SHOGUN AND LITTLE KITCHEN is Ronny Yu’s 1992 comedy about the residents of an old apartment building called Peace Avenue, possibly “the poorest place in Hong Kong.” Uncle Bo (Ng Man-tat, LEGACY OF RAGE, A BETTER TOMORROW 2, SHAOLIN SOCCER) is the owner, and he acts grouchy, but he loves them all like family. It’s kind of a shithole – the air conditioner will explode if you turn it on – but it’s good people. There’s a market right outside, people selling soup and sharpening knives and stuff, so there’s all kinds of activity, it’s a whole community. Somebody’s trying to buy the building for $10 million, but Bo won’t sell it because it has sentimental value. It belonged to his late wife. You don’t give your late wife’s building to some rich developer asshole. Or at least you shouldn’t. (read the rest of this shit…)
Posts Tagged ‘Yuen Biao’
Tsui Hark’s groundbreaking 1983 wuxia epic ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN recently got a fancy new blu-ray release, inspiring me to finally get around to seeing it. In fact I watched it right before I watched IRON MONKEY for the first time, so that was a hell of a night of filling in (some of) my Hong Kong cinema blind spots.
I can’t say I liked ZU as much as IRON MONKEY, because I can’t say I followed it as well. Like much of Tsui’s work it has a haphazard, is-he-making-this-up-as-he-goes-along? feel to the storytelling, which here I think is a combination of his sensibilities and the difficulty of someone from another culture (me) processing a DUNE-like cinematic condensation of a famous 1932 Chinese fantasy novel steeped in mythology I don’t necessarily have a context for. But I can say that it’s an enjoyable fun house ride, an absolute visual delight, and a key missing link in my understanding of Tsui’s filmography. Everything else he’s made makes more sense after seeing this. I guess it’s kinda like if I’d seen all the modern Spielberg movies and then saw E.T. and JAWS for the first time. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE MILLIONAIRES’ EXPRESS (also called SHANGHAI EXPRESS, originally 富貴列車, or FORTUNE TRAIN according to Google Translate) is a 1986 Sammo Hung directing and starring joint all-star period comedy.
In the tradition of LICENCE TO KILL it opens with a fight in snowy Russia, as Sammo’s character Ching Fong-Tin is caught trying to steal from Russian soldiers and they force him to wear women’s underwear and do a sexy dance for them. He kind of pulls a Bugs Bunny, leaning into it, and manages to escape with an impressive window leap while the cabin explodes, but is then captured by a mountain-trapper-looking CIA agent called Fook Loi (Kenny Bee, THE SPOOKY BUNCH), so there’s more fighting. They end up rolling down the hill and making giant snowballs. (read the rest of this shit…)
We’ll get back to Summer of 1985 soon, but it’s time for a kung fu break. SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU is a 1977 movie that I never heard of until Quentin Tarantino mentioned it a couple times on the Pure Cinema Podcast. He also said that RZA liked it, and when I noticed the poster for it on a background for RZA’s 36chambers film screenings it reminded me to look it up.
It’s available on Amazon Prime, but be warned that it’s dubbed and with a garbage transfer. Tarantino has said he prefers to watch movies of this era dubbed, but he’s probly seen it projected on 35mm with an audience, which I’m sure makes it more fun. At home streaming it’s amusing, but doesn’t strike me as the classic he considers it.
According to the Hong Kong Movie Database this is also known as LAST STRIKE, KUNG FU AVENGERS, INCREDIBLE DRAGON or TIGER STRIKES AGAIN. The Chinese title, 被迫, seems to translate to something like COMPELLED or FORCED. But calling it SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU emphasizes the presence of African-American newcomer Carl Scott, marketing it for the largely black audience for kung fu movies in the U.S. at the time. Though the poster says “Bruce Li and Carl Scott are the SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU,” the movie focuses more on the relationship between the two Chinese leads, so I thought they were probly the “soul brothers,” bonded like brothers. In their souls. (read the rest of this shit…)
WHEELS ON MEALS is the 1984 Hong Kong action classic starring Chinese opera bros for life Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung (also director), fresh off of WINNERS AND SINNERS and PROJECT A. Jackie and Biao star as Thomas and David, dorky cousins who live together in Barcelona, sharing a bedroom that has separate doors right next to each other for no reason other than a visual gag. In the opening we see them getting up, working out and practicing on kung fu dummies, so that when they’re amazing fighters through the rest of it there’s a foundation for it. (But we never see them practice again.)
Sammo plays a guy named Moby, who’s introduced sporting shades and a perm that almost looks like jheri curls. He’s working (without pay) for a sleazy p.i. (Herb Edelman, a.k.a. Dorothy’s ex-husband Stanley on Golden Girls) who leaves town to hide from a gambling debt and leaves Moby in charge, causing him to strut around town dressed like he’s in the “Smooth Criminal” video, whisper-bragging to everyone that he’s “Acting Chairman of Matt’s Detective Agency.” He also takes a case to find a woman from an old photograph (oh my god this could turn into THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) and it seems like all he really knows how to do is look for some guy named Fatso to ask him about it. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN isn’t related to the Donny Yen movies IP MAN and IP MAN 2. I mean obviously they’re all based on the same Wing Chun master famous for teaching Bruce Lee, but this isn’t the official prequel to those ones, because it doesn’t have the same director or producers or anything. It’s like if right now somebody who’s not Spielberg made their own prequel to LINCOLN.
Well, I’ll try to be open-minded if they do that, because when I finally got around to this LEGEND IS BORN one I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a very effective martial arts melodrama with alot of the classic themes: brotherhood, loyalty, betrayal, finding a master, challenging tradition, falling in love. As kids Ip Man and his adopted brother Tin Chi go to live and study with the Wing Chun master Chan Wah Shun (Sammo Hung) and become friends with a girl student named Mei Wai. The three grow up to be very close, in fact an incomplete love triangle (Tin Chi loves Mei Wai, Mei Wai loves Ip Man, Ip Man doesn’t notice). (read the rest of this shit…)
ABOVE THE LAW (1986) (a.k.a. RIGHTING WRONGS) really is about the law. It begins with Yuen Biao after graduating from law school. A group of conspirators, including one with a gun tucked behind an accordion, try to assassinate his professor. The shit goes down just as he’s saying his goodbyes and the prof is giving him a law book as a gift. In the chaos the book goes flying in the air, is shot through with holes, and then is stepped on by panicking witnesses. I don’t know why but I almost feel like that could symbolize something. Probly not. (read the rest of this shit…)
There’s alot of big movie anniversaries this summer. Everybody’s celebrating 30 years since the Summer of ’82 shit like E.T., THE THING, BLADE RUNNER, CONAN THE BARBARIAN. And I’ve been trying to commemorate the important summer of ’87 ones like PREDATOR and ROBOCOP. Little did I know that there was another movie, originally released July 9th, 1987, worthy of that kind of respect, but that I never saw before.
Geez, man. What have I been doing these last 25 years that was so god damn important I couldn’t be bothered to watch EASTERN CONDORS? Nothin, that’s what. Why did nobody convince me to watch this one before? This is my new favorite movie until further notice. The only legitimate reason to not watch it is if you’re worried that it will be hard to find another action movie to watch after that, because not many hold up to the EASTERN CONDORS standard of fun. (read the rest of this shit…)