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Archive for the ‘The Watch Log’ Category

Quick Thoughts on STAR TREK

BECAUSE I’M NOT ON TWITTER:

May freakin’ 8th … I wake up this morning, draw the curtains in my bedroom and see the ground covered in snow that’s fluttering gently to the ground … gotta love life on the Prairies.

MINI-WATCH LOG POST:

May 8th, 2009: STAR TREK

A good time at the movies but not a pulse-raising, endorphin-releasing experience like, say, last year’s IRONMAN.  I think many of the negative comments I’ve been reading on boards come out of just wanting to be contrarian because I don’t think there are any outrageous missteps or glaring false notes.  The casting, in particular, is spot on.  The only criticism that comes to mind is that the lines for Eric Bana’s villain, Captain Nero, came across very 2009 — so much so that you half expect him to drop an Obama reference or something.  Maybe it was the lines, maybe it was the way Eric Bana delivered them.  Anyway, that’s a small, small complaint.

Random Thoughts:

- Good God!  That was Winona Ryder playing Spock’s Mom in the movie.  I’m now officially an old man.

- Zoe Saldana … whoa!

- Judging from the glimpses I saw of them in the trailer, the compelling hot babes in the G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA look very compelling.

- The trailer for TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN makes me wonder if I should check out TRANSFORMERS.

- The new TERMINATOR is rated PG-13?  What the hell?  So this is what commerce has wrought.  Maybe Skynet should take over humanity now.

Hasta la vista for now.  I’ll be back with some news links.

The Watch Log: THE UNDERDOG KNIGHT, PAINTED SKIN, MAD MEN

March 28th, 2009: THE UNDERDOG KNIGHT

A disjointed film that feels like it isn’t fully formed.  Yet, it’s seductively mesmerizing and, ultimately, a satisfying movie experience.  Now, I may be giving the film more credit than it deserves because my judgment is impaired by the mesmerizing presence of the seductive Ellen Chan Nga-Lun (who I have admired since she played my cousin Tony’s girlfriend in the TVB series THE SEASONS) but the outstanding performance by Liu Ye makes the film compelling.  It’s hard to believe that the actor from this film is the same actor from Stanley Kwan Kam-Pang’s LAN YU.

The performance is so good, it compels you to overlook that the romantic subplot is underdeveloped, Liu Ye’s character doesn’t really go anywhere and the Captain Jiang plot thread comes abruptly from left field.

CHINESE LESSON OF THE DAY:

gin_ming.gif

The spirit behind Liu Ye’s character is inspired by the Chinese expression “gin yi yung wai” or “having the courage to do what’s right no matter the consequences”.  The opposing philosophy and, quite frankly, the prevailing attitude among Chinese people is embodied by the phrase “ming jit bo sun” or “a wise man who understands the situation can do what’s best for his personal safety”.  Basically, “bend with breeze so you don’t break”.  It’s this kind of attitude that yields bullshit (sorry, there’s no other way to put it) plot points like the French collector suddenly deciding to give the priceless “Dragon Tongue” spear back to the Chinese government.

Yes, it’s a bit of a weasly attitude but that’s what happens when you come from a people who have been living under the whims of various kings, emperors, tyrants, despots, warlords, dictators and Politburos for thousands and thousands of years.

March 23rd, 2009: PAINTED SKIN

In honour of the new Formula 1 season, I’ll use a car analogy for this entry …

Though it has the stylings of a “costume epic geared for the international market”, PAINTED SKIN is powered by an engine that has its roots in the junky ghost/spirit movies of the late-1980s/early-1990s that were inspired by the success of A CHINESE GHOST STORY.  Basically, it’s one of those old-school action/romance/horror/supernatural/comedy but with souped-up production values and a solid cast.  The only things missing are the alluring Joey Wong Tso-Yin, the ubiquitous Wu Ma and the bald one Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong (oh wait, this is PAINTED SKIN not EROTIC PAINTED SKIN).

If you go into the movie expecting a fun ghost story then PAINTED SKIN is a good story well told.  If you go in wanting to deconstruct the movie like it was 2046 then it probably isn’t for you.

I’ll have more to say about PAINTED SKIN when I do my annual Hong Kong Film Awards preview post.

March 17th, 2009: MAD MEN, Season One

Much like George Costanza, I have different worlds that rarely collide.  There’s my HK/Chinese culture world, my sports fan world, my North American culture world and my UK culture world.  So, when three different people from three of my different worlds (sports fan, UK and North American) mentioned a show called MAD MEN and recommended it to me because it was brilliant, I figured that it was worth a look …

… And boy, am I glad I did rent the season one DVDs because the show is fantastic.  It takes an episode or two to get going but, once it does, it’s a captivating look at the sense of self, ambition, denial, identity and self-worth.  As the show is set in the 1960s, it highlights the fact that times change but the issues that every individual faces stays the same.

Enter The Watch Log

Another week, another change to the “What’s Sanney Watching?” bit.  This time I’m changing the name from “What’s Sanney Watching?” to “The Watch Log”.

Why? Well, Manny Kok, my manager here at the Kozo Entertainment Group, consulted a fortuneteller and was advised that re-naming the bit to “The Watch Log” would bring me more good luck.

Just kidding.  I’m having a little fun with the Gillian Chung Dik-Shan to Gillian Chung Ka-Lai to Gillian Chung Yan-Tung segment from Ah Gil’s TVB interview last week.  In case you didn’t already know, Gillian Chung changed her name from Chung Ka-Lai to Chung Yan-Tung because her EEG manager, Mani Fok, went to a fortuneteller and was told Yan-Tung would increase the amount of luck Gillian Chung has careerwise.  Worked like a charm, didn’t it?

Anyway, I’m changing the name of this feature to “The Watch Log” because “What’s Sanney Watching?” contains my name and it makes me feel like one of those pretentious dopes that refers to themselves in the third person.

With that, here are the latest entries to “The Watch Log”:

March 10th, 2009: IP MAN

A colossal success as a kung fu movie.  Unfortunately, it claims to be a biopic and, as a biopic, it’s a colossal failure.  Biopics are supposed to dramatize the events of a real person’s life.  They don’t have to be meticulous Ken Burns-type documentaries but, at the very least, they should enlighten the viewers on the big picture details of the subject’s life.  IP MAN’s portrayal of Ip Man the person is so thin and shallow, it’s more of a superhero movie than a biopic.  Instead of IP MAN, a biographical drama about Bruce Lee’s sifu, the movie felt like it was about a Chinese superhero named IPMAN.   All that was missing was a SPIDERMAN-like theme song that goes like this:

Ipman, hero of song and story!
Ipman, winner of Chinese glory!

Fighting for the right, fighting with his might.
He can beat ten Japanese men!

Ipman, Chinese are safe when near him.
Ipman, only the evil fear him.

Softness in his eyes, iron in his thighs;
Virtue in his heart, fire in every part
of the mighty Ipman!

Heck, with the success of the first movie, the franchise is already in place as there are plans for IPMAN 2 and IPMAN 3, uh, I mean IP MAN 2 and IP MAN 3.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie very much.  It’s a great popcorn action flick.  It’d just be a travesty if it beat THE WAY WE ARE for the Best Film HKFA.

One last thing, the big final fight between Ip Man and General Miura was a bit of a letdown because it was so one-sided.  General Miura got off so little offense, it felt more like a squash match than a definitive showdown between two martial arts titans.  There was more drama wondering whether or not Sato was going to shoot Ip Man during the fight than there was in the fight itself.

March 8th, 2009: SHAOLIN GIRL

I was warned by Kozo and others that SHAOLIN GIRL was a terrible movie.  However, much like a child who touches a hot bowl even though his parents have said: “don’t, it’s hot”, I had to see it for myself.  An aimless abomination that drifts tediously from one plot point to the next, SHAOLIN GIRL squanders the goodwill created by SHAOLIN SOCCER and wastes the talents of the lovely Kitty Zhang and leading lady Kou Shibusaki.

If you put a gun to my head and made me say something nice about the movie, I suppose I could say that it isn’t a total loss because I learned that “hug it out” is, apparently, one of the 72 Supreme Arts of Shaolin (少林七十二絕技).  It seems to me that “hug it out” may be a more effective skill to use against female opponents than “art #1: the grinding palm” or “art #55: the bristling hedgehog strikes a hole” or “art #12: the hand as accurate as the spittle of the white snake”.

A note of thanks to reader Alex L. for saving the Leung Treasury $16 by sending me his DVD of the film.

What’s Sanney Watching?: Relaunch

When I launched the What’s Sanney Watching? feature just before the Lunar New Year,  I figured that it would be easy to maintain.  Just write my brief comments in a text widget then cut and paste old entries onto an archive page when I write new entries.  Well, it turns out that there are some annoying formatting issues with WordPress and maintaining the feature as I originally envisioned was more trouble than Cherie Chung in AN AUTUMN’S TALE.  As I am, like Krusty the Clown, a “lazy, lazy man”, I’m turning What’s Sanney Watching? blurbs into blog entries with their own blog category.

Back when I did my old site, I resisted such automated archiving but that was when I had youthful vigour fueled by pills and cheap cocaine.  Now, I’m just an old fart who doesn’t care if automated archiving brings society one step closer to Judgment Day and Skynet taking over humanity. :-)

Here is the latest addition to What’s Sanney Watching? followed by the previous entries (in the future, you can access the feature by clicking on its blog category link):

March 4th, 2009: RUN PAPA RUN

A decent middle sandwiched in between an awkward opening and a highly questionable ending.  I wonder if the film would have been better served if Sylvia Chang kept a consistent tone by either playing it straight or going totally surreal a la MEMORIES OF MATSUKO.  The film requires some good will on the part of the audience so it’s probably only for fans of Sylvia Chang/Louis Koo/Rene Liu.  General audiences may be put off by the offbeat opening and the muddled climax.

Nice to see veterans like Nora Miao, Max Mok Siu-Chung and Kent Cheng Jut-Si make appearances.

HKFA Watch: Louis Koo gives a nice performance but Nick Cheung is still, for me, the leader in the clubhouse for the Best Actor prize.  We’ll see if he can hold on after I watch Donnie Yen in IP MAN later this week.

(SPOILER WARNING: Skip this section if you don’t want the ending of the movie spoiled.) Clearly, the silly, ambiguous, frou-frou ending was tacked on to appease Mainland censors and their “crime doesn’t pay” edict.  If you’re going to go to such lengths to imply a happy ending, why not go a little further and have a scene where Rene Liu’s character gets a SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION-like blank postcard from some Thai beach town.  Wouldn’t a hint like that offer a more satisfying conclusion than the “vision bestowed by God someplace, sometime, somewhere” ending?  In both cases, you’re strongly implying a happy ending without explicitly showing it.

* * * * *

February 28th, 2009: LEVERAGE Season 1, Episode 1 “The Nigerian Job”

A fun “honourable thieves” show that features amusing cons and capers. It has a very likeable cast that includes Gina “Crazy Jane” Bellman from COUPLING. This first episode has one of the best premise establishing lines I’ve heard in a while: “People like that, corporations like that, they have all the money, they have all the power. And they use it to make people like you go away. Right now, you’re suffering under an enormous weight. We provide leverage.”

A big thanks to reader Alex L. who recommended this show to me and generously sent me his DVD recordings of the first eight episodes because I mentioned previously that I liked BBC’s HUSTLE.

February 16th, 2009: TRUE WOMAN FOR SALE

While it has a smaller budget and a less glamourous cast than its predecessor WHISPERS AND MOANS, TRUE WOMAN FOR SALE is also less preachy and more enjoyable. Unlike the first film, it effectively shines a spotlight on some HK social issues without going overboard and making the audience feel like they are attending a lecture instead of watching a movie.

If I was the benevolent dictator of the HKFA, I would have nominated it for Best Film instead of CJ7. After all, the film is actually about HK so you think you might want to show it some love at the HONG KONG Film Awards. But then, you might not get Stephen Chow to show up for the ceremony.

February 15th, 2009: THE AMAZING RACE Season 14, Episode 1 “Don’t Let A Cheese Hit Me”

My favourite reality show is back for another season with a cast that seems mostly likeable. Based solely on the first episode, I think I’ll be cheering for the Asian-American brother-sister lawyer team, the stuntmen brothers and — because I’m a “mature” heterosexual male — the “mature” blonde flight attendants.

February 3rd, 2009: THE WRESTLER

I outgrew following professional wrestling long ago but, like a health conscious person who indulges in an occasional visit to Burger King, I’ll still watch WWE once in a while. After seeing this film, I think I’m done. With its brutal depiction of what the business does to its stars (I had to turn away from the screen a couple of times during the hardcore match sequence), the movie gives you insight on why so many wrestlers have died way before their time.

Mickey Rourke gives a good performance but it doesn’t feel like an outstanding, blow-your-mind, award-winning type of performance. If he wins the Oscar, it’ll probably be because of his “comeback” story more than anything he did in his portrayal of Randy The Ram.

February 2nd, 2009: ROLE MODELS

Saw this for $3 at the second-run theatre. Amusing comedy. Not as good as THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN or SUPERBAD but it still offered some laughs and, for the guys, some eye candy. A decent salve for the emptiness caused by the NFL season concluding with yesterday’s Super Bowl.

January 23rd, 2009: THE WAY WE ARE

Wonderful, wonderful film. I hope this picks up a bunch of hardware in April though God forbid the Hong Kong Film Awards recognize a film that’s actually about Hong Kong. I’ll probably be writing a post about this movie as the awards approach.

January 16th, 2009: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Season 3, Episode 1 “I Knew You When”

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose! FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is back without the murders and Guatemalan home care nurses that marred the second season. It’s great to see Coach and Mrs. Coach again. Go Panthers! Let’s go to State!

January 9th, 2009: HUSTLE Series 5, Episode 1 “Return of the Prodigal”

Mickey Bricks is back in London and the con is on once again. Kelly Adams is H-O-T and, to my great surprise, making me forget all about Jaime Murray/Stacie Monroe. Though I miss seeing Marc Warren/Danny Blue, the two new members of the crew are an improvement over Billy who served basically to just reverse the Danny-Mickey dynamic.

January 2nd, 2009: THROWDOWN

I had this on my “to watch” pile back in 2004-2005 but I got sick so I didn’t get around to watching it until now. What a treat. I wished that I would have seen this great movie about having a positive attitude in life (積極人生) before my cancer. Hearing Paula Tsui Siu-Fung belt out that theme song from SUGATA SANSHIRO again brought back some fond memories and had me going through my late Uncle Kwok-Hung’s old tapes looking for it.

Happy Year of the Ox

恭喜發財﹗ 恭喜發財﹗Kung Hei Fat Choi!  Kung Hei Fat Choi!  Welcome to Year 4707 and the Year of the Ox!

With the tough economic times in mind, here’s my Lunar New Year wish for all of you:

Lunar New Year Wish For 4707

That’s all for today.  I do have some thoughts about the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards and its decision to list THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON as one of its recommended films but today is Lunar New Year not Festivus so I’ll leave the “airing of grievances” for another time.

Something new for the new year … I added a “What’s Sanney Watching?” widget to the sidebar.  Just trying to add a little more nonsense to the blog.

新年快樂﹗ Happy New Year!

 
 
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