The Menu/導火新聞線 Movie Review

 

The-Menu

The Menu is based on a television series that showed on HKTV, a relative newcomer to the artistic wasteland that is local television. 

Did I say that… or just think it?

I’d encourage people who don’t know about HKTV or its owner, Ricky Wong, to Google both of them, because it’s an interesting story. And by interesting, I mean a sordid tale of protectionism, cronyism, and political ugliness. 

But why is that important? Well, because The Menu is about local media (though a lot of it applies everywhere) and some of their… less attractive traits. Hong Kong’s tabloid media has a long and sordid history of exploitation, insensitivity, and a crassness so blatant it sincerely makes me jealous. It also has a negative side. 

I know some journalists in Hong Kong, and they’re good people. But some of their colleagues are absolute f@#$ing animals who would literally step over a burning kitten to get a story or photo. I say that because the opening scene of The Menu might seem overstated, outlandish, and unrealistic to people unfamiliar with the local tabloid press. But if you’ve spent more than a month in Hong Kong, you’ll recognize the veracity of the depiction.

I howled with derisive glee in the cinema because I know that some of these people are avaricious (!) savages with such an utter dearth (!) of conscience that the ghost of Heinrich Himmler whimpers in revulsion.

But that’s just my opinion. 

The movie apparently was to be the 2nd season of the TV show. If that’s true, it helps explain a lot. The Menu looks very… television-esque. Maybe Hong Kong people are so used to stars crossing back and forth between TV and movies that they don’t mind when the visual styles cross over. But if The Menu was shot to be a TV show, that makes sense.

The budget is obviously modest, and the scale of the production means that we’re not looking at sweeping vistas and large sets. But that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. The opening car sequence is very effectively staged and shot from an action perspective. The CG in the movie isn’t the greatest you’ve ever seen, but to be fair I’m sure the FX budget for this film was not astronomical. 

And to be even fairer, when I watched The Menu I saw a trailer for Heartfall Arises, which stars Lau Ching Wan and Nicolas Tse, and the CG in that movie is no better.

When you factor in the differences in budgets between these movies, it’s even worse. But never mind that.

I was saying that The Menu isn’t a ‘big’ movie. It doesn’t need to be. The story is about people, and so it doesn’t really need bigness (?) By keeping the (figurative) focus close, it accentuates the humanness of the story and characters, even when you’d rather not be so close to some of them.

Josephine Yu plays the Mandarin-speaking (but Taiwanese) boss of a rival, and she does a really commendable job at being so hate-able.

Speaking of commendable, it was nice to see Jeana Ho playing a resoundingly regular character that was neither bitchy nor wearing lingerie.

I’m not sure I believe her as a college intern, but that’s probably because I’m not working in universities any more. 

It was nice to see Ng Man Tat in a non-comedic role. Sometimes he oversold the character, but at other times he was very convincing.

So was Justin Cheung as the owner of the media outlet. He was very believable, mature, and engaging. 

The Menu’s genesis in TV would also explain the way the narrative can sometimes seem more than a little choppy or cursory. I got the impression that paring a season’s worth of story down to 90 minutes necessitated removing some things that I wish were still there. I would have believed the story a little more, and I think it would make the movie better.

The Menu is not a great film, but it is topical, relevant, and it tells  some rather ugly truths in a refreshingly straightforward manner. It has an unmistakable political perspective, or bias, to be sure, but most movies do. The Menu just happens to wear its bias on its sleeve, and like I said, if you know about HKTV I can’t say I blame them. 

I can easily admire the ambition in The Menu even if I don’t always admire the execution. It’s an extremely local film, and the more you understand about Hong Kong culture and politics the more you’ll get out of it.

The Menu is one of those movies that I can say I’m really glad it was made. It’s not perfect, but it’s there, and these days that’s an accomplishment in itself.  

Movie Review: League of Gods/3D封神榜

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Come for the Titanic homage, stay for the Richard Roundtree cameo!

This movie has been heavily promoted in Hong Kong. I see the posters all over the MTR stations and elsewhere. The trailers play on screens inside the actual train tunnel, so when you’re standing on the platform waiting you can watch it. I hadn’t intended to watch this movie.

In part because I had seen the trailer.

But a couple of people I trust said I should at least watch it. And they also reminded me to remember that this movie is supposedly made for children. League of Gods is loosely based on a 16th century novel called Investiture of the Gods.

Very loosely based.

How loosely? I’ve never read the story, but from what people tell me it makes no difference for the movie. That said, as is so often the case, League of Gods seems to expect its audience to already know the characters and therefore tells us little to nothing about them.

But so what? This movie isn’t about the characters. It’s about the spectacle. And there is a lot of that. There would probably have been a lot more if I hadn’t been so goo hon and watched the 2-D version instead of the 3-D. But I’m siu hei gwei like that. $50 on a Tuesday.

My 50th birthday. I wish I paid $20. Even $30. Never mind.

I saw it at the Dynasty. But it was the upstairs screen, so it was all one color. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. League of Gods is directed by Koan Hui, who worked with Tsui Hark. It shows in the breathlessness of a lot of the visuals.

There’s a rumor that Tsui Hark smoked (or smokes) a lot of weed, and if that rumor is true, then Koan Hui’s movie would make his ex- boss really happy. I was very impressed by some of the CG, not so much because it was convincing as much as it was very detailed and definitely not cheap-looking. 

Some of the visuals have some rough edges, but the entire movie cost less than 40 million US dollars to make. For that little money, I think that overall, the film looks really nice. It’s also important to remember that this is a movie aimed at a very young audience.

A lot of the digital characters, like the toddler version of Nezha and the talking, one-eyed plant, are speaking to and for children, not grown ups. Children are much more likely to be dazzled by the visual FX and not notice, for example, the almost plastic looking armor on some of the characters. Some of the outfits in this movie probably made it hard for the people wearing them (and anyone else in the scene) not to laugh.

While we’re on the subject, Huang Xiaoming plays Erlang Shen, and his gold armor and eye makeup made it look like Liberace joined the Avengers. Hey, admit it: you’d watch that movie. I know I would. Fan Bingbing plays Daji 妲己, a fox spirit who takes human form to bewitch the emperor, played by Tony Leung.

I can see how that would happen.

League of Gods is a children’s movie, but Fan Bingbing is very… adult throughout the film. I can see how Big Tony got bewitched.

Maybe he was hoping for Lost in Beijing 2: Sloppy Seconds. Good God, where were we?

Ah, yes, the foxy fox spirit. I just wish someone could explain to me why a fox spirit has tentacles. That would be nice.

Hey, tentacles are better than testicles, right?

But logic doesn’t matter in this movie. If it did, ‘General Leopard’ wouldn’t ride a black panther, would he?

Or maybe he would. Maybe he’s racist.

Then again, Louis Koo can do whatever he wants because he’s Louis Koo. How handsome is he? General Leopard builds a life-size android (out of wood) that looks exactly like Angelababy (because she plays the role) and the first thing he does… is send her away. Because he can get all the (non-wooden) 普那你 he wants.

Say it in Mandarin, listen to it in English. But let’s move on.

Jet Li plays Howard Hughes, the brilliant, reclusive tycoon.

I joke of course.

He actually plays a very entertaining monk named Jiang Ziya. Among his many powers is the ability to turn himself into a flying towel.

You never know when the fox demon might want to bathe, right? Or is that just me?

Jacky Heung play Leizhenzi 雷震子and makes a strong bid for being the next big martial arts actor. The opening scene features a fight sequence that’s impressively choreographed and performed.

A sequel has already been given the go-ahead, which is a good thing because the ending of League of Gods would be awfully awkward otherwise.

Speaking of awkward and sequels, I bet Iceman 2 is gonna be great. Or not.

Movie Review: Bounty Hunters/賞金獵人

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This film answers the age-old existential riddle: What would it look like if you stuck your head up a rabbit’s ass?

I attended the gala premiere of this movie in Kowloon Bay. The most memorable part of the ceremony was the teenage screams that accompanied the arrival of Korean teen heartthrob Lee Min Ho, who stars in the film.

I assume that’s what they were screaming at. I was in 7-11, seeing if they had any cough syrup worth abusing.

They didn’t. Dammit.

I realize that sounds terribly negative. Why didn’t I think this movie would be good?

Probably because I’d watched the trailer.

The tickets to the screenings were pistol shaped, and considering what the movie was like, I found it… apropos. 
Bounty Hunters starts with explosions and fire and dramatic music, and I’m not even talking about the story, I’m talking about the credits! It’s as if the credits are saying “This movie must be good!”

Or not. 

It’s written by Edmond Wong, son of Raymond Wong, who’s recently brought us cinematic gems like Magic to Win and Love is Pajamas. So… it’s hereditary. Whatever it is, it must be stopped. In our lifetime. Please give generously. 

Where were we? Bounty Hunters was directed by a Korean named Shin Terra. Hey, that’s his English credit. He’s listed as a co-writer, and he’s directed some movies before.

But after Bounty Hunters, he should never be allowed to direct anything again.  Bounty Hunters tells the story of two former interpol agents (no, I mean it) who join forces with a trust fund baby, her strange bodyguard, and her half-heartedly tomboyish IT sidekick to catch a criminal who has a taste for blowing up a certain chain of hotels.
Yeah, she’s rich, but she’s working for justice… see kids? Fu er dai can be cool too!

And speaking of China friendly (?), less than two minutes into the movie, there’s that obvious, belabored humor that seems like a hallmark of mainland ‘comedy.’ Five minutes into the movie there’s a sh*t joke!

Did you know there’s no simplified character for subtlety?

There are other jokes in the movie, but it’s as if the filmmakers forgot that you need jokes to be funny, not just present. But this whole movie is like that. It makes no f@#$ing sense whatsoever. It has every cheap ploy and plot contrivance known to mankind. What it don’t have is intelligence. When you need information from someone who has a device on them that’s going to kill them in a couple minutes… pointing a gun at their head and threatening to kill them probably isn’t going to get them to tell you what you want to know.

And it happens more than once. “Swallow this pill that’ll kill you. Or I’ll kill you.”

Oh f@#$ you.

These five boneheads are supposed to be so smart and capable and tech-savvy and security smart, and yet the bad guy literally just walks into their headquarters. 

No one thought to lock the f@#$ing door???

Their rented villa is so high end is has astro turf in it. And not that cheap astro turf that’s one piece. No, they got the ultra-classy square tile version.

Welcome to Tuhao Cribs! 

These five people are all wanted by the police. How do we know? Because they said so. We never actually see any police looking for them or talking about them. Why not?

Who knows? Probably because police would be old and old people are… ewwwww.

Remember I said there was a sh*t joke? Wallace Cheung flirts with a maid in a hotel. By feigning diarrhea. Because, you know, the China Market. Five minutes later he and his colleagues run away from a bomb in the hotel. That’s on the same floor the maid is working on. 

What’s Mandarin for Bros Before Hoes? Or Korean? 

You think that doesn’t make sense? They run away minutes before the bomb goes off. They’re not anywhere near the bombs. But when the authorities look at the CCTV footage, our heroes have just shut the door to the room when it blows up.

I guess you can’t trust CCTV… But I digress.

Look, if these two… metrosexuals were Interpol…

I was.

These ‘guys’ aren’t cool or intimidating. 

And I’m not saying that because I’m old and they’re young. I’m saying it because they suck.

But they have company. Our intrepid heroes get shot at by all and sundry, but they only use tasers. Because… “We’re not police.” Because… the China Market.

Because… they suck.

And because I’m not sure any of these people but Fan Siu Wong could handle the recoil from blanks.

Speaking of an utter dearth of physical presence (?), the appearance of the main bad guy caused me to blow a huge raspberry in the middle of the screening.

This is evil? This is frightening? 

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He’s wearing half pants and no socks for f@#$’s sake!

His makeup is so badly applied that you can see the line where they stopped painting his face and left his neck bare. 

Fan Siu Wong was funny. But not even his watchable performance can survive this cinematic woodchipper. What had been a notably subtle and well-played running joke naturally devolves at the end into just another ham-fisted homophobic gag (!) because, well, the China Market.

The only good thing I took from Bounty Hunters was a strong contender for Subtitle of the year:

What are you tasting? Just swallow.

Movie Review: Three/ 三人行

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Insultingly preposterous, overwrought, and shallow. I’d rather watch DRUG WAR again.

Johnnie To has made some of Hong Kong cinema’s most recognizable films, like The Mission, Running on Karma, and Election, to name just a few. I used to love going to see Johnnie To movies, because I knew I would enjoy them.

But unfortunately, I have to say that’s no longer the case. Staring in 2008, with Sparrow and Linger, I’ve found myself enjoying fewer and fewer of his films. It may be because a lot of his work has been aimed at the China market since then, and the restrictions that come with that focus tend to make films that are, to me, uninteresting at best… and aggravating at worst. 

In fact, the only film of his that I really liked since 2007’s Mad Detective was 2013’s Blind Detective. I didn’t even watch Office, because I don’t like musicals.

And I had seen the trailer. 

I also skipped Office because I had seen Drug War and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2, both of which really annoyed me.  So as you may imagine, I was slightly trepidacious (sic)when I went to see Three, Johnnie To’s latest film. 

It stars Louis Koo, Zhao Wei and Wallace Chung as a cop, a doctor, and a suspect, respectively. They do a good job in their roles, more or less. The opening of the film seems stilted and obvious.  It sets up Zhao Wei’s character, but it comes off as wooden and perfunctory.  o too does her performance, but I think a lot of it has to do with her being dubbed into Cantonese. I’m sure she would seem more believable in her native language.

One big problem for the main cast is that the supporting cast are so much more interesting and human and believable. Timmy Hung, Lam Suet, and Lol  Hoi Pang steal scenes most of the time they appear in them. They’re not necessarily realistic, but at least they’re entertaining, and these days that’s enough.

In Three, it’s especially welcome. 

Look, let’s be clear: I really didn’t like this movie at all. To be honest, I almost walked out about halfway through it. I haven’t done that since Love at 7th Sight. Here’s some of the reasons why. 

I’m not a police officer, and I’m not a medical doctor. But I’m not mentally challenged, either. I understand movies have to employ a certain amount of implausible events, characters and ideas in order to move a story forward. The problem arises when writers take gigantic liberties with things like basic police and medical procedure. 

As far as this hospital and this police force are concerned, logic and plausibility have obviously been branded Falun Gong practitioners and been taken to the basement where their organs are stripped like a stolen car. 

The relevance of that particular metaphor will be made clear later. 

If I can’t believe anything that happens in a movie, how can I get caught up in the story? Three is quite literally unbelievable. But it did teach me things.

Did you know that doctors can blithely walk into a sterile operating theater without any problems? And that when they do decide to participate in the surgery, it only takes about 20 seconds for them to scrub up? 

Did you know that a 9mm hollow point projectile fired from a handgun at close range into the right temple can traverse the brain and not kill someone? All it apparently leads to is a bad CGI nosebleed. He’s apparently in no pain and can converse wittily with all those people around him? He’s lucid, and only has adverse reactions when the script needs him to.

Oooh, it’s like Viral Factor 2 in this bitch! 

Speaking of speaking to (?) other people, did you know that Hong Kong police put dangerous wounded suspects in an open ward with regular patients and allow the suspect to chat with them?

Did you know they let them watch live TV coverage of a crime he may have instigated? Well, now you know.

Did you know that a patient who’s been restrained can get loose and wander not just the ward his bed is in but the entire hospital? And no one notices him fiddling around in the nurse’s stations?

Did you know seizure medications wear off in just 20 minutes? 

Did you know pulling an IV tube out of your hand only results in a tiny amount of (CGI) blood?

Did you know hospitals are so clean that a dozen people can get shot in a ward and there’s not a drop of blood on the floor?

Did you know some cops are so inept and downright dumb that you can’t really be sure he’s not an escapee from the mental health ward just pretending to be a cop? God forbid he looks at what he saw someone put in a trash bin. This is after he opens the trash bin and picks it up. No, that’ll wait til later.

Speaking of dumb policing, did you know that the best person to replace a veteran detective on a suspect watch is a fat rookie who may as well be wearing a sign that says “I’m gonna f@#$ up. Badly”?

I’m not an unreserved fan of the Hong Kong police, but I refuse to believe that they and the local medical profession are this careless, unprofessional and dumb. I realize you need some things to be a little unrealistic to move a story, but Three ends up being unbearably farcical.

And not in a good way.

The only people who could e fooled by this appalling lack of detail are the people on the head trauma ward. Even they might not be fooled.

On a personal level, I’m really tired of local movies somehow trying to establish a character’s intelligence or erudition by having them make these obnoxiously obscurantist (!) references and quotes. It’s even worse when they get them wrong. 

The Bertrand Russell story is about a turkey, not a chicken, f@#$o.

For that matter, if you’re going to throw yourself down the stairs to break your neck, it might help if you took off the f@#$ing neck brace first. 

Maybe Johnnie To is trying to make some kind of trenchant observation about Hong Kong, specifically, for example, the pressure put on the city’s health care system by an influx of people from the mainland.

And maybe he’s trying to highlight the changing nature of Hong Kong’s police force, who were once rightfully called Asia’s Finest.

But I don’t believe it, because the film ends with not one but two scenes which, intentionally or not, make the movie completely acceptable to the China Market. The only reason

I wasn’t more offended was because A) I was just glad it was over and B) I was still recovering from the ridiculous finale with the awful green screen. 

Though the first ending scene does feature an awfully obvious CGI shaven head.

By the time Three was over, I was just… confused. And grateful. I didn’t enjoy the much-talked about finale that supposedly took months to rehearse and film. As I sat through it, I just couldn’t understand why it was even there. But the more I thought about it, I realized I could ask that about the whole movie.

 

Maybe Johnnie To was having a tiff (squabble?) with his investors or something. Maybe he didn’t really want to make this movie. I don’t know. What I do know is that in potentially attempting to annoy those above him, he has probably annoyed (what’s left of) his local audience. I saw this movie on a Saturday morning because it was cheaper. There may have been 20 people in the cinema. I think maybe Johnnie To is beginning to lose favor with the audience that made him famous. 

Movie Review: Cold War II/寒戰II

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Four years ago, Cold War was preceded by a smothering publicity blitz that really made me happy when the movie came out. 

Because that meant the publicity stopped.

The first movie seemed long on pathos and sometimes short on logic. So if I say that Cold War II picks up right where the first movie left off, you know I’m talking about more than the story.

One problem with big budget movies… is the budget. Because when you have a lot of money, the tendency is to spend it. Sometimes, t becomes a little too easy to do things that ideally you couldn’t afford to do. The opening credits of Cold War II feature obviously expensive CGI of ice people and ice guns and ice logos. It’s expensive, but it’s not impressive. It no doubt cost a lot of money, but it looks cheap. It also looks a little silly.

Now, we all know I have an obsessive compulsion about logic. So it annoyed me when I watched an ice person shatter after being hit by an ice bullet fired from ice gun. Neither of which shatter.

Pull your head out of your ice. [sic] 

But illogical opening credits can be forgiven.

Once the movie starts, though… 

Eddie Peng is in custody, just like at the end of the first movie. But he’s still in charge. He orders the kidnapping of Aaron Kwok’s wife. Conveniently (for the writers, not the viewer), we don’t see it. Because if we see it, they’d have to show it happening and make us believe it’s possible.

And why do that? 

The hostage swap goes bad. It may have something to do with the person in charge of the bad-guy hostage being utterly unqualified for the job: “I’ll take this most wanted man into the MTR. By myself. And I won’t watch him closely. Or physically control him. What’s the worst that can happen?” I can’t feel bad for people this dumb.

And I don’t. 

The whole movie somehow feels… wrong. The music, which is good on a compositional level, is constantly pumping out dramatic motifs, adding an unnecessary tension to a lot of scenes. And by using these motifs almost constantly, the times in the story when they would be apropos (!) don’t benefit from it. 

There’s a lot of that kind of disconnect in Cold War II. Why does the movie seem to want to make us feel bad for someone who just shot up a bunch of civilians? He deserves Article 303, not some weepy, maudlin musical cue. 

There’s a very disjointed feel to Cold War II. Too many times, things don’t seem to match up. There’s a lot of machinations and subterfuge (and other SAT words), but it all seems grossly illogical: “I will lay a trap for you, to find out where your allegiance really stands. This trap will involve mayhem, violence, and death, but afterwards I will gaze meaningfully over a vista of some kind, and that will apparently make it okay.” Then we’ll see a long exterior shot. 

For no reason whatsoever.

This movie takes itself way too seriously. What’s worse is that so much of it plays like an overwrought TV drama. Or, in other words, a TVB drama. That is, after all, where some of the people responsible for this movie apparently worked before. There’s just way too many close-ups of people making intense faces. Then they say something heroic, and we have to have all the reaction shots of people being awed, inspired, impressed, etc. I have no idea why.

I’m sure it’s me, though.

The end of Cold War II is such a shameless bid for a third movie it’s squirm-inducing. You can’t even say it’s a surprise because it’s been made so obvious by almost everything that precedes it. A lot of things happen in Cold War II. But nothing gets resolved

Which makes Cold War II not so much a story as an episode

I don’t know how that makes you feel, but it really bugged me. Especially since I don’t really care about any of these people any more than I did after the first movie.

And that wasn’t much to begin with. 

There are some interesting reflections of local politics in Cold War II, and I enjoyed their presence. But they came off as extremely subtle, and it would have been nice if they were a little more overt. Then again, maybe they were, and I just couldn’t tell because everything else in this movie is so cacophonous. 

As a broad political statement Cold War II is okay, but for me, as a thriller it fails miserably. I wasn’t thrilled at all. 

But at least I got to play the official Silver Spleen game, Where is Jane Wong?

Movie Review: Kidnap Ding Ding Don/綁架丁丁當

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Utterly lacking in style, wit, or entertainment value, nauseatingly racist, and irredeemably moronic.

And his latest movie sucks too.

Summer in Hong Kong usually means there’s a dearth (!) of new movie releases. Who wants to compete with Hollywood’s summer blockbusters, chock full of aliens, beautiful young people, or superhero movies that too often should be called Existentialism in Tights?

It takes someone confident in their abilities, someone so sure of their movie that they’re not intimidated by the financial juggernaut of Tinseltown.

Or it takes a completely clueless f@#$in’ idiot like Wilson Chin.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s smart. Maybe he (or other people responsible for this crime against filmmaking) dumped it into cinemas knowing no one would watch it, but figuring he could blame Hollywood for the failure. 

Fat f@#$ing chance.

This could be the only movie made on earth in 2016 and it still wouldn’t be worth wasting precious minutes of your life on.

I watched this movie for free and I still feel robbed. 90 minutes of willful, bludgeoning dumbness. The best thing about my experience watching this turd was the pork neck I smuggled into the cinema.

There’s something deeply ironic about a Wilson Chin movie being presented by a company called Glory Entertainment.

This ‘comedy’ is so unfunny it’s almost surreal. But only from a distance. 

If you have to actually watch the damn thing, it’s more like excruciating.

Imagine 90 minutes of lifeless, leaden presentation of jokes that are so easy to see coming you’d think they were Ron Jeremy. Every major character in the movie is introduced with a tedious voiceover intro that’s as uninspired as it is insipid. 

Only people brain-raped by a lifetime of TVB could find this watchable.

There’s a scene about the making of a ransom video. But since the two dopes can’t decide how they should do it, we’re forced o sit through three different versions of the video in their entirety. I got the impression it was supposed to be funny.

I never got the impression it was funny.

I didn’t laugh. It just annoyed me. The same goes for a profoundly tedious chase scene involving a balloon, a scooter, and a bicycle. And Alex Fong.

But no laughs.

The funniest scene in this ‘comedy’ is a dramatic one. Considering what the scene is about, I almost felt bad laughing. But that’s what you get when a comedy tries to be dramatic.

Or when Wilson Chin tries to direct a movie.

Sometimes unintentional comedy is actually funny. Nothing else in this f@#$ing movie is. Well, that’s not fair. There is one (but just one) moment that made me laugh out loud. Too bad it’s so early in the run time. There’s also Kabby Hui sucking a hot dog.

Unfortunately, Alex Fong is right next to her doing the same thing.

What Wilson Chin seems incapable of grasping is that in stories, things happen, yes. But that’s not what makes a story a story. There have to be reasons, plausibility, order, emotional investment You can’t just present a bunch of events that are presented randomly and expect us to get caught up in this… garbage.

This movie abandons any pretense of narrative flow. It really does seem like they made it up as they went along, or maybe they just had a list of gags they had to pad out to 90 minutes. None of it is connected, none of it has any order.

I don’t know why Wilson Chin needed Emily Kwan to play an Indonesian maid in blackface.

I just know it’s @#$ing inexcusable. Nice going, Wilson. You’re a gem.

But you know what? I can’t blame Chubb Rock for everything that bothered me in this movie/waste of time/travesty/pile of sh*t. Who’s responsible for the obnoxious trope of the guy running with a girl on his back, in slow motion? Wilson just regurgitated it.

Let’s face it, his only other choice would have been to come up with something original, and we all know that wasn’t gonna happen.

Movie Review: My Wife is a Superstar我老婆係明星

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The title of this film is something the director’s husband will never, ever say. 

I actually don’t know if Shirley Yung is married or not. But I do know she wrote and directed Angel Whispers. And she wrote Daughter.

But I watched My Wife is a Superstar anyway.

Even though it starred the same two people who were in S for Sex, S for Secrets, which was S for Shit. Or S for Shirley Yung Produced This Movie. So don’t say I never do anything for you.

And besides, let me get this out of the way now: My Wife is a Superstar actually isn’t all that bad. It’s no cinematic triumph, but taken in the context of the people who made it, it’s practically Lawrence of Ap Lei Chau.

Pakho Chau and Annie Liu are a married couple. Lai Mo is a photographer who dreams of going off to cover wars like his hero Robert Capa. Chu Ki (get it?) is a struggling actress who, like so many aspiring female thespians, idolizes Audrey Hepburn.

In the film’s opening, she struggles with accepting the throwaway role of a prostitute in a local film. Which is ironic, because Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic role was playing a woman who entertained men for money. 

Go lightly on the shaft, will ya honey?

But never mind that tawdry nonsense. As the trailer will tell you, the central story is that Lai Mo, having been demoted at work, is tasked with discovering the identity of Chu Ki’s rumored husband. Yes, he has to discover himself.

No, not like that.

While doing that, he also has to deal with the strain her blossoming career (and the restraints of fame) place on their marriage. Not to mention Alex Lam circling Chu Ki like a wealthy, handsome shark. He’s giving this new starlet a big opportunity (that’s not a euphemism) to star in his upcoming Chinese New Year movie. 

No one strained themselves writing this movie.

They didn’t even stretch. 

My Wife is a Superstar was written by Jacky Chan. No, not that one. Jacky Chan Cheuk Yin. The same person who wrote See you in YouTubeAnd Trick or Cheat. And was one of the half-dozen writers of Angel Whispers.

But I watched My Wife is a Superstar anyway!

Like I said before, it’s nowhere near as bad as it scientifically ought to be. Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot wrong with this movie. It doesn’t start off well.

But neither did my marriage, so who am I to talk?

There’s a Wong Kar Wai parody that’s funny in patches. Lee Sheung Ching sends up Wong Kar Wai easily enough, but there’s not a lot of energy or thought put into the idea (or anything else in the movie).

Speaking of which, there’s a scene involving a restaurant holdup where the guns involved are painfully obvious as toys. You can easily see the orange tips, And yet, the ‘robbers’ are taken seriously. Maybe it’s supposed to be funny, but… it’s not.

It’s just dumb.

A couple of times, CGI is used for a visual effect that I’m going to hope was referencing something. It looked nice, but… what’s the point? 

Director Shirley Yung has a cameo in one scene, apparently playing herself. In a later scene, two people talk about last year’s Guilty, (which Shirley Yung produced) as being a major success. The two people are I Love You Boyz. Which makes sense, because every time they appear in a movie, it comes to a screeching halt.

So at least one thing in this movie was done right.

That said, a cameo… as yourself… and referencing your own movies… I wonder where she got that idea from.

But let’s move on. And hopefully up.

Because like I said, this movie wasn’t really all bad, or even as bad as it should be. Jacky Choi was good as the established actress Chu Ki comes into conflict with. She was funny, believable, and easy to watch. So were Lo Hoi Pang and Bonnie Wong.

I mean, could those two ever not be? 

The story is pedestrian, predictable, generic, and unsurprising. But so are a lot of movies. And I have to say, Annie Liu and Pakho Chau were a lot better both separately and together in this movie than S for Syphillis.

Wait… never mind. 

They were believable not only as their characters but as a married couple. My Wife is a Superstar misses more chances than it takes to send up the local entertainment industry and fame circus, but it’s not the worst movie Shirley Yung has made.

My Wife is a Superstar was nowhere near as bad as I expected, but at least it wasn’t infuriating, which is what I expected. So I guess you could say it’s profoundly better than I expected. But it’s not a good movie. It’s… resoundingly okay.

When one of the highlights of your movie is a Shiga Lin cameo, well… But like I said, the audience I saw it with enjoyed themselves thoroughly, so what do I know?