Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee

Crossing Hennessy (月滿軒尼詩)

crossing hennessy

Hennessy Road is the main thoroughfare in Wanchai and bisects the vibrant Hong Kong Island district. Strolling down the street can be like stepping into a Hong Kong tourism video, if you have the right eye for things. Unfortunately, writer-director Ivy Ho lacks a sharpness with the camera that she has with the pen. Her film is one that might have yielded lush visuals to accompany its subjects. Stretches of Hennessy are paneled with glossy skyscrapers across from which sit stubborn pawn shops sweating paint curls. There are walk-ups squished resolutely between luxury apartment complexes while rusty stalls selling electronic bits or fish food bookend certain blocks. Meanwhile, a scramble of gamblers, foreigners, and elderly footballers provide a rhythmic soundtrack to the sights.

Such vividness is lacking in Crossing Hennessy though, and Wanchai instead comes across as a generic part of Hong Kong or any Asian city for that matter. The tram, which famously dings its way from one end of the island to the other, crawls through a few scenes but there’s little significance except to denote that the action takes place in Hong Kong and not in Kowloon or the New Territories.

What Ho fails to capture on camera, however, she compensates with careful attention to her flawed characters, most of whom would make awkward to uncomfortable lunch dates. That is how Loy (Jacky Cheung) and Lin (Tang Wei) are initially thrown together. Loy’s relatives, headed by his strong-willed mother Mrs. Chiang (Paw Hee-Ching), are determined to put an end to his bachelor days, but it’s a hard task given that he’s a perpetual man-child, that fortysomething who still needs to be roused from bed in the morning. They seek out the owners of bathroom supply store (Lam Wai and Margaret Cheung), ostensibly on the other side of Hennessy, eager to find a good partner for their niece, Lin. As far as practicality goes, it’s a good match; Loy’s family runs a household electronics business, so in addition to a new in-law, there’s also the latest model toilet or dehumidifier to be gained.

The first date over dim sum includes all their family members and goes off course when Loy insists on poking happy faces into his custard bun and Lin dresses like a frumpy kid who’s just discovered her mother’s makeup drawer. Still, they meet again out of obedience. There are no sparks, neither from romance nor from great dislike, and in fact, the two spend a lot of time feeling indifferent towards one another

One reason is that Lin is already attached. She’s devoted to her boyfriend, Xu (Andy On), who is serving time for assault, and arranges for his post-release life with care. Meanwhile, Loy continues to long for his childhood sweetheart (Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee), a newly divorced, well-to-do photographer. These are relationships nearing or past their due dates, and it’s not clear how long the partners will hold out.

That’s not how a romantic comedy usually unfolds, which, despite its marketing, this movie is not. There is little rush to show Loy and Lin’s compatibility even when they find a few things to bond over – a love of murder mysteries, their meddlesome relatives, their love lives. Certain audiences will dislike the way the script proceeds at a snail’s pace, but sometimes there is more story in the process of friendship than in a paint-by-numbers romance.

It actually helps, for once, that there is a sizable age gap between the two leads, widening the distance between them and making their relationship all the more improbable. But when they grow closer, it never becomes creepy or perverse, thanks to some nuanced performances. Cheung is adept at playing an emotionally stunted adult haunted by the loss of the two affirming relationships in his life (with his ex and his father, played by Lowell Lo in dream sequences). He overplays it a bit at times, but he conveys the core of his character effectively. At the other end of the spectrum is Lin, and Tang breathes maturity into her character. She has an easy intimacy with Cheung and On even when her onscreen persona does not. The script doesn’t allow her to stretch her part too far, but in holding back, she still lets Lin’s emotions peek through.

A peppery supporting cast adds to the simmering partnership, and Paw is at the center. Brash, demanding, and selfish, she draws attention in every way. You wouldn’t want Loy’s mother to raise you. So it’s no wonder why he’d rather be spoiled by his spinster aunt, a familiar role that Mimi Chu gives aching personality to. Uncle Ching also gets caught in Mrs. Chiang’s net. Danny Lee plays her accountant cum lover, or maybe it’s the other way around, with equal parts adoration and exasperation. They are a whirlwind that occasionally disrupts the stasis, and like the rest of this movie, a reflection of the fits and starts that mark ordinary life.

“Lucky in Love” by Jacky Cheung:

Released: 2010
Prod: Yee Chung-Man 奚仲文; Cary Cheng 鄭劍鋒; Cheung Hong-Tat 張康達
Dir: Ivy Ho 岸西
Writer: Ivy Ho 岸西
Cast: Jacky Cheung 張學友; Tang Wei 湯唯; Paw Hee-Ching 鮑起靜; Mimi Chu 朱咪咪; Danny Lee 李修賢; Andy On 安志杰; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Lowell Lo 盧冠廷; Lam Wai 林威; Margaret Cheung 張瀅子; Kwok Fung 郭鋒; Gill Mohindepaul Singh 喬寶寶; Ekin Cheng 鄭伊健; Derek Tsang 曾國祥; Maggie Siu 邵美琪; Cheuk Wai-Man 卓慧敏
Time: 105 min
Lang: Cantonese, some Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2015

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

Men Suddenly in Love (猛男滾死隊)

This is a bad movie. It’s not worth a trickle of the brainpower that I am about to waste in writing this review. That’s because this is not what anyone should be calling a movie, just like one would not call a Harry Potter fanfiction a book, or even a pamphlet. And really, don’t delude yourself; this is writer/director/producer Wong Jing’s fanfiction. It’s the world he and his band of mostly middle-aged, rotund companions can only inhibit on celluloid. He’s managed to masquerade it as a legitimate film when really it is just an excuse for him and his friends to fondle a harem of busty women.

The recklessness with which the five male leads pursue such ladies sets Wong’s latest endeavor apart from previous mediocre efforts, of which there are many. He borrows from the Men Suddenly in Black formula of unfaithful husbands trying to outwit their stern wives but leaves out the sharp humor and parody. He does, however, manage to offend half the population and right thinking men who reject chauvinistic overtures. In place of the hammy and hilarious Brother Nine (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) is the randy Master Jude (Richard Ng), an institution at the local secondary school for inspiring generations of young men to indulge in their adolescent desires. A mismatched assemblage of his former pupils (Eric Tsang, Wong Jing, Jim Chim, Chapman To, and Tat Dik) help him celebrate his eightieth birthday just north of the border. They invite the Four Heavenly Boobs (Carol Yeung, Jessica Xu, Caroline Zhu, and leader Chrissie Chau) and a boob-in-training (Betrys Kong) to his party where, overcome with passion, the beloved mentor expires. Just as he departs though, the good teacher commands his students to commemorate him by screaming his name when having sex.

Well, they don’t, and the master is largely forgotten for the remainder of the film, as are any meaningful attempts at narrative. Instead, the movie rolls from one puerile antic to another, mostly involving outsized mammaries. Wong throws in some jokes involving statutory rape, the online auctioning of a girl’s virginity, and 3D porn, but the film mainly sticks with what he, and every fifteen year old boy, likes best – breasts. He more than drives the point home that they are to be touched, displayed, and lusted after, whether on a shapely ingenue or an equally well-endowed long-time spouse.

The general absence of acting also makes this movie particularly distasteful. In a suspicious bit of casting, Wong, who seems to have graduated from the Jimmy Fallon School of Acting, appears as a giddy gynecologist. He does little more than parrot his lines, which satisfies his own requirements as director and producer. He is in good company though as few in this troupe possess legitimate filmic credentials. At one point, Jim Chim’s character, an award-winning actor, blames the sorry state of Hong Kong film on amateur starlets who can neither sing, act, nor enunciate. I don’t know if Wong was aiming for irony, but it’s what he got.

Prod: Wong Jing 王晶
Dir: Wong Jing 王晶
Writer: Wong Jing 王晶
Cast: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai 曾志偉; Jim Chim Sui-Man 詹瑞文; Wong Jing 王晶; Chapman To Man-Chat 杜汶澤; Tat Dik 狄易達; Chrissie Chau Sau-Na 周秀娜; Carol Yeung Tsz-Yiu 楊梓瑤; Jessica Xu Zi-Xian 徐自賢; Caroline Zhu Yu-Lin 朱裕琳; Betrys Kong Yi 江怡; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Monica Chan Fat-Yung 陳法蓉; Mak Ling-Ling 麥玲玲; Jacquelin Ch’ng Si-Man 莊思敏; Harriet Yeung Sze-Man 楊詩敏; Richard Ng Yiu-Hon 吳耀漢; Alex Jazz Lam Tsz-Sin 林子善
Time: 89 min
Lang: Cantonese
Reviewed: 2012