Denise Ho Wan-Si

Look for a Star (游龍戲鳳)

look for a star

There are three improbable relationships at work in Look for a Star, all of which cross some social boundaries of class, gender, wealth, age, or education and none of which are engaging enough on their own. Three definitely makes a crowd though as this picture struggles to accommodate each couple.

The bulk of the story falls on Andy Lau and Shu Qi. Lau plays Sam Ching, a thrice divorced millionaire and property developer who’s been snatching up land all through Macau. Milan, played by Shu Qi, holds a pretty low opinion of Mr. Ching for turning her city into an overdeveloped playground, but there’s not much she can do as a baccarat dealer and nightclub club dancer. After a sequence of events not fully made clear by the narrative, the two start dating, except Sam withholds his true identity. Anyone can see this isn’t a wise decision, but filmmakers deem it necessary to progress to a second act.

Sam’s second-in-command, Jo (Denise Ho), also gets some action with the help of her boss, but when the initial set-up doesn’t go as planned, she finds herself on the receiving end of some unwanted attention from a polite but clingy migrant worker Jiu (Zhang Hanyu). Chauffeur Tim (Dominic Lam) tries his luck in love as well. Sam arranges for him to go on a date with Shannon (Zhang Xinyi), who seems a perfect match except that she is also a single mother, thus failing to tick off all the right boxes on his list.

It’s an ambitious slate and you get the sense that the filmmakers want to go somewhere deeper with their material. The third act is a blustery show of commentaries on love and compatibility and comes in the form of an incredulous matchmaking program hosted by Cheung Tat-Ming. He (cruelly) highlights the extreme social divide that separates each pair of lovers, and it’s an attempt to expose what some see as the superficial barriers that thwart true love. At the same time, Milan gives an honest but brief perspective on the reality of relationships characterized by such differences.

I’m not a great admirer of Shu Qi’s work, and some of her earlier scenes – dancing by herself in an elevator, performing a kittenish can can – seem to be inserted to up her coquettish appeal. But she really captures her character’s dignity and humiliation after becoming tabloid fodder and the subject of scrutiny by Sam’s company. Zhang Hanyu also commands attention in his small role. He has a quiet but intense magnetism that makes his character understandably appealing.

It’s too bad then that Jiu’s relationship with Jo wasn’t given greater focus. Their pairing is touching but, like most of the emotions in this movie, not lasting. Look for a Star is weighed down by chatty conversations that want to take on more importance than they actually do, leaving the film to start a discussion that stalls shortly thereafter.

“I Do” by Andy Lau and Shu Qi:

Released: 2009
Prod: Andrew Lau 劉偉強
Dir: Andrew Lau 劉偉強
Writer: Theresa Tang 鄧潔明; James Yuen 阮世生
Cast: Andy Lau 劉德華; Shu Qi 舒淇; Denise Ho 何韻詩; Zhang Hanyu 張涵予; Dominic Lam 林嘉華; Zhang Xinyi 張歆藝; Cheung Tat-Ming 張達明; David Chiang 姜大衛; Maria Cordero 瑪利亞; George Lam 林子祥; Raymond Cho 曹永廉; Monie Tung 董敏莉; Rebecca Pan 潘迪華; Ella Koon 官恩娜; Terence Yin 尹子維; Tony Ho 何華超
Time: 117 min
Lang: Cantonese, Mandarin, and some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2015

I Love Hong Kong 2012 (2012我愛HK喜上加囍)

i love hk 2012

The Mayan doomsday prophecy generated plenty of headlines and inspired a slew of apocalyptic disaster movies in 2012, and it curiously underlines this fluffy Chinese New Year film. The approaching armageddon motivates the characters to realize the importance of family and, matched with a bag of laughs and a bundle of television stars, makes for a standard holiday film.

Though it shares a title with TVB’s 2011 CNY effort, the two are unrelated and I Love Hong Kong 2012 fails to live up to its predecessor. This one is a messy affair that lacks a coherent plot to drive its message home. Like the previous year’s film, Stanley Fung stars as the family patriarch. Kwok Ching is a longtime weather reporter for the local television station, and some scenes might remind you of the CNY classic It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World). At work, he locks horns with his boss and one-time classmate, Kei Yee (Siu Yam-Yam), and at home, he oversees the lives of his three children – eldest daughter and lawyer Kwok Mei-Mei (Teresa Mo), who is married to Yao Ming (Eric Tsang, not Yao Ming), tomboyish middle child Kwok Ching-Ching (Denise Ho, not Guo Jing Jing), and youngest son and cameraman Aaron Kwok (6 Wing, not Aaron Kwok) – and brother San (Evergreen Mak).

The family’s personal and professional trials are subject to a revolving door of jokes and gags, the enjoyment of which depends largely on your knowledge of Cantonese and local news and gossip. The Hong Kong Observatory comes under fire and Mainland mothers crowding the city’s maternity wards also take a hit. Some of the best laughs come from a parody of the 2011 Taiwanese smash You are the Apple of My Eye between Ching and Kei Yee as they reflect on their youth and the present. Another moment that simultaneously elicits howls of joy and shrieks of horror comes when Mei-Mei and Ming, who are having trouble conceiving, try to get it on by dressing up in various form-fitting attire. Some people think it’s funny to see Eric Tsang wear spandex superhero costumes; some do not.

Everyone is absorbed in their own little orbit, and the camera flits into each character’s life just long enough to establish a conflict and make a few wisecracks before flying off again. So when the threat of annihilation comes to the fore, there’s a confusing urgency to everyone’s problems. Mei-Mei and Ming’s testy relationship is complicated when their sponsored daughter (Natalie Meng) arrives, having grown into a beautiful, busty young woman. Ching-Ching must decide whether she wants to marry her boyfriend (Bosco Wong), an effeminate grocery store salesperson, and in the process try to reconcile her boyish looks and behavior with her father’s gender expectations. The greatest burden though might fall on little Aaron Kwok, whose love for property/entertainment magnate’s lover (William So and Viann Zhang, respectively) pits him against all those monopolizing barons who are crushing the little people.

The jumble of stray plotlines eventually comes together and is resolved in a way so that all things are made clear and put at peace when you think the world will end. Despite humorous performances especially by Mo and a leather-clad E02, the movie doesn’t earn its good will. Nevertheless, you will probably leave the theatre, or your DVD player, or your illegal streaming site, with a warm feeling in your heart.

“Amazing Grace” (明日恩典) by Joey Yung

Released: 2012
Prod: Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Peter Tsi 戚家基
Dir: Wilson Chin 錢國偉; Chung Shu-Kai 鍾澍佳
Writer: Peter Tsi 戚家基; Kwok Kin-Lok 郭建樂; Michelle Tsui 徐敏琳
Cast: Stanley Fung 馮淬帆; Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Teresa Mo 毛舜筠; Denise Ho 何韻詩; Bosco Wong 黃宗澤; Evergreen Mak 麥長青; 6 Wing 陸永; William So 蘇永康; Viann Zhang 張馨予; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; Christine Kuo 苟芸慧; Maggie Siu 邵美琪; Ding Yue 丁羽; Mimi Chu 朱咪咪; Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; King Kong 金剛; Bob Lam 林盛斌; Jess Shum 沈卓盈; Tats Lau 劉以達; Eliza Sam 岑麗香; Alfred Cheung 張堅庭; Natalie Meng 孟瑤; Samantha Ko 高海寧; Tenky Tin 田啟文; Otto Wong 王志安; Eddie Pang 彭懷安; Eric Tse 謝凱榮; Osman Hung 洪智傑; Celine Ma 馬蹄露; Matthew Ko 高鈞賢; Liu Fan 魯芬; Yu Miu-Lin 余慕蓮; Sire Ma 馬賽; Cilla Kung 樂瞳; Jacqueline Chong 莊思敏; Raymond Chiu 趙永洪; Matt Chow 鄒凱光; Han Jin 陳奐仁; Louis Yuen 阮兆祥; Mak Ling Ling 麥玲玲; Stephanie Che 車婉婉; Gill Mohindepaul Singh 喬寶寶
Time: 95 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014