Archive for the Simon Yuen Category

Review: Shaolin Martial Arts (1974)

Posted in Alexander Fu Sheng, Chang Cheh, Fung Hak-On, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Simon Yuen, Wang Lung Wei with tags , on November 20, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Shaolin Martial 3

Starring: Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan Chun, Gordon Liu, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Wang Lung Wei, Fung Hark-On, Simon Yuen

Fight Choreography by: Chia Tang and Beardy

Directed by Chang Cheh

Here we have yet another film that proves that Alexander Fu Sheng was taken from us far too young. his onscreen demeanor made him an instant star, and he kept getting better with each film, and I think this film sits high on his small filmography…

At the Temple of the God of Chivalry, both Shaolin and Manchus are having a annual ceremony paying tribute, but things go south as the leader of the Manchu’s, Master Yu, complains that he should lead the tribute rather than the representative from Shaolin, younger master Cheng, who is there because the Shaolin leader has taken ill.  Of course you know the Manchus want to start crap just to start crap, and one of their men obliges, taking a perceived insult as a reason to gut one of the Shaolin. This begins a brawl that ends with the authorities showing up and for all intents and purposes taking the side of the Manchus. We soon find out that the General of the Manchus wants to wipe out the Shaolin permanently, and brings in two men to do it, both of them with seemingly invincible marital arts.

As their numbers dwindle, it’s up to a small group of Shaolin fighters to defeat the two invincible fighters by learning new styles of kung fu, but time is running out, and the bodies of the Shaolin are piling up…

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For anyone who is a fan of Shaw Brothers films, this plot line is repeated again and again in many of their films albeit with a tweak here and there. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t entertaining, though. The film does manage to be suspenseful as they are not afraid to kill off a slew of good guy characters. Fu Sheng is his normal playful onscreen persona, and as per usual in the these films (Gordon Liu isn’t The Greatness Yet) Gordon doesn’t stick around as much as I’d like. Of course Simon Yuen makes anything he’s in a better film, and the Old Dirty Bastard once again arrives to raise the film up in the middle before things slow down too much, even though he’s more subdued here as a cantankerous kung fu master.

The fight scenes are really good here, comparable with some of the best moments from Chang Cheh’s many films, particularly the final fight between Beardy and Fu Sheng, which seemed to move faster than the typical Shaw Brothers fights,  but the Mortal Kombat-style finishing moves here are something special, from a disembowelment to eye gouging to absolute testicle destruction that just looked painful as hell. Actually kudos to every actor for making their death scenes look so painful I think I’d rather be eaten by a wild animal than die by kung-fu move.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

Alexander Fu Sheng leads an All Star cast of badasses in a fun but familiar kung fu tale, with a ton of action scenes and memorably bloody deaths.

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Review: Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow (1975)

Posted in Chi Ling Chiu, Fung Hak-On, Hwang Jang Lee, Jackie Chan, Roy Horan, Simon Yuen, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on May 13, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen, Hwang Jang Lee, Fung Hak-on, Peter Chan, Charlie Chan, Roy Horan, Chi Ling Chiu

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Yuen Woo Ping

Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow represents a turning point in the career of Jackie Chan; he was deemed a failure by Lo Wei after several box office disappointments. The heir to Bruce Lee he was most definitely not; just another stuntman who couldn’t cut the mustard as a star. So when Golden Harvest came calling, Lo Wei had no qualms about lending Jackie to them. Jackie, understanding that the end was near, asked to control his own films, and to do something no one had really thought of: allowing Jackie to be Jackie, and not Bruce. That thinking, along with pulling JC into the orbit of the Yuen family, culminated in this film, which would become the thematic template to the film that will make Jackie Chan a major star, Drunken Master.

So what to make of the Snake?

In this film we find that he Snake Fist school has been under attack by the Eagle Claw school, and that for a school that once boasted over 3000 members now only has a few left (that’s not an attack. That’s war). We find that Mr. Ass Kicker himself Sheng Kuan (Lee) as he takes out another Snake fist master (Fung Hak-On). Next we meet one of the last masters of the form,  Master Pai Cheng Tien (Yuen), who wanders around as a beggar. His travels brings him to the orbit of a kindly young man Chien Fu (Chan) who “trains” at a school that, while the Master is away, is run by two buffoons who ridicule and embarrass him at every turn. Taking a liking to Chien Fu, Pai Cheng Tien decides to teach him the style of Snake Fist, but warns him not to show it. But since this is Jackie Chan, of course he’ll use it! This brings Sheng Kuan and several assassins to attempt to kill the last remaining Snake Fist masters…but Cheng Fu has a surprise waiting for them…

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Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow really shows the comedy that would become a hallmark of Jackie’s early films and career as a whole. Jackie himself, at least this time, is playing a nice young man, rather than the rapscallions he would later play. Even in this early film, it’s easy to see why JC became the superstar that he is. He has a great screen presence, and his kung fu is fun to watch, especially since he fell under the wing of the Yuen family, Speaking of whom, Simon Yuen, the real ODB himself, is as crazy fun to watch as he ever was. Is there any doubt that Simon Yuen was to Jackie Chan in these early films what Bill Tung would be for his later ones? They were both great comedic foils for JC to play off of, and they are both sorely missed.

Hwang Jang Lee is just awesome, this being a warm-up (as it was for everyone) for his role in Drunken Master. Roy Horan is decent as one of the assassins, and his finale…damn! The story itself is simple but hey, that’s the novel joy of it, and Yuen Woo Ping keeps things moving at a brisk pace, and the training sequences are standout, as is the scene where JC finally practices the Snake Fist form. Still glad to see films where the hero is not an instant badass who is a kung fu expert right out of the womb.

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This film also answers a trivia question “what’s the worst kill of Jackie Chan’s career?” Roy Horan gets the nod here, and his death by skewered testicles ranks up there with some of the worst as JC just pulls a Sonny Chiba on his unfortunate ballsack. I can’t decide if Horan’s death scene is one of the worst acted or one of the best. It’s just that cruel an ending for him. He could’ve screamed for his mommy at the point and I wouldn’t have blamed him.

The fights are as imaginative as Woo Ping has ever been, but is only a small taste for what’s to come. The final fight with Hwang Jang Lee, Jackie Chan, and Simon Yuen is as great as you would think, but still only a small, small taste of what’s to come. Woo Ping brings out the playfulness in JC, and that’s the thing I think Woo Ping does so well; he matches his fight choreography to the personalities of the actor/fighter.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A great kung-fu film that became Jackie Chan’s first real hit film, and would set the stage for one of the greatest kung fu films of all time! A fun filled spectacle to watch.

Review: Kung Fu Killer (Kung Fu Jungle) (2014)

Posted in Baoqiang Wang, Bey Logan, Bruce Lee, David Chiang, Donnie Yen, Fan Siu Wong (Louis Fan), Shaw Brothers, Simon Yuen, Xing Yu with tags , on April 23, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

kung fu killer1

Starring Donnie Yen, Charlie Yeung, Baoqiang Wang, Louis Fan, Xing Yu, Michelle Bai, David Chiang, Raymond Chow, Yuen Cheung-yan, also with Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen, Andrew Lau, Bruce Law, Bey Logan, Kirk Wong,Teddy Chan, Dante Lam, Billy Chan, and Enoch Chan

Fight Choreography by Donnie Yen

Directed by Teddy Chan

Let me start by saying this: Kung Fu Jungle is the best film Donnie Yen has made since any film not named Ip Man and Flashpoint.  Donnie Yen’s output since Ip Man 2 has been a bit underwhelming, but he fires back on all cylinders with this film. A second/third wind to his career? I think this film may be part of the reason he’s on the verge of retirement, and I’ll elaborate my theory on this later in the review.

The film starts as we meet Hahao Mo (Yen) a kung fu master and sometimes police martial arts trainer. He is bloody, and has just been in a fight to prove how good he is, but wound up killing his opponent (Logan) and turns himself into the police. Three years later, Detective Luk Yuen-Sum (Yeung) finds herself on a case involving serial killer Fung Yu-Sau (Wang) who is targeting kung fu masters across the city. Hahao Mo is released early from prison in order to help the police track down this killer, but Hahao knows more than he lets on, and the police increasingly wonder if they can actually trust him, but the bodies left in Fung’s wake start to pile up…

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Kung Fu Jungle is a fantastic action film, and more than that its Donnie Yen and Teddy Chan’s love letter to all the kung fu films that inspired them. Just look at the starring credits above. Jackie Chan is onscreen as Hahao is watching Drunken Master in one scene. In fact, he’s specifically watching the scene where JC goes through the form, one of the best scenes of its kind ever filmed. Then you get to Shaw Brothers favorite David Chiang in a cameo appearance, and then, Raymond Chow appears! The list goes on and on, and I’m sure I missed someone. In fact, the only criticism I have is that some folks were left out. Where was the Greatness (Gordon Liu), and where was Sammo Hung? Jet Li? I suppose in Jet’s case he’s more a contemporary for Yen, so there could be that.

As for the story itself, and this is the genius of the film, is that it’s an homage to dozens of  old school kung fu films where a great kung fu master travels around fighting different schools and killing their masters for the sole purpose of being the best. Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow, Knockabout, Prodigal Son, and so many dozens more have used this same story conceit, and director Teddy Chan brings that same story to the modern day successfully. Donnie Yen is excellent as Hahao, a man who had paid the price and damaged his own soul trying to be the best. Baoqiang is equally good as the killer, whose reasons go beyond just wanting to be the greatest of all. Charlie Yeung also does a great job here, but I kinda think this film missed out in respect to her casting, and I thought Michelle Yeoh may have been the better play here, given the spirit of the movie, but Michelle Bai does the spirit of female action heroes well as Haoho’s love interest, Sinn Ying, and she proves to give Baoqiang a greater challenge than he suspects.

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Louis Fan and Xing Yu are in the film more as extended cameos, and while I enjoyed their presence, I had wished they would have appeared in the film longer.

The fights here are some of the best choreographed fights Yen has put out in some time. The first fight in the prison is terrific, as are all of the fights Baoqiang gets into with his various opponents, but the climactic battle on a busy street between Yen and Baoqiang is truly great and hard hitting, with fantastic movement and speed. THIS is the Donnie Yen of SPL and Flashpoint that had been missing for a little while.

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I said that this film may be contributing to Donnie Yen retiring. I say that because Donnie recently stated that he really has nothing more to say on camera regarding kung fu films. This film expresses his love for the genre and the career its given him as he pays his respects to those that came before him. After Ip Man 3 and this, I’m of the mind that he may be right. His filmography spans just about every type of martial arts film, and I’m not sure there anything else he can make that would be cool without simply spinning his wheels.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Kung Fu Jungle (called Kung Fu Killer by WellGOUSA) is a great piece of entertainment that shows Donnie Yen at his absolute best and writes a thrilling love letter to all martial arts films! You do NOT want to miss this!

Kung Fu Killer will be out in North America tomorrow in select theaters!

Review: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

Posted in Gordon Liu, Lau Kar Leung, Lo Lieh, Simon Yuen with tags , on June 25, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Gordon Liu, Lo Lieh, Wang Yu, Simon Yuen, Hoi Sang Lee, Chia Yung Liu, John Cheung

Fight Choreography by Lau Kar-Leung

Directed by Lau Kar-Leung

Somewhere around 1978 Lar Kar-Leung, veteran stuntman, actor, and fight choreographer was unhappy with the way that martial arts films were portrayed onscreen, and set about to do a film that would show the philosophy and logic behind the movements. With the help of his Kung-Fu brother Gordon Liu, they would craft a tale of revenge and enlightenment within the form of something that wasn’t well represented in film at the time: Shaolin Kung-Fu. Thus the 36th Chamber of Shaolin was born, and a new gold standard would be created.

The film begins as a group of rebels attack a convoy transporting General Tien Ta (The always great Lo Lieh), and oppressive Tartar general sweeping across the land taking over. Tien Ta engages and defeats the lead rebel in what is a pretty good fight, but very, very weak when compared to what’s to come.  Enter San Te (Liu), a young student whose teacher Mr. Ho works for the rebels, and before long San Te and all of his classmates become couriers for the rebels. This is short-lived, however, as General Tien Ta and his cohorts, General Tang and Lord Cheung find out about this and kill off many students, and arrest all others. San Te and his best friend escape, and only later does San Te find out that his father was killed trying to protect him. San Te and his friend agree to go to the Shaolin temple to learn kung fu so they can take revenge, but they are ambushed by General Tang on the way, and San Te is injured in the escape, but his friend is captured and presumed killed.  San Te arrives at a nearby town where the monks come for supplies, and hides in their cart, and before long finds himself at Shaolin Temple, and after a long time begins to learn Kung-fu, and in the process learns so much more…

The opening of this film alone, showing Gordon Liu going through the forms is one of the best scenes of this ever. Other films did it before, but this one did it the best. The film is at its core one giant training film, and as San Te’s skills grow so does his maturity. The chambers are each magnificent for what they show, particularly the first chamber, the Dining Chamber, where he must make his way across a set of wooden logs floating in a pool of water in order to get to the other side, where dinner awaits. When he falls in he finds he is unable to enter the dining hall until he is dry, but in the time it takes for his clothes to dry the food is eaten up. It is here that one of best lessons for any aspiring martial artist is learned. San Te must master stances, balance and movement here, the foundations of any style one studies.  Without that, your skills can never improve. San Te then does the most important thing anyone can do who looks to becoming a great martial artist… PRACTICE. Only through practice can you reach your full potential, and it is the constant practice that enables San Te to become successful and get past that chamber, as well as all of the others.

The other chambers are brilliant, especially the wrist chamber (painful!) and the staff chamber. You can see San Te’s skills grow as he goes along, mastering each one. Look for the great Simon Yuen (Drunken Master) as the monk who is in charge of the Boxing Chamber.

The best series of fights occur after these scenes, as the skeptical Justice Abbot challenges San Te to a fight with whatever weapon San Te chooses, and each time the Abbot uses a pair of Butterfly swords. The fights here are choreographed masterfully, as San Te is defeated again and again, until he ponders the fights and invents the 3-section staff, which he uses to defeat the Justice Abbot in the best fight of the bunch. The movement and choreography are in great sync here, and both Liu and Hoi Sang Lee do a fantastic job pulling it off.

The graveyard fight is also a stand out as it shows San Te’s skills in relation to the training he’s undertaken. Everything he does makes sense, and the audience knows exactly why he makes the moves that he does because of the training sequences earlier in the film.  Gordon Liu became a star with this film, and it’s not hard to see why. He plays a great San Te, able to show his immaturity and the beginning of the film and then his maturity toward the end, even as he sees his revenge standing right in front of him.  He fights for the people, not for revenge, and Gordon is able to embody this brilliantly. Lau Kar-Leung’s camera work is fantastic, and the composition of each scene is incredibly well done. The camera shifts exactly where it should to showcase the fights in the best manner, pulling back when it needed to and to get closer when it was best, and you always know the space between fighters and their relation to the environment.

The 36th Chamber is a kung-fu classic, considered one of the greatest of all time, and with good reason. All of the parts come together beautifully to form a great cinematic experience. Gordon Liu would become a huge star after this, and Lau Kar-Leung would cement his place as one of the best fight choreographers and kung-fu film directors ever.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Not a bad fight in the bunch, and simply gets better as the film goes along. Lau Kar-Leung went into a very deep bag of tricks for this one, and they all worked.  The speed and complexity of the choreography is astounding. As good as it gets.

STUNTWORK: (8) These guys do a pretty good job. Nothing death-defying, but well done.

STAR POWER: (9) Gordon Liu became a big star after this, and Lar Kar-Leung jumped to the top of the heap as a director. Lo Lieh is as good as always, as was John Cheung.

FINAL GRADE: (10)  One of the greatest kung-fu films of all time.  The gold standard many would, and should be judged by afterward. If you want to introduce someone to the world of martial arts in film, this is where you want to start.


Review: Blind Fist of Bruce (1979)

Posted in Bruce Li, Chaing Tao, Simon Yuen, Tiger Yueng with tags , on March 14, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Bruce Li, Simon Yuen, Chiang Tao, Tiger Yuen, Lau Chan

Fight Choreography by Lui Han Ming

Directed by Kam Bo

After Bruce Lee died, Hong Kong cinema scrambled to replace him, and by that I do mean literally replacing Bruce, with a succession of actors who looked a little–or a lot–like Bruce, and could portray his attitude. They were never chosen to play a character, they were chosen because they could imitate Bruce. Bruce Li was one of the best of these, and perhaps his career would have been better if he had been able to forge his own identity, instead of being known forevermore as a Bruce Lee clone. Movies like the Blind Fist of Bruce shows that he could have been so much more.

The film opens as a group of baddies show up at the police headquarters of a small town and insist on speaking to the Captain, and of course his officers refuse, and proceed to take an butt-kicking from a group of guys who must have the phrase “fresh off a cop’s ass” tattooed on their forearms. The Captain reveals himself, and starts jacking up the gang before their leader Wei (Tao), who beats the Captain to death. This first fight is fairly slow and plodding, and I can only imagine it was done to make Bruce Li’s fights look better, but that’s hardly needed.

Meanwhile, two thugs show up to the local bank owned by Yeh Chen(Li), a good and fair banker who shows up with his two teachers to teach the thugs a lesson. When his teachers appear, if you watch enough kung-fu films then you know Yeh’s in deep shit. Whenever you see Lau Chan in a film you know what’s gonna happen, and if you can’t place the face here it is:

You now know two things: a) this asshole will betray the hero at some point, and b) he’ll get killed (usually by a kick or punch to the chest) and explode a blood capsule in his mouth, a really big one, and bleed profusely from the mouth as he dies, which he does to perfection in pretty much every film you ever see him in.

Okay, back to the film. Yeh does beat the two thugs, and we find out later that his two teachers are fake kung fu masters who pay to have random guys get their asses kicked by Yeh so they look like they are teaching him the good stuff, when he isn’t learning shit.  (You may recognize this as being a similar plot to Yuen Biao’s Prodigal Son) So of course the baddies show up, and when Yeh tries to fight them they beat the tar out of him, and then the gang proceeds to take over the entire town. While training in more fake kung-fu, because Yeh is both smart and dense at the same time, sees one of his teachers getting schooled by a blind old beggar (Simon Yuen) but doesn’t yet see this as proof that his teachers aren’t for shit. We then see the beggar defending his niece from Wei’s  two douchy sidekicks, and the blind beggar beats them up in a fun fight, even though we know that the person fighting is a stuntman and not Simon Yuen, who is the father of legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping. Simon sells everything in the scenes right before and after a fight, and that’s good enough. There’s a reason why he’s the quintessential Kung-Fu teacher in so many martial arts films.

Yeh goes back to get a rematch with Wei, and this time gets beaten so badly he is forced to sign his bank over to the gang, and fires his two teachers, who then go to Wei to join his gang (Lau Chan=betrayal. Check.) Yeh goes to the beggar and is able to convince him to teach him kung-fu, and he does so, but little does Yeh know that the real boss of the gang, Tiger, has a history with the blind beggar, and so the stage is set for revenge left, revenge right, everywhere revenge!

This is what I call a blood capsule kung-fu film, meaning that the fights can go on for days and you know when someone is actually dead for good when they bite down on that blood capsule and the blood free flows from their mouth. That’s like an indicator that yes, that dude is finally dead. The film starts out slowly and doesn’t really get going until the beggar shows up, but that’s to be expected since Bruce Li’s first few fights are fought as a guy who is learning fake kung-fu. Once he does learn from the beggar the fights get pretty good. Not as brutal as a Bruce Lee film but not that graceful, the fights do march to the beat of its own drummer thanks to Lui Han Ming’s fight choreography, which seems to have different tempos for each fight, and gives each of them a satisfying finish, which is something considering that there are a ton of fights in this film!

Bruce Li shows off great skills, and while he looks like Bruce and acts like him, Li doesn’t really try to fight like him, except in moments here and there. Chaing Tao, a veteran of many kung-fu films, does a great job as the Tiger’ second in command Wei, as does Tiger Yueng, who shows off some great forms as the main baddie.

Blind Fist of Bruce is a satisfying revenge film where everyone get’s what’s coming to them, and when the bad guy is killed they roll credits. No aftermath stuff, he dies, and it’s done. Fast food Kung-Fu at it’s best.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Due to the story constraints the fights are stilted in the beginning, but hits everything right the rest of the way.

STUNTWORK:(8) Simon Yuen’s stuntman deserves a raise, and everyone does a great job. Lau Chan is money in the bank. Viva fake blood capsules!

STAR POWER: (8) Bruce Li’s appreciation is starting to grow as his old films are revisited. In many ways Li carried the torch until the next wave of martial arts stars.

FINAL GRADE: (8) Bruce Li was never able to escape being seen as nothing more than the best of the Bruce Lee clones, but he has made few decent martial arts films that show that he could have been so much more.