Reviews for Fox/Fortune Star Hong Kong Titles

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Matthew Brown, Dec 28, 2003.

  1. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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    Although there is slight room for improvement, Fox/Fortune Star is doing a great job with these Hong Kong titles. I hope everybody who is interested in Hong Kong films supports Fox so that they continue this line.

    Below are brief reviews for the latest wave of Hong Kong DVD's. In just about all cases, this is the best these movies have ever looked. I was a little disappointed in the transfer for DUEL TO THE DEATH but overall these have been outstanding. With the exception of EASTERN CONDORS, the 5.1 mixes have been very good. I would prefer the original theatrical mixes which is most likely mono.

    One minor annoyance is that these are dubtitles. Simplified subtitles that match what is being said on the English dub. This is a problem in IN THE LINE OF DUTY 4 because a scene is not explained before it occurs. It's obvious why it takes place but other translations have made it clearer.

    IN THE LINE OF DUTY IV

    IN THE LINE OF DUTY IV is widely regarded as the best of the IN THE LINE OF DUTY SERIES as well as a classic Girls With Guns movie. Once again, Cynthia Khan is excellent as the unstoppable cop. This time she needs to team up with Donnie Yen to bust up a CIA drug ring that unbeknownst to him, his partner, Michael Wong is a part of. When a drug deal goes bad, an innocent bystander is the only witness. Wanted by the cops and the CIA, he goes back home to Hong Kong. When he arrives, the police are all over him. Cynthia Khan and Donnie Yen must protect him while they unravel the case. When they find the truth, they too, are sought for arrest. When the bystander's mother is kidnapped, Donnie and Cynthia must rescue her.

    IN THE LINE OF DUTY IV is nonstop action from beginning to end. There are fights on rooftops, moving ambulances, and motorcycles. This movie is pure fun to watch as long as you don't get bogged down by little things like everybody in America speaking Cantonese. There are great performances by Cynthia Khan and Donnie Yen in this movie and great directing by Yuen Wo Ping. While this movie might be a little too much for those unfamiliar with Hong Kong movies, fans will eat this movie up.

    There are few extras on this DVD. There are two trailers for IN THE LINE OF DUTY IV and trailers for other Fox/Fortune Star releases.

    Fox's IN THE LINE OF DUTY IV is definitely worth getting for fans of the movie as well as those interested in Girls With Guns movies. While lacking the extras of the UK's HKL DVD, it looks better and sounds just as good. For those in North America without region free payers, your wait is over for a great version of this movie.

    MY LUCKY STARS

    MY LUCKY STARS is about two undercover cops played by Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao. They follow a criminal to Japan only to be overpowered by the Ninja gang that protects him. Jackie narrowly escapes but Yuen is taken captive. Jackie needs help in a big way but since the criminal is an ex-Hong Kong Cop, he will recognize whoever comes to help. Jackie has the HK police draft his childhood friends. Lead by Sibelle Hu, the gang goes to Japan to help Jackie,

    MY LUCKY STARS is just as much a comedy as an action movie. There are long stretches without action but the comedy while sometimes goofy, is usually amusing. The comedy may be a turn off to those looking for more of an action flick. A large segment of it pertains to Sammo Hung and the gang trying to sleep in the same room as Sibelle Hu.

    There are some great action sequences. One features Jackie Chan fighting bad guys in a Haunted House amusement ride. There is also a good fight between Sibelle Hu and Japanese body builder Michiko Nishikawa. Even though the fights are rather few in this movie, they definetly good ones.

    Fox's MY LUCKY STARS doesn't have that many extras but the it should satisfy fans of the movie.

    Fox's MY LUCKY STARS is a must have if you are a fan of the movie. This movie isn't everybody's cup of tea so I wouldn't reccamend a blind buy. There are some good fight scenes but there is plenty of goofy comedy mixed in. Even though Jackie Chan is the main star, Sammo Hung is in it much more. There are some great moments in the movie, like Michiko Nishiwaki's first movie appearance. You will remember her if you have seen IN THE LINE OF DUTY 3.

    Fox and Fortune Star have given this movie a good presentation. The only flaw is the subtitles appearing when nothing is being said on the Cantonese track in two places. Everything else is very well done.

    HEART OF DRAGON

    HEART OF DRAGON features Jackie as a tough detective and Sammo Hung as his 30 year old mentally challenged brother. Jackie would love to join the merchant marines but needs to take constant care of his brother who has the mind of a child and can't be left alone. When Sammo innocently gets involved with jewel thieves, it is up to Jackie and his police friends to save the day.

    HEART OF DRAGON is a drama and really shows that Jackie is more than an action hero. He can act very well. The same can be said for Sammo Hung. The two really shine in this movie. If you have only seen Jackie's more recent movies, this one will come as a surprise. Though few, the fights are brutal and deliberate. No slapstick here. The moral of this story is that you just don't get between Jackie Chan and his brother. This is a great movie if you want to see another side of Jackie Chan. Sammo doesn't fight in this movie but his performance is wonderful. This movie is as close to a tear jerker as you will ever get from Jackie and Sammo. There are some truly touching scenes. Some really hate this movie but I think it's a great display of what Jackie and Sammo can do.

    Fox's HEART OF DRAGON contains extra fight scenes as a bonus feature as well as trailers. The extra fight scenes are from a longer cut of the movie but the film itself on this DVD is the original Hong Kong version. My opinion is that the movie works better without the extra scenes but you will be able to see for yourself on this DVD.

    Fox's HEART OF DRAGON is a solid DVD and a welcome one for fans of this movie. While I probably wouldn't recommend a blind purchase, it's a great movie to see another side of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. Definitely not an action film, but a good drama that may bring a tear to your eye.

    Fox and Fortune Star have another winner with HEART OF DRAGON.

    EASTERN CONDORS

    Directed by Sammo Hung, EASTERN CONDORS is an action packed war movie much in the style of The Dirty Dozen. Convicts are offered freedom if they agree to take on a mission to destroy an ammo depot left behind by the Americans after the conflict in Vietnam has ended. The prisoners parachute to their dropping point and are joined by three women who are Cambodian fighters. Together they forge ahead to find the depot.

    EASTERN CONDORS stars Sammo Hung, Yuen Baio, Yuen Wo Ping, Joyce Godenzi, and Yuen Wah. With this cast, you can bet that there is plenty of action. From gun battles to kung fu, this movie covers it all.

    Fox's EASTERN CONDORS doesn't have that many extras but this DVD is a must for those in Region 1 who don't have multi-region players. For those with the HKL DVD, you might even find a reason to get this one, too. Fox is doing a good job on their releases so far. There is some room for improvement but that will be explained later.

    Fox's EASTERN CONDORS is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the movie. If you are in region 1, this is the best you can get. Those who have the Hong Kong Legends Region 2 version may consider this DVD for the improved picture but may be disappointed in the sound. I don't consider the lack of extras all that bad because I am thrilled just to have the uncut movie in it's original language.


    DUEL TO THE DEATH

    DUEL TO THE DEATH features Chui Siu Keung as a Japanese Shogun warrior and Damian Lau as a Chinese warrior from the Shaolin Temple who must compete in a duel to see which is better. A lot depends on this as each represents their respective discipline. While the two accept their fates as warriors and want an honorable fight, a Japanese Monk, played by Eddie Ko Hung, has other plans. The Monk, assisted by Ninjas, steals secret Shaolin scrolls in hopes of wreaking havoc on all who oppose them.

    Directed by Ching Siu-Tung, DUEL TO THE DEATH is a fantasy swordplay film that is full of action. The action sequences are very well filmed and include liberal amounts of gore. The Ninjas have lots of trick up their sleeves including suicide bombers and flying on gliders. They also have an odd one where what appears to be one giant Ninja is actually several naked female Ninjas. This film is great for fans of fantasy swordplay as well as old school kung fu movies.

    DUEL TO THE DEATH is a classic movie and some consider it to be one the best swordplay films ever made. I haven't seen other versions of this film on DVD to compare so I can't say if others may have a better transfer. While the night scenes show some noise on the big TV, the overall image is quite watchable. If you are a fan of the movie, I would still recommend this DVD and would even say it's a good blind purchase for those interested in swordplay movies.
     
  2. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Ya gotta love American studio sensibility when they release foreign films on video. Fox plasters Sammo Hung and Yuen Wo-ping on the front of the EASTERN CONDORS DVD as if they're co-stars in the film, but then on the back, they freely admit that the Matrix/Crouching choreographer (as if that's all he's ever done) has a "cameo" appearance! Obviously, Joyce Godenzi, Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah aren't "name value" for this particular title when Fox can play up the presence of someone who's fast becoming known as "the Matrix/Crouching Tiger guy." In fact, Yuen Wo-ping is NOT a very good actor, which is why you rarely see him in anything but smaller roles in HK films (outside of the Yuen Brothers collabs in the 70's/early 80's, that is). He's prone to the stagey comic mugging so indicative of Hong Kong cinema. As a long-time Hong Kong film watcher, I'd be shocked to think someone might buy this solely on that basis. It might keep them from trying out other titles.

    In fact, Yuen Wo-ping's brother, Yuen Cheung-yan, "the man who choreographed Charlie's Angels," PLAYS the witness in IN THE LINE OF DUTY IV, and is a somewhat better actor, has a larger role in this film than Wo-ping in CONDORS, yet still doesn't rate a mention on the packaging, even with the glarring connection to an Big American Franchise (well, EX-franchise). Apparently, studio research into Asian cinema, and therefore the names they decide to check when pushing their product to the US public, doesn't extend much past The Matrix and Crouching Tiger. I don't like the way they condition unsuspecting people, but that's the way of big business, I suppose.

    All or nothing, they should really make up their minds and play up all these tenuous connections, or top-bill the appropriate actors in all their packaging.

    Oh well, for $5.99 each, I'm not gonna press it.
     
  3. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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    Brian -

    Excellent points. I have a contact at Fox and I am voicing concerns such as yours. I also have a contact at Fortune Star. The package says that it's design is copyrighted to Fortune Star but that just may be the images themselves.

    Fox is new at this so I am cutting them slack as far as marketting goes. I don't think they know what they have. The second wave is short of extras and it may be that they thought adding a DTS track would increase sales. I really want the original mono tracks on these so I don't care about a DTS track. I think they are designing these covers base on what other studios are doing like Columbia. It's a case of going for the mass market and missing them completely.

    The people interested in these movies are seaking them out. I get more of a response from people who already own the Hong Kong Legends versions than people in Region 1 who don't.

    I may have forgot to add that EASTERN CONDORS and MY LUCKY STARS are uncut. The HKL versions were due to violence against animals in EASTERN CONDORS and a reference to rape in MY LUCKY STARS.

    Matt
     
  4. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    The British censor board is so silly. The animal stuff I can see, sort of, although I still think's its grey zone, but the rape reference? This from a country that puts topless women on page 3 of a daily newspaper, practically invented the lad’s mag (and its obligatory “how to turn on a woman” features) and allowed "cheeky" female nudity on countless television shows, or at least used to! Hell, Hong Kong was a British Colony, for heaven’s sake; one wonders if they realize where the prevailing wisdom on such issues in the minds of Hong Kong Chinese partly came from.

    While I don't remember the exact rape reference from MY LUCKY STARS, I do appreciate that it was made in a film from a culture that has a slightly different pop-cultural view of rape than our own, but still considers it a vile offence. Still, as in just about any film culture, it’s worth exploiting: how does one account for borderline mainstream Hong Kong films like Raped By An Angel 1-5 (and a new part 5 as well), Rape Trap, Severely Rape, Devil of Rape, Peeping Tom and others. Despite these grossly exploitatiive titles, the rapists always get their due in these films (after the usual litany of buggery, sodomy, violence and ineffective law enforcement), usually in spectacular fashion. Mark Cheng has practically made it a full-time job.

    Theoretically you'd have to remove entire sequences from the LUCKY STARS films, which all feature lengthy sequences in which the Lucky Stars try to "humourously" accost, ogle, molest and otherwise bed their female instructor, who always wanted none of it. In no uncertain terms, the filmmakers find humour in violating the personal space of women, yet always make sure they’re antagonists pay the price. One of the films, I can't remember which, had them pretending the place was on fire so the girl, in a nightie, would submerge herself in the tub and they could see her breasts. Of course, none of the guys ever really gets what they're after, except maybe a hoof to the bahoogies.

    It just seems to me that because some cultures adopted political correctness a little later than the West, and perhaps a little less rigidly, some western cultures feel the need to censor for fear their own people might take things the wrong way. Rape revenge fantasies will always have an audience. In concept, they're not that far removed from Chuck Bronson movies of the 70s and 80s. And in Hong Kong cinema, where the law is often portrayed as the last place you'd wanna turn, on-screen revenge fantasies can serve as a bit of a catharsis.

    I’m getting off topic here, but I just don’t understand the British censoring a rape reference, even a casual one, in light of their own permissive attitudes towards sexuality. “No sex please, we’re British”? I doubt it.
     
  5. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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  6. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Thank for that. Were those cuts made fairly recently to LUCKY STARS, as when HKL released their version, or were they made upon the films initial release in the country.

    I've heard little good about the BBFC over the years, especially in comparison with the more open-minded censorship policies in the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Germany, Holland, Italy and just about anywhere else that movies are popular. I feel bad for the general public over there, but at least they have the internet, as do we, for ordering films in whatever form they choose (assuming British Customs aren't dicks about this, of course)

    Stealing a car with a wire? Sure it's an imitatable deed, but then so are most of the martial arts manouevers demonstrated in the same film, and yet someone could forseeably use such techniques to hurt another person. So is smashing up public property during a fight, but they don't bother with that either.

    Of course, the debate has raged for a long time about the BBFC, and will continue to rage for a long time to come, so I'll just be glad I live in a country where I can buy pretty much anything off the shelf in unadulterated form and hope the best for the rest of the world!
     
  7. MattBu

    MattBu Stunt Coordinator

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    Not to get too far off topic, but does this mean all violence is cut from British movies? What acts of violence AREN'T imitable?
     
  8. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    My point exactly. You could debate the silliness of British censors until your ears bleed.

    Further off topic a bit, but about 15 years ago, the Feberal Government up here in Canada came up with a brilliant video ratings system (NOT the one we currently have) to combat video stores who had long been renting R-rated tapes to minors.

    What they got for our money, and I still have a copy of this, was a red-cover, magazine-sized book that listed titles and ratings for videos. Of course, as this particular unelected government unit was new and sucking on the public teet (as usual) as fast as they could before the public caught on to their utter uselessness, the ratings system was started from scratch; thus the book had, maybe, a couple thousand entries.

    Were you to believe their crusading bullshit, our intrepid watchdogs selflessly took it upon themselves to screen every video then in the system and assign each a new rating that would be to the benefit of the video store owner, who was expected to check the guide everytime some pre-pube bought a tape to the counter. It would be a long journey, but a necessary one nonetheless.

    Not unexpectedly, over 70% of the titles contained in that book were hardcore porno, which made for some fun reading during my college days, and no doubt expedited the process of padding the inaugural edition of the Canadian Big Brother Guide to Family Entertainment, as our intrepid screeners could no doubt keep one finger on the fast-forward button and the other...well, I don't wanna go there.
     
  9. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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    Brian -
    From what I can tell, the above just pertains to cuts for the HKL version.

    I am still trying to get an offical answer for why the Fox release of Naked Killer was cut. It could be for the rating which I hope isn't the case. There are different version of teh movie out there and this could just be one of many. I am leaning towards the rating being the reason, though.

    Matt
     
  10. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

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    Nice reviews. I somewhat agree with the above but am just so annoyed by dubtitles. Does it really cost that much more to put the literal translation on there. I'm glad they are uncut this round though. I may have to grab Eastern Condors since my HKL version is cut.

    I'm with you on the mono sound too.

    If they had the literal translation, I'd probably pick up all of these considering the price.

    Jeff
     
  11. Brian F

    Brian F Agent

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    I noticed this problem as well when I viewed the My Lucky Stars DVD. It happens on both the Cantonese DTS and Dolby tracks. It happens whenever characters are thinking, and also when there are crowd scenes with dialog. It seems to me to be a major dialog omission. The last time I saw this film was on a horrible English-dubbed-fullscreen-EP-VHS (a cheapie from Suncoast years ago), but I recall that the missing dialog was present in the English dub.

    Matt - have you brought this issue up with your contact at Fox? I can't complain too much given the cost of the discs and overall great quality, but it was annoying...

    I also hope you can convince them to include the original mono audio on future releases. It can't take up that much room on the discs.
     
  12. Matthew Brown

    Matthew Brown Supporting Actor

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    Brian -
    I sent my contact links to the reviews. He is out of the office until next week. I will also mention it to Fortune Star.

    With My Lucky Stars, I have a feeling that the english dub may have the dialogue added for clarity and not originally part of the Cantonese track. I will try to confirm this.

    I think Fortune Star is responsible for all the materials on these. Fox is in more of a distributor in this case. This would also account for British expressions being used in some cases in the subtitles and english dub. I think the dubtitles double as closed captioning for the english dub. That may be their reasoning.

    Jeff-
    Normally the dubtitles would bother me a lot more. I am a little more forgiving this time around because Fox is new at this. Fortune Star should be accountable for it but they might not even know how much it annoys people. I am sending them all the comments here so hopefully things can change with future releases. From what I understand Fortune Sar has been remastering its movies for a while since they knew they would be getting the licensing back from Mega Star. This would mean that they probably sold a whole comepleted package to Fox.

    Matt
     
  13. Chris_Morris

    Chris_Morris Screenwriter

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    Just picked up Heart of Dragon and Duel to the Death at Wal-mart for $5.50 each [​IMG]

    Even with the problems (dubtitles, etc.) this was just too good of a deal to pass up.



    Chris
     
  14. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Looks like the whole set has been added at my local US Walmart, as I got Duel plus Eastern Condors, My Lucky Stars and In The Line of Duty 4 as well. (Already had Heart of Dragon). Ironically, Ive already had the Universe imports of these for quite some time (and paid a lot more than $5.50 for them. But the picture quality is absolutely incredible on these new releases.
     
  15. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    I saw Eastern Condors and Duel to the Death on my local 5.50 rack. I had already gotten the whole wave from foxstore....
    Great disks though, can't wait for future waves!
     
  16. Rodney

    Rodney Supporting Actor

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    I am trying to compile a complete list of Fortune Star titles currently available.

    I know of the following, and just want to know if this is complete:

    1. City Hunter
    2. Duel to the Death
    3. Eastern Condors
    4. Heart of the Dragon
    5. Hong Kong 1941
    6. In the Line of Duty 4
    7. Magnificent Butcher
    8. Magnificent Warriors
    9. My Lucky Stars
    10. Naked Killer

    Also, does anyone know of any upcoming release dates for more?
     
  17. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    Yes, those are the only Fortune Star/Fox releases thus far.
    Hope to have more though, I've really enjoyed these releases. [​IMG]
     
  18. Brian F

    Brian F Agent

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    It looks like we will have more! DVD File has posted a release date of May 25th for five more Fox/Fortune Star DVDs:

    Game of Death II
    Operation Scorpio
    Prodigal Son
    Royal Warrior
    Young Master

    I have only seen two of these (Prodigal Son and Young Master), but I plan to buy each one. I don't know why you wouldn't buy them when they retail for a mere $9.99 each!
     
  19. Rodney

    Rodney Supporting Actor

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    Great news, Brian. Thanks. Definitely getting bargains on this series. Way to go Fox!
     
  20. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    Excellent news!
    I haven't seen any of these, but will definitely pick them up!
     

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