# 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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Shy Spirit (1991) Directed by: Chong Yan-Gin

Predicted at birth to not last more than 24 years of life, although he will mature on the outside quite quickly, Long-Life (Eric Tsang) has his family deviously arrange a wedding with the local but poor beauty Siao. But peeping at her taking a bath one night causes the ceiling to collapse, killing Siao but not her spirit as Long-Life literally takes her breath away containing it. It's now up to the good family of the town, Mr. Ko (Chung Fat) and his son (Ngai Sing) to get Siao reincarnated but Long-Life isn't giving up without a fight...

Lam Ching-Ying appears at the very beginning only and the remainder of Shy Spirit turns out to be rather insignificant. While the martial arts is a big component of the film, whenever it seems to go cool and creative, shoddy wirework takes over. It doesn't help that the finale contains obvious breakaway props to the max and while there's the odd fun after-life scenario, Shy Spirit never goes off. Only remains stale. Peter Chan Lung plays Eric Tsang's father (!) while Dick Wei and Stanley Fung also appear.

Silent Love (1986) Directed by: David Chiang

Despite the English directing credit saying John Chiang, Silent Love is actually Shaw Brother's star David Chiang's 7th feature as director. A social drama, Chiang plants the seed of darkness early as deaf Heung (Season Ma - The Lunatics) is imprisoned for manslaughter. What follows is the story of her and her pickpocket deaf/mute friends meeting ex-con Kelly (Lau Ching Wan in a very relaxed movie debut) and perhaps finally being encouraged to give up the lives as outlaws...

But director Chiang's story is about hopeless outcasts and as the violent act draws near, it's easy to spot that there's no true salvation in the film. The study is very much worthwhile and featuring characters relying on sign language to such a great extent is a directorial challenge Chiang does well in. The social commentary and its examination is a bit on the slight side though and Silent Love never really goes beyond interesting territory. The directing gene in brother Derek Yee was and is more prominent but Chiang proved to be a worthy behind the camera talent, none more so than in his last feature Mother of A Different Kind. Also with Fan Siu Wong, Roy Cheung and Lam Chung.

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Silver Maid (1969) Directed by: Fu Nan-Du

Although personally at a disadvantage somewhat due to the cropped print also cutting off most of the subtitles, you can extract the basics out of Silver Maid and certainly how it does as a Taiwanese fantasy spectacle. Because here we're talking a visual ride amidst a rival sect plot (the Red and Black Devils respectively) and one of the biggest draws in Silver Maid is its ideas in infancy. Not shy about throwing big concepts up on screen without extensive special effects knowhow or experience, the enhanced fighting (unless we're talking little Silver Maid herself and her ability to walk on water and fire) takes a backseat to among other things a fight with a snake (puppet) and while slow and clunky, there's admirable energy here. A cinema that's feeling its way through an existing genre. Only this time they want it bigger and more energetic. In 1969 it's not quite there but combined with a a possible viewer-fascination for the development and the colors the genre can offer up, Silver Maid is worth a look.

Silver Hawk (2004) Directed by: Jingle Ma

Silver Hawk is the crime fighter doing things her way, employing her own principles and behind the mask is rich Lulu Wong (Michelle Yeoh, also producer). Annoying police by simply being first on the scene every time, childhood friend Rich Man (Richie Ren) is the cop out to nail her. A kidnapping case but ultimately world domination via phones courtesy of Alexander Wolfe (Luke Goss - Blade II) keeps them busy...

A bright, silver-like (literally) attempt at futuristic comic book action, going into Silver Hawk with the big budget, international dud that was the Michelle Yeoh vehicle The Touch in mind certainly lowers expectations. So as flawed, ridiculous, dumb and ridiculously dumb Silver Hawk is, director Jingle Ma actually does show some skill in maintaining the fun and cool of the premise. With concepts such as Silver Hawk jumping The Great Wall on her bike and featuring Alien Sit choreographed fights of varying quality, the movie is a vehicle that often tries to survive by being loud. The action choreography when clear is all about the one or two kicks in slow motion set to pounding, generic techno while any move by anyone is accompanied by something boring from the library of whoosh-cues. Playing the movie out suitably light still ruins any chances as the largely English language performed dialogue is terrible and terribly performed. It's basically the Alien Sit show for two action scenes that matches the need for over the top behaviour to this universe. One has Silver Hawk taking on fighters on bungy chords and later in the same environment, it's henchmen on rollerblades with steel hockeysticks. Luke Goss has a suitable design as a villain with bionic arms as well and the ending pyro show not only entertains that way but in between has some cool cinematic moments that shows Jingle Ma is a director with it in him. Problem is, lighting up for a second or two doesn't help anyone and Silver Hawk needed a ton of bricks of more cool to clinch its goals. Deservedly so it bombed at the box office but low expectations at least makes you remember the 5 minutes that weren't abysmal. Also with Brandon Chang as the chairman of the Silver Hawk fanclub, Michael Jai White and Li Bing-Bing.

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Silver Knife, Scarlet Blade (1969, Wong Fung)

Petrina Fung and Sek Kin do make an impression, mostly thanks to lifelong, legendary status. But despite a swordplay genre having seen groundbreaking efforts over at Shaw Brothers at the same time, this Kin Shing Film Company production possesses little but good costumes and in reality is too primitive to further the genre. Largely talky and providing no real genre noise until Fung and Sek Kin square off at the end, it's only here Lau Kar-Leung's action becomes a bit more active with creative violence and wire-work. Even at 82 minutes, it's still a long sit.

Simply Actors (2007, Chan Hing-Kar & Patrick Leung)

After bringing his over the top style quite successfully in bit- and supporting roles for Pang Ho-Cheung (You Shoot, I Shoot, Men Suddenly In Black), stage actor Jim Chim gets a lead role here as a policeman who dreams of being an actor and goes to acting school as part of an undercover assignment. Cue overacting and the desire to reach inside the movie begging Jim to take it down one thousand notches or simply just STOP IT! As a devotee to the craft his particular, sometimes misguided, overthinking way, there are shades of the much better King of Comedy and Chim does not get away with adopting an extreme persona. Because his character and the journey (that does include drama) gets on your nerves to the point of unlikeability and any intent of our dual directors goes out the window when Chim is as noisy as he is. Pairing him up with a softcore porn actress (played by Charlene Choi) mostly works because Choi is charming and clearly not too precious about her image (there's nothing sexual embedded in the part as such though). But with a 2 hour running time and a character path obscured by a clown, Chim's antics in theatre may work very well but hogging the screen the way he does here isn't right for the spotlight film provides. A few jokes about rooftop meetings between undercover policemen and their superiors land if you know of some of the most famous Hong Kong movies ever (about two thirds of the Hong Kong entertainment industry provide cameos too) and comedy is effective when for instance Chapman To impersonates Eric Tsang and his role in Infernal Affairs. But Simply Actors feels more like a Lunar New Year comedy and could've been forgiven in some areas if so. But since it isn't and it begs us to engage in a vehicle featuring Jim Chim, it promptly sinks as a result.

The Singing Escort (1969, Inoue Umetsugu)

Fielding offers from a variety of people, Lin Chong and his bandmates agree to go to Japan to look up the daughter of their boss. She turns out to be Susan played by Betty Ting Pei and out of all women looking to land Lin Chong, he ultimately only has eyes for Susan. Inoue Umegetsu goes the musical-route again shooting in Japan, showcasing decent eye for active, vibrant and a colorful frame. Cast is upbeat and acting exaggerated to go along with tone and impromptu singing numbers and for a while technical chops, material that isn't challenging audiences makes for harmless entertainment. Premise is a bit too thin to sustain momentum though and certainly anytime half a dozen women are after Lin Chong it showcases a middling gag that's dragged out. Plus, the core romance isn't even basically engaging and our couple look rather mismatched. Underwater finale adds a little visual life to proceedings that are fairly fast paced regardless.

The Singing Killer (1970, Chang Cheh)

Revisiting a modern and musical angle after The Singing Thief (1969), Chang Cheh demonstrates once again that experimentation is healthy but that his true comfort lies in martial arts and swordplay (where he elevated genre and truly expanded his filmmaking). There’s welcome stylistic excursions and violence here but The Singing Killer is rather half-hearted. David Chiang is pop star Johnny who successfully escaped his criminal past. Or so he thought as his old crew forces him to take part in a jewelry heist. In return, they may reveal where Johnny’s girlfriend Lily (Wang Ping) is located though.

There’s groovy singing and dancing as David Chiang lip syncs to high energy numbers in a low energy manner but I suppose the downtrodden, sorrowful or even mopey act is there for us to feel Johnny’s longing for Lily. Chang Cheh isn’t bad at this simplicity or those clichés usually but it doesn’t come to life here. The contrast to the singing and dancing in the form of cinematography right out of Mario Bava's Black Sabbath and gleeful villains is fairly interesting though and the looming edge and tension expectedly leads to violence. Some hand to hand fighting is orchestrated by Tong Kai and Lau Kar-Leung but we mainly walk away with a favorable impression of the gunplay. Both shocking, sudden deaths linger but also active physicality in the action scenes not dissimilar to what John Woo went on to do. 2 years later he would become an assistant director for Chang Cheh and who knows if The Singing Killer had been viewed independently by the young Woo. Working side by side with a filmmaker that explored brotherhood, loyalty and friendships certainly rubbed off on him. Also with Tina Chin Fei, Dean Shek, Chen Sing, Ku Feng and Stanley Fung as the detective on Johnny’s case.

The Singing Thief (1969, Chang Cheh)

From a year where Chang Cheh had six movies released (including the sequel to One-Armed Swordsman and the contemporary youth drama in Dead End), things get decidedly groovy with The Singing Thief. Jimmy Lin stars as Diamond Poon who's got a taste for singing, stealing and women. When an imposter called The Flying Thief is trying to pin crimes on Poon, he has to evade a clumsy police force and seek refuge with friend Wang Guoji (played by Lo Lieh, who himself and his jewelry might be a potential target). Befriending the mysterious and rich Fang Darling (Lily Ho) sets in motion the attempt to untangle the mystery of who wants to bring Poon down.

With colorful flair indicative of the decade and multiple sing- and dance-numbers, Chang Cheh takes a step away from the Wuxia movie he made famous. Don't expect brooding heroes or sadistic bloodshed here but instead mostly a light tone with a confident character at center. Easily avoiding capture by the police (who are often mocked by children as well), the production looks dashing and vibrant and the movie gets a decent amount of energy from lead Jimmy Lin. Despite a bumper car meeting between him and Lily Ho and a police chase in the same arena, Chang Cheh isn't turning The Singing Thief an experiment in desperation to please with comedy. He sets the tone to breezy as we move from location to location and the eye popping, playful design that goes with it. But not eager to please also means he's not terribly eager to kickstart his plot either and the film doesn't feel very tight in the long run. The switch to action and even bloody violence (now the film looks more like a Chang Cheh picture and they're even running around on film sets within the film such as the outdoor bridge from the end of Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman) isn't that convincing either. Nor is the revelation of key plot elements but The Singing Thief becomes the film from that year of Chang Cheh's where you can exhale and relax if you're open to variation and experimentation in a filmmaker's work. Not essential however and it's understandable that Chang Cheh didn't let this tone and content take over his work. Also starring Essie Lin.

Sino-Dutch War 1661 (2001) Directed by: Wu Zi-Nu

Depicting the "Siege of Fort Zeelandia" in 1661 and 1662 that when it came to a close meant the Dutch East India Company surrendered rule over Taiwan. The assault in the movie is lead by Ming loyalist Zheng Cheng-Gong (Vincent Zhao) who's witnessed his dynasty fade away to the point where his father is even surrendering to the Ching. This lean epic (clocking in at a mere 100 minutes) mostly strikes chords of entertainment and is more of a quick run through of key events (accurate or not) but nonetheless is a ride worth taking. Director Wu Zi-Nu is no stranger to dealing with history with big images thanks to the likes of Don't Cry, Nanking a few years earlier. By choice (and getting away with it) creating a good chunk of Sino-Dutch War 1661 as a melodrama, it's still passable drama thanks to this brave stance of letting emotions flow. All this refers to the breakdown of the family, what choices are made in the face of a fading rule and where loyalty leads you. Sure it's patriotic but not distracting flag waving and Wu Zi-Nu's battle images are equal to rough, gritty and impressively staged on the grand scale (mostly true of the sea battle that dominates the finale).

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