It was my birthday the other day. 41 and counting! As those who know me realise, this means I do get a little blue, and not really in to mood for much of anything, especially not writing. But seems like I still have the film bug, and I have been busy watching all kinds of things. So here are a few more capsule reviews, a bit shorted than you may be used to, but hopefully something here for most to enjoy! I have a couple of bigger reviews I hope to get out this week too!
I was somewhat disappointed with “Romancing in Thin Air”, but I thought I would go back to the Johnnie To comedy Romance that really launch Sammi Cheng as the Hong Kong Box Office Queen for a couple of years. Sammi plays Kinki Kwok, and Office worker who is not having much luck with her philandering boyfriend, and is prone to stress related fits of obsessive cleaning. Initially her boss (Andy Lau) is frustrated by her, but her hard work and commitment leads him to try and help her. However, he is a bit of a workaholic and womaniser, but even when an ex-girlfriend tries to woo him back, he realises that he has actually fallen for Kinki. The problem is, he has helped set her up with a handsome young billionaire – so can the couple actually get together?
This one really is not as polished as To’s more recent offerings in this genre, but it offers up something that the last film didn’t – Heart. It certainly is amusing at times, especially when lampooning Lau’s earlier “Moment of Romance”. Sammi is pretty delightful as a somewhat confused girl next door type. Lau is more troublesome – I respect the guy as an actor, but despite him making all sorts of films, I have never quite bought him as a leading Romantic lead – I’ve always felt there is something just a little creepy about him. However, in this role, it works well, as he really is meant to be someone who is far from perfect.
It is fun, and I would certainly not be adverse to watching it again, so Highly recommended
Now I am a huge fan of Li Bing Bing, but I will be honest, when I saw the poster and synopsis for this latest film, it filled me with dread. Li plays a career woman, who is feeling the call to settle down and get married. Her job means that she has decided to use internet dating. Many failed attempts eventually lead her (somewhat unenthusiastically) to the charming yet divorced Sun Honglei. His persistence and a drunken misunderstanding bring them close together, but then her ex lover turns up on the scene. Who will win her heart?
This is the worst kind of Chinese film, which exists in some kind of China where capitalism and money seems to run rife, and lacks any kind of charm. Actually, that is a bit unfair, as Sun Honglei is actually a joy to watch, the problem is that the eventual twist about his character is just not unexpected at all, and anyone who has seen a couple of movies knows exactly what is going to happen. I’m not too impressed about a film which tries to derive humour from an ectopic pregnancy either (even though that is a red herring).
The sad thing is there are a couple of great performances in this film, and it does look great. The problem is that at its core, it is sending out some very confused and mixed messages, and coupled with the fact that everyone involved is capable of MUCH better work, it just disappoints. Not bad enough to avoid, but not worth tracking down. Not only that – but I am not even convinced that even is Li Bing Bing in the poster!!!
An unusual location now, I think this is my first Vietnamese film! Thai (Huy Khanh) is a bit of a playboy, who is dating 4 beautiful (if somewhat disturbed women) desperate to find that perfect wife. He actually does find her eventually, but his wedding day to the wonderful Linh (Ngoc Diep) is ruined by the attack of 4 psychotic girlfriends in full wedding regalia. As the movie progresses, we see how we got to this point, and maybe there is a little twist in the tale?
I actually had a ball with this one. To be fair, there is little you won’t have seen before, but it is smart and funny. Thai often pauses the action to talk with us face to face, but this breakdown of the fourth wall does not annoy, and actually works well to garner some sympathy with a character who really is a complete arse.
When it works, the jokes are actually side splitting, and it does a great job of moving our sympathies to and from Thai and the girls (who all turn out to be beautiful nutcases). Even better is the delightful twist in the tale in our final moment, which not only is amusing, but makes sure that the film hits the correct note to conclude.
It is original? Hell no, but is it fun and Recommended? Hell yes!
Back to 2001 Hong Kong, and another hit comedy. Johnny (Lau Ching-wan) and Wayne (Louis Koo) are hired by the previously all female Bra Design firm to create a unique Ultimate Bra that has a masculine touch, even though neither has any real experience in anything like this. Head Designer Lena (Gigi Leung) tries hard to ruin their attempts, whilst slowly falling for the womanising Wayne. Johnny also falls for the Hong Kong Manageress Carina Lau, despite his existing relationship. Can they boys learn what it takes to make the perfect bra, whilst also learning lessons about the heart?
For half of this film, I was utterly detesting it as sexist nonsense, which seemed to take any opportunity to show the female cast (Leung aside) in their bras at any opportunity. But Lau Ching-wan and Louis Koo are just utterly winning in their performances (Lau is always great – but is anyone better than Koo at sending up his own image?, and once it gets over the desire to ogle the female form, and tunnels into more complex matters of the heart, it actually becomes a rather winning little film.
One scene, where the males are shown what it is like to actually wear a bra, and all the actors are struggling to keep a straight face (actually to be honest they totally fail), is actually worth the price of admission alone. Gigi Leung starts off awfully wooden, but as her character is given a little more depth, even she finds time to shine (especially in a dream sequence that is so nearly very wrong). Glossy production values, with some great performances along with that mix of comedy and heart mean that this one ended up as a surprise Recommended.
To finish off, a Korean film I was really looking forward to seeing. Da-hae (Song Hye-kyo) is a documentary maker who is commissioned by the Catholic Church to make a film about forgiveness. She knows all about this, as she waived the death penalty on the youth who killed her fiancé the year previously. Everything changes though when she discovers that the youth killed a fellow classmate upon his release, leading her to question her actions and beliefs. At the same time she finds herself befriended by the younger sister of her deceased fiancé, who is struggling with abuse from her family, along with a medical condition.
Poor Song Hye-kyo – she may well be one of the most beautiful women in Korea, and a great television actress, but yet again she picks a film that does her no favours. I actually rather liked her scenes in the past, but for most of the film she just hangs around looking very dour and self reflective. On the other hand, Nam Ji-hyeon is fabulous as the troubled young girl.
As always, it is beautifully shot, and there are some scenes of class and emotion. The problem with the film is two-fold. Firstly, it concentrates solely on the grief of those that are left behind by a tragedy – we never get into the minds of the perpetrators or victims. It makes the film unbalanced, and just a constant monologue. Secondly, it really goes nowhere, and even after two hours, it never really gives us any resolution to any of the big questions asked by the film (about forgiveness), nor the smaller personal stories.
I tried hard to like the film, but I can only give it a Mildly Recommended.
Next up – some longer reviews, including the greatly anticipated in this Parish “The Great Magician”, and the surprise Korean Hit “Spellbound”.