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Stars: Yuen Biao, Cynthia Khan, Cynthia Rothrock., Director: Yuen Kwei, MA rating: 4

Overall not bad. Mostly kickboxing stuff. Made in 1986, Yuen Biao nearing his later phase in which his kicks aren't as good (one great slo mo wu shu kick, but fails to kill the bad guy) and he has begun to look overpowered by larger opponents, then getting saved by tricks. Rothrock gets a stake driven through her throat.

Stars: John Liu, Hwang Jang Lee, Director: Ng See Yuen, MA rating: 4

Two of the greatest movie kickers ever. Unfortunately, they are sloppier in this film than in others.

Stars: Jet Li, Director: Yuen Kwei, MA rating: 5

Modern action film not predominantly martial arts (plenty of guns, SFX and character development, believe it or not), but what Jet does is great. Two ultra fast sequences that look like wing chun. Climax features plenty of Jet wu shu.

Stars: Jet Li, Director: Tsui Hark, MA rating: 4.5

Jet's wu shu is magnificent, especially in #2, but over-reliance on special effects and wire tricks . #3 is about lion-dancing, so don't look for too much in that one. Ironically, although the series is about hung-gar master Wong Fei Hung, Jet does little real hung-gar.

Stars: Yuen Biao, Leung Kar Yun, Sammo Hung, Lau Kar Wing. Director: Sammo Hung. Action: Sammo. MA rating: 5 (highest possible)

A late 1970s ground breaking and nearly perfect kung fu comedy and masterpiece that marked a zenith not only in martial arts cinema, but also in the movie fighting careers of every member of this super cast in which everyone shows high skills, speed, creativity and precision. They are so good here, that the martial arts seems effortless and fun, and seamlessly woven into the comedy. In his first starring role, a young Yuen Biao is in his absolute prime, with tae kwon do-style kicks (best kicking he has ever done), monkey style, choy lay fut, and various other southern Chinese animal styles. Leung Kar Yan is an amusing foil (a good role) and uses a rolling fist hybrid style that is meant to be comedic. Lau Kar Wing (brother of Lau Kar Leung) puts on a tremendous technically-correct fighting clinic (watch for hung gar and wing chun based moves). To top off, Sammo adds to the finale with wing chun and monkey. Easily one of the top five martial arts films ever made.


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Stars: Jet Li, Jerry Trimble, Yuen Wah MA rating: 5

Highly entertaining and very underrated 1989 action comedy directed by Tsui Hark brings Jet Li to Los Angeles to assist his beleagured sifu (Yuen Wah) deal with a sadistic American turncoat student (US kickboxing champ Jerry Trimble). Second attempt to market Jet Li to western audiences. The action is crisp and the extremely well choreographed (by Yuen Woo Ping), and emphasizes simple, effective techniques. Knee kicks, joint locks, etc. Jet puts a decidely wu shu twist on it. This is one of the ideal showcases to see how Jet's wu shu is actually used. Kickboxing vs. wu shu battles between Jet and Trimble are classics. Both are up to the task. The finale has Jet and Yuen Wah taking on legions of bad guys, leading up to Jet's duel with Trimble on top of a skyscraper. A training scene features a bouncing-ball multiple opponent apparatus that Jet actually uses in real life training. Very funny script full of language jokes and "overseas Chinese stuck in America" humor showcases Jet Li's youthful charm.

Stars: Jet Li, Dick Wei, Stephen Chow, Nina Li Chi. MA rating: 5

A first attempt (1980s) to market Jet Li to western audiences, in the wake of "Shaolin Temple". A young Jet Li stars as a Chinese wu shu champion who gets stuck in San Francisco chasing after Dick Wei, a corrupted wu shu teammate, gone criminal. Fish-out-of-water Jet must make his way in the US (a popular role throughout his career), escape authorities, put up with silly Stephen Chow, etc. Jet is outstanding throughout, in both his wu shu flash, and how he uses more effective and straightforward techniques. He is as good as they come. Finale is a stunning series of battles against some very tough US fighters and a versatile Dick Wei.

Stars: Jet Li. MA rating: 5

These classic films leave no doubt to Jet Li's unparalleled skills. 1 is a pure mainland China production, and it shows in the very reverent (near-communist propaganda) tone of the production. Jet and his supporting cast are hand-picked wu shu champions. Chinese scenery is gorgeous. The empty hand/foot and weapons work are unmatched. 1 is a rambling affair that contains and extended demonstration section in which Jet goes wild on solo forms. 3 ("Northern and Southern Shaolin") is one of the pinnacles of Shaolin wu shu on film, and arguably Jet Li's finest pure martial arts performance and a summit meeting of martial arts talent. Directed by southern siu lum master Lau Kar Leung and full of intricately choreographed duels (large and small, empty hands and weapons). Unlike 1, he has matured here. Also features northern mantis, pa-kua and wu shu/southern fist.

Stars: Jet Li, Ding Lam, Yu Hai. MA rating: 5

Make no mistake, there is no doubt about the quality of the martial arts in this early Jet Li epic, the second of his career. Players from the Beijing Wu Shu Academy. A young Jet at the height of his skills. Beautiful locations. A tremendous cast showcasing a variety of authentic Chinese forms and weapons. My problem is the ANNOYING STORY about whining children and smug girls. I also take issue with the blatant commandeering of this film by the Chinese government, which used it (and the first SHaolin Temple movie) as a propaganda piece. There are patrotic songs about China nailed into the middle of this one, and even CARTOON sequences! If you can overlook this, the MA is topnotch, even if the quantity may not be as high as one would like.

Stars: Sammo Hung, Lau Kar Leung, Billy Chow. MA rating: 5

Although there a few dead spots in the story (about a Macau pedicab driver who winds up crossing some gangsters), some of the fight scenes are vintage Sammo. Early duel between Sammo and Lau Kar Leung is a summit of martial arts movie gods. The entire picture stops for this pure martial arts segment. Lau and his southern Chinese styles versus Sammo' s kickboxing and hybrid moves, ending with a staff duel. The finale when Sammo takes on the mob and kickboxer Billy Chow is a jaw dropper. It is easily Chow's best movie

Stars: Jacky Wu, Christy Chung, Yu Hai, Billy Chow. MA rating: 4

One of the last pure martial arts films from Yuen Wo Ping, starring a young prodigy (who would later reprise the role for Hong Kong TV). The tai chi techniques used by Jacky are excellent (watch in slow mo for the deflection and angles-he's very good). Yu Hai stars as his father, who duels kickboxer Billy Chow in the first half. Unfortunately, his character is annoying and smartalecky, and the story is a cutesy romance, thus a 4 and not a 5.

Stars: John Liu, MA rating: 5

Good showcases for JL's kicks. However, his best performances have been in other films opposite Hwang Jang Lee.

Stars: Polly Sheng Kuan Ling Fung, Wong Koon Hung, Tung Lik, etc. MA rating: 5

Alternate title: "Shaolin Hero Chang San Feng". Late 1970s epic starring an excellent ensemble cast of Taiwanese players, all of whom give out solid performances. Nicely paced and constructed story involves Shaolin Temple and Shaolin-trained revolutionaries opposing a brutal white-haired/bearded general with murderous "black palm" technique. Ming dynasty setting. Combines elements of all the best stuff: Shaolin, training, wooden men halls, intrigues at inns, seemingly invincible (laughing) white-haired villain, one
interesting plot twist. Technically, players use variations of Shaolin animal styles, sword. Polly, consistently the best woman fighter of the time, is at the top of her game (watch her kicks). Wong is great here, too. Immensely satisfying "old school" classic that should rank as one of the best Taiwanese productions of that era.

Stars: Michelle Khan, Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, MA rating: 0

This apocalyptic science fiction story gets written up a lot for its all-star girl martial arts cast, but give me a break. There isn't much MA in this one. Michelle is the only real one in the bunch, and she doesn't get to do anything except get killed by a super villain who sticks his hand through her torso and tear her arm off. Anita and Maggie use doubles and SFX.

Stars: Jet Li, MA rating: 4

This is an oddity from a young Jet Li (who also directed the film). Li stars as a WWII Chinese army veteran who fights vicious and racist American navy men. Much of the action takes place in a bar, and it is brutal wall-to-wall brawling. While Li's skill, speed and acrobatics are evident (the only reason for a rating of 4), the fight scenes are bizarre and make him look bad. Instead of using a smart strategy, he dukes it out toe to toe with a much larger, stronger, 7' plus (and supposedly equally skilled) villain---very dumb, were the situation real-life and not a movie. And Jet gets beaten up BADLY. What was Jet trying to say?


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Stars: Yeung Fan, Sammo Hung, Ni Shing, Ti Lung, Zhao Changjun, Cynthia Khan. MA rating: 5

Sammo Hung-directed epic full of very well-choreographed weapons and empty hand scenes. The hero (Yeung Fan) is tremendous. Tournament scene in the middle is a magnificent excuse to show off empty hand and foot stuff (pa kua, kicking, choy lay fut and northern siu lum styles). The martial (and bittersweet patriotic) spirit of the story may be the film's best attribute.

For Chinese history buffs, this film captures the link between the Boxer Rebellion, warload Yuen Shih-Kai and the Nationalists, and the resulting conflict.

Stars: Jet Li, Billy Chow, Chin Siu Ho, Yasuki Kurata. . MA rating:5

Jet Li's retelling of "Fist of Fury" (the story of Chen Jen, disciple of Huo Yuan Chia, legendary master of Shanghai's Chingwu Academy), choreographed by Jet Li, directed by Yuen Wo Ping. An entertaining film with high production values and impressive performances by the entire cast. With a nod to Bruce Lee, Jet Li adopts a "flexible" fighting style for this film, and spends much time talking "practicality" and non-classicism. This anything-goes form mixes heavy doses of chin na, western boxing, some Chingwu Academy forms, Bruce Lee-inspired shuffle feet, kicks and throws. At times, Jet looks a bit erratic and wild, but there is no denying the man's skills. Chin Siu Ho does some fine work as Chen Jen's envious older school brother. In one nice scene, Siu Ho performs the mi-tsung form better than Jet does. Two long duels include Jet vs. Kurata and the finale, Jet vs. Billy Chow. Both are very wire-enhanced. There is a serious underlying theme about putting aside racial hatred, a theme Jet Li seems to take to heart (evidenced by his later "Romeo Must Die")

Stars: Jet Li, MA rating: 3

Jet is damned good, but these films are silly and use lots of wires.

Stars: Jacky Cheung, Donnie Yen. MA rating: (except for one scene) 0

Donnie shines in one great kickboxing scene and is killed early on. Otherwise, this is a forgettable cop movie with too many Hong Kong stars.

Stars: Donnie Yen, Robin Shou, Cynthia Khan, Ng Dai Wai, Rosamund Kwan, Michael Woods. MA rating: 5

Modern HK police action directed by Yuen Woo Ping. Fast-paced, fun (nice comedy from Rosamund Kwan) and plenty of action. Donnie is a pissed off framed cop. Tremendous kickboxing from all players, particularly Donnie, who is in top form.

Stars: Donnie Yen, Sibelle Hu, Ken Lo, Michael Woods. MA rating: 5

Modern cop action, filmed in the Philippines. Donnie, as usual, is a pissed off cop. Main villains are a Caucasian and a huge muscular black guy, both of whom possess skills, and have also appeared in other Donnie films. Great scene halfway in which Donnie fights the Caucasian using kickboxing, wing chun/tai chi and escrima.

Stars: Donnie Yen, Wong Chuen, Yuen Kit Ying, Hung Yan Yan. MA rating: 5

Directed by Yuen Woo Ping. Donnie stars as So Hat Yee, the rival of Wong Fei Hung (played here by wu shu player Wong Chuen). The main villain is Hung Yan Yan (who plays Ghostfoot 7 in the Jet Li series). Some of the female adversaries show off good weapons work. This film was a thinly-disguised attempt to ride the popularity of the Jet Li "Once Upon A Time In China" series. There is so much imitation, that it could be viewed as part of the series. Same characters, same jokes, same somewhat generic "lightweight
romantic martial arts comedy 1990s via HK" film style. This film deserves notice simply because it is one of the few historical costume films starring Donnie (the other being "Iron Monkey"). Donnie is, as usual, in good form with his combination of wu shu and kickboxing. His hand speed, kicks and precision are evident. His skills are somewhat obscured by too much wire and special effects (flying objects, stancework churning up wood planks, etc. etc.) Donnie only gets "drunken" in the finale, and does it somewhat
unconvincingly (it just looks like very evasive and fluid Donnie). Although it would have benefitted from much more of a focus on Donnie and less on the ensemble cast (particularly Wong Chuen, who is not very good), it's quite enjoyable if not earth shaking.

Stars: Yuen Wah, MA rating: 3

Disappointing. This period story coulda/shoulda been a showcase for late-period Yuen Biao to show off some of his old form (use pure kung fu). But he doesn't. Not terrible, but his kicks aren't that high, hand techniques not as sharp as the old days.

Stars: Alexander Lo, MA rating: 1

Ignore this listless and silly film. The guy's drunken technique is poor.

Stars: Jet Li, MA rating: 1

This tiresome, complicated movie is all special effects. Jet uses a weapon through the whole thing.

MA rating: 2-3

This guy has made a career impersonating Bruce, not only on film but in his training. The acting, of course, is funny. Let's talk about his skills. His hand techniques don't suck. His kicks, however, are not wonderful. Doesn't get much height going.

Stars: Willy Gwei. Director: Ringo Lam. MA rating: 4.5

Sweeping, big budget Shaolin vs. Ching epic that combines many elements: historical drama, surrealistic (almost video-game like) subterranean setting full of "traps", special effects/fantasy, and the feel of a prison or war story. Wu shu player Willy Gwei does a great job playing Fong Sai Yuk, who attempts to rescue his Shaolin brothers and masters from the bizarre Red Lotus Temple. Huge cast, many bodies. The martial arts work consists primarily of well-done movie wu shu, and wire-assisted acrobatics. Fong Sai Yuk's duel with Hung Hei Kwoon (crane vs. tiger) features very little pure style, except for stances and "flavor". Overall, however, MA fans should come away satisfied.

Stars: Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Chingmy Yau, MA rating: 5

This is one where the special effects don't detract from the skills. The story is based on an old Chinese fantasy/legend, so it works. Jet does his wu shu, and at the end, he and Sammo show off some excellent tai chi (Chen and Yang).

Stars: Do Siu Chun, Yuen Kit Ying, Bald Eagle, Yu Hai, Zhao Changjun. MA rating: 4.8
Directed by Stephen Shin. Martial arts director: Kwok Chow Fung.

Excellent mid-1990s Ching dynasty period trilogy has a lot going for it. This series, which bears a strong resemblance to "Blade of Fury" in story, cast (many of the same players), and also similarities to the "Once Upon A Time In China" series, has epic sweep and a well-written story, good cinematography, nice
locations (Beijing), and nice martial arts choreography. It follows the life of the legendary "Iron Bridge Sahm" character (played by Do Siu Chun), as he rises from rickshaw driver to government official, and copes with personal conflicts, government intrigues, and a variety of nasty fighters all along the way. The action is excellent (wire-assisted but very good), and fairly typical of the fighting popular in most film and Hong Kong TV of the 1990s, featuring a number of wu shu players who have appeared in other films. As
both an actor and screen fighter, Do Siu Chun is very good (a shame he did not do more period martial arts films).

Part one ("White Lotus Cult") spends most of its time introducing the main characters and setting the political/social stage. The action is limited to the last half. Includes some nice Peking opera, Sahm's initial martial arts training, and Bald Eagle playing the same role as cult leader as he did in "Once Upon A Time In China 2".

Part two ("Sam Iron Bridge") features more action (tournaments and fight scenes for Sahm), and an interesting story based on the real history of opium politics in Guangdong during the corrupt Ching period. An interesting romantic triangle is developed between three main characters. This triangle is the most interesting aspect of the story, and carries the arc into the next chapter. Yu Hai (best known as the abbott in the Jet Li "Shaolin Temple" series) makes an appearance as a high official. Yuen Kit Ying, plays the role
of a brash tomboy daughter of a court official---a role similar to Zhang Zi Yi's petulant girl "Crouching Tiger" (but Ying is better).

Part three is the darkest and most angst ridden chapter. Sahm, now an official, deals with Japanese pirates, corruption in the court, more conflicts in his personal life. He is arrested, watches his loved ones die, loses an arm, and must fight the malevolent Zhao Changjun (real life wu shu champion). The series ends on a melancholy note, a nice touch.

The three films are best viewed sequentially, as a set. I do not see any reason why a series of this caliber could not satisfy everyone, including "Crouching Tiger" snobs. Highly recommended.

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Stars: Bruce Lee. MA rating: 3.

His first and worst film. Some classic sequences, but Bruce's inexperience with films shows. The climax is too sloppy.

Stars: Bruce Lee. MA rating: 4.

Why not a 5? Because besides the opening sequence, the one in which he destroys O'Harra (Bob Wall) with (pure) wing chun and a barrage of kicks, and the escrima (Filipino stick) thing in the prison, Bruce actually doesn't do a whole lot except crack a bunch of unskilled stooges with very simple moves, make faces and posture. These moves are, of course, done well and are the essence of his JKD. But, really now, how interesting is a right cross?

Stars: Bruce Lee. MA rating: 5.

These are THE Bruce films to watch, along with the 15 minutes of GAME OF DEATH (a bit unfinished, weird wrestling and throws but technically interesting). "Return" is just a showcase, especially the Coliseum finale."Connection" is the most Chinese of his movies, including technique-wise. Wing chun is prominent in the finales of both.

Stars: Jackie Chan (except for "Winners" and "Damn"), Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao. MA rating: 4

These "caper" films are almost interchangeable, featuring The Three Amigos, each opera-trained acrobats with (form) training in many styles. You like one movie, you'll like them all. Each ends with fight sequences for each star.

Sammo is good in all. Jackie, because of his star power, gets longer fight finales against more interesting villains (including Benny Urquidez, twice). He makes a fair showing, but Sammo's a better fighter.

Yuen Biao (late-period in these) is unfortunately spotty and comes off as the little fast guy who can't win against big villains without help, tricks or instruments. Someone really should make him look better for his talents.

Stars: Sonny Chiba. MA rating: 2

Chiba and company are vicious, but choreography-wise, sloppy. Very campy films (do you like chubby Japanese chicks with heavy eye liner wearing day-glo mini skirts?)

Stars: Jackie Chan, Hwang Jang Lee. MA rating: 5

Classics. Jackie is good in both, and is true to the styles portrayed in each film. Great forms. Hwang Jang Lee, the supreme kicker, however, is obviously the better fighter to those with learned MA eyes.

Stars: Jackie Chan, Michelle Khan, Yuen Wah. MA rating: 5

Stars: Michelle Khan, Yu Rong Gwong. MA rating: 5.

This highly entaining modern action film gets a high rating even though it isn't strictly MA. The kickboxing is fast and crisp.

Stars: Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao. MA rating: 0

What the hell was this travesty? Jackie at his silliest. Very little MA. Yuen Biao (early period) outshines him in a short cameo,using a bench.

Stars: Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao. MA rating: 5

Showcase for young (late 1970s) Sammo Hung and various southern animal systems. Speed, agility, stances and power unbelievable. Also features cameo by a young Yuen Biao, possibly one of the best sequences in his career (as in "Knockabout", acrobatic, quick, intricate southern styles and tae kwon do kicks).

Stars: Jackie Chan, Lau Kar Leung, Ken Lo, Chin Kar Lok, Lau Kar Yung, Ti Lung, Anita Mui. MA rating: 5

Jackie's last "pure kung fu film", action-directed by Lau Kar Leung (except for the finale, which was directed entirely by Jackie after Lau left the film in a dispute). Although I am not a big Jackie fan, the stunt work and choreography is clearly excellent even though on a pure MA basis, it is not completely my cup of tea. In interviews, Jackie has compared his style of choreography with Lau Kar Leung's as the difference between jazz music and classical music. Herein lies the key-the first 70% under Lau feels very different from the finale. No longer "shackled" by Lau, Jackie ups the pace in the final half hour and the players do more acrobatic things. The fight scenes throughout the film are intricate, fast, and entertaining in any case. In scenes involving Lau (including a staff duel with Jackie), it seems that Lau has an edge in terms of overall mastery. As always, Lau is the one who uses variations on traditional southern Chinese MA. Jackie uses very little identifiable moves (even though he plays Wong Fei Hung). He invariably screws around (acrobatically), resorting to silliness ("drunkenness"), which he does here every bit as well as he did in "Drunken Master 1". There is a notable scene in which a fishmonger challenges Jackie's drunk fist with choy lay fut (which is done properly). Many people love the famous tea house sequence (epitome of wild Hong Kong object-driven action). Chin Kar Lok and Lau Kar Yung have small parts. Ti Lung (as Jackie's father) is primarily an actor and not a fighter, but tosses in a few wing chun hands. The finale, which includes a furious drunk vs. kicking duel with kickboxer Ken Lo is the gem of this film. It is wire-enhanced but fun. Bottom line: if you love Jackie, you'll love this one.


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Stars: Ti Lung, Fu Sheng, Chen Kuan Tai, Chick Kun Kwun, David Chiang or the Venoms. Director: Chang Cheh. MA rating: 2-3.

Slow, slow,slow. You can almost count the cadence of the moves, "1...2...3..." Granted, in some of the films, you get to see pure Southern Chinese styles (choy li fut, hung gar, crane, animal styles) the same way you'd see the forms practiced in an older Chinatown (US-based) kung fu school. But these films are generally overrated. Of all the Shaw stars, Lau Kar Leung and his crew (Lau Kar Wing, Liu Chia Hui) and Ti Lung (wing chun trained) are the ones with the real stuff.

MA rating: 1, 2 tops

Before the Bruce Lee/Lau Kar Leung/Sammo Hung/Yuen generation began the "modern" era of the kung fu movie (serious upgrades to the quality of fight choreography and attempts to feature "pure" Chinese martial arts), Wang Yu and others starred in an endless stream of violent "chop sockys" (primarily from 1969 to 1971) which featured agonizingly long fights with flailing arms, loud cracks, unintentionally hilarity and very cheap cinematography (if you could even call it that). Wang Yu was once the king of this stuff. Wang in real life had numerous fights to the death, so he knows how to fight. But on film, his unorthodox moves were hard to watch. He would star in some decent sword films for Shaw Brothers adapted from story standpoint (most are based on Chinese heroic literature). Some of the men who made a living off of bad chop sockys (Lo Lieh, Chen Sing,Yusaki Kurata, Chang Yi, Pai Piao) would appear in many good films later in their careers. Needless to say, films from this era are oddities. We will only occasionally review these at this site, for fun.

Stars: John Liu, Hwang Jang Lee, Wang Chiang, Philip Ko. MA rating: 5

A classic from director Ng See Yuen and martial arts director Yuen Wo Ping starring Liu and Hwang, two of the greatest kickers of the genre. Liu (who called his tae kwon do-based style "zen kwun do") is in his prime and has one of his finest performances here. He performs with flair. There are three white-haired fighters. HJL and Ko play white-haired eagle claw masters (HJL's eagle claw forms look more like tae kwon do, but who cares). Ko dips into white crane at times. As usual, HJL is the dominating presence as a master of the iron armor, and his kicks are incredible. Wang Chiang plays a southern stylist in this one. Yuen Biao and Yuen Kuei (and company) had a big hand in the stuntwork and choreography (they performed the more acrobatic parts of the fights), and appear as villains in a cameo. Bottom line, this is one of the great ones.

Stars: John Lau Chung Leung, Hwang Jang Lee, Roy Horan. MA rating: 5

Along with the "Secret Rivals" series and "Invincible Armor", this is one of the great 1970s Seasonal Films action intrigues Directed by Ng See Yuen and choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping (with assistance from stunt team of Yuen Fui, Biao, etc.) (who feature prominently as both doubles for the stars, and as bad guys). This film features the exceptional kicking of John Lau (zen kwun do) and the always-fearsome white-haired Hwang Jang Lee (tae kwon do) at the top of their form, and a southern fist counterpart to Lau (uses hybrids of shaolin-based styles). Note: he is also Lau's co-star in "Invincible Kung Fu Man". The choreography is exceptional, and in spots, jaw dropping. One small bone to pick: in the finale and in a spear duel in the middle of the film, it is obvious where the Yuens double for the two stars (you can see their wigs pop off). The story, about a Russian/Ching dynasty conspiracy, is among the more engaging in the Ng See Yuen/Seasonal series.

Stars: Wang Tao (#1 only), John Liu, Hwang Jang Lee, Wang Chiang (#2 only). MA rating: 5.

"Secret Rivals" (Chinese title: Southern Fists, Northern Kicks) is a groundbreaking late 1970s classic, directed by Ng See Yuen and choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping (assisted by Yuen Biao and Yuen Kuei). The first collaboration starring super kickers John Liu (zen kwun do) and Hwang Jang Lee (tae kwon do), and Wang Tao (hung gar, etc.), and the first major roles for Liu and Hwang. Shot in Korea. The film turned up the choreography and action a major notch, introduced not only korean-style kicking, but also some distinctive styles (executed with crispness and power). After its phenomenal success, the same team (with Wang Chiang replacing Wang Tao) reunited with equal results. HJL is even better in part two, particularly in the very long and elaborately choreographed finale.

Stars: Wang Tao, John Liu, Han Ying. MA rating: 5

The original "Secret Rivals" stars reunited a few years later on this Taiwanese production. Although Yuen Wo Ping's influence is missed in this film, the two principals are still impressive. Liu does his usual zen kwun do
kicks. Wang does a version of mantis. Han Ying, the high-kicking mantis stylist villain, absolutely steals the show in the finale, outshining both of the stars. It takes forever to beat him.

Stars: Carter Wong, Tian Pang, Polly Sheng Kuan Ling Fung. MA rating: 5 (despite quantity-4, quality-3.5)

First, an admission. I have strong sentimental feelings about this film. It was one of the first Chinese films my father took me to see. I grew up on, and it had a lasting impression. Regardless of its small technical and martial shortcomings, this memorable 1970s Joseph Kuo-directed Shaolin epic is one of THE classics of the genre that inspired a sub-genre of "Shaolin bronzemen hall" films and was one of the first (perhaps the first) to feature the familiar Shaolin training and testing storyline (epitomized by "36 Chamber of Shaolin"). Tian Pang and SKLF are siblings whose parents were murdered by a general. Tian is brought to Shaolin, where he joins with Carter Wong (the senior monk) in training. To leave the temple to take revenge, he and Wong battle furiously through the bronzemen hall, dealing with traps and bronzed monks. (This part of the movie was so memorable and such tremendous fun, they did a sequel "18 Bronzemen II" that was even more heavily devoted to the bronzemen hall.) Ultimately, they reunite with SKLF. So what kind of martial arts? Nothing distinctive, and I would say average to above average---simple variations on hung gar and other styles that dominated Taiwan and Hong Kong in the 1970s.

Stars: Tam Tao Liang, Angela Mao Ying, Chen Sing, Sammo Hung, Han Ying Kit. MA rating: 5

This mid-1970s classic gets my vote as one of the best martial arts films of all time; easily near the top among "old school" films. I give it high marks for not only the MA, but also cinematography, script, acting and epic sweep (much of it shot in Nepal). Director Huang Feng's finest work.

The Chinese Republic-era storyline (which, for a MA movie, is quite well constructed) involves a pair of lifelong friends (TTL and Mao Ying) whose Chinese/Himalayan household falls victim to an intimidating con artist (Chen Sing). With the help of a lama, and training in an obscure Himalayan version of the "mi-tsung" style, they avenge.

Although it has "that great kung fu movie feel" to it, a non-kung fu cinema watcher could still enjoy it. Indeed, Golden Harvest marketed this bigger-budget film a lot, in hopes of attracting a large post-Bruce Lee crossover audience. The choreography was supervised by Sammo Hung, who has a cameo as a villain.

The key attraction: TAM TAO LIANG IS SUPERB here--as good or better than any other kicker ever put on film---but just in this one movie. Fast, super limber, agile. (Unfortunately he did not maintain this level throughout his career.). It is also one of Mao Ying's best (nice kicks also). Chen Sing is also at the top of his game with simple but powerful tiger claw. (The "mi-tsung" portrayed is not the typical northern Chinese mi-tsung-i popularized by the Ching Wu Academy. Ignore this, because the movie is all about the kicking!) The fight scenes (which are plentiful) are long enough to be very dramatic, but they do not drag on and on.

Stars: Leon Lai, Cheung Man. MA rating: 1 (downgraded to 0 in 4/97)

Based on the sword novel "The Adventures of Flying Fox" by Jin Yong, this should have been a great adventure flick. Instead, it's a silly waste of time. Leon Lai Ming and Cheung Man goof around and act like "I'm so cute" Hong Kong celebrities. Lousy martial arts (and lots of wires), dumb pee and sex jokes. Pop the tape and move on.


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Stars: Joey Wang, Sammo Hung. MA rating: 0

Oh no. Another Joey Wang wispy girl ghost movie. Don't be fooled by Sammo Hung's co-starring role as a god. He doesn't do anything much except wave around a giant staff and make leaves fly all over the place. Nice production qualities but no martial arts.

Stars: Sammo Hung. MA rating: 0

This film gets praise left and right. It's a docu-drama about Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao's brutal childhoods at the Peking opera school. Sammo plays the instructor. Should have been an intense training story full of martial arts. Instead, this disappointing "sensitive" little poem is all acting. Martial arts entirely missing except for leg stretches (big deal).

Stars: Wai Ying Hung, Ken Lo, Wu Ma. MA rating: 5

A soapy drama about a female opera troupe. Martial arts and opera scenes, however, are excellent. Hard to find a better showcase for combination of operat and women fighters than here. Ken Lo does very little and gets shot.

Stars: Yuen Biao. MA rating: 1

Kwan Tak Hing, Philip Ko and Leung kar Yan don't do anything memorable. Give the movie a zero rating if you're looking for Yuen Biao to fight. He's a miserable guy in this story who can't fight. His mother makes him wash clothes. Ah, but the clothes scrubbing and wringing has given him a kung fu skill that allows him to shred peoples' skin (which he does at the very end)! A waste.

Stars: Chin Kar Lok. MA rating: 3

CKL's moves don't impress. He's kind of hunched over and goofy-looking. Can't seem to decide if he's trying to do something that looks like Southern-style or Jet Li-like. Lam Ching Ying co-stars as a Japanese villain (and he moves better than CKL).

Stars: Yan Keen Kwok and mainland cast. MA rating: part 1:5, part 2:4

This series got a lukewarm review the first time around. It gets a significant upgrade (with a more experienced pair of eyes watching them). The first installment, which is about an opera troupe assisting a Tai Ping rebel, features outstanding mainland Chinese MA talent. In addition to the star (who performs good nan chuan (nam kuen), he is surrounded by acrobatic wu shu players. Many "mass battle scenes", training sequences and weapons sequences. The finale is slightly disappointing (a jumping spinning inside crescent kick leading to a double knee stomp is not my idea of great southern shaolin technique). Tone and story-wise, number two is a more blatant attempt to ride the momentum of "Once Upon A Time in China" with less action than the first. Still it is solid entertainment that should not disappoint.

Stars: Max Mok. MA rating: 2

This story is about 18th century "La Femme Nikita"-like assassins, pulled into service from prisons. Martial arts consists of plain old chopping and slicing with not much technique. Vaunted finale is same, only with more effects.

Stars: Chiu Man Cheuk (Zhou Wen Zou), Max Mok, Hung Yan Yan,Rosamund Kwan, Jean Wang. MA rating: 5

The first thing one must do when viewing any post-Jet Li Wong Fei Hung film or TV installment is to forget about Jet Li. Wipe it out of your mind, because it is an unfair comparison. Chiu Man Cheuk first began to make his mark when he inherited this series from Jet Li, and over time, he has proven worthy of consideration right up there with Jet as one of the best screen fighters around. Cheuk’s take on the choreography and the Wong Fei Hungcharacter are his own, different from Jet’s. He’s got it all, speed, crispness,and weapons. Similar to the Jet Li version, the action here is heavily wired, but not enough to hide the skill. The spectacular form Cheuk does in the title sequence of 4 should shut anyone up. Chapters 4 and 5 (which deals with coastal pirates)should really be viewed together, as continuations upon the same themes:anti-foreign, anti-opium, anti-corruption, etc.


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Stars: unknowns. MA rating: 1

Highest recommendation for laughs. Prototype bad early 70s kung fu film. Hysterically funny, possibly the worst kung fu ever. Fight scenes are never-ending. Your face will hurt from laughing.

Stars: Wong Tao, Chuck Norris. MA rating: 2

Bruce Lee turned down this script about a San Francisco chinese cop. Wong is passable but his kicking form isn't good in this one (tight flare leg jeans might have restricted his flexibility). Norris clearly kicks his ass in the finale, but Wong gets to smash him in the face repeatedly with blunt instrument.

Stars: mainland Chinese players. MA rating: 4.7

This mainland-Chinese produced epic was made around the time of Jet Li "Shaolin Temple" craze. It is similar in that it strives for some style authenticity, features topnotch mainland Chinese wu shu players, and is shot
in beautiful locations. The featured style is Chen style tai chi. Behind the opening credits, you get the Chen form performed by Chen Xiao Wang (the current grandmaster). This sequence itself is worth the entire film
(unfortunately this is just a cameo). The story is quite action-packed (a typical Ching dynasty revenge arc). There is actually more Shaolin wu shu by this cast, including a training sequence at Shaolin temple. When they finally get down to the Chen tai chi training (midway), you should not be disappointed. There is a push hands sequence that is extremely educational (the moves are frozen and called out by name). Watch the Chen work of the old man who plays the "uncle", and the two girls who play his daughters (they do Chen style but are clearly wu shu-trained). The finale is a bit sloppy, which prevents it from getting a full 5 rating.

Stars: Joyce Godenzi. MA rating: 5

Modern HK girl-cop action at its best, directed by Sammo Hung and starring his wife, who kicks ass. Everybody is fast, fights well in this one.

Stars: Tam Tao Liang. MA rating: 3

One of the many TTL flicks of the late 70s. TTL can kick well, but in his later years, lost much of his snap. Oddly, he only seems to kick with his left leg. His hands seem slow. When it comes to TTL, important to pick the film. He usually does better against tougher bad guys ("Himalayan" was his best film in my opinion).

"All Star Cast"(Taiwanese). MA rating: 2

Classic way-the-hell too long "intrigue" epics,the first full of ultra low budget fantasy elements. Entirely forgettable.

Stars: Jhoon Rhee, Angela Mao-Ying, Carter Wong, Wang In Sik. MA rating: 3.7

This Golden Harvest film, directed by Huang Feng and choreographed by Sammo Hung, was shot in 1973, right around the zenith of the Bruce Lee era, and stars tae kwon do master Jhoon Rhee, a west coast friend of Lee who, in real life, was a seminal influence on Lee's kicking techniques. One would think this movie would be a classic jam-packed with great tae kwon do and a smorgasbord of kicking. It isn't. In this story about a Korean freedom fighter (opposing the Japanese), Rhee's tae kwon do is there, and is most notable in the opening credits, where he performs the basic form. But inexplicably, he doesn't look all that great on film. His kicks are surprisingly unspectacular. His work in the finale is poorly shot---disappointing given Rhee's realworld mastery. Angela Mao is her usual self (she's very consistent). She actually has more screen time than Rhee, deservedly so. Above all, Rhee cannot act(small wonder he never starred in another film after this one). His attempt at drama appears as grimacing and screaming. A white woman (a student of Rhee's) co-stars and displays the best TKD kicking in the film. Wang In Sik is sleazy as always, and does a few spin kicks. Carter Wong also co-stars. Neither he nor Mao-Ying do anything resembling TKD.

Stars: Donnie Yen, Billy Chow, Ng Mah. MA rating: 5

This is not a sequel to the Yuen Woo Ping "Iron Monkey", but an entirely different story that takes place in Republic-era Shanghai with Donnie playing the Iron Monkey character. Good technique from all players. In addition to his usual excellent kickboxing, Donnie's wing chun is very pronounced. Co-hero is a very good wu shu stylist. Many scenes are sped up, in some places way too much. But what the players do is impressive.

Stars: Donnie Yen, Eddy Ko Hung, Joey Meng, Lau Chi Wing. MA rating: 5

Directed by Lung Shiu Kee, action directed by Donnie Yen and Hung Yun Yun. This epic 1995 ATV (HK) television series was a landmark event for both Donnie Yen, as well as the martial legend of Chen Jun, Ching Wu (Jing Mo)
Academy and Ho Yuan Chia (Fok Yuen Gahp), which was the basis of Bruce Lee's original "Fist of Fury"/"Chinese Connection" as well as the Jet Li version ("Fist of Legend"). While the Bruce Lee version remains a definitive
classic, a supreme reflection of Bruce Lee's own personality, this production---and Donnie Yen's marvelous portrayal---exceeds all others in terms of storytelling, acting and character development. ("Fist of Legend" is the weakest, despite some good work from Jet Li.) And in terms of martial arts, Donnie Yen is up there with Lee (although different).

Writing is excellent. More than the previous versions, Donnie Yen and this series go at it from the inside out---presenting the origins of Chen Jun, the relationship between teacher and student, the violent and sinister Shanghai of the Republic era, and the horrifying brutality of the Japanese occupation. Although fictional, it succeeded in making some important historical points about the criminal politics of the time. There are also some tragic love stories that further sustain the arc. Bottom line, you will "feel" this story.

There is martial arts galore throughout this series, and an abundance of different styles. Some of the choreography can be criticized for a bit too much wire, and moments of unecessary undercrank (fast motion). Donnie is amazing, particularly in the first half of the series---kicks, wing chun, tai chi, joint locks, the works. Later, when he takes on the "Bruce Lee style",
recreating some of the distinctive Bruce Lee moves from the original (and other Lee films), it almost seems like too much. Imitation is unecessary for Donnie Yen, who is arguably the best screen fighter today. (However, because the series was designed to be a tribute to Bruce Lee, it works.)

I was fortunate enough to see the original TV series while traveling in Hong Kong. The TV series is still available at some Chinese video rental outlets. Anyone interested should try to locate it. There is a 2 hour version (edited from some 25 or more hours!!) available from Tai Seng Video (www.taiseng.com). Highlights, however, do not do the series justice.


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Stars: Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Joyce Godenzi, Yuen Wah. MA rating: 3

This is a war movie sprinkled with brief martial arts sequences, so unless you're in the mood for a Chinese variation of "Dirty Dozen" (combined with a somewhat silly Hong Kong cast of stars), you'll be disappointed. It was as if Sammo had to make excuses to do the martial arts ("ok, here's a scene where me and Yuen Biao get disarmed, so we have to fight...") These scenes are kick-boxing-oriented. Biao's kicks look pretty good, and Sammo is his versatile self. The finale contains the only sustained martial arts. Here, villain Yuen Wah is excellent and fast. Biao, true to form, gets overpowered. Sammo's moves are nearly as good as in "Pedicab Driver". Way to short to justify the rest of the movie.

Stars: Liu Chia Hui. MA rating: 4

One of the classic and most entertaining Shaolin training stories. Unfortunately, most of the training is more fantasy-oriented than real. Under Liu Gar Leung's direction, Liu Chia Hui is solid (Southern Shaolin styles and excellent weapons sequences). Certainly among the finest Shaw Brothers films.

Stars: Yu Hei. MA rating: 5

More proof that mainland Chinese martial arts films are superior. This epic has the feeling of a fairy tale, spectacular scenery, an interesting story (about two feuding villages and the monk who comes between them) and top-notch wu shu. Prominently featured are very pure northern Shaolin wu shu, and Shaolin drunken style. Minimal special effects, and the ones used are appropriate for the story.

Stars: Yuen Biao, Wai Ying Hung. MA rating: 1

Waste of a decent cast. If you like Yuen Biao's impish smart-talk routine, and Hong Kong slapstick, this movie is 2 hours worth. Otherwise, not much kung fu except the finale, which was choreographed by Sammo Hung. Wai shows off some good moves (not enough of her in this movie). Yuen holds true to his form by almost losing the fight and "winning" in a comedic fashion.

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