Aarif Lee

I Love Hong Kong (我愛HK開心萬歲)

i love hk

I Love Hong Kong lives up to its title, showing great holiday affection for the city and the salt of the earth folks who live there. A respectable follow-up to the previous Chinese New Year’s hit 72 Tenants of Prosperity, this movie delivers a warmhearted message about community that comes wrapped in layers of laughter, nostalgia, and product placement. This TVB production is also top heavy with local television actors, but the station opts for true screen stars Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Sandra Ng to generate a hefty festive buzz.

Leung and Ng play parents to Ming (Aarif Lee), Chi (Mag Lam), and King (Chan Wing-Lam), and life is all fun and games until hard economic times brings big changes to their lives. Shun, a toy manufacturer, finds his factory shut down, so he decides to move the family back to the public housing estate where his father (Stanley Fung) still lives. But this ends up literally cramping everyone’s style.

Though Shun praises the virtues of being close to extended family and having trustworthy estate friends nearby, no one cares for this arrangement. Shun’s Wife (she doesn’t have a name but is simply known as ‘Shun’s wife’) escapes by returning to work at a beauty clinic, only to find herself demoted and taking orders from a haughty and much younger, taller, slimmer superior (Koni Lui). His son, a cog in the Food and Health Department machine, objects to living next to the stall owners he’s tasked with reprimanding, and even Shun’s father prefers having his flat to himself, where he has space enough for two TVs – a bigger one for TVB and a smaller one for that other station.

It’s Shun’s turn to feel upset though when his former friend Lung (Eric Tsang) reappears. He still holds a grudge from their youth after some funds went missing and wonders if Lung is just here to pull another scam or if he really wants to help out the struggling tenants. The power of flashback not only fleshes out their relationship and helps the audience appreciate the values of council estate living, it also gives a boatload of fresh faced TVB actors a chance to play younger versions of the characters (Bosco Wong as Shun, Wong Cho-Lam as Lung, Kate Tsui and Joyce Cheng as the bread store twins).

The gimmick aids plot development but also strengthens the message of Hong Kongers coming together to fight off the wealthy and corrupt, something we apparently did better thirty years ago. By the time the movie reaches its forced climax, you’ll be cheering on the small potatoes of this idyllic housing estate as they take on officials and developers who threaten their community and simple way of life. Hell, you might even want to live in a housing estate after you see their polished quarters. Zany side plots made funnier with a knowledge of Cantonese and Hong Kong gossip top off this stocking stuffer of a film, but the overall effort works regardless. It’s one you won’t mind revisiting next Chinese New Year’s.

“Always Friends” (始終都係朋友好) performed by the cast:

“I Love Hong Kong” performed by Aarif Lee and Mag Lam. Video not available but inspired by “Kowloon, Hong Kong” by the Reynettes:

Released: 2011
Prod: Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Jason Siu 邵劍秋
Dir: Chung Shu-Kai 鍾澍佳; Eric Tsang 曾志偉
Writer: Chung Shu-Kai 鍾澍佳; Helward Mak 麥曦茵; Wong Yeung-Tat 黃洋達
Cast: Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Tony Leung Ka-Fai 梁家輝; Sandra Ng 吳君如; Aarif Lee 李治廷; Mag Lam 林欣彤; Chan Wing-Lam 陳穎嵐; Stanley Fung 馮淬帆; Anita Yuen 袁詠儀; Fala Chen 陳法拉; Wu Ma 午馬; Wong Cho-Lam 王祖藍; Bosco Wong 黃宗澤; Jess Shum 沈卓盈; Liu Kai-Chi 廖啟智; Wayne Lai 黎耀祥; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Alfred Cheung 張堅庭; Louis Yuen 阮兆祥; Michelle Lo 盧覓雪; Kate Tsui 徐子珊 Joyce Cheng 鄭欣宜; JJ Jia 賈曉晨; Koni Lui 呂慧儀; Jeannette Leung 梁政玨; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; Evergreen Mak 麥長青; 6 Wing 陸永; Tenky Tin 田啟文; Lam Suet 林雪; Raymond Wong 黃浩然; Otto Wong 王志安; Eddie Pang 彭懷安; Jim Chim 詹瑞文; Samantha Ko 高海寧; Felix Wong 黃日華; Michael Miu 苗僑偉; Mak Ling-Ling 麥玲玲; Pierre Ngo 敖嘉年; Christine Kuo 苟芸慧; Terence Tsui 小肥; Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; and a LOT more
Time: 104 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

Frozen (為你鍾情)

frozen

In either a flash of artistic inspiration or desperation, the creative forces behind Frozen seized on that gripping and little used plot device – cryogenics. It may have been that the traditional avenues of teenage love and middle age redemption were too traditional, leading to such bizarre experimentation. At least this might be the best way to swallow a film in which characters must reconcile the past by literally coming face to face with it.

One part of the movie is an average teen idol flick about a conventional high school romance between Leslie Cheung superfan Monica (Man) and Leslie Cheung wannabe Kit (Lee) and distinguished mostly by its belabored nod to the Eighties. Told in flashbacks, that bit of the past ends when Monica, who is about to give birth, is seriously injured in a car accident and put in indefinite deep freeze.

A couple decades later, Kit has radically transformed from an earnest musician who looks like Aarif Lee to a nameless vagrant who (gasp) looks like Leon Lai. Unable to forgive his part in the accident, he gets a chance to atone, and take a bath, when Monica unexpectedly materializes from suspended animation.

This is where the movie enters “B grade Hollywood sci-fi movie” territory, as one of the characters remarks. Though cleverly trying to preempt any criticism and laughs with that comment, the movie is not so self-aware that it also knows what story it wants to tell. Besides Monica and Kit’s abbreviated romance, it tries to juggle their twentysomething daughter Wingz’s (Vidal) own uncertainty about her past. Wingz manages a few searching moments with both parents, but as the movie progresses, it increasingly becomes a vehicle for the latter, and for Leon Lai.

Frozen eventually gets ensnared in meta-layers of memory and reaches an absurd climax when Lai, masquerading as Kit who is channeling Leslie, belts out the beloved singer’s hits. Cheung’s premature death in 2003 invites many forms of tribute, but this seems to be a hasty attempt at nostalgia.

And to be sure, Lai’s performance isn’t the only instance of sacrilege. The synergy machine is put into overdrive, and the remaining lead roles are drawn from his padawans at Amusic, a company he founded. While Man and Lee are proficient enough, Vidal’s tortured acting requires the most severe penance, preferably in the form of hit songs, which she can actually deliver.

Released: 2010
Prod: Joseph Chan Sin-Ji 陳善之
Dir: Derek Kwok Chi-Kin 郭子健
Writer: Derek Kwok Chi-Kin 郭子健; Yim Ka-Yee 嚴嘉儀
Cast: Janice Man Wing-San 文詠珊; Leon Lai Ming 黎明; Janice Vidal 衛蘭; Aarif Lee Chi-Ting 李治廷; Wilfred Lau Ho-Lung 劉浩龍; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting 張堅庭; Ti Lung 狄龍; Julia Cheng Yim-Lai 鄭艷麗; Matt Chow Hoi-Kwong 鄒凱光; Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu 谷德昭; Tan Lap-Man 單立文; Yeung Chiu-Hoi 楊潮凱
Time: 97 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2013