THE TRAIL was far from Ronny Yu’s only attempt at mixing sincere supernatural horror with silly comedy. THE OCCUPANT (1984) is a ghost tale that takes its tragic backstory seriously, but the movie centers on a goofy love triangle, and one of the three leads is a broadly comedic nerd character named Hansom Wong (Bak-Ming Wong, MAD MISSION, LETHAL PANTHER, also a writer, producer and director).
Like Yu himself, Angie (Sally Yeh, PEKING OPERA BLUES, THE KILLER) is a world traveler – she’s from Vancouver, visiting Hong Kong for three weeks to work on her thesis about Chinese superstition. Hansom is a… used car salesman/property manager/random weirdo?… who sees her trying to find an apartment, latches onto her and “helps” her in exaggeratedly-sexual-harassy ways. He invites himself in, makes excuses not to leave, asks if he can take a shower, suggests that he should run around the apartment naked to scare away potential ghosts. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing or a Hansom Wong thing. (He also claims to be an expert on the supernatural.)
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One of the main reasons to do a Ronny Yu career retrospective is to see how the hell this great Hong Kong director ended up in another part of the world making (SPOILER FOR THIS REVIEW SERIES) BRIDE OF CHUCKY and FREDDY VS. JASON, so it’s relevant that as early as 1983 (at which point there were only three Jason movies, zero Freddys, and zero Chuckys) he was already doing horror movies. Funny ones, too. THE TRAIL is Ronny Yu’s fourth film, never available in the U.S. as far as I can tell, so at first I thought I wouldn’t be able to see it. But I discovered I could order a Region 3 DVD that Fortune Star released in 2010, and there’s also a blu-ray out there. That’s good news, because I really enjoyed this one.
Horror comedies will end up being a big chunk of Yu’s career, but he’ll mostly set them in the present. This one takes place in 1922, in what seems to be a transitional period between old traditions and the modern world. (I guess that describes most period pieces, in a way.) It’s the story of Ying (Ricky Hui, MR. VAMPIRE) and Captain (Kent Cheng, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, IP MAN 2 and 3), two conmen impersonating Taoist priests transporting corpses. (read the rest of this shit…)
The Postman Strikes Back
Ronny Yu’s 1982 film THE POSTMAN STRIKES BACK (or THE POSTMAN FIGHTS BACK in the U.K.) is not a sequel to Kevin Costner’s THE POSTMAN, but it is about a heroic letter deliverer. Courier Ma (Bryan Leung, IRON MONKEY, IP MAN, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS) enjoys his humble life as a messenger in bandit-ridden territory between Canton and Shanghai. Like many of us he has the shadow of technological advancement hanging over him: when the trains come in, people like to tell him, they won’t need guys like him anymore. But he’s still reluctant to take 300 taels of gold for a sketchy delivery-through-the-mountains job offered to him by Hu (Eddy Ko, HEROES SHED NO TEARS, THE EAST IS RED, LETHAL WEAPON 4).
He only delivers letters, he says. And you can see why he likes it. The villages treat him like the ice cream man when he shows up. Now that I think about it it might not be because of the letters – he actually does bring the kids treats. He tries to introduce some kids to chocolate, which he got in Canton, but they refuse it because they say it looks like mud (or dog shit in the dub). I guess that shows you how important it is to experience different parts of the world and learn from different types of people. Those dumb little shits missed out on free chocolate! Back when it was rare!
Ma’s wimpier friend Yao Jie (Yat-Chor Yuen, CHINESE HERCULES, SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU, IN THE LINE OF DUTY 4) really wants to take that job, and he can’t do it alone, so eventually Ma gives in. All they have to do is carry several cases, “a gift for Zhao Long” to deliver by his birthday to keep the peace. They just can’t look to see what’s in the cases. (That’s one of the Transporter’s rules also.) (read the rest of this shit…)
Profiles in Badass #9: Michelle Yeoh (from the archives)
FOR THOSE WHO CAME IN LATE…
In 2019 and 2020 I wrote a dozen Profiles in Badass columns for a new online outlet called Rebeller. It was pitched to me as a “Fangoria for action movies” that would bring together people from all across the political spectrum. It turned out to be more of an anti-PC thing that caused me stress and shame until I quit.
I didn’t pay for a membership so I never saw the comments, and have no idea if people enjoyed my columns or dragged them across concrete. The only reader feedback I saw (other than from regulars here) was when some prick on Twitter shamed them for caving to the PC woke anti-male agenda or whatever by publishing my column about Michelle Yeoh (which he declined to read). Only the sharpest, most reasonable minds over there.
But considering Michelle Motherfuckin Yeoh’s recent upgrade to ACADEMY AWARD WINNER MICHELLE MOTHERFUCKIN YEOH I am re-upping that column for anyone who wants to know more about her filmography. For historical purposes I’m leaving it as I submitted it, but I have two corrections to make:
1) I repeatedly referred to Yuen Woo-ping as “Woo-ping” when his surname is Yuen. Sorry about that. I guess I thought we were friends.
2) At that time I still believed Yeoh did a real motorcycle jump onto that train in SUPERCOP; The Art of Action later informed me that Bruce Law did a jump over the train onto boxes and the landing was Yeoh being lowered onto the train with a very cool wire rig. (Still a great stunt, but very different from what I always believed and spread the legend of.)
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House Party (2023)
You wanna know how old the movie HOUSE PARTY is, and therefore how old those of us who grew up with that movie are? Well, let’s just say that I did a 20th anniversary retrospective on it thirteen years ago. So you can go ahead and do the math if you want. Personally, I refuse.
It’s not something I would put in, like, my top 100, but it’s a fun and sweet movie and a good time capsule of pop culture as it existed when I was a teen. I had a great time back in 2010 doing a quasi-pretentious review series called Kid ’n Play: 20 Years On Film: A Cinematic Legacy, in which I reviewed the original HOUSE PARTY (1990), HOUSE PARTY 2 (1991), BEBE’S KIDS (1992) (created by House Party dad Robin Harris and written by House Party writer/director Reginald Hudlin), CLASS ACT (1992) (starring Kid ’n Play), WHO’S THE MAN? (1993) (cameo by Kid ’n Play), HOUSE PARTY 3 (1994), and HOUSE PARTY 4: DOWN TO THE LAST MINUTE (2001). Then in 2013 I reviewed a new one called HOUSE PARTY: TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT. Obviously I’m a completist, so it is my duty and honor to review the 2023 addition to the franchise, which is called HOUSE PARTY. (read the rest of this shit…)
Oscar preview 2023
Hello friends, and welcome to my annual preview of the Oscars. They happen on Sunday and I’m anticipating them in the very rare-for-me position of my actual personal favorite movie of the year (EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE) being the clear favorite for many categories, including best picture. It makes me a little nervous because, for example, in 2015 I wasn’t expecting MAD MAX: FURY ROAD to win an “obviously this is the best picture, how is this even a discussion?” trophy, so I wasn’t let down when it didn’t. So I’m trying to keep in mind that whatever happens it’s amazing that this small, weird, unlikely movie managed to catch on so big and already won a bunch of the other awards. It doesn’t need to win everything. Though it would be cool.
This year for my preview I’ll go ahead and go through each of the categories, though I’ll have less informed opinions on some where I haven’t seen all the nominees. And of course I encourage following the links to my reviews of the ones I’ve seen.
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You know I love the CREED movies and the ROCKY movies. ROCKY V is easily the weakest of all of them, and I even like that one. I don’t expect there ever to be another one as impressive as CREED, a miraculous rebirth by a brilliant director who deeply loved Stallone’s movies and evolved them into something new, so I enjoyed CREED II for what it was. I was thrilled that it brought back Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago and let us care about him the way I always wanted to. As I wrote in my review at the time, “He was a human specimen in ROCKY IV, and now he’s a human.”
CREED II is a solid sequel, but CREED III is a truly great one. It’s the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan, and being populated only by characters from the CREED part of the series it stands more on its own, less on our nostalgia and good will. It follows the ROCKY sequel template in that it checks in with Adonis Creed (Jordan) at a new stage of his career and life, catches up with his family, introduces a new rival, and builds up a conflict that will result in a big match wrapped up in personal meaning. To his credit, Jordan also introduces a bit of stylization in the fight scenes that stands out from the others in the series. But most importantly he tells a story that genuinely has things to say about life and relationships that to me is as exciting as any of the boxing. (read the rest of this shit…)