Terence Tsui

Love Lifting (高舉‧愛)

love lifting

Love Lifting is the sort of movie you’d expect to end up in the bargain bin or on Lifetime’s afternoon lineup. It’s a feel good sports picture about a female weightlifter, played by former teen star Elanne Kong, who tries to make it to the top while raising her young family and overcoming illness. It screams sap rather than success, and yet the film is quietly affecting without giving itself over to melodrama.

A lot of credit goes to Kong, who wouldn’t be a casting director’s first choice for the role of a sturdy weightlifter. Somehow though, she manages to be a credible athlete, if on the thinner side, vying for Olympic glory. Her character Li Li makes an early exit from the sporting life after she finds out she has diabetes. But she doesn’t let the news weigh her down and instead focuses her energy on enjoying life and helping others. Kong is tremendously appealing in this role; Li Li has such an abundance of kindness that you only want good things to happen to her. At the same time, there’s nothing showy about her good nature, and the humility with which she expresses her feelings makes her even more likable.

Chapman To also does a fine job as Yung, Li Li’s devoted husband. Yung is one of those rare men in Hong Kong cinema, a stay-at-home dad who willingly puts his wife’s career first. He quietly bears the frustrations of being a single parent and the criticisms of those who mock his decision, knowing that everything he does is done out of love. Like his character, To has a strong presence without stealing the limelight, and he proves that for a chronic overactor, less can be a lot more.

I’m hard pressed to find drawbacks, but one might be a general lack of urgency in the film. For a sports movie, there isn’t really a major antagonist, which somewhat dampens the thrill of victory. Life, however, seems to be a fair enough obstacle for Li Li, and the movie chronicles a string of difficulties – financial, emotional, bureaucratic – she faces to get back in the game. Some might find the story low-key enough to dismiss entirely, but considering the bombast and inanity that usually graces the city’s screens, Love Lifting shows what a quality Hong Kong film can look like.

Trailer contains important spoiler that happens late in the movie.

“You Give Me Strength” (你給我力量) theme song by Elanne Kong:

Released: 2012
Prod: Alvin Lam 林小強; Zhang Zhao 張昭; Ng Kin-Hung 伍健雄
Dir: Herman Yau 邱禮濤
Writer: Herman Yau 邱禮濤; Yeung Yee-Shan 楊漪珊; Wang Ya-Wen 王亞文
Cast: Elanne Kong 江若琳; Chapman To 杜汶澤; Tien Niu 恬妞; Jeremy Xu 徐正希; Feng Haoxu 馮昊旭; Zhang Songwen 張頌文; Huang Jianxin 黃建新; Jun Kung 恭碩良; Bob Lam 林盛斌; Terence Tsui 小肥
Time: 92 min
Lang: Cantonese, some Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

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

Love Connected (保持愛你)

Love Connected

Watching a Patrick Kong movie is akin to watching a kid throw up a bunch of playing cards and then shoving them back together into some semblance of deck. One expects disorder, and that’s exactly what you get in Love Connected, a generic catch-all Valentine’s Day movie that aspires to satisfy everyone but probably satisfies no one.

Kong fills his film with different stories of love and lovers, all vaguely connected in a way that makes the movie seem more cohesive than it is. Fong (Kay Tse) runs a flower shop and is in a protracted process of breaking up with her boyfriend Joe (Joey Leung). At the same time, one of her employees, Bobo (Stephy Tang), rejects a mall singer (Justin Lo) because she fears her deafness is an obstacle to their romance. Fai (Sammy Leung), also running in circles around the mall, juggles three girlfriends who, due to a scheduling hiccup, materialize at the same place. There is also some office drama between trial lovers Debbie (Chelsea Tong) and Terry (Terry Wu) and their tyrannical boss Vivian (Toby Leung). Finally, for good measure, two geeky homebodies (I Love You Boyz) fulfill some male fantasies thanks to internet call girl Goldfish (Miki Yeung).

Every youngish demographic gets a turn, and the hope is, if one romance doesn’t appeal to you, another one will. With five competing storylines, however, most characters are too underdeveloped to garner any interest much less sympathy. By the time the movie is finished jerking around and if you aren’t dizzy from the ride, you will still be left wondering what was the point. The supposedly funny piece featuring Sammy as a lover who’s in over his head is as predictable as a Patrick Kong movie. It’s like watching poorly pirated version of the play Boeing-Boeing, which features the same multiple lovers gag but with a lot more humor and wit.

The only story approaching emotional depth was that of Fong and Joe. It was helped by some understated acting by singer Tse in her screen debut and stage actor Leung. Both make the most of their scant screentime and etch out characters transformed from blooming young lovers to a couple standing on the edge of their relationship but not wanting to jump first. Kong can’t seem to make a straight, honest love story without resorting to gimmicks though, so you’re better off looking elsewhere.

“I Love You a Lot” (我愛你很多) – themesong by Chloe Chu.

Released: 2009
Prod: Paco Wong 黃柏高
Dir: Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Writer: Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Cast: Stephy Tang 鄧麗欣; Justin Lo 側田; Kay Tse 謝安琪; Joey Leung 梁祖堯; Chelsea Tong 唐素琪; Terry Wu 胡清藍; Siu Ye-Chim 少爺占; Donald Tong 唐劍康; Miki Yeung 楊愛瑾; Sammy Leung 森美; Marie Zhuge 諸葛梓岐; Katy Kung 龔嘉欣; Celina Jade 盧靖姍; Gloria Tang 鄧紫棋; Terence Tsui 小肥; Toby Leung 梁靖琪
Time: 96 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014