# 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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To Kill A Mastermind (1979) Directed by: Sun Chung

Only available in the ZiiEagle Movie Box, Sun Chung's 1979 Wuxia was one of the Shaw Brothers favourites that fell through the gaps (i.e. ignored or forgotten) by Celestial and IVL during their run of Shaw Brothers releases on dvd and vcd. A shame because largely To Kill A Mastermind comes through as a cool little movie with elements that'll stay with you and certain that won't. Essentially a story about finding the traitor in a clan of thieves and murderers, Sun Chung populates the movie with many indistinct characters and no real standout main one so you realize focus could and should be on other elements. Surprisingly, that is sufficient as style and design is top notch (the underground lair holds many cool surprises), there's a gory edge that is welcome and Tong Gaai choreographs a ton of cool action. Main highlight being the 2 on 1 finale with among others Johnny Wang. Yuen Wah, Dick Wei, Ku Feng and Dang Wai-Ho also appear.

To Kill With Intrigue (1977, Lo Wei)

Jackie's time under contract with the Lo Wei Motion Picture Company is about progression and development. Mostly evident in the martial arts movies, sometimes painfully not and the same is true for the duo's attempt at plot- and character heavy Wuxia (courtesy of writer Ku Long). To Kill With Intrigue is the best of the Wuxia films they did however, even though it is flirting with a way too talky narrative and expansive running time. A few interesting plot beats occur, with Jackie Chan's Hsiao Lei being spared by Ting Chan Yen (Hsu Feng) as her objects for revenge were his parents. Now she wants to see him suffer in the aftermath but she also becomes an aid in his search for his pregnant girlfriend (Yu Ling-Lung).

Ku Long doesn't go completely overboard with plot developments and Lo Wei works at the level of basic storyteller here. But combined with generally fun tools of the trade of the opponents in the martial world and select high flying feats, his frame is a bit livelier than usual. Even some of the set- and costume design breaks through and adds flavor to the world (usually Lo Wei couldn't escape the shadow of his low budgets). Jackie mostly stays with grounded action design for his character, injecting a good sense of power in his hand to hand encounters and select weapons action adds a nice sense of fluidity. The primal, animalistic ending (looking like it was shot at the same time as Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin judging by Jackie's hair) makes us think less of the flying heroes of a Wuxia and more about Jackie's continual transition into a more watchable kung fu performer. And all of a sudden To Kill With Intrigue isn't bothersome or an odd fit but rather, to see Jackie in this enhanced setting becomes fairly immersive.

To Live (1994, Zhang Yimou)

The world was listening and anticipating Zhang Yimou's next movie after Raise The Red Lantern and Ju Duo made an impact internationally. What he delivered was To Live, based on the novel by Yu Hua, and set over the course of four decades (the movie starts in the 1940s) in a China transitioning into revolution and change. Ge You's Fugui gambles away his family's fortune and his wife Jiazhen (Gong Li) can't stand by anymore watching him destroy his life. After hitting rock bottom, he gains the support of his wife again but is unwillingly swept up in the bloody conflicts of revolution, survives and tries to adjust to new times of politics, policy and tragedy.

Zhang Yimou crafts a very engrossing family drama that doesn't skimp on the professionalism and certainly features some bigger vistas at points but true to form, his strength is character in settings shot with a straightforward cinematic tactic in mind. Especially confident in dropping enough beats for the story to advance and then pushing months and years ahead into it (all without drastically and unnaturally changing the appearance of his lead actors until the 70s portion), it's fascinating watching a world in motion around a family who just wants to be happy but also not be seen as not following party-line. It's policy and a new China doing its best to affect them in a tragic manner both directly and indirectly. This is possibly where Zhang Yimou got into trouble and was denied a theatrical release in China as he doesn't paint the the country as one that favours every, devout family. If you list content, it would seem To Live is a melodrama bomb waiting to go off but Zhang keeps it in check, evolves and involves through his natural touch and our affection for in particular Ge You's fall as a man of principle is strong. The words 'to live' echoes strongly in the movie and becomes an emotional thread thanks to direction, acting and a reserved, natural technique throughout.

To Live and Die in Tsimshatsui (1994) Directed by: Andrew Lau

image stolen with permission from lovehkfilm.com

Once upon a time, Andrew Lau treated us to the excellent and moody cinematography on Ringo Lam's City On Fire. In 1994, he was back telling a similar story, only this time directing under the producing reigns of Wong Jing. Having said that, To Live And Die In Tsimshatsui emerges as an interesting triad picture.

While Lau often thoroughly spells out the main themes, such as what true loyalty actually means and the torment of being detached from your reality, the proceedings remain effective thanks to a very good central performance by Jacky Cheung as the undercover cop Lik. Equally of importance is sections talking about patching of family connections and it all comes with extremely little humour (considering Wong Jing is backing Andrew Lau yet again). The actual power struggle plot, with over the top characterizations for both the triad bosses and the cop superiors, is standard and holds no interest however. One silly element that also enters here is the portrayal of the very young and carefree triad punks but here Lau bounces back with some disturbing casual violence on their behalf, sealing a commentary that is memorable. Tony Leung Kar-Fai, Roy Cheung, Shing Fui-On and Wu Chien-Lien also offers up fine support.

Buy the VCD at:
Yesasia.com

To Love Ferrari (1994) Directed by: Ricky Chan

All over the map of moods, even the most die hard, desensitized Hong Kong cinema fan often appreciating/accepting contrasting content being flung at them would have a difficult time with To Love Ferrari. The majority of the time a story of dreams, Ferrari or Siu Mun (Vivian Chow) dreams of being a singer and to own the titular car. Raised by her older brother Sam who runs a nightclub, he tries to protect her from the bad eggs of our world. I guess he forgot to watch out for the dopes as Bill and Columbus (first WTF-sign of the movie) fight over her love. Literally and of course it leads to Siu Mun being pushed into a jukebox and going blind in the process (as these things usually go). Right. Furthermore, she's given a stab at a recording career as setup by the idiot duo and then there's drug dealers hovering in and around Sam's club. It leads to a kidnapping situation where Siu Mun and her friends kung fu-dance their way out of the situation, followed by more melodrama and the tally of songs (around 6 or 7 and to give props, the beats are infectious during said kung fu-dance scene) by Vivian Chow of course means this illogical madness is an excuse to make a very long MV. Even going as far as mixing it into Dolby, any attempts at a serious fall and rise story with distinct characteristics is lost underneath the mighty silly randomness of moods that for once doesn't charm. Capping it with a concert scene where the fans are as energetic as SLOW zombies (and about 20 in total), by the end the filmmakers just want quickly out of there. Maybe if they were trying to send up melodrama and action movies, the ill logic would've totally worked in their favour.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Tom, Dick & Hairy (1993) Directed by: Peter Chan & Lee Chi-Ngai

image stolen with permisson from lovehkfilm.com

UFO had begun raking in the money by this point and with this light, star-filled relationship comedy, the success wasn't grinding to a halt. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is Tom, set to marry Joyce (Jay Lau) but finds himself lusting for clubgirl Cat (Ann Bridgewater). Dick (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) changes girls every night but he keeps coming back to Fong (Anita Yuen) and perhaps will realize too late the actual comfort he feels with her. Hairy/Georgio Mao (Lawrence Cheng) struggles to attract love of any kind, even doubting his own sexuality and he engages in a relationship with Michelle (Michael Chow).

Defined types and while all solutions aren't all neat and happy, much that happens is to be expected so Tom, Dick & Hairy doesn't score points for originality. Sometimes very frank sexually and breaking into singing and dancing at one point, usually the proceedings, even the more somber ones, are helped along by an engaging troupe of actors. Especially Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Ann Bridgewater help keep the soap opera drama buoyant. Amusing tangents surrounding sexual frustration (the character appear as their libidos, by simply appearing in bald caps) and Cheng's character accidentally learning French instead of English gets a neat pay-off. Athena Chu also appears.

Tongs A Chinatown Story (1986) Directed by: Phillip Chan

A US/Hong Kong co-production, this mostly English language gangster tale has a few novelties that you can take in and therefore make yourself endure the generic nature on display but that's about it. Micky Li (Simon Yam) comes over to New York with brother Paul (Larry Tan), who's actually smuggled drugs into the country. Micky tries to attend school but is caught in the eyeline of the Red Eagle gang. When refusing their invitation to join, he's a marked man but along with a few friends Micky becomes a violent force in the Chinatown gang wars...

Against a political backdrop showcased just so we can get an epic sense of the story of Mickey and Paul, in actuality director Phillip Chan (Hard Boiled and the man behind the underrated Night Caller) has nothing to offer but a very uninteresting rise and fall gangster-tale. The New York location work is compelling as well as some of the violence but it's clear the material, as well intended as it may be, has little chance to matter. For me, few tales in the same mold do. Among Hong Kong's bit players from the time, we see Ga Lun and Ricky Yi.

Top Banana Club (1996) Directed by: Anthony Wong

Anthony Wong's second and currently last stint as a director initially seems to go more straight roads, dropping the abstract excess of New Tenant. However, Dayo Wong and Vivian Chow's romance doesn't remain pleasing for very long. Sure there are points here about conversions into christianity but centering its stories around call-in's to the radio show Banana Club (where the principal actors appear in different roles), Wong continues venturing into two more plots, with somewhat of a central theme being relationships. It still becomes so scattershot, self indulgent and impenetrable that you almost begin to sniff out the real reason of Wong's for making this mess. I.e. cast a bunch of your friends in multiple roles and just mess around, throwing in-jokes at us that should've remained that within the circle of friends. If being very forgiving, elements such as Dayo Wong playing a suicidal mom, overdone breast enlargements, re-enactment of The Crying Game and PSA's for wearing condoms may rank as bizarre humour to carry Top Banana Club into entertaining territory. But I simply can't and if this is a look into the mind of one of Hong Kong's finest actors, I think I speak for all that he should remain true to his character-acting, being steered by someone else. Also with Jerry Lamb, Anita Lee, Esther Kwan and Lee Siu-Kei.

The Top Bet (1991) Directed by: Jeff Lau & Corey Yuen

The sequels, spin off's and prequels in this new wave of gambling movies already got complicated by the time The Top Bet came onto the scene. A sequel to Stephen Chow's breakthrough movie All For The Winner, Wong Jing had already sort of continued the exploits of Shing (Chow), and Uncle Tat (Ng Man Tat) in God Of Gamblers II. The Top Bet doesn't mix together two different movies with different characters however and simply continues on where All For The Winner left off. Stephen Chow even shot a cameo to lead Shing onto new adventurers but the trade off we get headlining this vehicle is a terrific one; Carol "Do Do" Cheng.

Cheng plays a conwoman nicknamed the Queen Of Gamblers whose non-powers is quickly revealed by a Mainland gambling magician (Anita Mui) who herself is out to bring down Shing. Everybody become friends however and battles together against Hung Kwung (Paul Chun reprising his villain role from All For The Winner) once more...

Manic, tasteless, thoroughly silly and completely surreal trademark Hong Kong comedy dominate The Top Bet in addition to an action set piece where Anita Mui shines. It's a matter of taste, also a matter of getting used to and perhaps it's better to watch The Top Bet with many Stephen Chow and Hong Kong comedies under your belt. It's my theory anyway but no one can take away the fact that Jeff Lau and Corey Yuen crafts hilarious results from the fast paced proceedings. Carol Cheng's rapid fire delivery of dialogue and spunky presence more than makes up for Chow's absence while the new and returning cast are all on board for the silly antics. A sizeable supporting cast includes Sandra Ng, Shing Fui-On, Kenny Bee, Woo Fung, Yuen Wah, Anthony Chan, Lau Chun, Lowell Lo, Tai Bo, Jeff Lau & Corey Yuen.

Megastar's old dvd edition lacked subtitles for the scenes playing out over the end credits. Thankfully Deltamac got wind of this and rectified the problem on their dvd. Be sure to check out the Hong Kong trailer that contains material shot specifically for it, outtakes and behind the scenes footage.

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

The Top Lady Of Sword (1993) Directed by: Wong Hong

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Kung-fu brothers Au Lung and Wong Hu arrive in the big town only to be looked down upon as country-men, not knowing the new rules of the martial arts world. One of them longs for more power after this judgment while the other has to side with the townsfolk to bring down the deceptive, power hungry force that is now created...

Better than decent wire-fu spectacle from Taiwan that despite its lack of much in terms of funds and star power manages to create a fun, high flying time. Odd dips such as a sporadic appearance by Wong Fei-Hung and greatly annoying side characters doesn't help and truth be told, there's not much dramatic engagement available despite director Wong Hong pushing for it. Action director Chan Yiu-Lun pushes correctly though and aside from some wonky wirework, the mix of grounded swordplay, flying swordplay and a huge amount of pyrotechnics (our evil brother learns to be the master-blaster basically) is enough to warrant The Top Lady of Sword a respectable place within the new wave genre filmmaking it belongs to. Cynthia Khan and Kenneth Tsang appears in support. Also known as Lady Chrysanthemum Sword.

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