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All's Well, End's Well 1997 (1997) Directed by: Alfred Cheung

Lunar New Year comedies rarely means quality cinema but I have to give director Alfred Cheung credit for trying a little at least. He has way too many plot strands and not enough shooting schedule which results in the final film leaving you with a rather rushed feeling. Had he had the time it a simple and sweet comedy for that time of the year. Stephen Chow and Roy Chiao puts in effort but the rest of the cast just shows up and get paid. As per usual with Lunar New Year comedies then.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Always Be The Winners (1994) Directed by: Jacky Pang

Having had representatives of the gambling families challenge each other for years, it's now Master Sha's (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and Yam Tin San's (Ekin Cheng) turn. It's a game of tricks and deceit though, with Sha ending up on the losing end so he employs famed Mainland gambler Hui Man Lung (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) to help him learn the changing of card technique. Shacking up with Sha's family, including wife Lulu (Sandra Ng) and the nanny (Eric Tsang in a female role) that presumeably takes care of the adult and couch potato sisters (Charine Chan and Au Ga) of Sha's, Hui is in fact a doppelganger conman so the secret scroll of magic techniques Sha is hellbent on getting may not be so valuable after all...

Alebit very low budget and shot in basically only two locations (the gambling table and the household of Sha's), Jacky Pang (Lover Of The Swindler) does offer up both fair tension at the card games and actual funny Lunar New Year wildness. The two Tony's various clashes that usually ends up with Chiu-Wai getting horribly hurt is pretty much the total of the few gags Always Be The Winners offers up. But it's in the spirit of the performers putting all manner of cranked up, silliness into the material that's the key for Pang's success. In particular, Leung Ka-Fai is on fire and sinks to a wonderful silly level when he reveals his skill in communicating with animals such as goldfishes and parrots. It will come in handy actually. Attempting to speak a little of a family and marriage in need of re-establishing itself, Pang makes sure it's with a wink at the audience he launches this serious mood and for once we get a representation of actual fun delivered at the Lunar New Year.

American Commando 2 - Hunting Express (1988) Directed by: Phillip Ko

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Sans ninjas, IFD flicks didn't conjure up that much interest. A trait true for this cut & paste product that has narrative that divides itself between Hong Kong, Japan and expectedly, our original turkey has its roots in the latter. Because even without the IFD-created storyline, there seems to be little but cheesy filmmaking and harsh melodrama offered up originally. It's all a perfect marriage really as Joseph Lai presents his story of Tony and Lily who meet and fall in love. The shadow looming over them is the protective grip George has on Lily, even going as far as forcing her into prostitution. All part of a criminal syndicate tracking back to Hong Kong where our hero Hank does his best to help Tony, Lily and to actually interact with the source flick as best he can. There are heaps of hilarious dubbing, bad IFD acting and action but you have to be Kickboxer From Hell-bad in order to get the fanatics seal of approval. American Commando 2 - Hunting Express will make you smile but also miss Stuart Smith, Richard Harrison and the ninja headbands.

American Commando Ninja (1988) Directed by: Lo Gio

TROY'S REVIEW: Now don't get me wrong, I love bad movies but this... this takes bad to an all new and utterly horrifying new depth! Here my friends is a movie so inept as to surely make even the late Ed Wood turn away in abject consternation! Resembling an abysmal student film and shot on a low quality home video camera, this without a doubt contains some of the very worst dubbing, most pitiful acting and hopeless martial arts choreography I have ever had the misfortune to witness in my life! If this wasn't bad enough, the interminably mundane pacing of this flick almost rendered me into a bloody coma! You thought that Manos: The Hands Of Fate was bad? Trust me, this atrocious pile of ordure makes that flick look like Citizen Kane! I would describe the plot but to be honest I'm trying desperately to eschew all traces of this horrific experience from my memory. For the sake of all that is decent, avoid this film like floating feces in a swimming pool!

American Force 4 - Soldier Terminators (1988) Directed by: Charles Lee

Cut and splice action from IFD is the tactic of the day but sans ninjas or kickboxers. No, merely a very small band of Western actors enlists Alexander Samson from the other movie to go undercover in the People's Freedom Army and that's about it. Dull as dishwater when in the "drama" of the Alexander Samson story but brightening up considerably when having the IFD footage inserted or when interacting with characters from movie B if you will, it's the usual recipe from IFD but a recipe that suitably entertains also. Even if only sporadically.

Among The Stars (2000) Directed by: Bryan Chang

Backed by Ying E Chi films, whose aim it is to promote independent filmmaking (an initiative started after Fruit Chan hit it big with Made In Hong Kong in 1997), Bryan Chang's sophomore effort envisioned as a trilogy (started with After The Crescent and ended with And Also The Eclipse?) is not so much a plotted movie but a collection of interwoven (and also not) city stories with love and relationships at center. Shooting it mundane, with the Hong Kong city sounds heightened, much seems abstract throughout but Chang (with past credits being writer of Run And Kill among other things) favours the seemingly stale chemistry that occurs when we talk heart to heart. He goes around sporadically through the people, some of which are dealing with fear to commit (acclaimed director Wilson Yip stars in a fairly effective, raw turn and his character Doug corresponds to this, leaning back on a saying that your fate comes to you so you do nothing), committing adultery, looking to take the next step into motherhood but only if their distraught partner will join on the journey and falling in love for the first time. With long takes and seemingly random shots of people in the Hong Kong cityscapes, Chang captures some fine magic here as he deals with his relationship issues and celebrates the everyday nature of life and coincidence. It doesn't seem to say much at times and when flashing much poetry in front of us, the interpretation may not go towards what you thought you learned prior but it's a suitably low-key work that definitely has something. Ying E Chi and at least one of its players deserves a larger spotlight based on all this. Veronica Lee's sparse piano score is also a major asset.

You can buy movies from the Ying E Chi catalogue directly from their website http://www.yec.com/

An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty (1984) Directed by: Eddie Fong

Chor Yuen proved already in 1972 that class, style and thought could fit into a period, softcore erotica vehicle. The film was the legendary Intimate Confessions Of A Chinese Courtesan (later reinterpreted by Chu as Lust For Love Of A Chinese Courtesan). Following in the grand footsteps of the groundbreaking effort is Eddie Fong's feature debut An Amorous Woman Of Tang Dynasty. The marvelous and adventurous Pat Ha plays Yu Yuan-Gi, a Taoist priestess/poetess and the lady of a house full of maids that provide company for men. Yu desires to break herself out of the traditional female role of the dynasty, starting with a sexual encounter with wandering swordsman Tsui Pok-Hau (Alex Man)...

Eddie Fong brings the elegance, working with superb cinematography, music and art direction for his very feministic oriented period erotica piece. Told in spare and subtle fashion, Yu's educated views in her obstacle filled journey results in many things not normally associated with Category III rated movies. Dialogue is intelligent and poetic, subject matter not a springboard for pure exploitation and in the end, Fong's inclusion of fairly graphic sex scenes are more than justified and part of a enchanting whole. Ku Feng, Chang Kuo Chu and and Lam Hoi Ling co-stars.

Reportedly, Fong's director's cut of approximately 180 minutes played in Taiwan but that version isn't obtainable at the time of writing.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com
Yesasia.com

Amsterdam Connection (1978) Directed by: Lo Ke & Fan Mei-Sheng

A rare glimpse into the directorial mind of Fan Mei-Sheng (who also co-wrote the so called script). Emulating what Bruce Lee did with The Way Of The Dragon by utilizing European locations is not enough when you don't have anything else to offer up. There's the odd good bit of action choreography but with routine plotting, no star power whatsoever, inept English dubbing that only partially makes Amsterdam Connection camp, it was pretty much a sealed deal regarding the overall quality. Bolo is a minor standout though as he moves well despite his bulky self. Also with Jason Pai Pao, Wong Yuen-San, Chan Sing and the co-director of this mess himself, Fan Mei-Sheng.

Ancient Chinese Whorehouse (1994) Directed by: Ivan Lai

Ivan Lai's plan going into the making of Ancient Chinese Whorehouse:

Period sex-comedy, beautiful looking ladies and once again reuse what surely is the Hail The Judge and A Chinese Torture Chamber Story-sets. The outcome of that plan:

Dull, lifeless and uninspired, Mr. Daughter Of Darkness! Strangely enough, it's during the latter stages of the movie that Ivan pours on the more insane sights but it's nowhere near enough to actually pull this Cat III effort out of the gutter, I'm sorry to say. One can't really knock Yvonne Yung in any way though because she looks so damn stunning and Kent Cheng provides a likable turn as the Q-branch of the titular whorehouse. Also with Dick Lau, Yuen King-Tan, Shing Fui On and the man who always seems to be available whenever called to appear in Cat III films, Elvis Tsui.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Angel (1987) Directed by: Teresa Woo & Raymond Leung

While Yes, Madam and Royal Warriors resurrected the female action heroine in the form of Michelle Yeoh, it was Angel that more distinctly kickstarted the genre, also known as "girl with guns". In particular it was Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima that became icons of the genre (no wonder in regards to Yukari, she's terrific here) and went on to star in numerous other similar vehicles such as Angels 2, Dreaming The Reality and Angel Terminators 2. As with important efforts from the martial arts genre such as The Chinese Boxer and The Big Boss, Angel doesn't necessarily represents the highest quality but a kind of landmark and therefore it's more of an effort on par with many entries in the genre.

The mixture of Charlie's Angels and James Bond doesn't exactly mean originality and with routine plotting, Angel only has the action to fall back on. However, that aspect does add colour with action director Tony Leung creating fast moving set pieces involving both gunplay and fight action. Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima fans may be disappointed that neither is fighting to the extent that subsequent movies showcases but rest assured, the finale represents a beginning of this pairing in a gritty manner. Also with David Chiang, Elaine Lui, Saijo Hideki, Alex Fong (he's come a long way since these days) and Hwang Jang Lee.

The Hong Kong print credits Tony Leung and Ivan Lai as directors in addition to Teresa Woo and Raymond Leung but according to an interview with Tony, Woo remained on the sidelines producing and writing in actuality.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

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