# 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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Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979) Directed by: Lau Kar Leung

Lau Kar Leung helmed Mad Monkey Kung Fu after the kung fu comedy antics of Jackie Chan (defined in the Seasonal films Snake In The Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master) had blossomed into a box-office phenomenon but it's easy to forget that it was Lau himself who first distinctly introduced the blend of martial arts and comedy in The Spiritual Boxer and later in its sequel The Shadow Boxing. So with this 1979 production, Shaw Brother's clearly was turning to one of their greats to give them their master and pupil movie of that year. While not as distinctly layered as Lau's Heroes Of The East or Challenge Of The Masters, as an imitation if you will, Mad Monkey Kung Fu ranks as one of the best.

Even though the mix between dark and light does not always seem appropriate (about 500 other Hong Kong movies are guilty of the same thing), there is a successful core of the film embodied by director Lau Kar Leung himself (in his first starring role after some excellent support and cameos in his own films prior) and the great acrobatic talents of regular player Hsiao Hau (translated as Little Monkey). Their relationship on screen resonates fairly well, proving that this story aspect makes a film of its kind last in history (also see Snake In The Eagle's Shadow for a prime example of this storytelling quality).

Lau of course also directs the martial arts action, combining both generally fun comedy scenarios with Hsiao Hau and the always intricate and powerful fight set pieces. Lau's standards have always been high but with its action combination, Mad Monkey Kung Fu may feel less distinct compared to the rest of Lau's body of work. I'd like to see a dozen other directors/action directors come up with a package this good though. Lo Lieh dependently takes on the villainous role while Kara Hui, Lam Fai Wong and San Sin co-stars.

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The Mad Phoenix (1997) Directed by: Clifton Ko

Clifton Ko and Raymond To-adopted stage play with famed theatre actor Tse Kwan-Ho reprising his role as Kiang Yu-Kou. The Mad Phoenix details his life as the wealthy 13th son of his family with a passion for Cantonese opera. His dreams of composing eventually takes off and now known as Mr. Thirteen in the opera circles, his genius certainly isn't disputed. However the eccentric and erratic behaviour drives his surroundings crazy. With absent love in his life, Kiang himself also is driven insane, all taking place over several years of changes in Chinese society.

It's the age old E! True Hollywood Story in structure and Clifton Ko also certainly makes no secret of the stage play roots of The Mad Phoenix. However with a mesmerizing Tse Kwan-Ho performance, it's easy to simply be swept away by acting and dialogue. A gem from 1997 that deservedly received honors at the awards subsequently. Most notably a Golden Horse Award to Tse Kwan-Ho and the Hong Kong Film Award to Raymond To for Best Screenplay. Poon Chan-Leung (Love Au Zen) and James Wong appears in supporting roles.

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Mad Stylist (1997) Directed by: Steven Yip

Dee (Wong Hei - The Accident) fails as a hair dresser but a reunion with his childhood friend May (Hilary Tsui - Lost And Found) transforms into a romance with a killer edge....towards others! Finally Dee can materialize his mad stylist dreams! A sign of weakness leads Dee to sparing and taking in a mentally retarded girl (Annie Man - Koma) into his and May's lives. All while the cops (led by Kent Cheng and Michael Wong) do their best to catch them...

Bizarre, wild, funny and macabre Cat III offering that uses the distance from the golden era of the rating's filmmaking to deliver something akin to fresh. Far from the graphic and offensive nature of movies like Daughter Of Darkness (among many others), director Stephen Yip actually gives us a character driven story made to work by the performances of Wong Hei and Hilary Tsui. Utilizing a simple starting off point of a harsh childhood as almost always seen in these films, he constructs a story between Dee and May that succeeds mostly in its outlandish ways but also manages to be affecting. Yip isn't out to rival any of the great character dramas obviously but out to make a mark in a genre where it's usually ok to not put in effort. Even his portrayal of the cops as fairly smart and intuitive is original for a Cat III slasher thriller. With only some unfortunate animal cruelty and overly repetitive cinematography choices to drag the grade down, Mad Stylist surprises, amuses, probably disgusts to a degree and affects. Kind of hard to believe and admit.

Watch out for the on-screen duet between Michael Wong and Kent Cheng, performing "Diana". Yes, it's that kind of movie where everything halts to concentrate on that!

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A Mad World Of Fools (1974) Directed by: David Chiang

Opening with an aura of mystery as Dean Shek breaks into an apartment to eventually just steal underwear to sniff, this is indeed a pre-reel showcasing a mad world of fools but it's soon apparent director David Chiang isn't opting for a narrative or a thread. No, this is proudly and by intent a series of shorts and skits with at best mildly amusing humour at select points but most other times we're puzzled and bored. The advantage is of course is that many of these 6-8 stories pass by quickly (except the last main attraction that takes up the last half hour). These range from Wu Ma as a flasher meeting a female flasher (Tina Chin Fei), Chiang dreaming he's a kung-fu master but when the same scenario occurs in real life he's a failure, a man obsessed by TV and Hui Siu-Hung bringing home a Western, free spirited wife to his parents. It's of course an exercise in to the point storytelling but aside from a few chuckles and well edited comedic beats, largely A Mad World Of Fools feels like a bunch of the Shaw Brothers talent doing something that isn't backed by belief or vision. Chiang also appears sporadically as a narrator trying to convey the moral of the story and emphasizing some of the unexpected conclusions. Concluding with the kleptomaniac story starring Chiang himself, his direction is at its worst here as the light tone attempted doesn't translate to anything and as much as he tries to charm us through wacky chases, it turns annoying quickly.

Mafia Vs Ninja (1984) Directed by: Robert Tai

TROY'S REVIEW: The ever impressive Alexander Lou stars in this hugely entertaining knockabout as Jack, a down on his luck sort who one night with the aid of a new found friend called Charlie saves the life of an affable old mob boss from an attempted assassination by his own cronies. Regretfully, this benevolent act proves only to stave off fate for a short time however as four hired professional killers are subsequently called in to kill the old chap, which they eventually succeed at doing. But wait, because now Jack and Charlie are now honour bound to take revenge...ninja style! What follows is a series of non stop, superbly choreographed fight scenes as our heroes fight for justice against an army of bad guys including a gambling addict knife thrower, a samurai who bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Oliver Hardy, a jive talking kickboxer (played by Lou's regular co-star Eugene Thomas aka. Eugene Trammel) and more ninjas than you can shake a stick at. Yay verily, this is awesome stuff from start to glorious finish and is made all the more fun as true to form, Lou acts against the preposterous material with deadly straight faced seriousness.

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Magic Amethyst (1990) Directed by: Lee Tso-Nam

An overacting couple (On Tak-Juen and Chang Siu-Yin) are asked to bring a statue back to India for a substantial award. Also on the hunt for it and subsequently the couple is Alexander Lo Rei's Leo and off to India we go for a mixture that most Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema fans are used to but the tone shifts are quite extreme despite. Lee Tso-Nam (A Life Of Ninja) initially makes this a loud, grating, breezy adventure featuring said duo but a third or so in you realize he's after making a big, VIOLENT adventure movie as well. Killing off a main character unexpectedly and then transforming Magic Amethyst into gunplay movie (with only sporadic comedic detours), it's the latter half noise and energy that makes it a tolerable, disposable time. Key is not the care for our characters but the quite bloodthirsty side of the movie that features tons of gory machine gun killings and some sparse use of martial arts (not enough featuring Lin Shao-Luo unfortunately). It's low budget action direction, a bit loose and ropey but Lee squeezes into marginal recommendation territory just because of the switch from unbearable light and wacky to a notable, bloody action-adventure tint. Also with Sibelle Hu.

The Magic Blade (1976, Chor Yuen)

A good entry-point for anyone curious about how the fantasy swordplay stories of Ku Long could play out in the hands of director Chor Yuen at Shaw Brothers. The Magic Blade is good on many levels but mainly because it's isn't as dizzyingly convoluted as most productions combining those two men's name. Ti Lung is Fu Hung-Hsueh who along with his spinning blade and Lo Lieh's Yen Nan-Fei try to avoid assassination attempts upon assassination attempts in a world where the most coveted item for martial world-domination is the Peacock Dart. High on imaginative settings, characters such as Devil Grandma, aspects such as cannibalism, fight scenes set up as a giant chess-match, sexuality and the usual twists and double crosses, Chor Yuen boils it down to very simple story beats thankfully. That this then gives way to such varied creativity is reassuring and Ti Lung's rugged character and weapon comes through in an iconic way. Even the fight scenes strike a nice balance between grounded excitement as well as clever depictions of the fantastic powers the characters of this world possess. It's bursting with ideas on the best possible stages to realize this on. Also with Ching Li, Tanny Tien and Lily Li. Ti Lung would reprise his character for Pursuit Of Vengeance and Death Duel (both in 1977).

Magic Cop (1990) Directed by: Stephen Tung

Finally making it's dvd debut in 2003, this ghost/horror/comedy starring Lam Ching Ying as the Taoist priest/cop battling a Japanese witch is a personal favourite of mine. It was my first exposure to Lam and shortly afterwards I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing. No one made the on screen practicing of Taoist magic as entertaining as Lam and his comedy chops, the reacting, is something I think he's not given enough credit for. Under the direction of Stephen Tung, Lam stages a handful of creative magic scenes with a dash of martial arts in between.(the small fight with Billy Chow blends in well with the supernatural madness). A surprisingly compelling subplot involving Miu Kiu Wai following Lam's character with great interest is a definite highlight but on the other hand, this genre doesn't have to do much to entertain me. Be sure that this wouldn't be as magic without Lam Ching Ying though. Also starring Wu Ma, Michiko Nishiwaki and Wilson Lam.

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The Magic Crane (1993) Directed by: Benny Chan

Lively and creative Wuxia spectacle from Tsui Hark's Film Workshop. The Magic Crane itself made an appearance in Tsui's Green Snake the same year and yes, effects-wise it wasn't much of a stunner there either. Neither were the snakes in that picture which didn't stop it from becoming an enchanting experience.

While no great shakes in the visuals department, The Magic Crane goes about its business in efficient ways. Meaning great, big doses of broad comedy, gore and high flying acrobatics all in one. While obviously undercranked to the max, the choreography is great fun and offers plenty of entertaining flying bouts. With solid and endearing performances by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Anita Mui and Rosamund Kwan, The Magic Crane turns out to be a worthy entry in the new wave craze of martial arts cinema in the 90s. Also with Damian Lau, Norman Tsui, Lawrence Ng and Kelvin Wong.

The Magic Crane is available on dvd by Ground Zero Entertainment as part of their "Brooklyn Zu: Double Features" series, alongside Rivals of the Dragon. Considering the track record that Ground Zero has, it comes as a surprise that Benny Chan's film is presented in widescreen, in Cantonese and subtitled into English. The source is most likely the old Laserdisc. The Hong Kong vcd is out of print while a Mandarin language only dvd has been released in Taiwan by Thundermedia.

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HK Flix.com

Magic Crystal (1986) Directed by: Wong Jing

After getting with him the titular magic crystal (or jade) in his luggage when arriving home from Greece, little Pin Pin (Siu Ban-Ban) finds himself a friend in the jade that has the ability to affect human brain waves. But the Russians (led by Richard Norton) wants it for their own dominating purposes so Andy Lau's mercenary for hire protects while Interpol (represented by Max Mok and Cynthia Rothrock) also help batter whatever henchmen come their way. Then there's Wong Jing and Nat Chan doing absolutely nothing to help the cause or the movie...

Typically schizophrenic Hong Kong cinema with a little bit of everything from everywhere (Raiders Of The Lost Ark, E.T, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and so on and so on) crammed into the partially Greece-set film. Wong Jing does nothing but putting his stamp on the film via frequent usage of silliness of the less intelligent kind. Making him and Nat Chan (who literally has no purpose in the structure of the actual narrative) some slightly mild versions of horny perverts (but still horny perverts), you'll have to endure the commercial sensibility of the low-brow kind (at least two gags of said annoying performers slip through into funny territory) in between the terrific Tony Leung Siu-Hung action. Getting the players looking their best and trying their best (Andy Lau in particular) in his fast and bone crunching fights, it's a bearable element erasing thoughts of the unbearable ones but yet Magic Crystal overall charms as a product of its time. Especially cute IS the story of Pin Pin and his newly found jade-friend and the adventure/sci-fi aspect of the last reels provides a cheesy atmosphere of a more correctly tuned kind. Sharla Cheung appears as window dressing as well as Sek Kin, Phillip Ko and Shum Wai.

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HK Flix.com

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