Movie Review: Sifu vs Vampire/天師鬥殭屍

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Wong Jing wrote and produced Sifu vs Vampire/天師鬥殭屍. It’s directed by Daniel Chan, who also directed Triad and Young and Dangerous: Reloaded.

It starts Yuen Biao, Ronald Cheng, Philip Ng, and Jiang Luxia. Who now goes by the English name Kitty. I know that because I know her. I know her because I met her when I filmed a scene in this movie.

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So let’s talk about objectivity.

First, no one is really objective. It doesn’t work that way. I have a PhD in communications, and I’ll argue this with you all you like. Everyone is subjective.

But let’s look at this movie objectively:

Wong Jing comedy. About vampires. With Yuen Biao. Jiang Luxia and Philip Ng doing action scenes.

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 Philip Keung Ho Man as a Taoist priest in yellow robes. 

Geung si.

And all the related yellow paper, magic, and fun.

Tony Ho and Winnie Leung as a married couple with some serious sexual challenges. Topical local humor. Universally understood dirty jokes. Universally understood cleavage.

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An actress who had me asking the question.

And a clumsy white guy who’s there for no good reason.

Other than the director’s largesse.

Objectively, that’s a lot to like.

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Except the gweilo. F@#$ him.

I love Wong Jing movies. And I love geung si movies. So I couldn’t be objective anyway.

And if someone does want to f@#$ the gweilo… our lines are open. Offer limited to humans born with and still using vaginas.

In Sifu vs Vampire/天師鬥殭屍, a pair of hapless gangsters named Nicky and Boo, played by Ronald Cheng and Philip Ng, get drawn into a supernatural battle between good and evil. On one side is Charlie, a sifu played by Yuen Biao, and his assistant, played unsmilingly by Jiang Luxia.

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She smiles less than my ex-wife. And that’s saying something.

She hits a lot harder too.

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But Kitty apologizes afterwards. Good thing I’m not bitter, huh?

Jiang Luxia is dubbed in the movie, which is a little strange at first, but she doesn’t talk much anyway.

Unlike my ex-wife. But never mind.

On the other side of the battle lines, Kelvin Chow (played by Kelvin Kwan, so we know the role was written for him) is experiencing a run of bad luck.

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He runs a TV station called AKTV whose license was turned down by the government.

Get it?

He wants his grandfather’s grave moved to a more auspicious place. But if the casket isn’t buried by sundown, things may go wrong.

Guess what happens?

I was really glad that the scene I’m in was very early in the movie. Because that way I could concentrate on the rest of the movie without waiting to see myself.

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That’s not a euphemism.

Sifu vs Vampire/天師鬥殭屍 isn’t a serious vampire film. But it had its serious moments. Like many Hong Kong films, it veers between romance, horror, low-brow comedy and action so fast that you run a risk of narrative whiplash.

But it’s an awfully fun ride.

Like Flirting in the Air, Sifu vs Vampire/天師鬥殭屍 has as much chance of playing in China as I do of playing in the WPGA. As a consequence, it frees up the movie to make jokes so explicit I wondered how and why this isn’t Category III. There’s also slapstick humor and some really great insults thrown around.

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There are romantic subplots too, and while most of them are played for laughs, there are at two scenes that actually managed to be almost touching. One, a really sweet romantic moment at the end of the movie, in true Wong Jing fashion takes a very un-romantic (but funny) turn.

The use of CGI in the movie makes for a lot of interesting moments. It’s nice to see the geung si genre get an FX update; the effects used here are really nice to look at and they still maintain the tradition.

The cinematography of the movie is the same way. It’s a very modern looking, polished film, but the use of garish colors and dramatic lighting evoke the classic vampire movies of yesteryear.

So does the action. Philip Ng and Kitty Jiang get a few chances to show what they’re capable of in terms of martial arts, and while these scenes aren’t as drawn out as I might like, you can still see their physical capability. It’s hard to explain except to say that their movements are fast, confident, and precise.

It’s very entertaining to watch people do something well.

So what are you doing here?

And just when you think the movie can’t get any more fun, you get to play the official Silver Spleen game Where is Jane Wong?

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Movie Review: Flirting in the Air/唐伯虎衝上雲霄

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Flirting in the Air was directed by Aman Chang, who’s directed quite a few movies that I find entertaining, including Mr. Wai-go, Raped by An Angel 2 & 3, and Conman 2002.

He’s not making Terence Malick nervous by any stretch, but Terence Malick bores me to tears, so there you go.

Flirting in the Air tells the story of a trio of airline pilots who get transported back in time to the Ming Dynasty. Why does this happen?

Because the film adaptation of TVB’s Triumph in the Skies is coming out soon and this way Wong Jing gets there first with a movie about airplanes. 

The airline subplot is little more than a prologue and epilogue meant to undercut the release of Triumph in the Skies. But I have to say I enjoyed the way that the pilots return to the present. It’s always fun watching Law Lan, and the localized humor was really amusing.

The pilots travel back in time and take up the plot of Flirting Scholar, the 1993 Stephen Chow movie. But you know what the plot really is? Jokes, dirty jokes, and cleavage.

It’s fantastic!

Chapman To is on a blacklist in China because of his support for Taiwan’s resistance to a trade agreement with China. That means that any movie he’s in has as much chance of being shown in China as Nicolas Cage’s Outcast. I think Wong Jing decided that since the movie couldn’t play in China, he may as well go all in with everything you can’t show in China. In addition to Chapman To, the story involves time travel, another verboten topic in the China market. It also involves humor so risque that I was surprised and at times I was even shocked.

But I couldn’t look away.

Dada Chen in a schoolgirl’s uniform? There’s no reason for that. Except that it’s prurient entertaining fun, and that’s the best reason. It happens during a school days flashback where no attempt whatsoever was made to make the actors look younger other than clothes. There’s also a sex scene involving a slow motion shot of egg tarts.

That’s not a euphemism. But it is f@#$in’ hilarious.

Flirting in the Air is the most salacious (!) fun I’ve had in a long time. This film is shamelessly wrong. There’s so much guilty pleasure in this movie I felt like I should be wearing a condom.

And speaking Mandarin.

Look, I’m an educated man. I got college. I know that I should be offended on some level at Wong Jing’s shameless objectification of women and instinctively low-brow humor. But I like it. I love so-called stupid humor when it’s done right. And Flirting in the Air is full of dumb jokes that had me laughing so much I want to see the movie again. 

Soon.

The idea that I would get to see Connie Man Hoi Ling bathing again doesn’t hurt either.

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What a healthy young woman.

The (rest of) the film looks really nice too. It was filmed at Hengdian studios (and includes a couple of jokes about the place) and the lighting, cinematography, and sets all look really nice. It’s obvious there was money spent on this production.

The whole movie was hilarious to me in the best, most entertaining way. It’s the funniest, most gleefully inappropriate movie since Vulgaria, and it wallows joyfully and naked in its wrongness. I may be a terrible person for liking this movie so much. But I’m okay with that, and I think Wong Jing is too. I think you will be too.

So watch it for yourself.

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I was lucky enough to go to the premiere of this film. One nice touch was the premiere tickets, which looked like boarding passes.

Anyone who thinks that being given a free ticket to a movie ensures a positive review needs to watch my review of Barbara Wong’s Stolen Years.

Flirting in the Air is a Wong Jing movie; he wrote it and produced it. The premiere was also a Wong Jing affair; several of the women in the film appeared in flight attendant uniforms.  Then another set of women was shamelessly paraded in front of the cameras. Say what you will about Wong Jing, he knows what his audience likes and he has no qualms about supplying it.

After the screening, I was lucky enough to get a photo with Connie Man, who for some reason didn’t run away screaming. Her professionalism is outstanding.

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That’s not a euphemism.

Movie Review: As Tears Go By 旺角卡門

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Before he was a director, Wong Kar Wai was an assistant director on 1984’s Challenge of (on?) Chasing Girls. He wrote Haunted Cop Shop and The Intellectual Trio. And somehow, they let him direct a movie anyway. 

As Tears Go By is Wong Kar Wai’s directorial debut, and it’s also my favorite Wong Kar Wai film.

Which, I concede, isn’t really saying much.

Andy Lau plays Wah, a low-level gangster who lives in Mongkok. He’s young, handsome, and emotionally volatile. His girlfriend not only dumped him, she even had an abortion. To be fair, he’s not the most sensitive soul on the planet: his usual response to things is to brood for a few seconds before exploding into serious violence.

Maggie Cheung plays Ah Ngor, Wah’s cousin, who comes to Kowloon to see a doctor about a lung problem. 

That’s not a plastic surgery euphemism; she has a cough.

Her mother has arranged for her to stay with her cousin Wah. Ah Ngor is a quiet young woman who feels scared and out of place in Wah’s run-down flat. It doesn’t help that he sleeps all day, speaks in monosyllables, and has no food in the place.

Maggie Cheung captures her character wonderfully, with a very convincing mix of wide-eyed apprehension and detached maturity. One thing I really appreciated about her role is that for nearly all of it she doesn’t wear any makeup. You can see her face very clearly, and for me it really added to the character. It was also a pleasant change from a lot of the frankly disastrous looks she had during this era. I don’t blame her, I’m just talking about the styles of the 1980s. She’s the emotional center of As Tears Go By, and she plays the role so well that it’s easy to see how and why Wah falls for her.

Jackie Cheung plays Fly, one of Wah’s goons. He’s brash, impetuous, and a disaster rushing to happen. He spends his time getting into trouble, and so Wah spends a lot of his time getting Wing out of it. Jackie Cheung doesn’t play this role as much as he attacks it. But he manages to make the character over-the-top without going there himself. Admittedly, I say this taking into account the kinds of characterizations that were prevalent in this era; subtlety was not on the list. Even so, Jackie Cheung makes Fly a complex, if not easily likeable character.

The story arc of Wah and Fly has been compared to Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, and I can see why. Wong Kar Wai’s movies have almost always appealed to Western audiences more than local ones. As Tears Go By was his only local box-office success until The Grandmaster.

But I think that’s because most of his films have a sensibility that Western audiences, especially Europeans, gravitate to. I also think Wong Kar Wai himself appreciates some of those sensibilities, and I think they inform his work. Maybe that’s why the Chinese title of this movie is Mongkok Carmen, as in Bizet’s Carmen. Luckily for Maggie Cheung, it’s not a reference to Carmen Miranda.

A lot of the things that would become Wong Kar Wai trademarks are present in As Tears Go By: The unhurried scenes, the burry action, and the ability to construct a convincing romance out of the tiniest things.

It’s interesting to note that the cinematography in this movie was done by Andrew Lau; Christopher Doyle started his collaboration with Wong Kar Wai in Days of Being Wild. The look of the film has aged well. It’s got some rough edges, but the story keeps you interested enough that you don’t really notice them. 

I think it helps that the story follows a pretty standard arc; unlike a lot of Wong Kar Wai’s later movies, there’s a very prominent narrative structure, with the pauses being brief enough to have an impact but not so long as to slow the story down. And they are wonderful pauses. While I don’t care for most of them, Wong Kar Wai can certainly make beautiful and emotionally dense films. As Tears Go By creates a world, and a story, that most of us can believe in, or at the very least shows us a world that we wish was real.

Movie Review: Claustrophobia/親密

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The title should maybe read Ivy Ho’s Claustrophobia. I assume that’s how the director wants us to refer to her directorial debut. I offer the following title card as evidence:

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Someday I hope I can be this important.

That kind of thing always strikes me as unnecessarily pretentious. Ivy Ho is a great scriptwriter. She’s written movies like Comrades: Almost A Love Story and July Rhapsody. She came up with the story for 2 become 1, a movie I really liked.

But being a great writer doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be a great director. The same guy who wrote The Shining directed Maximum Overdrive.

Claustrophobia tells the story of two people who work together and occasionally carpool after work with some of their other colleagues. That’s about all I can be sure of about the story. It’s told with so much subtlety that uncultured savages like me obviously can’t discern the essence of the film.

Wait… something tells me it should be pronounced essenceI get the feeling that a lot of people who worked on this movie used French words like vignette or jouissance. It’s just a feeling I get.

You know, like déjà vu.

Quite honestly, I just don’t like these kinds of movies, so it’s essentially unfair of me to review them because I’m incapable of being fair.

But Claustrophobia doesn’t help itself much. The narrative is told in reverse order. It works it way backwards, to where the story begins over a year before the first scene.

Unfortunately, it also feels like it takes a year to get there.

This is one of those movies actors love to be in and be seen in. Because it’s full of long takes of them really… acting. Like everyday people. Which is what we do all day, every frigging day.

But we don’t get to retreat to our trailer between takes, do we?

There’s a reason movies rarely seek to replicate real life verbatim. It’s because real life is tedious and banal and soul-crushingly dull.

Technically, the film looks wonderful, I won’t argue that. But for people like me with a short attention span and a bad caffeine habit, long shots of women staring meaningfully into the distance make me want to pull my own hair out.

Why do you think I shave my head?

I have to admit, in most of the movies I watch, the only time there are long shots of a woman looking unblinkingly into the distance, it’s usually a dead hooker.

That don’t make me a bad person.

The ponderous exposition in Claustrophobia is excruciating. Claustrophobia makes watching paint dry seem pornographic by comparison. It made me feel claustrophobic, like I was trapped and couldn’t get away.

A lot of people go to the movies to be entertained and distracted from real life, especially in Hong Kong. Which probably explains why the movie didn’t do well here outside of critics’ circles. Film critics love these kinds of movies.

The word ‘precious’ springs to mind.

Which is located in the dictionary between perversion and pretensionRemember when I said that the director’s title card was pretentious? So is using classical music as a background for a scene.

Twice.

I was hoping it was coming from the car radio, but it wasn’t. What’s even more pretentious, and far more insulting, is the blatant classism on display in the characterizations. Jewel works in the office. She’s loud, unrefined, and obviously lower on the social scale. Not only does she throw up, she looks at it and talks about it. And then talks about sh*tting. You know how those people are.

But hey, she’s not trying to bang a married man, is she? 

She’s also the only person in this movie with any sense of agency. Everyone and everything else in Claustrophobia makes Wong Kar Wai look like Michael Bay.

I’m sorry; the aspiring homewrecker and the spineless philanderer never summon the courage to carry through on their filthy urges, and somehow I’m supposed to feel bad for them?

Go f@#$ yourself. Or be like them and just think about doing it without ever doing it.

To be fair, maybe they did and I just missed it because the reveal was too subtle for my barbarian palate. But you know what? When the central aspect of your plot is symbolized by a chewing gum commercial…

I don’t feel so bad.

At least Stephen King had a cocaine problem.

Hey, they can make whatever movie they want. And I can respond to it however I want. I am, after all, a credentialed intellectual. And a doctor.

 

Movie Review: Golden Brother/男人唔可以窮

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I have to be honest; I had very low expectations for this movie. The trailer doesn’t really inspire much confidence, and neither does the track record of director Chung Shu-kai.

Yeah, he directed Beauty and the 7 Beasts, and 72 Tenants of Prosperity, but he also directed The Fortune Buddies. And Adventures of the King.

So I was more than slightly trepidacious [sic] about watching Golden Brother/男人唔可以窮.

I’ve never been a really big fan of Bosco Wong, either, and he’s the star of the movie. I see him most often in these ads for Yamada Miyura in the MTR, and it just annoys me.

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I lost 30# this year, and that photo makes me wonder why I even bothered.

I wasn’t expecting much from Golden Brother other than a headache. It’s the third local film to be based on an internet novel, the first two being Due West: Our Sex Journey and The Midnight After.

Yeah. Well, luckily for me, and for you, I’m very happy to say that I was wrong about Golden Brother/男人唔可以窮.

I have to admit that he Bosco Wong does a really good job. He plays Ho Ching, a young man who works in an office. He’s not very ambitious, but he’s honest and humble. Which is probably why he gets unceremoniously fired from his job.

His girlfriend Elna, played by Stephy Tang, appears to be cheating on him. With a guy who drives a Porsche. So he dumps her.

I can’t say it’s unceremonious, because he makes a spectacle of himself.

His brother Ho Yong, played by William Chan, just got out of prison and has gone to work as a ‘gold broker.’

The father of these two, a retired policeman played by Liu Kai Chi, does not approve of his ex-convict son, his new job, or his new boss.

Other than that, he has no problems with him.

Ho Ching needs a new job, and he needs to make money. I’ll give you three guesses where he starts working and who he starts working for.

And the first two don’t count.

Golden Brother/男人唔可以窮 isn’t perfect. But I will say that it’s a lot better than I expected it to be. The story is much more entertaining and engaging than I thought it would be.

There are a couple of stumbles along the way, but for the most part I was really interested in seeing where it was going, and I was unable to predict it. I always prefer that. I don’t want to tell you too much of the story because I would prefer that you see the movie yourself.

The other thing that really makes the movie worth seeing is the acting. The whole cast does a really good job with their characters.

Rose Chan acted so well that I could almost ignore the remarkable prosthetic devices she was wearing. King Kong is great as every employee’s nightmare. Zhao Rong plays a single mother with more than her fair share of problems. Michael Tse plays the boss at the gold brokerage.

Liu Kai Chi deserves special mention. We already know he’s a good actor, but his performance as the father is very, very impressive. I really hope he gets recognized with an award, because he deserves it. 

Golden Brother/男人唔可以窮 even features Philip Keung Ho Man in a small role. That makes any movie better.

Speaking of which, this movie was so good I didn’t even mind that there was a cameo from Wong Cho Lam. It probably helped that it was brief and happened right near the end of the movie, but I’m trying to be generous here.

I strongly recommend that you watch this movie.

Movie Review: Natural Born Lovers/天生愛情狂

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Patrick Kong’s Natural Born Lovers was released in 2012. Not even Annie Liu in a nurse’s uniform could entice me to watch it in the cinema. But I bought the DVD to do a review. 

 So now I know I was right not to watch it.

 Julian Cheung plays Tayler (e not o), a former child star who now runs a cake shop. We’re told he’s a child star, then it’s abandoned as a plot point.

What a script.

Annie Liu is Bobo, a nurse whose emotional attachments make Velcro weep with jealous inferiority.

Boy meets girl, girl gets possessive, boy gets drunk, they break up.

But it’s a Patrick Kong movie. It can’t be that simple.

Or that well-done.

To be fair, I actually really enjoyed the first 30 mins of Natural Born Lovers. But it’s a Patrick Kong movie.

So I knew it would sh*t the bed, I just didn’t know when.

I didn’t have to wait long…  only about 5 minutes. Well, like I always say (or at least said this once). ‘Do unto directors as they do unto you.’ Yeah… That’s a scatological reference. A sh*t gag, if you will.

I will.

But that’s not only fair, it’s apropos. Because at 35 minutes, we get a sh*t joke. I don’t mean a bad joke, I mean a joke involving sh*t.

That’s the initial bonding moment between these two loathsome characters.

Bobo tricks Tayler into helping her get her boyfriend (and his wife) to eat sh*t. Does Tayler run screaming from this criminally miscreant freak? Of course not.

It’s a Patrick Kong movie, after all.

He runs toward her.

Yeah. When I meet a girl who gives her ex-boyfriend a cake with sh*t in it… that she fooled me into helping make… Oh yeah, I wanna hit that. Crazy in the head…crazy in the bed.

From what I’ve read.

What he gets is a psycho, whiny nutjob who switches between Cantonese and Mandarin for no discernible reason. But that kind of ill logic is par for the course for the man who brought us The Best Plan is No Plan, a film named after his directing manifesto.

I can sum up Natural Born Lovers in four words: Same sh*t different movie. Tedious, belabored flashbacks, typical and pedestrian twists, and an approach to logic and narrative that even a koala bear would find lazy. Blurred vision doesn’t mean love. It means diabetes. Or an aneurysm.

Trust me, I know this.

This script is quite literally developmentally disabled. Because it does not develop, and the responsibility for that lies with the writer and director. Scenes or plot devices are set up, and how are they resolved? They just get resolved.

By the cheapest, most asinine means.

I can picture Patrick Kong saying “Oh, I’ll just make some stupid sh*t up.” Then for the next setup, he just makes up more stupid shit. 

If Patrick Kong expended any energy on this story, I’d be shocked.

The ‘Memory Cake,’ that lets you remember why you love a person (or some sh*t). How does it do it?

You sad little peon, you only paid for a ticket to watch this movie. How on earth do you have the temerity to think that entitles you to an explanation of the film’s major plot device?

Really? Hey Patrick; k*ss my shit whistle.

Patrick Kong is a popular director with Hong Kong’s young people.

That’s a hell of a segue, ain’t it?

I don’t understand why young people love him so much, since he insults their intelligence damn near every time he makes a movie. 

To be fair, I don’t have any problem with Julian Cheung or Annie Liu’s performances. They’re both watchable enough, and I would hate for anyone to think I blame either of them for the mess that is Natural Born Lovers.

I should also say that there’s one scene that was filmed in the lobby of the Dynasty. But don’t get excited.

 If you think I’m doing a review bonus for this piece of sh*t, you’re out of your frigging mind.

 At least the annoying women who work in the cake shop weren’t a girl group. I’d have definitely gotten blurry vision.

And not from the cakes. 

Movie Review: Run and Kill/烏鼠

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Run and Kill, let’s face it, is pretty catchy title for a documentary about cheetahs.

But Run and Kill isn’t a documentary. Thank God.

Director Billy Tang made some Category III classics like Dr. Lamb, Brother of Darkness, and Red to KillHe also directed Raped by an Angel 5.

Run and Kill is the story of a man who drinks too much one night and makes some bad decisions. 

When that happened to me, I woke up with gonorrhea… but never mind.

Fatty Cheung is a nice guy. He works hard at the propane shop he owns in Kowloon City. He’s a good father to his little girl, and a loving husband to his wife. 

Unfortunately for him, not everyone in his marriage is so virtuous.

He catches his wife cheating, and like many people, blames his liver and proceeds to punish it with tequila. While blind drunk, he meets some unsavory people who are as evil as he is dumb, and pretty soon his wife is dead. And that’s only the beginning of his problems.

The DVD is made from a theatrical print, so the subtitles are burnt in. Sometimes they’re hard to read because of the background, and sometimes they fall off the bottom of the screen. But bad subtitles are the least of what’s wrong with Run and Kill.

I don’t mean it’s a bad movie at all. But this movie is wrong.

The opening of the movie is so cheery and nice that you just know terrible things are going to happen. If it happened later in the movie you could call it comic relief… but there’s no relief from this story.

Run and Kill is five minutes of laughter and happiness followed by an endless downward spiral into misery, depravity, violence and insanity.

Kinda like my marriage. But never mind that.

Run and Kill has all the elements of a classic Category III film: bizarre story, frenetic pacing, fast editing, a reedy synthesizer soundtrack, bottomless magazines in the guns, Danny Lee as an ineffective cop, and Simon Yam as an over-the-top psycho who never blinks.

A more unique Category III gem in this film is watching a prepubescent girl sitting on a toilet pinching a loaf.

Who says these films have no socially redeeming value???

If nothing else, Run and Kill is the greatest anti-drinking PSA ever made. It’s also fun to watch Kent Cheng in a pretty unique role, experiencing things you can’t imagine anyone going through. His responses and his behaviors are almost as gripping as one of the film’s most revolting props. It’s not a realistic representation, but it’s still absolutely horrifying by implication.

You know what it’s supposed to be, and it’s something terrible.

 Run and Kill is one of those movies that are memorable and important not so much for the story or the filmmaking, but just for the content. There are things that you will see and hear in this movie that you will never see anywhere else. Probably for legal reasons.

A lot of times people ask me about movies, and to be honest sometimes I forget that I’ve seen a movie until they remind me of a certain scene  or plot twist. Run and Kill is not one of those movies. I will always remember that I’ve seen it, and so will you.

I can easily recommend this movie. Like I said, it’s not the greatest movie ever made, but it is one of the most memorable.

Movie Review: Home Sweet Home/怪物

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I saw this movie in the cinema in 2005. I bought the DVD a few years ago, but hadn’t seen it in a long time. Until I watched it again for the review.

Soi Cheang directed Home Sweet Home, the story of a small family who move into a new flat only to discover that something… strange… is going on.

Shu Qi plays May, a woman married to Alex Fong the Elder.

Their new flat is palatial by local standards, which honestly made it a little hard for me to feel bad for them.

But that’s just because I’m a terrible person.

These two people have a son, a cute little kid who also catches the eye of the estate’s most eccentric resident, played by Karena Lam… and five pounds of latex.

Which makes it sound like she was playing Dirk Diggler, but that’s not my point.

She plays a scarred, filthy woman who lives secretly in the ventilation system of the estate for reasons that eventually become plain.

I can’t really say it becomes clear, but at least there are no mysteries.

Matt Chow plays one of the neighbors, a group who display a remarkably ambivalent set of responses to their new neighbor.

On the one hand, they are concerned and want to help out.

On the other, they have no qualms about telling her she’s batsh*t crazy and that her histrionics might bring down their property value,  so knock it off.

Shu Qi doesn’t get much help from the police either. They’re diligent, and they discharge their responsibilities in a professional manner.

That said, they’re not very smart. That’s no reflection on their leader, played by Lam Suet, who must balance the needs of the rest of the people against the increasingly bizarre and unsettling demands of May.

But she needs the help, because for reasons I didn’t understand, about halfway through the movie Alex Fong ends up in the hospital, where he had the rest of his role surgically removed.

The whole movie struck me as odd, though not always in a bad way. The pace of the story, the way it’s structured, the way it unfolds, was just very weird. Eight minutes into the movie we get big scary things that seem like they should have happened much later.

There’s a little girl with a yoyo who, as far as I can tell, is a minion of Satan.

Because that’s the only explanation that makes any sense.

The only mystery of Home Sweet Homis wondering what the mystery of the film will turn out to be.

r-told movie come across as overacting here.

At times I could tell that they were trying really hard, but it just came off as scenery chewing.

There were plenty of logical lapses that didn’t make the actors’ jobs any easier.

If you’re trying to calm your child down because he’s just survived a kidnapping attempt, don’t tell your husband about the horrible monster you saw in front of your child.

The little kid’s not a great actor, but frankly you can’t really expect a child of that age to do this role convincingly.

He’s also an extremely strong kid if he can push his mother away like he does.

He didn’t always seem very scared, but I can understand that.

If I was scared of disfigured and insane women, my sexual history would be much shorter. But never mind that.

Movie Review: Crossing Hennessy/月滿軒尼詩

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Two people are brought together by their parents, who are afraid they’ll never get married.

Jacky Cheung plays Loi, an apparently middle-aged man with no real direction in life. Luckily for him, his widowed mother runs a successful appliance shop in Wanchai. He’s an only child, so his future is pretty set.

Tang Wei plays Oi Lin, whose parents also run an appliance shop in Wanchai. She has a boyfriend, Xu, played by Andy On. But Xu is a bad guy who bounces in and out of jail more than Old Dirty Bastard.

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Loi is no angel either; he kind of takes up with his newly-divorced ex-girlfriend, played by Maggie Cheung Ho Yee.

Paw Hee Chin plays Loi’s mother, and she chews up scenery like a piranha on crack. She has a tumultuous relationship with Ching, her accountant, played by Danny Lee. He dotes on his dog so much that if we didn’t know he had a girlfriend, you’d think he had a boyfriend.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

He also enjoys talking to Loi’s aunt, played by Mimi Chu. But that’s not how her sister sees it, of course.

These three veteran actors make Crossing Hennessy worth watching, if in fact anything does. Because the story isn’t really told very well.

It’s hard to make a character-driven film when none of your characters are especially likable, interesting, or developed beyond trite thumbnail sketches. It doesn’t matter how well they’re acted, but it does matter when they’re hard to tolerate. Jacky Cheung is too old to play Loi convincingly, and it doesn’t help that he plays the character much too young.

The characters are all stereotypes who conveniently lack certain inevitable realities such that the narrative can move where the writer/director wants it to go.

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Example: Ex-cons with a penchant for violence who express their emotions by trashing their apartments don’t miraculously exempt their girlfriend from that violence. Except in trite, hackneyed movies.

Andy On deserves credit for at least being the most intentionally dislikeable character. He’s the most convincing of the bunch, as a psychotic ne’er-do-well that (miraculously) sees what a pile of sh*t he and his life are/will be and
selflessly pushes away the one woman who really loves him.

Cue the violins, eh?

Speaking of which, how come every local movie that wants to pitch itself as indie or arty always has the same music?

And On is convincing in his role, and manages to make it realistic without going over the top.
I can’t really say that of anyone else in the film.
But I think the blame lies more with Ivy Ho, whose direction of her own screenplay leaves me wishing that she and her characters crossed Hennessy against the light.

This isn’t a good movie. But it’s entertaining in its own way. It’s a lot of fun to watch the actors, even as you can’t really believe the story. Crossing Hennessy is fluff, but it looks nice and it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s fun to watch it simply as an exercise in viewership. If you’re in the mood for a very movie movie, then this is a good film to watch.

If you go into it expecting a gripping, realistic drama, you might be disappointed.

Movie Review: Twilight Online/恐怖在線

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Edmond Poon is a ‘Horror DJ’ who hosts Twilight Online, a local radio program dealing with supernatural phenomena and other fictional deceits.

Oooh, did I say that or just think it?

The radio show is just one real-life thing in Twilight Online. Another is a 2003 bus crash near Tuen Mun that claimed nearly two dozen lives. A third is a 2013 suicide at Yau Oi Estate where the woman wore a red dress and jumped to her death on the day of the Ghost Festival.

Writer/Director Maggie To has been a production manager for years, but this is her directorial debut. She’s assembled a varied and impressive cast for the film.

Eddie Cheung Siu Fai is a great actor. We’ve seen him for decades in supporting roles, and he’s one of Johnnie To’s regulars.

He’s also a very humble and self-effacing man; I once asked him for an interview and his response was to ask me why on earth I wanted to talk to him.

He plays Inspector Gu, a no-nonsense cop who’s given an assignment to look into sightings of a woman in a red dress jumping to her death at Yau Oi Estate. The weird thing is, people keep reporting the same woman jumping on consecutive nights. 

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Inspector Gu is aided in this investigation by Bee, an eager young rookie played by Babyjohn Choi, a promising young local actor.

In dire need of a better English name.

It’s very entertaining watching these two act out their characters, because they’re entertaining, believable, and engaging.

A parallel story involves Edward Poon leading a group of listeners on a paranormal expedition to an ostensibly haunted primary school that is the supposed home of a ghost from the bus crash. The expedition is led by radio personnel and a spirit medium, played with typical exuberance by Siu Yam Yam.

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She’s kind of found a niche lately playing these roles, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them. Tagging along on the expedition are four schoolgirls and their teacher, whose fiancee may or may not be the ghost in the school.

I don’t mean he’s engaged to a ghost, I mean his fiancee died on the bus and…

He was invited along on the expedition by his teenaged, female students, and the fact that he accepted is the most believable piece of fiction in this entire film. 

I don’t mean it’s believable he would go, just that everything else in this movie you are asked to believe is supernatural in nature.

So the fact that this idiot would put himself in professional jeopardy so blithely is comparatively easy to believe. But at least he can say (and we can see) that his motives are not prurient. It may help that his students are played by three members of Super Girls, Hong Kong’s newest gaggle of manufactured dingbats.

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Their ‘brand’ is so brutally pimped that their English names appear in the credits with @ Super Girls tacked onto it. Because you should never miss a chance to push the brand. The fourth classmate is played by Kabby Hui, who also appeared in May We Chat. These young women may be able to sing.

I don’t know since I place listening to Super Girls rather low on my to-do list, right after flossing my perineum with a chainsaw.

Which I would much rather do than having to watch them attempt to act again. Quite simply, they’re not good at it, they’re not convincing, and they annoyed me. One reason that happened is because they were so handily out-acted by Eddie Cheung and Babyjohn (ugh) Choi.

But you don’t a lot of experience to act well. Fish Liew, the actress who appeared in Doomsday Party in her birthday suit, has a small role as a classmate, and comparatively speaking beats the super girls like a bat made of Kryptonite.

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She was believable, effective, and entertaining in a very small role. Then, luckily for her, she got the hell out of the movie.

It’s a shame, really, that some good acting and a few good story threads end up lost in this narrative miasma. 

That sounds uncomfortable.

At times it’s hard to tell if the scene is being played for laughs or being serious.
There’s a good movie in here somewhere, but between the timeline gymnastics, the flashbacks, the cheap jump scares, excruciatingly drawn out recaps and other directorial mishaps, mishandlings and mistakes, I ended up just feeling bad for most of the cast.

Not Super Girls though. F@#$ them.

The ‘resolution’ of the story turns in a nice China-friendly, science-heavy explanation that debunks any and all supernatural occurrences in the movie. Then there’s a sponsor title card. So we know the movie is over. Then there’s an epilogue that brings the ghosts back.

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The entire movie is disjointed, jarring, and filled with missed or half-realized opportunities. Mixed in are some good moments and some good performances. But ultimately it’s like looking at a box full of jigsaw pieces and being asked to see the picture. I just couldn’t do it.

You know what? I have to be fair, and honest. In one way, this movie achieved its goal. After I watched Twilight Online, I was walking around Mong Kok. I was walking through the Yin Chong St. wet market, and I saw a woman in a red dress standing next to a table. As I walked further down the block, I just had to stop and see if she was still there and therefore wasn’t a ghost. She was still there. She wasn’t a ghost.