Movie-Misfit

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Reviews

Big Trouble in Little China
(1986)

A Childhood Favourite That Still Entertains!!
Upon its release, I would rent Big Trouble In Little China from the video store every Friday night (or at least fortnightly) along with Project A, Lucky Seven, The Last Dragon, or any amount of other Jackie Chan classics I was able to get my hands on!

I was already hooked on Hong Kong cinema by this stage, and at 9 years old, wanted to see anything that had a hint of kung-fu action or ninjas in it. I can't remember if it was the video store clerk or my dad that put Carpenters latest flick in my hands, but either way, I was hooked after my first viewing. At that age, I can remember feeling very excited, scared, and highly entertained at this action adventure film. I hadn't seen anything from Hong Kong or Taiwan (in terms of a fantasy film) with a budget like this, so it felt so much bigger and glossier with its special effects, incredible sets, and Hollywood look.

Over 30 years later, and Big Trouble In Little China still highly entertains - although now, for many other reasons. Being a film maker and adult, I can now see the flaws and things that really didn't work for the film, albeit a handful at most. Watching the Arrow Video blu-ray release was a stunning experience and shed a whole new light on the film which I have to say, looked amazing. Its so atmospheric, popping with colour when it comes about, laced with incredible sets and dripping with just enough Hollywood cheese so as not to put you off. Having been sucking up the best of HK cinema my whole life, I can honestly say the kung-fu fights weren't anything spectacular here to me now, but as a kid, they were so much fun. And while other US action films, such as the Canon ninja collection were gaining so much attention for their martial arts action, it was this and The Last Dragon that showcased the better and more exciting battles for me. This was all down to the great James Lew who worked as fight choreographer and actor for the film. Lew has since went on to work on countless projects from Power Rangers to Marvel's Netflix shows, and of course, played the hilarious bad guy in American Ninja 5...

Clearly inspired by the best of Hong Kong cinema, Carpenter and his team managed to pull off something a little unique that, ultimately, was a box office flop upon release. Of course, that didn't stop it quickly gaining a cult following that has made the film what it is today. The thought of an Asian guy playing the lead over Kurt Russell's hilarious action-hero-wannabe truck driver, Jack Burton, scared studio bosses - but it happened. And while Dennis Dun did a fantastic job and fits the bill, I can't help but wonder what if Jackie Chan had been placed in that exact role..?!? What a film that would be!

Kung-fu legend Carter Wong makes a memorable appearance as Thunder, one of the 3 Storms in what was probably his most widely seen role ever. He is joined by the wonderful Peter Kwong (as Rain) who would go on to star in The Golden Child, Ghost Rock with Michael Worth, and Albert Pyun's fantastically fun Brain Smasher: A Love Story. The last of the weather gods is played by the handsome James Pax who plays Lightning - the inspiration for the character Raiden in the mega-hit game, Mortal Kombat. James went on to star in US martial arts flick Shootfighter, as well as Hong Kong hits The Heroic Trio, Love Among The Triad, and Enemy Shadow with Jade Leung, as well as a brief appearance in Sammo Hung's successful Martial Law series. I must also note that Conan Lee pops up as an extra, filling in his time before heading back to Hong Kong to star in the brilliant Tiger On The Beat with Chow Yun Fat.

Of course, we can't forget the real stars of the show - Victor Wong and James Hong. I thought Victor as Egg Shen was just wonderful. Wong is a great actor who has impressed with roles in The Last Emperor, Tremors, The Golden Child, and even in Eric Tsang's Fatal Vacation. Just as you couldn't imagine anyone else but Robert Downey Jnr play Tony Stark, the same can be said for the great James Hong as super villain David Lo Pan, a menacing, creepy and hilarious evil Chinese sorcerer who just nails it. Hong has over 400 credits to his name working in the industry from the 1950's on many film and TV shows including Kung Fu, Ninja III: The Domination, the Kung Fu Panda series, and even directed a handful of films including the wonderful horror comedy, The Vineyard...

While watching the interviews on the bonus features of the release, it was nice to see John Carpenter himself mention the same things I thought didn't work for the film. Obviously with studio pressure, he had to bow down to a few things that he didn't agree on with the biggest one being that god-awful monster that appears for no reason. I thought Beast Man had walked off the set of Masters Of The Universe and ended up in Lo Pan's lair. It just didn't make any sense really, nor did its re-appearance in the final shot of the film leading you to believe it was an important enough addition to warrant a sequel.

But minor gripes aside, Big Trouble In Little China has aged quite well. The soundtrack by Carpenter is just as memorable as the witty one-liners and fun action sequences. I'd be surprised if any fans of Hong Kong action cinema - or action cinema in general - haven't already seen it. If not, do yourself a favour and grab the Arrow Video BD as soon as to see the film in its best presentation yet!

Overall: One of my all-time favourite childhood movies, that still proves as highly entertaining today!

Bionic Ninja
(1986)

Madness Yes, But Fun And Action Packed!
The wonderful minds are Filmark, Godfrey Ho and Tomas Tang deliver yet another crazed ninja mission that blends 70% of the scenes from 1984 Hong Kong movie, The Daring Kung-Fu Refugee, with a host of new ninja footage and dubbed storyline. The original film stars a young Alex Man, Kent Cheng, Angie Chiu, and Alan Chan Kwok Kuen - names and faces known from a boat-load of great HK films!

With a new storyline dubbed over involving the search for a secret microfilm, Godfrey Ho presents a half decent film that has some interesting blends that make it seem as one. An army of ninjas, hired by the KGB take on CIA agent Tommy and Chan Lau in a race to find this new scientific discovery that could help or destroy the world, depending on who gets there first. As Tommy tells his new 'ninjer' master, "Terrorists are using Ninjitsu to disrupt world peace!" Its a pretty wild and out-dated plot line, but ultimately, is just an excuse for plenty of unintentional laughs, some fun fight scenes and some half-decent ninja action - this time, minus the giant headbands and padded shoulders.

As bad as it may sound, Bionic Ninja is pretty action packed and makes for a fun watch ending with the obligatory ninja battle between two white guys, with so-so results. There are plenty of laughs along the way and definitely worse out there. I don't know where the whole bionic thing really comes in, but hey, I'm sure it was a big renter back in the 80's...

Overall: A fun film, Bionic Ninja isn't the greatest thing ever but it entertains and makes me want to see The Daring Kung-Fu Refugee even more now!

Bao feng shao nian
(1991)

Gripping And Emotional Teen-Triad Action-Drama!
This little known flick opens with a brutal 5 minutes of Shing Fui On, his wife and young son getting attacked by a gang of triads wielding blades. As much as they fight back, they are cut down pretty bad as the son watches in horror until help arrives. In the hospital, his wife breaks-up with him, leaving him to bring up their son alone. Jumping years ahead, the son is now cheeky teenager Tse Wai Kit - a gangster wannabe who bullies his way through school, even his teacher. As much as his dad tries to keep him on the right track, Tse just can't keep out of trouble!

After his son is attacked in an incident with a friend, Shing Fui On is called to the hospital by the police where he meets taxi driver Wu Ma - father to Tse's friend. Clashing before they even know what they are there for, the two fathers eventually agree to try and help keep their sons out of trouble, having to patch their differences and make friends along the way.

Director Cho Kin Nam isn't a name you would recognise much. Having starred in a number of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung vehicles, he also worked as a director or action director on films such as Dreadful Melody and Martial Arts Master Wong Fei Hung. A Rascal's Tale is certainly one of the more mature titles from his filmography, blending teen/family-drama with triad action and managing to get some great performances from all involved.

Tse Wai Kit is pretty impressive as the troubled teen. Often cast as a pain-in-the-arse for the most of his short-lived career in films such as School On Fire, Against All, and A Moment Of Romance 2, Tse delivers one of his best performances - perhaps because he had such a prominent role. The same can be said for his friend, Ricky Ho Pui Tung who plays the son of Wu Ma...

Shing Fui On is as great as always, playing a sympathetic character for a change and bouncing of Wu Ma just brilliantly with both giving some emotional moments as well as some laughs. The wonderful Carrie Ng has a supporting role as Shing's new lady, and Michael Mui, usually seen in Hong Kong comedies, also joins the cast. Sylvia Chang, who stars as the long suffering teacher, portrays the most emotional of them all - herself dealing with a troubled teen daughter who has no respect for her. Ironically, she doesn't give up on Tse and works with him as best she can to help guide him also.

While the most of the film is fairly straight-forward, A Rascal's Tale has a couple of small sub-plots that help move it along, although admittedly, the main storyline keeps a good pace and is intriguing enough, showing strength in Cho Kin Nam's script. Hong Kong heavies Ken Lo, James Ha and Chan Chi Fai appear after the hour mark, as the action picks up when Tse sets out to attack a gangster that gave his girlfriend drugs. And just when you think Tse is going to learn a good lesson of morals by the end of the film, it seems that destiny won't allow it as an all-out, highly-impressive, violent and bloody gang fight erupts at Shing's apartment, pulling his father right back into the life he once left for his son, and bringing the whole story full-circle!

Overall: Emotional and gripping, A Rascal's Tale may seem like a run-of-the-mill teen triad flick, but its cast and story of a father's love makes it stand a little taller than the rest...

Sandong yeojamuljangsu
(1983)

Surprisingly Fun Kung Fu Comedy!!
While 7 Star Grand Mantis is a very colourful, and often entertaining kung-fu flick from South Korea, it still lacks a little something that stops it from being a classic. With involvement from Godfrey Ho and Tomas Tang on the Hong Kong side, you could be forgiven for expecting the worst, but ultimately the film is a corny, kung-fu comedy that reminds its viewers of the late 70's and early 80's Hong Kong classics such as Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu, Dirty Tiger & Crazy Frog, and more...

Starring Benny Tsui (who looks surprisingly like Elton Chong), as the leading man, the 7 Star Grand Mantis is as cliched as it gets with a silly student and long-haired master, a plot of revenge, an evil ass kicking bad-guy, and a female friend with some great moves. Its nothing new, and certainly doesn't highlight much of the titles kung-fu style, but the film has a wacky charm about it, is shot pretty well, and has a bevy of decently choreographed fight scenes performed with some great moves. South Korean actor and martial artist, Eagle Han, plays Benny's silver haired master with a sense of humour, and some fantastic moves. Han has always proved to be a great mover and actor, with films under his belt such as Jackie Chan's brilliant Dragon Fist and epic Fearless Hyena, as well as a host of other South Korean and Hong Kong collaborations.

The soundtrack for 7 Grand Star Mantis is nicked from any number of HK kung-fu classics and often tricks you in to thinking you're watching something better - but honestly, it's not that bad. If you can handle zany slapstick and cartoon humour, you'll enjoy it, with a hilarious riff of the bronzemen, and plenty of fun cockiness from Benny Tsui - similar to Jackie's early roles - or even that of Dean Shek.

The fights are handled by South Korean choreographer Kim Yeong Gil who provides some pretty fun fight scenes. Actress Song Jeong A impresses with her moves, but really, Eagle Han steals the show with some incredible kicks and kung-fu. Of course, Benny Tsui saves the best of what he has for closer to the end, with a great fight in drag and the 20 minute finale giving us a fantastic showdown against the evil villain and his gang - including a fire hose gag using their mouths. Insane but funny!

Overall: Far from disappointing, 7 Star Grand Mantis is a fast paced kung-fu comedy that entertains!

Yeh boon 1 dim chung
(1995)

Worth A Watch At Least Once!
One of popular director Wilson Yip's first films, 01:00AM is a trilogy of modern-day ghost stories set in Hong Kong, each different in their own way, and each entertaining enough to pass the time. The first is about a singer in a coma; his spirit trapped by a persistent female ghost who was a fan when she was alive. The second is about a group of college students who send Anita Yuen out to interview a ghost. And the third deals with a couple of cops on night duty who encounter the ghost of an old woman. Obviously, each of the ghosts appear at 01:00am (or thereabouts) which is what connects everything together...

While hardly enthralling, 01:00AM still makes for a fun watch, with enough comedic goings-on to help, and a great wee cast spread out over each of the tales including the aforementioned student Anita Yuen, Veronica Yip as a nurse, and Jordan Chan and Elvis Tsui as the night cops. Of course, Chan would return to work with Wilson Yip on the fun Bio Zombie a few years later which was a much more energetic entry. Each of the main stars bring their own little charm to their 30 minute segment, backed by a great score and some nice camerawork, with the three tales supposedly based on true stories. Its not as glossy as today's horror fans would probably want, but 01:00AM still provides enough spooky moments and is far from terrible, but overall, I'd say the film was made with more of a comedic tone than serious horror.

01:00AM is middle-of-the-road stuff for me, but definitely not a waste of time. Given the fact that Wilson Yip is such a praised director today after his success with the Ip Man series, its good to see where these film makers began and the progression of their journey. Gives me some inspiration with my own career!

Overall: Watchable horror-comedy that has enough going on to entertain, although I'd probably never need to see it again...

Te jing ji xian feng
(1995)

Entertaining HK Action Thriller!!
The wonderful Danny Lee isn't shy of a cop role or two in his illustrious career in Hong Kong cinema. Almost 8 out of 10 films after his days at Shaw Brothers, features him in such a role - some proving to be middle-of-the-road, and some being highly enjoyable. Thankfully, Lee's Asian Connection is the latter...

Produced by the man himself through his company, Magnum Films, we follow cops Lee and Michael Chow as they try to bring down some local drug dealers. When a fake deal goes awry; seeing them lose $5,000,000 after the dealers disappear down a manhole as well as having their undercover agent brutally murdered - an extended cameo by a young Nick Cheung. The pair are soon sent to Taiwan to work on a connecting case, where they soon see their HK dealer, played by Ricky Yi Fan Wai - actor from hits like The Outlaw Brothers, Unmatchable Match, and a number of Danny Lee films. He also has an uncanny resemblance to a certain Tony Leung Ka Fai.

It doesn't take long before things get out of hand, with murder, car chases, explosions, and HK cop Michael Chow getting caught up on the inside, pretending to be a drug dealer under the watchful eye of a villainous, Blackie Ko. I have always enjoyed Chow as an actor, having seen him in a number of Jackie Chan films of course, and in Asian Connection he continues to entertain bringing some laughs to the action thriller as well as getting in on the action!

Director David Lam, the man behind Ti Lung's classic First Shot, as well as the latest run of 'Storm' movies with Louis Koo; is joined by the popular Yuen Tak who also serves as the film's action choreographer. Between them, they manage to provide a highly entertaining action film with a host of great actors on board and some very memorable moments. Tak's action choreography brings a grittiness to things, with some brutal moments and strong violence that work well, from bullets to the head at point-blank range, one-on-one fights, and some cool shoot-outs. There's even some neat car chases, one featuring Lee and Chow on a moped which is hilarious as the extra-tall Chow screams in fear because of Lee's driving - his big legs sticking out, and knees hitting the passing traffic.

A hint of romance is teased between Danny Lee and Jean Wang, but it never really gets the chance to go anywhere with such a serious storyline taking centre-stage. Wang plays the assistant to the Taiwanese the police chief, played by veteran actor Chen Sung Yung from movies such as The Big Boss, Child Of Peach, and Prison On Fire 2.

Although it may have a run-of-the-mill plot-line, Asian Connection stands a bit taller than the rest with its great cast, some brutal violence, and some great stunt work and action scenes. That includes a fun finale with Danny Lee giving his best impression of Michelle Yeoh in Police Story 3: Supercop, as he drives his motorbike up a ramp to land on top of a moving train in order to catch the bad guy. When all is done and dusted, our heroes say goodbye to Taiwan leaving viewers with a comical freeze-frame that put a smile on may face...

Overall: Very entertaining and a lot of fun, Asian Connection will keep fans of Danny Lee and Hong Kong cinema very happy!

Wu yi bian fu
(1980)

A Bit Uneven, But Still Entertains!!
Fan's of Hong Kong cinema would most likely know Chor Yuen more-so for his role as the main bad guy in Jackie Chan's legendary, Police Story, rather than his work as a popular director. But personally, I'm a big fan of Chor Yuen's Shaw Brother films. They always offered something a little different, often mixing thriller, mystery, and horror into kung-fu epics, with the Bat Without Wings being a prime example...

Starring the wonderful Ku Feng, a man who's filmography has spanned over 50 years, as the titular character, the Bat glides around the place, raping women and killing anyone who gets in his way, all while looking like an angry reject from popular rock band, Kiss. He even dons face paint almost identical to that of Gene Simmons himself. As it turns out, Feng is only masquerading as the Bat, and has the real one locked up in a cave having lost his memory a few years before, after getting hit on the head during a fight.

And while the Bat Without Wings has a lot of great things going for it, a lot of scenes with the aforementioned Feng, come off as silly as he seems to defy gravity in a much more abstract way than everyone else. But its hardly anything to put you off . In fact, the little bits of silliness really just add to the charm of the whole thing to be honest, giving the film a slight tongue-in-cheek feel at times. That said, director Yuen delivers an atmospheric, comic book style film packed with murder, and a host of incredible sets often enhanced with slow-moving smoke and fantastic lighting. This is backed by a wonderful score, and non-stop fights, which really, is what we're here for!

Shaw's regular, Tong Gaai handles the choreography offering plenty of wonderful fights from one-to-one battles, to our heroes taking on small armies of swordsmen with some lengthy one-shots and great moves from all involved. There's definitely no shortage of action with something kicking off every 5 or 10 minutes, leading to a fantastic finale against the two bats...

Joining Ku Feng is the handsome Derek Yee, brother to star David Chaing and an incredible director in his own right. Yee was quite the leading man in his Shaw Brother's days and while he doesn't have much depth to his character here, still proves a joy to watch and is great as the hero of the piece. Other popular stars that pop up are Jason Pai Piao, a young Yuen Wah, Yuen Bun, and even Yuen Biao pops up through-out as a background fighter.

Bat Without Wings may seem a little uneven, but if you don't think too hard about it, the film actually proves to be a fun watch. It does get bogged down with the introduction of far too many characters (that usually don't go anywhere) but again, its not enough to make it unwatchable!

Views: A bizarre Shaw Brothers entry, Bat Without Wings is far from the best in the catalogue, but entertains nonetheless with its non-stop fights!

Sang faa sau see
(1998)

Hong Kong Horror Comedy With A Twist!!
It's been a number of years since I last watched this late 90's Hong Kong horror-comedy from director Wilson Yip; the very same man behind mage-hits SPL and the Ip Man series with Donnie Yen. In only his thrid year as a director, Yip delivers a fun zombie comedy that taps on (then popular) Hong Kong youth culture, as well as pay homage to the infamous Dawn Of The Dead from Romero...

Woody (Jordan Chan) and Bee (Sam Lee) play a couple of small-time triads who run a VCD store in the busy, New Trend shopping arcade. They go about their lives, harassing some female staff at the local beauty parlour, one of which is Angela Tong who they decide to rob in the toilets, and have fun annoying a cell-phone salesman by drooling over his wife and calling him ugly. Of course, its obvious that this lot are going to have to team up when the s**t hits the fan!

Somewhere else, a dodgy deal for a bio-weapon goes wrong. An injured gangster makes a run for it, carrying a dose of the dangerous liquid in a soft drinks bottle, soon getting into an accident that leads him to the two friends. After feeding him the bio-chemical to hydrate him, Woody and Bee bring the man back to New Trend in the boot of his car. Of course, from here, the horror side of the film kicks in. It doesn't take long for the undead to start taking over the mall, with sushi chef Loi (played by Emotion Cheung) becoming one of the first victims. Loi is madly in love with Rolls (Angela Tong) and even in zombie form, keeps her prisoner for as long as he can, providing her with gifts and protecting her from other zombies.

Bio Zombie may often feel slow until the initial zombie attack, throwing its viewers off for a bit before jumping between horror, comedy and drama as if harking back to the crazed Hong Kong films of the eighties. While the make-up can often be crass, the film often comes across as an independent zombie film, reminding me of my own at times - although we most certainly didn't have the budget these guys would have. There is gore and blood, but just not enough, with limbs and heads getting chopped off as the small team of shop keepers try to survive. A lot of this is accompanied by some fun comedy sequences, akin to that of the 80's horror-comedies like Mr. Vampire and Haunted Cop Shop. But as the film rolls on, Bio Zombie takes a more serious tone for its last 20 minutes, leading to an ending that may surprise some viewers - but ultimately, makes sense from the characters perspective. On this Mei Ah release, there is a short alternate ending. They both point to the same thing at the end of the day, but one is based on choice and the other not so much...

Fun, although not without its flaws, Wilson Yip's Bio Zombie is worth a watch for fans of Hong Kong cinema and of the undead. While it may be played for laughs the majority of the time, it does have some nice dramatic moments that are well balanced throughout and makes a great addition to the zombie genre. It has been described by many as Mallrats meets Dawn Of The Dead, but I think it has something a little more than that!

Overall: A little flat in production value compared to today's glossy standards, but Bio Zombie is a lot of fun and entertains!

Da wan
(2001)

Funny, Well Acted & Entertaining!
Starring Hollywood legend Donald Sutherland, Hong Kong starlet Rosamund Kwan and Feng Xiao Gang regular, Ge You, Big Shot's Funeral takes its viewers on a wild ride in a tale about Hollywood film director Tyler (Sutherland) who puts a challenge on the shoulders of his new best friend, documentary cameraman YoYo (Ge You), to give him a comedy funeral. A simple premise that quickly comes to fruition as Sutherland falls into a coma just after being fired from his latest film production taking place in China's amazing, Forbidden City. From here on in, YoYo makes it his mission to give his new friend the funeral he wanted!

Saturated in black comedy, sprinkled with slapstick and often hilarious, Big Shot's Funeral is a brilliant satirical clash of East meets West, taking on the problem of China's commercial culture in particular and how Western capitalism has made its mark. This is further highlighted as YoYo begins selling off advertising space for every square inch of the funeral; a brilliantly funny take on things as his funeral costs mount up and things get out of hand. It also shows just how a celebrity funeral (or event as such) can be turned into an unapologetic, money-making farce with product placement and advertisements in the entertainment industry. The trouble is,Tyler has now woken up, and watches the events unfold from behind the scenes - something that puts YoYo's plans into a bit of a spin...

Feng Xiao Gang delivers a film akin to an independent feature. It totally steps aside from the regular film formula, and works because it does so with its absurd plot. The performances from all involved are just wonderful, with Ge You impressing once again as one of China's finest actors, and Sutherland himself proving to be just brilliant. I loved seeing Rosamund Kwan in this role; charming and funny as always, and although it seemed that she delivered her English lines perfectly, it looks like she was dubbed to have more of an American accent.

The dialogue jumps flawlessly between Mandarin and English thanks to such a well-written script, the acting and of course, direction. Part of the comedy comes from situations lost in translation, as well as the misspoken delivery of lines which is often quite funny. Feng also works in a look at issues surrounding Sino-US relations without upsetting the cart either side. The ending for me seems to trip over itself a little, or perhaps I just missed the point, but it was hardly enough to put me off. I liked Big Shot's Funeral. It was something a little different and another great film from the wonderful, Feng Xiao Gang!

Overall: Worth the watch, Big Shot's Funeral is funny and sweet, with great performances from all involved...

Da e ke
(1980)

Just Above Average With Great End Fight!
A year after Chen Kuan Tai's epic Big Boss Of Shanghai, his Shaw Brothers comrade and equally as impressive kung-fu star, Chi Kuan Chun, starred in and directed this similar story of two poor brothers who find employment with a local gangster. And while this 1980 production is jam-packed with great kung-fu fighting, Big Rascal lacks the production design of the other, often coming across as a less polished film. The other major difference would be that this offers a bit more comedy, courtesy of co-star Cheung Tai Lun and regular kung-fu comedy star, Lee Kwan...

While the films plot is pretty much as simple as that, Big Rascal makes up for its lack-of with a fantastic amount of nicely choreographed kung-fu. As Ho (Chi Kuan Chun) climbs the ranks, he makes more and more enemies along the way, taking over casino's and brothels with force. His brother on the other hand, prefers to mess around, learning kung-fu from a neighbouring girl and trying his new skills out on whoever he can, when he can.

The great Kam Kong stars as one brothel owner who doesn't take any crap, and gets his revenge by killing Ho's brother at his wedding, along with his boss and more. Obviously, Ho isn't going to take things lying down and uses his solid kung-fu skills and new position to exact vengeance for his murdered brother - leading to an epic, fight filled finale that definitely pleases, backed by his brothers new wife (Wang Chen in one of her few roles) who highly impresses!

Overall: A fine directorial debut from star Chi Kuan Chun, Big Rascal entertains and provides fans with plenty of great kung-fu action!

Dai-Nihonjin
(2007)

Touching, Hilarious & Unique!!
When I first got Big Man Japan I really didn't know what to expect. The artwork on the cover was certainly appealing, and at the same time hilarious, so I was excited to see what it was all about. And nearly 100 minutes later, I was ready to watch it again!

This surreal and hilarious film from writer, director & star Hitoshi Matsumoto, is just fantastic. It was such a different take on the Japanese kaiju flicks, shot as a mockumentary, but played in a very serious way. So much so, that it can often come across quite sad at times as we follow Daisato, an eccentric middle-aged man who lives with his cat (well, its really not his) in a rundown house in Tokyo. As the film crew follow him around, we learn that Dai is quite a depressed man, dressing oddly and rarely smiling, a man who barely flinches when a brick comes through his window because he's so used to it. Void of any social life, Dai pays visits to his sick grandfather who is in a care-home, suffering from dementia, and is allowed to connect with his wife and daughter only twice a year. He does pay for company mind you, as he visits bars and geisha girls, drinking heavily to forget his problems. You can't help but feel sorry for him as he waits around for his next call to work - a job that is mainly what makes Dai the man he is today...

Dai is Big Man Japan, an unpopular superhero who is basically a second-rate protector to the city. As he only heads to battle half-heartedly, Dai ends up causing even more destruction than the enemy. While his collection of photos, old film footage and memorabilia at home show how respected he, and others like him, were many moons ago, interviews with the general public now say otherwise. His wage for protecting the people from monsters is pitiful considering, but he continues to do what he does to survive.

As a mockumentary, Big man Japan is fantastically done. It captures many believable scenes of Dai's life, and only until the monsters come about, do you forget that its just entertainment. But its not all doom and gloom. Big man Japan is so well written that you can't help but laugh out loud. From the image of Dai standing in a giant pair of briefs, hoisted up on 2 flagpoles, to the dark comedy that surrounds his life - there is definitely plenty to laugh about. And of course, there's the actual monsters. Portrayed in an animated fashion, they are all well designed and hilarious in their own way, with one in particular having the head of Rik Takeuchi (from Battle Royale 2 and Full Metal Yakuza), on top of one giant frog-like leg who likes to hop around Tokyo, slipping on cars and using a Ferris wheel . Others range from giant penis monsters to elasticated, bendy beings; each proving to be a problem when the Big Man comes after them, and each getting weirder than the one before!

As our hero discusses his life, he gets slapped with advertising, taunted by the public, beaten by monsters, and then there's that dementia-suffering grandpa who likes to zap himself to get big and cause a scene around the city. As Dai explains, there used to be a lot of people like him, but since monsters don't come out that often any more, there was no need for them all any more...

Big Man Japan is a unique experience. With many hilarious comedy scenes - whether its the witty dialogue and comic situations, or the Big Man running away from a battle in a huff because he got beaten, you can't help but find yourself engrossed in Dai's story. He's an odd little man, perfectly portrayed by the wonderful Hitoshi Matsumoto. It can often be a very deep film, with some social commentary on Japanese culture, heavy on irony, and depicting an almost genius quality of Matsumoto's creativity!

You'll probably never experience anything ever like it, and may even need a couple of viewings just to get it, but Big Man Japan is most certainly worth the watch. The final 20 minutes is just completely bonkers, but absolutely brilliant!!

Overall: Touching, hilarious, and wonderfully written, Big Man Japan is something else and an experience you'll never forget...

Seng fat dak ging
(1988)

Goes Head-To-Head With Woo's Finest!!
Written by Gordon Chan, director of Fist Of Legend and Thunderbolt, The Big Heat may be a little rough-around-the-edges, but it still stands strong as a fantastically gritty, violent, and fast-paced action thriller. Directed by Andrew Kam and Johnnie To, with the great Tsui Hark getting behind some scenes, uncredited, the film is brilliantly shot, in a way that only compliments the dark revenge plot, with its brutal tale of cops and robbers, screaming the style of a certain Ringo Lam, with only hints of light breaking through this raw, gore-filled, dark and exciting Hong Kong gem!

For me, the great Philip Kwok steals the show. Playing a cop on Lee's team, he could have carried this as the lead, bringing an explosive energy to his role and delivering one of the better performances in the film. After watching him in so may Shaw Brothers films recently, it was good to see him in a modern setting. But for Waise Lee, who had made an impression with his breakout role in the classic, A Better Tomorrow, only 2 years prior, The Big Heat helped take him to another level. Playing a cop with a spinal injury that affects his gun hand, Lee is advised to resign early. But when he gets word about the murder of his ex-partner, Lee delays his plans until he finds out who was behind the brutal killing. I would like to say that, if Chow Yun Fat had been in Lee's place, this film would be in everyone's collection much like his classics with Woo and Lam...

When I watch The Big Heat, I see Tsui Hark giving us a project inspired by his time on A Better Tomorrow 1 & 2. With John Woo taking a different approach to his stylised action thrillers, this gave Hark the chance to darken the tone even more, blending his dark humour with more ultra-violent, kinetic action. Working with Andrew Kam, the man behind Swordsman, Fatal Termination, and High Voltage with Donnie Yen - as well as the great Johnnie To who was still fresh as a film director (although had already been assisted on films such as Royal Warriors and Magnificent Warriors with Michelle Yeoh), producer and director Tsui Hark delivers an underrated classic that I say, deserves a place beside the legendary John Woo flicks.

Although leaning more towards that of a Ringo Lam film than the work of Woo, The Big Heat is packed with stunning cinematography that pulls you into the action, making for a tense viewing experience full of graphic gun fights and action, where limbs and heads are blown-off, and kids and innocent people get abused, backed by that stunning, night-time Hong Kong movie lighting, tight editing and great soundtrack. As the plot moves along, emotions run high with each of the cast members giving memorable performances - even Waise Lee, with a great collection of names, some just starting off in their career. Keep an eye out for the likes of Crime Story director Kirk Wong, Wong Hin Mung, Joey Wong, Paul Chu Kong, Ong Sai Kit, Michael Chow, Robin Shou, Roy Cheung, and the aforementioned Philip Kwok, who also doubles up as the action choreographer alongside Joe Chu and Paul Wong. Strangely enough, Kwok takes part in a fantastic hospital shoot-out, something that may just have inspired a certain scene in the amazing Hardboiled, where Kwok plays Mad Dog against Chow Yun Fat's gun-toting Tequila...

Brutal and fast-paced from the get-go, there's no denying its pace in the heroic bloodshed genre of Hong Kong cinema. I love The Big Heat and hope to see it resurrected with a 4K restoration one day soon. Unapologetic in its shock value and violence, the film stands as one of the most brooding and brutal crime films I have ever seen!

Overall: Powerful and memorable, The Big Heat is one of Hong Kong cinema's darkest and greatest action-thrillers that deserves to be seen!

Lei tai
(1972)

Better Than Average With Great Fights!!
Although it carries a run-of-the-mill plot, with the Japanese occupying China and a band of rebels standing up against them, The Big Fight, from directors Sung Ting Mei (The Traitorous, The Silver Spear) and Sun Sheng Yuan (Immortal Warriors), in what would be their directorial début, is still a pretty exciting wee film!

With decent performances from all, The Big Fight is a pretty serious affair focusing on a tournament organised by the Japanese in a bid to kill or cripple the Chinese fighters. He film has plenty of fight scenes courtesy of Chen Chin, and features some great battles including that with weapons, mixing in judo, sumo and karate with the kung-fu, that come fast and often.

It also features a pretty decent cast with Tin Peng, from A Touch Of Zen, Dragon Gate Inn, and 18 Bronzemen, as the leading-man, with Cheung Ching Ching of Fearless Fighters & One Armed Swordswoman fame, by his side. Plenty of faces from Taiwanese classic kung-fu films help fill it out such as Cheng Fu Hung (Fearless Hyena), Choi Wang (Beach Of The War Gods), and Jack Long (7 Grandmasters) to name but a few...

The Big Fight won't ever go down as a classic or come up in any fans top-ten, but it sure is far from terrible and clears its 90 minute running time at a great pace. Although there are plenty of fights throughout, the last 40 minutes is just non-stop with many highlights leading up to the all-out frantic finale, which is brilliant!

Think of it like an early 70's Ip Man without the gloss and star-power.

Overall: Has most likely slipped under the radar of most kung-fu film fans, but The Big Fight is certainly worth the watch!

Tou shen gu zu
(1992)

One Of The Reasons I Love HK Cinema!!
The opening few minutes of The Big Deal is quite possibly one of the daftest and most absurd introductions to any film I have ever seen. It comprises of a beach packed with people gambling with birds, a woman having a bubble bath, a man taking a dump on a toilet in the sand with a queue of needy people swinging their toilet roll beside him, and more random madness. Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima appear soon after, dressed in black with Batman glasses on, to rob some Chinese Arabs who stopped by the beach and had their men shoot up the public because they were making too much noise. The Arabs fire a rocket the size of a small car, after the girls as they run down the beach. When a film opens like this, you can only think of two things. The first would be, WTF am I watching? And the second would be, WTF am I watching? And it only gets sillier from there!

Directed by Tony Liu who gave us the classic Devil Hunters, Angel Terminators 2, Mission Of Justice, and Dreaming The Reality starring this trio of Lee, Oshima and Sibelle Hu; seems to have lost his mind here. The comedy, although often hilarious, is so broad and insane, The Big Deal plays out like a live-action cartoon with crazy characters, outrageous action scenes, and each of the main cast members lampooning themselves from roles they have played in the aforementioned Liu movies...

Sibelle Hu is hilarious in this, spoofing her usual hard-cop roles as Super Canon. She is partnered with the great Tommy Wong Kwong Leung as Lethal Weapon, who is constantly mistaken for criminals - with him playing multiple roles to carry the joke, as the criminal in question always happens to be arrested next to him. The cast is filled right out with the wonderful Yuen Cheung Yan starring as the hilarious mentor to the girls, as well as brother to the fantastic Yuen Wah, who of course, plays the big over-the-top baddie, Saint Hero.

Wu Fung, Gabriel Wong, Isabelle Chow and a host of recognisable HK film faces fill out the cast with Tony Liu himself getting a cameo as the director when they break the fourth wall. Brit-kicker Sophia Crawford gets to play Wah's sidekick, in a rare comedic role, and gets to go toe-to-toe with the girls of course. The action is directed by Yuen Cheung Yan himself with some great moments of martial arts and femme-fatale fighting, as well as comedic squabbles, crazy stunts and gravity defying moves that won't disappoint action fans, or that of its stars!

The Big Deal is pretty much non-stop, and you may need a second viewing to catch many of the jokes that come thick-and-fast in between the constant fight scenes. It takes Mo Lei Tau comedy to another level, but in doing so, delivers an insane and often hilarious film. I really enjoy it. While all the starlet's are fantastic to watch and handle their comedy just wonderfully, I have to admit that its Moon Lee for me that steals the show. Her comedy timing, anime-like-cuteness, and kick-ass moves are brilliant. I only wish they had all done more films like this while in the business...

Insane, hilarious and not shy of action, The Big Deal may not make a lot of sense to many, but proves to be one of the most entertaining and fun films of the Hong Kong girls-with-guns and femme-fatale genre. At one point, Tommy Wong has a police radio disguised as a vibrator, offering many laughs as he rubs it in all directions to communicate. There's even a fart-gag that starts a gun-fight that had me howling, but I do have a weird sense of humour. The end battle takes place at an amusement park, giving everyone involved the chance to show some moves - and it certainly doesn't disappoint!

Overall: Takes the madness of a Chow Sing Chi movie, and cranks it up to 11 with great action and fights from the finest girls of HK cinema!

Da ge Cheng
(1975)

Great Action Thriller, Great Sequel!!
Fan fave and superstar Chen Kuan Tai returns to the role of restaurant manager Cheng, in this sequel to the highly successful and fantastic Shaw Brothers hit, The Tea House. Of course, at the end of that, Cheng and his wife (Karen Yip) had left the city to find some peace in the New Territories. But life in the country soon comes to a stop, as is friends back in Hong Kong call upon him to help sort out some sticky situations they have gotten themselves in to!

Also returning is director Kuei Chih Hung, famed for many of Shaw's hits including Bewitched, Hex, Killer Constable, and of course, The Tea House. Kuei delivers an exciting, modern day thriller full of gritty fight scenes and violence, and while it has its flaws in terms of the overall story-telling, still gives fans a highly entertaining picture...

Its definitely one of the darker Shaw Brothers productions with its rape, suicide, violence and murder. Chen Kuan Tai is as fantastic as always and once again, brings a great presence to the role of Cheng, getting plenty of chances to kick and punch his way for justice - like some kind of 70's Hong Kong Death Wish or Equalizer, obviously dishing out justice his way, but not supported by the cops for his actions.

While the film plays as a serious flick for the most of the time, it still offers some funny and comedic scenario's. One such scene is courtesy of the returning Wong Yu (Dirty Ho), who, along with his gang, catch 3 rapists and get them to strip-down completely. Yu proceeds to have each of them tie a string to each of their penises, that of which is attached to a bundle of heavy oil cans, bottles and bricks. They're then made to run around the room as the gang of vigilantes laugh and point!

Chen is supported by a great cast, both main and background players such as the aforementioned Wong Yu, his screen wife Karen Yip, Ha Ping, Chin Yuet Sang, Fung Hak On, Lee Hoi Sang, Ricky Hui, Dick Wei, Bruce Le and even Yuen Cheung Yan appears along the way. Ther are many more recognisable faces of course, which makes for a fun who's-who while watching...

I also loved how Big Brother Cheng was filmed, full of energy and great cinematography that often made you a part of the scene. This is down to Yau Kei who also worked on The Tea House, as well as classics such as The 14 Amazons, Zen Kwan Do Strikes In Paris, and Dragon On Fire. Along with direction from Kuei, we get some fantastic shots, especially during the action that really work well.

With a lengthy running time of 1 hour 48 minutes, Big Brother Cheng keeps a steady pace and has enough going on as he sets out to clean up the city. The action director is Tong Gaai, the same man behind classics like Opium And The Kung Fu Master, Avenging Eagle, and The Magic Blade, with almost 200 films to his name who rarely disappoints. And while the film takes a bit of a breather just after the halfway mark, things pick up again quick for a dark last 30 minutes of murder and revenge, with an action-packed and violent finale complete with a neat twist!

Overall: With some great moments, and a top performance from Chen Kuan Tai, Big Brother Cheng is well worth the watch!

Shang Hai tan da heng
(1979)

Fantastic Kung Fu Film & One of Chen's Best!!
Produced by Lo Wei and directed by its star, the wonderful Chen Kuan Tai, Big Boss Of Shanghai tells the classic tale of 2 brothers who travel to the big city, finding work for a local boss, and taking different paths that sees them eventually face-off against each other. Later remade in 1997 with Yuen Biao and Takeshi Kaneshiro as Hero; and again in 2014 as Once Upon A Time In Shanghai, with Philip Ng and Andy On, both of which are as excellent and well worth the watch. The film itself is a remake of the classic Shaw Brothers hit, Boxer From Shantung, which also starred Chen as the lead in one of his first major roles. So I guess this was quite a meaningful project for the star...

Chen Kuan Tai neatly delivers a classic tale of brotherhood, betrayal, honour and greed with himself and Jimmy Lee as the brothers. Regular bad guy in many Hong Kong films such as Angel's Project, and God Of Gamblers 3: Back To Shanghai, Lee is easily swayed and likes to prove himself for praise with more violence and dirty work. Upon arriving in Shanghai, they meet the right-hand man to a local boss, played with glee by Chan Wai Lau, Jackie Chan's master in The Fearless Hyena. Chan works for Chen Sing, to who he introduces the brothers. From there, their lives start to divide, with Jimmy Lee working his way up and Chen moving on to keep his honour!

I'm a huge fan of Chen Kuan Tai, and a huge fan of Big Boss In Shanghai, a film I would love to see a 4K restoration of in my collection. From its great sets and locations to superb performances, the film moves along at a great pace with non-stop fight action, a great story, and some nice stunt work. The cast of recognisable faces just adds to it, with many Lo Wei regulars from the Jackie Chan classics, and Cheng Hong Yip from Dragon Lord and Project A.

Big Boss Of Shanghai was to be Chen's third directorial project, and with it brings back the team that worked with him on the classic Iron Monkey. While its likely Chen himself had a hand in the choreography, the fight action here is handled by Chan Muk Chuen. He started as an action choreographer on the aforementioned classic as well as working on films such as Hero From Shanghai, The Crippled Masters, and The Eight Escorts. The fights are a lot of fun, getting more and more violent as the plot moves on, building up to an amazing climax and brilliant, brutal 15 minute finale.

There's so much going on, you can't help but be entertained. The film keeps a sense of realism about it, rarely defying gravity as most kung-fu films made in this era would do often. The brutal end fight between Chen Kuan Tai and Chen Sing is fantastic, and one of my favourites from this period. With our hero having had his hands forced into a bowl of acid, Kuan Tai struggles in pain to fight for survival with some killer moves and nice stunts that really impresses making this, for me, a much more entertaining movie than Lo Wei's very own classic, The Big Boss!

Overall: Wonderfully made and directed, Big Boss Of Shanghai proves to be one of Chen Kuan Tai's finest moments!

Zhan long 2
(2002)

Almost Comedic, But Ultimately Bad!
Jesus Christ!

By the 20 minute mark of this Joseph Lai presentation, I was ready to switch it off. This release from MIA comes with an English dub only, and I can honestly say I don't think I've ever heard a more atrocious dub than this. Lazy, badly written and not even unintentionally funny, matters are only made worse with the dreadful acting from some of its main cast members, namely its lead Dragon Sek, and co-star Karel Wong Chi Yeung, who starred in classics such as Once Upon A Time In China, Fight Back To School, and Angel Terminators 2...

Dragon Sek, real name Shi Tian Long, made a handful of movies between 1998 and 2005 as the latest Bruce Lee impersonator; none of which were particularly spectacular I might add. While he may show a few decent moves here and there, and a few moves that would have Bruce turning in his grave, Sek looks more like an old-man version of Alexander Lo Rei, and comes across with about as much on-screen personality (here) as a block of cheese!

This shot-for-TV production from China, was made the same year as The Dragon, The Master, and although this is also known as Dragon The Master 2 elsewhere, isn't a direct sequel of sorts. The other has a more film-look quality to it - possibly due to a better budget, and is a bit more fun in my eyes. This story sees Dragon arrive in town looking for his fiancée, only to find her kidnapped and the town taken over by the evil Tang gang, who control gambling, loans and prostitution with an iron fist. Only Dragon can stop the gang and save his girl - albeit with the help of a couple of friends. The big boss is played by Ben Ng who has starred in hits such as A True Mob Story, Sex & Zen 2, Red To Kill and many more. The highlight for me is with Sek's female sidekick, Karen Cheung Bo Man, who acts and fights the best throughout the whole film.

Although distributed by IFD Films, the film is produced by Ricky Wong Ga Kui, and directed by Kant Leung Wang Fat (who also penned it).. Leung was an actor in Her Name Is Cat, and also directed the underwhelming Roaring Dragon, Bluffing Tiger with Collin Chou and Anthony Wong, as well as a few others. The fights are handled by Lung Sang (here listed as Willie Ho), who worked as an action director on Donnie Yen flicks, Crystal Hunt, Cheetah On Fire, and Holy Virgin Versus The Evil Dead - but there's very few amazing moments here that come close to the excitement of either of those.

Overall: Plenty of fights but slow, badly acted, and not really pretty to look at, Big Boss Untouchable is, ironically, just that. For hardened kung-fu and Bruce fans only!

Tang shan da xiong
(1971)

Still Holds Up, With Fantastic Finale!
With Bruce Lee and famed director, Lee Tso Nam, listed as assistant directors, this early 70's Lo Wei classic was considered to be the little dragon's breakout role to audiences of Hong Kong, and more importantly, the world...

Bruce plays Cheng, a young man sent to Thailand to work with family friends at an ice factory, that unknowingly to him, is trading in heroin. He has sworn an oath of non-violence, something we are constantly reminded off anytime he touches his chest and pulls out a jade necklace to look at, backed by a tedious melodramatic jingle. Honestly, it takes about 44 minutes before he gets into his first fight, and only because the necklace is cut from him!

Until Bruce gets going, the fighting isn't amazing. I mean, its certainly passable and old school courtesy of the big boss himself, and veteran actor & action director Han Ying Chieh. Even though the great James Tien carries the first half of the film and most of its fight scenes respectively, everyone involved just seems stiff, unless leaping through the air with the aid of a trampoline. Perhaps this was so Bruce would look even better once he got started having taken control of choreography when it came to his own fight scenes.

Supposedly based on the true story of a Chinese immigrant called Cheng Chiu On, who now has a statue dedicated to him, The Big Boss was the highest grossing movie of all time in Hong Kong upon release. As one of Golden Harvest studios first movies,the film impressed with a great cast, including a young Lam Ching Ying, skinny Chan Lung, Lee kwan, Billy Chan Nora Miao, and the handsome Tony Liu as the big boss' son. I'm not the biggest Bruce Lee fan in the world, but I have to say I did really enjoy him in this. There's a more natural, fun approach to his acting; I guess having not yet reached that stardom that brought forth a cockiness and confidence to him in the roles that followed. He probably looks his healthiest here also...

I know Bruce was against the gravity defying moves of the movie, taking away from the realism he wanted to show. One such case is the stupid guard dog attack, where the German shepherd's are literally being thrown at him from behind the camera as Bruce leaps through the air to get away. Another is the famed flying kick between him and villain, Han Ying Chieh at the end, a move director Lo Wei made a point of keeping. Wei has never been the greatest director in the world, but he certainly isn't the worst either. His films are often played safe, often with a crude and uneven plot or technical issues that are glaringly obvious. His direction in the cinematography would often make for many boring scenes, with few bringing any excitement to viewers if there was no action on screen.

Although starting off as a regular kung-fu film in a modern day setting, The Big Boss gets better as it rolls on, allowing for a much better second half and some dark moments of bodies in ice, violence and an incredible last half hour that really showed what Bruce Lee was capable off. Unfortunately still presented uncut, with the famed axe-to-the-head scene missing, Lee's first Hong Kong action flick may have its flaws, but is still a fantastic thriller worthy of a watch!

Overall: While marred by Lo Wei's approach, The Big Boss highly entertains and more-so because of Bruce Lee!

Bichunmoo
(2000)

A Hark Back To Hong Kong's New Wave!!
It is the end of the Yuan Dynasty, a time when the Mongolians were ruling the whole of the Chinese Continent with much trouble between race and cultures. Some of those suffering included the Hans and the Koryo, an ancient race of Korean people who suffered at the hands of evil barons and Mongolian armies.In the style of Romeo and Juliet, out hero Jinha, the son of a Koryo migrant has fallen for Sullie - a girl he saved from a wolf when they were both children. Having grown up together, they seem set to be with one-another for life until 10 years later, her family arrive to get her, revealing that she is the illegitimate daughter of a Mongolian commander.

After taking her away, Jinha chases down his love through a series of fantastic battles, only to get double-crossed by her father and shot by arrows off a cliff, to his death. Found in the river below, a mysterious man brings him back to life - reborn as a new man called Jahalang, assassin for hire and out for revenge to win back the woman he loves!

I had forgotten just how much I love Bichunmoo! Having not watched it for over 10 years now, this South Korean martial arts fantasy, is packed with so much fantastic action, romance, drama and stunning cinematography, you can't help but fall for it. From the masters fight in a cage to the ninja assassins attack on the royal estate, one can't help but feel like they are watching a bigger budgeted version of Hong Kong classics, Butterfly & Sword, or Swordsman 2 & 3 respectively...

The Romeo & Juliet tale of love keeps a more serious tone running throughout compared to its Hong Kong inspirations, with great performances from all involved and some touching moments between loves. Shin Hyun Joon is wonderful as the leading man, giving a great performance as the love torn man as well as showing off some fantastic moves, a role he would reprise somewhat 5 years later in the epic, Shadowless Sword. Leading lady, who was Jackie Chan's love interest in the fun time hopping action-fantasy, The Myth, also does a great job here as the woman torn from her true love and forced into a life unwanted. She also gets to show off a few moves which is nice to see.

With the highest budget in Korean cinema of its time, director Kim Young Jun highly impresses with his directorial debut, delivering a beautiful film with highly detailed costumes, beautiful sets, and stunning cinematography. For any flaws that do stand out, he most certainly learned from his mistakes, fine-tuning them for his follow-up movie, the aforementioned Shadowless Sword, which I just love!

Bichunmoo features some of the best Hong Kong style-inspired fight scenes I've seen in a South Korean movie. While many compare it to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I would say not-so, with its stunning mix of fantasy wu xia, one-to-one duels, and large battles, Bichunmoo tricks you into thinking you're watching a Yuen Woo Ping or Ching Siu Tung film from the early 90's, due to its choreography, edits, cinematography and lighting, and certainly doesn't let the action fans down. This is all down to action choreographer Ma Yuk Sing, the Hong Kong action and stunt co-ordinator who worked on classics such as A Chinese Ghost Story 3, Royal Tramp 1 & 2, Dr. Wai & The Scripture With No Words, and the aforementioned Butterfly & Sword and Swordsman sequels!

Once again, I must give kudos to director Kim for such an amazing debut. I watched Bichunmoo repeatedly on release, and although I have had many more to watch over the years, will be making sure to pop this one in my player more often, in the future. With a healthy running time of 118 minutes, the film rarely loses its pace and closes with an epic and emotional finale that is just brilliant...

Overall: A blend of Butterfly & Sword meets The Banquet, Bichunmoo is highly entertaining and a gorgeous throw-back to a classic era of Hong Kong cinema!

Miao tan shuang long
(1989)

Underrated Hong Kong Action Comedy!!
Kicking off in the US, with Ken Tong Chun Yip being captured and tortured by some gangsters in a beautifully lit, abandoned warehouse at night, we get straight to the action with FBI investigator Cynthia Rothrock, busting in to save him. After a brief, but fun fight, Tong escapes and heads back to Hong Kong. Once in there, Tong falls under the protection of 2 bumbling cops in the shape of the hilarious Shing Fui On, and charming Michael Mui. This happens after they arrest him during a groping incident while Tong was in drag, and soon leads to some very non-PC, crazy comedy scenes, full of gay innuendo's, AIDS jokes, and flirting as Tong keeps up the gay man act. It isn't long though, before he escapes their company and disappears. Rothrock soon arrives on the scene and joins the cops in their search for him and the much-wanted micro-film, he happens to have!

Of course, things aren't so simple with Japanese gangsters getting involved which leads to some fantastic action scenes, plenty of hilarity, and a great finale between Rothrock and the wonderful Michiko Nishiwaki...

Released in the UK as Beyond The Law, to feed off the success of her earlier hits Above The Law (Righting Wrongs) and Above The Law 2 (The Blonde Fury), Hong Kong action-comedy City Cops is, to me, such an underrated Hong Kong film that I highly enjoy. Packed with some great comedy sequences, and a number of fun fight scenes, Beyond The Law is a lot of fun, and probably ignored by a lot of Rothrock fans, and those who love the femme-fatale sub-genre of HK cinema. I love the pairing of Mui and On as the awkward cops, the love relationship between Shing and Rothrock, and think this is probably the coolest Cynthia has ever looked in a Hong Kong film, with costumes actually complimenting for once, and her hair only changing a couple of times.

When it comes to the fight scenes of course, Cynthia does not disappoint. Director and star in his own right, the great Lau Kar Wing, leads the team with Ridley Tsui supporting as choreographer, and the likes of Hung Yan Yan and Dion Lam behind them on stunts. And while its not bursting with action every 5 minutes, there's still plenty going on, with some great choreography and moves on show. The cast is pretty sweet too with the aforementioned stars joined by a host of gwailo baddies such as Mark Houghton from any number of Girls-With-Guns flicks, John Ladalski from Armour Of God and Ninja The Protector, Wayne Archer also from Armour, and Ken Goodman from the Catman movies. Hong Kong regular Wu Fung stars as the commanding officer to the cops, with Shikamura Yasuyoshi from God Of Gamblers and Killers Romance as the gangster boss, and the great Michiko Nishiwaki as his main weapon. Its definitely not a boring cast.

As with most Hong Kong films of this period, Beyond The Law certainly has its flaws, but totally entertains in many respects. The classic English dub does add to this I have to admit, with some cracker lines that have me howling every time. From its comedy to fight scenes, stunt-work to memorable theme tune, this was a film I loved to watch over and over again when I first got it in my early teens. Its also great to see the late, great Shing Fui On in a good guy role rather than the extreme, angry gangster he usually plays. His relationship with Rothrock is also hilarious!

The only downside for me is that Nishiwaki only appears for the last 20 minutes or so, but in doing so, allows for a fantastic end battle with Rothrock in a warehouse, which does the job and highly entertains, with some of her more acrobatic moves artfully doubled by Hong Kong's finest. Its a fight from the genre that is often overlooked, unfortunately, and while shorter than expected, should be seen more as one of Cindy's great Hong Kong finales...

Overall: It'll never go down as one of the best, but Beyond The Law is a lot of fun with some great fights and plenty of laughs!

Gu
(1981)

Hong Kong Horror Gem!!
Sex, horror and exploding bats are the main ingredients for this early 80's Shaw Brothers thriller from director Kuei Chih Hung, the man who brought us the fantastic horror film, Hex, The Boxer's Omen, Killer Constable and many more. It stars Ai Fei, from the Shaw classics House Of Traps, Human Lanterns and Death Duel, as a man arrested for the murder of his daughter, having claimed that she was possessed, and that he himself, had a spell put on him after meeting a Thai girl and leaving her jilted. The first shock of the film comes pretty quick as a kid playing ball comes across the grossly, realistic body of his daughter in the woods - complete with 6 inch nail driven into the top of her head that forcefully gets removed. Its the first of many moments that will make you wince through the atmospheric and fun, Bewitched...

Told in flashback (in part) from the jail cell to officer Melvin Wong, Ai Fei's stories convince Wong to head to Thailand to learn more about the black magic rituals, leading to a crazy run of events, leaving him with much more than he bargained for!

I like Bewitched! It's something a little different and has some pretty cool tricks going on that keeps viewers entertained right through. These include graphically disturbing corpses, a séance with floating skulls and twigs that write alone, evil wizards versus good wizards, reanimated bodies, a possessed child munching down on raw meat, brutal car accidents, levitating knives and much, much more.

Director Kuei keeps things tense as the story rolls along with some incredible visuals and darkly wild atmosphere throughout. There's a rawness to Bewitched that just seems to keep you gripped, along with its ominous music and sound effects that just add to the experience. Its beautifully shot for the most part, capturing some wonderful shots of Thailand (including its fantastic, giant movie posters on the buildings), with some incredible lighting which makes it look amazing and very nice to watch. This is also aided by the incredibly clean, crisp and colourful print, 88 Films have provided here allowing us to see the ultimate version of this classic...

The great Melvin Wong does a wonderful job, as do most of the cast, with real-life wizard Hussein Hassan playing the dark villain of the piece. He gets to take part in an extended battle with a good wizard, attacking each other with spells that gets violent and bloody, that leads to the evil wizard drinking the blood from a (shockingly graphic) barrel of dead babies and internal organs for more power!

It's really quite disgusting.

The final half hour sees Wong return to Hong Kong to follow-up his case. Its here that he finds his Ai Fei in the prison hospital, wrapped from head-to-toe in bandages, violently throwing-up worms, and slashing his stomach open! And it only gets worse for him, with the detective now finding himself suffering the same problems and pains that first plagued his prisoner...

Bewitched certainly isn't boring, and I'd go as far to say that it definitely put a lot of people off going to Thailand upon release. With some great use of practical FX for its time, solid direction, and plenty of WTF moments to keep you entertained, this little gem should please any fan of horror. Kuei Chih Hung was one of the finest horror directors in Hong Kong of that period, so I'd suggest checking out some of his other titles and giving this one a go.

Overall: Mad, gross, shocking and beautifully made, Bewitched is a crazy piece of Hong Kong cinema that deserves a watch!

The Best of the Martial Arts Films
(1990)

A Childhood Fav & A Must For All HK Movie Fans!!
Without a shadow of a doubt, for me, this was the holy grail of viewing pleasure when I was a youngster. Having fell in love with Hong Kong films at an early age in the mid-80's, The Best Of The Martial Arts was the greatest thing I had ever seen!

With no internet to surf for information, find photos, watch video clips or to shop from, this feature length documentary was my only insight to what Hong Kong films were out there, leaving me blown away the first time I saw it. It got to the point where I had rented and watched the video so much from my local video rental shop, that they let me buy it and had to get a new one in. It didn't take long after that for me to wear that video tape out...

Presented by Golden Harvest, and directed by Sandra Weintraud, better half to producer Fred Weintraud, the film was basically a passion project for the couples love of Hong Kong films and having just worked with Golden Harvest on China O'Brien 1 & 2, seem to have been given the go-ahead by Raymond Chow to use the cream-de-la-crem of what the incredible film studio had compiled up to that point. This included an incredible list of kung-fu classics from Bruce Lee's legendary flicks to Broken Oath, Magnificent Butcher, Warriors Two and many, many more alongside 80's action hits like Jackie Chan's Armour Of God, Wheels On Meals, Dragons Forever, Tsui Hark's Zu Warriors, and Sammo Hung's epic Eastern Condors and Shanghai Express - and it doesn't even stop there!!

No millennial could ever imagine the amount of excitement and amazement this film could bring to a young, new fan of the fascination that is Hong Kong cinema. Not once, and still, did I ever tire of it. Hosted and narrated by John Saxon, co-star of Bruce Lee's epic Enter The Dragon, viewers are taken on a journey and review of Golden Harvest and Hong Kong's finest, albeit with a few mistakes and hiccups of wrongly named movies to the clips that are playing. In between we get to see interviews with the legends Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, along with director Robert Clouse, the awesome Cynthia Rothrock and Keith Cooke from the set of China O'Brien, which of course, appears numerously throughout.

While dated by today's standards given how spoiled we are with 4K restored Blu-ray's, special features and the fact that I now know, just what exactly was released in Hong Kong during the same period, I still can't help but have a major soft-spot for The Best Of The Martial Arts and rate it 5 stars for sheer nostalgic reasons, and the joy it gave in introducing me to such amazing films, encouraging my love for Hong Kong cinema even more. While many more have came since, I've yet to find one that amazes me in the same way as this first did.

A must-have for any fan of martial arts cinema and Hong Kong movies, The Best Of The Martial Arts is one of the greatest introductions to the films we all love, and a great collection of some of Hong Kong's finest martial arts fights and superstars!

Overall: One of my childhood favourites, and a fantastic introduction to the amazing world of Hong Kong movies!

Best of the Best 4: Without Warning
(1998)

My Fav Of Them All, And Rhee's Finest Hour!!
Although made 3 years after the previous sequel, Best Of The Best 4 is set at least 6 years after, with Rhee now father to a little girl of 5 years old, and his wife having passed during that time. With Rhee back in the directors chair, and also having co-penned the screenplay, he takes his character Tommy Lee to new levels pitting him up against the Russians who are running a massive counterfeiting operation in his town. Rhee gets involved by accident, while he is shopping in a friends store. The shopkeepers daughter runs in, getting chased by Russian gunmen and before she is killed, slips a cassette (containing a stolen disc of information) into the action heroes pocket. Rhee then gets to work taking down the gunmen with some neat and painful looking moves!

For me, part 4 is the best of the best in the series. Yes it may have steered far and wide from what the series set out to be, but it takes the character of Tommy Lee on a whole new journey and highlights Philip Rhee in his best film to date in terms of acting and fighting backed by a good cast, including the wonderful Ernie Hudson and Tobin Bell, better known as Jigsaw from the Saw franchise. Best Of The Best 4 is technically the better looking film of the lot with its production values, nice cinematography and pacing. Rhee refines his directing, perhaps having learnt from his mistakes in part 3, and delivers a well-made action-thriller in the vain of Jeff Wincott's Mission Of Justice and Karate Cop, also starring Cynthia Rothrock, or Jeff Speakman's, The Perfect Weapon - with a taste of Die Hard.

Rhee now works as a self-defence teacher for the local police force, something that hinders more than helps him when trouble comes knocking. The Russian gangsters are led menacingly by Tobin Bell, with German actor Thure Riefenstein as his right-hand man. They make a mean team, and along with their minions, don't let anyone stand in their way as they search for the stolen disc, giving Rhee a difficult time with violent shoot-outs and attacks. Accused of killing a cop-friend, Rhee also must now go on the run as Detective Ernie Hudson and his men also give chase. Ghostbusters star, Hudson, does a great job here not letting the lower budget production hinder his performance in any way. In fact, I think its fair to say that the majority of the main cast involved don't disappoint...

Best Of The Best 4 rattles along at a great pace without a hint of that cheese that dripped from the previous 3 films. It's such a shame that Philip Rhee packed it in straight after this, only to return 17 years to direct and star in the so-so kids action film, Underdog Kids. I really would have loved to see him get the chance to star alongside Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen or get directed in some Hong Kong productions before throwing the towel in. His moves have always been great, and his charisma fun, and I would say that Without Warning is one of his finest moments.

With some neat car and motorcycle chases, helicopter stunts, and plenty of hand-to-hand, the final entry to the series keeps going with highlights being the attack on Rhee's home, the fight between him and the Russian's in the dojo, the vehicle stunts in the tunnel, and the action-packed finale of course!

Overall: While it forgets about its past, Best Of The Best 4 offers a lot of fun, harking back to the 80's action classics with a lot of positives, and is probably Rhee's finest hour!

Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back
(1995)

Action Packed & Unintentionally Funny!!
Clichéd in a Walker, Texas Ranger kinda way, Best Of The Best 3: No Turning Back was a complete change of pace from the previous 2 entries to the series. With a lack of his team mates, or any fighting in the ring, this second sequel actually began life as a movie simply called No Turning Back. It was originally planned to feature a black marine who returns home from the Persian Gulf to find his town over-run by a gang of white supremacists. When producer and star Philip Rhee got a read of the script, things got re-jigged to make it a sequel to his martial arts action series, with Rhee coming back as Tommy Lee and the man himself taking the reigns as director also!

Best Of The Best 3 is often hilarious, although completely unintentionally, with plenty of action and martial arts fights that aren't the worst I've ever seen. Hammered by a dodgy script, below-par acting, and many ridiculous situations - such as Rhee's jump-kick to take down 3 different guys on motorbikes, with the help of some bad editing - this entry to the series plays like a weak Van Damme film, with plenty of predictable moments and many WTF scenes that you'll either love or hate.

The thought of Philip Rhee taking on a gang of neo-nazi's is pretty exciting though, and the film carries a great message, and is decently made. With a decent cast such as the addition of Gina Gershon and Dee Wallace, of which are underused, Best Of The Best 3 is not the worst movie in the world. I must admit though, it has maybe too many silly moments for a film based around racial conflict. With the first film focusing on teamwork, and the second, vengeance; part 3 is about Salvation with a message about respect, peace and redemption. The take on the supremacists is well done, with a realism projected as they kill, hurt and scare the local residents on Liberty (the ironic name of the town), and the twist to the cliché is having the victims get together and stand up against them - albeit with Rhee's flying feet and fists to encourage that...

There was times when Bes Of The Best 3 reminded me of China O'Brien and Rhee even entertains us with a Jackie Chan-esque moment as he takes on some of the thugs at a county fair while dressed as a clown. While not as intricately choreographed as Jackie would have presented, the fight is still fun and does the job. As mentioned though, its probably a little too light-hearted of a scene for the serious plot-line and message surrounding the film as a whole! Big on fights and explosive action, No Turning Back definitely has it flaws but entertains as a 90's action movie. It may not have much connection to its predecessors, totally losing what the series started out as, but as a standalone action thriller, I was happy with it. This was Philip Rhee's directorial début, and as his first offering, think he done a pretty damn good job albeit with some teething problems. He would go on to direct himself in the follow-up sequel in 1998, which to me, was the best of the bunch. It may have been interesting to see a series of films that followed the separate stories of each of the characters from the original, giving Roberts a chance to have his own Alex Grady series as much as Tommy Lee had his...

For a man who had a short-lived career, Rhee certainly left an impression. No Turning Back isn't perfect, but it makes for a fun watch and is a pretty mature project from the man. It may come across as a high budgeted TV movie, but Best Of The Best 3 holds up.

Overall: Flawed but entertaining, No Turning Back is big on action and unintentional laughs, accompanied by a serious message and story!

Best of the Best II
(1993)

Better Sequel, Darker Tones!
This bigger budgeted sequel to Philip Rhee's surprise hit action-drama, caries a storyline that is one of the main reasons I hated 90's American martial arts films. A good looking, rich guy, who is the champion and creator of an underground Bloodsport style tournament, invites only the rich to attend, who dress in their finest and cheer for more violence, as half naked showgirls lie around with the legs hanging open with fireworks going off. It's a over-used, cliched and dated plot that has never looked good. Taking part in that tournament is Chris Penn, which of course, is going to be the thorn in his team mates sides as the story rolls on. I must also add that every time he comes out into the ring, I can't help but laugh uncontrollably, as he looks utterly ridiculous and unconvincing as a fighter warming up!

Director Rob Radler returns with a better grip on things, with the team back in action except for John Dye. Roberts son has now grown and has also taken a big interest in the martial arts, keeping the family drama side of things going as he jumps between all 3 father-figures for guidance. And although it keeps that drama strong, Best Of The Best 2 flows a little more natural this time laying off the cheese and darkening its tale with violence and in tone. While it didn't fare well on release, it comes across as a much better made movie than the first, and screams Van Damme in its style.

Ralf Moeller, who ironically stared with Van Damme in Cyborg and Universal Soldier, stars as the villain of the piece, Brakus who incidentally, kills Penn in a tournament fight. Of course, his pals and team mates Roberts and Rhee, are going to take revenge for his murder, now that they are action heroes instead of sports fighters...

While Roberts has lost that ghastly hair-do from part one, we get to enjoy the harsh 90's fashion that looks dreadful on everyone. Luckily, the baggy, bright coloured clothes don't distract from the better fight scenes, harder stunts and violence on offer that give the first films 2 best fighters, a chance to showcase more moves!

This style would continue into the following sequels, although Rhee would be the only star appearing in those. Halfway through the film, the heroes go to stay and train with a family of Native Americans to hone their skills and prepare mentally to beat Brakus. For me, it kinda dips here, stepping for too long out of the darker tone it ran with and filling it with some nice desert training - something that may have been great to see in the first. Alas, trouble isn't too far behind and soon, the violence and action kick back in. From here, the last 40 minutes is pretty much non-stop with plenty of fighting, action and stunt work to please the fans.

Best Of The Best 2 isn't the greatest martial arts action film ever made, but it does entertain. Yes it has some cheesy lines, but I find this series a bit more palatable than say, the American Ninja series. With the film being a box office flop on release, the next 2 sequels would go straight to video focusing on Rhee as the leading man. I only wish we could have got to see more of him as an action hero as I enjoy him more-so, and think he is a much better actor and mover than the likes of Don 'The Dragon' Wilson, who has done pretty well...

Overall: Except for its dated plot-line and a few silly moments, Best Of The Best 2 is an improvement on part one for action fans and great entertainment!

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