Friday, August 31, 2012

Recent HK Pickups : Crime, Triads And Revenge

Hong Kong crime and triad movies, Oh what would I do without you? Re-watch older ones I guess, but while ever there are ones I haven't seen I'll keep picking them up. They may not all be amazing but most have at least something or someone to recommend them.

A Shaw Brothers movie up first, The Kiss Of Death, a revenge tale starring Chen Ping, that was the inspiration for Nam Nai Choi's brutal Her Vengeance, which I saw for the first time earlier this week.

With action from Jackie Chan's stunt team and direction from Wang Lung Wei of Hong Kong Godfather fame, I'm looking forward to this one.

Another Wang Lung Wei film, this time starring Andy Lau, Irene Wan and Chan Wai Man, how can it fail with a cast like that?

Recommended by Paul from Chanbara Spurt, starring Max Mok and directed by Poon Man Kit, Paul likes this enough for it to be in his forthcoming Favourite Hong Kong Movies list.

Danny Lee playing, yes you guessed it, a cop again in a self directed effort.

Final part tomorrow.

Recent HK Pickups : Sammo Hung

It's been a while since I posted the dvds I've been picking up, first up are movies featuring the one and only Sammo Hung.

I already had Spooky Encounters, but had neither The Magnificent Butcher or Knockabout, and both seem to be tricky to track down now for a decent price so this was a bargain @ £9 for the three movies.

The next two were recommended to me by facebook friends.

I've never seen Carry On Pickpocket before and know practically nothing about it, it does look like good fun.

I may have Where's Officer Tuba before many moons ago but remember absolutely nothing of it, I was urged to revisit it, so I'll see if it brings anything back to me.

My favourite genre up next : Crime and triads!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Favourite Hong Kong Movies. Richard Trondsen

I'll let Richard introduce himself.

I was introduced to, and got hooked on, the wonderful and awesome world of Hong Kong Cinema thanks to three men; Bruce Lee, Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo. It all began with the Bruce Lee movies, The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, and The Way of the Dragon, followed quickly by The Killer and Hard Boiled. I then obtained a copy of Bey Logan's excellent book, Hong Kong Action Cinema, and read it from cover to cover within a few days. I then went out and bought as many of the action movies (mostly "heroic bloodshed") featured in the book as I could get my hands on. The action-comedies of Jackie Chan, the hilarious and wacky world of Stephen Chow, and the awesomeness of Donnie Yen quickly followed (mostly thanks to the UK-based DVD label, Hong Kong Legends). Now I watch (and love) a bit of everything. Other favorite Hong Kong actors and directors include Ringo Lam, Wong Kar-Wai, Maggie Cheung, Sammo Hung, Michelle Yeoh, Yukari Oshima, Moon Lee, Yuen Biao, Tsui Hark, Yuen Woo-Ping, Johnnie To, Ti Lung, Kara Hui, Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung, Chang Cheh, Lau Kar-Leung and many, many, many more.

Here are my 13 favorite Hong Kong movies. To avoid five of them being directed by John Woo, I decided to inlude only one movie per director. I also decided to do a separate Shaw Brothers list.

Hard Boiled (1992)

One of the very first Hong Kong movies I ever watched remains my absolute favorite. John Woo's Hard Boiled is still the most awesome (action) movie I have ever seen. Woo's The Killer may be the better movie, but I prefer Hard Boiled thanks to its bigger and better action sequences, that to this day have yet to be matched. John Woo is my favorite Hong Kong director of all time and Hard Boiled is definitely my favorite (Hong Kong) movie. I recently told a fellow fan that I could watch Hard Boiled twice a day for the rest of my life and still not get tired of it. The same is true for the next movie on my list.

Chungking Express (1994)

My introduction to Wong Kar-Wai was definitely 'love at first watch.' Chungking Express is just such a joy to sit through, no matter how many times I've seen it (which is quite a few by now!) Faye Wong plays the most adorable character in a movie ever. And I love the constant use of "California Dreamin'," as well as Faye Wong's take on "Dreams." Chungking Express is easily my favorite Wong Kar-Wai movie, although In the Mood for Love is probably as good.

Full Contact (1992)

City On Fire is probably Ringo Lam's finest hour, but Full Contact is my favorite. Like Hard Boiled, this is over the top action at its finest. Chow Yun-Fat is badass as always and Simon Yam plays one of the coolest villains ever. The awesome poster with Chow Yun-Fat on a motorcycle, with gun in hand and cigarette in mouth, is proudly displayed in my living room.

Police Story (1985)

As much as I love Project A and Drunken Master II, Police Story has always been my favorite Jackie Chan movie. The action set-pieces and stun-twork are out of this world. The finale at the shopping mall is still jaw-dropping, even after seeing it at least a dozen times. The comedy works well, too, and Maggie Cheung is as cute as ever.

All About Ah-Long (1989)

Okay, enough of the action movies, already! I may be an action junkie (when it comes to Hong Kong Cinema, anyway), but I do love a good melodrama, and Jonnnie To's All About Ah-Long is the finest one I've seen. Chow Yun-Fat is in absolute top form, giving what is arguably his best performance to date. Wong Kwan-Yuen is also terrific as Ah-Long's son, Porky. The tragic ending makes me cry buckets.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Stephen Chow quickly became one of my favorite actors and comedians a few years back when I went through most of his fimography and Shaolin Soccer stands out as my definite favorite. The comedy, drama, and special effects-laden action work brilliantly together, as does the entire cast. It also helps that I've always been a big fan of soccer (or football, as we call it over here).

In the Line of Duty 4 (1989)

I needed at least one Donnie Yen/Yuen Woo-Ping movie on my list and In the Line of Duty 4 is my favorite from both. It's also the very first Donnie Yen movie I saw and I fell in love with the man and his amazing kicking ability instantly. In the Line of Duty 4 is pretty much non-stop action, and the action is truly awesome.

Dragons Forever (1988)

Project A is my favorite "three brothers" movie, but since it's directed by Jackie Chan and I already listed Police Story, I'm going with my second favorite, Dragons Forever. Dragons Forever contains some of my favorite fight scenes in any movie, ever. Jackie's one-on-one fight with Benny "The Jet" Urquidez is, in my opinion, a career high. Both Sammo Hung and, especially, Yuen Biao get to do some amazing stuff, too. Dragons Forever is an amazing action-comedy.

Tiger on the Beat (1988)

Speaking of amazing action-comedy... Lau Kar-Leung's buddy-cop flick is another favorite of mine. It's also the fourth movie starring Chow Yun-Fat to appear on my list (what can I say? I love the guy!). The chemisty between Chow Yun-Fat and Conan Lee is great and the movie contains some truly spectacular action. Chow's shotgun trick is too awesome for words and Conan uses a chainsaw like a boss!

Fist of Fury (1972)

I probably wouldn't be the Hong Kong movie fan I am today without Bruce Lee and his (sadly, very few) movies, and Fist of Fury is without a doubt my favorite. There's no greater joy than watching the man (and the legend) wipe the floor with a dozen Japanese (not that I have anything against the Japanese..!). Bruce Lee is on fire in this movie! Fire, I tell you! Fist of Fury is a perfect title for a perfect movie.

The Way of the Dragon (1972)

Thanks to Bruce Lee deciding to direct himself, I managed to add another Bruce Lee movie to my list. The Way of the Dragon contains my favorite (one-on-one) fight scene ever; Bruce Lee versus Chuck Norris.. at the Colosseum! The rest of the movie is pretty damn good, too. Bruce Lee is my idol, my hero... and my God.

Once Upon a Time in China II (1992)

I felt that I needed to feature Tsui Hark in this list and Once Upon a Time in China II is probably my favorite (although I love Don't Play with Fire and Peking Opera Blues). This is also my favorite Jet Li movie and the fact that it features my man Donnie Yen (as a great villain) made it even easier to add. Once Upon a Time in China II is an essential masterpiece.

Story of Ricky (1992)

Last, but certainly not least, is Nam Nai-Choi's insanely over the top and truly awesome, Story of Ricky (AKA Riki-Oh). Easily one of the goriest movies to come out of Hong Kong and one that is not to be taken seriously. Ricky is one mean mother... Oh, and my favorite female ass-kicker, Yukari Oshima, makes a welcome apperance (as a guy!(?)). Bloody good stuff.

My 13 favorite Shaw Brothers productions (in no particlular order):

Hong Kong Godfather (1985)
King Boxer (1972)
The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)
The Five Venoms (1978)
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)
My Young Auntie (1981)
Come Drink with Me (1966)
Heroes of the East (1979)
The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter (1983)
The Flying Guillotine (1975)
Danger Has Two Faces (1985)
Men from the Gutter (1983)
The Boxer's Omen (1983)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Favourite Hong Kong Movies. David, The Milky Way Wonderland

David Lam's blog The Milky Way Wonderland is one of the freshest out there, thanks to David's impressive and fun artwork, depicting anything from specific actors to entire films to members of our online blogging and podcasting community. Not only that but he's a mean writer too, as well as writing for his blog he also features on the Vcinemashow website along with the Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow. Now if we could just get him back updating regularly....

1. Chungking Express - Wong Kar Wai.

Wong Kar Wai's masterpiece of urban malaise is the first film I watched that had a profound effect on me. It convinced me that cinema wasn't just strictly for entertainment, when done well, it has the potential to be art.

2. Happy Together - Wong Kar Wai.

The second film to convince me that cinema is the purest medium for art.

3. Running On Karma - Johnnie To.

Funny, touching, thought- provoking and unabashedly philosophical.

4. All Wells Ends Well 1992 - Chifton Ko.

One of most stellar ensemble EVER committed to celluloid. In many ways the perfect comedy.

5. The Mission - Johnnie To.

This Johnnie To film is the perfect blend of balletic action and arthouse cool. Arguably the first Johnnie To film to be labelled A JOHNNIE TO FILM.

6. The Swordsman and 7. The Swordsman II - Tsui Hark.

Tsui Hark's kinetic filmmaking sensibilities are in full display in this impressive pair of films. Plenty of off the wall swordplay, breakneck pace storytelling and topped off with a healthy dose of zaniness. It's Hark at the top of his game.

8. The Longest Summer - Fruit Chan.

Part crime thriller, part documentation of the uncertainties of the end of the British rule. Fruit Chan's most political but also most affecting film to date.

9. Eight Taels of Gold - Mabel Cheung.

A gem of a film that's full of heartfelt moments anchored by Sammo Hung & Sylvia Chang mesmerizing onscreen chemistry. A wonderful showcase of Hong Kong mellow drama.

10. Ashes Of Time - Wong Kar Wai.

Yup, another WKW film. With the exception of My Blueberry Nights, I could just fill my top ten with all of WKW's films. Anyhow, Ashes of Time is possibly one of the talkiest wuxia film. It's sprawling, pensive and melancholic. In a lotta ways it's closer to a Western than a swordplay movie. I absolutely love this film and somehow regret putting it last on my list.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Favourite Hong Kong Movies. Phil Gillon, Eastern Film Fans

This next list comes from Phil Gillon, webmaster of Eastern Film Fans, who also writes for the excellent website Far East Films. In addition to his writing, Phil periodically appears as a guest on the Podcast On Fire Network. Phil decided on a different way to choose his picks, as he explains.....

A lot of my movies are the first I saw and although there may have been better movies around these are the ones that catapulted my imagination, inspiration and drive to make Asian movies more accessible to everyone.

10. Runaway Blues.

Andy Lau gives a wonderful performance as a man on the run in this violent gangster genre which opened the door to many a great gangster film.

09. Shaolin Temple.

Still easily one of the best Jet Li movies the film although aged now still holds fond memories of a little guy with extraordinary physical prowess.

08. The Killer.

Chow Yun Fat is a hitman with a heart in John Woo's masterpiece, the doves, the church, the slow mo, the iconic figure, the bloodshed its the epitome of cool.

07. Dragons Forever.

Jackie Chan reunites his dragons Sammo, Jackie and Yuen at their best with some fine comedic turns and then the rematch with Benny ‘The Jet and Yuen Wah provides another wonderful turn as the cigar smoking villain a pure entertainment extravaganza.

06. Wheels on Meals.

Jackie Chan brings Sammo and Yuen to the screen and doesn’t pull any punches with its villains with Keith Vitali and Benny ‘The Jet’ giving us one of the best on screen fights EVER!

05. On The Run.

Yuen Biao Acts his socks off in a rare non Kung Fu finale in fact a rare non kung fu film but once again it pulls on your heart strings and proves that beyond a doubt Yuen Biao should have had more opportunities to be the lead.

04. Pedicab Driver.

An emotional roller coaster it made a grown man cry (cough cough splutter) you also get added Lau Kar-Leung . Quite simply some of  Sammo Hung’s best fights on film

03. Police Story.

Jackie Chan had done many films before but non quite captured the artistry that Jackie Chan put on screen.  Glass Story as it was dubbed still one of the best finales to a film ever.

02. A Better Tomorrow.

Chow Yun-Fat oozes cool and certainly opened my eyes up to the Herioc Bloodshed genre. Bloody Bullet Ballet at its best.

01. Eastern Condors.

It’s probably the film that inspired my imagination and took the step from mainstream ie Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan to other great icons such as Yuen Biao Sammo Hung and Lam Ching Ying. My Fav movie from 80's Sammo, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah plus a who’s who of Asian Cinema it’s the Chinese Dirty Dozen with Kung Fu. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Favourite Hong Kong Movies. Ken Brorsson, Podcast On Fire

Webmaster of Sogoodreviews and Sleazy K's Video and of course the driving force behind the ever growing (both in size and stature) Podcast On Fire Network. The diversity and sheer amount of information available across the P.O.F Network, from This Week In Sleaze and it's CAT III coverage, to The Director's series, to Commentary On Fire and Ken's new baby Taiwan Noir, is truly inspirational. Initially Ken was a little reluctant to submit a list, but was very supportive of the idea of putting this together and that pretty much sums up what I know about him. He eventually gave in and provided his list, which as I expected is a very interesting one, and one I'm really pleased to be able to share with everyone. It's been mentioned on facebook numerous times how Ken is the cornerstone of the Hong Kong cinema fan community, and his quality of output, work ethic ( I can never keep up with his schedule) and above all attitude have more than earned him that compliment.

In order of preference.

An Autumn’s Tale.

Take two stars, Chow Yun-fat and Cherie Chung, who always were comfortable with each other and concoct the most perfect romantic, simple beats that are universal (helps that the movie is about two Hong Kong people in New York) and you got what has often been described as the perfect date movie out of Hong Kong cinema. Everyone delivering the utmost from stars to understated direction by Mabel Cheung.

The Cat.

I find it frustrating director Nam Nai-choi isn’t associated with his sci-fi/gore/special effects spectacle The Cat but rather weaker material, in comparison, like Story Of Ricky but regardless, the former cinematographer took on a wealth of material during his relatively short directing career. Clearly though, it was love for special effects and b-movies that shined through and none better in the non-stop carosuel that is The Cat. Watch out forthe ingenious sequence featuring a fight between an alien cat and a super-dog. All done without harming the animals seemingly. See, Hong Kong cinema does care.

Shanghai Blues.

Due to lack of availability, this Tsui Hark blues has always lived in the shadow of the weaker Peking Opera Blues. Shame because it’s a perfect mix of beautiful design, music, goofy comedy, romance and heart. Special mention to Sally Yeh in a perfectly pitched, ditsy performance.

The Sword.

I love it when swordplay movies say something real despite being set in a fantasy-world. Patrick Tam makes us question along with Adam Cheng’s character what truly is the point of striving for supremacy in the martial world. Heavy stuff, all performed during a very short running time in a refreshing move.

Bullet In The Head.

My introduction to Hong Kong cinema where I got excited an destroyed in one go. John Woo’s movie certainly is about the stylish action but the anger is put to use in a way where we realize the term bloody brotherhood has never been as well executed as it is here.

Once Upon A Time In Triad Society.

Chow Yun-fat was my first actor discovery in Hong Kong cinema in the sense that I can’t get enough of this guy. Francis Ng the second and this performance (along with the one in the unrelated sequel) is character acting gold. Told from two perspectives as his heinous triad boss Ugly Kwan is on his way out of this world, it’s a perfect send up of triad movie conventions that were becoming a bit too allurring for the youth and just perfect entertainment helmed by Cha Chuen-Yee who peaked with this and mentioned sequel.

Wild Search.

Regardless of how much it’s tailored after ‘Witness’, Ringo Lam’s more mellow side after being angry to the max in ‘School On Fire’ gives us the finest on-screen collaboration between his leads Chow Yun-fat and Cherie Chung as well as glimpses into choices of mixing violence and a relationship that doesn’t need to be romantic. It needs to be however.

Scared Stiff.

You know how Hong Kong movies put every mood and genre into one movie sometimes? Being silly, grating, touching and extremely violent? Scared Stiff is THE test for this but Lau Kar-wing pulls it off because he knows how to push. From Eric Tsang dressed up as a robot to sections echoing giallo movies to an an ESP action/gore ending, it’s jaw dropping material especially if you don’t know it going in.

Hail The Judge.

I might be missing out on tons of intricacies in Stephen Chow’s comedy here but Hail The Judge is still the most hilarious of Chow’s 90s comedies. It may be directed by Wong Jing but it feels a lot more Chow than Wong thankfully.

Red To Kill.

You do need to be slapped around by cinema, you do need to be pushed, be violated and feel ill after watching certain movies. At least that’s my take on it and during the Category III explosion of the 90s, there was no one better to turn to than Billy Tang. Shooting his rape-thriller in synch sound and creating some of the most vivid visually and disturbing imagery in any Hong Kong movie before or since, it may have some missteps or two when it comes to the pitch in Ben “The Hulk” Ng’s performance and it doesn’t apologize for the story it’s presenting. It doesn’t say that it’s liking it either and therefore I return to it... often.

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