Project A II (1987)

ProjectAII_1Project A II [A計劃續集] (1987)
AKA Pirate Patrol 2, Project B

Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Rosamund Kwan, Carina Lau, Lam Wai, Bill Tung, Kwan Hoi-San, Regina Kent, Wong Man-Ying, Chris Lee Kin-Sang, Tai Bo, Mars, Ben Lam Kwok-Bun, Ken Lo, Michael Chan Wai-Man, Wang Lung-Wei

Directed by Jackie Chan

Expectations: The only thing I remember is the redone Buster Keaton stunt. I don’t even remember if I liked the movie or not!

threehalfstar


The perennial question, “Is it better than the original,” always surrounds any discussion of a sequel. In the case of the Project A films, this is not an easy question to answer. The two films are markedly different from one another, with the most defining difference being the absence of Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao from the sequel (they were off making the awesome flick Eastern Condors). This allowed Jackie to branch out the sequel’s story in wildly different directions than the original film, and in a lot of ways it makes for a better, more diverse piece of entertainment.

The choreography is certainly more refined and representative of the “Evolved Jackie” that took shape in Police Story and emerged fully formed in Armour of God. There are certainly instances of Jackie’s defined style earlier, but starting with Police Story the elements come together to create the earliest examples of the quintessential Jackie Chan film. In Project A II, the fights are funny and almost constantly thrilling, without a single moment of wasted movement, and the circumstances under which Jackie finds himself fighting are truly inspired (such as the incredible sequence when Jackie is handcuffed to Chun (Lam Wai)).

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Armour of God (1987)

ArmourofGod+1987-97-b

Armour of God [龍兄虎弟] (1987)
AKA Operation Condor 2: The Armor of the Gods, Mister Dynamite

Starring Jackie Chan, Alan Tam, Lola Forner, Rosamund Kwan, Ken Boyle, John Ladalski, Bozidar Smiljanic, Wayne Archer, Yee Tin-Hung, Marcia Chisholm, Linda Denley, Stephanie Evans, Alicia Shonte, Vivian Wickliffe

Directed by Jackie Chan

Expectations: It’s Armour of God! It’s amazing!

fourstar


When I think about my favorite Jackie Chan films, Armour of God isn’t the first one that comes to mind, but it’s definitely on the list. As one of the many kids who obsessed over Indiana Jones, I can’t help but love the idea of a film in a similar vein with Jackie Chan doing Jackie-tastic stunts and fights. I’m surprised my young head didn’t explode upon first learning of it. Anyway, I loved it then, and I love it now (with slightly more complex feelings).

Viewing Jackie’s film in the order of release has allowed me to see the films a bit differently from when I was first exposed to them. Jackie had made many successful films prior to Armour of God, but the signature Jackie style that is evidenced throughout his later work, and for which he has become well known, only really begins to show in earnest in Police Story and even there it’s a little rough around the edges. In Armour of God, it’s fully formed and ready to party. Realizing this also led to the thought that as big of an action star that Jackie Chan is (or was), his “Jackie-est” movies are not action movies in a classic sense. Instead they are “show off what Jackie can do” action movies, usually built around a flimsy plot. So while I love them, and anyone should be able to respect what he’s physically capable of, I think to truly love these movies you have to love Jackie (because as films they just can’t hold up to any traditional scrutiny).

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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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Once Upon a Time in China III (1993)

Once Upon a Time in China III [黃飛鴻三之獅王爭霸] (1993)

Starring Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok, Xiong Xin-Xin, Lau Shun, John Wakefield, Chiu Chin, Ge Cuen-Zhuang, Meng Chin, Wong Tak-Yan, Zhang Chun-Zhong

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: Low. I don’t remember liking this one much.


At long last I finally got around to watching this one! Hope no one was holding their breath for the last fifteen months! All kidding aside, I had a hankering for some Jet Li after reading a few blogs about his work over at Dangerous Meredith’s blog and a review of OAUTIC IV at Varied Celluloid. The film definitely exceeded my expectations in many ways, while also reminding me why I had not embraced this one in my youth. I’ve probably only seen this one a couple of times, the last time being around ten years ago. The only thing I remembered about it was that there was a lot of lion dancing, and boy is there a lot of lion dancing!

Once Upon a Time in China III (OUATIC3) opens with the Chinese Empress declaring that there will be a lion dance competition to prove the power of Chinese martial arts to the ever encroaching foreigners. We then connect with Wong Fei-Hung (Jet Li), 13th Aunt (Rosamund Kwan) and Wong’s disciple Foon (Max Mok) arriving in Peking to visit Wong’s father, Won Kei-Ying. The lion dance competition is sending every martial club into a frenzy trying their best to outdo the others. One group in particular, the oil factory team, is run by an evil man who will stop at nothing to get to the top, including bullying and physically taking people out of the competition. This leads to the main struggle of the film between Wong and Chiu, the leader of the oil factory team.

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Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)

Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)

Starring Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok, Zhang Tielin, David Chiang, Hung Yan-Yan, Yen Shi-Kwan

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: High. I haven’t seen it in a while and I’m really looking forward to the Jet Li / Donnie Yen fight.


So back when I started this site in April, I wrote up some of my thoughts after revisiting one of the classics from my youth, Once Upon a Time in China. I’ve wanted to get down to business and watch the much-loved sequel since then, but only recently got around to it. Wow, I gotta say… this one is even better than the first. It’s possible that I feel this way because I recently watched the original and I had less of an adjustment period, but whatever, Once Upon a Time in China 2 is a damn pleasing film.

While the recently reviewed Ip Man was set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Once Upon a Time in China 2 takes place just after the First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan has been handed over to Japan and outside influence is getting stronger. The White Lotus clan is angry that Westerners have come to China and brought all their nasty wares with them. They wish to kill the foreigners and rid the land of everything related to them. Led by the Immortal Kung (Hung Yan-Yan), they are ultra-nationalists and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

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Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

My new friend J.P. and I share a love for Hong Kong movies. We are celebrating it with a special double-post, Siskel/Ebert kind of review for one film. Make sure you head over to his site when you’re done here to read his thoughts on the film. Now back to your regularly scheduled reviews.


Once Upon a Time in China [黃飛鴻] (1991)
AKA Wong Fei-Hung, Kungfu Master

Starring Jet Li, Yuen Biao, Rosamund Kwan, Jacky Cheung, Kent Cheng, Yee Kwan Yan

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: High. I love this movie.


Bravery soaring! Magnanimity overflowing!

It has been at least eight years since I’ve seen this. Back when I was watching nothing but Hong Kong movies with my friends, this was one of our top films. Going into watching this again, I had incredibly high expectations. There was no way it could live up to those kind of hopes, and in some ways it doesn’t, but overall I still really love this film. My tastes have changed over the years and it struck me how old the film felt. It didn’t feel like 1991, it felt more like 1971. That was when it hit me. This movie has more in common at a base level with a traditional Shaw Brothers kung fu flick than I had ever noticed before. The fight choreography and wire work are completely modern, but it has the feeling and the charm of a classic from the Run Run Shaw studio. In this way, Once Upon a Time in China is a look back, while taking a step forward.

The fights are spectacular. They’re what you are here for, and if not, they should be. The umbrella fight early on is quite good, but nothing can prepare you for the final battle in the warehouse involving multiple ladders. Even with the wire-work, the sheer level of acrobatic and physical ability on display is amazing. I remembered this fight a lot better than I remembered the rest of the film because my friends and I used to re-watch this fight over and over back in the day. It’s truly fantastic. I was a little disappointed that Yuen Biao didn’t get more to do in the way of fighting, but as his character was a guy that wanted to learn kung fu, I suppose I can forgive this.

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