Double Feature: The Eye (2002) & The Eye 2 (2004)

Next double feature is here as we revisit 2002’s The Eye and check out its sequel, The Eye 2.

The Eye (2002)

Director: Pang Brothers (Oxide Chun Pang & Danny Pang)

Cast: Angelica Lee, Lawrence Chou, Candy Lo, Edmund Chen, Pierre Png, Yut Lai So

A blind girl gets a cornea transplant so that she will be able to see again. She gets more than she bargained for upon realizing she can also see ghosts. – IMDB

I saw The Eye in the mid 2000s before I had any real knowledge or experience watching horror films. Being one of the first films, it was one that I remembered profoundly as it scared me a lot back then. Revisiting in 2012 for the first Halloween Marathon for the blog, still fairly inexperienced with horror, it still managed to scare me despite knowing the twist and the scares. Since 2012, I have never gone back to watch it and its been almost a decade and here we are, revisiting what in my mind was a tense horror film. Will the past few years of horror desensitize me to the film? Will it no longer be as impressive as I remember it? The answer is yes and no.

The Eye as a premise is a pretty good as it is both a horror and a thriller/mystery where the main character needs to adjust after getting her vision after a cornea transplant which shifts her life from being blind since she was 2 until the present where everything is unfamiliar in appearance to her. It leaves room for mystery and suspense and to play to whether what she’s seeing is real or supernatural. Using vision (or any sort of sense or lack of it) in a horror movie usually can create some interesting atmosphere (much like Hush did). The Eye uses this and manages to create some atmospheric tension playing with a unfamiliar setting like her grandmother’s home and creating some supernatural encounters. While the effects in general haven’t aged well considering it is a 2002 horror film, when I first saw it, it was fairly decent. There are of course some horror tropes since Chinese horror isn’t exactly their forte but thanks to The Pang Brothers’ storytelling they do manage to add in some unexpected twists which are rather well-executed.

Angelica Lee is pretty good in her role. Psychological or supernatural horror/thrillers tend to be her forte as she has been in other films of similar genre. There’s something rather good about her acting that is quite enjoyable and believable. Playing as the blind girl that finally sees and has to accept that abnormal things that she sees, the role itself is constructed well. However, the other characters sometimes feels a little less even if its the doctor who ends up helping her through track down what is going on. Most of the other characters are mostly done as supporting roles as a means to an end.

Overall, The Eye is a pretty straight-forward horror film. It moves between its horror elements and the psychological thriller elements pretty well. There are some really good visual elements specifically one where it plays with the visuals of shifting between the actual location and one the one from her vision which creates a cool effect. It also brings in some of the Chinese culture when it comes to death and unfulfilled wishes.

The Eye 2 (2004)

Director: Pang Brothers

Cast: Shu Qi, Eugenia Yuan, Jesdaporn Pholdee, Yuan Yuan Ren

After a failed suicide attempt, a pregnant woman gains the ability to see ghosts. – IMDB

The Eye 2 is a completely story from the first one. Sequels are usually a little iffy overall however Shu Qi takes on a lead role as she moves through this film mostly on her own with the few other characters. This time, it takes on the supernatural belief that attempted suicide will bring on the ability to see ghosts which is what happens after she does that in a foreign country without success. When she comes back to Hong Kong, it essentially is for nothing as she tries to cope with her break-up and realizing that she can now see random abnormal people around her and experience other odd things that come up while eventually realizing that she is pregnant and must go through it alone. Taking this supernatural story of reincarnation as a foundation for the story as well as suicide being pretty much a “sin” but of course, in Chinese beliefs more as an opening for letting the supernatural in as a bad omen.

Shu Qi does a pretty decent role here. Her character Joey is faced with quite a lot of drama. The character shifts through a lot of different phases whether its from the dramatic attempted suicide (which almost feels like she doesn’t mean for it to succeed) to the obsessive stalking of her ex-boyfriend to the adaptation to the supernatural events she starts to face right down to the end when she decides to take some extreme actions in the final goal of protecting her baby. Its all a little crazy but she manages to capture that character fairly well even if it doesn’t feel completely logical sometimes, she still holds up the character in a believable enough way. Much like the first film, the supporting characters are all very much a means to an end and even less people involved. The final deduction of how they pull the reincarnation element to the story makes sense overall but her reaction to it seems a little intense.

As a sequel, The Eye 2 still carries a lot of the good elements. While the horror is a little more obvious this time, its not as atmospheric and actually leans more along the lines of cheap jumpscares. It even has a scene which is pretty disgusting to watch, maybe a little bit of a warning against committing suicide via overdosing. However, its a decent story overall using a mental instability and suicide and pregnancy to carry the supernatural elements. In reality, the end game is less scary when you realize what the twist of the story arrives. . Its not quite as shocking as the first film however, it still is a tad clever.

Better Days (少年的你, 2019)

Better Days (少年的你, 2019)

Director: Derek Tsang

Cast: Dongyu Zhou, Jackson Yee, Fang Yin, Ye Zhou, Yue Wu, Jue Huang, Yifan Zhang, Xinyi Zhang, Xuanming Gao, Xintong Xie

A bullied teenage girl forms an unlikely friendship with a mysterious young man who protects her from her assailants, all while she copes with the pressures of her final examinations. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Movies and Tea for Friday Film Club*

Perhaps one of the more surprising titles to be nominated in the best International feature category at the upcoming Oscars is 2019’s Chinese romantic crime film, Better Days. Better Days is based on a Chinese YA novel called In His Youth, In Her Beauty. Faced with difficulty to release due to censorship in China, Better Days focuses on school bullying while looking at the stressful and demanding environment of preparing for the National Exam which determines the future of a student and where they end up in university while also looking at the reality of family situations in China. It takes a snapshot of Chinese society, call it a social commentary if you will but the movie does end with a discussion of the progress that’s been made with the different ministry departments of creating laws to protect against school bullying. With that said, the movie rather lengthy running at 2 hours 15 minutes, which is structured fairly well as it starts off right away highlighting the school issue and building up those tensions while moving to a second act which is focused on the relationship between Chen Nian and Xiao Bei as he protects her in the shadows. A lot of their relationship is built through actions more than words which thanks to a good direction of director Derek Tsang makes it work. Making the third act one that tugs at heartstrings despite all that’s happening and question the morals of who is right and wrong as well as bringing up how much teens believe in the adults surrounding them and how much they can help.

Talking about the director, Derek Tsang brings in some interesting direction choices whether its how he uses the lighting or moving through a montage of how time passes or just how he chooses to use the cinematography and camera pans to structure the scene to create a great effect and capture what he wants and leaving some mystery, its done pretty well. Of course, the other surprise for most familiar with Chinese pop culture is seeing Jackson Yee do rather well in his role as Xiao Bei especially since he started out at a young age in a youth boy band TF Boys. Taking up this powerful role and delivering on a decent level and especially being able to act at the pace of Dongyu Zhou who is a much more seasoned actress with a lot of great and diverse roles under her belt, a few of them previously Friday Film Club picks, Us and Them and This Is Not What I Expected. Being the central role here, Chen Nian under Dongyu Zhou is done incredibly well. She is able to bring it to a good level of tension and connection especially with a character that doesn’t say a lot and the ability to play a high school senior while being in her mid-20s and making it believable to follow her devastating experience but still in all the bad still wanting to “protect the world” and points out how no one’s taught them about how to be an adult. The most touching line in the movie between Chen Nian and Xiao Bei when he says: “It’s a deal. You protect the world. I’ll protect you.”

Sure, Better Days has its issues especially for those not too familiar with Chinese films, it might bring in the elements of losing traction and shifting focus of the film and having some melodramatic moments as it loves to bring romance in any type of film. However, what Better Days does remind me a lot of is a 2004 Taiwanese series called The Outsiders (currently on Netflix if you want to check it out) which has a similar romantic arc. While it might not be for everyone, Better Days has its heart at the right place, shares an important topic of teen bullying in China and what has been done so far while also having a decent crime story to wrap up the whole thing. Definitely one to check out if you get a chance!

Double Feature: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) & Line Walker (2016)

I’m having this sudden urge to get through these Asian films. Crazy Rich Asians kind of counts, I guess which happens to be one of the double feature picks and just for the comedy element, I paired it up with Line Walker which is something of a crime action thriller with comedy elements. Let’s check it out!

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii

This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. – IMDB

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan (which I haven’t read), Crazy Rich Asians is romantic comedy with a really great cast. The movie itself should be looked at from two parts: Romance and Comedy. The romantic parts are exactly funny and actually to me, they are a bit weak whereas the comedy elements is what stands out. Of course, comedy is also very subjective so the best way may be to see whether the many comedians involved in this are ones that you normally enjoy or the cast itself. Not to mention, Crazy Rich Asians highlights the beauty of Singapore so much from the food to the scenery and captures the upper class society glamor as well as the Asian prejudices between each other whether its Asian-born or American-born which brings in the East versus West differences/culture clash.

Looking at the cast, its absolutely stunning. Its the first time watching Constance Wu for myself and while I have certain issues with her, she is rather decent in capturing that roles especially in the beginning and the ending parts where her character Rachel really gets a nice development. I can’t say her chemistry or the focus on the romance between her and Henry Golding’s character stands out a lot but her interaction with some of the other characters especially Peik Lin played by Awkwafina is absolutely awesome. Awkwafina carries a good part of the film every time she shows up especially when she first talks about the Youngs and how rich they are. Hands down my favorite part. Comedians involved have Ken Jeong, Ronny Chieng and I think Jimmy O.Yang also counts (even though I haven’t seen any stand-up shows of his). They each have very different types of character bringing in a different sort of comedy and they do a decent job. However, while not there for the comedy, Michelle Yeoh is fantastic and a stunning actress that I love to watch on screen. This role seems a little different from what I’ve seen of hers before however she still delivers.

I was a little hesitant to watch Crazy Rich Asians but I’m pretty happy that I did. There’s a lot to love about it. The way that its filmed and the little execution that they use even from the first scene that highlights how rich the Youngs are to the end where Rachel shows how she isn’t how the family sees her as despite where she grew up. Overall, its a fun time and earned quite a few good laughs even if the romantic elements were fairly flat.

Line Walker (2016)

Director: Jazz Boon

Cast: Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng, Charmaine Sheh, Shiu Hung Hui, Moses Chan

Several cops went undercover. Due to some issues, all undercover identities were wiped clean from the police database. – IMDB

Done as a spin-off from the Hong Kong TV series of the same name (that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet but recently found uploaded to Youtube so will catch up very soon), Line Walker is something of a comedy crime thriller. For what I see, it doesn’t require a whole lot of knowledge of the actual series to understand but its a little loopy as well as the network of undercover cops is quite extensive as the plot reveals itself throughout. In reality, the biggest issue is what the movie wants to be. At times, its comedic and over the top and then it will change in the next scene to a crime thriller serious sequence. It makes the film feel out of balance and maybe even disjointed. The moving parts of everything work as an individual sequence but together, it just doesn’t seem to work that well.

The highlight of Line Walker definitely has to be the stellar cast. With some names like Charmaine Sheh and Moses Chan, the latter in a cameo role rather popular names in Hong Kong series and bigger movie thriller actors like Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng and Shiu Hung Hui, its full of renowned actors who are well-known for their work in movies in similar genre. In reality, its quite a great thing to see Charmain Sheh being the only female lead here and paired up with Francis Ng as one side as the obvious undercover pairing and an undefined relationship between the two while having the much more intriguing pairing between Nick Cheung and Louis Koo’s characters as its a question about which one of them is actually an undercover cop that has lost his file and police status in the police system. Its the main focus for these two as they start questioning each other’s loyalty. At the same time, the movie is full of undercovers as one after the other gets revealed. The standout definitely has to go to Louis Koo and Nick Cheung’s characters as they do bring in the most balanced roles as well as their little bit of dark/sarcastic humor dialogue injected in the performance. It contrasts that of Charmaine Sheh and Francis Ng which adds a more comedic element.

Line Walker is an odd one. The cast makes it worth a watch but the script and the execution of the whole undercover and double crossing and whatnot in the crime world of who is on which side and all the undercover cops that scatter over the crime world almost feels like it doesn’t make that much sense. There are some clever bits but overall, it feels like the movie does fall short. On the other hand, its given me the boost to go catch up with the TV series since its garnered quite a bit of popularity.

Fantasia Festival 2020: A Witness Out of the Blue (犯罪现场, 2019)

A Witness Out of the Blue (犯罪现场, 2019)

A Witness Out of the Blue

Director (and writer): Chi-Keung Fung

Cast: Louis Koo, Jessica Hsuan, Louis Cheung, Patrick Tam, Philip Keung, Sam Lee, Andy On, Fiona Sit, Cherry Ngan

A Witness Out of the Blue is 2019 crime thriller about a murder of a member of a bank robber group that may have gone array as they hunt down their leader with only one witness to the crime: a parrot. One of the best things about Fantasia Festival is hearing director’s talk about their film. A nice touch to A Witness Out of the Blue was the director having a little message about how the movie came to be and how it all started with a parrot. Director and writer Chi-Keung Fung definitely is more renowned for his writing credits with involvement in Stephen Chow movies like Shaolin Soccer and The Mermaid. A Witness Out of the Blue has the hook of using a parrot as a witness and how the cop will use it to his advantage to learn about how a parrot communicates or learns the language and can have the intellect of a 5 year old child and its a fun element for sure. The story itself does create a lot of twists and turns that manages to lead down a rather interesting chase. There’s a bit of tension and a bit of humor and the mystery definitely takes everyone for a chase with the characters. The ending isn’t exactly never been done before (but I say what its similar to, that would be a huge spoiler so I’m going to avoid that). Whether pacing or execution, A Witness Out of the Blue is an intriguing thriller.

A Witness Out of the Blue has a stellar cast. Its consisted primarily with the once righteous but now easygoing cop Detective Lam that everyone sees as useless who sees through the case in another angle played by Louis Cheung who is more known for his music career than his acting career even if he has a lot of Cantonese voice acting credits to his name however delivers quite the performance. Lam starts suspecting his upper level boss played by Philip Keung (a familiar face at this year’s Fantasia for sure with his appearance in Sheep Without a Shepherd HERE) who holds a grudge towards the bank robbers for killing another cop. At the same time, Lam needs to still try to catch the bank robber mastermind Wong by the character played by Louis Koo but always seems to be one step behind as the robber crew starts being hunted down as well making him look more and more suspicious. There is no doubt that Louis Koo’s career is full of crime thrillers at this point and he is the perfect candidate for this role especially since he becomes something of an antihero. At this point, Wong hides out at this senior care home managed by a visually disabled woman played by Jessica Hsuan where we see the more human side of Wong in their interaction.

There is no doubt that Chi-Keung Fung is a great writer since every character in this thriller has its purpose. The characters all play off each other as detective Lam goes looking back at the grudges linked to robbery as he questions supporting characters played by Fiona Sit, Andy On and Patrick Tam. Each of these characters have their own stories whether its a flawed detective or a mastermind who wants to find the truth of the death of his team but every step takes on a different turn. Put in the equation of the parrot being another character and its all quite the whirlwind ride.

A Witness Out of the Blue has a lot to offer. It tries to be a little different and how it starts with a parrot and uses its characters all fit well together. Its a crime thriller that has some action and comedy blended together to become a little more mix genre. With both a stellar cast and a fun little plot and some great comedy points, it all actually fits together in a well-paced, engaging and entertaining sort of crime thriller even if the ending isn’t as clever as the director might think it is but somehow this still felt a little like a breath of fresh air in the sea of crime thrillers that come out every year.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Chasing Dream (我的拳王男友, 2019)

Chasing Dream (我的拳王男友, 2019)

Director: Johnnie To

Cast: Jacky Heung, Keru Wang

Tiger, an aspiring MMA fighter, meets young Du, whose dream is to become a singer. Together they go from audition to audition as they try to get Du into the talent show Perfect Diva. And at the same time, Tiger tries to quit the ring – but leaving turns out to be harder than expected. – MyDramaList

With 70 director credits under his belt according to IMDB, Johnnie To has a huge array of movies under his belt spreading over many genres even if a lot of people will first remember mostly his action or crime titles. Coming back from a 3 year hiatus, Johnnie To’s latest offering is a sport and music comedy about chasing dreams. As it follows two people in debt to the same loan shark ending up living together to pay off their own debts doing random jobs while each pursuing their own dream. Tiger (Jacky Heung) fights these cage battles for the loan shark boss who ends up using his roommate Cuckoo Du as his bargaining chip and he ends up giving in each time to help her achieve her dream to win Perfect Diva, a singing competition. Something about this story is a little silly and been there done that and yet there’s this charming element about how its all put together especially with the array of characters, the comedy point and how its a little bit silly at times being rather reminescent of the 90s Hong Kong comedy.

Chasing Dream

Johnnie To doing this sort of movie adds quite a bit of charm no doubt. He brings in some great comedy points while executing some incredible scenes that feel a little over the top and yet manages to keep it entertaining. Of course, comedies are always subjective so what works for might not work for you. The use of the music element actually works out all the ways especially during a specific singing training scene to prepare Cuckoo for her competition as Tiger calls in a bunch of favors to be her band while trying to help her find her diva style that would fit her as he wheels in food for hotpot while throwing out different popular American singers and Cuckoo imitates their performance and singing style. It sounds a little ridiculous but actually the scene works out really well. All that culminates to a huge Bollywood style musical flash mob scene that is absolutely awesome. However, the movie isn’t all fun and laughs but still packs in a lot of drama especially on the side of Tiger as his boxing matches get more intense and the matches become harder to watch as his character really does connect and stand out the most in the entire film. Jacky Heung shines in this role as Tiger.

To be honest, Chasing Dream is almost back to the basics. Its a simple storyline. The plot points are fairly predictable. Inspirational tales about chasing dreams and going through a lot of obstacles has been done tons of times. The relationship between Cuckoo and Tiger is unique and its because of these two characters that the story stands out so much. The ridiculous comedy, the bright and entertaining bits balances well with the drama of highlighting what is the most important. Especially with a final ending scene that gives major homage to Rocky. Its hard to not slowly be taken over by this movie but then I’m also a sucker for music and chasing dreams movie so watching a movie titled exactly what it is seems like a solid win and Chasing Dream surprisingly not only met my expectations and exceeded it.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Legally Declared Dead (死因無可疑, 2019)

Legally Declared Dead (2019)

Director: Wai Yuen Kim

Cast: Carlos Chan, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Karena Lam, Kathy Yuen

Based on Japanese novel Black House by Yusuke Kishi, Legally Declared Dead is 2019 Hong Kong psychological thriller that centers its story at an early point of understanding a quote: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” It takes the angle of an insurance broker Yip (Carlos Chan) who is assigned a client that asks him to discuss his policy at his home but ends up witnessing his son hanging from the ceiling and the case ends up being deemed a suicide and his parents get the insurance money. Struggling between hallucinations from PTSD and believing that the father Tak killed his own son with the scheme to get the insurance money for his own purposes, he goes onto his own investigation before Tak gets to his wife Ling who also has a huge insurance policy.

Legally Declared Dead is a good premise. While I’ve never read the source material, there is something about following a normal person that finds this newfound desire to seek out the truth relentlessly despite the apparent abnormal personality from Tak and Ling. The story is at its most gripping when its looking watching Yip pursue this family’s past from where the couple met and piecing together Tak and Ling’s story. There’s a great execution element done where the past blends into the present with each shot as it shares the location. Its a very cool maneuver to keep the scene flowing smoothly. However, the movie does have a secondary focus on Yip’s mental state falling apart as he starts seeing nightmare scenes like the pet praying mantis giant and attacking him and his girlfriend for example. The CGI is rather lacking for the most part and doesn’t quite flow as well. Its meant to be creepy and yet it seems to not quite hit the mark especially as its meant to build up on Yip’s character while bringing up a key point of the dangers of praying mantis female and male together.

Legally Declared Dead

There is no doubt that where this movie excels is the performance of Tak and Ling by Anthony Chau-Sang Wong and Karena Lam. Its fairly early that there is something wrong with Tak and the story gives cues of different probably reasons for his abnormal behavior. Anthony Wong embraces this role so well especially as its such a helpless character by the end that creates a lot of unsettling moments throughout the film using actions and how he interacts with other people and then with Ling being a key point. Karena Lam delivers a surprising role as Ling. She plays a woman who has a visual disability that appears like she has settled for Tak for whatever reason that soon becomes apparent as we follow their side of the story that she has a manipulative character. Tak and Ling are characters with depth and twists. Its unsettling and psychological. Its a little sad that they are paired up with Carlos Chan who does an alright job as Yip but in comparison, his character lacks a lot more substance and feels fairly one-dimensional. Luckily, they also have a great supporting cast with Stephen Au, Kai Chi Liu and Catherine Chau.

Packed with a good premise and some outstanding powerhouse performances from Wong and Lam, Legally Declared Dead is relatively successful as a horror/psychological thriller. Its execution and pacing does build tension very well. It gives both side of the story and as each characters mindset and grand scheme comes to light one step at a time, it becomes more and more unsettling. Not to mention, the cinematography plays a big part using parallels to show the past and the truth of a story being told while also playing with light and dark scenes and the whole concept of good and bad people being respectively weak and power. There are a few decent use of psychological elements especially as Yip’s girlfriend plays the role of a team that looks into criminal behavior. Its a bit of a convenient setup but for the most part, Legally Declared Dead does fit together all its elements well enough to be gripping and engaging.

Double Feature: An Inspector Calls (2015) & A Home With A View (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE (64)

Our double features are back! Before Fantasia Festival back in end of June, we pretty much wrapped up the last round of Netflix “alphabet” rundown. This time is more of a random deal although coincidentally, I ended up picking a Herman Yau/Louis Koo double feature for two Hong Kong dark comedies.

Let’s check it out!

An Inspector Calls (2015)

an inspector calls

Director: Raymond Wong & Herman Yau

Cast: Louis Koo, Eric Tsang, Hans Zhang, Ka Tung Lam, Teresa Mo, Karena Ng, Liu Yan, Chrissie Chow

When Inspector Kau arrives at the Kau manor before a lavish engagement party, he brings news of a young woman’s suicide – and he has questions – Netflix

Adapted from the English play of the same name, An Inspector Calls is a slapstick dark comedy re-enacting the story set in a mansion of a bankrupted but pretending to be wealthy family and factory owner as the father tries to marry off his daughter to the son of a rich family. On the day of the marriage, an inspector barges in telling them of a young woman’s suicide and how unexpectedly, each of them are connected to it in one way or another. Well in the heart of slapstick humor that is quite dominant in Hong Kong cinema (when not doing action or thrillers), An Inspector Calls in its Hong Kong Cantonese adaptation captures the heart of the story as the intertwined society links to one another and different chains of this society will beat a person down unexpectedly. Each of these characters are suitably over the top in their performances, the story itself is quite entertaining as well as while I’ve heard of the story, I’ve never actually read the play that its based on.

An Inspector Calls is full of talented cast. With the father played by Eric Tsang, the mother played by Teresa Mo, the older son played by Ka-Tung Lam, the son-in-law by Han Zhang and the inspector played by Louis Koo. The daughter and the daughter-in-law to be being the young actress roles that I’m less familiar with. However, looking at this cast, Eric Tsang and Teresa Mo play once again a married couple (I had seen them as a couple in 2 Young) and here as a powerhouse duo that just steals away their scenes together and its probably why Netflix chooses their scene in their massive walk-in closet as they turn around running after each other as he catches her up on the inspector’s arrival and the chaos that he was causing. On the other hand, Louis Koo doesn’t do so many comedies anymore but he definitely has the skills for it and is a refreshing take from the recent years of making action and crime thrillers and such. Clad with popular Mainland China actor Han Zhang, who definitely does do well in this film as well.

As intriguing as the story is, especially for myself originally not too familiar with the premise, what caught my eye were all these great performances which was absurd and yet so hilarious, reminding me of the humor I missed from Stephen Chow’s films in the 90s.

A Home With A View (2019)

a home with a view

Director: Herman Yau

Cast: Francis Ng, Anita Yuen, Louis Koo, Tat-Ming Cheung, Jocelyn Choi, Siu-Hin Ng, Suet Lam, Anthony Wong

When a neighbor blocks their view of the city with a commercial billboard, a Hong Kong family resorts to drastic, imaginative measures to take it down. – Netflix

A Home With A View is a real breath of fresh air. Sure, it tackles this dark comedy in a rather absurd way. It also is adapted from a play written by fellow cast member Tat-Ming Cheung who portrays the grandfather role in the film who is renowned Hong Kong comedian. A feature of Hong Kong comedians is their desire to bring out the issues of the Hong Kong society through a very sarcastic way. In this case, he’s taken these characters for a glimpse of losing a slice of solace can cause especially in the expense of others who are in another dilemma trying to survive as well as the expense of commercialism and economic wealth of the city itself. What is a reality of Hong Kong since the 1997 handover followed by the financial crisis that took place over the past few decades and then the change of the economy and political status, is shown well here with the ineffectiveness of a lot of the society.

I’ve always been a fan of using humor to talk about the more important issues surrounding us and to myself, that type of dark/sarcastic humor is my cup of tea so suffice to say that a lot of this film lands well. I’ve never seen the original play or read it or anything but the adaptation into a film works really well and a lot has to do with some sharp writing and well-timed humor. Of course, a lot of credit has to go to the talented cast here that supports the younger cast who plays the daughter and son. Francis Ng and Anita Yuen paired together are very fun. At the same time, they are met with some supporting characters who appear in some cases like cameo and others to help push the story in a certain direction. A Home With A View is a witty sort of deal. There were some bits here and there that might fall short in its comedy but for the most part, its actually a very smart piece of cinema filled with great performances and well-paced throughout and sharp dialogue. I don’t watch as many Hong Kong comedy films than I used to in the 90s or even early 2000s but this one really revived some of that hope to seek up some more in this vein, maybe another Herman Yau one since he seems to direct comedy movies that I enjoyed.

That’s it for this double feature!
Both films are currently on Netflix Canada with pretty decent subtitles.

What’s Up 2019 – Week 33

Tranquil Dreams (41)

Welcome to this week’s What’s Up! Things are slowly getting back on track with probably only gaming still a bit lacking some action. I’ll talk more about it in that section. As for everything else, progress and moderation is the key. Its been quite sporadic on the writing front with a lot of less heavy weeks to just recuperate from July a little. Sometimes, its nice to recharge a little to get back on track stronger especially when I definitely need it. Also, I’m working out another strategy to kind of go back to zero on everything that’s outstanding because that list is now daunting and stressful to look at and let’s say I’m doing a redo and restructure on how to approach things and hopefully with less procrastination, it should be a more efficient way to do things.

READING

Wild Dark Times

Currently reading: Wild Dark Times

Almost three-quarters of the way done with Wild Dark Times now and its a decent book. I have some minor issues with it so far but its still intriguing to say the least especially to see what the end game is going to be.

PLAYING

Not a whole lot is going on on the gaming front in this past week, the main reason is that I’m trying to get the other projects set up before sitting down to do something a little more time consuming, which is gaming because its not something that can be done quickly. However, mobile games round-up post is almost done and scheduled for release to cover the last few months of games while our next game to review on Game Warp Podcast is also decided. In the meantime, we will be posting up an episode leftover from before soon on Anchor so that’s happening. I guess the best thing to share here is my upcoming gaming plans. Whats done will remain done for now because I can’t find the energy to write up the overdue reviews and games played months ago so we’re starting fresh just like Game Warp is currently doing after a few months hiatus.

Games I’ll be taking a look at in the next while: Linelight, Kaiju Big Battel: Fighto Fantasy, to start…more as I decide further what to do next and set a tentative solo gaming and Game Warp gets things back on track.

WATCHING

an inspector calls

  • An Inspector Calls (2015)
  • Somewhere (2010)

Currently watching: A Home With A View (2019)

Trudging through through the Movies and Tea third season so 2010’s Somewhere was seen this past week and as usual, I won’t talk too much about it however on the spectrum of the film, it ranks above Marie Antoinette and comparable to how I feel about Lost in Translation but some little issues. I’ve been somehow spontaneously going through my Hong Kong dark comedies on my Netflix list. Its not a bad thing. An Inspector Calls is based on the English play of the same name while with the same director and some of the cast is A Home With A View, which I haven’t finished yet.

BINGING

I'm So Pretty

  • I’m So Pretty (2019)

Currently binging: We Grew Up, Another Me, Heart Signal 2, Dream Space 2, The Coming One 3

I’m watching a ton of variety or reality shows in general right now. Due to the contestant on The Coming One 3 that I like a lot, I found out that she is part of a TV series which I had brushed past because it didn’t seem like something that I’d like but after knowing that, I went to check out I’m So Pretty. Its a very odd TV series and does parodies of a lot of pop culture and movies and such however in its not taking itself too seriously but still giving it a very different kind of execution and its very short no matter in episode length of how many episodes, its a quick one to get through so here we are. A ton of shows are coming to an end with one episode left: Heart Signal 2, We Grew Up and The Coming One 3 is all ending next week so I’ll be looking for something new afterwards…I have an idea of what but I’ll talk about it next week.

That’s it for this What’s Up! 
What have you been reading/playing/watching/binging?

Fantasia Festival 2019: G Affairs (G殺, 2018)

G Affairs (G殺, 2018)

G Affairs

Director: Cheuk Pan Lee

Cast: Hanna Chan, Lu Huang, Sen Lam, Kyle Li, Alan Luk, Chapman To

G Affairs is a 2018 Hong Kong thriller that puts together the pieces after a severed woman’s head rolls into an apartment randomly.

G Affairs plays a bit like a story with connected characters and each of their stories that result in the final scene. Its title can be interpreted in two ones: one of the literal way of “G” Affairs, a story in chapters of words that start with the letter G or in the literal Chinese way, G, the Mandarin pronunciation of chicken, which in Cantonese is the common use for prostitutes. Not only the title highlights two ways but the story itself not only strives to show a side of Hong Kong post 2014 Umbrella Movement but also the two sides of parent and youth expectation, that things can be seen as good or bad as with the final destiny of someone can also be tragic or lucky for anyone with the same situation. Its the debut film for director Cheuk Pan Li and yet, there is a lot of maturity to the content he chooses to portray as well as the way he executes the story as well as shoot the film. Definitely choosing to give a rebirth to the Category III films, equivalent to a hard R rating is one that also deserves praise as Hong Kong films have moved away from it as it becomes dependent on the Chinese market.

The story is portrayed as a scrambled timeline taking place in the present with parts of the past that eventually link all the characters’ timeline together. No doubt a growing popular use of how to portray thrillers especially when executed well, the finale can be well hidden in all the little details. When it isn’t, it can be confusing. Its a test for its audience in the end to capture the details and make sense of it all and that will determine whether the finale will be far-fetched or logical. For G Affairs, other than at times stretching the use of the G vocabulary a little far, therefore making the story feel a bit on rails, it does a good job to not reveal too much but also create a compelling story that involves all these characters and yet also give them their spotlight to highlight the issues they face.To be fair, just like The ABCs of Death might have its more odd selection, G Affairs using that concept also pushes it far but still remains fairly clever and each of these opening up a chapter for one of the 5 characters involved. The film is thought-provocative to take a look into the little world of the different people in the society both as a result of the 1997 Handover after 20 years while also pushing the morals and ethics behind the scenarios as well as the stereotypes that drive the division whether its origin or age or profession.

Its hard to exactly pinpoint how well G Affairs will portray to the general public. In reality, the film embeds itself in a lot of Hong Kong views and to connect better with the material will need a certain level of understanding between the conflicting point of views after the 1997 Handover as well as the post 2014 Umbrella Movement and what it meant for the people living there. However, as a debut director, Cheuk Pan Li commands the camera well, adding in a good level of visually appealing shots to increase the cinematography of the whole piece. While the letter G is used a little bit too frequently and moves probably too fast and a few times, feeling fairly insignificant, the whole film as a whole is done in a clever way using finding its references in an array of elements that do contribute to the film like its music choices.

Sunday Lists: Nicholas Tse Roles, Ranked

nicholas tse

Nicholas Tse is one of my personal favorite Hong Kong celebrities. While he has moved into the mainland China space to expand his diverse talents, he is one that has definitely grown since the start of his career in the last 90s until now. Being renowned for having multiple talents, his musical talent being the one that lead my path to cross with his career. He has been in TV series and as you will see, many movies which starts off being more the bad boy/high school student roles but eventually falling into more and more action crime thriller variety with roles that have more and more depth and set in a variety of time periods and backdrops, making his work almost as diverse as his talents and titles.

This list will be updated gradually as I catch up with the movies that I haven’t seen.

Guo Zhui – The Bullet Vanishes (2012) Review

the bullet vanishes

Senior Station Officer – Ho Wing-Sam – As The Lights Goes Out (2014)

As the Light Goes Out

Ah Si – Bodyguards and Assassins (2009)

Bodyguards and Assassins

Jack – Gen-X Cops (1998)

gen-x cops

Man Yeung – The Viral Factor (2012)

The Viral Factor

Tong Fei – Beast Stalker (2008)

beast stalker

Detective Chan Chun – Invisible Target (2007)

Invisible Target

Frank Cheng Siu-fung – New Police Story (2004)

New Police Story

Stone – My Schoolmate the Barbarian (2001)

My Schoolmate the Barbarian

Chiu – 2002 (2001)

2002

Smokey – Half Cigarette (1999)
Sword Hua – A Man Called Hero (1999)
Knife/Ho Nam – Comic King (2001)
Tiger Wong – Dragon Tiger Gate (2006)
Maojie – Goddess of Mercy (2003)
Cheung Wai-Kit – Moving Targets (2004)
Tsao Man – Shaolin (2011)
Fred/Howard – Old Master Qi 2001 (2001)
Chan Ho-Nam – Young & Dangerous: The Prequel (1998)
Tyler – Time & Tide (2000)
McDull,the Alumni (2006)
Chang Ho Fung – Demi-Haunted (2002)
Cock Head – Enter the Phoenix (2004)

Can’t Remember or Haven’t Seen

Xiao Ming – Mirror (1999)
Shao Nu Dang (1999)
Ferrari – Da Ying Jia (2000)
Kit – 12 Nights (2000)
Fung – Tiramisu (2002)
Waiter – The Medallion (2003)
Wuhuan – The Promise (2005)
Tripitaka – A Chinese Tall Story (2005)
Nicholas – Rob-B-Hood (2006)
Bu Jing-Yun (voice) – Storm Rider Clash of the Evils (2008)
Heart – The Storm Warriors (2009)
Ah Wai – Hot Summer Days (2010)
Ghost Jr. – Stool Pigeon (2010)
Young Master – Treasure Inn (2011)
Nicholas Tse – The Midas Touch (2013)
Zhao Yongyuan – But Always (2014)
Ma Chi-kin – 12 Golden Ducks (2015)
Hu Yan Dazang – The Spirit of Swords (2015)
I Love That Crazy Little Thing (2016)
John Ma – Heartfall Arises (2016)
Gao Tian Ci – Cook Up a Storm (2017)
Lei Tao – Air Strike (2018)

Have you seen any films of Nicholas Tse?
If so, which do you like?
Share them in the comments below.