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What Price Survival (1994) Directed by: Daniel Lee

Also known as The New One-Armed Swordsman '94, just like Tsui Hark's The Blade the following year, there's only minor traces of the Chang Cheh movie (whether it's One-Armed Swordsman or the third entry The New One-Armed Swordsman) in this new version and vision so the more you watch BOTH said 90s movies the more preposterous the idea of claiming remake-status becomes. Which is a good thing and Daniel Lee's (Till Death Do Us Part, Black Mask, 14 Blades) changes setting dramatically to a Wuxia pian in the 1920s while still maintaining this world is populated by swords. A distinctive, cool choice and What Price Survival is often a hypnotic, gorgeously designed film with poetic imagery that lingers. With a simple story arc of Wu Hsing-Guo's (Temptation Of A Monk) Wang Ning being tricked into a duel to the death with his father (David Chiang) in order for rival Wang Ching Kuo (Norman Tsui) to take over, be number one etc, Daniel Lee crafts a film that for a fair amount of its time shoves down the importance, depth and poetry into our throats. It IS a cool setting and take on the genre but the emotional beats are very empty and the product becomes a hybrid of pure talent on display and pure empty talent on display. The veterans shine however in all their iconic glory and Jackson Ng's quick-cut action often captured with a handheld camera does play into the unusual and cool vision of Daniel Lee's here. At other times it is also difficult to follow this stance on action and it wouldn't be the first or last time Lee has shown affection for an over-active camera. For better or worse. Also with Charlie Yeung and Jack Kao.

Wheels On Meals (1984) Directed by: Sammo Hung

Shot on location in Barcelona, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao team up in big fashion again after 1983's Project A. Although scaled down in comparison, the setting and that choice is refreshing. As is Sammo handling matters and infusing the action with a lot of hard hitting power. But what isn't clicking is the comedy and the excessive running time chosen to convince us that it is. Pleasant enough at the start with Jackie and Yuen as fast food vendors getting involved in Sylvia's (Lola Forner) life but she carries with her an aura of trouble. Being sought after by both a private detective (Hung) and villains, Hung stages more mild comedy involving the initial three. Part pleasant, sometimes even funny and visually clever, whatever momentum there was seriously peters out eventually and we sit waiting for any sign of stunt- and fight-oriented action. Thankfully every emergence of it thrills, with Sammo showcasing again why his powerful stance on action is so compelling. A single punch can excite and he does so tenfold when introducing Benny Urquidez and Keith Vitali as Western fighting foes. Both of them keep up extremely well with action-beats, dishing out and taking punches along the way. Culminating in a long and varied castle-finale that doesn't redeem any shortcomings but certainly makes it a recommendation. Even if the milder one involving the trio at hand.

When East Goes West (1990) Directed by: David Chiang

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Lam Fei Hong (Bill Tung) goes through with his emigration plans and meets up with his son Michael (Lui Fong) in Canada. On the plane and subsequently when having landed, Uncle Lam makes sure Wong Yim-Chao (Ng Suet-Man) gets home safely to her Auntie Wong (Wong Wan-Si) but she believes someone has kidnapped Wong as she wasn't present at the airport. This triggers love/hate relationships but a tale between father and son where both have to find the one to settle down with. And they've just met them in actuality...

It's a fairly professional looking but sedated atmosphere provided by otherwise solid director David Chiang. No doubt, Bill Tung is much of the time spot on in playing the driven but not harsh Uncle Lam and his banter with Wong Wan-Si is often times enjoyable. So is the sweet youth romance hopefully happening between Michael and Wong Yim-Chao but the overall flame in the movie can barely be seen or felt before the final 10 minutes where finally a sweet, basic aura is achieved. Lawrence Ng and Paul Chun also appear.

When I Look Upon The Stars (1999) Directed by: Dante Lam

It seems like a distant memory but Dante Lam's directing persona was for a while quite the distinct mix of quirky and action oriented (and sometimes blending them in one). So the man behind Beast Stalker having a movie like When I Look Upon The Stars on his resume was a given once. Not now. A bit too odd and quirky for its own good as it's really thrives more through its common, romantic beats, you quickly forget about the Japan setting and Leo Koo's odd working colleagues therefore. Basically a break up with one girl but find the one that suits you better instead type of story, the tone is pleasant and the movie sparkles when letting Shu Qi take over through her playful character. This is what a leading lady should do to you. Make you love her and Shu Qi is a star here despite this being an awfully small production from a struggling Hong Kong cinema era. With fair charm when all is said and done. Also with Sam Lee, Anita Chan and Eric Tsang.

When Taekwondo Strikes (1973) Directed by: Wong Fung

Wong Fung assembled the team from Hap Ki Do (Angela Mao, Carter Wong, Sammo Hung & Wang In-Sik) for another similar showdown with the Koreans, Chinese vs. the ruling Japanese forces. While Hap Ki Do was run of the mill, it possessed a great deal of momentum and energy while When Taekwondo Strikes (aka Sting of The Dragon Masters) can't muster up any sparks. Action director Sammo along with Chan Chuen creates notable fast and fierce fighting action though so Angela Mao fans will get something out of all this rather dull stuff (I would like to judge the film on its real terms whenever a Mandarin language widescreen print is made available by Golden Harvest however).

Of note is the casting of Golden Harvest executive producer Andre Morgan in a substantial role as well as the "Father of American Tae Kwon Do", Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee. You can also see Sammo and Chin Yuet Sang as part of the villainous Japanese gang.

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When Tat Fu Was Young (1988) Directed by: Eddie Fong

Rarely involving to any extent (unless you're knowledgeable about the period covered?), Eddie Fong's drama about poet Yu Tat Fu (played as an adult by Chow Yun-Fat and in his teens by Terence Fok) struggling to find his Chinese identity among Japanese rulers and as a lover was apparently an unfinished Shaw Brother's production later sold to Golden Harvest. Re-edited without director Fong's consent and bumping the minor appearance of Chow's up to leading man status for marketing reasons, the film flopped despite. It's hard to imagine Fong's vision being that great to begin with and the film has little of the class and texture his prior An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty had. Also known as Cherry Blossoms.

Where's Officer Tuba? (1986, Ricky Lau & Phillip Chan)

Hong Kong police officer (doing duty in the music division) Tuba (Sammo Hung) witnesses a detective (David Chiang) being brutally shot to death but since he comes back as a ghost, he can aid Tuba and a newly examined officer (played by Jacky Cheung) in solving the case. Essentially several movies in one since comedy, action and bloody violence occupy the same frame, for the seasoned Hong Kong cinema viewer it will still come off as restraint and pleasant in tone despite. Sammo puts his ordinary guy-persona first and action second, showing he's very capable of leading a comedy that also needs to be strong on performer-chemistry. Early back and forth banter involving many colleagues entrusting him with lies to keep track of shows this to be a confirmation that skill and understanding is present in the production. Power within action and gory gunplay is reliably strong as well, with even the smallest moments nailed by Sammo and his stunt-team. Highlighted the best towards the end as the action team choreographs in a way where Jacky Cheung can participate to an admirable degree and there's a terrific possession-gag running through Sammo's end bout with Hwang Jang-Lee. None of the ghostly shenanigans are particularly new or inspired but the pleasant/we all want to be here to do good-tone is a fine driving force. Thank our two directors as well. A slew of cameos from prior and subsequent Sammo Hung productions include Stanley Fung, Paul Chun, Teddy Yip, Tai Po, Yuen Wah, Lam Ching Ying and Melvin Wong. Joey Wong co-stars.

Whiplash (1974) Directed by: Ding Sin-Saai

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Cheng Pei-Pei is Tiger-Lasher whose father is lost on a guide-mission in the mountains. Approached by a gang of robbers, she manages to seize control over them in order to follow up on any leads they might have in locating her father. When truths are revealed, they are more sinister than first believed...

Opening in a curtain-like fashion as a narrator tells us of the great, brave story that is to be told and even references actress Cheng Pei-Pei in the process, Ding Sin-Saai's (Blood Reincarnation) direction is shaky for an hour only to gain superb momentum for the remainder of the running time that even carries well-honed thematic excursions. We're actually not that allured by Cheng Pei-Pei's more natural bound heroine and the bunch of robbers she is accompanied by take on a more irritating nature via dialogue said in choir, musical numbers and bowel movement humour. But opening up the story and character gallery by going more confined places (caves mainly), the lure of the treasures hidden reveals Ding's ones in the direction as well. Here the game of deceit, desperation and bloody greed transforms Whiplash into a totally seducing mixture that then includes brutal savagery to the max. No use for neat forms here, with issues of redemption being a final reel topic, here's a vehicle strong on many fronts you weren't expecting during your first hour into it. Veteran Ding Sin-Saai has a reference work in Whiplash and yet another Cheng Pei-Pei performance for the ages.

The Whirl-Wind Knight (1969) Directed by: Sek Kin

The Golden Dragon League is after two halves of a treasure map but after killing off two brothers connected to it, the third, Shieh Chien (Lui Ming) known as The Whirlwind Knight puts up a fight as well as re-connecting to his family who he hasn't seen for 10 years...

Unusually well-directed swordplay movie gains points for a more well thought out narrative structure and intense action (Shieh Chien literally whirls his way through hordes of enemies at one point). Coming off as more ropey when taking the story dramatic and personal places, the main bulk of it still concerns the strand about the treasure map and The Whirl-Wind Knight manages to maintain a status worthy of note amidst these releases from Fusian. Their dvd, or the print used, is clearly missing a good chunk of footage at at least two points.

White Lotus Cult (1993) Directed by: Cheng Siu-Keung

Made into a trilogy that also featured the movies Sam The Iron Bridge - Champion Of Martial Arts and One Arm Hero (all released the same year), Do Siu-Chun (To Catch A Thief, Forbidden Arsenal) stars as Sam Liang-Kun who was part of the group known as the Ten Tigers Of Canton. Defenders of Ching interests at the end of the Dynasty, other known characters out of the ten includes Wong Kei-Ying (father of Wong Fei-Hung) and So Haak-Yee (aka Beggar So). So for this trilogy directed by Johnnie To's cinematographer of choice basically ever since Milkyway formed, we see the titular cult roam villages, preaching their immortality and defense stance against the Western interests that are threatening to crumble the Ching. Their leader Chan (Ji Chun-Ha) enlists his elder brother Chen Chin who makes his living as a opera performer, to assassinate the Empress Dowager, a plan that in intent is actually Chan's attempt to restore the Ming. Not thoroughly unsuspecting of Chan's plans, Chen Chin dispatches his daughter Tieh (Yip Chuen-Chan) to contact Sister Hung (Lily Li, the former Shaw Brothers star). Meanwhile merchant Liang Kun enters the story properly as he tries to save the life of Chen Chin who is injured in the assassination attempt and he's now in the middle of a war between clan brothers. It also means one of his close brothers, Kuang, gets more and more infatuated with what he sees in the White Lotus Cult...

Featuring impressive sets and costumes, it may have been a choice to appear a bit more rooted and gritty than its obvious inspiration the Once Upon A Time In China Series but White Lotus Cult can't escape a sense of feeling and looking cheap. Phillip Kwok's mostly wire-assisted action isn't very impressive either but does have decent energy whenever grounded. What saves the day somewhat though is Do Siu-Chun as Liang Kun. A serviceable presence as a hero and possessing enough charisma, his story merges nicely with the story of the brothers and in a competent way, in terms of action and drama, director Cheng Siu-Keung in the latter section gets the film to adhere to a familiar kung fu-movie structure. The politics around it doesn't affect but it never could akin to mentioned Tsui Hark-series.

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