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Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Yeoh’

Reign of Assassins

Monday, April 11th, 2022

I’m an idiot so it took me more than a decade to get around to watching REIGN OF ASSASSINS (2010), even though it’s directed by John Woo. Well, sort of – it’s actually directed by Su Chao-pin (SILK [2006]), but Woo was with him the whole time to mentor him, so he got a co-director credit. He says he gave advice, but never imposed his style. And I definitely wouldn’t confuse it for his movies.

It is a pretty enjoyable wuxia movie though, and it stars Michelle Yeoh, so I’m glad I finally got my shit together.

The story concerns various killers fighting over the mummified corpse of “the powerful monk Bodhi” because, according to the narrator of the prologue, “They say that whoever possesses the Bodhi remains will rule the martial arts world.” Through some not-great illustrations and freeze frame/bullet time character introductions we learn that members of “The Dark Stone, a secret guild of the world’s deadliest assassins” killed Minister Zhang Haiduan and stole the remains, but “amidst the chaos an assassin, Shi Yu (apparently called “Drizzle” in some translations), discovers Grandmaster Bodhi’s remains and disappears into the night…” All the other assassins try to kill her to get a reward. (read the rest of this shit…)

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

It’s hard not to think of EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE as some kind of miracle movie. I had no idea it was something I needed, or something that anyone would think to make, until a couple months ago when the trailer came out. It stars Michelle Yeoh in her best ever English language role, a very layered character who gets to be funny and goofy and troubled and kind of an asshole but totally lovable and yes, she also does some kung fu. It co-stars Ke Huy Quan, who we knew as a child star in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and THE GOONIES, but who hasn’t been in a movie in almost 20 years, making a triumphant return in surely his best part ever (and he also gets to fight).

It would be worth celebrating just for putting those two actors together, even if it didn’t entirely work. But this thing is much more advanced than that. Written and directed by “Daniels” (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, of SWISS ARMY MAN and various music videos), it’s a very original movie, but if I had to give it a short hand description based on other people’s work I’d go with “if Michel Gondry made THE MATRIX.” Or if that scares you, substitute Stephen Chow. It uses a convoluted sci-fi gimmick as a vehicle for some absurd humor, artfully hand-crafted imagery and outlandish action, which all weaves together to explore ideas about life and relationships and family and happiness. That title is no lie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Believe it or not, I kinda consider myself kind of a Shang-Chi guy. As in, I dig that comic book character, before there was a movie. That’s definitely overstating it, because I don’t know that much more about his history than the next guy, but I’m attached to him because of my fascination with the period that created him, just a couple years before I was born, when American pop culture was catching on to the existence of kung fu and kung fu movies, and trying to cash in.

Shortly after Luke Cage debuted in June 1972 as a super hero response to SHAFT (both SUPER FLY and the coinage of the term “Blaxploitation” happened a few months later), Shang-Chi was conceived as the Marvel Comics version of the hit TV show Kung Fu, and he debuted in the midst of ENTER THE DRAGON mania. He showed up one month in Special Marvel Edition, and two issues later it was retitled The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. I can’t resist titles like that – that’s why I also know about the DC character Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter (as seen in BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON) and why I was introduced to Shang-Chi by buying back issues of The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

That’s a ‘70s Marvel Magazine, the type you know is gonna include a full page ad for a “complete audiovisual home study course in dynamic KUNG FU & KARATE” for less than 16¢ a lesson with a 10 day no risk money back guarantee. But it’s mainly black-and-white comics about martial arts characters including Shang-Chi, Iron Fist and The Sons of the Tiger interspersed with crude martial arts-related articles. In issue #1, writer J. David Warner visits the Fred Hamilton All-Dojo Martial Arts Tournament, reviews THE CHINESE MECHANIC starring Barry Chan, and has a news column previewing upcoming Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest releases, as well as western movies with co-stars from Asian cinema, like YAKUZA, STONER and PAPER TIGER. It also mentions WHEN TAEKWONDO STRIKES, GOYOKIN, and Ken Russell “preparing for production” of a martial arts movie called KARATE IS A THING OF THE SPIRIT. (If that had gotten off the ground I’d probly obsess over it the way people do THE DEVILS.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Boss Level

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

I watched that movie PALM SPRINGS recently. It’s a GROUNDHOG DAY time loop romantic comedy type thing that uses the concept in a smart way that makes it a parallel to depression and hopelessness, and it’s just a funny movie and I enjoyed it. I also really liked HAPPY DEATH DAY (GROUNDHOG DAY as a slasher movie) and its sequel HAPPY DEATH DAY 2 U was pretty good too.

But I feel a little weird about “GROUNDHOG DAY” being a genre now. The first is still the best and most profound iteration of the form, and it’s such a distinctive premise that any movie that does a spin on it can’t help but feel a little more like biting than following a tradition. So I wasn’t exactly jumping to see Joe Carnahan’s BOSS LEVEL, which is GROUNDHOG DAY crossed with an action movie. I’m not too excited about “life is a video game” concepts either, so the title didn’t help.

But I shouldn’t have hesitated because this is a whole lot of fun, one of Carnahan’s best, and I think the script by Chris & Eddie Borey (OPEN GRAVE) and Carnahan earns the use of the time loop. Most of these movies wisely never explain the reason for the phenomenon – this feels very different because it’s all about him figuring out what’s doing this to him and why, so he has a more traditional, specific problem to solve (though along the way he learns life lessons like in the other ones). (read the rest of this shit…)

Supercop 2

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

As I believe I’ve made clear in many reviews over the years, as well as this week’s Profiles in Badass column on Rebeller, I’m aware of Michelle Yeoh’s wide range of talents and accomplishments. I love her most for the movies that really showcase her fighting and her swagger, like WING CHUN, and YES, MADAM!, or her fighting and her regret, like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, and the totally-worth-checking-out straight-to-Netflix sequel, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY. I also very much admire her dramatic acting chops from AH KAM to CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Still, the timing of my specific movie-watching path, discovering Hong Kong action in the ‘90s, means that I will always think of her as Michelle “jumped a motherfucking motorcycle onto a motherfucking train in SUPERCOP Yeoh. That’s just a fact. (read the rest of this shit…)

Butterfly and Sword

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

BUTTERFLY AND SWORD is from 1993, so it’s after Michelle Yeoh had already done YES, MADAM! and even SUPERCOP, but it’s her first straight up wuxia movie. Let me put it this way: in the opening scene in “West Chamber, Eunuch Li’s Mansion,” I do believe we see a guy’s face get ripped off and thrown into a pile of snakes. So this is not a drill. This is the unadulterated, berserk kind of kung fu fantasy film where there pretty much aren’t characters who don’t jump 25 feet in the air and shoot some kind of weapon.

Our male lead Brother Sing (Tony Leung, HARD BOILED, RED CLIFF, THE GRANDMASTER) is introduced bouncing off a string to fly through the air like an arrow, causing at least half a dozen dudes to explode as he hits them. He also has a cool method of holding a bow behind his back and firing his sword. Yeoh’s character Lady Ko gets a quicker but even more fanciful introduction flying in with a fanfare of confetti and a web of unfurling purple silk scarves. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wonder Seven

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

You know who’s always good? Michelle Yeoh. Have you noticed that? I guess you have. This one is from 1994, her followup to the classic WING CHUN, and it’s directed by the great Ching Siu-Tung. He had recently been her director for HEROIC TRIO 2 and action director for BUTTERFLY AND SWORD, THE HEROIC TRIO and HOLY WEAPON. The title presumably refers to the special forces team of six men and one woman introduced on dirt bikes chasing a gang of armed robbers through a farm. A guy is dragged through a pile of pig shit. The woman fires an arrow from a musical instrument and it goes all the way through a guy’s leg. One bike drops through a farmhouse ceiling. A guy runs through a pen full of ducks but gets hit in the head by a flying hammer.

All if this is great, obviously, but Michelle Yeoh is not one of these wonder people. The one female is Hilary Tsui (SHAOLIN POPEY), who apparently is playing “Tiny Archer.” The men on the team all kind of blend together to me. Kent Cheng (AH KAM) is the only one who really stands out visually, but unfortunately according to IMDb his character is called “Fatty.” Oh well – in ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA he played “Porky Wing,” and in IP MAN 2 and 3 he’s “Fatso” (Ip Man calls him “Bob” in part 4 though).

Yeoh plays Jing, a cool-sunglasses-wearing woman the Wonder Seven run into beginning with two separate incidents: (read the rest of this shit…)

Magnificent Warriors

Friday, March 20th, 2020

After two great turns playing cops in YES, MADAM! and ROYAL WARRIORS, Michelle Yeoh (credited as Michelle Kheng on the DVD I rented) got a chance to do sort of her version of Indiana Jones. In MAGNIFICENT WARRIORS (1987) she plays Fok Ming Ming, a whip-swinging, bi-plane-piloting granddaughter of a legendary revolutionary. During the credits we see her booted feet and leather-gloved hands as she loads a bunch of heavy crates onto a wagon, before it pans up to say that’s right, it’s a LADY. Can you fucking BELIEVE IT? As if we didn’t already know we were here to see a Michelle, uh… Kheng movie.

The most notable thing about the opening, and arguably the movie as a whole: her smile. She’s so happy in most of this. Of course I’m not telling women and/or Michelle Yeoh to smile more often, but I’m used to her seriousness, so it’s novel to see her playing this type of character. Ming Ming doesn’t have to act tough. She just is. Doesn’t stop her from being delightful and having a fun time. I guess that makes her a little more THE PHANTOM than Indy.

She’s been hired as a driver for some gun runner (Chan Ging, SEVEN WARRIORS, THE STORY OF RICKY) trying to sell boxes of rifles to a remote village. To test out the merchandise the buyers shoot him dead, so Ming Ming has to fight them all to get her money. She kicks them, whips them, sets their huts on fire, rides off chased by a sword-wielding mob, and turns around to shoot their bridge out with a gatling gun. And a smile.

(read the rest of this shit…)

THE STUNTWOMAN a.k.a. AH KAM

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

We owe this review to 1-900-MIXALOT, who was kind enough to recommend THE STUNTWOMAN in the comments for SUPERCOP. I found it at Scarecrow Video under the title AH KAM. I’m sure it’s not easy to come by, but as I write this there’s one copy available for $30 on Amazon, so it’s not unobtanium.

Like all right thinking citizens of the world I revere Michelle Yeoh as a superstar of martial arts films, and also respect her great gravitas as a dramatic actress. I don’t think there’s anyone else who is iconic on the level of Jet Li and Donnie Yen in kung fu films, but also has Yeoh’s level of success in non-action drama roles (including English language ones like SUNSHINE, CRAZY RICH ASIANS and Star Trek: Discovery). THE STUNTWOMAN is a 1996 Hong Kong film, her followup to WING CHUN, that bridges those two worlds. I definitely consider it a drama, not an action movie, but because she plays the titleistical stuntwoman we see her doing some of the good shit, and she also has one very satisfying opportunity to bust out a little bit of kung fu on some motherfuckers. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tai Chi Master

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

By now you’ve probly noticed that I like searching for wisdom in martial arts movies the way some people do religious texts. Sorry, they’re just more fun to me than holy scripture. But man, when I find one that speaks to me I feel spiritually invigorated. TAI CHI MASTER (a.k.a. TWIN WARRIORS) (1993) is just such a sermon. It’s one of those stories full of symbolism that

1) seems easily applicable to life

and

2) makes for strong, mythical drama

And since it’s directed and choreographed by the great Yuen Woo-ping (in between IRON MONKEY and WING CHUN) it would already be worth watching just for the beautiful fights full of wild flourishes and ingenious gimmicks. This is a world where people frequently kick logs and barrels at each other and back, where most people have the ability to leap into the air and spin or flip several full rotations, where you fly up and swing on a chandelier and the lamp oil spills and makes the floor slippery so you land on top of the people who have fallen down and slide around on them like they’re snowboards. (read the rest of this shit…)