Movie Review: Trivial Matters/破事兒

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Pang Ho Cheung is one of my favorite local directors. If you haven’t seen Exodus or Aberdeen or Vulgaria, you should.

Trivial Matters/破事兒 is a different sort of movie; it’s not one story, it’s a collection of stories, some longer than others. It was produced, written, and directed by Pang Ho Cheung, with much of the material adapted from his written fiction.

The stories are populated by a lot of familiar faces, and the situations and dialog are as varied and as interesting as the cast. For a Category IIB movie, there’s a surprising amount of profanity, sexual content, and nudity. There’s even drug use.

It don’t make you a bad person, I’m just saying.

What does make you a bad person is bringing little children to watch this movie in the cinema, which happened when I saw the movie the first time.

But it was the Dynasty, so what can you expect?

The first segment has Jan Lam as a psychotherapist refereeing couples therapy between Chan Fai-Hung and Crystal Tin Yui-Lei. 

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The thing that makes the segment so great, and so funny, has to be seen. I can’t explain it without ruining it.

Let’s just say the 4th wall has a window.

The shortest segment features Edison Chen and Stephanie Cheng.

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Who only shows her navel once. Dammit.

This segment gained some extra exposure (!) when the film was released to DVD. The release of Trivial Matters/破事兒 happened during the Edison Chen photo scandal.

Back in 2008, there were a ton of DVD shops in Hong Kong. They would put a big TV in the front window showing short loops of whatever movie they wanted to sell. Sometimes late at night they would show old Stephen Chow movies; more than once I saw a sidewalk full of people at 3:00AM in Mongkok watching the entire movie.

Don’t ask me what I was doing at 3:00AM in Mongkok. That’s my doctor’s job.

Good God, where were we? In Trivial Matters, there’s a scene where Edison Chen makes a typically humble self-appraisal:

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Well, after Edisongate happened, guess what scene was played over and over and over at almost every DVD shop in the city?

One of the longer segments features Eason Chan as a guy who’s been leaving a bad taste in his girlfriend’s mouth.

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His girlfriend is played by Isabel Chan, whom some of you may remember from the neglected masterpiece IQ Dudettes. What makes this segment work so well is the understated acting and pervasive realism; this is what people are really like, and this is how they really behave.

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The same could be said about the segment with Chapman To as an actor ‘calling chicken,’ which is a Cantonese euphemism for visiting a prostitute.

I’m sorry, a horizontal refreshment engineer.

The scene is understated, touching, and realistic.

From what I’ve read.

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The longest segment stars Gillian Cheung and Stephy Tang as classmates whose lives take unexpected turns. Both women are surprisingly good in their roles, and I liked that the story was set in the past.

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The final segment has Shawn Yue playing a hitman in training sent on a job to whack Conroy Chan. There are hits done, but not the kind you expect. The segment ends a little strangely, and since it’s the last segment, the movie ends strangely too. But it was a strange movie to begin with, so it seems fitting.

I really enjoyed Trivial Matters/破事兒 and I think you will too.

Movie Review: Kidnap/綁架

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A young woman’s brother is kidnapped. She listens to the police, and lets them handle the ransom payment. The operation goes awry, and the brother is killed. Cut to three years later, also known as the present, and we find out the woman’s husband has a terminal illness. There’s a treatment, but it’s expensive. Where, she wonders, can she get that kind of money? Hmmm. So she decides to kidnap a rich man’s son, and does so. In a couple of days.

That’s the first ten minutes of Kidnap/綁架.

Talk about economy of narrative…

While you could argue that this set of events lays out the character’s motivation, it does so only in the most cursory way. This is not a narrative, it’s the outline of one. There is no flesh on these bones. This story is in more a rush than two teenagers in the back seat of Daddy’s car.

Unlike the teenagers, the movie lasts more than two minutes.

Law Chi Leung directed some really great movies like Double Tap and Inner Senses. But he also directed Bug Me Not, an Emperor Group movie starring Isabella Leung and CGI bugs, and Curse of the Deserted, a mainland ghost film whose only real mystery was fingering out (!) how they would get around to debunking the existence of ghosts.  20070830_47c17d4286ad67e7edf33TlafLlD99S6 I saw Kidnap/綁架 in the cinema in 2007, because quite frankly I find Rene Liu very easy to look at.

But after Speed Angels, I got over it.

That movie was so bad that by the end of it I was literally hitting myself in the face to take the pain away.

It didn’t work.

Speaking of not working, by the halfway mark of the movie, it seems like the vast preponderance of direction Rene Liu got was “make the face from Ringu.” kidnap2007_3 That and “be as subtle as Aaron Kwok.”

I.e. not at all.

But she has lots of company in that boat. kidnap_b

Karena Lam overacts nearly as loudly as her awful dye job.

Guo Tao hams it up as an eminently unlikeable mainlander, but hey, it was 2007 once. 20070830_7cece1021e454ade2ff29ADYWb6QDvWl

It used to be that way.

20070830_99ef50301a4d9ddf37691oGcqh9fW3zb Julian Cheung hangs around the story like a vaguely noticeable smell, contributing nothing but taking up space. Eddie Cheung Siu Fai turns in a good performance, as usual, but I just felt bad for him being here. 20070830_17760303ad2387aafa1bPPZoOhR3GsSS

I guess that’s why they call it work.

There he was, being all solid and believable in the midst of this shrill, abrasive mess. There’s nothing subtle about this movie. Lots of nauseating close ups, an overly loud and intrusive soundtrack, a pile of patently ridiculous plot contrivances, outlandishly illogical behavior, and some of the worst physics you’ve ever seen used in an equally bad CGI shot. 

I don’t remember disliking this movie so much when I watched it in the cinema.

But I sure disliked it on DVD.

Movie Review: Kung Fu Jungle/一個人的武林

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Let’s face it, I’m not always a fan of Donnie Yen movies.

In fact, after his last movie, Iceman, I was so disgusted I swore I’d never watch another one of his movies.

Well, as a divorced man, I can tell you that not all promises are or should be kept. But never mind that.

Kung Fu Jungle/一個人的武林 is the first movie from Teddy Chen in five years. His last one, 2009’s Bodyguards & Assassins, is one of my favorite recent films. And not just because Donnie Yen fights a horse.

Or because he loses.

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In Kung Fu Jungle/一個人的武林, Donnie Yen plays a martial artist currently serving time for involuntary manslaughter. He killed someone in a martial arts challenge, and dutifully turned himself in. A couple of years into his sentence, someone starts killing martial artists. Donnie seems to know who’s going to be killed next. In fact, he seems to know a lot about what’s going on.

Good thing he’s in jail, otherwise he might become a suspect.

Maybe that’s why the police decide that the best way to catch this murderer is to let Donnie out of prison so he can help them. That may sound a little weird in realistic terms, but movies aren’t supposed to be realistic. They’re supposed to be entertaining. 

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Teddy Chen wanted to take the structure of the classic martial arts stories from Chinese literature and set it in modern times. The concepts of martial challenges, duels to the death and imperfect heroes should be familiar to many of us. These ideas, set as they are in the present day, make for an interesting premise, and also help explain some of Kung Fu Jungle/一個人的武林’s more overstated moments.

Supernatural ability has long been part of the tradition. So every time someone does something physically impossible,like blithely moving a motorcycle out of the way with a flick of the wrist and an aluminum pole, it was nice to be able to frame it within that narrative tradition. It actually made sense, and I was sincerely grateful for it.

Some things, however, didn’t make sense and can’t be excused so easily.

Charlie Young plays a police officer leading a team investigating murderers. It would be easy to say that she was simply out of her depth with the character, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple, and it would be unfair to think so.

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Any woman who reaches that kind of position in any police force is not going to be so flighty, so easily flustered, or so easily fooled.

Not sure why they’re all F words, but… f@#$ it.

It struck me as more than slightly chauvinistic, and as unnecessary. It would have been nice to see Maggie Shiu in that role, because even though she’s played a cop almost as much as Michael Wong, she plays the kind of cop who doesn’t take any guff from anybody. That would have been a lot more realistic, at least to me.

I’m not going to tell too much about the story in the movie, because I’d rather that you find out about it yourself. And because I imagine many of you aren’t really interested in the story as much as in the action. There’s certainly plenty of that to go around.

There’s also plenty of martial artists to go around, too. Xing Yu, Fan Siu Wong, and a raft of others all contribute to the film either by fighting or simply being there. It would take me forever to name all of them, so watch the movie yourself and see.

Wang Baoqiang is a trained martial artist, and he got into very impressive shape for this film.

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He also apparently went off the rails with bath salts, but that’s why God invented rehab.

He is convincing in his action scenes, and that’s all I ask. His character can seem a little overdone and one-dimensional, but it’s not really his fault. The character was obviously written that way, and going back to the story tradition it also makes sense.

It also makes sense that Michelle Bai, who plays Donnie’s girlfriend, has the worst fight scene in the movie. I may have a debilitating man crush on Jiang Luxia, but that’s not the reason I think she’d have been much better in this role, because Michelle Bai is simply not convincing as a martial artist. She is convincing as a girlfriend, though, and that was really her job. I don’t know how convincing Jiang Luxia would be as a girlfriend.

Dammit.

Unsurprisingly, Donnie Yen is just the opposite of Michelle Bai. He’s still a very competent martial artist, and he’s still a very unconvincing (I could have said incompetent but didn’t) actor.

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It would be nice if he learned to project some kind of emotion other than his contractually stipulated Face of Rage.

Overall, I really liked Kung Fu Jungle/一個人的武林. It has a lot going for it, and it was really nice to see a broad representation of Hong Kong martial arts cinema onscreen. The action was excellent, the story was interesting, and there were a few surprises along the way. Kung Fu Jungle/一個人的武林 may be the best Donnie Yen movie since Flash Point.

But that’s just my opinion.

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 Latest word on the streets is that Wang Baoqiang is back on the salts. That’s just sad.

Movie Review: Missing/深海尋人

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Tsui Hark wrote, directed, and produced Missing/深海尋人. It tells the story of a pyschiatrist, played be Lee Sinje, who is trying to solve the mystery of her dead boyfriend, who disappeared during a diving expedition in Taiwan.

Or does it?

Why is she acting so funny? Why is her boyfriend’s sister acting so funny? Why does one of her (male) patients have her mobile number and knows where she lives?

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Why does Tony Leung Kar Fai have that f@#$ed up hairdo?

I watched it in the cinema and I watched it again on DVD for this review. Considering I didn’t like it in the cinema, I guess you could say that the DVD viewing would be less than fair. 

But only if you also say that’s not totally my fault.

Missing/深海尋人 was promoted as a supernatural or horror movie.

Spoiler Alert: It was also a co-production with China.

In case you didn’t know it, thanks to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, or SAPPRFT (excuse me), there are no ghosts in China films. They’re not allowed. If there are ghosts in your movie, there must be a rational explanation at or near the end of the film showing that there is no such thing as ghosts: “Ha ha! I am wearing a ghost mask!” or “You are simply an imbecile to believe in such petit bourgeois deceits!”

Oh, and if someone asks you to do a favor in a movie, it is perfectly acceptable for you to stipulate that you will help them only if their requested favor is legal and reasonable.

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Like any good citizen would.

To be fair, China’s Central Govt’ is right. There are no such things as ghosts, especially in the People’s Republic of China.

Because if there were, an army of dead Chinese people from the Great Leap Backwards and the Cultural Revolution would have killed everyone in China even remotely associated with the Communist Party. So they’re not wrong, per se.

They just won’t allow ghosts in movies. What they will allow is revelations of mental illness or hallucinations caused by eating bad oysters, or just some weird tacked-on scene of a woman we’ve never seen before doing a reading in a bookstore saying “And that’s the ghost novel I wrote.”

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No really, it happens.

I say all of that because I don’t want you to watch this movie and be disappointed.

That’s my job. I don’t want you to watch this movie at all.

Considering I watched this in the cinema and on DVD, you can say I was disappointed more than once. But not just because of the clumsy no-ghosts-allowed stuff. Normally I love Tsui Hark movies.

Rome+Film+Festival+2008+Missing+Photocall+m6u9j_VDbKelAnd so do you.

Even without having the middle (not end) spoiled, Missing/深海尋人 was highly unlikeable. At nearly two hours it drags. Like some other movies that have the China market in mind, this movie has more than one ending. In fact it’s got four or five. But they’re not DVD extras, they just all follow one another.

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 By the end of it, I was just praying for the movie to end. 

Normally Lee Sinje and Chang Chen and Isabella Leung can be good actors. And Tsui Hark obviously can be a great director and writer. So what went wrong here? I’m not sure, and unfortunately, Missing/深海尋人 is such an endurance test that by the end I didn’t care. 

There’s some nice scuba diving footage, but there’s also some pretty sketchy CGI. There’s some decent acting, but a lot of bad acting too. There’s some interesting moments, but they’re scattered throughout two hours of bad movie that you have to wade through to see them.

It also has the strongest fish in the world.

It’s not the worst China Market movie Tsui Hark made in 2008.

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That would be All About Women.

Movie Review: Gangster Pay Day/大茶飯

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An aging gangster named Ghost is thinking about the future. Like the rest of the world, the underworld is changing. Karaokes aren’t as lucrative as they used to be.

Especially if you refuse to sell drugs in yours.

The real money is in property developing. But only as the buyer, not the seller.

If all that sounds really topical and local, it’s supposed to.

Director Lee Po Cheung co-wrote Gangster Pay Day/大茶飯 with Lily He, and they set out to capture the spirit of Hong Kong at this very historic and very uncertain point in its history. But don’t worry, it’s still a gangster movie. The parade of familiar faces in Gangster Pay Day/大茶飯 had me smiling from the opening of the movie.

Anthony Wong is in top form as Ghost, a semi-retired boss who’s seen it all and done it all so much that he hides from all the ho’s who constantly vie for his attention.

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I don’t mean people named Ho, I mean women with flexible morals and even flexier backs.

His two lieutenants are played by Ng Chi Hung and Chan Wai Man.

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They belong to the Hung Hing society.

Wong Yau Lam plays Leung, likely heir to Ghost’s rapidly diminishing empire. 

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One day a quiet woman who works in a cha chen tang delivers food to the karaoke.

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Yes, Charlene Choi plays a quiet woman. More on that later.

Leung tries to help her, but ends up needing help himself. Luckily, Ghost shows up on cue to save him. Hmmm… two guys, one girl. Sounds like a love triangle.

Or a train.

We’ve all seen this story before, but Gangster Pay Day/大茶飯 tells it with such a great feel for the characters that you don’t care.

I’ve eaten a hell of a lot of gung jai min in ten years, but I still enjoy them.

These characters are real, human, and funny, and listening to them talk, both what they talk about and they way they talk about it, is really entertaining.

Part of what makes the movie so interesting is the way it’s almost two movies in one. There’s a pretty standard gangster/romance movie, with flaring tempers and meetings in smoke-filled back rooms, and romance between the good girl and the bad boy. But there’s another side to the movie, and it’s really interesting. For a lot of reasons, Hong Kong’s culture is in danger of changing to a very large degree, for political, financial and even demographic reasons. A lot of small, independent shops and restaurants are being priced out of existence by developers and chain stores.

Gangster Pay Day/大茶飯 spends a good amount of its running time talking about this situation both implicitly and explicitly, and it also celebrates local culture in a way that I found really endearing.

Listening to Chan Wai Man talk about the spirit of the cha chen tang, or seeing Ng Chi Hung trying to make pineapple buns was almost… cute. If not for some of the violence and language, I could almost see Gangster Pay Day/大茶飯 being a Chinese New Year film. It was nice to see a really local film that celebrated local culture.

It was also nice to see Charlene Choi act. While I can’t stand her Petulant Teenager schtick, I don’t really have a problem with her as person. She can act, she just usually doesn’t get asked to do much of it. In Gangster Pay Day/大茶飯 she’s quite good, and the only time she reverts to brattiness she’s drunk.

Like Charlene, the movie only bugged me once. The climax of the film is clumsy and totally illogical and would never happen, but it has a couple of redeemingly hilarious lines and the movie quickly reverted back to being completely likeable for me.

Speaking of which, Philip Keung Ho Man as usual makes the most of a small role.

I’ve said before that movies often feature characters we wish were real, or characters we wish we had as friends. Gangster Pay Day/大茶飯 has a lot of those, and it also has characters that we wish more people would actually be like. The world would be a better place, and a lot more fun.

The Sunny Paradise Sauna in Wanchai, which appears in the film, deserves mention as a really nice place. I’ve been there. More than once.

Movie Review: Grey Met Shrek/奇緣灰姑娘

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I’ll be honest; when I saw the trailer for Grey Met Shrek/奇緣灰姑娘, I wasn’t very impressed. At least, not positively.

But I watch movies so you don’t have to, right?

When I watched Grey Met Shrek/奇緣灰姑娘, I was incredibly sleep-deprived. I’d had something like 7 hours of sleep in 50-odd hours. I was punchy. I was giggly. I was so tired I wasn’t even sleepy. I thought it would be the best way to watch what I thought was going to be a lousy movie. Turns out I was wrong. Turns out the trailer doesn’t do a very good job representing the movie.

And thank God for that.

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Ronald Cheng plays a recently paroled convict. He’s a petty thief and pretty harmless on the crime scale. He’s divorced, and his wife doesn’t want him talking to his son. He runs a number of hustles, always scrambling to make a dollar but never even thinking about getting a straight job. He goes right back to stealing the day he gets out of jail.

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Annie Liu plays a Taiwanese woman living and working in Hong Kong. Well, she just lost her job. So she lives here, anyway. She intends to return to Taiwan, and has a ticket. She just wants to look at some shoes on her way out of town. These two misfits meet during the commission of a pair of crimes.

Don’t ask me how I know this, but if a girl sticks with you through grand theft auto (the crime, not the game), chances are she likes you.

The situation in which they meet is totally unrealistic and yet highly cinematic. Which you could really say about the whole movie. Grey Met Shrek/奇緣灰姑娘 is a local film, but a very unusual one. It has that independent, European kind of orientation. You can tell because it uses the same kind of accordion music that all local films use to show you how indie and Euro they are.

In this case, though, I didn’t mind. I thought Grey Met Shrek/奇緣灰姑娘 was going to be a typical local romantic comedy, but I turned out to be wrong. It’s an odd film, about odd people who do odd things. But it’s told in such a charming way that I was never bored (even hovering as I was on the brink of utter exhaustion).

One of the things I really enjoyed about the two main characters was their ordinariness; they weren’t remarkable, though some of their behavior was. But their personalities were so run of the mill that it made them seem like real people. I liked these characters, and perhaps most importantly there was real chemistry between Ronald Cheng and Annie Liu. She’s obviously not hard to look at, but she also does a very good job in this movie of making her character believable as well as watchable. She also has a way of smiling… just… a little bit.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s something to see.

Sammy Leung plays a police officer whose job is to catch these two mysterious people. His character isn’t very well-defined, and he both makes amateurish mistakes and has an amazing ability to know exactly where people are going or where they’ll be.

It’s almost as if he had… a script.

But within the overall farcical tone of the film, it was easily forgiven.

The ending is predictable, but in a very agreeable sort of way. It almost reminded me of some of the romance movies of the 80s and 90s. I realize it’s strange to hear me say, but I really enjoyed this movie. It’s refreshing to me to see a movie like this that manages to balance local and foreign/European so well.

How good was this movie? I liked it so much that I didn’t even mind the two clueless f@#$holes behind me who literally chatted through most of the movie. The only time they shut up was when they were kissing. Loudly.

And they weren’t teenagers.

Movie Review: Dot 2 Dot/點對點

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First-time filmmaker Amos Why (no, really) produced and directed Dot 2 Dot/點對點. It tells two stories about people in Hong Kong and the lives they lead.

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Moses Chan plays Chung, a fairly typical Hong Konger who works long hours in a job he appears to like. But his real passion in life is Slow Living (with a capital S and L), a lifestyle that’s about taking your time and appreciating things as opposed to the rampant consumerism so prevalent in Hong Kong.

He has a collection of toys and magazines he saved from his childhood and would much rather spend time alone with his stuff than talking with his friends.

Which can really be a problem when you’ve invited your friends over to your house.

He also has another hobby; he marks up MTR stations with arcane dot patterns, waiting to see if someone can figure out what the pictures outlined by the dots are.

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Meng Ting Yi plays Xue, a teacher from mainland China who has come to Hong Kong to teach Mandarin. She’s the kind of new immigrant we don’t hear much about. She’s educated, professional, and doesn’t buy up milk powder or use the sidewalk as a restroom. She spends her days teaching at a school where Yum Yum Shaw is the headmistress.

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It was nice to see Yum Yum Shaw in a small but significant role. She’s always entertaining, but it was nice to see her here providing dramatic weight instead of just comic relief.

When Xue isn’t teaching, she spends her spare time trying to figure out what these dots outside MTR stations mean.

I don’t want to talk too much about the story, because I don’t want to give anything away. I also would encourage people to watch the movie themselves.

Dot 2 Dot/點對點 is a local movie, but it is also a very non-commercial film. Moses Chan is a popular TV actor, but the movie isn’t really a star vehicle. It’s a quiet, slow-moving story about life in Hong Kong, and it’s full of very rich details about Hong Kong life, history, culture, and people.

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I think living here for a decade makes it easier for me to understand some of the references and details. I’m sure I’m missing others, too. It’s especially nice if you’ve lived here, because you will recognize so many places, but even without a deep contextual knowledge, Dot 2 Dot is still a story that people can relate to. 

I had low expectations about Dot 2 Dot/點對點, but not because of the movie itself. It’s a Category I movie, which means there’s no violence, or bad words, or gangsters, or sexual situations.

That’s not normally the kind of movie I gravitate towards.

It’s also an independent film, and that can be a good or bad thing. Sometimes independent movies do things that mainstream movies can’t or won’t do, and it can be interesting. Often, though, independent movies do things that aren’t done because it makes the movie difficult or impossible to watch.

At least for me.

But Dot 2 Dot/點對點 isn’t like that. It’s a slow movie, but it’s very well shot, well-acted and put together quite nicely.

There’s even an oddly prescient line about the police using pepper spray on people. This film was completed a long time before September of this year.

I think the nicest thing I can say about Dot 2 Dot/點對點 is that it’s one of those stories that you know couldn’t ever happen in real life, but at the same time, you wish that it could.

Movie Review: Zombie Fight Club/屍城

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Zombie Fight Club/屍城is supposed to be a sequel to Zombie 108, a film I didn’t see. From what I’ve read about it, I didn’t really miss much I hadn’t seen before. But so what?

Zombie Fight Club/屍城 opens on an anonymous building in Taipei a half hour before the zombie outbreak.

At least, that’s what the subtitle says.

What’s an anonymous building? And can you explain the outbreak?

Or should I just take the hint and go f@#$ myself?

Seriously, who cares? Fans of the undead genre have reached a stage where we don’t even really care about it. Just give us zombies and the people who fight them!

Andy On and Michael Wong are cops, and they speak English to each other even though they’re in Taiwan. The building they’re heading towards has English speaking drug dealers and two random white guys hosting a Halloween party.

The first rule of Zombie Fight Club/屍城 is… you don’t think about Zombie Fight Club/屍城.

Besides, who really gives a sh*t what the plot in a zombie movie is?

Especially when the plot is recycled pieces of other movies and/or TV shows?

Part of what makes Zombie Fight Club/屍城 feel so familiar is that you’ve seen it all before. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I snuck into a cinema in 1978 to watch George Romeroi’s Dawn of the Dead, and I’ve been watching zombie heads explode ever since.

That don’t make me a bad person, and it don’t make you one either.

What might make me a bad person is how much I enjoyed the more crass, vicious moments of the film. Because all the moments are like that. It was great.

Michael Wong, whose record as a cop in Chinese film is beaten only by Danny Lee, gave me my biggest laugh of the movie. It happens right after he says “Help me up.”

I’m a fan of human rottenness in movies, and Zombie Fight Club/屍城 gives me a lot to like. This film is such exploitative, prurient trash that I loved it. It’s not a good movie. But it’s not ashamed of being what it is, and it’s got a lot to be ashamed of. The fact that Zombie Fight Club/屍城  gleefully wallows in its wrongness appeals to me. If you’re going to spew violence, nudity, blood and human shittiness for 90 minutes, at least have the courage to own it. And Zombie Fight Club/屍城  owns it.

I really did like this movie. But it’s inherently unlikeable. It’s crass, bitter, ugly, and cruel.

Like me.

Still, that’s exactly what I enjoyed about it.

The film unfolds in two acts, rather than the normal three. The first act takes place in the anonymous building, and the second act explains how the movie got its name. But like I said, don’t bother trying to make sense of this movie.

You’ll just hurt yourself.

Instead, just enjoy what it has to offer.

Apparently the zombie apocalypse causes women’s clothing to either shrink precipitously or turn into PVC.

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Just because the world is ending doesn’t mean I can’t look hot!

Jessica C isn’t given a lot to work with (unlike her bra), and spends most of the film looking terrified.

Andy On spends a lot of the movie topless, and I guess it goes some way towards rationalizing all the topless women in the movie. He’s not given much to work with either, but since his job is to kick ass and kill zombies, he doesn’t have to sell us on his character with dialog. Even so, he manages to be entertaining the whole time, especially in the scene he shares with Candy Yuen, whom you may remember from Naked Ambition 2.

I say that because I’m such a revolting human that I recognized a woman from 33D Invader in Zombie Fight Club/屍城 .

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But I pervs it like that.

Candy Yuen does a good job in this scene and with her character overall; it’s not easy to balance cold, evil bitchiness with sexy.

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But she manages to create a character you absolutely can’t stand but you still wouldn’t mind doing a little… hmm hmm with.

Maybe that’s just me. But I doubt it.

Terence Yin also turns in a surprisingly nuanced, complex performance.

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It’s not surprising because it’s Terence, it’s more surprising because it takes place in the middle of this lunatic mélange of violence and cleavage. Making the most of what he had to work with, Terence’s performance was the most memorable of the film’s first half.

That’s an achievement for someone without tits, believe me.

Andrew Lin did the makeup on the zombies in closeups, and I really enjoyed seeing his work. It reminded me of the look of the classic zombie movies, and I appreciated it especially because nowadays blanks and blood squibs are done with CGI.

So it was nice to see some old school goodness!

I got to go to the premiere of Zombie Fight Club/屍城 . It was held at Olympian City, the same place the Flirting in the Air premiere was held. The stars were there, and they hired people to play zombies and wander around among the journalists.

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I managed to convince one of them to help me take this photo.

A minute or so after this, while I was paying the water bill, Michael Wong came into the bathroom.

I didn’t say hello, because it would have been… awkward.

I said hello once we were in the theatre.

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I also saw Andrew Lin, and spent a few minutes talking about his FX work in the movie.

I missed a chance to get a photo with Ng Chi Hung, and I really feel badly.

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.