Reviews written by Kevin Kennedy
The Queen Bee (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)September 5, 2017 Horror films should never be this dull
In 1970, working for Taiwan's Union Film Company, Ting Shan Si wrote and directed a gem of a historical melodrama called "Prosperous of Family", a lavishly mounted film (available on DVD through this website) which deserves a wide audience.
Three years later, working on a shoestring budget for Hong Kong's Golden Harvest, Ting wrote and directed "The Queen Bee", an inept, cliche-ridden psychedelic horror flick. What a disappointment!
A young woman seeks to become the cook for a reclusive wealthy couple. Applicants for the job face a major challenge: The wealthy couples home is guarded by two large German Shepherds eager for human flesh. The young woman scales a wall while the dogs are distracted and sprints into the home; for her ingenuity she is rewarded with the job. That's when her troubles truly begin.
Since this is a cheesy horror film, there is a crazy old woman in the home who spends her time trying to kill herself. And there is a limping, hunchbacked butler (no, he's not named Igor) with a badly scarred face and a pair of very prominent buck teeth. The master of the house is unseen; he never, ever leaves his room; the mistress of the house leaves her room occasionally in order to lure men into her bed for illicit relations. Those men have a habit of later turning up dead.
The new cook can't resist her curiosity to learn more about the mysterious master of the house. Her attempts to satisfy that curiosity set in motion the events which drive the story down too many illogical blind alleys before reaching its overly delayed ending.
This is the kind of tale that the Shaw Brothers studios would figure out a way to make luridly compelling. Alas, this most definitely is not a Shaw Brothers production. "The Queen Bee" becomes enervatingly tedious far before it ends.
Second Spring Of Mr Mur (Taiwan Version)September 5, 2017 Worth a look
In "Second Spring of Mr. Mur", a lifelong military man retires, settles in Kaohsiung, takes a job as a garbage man, and seeks a wife. Now in his fifties, Mr. Mur hopes to start a family. However, finding a suitable mate is not easy for a middle-aged garbage collector, particularly one with Mr. Mur's hangdog face. Based on the advice of a friend, he employs a marriage broker to essentially buy a young native girl from her parents to be his bride.
Being older than his new wife's parents, and sharing nothing in common with his bride, Mr. Mur struggles to build a relationship with her and fears that he may lose her to another man. While saddled with a handful of overly melodramatic scenes, this low-budget feature film manages to tell a sweet, sad, and affecting tale of a mismatched couple working against the odds to build a true marriage. Recommended.
Butterfly Sword (1993) (DVD) (Thailand Version)1 people found this review helpful
March 4, 2016 Three strikes and its out
It seems that every ten years I take another look at "Butterfly & Sword" and, after my third viewing of the film, I must report that it definitely is not growing on me. 'B&S' boasts a splendid cast, including Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Michelle Yeoh, Joey Wang, Donnie Yen, Elvis Tsui, and Jimmy Lin. It employs all the lighting effects, wire-work, and editing techniques that gave the early '90s Hong Kong martial arts films such a distinctive look and feel. And yet...
Michael Shurtleff's classic book on auditions offers tips on how to create memorable scenes. He instructs actors to consider in each scene just what their character is fighting for. He offers this unfailing advice: "Make the stakes in each scene as high as you can. Add importance. If you don't, no one will be listening to you." Therein lies the problem with "Butterfly & Sword". The film is chockful of plots and subplots; the story is very busy, but little of it seems very important to the characters. Consequently, little of it seems important to the viewer, who sits blankly awaiting the next razzle-dazzle effects.
Tony Leung phones in his insouciant performance. Joey Wang is sweet, but forgettable. Michelle Yeoh works very hard but to little effect. The strongest impression is made by Donnie Yen, who definitely does find something worth fighting for in his role; unfortunately, his role is a only secondary lead. There was potential here. If the filmmakers had simplified the story and raised the stakes they would have had something. As it is, I certainly won't feel compelled to watch "Butterfly & Sword" again in ten years.
Han Hee Jung - Every Day Others1 people found this review helpful
January 7, 2016 Han Hee Jung's little musical miracle
When I listen to Han Hee Jung's "Every Day Others", I feel like climbing to a rooftop and shouting to anyone with ears, BUY THIS ALBUM! "Every Day Others'' contains eleven tracks of quirky, creative, beautifully sung and played, and very sweet indie pop.
Miss Han wrote the music to all eleven numbers, wrote the lyrics to nine of the ten tunes that have lyrics, played almost all the instruments, wrote the arrangements for all of the songs (including arrangements for a string section), and recorded the music. She probably also swept the floors when the recording was done. Is there anything this woman can't do?
This is the third album by Han Hee Jung that I've purchased; all are excellent. "Every Day Others, however, is my favorite, a practically flawless little masterpiece. BUY THIS ALBUM!
EAT 'EM AND SMILE (Normal Edition) (Japan Version)(1)1 people found this review helpful
January 6, 2016 Listen to it and smile
One approaches "Eat 'Em and Smile", Shinozaki Ai's debut solo album, with a number of questions: Why has she borrowed an album title from David Lee Roth's first solo album? Why does her record company have such an obnoxious name? Can a debut artist summon the polished musicians, songwriters, and production team necessary to create a listenable album? Does someone better known for her figure than her voice actually have the vocal chops to carry off an album without the support of her AeLL bandmates?
While I have no answers to the first two questions, I am happy to report that "Eat 'Em and Smile" serves up eight terrific slices of contemporary J-Pop. The songs are a well-crafted, intriguingly assorted bunch, the playing is top-notch, and Miss Shinozaki shines on both ballads and dance tracks. She demonstrates a compelling tone, a surprisingly wide range, and the ability to imbue the slower numbers with heartfelt feeling.
"Eat 'Em and Smile" is no mere novelty project from a gravure idol; it is among the most consistently enjoyable J-Pop albums I've heard in recent months.
Landscape After The War (DVD) (4-Disc) (First Press Limited Edition) (Korea Version)1 people found this review helpful
October 26, 2015 The Widow (Film #1 of 4)
"The Widow", the only film ever directed by Park Nam Ok, Korea's first female film director, lingers in the memory, raising more and more questions the longer one contemplates it. Its powerful impact owes much to its blunt, straightforward approach to telling an unvarnished, honest story.
The story tells of the misfortunes of beautiful Shin (Lee Min Ja), a war widow and single mom in downtrodden 1950s Korea. Shin lives off of handouts from Seong Jin (Shin Dong Hun), a wealthy friend of her late husband. Seong Jin hopes their relationship may become romantic and Shin plays his affections like a fiddle, even after the man's wife (Park Yeong Suk) attempts to dissuade her. Seong Jin's wife is herself quite devious, scheming to retain her marriage while carrying on an affair of her own with handsome Taek (Lee Taek Kyun).
During a trip to the beach, Shin fails to pay attention to her daughter, who nearly drowns, only to be saved from death by Taek, who quite coincidentally was spending the day at the beach with Seong Jin's wife. Shin, grateful for Taek's efforts, begins to fall in love with him and he cannot resist the lovely Shin's attentions. Sensing that Taek may not welcome the presence of her daughter, Shin shockingly sends her to live with a kind-hearted but drunken and dissolute neighbor. With her daughter out of the picture, the relationship with Taek appears to blossom, until someone arrives whom Taek thought had died in the war.
This print of "The Widow" has required heroic restoration work, but remains greatly marred. The image quality is inconsistent, the film's final reel is missing, and the last ten minutes of its existing running length lack any sound. What remains of the film, however, provides a stark look at the moral compromises facing a penniless single mother. The fact that Shin is no plaster saint allows the tale to transcend time and place. Definitely worth your consideration.
Natural Born Lovers (2012) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)October 15, 2015 Pretty people with peculiar problems
Writer/director Patrick Kong is drawn to telling love stories and is maturing in his storytelling ability. Unfortunately for the lovebirds depicted in his films, Kong sees people as being so deeply flawed as to make them incapable of enjoying enduring relationships. In the prototypical Kong film, an attractive couple meets sweetly, falls hard for each other, then finds creative ways to undermine their love. Welcome to the world of "Natural Born Lovers".
Taylor (Julian Cheung), a successful pastry chef, and Bobo (Annie Liu), a caring nurse in an HK hospital, are a perfectly imperfect Kongian couple. Both are gorgeous, smart, and capable. They seem well-suited for each other, and their mutual attraction becomes irresistible. But once they have expressed their affection for each other, their flaws begin to emerge. Bobo becomes cataclysmically clingy, while Taylor begins spinning lies to escape Bobo's unceasing attentions.
Is there hope for our languishing lovers? Kong relates his tale with a warmth and quirky good humor that keeps viewers happily engaged even as his characters become unhappily disengaged. Much of the film's charm is owed to Julian Cheung and Annie Liu, both of whom give remarkably natural, unaffected performances ... and did I mention that they are gorgeous? While the film's closing scenes feel a bit manipulated and manipulative, "Natural Born Lovers" is my favorite so far of the Kong canon.
Don't Go Breaking My Heart (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)October 11, 2015 Haven't I seen this before?
In 2000, Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai teamed to create "Needing You", a workplace romantic dramedy about a beautiful but clumsy office drudge (Sammi Cheng) torn between the affections of her successful, womanizing boss (Andy Lau) and a handsome internet billionaire (Raymond Wong). In 2011, To and Wai again teamed to create "Don't Go Breaking My Heart, a workplace romantic dramedy about a beautiful but clumsy office drudge (Gao Yuan Yuan) torn between the affections of her successful, womanizing boss (Louis Koo) and a handsome award-winning architect (Daniel Wu).
While the two films adopt the same formula, the results are remarkably different. "Needing You" smartly grounds itself in reality; its characters and situations are familiar to anyone who worked in Hong Kong and southern China during that era. "Don't Go Breaking..." operates in a world that exists only on the silver screen. In its fantasy world, the good girl heroine strangely chooses to 'help' the temporarily down-on-his-luck alcoholic architect by providing him with an endless river of booze. And the good girl heroine, after her dashing boss suggests that he probably will never be faithful to her, still falls in love with him apparently because he gives her expensive gifts.
The world of "Don't Go Breaking..." simply isn't credible. It's a world of improbable coincidences, a world in which the male characters spend improbable amounts of money in their pursuit of the heroine, even though the events transpire in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial collapse. Louis Koo's character, a financial adviser, tells his team that his #1 rule is: Never lose money. (Any financial adviser who says such a thing also is an adviser that will never make any money.) Perhaps most fatally, the world of "Don't Go Breaking..." becomes tedious because the overlong film's outcome never is in doubt.
Of course, this being a To-Wai movie, it is technically very well made, expertly lensed and edited, with a superb musical score. However, with this To-Wai romantic dramedy formula, the first time was the charm. Stick with "Needing You" and give a pass to the glossier but emptier "Don't Go Breaking My Heart".
Lupin The Third (2014) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version)2 people found this review helpful
September 30, 2015 Misconceived mess
The "Lupin the Third" animated franchise has been called the 'comfort food' of the anime world. Watch a Lupin anime and you know what you'll get: an entertaining, fast-paced, light-hearted caper film filled with familiar characters delivering snappy patter amidst elaborate plots and thrillingly narrow escapes. Oh, how I wish this live action "Lupin the Third" film had followed that familiar formula.
Instead, director Kitamura Ryuhei attempts to do for Lupin what Christopher Nolan did for the Batman franchise, i.e., turn it into a darker, deeper, more compelling story. What we get is an overlong, plodding, brutal exercise in tedium. The film's opening sequence tipped me off that something was amiss. Depicting a heist of a beautiful necklace, the scene is intended to be a razzle-dazzle display of the Lupin team's skills. Alas, we've seen almost exact copies of this scene many times before, perhaps most memorably in John Woo's "Once a Thief". Overly-familiar sequences pop up again and again in the film.
Things go downhill from there, due in large part to the filmmakers' decision to have much of the dialogue spoken in English. Watching Japanese, Taiwanese, and Thai actors delivering lines in English so heavily-accented that it requires subtitles to be understood is excruciating, turning every conversation into a slow-motion momentum-killer. Speaking of killers, an additional conceptual flaw is to up the ante on bloody violence. The body count in this film is astronomical and the violence too often is not cartoonish, but graphic.
Oguri Shun attempts to breathe life into his Lupin character, but the film's dark tone is ill-suited for his wisecracking character. Tamayama Tetsuji is brilliant as Jigen, while Ayano Go does nicely as Goemon. Asano Tadanobu tries gamely as the always-infuriated Inspector Zenigata, but his limited English language skills undercut the comic effect. Kuroki Meisa brings a Veronica Lake-style glamor to her Fujiko character.
If, as the producers intended, this live-action Lupin becomes a franchise, one can only hope that in future films the stories will embrace the style of their anime predecessors, with tighter plots, snappier dialogue, and much, much more fun.
Tokyo Playboy Club (DVD) (Japan Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 29, 2015 Men behaving badly
If Fukasaku Kinji or Miike Takashi made a languidly-paced but violent art house film, then it might look a bit like writer/director Okuda Yosuke's "Tokyo Playboy Club". The film opens with Katsutoshi (Omori Nao), an auto mechanic with serious anger management issues, dealing with a loud-mouthed university student who is complaining about the noise in the auto repair shop in which Katsutoshi works. Let's just say that, once Katsutoshi finishes with him, the loud-mouthed student no longer has to worry about the noise ... or about anything else.
The scene then shifts to the grungy downmarket Tokyo Playboy Club, in which stray businessmen are enticed to part with their cash in exchange for overpriced drinks and the attentions of the club's voluble bargirls. Takahiro (Fuchikami Yasushi) browbeats unhappy losers into the club, then, as the crummy dive's DJ, attempts to create a semblance of a party atmosphere. Presiding over this seedy dump is the reptilian Seikichi (Mitsuishi Ken), who hires his old pal Katsutoshi, the hyperviolent former auto mechanic, to help out with odd jobs. This proves to be a serious mistake when Katsutoshi beats up a couple of cheap thugs and brings the ire of the local yakuza boss (Sato Sakichi) down on the club.
But Seikichi's headaches are about to get much worse. His lowlife DJ Takahiro somehow has earned the love of a beautiful but listless girlfriend Eriko (Usuda Asami), while also knocking up one of the bargirls. To pay for the birth of his baby, Takahiro steals a stash of cash from Seikichi. It doesn't take Katsutoshi long to track Takahiro down. To pay for Takahiro's sins and to settle scores with the local mob boss, girlfriend Eriko is delivered to the mob boss in a love hotel. Only then do events really get out of hand...
"Tokyo Playboy Club" is played as a very black comedy, which resolves into a surprisingly poignant tale of a volcanic man finding a purpose in life, but perhaps finding that purpose too late. Some viewers may find the film hard going as it often features feral men attempting to intimidate others by bellowing at them. Given its milieu, the film is surprisingly chaste; the closest we come to seeing anyone unclad is a scene of the crime boss in his skivvies. On the other hand, there is plenty of brutal violence. Recommended for mature audience with a tolerance for bloodshed. (I viewed the US release of the film, which has serious problems with the synchronization of the dialogue with the subtitles.)
Kiki's Delivery Service (2014) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version)(1)Our Price: US$15.991 people found this review helpful
September 28, 2015 Flawed story; winning performance
Creating a live action version of a cherished Miyazaki Hayao animated film was an audacious endeavor. Hiring horror movie director Shimizu Takashi to helm it seems a crazy idea. However, the makers of 2014's "Kiki's Delivery Service" got two things very right: They hired the delightful Koshiba Fuka to play Kiki and they figured out how to make Kiki's broom-aided flying skills look dazzlingly spectacular.
Upon her 13th birthday, Kiki, whose father is human and mother is a witch, must make a crucial decision: She must choose whether to live her life as a witch or as a human. For Kiki, who adores soaring through the sky on her broom, the choice is easy; she will live as a witch. However, her choice carries with it an unusual requirement: She must leave her parents for a year in order to make a living as a witch on her own in another city, one which has no witch residing in it.
Kiki selects her new temporary hometown, flies to her destination, and spends her first night there sleeping in a haystack next to the hippopotamus exhibit at a zoo. When she awakes, she is chased out of the zoo by an angry zookeeper, one who assumes that, when soon thereafter a lion bites a baby hippo's tail, it must have occurred due to a curse cast by the young witch.
Undeterred by the zoo incident, Kiki sets up a delivery service and, after a slow start, becomes a happy and successful part of the community. Alas, Kiki's life gets upended when the baby hippo's health deteriorates and the zookeeper blames it on Kiki's alleged curse. The young witch must prove her merit by undertaking an exceptionally dangerous journey through a terrible storm to bring the little hippo to a famous veterinarian.
Koshiba Fuka is startlingly good as Kiki, showing all the emotional turmoil typical for a 13 year old girl, while exuding playfulness and charm. Unfortunately, the storyline about the baby hippo, an unconvincing excuse to create dramatic tension, never takes flight. Equally clumsy is an unnecessary subplot involving a retired singer. Far better is the growing friendship between Kiki and Tonbo (Hirota Ryohei), who dreams of soaring through the air and envies Kiki's ability. Children undoubtedly will embrace this live action "Kiki's Delivery Service" and their parents will be enthralled by Koshiba Fuka's starmaking turn.
Starlit High Noon (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version)(1)Our Price: US$10.99List: US$13.49Save: US$2.50 (18%)1 people found this review helpful
September 27, 2015 An assassin's romance
"Starlit High Noon" is a glacially paced art house romance in which themes merely are suggested rather than explicated. It is a credit to director Nakagawa Yosuke's mastery of mood (and perhaps to the film's short running length) that the viewer remains engaged with the ineffable story right to the end.
Lian Song (Wang Leehom) is a freelance professional hitman periodically hired by a Taiwanese gang to do its dirty work. After completing an assignment to assassinate the leader of a rival mob, bloody gang warfare breaks out on the island, while Song lays low in his Okinawan hide-out. He spends his days swimming laps at a local public pool and shopping for groceries. Amid his daily rounds, he encounters Yukiko (Suzuki Kyoka), a beautiful thirty-something single woman with whom he becomes infatuated.
He washes his clothes each Saturday evening at a particular laundromat because he knows she will arrive to do the same. He buys bento boxes she, in her day job, prepares. Finally, Song summons the nerve to ask her to his home for dinner. She initially balks at the invitation, but now a relationship has been established which the film allows to unfold in its slow-moving, chaste, and circumspect manner.
Along the way, the viewer meets two rather listless teenage girls (Kashii Yu and Yanagasawa Nana) who work at the public pool in which Song swims, both of whom observe the other becoming increasingly attracted to the handsome swimmer. We also learn that Yukiko looks remarkably like Song's mother, an Oedipal theme which goes unexplored. Finally, as the Taiwanese gang war escalates, Song's Okinawan idyll inevitably is drawn to an end.
The very thin storyline is given depth by director Nakagawa's langorous pace, cinematographer Yanagida Hiroo's earthy lensing, and composer Sawada Jyoji's abstractly expressive musical score. The story's greatest flaw is its inability to convince that a professional hitman could be as warm-hearted and charming as is Lian. The greatest reason to invest 92 minutes in "Starlit High Noon" is the superb performance by Suzuki Kyoka, who makes her quiet, introverted, haunted character the movie's most indelible presence.
The Spiritual Boxer1 people found this review helpful
September 13, 2015 The first kung fu comedy?
"The Spiritual Boxer", the great Lau Kar Leung's directorial debut, opens with the Empress Dowager requesting a display of the extraordinary feats possible for masters of the art of spiritual boxing. Bare-chested Ti Lung and Chen Kuan Tai are summoned to display before the Dowager their astounding talents, which include imperviousness to swords, spears, and even bullets!
The scene shifts - and Ti Lung and Chen Kuan Tai disappear for the rest of the film - to a provincial town in which drunken 'master' of spiritual boxing (and full-time fraud) Chi Keung (Jiang Yang) is plying his trade of cheating people out of their hard-earned cash with fake displays of his skills. His dissolute lifestyle soon lands him in jail, leaving his pupil Hsiao Chien (Wang Yu) no choice but to continue his boss's deceitful ways. Along the way, the former student meets impish lad Jin Lian (Lin Chen Chi), whom Hsiao Chien hires to serve as his assistant in trickery. When Jin Lian turns out not to be a lad but a lovely lass, a love-hate relationship blooms between the pair.
Hsiao Chien proves to be much more successful in his cheating ways than his master ever was, but when he attempts to take advantage of the town's most powerful gangster (Shih Chung Tien), Hsiao Chien may have bitten off far more than he can chew. Hsiao Chien must learn whether the boxing skills he learned from his master are real or fake. Fights galore ensue.
Action, suspense, horror, romance, and comedy - "The Spiritual Boxer" memorably triumphs on every front, with Wang Yu and Lin Chen Chi brilliant in these star-making roles. Lau Kar Leung's direction is crisp, his action choreography - requiring Wang Yu to show off a myriad of fighting styles - is spectacular, and Lau's introduction of comedy into a martial arts film changed the genre forever. "The Spiritual Boxer" is a true Shaw Brothers classic. Don't miss it!
Black Magic (1975) (DVD) (US Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 13, 2015 Lots of spells but little real magic
Medical doctor Shi Zhen Sheng (Lam Wai Tiu) is alarmed by what appears to be a terrible plague afflicting Singaporeans. He urges his friends, physicians Chi Chung Ping (Ti Lung) and his wife Li Cui Ling (Tanny Tien), to travel to his city to assist in discerning the cause of this terrible outbreak. Upon their arrival, Dr. Shi shares with his friends his theory: The deadly sores typical of this plague are caused by black magic. Drs. Chi and Li scoff at this wild notion, but agree to help research the cause.
Director Ho Meng Hua isn't interested in mining this mystery. "Black Magic 2" quickly reveals that it is the evil spells of the exceedingly evil magician Kang Cong (Lo Lieh) that are behind this horrifying plague. Kang Cong's motives aren't mysterious either; he's in it for the money. Things get personal when Dr. Shi's wife Margaret (Lily Li) begins to exhibit mysterious symptoms.
This film's predecessor, "Black Magic", was built upon an actual story -- a love triangle in which greed and possessiveness drive the action. In "Black Magic 2", the story (entirely unrelated to the earlier film) is driven by not much more the filmmakers' desire to shock and titillate. Consequently, we see lots more gratuitous displays of female flesh and much more disgusting magical phenomena.
The production values are marginally better here than in the preceding film, but the action choreography is much worse. (Action director Yuen Cheung Yan phoned this one in.) For me, the threadbare plot makes "Black Magic 2" far less fun than "Black Magic", but those who revel in viewing hideous boils, nails piercing flesh, naked women, naked women lactating, zombies, and naked women zombies will find much to enjoy here. "Black Magic 2" is exploitation cinema, unpure and simple.
Black Magic1 people found this review helpful
September 7, 2015 Spiders and spells and spills, oh my!
Ah, the complications of love!
Studly Xu Nuo (Ti Lung) loves virginal Chu Ying (Lily Li), but Xu Nuo's boss - the decidedly unvirginal Luo Yin (Tanny Tien) - intends to snuff out that that budding love so she can have Xu Nuo all to herself.
Devious Chia Cheh (Lo Lieh) covets Luo Yin, or perhaps it's the fortune she inherited that he covets. Since Luo Yin rejects all his advances, Chia Cheh turns to Chien Mi (Ku Feng), a practitioner of black magic, for help in winning Luo Yin's heart ... or money.
Unfortunately for Chia Cheh, once Chien Mi gets an eyeful of lovely Luo Yin, the master of the black arts decides that the gorgeous gal belongs in his own arms, not Chia Cheh's.
Oh, did I mention that this complex romantic drama actually is one of the Shaw Brothers' wildest (and cheesiest) horror flicks? Yes, it assuredly is, and it comes with plenty of gratuitous nudity, sex, violence, and magic spells aplenty, all doled out with a low-budget cheapness that is so bad that it's good.
While Ti Lung and Lo Lieh get top billing, the film belongs to Tanny Tien and Ku Feng, who chew up the scenery with shameless abandon. Fans of schlock horror movies: "Black Magic" is just your cup of poisonous tea!
The Siamese Twins1 people found this review helpful
September 7, 2015 Psychodrama-turned-gorefest
"The Siamese Twins" was the second of only three films helmed by pioneering female director/writer Angela Mak. One wonders whether the finished product looks much like the movie that Mak originally conceived. The film begins and ends as an intriguing ghostly psychodrama. Wedged in between the beginning and end are scenes of nudity, sex, and violence which have little to do with psychodrama. I suspect that, to ensure a reasonable box office for the picture, the Shaw Bros. studio heads demanded the inclusion of these more lurid scenes before they would agree to fund this project.
Idy Chan stars as Kei Po Erh, a young woman who has spent much of her life in Canada separated from her Hong Kong-based parents (Yueh Hua and Tanny Tien). Po Erh's mother is a very troubled woman, haunted by a ghostly apparition of a dead child. What Po Erh doesn't know is that she was born as one-half of a pair of Siamese twins who were joined at the head. When they were still infants, a prominent medical doctor (Kwan Hoi San) recommended an experimental surgery to separate the twins, an operation that would require delicate brain surgery. Alas, only Po Erh survived the surgery. Her mother ever since has been haunted by memories of the dead twin.
The parents wish to spare Po Erh any feelings of guilt (and any hauntings) associated with her dead twin, so they never tell her of her twin and have her raised in Canada at the expense of the surgeon. Now Po Erh returns to Hong Kong and immediately begins to be troubled by a past of which she had been unaware. In desperation, she turns for help to a handsome psychiatrist (Michael Tong). It is a compelling premise, made all the more intriguing by sensitive performances from Idy Chan, Tien Ni, and, best of all, Yueh Hua.
Unfortunately, once this premise is established, the story spends altogether too much time on Michael Cho (Robert Mak), a young man who befriended Po Erh in Canada and has become obsessed with her and on Wendy Chu (Margaret Lee), an old acquaintance of Po Erh's who is determined to bed Michael. This being a gory ghost story, expendable characters like Michael and Wendy face predictably dismal futures.
Po Erh's dead twin sister will not rest until she has gained her revenge, which leads to carnage on a Shakespearean scale. However, director Mak keeps the story under control and engineers a smartly-conceived, and very bloody, ending. Recommended for adult fans of the genre.
Hong Kong Nocturne1 people found this review helpful
September 4, 2015 'Must see' musical for Shaw fans
Director Inoue Umetsugu was hired by Shaw Brothers to bring a stylish brand of Japanese filmmaking to the studio. "Hong Kong Nocturne" was the first fruits of his labors for the Shaws and stylish it is. Cheng Pei Pei, the film's central character, called it a 'Japanese-Hong Kong-Hollywood musical' and that description nails it.
The movie tells of a trio of sisters - Chuan Chuan (Cheng Pei Pei), Tsui Tsui (Lily Ho), and Ting Ting (Chin Ping) - who perform song and dance numbers in support of their exploitative father's tired magic act. Their father Su Cheng (Jiang Guang Chao, at his sleazy best) wastes the family's earnings in his futile pursuit of golddigging girlfriend (Tina Chin Fei). Tsui Tsui and Ting Ting, fed up with their dad's squalid ways, leave the act, with Tsui Tsui heading to Japan for a promised film career and Ting Ting working her way through ballet school.
The new arrangements prove problematic. Tsui Tsui's adventure in Japan turns out disastrously, Ting Ting's ballet teacher is a tyrant, and dear old dad chooses to reward Chuan Chuan for her loyalty by making an unconscionable demand. As the plot unfolds, director Inoue's script pushes all the melodramatic buttons, but manages to keep things from becoming too dark by sprinkling in plenty of strikingly visual song and dance numbers.
Youthful stars Cheng Pei Pei, Lily Ho, and Chin Ping (who was only 17 years old during the film's production) brim with vitality, talent, and beauty, making "Hong Kong Nocturne" compulsively watchable. Parents should be aware that the film's adult subject matter (and a scene featuring Lily Ho's nude backside) make the movie unsuitable for younger viewers. Inoue Umetsugu provided Shaw Brothers with one of the studio's landmark films with his first effort for them.
Pursuit Of Vengeance (DVD) (Taiwan Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 3, 2015 Don't bother trying to untangle this plot
Like one of those Russian matryoshka dolls, director Chor Yuen's "Pursuit of Vengeance" is built upon plot within plot, scheme within scheme, treachery within treachery. Eventually the complexity of the film's storyline becomes incomprehensible, but the viewer is carried along by the sheer fun the film's three big stars (Ti Lung, Lau Wing, and Lo Lieh) seem to be having, as the body count grows ever higher.
Deadly martial artist Fu Hong Xue (Ti Lung) has been summoned to a town for reasons unknown to him. In an inn a gang of thugs picks a fight with the scruffy Fu. Colorful, knife-throwing fighter Ye Kai (Lau Wing) comes to Fu's aid and the pair make quick work of the thugs. The dour Fu, however, wants nothing to do with Ye. As it turns out, both of them have been called to the town by its local martial arts school, from which neither is intended to escape with their lives.
With this flimsy premise, the film is off to the races, with fight after fight, skirmish after skirmish. Lo Lieh enters the fray as an assassin looking to kill Fu and Ye if he can find someone to pay him for the job. Lovely Shih Szu also is on hand to sling a sword and, believe it or not, Ouyang Sha Fei also threatens the 'odd couple' central pair.
"Pursuit of Vengeance" is a sort of sequel to "The Magic Blade", in which Ti Lung plays the same character, but watching the earlier film will provide no help to viewers in untangling this Rube Goldberg-like plot. The resolution to it all, however, proves to be surprisingly satisfying. Lo Lieh brings comic brilliance to his affable killer-for-hire and steals the hire; he also features in what may be the most memorable closing shot in any Shaw Brothers film.
A Company Man (2012) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 2, 2015 The lethal man in the grey flannel suit
Ji Hyung Do (So Ji Sub) is his company's top employee, supremely skilled and reliable at his work. The company president is confident that he'll go far in his career. But Hyung Do is no ordinary company man. He's a hitman, who executes his deadly missions flawlessly.
Screenwriter Lim Sang Yoon's directorial debut tells of this cold-blooded killer gaining a heart and confronting the employer that has enriched him. Pivotal in Hyung Do's transformation is his meeting with a former teen pop idol turned blue collar working mom (Lee Mi Yeon), whose earnest nature shows Hyung Do the possibility of a different path in life.
"A Company Man" unfolds in glossy, riveting fashion, with So Ji Sub's exceptional charisma and athleticism commanding the screen in almost every scene. The film's razor-sharp editing maintains a relentless pace; the viewer's attention never for a moment flags. Best of all, underlying the brutal tale lies a piercing, very dark comedy of company life.
What flaws exist in "A Company Man" relate to what was left out of this gripping story, i.e., an explanation of how Hyung Do found his way into this profession and of what impelled him to take that irreversible first step toward rebelling against it. However, you won't notice those flaws until long after you've spent 96 minutes enthralled by this action-packed thriller. Very highly recommended.
Mr. Funnybone Strikes Again1 people found this review helpful
August 29, 2015 Good silly fun
With 1978's "Mr. Funny Bone Strikes Again", Lao Fuzi (Wang Sha) and his pal Big Potato (Ngai Tung Gwa) return to reap more hilarious hijinks. The sequel turns out to be superior to the original Mr. Funnybone film because it has something resembling a plot.
Lao Fuzi is a healer practicing a goofy version of traditional Chinese medicine. An unscrupulous antiquities dealer, Mr. Gu (Lee Sau Kei), has a customer who seeks the mate to an old vase he owns. The customer is willing to pay Gu big money for the long lost mate. When Gu learns that Lao Fuzi owns the missing vase, he hires a trio of inept thugs to steal it. The three would-be burglars, however, prove to be no match for the antics of Lao Fuzi and Big Potato.
Lao Fuzi himself sells the vase to the grateful customer, then plans to donate the $2 million proceeds of the sale to a local hospital. The trio of thugs have other ideas; they seek to steal the money for themselves. They, of course, are not counting on the metaphorical minefield that awaits when Lao Fuzi and Big Potato unleash more chaos upon them.
The funniest moments in "Mr. Funnybone Strikes Again" arise when Lao Fuzi's pretzel logic confronts the challenges of daily living, as in an extended restaurant scene in which Lao Fuzi seeks revenge for the restaurant proprietor's devious ways. Veteran actress Hui Ying Ying practically steals the show with her futile attempts to get the upper hand over Lao Fuzi. Very entertaining.