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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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Split Of The Spirit (1987) Directed by: Fred Tan

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Lu Ling (Pauline Wong) faces heartbreak head on and tries to keep her spirits up in front of the world as responsibility lies on her as the lead dancer and choreographer of a show entitled "Split Of The Spirit". Meanwhile, Jennifer is lured into the hands of David Bao who gets fed up with her so he decides to burn her alive inside a car, with the additional help of a priest that perform rites to have her soul trapped. Only thing is, the rite fails and Jennifer's not so rested soul goes on a rampage, via the body of Lu Ling. Mostly well-made and shot Taiwan production that gathers a good amount of points for appearing slick, actually creepy and surprising (for instance, some unexpected gore is well-nailed). Director Tan clearly has a good grip and desire to make matters as much scary as tragic and although the finale suffers from poor visual effects, a fair dramatic effect is still accomplished.

The Spooky Bunch (1980, Ann Hui)

As made, Ann Hui favors a loose, almost documentary approach to her ghost story but clarity doesn't come with this off-hand, almost casual approach to somewhat dark, supernatural events. There are effective creepy vibes and sights but without an effect or push to these aspects as the plot unfolds, The Spooky Bunch squanders the chances it might've had. Feeling detached from a story of life and death is not a good end verdict. Starring Josephine Siao and Kenny Bee.

The Spooky Family (1989) Directed by: Chin Yuet Sang

Vampire busting comedy resembling many other that surfaced after Mr. Vampire. Yet, director Chin Yuet Sang (Hocus Pocus), despite fairly tiring comedy and an episodic narrative, maintains a lively and a fun frantic pace to the proceedings, including the extended battles with the vampire of this piece (action was directed by Lau Kar Leung regular Lee King Chue). Pauline Wong is also great fun as the feisty wife of Kent Cheng's character while Peter Chan Lung is very likeable as the ghost servant. Also with Nina Li, Alvina Kong, Billy Lau, Shing Fui On and Sandra Ng.

Spooky Kookies (1981) Directed by: Yu Kang-Ping

KENNETH'S REVIEW: It may look tough and hardcore during its spooky opening but the Pacman-style credits that follow tell a different story. Indeed the story of a couple fearing their son has been taken by a ghost and invests in a spare one, turns wacky. New addition to the family, Lo Boo, has a street attitude in him as well as traits of a Dennis The Menace character so pratfalls, kicks, smoking sessions and a slingshot become multiple scenarios. That is until conman played by David Tao comes in to fake exorcisms and along the way Lo Boo stages his own death that subsequently sees him travel around with the conman. Suen Yuet is the cop chasing them around with his lasergun, scenes are interrupted by the motorbike song, dance numbers, actual real ghost busting and little in the way of laughs comes out of this on paper insane package. Silly film speeds as comedy device number one speaks volumes of Yu Kang-Ping's (Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing) limp ideas.

Spooky, Spooky (1988) Directed by: Sammo Hung

Behind the very ordinary title lies a Sammo Hung effort with ambitions to provide actual horror and tension, in addition to the comedy. He does ok in parts with the two former and Spooky, Spooky is definitely noteworthy for trying to stay true to each mood. That also means that with performers such as Wu Ma, Richard Ng and Choong Faat (with some truly priceless hair), the movie is very funny when needed. Along the way, we get references to classics such as Jaws, Ghostbusters and Sammo also returns the favour to Sam Raimi by throwing in a fun Evil Dead II reference. Other main cast include our supposed hero Alfred Cheung, Joyze Godenzi and in extended cameos, Yuen Wah, Corey Yuen and Mars.

The Spring Festival (1995) Directed by: Huang Jian-Zhong

An elderly husband (Li Bao-Tian) returns home to his wife (Zhao Lirong) in time for the annual spring festival with a bundle of earned money. Knowing they might and might not have their children with their families dropping by, they prepare for a quiet, tender time on their own. Soon a plethora of family members are arriving though and everyone is hoping for a more peaceful time compared to the year before...

It's partially a tough sell as director Huang Jian-Zhong packs way too much characters and conflicts into the tiny area this Mainland China production takes place in. The automatic beauty of the snowy landscape and static direction works in Huang's favour as a way of achieving reality but the character relationships aren't particularly clear across the board. The Spring Festival does carry a strong thematic about respecting tradition, breaking tradition and at what moments behaviour disintegrates a once tightly knitted group. It makes for partly inaccessible and accessible, dramatic, darkly comical and global viewing with fine lead performances in Li Biao-Tian and Zhao Lirong. Also with Ge You.

Spring In A Small Town (1948) Directed by: Fei Mu

Recently selected by the Hong Kong Film Awards as the Best Chinese movie ever, this Mainland China drama shot in 1948 didn't gain much of a recognition at the time of release and director Fei Mu received such a critical backlash, based on the politics apparently woven into this story that he left for Hong Kong and never made a film again. Subsequently, during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, the film was banned but it sprung to life many, many years later when a print was made available in the 80s. But in the new millennium, despite beaten up print elements, Fei Mu's Spring In A Small Town has finally gained its due recognition.

Set in a post-war small Chinese village, director Fei slowly but assuredly sets up the small character gallery. Yuwen (Wei Wei) is a devoted wife to Liyan (Shi Yu) who has been struck with heart disease ever since their initial steps into marriage. It's not a foundation built on love or happiness but out of duty. A sister (Dai Xiou) and a servant (Cui Chaoming) also has a place in their daily lives. Into their routine bound lives comes a childhood friend of both Yuwen and Liyan's. He is Wei (Zhang Zhicheng), now a doctor and the first meeting in 10 years sparks a quiet rivalry between the two men over the woman...

Spring In A Small Town is a tale where there exist secondary characters that therefore receive less attention but the structure calls for that and does not hinder any intentions of Li Nianji's screenplay. Possibly written very sparsely as Li clearly wants to favor subtlety, Fei Mu comes through strikingly well when it comes to this task. It's an intense story despite the measured pace where Fei brings fine, subtle nuances to all the stages characters goes through. Jealously, rejection, shame, self-realization, it's all here and each one naturally and in a compelling, even haunting way flows into one another. The spring setting feels highly ironic also as the movie contains inner turmoils that threatens to escalate into unheard of darkness for the characters.

When all's said and done, Spring in A Small Town is probably is too stagy for all viewers to actually pick up on the powerful characteristics that is injected via Fei Mu into the performers. Also, while it's clearly greatly executed, its selection by the Hong Kong Film Awards may mean that it's always struck a chord with Chinese and Hong Kong audiences more than it does with outside eyes. It may also very well mean that I'm too thick to get the entire picture. Nevertheless, Spring In A Small Town is an old gem that proves to have staying power even in 2005. If that's not worth a high grade, I don't know what is. A remake was shot in the Mainland during 2003, bearing the title Springtime In A Small Town.

Buy the DVD at:
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Stage Door Johnny (1990) Directed by: Wu Ma

Acting as executive producer, Jackie Chan reportedly let Wu Ma's production utilize leftovers or originally constructed material for his Mr. Canton And Lady Rose (aka Miracles). Showcasing outdoor settings better than indoor ones (the film still looks above average budget-wise), Wu Ma co-stars and portrays struggling Hsiao Ho Chun opera company (whose cast is all female). Bringing in Tsui Yen Hsieh (Kara Hui) to spice matters up, the direction the troupe now takes is not appreciated by all. All while gangsters, in particular Chang (Lau Siu-Ming) have their eyes on the beautiful girls and opposing forces trying to stop the gangsters befriends the troupe...

A very slight action-melodrama, much of the time even the above-average looking frame fails to connect. Having no problem getting his ladies to look good on-screen, translating this to weighty drama isn't Wu Ma's strength at all and while he does provide some fine, somber points about the dying art of opera, most viewers will walk away with thoughts of busy, hollow melodrama and with more fond memories of the Jackie Chan stunt team action scattered throughout. Also with Lam Ching-Ying, Waise Lee, Mars and Ken Lo.

Starry Is The Night (1988) Directed by: Ann Hui

A co-produced Shaw Brothers venture, Ann Hui blends romance with that pesky ache attached to it and politics that equals a package that goes way too non-distinct routes by posing as a mixture. Disconnect a strand or two and you've got yourself a very watchable, punishing drama. Switching her narrative between the 60s and 80s, To Caimei (Brigitte Lin) is a student that falls for her English teacher Dr. Cheung (George Lam). Eventually being found out and the teacher having to walk off in shame, we cut the 80s where Caomei is now a social worker due for a promotion. It hinges on the case of Tien-On (David Wu) but as Caomei dedicates herself to the energetic young man with a skill in hairdressing, feelings of love starts to arise and an age old pattern as well...

Keeping matters very low-key, rather boring and unintelligible for at least 45 minutes, I'm willing to play the "too dumb"-card against myself as I'm sure there's subtleties that take on substantial meaning, especially when every now and again mentioning the political climate of the respective eras. But slowly we see the emergence of a darker drama with Brigitte Lin's Caomei venturing into areas of a familiar kind and it's when the characters are the sole focus (and not events around them) that Starry Is The Night engages. Ann Hui's intentions with this mix are fairly clear but the outside eyes looking in finds the engagement in the smaller scope only. Therefore Derek Yee's role as a political activist doesn't travel but some of the ache does and cast is on board. Special mention performance-wise goes to David Wu and as a matter of fact George Lam who sinks his teeth deeper into this role than expected. John Woo appears briefly.

Step Into The Dark (1998) Directed by: Dick Cho & Wong Jing

Dr. Care Kwan (Lau Ching-Wan) not only gets the benefit of getting out of a demanding relationship with May May (Celine Ma) but strikes up a friendship with former patient Faith (Athena Chu) who a year earlier nearly lost her life after falling from a roof. It all seems very sugar sweet between them until people around Kwan starts to suspect Faith is a ghost and Kwan is being enchanted. You know what they say about ghost/human love. The TV ghost expert Sperm Loui (Simon Loui) does draw comparisons to masturbation and the triad society in that regard but Kwan and friend Leslie Cheung (Emotion Cheung) needs to enlist this obviously very inept expert despite...

Wong Jing's paws infect this deadly boring ghost story that seriously lacks energy and initiative. Going silly on us and thinking comedy will be achieved just because characters are a bit out there, a tired Titanic spoof follows and it's not long before we truly see the boredom in leads Lau and Chu's faces. There's not much romance to work with anyway and when the regular spooks turn up that years earlier even from Wong Jing meant some kind of low budget energy was nowhere to be found, Step Into The Dark is embarrassing in the way it hardly tries to conjure up even a minute spark. Also with Helena Law Lan, Ha Ping and Lee Siu-Kei.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

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