# 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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Five Friends Of Tai Po's (1989) Directed by: Chou Tan

So disconnected from its audience that you only ever notice two friends as the core of the story, Chou Tan's mix of young adults doing their utmost to desperately find love passes by without effect. Also preassured through poor situations in home lives, decisions on further education, the film is energetic and peppered with pop songs so certainly not as low in frequency as something like The Story Of Pei-Li by Chou Tan. But merely basic acknowedgement of what's even going on here as the latter reels involve a loyalty no matter thread is what one gets out of Five Friends Of Tai Po's.

Five Girls And A Rope (1992) Directed by: Yeh Hung-Wei

Co-produced by King Hu acting regular Hsu Feng, early images of the young girls dressed in red having hung themselves is a terrific, eerie start to trigger curiosity. And for a while, Yeh Hung-Wei (Home In My Heart) paints a tragic picture of some of these girls as they are stuck with tradition, village superstition and darkness that gets inflicted on either them or their friends. It's all very episodic, questionable in terms of the film deserving its darkness but the starkness combined with a static direction works for at least half a flick. But the difficulty in relating to customs on display and telling the characters apart ultimately makes Five Girls And A Rope outstay its welcome. The journey leading up to the deadly fates has its opportunities to shake you in a low-key way but director Yeh loses us over the course of the 2 hours, despite the final moments leading up to the opening reel shot being quite superbly eerie as well.

Five Shaolin Masters (1974) Directed by: Chang Cheh

Lensed in Taiwan by Chang Cheh's company (Chang's Film Co.) and distributed by Shaw Brothers, the stars that made films on the giant backlot may be there but this is scaled down to the point where it literally feels like one of many non-studio, independent productions. Not a bad thing as this mostly shot outdoors tale merely has an action-agenda. Thankfully there is a team here to make this assault of choreography fun and varied. Shaolin Temple has burned down and the Manchu's are pursuing the Han rebels. The group of characters David Chiang, Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun and Mang Fei plays ward off a number of attacks, join their fellow rebels and train in seclusion for a year in order to take on the primary Manchu oppressors for the 20 minute fight finale (the colorful team of Leung Kar-Yan, Fung Hak-On, Tsai Hung, Kong Do and the Han-betrayer played by Johnny Wang). That's your traditional template that despite a hefty running time greatly entertains because Lau Kar-Leung and Lau Kar-Wing's choreography is always exemplary. A variety of movie fighting styles and fun weapons are employed and it's a miracle that despite so much of the movie's quality resting on their shoulders that no martial arts ever bores. Stripped down kung-fu never felt better.

Five Superfighters (1979) Directed by: Joe Law

A teacher (Hau Chiu-Sing) is disgraced as he loses to a black caped villain (Kwan Fung) and his three students (Austin Wai, Tony Leung Siu-Hung & Ng Yuen-Jun) go away to train for a year. Finding a farmer woman, a fisherman and a drunken beggar, the combined effort of working for pay leads to combined acquired skill. Although clearly a desperate response by Shaw Brothers to bring the audiences the trendy type of kung fu comedy made popular by Jackie Chan and possessing no star power to make an impact, it's also wise to turn off the critical mind and appreciate that they had action director Hsu Hsia on board to deliver fine and corresponding trend elements in the form of martial arts.

The Five Venoms (1978) Directed by: Chang Cheh

a.k.a. Five Deadly Venoms and the Shaw Brother's movie alongside Lau Kar Leung's The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin that have enjoyed the most success internationally, particular in America where hip hop group Wu Tang-Clan subsequently drew inspiration from Chang Cheh's movie for their music.

I'm not complaining because this is more of a talky murder mystery than flat out martial arts picture. No, my mixed feelings about The Five Venoms stems from the fact that for most of the running time it isn't that much of an engaging picture. Everything's firmly in place though such as the high production values. The action choreography is intricate and features some fine hand to hand combat plus a bit of Wuxia trickery but a slow, talky start in the end turns out to be nothing more than a fairly cool Shaw Brother's film. The concept of the Venoms is a cool one and the demonstration sequence also seen in the trailer is a nice mood setter. Its reputation as a classic I think more comes from those who saw it initially in the 70s, and with the English dub but that's just my feeble theory.

The performers are adequate, especially Lo Meng, but special mention goes to Philip Kwok (billed as Kuo Chui back then) as The Lizard who brings a much needed personality to the film. Wei Pai, who worked well as a hero in John Woo's wonderful Last Hurrah For Chivalry, has an incredible forced nature to his acting and is downright awful when not performing action. Squinting does not make a a performance! I'm afraid I have to say, although I'm keeping it, The Five Venoms is overrated.

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Flash Future Kung Fu (1983) Directed by: Kirk Wong

Kirk Wong's multi-nominated sophomore effort is quite a puzzler. Expect comparisons to Mad Max, a futuristic battle between traditional martial arts and the neo-Nazi goons of the future. All set to a frenetic synthesizer score and embedded in rough production design. Arguably the latter is where Wong deserves his most acclaim. Clearly not a lot of budget came with this production and instead Wong simply decorates his future with lo-fi, strung-together equipment akin to what Brazil did shortly thereafter to cool effect. Wong almost seems to offer up an arthouse aura as dialogue is kept to a minimum, relying more on atmosphere and the mentioned score. The result is questionable as it certainly isn't much of a film but you stick with it, waiting to see what may come next as very few aspects registers as conventional, even coming from Hong Kong cinema! Eddy Ko, Johnny Wang, Ray Lui stars and Elvis Tsui appears briefly in a fighting role.

Flirting In The Air (2014, Aman Chang)

One of the rare Wong Jing productions (he served as writer here too) of this modern era that gets its comedic and parody-intentions right. A group of confident, overly sexual pilots (Chapman To, Lam Tze-Chung and Dominic Ho) gets sent back in time where things get meta as they encounter Stephen Chow's character from Flirting Scholar and the cartoony shenanigans are on. Shot in a very vibrant way and well handled by Aman Chang, it's not easy to just go for the cartoony nature (and especially one channeling Stephen Chow's comedic style of the past) but the tone is largely correct. Fast, out of control gags come and go, anchored by a confident Chapman To and playful, visual style. It seems thin on plot but the basics acting as springboard for situations rarely feel strained or done in an overly desperate way to please. Especially successful when bringing on Charlie Cho's character, he essentially becomes a variation of Tom from the 'Tom And Jerry' cartoon mixed in with his usual, lecherous screen image in a variety of rude gags that are low but funny (the nipple chewing scene for instance). It can feel like a way too local film and hard to penetrate but Flirting In The Air still is successful at what it wants to do. And despite the retro throwback, it isn't Wong Jing on repeat for once.

Flirtong Scholar (1993) Directed by: Lee Lik-Chi

Released in Hong Kong as Flirtong Scholar (I'll go out on a limb and say it's a typo), Lee Lik-Chi lets the curtain rise and we're into led very typical Hong Kong nonsense comedy, with the verbal dexterity of lead Stephen Chow at center. Now, Flirtong Scholar is really a perfect example of why Chow's film can't or shouldn't travel. A Western viewer such as myself remains constantly on guard, trying to figure out why over the top behaviour of characters and muddled subtitles are direct references locals would catch onto and hail as comedic scenarios of masterpiece status. Yep, there seems to be a lot of that and Chow never makes a secret that his jokes are going to be Cantonese in nature. Still, I think, and I repeat that... I THINK credit still must go out to the filmmakers for making an ounce of the comedic behaviour and in-joke structure travel to the extent that a Western viewer may think of it as off-beat in an entertaining way. It's problematic if you want it to be.

But there's silliness in the expected UN-expected rapid pace jokes, something Chow rarely has a problem nailing. Add onto that some new wave kung fu action and special effects of the Zu-kind and you've got yourself a local comedy with luggage that does arrive in torn but workable condition when reaching the West. I recommend trying it on. The film also possesses the welcome cast of Gong Li, Cheng Pei-Pei, Gordon Lau, James Wong, Kingdom Yuen, Francis Ng and Leung Kar Yan.

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Floating City (2012) Directed by: Yim Ho

Yim Ho's (Kitchen) return to filmmaking after a 7 year gap for whatever reason, he has Aaron Kwok's Bo Wah-Chuen recap his story for Floating City. Being adopted, half Caucasian, half Chinese and also part of the ethnic group called the Tanka people, his destiny in life looks to be living on a fishing boat with his family but he works his way up the ladder eventually at the Imperial East India Company. But is this a way to solve his identity struggle? Certainly a not often examined ethnic group in Hong Kong cinema but even a familiar dramatic template is alluring if Yim Ho is in charge of it. For half a movie he doesn't seem to believe in his own skill though. Riddled with voice over from Bo, a lot of the imagery is scored, stylized and way before we even get a grasp on the emotions surrounding characters (Bo and his wife to be played by Charlie Yeung for instance). It takes half a movie before Yim Ho settles down, turns down the volume before we can appreciate this clearly conveyed story. Bo's journey isn't particularly emotional or gripping but we're with it to a decent degree thanks to Aaron Kwok's performance (much of it in English) and his one on one scenes with his mother (Pau Hei-Ching) sprinkled throughout shows Yim Ho at his strongest. Injecting very loosely written characters like Annie Liu's temptress and the Kwok-Yeung marriage being very unexplored, at times the fragmented storytelling works. At other times we're meant to figure out too much and Yeong is a performer that gets the fragmented treatment to the point where she verges on being poor in the movie. It's swift at 100 minutes but it perhaps needed more.

The Flock (2007) Directed by: Andrew Lau

Having been let go of his job as an employee at the department of public safety, Erroll Babbage (Richard Gere) has been tracking down and following sex offenders to the point where he occasionally turns to assault. Becoming a monster with only enough humanity in him basically. Training his replacement Allison Lowry (Claire Danes), the two go on a hunt for a sex offender in Babbage's registry that might be connected to the case of a missing girl...

Reportedly a troubled production that saw Andrew Lau leaving or being let go off his first English language project before completion, subsequently there was barely any cinema release for The Flock and it's now merely enjoying a fairly obscure dvd life. Also released in different versions in America and Europe (latter adds about 10 minutes and is reportedly more of a director's cut), what's clear is that Lau is back in his harshest territory since 1994's Raped By An Angel. Surprising and a bit intriguing considering Lau's stock was elevated via Infernal Affairs rather than his Wong Jing produced exploitation vehicle. With bearable clichés of a character soon to be retiring, training a new version of himself and being in general burnt out, Lau chooses to romance the trigger happy style of a Tony Scott. It's therefore hyper, constantly manipulated images on display but for the gritty tone setting up the darkness of Babbage's world and mind, it could be argued Lau is on to something here. On to and deserving of a bigger audience for the movie too? Nah. It's competent but standard serial killer fare that evokes the tough surroundings (sex offenders, fetishes, S & M etc) the likes of Se7en brought more masterfully. Even though there's deeper interest via lines with key words such as "... sees the human condition for what it is" and Richard Gere going admirably intense (one of his past cases he deems a failure for himself so hello... redemption-time!), The Flock has trouble differentiating itself literally from the rest of the flock. So therefore when the dust of trouble has settled, this was never going to make a dent on the box office and dvd life is barely keeping it alive. For those of us who are expecting very little with Andrew Lau alone in the director's chair however, the territory covered is beforehand an intriguing prospect but the excitement fades quickly and is soon forgotten. Avril Lavigne appears briefly.

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