Director: Lau Kar-leung
Starring: Kara Hui Ying-Hung, Lau Kar-leung, Hsiao Ho, Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, Yuen Tak, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui
After doing a favour for his dying master by marrying him to keep his property out the hands of his evil brother (Wang Lung-Wei), Jing Dai-Nan (Kara Hui) has to flee to the house of one of his brothers Yu Jing-Chuen (Lau Kar-leung) who she is now the “auntie” of despite being many years younger. His son Charlie (Hsiao Ho) is meant to be in Hong Kong studying, but arrives back early and ends up fighting with Dai-Nan and trashing the joint.
Cue many understandings and temper tantrums from both Charlie and Dai-Nan. When they both settle down Charlie takes her into town, where she gets made fun of for being a “country bumpkin” and ends up in a much too fancy dress, leading to another fight where they have to run from the cops.
Even though Dai-Nan seems to hate fun, Charlie is determined to show her a good time and after a quick musical interlude invites her to a dance. Unfortunately the dance is interrupted by the cronies of the evil brother “don’t worry Charlie, in Hong Kong we always fight at parties” and Charlie and Dai-Nan end up getting arrested. It was all a ruse to get the old man’s will and deeds back so Dai-Nan has to sign them over.
Assessing the situation and asking for the help of the other uncles, Dai-Nan decides to act on her own with Charlie tagging along to find the traps. Unfortunately they fail and Dai-Nan gets kidnapped. Will they get out of this bind or not? I’ll let you find out.
Phew! The synopsis does not tell you how crazy this movie is, with some fourth wall breaking shenanigans, many crazy cross culture exchanges, the dance sequence in western costumes, Gordon Lui in ridiculous hair, the dude with the sunglasses who never loses them no matter how many times he gets beat up and many other silly things.
You have to be in the right mood to see this as if you are expecting a serious kung fu movie you will dismiss it out of hand. I saw it on a double bill with Dirty Ho and on the tail end of seeing eight Hong Kong movies in a weekend at a special screening so I was ready for it. I almost cheered when Wang Lung-Wei pointed and there is even an almost a POV point at one point.
Not sure why they could not let the Young Auntie have the final fight scene to herself, she does not look like she needs rescuing the other times. Despite that, it is a funny movie and while not an essential watch worth having a look for if you want to see a movie similar to Lady is the Boss.
Director: Wong Jing
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Joey Wong Cho-Yin, Sharla Cheung Man, Ng Man-Tat
The God of Gamblers, Ko Chun (Chow Yun-Fat) goes missing after gambling at a private game and ends up losing his memory. Feeling guilty for setting the trap that he blundered into, Knife (Andy Lau) and his friends decide to look after him and find out that he is a gambling genius, coming to call him “King of Gamblers” and hitting up all the shady places they can find.
Trouble brews when Knife mistreats Ko and is also a terrible gambler himself, leading to him owing a big debt to a loanshark (Ng Man-Tat) and also the bad guys who the God of Gamblers is meant to have a big card game coming up with their boss are looking for him to get rid of him.
Miraculously, Ko’s bodyguard appears to save the day and they only just get out alive. While running away from the police in shock from all the killings, Ko falls and hits his head again. Later in the hospital with his old memories, he doesn’t know Knife and his former friend who set him up is sucking up to him.
Unknown to Ko in his absence, his former friend has colluded with the gang boss he is meant to gamble with and wants him to lose. This sets the scene for a tense scene on a ship that is meant to be sailing into international waters. Who will win?
For some reason I had seen the sequel to this movie and not the original. I do not recall seeing Stephen Chow’s parody of the movie that was so good it landed him a place in one of the sequels.
In terms of iconic characters Chow Yun Fat’s portrayal is up there with Mark Gor in a Better Tomorrow and I can’t even fathom how Wong Jing can make something like this in the 1980s and then go on to make such rubbish.
While the gambling scenes are the heart of the movie there are quite good gunplay scenes and some light relief on offer when things get too dark from Chow Yun Fat playing up the head injury aspect.
Andy Lau is a mere slip of a boy here and is quite mean to Chow Yun Fat’s character, but comes through in the end.
If you have never seen this movie I would recommend it and just ignore Wong Jing’s later work unless you are a huge fan with an ability to tolerate bad trash. It’s not even funny trash, it’s just bad and has nasty stuff in it for so reason. Better stop here or I will go on and on.
Director: Eric Tsang
Starring: Samuel Hui Koon-Kit, Karl Maka, Sylvia Chang Ai-Chia, Dean Shek Tin, Chan Sing, Tsui Hark
A daring high-wire diamond heist by master thief King Kong (Sam Hui) and his sidekick Gigolo Joe (Dean Shek) gets the attention of the authorities as neither of the parties that were robbed reported it to the police. The Governor of Hong Kong and top government officials decide to get Sargeant Kodojack (Karl Maka) in to catch King Kong as he is on the case of the international thief White Glove (Robert Houston).
Tough Superintendent Nancy Ho (Sylvia Chang) likes all her police to treat her as one of the guys and ends up arresting Kodojack after he unwittingly becomes the getaway driver for a separate robbery, leading to much amusement.
Not so good for King Kong is when Mad Max (Chan Sing) turns up vengeance on his mind and Gigolo Joe ends up being killed before he can tell him where the diamonds are hidden. Kodojack decides to trap King Kong into helping the police and even the White Glove helps behind the scenes as he also wants the diamonds for himself. Lots of wacky tomfoolery ensues including the strange scene of RC cars taking on full grown cars and winning with the help of explosives.
This reminds me very much of a live action cartoon similar to the Lupin series and this movie was the first in a series of six. It is very fun and pacey and full of interesting characters including a cameo by Tsui Hark as a ballet director. The scenes with the gang boss Mad Max are strange as he appears in riding gear and has his own synthesiser sting.
The bad hair and fashions are just a joy to watch as this movie couldn’t be more 80s if it tried. Special mention must go to Mad Max’s leather cat suit and also Kodojack ending up on stage dressed like Ming the Merciless in one scene.
Even with the killings and violence it does not seem to change tone and is more of a romp and James Bond spoof than a serious action movie. I liked that it had its own version of the hang gliding scene from the Man From Hong Kong although this one is part of a longer scene.
The characters are drawn very broadly as you would expect with this type of movie with the Lady Superintendent either being really tough or very girly after Kodojack at first pretends to like her to get her onside.
I understand this movie was released as Mad Mission in western markets. If you can, try to get the Hong Kong release as it is uncut.
Well worth your time if you are looking for something light and breezy, I am going to try and see the rest of the series.
Director: Sammo Hung
Starring: Sammo Hung, Nina Li Chi, Max Mok Siu Chung, Suen Yuet, Fennie Yuen Kit Ying, Lowell Lo Koon Ting, Meng Hoi, John Sham Kein, Billy Chow Bei Lei, Lau Kar Leung, Lam Ching Ying
Sammo Hung stars as the head of a group of sworn brothers who happen to work as pedicab drivers and help each other out when it is needed including fighting with the cargo haulers in the very first scene or helping out one of their friends who is down on their luck.
Sammo lives with his aunt who is renting out their property to a bakery. He falls for a young lady working there, only trouble is so has her boss which causes some conflict between them. Real trouble occurs when a seedy brothel owner tries to kidnap the young lady and Sammo has to pedal like hell away on the pedicab while being chased down in a car. One thing leads to another and they end up crashing through the window of a gaming house, leading to Sammo being beaten in a hard fight by the gambling house owner, Kau Kar Leung, but he earns the respect of him and is let go.
One of Sammo’s buddies has fallen in love also, but unfortunately she turns out to be ye olde “hooker with a hear of gold’, which causes a big bust up in the groups ties. Sammo’s love interest slaps them around for being so judgemental and they make up. Everything looks peachy with Sammo’s friend marrying the girl, but the evil brothel owner from before doesn’t like his women to leave, sending around goons to bust up the wedding night and leading to the final throwdown with Sammo vs. the entire gang.
This film was personally recommended to me so I was looking forward to it. Also it is not available on DVD and hard to get on VHS. I am not sure if it has even screened on SBS TV in Australia as I would have remembered it otherwise.
The fight scenes are a lot different from ordinary kung fu films as they seem a lot more harsh and brutal and you see Sammo getting more and more beaten up during the course of the scene. This is especially the case with the fight with Lau Kar Leung in the gambling house and the fight with the gangsters at the end.
I did enjoy the opening scene fight as it starts with a misunderstanding and does have the more playful elements such as the two combatants using fluorescent tubes as light sabres and being electrocuted by them with visible electricity like a cartoon. I did not think the movie was like “the Gods Must be Crazy” but it does have some funny parts to balance out the more serious drama that comes later.
In a lot of ways it does remind me of Kung Fu Hustle and certainly some of the cast from this movie appeared in that film with Sammo Hung doing fight choreography on the fight with the three masters in Pig Sty Alley.
It is a shame that this film is not as widely available as some of the other films from the 1980s as it easily stands alongside movies like Mr Canton and Lady Rose or the Project A movies if you like period drama mixed with kung fu.
While it is a kung fu story it does have things in the film that make it different like showing the result of getting into fights and even not having a normal ending as the main character says he has killed too many people in his quest for revenge and has to now try and dodge the police.
The fight with Lau Kar Leung in the gambling house including a stick battle is easily a stand out and can be watched by its own as it is very satisfying. You do end up understanding why the character who is fighting Sammo ends up respecting him as he does take quite a lot of punishment.
If you can manage to get a copy of this I would definitely recommend it as it is something special.
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Starring: Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen Siu Tien, Hwang Jang-Lee, Lam Kau, Linda Lin Ying
Jackie Chan returns as the young and reckless Wong Fei-Hong whose antics upset his dad (Lam Kau) and also his auntie (Linda Lin) who he ends up fighting by accident not knowing who she is.
When Fei Hung gets into one too many fights, his dad decides to send him off for harsh training with Beggar So (Yuen Siu Tien), but the youngster says “bugger this” and runs away trying to avoid it, only to run in him any way when he tries to scam a free meal at a restaurant and ends being beaten up for his trouble. Beggar So pretty much kidnaps him back to his shack and puts him through harsh training. The one time he tries to escape he ends up being beaten up and humiliated by Thunderleg (Hwang Jang-Lee) who doesn’t think he is even worth killing.
After trying to trick his master into not drinking during a fight, Wong Fei Hong finally learns the secret of Drunken Kung Fu and just in time as a rival of his dad’s wants to put out a hit on him and has called in a contract killer.
I understand that this was made not long after Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and it makes sense that they would use the same actors and director. Some people complain about there being too many sequels in Hollywood, they have not seen anything when it comes to Hong Kong. The original Wong Fei-Hong movies made in the 1940s and 1950s numbered in the hundreds even including Wong Fei Hong’s Battle with the Gorilla and Wong Fei-Hong’s Seven Battles with the Fiery Unicorn. They were also dead serious and all played by the same actor. Kids in Hong Kong would have grown up with them so it would have been like someone doing a funny movie about Dr Who or a beloved 80s kid’s show these days.
With the majority of the movie being taken up with the training sequences, they would want to be good training techniques and they do their job quite well. Once we finally get to see the drunken boxing it does not disappoint with the young impulsive Fei-Hong deciding not to practice one stance as it was “for girls” leaving him in a bind when he had to use it.
Lam Kau as Wong Fei-Hong’s dad does look very fearsome and like he could beat up Jackie Chan in real life. Linda Lin as his aunty also puts in a great performance and I wish she had more than just the one fight scene in the movie.
Simon Yuen retains his ability as Beggar So to steal every scene in he is in by just being in the shot. He does not seem to do as much fighting in this one, preferring to leave Jackie’s character to do most of the work.
The movie seems to end rather abruptly, but at least you do get to see the big fight scene at the end where the evil dude gets his comeuppance. Jackie Chan supposedly almost lost an eye filming the final fight scene, not having learnt to stay clear of Hwang Jang-Lee’s kicks after getting his teeth bashed out in the previous film.
Comparing this film to Drunken Master II would be unfair as there is sixteen years between them. While it is recommended you watch this with Snake in Eagle’s Shadow, it stands up just as well on its own and is well worth tracking down if you want to see the early work of Jackie Chan.
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Starring: Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen Siu Tien, Hwang Jang Lee, Dean Shek, Hsu Hsia, Roy Horan
This movie is almost as old as me so I am not sure if I really need to explain that much about the plot. Jackie Chan plays the dogsbody at a Kung Fu school who keeps being used as a “human punching bag” by Dean Shek while the master is away. One day he sees an old man being beaten up and invites him back for a meal, unknown to him the “beggar” (Simon Yuen Siu Tien) is actually a kung fu master in disguise who is hiding from the psycho master from the Eagle school (Hwang Jang Lee) who is trying to wipe out the other kung fu styles.
I do not know how I managed to miss this one for so long unless I have seen it and forgotten about it before. It was great to be able to see it on the big screen and I did not mind having to watch the dubbed print as it was in 35mm.
Simon Yuen was famous for playing Beggar So and he is just funny to look at and manages to steal a lot of the scenes from Jackie at the start by just being in the scene. He does get some good fight scenes himself though.
This was one of Jackie Chan’s first big hits so he does look very bright and fresh here. People who complain about the current output of this Jackie should go back and see how he got there, I could not imagine working in an industry for almost ten years before you start to get any major recognition. At the start of the 1970s Jackie Chan was doing stunt work and by the end of the decade was a star in his own right.
The fights are well done and seem to have a raw quality to them as well as an almost Australian “she’ll be right” attitude as seen in the visible sticking plaster on Jackie’s arm after he got slashed by the sword in one fight and not even bothering to wipe the blood off when he accidentally got one of his teeth kicked out.
Well worth your time and a good place to start if you are looking into Jackie Chan’s earlier work.
I was actually doing something for work when I found out about this screening program. No doubt I would have eventually heard about them from someone else, but not so early and I would have already had something on all the weekends I wanted to come up.
As I could not find it on the website at the time, I quickly put together a calendar for the three months with all the screenings marked out to try and pick out a good weekend to go up. September was already a washout unless I went up on the weekend of the Federal Election, although Drunken Master was appropriate for the night and I had booked tickets to see the Handsome Family in October.
I found out about the program in mid-August when I was still recovering from going to see 20 movies in 10 days as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival and after thinking about it for a week or so booked my flights and accommodation. I also went and found the tailers for 69 of the 70 movies (could not find King Kong in the Heavenly Palace) http://blog.timchuma.com/?p=202
The dates I narrowed it down to were as follows: Friday 4th October 2013
A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow 2
Saturday 5th October 2013
The Big Boss
Fist of Fury
Bullet in the Head
Sunday 6th October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow
Saturday 19th October 2013
Aces Go Places
God of Gamblers
Kung Fu Hustle
Sunday 20th October 2013
My Young Auntie
Friday 25th October 2013
City on Fire
Saturday 26th October 2013
Police Story 3: Supercop
Dangerous Encounters – 1st Kind
Long Arm of the Law
Sunday 27th October 2013
Friday 1st November 2013
Infernal Affairs 2
Saturday 2nd November 2013
The Prodigal Son
One Nite in Mongkok
Ip Man 2
Sunday 3rd November 2013 (I have a soft spot for ape movies)
King Kong’s Adventures in the Heavenly Palace
Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle with the Gorilla
While 4-6th October was the “power” weekend, I had already seen most of the films on the big screen and there was only one I had not seen. It might have been a bit too much for me to watch that much gun violence and melodrama in the one weekend also, however awesome it would have been. Special note that several of the John Woo movies were 35mm prints from his own personal collection, you are certainly not going to see that again.
25th-27th of October was about half and half with movies I had seen. I already have Police Story 1-3 in a box set and have seen them on the big screen. The same with City on Fire and Full Contact. The other movies did look good though.
1st-3rd November seemed pretty good, but it was Melbourne Cup weekend so I was not sure if I would get flights. I had never heard of King Kong’s Adventures in the Heavenly Palace or Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle with the Gorilla.
18th – 20th October had the most movies I had not seen and also one of my favourite movies Kung Fu Hustle that I had not seen on the big screen since 2005. I enjoy kung fu comedies and had somehow managed to miss the two Jackie Chan films that were on this weekend. Pedicab Driver was a personal recommendation from a friend, it is not available on DVD and rare on VHS. I do have Dirty Ho on DVD.
I may have annoyed some of my acquaintances who also love Hong Kong movies, but did not have the money or resources to make it to the screening by talking about it so much, but it was a culturally significant event and I had not seen that many HK movies concurrently since 2001 when they were the only thing I went to see. These movies are more than likely not going to screen again in Australia in this format and not this many either.
Friday 18th October 2013
I had booked everything before I arrived in Brisbane including airport transfers, I just happened to be the last stop for the bus as we slowly wound our way through most of the inner Brisbane CBD. For some reason I had promised to go over to the Low Road café in Windsor and was running late.
Checked into my room and walked the wrong way down Vulture St away from the shops towards South Bank. I did eventually find the station and only managed to miss one train while trying to buy a ticket. Made it to the café but they were just about closing due to the storm coming, was happy to have a sandwich. Ben Corbett did not recognise me, but that’s probably for the best.
The storm hit just as I boarded the train back to South Bank and dumped a lot of rain. Had to dodge waves walking back towards the shops after walking the wrong way again. I did eventually find the bar Jungle I had been looking for and had a few cocktails.
Not wanting to be running late on the first night I walked down to GoMA in the rain about 4pm and got there while they were setting up the bar. There were even HK themed cocktails and I had a Five Venoms and a Snake in Eagle’s Shadow. I did end up talking to the bar staff quite a bit as I did not want to disturb the box office staff although I did talk to them also. The staff at GoMA were very nice to me all weekend and made me feel welcome. I did tell them that I flew up from Melbourne just to see the movies and did not have to justify it like some people have made me do.
Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow screened first. The only surviving print they could find was dubbed, but a digital version with subtitles in Cantonese was screening five minutes after the movie started in the theatre across the hall if anyone was bothered by dubbing. The print was sourced from a private collection in the USA and took months of negotiation to acquire as there was a condition on it that it was not to go out of the country.
Drunken Master was the second film of the night and I am not sure why I had not seen it. It was a lot different than Drunken Master II, that I have seen many times.
I did not end up having dinner until 11pm, was pretty hungry by then and I had to remember that for the next day when it was going to be a long day.
Saturday 19th October 2013
I had set the alarm for 10am as usual for Saturdays when I go shopping, but ended up getting up earlier. Walked down to the shops and bought an apple and banana for breakfast. My sunglasses fell on the ground and I walked around for half an hour or longer with one lens missing, did not find this out until I was down at the Wheel of Brisbane.
I did go have a look in the museum and the science exhibit with a whole lot of screaming kids running around. Was pretty hungry by then so I just bought a sandwich at the café near the State Library.
Films seen over the course of the day:
Aces Go Places
God of Gamblers
Kung Fu Hustle
I did not drink as much at the bar this time, but I did try the Young and Dangerous cocktail, it was quite nice.
Another late dinner and I decided to try out the place that served the Philly Cheese steaks, only to find they had sold out so I had to settle for a chilli dog and a couple of sides with a Birch Beer soda. Might not have been the most healthy to eat, was still tasting and burping it the next day.
Sunday 20th October 2013
I woke up even earlier and walked down to South Bank to see if one of my relatives was working, I did get to say hello to them this time.
After that I went to the Queensland Art Gallery to have a look through it and then the exhibition about the live music scene in Queensland at the State Library http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/live/live I ended up watching some of the documentaries in the exhibition and enjoyed them.
A quick run through the GoMA collection and I was ready for the last two films.
Films for the day:
My Young Auntie
I did get to say goodbye to the box office staff after Dirty Ho and the person checking the tickets after My Young Auntie, she was especially nice and hoped I had a good flight home the next day.
As I had not had lunch I was pretty hungry by then so I ended up going to Chop Chop Chiangs for dinner, a lot more than I would usually pay but it was a celebration for getting through all the movies. I had also tried to go to the restaurant on Friday night, but they were closing when I arrived and I promised I would try and make it back on Sunday as I asked one of the staff where I could get something for dinner that night.
I was going to have a couple of cocktails at Jungle, but only ended up getting the one and giving the bar manager my five free movie pass for the screening program (which I won after I had bought the tickets to the screenings, whoops!)
Back to the hostel and I read my book for a couple of hours and went to bed early. Even though I would have liked to have had someone to talk to about the movies, it was still a great weekend and I recommend people check out the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane as it has some funny and surprising artworks.
(*) All the trailers I could find in the original language where possible. In some cases there was a clip I liked better than the trailer.
While my personal preference is for the original Shaw Brothers trailers over than the new Celestial Pictures re-release ones, it is a different marketplace so they have a particular style of their own.
A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow 2
A Hero Never Dies
Aces Go Places
Ashes of Time Redux
Bullet in the Head
Challenge of the Masters
City on Fire