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Rating History

Spooky Encounters (Gui da gui)
17 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

This film deals with the persecuted character of "Bold Cheung", played by Sammo Hung, as he simultaneously battles to find those who framed him for murder and also escaping a pursuing detective. It is a mostly kung-fu comedy film, and really defined the genre of kung-fu horror, (from which titles such as "Mr. Vampire" capitalised off greatly).

The brilliance of this film lies in it's great mix of excellent choreography, and interesting and exotic characters - the horror themes are like an extra background setting that improve the film even further. Not only is it a first in it's (sub)genre, but it happens to be one of the best - and this is due to Sammo's awesome talent.

The development of the plot really does centre around Cheung, as he uses his wits and savage kung-fu to overcome various set-pieces of action such as a resurrected corpse (Chinese vampire), a voodoo-doll, a band of policemen, yet another undead corpse, ghosts, specters, and men possessed with summoned Gods.

His slapstick style is present again, as well as his unique ability for weapon choreography. The ending sequence rivals "Odd Couple" as the best weapon skills caught on film - (watch those spear techniques closely!). Cinematography in this film is superb, and the restored version I own has not dated in the slightest. In fact, the film looks better than those brought out much later, (I did notice a wash of blue across the entire print, though).

Hang in there for the end - one of the most vindictive and vengeful endings I have ever seen. It has a strange satisfaction though!

Shou hu fei long (Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon)(Nutty Kickbox Cops)
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Fairly successful kung-fu action installment from director, actor etc. Sammo Hung. This film, (which is pretty much an action buddy-movie), has several problems, but *just* makes it over the line due to the excellent action-choreography and stunt work.

Sammo plays a cop with a Bruce Lee obsession. It's never really explained why he does, or demonstrated too clearly either - rather, he is only shown fighting in the style of Bruce Lee. This may be difficult to spot for beginners in the genre, but Sammo makes quite an excellent impersonation throughout the action sequences. The non-action scenes are played regularly, however.

I found most of the humour fairly broad and dated - Sammo's partner played by Karl Maka really is quite annoying. Lau Kar Wing however is particularly awesome as a villain. His fight sequences with Sammo are really worth the wait.

The main problem with the film is it's dramatic structure. I grew impatient with some of the plot devices used, not to mention some of the drawn-out and seemingly irrelevant ones. It is a fairly convoluted story, and Sammo's typical mix of drama, comedy and action is not as successful as say "Wheels on Meals" or "Dragons Forever".

The Prodigal Son
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Excellent period Kung-fu film. It features outstanding Kung-fu scenes, beautiful cinematography, and amusing and clever dialogue.

We follow the "Street Brawler" (Yuen Biao), as he strives to learn martial arts from a master he has selected. The master is reluctant to teach, and the "Street Brawler" must prove his worth somewhat to learn.

Although *slightly* over-plotted, this film has a unique balance of all the important elements one looks for in a Sammo Hung film. The comedy, the innovative and savage Kung-fu, and the unusual dramatic structure.

It is never boring, particularly the start of the film. It is so well made that I could watch at least another hour of this film if it were possible.

Yuen Biao certainly rivals Jackie Chan in this film. It is his second starring role, but it is played with such ability you would never know.

Sure, the ending's a little "syncopated", but the overall effect of this film is too much for any niggling details to harm it. A must-see in this genre.

Thor (2011)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

'Thor' makes an excellent start as pseudo-historical action adventure, but its misguided focus on redundant elements within the script mean that the film falls short of the promise it makes early on. We begin at Asgard: it is portrayed artistically, magically, and convincingly - a golden, sacred, Romanesque kingdom ruled by the father-figure of the film: Odin.

Sir A. Hopkins plays this character spot-on; he expresses wrath, pathos and vulnerability interchangeably. Under-used throughout the script, he is given only a moderate chance to flex his divine will and power, and he is put away fairly annoyingly to make way for the less convincing and single-sided character of Loki (portrayed unevenly by T. Hiddleston).

Like all modern comic-to-film adventures, the fish-out-of-water mechanism is employed in what seems to be an ever shortening delay from the film's outset. Read: Thor is banished to Earth. Here he we see a cast of supporting players (N. Portman et al) who give Thor the vast majority of his admittedly explanatory dialog. There are a few tries at comic relief here (just how *would* a man-god react to a modern hospital, restaurant and so on...?), but they are fleeting.

Action sequences are just as sparse, and even more baffling is that they are really rather small-scale. Lack of scope is what the film suffers from - and what seemed like the beginning of the end sequence was revealed to be *the* end sequence. Choreography is mixed too; there are some satisfying big hits, but they have to make their way through scrambling, scuffling brawls. Thor's most interesting enemy is dispatched late in the film, but this sequence seems to have arrived too late to have any sway on the plot for this viewer.

3D effects are well executed, and the typical cheap shots of pointy things for the sake of pointy things is tastefully avoided. When it *does* happen, it is with purpose and sound timing. Visuals are smartly married to excellent sound design, the technical aspects are what carry this film through its slumbering second-reel.

Cinematography is victim to repeated tilting of the frame. There is hardly a square shot in the film, and all mid-to-close shots are tilted up to 45-degrees or less. Even establishing shots are annoyingly angled, disfiguring the space of the sets and disorientating the viewer from the physicality of the character movements and local spaces of scenes.

Performances are apt all round - it is a testament to the performers to see them break through some of the stilted characterizations. Thor himself is well played, though most of the performance is carried by physical presence, not emotive expression or dialog. His goofy costume is accurate but plasticy, his comrades literally look like sci-fi convention-goers. I exaggerate not.

The film is worthwhile overall, but suffers from a small-minded script. At least Odin, blessed with divine knowledge, managed to take a nap through the dullest areas of the film. For this, I envied the Gods.

Ma hei siu ji (Circus Kid)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

This is a film that almost makes it, but falls short due to some faults in direction and screenplay. Firstly, it must be said that the film starts off a little strangely, and has a mixed introduction between some brilliant, well, circus-routines, and almost hurried character introductions. It was a little hard to keep up with things to begin with. But, once the film settles, it goes about taking us along with a misfit group of circus performers, who, outside of the circus, fail to fit in smoothly with the rest of the population. These difficulties are compounded by the Japanese bombings during the second world war.

Yuen Biao, a trapeze artist within this group, is also an accomplished martial artist, and through various underworld dealings, he is forced to indulge in thee skills quite often. Unfortunately for him, Donnie Yen (the police superintendent) is quite often there to stop him. There are some nice mini action scenes between these two practitioners - you just need to be a little more patient than usual.

Wu Ma is the father figure, the ringleader of both the circus and the family group. His values are quite old-world, and he refuses to trade honour for pure survival - a scene where he forces the children to return stolen food is pivotal.

Although the film has a certain charm, there is a problem somewhere. I'm not sure if it's in the pacing of the scenes, or the attempt at resolving the many character ambitions, but, towards the end, a most of the detail has been lost, and we are faced with a pretty respectable string of action sequences. Yuen Biao is more of a brawler in this film, and his crisp clean kicks and flips are absent. In their place, there is more of a scrambling urgent style, (I think of some of the Dragonlord fighting when I remember this film). Donnie Yen seems criminally underused, and Bey Logan, the British writer/actor has a few scenes to show his physicality, and, he's not too bad.

The balance between the dramatic and action elements is a little uneven, and it seems that maybe too much was aimed for, the price being a drop in quality in all areas. However, do not think that this film is forgettable as it does do some things well. The set design, cinematography and performances are pretty solid. It's just a shame that there was less of a coherent culmination of the elements.