan Fu is injured but is rescued by female swordswoman Pi-Ku. This triggers various revelations and connections the rival families thought they never had...

In my experience, outside of Kung Hu, Joseph Kuo was the only director with any sense of style or tension when depicting the Wuxia world on film. Striking narrative gold with King Of Kings the same year, Son The Of Swordsman has strengths that makes it climb to an acceptable level as a movie but runs out of steam when the intricate plotting isn't particularly interesting (or surprising to follow). The overall mature intent shines through though and having assured male lead Peter Yang Kwan at the forefront of all this benefits Kuo's frame. The action is also almost extremely plentiful with at times terrific tension and fluidity for its time.

Soul (1986) Directed by: Shu Kei

When it all comes crashing down, it crashes down HARD as Deannie Yip's upper class character finds out. It starts with her husband Kai Yeung (David Chiang in a cameo) of many years falling to his death at the police station where he works. A suicide the police calls it but soon the wife, the Taiwanese neighbour and her kid Leong, are the targets of a bumbling trio of triad assassins. As the neighbour, who turns out to be the mistress of of Kai Yeung, falls at the hand of a knife, Yip is given responsibility of Leong and begins her own character re-building. Taking on parenting and tracking back to the past what might be the reason for Kai Yeung's demise....

Shu Kei (Hong Kong movie critic and director of the acclaimed Hu-Du-Men) sure causes death and destruction across his characters but does so in a more dreamy, subdued manner that makes the all too familiar aspects of the plot template take on a different life than we're expect and are used to. The piece is moody and rather underplayed (especially violence that tends to be very incidental and therefore haunting) with nice, unexpected touches such as Jacky Cheung's triad character learning to think for himself, leading to him abandoning his big brother. It can be tricky to take in what exactly remains the main purpose of Deannie Yip's journey but then again it seems to be in design that she doesn't go straight roads towards her goal. Violence we know is looming though but how and when makes Soul take on a dangerous edge at times. But mostly it leans towards being a picture of a female backtracking, learning to fight back and Deannie Yip at center of these traits is an asset for the production that also deals with suitable, in tune comedy at times! Reportedly a remake/re-take/rip-off/whatever expression you find suitable of John Cassavetes Gloria. Elaine Kam, Dennis Chan and famed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien appear in support. Director of photography was Christopher Doyle who won the Hong Kong Film Award for his work here.

The Souls Of The Sword (1978) Directed by: Cheung Paang-Yee

Attempting some depth about the futile pursuit of supremacy in the martial world (The Dragon Verse Sword represents the ultimate key here), Cheung Paang-Yee (Night Orchid) certainly provides the ominous and stern atmosphere suitable for the material but the material is pretty lifeless for this on-screen examination of the compelling theme. Simple to follow, the character gallery is still too extensive which doesn't allow for audience investment. Action is relatively sparse, usually competent but also surprisingly sluggish at points too considering the talent involved. Film stars Wong Goon-Hung, Yueh Hua, Phillip Ko and Wang Ping.

The South Shaolin Master (1984) Directed by: Siao Lung

As pedestrian as they come when it come to plotting and narrative in a period martial arts vehicle, yet The South Shaolin Master escapes entirely without criticism (personally I could've done without such a large character gallery that naturally ends up being barely distinguishable). Director Siao Lung (Lackey And The Lady Tiger) superbly utilizes the big look the location of Mainland China offers up so when dealing with genre staples (such as training sequences), the film is shot up a notch. The true star of the show is the Brandy Yuen co-directed fight choreography that brings a fair mixture between weapons and hand to hand combat with the added advantage of full visibility and crisp movement. Yuen brought something with him indeed as part of that famous family of filmmakers and action directors. Star Yau Gin-Kwok returned for the 1994 sequel, reprising the role of patriotic fighter Lin Hai-Nan.

The South Shaolin Master Part II (1994, Hoi Wa)

Decidedly smaller in scale compared to its 1984 predecessor, Yau Gin-Gwok is back as patriotic fighter (and impossibly awesome) Lin Hai-Nan who takes on both invading forces as well as collaborators from within. With the aura of Once Upon A Time In China hovering over it, director Hoi Wa doesn't provide any new beats for the genre to work with. On said scale, it's all basic and competent and certainly doesn't reek of a copycat of a trend setting vehicle. Mostly thanks to Fung Hak-On's action choreography that doesn't skimp on the wire trend of the time but keeps the grounded impression all throughout despite. Not a ton of fight scenes are present but they're often impressively staged when they do occur.

Space Thunder Kids (1992) Directed by: Elton Reins

What feels like a final push to squeeze more of the market looking for animation to put out on TV and video, Adda Audio Visual and Joseph Lai assembled Space Thunder Kids. Now assembled is a good and familiar word to use if talking Joseph Lai as he had done so numerous times through the ninja cut and paste action line (and subsequently when IFD turned to kickboxing and modern action as well). But nothing can prepare you for the head bursting experience that is Space Thunder Kids. Consisting of a ton of characters, giant robots fighting in space, a transparent Godzilla, blue-faced aliens and Kim Il-sung making an animated appearance (as he's fighting with the aliens and not Earth's alliance... of course), how this Korean made animation could have this much content crammed into 80 minute is nearly impossible. And that's because it is. Lai took footage from at least six of the animation titles they'd already dubbed and released separately (including Defenders Of Space and Protectors Of Universe) and crafted a new, dizzying film. Premise of alliance versus the dark emperor wishing to rule the universe seems simple enough but by introducing new characters, space ships, robots and action set pieces (plus the print quality varies distinctly from quite clear to sub par VHS) in every scene, obviously coherence level goes out the window and this could be seen as a best of-edit of all the rip-off animation (including of 'Space Battleship Yamato', 'Transformers' and 'Mazinger Z') they sourced from South Korea. Well, the problem is none of it was really good in the first place. But what makes Space Thunder Kids a draining and ultimately recommended pleasure is because of the number it does on your brain. It's mind numbing, incoherent, you have no connection to events, you admire nothing that comes out of the Korean animation houses across the movies but the experiment of cramming two much into one is shamelessly enjoyable.

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