Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu

Mr. and Mrs. Incredible (神奇俠侶)

mr and mrs incredible

Whether you’re looking for a Chinese New Year pick-me-up or some superhero fisticuffs, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible is not the movie for you. Never funny enough to lighten the holiday mood or action-packed enough to power through the other days of the year, this Vincent Kok project is a mixed and deflated bag of tired tricks.

Most of the film follows a pair of retired superheroes who are doing their best to live a normal, married life. Ten years after foiling the Pest Four Robbery and saving village women from abusive husbands, Gazer Warrior (Louis Koo) and Aroma Woman (Sandra Ng) have sworn off their superpowers. Instead, they take up identities as Flint, head of the town’s security, and Rouge, owner of a local bun shop.

The couple succeeds in blending in and living a normal life, but as superheroes would do, they are too good at it. They start to feel bored by their mundane existence and decide a child might give their lives renewed purpose. However, a visit to the local doctor reveals that conceiving will not be so easy and suggests that a little more excitement in their lives will help the situation. As if on cue, news arrives that a martial arts competition will be held in the village. At first, Rouge worries that some of the competitors will uncover their identities, but soon she discovers a bigger problem in the form of a young woman named Phoenix (Li Qin).

Ng has made a living in some fabulously over-the-top comedic roles, but sensing a deeper story about love and commitment, she tones down her performance and delivers some emotional honesty not often found in these movies. The actress digs in more than the script calls for and shows a woman who knows her place – and that’s not standing idle next to a philandering husband. She’s a superhero, dammit. While Koo doesn’t attempt as much soul searching with his character, he gamely dresses up and plays the fool when asked. Unfortunately, the film lacks the social criticism and rapid-fire in-jokes that have become a hallmark in recent New Year hits, and the script simply doesn’t serve Koo’s campy comedic skills as well as it could.

With that in mind, writer-director Vincent Kok attempts a third act rescue that depends on a bizarre solar eclipse spell and a power hungry Grandmaster Blanc (played with vein-popping, eye-bulging craziness by Edison Wang). Despite the promise of a martial arts competition, the real showdown doesn’t happen until the last 15 minutes or so. Some of the action ends up in a flurry of close-ups but most of it is channeled a wispy blur of colorful but cheap CGI. Not very incredible at all.

Released: 2011
Prod: Peter Chan; David Chan; Peter Tsi; Chan Po-Chun
Dir: Vincent Kok
Writer: Steven Fung; Vincent Kok; Chan Po-Chun
Cast: Louis Koo; Sandra Ng; Edison Wang; Li Qin; Li Jing; He Yunwei; Wen Zhang
Time: 100 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2015

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

Summer Holiday (夏日的麼麼茶)

Summer Holiday

Like a lazy day on the beach, Summer Holiday makes few demands on its audience. It’s a breezy crowd pleaser that’s easy to enjoy thanks to its headliners and some enticing scenery. Sammi Cheng and Richie Ren don’t have as much chemistry here as their later project, Marry a Rich Man, but they make up for it with more subtle and rewarding performances.

Cheng handles her part especially well, turning Summer Koo into a flawed but likeable character. The ambitious businesswoman gets fired and dumped on the same day, and given her superior attitude, it’s easy to see why. But not one to mope about, Summer tries to rectify her situation by cashing in on her cousin’s beach, of which she is an investor. She jets off to Malaysia (the film was shot at Pulau Redang) only to discover that her co-owner is a carefree beach bum who strolls around the property with a guitar and an unbuttoned shirt, if he even has one on.

Ren is a perfect fit for More More Cha, putting his shaggy locks and musical skills to good use. I suspect his tanned abs enhance his believability. More More Cha refuses to sell his shares though. His attachment stems from pleasant childhood memories, and he doesn’t want the simple surroundings turned into a developer’s playground for the leisure class. One glance at the sun-kissed waters makes it easy to see why.

After negotiation fails to yield immediate results, Summer employs other tactics and plays nice in hopes that the simple More More Cha will give in to her charms. Things don’t quite work out that way, however, and she ends up feeling more abandoned than before. Cheng’s above average performance makes the predictable romantic comedy twists seem natural. You don’t really want to feel sorry for such a selfish character, but Cheng gives you license to empathize.

The rest of the cast give a little color to the story and setting. Malaysian actors and singers Ah Niu and Michael Wong fill in as More More Cha’s roving buddies, while Echo Chen has a more substantial role as Yoyo, a girl with a mysterious crush on him. Still, it’s Cheng’s show, which is fine by me.

“浪花一朵朵” (“Wave Sprays”) – theme song by Richie Ren, Ah Niu, and Michael Kong

“快樂不快樂” (“Happy Unhappy”) – by Sammi Cheng

Released: 2000
Prod: David Chan 陳錫康; Patricia Chong 莊麗真
Dir: Jingle Ma 馬楚成
Writer: Susan Chan 陳淑賢
Cast: Sammi Cheng 鄭秀文; Richie Ren 任賢齊; Echo Chen 沈傲君; Ah Niu 陳慶祥; Michael Wong 王光良; Tay Ping-Hui 鄭斌輝; Tam Fung-Ling 譚風玲; Vincent Kok 谷德昭
Time: 96 min
Lang: Cantonese
Reviewed: 2014