Archive for Kung-fu

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!

Advertisements

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!)

Jackie Chan to take on Donnie Yen in Ip Man 4!!!!

Posted in Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, Scott Adkins with tags , , on June 21, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

See the above picture? Do you have any fond memories of that film? Well forget that shit! Per the good folks at Jaynestars, Ip Man 4 has completed filming, and more importantly, in addition to Scott Adkins, Ip Man will also go toe to toe with Jackie Chan in what is being billed as THE fight of the film, and if you’ve seen the other Ip Man films (you probably wouldn’t be bombing around this site if you haven’t) then you know this means a hell of a fight is coming, and my anticipation is that it will be one of Jackie’s best, and something he hasn’t done in quite a while: a traditional kung-fu fight, against a fellow badass that I bet will rival his fight with Jet Li in The Forbidden Kingdom. But who will Jackie play? Sources say he’s playing a Big Brother in Chinatown, perhaps one of those opposing Bruce Lee’s presence?

I don’t care. I now have my biggest film of 2019. To hell with Superheroes and Light Sabers. Donnie Yen. Jackie Chan. Scott Adkins. I’ve got my heroes right here.

Source: Jaynestars

Review: Showdown in Manila (2018)

Posted in Alexander Nevsky, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Cynthia Rothrock, Don"The Dragon" Wilson, Mark Dacascos, Matthias Hues, Olivier Gruner with tags , , , on January 19, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Tia Carrere, Mark Dacascos, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Matthias Hues, Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner, Don ” The Dragon” Wilson

Fight Choreography by Al Dacascos

Directed by Mark Dacascos

After years of watching Marc Dacascos on the big and small screen, he finally steps behind the camera for his first film, produced and starring 3-time Mr. Universe Alexander Nevsky and a whole horde of b-movie stars. So how did his first venture do?

It has moments that aren’t as good as it could have been, but this movie…

… is a LOT of fun.

Alexander Nevsky stars as Nick Peyton, a disgraced Thailand cop who now works as a private detective after he his whole team is killed in a botched raid on a drug den owned by a man known as The Wrath (the CHT!). Two years later Nick and his sex-crazed partner Charlie (Van Dien) are hired by a police sketch artist (Carrere) whose husband, a secret agent, is killed by The Wrath right in front of her. She pays them to bring him to her…alive. Now working in Manila, Nick has a second chance to get revenge for his fallen comrades, but he’ll need some high-powered help to finish the job…

The film, despite the Raid-like opening moves a little slow at the beginning, but picks up steam as the film goes on. While Alexander Nevsky is a little wooden in his acting, which may be a lot better had he spoken in his native Russian dialect, he is aided well by the presence of his co-star Casper Van Dien. They have a good on-screen chemistry with each other that more than makes up for a few weak acting moments from Nevsky, who is a large presence in the film, and the Dacascos family had the good sense to use that largeness for maximum effect. Van Dien does well bringing in the comedy aspects of the film, which helps keep things light and helps propel the film forward in its slower moments. The CHT is as a good a villain as always, but I wish he had been in the film more, but we do get some villainy from the always great Matthias Hues, but here again, I wish we had more of him. The directing by Mark is confident, even in the slower scenes, which I think could have been slightly better with just a little more editing down, but that’s a minor nitpick for the treasure of goods this film delivers, which comes in the form of a boat ride that brings in some of Nick’s friends during the climax of the film: Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner, and Don ” The Dragon” Wilson.

That’s right, ya’ll. China O’Brien, Nemesis, and Bloodfist show up to kick all kinds of ass 90’s style.

So let’s get into the action side of things, shall we? Early on we get a quick fight scene with Mark Dacascos that shows that the man can still kick all kinds of ass, and we need to see him back in a movie doing so pronto! His fight scene is really quick and far too short, but it looks good and is shot well. Fast forward to the big action finale, and I was transported back to 1992, ya’ll. At first there is a lot of gun play, and while I loved seeing everyone, I came to terms with the fact that they may all be too old to actually do a fight scene anymore, and that seeing them shooting folks will just have to do.

Silly rabbit. I should’ve had more faith in the film’s director. He knows what true fans want to see…

…and eventually the bullets run out.

What follows is an orgasmic cavalcade of action goodness, with Cynthia Rothrock going knives-out, and punching and kicking foes like the good ol’ days! ( Now I want to see what China O’Brien has been up to this past decade!) Don ” The Dragon” Wilson also gets a scene where he gets to show he can still kick with the best of them, and no one looks like they can take a hit and keep fighting like Don, and Olivier looks more brutal than I’ve ever seen him in an action scene. The fights are shot well, showing us the FULL action of what’s happening without quick-cut edits…because what we see on screen is real martial artists doing onscreen what they’ve been doing for decades. Kudos to Al Dacascos for making sure each action scene plays to the strengths of each fighter. I wish we could have had a bigger hand to hand combat scene for Nevsky, but there is so much other cool action happening I didn’t mind this time, but he does mix it up a little with Matthias Hues, and I wish THAT fight had been bigger, but maybe next time?

 

Look, this film isn’t for everyone. If you want something on the order of Tony Jaa or Iko Uwais, you won’t get that kind of wild action here. But for those of us who grew up on these kinds of films, it’s mana from heaven. Alexander Nevsky and Mark Dacascos did what The Expendables couldn’t do: provide a film that truly showcases what these action stars can still do, and make them look great at doing it. 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade : 8.5

A really fun film that kicks you in the face with nostalgia, and the only thing that’s missing are four people: Jalal Merhi, Billy Blanks, Richard Norton, and the greatness himself, Al Leong. Showdown in Manila 2, perhaps? 

Review: Master Of The Drunken Fist: Beggar So (2016)

Posted in Cao Jun with tags , , on October 26, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Starring  Cao Jun, Wang Meiying, Chen Zhihui, Zhao Olusheng

Fight Choreography by

Directed by Jian Yong Guo

Last year HBO teamed up with China to create HBO Asia, an arm of HBO to create original content coming from China. This may well be in response to pretty much everything that Netflix is currently doing. First up, they decide to do a DTV film retelling of the original drunken master Beggar So.

I’m not really sure what I think if this film.

The story starts as we meet a vain and prideful So Chan, a scholar summoned to the Emperor to take over as a military advisor (not really sure why they’d want a scholar instead of someone like, say, a general) but after sneaking into the emperor’s private kitchen and doing battle with an intruder skilled in drunken boxing, eunuch Song Fok-Hoi frames So Chan for, I think, doing exactly what he DID do. So Chan is beaten, his family killed, and himself banished from the court. So Chan is taken in by the Beggar Sect, led by Lau Pak-Gwai, the very man he fought in the Emperor’s kitchen. Knowing that his life is still in danger from Song, So Chan starts to train in the art of Drunken Fist, and eventually becomes good enough to get his revenge for his family…

The story is simple, and the characters are drawn in broad strokes, but you don’t really get invested in any of them. It also hurts that this film is tremendously inferior to other films about drunken boxing like the Jackie Chan Drunken Master series, where Beggar So is played wonderfully by Simon Yuen, or True Legend, with Vincent Zhao. This film does have a TV budget, but it could have done a lot more with it than it did. I never got the feeling of the passage of time with this film, as it seemed as if his family is killed, and he trains for a few days and becomes a Drunken Fist master. That’s not the film’s intention, but that’s the feeling. Also, I couldn’t help laughing at the fact that close to the climax of the film, So Chan learns the final missing pieces of the style after GETTING STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. That’s right. He gains drunken mastery the same damn way Barry Allen becomes The Flash. Not one bit of it is earned. The acting is okay but there are no standouts here. Competent is the best thing I can say for it.

 

The fight scenes are okay, and may even be good, but the camera work zooms in and out, shoots too closely, and the edits are too fast to truly appreciate the movements, and what’s maddening about that is I can feel the choreography is good if the camera would just STOP MOVING. And of course any film called Drunken-anything really can’t mess up one important scene: the training one. Drunken Master set a high bar and is in the running for best training scene ever, and this film doesn’t come anywhere near that. It starts well enough, but is far too short with no real story element added like comedy or even urgency. At the end if the film I’m not sure Beggar So is any different than he was at the beginning of the film. He’s no longer even a beggar.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

This is not a great or even good film, but there were some bones that HBO could set a better film on. Hopefully they have better films in the future. If not, this experiment won’t last long.