Reviews written by Kevin Kennedy
Dance of a Dream1 people found this review helpful
September 30, 2021 A fun dance, but with many missteps
When director Andrew Lau's film 'Dance of a Dream' is focused upon a group of amateurs finding joy in learning ballroom dance, that joy becomes contagious. When the film instead focuses on its half-baked plot, its ragged script lets it down.
'Dance of a Dream' has three central characters: Namson Lau (Andy Lau), a dance instructor struggling to pay the bills who dreams of hitting it big; Tina Cheung (Anita Mui), a hotel mogul, whose business success is making her miserable; and Kam (Sandra Ng), a server for a catering company, who becomes infatuated both with Namson and with ballroom dance when she sees him dance.
Concerned about how miserable Tina has become, her brother (Edison Chen) offers Namson a great pile of cash if he can brighten her days through dance lessons. Namson, obsessed with hitting the big time and willing to compromise his integrity, eagerly embraces this offer. Meanwhile, the lovesick Kam parts with a big share of her meager earnings to take private lessons from Namson, only to find that Namson shunts her into group lessons in order that he may earn the big bucks from privately training Tina.
Plucky Kam, however, makes metaphorical lemonade from dancing with her group of amateur lemons. They find pure joy from spending time together practicing their dance moves. (Cherrie Ying and Lam Tze Chung are particularly good at depicting the delight they find in their lessons.) Tina soon recognizes that she desperately needs what this group has, and joins them in the fun.
The telling of this story is complicated by the film's ham-handed script, which seems undecided about the direction it wishes to take. Unfortunately, the script's shortcomings are nowhere more evident than in the closing scenes of the movie. Just when the film's action is showing us the realization of Kam's hope, the script is grossly undercutting the happiness of the scene.
Andy Lau was never more glamorous than he is in 'Dance of a Dream'. Anita Mui, only two years away from her untimely passing, looks in the prime of life, lovely, healthy, and ultimately happy. And Sandra Ng turns her role into a revelation of a risk taken and a dream realized.
'Dance of a Dream', in spite of its failings, was a box office hit. Those failings are glaring, but the movie is definitely worth a look. You just might catch the dance contagion.
Double Xposure (DVD-9) (English Subtitled) (China Version)(1)Our Price: US$19.99September 30, 2021 Hitchcock would love 'Double Xposure'
Song Qi (Fan Bing Bing) is a prototypically modern woman; an attractive, young professional woman who seems to have her life together. She has a good job, providing consultations with prospective patients of a plastic surgery clinic on the kinds of changes they seek for their appearance. She has a good relationship, living together with her handsome boyfriend (William Feng), a surgeon at the clinic. And she has a fun and supportive best friend (Huo Si Yan).
But something is troubling Song Qi. She begins to suspect that her boyfriend might be cheating on her. And she fears that he is cheating on her with her best friend. As she dwells on these thoughts, she seems to become psychologically disconnected. She grows forgetful, feels lost. Her anxiety grows...
What follows in the film 'Double Xposure' is among the most intriguing, shocking, and perplexing stories you'll see. Director Li Yu has painstakingly constructed a cinematic hall of mirrors in which the viewers' expectations are continually challenged. This is a film which rewards multiple viewings, and I expect to enjoy watching it again and again.
Yon Fan Best Movie Collection1 people found this review helpful
September 29, 2021 Review of Peony Pavilion
Director Yon Fan's film 'Peony Pavilion' created a sensation upon its release in 2001 for its frank suggestion of a lesbian romance. Twenty years later, depictions of homosexuality in movies no longer seem shocking, so it may be useful to return to 'Peony Pavilion' for a fresh assessment.
'Peony Pavilion' relates the story of Hua Cui (Miyazawa Rie), a nightclub singer, and Lan Rong (Joey Wang), the lesbian schoolmarm who loves her. Hua Cui has given up her singing career to become the fifth concubine of the master of Noble House. Not a fortunate decision, as we soon learn. Noble House is in financial decline, as its master is a listless opium addict. The master's other mistresses detest Hua Cui for her beauty and talent. Hua Cui seeks refuge in caring for her daughter, the attentions of a faithful butler, the warm affection of her bosom buddy Lan Rong, and the deadening bliss of opium.
All of this is related in the film's sumptuous first half. Its second half is much less engaging. Hua Cui has been forced out of Noble House. She and her daughter take up residence in the relatively sterile environment of Lan Rong's home. In this second half, one of the characters asks, "What are you trying to say?" I was pondering the same question about director Yonfan's intentions.
A stunning amount of time in the film's second hour is consumed with Joey Wang lighting cigarettes, smoking cigarettes, and staring blankly into space. Out of the blue, Gang Xing Zhi (Daniel Wu), a provincial school inspector, moves into Lan Rong's school, where Lan spots the hunky Gang in the buff and quickly decides that she might not be a lesbian after all. After several heavy-breathing embraces and lingering shots of Daniel Wu's sculpted torso, Lan returns to being a lesbian, but not before Hua Cui broken-heartedly learns of the hetero dalliance. Oh, and Hua Cui coughs up blood a few times. That's about it for the film's wasted second half.
'Peony Pavilion' flopped at Hong Kong box offices. Is that because Hong Kongers didn't wish to see their beloved Joey cast as a lesbian or is it because the movie received bad 'word of mouth'? Good question.
Shadow (2018) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 29, 2021 Just a shadow of the golden flower's curse
When viewing director Zhang Yimou's film 'Shadow' one can't help comparing it to Zhang's 'Curse of the Golden Flower'. Both tell complex stories of palace intrigue, unfolded in Shakesperean fashion. Both climax in epic battles.
While the similarities between the films are obvious, their differences are stark. Visually, 'Curse of the Golden Flower' is a gorgeous explosion of vivid color, a never-ending treat for the eye. 'Shadow', on the other hand, has been blanched of almost all color, presenting a grim, near-black-and-white landscape in which the rain never ceases. More significantly, 'Curse' focused on the interior lives and motives of its protagonists; it provided a rich human story. 'Shadow', by contrast, tells a chilly tale of political skullduggery in which interior lives are largely unexplored. The lack of concern with interior lives in 'Shadow' is reflected in the following line from the film: "There is no right or wrong when it comes to life matters." Really?!?
Beyond the contrasts, 'Shadow' interrupts its endless scheming with head-scratchingly peculiar scenes. For example, Betty Sun, playing the wife of 'the Commander', who has shown no aptitude, interest, or abilities in the martial arts, suddenly conceives a fighting strategy which proves to be decisive. Bizarre weaponry, which seems startlingly ahistorical, appears out of the blue. The film's central character is stabbed time after time after time like a human pin-cushion, yet shrugs it off and keeps on going. Well, he does walk with a limp, but the numerous piercings of chest, back, and arms seem to have little effect.
Because the chilly story-telling in 'Shadow' is so emotionally unengaging, these peculiarities make it difficult for the viewer to continue to give the film the benefit of the doubt. Let me provide one more contrast between 'Curse of the Golden Flower' and 'Shadow': I'm looking forward to watching 'Curse' again and again, but have no interest in spending any more time in the bleak world of 'Shadow'.
Wu Xia (2011) (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 28, 2021 Intriguing tale laced with dazzling action
The first thing to be noted by viewers of 'Wu Xia' is that it is a Peter Chan-directed movie featuring Donnie Yen, not a Donnie Yen movie directed by Peter Chan. As befitting the man who directed such heart-tugging classics as 'Comrades: Almost a Love Story' and 'Perhaps Love', Chan's concern in this film is much more with the heart than with the fist. But don't worry -- there's plenty of action, too.
The film opens with a scene depicting the warm family life of Liu Jin Xi (Donnie Yen), as he prepares to head to work in his trade as a paper-maker. Liu visits a general store to do some shopping, only to encounter a robbery of the store's owners. Liu first hides, hoping to go unseen by the robbers, but when the robbery turns very violent, Liu intervenes in a fashion which appears clueless and haphazard but which surprisingly results in the deaths of both robbers.
Detective Xu (Kaneshiro Takeshi) soon arrives in the village, tasked with investigating the deaths. His larger project is to find a ruthless killer named Tang Long, the most fearsome of the 72 Demons. Xu becomes convinced that there is a connection between Tang Long and the events at this general store.
Director Chan creates an intriguing tale of relentless detection and of a soul seeking redemption. Kaneshiro Takeshi provides a Columbo-like performance as the unbending detective, while Donnie Yen gives one of his finest performances as the quiet tradesman seeking to rise above his past. Kara Hui and Jimmy Wang Yu spice up the action as, metaphorically speaking, the Ghosts of Things Past who continue to haunt paper-maker Liu. Highly recommended.
Dam Street (DVD) (China Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 28, 2021 A teen pregnancy and its consequences
Watching director Li Yu's film 'Dam Street' is a bit like tossing a stone into a pond, then seeing the spread of the resulting ripples. In 'Dam Street', the stone is teen pregnancy and the ripples are the effects down through the years caused in multiple lives as a consequence of the heedless sexual act which caused that pregnancy.
The film's style is gritty realism, presented with subtlety and sensitivity.'Dam Street' features splendid performances by Liu Yi as Yun, a young woman with a seemingly unfailing knack for making the wrong decision, and by Huang Xing Rao as Xiao Yong, a wild child who, unbeknownst either to him or to his birth mother, is the fruit of that teen pregnancy.
I don't want to reveal any more of this captivating story; I hope viewers will fall under its spell in the same manner I did. Very highly recommended for mature audiences.
Rumble Ages1 people found this review helpful
September 28, 2021 One-third worth watching
Writer/director James Yuen's 'Rumble Ages' is comprised of three interspliced but unrelated stories. In the first (and by far the most compelling) of the stories, Kwan Tak Fai plays Chi-Fai, a young man who against his better judgment gets roped into the triad-controlled sex trade, with his job consisting of escorting a young hooker to her assignations. In this case, the hooker is Faye (Bonnie Chiu), a girl from the mainland who thought she would be getting a waitressing job in Hong Kong and who desperately wants to flee her slavery. Chi-Fai is torn between his compassion for Faye's plight and his fear for his life if he double-crosses the gang.
In the second story, Edmond Leong plays Jason, the wealthy and handsome son of a business tycoon, who finds himself unwilling or unable to have normal relationships with women, so ends up seeking 'commercial affection' from the gorgeous but utterly materialistic Joyce (Liz Kong). Joyce does an effective job of convincing Jason that she will never give her heart to him, but just as he embraces the notion of their one-dimensional relationship, Joyce realizes that she desires something more.
In the third story, Eason Chan plays Sam, a man with a mental disability which renders him childlike. Unbelievably, Sam's buddy convinces Sam to participate in the burglary of a rich man's home. The burglars assumed that there was no one in the home, but in fact Wing (Miriam Yeung) was present and she spots Sam and forces the gang to flee. Given Hong Kong's size, Sam assumes he never will cross paths with Wing, but inevitably (this being that kind of a movie) their paths do cross and their lives begin to affectionately intermingle in a way which angers a vengeful lesbian woman who had fallen in love with Wing. Yes, things just keep getting increasingly unbelievable in this third story.
If director Yuen had simply focused on the first of these three urban tales, this could have been an intriguing film. Unfortunately, he keeps interrupting that gripping story with the glossy but flaccid account of the spoiled rich kid and the preposterous antics of Miriam and Eason.
Yamanaka Sadao Box Set: Humanity and Paper Balloons / Kochiyama Soshun / The Million Ryo Pot (DVD) (Taiwan Version)
Yamanaka Sadao Box Set: Humanity and Paper Balloons / Kochiyama Soshun / The Million Ryo Pot (DVD) (Taiwan Version) DVD Region All(1)1 people found this review helpful
September 23, 2021 Humanity and Paper Balloons
Director Sadao Yamanaka's film 'Humanity and Paper Balloons' is an affectionate, ferocious, funny, and terribly sad look at the downtrodden lives of the residents of a dilapidated tenement. Its story focuses primarily on two residents: Unno (Kawarasaki Chojuro), an impoverished ronin desperately seeking help from a wealthy man who had been aided in his rise by Unno's father, and Shinza (Nakamura Ganemon), a grifter who dares to operate his own gambling den on yakuza turf.
In director Sadao's film, no one emerges untarnished, no one is without sin. Unno relentlessly lies to his wife, implying a bright future ahead for them. Shinza's every breath is dishonest. Even the tenement's gentle, sweet-tempered blind man is working an angle to come out ahead after his silver pipe has been stolen. While the running length of the film is only 78 minutes, one leaves the film feeling that it has told a complete, complex slice-of-life story about this very human milieu.
Under the Hawthorn Tree (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version)(1)Our Price: US$15.991 people found this review helpful
September 22, 2021 Pure love
Director Zhang Yimou's film 'Under the Hawthorn Tree' is a love story of great, simple beauty. Set during the Cultural Revolution, and subtly hinting at the horrors of that age, the film tells of the luminously sweet high school girl Jing (Zhou Dong Yu), who is sent to the country to 'learn from the peasants'. While there she meets the kind and handsome Sun (Shawn Dou), a worker with a geological exploration unit, and each is immediately smitten with the other.
Over the coming months, their relationship is challenged by long separations, parental resistance, illness, and the constant threat of political persecution, yet the enduring purity of Jing and Sun's shared love shines through.
What is most striking about director Zhang's film is its firm grasp of the true nature of love -- a self-sacrificing relationship which always puts the interests of the other above one's own. This simple truth is captured so beautifully in 'Under the Hawthorn Tree' that, having seen it, one can't imagine ever forgetting it. Very highly recommended.
The Adventures Of Emperor Chien Lung (Hong Kong Version)(1)Our Price: US$10.991 people found this review helpful
September 22, 2021 The adventure (singular) of Chien Lung
Director Wang Feng's film 'Emperor Chien Lung', starring Anthony Lau as the Emperor and Wang Yu as his (eventual) sidekick, opened in movie theaters precisely one year before the release of Li Han Hsiang's 'The Adventures of Emperor Chien Lung'. In short, director Li simply was building upon the firm foundation already created by director Wang.
Director/screenwriter Li, however, decided to begin his film by unnecessarily turning the clock back. He spends the first 18 minutes of the movie spinning the clumsily-constructed origin story of Chien Lung. Why did I find it clumsy? It includes a hunt scene which has obvious stock footage of animals in the wild, and it includes a 'bear' attack featuring an embarrassingly obvious man in a cheap bear suit. For good (?) measure, director Li throws in footage of some actual possessions of Chien Lung held by a museum in Taiwan.
We wait until the film's 18 minute mark before we see for the first time Anthony Lau as the emperor. Then we must wait an additional 52 minutes before the emperor has his first (and only) 'adventure' in the film. What happens during those 52 long minutes? A series of humorous scenes in which Treasurer Liu (Li Kun) turns an insult into a pay raise, outsmarts the emperor to win his jade ring, and defeats the emperor's schemes to terminate his pay raise. While these scenes are amusing, surely they should not have consumed over half of the film's running length!
When the emperor finally does go on his 'adventure' to a southern city, there are only 30 minutes remaining in the film. And a huge portion of that half-hour is consumed with one very long fight scene. Director Li many times over in his career proved his greatness, but in this film he is undermined by the clumsiness of screenwriter Li. Of the five comedic Chien Lung films created by directors Wang and Li, this is surely the least compelling.
Fox Legend (1991) (DVD) (US Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 18, 2021 Foxy fun
Director Wu Ma's 'Fox Legend' only lasted a few days in Hong Kong movie theaters, and tends to get very lukewarm reviews, but I really enjoyed it. Lovely fox spirits -- it's got 'em. Lots of fun wirework -- got it. Wu Ma in one of his crazy costumed roles -- got him. 'Fox Legend' has many of the elements we love in early '90s HK films.
Cleavage-baring Kelly Yao is featured as the queen of fox spirits, a nasty piece of work devoted to preying on humans and training her daughter Snow (Joey Wang) to entice the best hunters of fox spirits into a deadly honey trap. As part of the queen's plans, Snow makes the heir (Li Wei Qiang) of the great fox hunting family fall in love with her. The heir wastes his family fortune in his pursuit of foxy Snow, but things don't go quite as the queen has planned -- Snow has fallen in love with the heir.
Into this mix like a bull in a china shop comes the Hunt King (Wu Ma), who is determined to straighten out the heir and eliminate the fox spirits. But his efforts end up putting him at odds with the totally smitten heir, who is willing to defend lovely Snow to the death.
While Li Wei Qiang is a bit of a damp squib as the heir, I bought the film's love story, loved all the crazy action, enjoyed the beautiful eye candy, and delighted at the always outrageous Wu Ma. Recommended for fans of the genre.
The Lost Swordship (Taiwan Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 11, 2021 Action-packed wu xia drama
Based upon a Gu Long novel, director Li Jia's 'The Lost Swordship' tells of a battle for control of the martial arts world. A mysterious clan led by a masked figure known only as 'the Bishop' uses advanced fighting techniques and technologies to slay its competitors. One man who refuses to bow down to the Bishop is the noble and upright Lu Nan-Jen (Tien Peng).
Lu's principled stand against the Bishop comes with a great price. The Bishop's minions have seriously wounded him. His wife, the famous beauty Xue Jo-Pi (Tang Bao Yun) has disappeared and is apparently kidnapped by the Bishop, and his fast friend and former rival for Jo-Pi's love Ling Pei Hsiu (Pai Ying) shockingly has thrown in with the Bishop.
To reclaim his wife and defeat the Bishop, the wounded Lu goes in search of his family's legendary weapon, the Fragrant Sword. Instead, he encounters two colorful characters who call themselves the Thief of the North and the Thief of the South (Chen Hui Lou, Kao Pao Shu), who render Lu some tough love.
Will Lu ever be able to defeat the Bishop and retrieve Jo-Pi? Why has Ling Pei Hsiu betrayed him and sided with the evil Bishop? I've only scratched the surface of the intriguing plot and vivid characters to be found in this martial arts gem. 'The Lost Swordship' provides an engaging story and more than enough action to satisfy wu xia film fans.
Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal (2015) (DVD) (Thailand Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 11, 2021 The special effects let the movie down
'Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal' is remarkable film, both remarkably good and remarkably bad, but definitely remarkable. Its story, drawing on a concoction of Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese mythology, and even Chinese traditional medicine, tells of an event which occurs only once every millenium for demons: They are reincarnated. The fate of their reincarnation depends upon the stolen human souls housed within the Dark Crystal.
Alas for the demons, the Dark Crystal has been stolen from their domain by Zhong Kui (Aloys Chen) pursuant to the directions of the deity Master Zhang (Winston Chao), who has assumed responsibility for shielding the city of Hu from the reincarnated demons. To fetch back the crystal to the underworld, Xueqing the Snow Girl (Li Bing Bing) and her minions are dispatched to Hu, disguised as a troupe of beautiful dancing girls.
Upon her arrival in Hu, Zhong Kui immediately recognizes the Snow Girl as the woman he briefly met three years earlier, and with whom he had fallen deeply in love. Although he soon realizes her true identity as a demon, and although he is commanded by Master Zhang to destroy her, Zhong Kui is deeply torn by his love. Will he jeopardize the fate of his city by failing to do his duty?
When the film focuses on telling this essentially romantic story, it is remarkably compelling and looks gorgeous. Unfortunately, the filmmakers are unsatisfied to be compelling; they want to create a spectacle. Over and over again, they insert over-the-top CGI special effects to pump up the action, and much too often those special effects look remarkably cartoonish. The cheesy CGI wrecks the film's dramatic momentum. Here's the moral to the story: Just because you have CGI doesn't mean you need to overuse them.
Life Gamble (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 10, 2021 Gamble on Chang Cheh
Chang Cheh directing a huge, stellar cast is bound to bring attention to the film 'Life Gamble'. But to what end? In the film, the martial arts world is focused on nabbing a not-particularly impressive-looking piece of jade. The stakes seem too low and require too much exposition to make this a compelling story.
While the story turns out to be as dull as dishwater, several of the characters are a treat. Topping them all is Peng Shuang Shuang (Shirley Yu), essentially a party planner and temptress with an avaricious heart and overactive eyebrows. Two other particularly intriguing characters are Yun Xiang (Fu Sheng), a master blade thrower modeled after a Wild West gunslinger, and Qiu Zi Yu (Phillip Kwok), a blacksmith who has sworn off participating in the endless rivalries of the martial arts world. What makes these two characters compelling is that, unlike everyone else, they are motivated by ends much higher than mere greed.
Given that it is a Chang Cheh film, you can expect lots of action and a high body count. Concentrate on the unusual characters, the imaginative weaponry, and the multiple fight scenes and 'Life Gamble' will entertain.
The Emperor And The Minister (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 9, 2021 The Emperor gets lost ... and lost again
'The Emperor and the Minister', the last installment in writer/director Li Han Hsiang's series of comedic 'emperor' films, begins retrospectively with brief glimpses of tales related in earlier films in the series. It then launches into a prolonged cross-talk routine between Treasurer Liu (Li Kun) and Minister Er (Chiang Nan), the comedy of which is largely impenetrable to those not fluent in Mandarin.
We were twenty minutes into the film before a fresh episode begins; fortunately, it was a very engaging story. The incognito Emperor Chien Lung (Liu Yung), together with Treasurer Liu and Minister Er, have become lost in their travels outside of Suzhou, when they enter a complex and deadly trap. Key players in setting this trap include Madam Hua Jin (Liu Hui Ling), the dodgy proprietress of an even dodgier inn, and Xiao Hong (Kara Hui, looking particularly fetching), a gal with a grudge.
The film next relates a tale of when the emperor, on another of his journeys, becomes lost, alone, and frightfully ill. In a feverish daze, he stumbles into the hovel of two beggars (Chiang Han, Dai Jun De), who nurse their unexpected guest back to health with a 'special' broth to which the emperor takes a liking. Indeed, the emperor likes it so much that he wishes to serve it to his guests at the next big imperial function, with hilarious consequences.
After its slow start, 'The Emperor and the Minister' becomes richly entertaining, another fine example of the cinematic brilliance of Li Han Hsiang.
The Chinese Boxer1 people found this review helpful
September 9, 2021 Jimmy Wang Yu does it all
'The Chinese Boxer' was Jimmy Wang Yu's debut as a director (and as a writer), and he puts many more experienced helmsmen to shame! The plot is archetypal: Diao Erh (Chiu Hung) gets thrown out of a martial arts school for misbehavior, and later returns seeking revenge. In the interim he has learned some Japanese techniques which, upon his return, he employs. While he beats several of the students, he gets thrashed by the school's master Li Chun Hai (Fang Mian).
Diao Erh returns again to Master Li's school, bringing three Japanese martial arts experts, including the exceedingly nasty Master Kita (Lo Lieh). The Japanese trio lay waste to the school, killing Master Li and most of the students. One of those students, Lei Ming (Jimmy Wang), barely survives and is nursed back to health by Master Li's lovely daughter Xiao Ling (Wang Ping).
During Lei Ming's convalescence, Diao Erh and Master Kita have gained dominance over the town, crushing the people under usurious interest rates and cheating them at the casino Diao Erh and Kita now control. Lei Ming is determined to defeat this evil crew, but knows he lacks the skills to beat them. However, he recalls that Master Li had told him of two ancient Chinese techniques which could overcome the Japanese styles...
Throughout its running length, the film is creatively mounted, lensed, and edited. As a consequence, it is always interesting to watch. Particularly appealing to the eyes are the film's later scenes, which create wonderful atmosphere by being filmed amidst snow. 'The Chinese Boxer' is a martial arts gem.
Demon Of The Lute (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 8, 2021 Bring your sense of humor and enjoy!
What a delightful charmer of a movie 'Demon of the Lute' is! Someone known as the Demon of the Lute has got ahold of a very special lute (think: 'Deadful Melody') and is using it as a weapon in an attempt to gain control of the martial arts world. Only a very special bow and very special arrows can defeat this mighty lute. But the bow and arrows are hidden and no one knows where they may be found.
Feng Ling (Kara Hui), possessing one part of a clue to where the bow and arrows may be found, goes in search of them. She is joined in her quest by a thief (Phillip Kwok) and his remarkably talented little daughter Xiao Ding Dong (Kei Kong Hung) and by the blacksmith Yuan Fei (Chin Siu Ho).
This merry band must battle the bizarre minions of the Demon of the Lute (including Red Haired Evil and Hermaphrodite) while they also cross paths which such strange creatures as the Skinny Elf and Feng Ling's brother Old Naughty. Eventually all roads seem to lead to the seemingly peaceful Wandering Hermit (Jason Pai). But surprises lie ahead.
Kara Hui, Chin Siu Ho, and the adorable tyke Kei Kong Hung all are perfectly cast for their roles, with all three throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the wild action. 'Demon of the Lute' provides a rollicking good time with lots of laughs, plenty of action, and some of the craziest characters you'll ever see.
Scandal (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 7, 2021 Scandalously funny
In director Li Han Hsiang's hilarious film 'Scandal', Michael Hui stars as Zhen Ming, a not particularly competent burglar who, together with his criminal cohort Chia Liang (Wang Shen), breaks into the office of the corrupt county magistrate. Zhen finds nothing of value in the magistrate's safe other than a series of reports into the nefarious dealings of the county's top officials. Meanwhile, Chia sees a photo of the magistrate and discovers that he and the magistrate look identical.
When a riot creates havoc in the county building, Zhen hatches a wild scheme: Chia will pretend to be the magistrate, Zhen will pose as the magistrate's right hand man, and together they will use those reports to blackmail the county officials. All goes well for our pair of good-natured rogues ... until the province's ultra-corrupt governor (also played by Michael Hui) arrives to investigate rumors of the riot.
Michael Hui is brilliantly funny in his two roles, and Tanny Tien and Lily Li spice up the proceedings. 'Scandal' is surely among director Li's most delightful comedies. Highly recommended.
The Tiger And The Widow1 people found this review helpful
September 6, 2021 This widow is worth watching
Director Li Han Hsiang's 'The Tiger and the Widow' is an intense drama which has a particular relevance for today's China. Set during the late Qing dynasty, the film tells of the salt trade. The government has monopolized the industry; anyone infringing upon the government's monopoly receives the death penalty. However, the government has set the price of salt so high that it has incentivized others to participate in the lucrative illicit business. The inevitable result is government corruption.
A kind of tong has arisen to grab a foothold in the salt business. Governed by three elders, the tong trains three young men to lead its efforts. One (Jason Pai) enters the government in order to protect the tong against government enforcement. The other two go into the illegal salt trade, but when one of them dies his widow (Tanny Tien Ni) succeeds to control of the salt business. The other young man (Anthony Lau) designated by the elders acts as her right hand man in running the business.
Pressure comes from high ranks of government to crack down on the illegal salt trade. The threat to the tong is compounded when a traitor (Chan Shen) emerges from their ranks. A sacrificial lamb is required; someone must be turned over to the government to face the death penalty in order to keep the tong's business alive. Who will it be?
The complex story is expertly told by director Li (although the English subtitles occasionally are unhelpful). Tension is effectively built, as the government threat looms over the tong. Much of the film's success is owing to the revelatory performance of Tanny Tien. She is able to convey a woman in command, yet who when needed can slide into the conventional submissive woman's role, a woman who can be ruthless yet possess nobility of spirit. As with so many Shaw films, this one ends too abruptly, but it spins a very compelling story.
The Golden Lion (Hong Kong Version)1 people found this review helpful
September 5, 2021 Golden Lion meets the Poison Flying Claw!
The short opening scenes of director Ho Meng Hua's 'The Golden Lion' reveal that the film's central character Dai Xiaoyao (Chiu Hung), also known as the Golden Lion, is a dour Robin Hood who, together with his band of not-so-merry men, steals from the rich at sword-point and gives to the poor. This 'chivalrous' criminal wants no one to be confused about who is committing these robberies; he scrawls 'Lion' at the scene of his crimes.
Naturally, the authorities want to put an end to these assaults on their community's most prosperous members, but they lack the power to stop Dai Xiaoyao, a man of Herculean strength, and his sword-slinging 'brothers'. Consequently, they hire the brutish Wang Jian Chao (Wong Hap) and his huge red-shirted private army to take down the Golden Lion. A bloody confrontation ensues, in which Wang's infamous Poison Flying Claw grievously wounds and poisons the Lion.
His 'brothers' bring the nearly dead Lion to the home of the renowned (but retired) Dr. Lu (Fang Mian), who together with his lovely daughter Wen Fang (Li Jing) reluctantly agrees to attend to the Lion's wounds. Dr. Lu's son Min Yip (James Gung Fan), however, opposes his father giving care to this notorious criminal. After the Lu family (all of whom prove to be great martial artists) is assaulted by Wang's red-shirted warriors, son Min Yip can take no more of this association with the Lion; he throws in his lot with the Wang gang.
Dr. Lu can do only so much to cure the Lion; he is missing a key ingredient for the antidote to the poison, a rare lotus blossom found only in a distant valley. Dr. Lu and his sword-slinging daughter (who clearly has fallen in love with the gallant bandit) set out in search of the missing ingredient, hounded along the way by the red shirts. An ultimate confrontation between Wang and the Lion surely is on the horizon.
'The Golden Lion' presents a crisply-told, well-acted, action-packed story, featuring thrilling martial arts and feats of strength. It boasts both high production values and fine cinematography. Li Jing, who received top billing in the film, provides grace and beauty. While its ending seems truncated, fans of wu xia films should enjoy this Chiu Hung starrer.