An Interview with Eugenia Yuan

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The daughter of action queen Cheng Pei Pei, Eugenia Yuan made it clear from the very beginning of her film career that she was to fly with her own wings. Once a rhythmic gymnast for the U.S. Olympic Team, her debut performance on the big screen, in Peter Chan’s Three: Going Home, got her both a nomination for Best Supporting Actress and a win for Best New Performer at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Since then her filmography has been both international and free of genre pigeonholing, and she has shown a remarkable versatility as a performer. Recently her turn as a venomous blind enchantress was one of the best things about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, and she was kind enough to answer our questions.

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SPEED ANGELS (2011) short review

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Jingle Ma’s Speed Angels bears the distinction of being an all-female racing film – a rare thing indeed – but squanders it with a soapy, mechanical plot and an absolute lack of excitement in the racing scenes. Its tale of a washed-up racing legend (Rene Liu), her rival both on the tracks and in love (Cecilia Cheung) and her gifted new partner (Tang Wei) whose gift for speed is hindered by confidence issues, is a reasonably solid dramatic spine, but it’s constantly undercut by cringeworthy melodrama wherein all female and male characters (here an assorted bunch of pan-Asian heartthrobs who get overshadowed by the main trio) are connected by a tangled web of love, whether it be puppy love, unrequited love, love triangles, tough love or self-interested love. And the racing is as uninvolving as the plotting: races amount to a stale alternation of in-cockpit shots and truly baffling all-CGI exterior shots. As often with Jingle Ma the film is all bathed in blinding levels of white light, except this time there’s also a whole lot of purple ; it is, quite sincerely, one of the purplest films ever. What little traction Speed Angels gets comes from Rene Liu, whose charisma makes her too good for that kind of film, and Tang Wei, who shows a delightful lighter side that her often dark or tragic roles don’t allow her to display. She also wears a different headband in every scene (possibly even every shot). Cecilia Cheung doesn’t register much: like in many of her post-comeback roles there’s a muted, awkward quality to her presence. Martial arts queen Cheng Pei Pei has fun in a small quirky role: she obviously knows what kind of film she’s in. **

HOW TO MEET THE LUCKY STARS (1996) review

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The seventh and final film in the Lucky Stars film series, Frankie Chan’s How to Meet the Lucky Stars was meant as a benefit film to help legendary producer Lo Wei (the man who made Bruce Lee a star and almost stopped Jackie Chan from becoming one) who at this point was close to bankruptcy. All the leads worked for free, but sadly not only was the film a box-office flop, but Lo Wei passed away during the shoot. Richard Ng, Stanley Fung and Eric Tsang return, with Michael Miu once again filling in for Charlie Chin after Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, and Sammo Hung being absent from much of the film despite playing two different roles (his usual Lucky Star character Eric Kidstuff who’s stuck in a hospital, and a policeman). This time the Lucky Stars are recruited to help expose a gambling femme fatale (Gung Suet Fa), whose shady methods have led to the death and dishonor of a gambling star (Chen Kuan Tai). They are joined by a Shaolin monk (don’t ask why) and of course, a gorgeous woman (the stunning Francoise Yip) to drool over, as per the Lucky Stars formula. There’s also a laundry list of cameos, from Cheng Pei Pei as a gambling teacher to Lowell Lo as, erm, some guy.

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FIST POWER (2000) review

Shot on the cheap and in less than a fortnight by the exact same team responsible for the dubious Body Weapon one year earlier (director Aman Chang, producer Wong Jing and star Vincent Zhao mainly), Fist Power is a small, harmless action film about Chau, a Hong Kong policeman (Anthony Wong Chau Sang) who holds an entire school hostage in a desperate attempt to reclaim custody of his son. It’s left to Chiu, a Mainland security expert (Vincent Zhao) whose nephew is in said school, to find the son and bring it to Chau before he blows up the place.

Narratively, Fist Power is pretty straightforward : after half-an-hour spent setting things up, the film becomes a basic race against the clock for its remaining hour. The only obstacle Chiu meets in his quest to bring Chau’s son to him are thugs at the service of Chau’s estranged wife, and so the film is always alternating between our hero running from a point A to a point B, and scenes of our hero beating up some anonymous thugs. All that being interspersed with scenes of Sam Lee trying to provide comic relief, and as usual, alienating the audience in the process. That would be fine if the director were able to ramp up the tension, but instead he seems more interested in throwing every cheap, direct-to-video-reeking editing trick at the spectator, undermining not only the film’s already flimsy suspense, but also its numerous action scenes. This is all the more annoying as Fist Power has a lot of talent in front of the camera.

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