April 1st, 2011
Were you disappointed by All’s Well That’s Ends Well 2011? Or underwhelmed by Mr. and Mrs. Incredible? Or maybe you just weren’t feeling the love for I Love Hong Kong? Well, if you weren’t too enthused by the latest crop of Lunar New Year comedies released in 2011, Hong Kong studio heads are ready to make it up to you this summer with a batch of buzzworthy, big budget blockbusters sure to do boffo box office! Say that three times fast! And after you’re through digesting inane E! channel-speak, check out my top summer picks after the break…
Andrew Lau’s A MAN CALLED HERO TRILOGY
“Did you guys enjoy my concert?”
No one was more excited than I was (probably because I’m the only one excited) when the revitalized production house, BoB and Partners Co. Ltd, announced that Andrew Lau would be directing not one, but two sequels to A Man Called Hero, the 1999 live action adaptation of Ma Wing-Shing’s popular manhua. Thankfully, cinematic god Ekin Cheng reprises his role as Hero Hua in A Man Called Hero Rises:The Blood Sword, while Nicholas Tse returns as Hero’s son, Sword, in A Man Called Hero Forever: The Blood Sword Dynasty. Despite being released in local theaters only a month-and-a-half from now, no plot details have emerged thus far nor has any word been given on Jerry Lamb’s participation.
Wong Kar-Wai’s THE LONG GOODBYE
“You will never be as cool as me.”
Raymond Chandler’s penultimate Philip Marlowe novel was adapted once before by Robert Altman, and now indie cinema darling Wong Kar-Wai is trying his hand at The Long Goodbye, a pet project of his that has been gestating since the Wongster’s Chandleresque BMW commercial, The Follow, featuring Clive “I Turned Down James Bond” Owen. WKW mainstay Tony Leung Chiu-Wai plays Philip Ma, a Singapore-based private eye who is asked by his shady pal Terry (Jacky Cheung) to drive him to Malaysia in the middle of the night. Upon returning home, Ma learns that not only is his buddy the prime suspect in a murder, but that he’s committed suicide in a dingy motel in Johor Bahru. If that weren’t suspicious enough, a second mystery ensues involving novelist Roger Wang (Lau Ching-Wan), his wife Eileen (Carina Lau), and the enigmatic Linda Long (Maggie Cheung). Expect to see plenty of Wong’s trademark themes — loss, longing, and love — as well as his usual visual flourishes. Oh, and seeing as how this is a detective story, there’s voiceover — lots of it. Not surprisingly, Jeff Lau’s parody should be ready by Christmas.
Johnnie To’s THE PLAN (Um, isn’t Wai Ka-Fai directing this, too?)
Johnnie To unsuccessfully tries to Force-choke his actors for flubbing lines.
Johnnie To singlehandedly saves Hong Kong cinema from the brink of cultural obsolescence with his latest tour-de-force, The Plan. Co-directed with some other guy the Western press never seems to mention, this is To’s most audacious film since the last one he made. Eager to balance the demands of both art and commerce, To has embarked on a movie that is sure to please his Western fanbase, play well with local audiences, and avoid excessive edits by Chinese censors.
In this pulse-pounding, edge-of-your seat romance, Simon Yam, Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Lam Suet, and Nick Cheung play a group of Hong Kong-based hitmen who want nothing more than to leave “the life” by settling down and getting married. Luckily, an expert matchmaker (Sammi Cheng) is there to introduce these cold-blooded assassins to several lonely, but hot-blooded Beijing office workers played by Gao Yuan Yuan, Huang Yi, and some other Mainland actresses white folks haven’t heard of. What is “the plan,” you ask? I don’t actually know, but I’m guessing it’s “guys dressed in black suits who carry guns” + “inter-office romantic woes” = “everybody’s happy.” Am I right?
Tsui Hark’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINATOWN
“It was either this or Expendables 2.”
Tsui Hark returns to his single greatest accomplishment. No, it’s not Black Mask 2: City of Masks; I’m talking about the Once Upon a Time in China series, arguably the best Hong Kong cinema franchise ever made. This time around, the director sets the film’s action in San Francisco’s Chinatown with much of the original cast returning for one more go-round. The indomitable Jet Li comes back to reprise his most famous role, but with a caveat. This time around, Li swears he will absolutely, definitely, and without question retire after Once Upon a Time in Chinatown, albeit by “retire” he means “short period of rest before my next movie” and by “movies” he means “low-paying projects that will require him to shave his head.”
Michael Bay’s PANDA EXPRESS
The remake you’ve been waiting for.
Toss out the chef salad, replace it with Orange Chicken, and add some crazy explosions — that is Michael Bay’s Panda Express in a nutshell. Although not technically a Hong Kong film, this American re-imagining of Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express is definitely worth a mention, costing a reported $400 million to make. Michael Bay’s go-to everyman, Shia Lebeouf, steps in for Takeshi Kaneshiro in the first action-packed vignette, while a trenchcoated, blond wig-wearing Angelina Jolie takes over for cinema legend Brigitte Lin. Subbing for Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Faye Wong in the second story are none other than real-life husband and wife, Josh Duhamel and Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas! Totally comparable, right? Anyway, casting issues aside, expect everyone in the movie to be incredibly tan and look a lot like supermodels. Oh, and $#%^ gets blowed up reeeal good.
Wong Jing’s ERECTION
Louis Koo prays for his career.
This Naked Gun-style parody of Johnnie To’s Election has experienced numerous delays, most significantly when original star Edison Chen left the project in the fallout of his “Sexy Photos Gate” scandal in 2008. Despite the fact that Election 2 was released in 2006, this Wong Jing-directed farce is finally making it to Hong Kong theaters this summer. The production scored a casting coup (get it? Coup!) when actor Louis Koo agreed to appear in Chen’s vacated role, becoming one of the few actors in cinema history to parody a role he’d already made famous.
Plot details are sparse, but it seems that Koo must obtain the phallic dragon baton not only to gain mastery of all the gangs in Hong Kong, but also as a means to overcome his own problems with erectile dysfunction! Classy plotting, eh? Worried over the film’s relevance in 2011, the studio commissioned a month of reshoots in March to make the jokes more “timely” so expect to see plenty of Social Network, Black Swan, and The King’s Speech jokes, not to mention a parody of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and a “winning” (ugh) cameo by Charlie Sheen. Rumor has it Wong Jing has even gone so far as to dedicate the film in Sheen’s memory, just to be on the safe side.
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Oh, by the way…
…as if you didn’t know.