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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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The Supernormal II (1993) Directed by: Lo Ting-Git

More of the same in the sequel to the notably successful 1992 documentary, Edward Lee quickly guides us through various tangents on possession across Asia. Amping the grisly sights this time around via footage of ceremonies surrounding possession and participants striking themselves bloody but not feeling pain, photographs of decayed corpses said to be vampires and a healing ceremony towards the very end where the leader of the congregation performs surgery then and there to remove ailments (fake or not, it looks nasty). Also brining back Joyce Ngai as his co-host but also actress Lily Chung for company and re-enactments of the darker aspects of possession, some of what can be picked up in The Supernormal II IS interesting and is not to be looked down upon but for a second time in a row there seems to be a flimsiness inherited in the production. Cutting down on content and pace could've produced a smoother, sometimes eerie insight into superstition and supernatural encounters.

Supreme Sword (1969, Ling Yun)

Nothing much in the way of a new take on the swordplay genre occurs in Supreme Sword. But its low budget nature, certainly Cantonese synch sound and stars leads to decent effort and sincerity trying to depict the age old cycle of revenge within the martial world. Leaning on tropes therefore and melodramatic acting, the movie does get off to a fast start with Connie Chan slicing and dicing her way through opponents. Slowing down and featuring less action therefore, when Walter Tso's beggar character turns up to then reveal (to the surprise of no one) he's a swordsman of note with a backstory, the movie can't lean very effectively on the verbal interaction and Supreme Sword ultimately comes off as merely a perfectly ordinary swordplay movie. Lau Kar-Leung and Tong Gaai's action is fairly impressive however, achieving complexity and speed working with Connie Chan in particular. Also starring Sek Kin.

Survival Of A Dragon (1981, Lin Ying)

Other than the novel idea of going from modern martial arts action to time travel film and hence a detour into Wuxia, Survival Of A Dragon (IFD re-title, possible original title being 'Hero From The Wind Tunnel') has trouble with the genre shake-up it's trying to craft. The fish out of water humour on both sides (i.e. the visitor to the Sung Dynasty and the visitor to modern times) feels rather phoned in and certainly the interaction rather stale and hollow. With conflict brewing in the competitive world of track and field and despite a tone that's meant to be light, its novel angle is all the movie have for about a fourth. The rest only lights up via a few instances of complex action choreography, with the highlight being the acrobatic nature of the cast and stuntmen. Starring Alan Lau, Lee Lieh, Li Chien-Ping and Wei Ping-Ao.

The Sweet And Sour Cops (1981) Directed by: Norman Law

Spending more time and creative juice on the animated opening credits, the rest of The Sweet And Sour Cops is just classically bad and grating Hong Kong cinema where filmmakers try to rely on the skit format and a vague narrative framework. In this case it's the goofy cop movie where the duo of Liu Wai-Hung and Kent Cheng are mostly incapable, clumsy, unlucky in love, worst friends in the next to last reel only to become besties again and they solve an actual crime by the end. Since Norman Law (Gun Is Law, A Hearty Response) throws so much of these bit pieces at us, some laughter is ensured but far, far, far from enough to ensure a snappy 90 minutes. Since the actors only show chemistry during those brief, sparse bits that do work, the dud-factor of The Sweet And Sour Cops is apparent and it's never a feeling that goes away. A sequel followed the year after.

Sweet Peach (1993) Directed by: Lau Siu-Gwan

Sex and some plot. I.e. the creative process by Lau Siu-Gwan (Hero Dream) leading Sweet Peach into the booming 90s Category III trend of Hong Kong cinema. Connecting quite a big character gallery to Stuart Ong and Tsui Man-Wah ruining several characters for their financial gain, that minimum thread is the representation of plot here. Rest is a surprisingly entertaining and fast mix of static direction, lifeless and unconvincing sex (where you can even spot the actors laughing in an endeering moment). Adding melodrama, some violence, action and rape for largely unwarranted reasons, Sweet Peach gets by thanks to its insistance to be something it knew beforehand oddly enough. Also with Rena Otomo, Chan Pooi-Kei, Dennis Tang and Charlie Cho in a rare dark role.

Sweet Surrender (1986) Directed by: Frankie Chan

Ko (Frankie Chan) is a barber who was previously married into the family headed by stern father played by Ku Feng. The daughter Youth (Shirley Lui), and therefore Ko's sister in-law, is free spirited and begins taking a liking to Ko. Naturally them hanging out as much as they do leads to romance. A tricky notion considering their relation and status in the family...

Believe it or not, Frankie Chan takes at least two thirds of the movie to make this simple plot coherent! Before that, there's evidence of an unfocused 80s experience, only lacking the CHARMING, unfocused 80s charms. Hanging out with Youth, Youth's extensive circle of very eclectic friends, going go-carting...it all sounds like mindless fun but faced with close to a 100 minute running time (at least 10 minutes too much), thankfully director Chan begins injecting slight bearable cinema towards the end. He has veterans Ku Feng and Sek Kin to thank for that. The themes surrounding family comes to life and the Ku Feng character has his self-realizations, which is wonderfully, albeit in a standard way, handled by the veteran. Melodrama seems naturally unavoidable but at least we understand it and are even entertained by the minor stunt component of the flick as well. Sweet Surrender could've been much more though if Chan had been a charismatic lead and if Shirley Lui had been geared towards being peppy, free and compelling in an actual way throughout. Paul Chun is the dopey, detective brother with a gun, Lee Heung-Kam the mother while Charlie Cho, Wu Fung and Shum Wai also turn up. Someone named Wong Kar-Wai co-wrote the script.

The Sword (1971) Directed by: Poon Lui

Part of Crash Cinema's Unearthed Classic range, Poon Lui (a Shaw Brother's director before and since) creates a stunning piece of independent Wuxia, worthy of all the reputation it has worked up, especially in the light of this 2007 dvd release. Reportedly preparing the film for over a year, The Sword is meticulously created, pushing the limited indie budget well with sets and costumes being of the highest order. At heart also, it's not even about the action solely but an uncommonly (for the genre) complex portrayal of the consequences of obsession, embodied by Jimmy Wang Yu's Hsio Ho Wei. Son of a general, he stands in the way of his family crossing over to join the new empire. All he cares for are his swords however...

Jimmy logs perhaps his finest performance alongside the outcast Fang Kang in One-Armed Swordsman here, being in the shoes of a man rebelling in his own way but utilizing his position as part of the wealthy elite. However it's a tricky character who IS seeing things one-sided and perhaps will do less so via lessons learned along the way, be it philosophical ones or in battle. Perhaps is the key mystery word and Poon Lui neatly captures interest of those of us willing to listen as the piece revolves greatly around dialogue passages. With atmosphere oozing grandeur as we move through every set (the snow covered finale is particularly striking), The Sword truly involves all the way and is a splendid example of a director breaking down the walled boundaries of independent cinema to compete with movie making empire Shaw Brother's. Even though the action is stagy, there's more than enough story driven intensity behind it to forgive the lack of fluidity in the swordplay. Forgiving genre/Wang Yu staples such as a fighting tournament and the appearance of his trademark beard is easy too.

The Sword (1980) Directed by: Patrick Tam

Behind its stock plot about swordsmen on their quest to acquire a legendary sword lies a calm and measured Wuxia from first time director Patrick Tam (Nomad, My Heart Is That Eternal Rose and editor on Ashes Of Time). He invests his images in the needed storytelling yes but it's the highly exquisite atmosphere and camerawork that makes The Sword a terrific standout amongst the Golden Harvest efforts of the era. Ching Siu-Tung's action directing is also given a spotlight to thoroughly shine, combining winning doses of swordplay and Wuxia trickery, something he would expand on even more when directing his own classic Duel To The Death a few years later. With Adam Cheng, Norman Tsui, Eddy Ko, Lee Hoi Sang, Lau Siu-Ming and Tien Feng among others.

Buy the DVD at:
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The Sword And The Lute (1967, Hsu Tseng-Hung)

After releasing parts 1 and 2 (Temple Of The Red Lotus & The Twin Swords) merely months apart in 1965, the concluding movie in the trilogy didn't appear on screens until 2 years later (shortly before The One-Armed Swordsman would transform swordplay movies and the career trajectory of its star Jimmy Wang Yu). Husband and wife Gui Wu (Wang Yu) and Lien Chu (Chin Ping) are in possession of the deadly Phoenix Lute but foolishly both use it and lose it to the evil Flying Tiger Clan. To cure a wounded family member of their own, they need to find the Seven Stars Stone and the young lovers now need to protect the family in possession of it. I suppose a thread here is that the young entrusted with responsibility have a lot to learn but at the same time, The Sword And The Lute shows the series extending itself unnecessarily. These characters and adventures were never mindblowing but movie one and two proved to be important and entertaining breeding ground for the new type of swordplay movie. By movie three, it's merely a basic, understandable but underwhelming time with these characters (Wang Yu and Chin Ping are close to supporting characters, presumably because the former was busier than ever). Action has also reverted back to a softer kind (as opposed to the rather primal nature of the second installment) and while on par with the first, it's the lack of freshness that makes The Sword And The Lute forgettable. A few depictions of powers with the martial world, as crude as they are, are fun but not enough is present to sustain energy. Also starring Yueh Hua, Fung Bo Bo and Lo Lieh appears as a new character after having served his purpose in the first two movies.

Sword Master (2016, Derek Yee)

Based on Chor Yuen's iconic swordplay movie Death Duel from 1977 that also starred a young Derek Yee, the now celebrated director handles the remake himself that keeps most of the core present (minus graphic arm surgery for those who were wondering). Originally quite a coherent time with clan feuds and swordplay (considering it's based on a Gu Long-novel after all, coherency was a surprise), with modern technology (including 3D) Yee has the opportunity to enhance the fantastical sights of the martial world. An artificial look, sometimes mostly executed on greenscreen sets isn't necessarily the wrong choice therefore. It perhaps plays better to a modern audience this onslaught of pitch perfect sights, colors, coming at ya 3D and slow motion grace involving extraordinary abilities and swordplay but there's a manufactured, technical nature to Sword Master that prohibits heart and atmosphere from coming through. With characters being disillusioned with what the martial world means and having desire to break from tradition, ritual and bloodshed, this exploration breathes better in the more rural segments with Kenny Lin's Ah Chi hiding away and also concealing his identity in the process. It's not classic Derek Yee poignancy but the intent translates, especially since it feels a bit more internalized. When the feuds of the martial world invades this space, it feels less dangerous, oppressive, lyrical and poignant because it mostly does come off as a commercial, 3D excercise... in excess. It gets tiresome to get showcase moments of every ability of every character across the board and being pummeled like this doesn't feel visionary. For sure Chor Yuen's movie was an excess in color and atmosphere with tons of indoor sets acting as outdoor ones. But the stage was physical for one and although that was old fashioned filmmaking, the more human traits of this story punched through. Plus that visual excess WAS cool. Kenny Lin's chief opponent Swordsman Yen is played by Peter Ho in this version while Norman Tsui (also a cast member from the 77-version) appears in support.

A Sword Named Revenge (1981) Directed by: Lee Ga

Well shot and atmospheric Wuxia that taps into the tradition of a plot containing multiple characters, twists, hidden agendas and you need to be accustomed (and certainly a bit forgiving) to this storytelling in order to give A Sword Named Revenge a felt pat on the back. With a main character disappearing into madness, a dreamy and sometimes bizarre nature resides in the flick, the impotent dwarf chief among the bizarre aspects. All while the usual supremacy of the martial arts world is on top of the agenda of many, many characters. Possessing a technical polish and standard but enjoyable Wuxia techniques (otherwise the action is often quite slow), A Sword Named Revenge is overlong material that can be endured. It's also serious dedication wasted thanks to the usual muddled storytelling.

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