Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi

Dance of a Dream (愛君如夢)

dance of a dream

I own two copies of this movie and can’t really justify either. That’s not to say Dance of a Dream is terrible, but you’ll need to find a few good reasons for watching – and the story is not one. Poorly plotted and weak in character development, the movie relies heavily on the attraction of its three stars, who allow the film to limp from start to finish.

Andy Lau’s smooth talking ballroom dance instructor Namson and his partner Faye Wong (Gordon Lam) run a small studio that’s feeling the financial pinch. A one night gig turns into a long term opportunity though when an uptight but wealthy executive, Tina Cheung (Anita Mui), hires Namson as her personal coach. She wants to dazzle at an upcoming party and, for reasons unknown, goes with him instead of an internationally renowned teacher. At the same time, happy-go-lucky Kam (Sandra Ng) becomes smitten with the tank-over-tee clad dancer and also splurges on lessons. Rather than some much hoped for private instruction, however, Kam ends up in a class with a lovable bunch of misfits.

The midsection of this film substitutes story with showcase, and while a love triangle brews in the background, the stars do their thing and play to their strengths. Lau as Namson gets to be the center of attention, adored by all despite some pretty egregious character flaws. He’s condescending and selfish but comes off cool as a Jet. One gets the feeling Andy Lau just wanted an excuse to slink around; he certainly puts his hips to good use in this picture.

His costars also deliver the goods. Mui’s icy stares keep Tina wrapped in her own haughty bubble, content with staying an arm’s length away from Kam and her bouncy classmates. Mui is equally comfortable playing the caring confidant, in a character shift that is just assumed and never fully explained.

Ng is the effervescent heart of this movie though, infusing this Christmas release with the most feel good factor. She pulls Kam upward in many ways. Her character is goofy, neurotic, insecure but also so transparently positive that her main fault – being a giddy fangirl – seems endearing and almost virtuous. Even in her disappointments, Kam manages to find a smile.

Which is a good thing because there are a lot of question marks in this movie. The main function of the weak plot is to shuttle the characters from beginning to end, with some song and dance diversions in between. Besides Namson’s desire to dream big, little attention is paid to motivations and meaning of everyone and everything else. Supposedly he helps Tina and Kam realize themselves but it’s never clear why they are unfulfilled and what he does to improve this. Dance helps, but this isn’t really a dancer’s movie, and it is treated more as a pastime than as a passion.

A fun supporting cast that includes Ronald Cheng, Lam Tze-Chung, and Cherrie Ying do what they can, which isn’t much. Gordon Lam comes off the best, playing a cheeky second fiddle to Lau and stealing at least one scene with his spot on Jacky Cheung impression. At least there is the music, with contributions from the three leads. It’s not award winning stuff, but it’s light and pretty, like a dream.

“Dance of a Dream” (“愛君如夢”) by Andy Lau and Sandra Ng:

“Do You Still Remember Me” (“還記得我嗎”) by Andy Lau:

Released: 2001
Prod: Andy Lau 劉德華; Andrew Lau 劉偉強
Dir: Andrew Lau 劉偉強
Writer: Felix Chong 莊文強
Cast: Andy Lau 劉德華; Anita Mui 梅艷芳; Sandra Ng 吳君如; Gordon Lam 林家棟; Edison Chen 陳冠希; Ronald Cheng 鄭中基; Cherrie Ying 應采兒; Halina Tam 譚小環; Belinda Hamnett 韓君婷; Lam Tze-Chung 林子聰; Wong Yue 黃蕊
Time: 94 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

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Kung Fu Chefs (功夫廚神)

kung fu chefs

It’s hard to fault a movie for delivering exactly what its title promises. Indeed, Kung Fu Chefs caters to those oft neglected fans of fighting foodies. Sammo Hung and Louis Fan bring kung-fu credibility, the food looks delectable, and everyone wants to get their hands on something called the Dragon Head Blade. Even the story largely makes sense. You really can’t ask for more.

Well, you could ask for better acting. Hung plays one of the titular chefs, Wong Bing-Yi, a village head who is kicked out and loses possession of the Dragon Head Blade, a glorified butcher’s knife, when someone (who is played by his son, Timmy Hung) sabotages a community dinner and gives everyone the runs. The veteran actor brings a fatherly calm to the kitchen chaos, which is important because he shares a lot of screentime with Vanness Wu, who is not the most skilled thespian.

Wu plays Ken, a student at what appears to be a kung-fu cooking school. Upon graduation, he seeks out the legendary chef Master Sam at the Four Seas Restaurant. Wu struts his way through the film, producing a pensive gaze here, a frustrated snarl there. He reins in the expat punk act and limits his slacker style to tank tops, knit caps, and embarrassing facial hair. A better actor would have given the part and the film more depth, but the fast-moving plot is enough to keep one distracted.

Yi and Ken arrive at the Four Seas only to discover that Master Sam has died, leaving his elder daughter Qing (Cherrie Ying) to run the business. Her role is a bit limited, and though Qing makes some sound decisions to keep the Four Seas afloat, she mostly stands around. Her sister Ying (Ai Kago) has a better time of things, not least because she has her eyes on Ken. Ying’s job is to play up the younger sister bit and whine a lot, which Kago does well.

Yi and Ken inadvertently cause its chef to leave in disgrace, and he ends up at the King of Cantonese, a sprawling restaurant group headed by Yi’s nephew, Joe (Louis Fan). Joe spends much of his time growling from his iron throne. He is nursing a decades-long grudge against his uncle whom he blames for his father’s shame and failure.

Things come to a head at the Best Chef of China competition where Yi and Joe’s restaurants and chefs do battle with duck, oxtail, cabbage, and soup, among other ingredients. In the meantime, there is actual fighting, and generous portions of it. Action directors Yuen Cheung-Yan and Yuen Shun-Yi make the most of knife-wielding cooks and prop-filled pantries to stage the fight scenes, which culminate in a frenzied faceoff between uncle and nephew.

Overall, not bad when you consider the other options. There are some unnecessary special effects and a few inconsistencies in tone and style, but those don’t interfere too much. This one earns its stars for providing 90 minutes of mild entertainment.

Released: 2009
Prod: Jeremy Cheung
Dir: Ken Yip 葉永健
Writer: Wang Bo 王博; Simon Lui 呂志虔
Cast: Sammo Hung 洪金寶; Vanness Wu 吳建豪; Cherrie Ying 應采兒; Ai Kago 加護 亜依; Louis Fan 樊少皇; Timmy Hung 洪天明; Lam Tze-Chung 林子聰; Bruce Leung 梁小龍; Xing Yu 行宇; Wu Jianfei 吳建飛; Ho Kwai-Lam 何貴林
Time: 91 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014