Friday, January 5, 2018

Shaolin Rescuers (1979) Review

Directed by: Chang Cheh
Choreographers: Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, Robert Tai Chi-Hsien
Starring: Jason Pai Piao and the Venoms

I chose this movie for 3 reasons:  The fight sequences are awesome, I like the storyline  and Lu Feng won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor at the 25th Asian Film Festival in 1979.  

Synopsis: Three friends who practice different styles of martial arts long to be famed heroes instead of working in their dead end jobs. One day the famous Hong Xiquan, badly injured and being pursued by Priest White Brow’s ruthless student Gao Jinzhong and his minions, passes out at the bean curd shop. The three friends nurse the hero back to health and aid him and Han Qi in ridding the world of part of the Wu Tang Clan.

My 3 Favorite Fights
Gao Jinzhong(Lu Feng) vs. Wang(Wong Li):  Gao bare handily takes on Wang’s double swords after his minions cannot handle the Shaolin student. The choreography of this scene is very well executed by both men. Gao basically manhandles Wang not allowing him to land any strikes with his swords.  Eventually, the stronger Gao reveals 2 hidden small trident/pitchfork type weapons from his boots and disarms the lesser man, and stabbing him with his own weapon.  Gao uses the small pitchforks to slice and dice Wang’s chest open before allowing the minions to inflict more pain.  When Gao tires of the shenanigans, he tosses the pitchforks into the air at a precise angle so that they land in Wang’s wounded abdomen, killing the man.

The Friends “Fight” in the Restaurant: I like the fight scenes that occur in the restaurant as Chen Jin, Yang Dabao, and Zhu Cai(Lo Meng, Kuo Chui and Sun Chien respectively) each get to showcase their styles of fighting.  Lo Meng’s Mantis style is strong and powerful with rock-solid punches.  Kuo Chui’s Black Tiger is fun to watch as he is able to take anything and use it as a weapon.  I enjoyed Kuo Choi vs. Lo Meng as Kuo used his bowl and chopsticks to fend off Lo Meng’s Mantis. Sun Chien’s effortless movements on the poles and strong accurate kicks are always a treat to watch. The chemistry and playfulness of the three also make their scenes together fun to watch.

The Final Fight: The final fight is well-choreographed mayhem with a bit of comedy thrown in that is pure joy to watch as Jason Pai Piao and Chiang Sheng are also part of the foray.  It’s almost a weaponry feast with the different weapons being employed. Lo Meng uses a giant pitchfork against one of the minions. Chiang Sheng uses a pole, a spear and two hooked swords against Lu Feng and a Guan Dao(personally this is my favorite weapon to see Lu Feng use).  The way Lu Feng twirls the Guan Dao around is mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. Even Kuo Chui picks up a pair of swords to help Chiang Sheng battle Lu Feng. Ultimately it takes 4 members of Shaolin and all their weapons to bring down White Brow’s best student.

Although the fight sequences lack the typical acrobatics we see in later films, these are solid, well-grounded fight sequences. The movements are smooth, precise and well executed by all the actors.

The Storyline: This is not your typical revenge or overthrow the Qings story.  This story is more about the friendship of three men who want to be more than what they what they are: poor citizens working every day in boring jobs.  When the opportunity arises to do what is right, these men of character step forth and are willing to give up their lives for someone more important to the cause. This movie has heart, a sense of purpose and is entertaining with the right blend of comedy, seriousness and martial arts.

Award Winner: Lu Feng plays Gao Jinzhong with not only the icy calmness need for a ruthless man such as this but also with a bit of charisma only he can.  One minute he is ferocious as he’s killing an enemy and the next moment, he is oozing charm as he tries to gather information on the whereabouts of Hong Xiquan.  Coupled with his smooth acting is his awe-inspiring weaponry skills.  Master Lu Feng should receive an award for the way he handles the weapons his characters use.  He is graceful in his motions and he makes it look so easy. This is why he’s my favorite.      

Shaolin Rescuers is available on Amazon Prime and iTunes.
All rights to pictures belong to Celestial Pictures.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Cat vs. Rat (1982) Review

Director:  Lau Kar-Leung
Starring:  Fu Sheng, Adam Cheng, Kara Hui, Gordon Liu and Wang, Lung-Wei
Action Directors: Lau Kar-Leung, King Lee King-Chu, and Hsiao Ho

Plot: Cat and Rat, two students of the same Sifu, are always fighting to determine who is the best Each student battles the Sifu and learns new techniques, hoping to best the other.  One day the incognito Emperor is saved by Rat. The Emperor wants to make Rat an official but the Rat doesn’t believe the man is the real deal.  The Cat saves the Emperor on another occasion and receives the position, much to the chagrin of the Rat.  The Rat tries to get revenge with the assistance of his sworn Rat Brothers.

The movie was good for the most part.  I would watch it again.  I enjoyed Adam Cheng’s performance in the movie as Jien Chiu, the Royal Cat. I think he played the part of the serious, straight man well to Alexander Fu Sheng’s silly arrogant and annoying Bai Yu Tong, the Brocaded Rat. I also enjoyed Lydia Shum Tin-Ha as Bai Yu Tong’s pushy and over the top mother.  You can see why Bai Yu Tong turned out the way they did.

Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, and Johnny Wang Lung-Wei were also good in their roles but were unable to showcase their fine fighting skills.  I would have liked the movie more if these fine actors were given more fight sequences.  The fighting was choreographed well in this film, so it is a shame Gordon, Kara and Johnny’s superb fight skills were underutilized.

My favorite fight sequences were between the Sifu and his two students.  So many different weapons were used as he tried to teach each student that they were equal. Even though these were my favorite sequences, I do think the movie spent too much time, in the beginning, focusing on the rivalry between the two students.  If there had been less of the students fighting maybe there could have been more of Kara and Gordon showing off their skills.  

Another waste was Lung Tien-Hsiang as Shui Shueng Pui who announced himself as the River Rat in one scene.  Then he wasn’t the River Rat at the end. Hsiao Ho plays River Rat at the end but I thought he was just a servant throughout the movie.  That was a bit confusing to me.  Maybe the subtitles got it wrong but Lung Tien Hsiang should have been the River Rat at the end.

Overall, Cat vs. Rat is an ok movie and should be viewed once by all Alexander Fu Sheng fans.  The storyline is good as are the fighting sequences.  The actors are excellent in their roles and I also enjoyed the comedy.  The Bai Yu Tong character, however, was very annoying in this story and I wanted to slap him a few times.  

Final rating:  3 out of 5 Rats

Cat Vs. Rat is available on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Google Play Store.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Iron Flag Princess meets Iron Tiger Cao Feng in NYC November 11-12, 2017

I have been watching and loving Shaw Brothers martial arts films since I was a young girl in the early 1980s.  These amazing and awe-inspiring films fed my curiosity of the Chinese culture and her people that I continue to foster to this day so much so that I am researching and saving for a trip to Asia.  So when the announcement was made that a famous Hong Kong actor was coming to NYC, a mere 2.5 hours away from my house, I began saving and planning for this journey.
On Saturday, November 11th, My cousin Linda and I had the honor and pleasure of meeting and spending time with Lu Feng, my favorite Hong Kong actor from the late 1970s and 1980s in the town that never sleeps. It was an exciting and mesmerizing one in a lifetime experience. As I write this post, I am still filled with joy, love, honor, respect for this man who has given so much happiness to millions of fans for over 40 years.

When I arrived at the AMC Empire 25 theater for the Urban Action Showcase and Expo, I never in my wildest dreams would have expected what lies ahead of me on this cold, crisp morning in NYC. The excitement was building as the escalator slowly carried me toward my dream of meeting the Centipede, the deadliest of Venoms.  Arriving at the table, I see my Fu Sister, Ariel Jade, who was instrumental in making this girl’s dreams come true. I jumped in immediately to help her have a successful day.
After I finished the tasks I was assigned upstairs, I headed downstairs with my other Fu Sister, Renee Taylor, to continue handing out prepaid packages to registered guests.  As we are rushing to the elevators we notice the one and only Lu Feng taking pictures with his numerous and grateful fans. I was trembling with excitement on the inside as I handed my phone to James Santi to capture the momentous occasion.  I nervously asked Master Cao Feng to take a picture with me and to my surprise, he recognized me from Facebook and embraced me in a tight hug that melted away all the anxiety I had for the day.  My heart exploded even more with love for this wonderfully gracious and humble man. The smile on our faces is of that pure joy. Who would have thought that I would have had this personal of an encounter with greatness?

Besides being humble, gracious and kind, Lu Feng is generous and loving beyond compare.  After completing my tasks downstairs I returned to Lu Feng’s booth where he was signing autographs and taking pictures with his adoring fans.  When the crowd thinned and Lu Feng was catching his breath, I took the opportunity to present him with a gift I brought to thank him for the many years of joy and inspiration he has provided me.  I am thankful that the Master liked my gift and was honored to receive my small token of love.To my surprise, he presented me with a gift of his appreciation.  He told me he would autograph it later if I wanted.  I was shocked that he would give me anything.  I was amazed to see a beautiful fan when I opened the gift later.  I love seeing Lu Feng in a movie with a cape, Guan Dao or Spear and a fan!

I was able to see some of my favorite movies on the big screen. Invincible Shaolin, Flag of Iron, Masked Avengers, and Rebel Intruders were amazing larger than life.  I enjoyed seeing the movies with other fans and hearing their reactions to critical moments.  The audible gasps when Bao Shanxiong chest was to be expected. Even though I knew it was coming, it was still painful to watch and brought tears to my eyes. The final fight in Flag of Iron was absolutely GORGEOUS on the big screen.  I was mesmerized by Lu Feng and Kuo Chui as the gracefully wielded the large instruments of death!  The movies are fantastic on the small screen but if you ever get the chance to see them on the big screen, you have to do it!
On Sunday, November 12th, a few of us at dinner with the living legend at Old Sichuan Restaurant in Chinatown, NYC.  My girlfriends, Linda, Bambi, Renee and I met him at his hotel to escort him to the dinner.  Lu Feng was so sweet, gracious, humble and charming.  He took more pictures, talked with us and autographed more items.  He gave a short speech in English thanking everyone for coming to the event and dinner. I was very surprised that he thanked me by name!  He said my name correctly which most people can’t do and he spelled it correctly on the fan.  

A week after this wonderful weekend I am still smiling and pinching myself!  I am so impressed with Lu Feng.  This living legend is a real gentleman, a down to earth star to which no one else can compare in my eyes.  I am grateful to everyone who put this event together and happy I was able to make memories with so many wonderful people.

Shaolin Rescuers (1979) Review

Directed by: Chang Cheh Choreographers: Chiang Sheng , Lu Feng , Robert Tai Chi-Hsien Starring: Jason Pai Piao and the Venoms ...