Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Monkey King 大闹天宫 [ Poster ]

Come 2012 summer period, we will be bombard with so many Hollywood big budget movies, it's going to be like one major movie a week, with no rest till the blockbuster period is over. This time round, it seems that China is not going to stand by the side and let the American have all the fun. In an attempt to wrestle a piece of lucrative summer blockbusters business from Hollywood, China giving us The Monkey King in 3D.

One of the most beloved story that most Asian would know by now. The catch here is that The Monkey King will be filled with Hong Kong top celebrities like Donnie Yen, Chow Yun Fat, Aaron Kwok, Kelly Chen, Gigi Leung & Ceclia Cheung.

Some of the poster image for the movie had been released and they look pretty awesome.

Donnie Yen as Sun WuKong
Kelly Chen as Guanyin - Goddess of Mercy

Aaron Kwok as Demon King (I suspect he will be Nui Mo Wang)
Chow Yun Fat as Jade Emperor
Can't wait till the trailer hits the internet.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gnomeo & Juliet [ Movie Review ] ★★★

The Pitch

Imagine Romeo & Juliet meets Toy Story and you get the set up for Gnomeo & Juliet. Not exactly a good idea? Well this version of the well loved William Shakespeare classic is targeting the kids and ladies who have not out grown their love for all thing cutesy.

So if Gnomeo & Juliet doesn't really sound appealing, perhaps you are not in the targeted demographic.

But for folks who are not kids or cutesy loving folks, this movie is directed by Shrek 2 director Kelly Asbury, the last funny one in the franchise. So there might be hope. The vocal talent for this animation ranges from the likes of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Hulk Hogan, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Ozzy Osbourne and Patrick Stewart. Quite an interesting mix if you ask me.

It's also being produced by Elton John and his partner David Furnish. Therefore expect plenty of songs written by Elton John to flood this movie (It should be cheaper to get the song licenses).

The Plot

This movie is set in Verona street, where two households, the Montague and the Capulet are suited side by side. In their gardens, there are garden gnomes that comes alive when the humans are not around. To make it easy for the younger audience, The Montagues are represented by blue color and the Capulets are represented by red color. Like the families they represent, the red hatted gnomes and the blue hatted gnomes are at odd with each other.

One night, Gnomeo (James McAvoy) decided to sneak into the red hatted gnomes' garden to wreck havoc at the blue hatted gnomes' garden. Meanwhile, Juliet (Emily Blunt) discovered a rare orchid at an abandon garden and decided to sneak out to retrieve the orchid. The two iconic characters bump into each other and after a tussle for the rare orchid, they found that they are falling for each other. They also found out that the color of their respective hat.

Clue in the famous "balcony scene" where Gnomeo sneaked into Juliet's courtyard and overheard her vowing her love for him despite the rivalry between their two gardens. Gnomeo make his feeling known to Juliet and they decided to go on a date at the abandon garden the next morning.

But as their love blossom during their mini adventure at the abandon garden, the fateful conflict between Gnomeo, his best friend Benny and Tybalt that escalate matters was up next. After the tragic and fast paced confrontation between these three, Gnomeo was send into an unexpected form of "exile" and the relationship between the two gardens was at it's boiling point. Eventually a "war" broke out between the two families and Gnomeo mushroom dog tries to get to him to inform him that Juliet is in danger.

The Perspective

To critically review this is pointless. This computer generated animation is made for young kids and ladies who love all things cutesy. In that aspect, Gnomeo & Juliet had done a good job in entertaining the targeted audience.

But as one who is not their targeted audience, here are some of my views on this movie.

First of all, the animation was pretty good. Not Pixar good but the texture on the ceramic gnomes were quite realistic reproduced. The wear and tear, the dirt and paint have a very authentic feel to it. There's even ceramic clinging sound to remind us how fragile these gnomes were.The characters are well designed to max out the cutesy factor. It will make the targeted demographic wonder if there are any ceramic figurines or toys of Gnomeo & Juliet out there.

It's also not that good as compared to Shrek 1 and 2 when it comes to the pop culture references and the wordplay of Shakespeare's work. There are subtle references such as the street number houses of  the Montague and the Capulet are 2B and 2B with a slash over it.  There are also a pair of gnomes who are joined at the base who sigh the Brokeback Mountain famous dialogue "I wish I could quit you". Some were funny and some just tried too hard or didn't hit the mark at all.

Story wise, this is definitely not in Pixar league. The movie is so concerned with cutesy imaginary / moments or cramming it with jokes that it's a miracle that they managed to structure a somewhat decent re-imagined story of Romeo and Juliet.

Last but not least, since this movie is catered to the younger crowds, the writers had to adapt the bleak ending of the original classic into something more cheerful. Gnome ended the movie by saying that he preferred this ending. It's ironic as Romeo & Juliet is such an unforgettable story because of the way it ended and Gnomeo & Juliet would probably be forgotten in years to come (unless they made sequels out from it!). In the meantime, Gnomeo & Juliet is out to entertain and even if you are not the ones they are targeting, it won't be such an ordeal to accompany your love ones to catch this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Ex : Haunted Lover | แฟนใหม่ [ Movie Review] ★★

The Pitch

My Ex ( แฟนเก่า Fan Kao) was one of the top ten worst movies that I have caught in 2009 and now we are getting My Ex : Haunted Lover (แฟนใหม่ Fan Mai ). But apparently the original made a lot of money in Thailand (came in top of the box office on the opening weekend) and well received enough to get this sequel greenlighted. This sequel My Ex: Haunted Lover also did very well at the Thai Box Office. The same director Piyapan Choopetch who did the original film is back to helm this BGR gone supernaturally wrong movie and I got no idea what made me want to watch this movie. Perhaps it was to see if the director could improve on what didn't go well in the first movie or I was simply possessed.

The Plot

My Ex : Haunted Lover (แฟนใหม่ Fan Mai ) starts literally at the end credits of My Ex ( แฟนเก่า Fan Kao).  Cee (Ratchawin Wongviriya) and her girl friends just finished watching the first My Ex movie and they were there to support Cee's sister Bowie (Bowie Atthama Chiwanitchaphan ) who got a small role in that show (remember that school girl who was killed by a truck while making a phone call to her ex boyfriend?). They went on bitching about how rotten the male lead character in the show was and almost immediately, they spotted Cee's boyfriend behaving intimately with another girl at the cinema.

Someone Behind Me Again ?!?!?
The couple started to quarrel at home and her boyfriend Aof (Thongpoom Siripipat) assured her that there's no love between him and that girl, Ying (Marion Affolter). He is simply broke and needed to borrow money from her. Ying overheard what Aof said and was so heartbroken that she apparently jumped from the building.

After Ying's suicide, Cee broke off with Aof and started to pursue a film career with her sister Bowie's help. During work, the sisters were introduced to Karn (Pete Thongjua), a rich resort owner who is financing their new film project and loaning his resort for the shoot. When the good looking ladies mix with a good mannered rich man like Karn, a potential love triangle is bound to happen.

However before Cee could put her mind into starting any form of relationship with Karn, she got a loser ex boyfriend who constantly bugging her with calls, seeking reconciliation. Cee is also getting harassed from the supernatural forces too (courtesy of the recently deceased Ying). It all boils down to a showdown at Karn's beautiful beach resort.

Who would you look at? Me or that Fugly Bitch behind me?
The Perspective

My Ex : Haunted Lover (แฟนใหม่ Fan Mai ) certainly wasn't an improvement over the original film. In fact the gore / scare factor was pretty much tone down and the story was just as bad as the first one. The spook factor here felt meaningless except to remind the audience that this is a horror movie. You get the usual sudden loud sound effect with the sudden visual pop out scares. Nothing as scary as compared to the first one and the first one wasn't breaking any grounds in the spook factor.

Gone were the gruesome scenes like manager's "spectacular" death scene and the schoolgirl, phone booth & truck sequences. In place of it, we get the Ying's fall from a tall building and landing head first on the concrete beside a pool. It sound more gruesome than it's actually is. In fact it's quite silly if you think about it. A fall at such height with the head landing first would have done way more damage than it was portrayal here but hey we can't do with a headless ghost in Asian horror film nowadays.

Don't think for a moment that the series is shifting it's focus to the story build up. Wrestling screen time with the obligatory scare sequences, My Ex Haunted Lover didn't have much time or effort in building up these characters and the conflicts between them. They are pretty to look at but their character felt like one dimension characters. Such as the unspoken rivalry between the sisters were missing through out the whole movie until the final twisty revelation of the movie.

I'm Bored of You
Yes twisty revelation! The norm for most supernatural horror movies these days. While there are some great ones and some average ones, there are some that literally pulls the rug off your feet in a bad way. My Ex Haunted Lover twist belongs to the latter group. The twist just came out as an U-turn to all that's been established in the show so far. While 6th Sense twist was impressive, My Ex Haunted Love felt like they are forcing the twist down the throat and expect you to go with it. The excuse that this movie might give would be that the twist is the reason why Ying is haunting Cee instead of that loser they both "loved" but it's just so hard to believe why Ying is taking so long to take exact her vengeance and why is she doing it at the beach resort.

There are also subplots such as the dead woman that drown nearby the resort and how Ying is related to the resort owner that are conveniently forgotten as the show progress. One might argue that they are red herrings but personally, they felt like unnecessary padding or the director couldn't decide how to add those subplots into the story.
Like it's predecessor, My Ex: Haunted Lover is a forerunner for my list of top ten bad movies of 2011. Let's just see if there's other ten other movies that could top it's placing. But since both two movies did so well in Thailand, there's room for the third one and the final scene in the movie might just be the link for the third one. It's a cameo scene that is akin to how Wong Kar Wai's Days of Being Wild ended but here, it's just felt like a desperate hook to drum up people interest for another sequel. Strangely I might just catch the third one if it stars that actor who did the unexpected appearance in that cameo scene.

Here the trailer if you are still interested about the movie.

My Ex Haunted Lover poster from Malaysia

Pete Thong-jeur

Monday, February 21, 2011

Finding Mr. Destiny | 김종욱 찾기 [ Movie Review ] ★★★

The Pitch

Fans of Korean popular TV drama "Coffee Prince" will be anticipating this movie as this will be Gong Yoo's first movie after his two years military service. Fans of Woochi and I'm a Cyborg, but that's OK would probably want to catch this movie for actress Im Soo-Jung's involvement.

The Plot

Despite coming to the end of marriageable age, musical stage manager Seo Ji-Woo (Im Soo-Jung) just turned down a wedding proposal from a pilot. It was because she couldn't forget her first love Kim Jong-Ok. They met during a trip to India ten years ago and lost contact with each other during their respective flight back to Korea. 

Meanwhile, Han Gi-Joon (Gong Yoo) just got fired from his job as a travel agent. He decided to bunk in with his brother in law workplace and start a new business venture in assisting people in finding their first love.

Seo Ji-Woo's dad became worried as his daughter ain't getting any younger. He came across Han Gi-Joon's business flyer and forced Seo Ji-Woo to hire Gi-Joon's service so that she could get over her first love. After some initial unwillingness on Ji-Woo's part, Gi-Joon managed to convince her to travel all over Korea to find Kim Jong-Ok. It's not an easy teamwork as both of them couldn't stand each other quirks.

But like all typical romance movies, the unlikely couple will find something special in each other during the journey. The real question is, what would happened at the end of the search for Kim Jong-Ok? Will there be a happy ending for our protagonists? or someone gotto let go of the new blossoming romance?

The Perspective

Initially Finding Mr. Destiny was all over the place. Switching over from India to Korea and back, intersecting with the introduction of Han Gi-Joon and Seo Ji-Woo, it became a little difficult to follow, specially for one who are not familiar with Korean stars like Im Soo-Jung and Gong Yoo. It was patchy and disorienting for a while before one could settle down the various character's motivation and hurdles that they need to get through.

The movie also had an excessive amount of supporting characters and subplots that did very little to enrich the budding romance between the unlikely couple. Parts like the older performer with diva problem and a pop star who is constantly late. There's even a musical performance to showcase Im Soo-Jung's talent which felt like an extra padding to the movie. I am aware that this movie is based on a successful musical in Korea but it just felt out of place here.

Otherwise, there are some nice comedic touches in Finding Mr. Destiny and overall entertaining. The chemistry between Im Soo-Jung and Gong Yoo was adequate to sell their blossoming romance to the audience. It could have gone through better structuring and trimming of those unnecessary characters and subplots. I got a feeling that the target audience here would be the Fans of Korean romance drama and judging from the crowd reaction, I got a feeling that Finding Mr. Destiny had achieve their objective.
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

127 Hours [ Movie Review ] *** 1/2

After winning big with Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours seemed to be the perfect film project for Danny Boyle to direct. Drastically different from his previous movies, this might just be a good challenge for his film making career. Director Danny Boyle not only rises to meet the challenge and it exemplify his talent in making films that are entaining and absorbing, even if the protagonist  is stuck in one place for the bulk of the movie.

127 Hours is based on Aron Ralston (James Franco)'s ordeal of getting his arm stuck with a boulder in an isolated canyon with not a single soul anywhere near him. His water supply was running out and there's no way of lifting the boulder. It's either he resign to his fate or do something so drastic that most people won't have the stomach for. Folks who are aware of this true life story would probably know how this movie would end. But the only way to have a better understanding of what Aron Ralston went through in that 127 hours, would be to watch this movie.

It started with a montage of Aron Ralston packing for a weekend trip and unknowingly left out some crucial items that foreboded the events to come. He gave his mom's call a miss and left on his trip. While trekking, he met up with two female trekkers and brought them to visit the big drop in one of the canyon. After which, he left them and went on his way.

Photo by Chuck Zlotnick
Things were fine and he was skillfully navigating through the canyon terrain when the "unexpected" happened. A supposedly unmovable boulder that he was holding on gave way and both of them fell into the depth of the canyon. He soon discovered that his right arm is stuck between the boulder and the canyon wall. There's no way to pull his arm out of the boulder and it would take more than one man to lift this boulder. There's no one around and he told nobody of his plan for the weekend.

The movie then went on to showcase the choices that Aron Ralston made to free himself from the predicament with the equipments he got with him. It covered how he exhausted the various options of dislodging his arm from the boulder. It also showed what he went through to survive when he was running out of water.

In order to make this movie more than just the survival manual of Aron Ralston, it examined his mental state at that time. He started to rethink about his life and how he treated his love ones in the past. Under the state of dehydration, he started to have hallucination and premonition.  In short, it's a thought provoking 94mins of his 127 hours ordeal.

Photo by Chuck Zlotnick
James Franco gave one Oscar worthy performance in this largely solitary act.  From the over confident laid back mountain climber to a helpless being who is coming to terms with the bad choices that he had made, James Franco performance made it reverting to watch. Especially the scene where his Aron Ralston started acting out as a TV host interviewing himself. The humour and painful self realization all hinged on James Franco's performance and he pretty much made it an unforgettable performance.

But while 127 Hours is entertaining, there's something about the treatment of the movie that holding me back from truly embracing it. The fancy editing, split screens and flashback montage of his thoughts were a double edge sword for me. On one hand, it kept things all jazz up and breezy to follow, leaving not a single moment of boredom. On the other hand, it does not really fully submerge the viewer into the agony of Aron Ralston predicament. All the fancy fimmaking devices used in this movie became ironically a distraction. The triumphant of the mind over matter didn't felt that triumphant and even though it was an extraordinary experience, it felt like it was missing something. Nevertheless, 127 Hours is a fine piece of work and it's likely to get better upon repeated viewing (as most Danny Boyle movies are).

Beyond the Movie

Potential Spoiler (scroll over to read)

According to imdb, it took 13 men, a winch and a hydraulic jack to raise the boulder that trapped Aron Ralston high enough to retrieve the arm. According to Wiki, the amputated arm was cremated and Aron Ralston scattered the ashes at the accident scene as he felt that there's where they belong.
(end scroll)

127 Hours received 6 nomination for the upcoming Academy Award and they are

Best Picture, Best Actor (James Franco), Best Adapted Screenplay (Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy), Best Original Score (A.R.Rahman), Best Original Score ( A. R . Rahman, Dido & Rollo Armstrong for "If I  Rise") and Best Film Editing (Jon Harris)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Mechanic [ Movie Review ] ***

The term for Mechanic here does not mean one who uses tools to repair cars or other form of machinery. It has a more sinister meaning to it. The Mechanic refers assassins who fix problem through killing people and Arthur Bishop ( Jason Statham ) is one of the best "mechanic" around. Arthur's method would be to  make the assassination look like an accident. In his own words, the best jobs are the one that no one even knows that you are there.

Jason Statham look like he is just right fit for the role of a meticulous assassin. His tough demeanor helps to build a credible determination to carry out the task in any extreme circumstances. He also build a career playing professionals who are at the top of it's field (eg. The Transporter series). The opening sequence of Arthur Bishop performing a secretive assassination of a heavily drug lord was pretty good and we are off to a good start.

Then the movie introduced Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland) and his son, Steve McKenna (Ben Foster) into the mix. Harry was Arthur's contact in the hitman agency and probably one of the few real friends that Arthur has in his line of work. Steve is the wayward son who couldn't hold down his job due to his disruptive behavior. After Harry's apparent death in a carjacking incident, Steve started to randomly hunt down carjackers in a desperate bid to avenge his father's death. Arthur reluctantly took Steve under his wings and trained him as an assassin. The catch here is that Arthur is holding onto a secret that is detrimental to his new partnership.

Ben Foster brings a sinister aura to his character as the apprentice with a grudge. It was fun to watch his character cutting loose as a wild cannon. It brings an entertaining contrast to Arthur Bishop's cool restrain killer with a secret to keep. It was also engaging to find out if Steve managed to find out the secret that Arthur has been keeping from him and what sort of actions would he take.

But once Steve appeared, the movie changed it's tone and abandon the meticulous killer's stealthy assassination angle. It was filled with loud gunfights, explosion and devastating fights. The type of loud mindless movies that would satisfy the general action flicks goer. With the increase focus on one action setup to the next, the plot gets progressively dumb down. Arthur conveniently found out that he had be betrayed by his agency and Steve conveniently found out the truth behind his dad's death.

Another problem with this movie would be how morally righteous with the protagonist. All the assassinated subjects are immoral individuals that could be the antagonist in a movie of their own. It takes away a certain ambiguity of a killer's moral stance and that made Arthur's character a little too bland. This movie would also benefit from removing the numerous assassination in this movie to focus on Steve's training to be a professional hitman or the rising conflicts between them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's a Great Great World | 大世界 [ Movie Review ] ★★1/2

Last Year Eric Tsang's 72 Tenants of Prosperity was a success at the Hong Kong Lunar New Year Box Office. The movie basically reminiscence the past with various Hong Kong movies actors and TVB television actors. This year, he is back with I Love Hong Kong and here in Singapore, we are getting It's a Great Great World 大世界, a He Sui Pian with similar structure from director Kevin Tong (Rule #1) and the Singapore MediaCorp Artistes.

For the younger folks who don't know about the Great World Amusement Park, it was one of the three amusement parks in Singapore. Back then, they were Singaporean's top choice of entertainment before the onslaught of television and shopping centers. It's kinda ironic that the movie about the Great World Amusement Park are performed with the local television actors. The same bunch of people who are drinking from the well that killed Great World. Bet you never thought of it that way.

Anyway, It's a Great Great World is a rojak mix of good stuff and the not so good stuff. There are moments that it hits the sweet spot that it was going for and there are moments that it just flounder badly.

The film starts with a young fashion photographer, Ah Min (Olivia Ong) doing a final walkthough at her late grandma (Yvonne Lim) photo studio before closure. She came across some of her grandma's favorite photo and decided to set out to find the owners of those photos. Using her grandma's phone book, she managed to locate Ah Meng (Chew Chor Meng), one of the guy in the four photos.

This grumpy old man turned out to be a lok lok (assorted dip snack) seller at the Great World Amusement Park and he went on to tell her about the four individual stories that are attached to those old photos. It felt kinda strange that for someone who missed her grandma funeral and will be heading overseas the next day for work would want to undertake such a mission. But if Ah Min never persisted in such a strange awkward mission, we won't be getting the following four stories.
The first story is about Ah Boo (Henry Thia), a middle age guy who getting all dress up to meet Elizabeth Taylor when she visited Great World Amusement Park's Sky Theatre for a movie premiere. He got his roses and photographer ready but his boss, the ringmaster appeared out of nowhere and forced him back to work. It turned out that Ah Boo was a clown and his boss is a meanie that like to torture his staff to amuse the young audience.

The issue here would be how the filmmakers and cast tried to squeeze humour out of the segment. Is it funny to see a drunken ringmaster bullying his performers? Is the movie trying to say that the kids back then enjoyed such mean-spirited acts? The freak show that the segment is trying to muster is so poor constructed that if that was the kind of acts performing in Great World Amusement Park, it's understandable why the park had to close down. Then there's the lame ideas of helping Ah Boo achieving his objective with Elizabeth Taylor.

However, all the issues with this segment aside, when the movie revealed the final act of the segment, it has a touching quality that was quite unexpected. It has such a heartwarming moment that made all the poor buildup bearable.

The second story is about romance between Mei Juan (Joanna Peh) a game stall vendor and Ah Leong (Zhang Zhen Huan) an ointment seller from a Malaysia kampong. While Joanna Peh and Zhang Zhen Huan looked good as a couple, the setup for these two to fall in love was weak in many ways.

For example, Ah Leong was fleeing from some unsatisfied customers who happened to be gangsters and in an attempt to get away with it, he decided to kiss Mei Juan as a cover up. It's an overused film trick that poor executed here. The situation was not properly set up to make it seems like he had no choice but to force his way with her to escape those that are chasing after him. In fact, it would have been better if he just hide behind the game table. It just hard to believe that the female game stall vendor didn't struggle harder to break away from him (and thus exposing him) and those gangsters would miss all those smooching right in plain sight.

But then again, this segment did managed to have moments that generate the sizzle between these two. Especially the part when Ah Leong dared Mei Juan to take the ghost house ride. It's easily the most funny moment of the show and in the midst of all the spooky comedy, romance between these two character started seeping through. There's also feisty moments when Mei Juan tore down Ah Leong's attempts to be suave that a delight to watch. In the end, it managed to make one root for their unlikely romance and given the weak introduction to these characters, it's impressive in it's own right.

The third story is about Rose (Xiang Yun), an aging singer who stayed on with the Flamingo nightclub because a man once promised that he would return to marry her. 10 years later, Rose had became bitter and drowning herself with liquor to get by. Her performance went downhill and so did her her popularity with the customers. Her manager Peter (Huang Wengyong) stood by her while the other performers schemed to remove her from the nightclub. They decided to place a ring on her dressing table to fool her that her man had finally returned. Rose took the bait and went onstage to give her final performance. It was after she declared her retirement that she discovered that she been fooled.

The story felt rather uneven and naively constructed. It's difficult to believe that a veteran performer would act so rash. I am aware that the movie was going for a lovesick singer who had waited way too long but it's not really well constructed why she would just assumed that the ring is from her dream lover without even seeing his shadow. There were a couple more twists along the way and each twist became more unsatisfying and it's pretty obvious that it's pandering to a happy ending closure.

But nevertheless, Xiang Yun performance was the saving grace of this segment. She switches from a depressed lovesick singer to a revitalized singer effortlessly. She still has that alluring presence that carried off well into the veteran singer role and when she performed the Chinese popular songs such as Méigui méigui wǒ ài nǐ 玫瑰玫瑰我愛你  (Rose, Rose, I Love You), it was a groovy good time that brings back all the charms of old Singapore. It's a pity that there isn't enough screentime and material for her to properly work on her character.

The last story would be one that is close to the narrator's heart. The last photo was a portrait of his mute wife Bee Lian (Apple Hong) and him. It brought back memories of his wedding dinner that he was too poor to hold but his in law (Chen Shucheng) helped him to throw one at Yong Chun Yuen restaurant (one of the famous restaurant that's still around today). While his in law was bargaining about the cost of the wedding banquet with the manager, Japanese started the historic invasion of Singapore. In order to give this newly weds a night to remember, the restaurant staff did something pretty unbelievable.

As again, there's mixed feeling for this segment. The film was trying so hard to show multiple dialects were the norm in back in the old days and attempting to derive the comedy out of the mixture, it just sound a little unnatural and forced. It was also amazing that the restaurant staff would make the decision of staying put during the bombardment. It's clear that they are trying to showcase the sentimentality of Singaporeans back in the old days but then again, isn't it foolish to risk the lives of the customers when Singapore are getting bombed?

But as again, it managed to achieved some touching moments. Especially when Bee Lian made a silent pledge as a wife to Ah Meng when we were aware of her fate from the beginning. Even though it's rather foolish, it's still heartwarming to see the restaurant staff mustering up courage to be defiant in the face of the impending invasion.

Stories aside, it's going to be a tough challenge to reproduce The Great World Amusement Park. The production set and the manner the movie was frame told tell tale sign of budget constrain. The indoor sets and stalls looked like something borrowed from the Singapore television program back in the 80s and 90s. There are also far too few Calefare (extras) to make the Great World Amusement Park convincing as the bustling place that folks flock to in the olden days.

Then there's the amount of dialects used in this movie. Normally dialects help to bring a form of authenticity to the people and time that the film is trying to represent but it felt that some of the cast are having a hard time with the dialects.

Comparing to the Hong Kong Lunar New Year flicks out this year, It's a Great Great World felt dwarfed by the experts in such genre. This movie felt like a telemovie that's out to cash in on the Chinese New Year crowd and the production felt rather rushed with budget constrain. There are quite a few moments that's really good but it's a pity that the journey there were marred with bad story planning. Personally it's hard to recommend this movie but I heard that there are people who liked it and personally know some who thought it was quite well made for the genre that this movie falls in.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Love Hong Kong | 我愛HK開心萬歲 [ Movie Review ] ★★★

Eric Tsang's previous He Sui Pian 贺岁片 (Asian movies made specially for the Chinese New Year period) 72 Tenants of Prosperity 72家租客 was a success. In the battle of Lunar New Year comedies, it defeated All's Well, Ends Well 2010 at the Hong Kong box office. "Critically" wise, 72 Tenants of Prosperity was my favorite He Sui Pian since the first installment of All's Well, Ends Well( that starred a certain Stephen Chow) With the success of 72 Tenants of Prosperity, Eric Tsang and his crew are back with I love Hong Kong 我愛HK開心萬歲 to usher in this Chinese New Year.

The setup for I Love Hong Kong would be as followed.

Ng Shun (Tony Leung Ka-Fai)'s  toy business just went bankrupt and had no choice but to relocate his family into his dad (Stanley Fung)'s place at one of Hong Kong old estates. It turned out that Ng Shun is not the only one returning to the old estate. His old friend Tok Shui Lung (Eric Tsang) and his old lover So Ching (Anita Yuen) had both return to the estate too. But it was not going to be an easy reunion as they have parted in a not-so amicable situation. Ng Shun still remember how Shui Lung ran away with the estate's charity funds 20 odd years ago and caused his dad to bear the loses.

Meanwhile Ng Shun's family is finding a tough time to adapt to the new life. Ng Shun's wife Shun So (Sandra Ng) rejoined the working class to help out with the financial burden. Work is not easy as her junior staff is now her immediate supervisor and she faced bullying in the workplace.

His son Ng Ming (Aarif Lee) is having troubles relocating back to the old estate as his job as a Food and Environmental Hygiene Department staff, he had caught many of his new neighbors. To make matter worse, his girlfriend (Fala Chen) is the daughter of one such hawker (Wu Ma) that was caught by him.

Lastly, Ng Shun's daughter Ng Chi (Mag Lam) is a model wannabe. The problem is that she lacks the figure and is unwilling to wear skimpy clothing to get ahead in the model industry.

The plot escalate when Shui Long promises to revive the old estate by revitalizing the current shop houses and allocate new cheap shop houses for the neighbors to start their own business. The neighbors rushed into signing a contact with Shui Long to capitalize in a deal that seemed too good to be true. It turned out that it might just be too good to be true as external developers turned up to buy over the old estate and Shui Long is no where to be found.

Comparing I Love Hong Kong to 72 Tenants of Prosperity, this one felt less comedic and is more prone to making social commentaries on some of the Hong Kong government bureaucracy. Although these social commentaries are intermixed with comedic set up (such as how the Ng family had to frighten a housing board officer off with spook story due to potential eviction), it can come off as a little too preachy for a He Sui Pian.

The story is also not well constructed and lacks a real direction as compared to 72 Tenants of Prosperity. Was it about the bonding between Ng Shun and his family members? or was it about old friendship and trust between friends? What was the story for the youngest member of the Ng family? I love Hong Kong took on too many elements and the various story arcs didn't gel well to bring out a decent story. 

But then again, the He Sui Pian's main function would be to bring in laughter for the festive seasons and it's been a long time since I laughed so hard in cinema.

Sandra Ng is the comedic gold for her performance in I Love Hong Kong. There are two Sandra Ng scenes that made me laugh out loud. The first one would be Sandra Ng getting all wrapped up in plastic for a slimming demonstration but no one bothered to unwrapped her afterwards. The poor Sandra had to find her way back home in a wrapped up situation. It's hard not to laugh when you see a Sandra Ng activate her smartphone with her hands all tied up.

The second one would be Sandra Ng accepting a stunt double job to meet TVB Wayne Lai. Needless to say, she got whack a lot and suffered plenty of bruises from that job. This kind of comedic setup had been done plenty of times but it's still exceptionally funny due to the precise timing and editing for this segment.

There are plenty of funny moments and celebrity cameo spotting opportunities in I Love Hong Kong. Though some of the celebrities might not be well known in Singapore (or at least I am unaware of them) and the story lacks a strong main driving force, I Love Hong Kong is still entertaining to catch during the Chinese New Year period.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

All's Well, Ends Well 2011 | 最強囍事 2011 [ Movie Review ] ★★★

All's Well, Ends Well 2011 最強囍事 2011, the sixth installment of the Lunar New Year flick is here again. Making it the third in a row appearance for this series since 2009. There must be something appealing to this series that making the audience keep coming back for more. It's either that or they just don't know what else to do during the Chinese New Year.

The format for this series has been kept rather simple. Four different couples falling in love or rediscovering passion through various funny situations.

Clerk (Raymond Wong) is a wealthy businessman who is too busy with work. In order to pacify and keep his girlfriend, Dream (Yan Ni) busy, he bought over a cosmetic company for her to run. Clueless in running the business, Dream decided to turn to Sammy (Louis Koo) a well known effeminate professional make up artist for help.

Unknown to almost everyone else, Sammy is a straight guy who pretends to effeminate so that he could excel in the beauty industry. His lovely assistant Claire (Cecilia Cheung) is generally a down to earth, goody two shoes type of lady but strangely lacks confidence.

Having difficulties with the business, Sammy seeks help from his make up artist friend, Arnold (Donnie Yen). Arnold has a gift of understanding women and that made him a very efficient cosmetic salesman. However, the only one woman that he couldn't figure out would be his ex girlfriend Mona (Carina Lau), a failed writer who is constantly immersing herself into the roles that she is writing.

Meanwhile, Smoothie a billionaire (Chapman To) who is having the break up blues with ex girlfriend (Lynn Huang). Unexpectedly, he meets Claire and developed feelings for her because she is not a gold digger. Though there are many women throwing themselves at Smoothie, he realized that he has no experience in wooing someone who is absolutely not interested in his wealth. He seeks Sammy's help in pursuing Claire and romance blossom with a strange twist.

When it comes to a He Sui Pian ( 贺岁片 Chinese New Year Movie ), it's usually going to be a feel good comedic movie that not very well scripted. All's Well, Ends Well 2011 has a couple of segments that were poorly written.

For example, there's a segment where Sammy was instructing Smoothie on how to propose to Clarie and advising Clarie on how to handle the wedding proposal. That segment felt down right silly (not in a funny way) and the humour was crudely constructed as the writer was drawing a blank on how to merge one point of the story arc with another. It was also pretty obvious who the 2nd tier supporting characters that are generally disposable. Their characters and their story arc felt so unnecessary that the wrap up for them felt utterly lazy and uninspired.

But it won't be fair to say that All's Well, Ends Well 2011 is a dreary affair. There are some moments that are rather delightful to catch. Fans of action star Donnie Yen will have a fun time watching him trade punches for brushes. It's quite amusing to see him spoofing the Ip Man character that catapult him to A list stardom in Asia. But the one thing that drawing the most laugh in this movie would be Louis Koo's effeminate performance. He had tackle various roles before but I believe this is the first time that he is portraying an effeminate make up artist and his performance was pretty impressive.

There's also some homage to the original All's Well, Ends Well movie that fun to spot. It's not hard to link Louis Koo effeminate character with the one that the late Leslie Cheung did in the original. The fantasy segment between Donnie Yen and Carina Lau were a reminiscence of Maggie Cheung and Stephen Chow's multiple roleplay of different well known movie characters.

Last but not least, it's nice to see Cecilia Cheung back in the showbiz after the Edison Chen's nude picture scandal. Although there's not much material in All's Well, Ends Well for her to work on, her screen presence remained ever so mesmerizing. It would be a pity if she had left the Hong Kong film industry and I for one is glad to see her back working.
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The translation of the Chinese title for All's Well, Ends Well 2011 最強囍事 literally means the strongest happiness. But among the various incarnation of All's Well, Ends Well movie, this is definitely not one of the strongest installment. But it's equally entertaining (and flawed) as it's immediate competitor this year (that would be Eric Tsang's I Love Hong Kong). For what they are intended, both are equally adequate as an enjoyable time passer during the Chinese New Year period.