Month: July 2013

If U Care… (賤精先生)

if u care

Gino Cheung (Chan) is one of those people who will be reincarnated as a cockroach. He is a vile, selfish human who has no compassion for anyone. He terrorizes and humiliates his subordinates and denigrates his superiors. He can’t even be bothered to donate a few cents for flag sales (Saturday morning street corner charity drives).

Gino, however, won’t be reincarnated because, surprise, this is a Christian movie (from writer-director Adrian Kwan who also gifted Hong Kong with Sometimes, Miracles Do Happen [天使之城], The Miracle Box [天作之盒], and Team of Miracle [流浪漢世界盃]). And because this movie is predictably about redemption and second chances. Will Gino see the light and amend his ways? Will others forgive him for his many transgressions? Of course; the important questions for this movie are how and why.

The answers lie in one of the wackier plot devices you’ll come across but one that is unexpectedly used to good effect. He gets in a car accident that sends his hand flying through the windshield. When he recovers, he finds that it is possessed with supernatural abilities; when he touches someone else, he can hear their thoughts and experience their emotions. For the first time in a long while, Gino begins to feel empathy for others.

His change of heart is helped by a few encounters with his childhood friend, Gillian (…played by Gillian). She has fulfilled Gino’s wish of becoming a firefighter so that she can help others. Yes, that’s right. Gillian Chung is a firefighter, right up there with notable cinematic firemen Lau Ching-Wan and Alex Fong Chung-Sun. Besides her penchant for rescuing people, she also motivates him to reform by being the kindest, most compassionate person ever.

Alas, Gillian, both the character and the actress, is perfect to the point of dullness, though that matters little because she is mostly a conduit for Gino’s redemption. Chan’s portrayal is harder to tolerate. He spends a good half of his screen time in an epileptic fit, which the audience is supposed to take as some humorous Jim Carrey-esque homage. He is more effective when he tones down his antics, revealing an adult who doesn’t like what he’s become but who still struggles to be a gentler person. The non-denominational message rings clear as (church) bells in the end, and don’t feel guilty if you’re a bit more hopeful as the credits roll.

“This Time, Next Year” (明年今日) by Eason Chan

Released: 2002
Prod: Benny Chan 陳木勝
Dir: Adrian Kwan 關信輝
Writer: Adrian Kwan 關信輝, Chit Ka-Kei 戚家基; Wai Mei 惠美
Cast: Eason Chan 陳奕迅; Gillian Chung 鍾欣桐; Candy Lo 盧巧音; Rain Li 李彩樺; Eric Kot 葛民輝; Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; Patrick Tang 鄧健泓; Lam Suet 林雪; Tats Lau 劉以達; Yoyo Yiu 姚詠雯; Bonnie Wong 黃文慧; Lawrence Chou 周俊偉; Willie Wai 韋家雄; Winston Yeh 葉景文; Ching Long 程朗
Time: 106 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2013

The Jade and the Pearl (翡翠明珠)

jade and pearl

TVB, Hong Kong’s television monopoly, tests the limits of its audience’s tolerance with this hastily conceived charade, which it named after its Chinese and English language stations, respectively. Even the most dedicated fan, of which I am one, will find this sprawling mess of a movie difficult to defend.

For one, it’s an ill-begotten marriage between TVB and EEG, an equally monstrous entertainment conglomerate that caters to the masses by settling for the lowest common denominator. This co-production does not assume inadequacy, and I enjoy offerings by both companies, but it does mean a surfeit of beautiful and questionably talented young people. If The Jade and the Pearl was to be successful, it would have needed a strong story or clever script, something to emphasize the actors’ talents wherever they may lie.

As it stands, the best part may be the karaoke-ready theme song “Always Here” (一直都在) by TVB’s in-house composer Tang Chi-Wai (鄧智偉). It certainly isn’t the expansive plot, which lacks enough focus to propel it through its 104 minute running time. The action initially revolves around the happy-go-lucky Princess Yan (Choi), who is sent off to some far-flung land to marry an insignificant prince. She is escorted by General Ching (Lam), and one can safely predict what will transpire between the two during their long journey.

What no one expects is Joey Yung to appear as a bandit in pirate garb. But she does, and this is where the movie’s television roots show. After a short, dispassionate chase, the general is captured and the princess gets knocked out. When she comes to, she doesn’t remember a thing. Fortunately, a peasant storyteller (Wong) takes her in and the simple princess begins to enjoy the rustic life. Meanwhile, Ching still longs for Yan but must contend with the affections of pirate Joey.

The film does not have the luxury of 30 episodes with which to develop its characters and their relationships. So, if you make it as far as the climax, chances are you haven’t invested enough emotion to care what becomes of these broken hearts. More skilled leads would probably help the situation, but this movie is clearly interested in showcasing idols not actors. Everyone looks appealing and fulfills his or her role: Lam is the sensitive heartthrob, Wong is his honest but homely rival, Yung is the quirky, needy rebel, and Choi is forever the squeaky pubescent Twin whom everyone wants to coddle. This formula’s kept TVB and EEG afloat for years, so unless more people stay away from movies like this one, not much will change.

Released: 2010
Prod: Ng Yue 吳雨; Chan Hing-Kar 陳慶嘉; Amy Chin Siu-Wai 錢小蕙
Dir: Janet Chun Siu-Jan 秦小珍
Writer: Chan Hing-Kar 陳慶嘉; Cheung Fan 張帆; Ho Miu-Kei 何妙祺; Li Wai-Fuk 李瑋褔
Cast: Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin 蔡卓妍; Raymond Lam Fung 林峰; Joey Yung Tso-Yi 容祖兒; Wong Cho-Lam 王祖藍; Ti Lung 狄龍; Chapman To Man-Chak 杜汶澤; Carlo Ng Ka-Lok吳家樂; Tien Niu 恬妞; Lam Suet 林雪; Wong Yau-Nam 黃又南; Tats Lau Yi-Dat 劉以達; Steven Cheung Chi-Hang 張致恆; 6 Wing 陸永; JJ Jia Xiaochen 賈曉晨; Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; Matthew Ko Kwan-Yin 高鈞賢; Benjamin Yuen Wai-Ho 袁偉豪; Kenny Kwan Chi-Bun 關智斌; Ken Hung Cheuk-Lap 洪卓立; Cilla Kung 樂瞳; Macy Chan Mei-Si 陳美詩; Christine Kuo Yun-Hui 苟芸慧; Sire Ma Choi 馬賽; Jess Sum Cheuk-Ying 沈卓盈; Katy Kung Ka-Yan 龔嘉欣; Mavis Pan Shuang-Shuang 潘霜霜
Time: 104 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2013

The Fortune Buddies (勁抽福祿壽)

fortune buds

It’s been a rough ride for the average Hong Konger. In a landscape that’s fed an impotent government, untamed property prices, and cross-border tensions, it falls on the local free-to-air television station, TVB, to bring a little moral encouragement to the city’s residents. The Fortune Buddies attempts to do this by taking the can-do spirit of TVB’s recent Chinese New Year ventures (72 Tenants of Prosperity, I Love Hong Kong) and transferring it to a successful variety show, Fun with Liza and the Gods.

In this case, the gods, a comedic trio consisting of Wong Cho-Lam, Johnson Lee, and Louis Yuen, do without television mainstay Liza Wang. They portray hapless unemployed friends, each one nursing his own issue. Wong is having trouble winning over his girlfriend’s (Fiona Sit) father (Eric Tsang), Lee keeps a healthy distance from his wealthy dad (Richard Ng), and Yuen is a single father on shaky terms with his triad boss ex (Fala Chen). They get a chance to prove themselves when a group of inflated American wrestlers comes to Hong Kong, resulting in a decisive fight not just for a plush payout but for the city’s honor.

There are certainly hints of that invincible Hong Kong resolve present here, and it’s dressed up with distinct touches to reward the dedicated TVB viewer. Besides capitalizing on the comedians’ talents for singing, dancing, impersonations, and appearing in drag, the station references its own hit shows and squeezes countless cameos from its contract actors. These are mostly played for cheap chuckles, although seeing Lam Suet as a street wrestler in a constant state of undress is no laughing matter. The gags do not merit the feature film treatment, and Fortune Buddies even acknowledges its superfluousness. An extra criticizes the buddies who try their hand at street performing. “You can just watch it on tv. Why do we have to watch it here?” to which there is no satisfying answer.

What this movie needs but lacks is the warmth of the previous TVB efforts. While it rallies Hong Kongers with its local flavor, the ultimate source of the characters’ grievances is misplaced. The villain takes the form of bullying white American wrestlers, aided by an ambitious Hong Konger (Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee). But colonialism is not at issue. The film alludes to problems of meaningful employment and the wealth gap but takes the lazy way out and blames foreigners. This is cynical escapism, and in the short term, it’s more satisfying to beat up the big, bad Americans.

Released: 2011
Prod: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai 曾志偉; Tommy Leung Ka-Shu 梁家樹
Dir: Chung Shu-Kai 鍾澍佳
Writer: Wong Yeung-Tat 黃洋達
Cast: Wong Cho-Lam 王祖藍; Louis Yuen Yiu-Cheung 阮兆祥; Johnson Lee Sze-Chit 李思捷; Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei 薛凱琪; Eric Tsang Chi-Wai 曾志偉; Pauline Wong Siu-Fung 王小鳳; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Fala Chen Fa-La 陳法拉; Michael Tse Tin-Wah 謝天華; Richard Magarey; Dean Thompson; Kyle Simms; Crystal Tin Yue-Lai 田蕊妮; Richard Ng Yiu-Hon 吳耀漢; Crystal Ko Hoi-Ling 高海寧; Hanjin Tan Han-Jin 陳奐仁; Grace Wong Kwan-Hing 王君馨; Kaki Leung Ka-Kei 梁嘉琪; Koo Ming-Wah 古明華; Evergreen Mak Cheung-Ching 麥長青; Terence Tsui 小肥; Sire Ma Choi 馬賽; Tai Yiu-Ming 戴耀明; King Kong 金剛; Mak Ling-Ling 麥玲玲; Carlo Ng Ka-Lok 吳家樂; Lin Xiawei 林夏薇; Oscar Leung Lit-Wai 梁烈唯; Lam Suet 林雪; Wong Ching 王青; Calvin Choi Yat-Chi 蔡一智; Jess Sum Cheuk-Ying 沈卓盈; Adrian Chau Chi-Man 周志文; Auston Lam Si-Kit 林師傑; Angel Chiang Ka-Man 蔣家旻; Eliza Sam Lai-Heung 岑麗香; Albert Tam Wing-Chuen 譚永銓; Florence Kwok Siu-Wan 郭少芸; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; Susan Tse Suet-Sum 謝雪心; Gill Mohindepaul Singh 喬寶寶; Bosco Wong Chung-Chak 黃宗澤
Time: 92 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2013