Skiptrace (2016)

Skiptrace [絕地逃亡] (2016)

Starring Jackie Chan, Johnny Knoxville, Fan Bing-Bing, Eric Tsang, Eve Torres, Winston Chao Wen-Hsuan, Yeon Jung-Hoon, Kira Shi Shi, Michael Wong Man-Tak, Dylan Kuo Pin-Chao, Zhang Lan-Xin, Na Wei, Charlie Rawes, Mikhail Gorevoy, Sara Forsberg, Jai Day, Richard Ng

Directed by Renny Harlin

Expectations: Pretty low.


Skiptrace was released a couple of years ago, and if I was a competent film reviewer doing a Jackie Chan series I might have reviewed it back then. I chose not to for a simple reason: Skiptrace didn’t look great, in fact it looked like a film that I didn’t mind waiting to see whenever I reviewed my way up to it. That time has finally come, and I can’t say that I was wrong to wait. Skiptrace is as bad as I thought it would be, but somehow knowing exactly why it’s bad just makes it seem worse than before. I’m not a fan of the Shanghai Noon films, and that’s what this film most closely resembles, so I imagine if you like those you might like this one, too.

We begin in the past, where Bennie Chan (Jackie Chan) scales a dock structure to help his friend (Eric Tsang) with the giant bomb strapped to his chest. Eric Tsang, knowing he is beyond help, jumps into the water below and explodes, leaving Jackie with the guilt and the responsibility to care for Eric’s daughter, Samantha (Fan Bingbing). Meanwhile, Connor (Johnny Knoxville) is a scumbag hustler who happens to meet Samantha in a Macau casino. While there he sees a man murder a woman; the same man who Hong Kong policeman Bennie Chan has tried to convict since he killed Eric Tsang. Somewhere in there Connor and Bennie meet up and the chase is on, with Chinese drug runners and a group of Russians in hot pursuit. It’s hard to describe, but it doesn’t play so disjointed while you’re watching it.

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The Iron-Fisted Monk (1977)

The Iron-Fisted Monk [三德和尚與舂米六] (1977)
AKA Iron Fisted Monk, San Te & Chong Mi-Liu

Starring Sammo Hung, Chan Sing, James Tin Jun, Lo Hoi-Pang, Chu Ching, Wang Hsieh, Fung Hak-On, Yeung Wai, Dean Shek Tin, Yen Shi-Kwan, Wu Ma, Casanova Wong, Eric Tsang, Chin Yuet-Sang, Chung Fat, Chiu Hung, Fung Fung, Lam Ching-Ying

Directed by Sammo Hung

Expectations: Interested to see this again.


Sammo Hung left the Shaw Brothers studio in the early 1970s to help kick-start Golden Harvest as an actor, stuntman, and action choreographer. Golden Harvest kept him very busy in the years leading to The Iron-Fisted Monk, giving him ample opportunity to hone his new skills and develop new ones simultaneously. I don’t know if Sammo finally felt he was up to the task of directing his own film in 1977, or if Golden Harvest finally relented to his requests, but the finished film demonstrates that Sammo was definitely ready to add a new feather to his cap. I first saw this film a few years ago when I watched my way through Sammo’s entire directorial filmography; at the time I thought it was a pretty good debut, but not especially great. At some level, I still agree with myself, but watching the film within the context of its Shaw contemporaries reveals it to be a more impressive movie than it initially appeared.

Chong Mi-Liu (Sammo Hung) is a mischievous student at the Shaolin Temple. He began studying there after Manchu thugs bullied his uncle and killed him. Chong was unable to fight them off, but thankfully the revered Shaolin monk San Te (Chan Sing) — the same character that Gordon Liu plays in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin — takes control of the situation and shows the thugs the power of Shaolin training. Chong is like many heroes out for revenge, though, and waiting for the completion of his training is just not an option. Chong remembers how Hu Hui-Chien — the folk hero Chi Kuan-Chun plays in Chang Cheh’s Shaolin Cycle films — left Shaolin early, so he decides to do the same. For those keeping track of Shaolin lore, according to The 36th Chamber of Shaolin San Te was the monk who trained Hung Hsi-Kuan, so this and Chong’s knowledge of Hu would place this film sometime after the majority of the Shaw Brothers Shaolin films. The Chinese title of The Iron-Fisted Monk is a lot like those Shaw films, as well, simply stating the characters names: San Te & Chong Mi-Liu. Any disappointment about there not being an iron-fisted monk can be attributed to yet another misleading English title. Apparently, both characters are Chinese folk heroes (the original trailer states as much), but I couldn’t find any specific info on Chong.

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The Accidental Spy (2001)

The Accidental Spy [特務迷城] (2001)

Starring Jackie Chan, Vivian Hsu Jo-Hsuan, Wu Hsing-Guo, Kim Min-Jeong, Eric Tsang, Murat Yilmaz, Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting, Lillian Ho Ga-Lee, Cheung Tat-Ming

Directed by Teddy Chen

Expectations: Moderate.


One of the great things about going through an actor’s complete filmography is discovering films that passed you by at the time of their release. By the early 2000s, my initial passion for Jackie Chan had faded due to my distaste for his American films and the films of the early 2000s in general (thanks in part to the rise of CG). I would love to say that The Accidental Spy is a wonderful film, offering untold delights, but it’s actually quite a mediocre film all things considered. Where it excels is its action, offering up a pair of incredible sequences that recall everything you’ve ever enjoyed about the films of Jackie Chan. They aren’t enough to pull the film out of mediocrity, but they are wonderful and very welcome in an otherwise underwhelming film.

The film begins oddly, as journalists drive through a village in Turkey afflicted with a deadly pneumonia outbreak. They are quickly assaulted and murdered by terrorists, and we are whisked away to the South Korean embassy in Istanbul. A spy is called in to investigate, but before we get too deep into this serious plot line, we are abruptly taken to Hong Kong where Buck Yuen (Jackie Chan) is doing his best to sell some exercise equipment by giving energetic demonstrations. His real test of fitness comes a few minutes later, though, when he daringly thwarts a bank robbery as only Jackie Chan could. The media coverage attracts the attention of Many Liu (Eric Tsang), a private eye looking for orphans about Jackie’s age, which consequently drags Jackie into an international struggle.

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Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars (1985)

l_90342_681fc4f9Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars [夏日福星] (1985)
AKA Seven Lucky Stars, The Target, My Lucky Stars 2: Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, Winners & Sinners 3, Powerman II

Starring Sammo Hung, Richard Ng, Stanley Fung Sui-Fan, Michael Miu Kiu-Wai, Eric Tsang, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sibelle Hu Hui-Zhong, John Shum Kin-Fun, Rosamund Kwan, Andy Lau, Yasuaki Kurata, Richard Norton, Chung Fat, Wu Ma, Melvin Wong

Directed by Sammo Hung

Expectations: More fun.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

But the action is:
fourstar


Like the other Lucky Stars films, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars is more comedy than action film. So when a healthy amount of the comedy is rehashed from My Lucky Stars, it feels like a lesser film compared to its predecessors (even when the film’s action is some of the best that Hong Kong has ever cranked out). Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars does have its comedic moments, they’re just more sparse than I’ve come to expect from these films. My biggest laugh came right before the end credits, too, so instead of rollicking along it feels more like it ambles between action scenes and then rises sharply to the occasion at the end. And yes, I do mean that erection pun, because if we know anything about the Lucky Stars it’s that they’re always horny and looking for action.

This one starts off rather tamely, as the Lucky Stars are off to vacation in Thailand. Charlie Chin decides to stay home for some reason, so he sends his brother (Michael Miu Kiu-Wai) in his place, but he doesn’t really do much and just kinda blends into the crowd. Anyway, everyone else from My Lucky Stars is back, and even John Shum, one of the main cast in Winners and Sinners, gets a fairly large supporting role. But what are they doing? If you guessed, “Trying to score with women, and by score I mean, figure out a way to grope women where it seems nonchalant and perfectly normal” than you get the gold star! But this time they’re at a beach resort in Thailand, so the backdrop is bright, fun-filled and sunny.

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My Lucky Stars (1985)

MyLuckyStars+1985-118-bMy Lucky Stars [福星高照] (1985)
AKA Winners & Sinners 2, Winners & Sinners 2: My Lucky Stars, Tokyo Powerman

Starring Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Eric Tsang, Richard Ng, Charlie Chin Chiang-Lin, Stanley Fung Sui-Fan, Sibelle Hu Hui-Zhong, Walter Tso Tat-Wah, James Tin Jun, Lam Ching-Ying, Bolo Yeung

Directed by Sammo Hung

Expectations: Fun.

threestar


Like Winners & Sinners before it, My Lucky Stars is much more of a Sammo Hung movie than it is a Jackie Chan movie. It’s also much more of a comedy than an action movie. There’s nothing wrong with either distinction, but it’s good to know what you’re in for, especially considering that I imagine the majority of people watching this (at least in the West) are watching for the action. You’ll get your action, and it will be glorious and accompanied by some truly fantastic stunts, but you’ll have to be patient.

Well — you’ll have to be patient after the first few minutes, where the film explodes into action by throwing both Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao into a car chase that leads to an amusement park. They are cops in hot pursuit of some devious criminals, but by the time they’ve jumped their car over a semi-truck and the traffic that impedes them, the criminals have already ditched their car and sought refuge in the crowds of a nearby amusement park. You or I might wander around the park, hoping to get lucky and spot the criminals, but Jackie makes a truly inspired move towards higher ground by nonchalantly scaling the structural supports of the Ferris wheel.

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Three (2002)

Three [三更] (2002)
AKA Three Extremes II

Starring Jung Bo-Seok, Kim Hye-Soo, Panjamawat Suwinit, Leon Lai, Eric Tsang, Eugenia Yuen

Directed by Kim Jee-Woon (Memories), Nonzee Nimibutr (The Wheel), Peter Chan (Going Home)

Expectations: Moderate. Good talent involved.


Three isn’t a cohesive movie unto itself, nor is it a true anthology film with a framing story, instead it’s just three 40-minute shorts sandwiched together. This makes reviewing it as a whole rather hard because each short was made by a completely different team, working in completely different countries. Nothing ties the stories together (other than being stretched definitions of horror), so I guess I’ll follow suit and treat each film as its own thing.

Up first is Kim Jee-Woon’s Memories, a tale of a man who doesn’t know where his wife is, and his wife who’s lost her memory and is trying to get back home. Memories is painfully boring, and while it starts off with a great image of a sleeping man haunted by a huddled, shadowed woman, a balloon and a child’s doll, Memories does almost nothing with the elements at hand. Up until the last few minutes I wouldn’t even call it a horror movie, unless the psychological pain of losing someone counts as horror now.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Dragon Lives Again (1977)

The Dragon Lives Again [李三腳威震地獄門] (1977)
AKA Deadly Hands of Kung Fu

Starring Bruce Leong, Shin Il Lung, Eric Tsang, Alexander Grand, Siu Tien Yeung

Directed By Law Kei


Oh man, do you remember that time when Bruce Lee fought Chuck Norris in the Roman Coliseum? Yeah, that was great! How about when he beat that guy with the claw on his hand in that hallway full of mirrors? Classic stuff!  Yes sir, that guy was a true legend. Hey, that reminds me of another one… do you remember that time Bruce Lee went to hell, confessed infidelity, fought James Bond and the Exorcist, made friends with Caine from Kung Fu, and helped Popeye beat a bunch of mummies?

Hi folks. My name is Uncle Jasper and I am a film critic.

Sometime after the death of Christ and before the dawn of the Reagan Empire, some Chinese guys got together and made a movie called The Dragon Lives Again. This remarkable documentary attempts to chronicle the years following Bruce Lee’s death and his adventures in hell during that period. The film goes to great lengths to convey to the viewer the size of Bruce Lee’s gigantic cock, and includes a heartfelt, personal apology to his wife Linda for all the years of banging hundreds of women with said cock.

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