I decided my first real post would be a fun (if atypically cliched) top 10 list. Mind you I will also be cheating a tad here and there. Also this is a list of my PERSONAL faves/most watched....so no whining about technical merits, acting, storylines blah blah blah. Also this kind of list (on any topic) is always fluid, and ever changing.
One recent movie that REALLY came out of nowhere and took me by surprise. Loaded with a GREAT cast including legends like Chen Kuan Tai, Lo Meng, Bruce Leung, Teddy Robin Kwan, and Siu Yam Yam. Newer actors like Wong You Nam, J.J. Jia, and MC Jin help round out a stellar group. The intro sequence, and movie poster are both superb throwbacks to classic 70's fu, and are worth the price of admission alone. A fun film that shows that classic fu stars (and the classic 70's vibe) are still alive and well..
9. Fist of Legend
One of Jet Li's best movies ever. Fast, furious, and in my opinion an excellent homage/remake of a Bruce Lee classic. With Ada Choi, Yasuaki Kurata, Billy Chow, and Shinobu Nakayama (of Gamera fame) it has a very solid cast. This was when Jet was in his prime, and this movie REALLY shows his speed, and style that has won him worldwide fame.
8. Once Upon a Time In China I-III
Jet Li, Yuen Biao, Rosamund Kwan, Jimmy Wang Yu, Donnie Yen, David Chiang, Max Mok, along with director Tsui Hark, and Yuen Woo Ping bring us one of the best trilogies ever set to screen. Starting with what is quiet possibly the most EPIC theme song of all time, we are drawn into the exploits of Jet Li as Wong Fei Hung. One of my personal favorite versions of the celebrated Chinese folk hero, Jet has the skills to back up the name.
7. Ip Man
Donnie Yen amazes in this story about Ip Man (most famous to many as the teacher of Bruce Lee). A period piece that has GORGEOUS attention to detail, and a background cast filled with greatness. Fan Siu Wong, Simonn Yam, Wong You Nam, Lynn Xiong, Xing Yu, action by Sammo Hung make this a MUST see. This isn't your 70's "chop socky" flicks. While there is some of the coolest action in awhile, it also has an excellent story. Donnie's speed rivals that of Bruce Lee, and Jet Li...and at times surpasses them. This was my favorite movie of 2008 hands down.
6. Drunken Master 1/Drunken Master 2
Right here are 2 of the BIG reasons I got into kung fu/asian cinema to begin with. Jackie Chan, in one of his most beloved roles. Another rendition of the character Wong Fei-Hung, yet this time there is ample comedy along with fu greatness. This is a Yuen clan flick (hell much of the crew, and part of the cast) especially the "eternally drunk Beggar So" Simon Yuen along with LEGENDARY kicker Hwang Jang Lee, Dean Shek, and Yuen Biao (stunts) make this one a real treat.I for one have no issues with my fu dipped in comedy, and Jackie shines in this role. The training scenes (for me) are second only to my #1 movie on this list... ;) This movie also has one of my top 10 theme songs, once you hear it, this gem of a movie pops right into your head.
Part 2 adds Lau Kar Leung aka "Pops" (acting + action director), Anita Mui, one of the best Shaw Brothers Legends Ti Lung, Ho Sung Pak, and Ken Lo to the mix of some of the craziest, drunken fighting ever. While the sequel did come 16 YEARS after the first, it does not disappoint, and everyone is in excellent form. Sadly finding a "perfect" copy of this in it's original language has yet to happen :|
Drunken Master 1
Drunken Master 2
John Woo (one of the best in the Gun Fu business) brings us one of the best action movies ever made. Chow Yun Fat believes that no movie is a success unless damn near everything is shot, or blown up....I agree. Hell this movie has ounce per ounce more testosterone flowing thru it than the entire Rocky, and Rambo series rolled together. Philp Kowk (of Shaw Brothers Venoms fame....and a personal favorite) does double duty as action director, and the bad ass Mad Dog. Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Anthony Wong, and Teresa Mo round out the major players. I love the storyline, and it is decent...but don't get me wrong Shakespeare this is not. From the begining teahouse "bullet ballet", to the ending bodycount, this movie will DEFINITELY deliver the goods.
4. Police Story 1/Police Story 2
Rumble in the Bronx, Operation Condor, Mr. Nice Guy (some of Jackie's " US discovery" movies...all decent, and fun. Yet Police Story 1, and 2 dwarf these in my mind. Jackie's incredible stuntwork, stellar casts, and all around fun make these some of the best Hong Kong movies of the 80's. The ALWAYS beautiful Maggie Cheung *sigh*, ever lovable "Uncle Bill" Bill Tung, Brigitte Lin, and Lam Gwok Hung just make these movies a blast to watch. Once again Jackie mixes fu, props, and comedy in the perfect formula. Also these 2 movies have another of my favorite movie themes ever.
Police Story 1 (with theme song)
Police story 2
3. Fist of Fury
Seriously...does anything have to be said about this one..it's Bruce Lee (and the luscious Nora Mao)..plus a tiny part for Yuen Wah (under appreciated favorite). This is the movie that started (?) the character of Chen Zhen reprised by Stephen Chow, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen amongst others. I have bounced back and forth thru the years between this, and Enter the Dragon as my favorite Bruce Lee flick. In the end, while Enter the Dragon has a MUCH higher budget/production values, even a better cast....Fist justfeels "more Bruce". It's a hard thing to explain.
2. Kung Fu Hustle
I actually found out about this movie of movies thru US TV advertisements when it was first released. One thing that caught my eye was Roger Ebert's quote "like Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny"...I was sold. I didn't get a chance to see this in theaters, but nabbed it the day it came out on dvd. I was HOOKED. To be honest this was only my 3rd Stephen Chow movie (after a bit part in A Better Tomorrow,and Fist of Fury 1991)...what the hell had I been missing all these years?!?! I know a lot of people seem to take some time to "warm up to" his Mo lei tau style of comedy...but it clicked for me almost right away. Along for the ride is Stephens sidekick as of late Lam Tze Chung, Danny Chan Kwok Kwan, Shaw legend Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu, Bruce Leung (Gallants -see above), Chu Chi Ling, Fung Hak On (another Shaw star). My personal favorites (besides Stephen of course) are by far Yuen Wah, and Yuen Qiu... the comedy, the chemistry, their outfits, the fu... they keep you glued to the screen each and every time. Add a rousing soundtrack that always fits the mood, and you have one of my most watched movies ever (not bad for only being out here for 6 years) ;)
1. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (aka Master Killer)
I have loved kung fu movies ever since I was a little kid. Weekends filled with Kung Fu (the series), Bruce Lee, Kung Fu Theater and the like. Not sure how old I was, but one Saturday I was up by my grandparents. My aunt and uncle were there visiting, they had a foreign exchange student from China (it's been so long it's fuzzy of it was Hong Kong or mainland). He introduced me to the GREATNESS that was original language Shaw Brothers. Among the stack of (probable bootleg) VHS tapes we watched a few. THIS was the one that stuck out...and cemented Gordon Liu as my fave Shaw (and any other) star of all time. To this day these are still my favorite training scenes. The beginning of my love of Shaolin.....