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Stars: Lily Lee, Tony Wai. MA rating: 3.5

Taiwanese production supposedly showcasing crane, eagle and mantis styles. Unfortunately, Lily Lee's crane moves are not quite convincing (even though done properly). Wai's mantis scenes (very fast) steal the show (but there is not enough of him). A third hero, "Shaking Eagle" is a strong but stiff Taiwanese actor who starred in "Cavalier". Too rigid.

Stars: unknowns. MA rating: 0

This film is routinely classified and sold as a martial arts film. It isn't. It's a very bad wizards and sorcerors mess, starring a bunch of annoying little kids. BYPASS THIS ONE!!!

Stars: Cynthia Khan, Yu Rong Guang, Yu Hai. MA rating: 3.5

Story of a "good" Japanese martial artist (Yu Rong Guang) seeking Chinese martial arts knowledge, who gets mixed up with "evil" Japanese pirates ("damned waw kau"). Goal of the film was to tell the story of
how this Japanese brought Shaolin techniques to Japan to create Shorinji Kempo karate (a falsehood from the start since karate is Okinawan). The film spends more time on the racial aspect (the Japanese's treatment by Chinese villagers) and the "cute" friendship between the Japanese and a smartaleck Chinese girl than on martial arts (thus the relatively low MA rating). Yu's techniques look more like modern kickboxing than a pure depiction of any style. It is refreshing to see Cynthia Khan in a period role, however, she is saddled here using "dog style" Shaolin kung fu (unflattering rolls on the ground and low kicks from sitting positions/I somehow doubt this style actually exists). Wu shu instructor Yu Hai has a small part and shows off some good staff technique. Overall, a lightweight film that could have been more. Jet-X adds: You wrote that you doubt if dog style really exists. But it does. In Mandarin it's called "Gou Quan". I don't know if you have seen the documentary "This Is Kung Fu", but it includes a demonstration of Gou Quan.

Stars: Cynthia Rothrock, Chin Siu Ho, Mung Hoi, Billy Chow, Jeff Falcon,
Vincent Lyn, MA rating: 4

Lively caper directed by Corey Yuen and full of good stuntwork from the Yuen contingent (many familiar faces). Rothrock is extremely acrobatic, using objects (ladders, furniture, shoes, etc.) and her surroundings (walls, alleyways, etc.) for the stunts. Very sharp kickboxing choreography, particularly when she takes on Falcon and Lynn in the finale, and a Thai-style kickboxer in the middle (in high heels!). Siu Ho doesn't get many long sequences, except for a kickboxing duel with Billy Chow.

Stars: Donnie Yen. MA rating: visibility-1

Don't get me wrong. Donnie Yen is one of the greatest living screen martial artists on earth. However, he is not the greatest film director and this is the fault of this film. Donnie's martial artistry is COMPLETELY OBSCURED by bad camerawork, ridiculous closeups (that make it impossible to see what is happening) and Donnie insisting that he and his crew move as quickly as possible through their choreography. So what you get is a lot of whoosing and chaos---a tragic waste because what Donnie was actually doing (his patented moves) was probably fine. What scenes are actually visible are, well, okay. I will also say that this story is weird and not comprehensible.

Stars: Angela Mao Ying, Bruce Leung Siu Lung, Chin Wai Man, Sammo Hung. MA rating: 5

Choreographed by Sammo Hung (who also appears as a villain), this is easily one of Mao Ying's finest overall films. She carries this picture about a girl's revenge against bad of parent-killing villains. Among Angela's more pure MA productions, it showcases her Shaolin-based forms, staff and short stick work. Leung Siu Lung's kicking is, as usual, jaw-dropping. Chin Wai Man comes across well also. the finale is nonstop action. Simply a solid, well-cast film that deserves its place next to other old school classics that bear Sammo's trademark.

Stars: Mark Long, Jack Long. MA rating: 4

The first 70% of this film is a silly martial arts variation on "Dirty Dozen". A "crazy" monk recruits a band of fighters to combat a band of martial arts villains/wizards and trains them (comedically). Although every cast member is skilled and acrobatic, and the finale (featuring bad guy Jack Long) is impressive, too much time is wasted. Mark Long does not have as large a role as he deserves. His hands and kicks (non-specific style) are flashy, fast and great here.

Stars: Chin Siu Ho and the Venoms. MA rating: 3.5

Directed by Chang Cheh, this is a typical Shaw Brothers venom film with the usual legion of post-Bruce Lee mop-headed "smart-alecky compatriots" involved in some overly-involved Ching dynasty intrigue. I didn't find it very exciting. If you are a fan of the Venoms, you will be satisified. The kicker kicks well, the southern styled guys (who do variations of hung gar and choy li fut) do their thing. The most notable thing is that this was the first significant feature for a teenage Chin Siu Ho. His acting is halting. His MA work is better.


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Stars: Michelle Yeoh, Tsui Siu Keung, Donnie Yen. MA rating: 3

Lightweight and very silly sex farce/comedy story about the founder of wing chun, Yim Wing Chun, that bears no resemblence to the true legend. Michelle's "wing chun" also bears little resemblence to the true style. Primarily, she does standard Michelle movie/wu shu moves (complete with very un-wing chun like somersaults and butterfly kicks, etc.), greatly assisted by wires. Bot jam do (butterfly knife) versus spear in the finale, but it's all special effects. Michelle fans can find some things to enjoy. Tsui Siu Keung (who, for some reason, always stars in wing chun-based productions) doesn't do much. Donnie, the fight choreographer, has a side role. Which is a shame, since he is the lone cast member who could have/should have done justice.

Stars: Wong Hang Sau. MA rating: 2.5

An attempt at a more accurate telling of the Yim Wing Chun legend, but sensationalized. The primary attraction of this 1970s film is that the wing chun scenes were choreographed by wing chun sifu Leung Ting. It is hard to tell how deeply he was involved. Not athletic at all, and not a martial artist, Wong Hang Sau does the siu lim tao almost correctly and other moves slowly, and weakly. As with many films dealing with this style, it resorts to fantasy techniques such as finger point jabs which leave holes in people. Fting!

Stars: Lam Ching Ying, Yuen Biao, Frankie Chan, Sammo Hung. MA rating: 5

As is the case with his other wing chun film "Warriors Two" Sammo Hung takes great liberties with the wing chun legends. But this can be overlooked because "Prodigal Son" is easily the best wing chun film ever made. The wing chun performed by Lam Ching Ying is crisp, correct, lighting fast and mostly true to the system (if a bit fancy for the camera). This is Lam's finest MA role. Frankie Chan is impressive as a dragon-ish style villain. Excellent training scenes, which again, portray wing chun hand, stance and footwork fairly accurately.Yuen Biao is disappointing (sloppy) in the finale. Other high points: entertaining and humorous story, and good Cantonese opera.

Stars: Casanova Wong, Leung Kar Yan, Sammo Hung, Fung Hak On. MA rating: 3.5

An inconsistent production. Although the action is fast and furious (quite violent), it lacks the refinement of some of Sammo's other works. Much of the wing chun portrayed is wrong but some of the system's more esoteric ideas sneak through. Casanova, who portrays Wah the Money Changer, does not seem to use wing chun at all---he uses big long moves and kicks. Sammo has performed wing chun better in other films. Leung Kar Yan is unsually slow and methodical, almost out of pace. The finale is a whirlwind, with Fung Hak On stealing the show as a mantis stylist.

Stars: Casanova Wong, Han Ying. MA rating: 4

Casanova's first starring role, as a Shaolin monk battling the Manchus. He looks a bit lost (bad acting). He warms up after the halfway point, displaying his patented kicking. Han Ying, as a white-haired villain, easily steals the show. He is faster and crisper with his eagle/snake/mantis) moves than anyone else, and his kicks are great.

Stars: Jet Li, Yu Rong Guang, Anita Mui and a wu shu kid (forgot name). MA rating: 4

Jet is a father who is framed for murder and winds up being a fugitive in a Hong Kong mob. Story rambles and has a lot of HK soap opera. Good wu shu by the kid (a forms competition to start the film). Jet's MA is tough, fast wu-shu tinted kick boxing, much of it wire-enhanced, unforunately. Includes Jet using sticks (escrima variation). Yu Rong Guang, as usual, shows off some
good kicking. The bald villian (from numerous early Jet pictures, and New Legend of Shaolin) is part of the gang. Finale is action-packed, but the last scene is 100% ridiculous wire.


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Stars: Lau Kar Fei, Chen Kuan Tai, Lau Kar Wing, Lily Lee. MA rating: 4

This 1976 film was directed by Lau Kar Leung. The first (modern) retelling of the Wong Fei Hung legend. Lau Kar Leung, who is the son of hung gar master Lau Charn, and whose grand sifu was Lam Sai Wing ("Butcher Wing") and whose great grand sifu was the real Wong Fei Hung, brings genine knowledge of hung gar and lau gar kuen to this film (as well as "Martial Club" and other Shaw Brothers epics). Kar Fei plays Wong Fei Hung, who must learn his family boxing style from Luk Ah Choy (Chen Kuan Tai) to restore his lost honor. Plenty of training sequences and genuine techniques and weapons. Lau Kar Leung and crew would later do more electrifying films than this one, but it's pretty good.

Stars: Jet Li, Chin Siu Ho, Michelle Khan. MA rating: 5

Entertaining epic with Jet Li portraying Chang San Fung, legendary founder of tai chi chuan, and Chin Siu Ho as his lifelong rival. The story is based on the legend, but an originfounder of tai chi chuan, and Siu Ho as his lifelong rival. The story is based on the legend, but an original story. Film opens with the two boyhood pals training at Shaolin temple (note: Five Tigers Catching the Lamb staff form and excellent wu shu), and eventually being thrown out to go their separate ways (Siu Ho is corrupted, Jet goes nuts but creates tai chi). Jet Li is at the top of his form in this film, using elements of Chen and Yang style tai chi, as well as other internal forms in defeating Siu Ho. Although a lot of the choreography is wire-assisted and often ridiculous (Jet kicking Siu Ho repeatedly like a soccer ball!), there is plenty of the authentic and a lot of sound tai chi philosophy. In a supporting role, Michelle Khan does not do anything tai chi-related (fancy movie/wu shu/sword stuff).

Stars:Jackie Chan. MA rating: 0

Here we go again. A typical "fun" Jackie carnival of physical comedy. Jackie goes nuts with the "Buster Keaton" stunt work and sight gags. Martial arts? Hardly any. The fight scenes are strictly goofball. Once again, the stuntwork done by Jackie and his crew are amazing. However, from a MA purist standpoint, I say look elsewhere.

Stars: Chen Kuan Tai, Wong Yue, Lo Lieh, Lau Kar Fai, Lily Lee. MA rating: 3

Written and choreographed by Lau Kar Leung. I have many bones to pick with this one. First, the story takes tremendous liberties with various legends, and comes close to being offensive in some respects. Yes, according to legend, the Shaolin temple was razed during the Ching dynasty, and its fighters fled and scattered across south China. Here is where the movie loses track. It has Hung Hey Kwoon (Hung Hsi Kuan) escaping with a red junk opera company (??) and marrying (??!!) street performer (?) Yim Wing Chun (??) who is an eagle stylist (!!??) who does nothing except clamp her knees together (uh, excuse me, Lau Kar Leung, but there is more to wing chun than the elementary training stance). Chen Kuan Tai is gangly and clumsy (I think he is the Charlton Heston of Shaw Brothers films). However, he does the hung gar tiger form correctly. Wong Yue is "funny" and does nothing. This is the predecessor to the much-superior "Fists of the White Lotus". Lo Lieh, who plays Pak Mei (white eyebrow), dominates in his short role.

Stars: Bruce Li (Ho Chung Tao), Bruce Leung (Leung Siu Lung), Guk Fung. MA rating: 3.5

When Bruce Li steps out from the Kai Tak airport in his Bruce-haircut, shades, a big-lapeled white suit and red shirt, you think "uh oh, another bad imitation". But surprisingly, he plays it straight---this is not really a Bruce Lee lookalike film. He uses a Taiwanese version of wing chun with some (average) kicks tossed in. It is, however, a typically campy mid-1970s chop socky complete with cooing flip-haired hookers, mop-headed thugs, bad camera work, etc. Bruce Leung steals the show with his somewhat smallish role as a dim mak stylist who can also kick like crazy. In fact, Leung's pacing and mannerisms out-Bruce Bruce Li's.

Stars: Sammo Hung, Jacky Cheung, David Chiang, Hwang Jang Lee, Chang Yi, Yuen Wah, Joey Wang.
MA rating: quantity-3 quality-5

Entertaining and light slapstick late 1980s HK sitcom with some rapid fire kickboxing scenes and great stuntwork. Sammo is a timid tuba player in the police band who is hounded by the ghost of a dead cop superior (Chiang). This disrupts Sammo's personal life. If you understand Chinese (or better yet, are Chinese and get Chinese humor), the humor will be side splitting. As for the MA, there is good kickboxing action. Sammo and Jacky Cheung deal with a pantheon of kung fu evil---superkicker Hwang Jang Lee (who does a
particularly nice job in this, one of his last movies), Chang Yi (1970s Taiwanese kung fu villain standby) and Yuen Wah. Sammo, of course, is fantastic. Don't bother with this one unless you love Sammo in his "loveable
dumbo humor" mode.

Stars: John Liu, Alexander Lo. MA rating: 3.7

One of the many lower production quality Taiwanese films done later in super kicker John Liu's career. Liu, who plays a 'northern leg master' and Lo, a 'southern fist' master, bicker and gruff back and forth and blame each other over a death, while the villain (a tall gangly and very agile guy with a face like a jackal, who has played bad guys in other Liu films) manipulates them. Plenty of action. Liu unfortunately is a bit too flowery and staged here. Lo's southern style is a mishmash. There is a horrible whining comedy character who "tries to get the two masters to teach him kung fu". You will hate these parts.

Stars: Tsui Siu Keung, Kit. MA rating: 3

This hit the stores in 2000. Somewhat forgettable Chinese republic-era period piece about a security company that runs into trouble from a gang of bandits. Has the feel of a cheapy TV production. Ensemble cast features a few decent performers (no notable styles). However, the overall results are disappointing (as are most films starring Tsui Siu Keung).

Stars: Sammo Hung, Ngai Sing, Joyce Godenzi, Dodo Cheng, Jacky Cheung, Lam Ching Ying. MA rating: quantity-3 quality-5

If you like the lightweight sitcom comedy Sammo ("Officer Tuba", "Gambling Ghost", "Paper Marriage", etc.) this film will satisfy. Sammo plays a bumbling telephone salesman who gets caught up in multiple screwball problems involving gangsters and cops. Action is not the focus, however it is sprinkled throughout. Hilarious physical comedy (of course), such as Sammo fighting Lam Ching Ying and Jacky with scuba flippers. Sammo cuts loose in the finale and the kickboxing duel with Ngai Sing is impressive. The girls (including Joyce Godenzi) also get into it. Occasionally side splitting if you understand Cantonese and HK style comedy.

Stars: Mainland Chinese wu shu players. MA rating: 5

Sung dynasty adventure about the family of general Yueh Fei fighting the Mongols ("Kam" people). Made around the crest of the "authentic Chinese MA"/Jet Li Shaolin temple period (yes, it's 'old school'). The quality of the MA is established immediately. Some of the same cast members as "Legend of Fong Sai Yuk" (sold in the US as "Iron Man") and the ensemble wu shu players are from a troupe in Kiangsu province. Very high quality wu shu and some of the best weapons work you'll ever see. Spear, staff, sword, rope dart and
empty hand.

Stars: Tong Lung. MA rating:1

Tong Lung starred in a number of godawful mid 1970s Taiwanese cheapies, and this is just one of them. He and the rest of the cast are clearly not the real thing. They flail around without skill, and endlessly, to music stolen from the soundtrack album of "Enter the Dragon". One of those unintentionally funny bad movies. Beware of any films starring musclebound, stiff Tong Lung, who was briefly peddled as an inheritor to the Lee throne. He looks like Frankenstein, has bad teeth, but has a "Bruce Lee-like" hair cut. You will be "one the verge of" slumber.

Stars: Mon Yut Lung. MA rating: 2

Another Taiwanese mid-1970s flail-a-thon that is easily overlooked. Early directoral effort by Joseph Kuo. The star would later show up in numerous sword and MA films alongside the likes of Carter Wong, Polly Sheng, Wong Kun Hung, etc. He isn't terrible, his moves are basic block/punch, block/hit and they are not ridiculous. However, not entertaining to watch either.

Stars: Sammo Hung, Tung Wei, Lee Hoi San. MA rating: 5

Classic straight kung fu comedy from the late 1970s with the usual elements. Sammo plays a master who trains (tortures) goofy young disciple Tung Wei using various methods. Sammo, of course, is superb. Tung Wei's acrobatic skills are impressive. No specific styles, but one can pick up elements of various southern styles. Finale vs. Lee Hoi San (of Shaw Brothers fame, and also the villain in "Magnificent Butcher")

Stars: (don't have the name). MA rating: quantity-2 quality-4.5

This bizarre film does not know what it wants to be. Half of it is a "category 3" (graphic sex) peep show about monks kidnapping and performing sexual alchemy with virgins (these scenes go on and on and have little story
value). The other part is a very straightforward old fashioned kung fu story about students and an old master seeking revenge, and training to improve their kung fu. There is only a thin strand tying the sex portions and the kung fu. The star of the kung fu part is a guy who has starred in various 1990s martial arts films, including one in which he played Wong Fei Hung. Here, he is Bruce Lee-like in that he relies on simple punches like right crosses, and spin kicks. He and his (wu shu) female partner learn a secret kicking technique that looks similar to tan tui.


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Stars: unknowns. MA rating: 1

One of those disasters to avoid. Mainland Chinese production which is described as a "heroic Ching dynasty martial arts epic". Instead, it is a lame wandering wreck of a story in which all cast members spin and fly overtly on wires. Undercranking is so bad, they move like Keystone Kops. Star is some guy festooned in a cowboy-like outfit, complete with a hat and something like looks like tattered shorts. You want this one to end quickly, and it takes forever.

Stars: Ding Lam, Yau Kin Kwok, Wong Jun. MA rating: 4.8

Mainland Chinese kung fu/sword epic produced at the height of the the Jet Li/Shaolin Temple/"authentic Chinese wu shu" craze of the 1980s featuring high level wu shu players from the Beijing Wu Shu Academy. Epic feel, nice cinematography, authentic (Beijing area) locations and nice story. You will recognize the stars. The leading lady co-starred in "Shaolin Temple 2". Yau was the star of the "South Shaolin Master" films. Wong starred in a Wong Fei Hung knockoff. The story is a bit typical (girl trains and gets revenge for killer of family), but the wu shu is very good. Weapons galore. The film's only minor flaws: 1. One dead spot (an implausible sidetrack involving a wimpy scholar to whom 13th Sister takes in interest). 2. Choreography for all three stars (particularly Yau Kin Kwok) could have been more aggressive and crisp.

Stars: Cynthia Yang (Khan), Chin Siu Ho, Billy Chow. MA rating:4.

Generic cops/kickboxing/guns caper filmed in Malaysia. As always, Yang, Siu Ho and Chow do not disappoint with their kickboxing, even though the movie as a whole is unremarkable.

Stars: Bruce Li (Ho Chung Tao), Simon Yuen Siu Tin. MA rating: 2.7

A late 1970s attempt to fuse the Chan/Drunken Master kung fu comedy craze with the eternal Bruce fixation, teaming "Lee-alike" Ho Chung Tao with the very old Simon Yuen, on the last legs of his career. Ho plays it straight in this Republic-era story (nothing very Brucey except for his hair cut) which resembles "Prodigal Son"-- about a spoiled rich young master who, after a comeuppance, is trained by Yuen. Style: Taiwanese wing chun variation with smattering of kicks (not done very well). Yuen stumbles through this performance (primarily with the help of an obvious stunt stand-in). Unremarkable. (No, the "blindness" suggested in the title has nothing to do with wing chun or sticky hands)

Stars: Angela Mao, Wong TaO. MA rating: quality-3.5 quantity-2

Typical Taiwanese "costume intrigue" from the mid-1970s with a typically confusing mystery plot about a stolen object. Although the story will put you to sleep, Mao Ying (hapkido, kicks) and Wong Tao (using crane, mantis) and weapons work will occasionally perk your interest. Action doesn't really pick up until the finale.

Stars: Hsu Feng. MA rating: 0

Obscure but fascinating early 1970s production that interesting from a film making point of view. The director of this oddity (about a revolutionaries entering a town run by a tyrant that they want to assassinate) was clearly a student of film. He blends elements of Eisenstadt and Japanese. Forget it in terms of MA. However, if you are intrigued by mood, framing, tension and storytelling, this is one to study. Nice brooding performance from Hsu Feng, who makes up for any lack of MA with good acting.

Stars: David Chiang, Ti Lung. MA rating: 0

An early 1970s "classic" directed by Chang Cheh about 13 princes who take on Mongols. A hopelessly boring, aimless story that never ends. The princes act like bandits, drink, carouse and laugh. They ride on horses, then go home to drink, carouse and laugh some more. Martial arts? Forget it. There is only artless hacking (it's all primitive swords and spears). The worst aspect: the MA-less David Chiang gets 80% of the screen time, and he is not only annoying but a physical zero. A young Ti Lung provides a small bit of skill, but
limited screen time. Chen Sing appears in a non-fighting role. Bolo shows up and is immediately killed.

Stars: Jet Li, Leung Kar Yan, Lau Kar Fai. MA rating: 5

This was the fourth installment of the original Jet Li Wong Fei Hung series, produced after Jet Li split with director Tsui Hark. I think it is underrated. This chapter was directed by Wong Jing, and not surprisingly, Wong brings a lightweight HK comedy air to it, complete with little boy-girl silly jokes and appearances by HK stars. Nevertheless, there is more good than not. Wu shu master Jet Li is in top form here, and there is more action than in the first two Tsui Hark movies. The wire work is present, but does not detract from the wu shu. Some measure of "meeting of generations" with Lau Kar Fai (of Shaw Brothers/Wong Fei Hung fame) appearing as a villain, and battling Jet Li. Leung Kar Yan is an (oddly cast) overweight Ah Foon and tosses in some tiger/crane (the only hint of real hung kar anywhere). The main villain is a highly skilled wu shu player who appeared in "Iron Monkey 2". Finale is a treat: JET LI PERFORMS DRUNKEN FIST!

Stars: Angela Mao, Sammo Hung, Wang In Sik, Ji Han Joi, Carter Wong, Pai Ying. MA rating: 4

Early 1970s classic directed by Huang Feng, choreographed by Sammo Hung and featuring Mao Ying at her best. Sammo Hung's first starring role (as a hero), as well as a debut for Carter Wong. Although this film was (like "When TKD Strikes") a showcase for a Korean martial art, the hapkido represented here is not pure. Opening credits start off with a demonstration by Ji Han Joi (hapkido master who would later battle Bruce Lee in "Game of Death"). Angela, Sammo and Carter Wong take over from there, allegedly as Chinese students of hapkido, resisting the Japanese. I say allegedly because their hapkido looks a lot like Chinese movie fighting. Mao Ying, a student of hapkido (as well as many other styles) is the intense star of this film. If there is any one film that cements her place as the female Bruce Lee, it is this one. Primarily Chinese movie fighting, with hapkido joint locks, throws and kicks. Sammo is all over the place (no particular style), and quite fast. Pai Ying plays a Japanese karate bad guy, but his karate is sloppy Chinese movie fighting. Evil looking Wang In Sik (a hapkido black belt), ironically appears as a good guy. Fans of "Fist of Fury/Chinese Connection" will find many similarities in story, brutal mood and action in this film, which is also about battling "evil Japanese".

Stars: Sammo Hung. MA rating: quality-4 quantity-near zero

Directed by Ringo Lam, this is a generic-as-it-gets Hong Kong cop/bumbling innocent story in which Sammo is only midly funny, and doesn't get that many action scenes. Many car chases, blowups, muggings, etc. and only a few kickboxing scenes (Sammo is, of course, superb in them. Joint locks, throws, kicks, etc.) You have to be a diehard Sammo fan to spend the time with this one.

Stars: Fu Sheng, Lau Kar Fai, Wai Ying Hung. MA rating: quality-4 quantity-2

Directed by Lau Kar Leung. Gaudy, over-the-top comedy spoof of a well known Chinese swordplay fable/opera that is too much. Too many gags and absolutely no relief. Two solid hours of one note: silly. The martial arts scenes of any substance and duration (sprinkled throughout) are good Shaw Brothers, as you'd expect from Lau Kar Leung. One can, however, appreciate Fu Sheng's comedic talents. He was the precursor to Jackie Chan (in many ways superior) before his untimely death. Bottom line: like "Dirty Ho" , this is a very
lightweight comedy.

Stars: Jet Li, Russell Wong, Delroy Lindo, Aaliyah. MA rating: 4

Slap together the worst African-American hood/gangsta story with the most stereotyped Asian-American triad punks and fortune cookie "old triad leaders", and a silly plot about real estate and (of all things) football, the useless eye candy presence of Aaliyah, with the most predictable Jet Li ideas from past films, and this is what you get. The American-made film debut of Jet Li is no big deal and nothing that lives up to what Jet is capable of. He basically reprises the characters he portrayed (better) in "Dragon Fight" and "The Master": a good/innocent wu shu-skilled Chinese who comes to America as a fish out of water, and must clear things up. Way too much screen time is devoted to a large cast of uninteresting characters. In the end, it is impossible to discount Jet Li himself, who of course, impresses with his wu shu and kickboxing. His action scenes (choreographed by Cory Yuen), however, are not always filmed properly. Many times, you will wish they'd pulled the camera back a few feet. Some outlandish Matrix-like wire stunts and silly "x-ray/bone break" camera tricks add nothing to the film. Russell Wong is slow and unconvincing. You will not buy for one second that he is Jet Li's equal.


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Stars: Jet Li, Donnie Yen. MA rating: 5

The second chapter in the classic Wong Fei Hung series, directed by Tsui Hark, is a typically excellent display of Jet Li's wu shu. The action scenes are at times very wire-assisted, but his skills are obvious. His kicking is
especially good in this one. Donnie Yen, whose wu shu skills throughout match Jet's move for move (in addition to his own MA training, Donnie also trained at the Beijing Wu Shu Academy) plays a villainous Ching official who is a master of the staff/pole. The two staff duels between them are impressive (the finale is a letdown). The main villains are the anti-foreign White Lotus Cult, whose leader is played by the bald wu shu player who appeared in the Shaolin Temple series. History buffs might find the Wong Fei Hung character's
"centrist" political stance and hatred towards sectarian cults (White Lotus, Boxers) and pompous attitude tiresome and biased.

Stars: Wong Jun, Bald Eagle, Yau Keen Gwok. MA rating: 5

This is a Jet Li/Wong Fei Hung series imitation/knockoff film starring Wong Jun (of the Beijing Wu Shu Academy) as Wong Fei Hung. His Academy cohorts, Bald Eagle (villain in many films) and Yau, have collaborated on many other MA films of the late 1980s/early 1990s such as "Revengeance Super Lady" and "South Shaolin Master". Fist From Shaolin directly imitates the Jet Li version, including the characters, inside jokes and even the "men practicing on the beach at sunset" motif. It feels like a cheap ripoff. That said,
the MA is topnotch. Wong Jun uses a combination of wu shu and a more economical brand of Chinese KF (less ornate than Jet Li's). He is super fast. Excellent weapons work (staff, kwan do). The man who plays Ah Foon is a great kicker. Yau (of "Shaolin Master" fame) plays a bumbling villain. One of the bad guys does a white crane form.


Stars: Cliff Lok (Koo Lung). MA rating: quantity-4 quality-2

During the mid 1970s, Cliff Lok (or Koo Lung) starred in numerous films, widely promoted as a great screen fighter. Between his old-man face (reminsicent of Wang Yu), small physique and limited physical skills, it
is a stretch. "Pillars" is a classic Shaolin epic that reprises the Taiwanese riff popularized by "18 Bronzemen" and "Shaolin Kids". Indeed, Koo Lung basically repeats the Carter Wong role, taking on Bronzemen, traps, wooden dummies, etc. with various animal styles. Unfortunately, he in unconvincing. "Ring of Death" again casts him an a fearsome guy, but he doesn't pull it off, and gets to kill Hwang Jang Lee (who is ten times his superior).

Stars: Chia Ling, Kam Kong. MA rating: 3

Opera-trained, agile Chia Ling deserves status alongside Mao Ying and Polly Sheng as a premier girl film fighter of the 1970s. This is one of the (if not the) only films in which a woman does drunken style. She does quite a credible job. Unfortunately, her supporting cast is not great, and the story has dead spots.

Stars: Wang Jun. MA rating: 4.7

Mainland Chinese production starring cast members who are graduates of Beijing Wu Shu Academy. Wang Jun, who has starred in 'Fist from Shaolin', 'Revengeance Super Lady' and 'Satyr Monk', is a good wu shu performer whose moves are more economical (more basic punches and blocks) than, say Jet Li. Wang's kicks are spectacular and he is quick. Very nice weapons work throughout (sword, 3-section, spear, etc.). Based on a novel, this is an unsual film because it is about a pretty despicable creep who displays less than heroic character.

Stars: Mark Cheng. MA rating: 3

A 2000 release that seemed to offer all the right elements: a fictionalized episode from the life of a legendary turn of the century Peking opera performer (Yeung) who gets tangled up in an anti-government intrigue and a
sect. The opera scenes are nice, and the best parts of the movie. Something in the MA action doesn't excite. The choreography has the feel of HK TV--wu shu overtones and too much spinning and flying. The lead star seems to do his best work with his back to the camera (probably because a stunt double is at it). The story is maudlin at times. Look past that and it's not a bad way to kill a few hours.

Stars: Lau Kar Leung, Wai Ying Hung, Wong Lung Wei. MA rating: 3.7 (through first hour), 5 (finale)

An early 1980s lightweight situation comedy from Shaw Brothers, directed by and starring Lau and his then-girlfriend and disciple Wai Ying Hung. The story involves a cocky American-born daughter of a deceased Hong Kong kung fu master who comes to HK to take over a school. Lau plays the stuffy first student who cannot stand her "new and crazy ways" (which include aerobic dancing, disco, recruiting of silly students,etc.). In the end, there is a big conflict with a local gangster (Lung Wei). Wai is nowhere near the kickboxing form she shows in other classics such as "My Young Auntie". However, skip to Lau's tremendous battle with Lung Wei in the finale, and you might forget how bad the rest of the film was. He is at the top of his game. Hung gar, in its purest combat applications, done with speed, whipping power and fury.

Stars: Chiu Man Cheuk, Anthony Wong, Lau Kar Wing, Wai Ying Hung, Chang Pei Pei
MA rating: 3 2000 release.

Generic and forgettably plastic caper about a cop (Chiu) who rushes to save school kids held hostage by a depressed man (Wong). After many years of playing film heroes such Wong Fei Hung, stunting for Jet Li,
starring in "Blacksheep Affair" and numerous TV series, Chiu still does not have a commanding presence. His wu shu-influenced kickboxing, while certainly impressive in an absolute sense and is quick and fluid, is not convincing. Too "flowery". There is plenty of action here, and he runs through lots of scenery of Shenzhen and Hong Kong (for those who care). The most amusing section: the director gives a respectful nod to HK kung fu cinema's old heroes. Lau Kar Wing, Wai Ying Hung and Chang Pei Pei get cameos (and a short fight scene each).

Stars: Angela Mao, Chang Yi, Pai Ying, Sammo Hung. MA rating: 1.7

Very early 1970s, pre-Bruce Lee era "chop socky", (directed by Huang Feng) typically set in the Republic era, complete with endless, long and brutal fights, leering thugs and Japanese "karate" baddies. This film is so early
that choreography, precision and technique were not standard requirements. All of the players (with the exception of Pai Ying) would later become heavyweights of action cinema and beautiful screen fighters. Here, they all (including Sammo) flail around sloppily to loud slapping sound effects. Mao Ying is (as always) acts pissed off and ferocious, but it's obvious that she has not yet learned to kick well. A young Sammo plays a thug who gets whipped repeatedly. Chang Yi (who plays a hero) and Pai Ying are very sloppy.

Stars: Don Wong Tao, Yasuki Kurata. MA rating: 3.8

A late 1970s modern cop drama shot in Taipei and Hong Kong. Comes across as a precursor to the standard 1980s Hong Kong crime/cop fare. Wong Tao is a brooding vengeful cop pursuing Kurata, a thief with ninja-like skills. Decent kickboxing. Despite being clad in turteneck sweaters and bell bottom slacks, Wong cannot resist lapsing occasionally into his traditional mantis-like hand techniques. Wong is assisted by a kickboxing woman (a young, fat Yukari Oshima?). Some gratuitous soft core sex scenes to fast forward through (no, they are not interesting).

Stars: Angela Mao Ying, Pai Ying, Hsu Feng. MA rating: 0.5

A total disaster. Boring, big budget 1970s Taiwanese production that is nearly action-free. One of those very bad "intrigue at the inn" stories. Lots of sneaky looks, drinking, waiters serving wine and buns, plotting, spying.

Stars: Billy Chong, Carl Scott. MA rating: 4.5

A low budget, kitsch-filled Chinese-in-the-American West classic from the late 70s starring Chong, one of a handful of "nice looking" heirs to Bruce Lee's throne. Chong's finest and best choreographed film. Although the first half drags a bit, the Chong and Scott really show their stuff in the second. The final few duels are excellent. Chong: good (Korean-style) kicks (spinning, jumping), Bruce-type boxing and southern Chinese-influenced moves. Scott: does some excellent panther style, with some interesting kicks tossed
in. Good training scenes between Scott and the old master, who resembles sifu Chan Pui (Shaolin mantis) although I'm not sure it's him. Scott does a good staff form. The villains are unknown and rather clumsy American karate stoogeg types. Notable tacky details: The story is supposedly about Chinese immigrants in the old American west (1800s). However, western villains show up wearing large aviator sunglasses, bell bottoms and Chuck Norris mophead haircuts. Chinese cast with blowdried Lee-like cuts (and bell bottoms). Soundtrack consists of tune now being used in Great Western Savings radio commercials.
Fan note: The old master was played by Leung Siu Sung, who is Bruce Leung Siu Lung's father. The main villian was Louis Neglia, who won the 1979 world karate championships. (Thank you to Goldenfist82 for this information.)

Stars: real martial artists from mainland China, Wong Jun, Yeung Ching Ching. MA rating: 5

Early 1980s documentary that was made at the same time as "Shaolin Kung Fu" and "Abbott Hai Teng". (All feature the same footage of a young Jet Li training and doing forms.) Dragons takes the form of a "trip" (a phony one) through China by wu shu players Wong Jun (of the Beijing Wu Shu Academy, and
star of various films such as "Warrior from Shaolin") and Yeung Ching Ching. Empty hand and weapons forms performed primarily by members of the Beijing Academy. Great stuff.

Stars: Leung Siu Lung. MA rating: 4

Leung stars as a Sung dynasty general who hides (and trains) in a Buddhist temple to escape and get even with the evil barbarians who killed his family. Pretty solid late 1970s/early 1980s production with expected elements MA fans should appreciate (monks, training). Leung choreographed the action, and it's good. Shaolin-based weapons (spear and staff). He doesn't do much empty hand, but as always tosses in some nice kicks. Some cheesy special effects (flashes on weapons, a little flying) that don't detract too much.

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