aka 美人魚 aka Mei Ren Yu 2016 Written by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Kelvin Lee Si-Zhen, Ho Miu-Kei, Lu Zheng-Yu, Andrew Fung Chih-Chiang, Ivy Kong Yuk-Yee, Chan Hing-Kar, and Tsang Kan-Cheung
Directed by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi
It isn’t really a secret that I’ve been less than enthused with the movie industry coming out of China in the past decade. As more and more Hong Kong stars and directors get lured away by big budget Mainland firms to pump out soulless imitations of Hollywood blockbusters, my interest in what they do great grows less and less. A few directors are working against the trends, but the only one with the clout to basically do whatever he wants is Steve Chow. Though Chow took extended time off in front of the camera to work more on the production side, his return to directing has been a welcome development. First he came back with Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, and soon after with The Mermaid, where Chow returns to his roots with a love story buried beneath a bunch of other movies. The Mermaid went on to slay at the box office, becoming the highest grossing film in China (not any more, lol!) The Mermaid feels like a first draft of a love story that everything else was stapled around. Some of the side scenes are amazingly awesome, while others fall short and seem weird. Overall there just isn’t enough in the rest of the film to seem like a filling meal. Chow obviously saw the Dolphin Cove documentary as we even get actual footage of the dolphins being slaughtered multiple times throughout the film, and the imagery is used again when the humans attack the mermaid hideout. The US military’s sonar that kills sea life is also mentioned, though here it is sonar developed by a company that causes fish to explode and damages the mermaids, leading to their hiding out in a cove. Tossing this stuff into a comedy is a brave move, and while not pleasant to see, helps put actual stakes on the table both within the film and in real life. Some people might think twice about where the food they eat comes from. Continue reading →
2012 Script by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Frankie Tam Gong-Yuen, and Maria Wong Si-Man
Directed by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung and Janet Chun Siu-Jan
Emotionless spends 99% of the film looking at people like this
What if X-Men was a confusing mess with too many characters, little character development, and an over-reliance on visual effects vs. telling a good story? Besides X-Men 3, you’d also get The Four! Gordon Chan trades mutant powers for qigong skills in this big budget production that follows the trend of Mainland cinema relying far too much on visual effects to carry weak scripts and bland characters. While The Four does deliver some nice looking sequences, overall it fails to achieve its goal of being entertaining, and even fails to wrap up any plot lines in the film. The Four seems to go out of its way to make sure nothing happens.
Don’t worry, the obligatory scene where all the main characters fight for no reason still happens.
The latest update of prolific (and troubled) Malaysian writer Wen Ruian’s work, The Four has been adapted numerous times for television in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China. Featuring four male detectives with special powers who work directly for the Emperor and solve problems, this version is distinct for two reasons: It is the first big budget film adaptation, and one of the male characters has been made female. Even China is changing characters around to try to attract broader demographics! In general, I have no problem with that practice. But this specific case causes some problems, as discussed below.
I’ll show them, I’ll build a real clockwork orange!
Emotionless (Liu Yi-Fei) – Emotionless can read minds/souls, has telekinesis, in a wheelchair…but she’s not a Roman numeral professor or anything! The most powerful and smart member of the Divine Constabulary, but also has handicaps because why else would there need to be three more of them? In the original stories, Emotionless is a man.
Cold Blood (Deng Chao) – Cold Blood has a demon trapped inside him that comes out when he’s angry and a sword that glows green, but he’s totally not a rip off of the Hulk. Don’t think like that! Cold Blood has legendary sword skills, and legendary puppy finding skills. He worked for Department Six Constabulary until he was fired and then got a job with Divine Constabulary, but he still reports to his old Department Six Constabulary boss.
Iron Hand (Ngai Sing) – Despite the fact he’s named Iron Hand, he seems to be a bit closer to stark copy of a Marvel hero, thanks to his great ability to built things in the forge. Electrical powered things. Including wheelshairs. In ancient China.
Life Snatcher (Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei) – A bounty hunter who specializes in tracking down people who have debts for a price. He gets mixed up in the mess in the beginning of the film, but Zhengwo recognizes his skills and offers him a job. He’s reluctant at first to join up due to it interferring with his criminal underworld connections, but ends up becoming one of their best agents (he is one of The Four, after all!)
Zhuge Zhengwo (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) – Leader of Divine Constabulary working directly under the Emperor. His unorthodox working styles is often criticized for not showing the proper respect, usually by stuffy-shirt nobles who are up to no good. It is sort of funny to see the star of films such as Ebola Syndrome given the wise and respected leader role.
Ji Yaohua (Jiang Yi-Yan) – The leader of a new crew of female constables that were hired by Division Six Constabulary. She starts crap from the moment of her introduction, and is working for the bad guy. A Penglai kung fu master with questionable loyalties… aka she’s evil!
I’ve heard of the Bride with White Hair, but this is ridiculous!
2011 Directed by Chung Shu-Kai and Eric Tsang Chi-Wai
I Love Hong Kong is another Shaw/TVB backed Lunar New Year comedy coming on the heals of 2010’s 72 Tenants of Prosperity. It is also deeply tied to Hong Kong nostalgia, and growing up in Hong Kong. Thus, a lot of the charm of the film does not translate well to overseas markets. And while parts of the film are funny and interesting, it feels like you are at your roommate’s family reunion. This isn’t to say that I Love Hong Kong is a bad film, but if you didn’t spend time living in Hong Kong, it is probably impossible to fully appreciate it. And I say that as someone who’s never lived in Hong Kong.
During the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong, it has become tradition for the studios to release comedy films. And that tradition dates back to 1937’s Bloom and Prosper, a film that doesn’t exist any more. Lunar New Year’s films generally have huge casts bursting to the brims with everyone famous they can cram in, wacky plots, romance, and lampooning cultural targets. And while the modern age may have lessened the impact of the box office, the tradition is alive and well. Besides starring a whole host of people, I Love Hong Kong has two directors, three script writers (Chung Shu-Kai, Heiward Mak Hei-Yan, Wong Yeung-Tat), and is based on an original story by 8 people (Eric Tsang, Chung Shu Kai, Heiward Mak, Wong Yeung Tat, Manho Mok, Chan Cheuk Wah, Ming Wong, and Louis Ng)! That’s almost as many people as who write the average terrible Hollywood blockbuster. Some of the cameos include Tenky Tin Kai-Man, Michelle Lo Mik-Suet, and even Maggie Cheung!
The theme song repeats the “I Love Hong Kong” phrase a lot, and by the end of the song you are reassured that everyone on the planet loves Hong Kong. So get with the program! There are several other songs in the films, usually during flashback sequences, and they are classic songs well enough known that my wife was singing along.
Ng Shun (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) – The former owner of a toy factory out of work when the factory is forced to close. Moves his whole family (illegally) into his father’s apartment, where he grew up, and reconnects with the residents he left behind. played by Bosco Wong in flashbacks.
Shun So (Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu) – Forced to take an old job at a beautician’s office, but is treated like crap by her former coworker and friend. In another hilarious scene, she acts as a stunt double for a tv series. Her youngest daughter is Ng King (Chan Wing Lam). Sandra Ng is also in Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, The Eight Hilarious Gods, and Beauty on Duty.
Ng Tung (Stanley Fung Sui-Fan) – Shun’s dad and grandfather to the three kids. Lives in the Hong Kong apartment complex all his life, and now has to deal with his grown son returning with his whole family. Is fully integrated in the complex and never wants to leave. Also his birthday is July 14th, and that’s the day I finished writing this review. Coincidence?? I think not!!!! Stanley Fung has been in over 100 films, so odds are you’ve seen him in something.
Ng Ming (Aarif Lee Chi-Ting) – The son of the Ng family. Is FEHD (Food and Environmental Hygiene Department), but his job is going after street vendors, which is bad because where he just moved into is filled with the people he’ll be busting! Aarif Lee is one of the new Hong Kong heartthrob guys you will probably hear a lot of soon. They even reference one of his earlier roles as Bruce Lee in this film.
Ng Chee (Mag Lam Yan-Tung) – The Ng’s older daughter, who works as a promotions model while going to college. Is shy and not wanting to bare her body like the famous E Cup Baby. Mag Lam won the reality show The Voice 2 and was quickly snatched up to a four year deal by EEG. This is her first film.
Tok Shui Lung (Eric Tsang Chi-Wai) – After some rough goings when he first comes back, Tok Shui Ling and Ng Shun return to being best of buds. Tok knows a lot about everything and is good at getting Shun to go along with his schemes to get into trouble. But there is more to Tok Shui Lung than we, and Ng Shun, know. Tok is played by Wong Cho-lam in flashbacks, where we watch as his girlfriend becomes Miss Hong Kong and dumps him. Eric Tsang is also on TarsTarkas.NET in Kung Fu Cyborg and Task Force.
2004 Directed by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi
Action Directors Yuen Woo-Ping and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo
Fig. 2 – Axe Gang members dance in a downward triangle representing their subscribing to baser emotions
Gong Fu (hereafter Kung Fu Hustle), is a perfect representation of human nature, complete with characters representing the ego, the super-ego, and the id. The setting and characters are mired in the secret world of Jiang Hu. Characters grow and evolve through the film, throwing off their layers of subterfuge and revealing their true selves.
Fig. 3 – Pig Sty Alley
As the opening credits of Kung Fu Hustle play, a butterfly flutters through a canyon that is a winding, twisting maze. A pullback reveals the canyon forms the characters of the title of the film, Gong Fu/Kung Fu Hustle. The butterfly’s presence foreshadows the final act, subconsciously readying the viewers for the change they will see. The canyon walls becoming the title let the viewers know that everything we need to see is there, we just have to look in the proper way.
Kung Fu Hustle is a martial arts comedy. At time the action becomes deliberately cartoony and over the top, those instances serving both comedic elements and further exaggerating the underlying role of the nature of humanity. Kung Fu Hustle‘s cartoonishness comes partially from it being among the last of the mo lei tau films, Stephen Chow growing as an artist and expanding his films’ reach to use things beyond sheer ridiculousness to get points across.
Fig. 4 – Cartoonish violence stylizes Landlord’s cover of having no martial skills
Sing (Stephen Chow Sing-Chi) – Sing is the protaganist who goes through a standard protaganist’s journey. He begins down on his luck and with major obstacles in life, only to overcome the odds and save the day as the Chosen One.
Sing’s Friend (Lam Tze-Chung) – Sing has a sidekick who follows him on his schemes. His friend is another good hearted person who can’t seem to do anything evil despite his numerous attempts.
Landlady (Yuen Qiu) – Owner of the Pig Sty Alley complex and secret martial arts master living undercover trying to escape his past. Landlady refers to herself as “The Little Dragon Maiden” in Cantonese, a character from Jin Yong’s Condor Trilogy of books.
Landlord (Yuen Wah) – Owner of the Pig Sty Alley complex and secret martial arts master living undercover trying to escape his past. Landlord refers to himself as “Yang Guo” in Cantonese, a character from Jin Yong’s Condor Trilogy of books.
Axe Gang (Danny Chan Kwok-Kwan, Tenky Tin Kai-Man, Lam Suet, and numerous others) – The Axe Gang controls the underworld of the city. They dress almost as sharp as the blades of their axes.
The Beast (Bruce Leung Siu-Lung) – The Beast takes his Chinese name – Dark God of the Fire Clouds – from books written by pulp novelist Liu Can Yang.
Fig. 5 – Sing traumatizes children subconsciously repeating his own tragic life-altering childhood
So not every film I watch is filled with girls dressed as cats, giant monsters, or a Turkish take of American culture. Sometimes I end up watching many things that are just regular films. And even though Nobody’s Perfect is from Hong Kong, it is a pretty straightforward comedy involving body switching and learning life lessons that could easily have been churned out of the US in the late 80s when body switching movies like Big, 18 Again, Vice Versa, and the like were all the rage. Oddly enough, the title screen and credits effects also looks like it was straight out of late 1980’s Hong Kong. Somebody needs to update their title graphics, because it stood out pretty remarkably compared to most other recent Hong Kong films I have seen.
Stephy Tang and Kary Ng were both members of the Cookies, a 2002-era prefab Cantopop band that started out with nine girls, but was whittled downed to Kary Ng Ka-Wing, Miki Yeung, Theresa Fu Wing, and Stephy Tang and the group was renamed Mini-Cookies. Just watch out for the Mini-Cookie monster, as he will eat all your Cookies! Which one is more popular? Well, Kary Ng has huge images on Wikimedia Commons, while Stephy Tang only has very large images. Also Kary Ng has a cooler solo album cover, so Kary Ng wins.
Alexandra (Stephy Tang Lai-Yan) – is a high-powered entertainment industry insider Stephy Tang wrote a book in July 2009 that had numerous typos thanks to Chinese language phonetics. Then she caught Swine Flu (H1N1). Poor girl can’t catch a break.
Alexis (Kary Ng Yiu-Fei) – is completely opposite, as she is poor. She lives in a chicken coup! Luckily for her, there are no chickens living there. She and Alexandra hate each other. After Cookies, Kary Ng became lead vocalist for band Ping Pung, which has a cool name, in addition to her solo albums.
Norman (Sammy Leung Chi-Kin) –Alexis’s brother is dating the spoiled daughter of a family that runs a shop, where he has managed to get his sister a job. Both of them are orphans, so all they got is each other. He really puts up with a lot from his crazy girlfriend. Norman is comedian Sammy Leung Chi-Kin, who has finally gotten more popular in recent years.
Dad (Tin Kai-Man) –Dad is the leader of the family running the store and spends most of the film insulting everyone. Tin Kai-Man is probably best known in the west for parts in Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.