TAI CHI 0
Original Title: Tai Ji 1: Cong Ling Kai Shi
(aka) Tai Chi Zero
Directed by Stephen Fung Produced by Zhang Da Jun, Stephen Fung, Daniel Wu Action by Sammo Hung, Andy Cheng
Starring: Jayden Yuan, AngelaBaby, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Eddie Peng, William Feng, Stephen Fung, Shu Qi, Stanley Fung, Bruce Leung, Fung Hak On, Xiong Xin Xin, Stephen Fung, Andrew Lau
Reviewing: Well Go USA Blu-ray Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Fantasy / Comedy
Rating - 4.5 / 5
Blu-ray Synopsis: In legendary Chen village, everyone is a martial arts master, using their powerful Chen Style Tai Chi in all aspects of their lives. Lu Chan has arrived to train, but the villagers are forbidden to teach Chen Style to outsiders, and do their best to discourage him by challenging him to a series of fights. Everyone, from strong men to young children, defeats him using their Tai Chi moves. But when a man from the village's past returns with a frightening steam-powered machine and plans to build a railroad through the village at any cost, the villagers realize they may have no choice but to put their faith in Lu Chan... who has a secret power of his own.
Views: Stephen Fung's massive steampunk kung-fu comedy tells the tale of Yang Lu Chan, a young wushu fighter who was born with a mysterious horn on his right temple. If hit, the horn releases an unmatched power that makes Yang a force to be reckoned with – although always results in a heavy nosebleed and a blackout afterwards, shortening his lifespan every time his 'superpower' is used. To try and help his bizarre case, Yang is advised by a dying kung-fu master to go to Chen Village – a legendary place where everyone is gifted in the art of Chen Style Tai Chi. But this proves to be easier said than done, as the strict village rules forbid any outsiders from learning their kung-fu style, but the young warrior is more than determined. Taking on many of the villagers, from children to old men, Yang tries his luck at getting accepted but is continually defeated until he gains a little help from Master Chen himself. At the same time, Chen Village is infiltrated by Fang Zijing – an old resident who left to seek education in the west and is intent on helping the British forces exploit the forbidden land which includes building a railroad right through his old home. Now, with the help of their new superhero friend, the residents of Chen Village must stand up to Fang and his army as well as his monstrous steam-driven tank in the ultimate showdown of old versus new!
As a director, Stephen Fung has come a long way since Heroes In Love, Enter The Phoenix, and the awesome House Of Fury – although as an actor, I can take or leave him. Either way, the man has been doing very well for himself in front of and behind the camera, going on to produce and direct many hits like Tai Chi 0, Tai Chi 2: Rise Of The Hero, The Adventurers with Andy Lau, and martial arts television shows Wu Assassins and Into The Badlands with his old co-star and good friend, Daniel Wu who also served as one of the main producers here. With this dual project, Fung takes his film-making skills to another level and delivers a highly accomplished piece that parodies the classic kung-fu tale with a brave mix of comic book storytelling, strong CGI, explosive martial arts action, and huge production values! In fact, it's hard to find anything to really dislike about Tai Chi 0 if I'm to be honest, except perhaps in the case that it kills off too many legends and stars who have cameoed, far too soon. It's a minor gripe mind you, as Stephen Fung aims to fit in as many big names of stars past and present in a bid to appeal to kung-fu fans of all ages – and something he does hilariously, mocking the old Shaw Brothers style of character introduction on-screen. This time though, Fung breaks the fourth wall by letting his audience know some real-life information about the actor in question, such as when the character of Andrew Lau appears he is accompanied by a title card that mentions he's the director of Infernal Affairs – and then there's the large cartoon title cards that highlight certain moves, or flash up as 'K.O.' when someone is taken down. For me, Tai Chi 0 was hugely entertaining on many levels but I can understand why some viewers and critics felt it was a bit busy with its fancy visuals, slick editing, stylised graphics, and gorgeous production design (much of which was in place for the films 3D release). Another complaint I noticed from many other reviewers was that the script was overcrowded and didn't focus enough on the journey of the main character to learn Chen Style Tai Chi. I mean, seriously, did these people completely miss the whole point of Tai Chi 0 being a parody of kung-fu movies? Yes there is a hell of a lot going on, but it's so friggin cleverly done and often hilarious that it helps make such a generic kung-fu storyline incredibly exciting and refreshing to watch. I actually found it to be very similar in vein to the awesome Kung Fu Hustle, and often felt I was watching a live adaptation of a crazy anime such as One Punch Man, Cromartie High School, and even Naruto – and I haven't even got into the whole steampunk side of things!
The legendary Sammo Hung gets the job of action director, aided by the wonderful Andy Cheng – a long time member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team who has starred in and choreographed a host of films including titles such as Angel Terminators 2, Saint Of Gamblers, Around The World In 80 Days, U.S. Seals 2, and more recently the Marvel box office smash, Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. Between the two of them and their team, we are treated to a wild ride of action scenes that mostly focus on stylized wire-work blended with the talents of the cast involved. As with a lot of Sammo's more recent outings – both as a director and actor – a lot of this is captured in glorious slow motion, and often to capture the more intricate moves involved as well as the power. There are many highlights of action throughout such as Yang Lu Chan's introduction on the battlefield which allows wushu champion Jayden Yuan Xiao Chao in his debut role, to show exactly what he is made of. The wonderful Bruce Leung gets to go up against the equally as wonderful Fung Hak On, and Clubfoot himself (Xiong Xin Xin) gets to kick-ass a couple of times as the protector of the village gate. Stephen Fung gets to join in the action in the beginning of the film as he joins Jayden Yuan in battle, and Angelababy – whom I've enjoyed in films like Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon, League Of Gods, and Rise Of The Legend (where she joined co-star Eddie Peng and Sammo Hung once again) – does a great job under Hung's watchful eye, as the daughter of Master Chen who is played by the brilliant Tony Leung Ka Fai. As the greatest fighter of the village, most of Leung's battles prove to be some of the best in the film and although there are certainly more accomplished martial arts actors out there, it was still great to see him in the role and in action. The rest of the cast is filled out with plenty of exciting actors such as the handsome Eddie Peng who stars as the antagonist of the piece, the great Stanley Fung from the Lucky Stars Trilogy, Shu Qi as Yang's mother, and the aforementioned cameo by director Andrew Lau who stars as Yang Lu Chan's father...
The film is gorgeously captured by a team of cinematographers, one of which is Peter Ngor Chi Kwan – the director of Erotic Ghost Story 2 and Legendary Couple, and an actor who has appeared in countless classics such as On The Run, The Blonde Fury, Ebola Syndrome, and many more. Ngor was also the man behind the camera on many Shaw Brothers hits like Dirty Ho, Clan Of The White Lotus, Return To The 36th Chamber, and Legendary Weapons Of Kung Fu, as well as modern classics like Mr. Vampire, Armour of God, My Lucky Stars, The Dragon From Russia, Sex & Zen, Full Contact, and many more. Along with a team of cinematographers, Ngor captures plenty of stunning scenes that make almost every frame beautiful to watch. All in all, Tai Chi 0 was a joy to watch and always has something new to catch with each repeated viewing. It was a bold move for Fung and his writers Cheng Hsiao Tse and Chang Chia Lu, with the latter being behind some great titles such as A World Without Thieves, the Detective Dee Trilogy, Mojin: The Lost Legend, and more. For those of you who have yet to catch Tai Chi 0, it's probably best to warn you that the film does end on a cliffhanger with some loose ends – all of which are tied up and continued in its entertaining sequel, Tai Chi 2: A Hero Rises (aka Tai Chi Hero).
Overall: Packed with plenty of easter eggs for fans of kung-fu cinema and hugely entertaining, Tai Chi 0 is wonderfully impressive with great comedy and strong action!
Blu-ray Extras: Behind The Scenes Feature, Music Video, Trailers
TAI CHI 2: RISE OF THE HERO
Original Title: Tai Ji 2: Ying Xiong Jue Qi
(aka) Tai Chi Hero
Directed by Stephen Fung Produced by Zhang Da Jun, Stephen Fung, Daniel Wu Action by Sammo Hung
Starring: Jayden Yuan, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Eddie Peng, AngelaBaby, William Feng, Stephen Fung, Daniel Wu, Yuen Biao, Patrick Tse, Shu Qi, Stanley Fung, Xiong Xin Xin, Stephen Fung
Reviewing: Well Go USA Blu-ray Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Fantasy / Comedy
Rating - 3.7 / 5
Blu-ray Synopsis: Lu Chan (Jayden Yuan) is on the verge of acceptance in Chen Village, but the cozy hamlet still stands in the shadow of danger. A prodigal brother returns, Lu Chan brings a curse on the town, and Yuniang's scprmed fiancee has an appetite for revenge, as well as some new partners in crime. The second in a trilogy from the creators of IP MAN and DETECTIVE DEE,and action directed by the legendary Sammo Hung, TAI CHI HERO is a steampunk-infused kung fu throwdown that will knock you out of your seat.
Views: Continuing on from the previous chapter, Tai Chi 2 opens with the wedding of Yang Lu Chan to master Chen's daughter, Yu Niang. But it doesn't take long for things to get disturbed when the older brother of Yu Naing returns – forcing an old prophecy on the townsfolk that Lu Chan will be the true cause of their downfall. As each of them turns against the young hero, the motives of the prodigal son soon become clear, and sees the villagers preparing themselves for battle once more with the return of Fang!
Director Stephen Fung returns with the second part of the proposed trilogy (although even as I write ten years later, there's still no sign of a final chapter) and slows things down quite a bit to allow for more character development, a fuller storyline including the relationship of the newly weds, and more emotion overall. That's not to say it's any better or any worse than Tai Chi 0, but those who felt the latter was a bit too busy for its own good, will most likely appreciate the change of pace. While there is plenty of focus on the new character of Master Chen's son, Zai Yang, and his wife this is really all about Eddie Peng's character of Fang Zi Jing getting his revenge. Having joined forces with a corrupt official, Fang utilises the power of his army as well as his weapons such as cannons, guns, and more. This gives Eddie Peng the chance to flex his acting chops, shifting from the polished jealous lover of the previous chapter to a wicked general intent on bringing pain and destruction to Chen Village. Although he had starred in some great roles leading up to this, Tai Chi 0 and Tai Chi 2 no doubt helped elevate him a little more, that saw him go on to star in films such as Cold War 1 & 2, Unbeatable, Wu Kong, Operation Mekong, and worked again with Sammo Hung in Rise Of The Legend and Call Of Heroes – both of which were outstanding films.
The rest of the main cast return as before with the addition of the incredible Yuen Biao as Master Li, an advisor to the prince and head of the royal kitchens. Thankfully, he gets to trade moves with Jayden Yuan under the direction of his big brother and looks great doing so in what would be the final fight of the film. The wonderful Daniel Wu makes an appearance as the Mad Monk in a great action scene, and William Feng who starred in White Vengeance, Divergence, Painted Skin 2, Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon, Dragon Blade, and The Monkey King 2 & 3, stars as Chen Zai Yang – the estranged son of Tony Leung's Master Chen, whose story brings most of the emotion to the film as he tries to make amends with his father. I also thought it was interesting how Fung and his team gained the addition of Swedish-born actor and Hollywood veteran Peter Stomare – a highly recognisable face from films such as Armageddon, Constantine, John Wick 2, The Tuxedo, Windtalkers, and television shows like Prison Break and American Gods. Here, Stomare plays a role that would have been cast to someone such as Louis Roth, Mark King, or Steve Tartalia if this was made 30 years ago, although he seems to be enjoying his role as Duke Fleming. While doesn't get the chance to get in on the action, Stomare does bring the film to a close with one of the most intriguing shots in Tai Chi 2: Rise Of The Hero that makes me really want to see a third part from the team...
Sammo Hung returns as the action director although without the assist of Andy Cheng this time around, and provides a great selection of fun fight scenes. The comic book action seen previously is toned down somewhat, but it still proves to be as entertaining of course. Peter Ngor continues his duties as DOP along with the returning Lai Yui Fai who lensed Portland Street Blues, The Avenging Fist, Infernal Affairs, and Wu Xia (Dragon). It's definitely interesting how both of these projects almost came out as two totally different movies, and while I feel a lot of this was down to the main characters ascension on becoming a martial arts master and maturing, I still think there was some imbalance to the projects that could have kept the same flow throughout both chapters without them feeling so separate. Regardless, Tai Chi 2: Rise Of The Hero still makes for a very entertaining watch and I'm only disappointed that we didn't get to see more in a final film!
Overall: While more focused on the story and emotional content of the film, Tai Chi 2 still proves to be highly entertaining and worth the watch!
Blu-ray Extras: Making of Feature, Trailers
Original Title: Riaru Onigokko
Directed by Sion Sono Produced by Masayuki Tanishima Action by Tak Sakaguchi
Starring: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, Ami Tomite, Mao Asou, Takumi Saitoh, Hinako Matsumoto
Reviewing: Amazon Prime UK Release
Genres: Suspense / Action / Horror
Rating - 4 / 5
Synopsis: Mitsuko is the sole survivor of a bizarre paranormal incident that kills all of her classmates. Running for her life, Mitsuko seemingly slips into an alternate reality, but death and chaos seems to follow her everywhere. As Mitsuko finds herself in increasingly surreal and violent situations, the true horror behind her nightmare is revealed.
Views: While on a peaceful field trip with her classmates, Mitsuko soon finds herself the lone survivor of an inexplicable disaster that sees both her coach, and the one in front, sliced in half – with the torsos of her classmates ripped from their seats and thrown through the air. As she makes a run for safety, Mitsuko must dodge an unseen force in the wind that continues to slice anyone in its way. Eventually escaping, the panic stricken schoolgirl is confused to find herself back at school with those she thought dead. Led to believe that it was all a dream, Mitsuko tries to continue with her day – supported by her friends who take her out of school to enjoy a pillow fight by the lake. But once back in the classroom, she soon finds herself in the midst of madness as her teacher mows down her classmates with a ratling-gun. Making another run for it, Mitsuko dodges bullets and bombs until she turns up at a police station – only with a whole new look and identity. The policewoman, who claims to know her, hurries the now-named (and extremely confused) Keiko to her wedding reception. Once again, she finds her dead classmates awaiting her – dressed for her special day. As it seems she may be losing her mind, best friend Aki tells her not to worry, explaining the situation to some degree as she breaks the bones, necks, and heads of the wedding party. Once again, Mitsuko finds herself in the middle of another horrific scenario – and an insane wedding party – that sees both her and Aki fight their way out against a host of manic guests, as well as the very same teachers that tried to shoot them up before. As Aki distracts the enemy, she sends Mitsuko running who soon finds herself altered from Keiko to Izumi – a popular school athlete who's in the middle of a cross country race. Once again confused, she just goes along with it and races for the finish line with her friends but soon finds herself being chased by her pig-headed husband-to-be and killer teachers. Hiding in an old mining facility, Izumi/Mitsuko is led by another classmate into the darkened tunnels, only to find herself face-to-face with 100 undead students who want her dead. She is saved once more by Aki who manages to pull the real Mitsuko back and manages to explain the surreal situation they have been stuck in. Only the tortured Mitsuko can help save them all from this constant nightmare, which all comes to a bizarre emotional conclusion that raises some questions about the fate of our future and society as a whole...
People used to say that my first film, Battle Of The Bone, had a lot of running. I mean, when you need to escape from zombies what else can you do? But after seeing Tag, I don't feel so bad for it because the girls in this film just run, and run, and run, and so on! The opening 10 minutes of Sino Sono's teen horror, is one of the wildest and most exciting I have seen in a long time. It's shocking and gripping, with a dash of dark humour thrown in for good measure. The thought of seeing two busloads of classmates sliced up and spread across the road is shocking in itself, but trying to escape a force that is determined to get you too, makes matters even worse. While many viewers will want to compare this to the Final Destination series, Tag proves to be a little bit more than just a couple of victims trying to trick death. Amid the bodies, bullets, explosions, and blood, the distraught Mitsuko finds herself lost in a parallel universe where the deadly force continues to give chase, and no amount of running (or pillow fights) are able to put a stop to it. It's a bizarre trip and a half that seemingly tackles many greater issues than the average horror or splatter-fest movie, dealing with themes of identity, fear, and reality as it takes us down the rabbit hole with Mitsuko, in a violent adventure that all becomes a little clearer by the third-act. Inspired by the novel Riaru Onigokko, by Yusuke Yamada, Sono manages to deliver a highly memorable piece that reminded me of the Netflix show Alice In Borderland, which was also based on a manga, as well as a few other films from Japan. But Tag still offers up something a little different, so it wouldn't be fair to just say that it's something we've all seen before!
The acting is pretty damn good and features a predominately female driven cast led by the beautiful Reina Triendl, an Austrian-Japanese actress popular in countless television shows, who also starred in Ju-On: The Beginning Of The End. Reina gives quite a believable and emotional performance as the confused and traumatised schoolgirl who tries to keep ahead of death. Her best friend is Aki, played by Yuki Sakurai, star of films such as Secret Love, Where Florence Sleeps, Shinjuku Swan, Call Boy, and television shows like Absolute Justice, The House On The Slope, Single Tokyo Man, and more. Whereas Mitsuko delivers the emotional drama in Tag, Aki delivers after the action – stepping up to the game to protect and help her best friend whenever needed. The gorgeous Takumi Saitoh gets a brief role at the end that brings in the twist of the story and offers fans the chance to see him sprawled out on a bed in just his tighty-whities. This model-turned-actor has appeared in many great films over the years including Takashi Miike's amazing 13 Assassins, The Prince Of Tennis, Robo-geisha, Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl, Re:Born, Shin Godzilla, as well as hundreds of hours of television, and is always a treat to watch. A strong supporting cast backs them up with the majority of those involved getting to join in on some sort of gore and/or action. A few bouts of martial arts come into play, directed by popular actor and choreographer Tak Sakaguchi who shot to fame after his role in Ryuhei Kitamura's awesome, Versus, and while the fights aren't the most enthralling scraps we've ever seen, they are typical 'Tak' and limited to the skills of the actresses involved of course.
A few more things that stand out about Tag are the cinematography, the score, and the special FX. Mixing CGI with practical work, the team behind the gore effects do an amazing job in bringing plenty of violence and shock from its opening bus scene, to the classroom shoot-up and the crazy wedding scene – offering up enough shock and mess to put a smile on the face of the most hardened horror fan. The cinematography is handled by Maki Ito, a first time DOP who provides a very clean and very well shot production. Since Tag, Maki has went on to lens titles such as Anti-Porno and Tokyo Vampire Hotel for Sono, The Peers, and the series of Werewolf Game films directed by Shin'ya Ayabe – who, incidentally, was also the assistant director for this. The score was not what I expected for a movie like Tag, but in a surprisingly positive way. First-time composer Hiroaki Kanai joins Susumu Akizuki, who had only worked on the television series Dog Days, before this. Between them, both composers offer a score that adds to the production value of Tag, with a very classical taste that compliments the great cinematography of Mai Ito. And then, of course, there's Sion Sono himself – the writer and director of Tag. With almost 60 directorial credits to his name – at the time of writing – Sono has made quite the reputation for himself delivering memorable titles such as Suicide Club, Exte: Hair Extensions, Anti-Porno, the Tokyo Vampire Hotel film and television series, Tokyo Tribe, and the much loved and very lengthy, Love Exposure – a film packed with so much madness, it takes almost 4 hours to tell the tale. Of course, there's so much more to see from the man, but I think Tag is right up there with some of his finest. Engrossing, shocking, and quite memorable, this is one film that's well worth the watch and definitely not for the faint-hearted!
Overall: With shades of Final Destination and Battle Royale running throughout, Sion Sono's Tag is an exciting experience that offers plenty of gore, shock, and action!
TAI CHI BOXER
(Hong Kong 1996)
Original Title: Tai Ji Quan
(aka) Tai Chi Master 2; Tai Chi 2
Directed by Yuen Woo Ping, Cheung Sing Yim Produced by Stephen Wong Action by Yuen Woo Ping
Starring: Wu Jing, Christy Chung, Sibelle Hu, Mark Cheng, Lau Shun, Billy Chow, Yu Hai, Ji Chun Hua, Darren Shahlavi, Tam Chiu
Reviewing: Hong Kong Legends UK DVD Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Drama / Comedy
Rating - 4 / 5
DVD Synopsis: An enchanting tale of love and heroism underpinned by Yuen Woo Ping's dazzling fight sequences, Tai Chi Boxer tells the story of a young fighter inspired by the teachings of his heroic father, to combat the violent excesses of an opium-smuggling ring and win the heart of the girl of his dreams.
Views: A loose sequel to the Jet Li classic, Tai Chi Master, Yuen Woo Ping returns to the story backed by new production company Film Can who were intent on making a host of films with the legendary director. Unfortunately, Tai Chi Boxer failed to ignite the box office and Film Can soon called it quits, leaving Woo Ping and his cast to continue their adventures on the small screen in a follow-up Tai Chi television series. Busy with bigger productions such as Doctor Wai & The Scripture With No Words and the awesome Black Mask (of which Woo Ping worked on as action choreographer), Jet Li was unavailable to return for the role so it was up to Master Yuen to set out to find a new wushu talent that could replace him, and soon found it in the shape of 18-year-old Jacky Wu Jing. Although the martial arts superstar needs no introduction today, Tai Chi Boxer would have been the feature film debut of Jing's and he doesn't disappoint. Handling both the drama and comedy sequences very well, the super cute martial artist excels in Woo Ping's action scenes which are the saving grace of this (seemingly) rushed production. While it offers nothing new in terms of story, Tai Chi Boxer really has no connection to its predecessor and actually recycles a few of its previous actors in new roles here. The production itself also feels quite different and is possibly down to mainland director Cheung Sing Yim handling the majority of the film's dramatic scenes, leaving the action to co-director and choreographer Yuen Woo Ping. Interestingly enough, Cheung was the very same director behind Jet Li's debut Shaolin Temple and its sequel Kids From Shaolin, as well as kung fu classics such as Yellow River Fighter and the brilliant Fist From Shaolin. His last project to date would come a few years later with the television show New Shaolin Temple, which saw him team up again with Yuen Woo Ping and Wu Jing – with the latter being one of the stars alongside the awesome Fan Siu Wong!
While there is a lot to love in Tai Chi Boxer, it's actually quite a different movie from Tai Chi Master, even though it was scripted and co-directed by Yuen Woo Ping. Perhaps it's the loss of bigger named stars such as Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, and Chin Siu Ho, but the film also feels quite different in its production values and visuals often coming across as if influenced more by Once Upon A Time In China than its previous chapter. Having worked with director Cheung Sing Yim on Shaolin Temple, Kids From Shaolin, Yellow River Fighter, and Fist From Shaolin, cinematographer Chau Pak Ling returns here to work with him for one last time and delivers some nice visuals, proving to have such a different eye to Tom Lau Moon Tong – DOP of Tai Chi Master who was actually shooting Doctor Wai & The Scripture With No Words with Jet Li at the time of this production. Regardless, the main attraction for such a movie is the kung fu action of course and Tai Chi Boxer does not disappoint, offering many fights throughout that highlights the amazing skills of the actors involved and the genius choreography of Yuen Woo Ping.
For his feature film debut, Jacky Wu Jing highly impresses on-screen with his wushu skills that easily help him adapt as a screen fighter. From his early fun fight sequences in town to the fantastic and highly impressive finale in the warehouse that sees him take on the late Darren Shahlavi, and it's easy to see why he has since went onto become the star that he has with films such as SPL 1 & 2, Wolf Warriors 1 & 2, Shaolin, and much more. Mainland actor Yu Hai, who starred as Jet Li's temple master in the previous chapter, returns to star as Wu Jing's father and gets to show off his kung fu skills a number of times throughout. Yu first started with Jet and director Cheung in the aforementioned Shaolin Temple and its sequels as well as Deadend Of Besiegers, White Lotus Cult, Man Of Tai Chi, and Shaolin for Benny Chan that saw him join Wu Jing once again on the big screen. Also returning is Lau Shun, this time playing the father of Christy Chung as opposed to a Shaolin priest like before, and the great Mark Cheng (previous husband of the wonderful Yukari Oshima) gets to show off his fighting skills as an official who learns a hard lesson from the young fighter, Wu Jing. I really like Cheng and Tai Chi Boxer gives him a great role to play with. Although Mark has starred in over 120 films to date, I've always felt that I've never seen enough of him and often go back to films like Peking Opera Blues, Midnight Angel, Godfather's Daughters Mafia Blues, Raped By Angel, and this when I'm in the mood for a piece of Cheng. The awesome Billy Chow stars as the great Northern Leg, a fighter that challenges Wu Jing's father on the day of his retirement from the martial world, then later goes up against the young fighter himself before setting things right and joining in the fight against evil. It's rare that one can be disappointed when Chow is on screen, and he has long been a firm villain of Hong Kong cinema for many years in classics such as Eastern Condors, Paper Marriage, Pedicab Driver, Dragons Forever, The Blonde Fury, Robotrix, and more. And finally, Brit-kicker Darren Shahlavi stars as the main villain of Tai Chi Boxer – getting to shine after a few years as a bit-part gwailo in films like Guns & Roses, Deadly Target, and Angel On Fire. He probably gets some of his greatest fight scenes in this – along with that in Bloodmoon and Ip Man 2 – and is backed by two henchmen in the shape of Kou Zhan Wen from A Warriors Tragedy, Fatal Move, Legendary Assassin, and SPL 2, and the mean looking Ji Chun Hua – another veteran of the Shaolin Temple movies, as well as Yellow River Fighter, Fist Of Shaolin, Fong Sai Yuk 2, New Legend Of Shaolin, and Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters. The delightful Christy Chung and wonderful Sibelle Hu also appear, with the former as a love interest to Wu Jing and the latter, his mother respectively.
Although it has its flaws, Tai Chi Boxer keeps kung fu fans entertained with some fun comedy moments and lots of genuinely awesome fight scenes. It was an impressive debut for the (then) young star, but Yuen Woo Ping clearly made the right decision in bringing this new talent to the attention of Hong Kong cinema lovers. I've yet to see the follow-up television show, but I'd be keen to see it to fulfil my want for more Wu Jing after seeing this again. Unfortunately, due to the poor box office takings and a shift to television shows, Yuen Woo Ping would not return to the directors seat of a feature film for over a decade until the epic True Legend hit our screens – but that's not to say the man wasn't kept busy as Hollywood came calling for a few little projects such as The Matrix, Kill Bill, The Forbidden Kingdom, and the Oscar winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon!
Overall: A lot of fun and full of some great fight action, Tai Chi Boxer was an incredible debut for Wu Jing and a great example of Yuen Woo Ping's choreography!
DVD Extras: Audio Commentary with Bey Logan, Behind The Scenes Footage, Photo Gallery, Cast Interviews, Trailers
TAI CHI MASTER
Original Title: Tai Chi Chun
(aka) Revenge Of The Tai Chi Master; Secret Of Tai Chi
Directed by Chik Ngai Hung Action by Chik Ngai Hung, Zhou Run Sheng
Starring: Guo Liang, Lee Hoi Yin, Choh Chi Hung, Ko Ling San, Hong Tao, Zhang Xiang Hua, Zhang Quan Ren, Liu Ke Ming
Reviewing: Soulblade/Dragon UK DVD Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Drama
Rating - 3.5 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Despite its unknown cast, all the action are top level martial artist, as in the critically acclaimed 'Shaolin Temple Trilogy' starring Jet Li. Reassured as one of the best and most authentic of the Tai Chi Movie, it depicts the struggle between good and evil, YING and YANG. Breath taking fight scenes ensure this is a must for all collectors of quality martial arts films.
Views: After opening with a brief history and display of tai chi featuring a couple of older practitioners, Tai Chi Master immediately jumps into good old fashioned traditional-kung-fu-movie territory as we see a small army of soldiers, led by an evil Qing general, setting fire to a small village before trying to slain its residents. It's a great opening fight sequence and just a taste of what to expect throughout, as these honest-to-god martial artists show off their kicks and weapons work in an authentic display of kung fu. When the mother of a noble family is captured and beheaded, it's up to her husband and children to seek revenge. They soon meet a Shaolin monk and a family of tai chi masters, who agree to help the family by teaching them their art in a bid to put a stop to the Qing general once and for all. It all leads to a climactic and impressive showdown that sees the family lured into a trap, where they must then stand strong against the Qing's and fight for their lives!
Although the picture quality on this particular DVD isn't amazing, you can see that Tai Chi Master is still nicely shot and carries a score similar to that of older Hollywood movies – the type I would have watched with my grandmother on Sunday afternoon television. Like many productions of this era from mainland China such as the Shaolin Temple Trilogy, Arhats In Fury, and others, the story telling and overall production values come as standard, but the film is rife with the energy of its performers. Director Chik Ngai Hung, who also wrote the screenplay and aided in the fight choreography, has appeared in over 130 movies himself including a host of Shaw Brothers classics such as The Heroic Ones, King Boxer, Delightful Forest, and Heroes Two, as well as starring in others like Snake In The Eagle's Shadow, Dynamo, Enter The Fat Dragon, Sleeping Fist, Game Of Death 2: Tower Of Death and even Aces Go Places. His first film as a martial arts director was the fun Crack Shadow Boxers, soon followed by titles like Sleeping Fist, The Loot, Devil Fetus, and Mission Kill. Interestingly enough, Tai Chi Master would be Chik's one and only film as a director, as well as his final project as a feature filmmaker. Star of The Young Hero Of Shaolin 1 & 2, Guo Liang, leads the way as one of the vengeful sons. I quite like Liang as an actor and martial artist, so it's a shame that he only appeared in a handful of titles before quietly disappearing from the film world – although its very possible that he went on to star in many other films and television shows in the mainland. The impressive Hong Tao from Out Of Danger and Revenge Of Swordsmanship stars as the evil Qing general, but everyone else involved seems to be first time actors. It's quite possible that most of these guys were competitive wushu and tai chi performers hired for their fighting skills alone. There are moments throughout Tai Chi Master that boast a cast of hundreds, from the entertaining night festival for the general to the massive showdown in the finale. With no CGI on-hand, the amount of people you see on screen is the genuine thing.
While Tai Chi Master offers a story we've all seen a thousand times before and looks like any other kung fu film from the same era, it still proves to be an entertaining enough watch – saved by its nicely choreographed and highly energetic fight scenes. I certainly wouldn't say it's a film you need to rush out to buy, but it's worth a watch at least once if you ever come across it...
Overall: A great showcase of traditional kung fu in film, Tai Chi Master makes for a good watch and delivers on fight action!
DVD Extras: Trailers
TAI CHI MASTER
(Hong Kong 1993)
Original Title: Tai Gik Cheung Sam Fung
(aka) Twin Warriors; Tai Chi
Directed by Yuen Woo Ping Produced by Jet Li, Chui Po Chu Action by Yuen Woo Ping, Yuen Cheung Yan, Dee Dee Ku
Starring: Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Chin Siu Ho, Fennie Yuen, Yu Hai, Yuen Cheung Yan, Lau Shun, Chow Gam Kong, Sun Jian Kui
Reviewing: Dragon Dynasty US DVD Release
Genres: New Wave / Martial Arts / Comedy
Rating - 4.7 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Superstar Jet Li shows off his legendary speed, power, and agility at the peak of his martial arts prowess in this sweeping action epic. In an age of swordsmen and rebellion, two best friends and fellow martial arts students are expelled from the storied temple of Shaolin, only to meet again on the battlefield – one a power hungry general, the other a freedom-fighting rebel, both mortal enemies. Featuring Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Michelle Yeoh and directed by the celebrated Yuen Wo-ping (action choreographer of The Matrix films), Tai Chi Master is a quintessential martial arts classic.
Views: I absolutely love this movie! Tai Chi Master tells the tale of Jun Biao and Tian Biao, two best friends and Shaolin brothers who have grown up together since childhood. Although good children, the pair often find themselves in trouble with the temple elders but are well looked after by their caring master. As they hit their adulthood, the feisty Tian Biao soon finds himself in major trouble when he reveals a kung fu style that he had learned in secret. With his brother by his side, the pair take on the whole temple before finding themselves expelled and thrown out of Shaolin. The pair head into town where they join up with jilted lover Falling Snow and her band of rebels, and soon learn of their plans to overthrow the evil eunuch and his army to help bring peace to the land. In a turn of events, Tian Biao decides to leave and join the very army the rebels are trying to stop. As fate would have it, the brothers paths come to cross many years later on the battlefield, with Tian Biao now a vicious army general and Jun Biao a master of Tai Chi...
Mostly shot in the grand Beijing Film Studios in China, Yuen Woo Ping's martial arts classic stills provides as much entertainment today as it did upon release almost 30 years ago (at time of writing). The first time I ever saw Tai Chi Master was on a bootleg VHS in the mid-90s. I think I watched it so much, that I eventually wore out the actual tape and was left with nothing. Of course, the infamous Weinstein Company released their badly dubbed, re-scored and re-edited version, Twin Warriors, as the DVD market was creeping in – but I actually couldn't put up with that version and just held out. Years later, when the Weinstein Company released their Dragon Dynasty label, they finally did the film some justice in releasing it with its previously deleted scenes restored, as well as the option of its original Chinese language track with English subtitles – so I was very happy. Saying that, watching it now and having been spoiled with Blu-rays lately – the quality of this DVD release isn't too clean at all and could most definitely do with a restored clean-up on shiny blue some time soon. I mean, it deserves it! I recently got Kung Fu Cult Master on Blu-ray from Nova Media and it blew me away compared to the cheap UK release it had on DVD a number of years back!
Anyway, I try not to let technical issues as such interfere with my viewing pleasure and the true entertainment value of any movie, and Tai Chi Master has enough of both to cut through the aforementioned picture quality. Coming out at the height of Hong Kong cinemas New Wave period, Tai Chi Master joined the likes of Once Upon A Time In China, Iron Monkey, New Dragon Gate Inn, Moon Warriors, and many more, in bringing a whole new audience to Asian movies with their fantastical settings, slick direction, and innovative fight choreography. Yuen Woo Ping himself would be one of the main leaders of this genre, both as a director or as an action choreographer, with titles such as the aforementioned Iron Monkey, Hero Among Heroes, Wing Chun, Fire Dragon, Last Hero In China, Once Upon A Time In China 2, and Tai Chi Master, of course. Throughout the most of these movies (for the most part) two actors would continue to work closely with him – Jet Li and Donnie Yen. Interestingly enough, legend has it that Donnie himself was offered the role here of Tian Biao, which would have seen a much quicker rematch between him and Jet only one year after sharing the screen in the awesome OUATIC 2 – as opposed to us waiting a good decade to see them once again in the outstanding and stunning, Hero. As it stands, Donnie wanted to focus more on being an action hero and although his next few years proved to be quite questionable in terms of how his films were received, and even the decisions he was making – the man has more than made up for it now as he continuously takes-over the box office, appearing in hit after hit between Hollywood and China. Had Donnie taken on the role of Tian Biao, I'm sure we would not have been disappointed – but at the same time, I'm super glad that the incredible Chin Siu Ho got the chance to do so instead. I'm a huge fan of Chin's (as well as his brother, Chin Kar Lok) and believe he is an amazing talented martial arts actor that has just never been given the attention he deserves. From his appearances in many Shaw Brothers classics to the likes of Mr. Vampire, The Seventh Curse, Lady Reporter, and joining Jet Li and Yuen Woo Ping once again in Fist Of Legend, the man can certainly bust a move and always looks great when doing so. His performance as Tian Biao is one of his best and gives him the chance to act across many levels as a young man who just wants to prove his worth. On top of that, the great Yuen Woo Ping and the team put Chin through his paces and help him shine in some of his greatest action scenes to date.
Of course, the two biggest stars that have always headlined Tai Chi Master and graced any amount of artwork available, is the wonderful Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. This was a period when Li was dominating the box office since his role as Wong Fei Hung in OUATIC elevated him to superstar status. As its equally successful sequels followed, Jet also starred in the likes of The Master and Swordsman 2 for Tsui Hark, as well as Fong Sai Yuk 1 & 2, Last Hero In China, Kung Fu Cult Master, My Father Is a Hero, and much more, releasing hit after hit until he was called upon by Hollywood for his big break in Lethal Weapon 4. The beautiful Michelle Yeoh, who had made one hell of an impression in her big action debut Yes Madam, was hot off the success of Jackie Chan's Police Story 3: Supercop and was about to get pulled in all directions with the New Wave directors that would see her make her move into traditional kung fu (and wire-fu) with no less than 6 productions in 1993. these included Butterfly & Sword, The Heroic Trio 1 & 2, Holy Weapon, Tai Chi Master, and even Project S – the sequel to her character from Police Story 3: Supercop. Of course, Yeoh would hang around with Yuen Woo Ping soon after to star as the lead in Wing Chun, alongside Donnie Yen, and wouldn't work with the director again for at least 5 or 6 years until the ground-breaking Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came about. Both of these stars excel in what is probably one of their finest moments (of the genre) as Jun Biao and Falling Snow, from the more dramatic moments to the comedic sequences and, of course, the fighting...
While there is a cast of hundreds involved in Tai Chi Master, there are only a few that really join the aforementioned stars as the main cast. Fight choreographer and director in his own right, Yuen Cheung Yan, plays the hilarious role of Taoist Priest Ling – one of the rebel fighters. Brother to Yuen Woo Ping, this Yuen Clan member also assisted with the fight choreography of Tai Chi Master and is always a joy to see on-screen, having been doing so for over 170 feature films. The lovely Fennie Yuen stars as Falling Snow's companion, Little Melon – falling for bad boy Tian Biao, but never losing her way. I've always enjoyed seeing Fennie in films, having caught her in classics like School On Fire, Pedicab Driver, Swordsman 1 & 2, Bullet In The Head, Royal Tramp 1 & 2, and more. As Little Melon, Fennie kicks ass and does a great job all over as she tries to stay out of the shadows of her larger co-stars. Back in the temple we see Yu Hai join Jet on-screen once again, having starred as his master in the Shaolin Temple series that first launched Jet Li in the early 80s. A true wu-shu master, Yu Hai gets the chance to show off his skills and looks pretty damn authentic while doing so. The great Lau Shun, who appeared in films such as A Chinese Ghost Story 2 & 3, Prince Of The Sun, The Swordsman Trilogy, Blade Of Fury, and many more, plays the caring sifu to Jun Biao and Tian Biao. And finally, Sun Jian Kui, who also made his debut in the Shaolin Temple Trilogy with Jet Li and Yu Hai, returns to battle his old co-star as the evil Eunuch Liu Jin. Interestingly enough, Sun would rejoin Jet again many years later for a role in Tsui Hark's Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate and the visually fun, League Of Gods in 2016.
Of course, aside from its amazing list of stars and directors, Tai Chi Master boasts some incredible martial arts action that helped secure Yuen Woo Ping's name as one of the top choreographers in Hong Kong. From the training sequences to the combat scenes, Woo Ping and his brother Yuen Cheung Yan were joined by the popular Dee Dee Ku, an actor and choreographer who has provided his services for many great titles such as Tiger Cage 3, Sacrifice, Shadow, 14 Blades, Hitman, The Four Trilogy, Stone Age Warriors, Iron Monkey, House Of Fury, Kung Fu Hustle, and much, much more! Between the three of them, the team create a host of amazing wire-enhanced fight sequences that burst with creativeness and energy, from one-one-one challenges to full-on battles that see one or two characters take on armies that make you want to reach for the rewind button. It highlights both Jet Li and Yuen Woo Ping at the prime of their careers and does not disappoint!
Overall: One of my favourite Jet Li and Yuen Woo Ping movies, Tai Chi Master is a classic slice of Hong Kong cinema and well worth a watch!
DVD Extras: Audio Commentary by Bey Logan, Interview with Chin Siu Ho, Featurettes with Brett Ratner, Featurette on the Birthplace of Tai Chi, Trailers
TAI CHI SHADOW BOXING
(Hong Kong/Taiwan 1980)
Original Title: Feng Shi Guai Tu
(aka) Tai Chi Devil Dragons
Directed by Yu Han Hsiang Produced by Chen Wen Sen, Hsu Tsai Lai Action by Jacky Chen Shao Lung
Starring: Jacky Chen Shao Lung, Hsiang Yun Peng, Yu Sung Chao, Chou Jui Fang, Lung Fei, Kam Kong
Reviewing: YouTube Release
Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy
Rating - 2 / 5
Synopsis: Two kung-fu brothers meet up with an old drunken boxer, who takes a liking to them. It's revealed that he is the famous Tai Chi Shadow master, a rare and deadly form of kung fu. He teaches the two and together they become Robin Hood's, fighting the rich and helping the needy. This doesn't sit well with the local warlord, who kills the Tai Chi master. Now it's time to avenge their master's murder.
Views: The great Jacky Chen Shao Lung and Hsiang Yun Peng star as a couple of kung-fu idiots who are lucky to be trained up by an old drunken master in the art of tai chi shadow boxing. There's really no reason for any of it, but the old man seems happy to have students and his daughter seems keen to have the guys around. It takes half the movie for us to understand why the old master wants to have some well-trained students around him and soon, the fighters reach a level that will help them take down and destroy their masters old enemy!
Actor and choreographer Jacky Chen returns for another kung-fu comedy, inspired by the success of Jackie Chan's Snake In The Eagles Shadow, Drunken Master, and even some of his funnier Lo Wei efforts. With characters similar to the likes of the great Simon Yuen and Dean Shek in the aforementioned titles, Chen does his utmost best to give kung-fu fans the same amount of excitement and entertainment as Chan the man had done before him – even to the point of using sausages as nunchucks like Chan had done previously with a wig in Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu. But while Jacky Chen's martial arts ability and comedic acting are pretty damn impressive, the film itself just doesn't have the same kind of energy as a Jackie Chan title. Personally, I preferred the previous years Jacky Chen project, Of Cooks & Kung Fu, which was a lot more fun. Regardless, you can't deny the skills of Chen, both as a kung-fu actor and choreographer, having starred in over 50 films since his début in King Hu's classic, A Touch Of Zen in 1971. From there, Chen went on to star or appear in a host of classics including a number of titles for the Shaw Brothers studio such as Spiritual Boxer, Clan Of Amazons, and The Vengeful Beauty, along with Lau Kaw Wing's He Has Nothing But Kung Fu and a brief appearance in Enter The Dragon. Chen's time in the film industry came to a close after two decades with a cameo and action director credit in China Dolls starring Amy Yip and as the action director of Moon Lee's awesome Angel Terminators 2. In Tai Chi Shadow Boxing, his partner in crime is played by Hsiang Yun Peng – a recognisable actor who starred in kung-fu movies such as 36 Super Kids, Brave Commando, and The Dynamite Trio that would see him work alongside Jacky Chen once again – with the latter choreographing the fight action. While he isn't as gifted a mover as his co-star, Hsiang makes the most of his role and gets to throw some cool shapes while under the watchful eye of Chen.
Popular actor Yu Sung Chao stars as the old master – although not as old as Simon Yuen's most famous characters nor quite as appealing, but he does a grand job throughout. Yu started his film career in the 1964 Shaw Brothers rom-com Black Forest and went onto star in almost 120 films including some classics such as One-Armed Swordswoman (which he also choreographed), One-Armed Swordsmen, Four Real Friends, One-Armed Boxer Vs The Flying Guillotine, Dance Of Death, Shanghai 13, and even Island Of Fire with Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. The great Kam Kong, star and fan-favourite bad guy of over 60 films, returns once again for another villainous role as a bad monk. I've always been a huge fan of Kong's having watched him for years in many of the Jackie Chan 'Lo Wei' films, as well as others such as 18 Bronzegirls Of Shaolin, The Silver Spear, Shaolin Invincible Sticks, Iron Monkey, and more. A number of years before Tai Chi Shadow Boxing, Kong would have worked alongside Yu Sung Chao in Jimmy Wang Yu's aforementioned One-Armed Boxer Vs The Flying Guillotine and Four Real Friends, so it was a nice touch to have them back on screen here once again. A few more regular faces of 70s kung-fu cinema help fill out the cast such as Yung Shun Hing, Chang Chung Kui, and Cheng Sai Gang, along with actresses Chou Jui Fang and Wang Quen – from Jackie Chan films Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin and Magnificent Bodyguards – who appears for a fun fight scene against the guys...
The film was directed by Yu Han Hsiang and although he had helmed over 60 features in his lifetime, I have to say it's not a name I would recognise from the kung-fu cinema world – or a director I'd be looking out for. Apart from Tai Chi Shadow Boxing, the only other title I would have seen of his would be Burning Of The Red Lotus Monastery starring Pearl Cheung and Meng Fei – also known as Red Lotus Temple On Fire. If Jacky Chen's choreography wasn't here to liven things up, I'd say Tai Chi Shadow Boxing would have been a pretty boring film to be honest, with things only really heating up in the second half. As expected, all the fun is saved for the grand finale which sees Jacky Chen, Hsiang Yun Peng, and their master go up against Kam Kong and his crony in an impressive showdown with some great moves!
Overall: Not amazing and hardly fresh on ideas, Tai Chi Shadow Boxing passes the time and has some fun fight scenes that save it from being a complete waste of time!