Shaolin Intruders (1983)

Shaolin Intruders [三闯少林] (1983)
AKA Battle for Shaolin

Starring Yee Tung-Sing (Derek Yee), Jason Pai Piao, Liu Yu-Po, Phillip Ko, Chan Shen, Ku Feng, Lee Hoi Sang

Directed by Tang Chia

Expectations: High. Love Shaw Bros. films and this came highly recommended.


I watched this movie because my friend and colleague, Uncle Jasper, recommended this as a Shaw Brothers movie that featured some of the best fight choreography he had ever seen. As a huge fan of such things, I had to see for myself what he spoke of. Uncle Jasper was not pulling a fast one. This is hands-down, one of the best Shaw Brothers movies I’ve ever seen.

Directed by Tang Chia, longtime fight choreographer at Shaw Bros., the film exudes kung-fu energy. The opening titles run over a group of Shaolin monks going through their training exercises. There is a fight scene towards the end of the opening credits where all the monks use wooden benches as their weapons. It was so well choreographed and exciting to watch, a fantastic fight sequence, and we’re still in the opening credits! Director Tang Chia was fight choreographer on countless other Shaw pictures. His credits list goes on for days, culminating in his three directorial efforts: Shaolin Prince, Shaolin Intruders, and Opium and the Kung-Fu Master. If the other two are anything close to the awesomeness that is Shaolin Intruders, then they are also among the best the Shaw Studio has to offer.

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Broken Embraces (2009)

Broken Embraces [Los abrazos rotos] (2009)

Starring Penélope Cruz, Blanca Portillo, Lluís Homar, Lola Dueñas, Ángela Molina, Rossy de Palma

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Expectations: Very high.


Pedro Almodovar is quickly becoming one of my favorite writer/directors. This is the third film I’ve seen from him and he continues to amaze me. There is a power in his words and images that is hard to find in modern cinema. The story of Broken Embraces deals primarily with a retired film director (Lluís Homar) who has gone blind. The film also flashes back 14 years to the character of Lena (Penelope Cruz), a secretary for a wealthy businessman who aspires to be an actress. The film unfolds at a slow but interesting pace, gradually intertwining the two stories with skill.

The acting all around is excellent with Penelope Cruz and Lluís Homar leading the charge. The characters they play feel like real people, full of emotions and desire. The film jumps around in time a lot, but thanks to the wonderful performances this is never a problem. The acting reflects the subtle passage of time and you can quickly grasp where the character is at the current moment in relation to what you know of the character prior. This kind of free time structure can so easily work against a film, but Almodovar plays it with skill and it helps him tell a more interesting story.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Bruce Lee’s Deadly Kung Fu (1976)

[Author’s note: This review is intended to kick off a two-week series showcasing the highs and lows of Bruceploitation, the wild and often tasteless deluge of films that came out after the unexpected death of Bruce Lee. These films featured Bruce lookalikes in films that ranged from half-assed remakes & inaccurate bio-pics to the just plain bizarre. When a screen legend dies at the top of his game the natural tendency is to rush in and fill that void. Enter the Dragon was about to hit theaters worldwide, Bruce Lee Mania was still in full swing, and nobody was willing to accept that the Little Dragon would no longer be around to make films. The Hong Kong movie industry, who was no stranger to milking proven box office success until it was withered and dry, hired dozens of Bruce lee imitators to star in films with amusingly deceptive sounding titles like New Game of Death and Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger.

The resulting films are often quickly dismissed by kung-fu film aficionados as cheap, crass, and shameless… and well, they are. But let’s accept that and give these films a second shot. It’s time to taste our blood, thumb our noses and take a closer look at the wacky world of Bruce Lee exploitation cinema.]


Bruce Lee’s Deadly Kung Fu [詠春截拳](1976)
AKA The Story of the Dragon; Bruce Lee’s Secret; Bruce Li’s Jeet Kune Do; A Dragon Story; He’s a Legend, He’s a Hero; Master of Jeet Kun Do; Bruce Lee: A Dragon Story

Starring Bruce Li, Jimmy Lee Fong, Carter Wong, Hwang Jang Lee, Roy Horan, Paul Wei Ping-Ao

Directed By Chan Wa & William Cheung Kei


When it comes to Bruce Lee imitators, Bruce Li set the standard. He was among the very first out the gate after the Death of Bruce Lee, and with good reason. He pretty much nailed all of Lee’s mannerisms and put them on display just enough as not to overdo it. While most Lee imitator’s mimicry bordered on tactless parody, Bruce Li was actually very believable, masterful even, in his portrayals of Lee.

Li, whose real name was Ho Chung-Tao, was busy working as a stuntman in his native Taiwan, trying to break into the film industry with no success. It was only after the death of Bruce Lee, that producers in Hong Kong took notice of his resemblance and virtually launched him to superstardom overnight. Ironically, Li’s claim to fame would haunt him for most of his career. In later interviews he expressed some pretty heavy resentment towards a film industry that pigeonholed him into living in the shadow of Lee, never really allowing him to distance himself from the role. (Which is a very valid argument, Bruce Li was a pretty accomplished martial artist in his own right.) He ended up retiring from acting altogether after the death of his wife in the early ’80s.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: Bruce Lee’s Deadly Kung Fu (1976) →

Coco Before Chanel (2009)

Coco Before Chanel [Coco avant Chanel] (2009)

Starring Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain

Directed by Anne Fontaine

Expectations: Moderate.


Going into this movie I expected a tale of how Coco Chanel became a fashion giant, how she built her empire. Instead, I was treated to a simple love story, that funnily enough, was pretty devoid of love. This is definitely not my general type of movie. I have nothing against a good romantic movie, it’s just not a genre I’d specifically pick over something I’m more interested in. I find so many romantic movies to be formulaic and boring, so I generally overlook them. Coco Before Chanel is without a doubt a slow, plodding film, but it has a purpose and it builds towards it well.

The film opens with Coco as a small child, her father dropping her off at the orphanage. This abandonment instills within her a reluctance to trust men and influences her later decisions. The film jumps forward to when Coco is about 20 or so and singing at a saloon. She is noticed by the Baron Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde) and the two develop a relationship. This gives her a foot into the upper class of French society and through Coco’s determination she remains true to herself and her personal style.

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Born to Fight (2004)

Born to Fight [เกิดมาลุย Kerd Ma Lui] (2004)

Starring Dan Chupong, Nappon Gomarachun, Santisuk Promsiri, Piyapong Piew-on, Somluck Kamsing, Kessarin Ektawatkul

Directed by Panna Rittikrai

Expectations: High. I saw the trailer and expected this to be fantastic.


Wow! If you like high-octane action to the X-TREME! then I’ve got a movie for you. Born to Fight is directed by Panna Rittikrai who was Tony Jaa’s mentor and is responsible for the martial arts and action choreography for Ong Bak and The Protector, among others. He leads the Muay Thai Stunt team and if you haven’t seen them in action, you are seriously missing out on the most exciting, ridiculous and horribly painful stunts ever to grace the screen. The level of “Oh shit!” is off the chart, and I am instantly brought back to the feeling of when I started watching Hong Kong movies.

Dan Chupong, member of Muay Thai Stunt, gets his first starring role and does very well. The film opens with Chupong and his buddy/mentor cop raiding the dastardly General Yang’s hideout. It quickly escalates into an extended action sequence involving guns, martial arts and some amazing stunt falls from moving semi-trucks. On one of the falls in particular, if the stuntman had landed maybe one or two inches differently his head would have been fatally crushed like a grape. It’s crazy stunts like this that let you know how committed the Muay Thai Stunt team is and just how far they’ll go to film a quality looking stunt.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: My Young Auntie (1981)

600full-my-young-auntie-posterMy Young Auntie [長輩] (1981)
AKA Fangs of the Tigress, The Senior, Lady Kung Fu

Starring Lau Kar-Leung, Kara Hui, Wang Lung-Wei, Hsiao Ho, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui

Directed By Lau Kar-Leung


Criticizing a film like My Young Auntie is, I’m afraid, beyond my ability. The film is so unabashedly all over the place that any attempt to lasso it all together and rationalize it is something akin to stacking grains of sand on top of each other in an attempt to reach the moon. It is one of those train wrecks so beyond the scope of rational thought, that the only way to experience it is by surrendering yourself to the notion that for the next two hours this film will have its way with you and you will take it like the fresh young piece of meat you are. With all that said, if you have ever thought that square dancing by grown men in pink wigs and guys dressed up like Robin Hood was criminally underrepresented in Shaw Bros. kung fu films, then this may be the movie for you.

Kara Hui plays Cheng Tai-Nun, a young girl of about twenty who marries a wealthy old man in an attempt to keep his estate from falling into the greedy hands of his third brother. She is instructed to hand the deed over to the man’s younger nephew, who is coincidentally about 30 years her senior. She also has to deal with his completely batshit son, Charlie, who has been studying in Hong Kong and is now westernized beyond any hope of redemption. Charlie and his buddies speak an unholy union of profane Chinese and sloppy English, that is actually extremely amusing. (This may be the only time you will hear the English word “fuck” uttered in a subtitled Shaw Bros. film.) Anyway Charlie harasses the shit out of his new, young great-auntie (?) and belittles her with his newfound knowledge of things like basketball, Shakespeare, folk music, boxing, and Christianity. (I’m not making this up.)

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: My Young Auntie (1981) →

Uncle Jasper reviews: Heroes Two (1974)

Heroes Two [方 世玉與洪熙官] (1974)
AKA Kung Fu Invaders, Blood Brothers, Bloody Fists, Temple of the Dragon

Starring Alexander Fu Sheng, Chen Kuan-Tai, Fong Sam, Bruce Tong Yim-Chaan, Wong Ching, Wu Chi-Chin, Zhu Mu

Directed By Chang Cheh


Before I get started I’d like to mention that this film is prefaced with a short feature from the Shaw Studios titled Three Styles of the Hung School’s Kung Fu. It features the stars of Heroes Two performing actual solo demonstrations of the Hung style kung fu, which is featured throughout the film. Spoken narration details the characteristics of the style and how it came into being. It makes for a classy introduction, and really piqued my interest as I had no clue the Shaw Studios made shorts as well as features. With the amazing restorations from the folks at Celestial Pictures, I hope these become a more common bonus on these DVDs.

Heroes Two falls into the classic “Manchu vs. Chinese rebels” template that the Shaw Studios loved to crank out in their heyday.  Second only to the “rival kung fu school poisons the master who is then unable to do kung fu for three months, so the top student must take revenge” film. What makes this movie stand out is that it tells the quasi-fictional tale of not one, but two Chinese folk heroes. I instantly think back to those Marvel team-up comics from the late ’70s. When you saw both Spider-Man AND The Thing laying the beat-down, you knew that shit was gonna be gold. Heroes Two carries forth that basic concept and features the killer combo of Hung Si-Kwan (Chen Kwan-Tai) and Fong Sai-Yuk (played here by the legendary Alexander Fu Sheng).

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: Heroes Two (1974) →

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