One-Armed Swordsman (1967, Directed by Chang Cheh) Mandarin 8

Starring Jimmy Wang, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Tien Feng, Angela Pan, Yeung Chi-hing, Tang Ti, Wong Sai-git

The One Armed Swordsman (first film of 2013) | voidagger

(8-Exceptional Film)

Rousing. Vibrant. Glorious.

Shih Yi-fei: Pei, don’t worry. So what if you cut off his arm? He’s not coming back anyway. We’ll just never bring it up in front of Sifu.

The opening chapters, Fang Kang’s (Wang) origin story, if you will, are to me, a product of the western world, comparable to the story of Joseph’s misfortunes in the Book of Genesis; jealousy, betrayal, conspiracy. Here, Fang Kang is lured into a trap by his peers at a martial arts school, tired of being shown up by his skill and strength of character. He loses an arm but is saved by a kind, beautiful farm girl, Xiao Man (Chiao Chiao), who eventually gets him back on his feet and watches him regain his fighting prowess, this time with the handicap. Later the honorable Fang Kang is called upon to save his old school from a rival gang of thugs. Deeply compelling, this film is classic action entertainment. Vibrantly filmed and creatively choreographed, the One-Armed Swordsman is rightly iconic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(989)

Shaolin Soccer (2001, Directed by Stephen Chow) Cantonese 6

Starring Stephen Chow, Ng Man-tat, Wong Yat-fei, Tin Kai-man, Zhao Wei, Lam Chi-chung, Patrick Tse

Shaolin Soccer - Wikipedia

(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Original. Absurd.

Sing: That’s a great idea – kung fu soccer! Why didn’t I think of that?

I wonder how the prolific Stephen Chow’s films are viewed over in mainland China or his native Hong Kong. He’s obviously insanely popular (The Mermaid, one of his more recent works, made over $500 million) and though the idea of a “spoof” isn’t a new concept, his movies tend to baffle me. In Shaolin Soccer, Chow spoofs sports films (the rival team is known as “Team Evil”) and probably more Kung Fu films than I even recognized (although I could at least appreciate the Bruce Lee reference). Chow plays Sing, a peon with extraordinary Kung Fu skills, discovered by Fung (Man-tat), a former soccer great looking to coach his way back to the big-time. The two assemble a team of Shaolin monks and find that the monks’ Kung Fu skills translate remarkably well on the soccer field. Like many Chinese or Hong Kong classics I’ve seen, Shaolin Soccer is a bizarre treat. I laughed often and was bemused often. Chow, for example, uses CGI frequently and crudely, but it seems to be integral to the humor. His humor in general is one of excess and absurdity. I simply wonder if his films are as bizarre to his native audience or if films like Shaolin Soccer qualify as a culture shock.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(958)

Dragonball: Evolution (2009, Directed by James Wong) English 3

Starring Justin Chatwin, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Chow Yun-fat, James Marsters, Joon Park, Randall Duk Kim, Ernie Hudson, Megumi Seki

15 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Dragonball Evolution – IFC

(3-Horrible Film)

Inept. Lame. Childish.

Goku: Teach me, how to talk to a girl. I mean, I’m different, and everyone at school can see that, teach me how to get a girl, how to be smooth… how to be normal!

Evil Lord Piccolo returns to Earth after millenniums emprisoned. He seeks the seven magic Dragonballs that grant the owner one wish. The young, powerful hero, Goku (Chatwin), teams up with Bulma (Rossum), Chi-Chi (Chung), Yamcha (Park), and Master Roshi (Yun-fat) to unite the Dragonballs before Lord Piccolo can get to them and unleash his minion, Ōzaru. This is not a good film. The immediate comparison is The Last Airbender because the two movies vie for worst adaptation of something great in film history. Like The Last Airbender, Dragonball: Evolution feels like it was made by people who didn’t even like the source material. They hack it to bits. Here, at least, the characters’ names are the same (this much is not true of The Last Airbender). It’s not a painful watch, unlike a number of terrible films, but it’s consistently poor, juvenile, and unexciting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(948)

The Tai Chi Master (1993, Directed by Yuen Woo-ping) Cantonese 6

Starring Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Chin Siu-ho, Fennie Yuen, Yuen Cheung-yan, Lau Shun, Yu Hai

Tai Chi Master 1993 – Enter the Dragon

(6-Good Film)

Action-packed. Uneven. Frenetic.

Junbao: The past is what makes up who we are. Don’t let it become your burden.

Junbao (Li) and Tienbo (Siu-ho) grow up together as brothers in a Shaolin Temple studying as monks in the ways of martial arts. After the generally misbehaving pair are expelled, they move out into the world and see first-hand their new town’s rampant corruption. Junbao joins a group of rebels in response, while Tienbo lusts for power and joins the soldiers. Shocked by Tienbo’s betrayal, Junbao loses his mind and it’s up to his new friends, Siu-lin (Yeoh), for one, to help him find himself in time to master Tai Chi and save the people. This is a fast, fun action flick with a heavy dose of legend and history mixed in. There’s always a bit of a bizarre acclimation process that goes on when I watch these Hong Kong action epics-the flying, the defying of physics, what-have-you. I know we, of course, have fantasy in western culture but I’m never quite prepared for it. I think maybe because films like this one look so grounded in history and reality. The action scenes are well-done, showing off the impossible speed of its performers, particularly its star Jet Li, naturally. The story, however, falls short of the epicness it strives for and underuses its supporting cast.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(945)

Iron Monkey (1993, Directed by Yuen Woo-Ping) Cantonese 6

Starring Donnie Yen, Ringo Yu, Jean Wang, Angie Tsang, James Wong, Yuen Shun-yi, Lee Hai

Iron Monkey

(6-Good Film)

Action-packed. Fun. Outlandish.

Wong Kei-Ying: A man should shed blood, not tears.

One of the dozen or so pictures I’ve seen depicting Wong Fei-Hong, this is the only one that shows the legendary Chinese hero as a young boy. It’s the 19th century and he wanders into some small town with his tough, widowed father, Wong Kei-Ying (Yen), to find that the local officials are corrupt and a masked vigilante known as the Iron Monkey is terrorizing them, doing his best impression of Robin Hood. Father and son get involved in the action once Kei-Ying agrees to catch the mysterious hero. Fast-paced and full of action, Iron Monkey is a lot of fun. It’s also a bit bizarre to me as a westerner, though I’ve seen a number of martial arts films. Iron Monkey feels particularly foreign in its style, sense of humor, and artistic flourishes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(939)

The Karate Kid Part II (1986, Directed by John G. Avildsen) English 5

Starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Rob Garrison, Nobu McCarthy, Tamlyn Tomita, Yuji Okumoto, Joey Miyashima

Image result for the karate kid part ll

(5-Okay Film)

Retread. Unnecessary. Inferior.

When you see a film you love, you may have the feeling that you want to find something else just like it. Studios cash in on this feeling, leading to a lot of unnecessary sequels (or even worse rip-offs), but usually, what we actually want is to be surprised and blown away again. I love The Karate Kid. Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Morita) are iconic characters but they only needed one film. They went on for three together, and, for Mr. Miyagi, four films total. Each subsequent film got worse and worse (more over-the-top and unnecessary with each sequel). Part II sees the pair traveling to Mr. Miyagi’s home in Okinawa, where a decades-old feud with a former friend, Sato, resurfaces. Part II is, to me, very watchable. I like it actually. The returning heroes and their corny romances are very enjoyable to me, but can I call it a good film? I don’t think so. It meanders in the back end and the conclusion is far less satisfying than its predecessor. Mainly, because the villain, Chozen, is psychotic and unbelievable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(881)

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016, Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni) English 5

Voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J.K Simmons, Bryan Cranston, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Kate Hudson, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim, Jean-Claude Van Damme

Image result for kung fu panda 3

(5-Okay Film)

Amiable. Attractive. Worn.

The third installment in the saga following the legendary dragon warrior, Po (voiced by Black) features more backstory as we meet his father (Cranston) and an entire Panda community. Meanwhile, an undead warrior, Kai (Simmons) returns to wreak havoc and establish himself  as the ultimate kung fu master. Like its predecessors, it goes down easily enough, and some of the diverse animation is spectacular, but the substance isn’t there. There’s nothing very compelling pushing the story forward and the humor isn’t there. It relies too heavily on the cuteness factor of the new panda characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(782)

Dragon Inn (1967, Directed by King Hu) Mandarin 8

Starring Chun Shih, Lingfeng Shangguan, Ying Bai, Chien Tsao, Feng Hsu, Han Hsieh

Image result for dragon inn 1967

(8-Exceptional Film)

Thrilling. Efficient. Cool.

Strangers collide in ancient china, with the mysterious and powerful Hsiao summoned to Dragon Inn to meet with its owner, Wu Ning, for unknown reasons. Once there, Hsiao finds a barrage of rogue warriors under the leadership of power-hungry Tsao waiting, hoping to capture the remaining children of General Yu, Tsao’s political opponent. The names and different characters may seem confusing for a while when watching Dragon Inn, but once everything falls in place and the lines are drawn between good guys and bad guys, this film is exciting and compelling stuff; endlessly creative with nonstop action and beautifully shot.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(710)

Ip Man 3 (2015, Directed by Wilson Yip) Cantonese 6

Starring Donnie Yen, Zhang Yin, Lynn Hung, Patrick Tam, Mike Tyson, Karena Ng, Kent Cheng

(6-Good Film)

Solid. Entertaining. Overworked.

Ip Man (Yen) returns, the famed disciple and teacher of Wing Chun, a branch of martial arts. In this sequel, Man battles personal tragedy, his wife is diagnosed with cancer, along with social strife as local triads beleaguer his town. Man’s friendship and later rivalry with Cheung Fung, a man who claims superior and true Wing Chun skills, gradually moves from the background to the forefront of the story just in time for the climax. The inclusion of Mike Tyson signifies the film’s all around appeal to commercialism. It loses some of its previous installments grit and realism on that account, but it remains a well acted, well-choreographed action film with a number of impressive fight scenes and a protagonist we love.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(589)

The Karate Kid part III (1989, Directed by John G. Avildsen) English 4

Starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Robyn Lively, Thomas Ian Griffith, Sean Kanan

Image result for the karate kid 3

(4-Bad Film)

Over the top. Rehash. Drudgery.

Daniel and Mr. Miyagi return to California and open a store selling bonsai trees. Their enterprise is interrupted by Terry Silver (Ian Griffith), a member of the Cobra Kai who was humiliated by the protagonists a year earlier at the Karate tournament. Silver vows revenge and enlists a superstar hotshot to compete against Daniel to reclaim the title. Utterly unnecessary first and foremost. Completely devoid of fun or humor. Daniel is too manic in this entry. The villains are way over the top; in their actions and in their acting. And the love interest, if she can be called that, is more like a friend zone relationship. Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi is wonderful as always.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(509)