Monday, 29 February 2016

Office Review 2015 Johnnie To 華麗上班族

Johnnie swaps cops, gangsters and shootouts for office workers and catchy musical numbers in his new film Office.

Billion-dollar company Jones & Sunn is going public. Chairman Ho Chung-ping (Chow Yun-fat) has promised CEO Winnie Cheung (Sylvia Chang), who has been his mistress for more than twenty years, to become a major shareholder of the company. Lee Seung (Wang Ziyi), a new hire at Jones & Sunn, brings with him youthful ideals and dreams. On Lee Seung’s first day he is paired with another new start, under qualified Kat (Lang Yueting) who has her own secret agenda. As the IPO team enters the company to audit its accounts, a series of inside stories start to be revealed.

Johnnie To making a financial based musical is such a crazy idea on the surface to the western fans. Most western fans know of To for his action and bloodshed films. But, he has actually directed a bunch of comedy and drama films, so it isn't that much of a stretch for new territory.

The financial world setting works well and comes across as fun and even exciting in parts. Set before and after the 2008 financial crisis, there is enough meat to chew on.

The music is extremely upbeat and easy going even if you don't understand the native language, the feeling isn't lost through the subtitles although some of the lyrics might not translate as poetically to English. Some real catchy songs are included and also a superbly shot dance which left me in awe.

Office does have it's problems, one being the length. At just under 2 hours, it almost feels like you are putting a shift in at your work office and time is going by slow while you are willing it to end. This is about the 3rd quarter mark though, and the film does pick up again thankfully.

Another issue is the main character's stories. Lee Seung and Kat have the easiest going sections, full of humour and both likable characters, their story plods along at a reasonable pace. Chow Yun-fat doesn't star in this film, it's a "special appearance". And, although his character Ho Chung-ping is conflicted, you still find yourself rallying behind him, and as usual it's another great performance.

The third story revolves around David Wong played by Eason Chan. David is really the only villain type of the story, and unfortunately the part which is least interesting. Oddly David is the most polished character and Eason delivers a fine performance. But there is too much already going on and the film would have benefited with his story being trimmed down.

Saving the best for the last, the set design is simply incredible. I don't think a film about an office environment could actually look any better. Based on Sylvia Chang’s stage play Design for Living. The film has embraced it's theatre roots. Filmed entirely on a set, the office changes to a rooftop, a convince store, a nightclub, apartments and much more. The sets are made up of long lights, mainly blacks and whites, long vertical lines, and a giant clock. It's almost simple bare bone sets but with a neon steampunk twist. And it is exquisite. Production designer William Chang has created stunning sets which almost takes the world they create to style over substance as you can't peel your eyes off these stunning visuals.

Office is still a fun harmless film and if you enjoy musicals you will get plenty of enjoyment out of it. However, it just isn't up to the standard that Johnnie To has been delivering to us for so long.


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Mermaid Review 2016 美人鱼

The Mermaid

The Mermaid is the latest film from fan favourite Stephen Chow. Unfortunately for viewers Stephen Chow yet again doesn't star in his own film, but he is a marvelous comedic Director and his comedy timing is perfect in his new fantasy-romantic-comedy film.

Real estate tycoon Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) has been making a fortune using new sonar technology which happens to destroy all near by sea-life. Liu buys up a large area of protected land which he intends to use for real estate development, it just so happens this area is the home to a group of mermaids.
The mermaids hatch a plan to take down Liu Xuan and get him to abort his new development. The plan involves getting one of the mermaids to seduce and then kill him. Shan (Lin Yun/Jelly Lin) is chosen as the sexiest mermaid, she gets modified and trained to blend in with the humans then complete her mission.

From the synopsis, you can almost guess where this film is going. The basic story isn't that fresh but the film as a whole is completely original and distinctive from pretty much any film for years. Comparable to possibly only Splash and The Little Mermaid, this is such a refreshing take on the mermaid rom-com genre.

The Mermaid is genuinely hilarious. Full of great entertaining and creative gags, there's something that makes you genuinely laugh every few minutes, the pacing is brilliant. There is great uses of subtle humour in a scene with Liu trying to explain to the police that he was kidnapped by mermaids which had the cinema roaring. But there is also plenty of crazy slapstick comedy, one scene in particular is of Shan trying to kill her target and failing miserably, it gets stretched out with each gag getting funnier and more absurd.

A Mermaid... half person, half fish.

The cast are all brilliant in their roles. Liu Xuan comes off great as a wealthy jerk who is actually misunderstood and looking for real love. The Octopus played by Show Luo was surprisingly good and involved in a couple of hilarious scenes, one involving him pretending to be a chef and part of his body ends up getting cooked for customers.

But Shan(Lin Yun) is the star of the show. Unknown to most audiences, the 19 year old's performance is adorable and incredibly cute. Full of quirkiness, from her facial expressions, to reactions, to her waddling about pretending to be human. Lin Yun has an ocean full of charisma and could go on to be a big star. She reminds me of a young Shu Qi mixed with Zhang Ziyi, only a lot more warming.

I hope no one notices I'm peeing right now.

Like a lot of Chinese comedies, the tone of the film changes drastically at points. Towards the end it gets a little too dark, which shocked me considering how light in tone the rest was. But this is more as part of their environmental message, which is still as important today as ever. Using real footage of water pollution and dying sea-life, The Mermaid does contain an underlying message from Chow which should be applauded.

The CGI in The Mermaid is hit or miss. In some scenes it actually looks pretty great. In others, it stands out too much and is quite jarring with how fake it looks. But for a comedy, this isn't actually too important. And in some ways, it almost adds to the charm of the film.

A shock to many, The Mermaid has not only gone on to become the highest grossing film in China. It is also now the 2nd highest grossing film in the WORLD this year, so far!
Sitting right behind Deadpool, it's second in terms of money. But for me The Mermaid is first in terms of laughs.


The Mermaid is currently showing in many cinemas across the UK, USA, AUS/NZ and of course Asia. So check if any cinemas near by are showing it now!

Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats Review Japan 2014 福福荘の福ちゃん

Fuku-chan of Fukufuku Flats

Billed as a comedy, Fuku-chan actually plays out more like a very well told drama with some great humour inbetween.

32-year-old Tatsuo Fukuda, nickname Fuku-chan (Miyuki Oshima), is a painter who lives in a run-down apartment complex called Fukufuku Flats. One day, an unfamiliar woman turns up at Fukufuku Flats. It is Chiho, his first love from his junior high school days who he has not seen for around 20 years, and she has come to apologize for something that happened in their past. As Fuku-chan allows himself to get caught up in Chiho's quest to become a photographer, he begins to fall in love all over again with this woman who was responsible for the traumatizing incident that led to his fear of women...

A very interesting story which really doesn't come together until about 40 minutes or more into the film. Until that point it's really not clear how the characters are connected. But the main and supporting characters daily antics, and character development is enough to keep the film rolling at a fast pace until it all comes together.

The heart of the film belongs to the character Fuku-Chan and the actress who plays him Miyuki Oshima. A female comedian is certainly an interesting choice for a 32 year old male, but with her dedication to the role by shaving her head and gaining weight, Miyuki plays the part perfectly with grace and believability. It's a charming role which will certainly attract a lot of attention.

The comedy varies from subtle humour to occasionally going way over the top. Way way over the top. But even then, it still gets a positive reaction and it's a film that will definitely make you smile regardless. One scene in a curry house is so absurd that you can't help but laugh at the situation and ridiculousness.

An extremely fun film. Not life changing, but the simple story with the intriguing characters works very well. A film that will warm your heart, put a big smile on your face and make you fall in love with Fuku-Chan.


Another excellent release from Third Window Films.

#FukuChanofFukuFukuFlats #ThirdWindowFilms #YosukeFujita #MiyukiOshima #AsamiMizukawa #YoshiyoshiArakawa

Monday, 15 February 2016

A Moment of Romance Review Hong Kong 1990 天若有情

A Moment Of Romance

Classic Hong Kong Cinema at it's very finest. Superb film by Benny Chan with a wonderful story and characters and a career defining performance from Andy Lau.

Queue the montages.

Wah Dee is a skilled motorbike rider and getaway driver but is still seen as a small time gangster in the Triad ranks. After a botched heist where Wah Dee is working as the getaway driver, to avoid being caught by the police he takes a young girl Jojo (Wu Chien-Lien/Jacklyn Wu) hostage. The rest of the gang decide they want the girl dead after she sees all of their faces, Wah Dee volunteers to take care of her, but actually sets her free. This starts an unlikely romance between a low level Triad and an innocent rich girl.

Moment of Romance isn't the most original story, in fact there were many similar films from Hong Kong around this time. But the depth of the characters and the directing is what makes it stand out.

There is nothing cooler than Andy Lau riding a motorbike!

Andy Lau is instantly likable as the calm cool gangster, who,  although being a Triad, he seems like he secretly wants a clean happy life. His motorbike riding scenes along with the music is so iconic it will stay with you! And has also now been spoofed and copied many, many times.

The music is also excellently fitting. The score and original songs fit the movie like a glove. And the cantopop slow motion montages aren't used in a cheap way, but instead they progress and develop the story.

The violence and action scenes are shot gritty and realistic in an unflinching way which suits the Triad drama and makes some scenes uneasy to watch, and also makes you really feel and worry for the characters.

Speaking of iconic. The ending to the film, and the last shot before the credits are extremely haunting and will stay with you for a long time.

A real gem of Hong Kong filmmaking. Recommended to all. If you are a fan of Hong Kong cinema this is on your must watch list.


#MomentOfRomance #天若有情 #BennyChan #AndyLau #JacklynWu

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The White Storm Review Hong Kong 2013 掃毒

The White Storm

For fans of the long gone Heroic Bloodshed films that were rampant in Hong Kong cinema's heyday, this film is a must.

A devastating dilemma changes the fate of three cops when an undercover operation against a notorious Thai drug lord goes horribly wrong.

The story is so full of twists and turns that it's hard to give a more detailed synopsis without ruining plot points. That being said, The White Storm has a running time of 140 minutes which is just too long and the story ends up feeling bloated before the big pay off. If 20 minutes or so we're trimmed off of this film I believe it would have received much more positive reviews.

Directed by Benny Chan who has become a top Action movie director after a string of hits including Divergence, Invisible Target, Connected and Shaolin. And he certainly delivers first class action again in The White Storm. Featuring many great shoot outs and set pieces. One over the top Action scene involving helicopters. And the finale shootout in a casino in Macau, think of a John Woo gun fight but with Johnny To's style and this finale is what you get. One of my favourite shoot outs of recent years.

Guns galore!

An all star cast lead this movie and have great chemistry together with a somewhat touching bromance. Nick Cheung, Louis Koo and Sean Lau are all excellent lead actors and do a fine job here. But it's Nick Cheung who steals the show. Arguably given the most to work with, but Nick puts in a stunning performance and ends up coming across really cool. Definitely one of my favourite Hong Kong actors of the modern era.

The best scene of this crazy action flick is actually a simple scene with the 3 characters having a conversation with one of their mums, This simple scenes has the characters show true emotion and their friendship for each other, its actually pretty moving and plays to all their strengths while developing the characters and story in a classy and intelligent way.

This film has potential to be excellent but ends up settling for good. Some of the absurd plot contrivances and the long running time take a way from the film. But, there is still more good than bad in The White Storm and if you long for a good old fashioned Hong Kong shoot 'em up this could be exactly what you need.


#TheWhiteStorm #掃毒 #HongKong #BennyChan #NickCheung #LouisKoo #SeanLau

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Downtown Torpedoes Review Hong Kong 1997 神偷谍影

Downtown Torpedoes

The 1997 blockbuster from Hong Kong was their own answer to Mission Impossible.
An action spy thriller with a large budget combining Hong Kong action with the commercial Hollywood glossy style.

A group of industrial spies are arrested by the Hong Kong government, instead of being sent to prison they are offered a special mission. The printing plates for the British Pound have been recently stolen but the Hong Kong government has found out that the plates are in the possession of MI5 (British Intelligence). In fear of the plates being sold to the counterfeiting market the Hong Kong government wants the industrial spies to steal the plates back.

The plot is pretty thin and apart from a few twists and double crosses you know where the film is going. But that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Over the quick run time of 90 minutes the film flies by and never slows down.

Jordan Chan excels in his role as the sidekick, although not the greatest actor, he has great screen presence and charisma which always makes him likeable. Takeshi Kaneshiro is also decent as the lead, although not as quirky as you would hope for. The rest of the cast unfortunately don't have much character to play with.

Someone call Roger Moore!

It's funny to see the technology used in this high tech spy film that was made in 1997 but only released last year by Warner. Everything seems to outdated from the laptops, to computers and of course, the floppy discs. Who knew a floppy disc could store so much evidence or spy data?!

A brilliant transfer from Warner. Really crisp clear video quality, it's hard to think of a Hong Kong Film from the 90s that looks this good. Even the Golden Harvest logo has never looked as polished as that.

A very fun Hong Kong action film, not essential viewing by any means. But worth it for some great mindless action and set pieces and a trip down memory lane to the floppy disc spy era.


#DowntownTorpedoes #JordanChan #TakeshiKaneshiro #HongKong #WarnerArchive

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Lifeline Review Hong Kong 1997 十萬火急

A fantastic firefighter drama from Hong Kong master filmmaker Johnnie To, released in 1997.

A heroic tale on firefighters, with a touch on the Hong Kong handover at its underlying theme, Lifeline vividly captures the ferociousness of firestorm and places the audience at the hot spot. It also delves into the fireman's psyche: These audacious firefighters can march into disaster and risk their lives by saving others, yet would they have the equivalent courage to tackle their personal issues? The story revolves around a dutiful yet indifferent fireman (Lau Ching-wan) who strives to win back his valor and love against his strict superior (Alex Fong) and his doctor girlfriend (Carman Lee) respectively.

Lifeline is essentially in 2 parts. Part 1 lasts an hour. It follows the firefighters who are plagued by bad luck on their daily job, so much so they get known as "ill-fated jinxes".

Along with this you get side stories mainly for 3 of the characters to give them more depth. One of these stories involves a character reuniting with his daughter, who has been dubbed in a hilarious English voice that doesn't suit her at all.

Fire has never looked as scary. Or Beautiful.

Then part 2 is 45 minutes of the damnedest fire sequences that have ever been captured on film! As the crew get called to a rescue mission inside a factory. There is real tension and excitement here that few films could ever capture. On a budget the size of Hong Kong films, I have no idea how they managed to film these sequences as it's hard to think of a Hollywood film that looks this real and terrifying.

A brilliant Hong Kong classic. The first hour is fun and is needed to set it all up, but the last 45 minutes is the selling point and is a real triumph in film making. It needs to be seen to be believed.


As a side note. This version of the dvd has really fast subtitles. It was hard to keep up at points because it was moving so fast. And this comes from a guy who watches the majority of films subtitled. There was a re-release in 2006 and a blu ray last year, so I hope they have improved Subtitles.

#Lifeline #十萬火急 #JohnnieTo