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Any Questions for Ben? (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: Any Questions for Ben?
From the director of "The Castle" comes a fun, yet important film about a quarter life crisis, the reason for living and how life cannot be measure by how successful you are in your job, the amount of money or your girls scoring record. "Any Questions for Ben?" is one of those well-meaning films that counts and goes the distance in dealing one of the more prominent issues about one's passion, direction and focus in life.
"Any Questions for Ben?" is a film about an universal issue of the reason for our existence, yet it remains extremely and uniquely Australian in its comedy, approach and Melbourne cityscape. What does it truly means to be successful? I am sure, once in your life, whether you are in your twenties, thirties or even sixties, there will be a clear moment in your life where you question yourself, quite simply, why am I doing this? Sometimes, maybe you only need a moment of inspiration and you can sure of what you have been doing for most of your life is well worth it. For others, it may not be quite so simple, as it may take them time to figure out what it is that they are truly passionate about their lives and what essentially drives them. It is exactly the question and dilemma that faces the main character Ben for the entire film, in fact, it took him exactly two hours running time to finally figure it out.
Josh Lawson ("The Wedding Party") is fast becoming one of Australia's hottest up and coming talent, and is perfectly casted as the man that seem to have it all in his hands and destiny. However, Lawson is able to make his character extremely likable and his questions about life seems rather genuine and realistic. There is something about his approach that makes the audience feel as though he truly wants to change and embark on a totally different direction in his life. Likewise, Rachael Taylor ("Transformers") is suitably and contrastingly free-spirited, as Lawson's turning point in life.
Director Rob Sitch is at home in depicting the urban life style of trendy Melbourne. His toying of the corporate world within the midst of the marketing trade can relate to a lot of people going about routine aspect of their own lives. The fact that Lawson got everything anyone would wish for in a great career and is still depressed make it all the more interesting. When he is willing to lose everything to start over again, that is the moment when Lawson is able to finally find himself and in the process making the audience question about their own lives and existence. Perhaps the defining scene of the movie is when Lawson is talking about his life story with a hall full of his old school students and not surprisingly no one has any questions for him.
All in all, "Any Questions for Ben?" is a good example of how to make a trendy and relevant Australian movie. Director Rob Sitch is able to show how important it is for everyone to question once in a while the reasons for our own existence and ask ourselves what it is that we are truly passionate about. In life, there is never a straight forward answer, sometimes, it requires us to dig deeper to find ourselves. Perhaps in the eyes of others, it is a waste of time, a stale in your career, but for one to life without regrets, there are times, when you just have to pursue it. (Neo 2012)
I rated it 8/10
Review at: http://thehkneo.com/blog/?p=2596
Herutâ sukerutâ (2012)
Helter Skelter (2012) Japan
The latest film "Helter Skelter" from famed fashion photographer turned director Mika Ninagawa is an ambitious piece of work that goes beyond its telling issue of the evils that lies in the plastic surgery craze. The film is filled with sharp bright colours, plenty of imageries and an insightful look at the cost of fame, beauty, looks and sex. "Helter Skelter" is ultimately beautiful to look at and goes on a deeper level than many of its contemporaries but somehow it still manages to come up rather flawed and mistimed. After a 5 years hiatus from the big screen and a failed marriage Erika Sawajiri simply shines through in the leading role.
"Helter Skelter" lacks a cutting edge that is required to captivate the audience. The unevenness is evident throughout, as the film itself feels like an emotional roller coaster. Perhaps indirectly the filmmaker is trying to show how much turmoil, depression and slightly mental that Sawajiri has become. The constant use of bright and bloody red throughout the film shows just how much Sawajiri is playing with fire. When things are going well, the fame that comes with being beautiful brings popularity, acceptance and recognition. However, this strive for fame is like a dangerous drug, an inevitable addiction that makes her inner soul wanting more and more. The film raises a number of questions about the price of fame, the superficial nature of showbiz, the aftereffects of plastic beauty and the equation between beauty and happiness. These are all prominent issues as the good news is that Ninagawa does not shy away from any of these.
The film first reaches an emotional crescendo with the purity of the contrasting cherry blossom scene where Erika meets her innocence looking sister. This moment in particular hits the audience hard and straight through the heart as to how far away she is actually from her sister, both physically and figuratively. However, the film often drags at crucial moments, where in turn hampers the audience's ability to connect with the film on a deeper level as the film seems to be toying around with their moods through some inconsistent filmmaking. The scene where Sawajiri is required to face the media upon being exposed remains one of the most striking moment within the film. It is rather ironic that Sawajiri will end up destroying one of her few pieces of bodies that are still real, perfectly transcends to the audience the feeling of freedom, hope and new life.
Erika Sawajiri plays the leading role of a beauty queen who sinks deeper and deeper into depression, drugs, fame and plastic surgery. This is by far her most complicated character in her career. Sawajiri first caught my eye by displaying some fine acting chop as the older romantic interest in the coming of age tale "Sugar and Spice". Since then, Sawajiri has left the industry, got married and divorce all within 5 years and "Helter Skelter" acts as a shadow of her own career in the show business. There is a level of sadness within her eyes that perfectly portray the situation and at times it feels rather scary as the blurring of boundaries seems to be making her real and cinematic life contravened. Other supporting characters like Kaori Momoi as the motherly figure is constantly dressed in bright green, as her character is never truly defined and remains a sense of mystery to audience as to her true intentions towards Sawajiri.
All in all, "Helter Skelter" is not a film about sex and nor should it be. Although it marks as Sawajiri's first nude role, the scenes are never distasteful, but rather it allows the audience to feel the vulnerabilities behind her character. "Helter Skelter" is an uneven and flawed film, but Ninagawa stylistic and daring direction keeps the film afloat. "Helter Skelter" is the kind of film that has a lot to say and combining with a career redefining performance from Sawajiri, the film is able to give the evils of plastic surgery, a much needed all-out blast. Still, this is a good enough film, even if it is clearly flawed in its own way. (Neo 2012)
I rated it 7.5/10
Due West: Our Sex Journey (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: Due West: Our Sex Journey 一路向西
The latest Hong Kong 3D sex comedy "Due West: Our Sex Journey" comes from the debutant director Mark Wu, who in turns created something fun, slightly refreshing, a good enough story and even some smart antics to boot. A far cry from Wu's previous writing efforts in last year's terrible "Sex and Zen 3D" and far better than the recent crude and unnecessary "Lan Kwai Fong 2".
With a bit of research on the internet, the name Mark Wu is associated with Cat 3 and sex selling movies namely the script writing of the atrocious "Sex and Zen 3D" and the" Lan Kwai Fong" series. With such accreditations, director Wu does not exactly provide any comfort to the awaiting audience. However, "Due West" is surprisingly entertaining, contains an adequate storyline, enjoyable and sexy performances and even having something to say in the process as well.
Justin Cheung is a far better lead actor than Hiro Hayama's ill-fated role in last year's "Sex and Zen 3D". Cheung shows far more character in his role as the slightly nerdy typical local, growing up in the midst of a satirical democracy family that is not unlike Hong Kong's current political situation. What makes Cheung's character interesting is that underlining all the monologues and self-indulgence, he is easily a likable person that the audience can relate towards. Representing the local Hong Kong industry, Celia Kwok does well as Cheung's mainstay girlfriend and despite being an obvious stereotypical take on Hong Kong's girls in general. I probably won't go into the detail naming each actresses who bare their parts, but it must be admitted that the quality on display (in particular the scene at the camping site and the showing of different types of actual massage on offer) is by far better than the atrocious "Sex and Zen 3D". Jeana Ho also appears in a hilarious cameo, while Gregory Wong is suitably cool and Mark Wu's groovy yet realistic appearance provide adequately support as Cheung's accomplice and venture into the world of Mainland prostitution.
Director Mark Wu succeeds because he clearly respects better filmmakers and there are obvious notions and elements of auteur Wong Kar Wai, Stephen Chow and Pang Ho Cheung throughout in his work. Wu constantly plays with the audience and breaks the third wall through Cheung's constant monologue to the audience. This is extremely effective as the audience can easily walk into the movie and be fully absorbed in the proceeding. Films like these can easily be cheesy and resulting in the audience laughing at the filmmaker and actors alike, but somehow Wu manages to switch this around and created something relevant, smart and sexy enough to satisfy a broader audience base.
All in all, "Due West: Our Sex Journey" is probably as good as it get in terms of Cat 3 sex comedy. After the failures of "Sex and Zen 3D" and to a larger extent "Lan Kwai Fong 2", both of which have fallen down the path of being cheap and sleazy without any substance, "Due West" holds up surprisingly well and even provide a somewhat satirical look on the sex industry. I am not saying that "Due West" is a perfect example of how to shoot a local Cat 3 production, but I must admit that I am pretty impressed with the film's production values, adequate casting, inside look on the vibrant sex industry, somewhat realistic look on modern relationships and sexy performances all round. For what it is worth, "Due West" is easily one of those pure guilty pleasures of the year. (Neo 2012)
I rate it 7.5/10
Taken 2 (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: Taken 2
"Taken 2″ feels far too much like a franchise film, loses all the edge of your seat impact of the original, filled with clichés dialogue and contains rather predictable plot line. The result is a below par attempt to recreate the excitement of the original and the conventional and boring final 30 minutes did not help the proceeding.
"Taken 2″ cashes in on the same concept that made the first film a sleeper hit, despite its modest budget. However, this film loses the audience minute by minute, when it should have an edge of your seat thriller. French director Olivier Megaton (who previous worked with Luc Besson on "Transporter 3") along with the script writing duo (Besson and Robert Mark Kamen ) are both key accomplices for the sequel failure to excites or entertain. It must be admitted that the film is well structured from the opening minutes and even manages to sustain an adequate level of suspense for a good 50-60 minutes, but from then on, it all goes to hell. In fact the film is filled with unintentional humour and constant unnecessary referral to the first film, making it almost impossible to take the situation seriously.
Liam Neeson is one actor that never fails even when everything else besides him falls apart. He tries extremely hard to keep the film afloat and have a good enough revengeful screen presence to attain the audience attention. However, at times, even Neeson's intense look can seem a little repetitive and combining with a lacklustre script and plot line, the result is a rather cliché and predictable final 30 minutes of bore- fest. Maggie Grace reprises her role as the daughter in the original film, but here she is not given enough material to work on. At times, Grace just seems lost within the chase and unsure of where her character needs to be. Famke Janssen adds nothing to the proceeding as she spend most of her time either kidnapped or in a black bag wrapped around her face. Perhaps the biggest issue of all comes in the form of the villainous role played by veteran Rade erbedija, who is neither menacing nor interesting for the audience to feel the full effect.
I have always been a keen admirer of Luc Besson's body of work, while he can be a hit and miss; there is always something in his films that makes it slightly different to the usual Hollywood. His recurring themes of human degradation and the brutal nature of humanity provides a different take on Hollywood action cinema. While the original "Taken" explores the tried and true issue of human trading and forced prostitution, this film does not seem to have any particular focus and the end result is seemingly coming down to an vengeful factor that is never truly explored. While the first film director Pierre Morel (a keen cinematographer), provides a sharp and constant edgy look that makes the film such a success, Megaton lacks this crucial ability and in turn moves the camera so often that the audience is unable to focus on the action on display.
All in all, "Taken 2" is one of those films that try too hard to follow the same premise, tricks and plot line as the original. However, the film lacks a decent script, an important issue, a crucial focus and sharp and edgy direction that is required to make this kind of film clicks. Looking on the brighter side, the film does start pretty convincingly and even manages to sustain the audience attention for a good hour, but from that point onwards, it is essentially a cliché and predictable bore-fest. (Neo 2012)
I rate it 5/10
Lan Kwai Fong 2 (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: Lan Kwai Fong 2 喜愛夜浦2
Wong Jing has finally find a predecessor under his belt in the form of "Lan Kwai Fong 2″ director Wilson Chin Kwok-Wai and that's not a compliment in any way. In fact, the sequel to last year's commercially successful mindless entertainment "Lan Kwai Fong" is so bad that it is funny.
Director Wilson Chin is the next Wong Jing and that is nothing to be proud of. If Wong Jing's recent output is to go by, "Lan Kwai Fong 2″ is precisely what you call cheap, sexy and lowbrow. If the first film is somewhat empty, but mindless fun filled with sexy performances from Dada Chen, Jeana Ho and Shiga Lin (who is the only of the trio to returns for the sequel) and fun performances from Chen Zi-Ming, Jason Chan and Sin Lap-Man. The sequel lacks all the vital ingredients that made the first film a fun and enjoyable ride into the world of Hong Kong's iconic party scene. In fact, the film is so bad that it is funny. Some of the script writing and acting is so terrible that the film becomes filled with unintentional humour and the audience laughing at the cheap production values. When the best things coming out of the film are the cameos performances, in particular Alex Fong is a real scene stealer in an ultra-hilarious performance that singlehandedly remains the funniest and more memorable moments in the film.
Director Wilson Chin needs a seriously look in the mirror as this is by far the worst film in his short career. However, like Wong Jing's worst films, "Lan Kwai Fong 2″ will sell tickets, but if he keeps making films like these, his hands will be forever tie to cheap productions rather than the promised land of bigger budget productions. In fact, the film is filled with bad editing, poor writing, poor lighting inconsistent acting, cliché storyline and uninteresting characters compared to the original.
Shiga Lin ("Lan Kwai Fong") is far from ready to lead a film, her inexperience to handle crucial moments did not help the film. Likewise, Lin and Kevin Kwan do not have enough chemistry to justify the amount of screen time. Mia Chan is the case of the unfortunate, having to expose more than required including many unnecessary crude shots of her under garments. Perhaps Mia is following Dada Chan's ("Vulgaria") footstep, but when the focus becomes your other assets rather than actual acting, Mia is more like the victim of its circumstances. In the scene after Mia bedded Avis, her quick and unusual turn of emotions filled the audience with unintentional laughter. With Mia at the screening, one can only imagine how embarrassing it would have been. Make no mistake, Avis is one terrible actor and apart from his association with Chrissie Chau, one must wonder why someone of his acting calibre can even get a film gag. While newcomer Dominic Ho adds nothing to the preceding other than looking cool and smirking a smile, not unlike the infamous Edison Chen.
"Lan Kwai Fong 2″ contains all the hallmarks of bad filmmaking and it does not help when everyone involved somewhat contributed to the downfall. Director Wilson Chin should get the burden of the blame and should promptly sack whoever the editor was involved. The cutting of scenes affected the film flow of events and by the final third of the film, it seemed so rushed that one can be forgiven to think that the film simply went out of budget. The numerous "close up" shots is more annoying and overused and just about anything that was good in the original, director Chin somehow managed to exclude it. However, the well made finale involving the entire LKF going backward is unbelievable yet sweet, but after going through everything before, the scene is definitely out of place and undeserving of such an ending. One wonders, if the entire production budget and thoughts went into filming the final sequence, the director forgotten that he is not shooting a music video, but rather an entire movie.
With the Hong Kong film industry making lesser local productions, "Lan Kwai Fong 2″ by being sexy and riding on the fame of the first film, may yet sell a few tickets, but with its questionable and cheap quality, it certainly does not help the future of local productions. Still, there is still some fun within this film, but mostly it relates to unintentional humour and to a large degree on the laughable script writing and the bad acting involved. If the first film is mindless entertainment, the second is just so bad that it is funny (Neo 2012)
I rate it 4/10
Girlfriend Boyfriend (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: GF*BF 女朋友。男朋友
"GF*BF" is one of those tragic life experiences disguised within layers of a coming of age kind of youthful romance, but really it is a deep and complicated emotional turmoil about three tragic souls growing up in Taiwan during the 80s period of immense social change.
"GF*BF" is an immensely difficult film to review, as it is one of those films that is impossible to dislike. It is well directed, stylishly filmed, complicatedly and originally scripted, filled with some truly wonderful and convincing performances, but somehow, it doesn't totally go the distance. In saying so, director Yang Ya-che does a wonderful job in bringing such a complicated and layered script to life and almost pulled it off convincingly. In fact, there are times when I was almost overwhelmed by the volume of feelings and emotions on display, but somehow the film lacks a resonance emotional connection with the audience that could have propel the film to reach its lofty ambitions. Not unlike 2006′s Taiwanese youth romance "Eternal Summer" (also starring lead actor Joseph Chang), the film deals with similar issues and situated during a testing period of time in Taiwan and for youth growing up in general.
In many ways the film attempts to say too much, striving to be far too complex and by the end of it, the film itself is caught within its own web. There is just so much potential that director Yang could've explored, but somehow fails to fully capitalize on it. In fact, some scenes are so powerful and notable, namely the intense confrontation scene at the karaoke room, the simple good bye gesture from Gwei Lun Mei looking on by the bedroom window and the brilliant scene at the airport near the end. At times, the quality from these scenes feels as though it came from a different movie all together. However, a few scenes do not make a movie and instead of uplifting the audience to the ultimate emotional connection, the film decides to cut and chop to another time period.
Joseph Chang ("Eternal Summer") at times is able to even outshine the always brilliant Gwei Lun Mei ("Secret"). Chang is quietly wonderful in the conflicted role and carries the film with the most difficult character on hand. Rhydian Vaughan ("Love 2012") tries hard, but is given far too little material to work with, other than being a total jerk. In a way, Gwei Lun Mei is fast becoming the Taiwanese's version of Zhou Xun and that's the highest order of compliment an Asian actress can receive in this day and age. Her chemistry with Chang is undeniable and the subtle moments between the two are best left in the unspoken scenes of early tiny touches, wandering eyes and some stirring emotions. What director Yang is able to achieve is being able to create and allow the audience to focus on the two main characters (Gwei Lun Mei and Joseph Chang) that in more than one ways or another are clearly two complete mirror images of each other.
At the end of the day, Yang tries extremely hard to convince the audience about the subject matter that he is trying to say. While there are notions of life, love and friendship that one can possibly learn from or even relate, the film seems more occupy with the twists and turns of complexity into the dynamics of the trio relationships than actual cinematic experience for the audience. With that being said, "GF*BF" is easily a good film, filled with some truly wonderful performances, helmed by an ambitious director and illuminated by a difficult period of change in Taiwanese history. One just cannot help compare the similarities with 2006's "Eternal Summer", but of the two films, there is no doubt that Yang takes it much further. A good film that comes up short of its lofty ambitions (Neo 2012)
I rate it 8/10
Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: The Bullet Vanishes 消失的子弹
"The Bullet Vanishes" is flawed, a mixed bag, but is filled with plenty of tense and suspenseful moments that makes the film worth taking a look at.
Director Lo Chi Leung ("Inner Senses" and "Koma") certainly have a hand in creating tense and suspenseful moments, which is vital in low budget thrillers. However, "The Bullet Vanishes" is budgeted at US$12 million, one must wonder, why producer Derek Yee is not directing instead. Lo lacks experience in directing anything outside the genre of thrillers and in most cases those films are carried by the ever wonderful Karena Lam ("Kidnap", "Koma" and "Inner Senses") or the late Leslie Cheung ("Double Tap" and "Inner Senses"). That's not to say that this film is without great actors, as the likes of newly crowned best actor Nicholas Tse, the ever versatile Lau Ching Wan, the always brilliant Liu Kai-Chi and rising Mainland actress Mini Yang, more than fill the acting dues. So what exactly went wrong? That is a question that kept me puzzled right from the moment the film finished. The film looks wonderful, credibly produced, expensive sets and contains some brilliant turns from Lau Ching Wan and Liu Kai-Chi, but somehow it feels like a mixed bag. It doesn't help when the film ends with one twist too many. Perhaps upon viewing the film, one just cannot stop themselves referencing to "Sherlock Holmes" In essence, it is still a relatively entertaining, suspenseful and gritty detective thriller, that just didn't quite cut it on an emotional and deeper level.
As usual, Lau Ching Wan is in his "Mad Detective" mode. Lau manages to carry the film once again and alongside the scene stealing villainous turn from Liu Kai-Chi ("The Viral Factor") are the highlights of the film. In those confrontation scenes, the interaction between Lau and Liu are simply priceless and oozes with screen presences. While reigning best actor Nicholas Tse ("Beast Stalker" and "The Stool Pigeon") is dependable without being stunning and lacks chemistry with Mini Yang ("Painted Skin: Resurrection"). At times, it seems as though Tse is going on auto-pilot and a far cry from his performance in "The Stool Pigeon". Yang is pretty much underused and under-explored and in many ways the film seems to be using her current hot streak in Mainland to sell more tickets. One must question what role she really plays in the film, other than exposing some skin and getting hot with her co-star Tse. Yumiko Cheng ("Heat Team") is Yumiko Cheng and despite having more screen time than Yang, she adds nothing to her role.
All in all, "The Bullet Vanishes" is at times suspenseful, gritty and even thrilling, but the film feels stretched and is filled with unnecessary scenes and characters that adds nothing to the overall storyline. While, Lo is probably trying to saying something noble or about the human condition, he is clearly constrained by filming for the Mainland market. Still, this is far from being a bad film, as there is really a lot to like about. In particular, it is always a joy to watch Lau Ching Wan going the distance and Liu Kai-Chi always surprises the audience with his performances. The film most certainly could've been done with tighter editing, but for what it is worth, "The Bullet Vanishes" remains a highly watchable detective thriller. Certainly worth a look, despite its flaws (Neo 2012)
I rate it 7.5/10
Hua pi 2 (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: Painted Skin: The Resurrection 畫皮II (2012) China (Australian Premiere)
Seriously, who can possibly resist the temptation of the flawless and seductive display from the ever-wonderful Zhou Xun, a much improved performance from Zhao Wei (after her dismal role in last year's "Mulan") and of course the insanely cute portrayal by Mini Yang. Like the 2008 prequel, "Painted Skin", to truly embrace the experience, the audience needs to slip into the film like a dream and suspend all beliefs. The more you escape from reality and believe into the world of "Painted Skin: The Resurrection", the more you will end up enjoying the experience. It is one of those special films that require the audience to just go with the flow, enjoy the scenery, the on-screen beauties on display, over the top action sequences, some truly wonderful acting and along with the stunning bright visuals on display.
Zhou Xun is simply flawless in her display as the "spirit" that wants to be more human than human. However, while this film shares the same issue as Ridley Scott's classic "Bladerunner", the issue of wanting to be more human is only given a superficial flick of a dice. Still, Zhou is able to carry the film and the manner in which she seductively graces the screen is nothing short of amazing. In particular her noticeable dance to seduce the General (played by Chen Kun) is certainly a highlight. It should also be noted that when the Zhou is required to switch roles with Zhao Wei, it is Zhou who is able to seamlessly step into the shoes of the princess character. It's been a while since Zhou's winning performance in "Perhaps Love", and while she may not win this year, another nomination is only just around the corner.
In terms of Zhao Wei, one must say that she gets better with age. This does not mean that she is aging well in terms of beauty, but rather the improvement comes in the form of her acting. After the disappointing "Mulan" where the fault lies more in the director and the script, rather than her ability in question, Zhao stands shoulder to shoulder in the role of a princess who values beauty and exterior, over the need of being a human. Her character is a direct contrast to Zhou Xun and she performs particularly well until the two switches bodies. There is a sadness in her eyes that allows the audience to always sympathize with her. It is a natural ability that cannot be taught and in many ways, she was always like this. Think back to "Shaolin Soccer" days, the tears in her eyes when she made the noodles still stands firmly on the back of my mind. While she did not exceed Zhou in terms of acting, there is no doubt that Zhao is finally coming of age.
After first catching my eye in "All's Well, Ends Well 2012" as the swimsuit babe, tackling a relatively difficult and engaging role in "Love in the Buff" and then meeting her in person at the same movie premiere, it is unreservedly that Mini Yang is the latest "it" girl to win my heart. What impressed me in this role is how versatile Yang is. Yang is constantly cute and perhaps the one character in the film that can link more to reality at a human level. Her giggles, laughs, cute-eyed look and comic timing is all at show here. While on surface, it seems like an easy role to play, it should not be underestimated, as it is a kind of role that can so easily go the route of being outright annoying and a waste of space. Instead Yang is able to glue the audience to the screen and turn her small role into a scene stealing performance. Putting aside my personal bias, Yang is still an actress to watch for years to come.
It must be said that one cannot stop being disappointed in the lack of a need for 3D or perhaps for the film not making most of the technology on hand. While "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" is beautiful to look at and at times the bright contrast and use of colours in the scenery and backdrop is breathtaking to endure. On the other hand, in the battle scene where the shooting of thousands of arrows is disappointing to say the least, despite obviously taking a page out of Zhang Yimou's infamous "Hero" scene. While Yimou did not have the same technology back in 2002, "Skin" fails to stretch the 3D technology and the result lacks the outcome of Yimou's earlier work. The film always lacks the vital ingredient of fight sequences, this may be due to the departure of Donnie Yen, but for the few fights that is included, almost all of them are well-choreographed. However, sometimes, less is not more, when the film could have done with at least a few more elaborated staged fights.
All in all, "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" is easily a crowd pleaser and in many ways more of the same as the 2008's original. What I really enjoy about these kinds of fantasy films are the manner in which it allows you to escape into another world. Imagine having a dream which compose of the seductiveness of Zhou Xun, the sympathetic looks of Zhao Wei and the cute-eyed Mini Yang. For me, it is more like a dream come true. Still, "Skin" is by no means a perfect movie and as with most dreams there are numerous plot holes, flaws and unrealistic moments, but if one is able to totally suspend your beliefs, then one can truly enjoy the experience. At the end of the day, sometimes when watching a film like "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" it is all about entertainment and for me, just thinking of the trio of actresses, I am already finding it hard to resist. Most certainly a dream-like experience (Neo, 2012)
Neo rates it 8/10
- www. thehkneo.com/blog
Che sau (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: Motorway 車手 (2012) Hong Kong
Review by Neo (Andrew Chan) FCCA
"Motorway" is well directed, produced and possesses some exhilarating car stunts, but leading star Shawn Yue fails to make his character interesting to follow My personal interest in director Soi Cheang's works dates back to my 2004′s "Love Battlefield" review. Quoting myself in the 2004: "Director Soi is a brilliant director that knows how to 'cheat' the audience but not in a bad way, but rather a terrific way." Back then, Soi was only starting out in his career and that movie took me by the storm and by the end of the film, I was overwhelmed by how much I cared and emoted with the characters and the situation. Since then, Soi continued to venture further into this path and made some wonderfully dark and character driven thrillers like "Dog Bite Dog", "Home Sweet Home" and his first encounter with Shawn Yue in "Shamo", before Soi began his association with Johnnie To's Milkway Films beginning with 2009′s "Accident". In many ways, "Accident" is Soi's first half-hearted crack at commercial cinema before going full on commercial for the first time in his latest corroboration with To in "Motorway". It is not necessary a bad thing, as there is still a certain degree of emotional core in his work, but it lacks the character of his earlier films. Despite, "Motorway" comes off engaging and entertaining, but with a team of Soi and To, one cannot stop the flow of greater expectations and in turn, "Motorway" comes off as one of the pair lesser works in comparison.
Having met Shawn Yue earlier this year at the "Love in the Buff" world premiere, you can tell that he is a man full of confidence and is now at a stage and age where he is ready to really carry the film and burden the shoulders of the male leading roles. Therefore, it is all the more disappointing to see him fail to add anything to his character and to be totally honest, he is fast becoming more wooden and stoic than ten years ago. In the Hospital scene, which was supposed to be film's most dramatic moment, Yue failed the audience by covering his faces when he is weeping in tears. For god's sake, it is his only moment in the film where he can display genuine emotions and set up a finale where the audience can actually care about. Instead, we are left with the audience starring at how cool the car drifting in tight angles is rather than caring about the person driving the car. If Yue continues to act like this, he is simply wasting his time and opportunities to become a truly long term box office draw card or acting award nominations. However for the sake of the future of Hong Kong cinema, I sincerely wish to be proved otherwise.
On the other hand, Anthony Wong is simply amazing in his role as the retiring cop who has done it all before. Wong is the reason why the film possesses an emotional core and in many ways it is him, not Yue that carries the burden of engaging the audience along for the ride. He is the perfect example of an actor in a car chasing scene, where the audience cares more about his well-being and safety rather than how fast the car is going or how cool the next drift will be. In many ways, the film relies so much on Wong, that the film essentially ended when his involvement with the film departed as well (trying my best to avoid spoilers).
Adding to the mix is a strong supporting cast of Johnnie To's regulars. Michelle Yip stands out in a miniature role as Wong's supporting wife. Yip's teary eyes and expressive emotional face in the hospital scene is a perfect example of how Yue should have approached the situation. Another actor that Yue should take a page out of is long time supporting actor Gordon Lam as their police boss. Lam despite being stoic in the role is able to portray a level of depth in his character and the way he handled himself at the hospital with unspoken words and his red watery eyes tells a thousand words. In many ways, Lam is probably due for some recognition and his hard work throughout the last decade has not been gone unnoticed. Others like Barbie Hsu are wasted in a paper-thin doctor role.
All in all, "Motorway" is an entertaining and fun movie ride that will most likely satisfy anyone who enjoyed "Initial D" or to a lesser extent the Cannes Film Festival's favourite "Drive". However, as a complete cinematic experience, the film lacks character, script and emotional depth. It is impossible not to expect more from talented director Soi Cheang, producer Johnnie To and the Milkway Team. Still, "Motorway" works because of its slick production values, quality direction, sharply edited, comprising of some well-choreographed car stunts and an excellent acting turn by Anthony Wong. It may not win any awards, but for the targeted audience, it is probably good enough (Neo 2012)
Neo rates it 7.75/10
Rock of Ages (2012)
HK Neo Reviews: Rock of Ages (2012) - USA
Tom Cruise. Mr. Tom Cruise is simply amazing. In fact he is the only reason why this movie should be watched. Believe me; his performance here is exhilarating, different, rock-like and totally awesome. In essence, Cruise is easily unrecognisable and the manner he is able to electrify the big screen makes Rock of Ages totally watch-able. Without being over-bearing, "Rock of Ages" is an average movie that never raises above its musical genre clichés. In fact, it is actually filled with all the predictable clichés of puppy and stop-start love plot line. However, the reason that the film is better than it should be, can simply be attributed by a long list of strong supporting cast that goes on like a shopping list in Hollywood.
In leading roles are two young guns and romantic leads in the form of Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough. Their love of rock music brings them together and eventually predictably put them apart at the same time. While both kids are rather raw in their acting, they are both likable and have enough justifiable presence along with a good singing voice to boot. However, both are only able to manufacture emotions and the result is the audience never really connecting with the duo. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand turn out far better and the sudden twist of storyline provides a welcome laughter moment for the audience. Likewise, Paul Giamatti is always good as the greedy music producer and the monkey is without question along with Cruise the best thing in the film. In terms of females, Malin Åkerman does extremely well as a Rolling Stone's journalist and is able to churn out an hilariously and sexy display. Unfortunately the usually dependable Catherine Zeta Jones turns out the worst out of the pack and incredibly wasted in a role that seems more annoying than funny.
All in all, "Rock of Ages" is at best an average film that offers nothing new, but is elevated by some fine performances, namely Tom Cruise and a strong cast to boot. Director Adam Shankman is an expert in the musical arena; therefore it is all the more unfortunate that Rock of Ages seems just exactly like "Hairspray" in disguise, rather than aiming for something more original and touching. Still, despite all these mediocre phrases, "Rock of Ages" starts off slowly, but kicks out the electric presence the moment Cruise steps into play as Stacee Jaxx and never stops beating till the credits began to roll. That's a fine achievement by all means, even if the film never truly deserves it at all. At the end of the day, this is a film where some fun can be had, but ultimately it is really just an empty rock 'n' roll experience (Neo 2012)
Neo rates it 6.5/10