Capsule Time – Jiang Hu, 72 Tenants of Prosperity, Frivolous Wife, Kung Fu Dunk

Too many movies, too little time. I thought I would do some catch-up capsule reviews again. As always, there might be one or two here that deserve their own post, and I think that will be obvious which ones are being done out of their true status.

Jiang Hu

I’ll start with the best of the bunch (by a long shot). We follow two separate stories. Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung‘s senior gangsters spend a lot of time dealing with changes in their lives and how to cope with the demands on Lau’s recent fatherhood. On the other side we have Shawn Yue and Edison Chen starting out in their life of crime, working towards a hit on a senior gang leader.

It is quite a talky movie, although it does have several moments of quite vicious violence. These are not characters to love or admire, but they are not without empathy.

The direction is sometimes a little too flashy, detracting from the powerful on-screen performances, but the real hook here is the “twist” ending. The two stories collide, but not in the way you expect, and with a touch of class that means you will want to watch the movie again soon to see how we ended up there.

Highly recommended

72 Tenants of Prosperity

A sort-of remake of a 1973 Shaw Bros. movie, this one stars… well just about everyone in Hong Kong TV and Cinema right now. It is actually a whole heap of colourful fun, and even someone like me can play spot the star, so it is probably more fun for the true HK officiando.

I really enjoyed the 70’s flashback segments, as well as the sheer class on display from the older generation of HK actors (I am thinking of Jacky Cheung and Eric Tsang especially here).

You have to consider this as some kind of chocolate assortment box of HK cinema. You get a bit of comedy, a bit of action, even a sing-along or two.

Just like some other HK films I have watched recently, the film spends a lot of time lampooning and parodying local events, customs and celebrities. And yes, this does mean a lot of the humour was probably lost on me. But a little bit of googling to find out that one joke is based on the fact that Stephy Tang looks a teeny bit like a Japanese AV (i.e. porno) actress does make things clearer.

The problem is that it seems to have three or four different stories it wants to tell, and never really provides enough screen time to any of them. The film is way too episodic, and struggles to provide reasons for some of the forward story progression. In fact one particular story (the fact the shopkeepers are going to have their rent tripled) feels like it should be the core of the movie, yet is resolved nearly 30 minutes from the end.

Saying that, it is very amusing if taken as a bit of silly fun (casting Bernice Liu totally against type, and the 60 seconds given to product placement are examples of some of the better and funnier ideas on show here), so I think this one is Recommended.

Frivoulous Wife

K-Pop star Park Jung-ah stars as a young selfish girl from a recently rich family who becomes involved (i.e. gets pregnant) with an innocent young man from a very traditional Korean family.

That’s right, it is one of your basic fish out of water comedies.

Basically, it is not really that good. There is some nice work behind the camera, but basically it falls apart in the execution. No camera trickery and clever shot setup can really hide the fact that the character arcs make little or no sense. Yes Park Jung-ah is a little naughty in the first 15 minutes of the movie, but she learns her lessons way too easily, which means both the drama and comedy potential is never realised. Also, the traditional Korean family aspect of the movie is somewhat lost on me.

The saddest indictment of all is that I am afraid I may have fallen asleep 20 minutes from the end.

Avoid.

Kung Fu Dunk

Memo to self. Stop watching movies just because Charlene Choi in them.

Actually, this one is ok. Jay Chou is the young Basketball starlet from a Kung Fu background. That’s right – it is Shaolin Soccer with Basketball as the sport chosen for a SFX makeover.

There are two stories going on – Chou’s introduction and rise through the Basketball ranks (until he plays the “evil” team in the final), plus his search for his parents. Neither which are particularly original, but it all looks pretty enough.

Certainly watchable, but even a Superman the Movie inspired climax really can’t raise this one to Recommended status. But certainly a lazy Sunday afternoon could happily be spent with this one.

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