Review: Clan of the White Lotus (1980)

Posted in Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Lo Lieh, Lui Chia-Liang, Wang Lung Wei with tags , on October 1, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Gordon Liu, Lo Lieh, Wang Lung Wei, Kara Hui, King Lee

Fight Choreography by Lui Chia-Liang

Directed by Lo Lieh

Executioners of Shaolin is one of the classic kung-fu films, and created the quintessential white-haired-master-you-should-not-dick-with in Pai Mei. Hell, even Quentin Tarantino brought Pai Mei back in Kill Bill, so you know Pei Mei is an asskicker. But he’s dead, so what to do for a sequel? Can it match the insanity of the original?

Then Lo Lieh shows up and says “hold my beer”.

Gordon Lui (who played a character who got killed off in a hail of arrows in the previous film) takes over as Hung Wei-Tien, one of the two heroes who originally sent Pei Mei and his testicles to the grave. The emperor has decreed that the Shaolin were to be left in peace to rebuild their temples. Of course what’s left of the White Lotus clan ain’t havin’ that, and their new leader, White Lotus (Lo Lieh), who happens to be Pei Mei’s bro-in-arms, goes on a killing spree of Shaolin, and eventually attacks Hung Wei-Tien and his partner Wu Ah Bui (King Lee), and of course Hung Wei-Tien survives, along with Wu Ah Bui’s wife Mei (Hui) and in classic Shaw Brothers magic, Hung Wei-Tien must learn a new style of kung fu in order to beat White Lotus…

The film is a fun mix of crazy kung-fu and funny moments not unlike the previous film. Gordon Lui is his normal self (aka the Greatness) and handles both humorous and dramatic moments with the aplomb we are accustomed to seeing. There are so man good moments, like when Gordon Lui shows up to the White Lotus headquarters like he’s arrived at Golden Corral: they’re serving an all you can eat of ass whoopins and Gordon’s got an empty stomach! Kidding aside, one story conceit that I’m happy they turned on its ear is that for once, a woman (Mei) turns out to be the kung fu teacher Wei-Tien needs to defeat White Lotus, and it’s a refreshing take, even though Kara Hui was still woefully underutilized. Lo Lieh is a right bastard as White Lotus, and does a great job of nearly seeming an invincible force of nature that cannot be defeated. There is a confidence to his directing, but with the resources of the Shaw Brothers he had at the time Lo Lieh should be confident, as everyone was experienced in filming the Shaw Brothers Way, from the producers to the set builders.

Lui Chia-Liang is a legend of martial arts fight choreography, and he bring his amazing fight scenes here as well, building each fight in complexity until he cuts loose during the final confrontation at the end, as Gordon Lui takes on not just White Lotus but his lead henchmen as well, and I actually like his fight with the two swordsmen better than his final fight with White Lotus, particularly when he pulls out the bladed three section staff! This isn’t to say the final fight wasn’t good, because it was great, but for pure kung-fu badassery the swordsmen fight was the best.

Some further rambling thoughts:

It’s just not cool to attack someone while they are naked in a bath. Not even if it’s a evil bastard like White Lotus. Bad form, Hung We-Tien!

The Five Point Exploding Heart technique is alive and well.

So many spectacularly badly acted deaths….it’s so good!

Scene where Gordon rips off White Lotus’ eyebrows, and what he does with them is the stuff of legend.

That ending is pure Kung Fu gold! The Greatness gets to celebrate!

 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Clan of the White Lotus is a worthy sequel to Executioners from Shaolin, and Lo Lieh makes for an entertaining villain while Gordon Lui does Gordon Lui things, which is always a great thing. Kara Hui is a breath of fresh air as the kung fu master!

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Alexander Nevsky’s Maximum Impact rocks the Action On Film Awards!

Posted in Alexander Nevsky, Matthias Hues with tags on August 28, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

A heartfelt congrats to Filmmaker/Action star Alexander Nevsky, whose film Maximum Impact killed it at the Action On Film! As most folks know, his last film Showdown in Manila tickled my 90’s B-movie funnybone in the best way possible. Here’s hoping Maximum Impact takes that next step, and it seem to have made good impressions with the judges of the AOF awards! Check out the news below:

Las Vegas, August 27, 2018 – Russian Film Star and Action Legend Alexander Nevsky wins big at Action on Film 2018’s MEGAFest over the weekend.  MAXIMUM IMPACT which Nevsky produced and stars in won “Best Action Film of the Year” along with wins for “Best Action Sequence” and “Best Special Effects.” 

In addition, Nevsky received the festival’s “Breakout Action Star of the Year” Award and co-star Matthias Hues received the festival’s Icon Award.

MAXIMUM IMPACT is the biggest film in my career and I’m so glad it was recognized in such a great way! I’m also happy to receive the “Breakout Action Star Award” and would like to thank “Action on Film International Film Festival” and Mr. Del Weston for this honor. But I couldn’t be here without my idols Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ralf Moeller and Matthias Hues so I would like to thank them too for all the inspiration and support over the years!” said Nevsky.

Nevsky received his Awards from Dr. Robert Goldman and Michael DePasquale Jr at the star studded MEGAFest Award Shows which were held at the RIO Hotel Las Vegas and other area venues.

MAXIMUM IMPACT will be released in theaters September 28, 2018, and On Demand and Digital Video on October 2, 2018

Man, the interview I did with him was a lot of fun, and we had a lovefest for Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton films! If I had gone to the AOF Festival I don’t think he’d have heard his name called as I would’ve talked his head off with 90’s movie talk! Once again, Congrats Alexander! My review of Maximum Impact will hit this site next month! Hmm…how about a Matthias Hues month?

 

Review: Lady BloodFight (2016)

Posted in Amy Johnston, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on August 23, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Amy Johnston, Muriel Hofmann, Jenny Wu, Kathy Wu

Fight Choreography by Xin Xin Xiong

Directed by Chris Nahon

For those of you who have followed my site for quite some time you know how close I follow the work of folks in the stunt community, particularly the shorts they make that in many regards are better than what cinema has been tossing at us. But something really cool is happening: those very same people are now beginning to take their place as actors on screen, directors, producers. No one exemplifies this more than the gentleman behind the John Wick movies, but there are many others, and Amy Johnston is a stuntwoman/actress I’ve been following for quite a while, through her work with the Thousand Pounds stunt team and her work with OG Vlad Rimburg. Amy’s worked her way up the ladder and finally gets her starting role in Lady Bloodfight. So how does she fare?

Lady Bloodfight begins in the past where we come upon a Kumite fought in the past between two women: Wai (Kathy Wu) and Shu (Hoffman). The fight comes to a draw, and both women agree to find other fighters to represent them in a rematch…

Fast forward 5 years or we find various Fighters being invited to the newest Kumite one of which turns out to be Jane Jones (Johnston) whose father disappeared after fighting in the Kumite many years earlier. She finds a mentor in Shu, while street urchin Ling (Jenny Wu) falls under the teachings of the vengeful Wai. Both women, ciphers for their masters, fight their way up the kumite, and eventually to each other…

The story here is pretty simple, but as we know, simple can also be difficult in film world. The film borrows a lot, and in some moments, a little too much from Bloodsport, still the definitive kumite movie. There are some similar character beats, and one particular moment that really irked me but I’ll get to that shortly. The bottom line in regards to the story and character beats is that this is nothing that hasn’t been done before and you’ll see the ending coming a mile away. Which leaves us with the performances, which I am happy to say are pretty good, particularly from the films’ star. I’ll say it a thousand times, Amy Johnston is working toward being the heir to Cynthia Rothrock’s throne, as both an actress and martial artist.

There are some dramatic moments in the film I was pleasantly surprised to see her pull off from an acting standpoint. Muriel Hoffman is good as Shu, Jane Jones’ teacher, but I wish the film had a little more of her as her character felt a bit underserved. Meanwhile, Kathy Wu is excellent as Wai, who seethes with anger in many scenes. The only weak link to me is Jenny Wu as Ling. I just couldn’t get into her character even though they tried to make her “deep”, but her acting just isn’t good enough to elevate her character beyond the limitations of the script.

Okay, there was one moment in the film that really bothered me, so let’s get into it a second. There is a moment where one of the fighters is African American, and a boxer. A boxer. She gets knocked out in one move, which irked me even more, and goes back to a lot of issues with how African-Americans are projected onscreen, and in this case the trope of “we need to show how powerful the fighter/monster/killer is by beating/killing a Black person in one moment” due to old stereotypes of Black virility and physical strength. I would’ve respected the scene had the fighter 1) lasted more than one move and 2) actually knew some other form of fighting outside of boxing. Like Karate, or kung fu, or virtually anything else.

The fights here range in quality all over the place, not so much due to quality, as Xin Xin Xiong (Clubfoot from Once Upon A Time in China) did the fight choreography, but the camerawork and edits don’t show the movements as well as could be done, which is a surprise as director Chris Nahon did an excellent job showcasing martial arts in Jet Li’s best English-language film Kiss of The Dragon. One of the best fights is when Jane Jones goes to get her backpack back from the thugs that stole it. I really can’t remember a fight in the actual kumite that truly stood out, as many of them involving Amy kind of did a wash-rinse-repeat to the cadence in each fight: Jane does ok at first, starts to get beaten up badly, bleeds more blood than I think a human body has, gets angry, remembers her training and proceeds to beat the tar out of the opponent.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Lady Bloodfight isn’t a bad film, but it is filled with a few missed opportunities (poor fight editing, storyline) that could’ve made it a good to great martial arts film. But it does showcase Amy Johnston as a great talent deserving of a better film.

Review: Warriors Two (1978)

Posted in Cassanova Wong, Fung Hak-On, Hoi Sang Lee, Lam Ching Ying, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Sammo Hung with tags , on August 20, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sammo Hung, Cassanova Wong, Fung Hak-On, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Hoi Sang Lee, Lam Ching Ying, Dean Shek

Fight Choreography by

Directed by Sammo Hung

Golden Harvest films are and have always been, at least for me, comfort food. You know what you’ll get, particularly if Sammo Hung is directing: awesome kung fu fight choreography and physical comedy that works more often than not. It all comes together magnificently in Warriors Two.

Cassanova Wong stars as Wah, a kung fu practitioner and banker, who makes the mistake of returning to work one night only to stumble upon a plot by the banker, Mr. Mo (Hak-On ) to kill the mayor and take over the down with his cronies. Wah goes to the mayor’s home only to be betrayed by the mayor’s right hand man Yao (Shek), and after being saved by Fatty (Sammo, but I’m sure you guessed that) Wah must learn Wing Chun from Fatty’s master Tsang (Beardy) in order to face Mr. Mo and his henchmen…

Cassanova Wong is a Golden Harvest stalwart, veteran of many films, and here he does a good job as the hero, but of course he gets upstaged by Sammo, who shines in every scene he’s in, bringing the comedy as the hapless Fatty, even during the darkest scenes. Fung Hak-On is menacing as Mr. Mo, but folks, this is FUNG HAK-ON. If I didn’t already assign Gordon Lui as The Greatness, Fung may well hold that title. Add in a good performance by Beardy as Master Tsang, and you’ve got classic kung-fu theater gold here! Now the story is okay but nothing more than a typical kung fu revenge story, but its the fights here is what makes this film a classic…

Lord have mercy the fights! There isn’t a single fight that isn’t exciting to watch, as Sammo Hung and company throw themselves around and unleash some truly fast kung fu, that you can tell is fast, even with the undercranking (a film technique used in many martial arts films where the film is shot at a slower frame rate in order to speed up the fights when played back). The best fight is saved for last, as Wah, Phoenix (Master Tsang’s niece) and Fatty take on all of Mr. Mo’s most dangerous men, using a variety of swords, knives and staves, and it doesn’t take long for the blood to flow like a river.

Some thing extra has to be said about that almost-forgotten scene of a great kung fu film: the training scenes! There is even a room that has mechanical wooden men for Wah to train against, and all of these scenes, together with the Cassanova Wong/Sammo Hung/Beardy training battles, and you’ve got one of the best kung-fu films Golden Harvest put out.

Comfort food indeed.

 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

This is one of the best of Sammo’s early films, and without a doubt a great kung fu film by any standard. Seek it out and watch it if you can! (Hint: It’s on Amazon Prime!)

Orlando Bloom and Simon Yam in the Hong Kong Actioner SMART CHASE…What?!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 3, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Okay, so now you see the above pic and know I’m not playin’. Simon Yam in what looks like a cool movie, but I’ll be honest, he looks great, the co-stars look great.

But Orlando Bloom?!

Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven, sword-and-sandles-Bloom? I do like him as an actor, but I don’t know, let’s watch the trailer below first:

 

See? He just looks…odd. I don’t know if its the hair, but he just seems so out of place in an action film like this. Of course I’m curious to check this out, and I hope it’s good, but Bloom has an uphill battle to convince me he can do this kind of film. We shall see… in Theaters and VOD August 31st, 2018

Alexander Nevsky is back in Maximum Impact!

Posted in Alexander Nevsky, Kelly Hu, Mark Dacascos with tags on August 2, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

While it wasn’t the world beater of action films, I really appreciated Alexander Nevsky’s ode to late 80’s B-film actioners with Showdown in Manila. Now he comes roaring back with Maximum Impact, and he’s bringing quite a few people with him. Here’s the presser about it:

 

HOLLYWOOD, July XX, 2018 – Unified Pictures has acquired North American rights to the action/comedy film MAXIMUM IMPACT, starring international action star Alexander Nevsky  (Showdown in Manila).  Written by Ross LaManna (Rush Hour) and directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die), the cast includes Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King), William Baldwin (The Purge: TV series), Tom Arnold (True Lies), Mark Dacascos (John Wick 3: Parabellum) and Danny Trejo (Machete).   MAXIMUM IMPACT will be released in theaters on September 28, 2018, and On Demand, DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Video on October 2, 2018.

 

When the granddaughter of the US Secretary of the State is kidnapped in Moscow, an agent of the Federal Security Service of Russia (Alexander Nevsky) and the US Secret Service  are forced to pull aside their differences and work together to prevent a full-scale international crisis.

 

MAXIMUM IMPACT is produced by Nevsky through his production company Hollywood Storm.

Nevsky is a former Mr. Universe and is an established movie star in Russia/CIS. His credits include Moscow Heat, Undisputed, Treasure Raiders, 

Somewhere and Black Rose, for which he also directed. Nevsky represents Russia as a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. 

MAXIMUM IMPACT will have its Opening Night premiere next month at the 14th annual Action on Film Festival in Las Vegas. Nevsky will be honored with the festival’s 2018 Breakout Action Star Award.  

SVP Acquisitions and Development Steve Break negotiated the deal on behalf of Unified Pictures along with Nevsky on behalf of the filmmakers.

NOTE: **Man, there better be more Mark Dacascos in this!**