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Posts Tagged ‘Tsui Hark’

double feature: VAMPIRE EFFECT and TSUI HARK’S VAMPIRE HUNTERS

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

You know how it is – sometimes the mood hits you for a little martial arts/horror combo, specifically the type found in Hong Kong vampire movies from the early 2000s, so you check out two of them. At least that’s how I dealt with the problem. The first one in my double feature, VAMPIRE EFFECT (2003) credits Dante Lam (BEAST COPS, THE STOOL PIGEON) as director and none other than Donnie Yen (HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME) as “co-director” and “action director.” Unsurprisingly, the action is the best part.

The original title is TWINS EFFECT, because it stars a pop duo called Twins, made up of Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung. But nobody knows what that is here and there are no twins in the movie, so I guess this is our equivalent to when Germany changed ROVER DANGERFIELD to ROVER & DAISY. And this is another one of those pop star vehicle movies that doesn’t really have an equivalent here exactly. I mean, you don’t see Tegan and Sara doing a vampire movie. So far.

Choi stars as Helen, a heartbroken young woman who, while grieving a breakup, hits it off with a vampire prince named Kazaf (Edison Chen, GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM) who’s enjoying a glass of blood in a fancy restaurant. She doesn’t realize what he is, even though she has some knowledge of such matters because her brother Reeve (Ekin Cheng, YOUNG & DANGEROUS) is a vampire hunter. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Master

Monday, March 16th, 2020

“Man in other country, it’s a long story” —translation of lyric from beach montage song

THE MASTER – not the Philip Seymour Hoffman one, the original – is a Tsui Hark movie made in 1989. Its claim to fame is that it was released in 1992 after ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA made Jet Li a superstar, but what makes it interesting is that it’s an ‘80s Hong Kong movie filmed in L.A. It has a theme of Chinese immigration, the idea that the people of China travel all over the world and bring their culture with them.

The primary practicioner of that philosophy, Uncle Tak (Yuen Wah, FIST OF FURY, ENTER THE DRAGON, CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD, GAME OF DEATH, HEROES SHED NO TEARS, SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT, DRAGON FROM RUSSIA, THE BODYGUARD, MASTER Z, action director of EASTERN motherfuckin CONDORS), is one of three masters the title could be referring to. He owns an herb shop in L.A. within view of the Library Tower (and next to a video store, but we never see inside it). He’s a very good healer and does bone settings for pro-wrestler-looking-dudes who come in after getting injured in fights. (read the rest of this shit…)

Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

As much as I enjoyed the first two Detective Dee pictures (MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME and RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON), the third one, DETECTIVE DEE: THE FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS, far surpasses them. It has the same kind of fun characters and storytelling, but the FX and design are much improved, it has more action and spectacle, and it’s more packed full of weird factions and creatures with cool costumes and gimmicky weapons, often elegantly gliding around on wires. It’s a total blast.

They’ve dropped the “Young” from the title, even though it’s continuing the prequel story starring Mark Chao. I guess the moment he gets his rank and trademark weapon he becomes a man. That’s where it starts: the end of RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON, with our hero receiving the Dragon-Taming Mace and the duty to keep the imperial court in check, at which point Empress Wu (Carina Lau, PROJECT A PART II, the only actor in all three movies) conspires to have the mace stolen from him. This is one thing I love in period martial arts movies: when a specific weapon is treated with reverence, even though it’s just a piece of metal, not some doomsday device. There turns out to be a really good explanation for why she needs to get it away from him, but it wouldn’t matter to me if there wasn’t. All I need is that it’s a legendary badass weapon like the Green Destiny Sword, so they can’t let him have it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Before Regular Age Detective Dee, it only stands to reason, there was Young Detective Dee. Three years after Tsui Hark’s crowd-pleasing supernatural action mystery blockbuster DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME he recast with Mark Chao (THE WARRIOR’S GATE) in place of Andy Lau and gave us a case from early in his career: YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON.

As the title implies, it starts with some kinda kraken. I have too much respect for you to make a pun out of that. But you can imagine one. Something attacks the Chinese navy, they think it’s a sea monster, so obviously

1) they’re gonna sacrifice Yin Ruiji (Angelababy, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE) to the monster and

2) Empress Wu (returning Carina Lau, SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT) threatens to execute Yuchi (Feng Shaofeng, THE MONKEY KING 2 and 3) if he doesn’t figure out who attacked the fleet in ten days. Kind of a tough boss. (read the rest of this shit…)

Yes, Madam!

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

(a.k.a. POLICE ASSASSINS on the DVD I watched)

YES, MADAM! is a 1985 Hong Kong action classic starring the one and only Michelle Yeoh as Senior Inspector Ng, hard working cop who should be on vacation and instead ends up searching for some damn microfilm.

She ends up on the case due to a crazy pile-up of coincidences. Her old instructor Richard Nordon (Michael Harry, AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE) is meeting in his hotel room with a thug named Mr. Dick (Dick Wei, EASTERN CONDORS), who ends up killing him. Immediately after that, two thieves disguised as bellboys happen to break into the room. They happen to steal Nordon’s passport, which happens to contain the microfilm of a forged contract that Mr. Dick was after in the first place. And then Inspector Ng happens to come to the room to meet with her old mentor, just in time to see the fake bellboy fleeing the scene and try to chase him.

There’s a dramatic moment in the lobby when Mr. Dick thinks she’s made him and is ready to shoot her. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Killer

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

tn_thekillerwoozoneAs a guy specializing in writing about action movies, sometimes I worry I’m documenting an ancient art form. I romanticize a time when action movies were a rite of passage, a father-son bonding tradition and a major passion for many young people, especially males, but it seems like the youth of today aren’t necessarily interested in this shit. And if they don’t grow up on it then they’re never gonna have that moment when they get a little older and become aware of the other powerful strains of it from around the world.

That makes me sad because whatever they’re watching instead cannot possibly match the rush of joy I got when I saw my first John Woo movie – which was THE KILLER – or each time I revisit his classics now. At the time there was nothing else like it. Somehow that seems even more true today.

The things that are greatest about THE KILLER might be the things that would seem silliest to younger people: the unabashed style and the the unbridled, unironic emotion. I remember people who came up a few years after the era when Hong Kong action cinema was the coolest thing going – people who are old and decrepit now – who would make jokes about John Woo’s doves. “Ha ha, two pistols, and some doves, am I right? Ha ha, I know about a trademark, I have defeated him.”

Well, THE KILLER is gonna be way too much for anybody like that. And maybe I gotta face that they just don’t deserve THE KILLER. The cards are laid on the table in the opening, when Chow Yun-Fat as Ah Jong (or “Jeff Chow,” according to the credits) meets with his Triad manager Fung Sei (Paul Chu Kong) in an empty church at night. That happens in all action movies, but this church is lit with what must be a thousand candles, and there are doves and pigeons flying around, landing on the cross. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mermaid

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

tn_mermaidMERMAID is the story of a dumb but not intentionally evil super-super-rich businessman playboy named Liu Xuan (Deng Chao, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME), a sort of Pretty Decent Gatsby with lots of shiny suits, a John Waters mustache, whole teams of security guards, lackeys and sexy dancers kissing his ass at all times. He has a weakness for the ladies, giving the time of day to every female from his seductive business partner Ruolan (Zhang Yuqi, CJ7) to a youngster in a sloppy mermaid costume who gets suplexed by security after crashing his pool party to give him her phone number.

One thing he doesn’t know: the fake mermaid Shan (Lin Yun) is actually a real mermaid sent to assassinate him to avenge his sonar devices massacring and trapping a society of merpeople in the Green Gulf wildlife reserve that he recently purchased for billions of dollars. But they kinda fall for each other. It’s like THE LITTLE MERMAID if it took place in the modern day and Ariel was trying to kill Prince Eric.

It’s directed and co-written by Stephen Chow, but he’s not in it as an actor and it’s not a martial arts movie. It is, however, full of his kinetic Looney Tunes style slapstick action. Hopefully the people who have a problem with wire tricks and digital FX assists already saw SHAOLIN SOCCER and KUNG FU HUSTLE and know to stay far away from Chow. This is a movie with a skateboarding mermaid, an out of control jetpack, a half man/half octopus who’s often hanging upside down or crawling around on the ceiling, a mermaid matriarch who splashes water into animated shapes to tell stories. And of course some cartoon violence, including poisoned sea urchin throwing stars. (read the rest of this shit…)

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate 3D Imax

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Wait a minute, you’re telling me that a Tsui Hark/Jet Li movie is showing in 3D Imax in my town? Shit, that’s something I gotta experience, something I gotta support. I managed to squeak it in on the next-to-last day of the 2 week limited engagement, so I’m sorry that I failed to give some of you a heads up.

Apparently this is a remake of DRAGON GATE INN (1966) which was already remade as NEW DRAGON GATE INN/DRAGON INN (1992), neither of which I’ve seen. It is not a remake of DRAGON TIGER GATE, which I have seen. Donnie Yen was offered the lead in this, but he turned it down because he was already in the ’92 version and thought that would be weird to do another one. Or maybe he was confusing it with DRAGON TIGER GATE and didn’t want to revisit the goofy hair style he had in that.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

tn_detectivedeeDETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME is the latest directorial work from Mr. Tsui Hark. Yeah, admittedly I still mainly love him for the Van Damme/Rodman/Rourke picture DOUBLE TEAM, but he’s actually a respectable director too. This was nominated for best picture in last year’s Hong Kong Film Awards. It lost to GALLANTS but #1 I personally liked this better than GALLANTS and #2 Tsui won best director anyway. Like Soderbergh over Ridley Scott. Take that, GALLANTS.

DETECTIVE DEE is playing in American theaters now so check it out, but it’s also come out on legit UK blu-ray so that’s how I saw it.
(read the rest of this shit…)

A Better Tomorrow III

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

tn_bettertomorrow3After their disagreements over A BETTER TOMORROW 2, John Woo and Tsui Hark weren’t able to work together on part 3. But they both wanted to do a Vietnam war era prequel, so Woo took his and made it BULLET IN THE HEAD, Hark made A BETTER TOMORROW III: LOVE AND DEATH IN SAIGON. As far as artistic success I’d say Woo definitely won that battle, but at least Tsui got to clean up in the getting-to-hang-out-with-Chow-Yun-Fat department. (read the rest of this shit…)