# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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Above The War (19??) Directed by: Ken Watanabe

There's only sparse info on this Phillipino-Japanese (and possibly more countries were involved) co-production starring Romano Kristoff, Yasuaki Kurata and in a brief appearance Richard Harrison and the less said the better. Kristoff and Kurata are part of the skillful B-team (flattering name) who's sent into enemy territory to retrieve a golden buddha. Usually getting captured and doing very little at all, the movie is a slow chore that doesn't get spiced up just because Phillipino filmmaker Ken Watanabe adds prolonged nudity (female AND male) and a pyrotechnics budget towards the end. We've since long tuned out and apparently bonds were forged at the end. Best thing about Above The War to take away from it, it's kind of cool to know this cast got together once. A thought worth tackling... once. Barely.

Abracadabra (1986) Directed by: Peter Mak

Lifeless horror-comedy romp, the main plot concerns spirits/demons/ghouls/zombies trapped in a mirror now installed in a boutique. The comedic interludes between the girls (Charine Chan and Ann Bridgewater) of the boutique and the boys (Mark Cheng and Dung Wai-Gong) in the hair salon take center stage for a disturbingly long time and it's only so because it's simply NOT funny banter. Some set pieces are impressively big (in particular the opening with the task force taking care of the spirits) but even these are lacking an extra gear to engage the pace and energy.

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The Absurd Brave (1969) Directed by: Cheung Fong-Ha

Sam Suet-Jan and Cheung Kwong-Chiu do a reprisal of sorts of their characters from Lady 9 Flower the same year (or vice versa, depending on which was released first). Sam Suet Jan is the deadly Lady 9 Flower on a revenge rampage with her sworn brothers since their sect leader has been killed. Cheung Kwong-Chiu is the Dean Shek-esque trickster who along with the son of one of Lady 9 Flower's victims fight back...

Lady 9 Flower wasn't particularly exciting but had some minute thought behind it. The Absurd Brave on the other hand is an overlong, simple tale that manages to feel extremely incoherent and lacking in the area of excitement. A sadistic opening murder is the highpoint violence- and action-wise but not much else happens in the stiff choreography that follows.

The Accidental Spy (2001, Teddy Chen)

Thinking he might be able to track down his biological father but is instead drawn into the world of spy games, thankfully exercise equipment salesman Buck Yuen (Jackie Chan) possesses martial arts skills and hefty dose of intuition. That makes him a prime candidate to engage in global intrigue involving a new, fierce biological weapon called Anthrax II. Chan resumes his desire to make Hong Kong movies a truly international experience and the intent is admirable as he seems quite concerned with pulling off a spy actioner that doesn't solely need to rely on him performing fights on cue. Bringing in Teddy Chen fresh off the acclaimed Purple Storm is a good idea too since The Accidental Spy deals in tension and the action that goes along with it. The results vary but initially the far fetched plot of Buck Yuen seemingly being built and meant for this life as a spy is not bothersome and tension combined with lighthearted touches makes for acceptable, big budget distraction. Jackie's choreography (along with Stephen Tung Wai and Sam Wong) is inventive too and each set piece manages to log a gimmick and a visual that sticks with you (the Turkish bathhouse sequence that then leads to a nude Jackie running around a marketplace trying to conceal himself and fight off his pursuers being a good example). As the movie dances with death and tragedy trying to merge Jackie with a serious story (especially evident in the subplot involving Vivian Hsu's character), it doesn't connect as well and Jackie's superhuman inventiveness becomes a bit distracting the more real Chen tries to play the tale. It's all generally acceptable though and when all is said and done a merger between the director and actor is pulled off. Especially since the movie ends on a high note with its extended and exciting tanker truck chase. Also with Wu Hsing-Guo, Kim Min-Jeong and Eric Tsang.

The American version of the film was severely shortened, re-edited and exchanged references to Anthrax II with an opium called Opia Maxa.

Aces Go Places (1982) Directed by: Eric Tsang

Sometimes you realize some of the Hong Kong cinema profiles you don't LOVE or even DETEST are responsible for the local cinema thriving and breaking through. Case in point Eric Tsang's Aces Go Places (known as Mad Mission internationally) with Cinema City founders Raymond Wong, Dean Shek and Karl Maka all having key roles in the production (writing, producing, acting). Buddy comedy with focus on vehicular stunts and gadgets, the production merged local and Western talent for this relaxed, fun time for the 1982 audience and they responded, leading to an additional 4 movies with the Sam Hui/Karl Maka pairing. The stronger mix and banter resides in the first half but director Tsang keeps it generally strong throughout, with Karl Maka treating Sylvia Chang like dirt, the seesaw hanging scene and the radio controlled/rigged to explode car ending ranking as highlights.

Aces Go Places II (1983) Directed by: Eric Tsang

Going the route of bigger and madder, Eric Tsang stages the best and liveliest out of the Aces Go Places series by treating it like it was all animated. Thief King Kong (Sam Hui) gets drawn into and fooled by diamond thieves and has to work with unlikely friends (and now husband and wife) Albert Au (Karl Maka) and Superintendent Nancy Ho (Sylvia Chang). Cue the familiar theme music, radio controlled helicopters, tons of robots, bike and car stunts and an assassin called Filthy Harry (the joke is not subtle but a lot of fun). Energy is highly infectious and out of this world mad, especially when director Tsang and special effects crew stages what seems like a reel of special gadgets and robots action. Tsui Hark steals the movie as an escaped mental patient claiming to be an FBI agent. Yasuaki Kurata, Charlie Cho, Walter Tso and Raymond Wong also appear.

Aces Go Places III - Our Man From Bond Street (1984) Directed by: Tsui Hark

Embracing its inspirations such as Mission: Impossible and the James Bond franchise fully for the third outing in the series, Tsui Hark brings scope and Cinema City employs Western talents like Peter Graves from the Mission: Impossible TV-series and 'Jaws' himself, Richard Kiel. The result is a more grounded effort compared to the live cartoon that was the first sequel but an established rapport and series tone gets the filmmakers a long way. King Kong is hired by 007 (Jean Mersant) to retrieve Her Majesty's stolen jewels but is deceived once again (his weakness for women plays a part in this) so to solve it all, another team up with his friends on the other side of the law (Karl Maka and Sylvia Chang) is required. Shooting a James Bond style pre-credits sequence in Paris and introducing Baldy Junior (Cyrus Wong) to hilarious effect, the performers know chemistry by now so banter and loud comedic situations usually score high. It IS somewhat hard to adjust to the more subdued action-style but the various heist sequences, gadgets and a rather suspenseful ending makes up for the mild disappointment that Tsui Hark couldn't follow the high Eric Tsang established. Not that he NEEDED to. Also appearing is John Shum, Ricky Hui, Charlie Cho, Lowell Lo and Sugiyama Tsuneharu as Odd Job.

Aces Go Places IV (1986) Directed by: Ringo Lam

Ringo Lam leaves a darker and ediger mark on Cinema City's successful action comedy franchise through the plotting of Western bad guys (headed by Ronald Lacey from Raiders Of The Lost Ark) kidnapping Baldie Junior (Cyrus Wong) because Albert Au and King Kong (Karl Maka, Sam Hui) are in possession of special prism needed run a brainwashing/indestructible supermen machine. Introducing true peril, death and even blood to the series, it feels different for its frame work but no different to Hong Kong action comedies of the 80s as the industry wasn't afraid to mix up moods. Hence the comedy, banter and stunt work that's been the staple of the movies turning up here, with fine vehicular work and the hard falls and dips into fight action rank among the finest the series has to offer. A freaky Karl Maka transformation by the end and his rather daring fire stunts further highlights this but despite elements like on location shooting in New Zealand, Lam dipping effectively into said ediger material and Sally Yeh as added comedic bait (based on her track record, that's a promising idea), Aces Go Places IV represents the series feeling truly tired for the first time. First marginal recommendation since its inception in 1982.

Aces Go Places V - The Terracotta Hit (1989) Directed by: Lau Kar-Leung

Paid kidnappers for hire initially but the 'Aces' King Kong and Kodojak (Sam Hui and Karl Maka) go their separate ways after a job. Cut to a brother-sister team of thieves (Leslie Cheung and Nina Li) staging a robbery of an ancient sword and claiming it was the 'Aces', the foursome ultimately work together in order to prevent the sword from getting into the hands of Westerners. The best looking in the series so far and containing a fair amount of comedic (including plenty of Nina Li breast-jokes) and action sparks (as you would think from a Lau Kar-Leung directed movie), by number 5 the series is also running on left over fumes. There's a valid choice to pick action over outrageous gadgetry and stunts but sparks have to fly more continually rather than sporadically. The stars on parade includes Ellen Chan, Danny Lee, Roy Cheung, Walter Tso, Mark Houghton, Melvin Wong, Fennie Yuen and Conan Lee.

Adventures Of Shaolin (1978) Directed by: Mo Man-Hung

First ominous sign, a 100 minute running time. Second, no recognizable characters even 20 minutes in. Yep, Adventures Of Shaolin could've avoided being one whole misstep if it had been reduced to a 70 minute exercise. Instead this deathly dull rebels against tyrants with a dash of King Hu perfected scenes at an inn dies way before it's over with only a few minutes of cool kung-fu techniques and training being notable such as monks forming a water bridge and our white haired villain being able to transform his hand into a black one that spells doom for the recipient. Within all this the movie has the balls to try and provide familiar genre-twists rather than ending earlier which it should have. Shame because director Mo Man-Hung has the wonderful Fearless Fighters (its US re-edit title) and Stormy Sun on his resume. Polly Kuan and Tien Feng appear.

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