2011 Written by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Lau Ho-Leung, Frankie Tam Gong-Yuen, and Maria Wong Si-Man
Directed by Gordon Chan Ka-Seung and Danny Go Lam-Paau
Mural is another attempt from China to make bigger Hollywood-style pictures, which is both a good and a bad thing. It is good that money is being brought into make epic films. It is bad because the films being produced are all generic garbage. And as the money flows away from Hong Kong into the pack of upstart Mainland production companies, things are changing rapidly in both Hong Kong and Chinese cinema. But this review isn’t about that, it’s about Mural, a story about a guy who goes into a painting full of fairy women.
While Mural certainly looks nice, the story doesn’t hold up to the visuals and things become very bland. The visuals of creatures and monsters make good spectacles, even if the CGI isn’t up to par with Western films yet. Monsters and beauties are the two main attractions to Mural, there is enough of both you can let some things slide. Some good scenes and creativity in monster design help make certain points more memorable, but the underlying uninteresting characters and the obvious conclusion of the main love story cause things to not be so much a journey as just a trip through a museum.
Like Gordan Chan’s prior film Painted Skin, it is a tale from Pu Songling’s story collection Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. The tomb contains nearly 500 tales, and has been the basis for dozens of films and tv series, including the Chinese Ghost Story films.
There are far too many of the models/actresses/singers playing the fariy women to list them all in the Roll Call, but I should name drop a few, like model-actress Monica Mok Xiao-Qi, Xia Yi-Yao, and Bao Wen-Jing. And now we will never mention them again! Even Eric Tsang Chi-Wai shows up with ear extensions as a goofy monk.
Zhu Xiaolian (Deng Chao) – A scholar studying for government exams at the capital who runs into adventure while on his journey there. Zhu likes to speak big talk of responsibility and becoming a good person, his sense of justice propelling part of the plot. Deng Chao is also in Detective Dee.
Meng Longtan (Ngai Sing) – A thief who is caught trying to rob Zhu and his servant. Ends up joining him on his trip into the painting and marrying a good chunk of the fairies.
Hou Xia (Bao Bei-Er) – Zhu’s servant who spends most of the film following Zhu around like a puppy, though he does manage to grow a tad as a character.
Queen (Yan Ni) – The nameless vain Queen of the fairy realm. Her rants against men hint at a greater insanity and bitterness, living in a world of her own creation for years. Her dress is reminiscent of evil queens from Disney films. Yan Ni is also in All’s Well Ends Well 2011.
Shaoyao (Betty Sun Li) – The Queen’s main servant, who is disliked by the rest of the fairies due to her closeness with the Queen. Suffers from self-esteem issues. Betty Sun Li can also be seen in Kung Fu Cyborg.
Mudan (Zheng Shuang) – Carefree childish fairy who travels to the human world briefly and encounters Zhu, and is then punished for what she did. Zheng Shuang is a Mainland newcomer to film who graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 2011. Since 2009, she has starred in several tv series and has been releasing albums.
Yunmei (Ada Liu Yan) – Fairy lady who both dates Rock Monsters and is married 2 times to Meng and then Hou Xia, both really without her consent. Ada Liu Yan (主播柳岩) is a tv hostess turned actress/singer who will look completely different if you find some of her old pageant photos, and is one of the few actresses honest about it.
Cuizhu (Xie Nan) – Mudan’s best friend and a carefree spirit, Zhu pretends marriage to her in order to stay in the fairy world and find out what happened to Mudan. Xie Nan is a TV host and anchorwoman turn Mandopop singer who debuted in 2010. She’s briefly in All’s Well Ends Well 2011
Golden Warrior (Andy On Chi-Kit) – Golden Warrior is the only male-looking character allowed in the fairy world, he transforms from a bronze owl to defend the realm. Has a longing for Shaoyao that is not reciprocated. Totally isn’t He-Man.
[adrotate banner=”7″]Magic To Win – 開心魔法 (also listed as Happy Magic) – is Wilson Yip Wai-Shun next film due out in December. It takes place in the world of magic, so it’s got lots of dudes with wizard elemental powers charging up in the trailer below.
The cast (probably just descriptions of characters instead of the names):
Water Magician – Raymond Wong Pak-Ming
Earth Magician – Wu Chun
Fire Magician – Wu Jing
Metal Magician – Tonny Jan
Wood Magician – Louis Koo Tin-Lok
Devilish Coach – Yan Ni from All’s Well, Ends Well 2011
Magical New Star – Karena Ng
2011 Directed by Chan Hing-Kar and Janet Chun Siu-Jan Written by Chan Hing-Kar, Ho Miu-Kei, and Fung Ching-Ching
All’s Well Ends Well 2011 follows in the footprints of it’s four predecessors in presenting a series of couples who spend the majority of the film bickering about the nature of love and then end up all marrying or getting together at the end. The previous film a year prior reset the action to ancient China, but we’re back to modern day and with an almost entirely new cast, save Louis Koo and a few brief cameos (AngelaBaby, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Stephy Tang Lai-Yan, and a billion others!) The story is a mix of several stereotypical lovers stories, with a healthy mix of fantasy scenes and goofy side characters to keep things going until everyone gets married.
Sammy (Louis Koo Tin-Lok) – Sammy is a famous makeup artist who obsesses over women, despite putting on an air of homosexuality. But all shells must crack, and Sammy meets his match in his personal assistant, Claire. Louis Koo continues to be in every movie ever made in Hong Kong. See him here in Mr. and Mrs. Incredible.
Claire (Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi) – Sammy’s personal assistant at the cosmetic company. She takes her job serious and doesn’t waste time chasing after money. Sammy defends her through all the crap she takes from other people, causing her to have feelings for him instead of the billionaire chasing after her. This is Cecilia’s big return to the screen after the Edison Chen photo scandal and taking a break to have some children. Between the time I watched this film and the time the review was published, Cecilia and her husband Nicholas Tse became embroiled in a huge divorce drama. Cecilia is also here in The Promise and My Kung Fu Sweetheart.
Clerk Chan (Raymond Wong Pak-Ming) – Clerk Chan is a billionaire businessman too busy to spend time with his girlfriend, so he gives her a cosmetics company to keep her busy until he has time to marry her. This backfires when Dream begins to spend all her time making the company work. Raymond Wong has been in all of the All’s Well, Ends Well films.
Dream (Yan Ni) – Clerk’s girlfriend who he puts in charge of a cosmetics company to keep her busy while he does business deals. Dream takes the job serious and becomes very involved in her company. Clerk must work to keep her heart.
Arnold Cheng (Donnie Yen Ji-Dan) – A cosmetics salesman and friendly rival to Sammy, who recruits him to his new company. Arnold is also friends with Mona. Donnie Yen co-directed Protege de la Rose Noire
Mona (Carina Lau Ka-Ling) – a writer who gets invested in her books and is friends with Arnold. Carina Lau was also in Detective Dee