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.

Netflix A-Z: Z Storm (2014)

After some thought, I decided that the best way to end the first round of Netflix A-Z is with some Hong Kong crime thrillers.  Hong Kong movies are the key to what made me fall in love with movies in the first place.  While a ton of you were watching all those popular classics, a good part of my youth was watching Chinese films.  This one holds a pretty outstanding cast (although I didn’t know anything about it before I started it up).  There’s been so many thrillers in Hong Kong movies lately and a few of them in the past few years have “storm” in their title that I’m honestly a little confused. Still, lets check out this one!

Z Storm (2014)

Z Storm

Director: David Lam

Cast: Louis Koo, Ka Tung Lam, Dada Chan, Michael Wong, Janelle Sing, Hoi-Pang Lo, Stephen Au, Siu-Fai Cheung, Ying Kwan Lok, Kai Chi Liu, Alfred Cheung

Hong Kong Police force govern the law.  Their gatekeepers are an outsider group that oversees and stops any corruption called ICAC.  When the CCB (Commerical Crime Bureau) go on an investigation in a leading accounting firm, they come up empty-handed even though it came from a reliable source.  Their team leader is Officer Wong Man Bin (Ka Tung Lam).  Catching wind of this from the former source, the ICAC lead by William (Louis Koo) launch an investigation despite their unwelcome presence with the CCB.  Their investigation proves to be hard to follow as their leads start coming to dead ends continuously.  When an unknown turn of events happen, they learn that there is a deeper story here.  Wong and a famous lawyer Malcolm Wu (Michael Wong) are part of a bigger circle run by a mysterious Z and their Z hedge fund, who is going to take millions and millions of the civilians money for investments when it launches in six days may actually be a financial fraud.  However, the Hong Kong officials have set a time limit. In the six days, they must find concrete evidence to support their theory in order to stop Z hedge funds launch, if not, there is nothing they can do anymore.  Its a race against time? Can they do it?

Z Storm

 I love Hong Kong films and honestly, I’m pretty forgiving for it.  The reason being that Hong Kong sometimes will have their surprises that they whip out once in a while that turn out to be total gems.  They always have that potential but the industry always forgets that they can do that and fall into their normal tropes.  It makes the story predictable and for a thriller, offers less thrills and more plot holes.  Z Storm definitely is a generic thriller.  I guessed the dialogue before it was said and mostly figured out how it was going to end.  Story-wise, Z Storm could be much better.  Z stands for Zoro (no, that isn’t a spelling mistake) but its what Z stands for in the Z hedge fund whose mystery man is also nicknamed Zoro.  Cheesy enough for you? I’m just going to come out and say it right away what I thought made this movie even worse than having a flawed plot hole that tried to put in some typical girl drama (which I thought wasn’t particularly necessary) but the fact that they ended it deliberately trying to milk a sequel.  I never particularly like movies like that and on top of that, they ended with some really creepy normal day lives shots.

Z Storm

BUT, despite all its storytelling flaws, Z Storm’s strength is in its cast.  Many of you might not know unless you are familiar with the TVB (Hong Kong TV Broadcasting Channel) drama series but in 1997, Louis Koo did a series called I Can’t Accept Corruption (Get it? ICAC?).  You got it.  That year, he came back strong (physically) and tanned his skin, buffed up and changed him image from the weak pale Hong Kong boy that he was before and got cast into this series.  He played an agent working for ICAC and I loved that show for many reasons.  One of them, being him and his acting.  Watching Z Storm was like he was taking that role again but with a more mature take on it. Nostalgia might be a culprit here.  And the fact that if I had a Hong Kong citizenship, my dream has always been to be in ICAC. It surprises a lot of people when I say it but hey, its a dream.  It can be as huge (and stupid) as I’d like it to be 😉

Z Storm

He’s not the only one that deserves applause.  Michael Wong is fantastic as Malcolm Wu.  He’s always been a good guy.  The top boss in the Hong Kong Police and always the all around good guy but this time, he turns it around and becomes a greedy and deceiving hot shot lawyer and he even swears on screen and says “b*tch”.  Its always great to see actors embrace other roles and switch it up.  But sometimes, you find their roles and excel at them.  That person is our CCB dirty cop Wong played by Ka Tung Lam.  I believe it was in Gen-X Cop back in 1999 that Ka Tung Lam took on his first bad guy role and man, did I want to punch him in the face while being completely dazzled that he could do that after playing lame, weak romance drama series characters.  From then on, he went from small roles to Infernal Affairs and then look at him now, one of the strongest bad guy roles I’ve seen him in.  One that made me love how bad he was but want to really hurt his character for all the horrible things he did. Its not only that. Z Storm carries a strong supporting cast with some actors that have been out of the business for a long time.  Alfred Cheung is the man I have in mind. While you have some more popular secondary character roles like Hoi Pang Lo, Stephan Au, Siu-Fai Cheung and Kai Chi Liu.  They are typical in many Hong Kong thrillers and action (even comedy).

z storm

Overall, Z Storm lacks in a concrete story line.  It does have its thrills but not enough to make you be blown away with its plot.  However, what it does lose in plot, it makes up for with an outstanding cast that breathes the needed energy and dynamic needed for each of their roles.  That includes a perfectly cast leads from Louis Koo, Ka Tung Lam and Malcolm Wu all the way down to their supporting and secondary characters.  Nostalgia definitely played a part in my love for this premise and while I dislike them using this film to build up a sequel, I do appreciate the motivation of the story itself even if it was executed poorly.

First round of Netflix A-Z is successfully completely!
If you do have any obscure movies, you’d like me to draft up in the second round, please suggest them!
Remember that I use Netflix Canada so I may not have the extensive selection you have in US. 
Thanks so much for the great response to this series! It’ll be returning in January 2016! 🙂

Chinese New Year Movie: All’s Well That Ends Well 2011 (2011)

I know Chinese New Year was yesterday but at my house it ends 7 days later, because my mom told me that on the 7th day its called people’s day, which means its everyone’s birthday. Still, how could I not take the opportunity and review a Hong Kong movie? Plus, this one is one of the longest ones going on. They’ve been making one for Chinese New Year since 2009.  In 2009, it was rebooted from its original starring Stephen Chow back in 1992.  The 1992 version still stands as one of my favorites but when they rebooted it in 2009 it took similar characters and gave it a connection and it helped that movie get really popular.  But as you see, I’m not reviewing the 2009 one or the 1992 one (yet) but I’m reviewing the 2011 one.  That one was good fun because it had Donnie Yen and he was not doing martial arts…

all's well that ends well 2011Director: Hing-Ka Chan, Janet Chun

Cast: Louis Koo, Cecilia Cheung, Donnie Yen, Carina Lau, Chapman To, Bak-Ming Wong

This is a romantic comedy which is something like the cross of Valentine’s Day (many interlinked storylines) with Scary Movie (mocking/implementing snippets of multiple movies concepts).  Here’s how the storyline goes: Sammy (Louis Koo) is a straight guy who pretends to be a gay make up artist in order to thrive in his industry.  He is very popular and always has to appear in TV shows and events, etc.  When a Chinese oil tycoon (Bak-Ming Wong) decides to buy a growing entire beauty products company called Beauty for his girlfriend Dream who doesn’t know anything about running a business, and because of that Sammy gets tricked into being hired as the CEO. He is then assigned to have a clumsy, chatterbox assistant called Claire (Cecilia Cheung) who in an photo shoot attracts the attention of a rich guy, Slippery who is scared of women because he’s always tricked by women for his money.  Its there, Sammy tries to set up Claire with Slippery.  At the same time, Sammy also hires Keung (Donnie Yen), who is also a make-up artist who isn’t doing as well but understands what women want and how to transform them into extreme beauty, and has him work in the most expensive and popular make-up counter in Hong Kong to serve rich ladies to help promote Beauty.  The side story here is Keung is actually in love with his first girlfriend, Moni (Carina Lau) who is now just a good friend who is an author who writes under someone else’s name and always pretends to be someone else.  A Cinderella story happens with Slippery and Claire, while an unrequited love happens with Keung and Moni, at the same time, the oil tycoon wants to make sure that Dream will be not leave him and decides to do anything for her with the help of Sammy to get into shape and to make himself more attractive.  However, the main character is Sammy who learns how to become himself and be confident that being himself he can still have great accomplishments both in career and love.

awtew keung moni

This is a few love stories all mashed together with a lot of funny slapstick humour.  Is it my favorite among all the All’s Well that Ends Well? That it is not but this one has a lot of funny moments that keeps me watching it all the time.  Plus, you know, the selling point is Donnie Yen not doing martial arts and believe me, he can a funny man.  This was just the first one where he does a comedy because he’s also in All’s Well That Ends Well 2012.  But I mean, who doesn’t like Donnie Yen? He’s just complete awesomeness, especially when Carina Lau (Moni) makes fun of Ip Man.  If you have seen Louis Koo in Flashpoint, (also a Donnie Yen action film), you won’t ever imagine him doing this role but fact of the matter is, Louis Koo has been in the business for a long time so his acting skills are fantastic.  They have a great cast to support it.  Also, one face you will recognize if you’ve seen Infernal Affairs is Chapman To.  He is a very good comedic actor in Hong Kong so they threw him in here and it helps out the movie quite a bit.

awtew 1

There isn’t really much to say.  It has a strong cast and offers an entertaining time. Its a funny movie that celebrates and always ends with a happy ending and almost always has a shot similar to this with the cast wishing everyone a Happy Chinese New Year!

To end it off, here is the trailer: