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Features Live Action Movies

Mama’s Affair (阿媽有咗第二個)

Director – Kearen Pang – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. PG – 127m

**

A former music business exec tries to get back into the game managing a boy singer while her jealous teenage son takes his exams – out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 19th

Essentially a three-hander, this centres around middle-aged mother Mei-fung (Teresa Mo Shun-kwan), her son, Jonathan (Jer Lau) who is doing exams and hopes the study at the UK’s Cambridge and similarly aged youth Fang Ching (Keung To). The two teenagers are played by members of phenomenally successful Cantopop boy band Mirror, arguably the production’s main selling point. It also has an unashamed music industry focus. Mei-fung, whose marriage is on the rocks, is a former record label executive who has decided to go back to the workplace now that her son is on the verge of going abroad.

She originally got out of the business at the insistence of her husband following a miscarriage. She was something of a workaholic, necessitated by her job of looking after talent, babysitting stars to the extent that juggling career and potential motherhood was well nigh impossible. Trying to get back into the game twenty years on, she find those former colleagues still involved don’t really see her return as viable, and she winds up working for a former associate who is now passionately running a private school for kids with an emphasis on creativity and the arts.… Read the rest

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Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Making Waves – Navigators of Hong Kong Cinema

A virtual exhibition of Hong Kong movie unit photography stills

*****

Accessible from Friday, July 8th to Sunday, August 14th in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Making Waves

The online platform hosting the exhibition

Funny things, virtual exhibitions. Like online platforms for viewing movies, they can take a bit of getting used to. In a real life exhibition in a museum, you wander from room to room, either looking at everything or, perhaps, looking at particular exhibits that take your fancy or that you want to study in further depth.

All that happens too in an online exhibition. I guess they can be viewed on a smartphone, but I was looking at this on my PC. There are help instructions on the menu, but I, like many others I suspect, ignored them and worked out how it all worked as I was going round.

I must have seen quite a bit of the whole before I realised that the best way to proceed might well be the ‘previous’ and ‘next’ buttons taking you from exhibit to exhibit. Before that, I’d worked out that if you clicked on a photographic image hanging on the gallery wall, your viewpoint / the screen / the camera would zoom in on the exhibit and frame it perfectly.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Chilli Laugh Story (闔家辣)

Director – Coba Cheng – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12a – 94m

****

A young man successfully markets his mother’s chilli sauce in the pandemic lockdown until the lucrative business it unexpectedly generates is taken off him– out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, July 15th and in the US and Canada on Friday, July 22nd

This starts off with a very sweet – no, make that spicy – memory of 2002 when Coba Cheng (Edan Lui Cheuk-On) was a small boy of five and visited his mum’s village where he tried her chilli sauce for the first time. It burned his mouth, but was always a part of his life from then on.

Jump to mid-2020. Hong Kong, like everywhere else, is in the middle of the pandemic. Coba is now working his job from home, and he and his parents are struggling to live with each other in the same enforced space. His dad Alan (Ronald Cheng) is engaged in a no-way forward argument with a delivery man in a surgical mask who won’t tell him what the unknown package is until dad has paid the delivery fee, which dad won’t do until he knows what it is, which Mr.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Breakout Brothers (To Yuk Hing Dai, 逃獄兄弟)

Director – Mak Ho-pong – 2020 – Hong Kong – 12 (Camden Council) – 90m

****

Three prison inmates attempt to escape so that they can attend to various pressing, personal issues– online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Making Waves from Friday, July 8th to Sunday, July 10th

The generic side of Hong Kong movies (kung fu, supernatural, swordplay, gangster, horror, comedy) has long been one of the strengths of that territory’s film production. This one has already spawned two sequels (Breakout Brothers 2, 2021 and Breakout Brothers 3, 2022, both Mak Ho-pong). In essence, it’s deceptively simple: three inmates in prison attempt to break out. This is hardly an original concept, however two elements makes it different.

One, it’s conceived and shot as a caper movie. It’s not really a comedy, but it most definitely has a lightweight feel. This is brilliantly established from the get-go with the introduction of the score by Pong Chow and Noel Li, which follows a long tradition of themes in caper movies and TV series typified by Mission: Impossible (composed by Lalo Schifrin, 1966) with its driving yet off-kilter bass-line. In Breakout Brothers, this is accompanied by a striking, graphic,opening title sequence as good as that for Collectors (Park Jung Bae, 2020), the difference here being that Breakout Brothers lives up to the promise of its superlative title sequence whereas Collectors doesn’t.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

No.7 Cherry Lane (Jiyuantai Qihao, 繼園臺七號)

Director – Yonfan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12A – 125m

*****

The tutor of an 18-year-old girl falls for her mother who hired him against the background of the 1967 protest marches in Hong Kong – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now as a Screening Event

Insofar as this is like anything else – which it really isn’t – it’s like a reworking of The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) filtered through In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000). Oh, and it’s 3D rendered then 2D animated. Broadly speaking, The Graduate is about a young man seduced by a much older, bored housewife before later becoming romantically involved with her daughter. In The Mood For Love is set in early 1960s Hong Kong and includes a sequence on a sloping pedestrian street where a man passes a women walking in the opposite direction, the whole thing charged with a sense of romantic longing. There;’s a similar scene in No.7 Cherry Lane, although it’s considerably less central to the plot than the one in In The Mood For Love.

Yonfan, here making his first film in ten years, would certainly agree that filmic and literary references abound in the film.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Ghost In The Shell (Kokaku Kidotai, 攻殻機動隊) (1995)

Director – Mamoru Oshii – 1995 – Japan, UK, US – Cert. 15 – 83m

****1/2

A cybernetically rebuilt, female, government agent and her male sidekick pursue a mysterious computer hacker known as The Puppet Master through Hong Kong Digital IMAX version plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

Review originally published in What’s On In London in 1996.

Ghost In The Shell is the first (and hopefully not the last) anime feature to be jointly financed by America, Japan and Britain (our very own Manga Entertainment). Although superficially pigeonholeable as teenage boy’s market material (nothing wrong with that per se), Ghost is considerably more intelligent than that implies. Its plot is highly complex: suffice it to say that cybernetically rebuilt female agent Kusanagi and male sidekick Bateau are pursuing a mysterious computer hacker known as The Puppet Master through Hong Kong.

Kusanagi, who makes her first appearance stripping off her clothing, jumping off a skyscraper roof and crashing through a window below to riddle a criminal pleading “diplomatic immunity” with bullets, employs thermoptic camouflage which renders her invisible to the naked eye in a matter of seconds. It’s an impressive touch, additionally furnishing such great moments as a fugitive ankle-deep in an urban canal suddenly finding himself hit, gripped and thrown around by an invisible assailant.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Chinese Odyssey (Sai Yau Gei, 西遊記)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part One – Pandora’s Box (Sai Yau Gei: Yut Gwong Bou Haap, 西遊記第壹佰零壹回之月光寶盒)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part Two – Cinderella (Sai Yau Gei: Sin Leui Kei Yun, 西遊記大結局之仙履奇緣)

Director – Jeffrey Lau – 1995 – Hong Kong – 87 + 98m

***

The Monkey King is banished to earth with loss of memory for a series of encounters with monsters and romantic interludes – screened as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Chinese New Year on Saturday January 29th

These two films are the first and second parts of the same story, so it makes sense to screen them together as a double bill. The starting point is the 16th century Chinese novel Journey To The West, which has also spawned such productions as the seminal Chinese animation The Monkey King (Wan Laiming, Cheng Tang; Part One, 1961; Part Two, 1964) and the long-running Japanese TV series Monkey (1978-80). The novel’s plot concerns a monk and his three assistants Pigsy, Sandy and Monkey who journey to the West (i.e. Central Asia and India) to obtain Buddhist texts.

Less an adaptation of the novel than a tangential story that uses the novel’s framework as its starting point, the films are bookended by two sequences, one at the start of Part One, the other at the end of Part Two, which start the tangential story rolling and wrap it up respectively.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

An Autumn’s Tale (Chau Tin Dik Tung Wa, 秋天的童話)

Director – Mabel Cheung – 1987 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 98m

****

A girl leaves her home in Hong Kong and flies to New York where her boyfriend has dumped her, so her cousin looks after her there instead – screening as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Chinese New Year on Tuesday, January 25th, 2022 8:15 pm, NFT2, info here

Young and innocent 23-year-old hopeful Jennifer (Cherie Chung from The Story Of Wu-Viet, Ann Hui, 1981; Wild Search, Ringo Lam, 1989; Once A Thief, John Woo, 1991, all co-starring as here with Chow Yun Fat) takes a one-way, 20 hour flight from Hong Kong to New York where she’s enrolled in acting school, something for which she plans to get whatever work she can in order to pay her way. Her other – perhaps her main – reason for the journey is to be reunited with her boyfriend, but when she goes to meet Vincent (Danny Chan Bak-yeung) off the train, she sees he’s with the more sophisticated Peggy (Cindy Ou / Wu Fu-sheng) and no longer interested in her, Jennifer.

Meanwhile, looking out for her is her Big Apple streetwise cousin ‘Figurehead’ a.k.a.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies (and more) 2021

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2021, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/21 and 31/12/21. Prior to 2020, I’d never included online releases (well, maybe the odd one or two as a special case) but that year saw the film distribution business turned upside down by COVID-19. How 2022 and beyond will look is anyone’s guess.

This version excludes re-releases (Seven Samurai and It’s A Wonderful Life, in that order, would top everything here, while The Shop Around the Corner would also be in my Top Ten). A link to that longer list will be added here in due course.

In addition to re-releases, this version also excludes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2021. A link to that even longer list will be added here in due course.

Finally, last year’s list is here.

Top Ten (UK theatrical + online movie releases 2021)

Please click on titles to see reviews.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Matrix

Directors – Larry and Andy Wachowski – 1999 – US – Cert.15 – 136 mins

*****

The Matrix combines tropes of Japanese animation with live action Hong Kong stunt choreography and groundbreaking ‘bullet time’ special effects.

UK release: June 11th 1999;

Article originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999.

1999. The Matrix is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E.

Technically, a matrix is a multidimensional array of locations, with each cell uniquely addressable. Contents not specified. Back in late April, when Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix was first screened for UK press, Warners’ line beneath the film’s title on the publicity flier ran, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects. Perhaps it should have read, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action. Or even, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action reconceived in terms of anime. Okay, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s closer to the truth.

Ostensibly a megabudget Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon / Die Hard / Predator / Speed / Road House / Assassins) SF actioner well beyond the extremities of this magazine’s remit, directed by the Wachowski Brothers (writer‑directors of Bound, screenwriters for Assassins), The Matrix opens with an incredible sequence wherein Trinity (Carrie‑Anne Moss, who looks for all the world like a Westernised version of a Hong Kong starlet in cat burglar get up… Black Cat’s Jade Leung or Irma Vep’s Maggie Cheung, perhaps?)… Read the rest