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234 reviews in total 
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HK Neo Reviews: Eternal Summer, 16 March 2011

A brave effort…

Director Leste Chen has ventured into an unlikely genre with a brave heart, but the results are another matter. It is a film that attempts to be compelling, emotional and consequential, but ultimately it fails to connect with the audience. The film itself is like a beautiful image, filled with daring performances, outstanding direction and lighting, but somehow it falls short and perhaps ending up being quite lacking. Putting together two relatively unknown male leads enhance the credibility of the film by being more believable and surprisingly they handed their respective roles with suitable bravery and emotionally performed. Coming from the lush of fame from the arty 20:30:40, Kate Yeung is suitably nature and a potential filled performance worthy of noting.

The movie goes like this: The film opens with elementary school kid Jonathan (Bryant Chang), ordered by the teacher to befriend his classmate Shane (Joseph Chang). Since then, they have shared every episode in their lives until Carrie (Kate Yeung) becomes their high school classmate...

It is still a mystery, as to the prime reason why the movie never seem to connect to Neo, perhaps it is the subject matter it is dealing with, but the film is ultimately distant and leaving far too many stones unturned in the process. Some twists like the controversial sex scene is far more shocking and brave than actually affecting and connecting. It is probably safe to say that the script is really a let down, as everything else seems like the product of good cinema. There is no doubt that the filmmaker here is daring and is not afraid to expose edgy issues and there are even scenes that reminds us of a far superior –Wong Kar Wai's film – Happy Together. Unfortunately this flick never reaches those heights and the effect is more like experimental cinema than actual accomplished cinema.

Still, with all the criticisms the performances of the trio is without doubt the core saviour for the film as they are able to create believable characters and act beyond the material they are given. Byrant Chang handles his role in an outright sympathetic manner with his heart torn between his love for his best friend and his duty to maintain his friendship. He is expressive and subtle at times, creating a performance that is worthy of some recognition. Likewise, Joseph Chang performs extremely well in a complex role, but in a way his performance may well be enhanced by the sudden shocks within the scripts, rather than his actual performance. Nonetheless, he remains a fine young talent. Of the trio, Kate Yeung is given the filling parts or perhaps what Neo calls "a paper thin role", but somehow, Yeung is able to act beyond her material and resulting in the most natural performance of the trio. She is a bright young talent and despite not being an outright beauty, her talents by far outweigh that minor physical flaw.

All in all, Eternal Summer is by no means a bad movie, and in fact it almost has all the ingredients to set it up as an outright award winning arty film. Unfortunately the film failed to connect and affect to the audience's emotions, resulting in a finale that is more emotional and tense for the people on screen, rather than the ones looking on. It is ultimately a trying and brave effort and for that alone, it is worthy of giving some sort of credit to. Nonetheless, it is an interesting look into the lives of three tormented souls and the daring performances are alone worthy of a pat on the shoulders for their efforts… (Neo 2006)

I rate it 7.5/10.


4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Election 2, 16 March 2011

Spooky? Funny? Yeah!

In 2006 HK Cinema, few movies warrant a second viewing, but clearly Election 2 is one that improves in its 2nd running. Johnny To is a versatile director and needless to say, whatever tension that is lacking in its sequel, Johnny makes up for it with twice the brutality and further destruction of those in power. While the first film emphasis on one struggle for power and its ability to corrupt even the most ingenious of humanity, the second one further this notion, that the only way to secure power is through eliminating all its challengers. Perhaps Bush is right - "you are either with us or against us" as this notion is never proved so strongly correct. Needless to say, Election 2 is already fast becoming of the finest work from the little territory this year.

One of the most memorable yet shocking scenes is without doubt the chopping sequence of arms, legs and body parts of a living person and then churning it out into dog food. Fear is a factor that allows those in power to control the masses. It is at that moment that Louis Koo becomes a greater evil than Simon Yam. His goal is money, not triad power and glory. The saying goes: "money is the root of all evil" and at that moment, Koo have metamorphoses into a wild animal – crazy and no longer human. It is crazy to imagine what one can do for money as Koo's silent assassin screams out: "Add money" repetitively even the moment before he die, is both humorous yet bitterly ironic. In dicing a human into dog food, Johnny alludes to 90s' human pork chop movies and most notably – The Untold Story starring Anthony Wong. Luckily, Election 2 does not exactly show the vivid scene in full detail, or else it will probably break even the most carefree of censorship boards.

Like in the first film, the only way to survive in the dark underworld is to remain in power, as the Chinese saying goes: "one mountain can not shelter two tigers." Unlike the 1st film, Simon Yam takes a back seat, despite showing some quite credible acting chops. His expression upon kicking the old man down the stairs is calculatingly evil and so is the memorable expression as he holds on to the leader baton, with the type of grin hiding behind an ambitious smile. He is ultimately ambitious, yet an extremely flawed character. Louis Koo takes on the leading role, this time around in full force and perhaps one of his finest performances in years since Bullet Over Summer. His aim for business and money is noteworthy and the ambition hidden within the scene where he chops up arms and legs is equally startling to watch. A much underrated actor deserves to appear in more material like this. Other appears here and there and Lam Suet is once again funny in a cameo role. As usual Nick Cheung is fast becoming one of the coolest actors in HK cinema.

Following Neo's statements above of this being 2006's finest work isn't really an understatement, despite the poor quality of productions in most HK films. To have been able to embark a sequel that matches the original is alone a heck of an achievement. It is a beautiful piece of work and along with the ironic trademark finale, Johnny is back on the circuit. With many more productions ahead, one can only expect heaps better stuff to be made. Yes, to be perfectly honest, it is disgusting, but at the same time, it is really good to endure. (Neo 2006)

I rate it 9/10.


0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, 16 March 2011

Uneven yet entertaining routine…

Donnie Yen is officially over-exposed. While his latest venture in Chen Zhen will not diminish his popularity, but the for movie lovers, this is just yet another more of the same. The fact that Jet Li made far superior prequel in 1994 (namely Fist of Legend) adds to the disappointment. Mr. Gordon Chan serves as producer seems to have forgotten how to make a film more even, while director Andrew Lau Is once again lost incoherence when without his counterpart Mak Siu Fai. Still, Legend of Fist is by no means a bad film, in fact, I find it quite entertaining. However, one would expect more with the current status of Yen and everyone else involved.

One thing I cannot stop noticing is that Donnie Yen plays Chen Zhen like Ip Man. Not only did the final fight looks like Ip Man, but Yen acted with retrained in his character, a bit too much like the aforementioned icon. Just when he is required to do more overacting, Yen restrained to his stoned delivery. I remember watching Yen fights his way through to the big boss in Fist of Fury ATV series. His overacting created the atmosphere. While I am condoning overacting, as Yen is previously notorious for that, but I am disappointed that Yen cannot stray off his Ip Man image. I am also somewhat disappointed in the final fight scene with a class of students. In Jet Li's Fist of Legend, the scene was creatively filmed with overhead camera angles. Here, it is deadpan and the delivery is flat and how he cleaned up the room seems rather contrived and unclear. The final fight with the Japanese general is too routine and cliché to be anywhere near affecting.

Antony Wong is wasted in a role where he adds next to nothing. Perhaps filmed at the same time as his venture into the Laughing Gor's role, Wong tries hard, but the script fails him. To say the least, I might admit that the best thing may well be Shu Qi. Her role is complicated and somehow she is able to pull it off. I wouldn't say that she dazzled the screen, but she was most certainly the most watchable character in the movie. Another problem is the lack of chemistry between Yen and Qi, which may well adds up to the unaffecting finale.

All in all, Legend of the Fist is a decent entry into the martial arts arena, but it fails to have the same impact as Ip Man. The reason is simple, where Ip Man is a well directed film, Chen Zhen is not. At times the film feels too random, incoherent and at the end of the day rather uneven. Yen have physical presence and as well as musical talents, but his acting is still a long way from being accomplished. It seems as though that Yen is still riding on his waves of Ip Man's success. While it is not necessarily a bad thing, Chen Zhen is at the end of the day an iconic character made famous by both Bruce Lee, Jet Li and himself. To me, the donning of the mask (like Kato) should never have happened. Still, the Legend of the Fist is a decent film, some fine action scenes and more importantly people just can't get enough of Donnie Yen. Does it live up to expectations? Probably not. Does it brings the audience back to the cinemas? Yes. Maybe I am just a tad too demanding and after all, how can Donnie Yen do anything wrong...(Neo 2010)

I rate it 6/10


1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Almost Famous, 16 March 2011

A film that hits more real notes than just being famous…

Almost Famous is a fine film and a perfect example of how to make a movie about a band, a group, a young writer, a young female and people. Ultimately the film is about people, perhaps not who they are, but rather who they believe they are. Director Cameron Crowe hits all the right buttons in creating a movie that does not seem a tad manufactured and in fact more real than it should be. A ground breaking role of sorts from the then upcoming star Kate Hudson. In one scene, she showed almost the sort of potential that made her a star. When William tells her about the rock star true intentions, Hudson turns away with tears in her eyes and putting on a short brave smile. A classic bittersweet moment.

What I liked about Almost Famous is not so such of its coming of age intention, but the way Crowe exposes the kid, William into the adult world of drugs, sex, jealousy, love, friendship and ultimately humanity. Ultimately, Almost Famous works because it is genuine. It is genuinely enjoyable, fascinating, funny, touching, lively and most important of all, a film filled with believable characters. At the end of the day, the film tells us that the truth hurts, but like the legendary veteran rock critic says: 'you need to remain honest and un-merciless". Likewise, as Kate Hudson sums it up well: "the truth just sounds different". In all honestly, Almost Famous is a fine film...(Neo 2010)

I rate it 8/10


4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, 16 March 2011

Tsui Hark best film in years… It's been a long time coming, but finally, Tsui Hark delivers. It is a moment for cause and celebrate. Perhaps that going a bit over board, because despite the last decade of eccentric films that Hark have delivers, at the back of our minds, we knew the little master still got tricks left in his box. Lucky for us, the wait is over. Detective Dee is probably what you call, the most ambitious, interesting, entertaining blockbuster film of the year. The effects are a joy to watch and does not pale in comparison to its Hollywood counterparts. The story is complicated and unpredictable on a few levels and certainly enough to glue our eyes to the screen. Adding to the mix, Hark also gave us, everyone's favorite in Andy Lau. What can possibility go wrong and luckily it doesn't.

What I really enjoyed about this film is the creativity, the differences and the ambition that contains Tsui Hark all over it. Sure it requires the likable screen presence of Andy Lau to carry the film and he does so, with the same kind of elegance as always. Along with the experienced veteran in Carina Lau as the Empress in waiting and Tony Leung Kar Fai as the lead builder. Both performed with the sort of flair that adds to the film. Perhaps the weak link of the mix remains Li Bing Bing. Although I have personally bias towards this Bing Bing, as I do not seem to be able to picture her as pretty at all. Her performance is weak and her acting remains rather forced than acting. Then again, asking her to be as pretty as Fan Bing Bing is stretching the eye candy factor a bridge too far.

All in all, Detective Dee easily one of the best film of 2010. It is by far, Mr. Hark best work in more than a decade. It is a shame that it took this long for the little master to shine once again. For long time HK Cinema fans, Detective Dee is the film that we are all waiting for. For me, Dee is a film that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. A must see…(Neo 2010)

I rate it 9/10


6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 14 March 2011

To be frank, a bad film…

I am not entirely sure, why people liked this film? Maybe, I am just stupid and did not get it. That is probably the case. However, I just do not see any point of liking it. The reason I endured the film till the end is partly by the somewhat enjoyable cast and some fast moving story telling. Still, I do not see the point of the fights and most likely than not, I must have missed something. Michael Cera is making a career of roles like these and is fast becoming a cliché. While the whole cast of actors are enjoyable to watch, I just do not seem to be able to get into the film and have fun. Is it just me?

All in all, Scott Pilgrim is at its core a comic book film. Not that I read the comics, which probably answers my question as to why I did not like or get it. However, it must be said that some use of computer games effects are fun to watch. Still, a good gimmick or two does not justify me wasting a good 90 minutes. With all the rave and good reviews churning out all over the net, I even contemplated watching it in the cinemas. Now after the DVD venture, I am more than happy to declare that I didn't. Basically Scott Pilgrim does nothing for me and whether I get it or not is no longer an issue. The fact is I do not want to know…(Neo 2010)

I rate it 3/10


3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: The Stool Pigeon, 14 March 2011

This is more like Beast Stalker… Beast Stalker was a great film, filled with tension, fine acting and incredible tension. Similarly, the latest venture from Dante Lam in Stool Pigeon is a lot like the aforementioned film. The good news is the tension is there, the acting is good and the film is well directed. The bad news is that Stool Pigeon does not reach the heights of Beast Stalker. Nick Cheung reverses role with Nicholas Tse this time around. Cheung is the cop and Nicholas Tse is the stool pigeon. Cheung is now an established actor and earns his paycheck here with a gritty and emotionally complex character. Tse on the other hand is excellent and almost carries the film on his shoulders. The best thing of the lot, is once again veteran Liu Kai Chi. Liu steals the show and the effect is seen in the opening scene when he screams for help.

Stool Pigeon is a good film, but not a great film. The reason is simple, it lacks the same amount of intensive tension of its predecessor and relies much on the acting of Tse and Cheung to take the film to the end. In say that, this is by a far a much superior effort to Fire of Conscience. Dante Lam is a capable director and he is at his best, when the characters in his films are allowed to express their truest potential or perhaps when they go crazy. Think Anthony Wong in Beast Cop and Nick Cheung in Beast Stalker. While both Tse and Cheung does fine turns, but neither are memorable. The film itself is not too memorable either. Instead what we got delivered to us is a film that entertains, some interesting chases, fine acting and positive direction. Easily a good film, but not great…(Neo 2010)

I rate it 7/10


The Town (2010)
HK Neo Reviews: The Town, 14 March 2011

It seems like 2 Hong Kong films that I have seen before… Call it déjà vu or whatever, but the fact is clear. The latest Ben Affleck's directorial and starring effort in The Town, seems far to alike to a Andy Lau's vehicle and a separate Richie Ren's movie combined. Sure, the film is well paced, quite entertaining, but one cannot stop thinking about the aforementioned motive. Putting this aside, The Town is actually quite decent, well produced, well directed and a story that is complicated enough to keep the audience at their seats. However, something seems to be lacking to elevate the film further up the scale. The chases are fun, so are the masks (most notably the ironic nun's masks to rob the bank), but one thing that is safe to proclaim is that Ben Affleck is officially a better director than actor. Whenever on screen, Affleck is far too wooden to convince, but the film is extremely well directed.

Basically, The Town tries hard to be creative and goes the route normally not taken by Hollywood standards. However, when put into context, this is really one simple film expressed in a complicated fashion. While this isn't a bad thing, but the characters despite plenty of focus, we feel nothing for. There is no emotional connection that made Affleck's previous directorial effort far more effective and touching. The film also does not seem real and rational. I know love is not meant to be rational, but the guy is a murderer, bank robber and kidnapper for god sake. Will you still want to be with him? For me, this film seems to focus too much on Affleck's wooden range and subsequently even discounting the déjà vu factor, The Town is at best average and nothing more…(Neo 2010)

I rate it 6/10


Shaolin (2011)
10 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Shaolin, 14 March 2011

A competent and action pack Shaolin movie… It is of a moment of distinction to proclaim that Benny Chan's latest blockbuster, not only revisited the glory days of Jet Li's first ever movie, but also reunited two of the biggest Hong Kong actors ever. Mr. Andy Lau and Mr. Jackie Chan appears on screen together for the first time since 1994's Drunken Master 2. The moment they appear together, the screen goes on fire. It is a special little segment that excites HK cinema fans, including myself. However, Shaolin fails to exceed the audience expectation and the result is a competent and efficient movie that contains wonderful action sequences, but nothing more.

The real problem of director Benny Chan is not direction, but rather the criminal under usage of Fan Bing Bing and Nicholas Tse respectively. Tse for one, should be critical of his own performance. His villainous turn is neither convincing or menacing. In fact, he should take a leaf out of Mainland's actor, Liu Ye – book of acting. His evil laugh is more cheesy than imagined and his overacting is far too laughable than villainous. A poor effort from someone who have improved immensely in films like Beast Stalker and Pigeon Stool. As for Fan Bing Bing, she performs wondrously in her extremely limited screen time. Her teary eye caught my attention, but with just two significant scenes, she is officially wasted.

All in all, Benny Chan improves from his previous Aaron Kwok's endeavor – City Under Siege. From cheesy to competent action blockbuster, Chan perfectly casted superstar Andy Lau in a role that allows him to go through the motions. At the end of the day, this is a highly effective film for what it is. Unfortunately as with most Benny Chan's movies, the film entertains, but fails to delivers anything special or original to make a good film, great. Basically, Shaolin is a good film, but not great……(Neo 2011)

I rate it 7.5/10


HK Neo Reviews: Dragon Tiger Gate, 12 October 2010

Entertaining yet uninspiring... Donnie Yen isn't exactly a fresh face, but with the action starved HK fans, he isn't half bad and perhaps the most consistent martial arts performer for the last 5 years. With several action director awards under his belt, his signature is written all over the bubble gum action in Twins Effect and the gritty crime in Sha Po Long. Much is expected of Yen and director Wilson Yip, coming off the incredibly well made – Sha Po Long, but one must not forget that the new film - Dragon Tiger Gate is comic book and therefore comparison between the two is rather unfair. Sure, Dragon Tiger Gate is filled with flaws, but at the same time it is comically entertaining without much tension and in a way with lower expectations, it certainly works to some extent.

The movie goes like this: Donnie Yen is Dragon, who left the martial arts organization Dragon Tiger Gate years ago and is now working under triad leader Ma Kwun (Chen Kuan Tai, star of many Shaw Brothers swordplay films). Ma Kwun gets the Lousha Plaque which grants him the exclusive rights to do business with Shibumi, the evil leader of the Lousha Sect. Dragon's long-lost brother Tiger (Nicholas Tse), still living in Dragon Tiger Gate, accidentally gets hold of the Plaque, and the two brothers finally cross paths...

Wilson Yip have certainly matured as a director and after viewing his resume of films like Bullet Over Summer with stands along with Sha Po Long as one of his best film, he have also created entertaining yet forgettable movies like 2002 and The White Dragon. Perhaps, Yip is in the 2002 mode for this film and the result isn't half bad. Like all his films, they are extremely well produced and excellently presented. One thing of particular interest is that Yip is very much a character director who attempts to extract a performance from his actors. Louis Koo in Bullet Over Summer, Simon Yam in Sha Po Long and even in lesser flicks – Francis Ng in White Dragon, but with a twist and a turn his attempt in Dragon Tiger Gate is suitably wasted in the form of Donnie Yen. Yen is brilliant fighter and has terrific physical presence, but seriously his attempts at acting are rather bland and forced. While other actors, in scenes such as the swimming pool scene can express a "Great Wall", Yen expresses nothing other than him being bulky. Of note, the chick in the swimming pool scene is seductively hot from what I remembered and her last impression to Neo is pretty memorable.

The action in the flick isn't exactly top class, and at times, Shawn Yue and Nick Tse seems suitably more concerned with their weird hairdos than the actual action moves. For non-fighters, they did a pretty credible job, but pales in comparison with some brutal trademark kicks and physical presence of Yen. I don't know if it is just me, but to me, Yen's action directing seems the same in every movie and at times his trademark double kick seems more cliché than freshness. However, the last fight with Yen and the masked guy is of the best in recent years and definitely extremely entertaining to watch.

Nick Tse is an actor that Neo praised in a number of movies with some good comic touches in most notably New Police Story and The Promise. Here, Tse doesn't do much either than act cool or let his hairdo do all the talking. In a way it is a wasted performance and like wise, Shawn Yue's hair does more than his needless performance. It is disappointing to realize that Shawn, whose potential is seen in Jiang Hu, is only given more than an extended cameo performance with Yen given the center of attention. As mentioned above, Yen is not much of an actor and his attempts at acting are even more laughable than Jackie Chan trying to be serious. It seems that Yen is now trying out to become a romantic lead, with a sexually daring performance in Seven Swords and now a romantic lead in Dragon Tiger Gate. Really, Yen isn't convincing, but whatever he lacks in character, he redeems himself with fists and kicks. Of the three action heavy weights, Chan, Yen and Li, Neo can be save to say that Jet Li is by far the best actor out of the pack.

Dragon Tiger Gate is all in all a fun, entertaining yet rather forgettable flick. While I may seem to be contradicting myself, but for a Yip's film it just isn't up to scratch. The plot seems thin and the comic book isn't exactly tense, but the real downside is really the action. While it is still leaps above the state of HK cinema, it is in no standing to rival neither the action quality of Fearless nor the brutal feel of Sha Po Long. However, with all being said, Dragon Tiger Gate is by no means crap and in fact it can even be considered as a success as it reaches it ultimate aim of being entertaining. With lower expectations and defying the fact that Wilson Yip is the director or Donnie Yen trying to act, this movie can be pretty adequately fun to watch, but that's about it… (Neo 2006)

I rate it 7.75/10.


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