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… On this day, I see clearly, everything has come to life.

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
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Archive for the ‘Chow Yun-Fat’ Category

News Links: April Fool’s Day 2009

Happy April Fool’s Day!  Alas, there won’t be an April Fool’s Day joke from me today.  I was thinking of doing a fake story on EEG and Sexy Photos Gate.  Something like this …

EEG announces co-operation with Japanese porn studio.  First releases to be:

EEG-001: Former Teen Idol’s Scandalous AV Debut starring Gillian Chung

EEG-002: Sexy Accidental Public Exposure Tsimshatsui Edition starring Yumiko Cheng

… but you’re probably all tired of Sexy Photos Gate so I figured that I should devote my time and energy elsewhere.

Speaking of time and energy …

From the comments on News Links: March 27th, 2009

Sara Lee writes: You said that you didn’t have the time or inclination to chase down other sources for confirmation about the Gigi Leung story. I’m curious, what would you have done if you had the time and the inclination? Do you have connections of some sort?

First, I would have asked to speak to the fired flight attendant directly to ascertain the facts (date, names, flight number, etc.).  I would also ask for a copy of the photo.  Then, I would have put together a story then contacted Cathay Pacific and Gigi Leung’s management for a reaction.  After that, I would write a final version of the story and publish it.

MANI SPEAKS:

Xinhua ran an interview today with EEG’s Mani Fok Man-Hei. Known as the “Mother of Emperor”, she has managed the likes of Nic Tse, Joey Yung, Isabella Leong, Twins and Yumiko Cheng over the course of her 16 years with EEG. Excerpts from the interview:

On the inspiration for Twins:

“I have a twin sister. Our company signed Ah Gil first then we signed Ah Sa. I thought to myself: ‘why don’t we pair the two young girls together?’

In the beginning, we dressed them the same then we slowly began to dress them differently. The only thing that didn’t quite work was that their personalities were completely different. Ah Sa is a lively extrovert while Ah Gil in an introvert.”

On Gillian Chung:

“I treat my artistes like they were my own family. When they have problems, I treat them like my own. At the beginning, I told her that ‘he (Edison Chen) is not a person you should be involved with’. However, when a young person is in love, they don’t listen to anyone.”

“Ah Gil’s mistake was that she didn’t think of her bottom line. She should have remembered that she was a public figure. In the end, though, the person who made the biggest mistake was Edison Chen.”

On Gillian Chung’s comeback:

“In the past year, I’ve had Ah Gil study dancing, acting and gymnastics to prepare her for her comeback. The only thing we didn’t plan on was that Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi would do her interview first. But, it doesn’t matter who was first and who was second.”

“Work is very hard for Ah Gil now because she’s been out for so long. She didn’t sleep much in the days before her comeback. I’ve been with her the whole time. It was very gratifying to see all the support she received at her events in the Mainland. Her attitude is to come back slowly. Besides, restoring her confidence she’s winning back her respect.”

On Isabella Leong:

“I’ve worked with more than 30 artistes and the only who’s walked away is Isabella Leong. Although she left, I feel that I’ve done right by her. When I was working as her manager, I feel that I did the job to the best of my ability.”

RETIRED ACTRESSES NEWS:

The latest edition of East Weekly suggests that retired actress Cherie Chung Chor-Hung is experiencing some financial difficulty and that a comeback to the entertainment circle is imminent.

Yammie Nam seen panhandling

Former TVB leading lady Yammie Nam Kit-Ying was spotted outside of a Shau Kei Wan Circle K convenience store on Monday morning. She was smoking and asking passersby for money. Nam, a popular actress for TVB in the 1980s and early-1990s, has a history of mental illness. 

SHINJUKU INCIDENT:

Derek Yee Tung-Sing: In the yakuza’s grip

Saving the world is still on Jackie Chan’s agenda

Not just any Hollywood role for Daniel Wu & Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan pitches his ‘different’ side in new movie

REPRINT: The Mirror’s (UK) review of SHINJUKU INCIDENT

IN PRODUCTION:

Hong Kong-Mainland producers announce “5510 Big Movie Plan”

Related Photo Gallery: Lee Lik-Chi, Li Bingbing, Zhou Xun among those who attended event

Photos from the IP MAN 2 press conference in Shanghai

A press conference was held yesterday in Shanghai formally announcing the production of IP MAN 2. Wilson Yip Wai-Shun returns as director while Sammo Hung Kam-Bo will, once again, handle the action. Donnie Yen, Xiong Dai-Lin, Fan Siu-Wong and Gordon Lam Ka-Tong will all reprise their characters. The sequel is set in late-1940s Hong Kong so the Bruce Lee character will not be appearing. 

John Woo’s Titanic runs aground

Production Stills: TREASURE HUNTER

Taiwanese stars Jay Chou and Lin Chi-Ling began work last week on their new film TREASURE HUNTER.  The time travel romantic/action/comedy is being directed by Chu Yen-Peng (KUNG FU DUNK) and co-stars Eric Tsang Chi-Wai.  Producers hope to have the film ready for the Christmas 2009 holiday movie season.

Confirmed: Chow Yun-fat plays Confucius

Related Photos: Chow Yun-Fat, Zhou Xun attend opening lens ceremony for their Confucius biopic at a Confucian temple in Beijing

Stranglehold Movie Apparently Won’t Star Chow Yun-Fat

‘Karate Kid’ redo retitled ‘Kung Fu Kid’

GENERAL NEWS:

Fans Pay Tribute to Leslie Cheung on Sixth Death Anniversary

Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow named Asia’s best selling actors & directors

Jackie Chan to sing in bird nest

Jet Li, Zhang Yimou Named “Chinese of World Influence”

Daniel Wu willing to sacrifice privacy for movies

Miriam Yeung: Miriam’s girl-next-door charm

Tang Wei: “Lust Caution” is history

ASHES OF TIME REDUX: Lovers and Fighters

HK pop star Kelvin Kwan released from police custody

Stefanie Sun’s new boyfriend exposed!

Rain confident of winning appeal 

SEXY PHOTOS GATE:

Eason Chan: Edison Chen missing Hong Kong badly

HKIFF: Edison Chen sex scandal sure to make Sniper a hit

Edison Chen ‘tests water’ with role as sex pervert

MOVIE REVIEWS:

Variety reviews Ann Hui’s latest NIGHT AND FOG (Simon Yam, Zhang Jingchu)

Variety review of Feng Xiaogang’s IF YOU ARE THE ONE (Ge You, Shu Qi)

California Chronicle reviews Oxide Pang’s BASIC LOVE

FEATURES:

Chow Yun-Fat Talks Dragonball Evolution

Chow Yun-Fat: DRAGONBALL’s Dirty Old Sifu

Jolin Tsai: Jolin talks about scandal and Mr Right

Super Band: ‘It’s really not about money’

PHOTO GALLERYS:

ASHES OF TIME REDUX event in Hong Kong

Director Alan Mak Siu-Fai marries

This past weekend, director Alan Mak Siu-Fai (INFERNAL AFFAIRS, LADY COP AND PAPA CROOK) married his longtime girlfriend Chung Wai-Tak. Reportedly, Mak met Chung, eleven years his junior, at an event five years ago. To celebrate the nuptials, a 20-table banquet was held at the Aberdeen Marina Club. Among the attendees were Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Shawn Yue Man-Lok, Michelle Ye and Jade Kwan Sum-Yin. 

Wong Jing and his latest “Jing Girl” Natalie Yao Meng

Following in a line that includes Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching and Kelly Lin, Natalie Yao Meng is Wong Jing’s latest “Jing Girl”.  Wong spotted Yao in Mainland director Huang Jianzhong’s SILVER ORNAMENTS and imported her to Hong Kong where she can now be admired in such films as THE VAMPIRE WHO ADMIRES ME and BEAUTY AND THE 7 BEASTS.  Yao can next be seen alongside Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, my other cousin Tony, Eason Chan, Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Kate Tsui and Wong Jing himself in I CORRUPT COPS.  The film opens in Hong Kong on April 23rd.

Shu Qi, Aloys Chen and Sylvia Chang shoot ad for Cartier

Related: Shu Qi, Syliva Chan promote Cartier

Cecilia Cheung shoots ad for a bedding company in Guangzhou

Michelle Reis Poses for Marie Claire

Tang Wei poses for Chinese edition of Vogue

Ada Choi Siu-Fan and hubby attend event promoting Moiselle

Promotional stills from the upcoming Mainland film WHEAT (Fan Bingbing, Wang Xueqi)

Jane Zhang debuts in Japan

A-Mei Chang performs in Taipei

Say Goodbye To Hollywood

I was going to do a post about watching my first TVB series in many, many years but, for once, I thought I’d be timely and share a few thoughts on THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR.

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR
Official Site: http://www.themummy.com/
Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Brendan Fraser (Rick O’Connell), Jet Li (Emperor Han), Maria Bello (Evelyn O’Connell), Michelle Yeoh (Zi Juan), Luke Ford (Alex O’Connell), Isabella Leong (Lin), Russell Wong (General Ming), Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (General Yang)

Synopsis (from Yahoo! Movies): Explorer Rick O’Connell to combat the resurrected Han Emperor in an epic that races from the catacombs of ancient China high into the frigid Himalayas. Rick is joined in this all-new adventure by son Alex, wife Evelyn and her brother, Jonathan. And this time, the O’Connells must stop a mummy awoken from a 2,000-year-old curse who threatens to plunge the world into his merciless, unending service. Doomed by a double-crossing sorceress to spend eternity in suspended animation, China’s ruthless Dragon Emperor and his 10,000 warriors have laid forgotten for eons, entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army. But when dashing adventurer Alex O’Connell is tricked into awakening the ruler from eternal slumber, the reckless young archaeologist must seek the help of the only people who know more than he does about taking down the undead: his parents. As the monarch roars back to life, our heroes find his quest for world domination has only intensified over the millennia. Striding the Far East with unimaginable supernatural powers, the Emperor Mummy will rouse his legion as an unstoppable, otherworldly force… unless the O’Connells can stop him first.

Craig from THE MOLEPRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS: Due to a “life’s too short” situation, I haven’t seen the first two Mummy movies. I’ve always intended to see them as I like goofy action movies and Rachel Weisz but I’ve always had other things to do or other things I wanted to see. Quite simply, I just haven’t gotten around to watching the movies. Case in point, in anticipation of the August 1st release of THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, I borrowed the DVDs for THE MUMMY and THE MUMMY RETURNS from my friend Roger. However, I got caught up watching episodes of THE MOLE that I recorded while I was away in Europe. (By the way, I think Craig is the mole.) As a result, I went into THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR completely cold — I had no idea about the back story of the O’Connells or the whole Mummy saga. I’m going to the movie mostly to check out the Hollywood debut of Isabella Leong and the work of Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. Before I went to the theatre, the movie was sitting on a 9% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes so I was not expecting much.

AFTER THE MOVIE: Unlike the majority of the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, I don’t think the movie stinks. It’s not as bad as the 9% rating suggests but I wouldn’t go much higher than 49%. It’s a pleasant diversion that’s definitely not worth theatre money or even new release video rental money. It’s the type of movie you wait to watch on TV or save for when you need a movie to complete a “four for $10″ bundle deal at the video store. The action scenes are competent but uninspired and the comedy reminded me of some of the slapstick and wordplay that Jack Tripper did on THREE’S COMPANY — good for a small chuckle or slight smile but not much more.

MORE THOUGHTS: Before I get to my thoughts on Isabella Leong’s performance, I have to say that the one thing that really bothered me about the film was its depiction of 1940s Shanghai. I think the glamorous Shanghai shown in the movie died around 1937 after the Battle of Shanghai between the Japanese and the Kuomintang. If I recall my Chinese history correctly, by the 1940s, ballrooms and nightclubs were turned into places where people were being interrogated, tortured and killed. I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, I’m just saying that if you know your Chinese history, this is something that might stick in your craw during the movie — that and the notion of Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello being old enough to have a son that looks like Luke Ford.

Michelle Yeoh and Isabella Leong in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR

Now, for the centrepiece of today’s post, how did Isabella Leong fare in her Hollywood debut? As a fan of HK entertainment, I always hope that an entertainment circle talent makes it big in Hollywood because, in a rising tide floats all boats sort of way, it invariably brings attention and exposure back to the HK entertainment industry. Therefore, it saddens me to say that Isabella Leong’s performance in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR was unimpressive and, barring a huge stroke of fortune or favour, it’s unlikely she’ll develop a solid Hollywood career.

To make any sort of splash in Hollywood, a “foreign” actress has to give an outstanding performance that makes people run to their computers, go to IMDB or Google, and look up every thing they can find about her. I think this happened with Michelle Yeoh when POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP was released in North America and certainly when TOMORROW NEVER DIES came out. It definitely happened with Zhang Ziyi after CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON and, to a lesser extent, with Shu Qi and THE TRANSPORTER. The only thing that is distinctive about Isabella Leong’s work in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is that it is distinctly unremarkable. I don’t think Jessey Mengtoo many people will be doing computer searches trying to find out who played “Michelle Yeoh’s daughter”. In fact, if there was a bookie who took action on this sort of thing, I’d bet that Jessey Meng (the actress who plays the dedicated girlfriend of Anthony Wong Chau-Sang’s General Yang) gets more Google/IMDB hits out of this movie than Isabella Leong.

I think the movie highlights the major flaw in Isabella Leong’s game: she has low screen charisma. She doesn’t have that intangible quality that makes viewers sit back and take notice. Her lack of screen magnetism is something I sensed in ISABELLA and I don’t think it improved with SPIDER LILIES even though a lesbian tattoo artist should have been a charismatic, attention-grabbing role. When she popped up for her cameo in SIMPLY ACTORS, it took me a couple of seconds to recognize her. It’s still early in her career but, if this was an election, the NBC News Decision Desk would be getting ready to declare that Isabella Leong has no screen presence.

With the exception of THE EYE 10 and MISSING, I believe I’ve seen all of Isabella Leong’s work and I can’t think of an instance where her screen chi pierces the screen, commands your attention and demands that you fixate your eyes on her. Most great actresses have at least one of those moments during their careers. I think I can safely say that Isabella Leong hasn’t had one yet. I’d be happy to be proven wrong about this so if anyone out there in HK entertainment nation can point out a moment that Isabella Leong captivates the viewer’s attention, I’d love to hear about it.

MISCELLANEA:

- If you are at all familiar with some of the intense work that Anthony Wong Chau-Sang has done in HK, it’s hard to accept him as a villain in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. Something in the way he delivers his lines in English robs him of his menace. I don’t know if you’d notice it if you haven’t seen his HK movies but, if you have, it’s quite noticeable. When he spoke for the first time in the movie, the three Chinese guys sitting two rows behind me laughed out loud. I knew what they were feeling because I was having a flashback to Wong’s goofy “all the world’s a stage” bit in SIMPLY ACTORS.

- There isn’t much to be said about Jet Li’s performance in the movie. To say that he “mailed it in” isn’t exactly accurate. I’d call it a “living off the fat of the land” situation. Over the past ten years, he’s established a reputation, a brand over here in the West and THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is a case where he is harvesting the crop he first sowed back in 1998 with his work in LETHAL WEAPON 4. You can’t fault a guy for reaping the benefits of past hard work.

I will say I’m happy to see that, like the final fight scene in LETHAL WEAPON 4, it still takes more than one good guy to overpower a villainous Jet Li.

Michelle Yeoh in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR

- Michelle Yeoh continues to show why she is the class of entertainment circle actresses working in Hollywood. In the hands of a lesser talent, the scene where she calls on the dead to rise up and fight would have seemed cheesy. Michelle Yeoh actually makes it seems kind of cool.

Also, going back to the Isabella Leong has no screen charisma discussion, the opening scenes for Michelle Yeoh in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR define screen presence. Isabella Leong does not have that kind of screen magnetism and that’s why I don’t think she’ll make it in Hollywood.

Image credits: ABC (Craig from THE MOLE), Universal Pictures (Michelle Yeoh and Isabella Leong), MGM (Jessey Meng)

27th Hong Kong Film Awards Preview: Best Supporting Actor

Previously:

The blog post series previewing the upcoming Hong Kong Film Awards continues with a look at the Supporting Actor category. The nominees are:

Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (EXODUS)
Ronald Cheng Chung-Gei (MR. CINEMA)
Louis Koo Tin-Lok (PROTEGE)
Andy Lau Tak-Wah (PROTEGE)
Chow Yun-Fat (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)

5. Louis Koo Tin-Lok (PROTEGE)

I’ve been a fan of Louis Koo ever since he got involved in a love triangle with Nadia Chan Chung-Ling and Ekin Cheng Promotional poster for TVB’s KNOT TO TREASUREYi-Kin in TVB’s KNOT TO TREASURE (婚姻物語) so it pains me to say that the only award nomination the Tanned One merits for his performance as a scumbag junkie is for a Golden Durian Award and not a HKFA. I don’t want to pile on by detailing why he doesn’t deserve this nomination. Let’s just leave it at “he was miscast” and the script does him no favours. The nomination is puzzling and the only explanation I can think of as to why Koo got nominated is that the people who are in charge of HKFA nominations got swept up by PROTEGE’s drug culture and decided to shoot themselves up then, while high, nominated Louis Koo in this category.

All kidding aside, this spot should have gone to someone else. Perhaps Liu Kai-Chi for his work as Aaron Kwok’s beleaguered cop friend in THE DETECTIVE or maybe even Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai for his performance as a “too clever for his own good” police inspector in KIDNAP.

4. Andy Lau Tak-Wah (PROTEGE)

In a comment to an earlier post, regular reader Eliza Bennet remarks that Andy Lau’s performance in PROTEGE is just “Andy with white hair”. I concur. It was “a’ight” but if you compare Lau’s performance as a meticulous criminal to that of Tony Leung Ka-Fai’s meticulous criminal in EYE IN THE SKY, you can see that Lau does not inhabit his character as well as Tony Leung Ka-Fai did.

3. Chow Yun-Fat (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)

Chow Yun-Fat’s turn as a conman who tricks Ye Rutang with a cemetery plot buying scheme has received recognition fromMickey Bricks and the gang from HUSTLE both the HKFA and the Hong Kong Film Critics Society. It has been described as “charming” but I think it’s a little too broad and needed to be reined in. Maybe the exaggerated manner was deliberate and used to emphasize the naivety and vulnerability of the Ye Rutang character but it comes across as somewhat buffoonish. Then again, maybe it’s just that I’ve become used to seeing my grifters calm, cool and collected like Mickey Bricks and his gang.

2. Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (EXODUS)

Wickedly profane, Nick Cheung leaves an indelible impression on viewers with his portrayal of a perverted loser who intrigues Simon Yam Tat-Wah’s strait-laced cop with claims of an incredible conspiracy. It is the most memorable supporting performance of 2007 and would likely have won running away if not for …

1. Ronald Cheng Chung-Gei (MR. CINEMA)

The linchpin character in MR. CINEMA, Ronald Cheng handles his key role with impressive aplomb. Some may argue that there are moments where he is too boisterous but I think that those moments are designed to reflect the passion of Hong Kong people: be it in the pursuit of money, the rabid following of trends or the passionate pursuit of naked pictures of starlets on the Internet. The only knock I have against Cheng is that he should be competing for Best Actor instead of in this category where he is probably going to rob Nick Cheung of the Best Supporting Actor prize.

Image credits: TVB (KNOT TO TREASURE poster), BBC (HUSTLE promotional graphic)

Thoughts on THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT and SPL

Apologies, again, for the long delay between posts. I’m still struggling with finding my writing mojo. For the past week, I have been working on a post about CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER but it isn’t ready yet for publication. I’m unhappy with the tone of a section in it about Zhang Yimou because it reads like I have a grudge against him. It feels like I could have easily started off the section with: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

I certainly don’t have a grudge against Zhang and I definitely don’t want to come off like I do so the post is parked in my Blogger draft folder awaiting further work. I hope to have it ready to go before the Chrysanthemum Festival.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts on a couple of movies I watched this past holiday long weekend here in Canada: THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT and SPL.

THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT
姨媽的後現代生活

Official Website: http://www.postmodernlifeofmyaunt.com/
Director: Ann Hui On-Wah
Cast: Siqin Gaowa (Ye Rutang), Chow Yun-Fat (Pan Zhichang), Lisa Lu (Mrs. Shui), Vicki Zhao Wei (Liu Daifan)

PRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS: None. Apart from some early reports in 2005 that Chow Yun-Fat was “coming back” to star in an Ann Hui On-Wah movie, I missed all the media coverage about this film. I picked up this title mostly to see Fat-Gor in something other than a Hollywood film or a “Chinese epic made for the international market” and because, at eight dollars, the Mainland DVD was conveniently priced for the Leung treasury.

I only developed a pre-conceived notion when I got the DVD. Looking at its cover (right) and reading the little blurb on the back, I came away with the impression that I was in store for a light comedy-drama. The movie description suggests a “late-in-life romance” between a quirky, divorced senior and a “mysterious stranger” who meet in a park. The romance is then jeopardized because the “stranger” may or may not be a con-man. Coupled with the cover image featuring a comically-harried Siqin Gaowa, a charming-looking Chow Yun-Fat, Vicki Zhao Wei [still known mostly for playing the bubbly Little Swallow in (MY FAIR PRINCESS a.k.a. PRINCESS RETURNING PEARL, 還珠格格)] and a collection of background characters who look like they are the Shanghai equivalents of the townies from GILMORE GIRLS, most people would be inclined to expect something like AS GOOD AS IT GETS but from Chinese and female perspectives.

AFTER THE MOVIE: Numbed by the unyielding melancholy of the final third of the film, the only thing I was thinking when I pressed the stop button on my remote was that the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” can easily be extended to DVDs. Instead of a quirky, heart-warming comedy-drama, viewers are treated to the sad tale of a vibrant, independent woman transformed by circumstance into a lifeless, defeated automaton.


The “bait-and-switch” type trick that the DVD cover perpetrates will undoubtedly gall unsuspecting viewers who were conned into watching the movie. However, I suspect that those who come into the film with eyes wide open will also be disappointed.

There are many movies out there where, going in, you know that things are not going to end well. LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, the German film DOWNFALL (about the last days of Adolph Hitler) and the HBO movie WIT (starring Emma Thompson as a professor who learns that she has terminal cancer) come to mind. There’s a poignancy to those films where, even though the subject matter is depressing, you walk away feeling re-assured about the human condition. This is not the case with THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT. From about the halfway point on, the movie is unrelenting in its sadness as its protagonist, Ye Rutang, has her emotional, financial and physical well-being stripped away. In films of this ilk, there is usually some point, some nuance to the downward sprial that gives the film some insight but in THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT, the point appears to be missing.

There are elements that suggest that there is a method in the sadness. The two “harvest moon” scenes and the relationship between Ye Rutang and her young nephew Kuan Kuan (the only time Ye Rutang perks up in the last half of the movie is in her scenes with Kuan Kuan) hint at something. However, the hints are too faint and make no impact. Ultimately, the only message the viewer gets is “life sucks sometimes” — a message that most people likely already understand without having to pay for and sit through an 111 minute movie.


Other things that don’t really work in the film:

  • The plot point that Ye Rutang abandoned her young family to start her life in Shanghai is touched upon but never explored. You would think that a revelation of that magnitude would lead somewhere but it doesn’t.
  • Similarly, Vicki Zhao Wei’s character has a scene or two that seems to be conveying something but, again, the resonance is too faint and there is no pay off. In fact, the scene where she is taking a smoke break during work feels like a tacked on “let’s get Vicki Zhao a Golden Horse nomination” moment. Actually, that whole “Vicki Zhao at work” sequence seems to me to be entirely superfluous to the movie.
  • Chow Yun-Fat’s character, Pan Zhichang, is somewhat inconsistent. Alternately charming and buffoonish, the character screams “fictional creation” rather than “credibly-rendered human being”. There are moments where Chow’s broad acting would elicit chuckles or contemptuous eye-rolling were it not for the fact that it was the legendary Chow Yun-Fat hamming it up on the screen.

Leaving aside room for the possibility that those immersed in Mainland culture may pick up on meaningful nuances that those of us outside of the Mainland cannot, I am hesitant to condemn THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT with “not recommended” status. However, I can safely say that it is probably for devoted arthouse fans and Chow Yun-Fat, Vicki Zhao Wei or Ann Hui On-Wah completists only. Casual fans aren’t missing anything by passing up on this movie.

MISCELLANEA:

  • Another sign of the inexorable nature of time: Chow Yun-Fat is now old enough to play an “old man”. The first time I saw him, he was playing an idealistic Beijing University student forced into the Shanghai criminal underworld. Now, he’s playing an 阿伯 (”Ah Bak”, “old man”). Hard to believe that the thirtieth anniversary of SHANGHAI BEACH (上海灘) is only two years and change away.
  • There’s a “FACE Audio and Video” logo that pops up intermittently on the top left-hand corner of the screen throughout the movie. What’s up with that? Did I somehow end up with a well-made pirated DVD or does this sort of thing happen often with Mainland DVDs? This is the first Mainland DVD that I’ve watched. I usually get the Hong Kong versions.

SPL (SHA PO LANG)
殺破狼

North American title: KILL ZONE
Official Website: http://www.shapolangthemovie.com/
Director: Wilson Yip Wai-Shun
Cast: Simon Yam Tat-Wah (Inspector Chan Kwok-Chung), Sammo Hung Kam-Bo (Wong Po), Donnie Yen Chi-Tan (Inspector Ma Kwan), Wu Jing (Jack), Liu Kai-Chi (Wah), Danny Summer (Sum), Ken Chang (Lok)

PRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS: SPL was released before I was diagnosed so I was around for all the media hype surrounding the film. The publicity machine made it sound like it was a return to the mid-1980s/early-1990s Hong Kong action movie heyday (no CGI, no cameo appearances by EEG pop idols, no mercy sir!). Todd over at Twitch called the film: “… one of the finest films to emerge from Hong Kong ever. Period.”

On the other hand, I remember the film getting killed by some posters at its Mov3.com discussion board. I also remember that SPL didn’t break the benchmark HK$10 million mark at the HK box office so the ol’ Sanney-sense started tingling and I suspected that the film would likely fall somewhere in between the high praise and the pessimistic murmurs from the crowd over at Mov3.

Despite the tempered expectations, I held high hopes for the film due to the fact that I’ve been a longtime fan of both Simon Yam Tat-Wah (even during his GIGOLO AND WHORE, DON’T STOP MY CRAZY LOVE FOR YOU period) and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo. Also, I’ve had a soft spot for Wilson Yip ever since he had that great streak of BIO-ZOMBIE, BULLETS OVER SUMMER and JULIET IN LOVE from 1998 to 2000. Sadly, Leon Lai Ming and an orangutan stopped the run cold with SKYLINE CRUISERS (official site). If you haven’t seen them yet, BIO-ZOMBIE, BULLETS OVER SUMMER and JULIET IN LOVE are three of the better “diamond in the rough” type films from the post-Handover era. Of the three, I liked BULLETS OVER THE SUMMER most but BIO-ZOMBIE is a whole lot of goofy fun.


AFTER THE MOVIE: Sad to say but I think I fall more on the side of the fickle folks over at Mov3 than I do with Todd from Twitch. I would rate SPL somewhere in between mediocre and good rather than good or great — a C+, maybe a B- but definitely not an A and certainly not “… one of the finest films to emerge from Hong Kong ever. Period.”

SPL is an amalgam of three Hong Kong movie sub-genres: the one fateful day/night genre (think ONE NITE IN MONGKOK or THE LONGEST NITE), the heroic bloodshed/honour among men genre (think John Woo movies from the mid-1980s/early-1990s) and the well-tread cops-and-robbers genre. Movies from those genres like ONE NITE IN MONGKOK, A BETTER TOMORROW, HARD-BOILED, EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED and THE LONGEST NITE are the “Rolexes” of Hong Kong cinema. SPL is a “Lolex”, a finely-crafted imitation but one that doesn’t stand up to closer inspection.

The critical difference between the “Rolexes” and SPL is pacing. The credibility of the story-telling in SPL is reminiscent of the credibility issues and plot holes found in HARD-BOILED and THE LONGEST NITE. However, those films had the energy and pacing to keep you engrossed and exhilarated until the end. It was only after the movie that you begin to think: “hmmm, wasn’t it a little ridiculous that Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s character survived that shotgun blast to the chest?”. SPL, by contrast, has energy-sapping sections that plod along giving you the opportunity to wonder about things like:

  • The unit headed by Simon Yam’s Inspector Chan have footage of Wong Po (Sammo Hung) beating the undercover cop before someone else shoots him. Isn’t that sufficient evidence to show that, even though Wong Po didn’t pull the trigger, he was complicit in the crime? I’m not exactly sure about the details of the criminal justice system in Hong Kong but it seems to me that Wong Po would have been eligible for some jail time on the basis of the tape even before Chan and his boys decided to doctor it. Who cares what charge you get him on just as long as you do get him — right? Isn’t this a clear-cut “Eliot Ness nails Al Capone for tax evasion” situation?

  • At least twice in the movie, Wong Po is shown to have a legion of henchmen just hanging around on the street in front of his high-rise crime headquarters. Yet, when Inspector Ma (Donnie Yen) arrives after phoning and telling Wong Po that he is coming only ONE guy, Jet (Wu Jing), is there to stop him. Was there no time for a sequence where Donnie Yen effortlessly dispatches anonymous low-level associates before moving on to the sub-boss and then, ultimately, the boss? Wasn’t that how the narrative arc went in the classic Bruce Lee action movies? Didn’t anyone involved with SPL remember the scene in THE BIG BOSS where Bruce Lee says: “Just keep away. Go on. It’s not your fight. Beat it or I’ll kill ya’ …”? How hard would it have been to shoot a brief sequence like that? Seems to me that a film that purports to be “an action classic” should have a detail like that covered.

  • Don’t get me started on the whole “Inspector Chan has brain cancer” sub-plot. We’d be here for days.

The pacing flaw in SPL reminds me of a great boxer whose skills have been diminished by age. No longer able to dominate and dictate the action for the entire fight, he lays back and relies on occasional flurries of punches to try to “steal” rounds by impressing the judges with furious, flashy spurts of action. Similarly, SPL is punctuated by some great action sequences but, for the most part, plods along flat-footed. Like the great boxer who has devolved into just a good boxer, SPL is not “great” just merely OK. It is a decent time at the movies and certainly worth a watch but it does not deserve to be placed in the pantheon of great Hong Kong action films.

MISCELLANEA:

  • (Spoiler warning, skip this point if you haven’t seen the film.) Was anyone surprised that Wong Po (Sammo Hung) wasn’t dead after Inspector Ma (Donnie Yen) suplexed him onto the table? As soon as the camera moved in for a tight shot of Donnie Yen and stayed there, I’m sure 90% of viewers realized that Wong Po was going to sit up like The Undertaker and start fighting again.

  • To get a sense of where I fell on the SPL opinion spectrum, I read a bunch of reviews and, to my surprise, discovered that Donnie Yen has a bit of a reputation for being a “preening schmoe”. More than one of my fellows web writers mocked Yen’s “pretty boy” acting abilities. Where does this reputation come from? I’ve seen Yen in a bunch of films from ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA II and DRAGON INN through to HERO and SEVEN SWORDS and, while he’s never going to give you Tony Leung Chiu-Wai level acting, he’s not the worst offender when it comes to on screen preening. Heck, back when I had a thing for Kitty Lai Mei-Han and Margie Tsang Wah-Sin (two of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s ex-girlfriends) I even watched Yen’s TVB series A NEW LIFE (命運迷宮). He ain’t that bad. At least he’s a “legitimate bad ass” when it comes to fight scenes and action sequences — unlike some other “pretty boys” I could mention.
  • I don’t buy the argument that a CAT-III rating prevented SPL from breaking the HK$10 million mark at the Hong Kong box office (it ended up with a HK$7.5 million take). A CAT-III rating certainly wasn’t an impediment for ELECTION (HK$15.5 million). In spite of the problems with piracy, illegal downloads, the regrettable prejudice amongst HKers against Hong Kong films and plain ol’ general indifference, good movies tend to find a paying audience. SPL just wasn’t that good.
  • Should I give Wilson Yip’s DRAGON TIGER GATE a go? The promotional pictures over at Mov3 scream “stupid and over-produced” but it’s another Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen collaboration. It also has the always entertaining Yuen Wah in it. I’m on the fence. Anyone care to tip me over to one side or the other?

Image credits: Beijing Poly-bona Film Publishing Co. Ltd. (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT), Golden Harvest (SKYLINE CRUISERS, THE BIG BOSS), Abba Movies Co. Ltd. (SPL)

 
 
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