Well, too much minus the 2 hours of my life stolen by
Three Kingdoms. What a waste. Ti Lung as Guan Yu and it
Ever been in one of those relationships where the longer you stay, you realize you like the other half less and less? It becomes more and more work not to be aggravated, or to overlook their shortcomings? What used to charm you now makes you want to puke? The other half just stops being funny, intriguing, lovable, sexy, and attractive? You find yourself feeling trapped, like you made an awful mistake, and that the rest of your life will be a miserable hell?
I'm talking about Hong Kong cinema. I'm rapidly becoming sick and tired of walking out of a movie theater (in Hong Kong, which I moved to because of said films) disappointed, angry, or just plain amused by the fact that there's two hours of my life I'll never have again. I'm tired of trying to raise my expectations only to have them walked all over, pissed on, and laughed at. I'm tired of movies being so mystifyingly, bewilderingly, obviously,
preventablybad. A lot of the time I feel like the things I see wrong are not nit-picking at all, just simple and glaringly obvious flaws that I cannot imagine no one in the production process noticed.
I moved here because I love the movies this city can make. And I do still love some of them. Occasionally for the wrong reasons, but it is not all bad. I don't think every movie is junk.
But it's gotta be more than half.
The worst part is that the movies with the loftiest expectations always have the farthest to fall and seem to go
runningoff that cliff.
If I was not in the middle of the row in
Blood Brothers, as opposed to my customary aisle seat, I would have walked out.
Luckily, when I was watching
The Banquet, the theater was so empty that I could easily walk out. It was right at the scene where they're having a 'fight scene' that looks just like synchronized swimming. Where was I? Oh, yes...
Blood Brothers virtually starts badly, with a closeup of an amazingly badly made-up Daniel Wu (a mistake
Three Kingdoms also makes), and just gets worse. They might as well have paraded bikini'ed ring girls (like they have in boxing matches) through the movie holding placards over their heads that said "End of First Act" etc. This wasn't a first time director, or even a film-school dropout. This was directing by 8 year olds.
Remember, we're talking about a movie with Shu Qi in it; my expectations theoretically should have been met
Why does this make me angry? Because this film wanted to be, and wanted us to think of it as, some kind of artistic achievement. Instead, it was more like a digestive one. I felt insulted that given the names involved and the $ spent, this was the best they seemingly could do.
That same week (or month), I saw
Contract Lover, with Richie Ren. An alarmingly cheap China co-production with hackneyed jokes, transparent plot and Richie sucking a pacifier.
great. Because it had no lofty ambitions and there was no way you could have any kind of expectation of it. It was entertaining, funny (two young women behind me suffered hysterics so profound they were exclaiming their stomachs hurt), and engaging in a very down-to-earth way. A pleasant surprise, and an all-too-rare one.
Bullet & Brain for the same reasons. Wong Jing is the last person in the world who would want you to think his films are anything other than cheap populist fodder, and if you take them on that level, they are great because they do not pretend (and fail) to be something they are not. Besides, a
Flashdancehomage is always welcome.
I don't much care for unintentional comedy in movies. The crasser side of my nature (95% by some counts) gets a perverse kick out of it, but lately it just makes me feel sad.
An Empress and the Warriors is not a great film, but it's not horrible either. And don't get me wrong, Donnie Yen (whose narcissism is so profound it's
literallyhomo erotic) deserves to be laughed at every time he makes his 'intense' face or takes his shirt off.
And Kelly Chen is not much of an actor, I admit. But I felt bad for her because you can see that she is trying
reallyhard. It's also obvious this was not an easy film to make; she gets knocked around a lot, and still seems game enough to keep coming back. But every time she had to try to sound tough, the audience just laughed. I don't blame them, but I still felt bad for her.
In Love With the Dead's climactic moment is intended to be horrific, not comedic. Guess what?
[disclaimer: the following is not shameless brown-nosing because the person in question belongs to this website and I have met her and she even wrote back to me when I signed her guestbook. I felt this way
beforeI ever met her.]
Yung Yung Yu was asked to do something that was very difficult to do, and she did it well. So it's not her fault, just as it is not Shawn Yue's fault either (he's the other person in the scene). Let me change that; Ms. Yu was asked to be part of something that was IMPOSSIBLE to carry off given the way in which it is presented. The same point could have been made in a much more effective (and much less funny) way.
isshameless brown-nosing and contains a SPOILER]
The actors must not be blamed and the only fault I could find (and I thought this before I met her) was that she was, forgive me, the 'hottest cold person' in film history. Maybe I'm wrong for thinking a dead person is pretty, but it kind of ruined the effect, and the scene. I felt bad for her, being asked to do a love scene painted all grey with those opaque dead-people contact lenses.
If I have offended anyone I apologize; 12 years of higher education have yet to rid me of my penchant for the visceral.
Instead, it just makes it easy for me to use phrases like 'penchant for the visceral' to rationalize my refusal to outgrow a dirty mouth...
When I see this stuff in movies, I think, how could ANYONE think that's going to horrify people rather than amuse them? (for this blog entry, just switch the verbs...)
I love Hong Kong. I love Hong Kong movies. But you
have to love them to put up with the things they ask of you or do to you. So it's a lot like a relationship in some ways.
And it ain't all bad, either.
The Heavenly Kings came out, I was not so sure I wanted to see a film directed by Daniel Wu. I have rarely been so happy to be so wrong. The film is funny, entertaining, well-made, insightful, witty, and its central deceit appealed to my disdain for the loathsome local media. Most locals I talked to avoided it like the plague based on the posters. When I can get them to watch it, they enjoy it. I wish more people made more movies like this.
Lingeraside, Johhnie To is a consistently good director who has, I think, taken up the space that John Woo left empty.
Pang Ho Cheung's work is always interesting, if not (for me) always entertaining.
Beauty and the 7 Beasts - The female lead could be on the Chinese rugby team. The MEN's rugby team. She's all the man that Gordon Lam frequently is not...just diesel... But I
likedthis movie. It asked nothing of me and gave me Warholesque portraits of Eric Tsang and Nat Chan as part of a set design that actually looked like someone spent some time and money on them. It had Jo Koo too. Thank you Wong Jing. But you still owe me for that love scene you did in the hot tub in
Wise Guys Never Die. My eyes felt like Nick Cheung's ass during the part of the movie where he was in prison.
CJ7 - FU2. I can't believe I waited for this. That's not a beard, it's China's pubic hair. Filmmakers have every right to suck up to an audience of 1.6 billion people. But I don't have to watch it. Forced wholesomeness is malignant.
Dancing Lion - Occasionally witty and cynical in its lampooning of Hong Kong culture, and it has vomit. Francis Ng's best directing since
9413.I really enjoyed it, because it refused to take anything (including itself) seriously.
The Detective - Aaron must have a lot of movies lined up, since he only acted in this, not overacted. Saving his energy, I guess. And it works. A pleasant surprise; an opaque plot, cool music, and Shing Fui On. My needs were more than met. Oh, and a Jo Koo cameo you could fry an egg on. Probably my biggest pleasant surprise of the year.
Exodus - The film's opening shot is marvelous, and I always love any kind of post-colonial jab at England. The darkest humor this city has produced in a long time, it's a ray of hope. There I go, cross-dressing my metaphors again.
Fatal Move - Buying the ticket;
thatwas the fatal move. The award for Most Unnecessary Fight Scene in History goes to this one.
Flash Point- aka
I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt. I think that gay men watching this movie probably get from it the same thing that straight guys watching
Charlie's Angels do. Still, it was nice to see Ray Lui working again.
Gong Tau - In the films opening, Herman Yau hits all the Cat III marks; sex, violence, profanity. It was like a refreshing breath of fetid air.
Hooked on You - Unlike its two 'Handover Anniversary' counterparts, that really is a beard on Eason's chin.
Hong Kong Bronx- Shot on DV, lots of CGI blood, an animation sequence that obviously is used to save money on a 'real' fight scene, and chronic profanity. It was great. They don't make goo wak jai movies like this any more, so I am glad they made this one.
Invisible Target- THIS MOVIE WAS REALLY LOUD. And language constraints in the cast meant that the antagonists were a throwback to 80s era Big Circle paranoia; could have been called
Good Guys Speak Cantonese. 90 minutes of noise, light and distraction without much else; probably like a Poison concert. Never saw Poison, but glad I saw
Kidnap- I could watch a movie of Rene Liu watching a movie. But I got the sense that the entirety of the direction she received for this film was "Make the
Ringuface again." Still, it was better than a lot of stuff I saw.
Kung Fu Dunk - I bought all my friends' tickets to this since I knew I would talk back to it the whole time. It was so stultifyingly bad that I couldn't say a f@#$ing word.
L For Love, L For Lies- D for dumbfounded as to why this film was so popular.
Linger- Like a bad smell...
Love is Not All Around- When the same 'surprise' twist becomes your trademark because you use it in three consecutive movies... Not as bad as I feared, but not that great either. Kara Hui/Wai Ying Hung has a small part though, so that helps.
Mad Detective - It's worth watching twice. And not just for the Jo Koo cameo. I won't say too much because I think it works best when you approach it that way. Trust me, I'm a doctor.Mr. Cinema - You'd think that Karen Mok in a schoolgirl uniform would be great (if you're a guy). She just looked silly. Speaking of which, nice avoidance of
evershowing us the airport.
Playboy Cops - If nothing else, this film manages, in a sadly unique fashion, to integrate one character's Mandarin into everyone else's Cantonese. Some refreshing cruelty, and Shawn Yue is entertaining and convincing.
Protégé- Worth it to see Andy Lau play his age, especially since he originally wanted to Daniel Wu role, and for his monologue about junkies. The Return of Anita Yuen. 'My' KCR station makes a cameo. Louis Koo's horrible fake teeth. He's also the tannest junkie I've ever seen. And before you accuse Liu Kai Chi of overacting, how would you react?
Secret- It's no secret that Jay Chou can't act. To be fair, I didn't see this movie. But to be fair, Jay Chou can't act.
See You in You Tube - Wish I had, instead of the theatre. YouTube is free.
Shamo- Makes you wish the Kowloon drive-in was still going. Ridiculous fun; a peeling 'tattoo', violence for its own sake and a multinational melange that almost vitiates (!) Westerners' conglomeration of Asia as an undifferentiable mass. When I met Annie Liu at the premiere I was tempted to drop trou and show her my rear end, since a low camera angle and her high skirt had done the same for me during the film. I figured it would be only fair. But then I realized I definitely got the better half of that deal, Plus, I didn't want to go back to jail so soon.
Simply Actors- Simply Awful. Starts off okay, quickly gets horrible and stays that way at least 30 minutes too long. But Sammy Leung and Charlene Choi do have notably impressive performaces. Jim Chim does too; it's impressively
Single Blog - I am not sure if I am happy about seeing such a crass, (relatively) graphic take on Hong Kong young people's changing ideas about sexuality. But Jo Koo.
Super Fans - This film has no
regularfans, let alone super
Triangle- I was really hoping that when Kelly Lin picks up the hot dog it was going to be an homage to Chin Kar Lok in
Full Throttle. I was disappointed, but not by anything else in the film. It's disjointed, but no more than that kid whose mother remarries twice after she divorces his dad.
Trivial Matters - Worth it to see and hear Edison Chen say "I'm a good person!"
The Warlords - Two great WTF moments, some fine acting from Jet Li, and not a whole lot else. Big fun on the big screen, though, I have to admit.
Whispers and Moans - An incredibly accurate portrayal of the realities of prostitution in Hong Kong. According to my date for the movie, anyway. Herman Yau gives us a lot of viewpoints and moral stances and ultimately adopts none. Which is what made Hong Kong cinema so great. He has no beard, literal or figurative, and for this we should be grateful.
Yes, I Can See Dead People - A pleasant surprise, due in part to my low expectations, but Stephen is getting to be a good actor, and the film was fun, entertaining, and actually scary at times.
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