Mark Lui Chung-Tak

Give Them a Chance (給他們一個機會)

give them a chance

Give Them a Chance is bookeded by megastar Andy Lau. The opening sets up the Heavenly King of Cantopop as a benevolent Hong Kong entertainment deity who, grateful for all the opportunities and behind-the-scenes support through the years, wishes to bestow the same to others so that they can find success in the industry. Fast forward 95 minutes and there’s Andy, living out his dream of helping people make it big. The credits roll to footage from his 2001 concert featuring a group of background dancers shaking it like there’s no tomorrow. And they are the real stars of this movie.

The film gets an A for effort, not for Andy Lau’s altruism. It suffices as the feel good, based on a true story movie of the week, and though it occasionally tries to push those boundaries a little too far, it succeeds in corralling its audience’s sympathy towards the talented lower class teens who want a little more out of the life they’re dealt.

Despite their break dancing ambitions, the kids face one dead end after another. They’re hardly ace students, and the one healthy interest they have gets thwarted by adults who think they’re up to no good. Even the city won’t give them a break. During an outdoor performance, a cop tells them in the politest terms to shove off because wealthy tourists at a nearby hotel have complained about the noise, and we know who takes priority there.

Luckily there are some people who see potential in Hong Kong’s youth, including aspiring dancer turned action director Sam (Andy Hui) and injured former dancer Jack (Osman Hung), a pair of quarrelling brothers who try to put aside their grudges for the greater good and build a practice studio. Their story threads together the patchwork of teens who flock to the new dance haven. Brothers Durian and Kenny, each with his own medical issue, vie for the attention of longtime friend Money, who develops feelings for Jim, who is also on shaky terms with his older brother.

The amount of teen angst can be a little overpowering and is not helped by some of the actors, particularly Andy Lau’s goddaughter Ellis Tang who babbles like a preschooler. Howard Kwok, on the other hand, is very affecting as Kenny despite not saying anything. This could also have been a more inspiring and artistically successful film with stronger dance sequences and better music, but this was never supposed to be Step Up. Instead, the movie works from ground up and, like the kids, doesn’t have the package or polish of other commercial films. This doesn’t necessarily make it better but it does make it more satisfying to watch.

Released: 2003
Prod: Sam Wong 黃明昇, Ng Kin-Hung 伍健雄
Dir: Herman Yau 邱禮濤
Writer: Yeung Yee-Shan 楊漪珊; Herman Yau 邱禮濤
Cast: Andy Hui 許志安; Ellis Tang 鄧肇欣; Johnathan Cheung 張穎康; Walter Wong 黃家倫; Howard Kwok 郭浩東; Osman Hung 洪智傑; Eddie Pang 彭懷安; Anna Yau 丘凱敏; Jason Wong 黃益平; Joe Cheung 張同祖; Liu Kai-Chi 廖啟智; Anthony Wong 黃秋生; Mark Lui 雷頌德; Alex Fong Lik-Sun 方力申; Ronald Cheng 鄭中基; Stephanie Che 車婉婉; Wayne Lai 黎耀祥; Amanda Lee 李蕙敏; Andy Lau 劉德華
Time: 98 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

My Lucky Star (行運超人)

my lucky star

Somewhere, a fung shui master is thousands of dollars richer after conning the makers of My Lucky Star into going ahead with this project. The movie feels twice as long as its 100 minutes, and not even stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Miriam Yeung can add much life to it. Of course, this might be expected when the entire story rests on the minutiae of fung shui and people’s obsession with avoiding bad luck or, as some see it, reality.

The Chinese New Year comedy tries to capitalize on the audience’s appetite for anything auspicious, and the transformation of one of Hong Kong’s unluckiest residents seems like a good start. Yip Koo-Hung (Yeung) can’t get a break in any area of her life. She’s on the brink of being fired, she can’t leave the house without tripping over herself, and she’s been held up multiple times. It’s a case for top fung shui master Lai Liu-Po (Leung), except he refuses to see anyone surnamed Yip owing to some fung shui cock up generations back.

She sneaks by anyhow, and Liu-Po agrees to help her because that’s what the story requires. It also demands that they fall in love, though the romance pops out of nowhere. Hung literally jumps into the screen and, armed with nothing more a crayon map of her house, a cute smile, and a lot of chutzpah, the two have the makings of a beautiful friendship.

They hit a few road bumps, but then the movie shuffles to the second major conflict involving a scheming stepmother (Teresa Carpio), a spoiled pop star (Chapman To), and a rival fung shui master (Ronald Cheng). With their powers combined, they conspire to make Hung’s life miserable where fate will not. There’s a message somewhere in this about kindness and karma, but it’s not beaten into the audience the same way it’s been with recent holiday films.

My Lucky Star is also missing the other elements that make New Year’s movies fun, if not intellectually demanding. It’s so cluttered with fung shui references that anyone who isn’t an avowed fan or practitioner will have a hard time relating to the characters. And though the film has a few funny moments regarding Hong Kong’s state of affairs, it is mostly short on comedy.

Besides an unamusing script, Hung and Liu-Po don’t really click as a couple. While the ever suave Leung delivers his dialogue with crisp, rapid fire precision, Yeung’s interpretation of Hung rests on scrunching up her face and throwing fits like a seven year old who’s grounded from Chuck E Cheese. She had proven herself a capable comedienne with hits like Love Undercover, but at this point in her career, Yeung was a better fit for the Daniel Wus of the world.

“Hold On at All Costs” (有愛錯無放過) theme song by Tony Leung and Miriam Yeung:

Released: 2003
Prod: Vincent Kok 谷德昭; David Chan 陳錫康
Dir: Vinent Kok 谷德昭
Writer: Vincent Kok 谷德昭; Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai 梁朝偉; Miriam Yeung 楊千嬅; Ronald Cheng 鄭中基; Chapman To 杜汶澤; Vincent Kok 谷德昭; Teresa Caprio 杜麗莎; Alex Fong Chung-Sun 方中信; Mark Lui 雷頌德; Anya 安雅; Ken Wong 王合喜; Ken Cheung 張智堯; Sammy Leung 森美; Kitty Yuen 阮小儀; Josie Ho 何超儀; William So 蘇永康; Patrick Tang 鄧健泓; Alex Fong Lik-Sun 方力申; Peter So 蘇民峰; Steven Fung 馮勉恆; various celebrities
Time: 99 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

Marry a Rich Man (嫁個有錢人)

marry a rich man

This is a Hong Kong romantic comedy, screened during Chinese New Year, starring two mega pop stars, one of whom speaks dodgy Cantonese. If your expectations aren’t progressively lowered, you’re not playing by the rules. Expect award winning fare during the holidays and you’ll be disappointed. But if you hit on a film that features beautiful, famous people, that makes you laugh for the better part of 90 minutes, and that gives you respite from nagging relatives, it’s mission accomplished. Time for your next round of feasting.

This self-consciously silly movie hooked me into Hong Kong pop cinema (feel free to judge); a cousin thought she’d give me a taste of local culture when I had first arrived. The storytelling is a little sloppy, even at its best moments, but Marry a Rich Man is a breezy mix of fantasy and romance lifted by two likable leads who find themselves in a pitiable situation.

Mi (Sammi Cheng) is a single twentysomething in pursuit of what many single twentysomethings in Hong Kong are apparently in pursuit of – a wealthy husband. The odds, however, are not in her favor. The closest she gets to the monied elite is when she delivers gas, by bike, to their mansions. By chance, she runs into her former classmates, all of whom have married up. Their lives of leisure and multi-carat jewels leave Mi feeling a tad inadequate. This is compounded by her father (Wu Fung), that nurturing paternal type who reasons that “a rich man might not be good, but a poor man is definitely not good.”

By most assessments, Mi is not in want of anything. She lives in the idyllic Harmony Village which boasts some prime real estate. It’s also populated with charming personalities, all of whom adore her. Her lesbian best friend MT (Candy Lo) really adores her. That’s not enough in Hong Kong though, or at least in Mi’s Hong Kong. She’s in luck when a plea to the heavens sends a mysterious capsule blazing down from the sky. Inside she finds just what she’s been waiting for, well, not a rich man but the next best thing – a woman’s guide to marrying a rich man.

It comes from Destiny International, a matchmaking company hovering high in the heavens. Like Santa’s elves, they furiously track down lonely singles and send them how-to manuals. These puppetmasters contrive to bring happiness, or at least wads of cash, into the lives of ordinary folks like Mi.

The plan seems to work when she runs into Christmas (Richie Ren), who is the made-to-order rich man she’s been looking for. Cheng and Ren share great chemistry, evidenced in their previous pairing in Summer Holiday, and they give their characters a giddy spring as they tromp through the cobbled streets of Italy. Cheng is in her element as the eager girl next door who’s finally gotten her break while Ren gamely plays it smooth, his stuttered Cantonese giving his character added charm. However, a misunderstanding soon sends Mi and Christmas back to Hong Kong and in a funk.

The film is best when the two are together, and it loses some steam in the latter third when the jokes slow down and the leads infect everyone with their foul moods. Jan Lamb rescues the movie on several occasions though as Mi’s awkward but extremely wealthy suitor, Wilson, a character that is really just an excuse for Lamb’s spot-on impression of Hong Kong magnate Richard Li. Its nice message about the real worth of true love gets scuppered in the closing scenes, but by then, you might be too high on holiday cheer or too busy spending your red packet money to notice.

“玻璃鞋” (“Glass Slippers”) – theme song by Sammi Cheng

“我是有錢人” (“I’m a Rich Man”) – by Richie Ren

Released: 2002
Prod: Vincent Kok 谷德昭
Dir: Vincent Kok 谷德昭
Writer: Vincent Kok 谷德昭; Chan Po-Chun 陳寶駿; Wai Chi-Ho 韋志豪
Cast: Sammi Cheng 鄭秀文; Richie Ren 任賢齊; Bowie Wu Fung 胡楓; Jan Lamb 林海峰; Candy Lo 盧巧音; Angela Tong 湯盈盈; Ken Wong 王合喜; Mark Lui 雷頌德i; Vincent Kok 谷德昭; Tenky Tin 田啟文; Cheung Tat-Ming 張達明; Peter So 蘇民峰
Time: 93 min
Lang: Cantonese
Reviewed: 2014