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Archive for June, 2010

The Golden Rock - Brief review nuggets

It’s been a slow news week, and a time-deficient week as well, so I will be using offering two short reviews to the HK films I’ve seen recently, at least one of which has already been (or will be) talked about on the latest episode of East Screen/West Screen:

BREAK UP CLUB (Hong Kong, 2010, Dir.: Barbara Wong):

breakupclub.jpg

Love can suck, and Barbara Wong wants you to know that she wants you to think that. This mix of mockumentary and cinema verite stars two of Hong Kong tabloid’s favorite young threesome - Jaycee Chan and Fiona Sit - as an on-again, off-again couple that keeps coming back because Jaycee found a magical website that would bring back Fiona if he breaks up a couple by putting their names in the website. But even a magical website can’t keep his lovely girlfriend around, because he’s a terrible boyfriend who likes to waste time and confuses the lack of a real job as having testicles. So when a talented, well-traveled, and most likely well-off graffiti artist comes to town to sweep his girlfriend away, who else does he have to blame?

Of course, Fiona Sit’s character also has her flaws, particular her typical Hong Kong girl princess-y attitude and how she deals with the newfound relationship with the graffiti artist, but at least Sit gives off an appeal that explains why she would appeal to Jaycee (and the audience) so much. Wong and co-writer Lawrence Cheng, on the other hand, forgot to give nearly as many redeeming qualities for Jaycee, who had the misfortune of trying to make his character appealing by acting halfway into stupid. The filmmakers succeed mostly into making Jaycee a convincing loser, but forgot to remind the audience why Fiona Sit would want anything to do with him and lets the magical website do the dirty work for them instead.

Nevertheless, the two main actors are good together, especially considering the fact that they improvised their dialogue together. It’s obvious that they’re at least good friends, and they’re quite natural onscreen. This makes it easier to pinpoint who should be blamed for the way the film turned out: Writer-director Barbara Wong. Not only did she start out with a halfhearted attempt to insert herself into the film as herself trying to make a film with “true” stories, she essentially makes herself the main character for the final 15 minutes of the film that doesn’t actually change anything about the plot. Instead, her little cameo only marks a rather unconvincing attempt to undo the flaws in her “mockumentary” style, and to show how clever she is with her little unnecessary foreshadowing tricks. It’s truly annoying in its self-indulgence, and it alienates the audiences that she has touched in the first 90 minutes - at least the ones that don’t think these two miserable young people deserve each other.

As I said in the podcast review: Turn off the movie after 95 minutes, you would’ve seen a passable - albeit flawed - romantic comedy. If you choose to approach the last 15 minutes for closure, do so at your own risk.

THE LEGEND IS BORN - IP MAN (China/Hong Kong, 2010, Dir.: Herman Yau)

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THE LEGEND IS BORN follows the formula of how to shamelessly cash in on a phenomenon to the t: Take character from hit film, find the actors from original hit film who only care more about the paycheck than the character overlap, pack as much as what made the original films popular as possible, find a director who can shoot fast, cheap, and efficient, then connect it to the original films even when no one asked them to. THE LEGEND IS BORN is the (probably completely)fictional take on the Wing Chun master’s life that not only shows its commercial trappings with blatant reverse racism, but also by casting actors only based on their fighting ability and/or whether they were in the Donnie Yen IP MAN films or not.

Herman Yau is obviously such a director-for-hire in this case that he lets Dennis To, who apparently did something in the IP MAN franchise, leads the film with absolutely zero leading man charisma and very little acting ability. He’s a fine martial artist, but I have an inkling that he’s only the choice for leading man over Louis Fan, who actually ACTS in the film, because Fan played a bad guy in the first film. Yau moves the camera well enough and moves the film at a smooth pace, which pretty much makes him the right man for the job.

Instead, it’s obvious that it was the producers (including financial mogul/Wing Chun enthusiast Chuckley Sin) who demanded the film be filled with 1) foreigners who insult the young Ip Man for being Chinese, 2) Japanese villains who are very Japanese and hate people who are very Chinese. These forms of reverse racism are committed so casually that you’d think the film might be made in the 80s, and I’m embarrassed to be from the culture that actually encourages this kind of crap.

As generic as the rest of the film is, the fighting is good, and that’s about all I have to say that’s good about THE LEGEND IS BORN.

There’s also another Chinese-language film that I watched within the last week, but I’m saving that for a full-length review on the site.

The Golden Rock - What day iz thiz Edition

Before I move on to regular programming, perhaps some (or none) are asking, “hey, where did you go?”

I ask myself the same question everyday.

As for the serious answer, I made an extremely awkward transition from my student life to my working life, which involved the two blending together, and then diving into the latter pretty much immediately, meaning I haven’t really had the time to adjust. Of course, that could sound like an excuse, but considering the other time I spend doing my weekly review job, recording East Screen/West Screen, plus real life crap, 24 hours doesn’t seem enough in a day. Also, Google Chrome is real crappy with this wordpress thing, which means I get a little confused when switching browsers, leading to all kinds of headaches and taking longer than usual to write an entry.

So what motivated me to start writing again now? First of all, Kozo keeps footing the bill for this space, which means it would go to waste if I keep letting it accumulate in spam, and that ain’t very nice.  Second, I will be sadly writing less reviews than before, though that’s only because much of my work has shifted to a certain section of a website that starts with Y and ends with Asia. However, my motivation to start writing again is mainly because I want to do internet journalism right. As I mentioned on the latest episode of East Screen/West Screen, some sites have gotten away too long with spinning information the wrong way. I can’t say I never did the same with this blog, but at least I spun responsibly, and I own up to my mistakes. If the blog writing schedule goes right again, I hope to return to the old format that people (barely) read, but I will certainly no longer use the site I mention in the podcast as a serious source, but only to point out and correct their errors.

Here’s a little news for today, to get things started:

- As always, we start at the box office. At the Japan box office, Tetsuya Nakashima’s CONFESSIONS reign again for a third week, while the MASKED RIDER movie opens at second place, and the youth tearjerker PIECING ME BACK TOGETHER opens at ninth. Check the admissions ranking, and more when the numbers are out.

- Looking at the Korean box office, A MOMENT TO REMEMBER director Lee Jae-Han’s latest 71-INTO THE FIRE scores a huge opening with 1 million-plus admissions, while the period film SERVANTS has already earned 2 million admissions. STREETDANCE 3D opened at 6th place, and PRINCE OF PERSIA is approaching 2 million admissions, but not likely to get there.

Hancinema rankings (which switches the admissions for HAHAHA and THE HOUSEMAID) and the KOFIC ranking.

- After several theaters backed out in Japan (including one in Shibuya, Tokyo) from showing the documentary THE COVE, the distributors have found another theater in Tokyo in the same neighborhood to take over the film. The Image Forum (which also runs a film school) will be showing the film after Theater N pulled out due to threats by crazy right-wingers. I’m guessing this will be another YASUKUNI situation, where the threats will continue until the film opens, then ntohing will happen.

The report also lists 21 other Japanese theaters that’ll be showing the film, so look for one near you, er….if you know how to read Japanese.

- In film production news, I wrote a few weeks ago that the new Bruce Lee biopic that will be covering his teenage life in Hong Kong, and as now Film Business Asia has confirmed that production will indeed begin on the Manfred Wong-produced, Raymond Yip-directed film WITH MC JIN….not as Bruce Lee. As I mentioned on East Screen/West Screen, this is the version of the Bruce Lee story that I look more forward to than the Hollywood bullying one that Filmko/Mandarin Films are planning.

Also, in the words of Nikki Finke, TOLDJA!

- The Millennium documentary festival in Brussels has given the Chinese documentary LAST TRAIN HOME its top award. I saw LAST TRAIN HOME at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and liked it. Congratulations to the filmmakers.

I will be back, and hopefully soon. Especially if it’s not a slow news day.

 
 
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