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234 reviews in total 
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Girl$ (2010)
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Girl$, 8 February 2012

"Together we did a test, but with immerse consequences…"

In many ways this is a controversial film for mainstream Hong Kong cinema, not only does it deals with the 21st century sex industry, but it shows the actual sexual act in some form of details. Sometimes in the mist of life, people tend to forget about relationships and in the process; everyone is so busy that there is no time to develop feelings beyond a day. It is the harsh reality of an extremely commercial and business world, where the dogs eat dogs. Director Kenneth Bi succeeds in delivering an issue not dealt with by the usual Hong Kong fair, but falls short of its lofty ambitions, by looking at the surface of the online industry sex industry and never dealing with the more complicate themes.

There is no question that Michelle Wai is the pick of the actresses on display. Her ability to be vulnerable is amazing, but it is her natural screen persona that enables her to deliver a character and something the audience can somewhat identify with. In addition, the film possesses an extremely daring display by Taiwanese actress (played by Una Lin) not only bares for all to see, but created life within her character and the reasons behind her becoming. However the same cannot be said for Bonnie Xian and high schooler (Venus Wong) as both pale away in comparison.

All in all, Girl$ is a fun film to watch and most certainly a film filled with potential, but by the hour mark, all the build-up went into the waste bin. In a way this is disappointing as director Kenneth Bi is a talented director who is capable in delivering the tough issues. Still, there is a lot to like about this film and not unlike fast food, it is fast, cheap, entertaining, and sexy and it is very much Hong Kong flavour. Girl$ will probably never win any awards, but in depicting the vibrant sex industry of Hong Kong, it is at the very least starting a trend. Next we will probably see Wong Jing following suit. A decent film that falls short of its lofty ambition…

Neo rates it 6.75/10

HK Neo Reviews: Hi, Fidelity, 8 February 2012

"What kind of people wins the lottery? Also what kind of people are rich and talented? Answer is someone else."

We have all seen countless movies about middle aged married men going out to behind the backs of their wives to have a "happy ending". Hi, Fidelity takes a different route and instead focuses the attention on the reasons and process of a bunch of middle aged women doing the same deed. This is without doubt an extremely entertaining film that takes the audience along for the entire ride. Add in career best performances from Michelle Ye and surprisingly William Chan in a duo role, the film succeeds in showing the processes and the reasons behind the female's mental state in the art of cheating. Still, like most Hong Kong movie, the build-up is great, but the finale seems to flatter as the director takes the shortcut rather than fulfilling the unacquainted potential the film possessed.

Michelle Ye handles her difficult role extremely well as she tackles all the pressing issues that surrounds the film. In particular, in the scene when she confronts Pat Ha by expressing her love, it was menacingly seductive. For the first time in his life, William Chan impresses in his duo role, not only is he convincing, but ended up somewhat likable and flawed. It is a far cry from his days of roaming the magazine headlines for just one reason – Angelababy. For a minor character in the film, Chapman To rises to the occasion and steals the stole as Michelle Ye's gangster boss husband In the scene when To confront Ye over her fidelity, he was downright impressive, calm and rhetorical. Despite obviously being a bit part role, To manages to transform his small role into something more memorable than it should be. As for the film weakest link, it goes to veteran Pat Ha and the much missed 90s cinema – Carrie Ng. Both are unable to bring their respective characters to light and are borderline average at best.

All in all, Hi, Fidelity is actually a pretty good film; it entertains and once it starts the run of ballet just never stops. However, the film has a number of noticeable flaws, including a full forwarded ending, disappointing performances from the experienced Pat Ha and Carrie Ng and resulting in a film that does not know whether to be serious or not. Still, there is a lot to like about this film and in terms of entertainment, it delivers. It is certainly nothing special and sometimes it pays to expect less. Hi, Fidelity is something different to the usual fair and it ends up being a good trashy film, but nothing great…

Neo rates it 7/10


2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Jump! Ashin, 6 February 2012

"you are not only fighting for yourself, but for all those who once had a dream…"

"if you have the chance to live a dream, go for it bravely!"

Jump! Ashin is an interesting, yet unbelievable film that is apparently based on a true story. Still there is a lot to like about this film. Firstly, the two lead actors are extremely likable in the form of the bulked up Eddie Peng and the scene stealing entertaining display from rising star Ko Yue-Lun. Secondly, from start to finish, the film is extremely well-meaning and the good news is that it entertains as well. Finally, the director being the brother to the real-life Ashin, adds an extremely personal touch to the proceedings and the result is a heartfelt finale that wins over the audience's hearts.

Eddie Peng is easily a likable character and as a title character Ashin, Peng puts in a career best display and carries the film with a strong touch. The fact that the finale can be so touching just goes to show the effort both Peng and the director puts into the character development to a level the audience can relate and feel. Likewise Ko Yue-Lun simply steals the show as Ashin's sidekick. His conflicted emotions in display as well as being a drug addict further enhance his ability as an actor in probably the most difficult role in the film. Although, Zaizai Lin's screen time is kept to a minimal, but Lin was simply irresistibly sweet and the manner she manages to extend from her page thin role, just goes to show the potential of her acting ability. Another actress to stay in touch with and certainly can do so much more in a meatier role.

All in all, Jump! Ashin does feels like a payback to Hong Kong late 80s cinema. From the Jackie Chan's style fight scenes to the Dave Wong's classic songs about after love and a clear cardboard cut of scene from As Tears Goes By, Jump! Ashin reminds us of the glory days of HK cinema. With films like "You are an Apple of My Eye" and now this, Taiwanese cinema is making a strong statement. Despite the numerous exaggerated subplots and events, the film ultimately finishes extremely strongly and ends on a positive note. If you are able to go out of this film unaffected, then you are either emotion-less or you have slept for the whole duration. I have always got soft spots from films that can inspire, emote and embrace the audience along the ride. Jump! Ashin succeeds by going back to the basics and as cliché as the story may seem, there is no doubting that this is a good film to boot…

Neo rates it 8/10.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Pick the Youth, 6 February 2012

"I finally realised that Grandpa wasn't the cage, he is just another bird in the cage, but without the feathers…"

Although this is a little known Taiwanese film that didn't do well at the box office, Pick the Youth is a thoroughly enjoyable film that takes the audience back to dream, childhood and music. I remember back when I was in high school, my parents didn't embrace the idea that I wanted to be a film critic and thought I was definitely wasting my time away by watching and writing about films. It was tough as 17 years old trying to balance HSC and movies, but somehow I managed to come through. In fact back in 2004, I wrote a review for every single Hong Kong productions that year. Thinking back, I do not for one single moment regret my Hong Kong cinema experience and it was that year that defined my passion for films well as knowing more about my roots. Flicking back to this film, it succeeds because it is a personal film that the audience can revoke and relate to. It is a shame that such a film is not embraced by the Taiwanese general audience, but my gain is their loss.

The film does not rely on strong individual effort, but rather it is a team performance. Every actor from young to old together they managed to reach the final outcome. In particular I thought the father (played by Jonathan Chang does extremely well in a role similar to the director's own personal story. (Read Q&A session with the film director) Likewise Gao Man-hua displays plenty of potential and in a way outshine the rest of the youngsters. Despite being her debut performance, there is an air of natural presence that made her a younger version of the mother (played by Francesca Gao).

All in all, Pick the Youth is a highly underrated film from a director who wanted to share an extremely personal story about father and son and the notion of what is best for them. It is a complicated dilemma that will face most parents in the past, present and future. What is so great about this film is that it doesn't try to manufacture emotions and uses music as a medium to explain and show one's passion. Rebellious youth will forever be a topic of interest in coming of age youth cinema, but director Tapu Chen is able to show a different side. Pick the Youth could well have been just another well-meaning art house flick, but it is more than that, because once you are hooked, you are unlikely to leave your seat. What gave the film extra is its ability to make the audience think and somehow revoke their own pursued passion. It is disappointing to say that the film fails to finish off with a bang and fully churn the audience to tears. However, for what it is worth, Pick the Youth is a highly commendable effort and enjoyable film to watch…

Neo rates it 8.5/10

7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Love Strikes!, 2 February 2012

"With you, I will never grow."

Love Strikes continues the good track record of quality Japanese production with a point to express. It is simply about a story of a 30 year guy who just cannot seem to attract or keep a girl. However that's all about to change as the movie shows how he deals with the destiny year of three very different girls coming into his life. It is almost truism to say that people want what we cannot have, but this movie shows and depicts the difficulty for an inexperience guy coming up against the more experienced female counterparts.

What I enjoyed most about this film is because it tries to show the story from a male perspective. The carefree manner in which the director is able to breeze through the corridors and every corner is with some fun, some meaningful moments and some tragic times. One of the best lines of the movie comes from the girl that the guy loves the most, giving the following as reason why she prefers someone married over him: "with you, I will never grow." It is one of the most cynical yet true quotations and perfectly explains the sad reality of modern relationships.

All in all, Love Strikes! is easily one of the best Japanese romantic dramas in 2011. It may not seem like much, but the film strikes the audience right in cord where it counts, hurts and feels. In a way the film is a bittersweet lesson about the making of the female counterpart and also a story about a nerdy guy trying to find love in face of a battlefield ahead. It is true that love feels great, but to understand it will never be possible. For what it is worth, Love Strikes! is a delightful drama that works from start to finish, if you can ignore the unnecessary sweet ending. Still, this film is easily heads and shoulders above its peers and like 500 Days of Summer, the male audience can relate…

Neo rates it 8/10

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2 February 2012

It's been a long time running since the last time I did not follow or get a movie. I am proud to announce that my latest espionage spying experience has ended in tatters as I somehow never out into it, involved or understanding the whole point of a waste of two and a half hours of my time. It is that disappointing and even more so, considering the performance of Gary Oldman (getting an Oscar nomination for the role). At the end of the day, this film is far too inaccessible for mainstream audience and even for those that do get it, I cannot see the joy of the ride.

Despite Gary Oldman best efforts and probably deserved Oscar nod, the film sense of direction, pacing, editing and story are all borderline boredom. Perhaps it is not targeted at the general public, but for even a festival film experience, it is an hour too long and tad too daunting to endure. Don't get me wrong, the locations, the film sets and the film as a whole actually looks great and it is clear that the director and producers have out a lot of effort into the details. In fact most of the dialogues are cleverly written. However the problem exists in its inability to engage the audience and transcends them from boredom.

All in all, to say Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a bore fest is probably an understatement, but it is probably safe to say that the film has good intentions and a decent display from Gary Oldman. In spite of this, the film fails where it matters most, namely assuming everyone in the audience knows the historical backdrop of the 70s and resulting in losing the audience in the process. As much as I wanted to like and embrace this part of work, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy just doesn't work or click with me. A disappointing experience to say the least… Neo rates it 5/10

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: The Descendants, 2 February 2012

This is a delightful film to watch. It is wonderfully paced, well directed and an excellent cast to the boot. The Descendants is not a simple film, but ones that deals with complicated emotions and how people deal with life, when it gives them the lemon plus a little more. Set in the paradise state of Hawaii, the story of George Clooney's character is nothing, but paradise. What made this such a pleasing experience is the manner in which the director just eases the audience into the movie. This is an unique and effective way to keep the audience engaged without over-stuffing them with intoxicating details or dialogue.

George Clooney performs outstandingly well in most likely his career best against the usual type display as the conflicted father dealing with family issues, business, potential death of his wife as well as the shattering news of knowing his wife was having an affair. None of these are forced upon the audience, but rather Clooney uses emotions, happenings, surrounding and even a road trip to let the audience into the movie and experience the experiences with him. Shailene Woodley who plays the daughter here is an absolute delight to watch. Let's hope she continues her natural screen presence into a good career. She is certainly one to watch in the coming years ahead.

All in all, The Descendants is a wonderful movie, a little tragic, a little emotional, a little bit of heart and a little bit of fun. It is a delightful yet unfortunate piece of drama that allows the actors to immerse into their roles as they slowly creeps into the minds of the audience and ultimately somehow winning their hearts along the way. The film feels like a journey and by the end of the credits, there is something refreshing about this film that makes it better than it is. Maybe it is George Clooney or maybe it is just the human condition, but whatever it is, The Descendants is a fine film to boot…

Neo rates it 9/10

One Day (2011)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: One Day, 1 February 2012

"Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today." This is a great example of how to make a good movie. Along the lines of Before Sunset or After Sunrise, One Day is essentially about one's journey through life's ups and downs and the love we encountered along the way. Anne Hathaway is once again pitch perfect and her chemistry with would-be lover Jim Sturgess is just dazzling to watch. It is one of those films where even though the two aren't together, you feel that somehow they are just meant to be. Life is a like a big piece of puzzle and sometimes, it takes a long time before you finally realise how to finish off the puzzle. It can be that simple and also that weird at the same time. One Day gives you the sweet, the bitter, the mysterious, the delightful, the downs of one's life journey. Directed by Lone Scherfig, the person behind the outstanding An Education, One Day uses one simple plot device of showing the same day for 15 years and in the process drives the audience to the conclusion. This is a simple gimmick that works to its maximum potential. Perhaps the only real problem is that the film lacks ambition and the originality that made An Education a much more unique and finer picture. One Day seems to rely more on the attractiveness and the greatness of the acting duo to push the film above being yet another love story. What makes the film work simply the director ability to make the audience keep wanting to know more, understand more and see more about the couple's fate.

All in all, One Day is never a film that reaches for the stars, or the wow factor, but rather is happy enough to stay within the defined boundaries within its own plot devices and heavily reliance on the actors' performances. That's not to say it is entirely a bad thing, but after a great film such as An Education, one just expect that little more. Still, One Day is more than enjoyable enough experience to recommend sitting through one screening and in terms of the genre, you can certainly do a lot worst. A delightful film that capture your attention…

Neo rates it 7.5/10

HK Neo Reviews: Powerful Four, 1 February 2012

Powerful Four is a good film because it never takes itself too seriously without being mindless, while at the same time delivering an entertaining action drama about the serious issue of police and society corruption in the 1950s. With a strong cast of Danny Lee, Simon Yam, Waise Lee and Kent Cheng, Powerful remains afloat for the majority of the duration, until a predictable finale that nearly undo-s all the hard yards made for a good three quarters of the film. What surprised me is how easy to watch this film remains to be, despite viewing it exactly 2 decades onwards. Such is the HK cinemas in 90s, at the height of its production peak, most films started well but finishes in a flourish and Powerful Four does not fall into any exception.

What Powerful Four feels like is fast food – quick, convenient and cheap. The problem with this film is that you never really feel for the characters, as everything seems to be happening at a pace. When an arm is being cut off, the director moves to the next scene or shot too quickly for the audience to decide to feel sorry or not. Perhaps director and producer David Lam is trying to show all that is happening in the limited screen time, but every issue seems shortened, suddenly solved or wrongly invested.

All in all, Powerful Four is by no means a bad film, in fact in terms of quick fire 90s entertainment, it is probably more on the upper scale than not. The acting of the four big names is certainly helps, but none of the characters are fully explored. Kent Cheng is especially criminally wasted and Waise Lee seems to cover up any kind of clue as to his true intention. Of all the characters, only Danny Lee is given some weight, but then again, it is not hard at all for Lee Sir to convince anyone for that matter if he is a cop or not. For me, this film is really another case of a premise that promise a lot, but delivers the bare minimum. A decently good film that never lifts above its genre conventions…

Neo rates it 7/10

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
HK Neo Reviews: Hong Kong Ghost Stories, 1 February 2012

This is a difficult film to review, as when I say it is a film of two parts, it really is. The first part directed by Wong Jing is borderline crap, while Patrick Kong improves on this and delivers a worthy addition to 2011 Hong Kong cinema. Such is the fall of Wong Jing, but at least he makes Kong looks like a genius at work. The problem of the first film is that it tries hard to build suspense, but the result is far too unbelievable to have an impact on the audience. Apart from the cliché toilet scene, the film is rather stale, the scares are far and between and Jenifer Tse is not ready for acting. Adding all these negative elements and using tried and used principles of haunted classrooms and students; we can all but confirm that Mr. Jing is out of ideas and probably out of his mind.

Moving on the better segment comes, "Travel" from everyone's favourite cynical director on modern romance, Mr. Patrick Kong. Kong have ventured into the ghost/horror genre before in Forgive and Forget (2008), but that was not particular any indication of success. Understanding this is not his forte, Kong goes smarter by presenting a horror comedy rather than an outright suspenseful thriller. The effect is sound and familiar as he uses his muse (Stephy Tang in a scene stealing tiny role), his ball player in Chrissie Chau and the muscles of Him Law. In many ways, Kong works better in a 45 minute segment than a full movie, as he does not have time to waste some space with silly music video or even prolonged flashbacks. The result is a fun 2nd segment that pokes fun at HK entertainment circle, TVB, ATV and numerous other gags. One thing I do not understand is why do everyone depose of dead bodies in a water drain of their own home? One, they will probably end up dying from drinking from infected water or two, they will be discovered anyway.

All in all, Kong redeems Wong in this Ghostly encounter and probably wins heads on by a quick mile. It is disappointing to see Jing continues to fall, but then again it is a pleasant surprise to see Kong do well. Still, despite the uneven start, Hong Kong Ghost Stories scores with the audience in the second segment and as the cliché goes – it ends better than it starts…

Neo rates it 6.5/10

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