HKMDB Daily News

June 30, 2011

June 30, 2011

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , — dleedlee @ 7:56 pm

CRI: Ronald Cheng ‘Proposes’ to Gigi Leung

During a press conference for the urban comedy “Marry a Perfect Man”, audiences witnessed a romantic moment.

The film tells the story between a recently-dumped woman (Gigi Leung) and a rich businessman (Ronald Cheng). After coming out of a seven-year relationship, the woman accidentally meets the wealthy businessman and falls in love with him.

Wilson Yip confirmed a rift between himself and Donnie Yen. When asked if Donnie would appear in the new film, besides that Donnie rarely does comedy, Wilson said that relations between the two were not good. For his part, at the Cannes Film Festival, Donnie had said that Peter Chan was better director than Wilson Yip. According to rumours, plans for a Ip Man 3 had stalled. (Sina)

Flush from the Taiwanese box-office success of “Monga,” director Niu Chen-Zer has announced that filming on his next project, “Love,” will begin next month.

THR: Chinese Sex Shop Comedy to Get U.K. Release

Terracotta Distribution to open “Red Light Revolution” in October.

CNNGo: Cartoon pig KOs action stars to win tourism role

The much-loved McDull beat superstars Andy Lau and Jacky Chan to become Hong Kong summertime ambassador

Michelle Yeoh issued a press release on her expulsion from Burma/Myanmar:

On June 22nd, 2011, I was denied entry to Burma. The immigration authorities treated me cordially but deported me upon arrival for no reason and without providing any justification. I was shocked and terribly saddened by this action. I harbor no ill will resulting from this incident and continue to remain fond of Burma and the Burmese people. I continue to cherish hopes to see this country continue its progress towards peace and democracy and to be able to return soon.

Michelle Yeoh

June 30th, 2011 (Sina)

Earlier this week, it was announced that Brigitte Lin will be appearing at the 22nd Hong Kong Book Fair (July 20 - 26). She will be a guest lecturer and share her reading and writing experiences. Brigitte Lin has been retired for many years in addition to being a wife, mother, she also loves writing. Since 2005, she began writing a column for a magazine (Southern Weekend), and this year finally decided to publish a book. According to reports, Brigitte Lin’s new book, a collection of her essays and columns, covers family, friendship, etc. She has taken the Book Fair appearance quite seriously worrying about everything, including the lighting and seating. Brigitte even brought her own chair reportedly worth two months wages. (Sina)

Latest column: “Aren’t you Brigitte Lin?”, and an old link that I saved from August, 2009 where she reminisces about driving a Firebird in California and her encounters with the Taiwan triad. I made an attempt to translate the highlights here (scroll down). [Google has made translations so much easier now!]


Also this week, in celebration of their 20th wedding anniversary in 2014, Brigitte Lin’s husband, Esprit founder Michael Ying Lee-yuen, is building her a HK$600 million three building ‘palace’. The construction project will take until 2014 to complete on the 30,000 meter plot of land whose entrance is off Anderson Road.(Sina)(sohu)

CF: Fan Bingbing Plays Mahjong with Dolce & Gabbana

July’s Men’s Uno Magazine.

July GQ Cover with Takeshi Kaneshiro


Everything but the man: Chinese ‘golden spinsters’ just can’t get hitched (CNNGo)

Leftover women: Shu Qi, Gigi Leung, Rosamund Kwan, et al

MSN: Elaine Ng moves back to Hong Kong

MSN: Cecilia Cheung pregnant with baby #3?

Husband Nicholas Tse reportedly gave in to her crying and begging

An insider revealed that, earlier this year, Nicholas had hired a digital painter to create a drawing, titled Snake Tattooed Beauty, for Cecilia’s birthday present.

Cecilia Cheung has a temper

Ceci in Milan (Xinhua)

CNA: Joey Yung says ‘no’ to pre-nups

Leon Lai has the Weibo fever

China’s weibo fever needs to be checked

June 29, 2011

June 29, 2011

Filed under: News — dleedlee @ 9:38 pm

CRI: Peter Chan’s ‘Wu Xia’ Premieres(CF)(Xinhua-gallery)

Donnie Yen - Shanghai

Takeshi Kaneshiro

Kara Hui

Shanghai premiere (June 29)2

CF: Jordan Chan Finishes his Work for “White Vengeance”

The movie is expected to wrap up production in early July. It will kick off competition between the new films being launched over the end-of-year period, with a release date in November.

CF: Actor Chan Gets a Museum in Shanghai

The Jackie Chan Museum, displaying the accomplishments of the renowned movie star, along with nine other arts and culture museums, is expected to receive visitors later this year.

Overheard 2 is scheduled for an August 18 release.

Felix Lok

Kenneth Tsang

Wu Fung

Three senior actors reminisce about their long acting careers

Kenneth Tsang, Wu Fung

Felix Lok (Sina)2

Raymond Wong and Huayi Brothers officially announced the launch of “Happy Magic”, a sequel to the Happy Ghost series, destined for the Lunar New Year season. Like the  Ip Man franchise, the crew include director Wilson Yip and writer Edmond Wong. Raymond Wong wore a cape at the event, adopting the role of ‘the magician’. Actress Yan Ni attended and actors Louis Koo, Wu Chun and Wu Jing are said to be joining the cast.

Raymond Wong

Wilson Yip

Edmond Wong


The Devil Inside Me held a Beijing premiere press conference yesterday. Unfortunately, neither of the leads were in attendance. Kelly Lin is in the US preparing to have a baby while Tony Leung Ka-Fai was thought to be on vacation or otherwise unavailable. Director Zhang Qi was forgiving of Kelly Lin but not happy about big Tony’s absence.

Director Zhang Qi

Zhang Qi and mentor Tian Zhuangzhuang (Sina)2

Wong Jing held a launch ceremony in Beijing for a new film (lit. Marry a Hundred Point Man). Ronald Cheng, Gigi Leung, Chapman To, Paw Hei-Ching and other cast members also attended.

Wong Jing

Gigi Leung

Chapman To

Liu Yan

Paw Hei-Ching

Ronald Cheng


MSN: Nicholas Tse’s fatherly side shown in new photos

The photos appeared after Cecilia Cheung’s outburst at the airport, where she accused the Hong Kong actor of being a bad father

MSN: Cecilia Cheung heartbroken after hearing husband’s confession

A few days ago, Nicholas declared that he still misses and loves Cecilia, but added that he did not know how to carry on their relationship, suggesting that their marriage might be coming to an end.

CNA: Cecilia Cheung confronts reporters at train station in Zurich(Xinhua)

After Hong Kong tabloids speculated in early June that the playboy star had contracted the disease, many actresses were said to have panicked and hurried to the hospital for check-ups.

Lynn Hung’s modelling agency Style International Management fell victim to hackers,

MSN: Takeshi Kaneshiro rumoured to be dating

SCMP: Model Bianca reveals she’s a fan of heartthrob Sean Lau

Elaine Ng has recently sold a two-story mansion in Shanghai and enrolled her daughter in an international school in Hong Kong. The annual tuition is 120,000 yuan per year plus a 200,000 yuan fee. Elaine Ng is the former actress and mother of Jackie’s ‘dragon seed’ daughter. In recent years, Jackie Chan has shifted his base of operations to Beijing, the story notes.

Shanghai mansion (Xinhua)

June 28, 2011

June 28, 2011

Filed under: News — dleedlee @ 9:52 pm

ScreenDaily: Beginning of the Great Revival review

CRI: Kung Fu Rabbit to Hit Cinemas on July 11

CF: Final Poster of “Piano in a Factory” Released

CF: Patriotic Movies “Xing Hai” and “The Seal of Love” Released in China

CF: Barbie Hsu in “My Kingdom”

The Chinese action-drama film “My Kingdom” has released a batch of stills featuring lead actress Barbie Hsu in ten different costumes

Stephen Chow to co-direct the New Journey to the West, along with Derek Kwok (Gallants). Originally, Chow was going to only be executive producer but investors requested that he also co-direct. Show Luo has been named to play the Monkey King and filming in Hengdian next month. Stephen Chow will make a cameo appearance. (Sina)

Huang Yi, Charlene Choi

Treasure Inn (Sina)

Zhang Ziyi is currently in Greece as Global Ambassador for the 2011 Special Olympics


CNA: Fourth time’s a charm with Sam Hui

Actress Yeoh blacklisted, deported from MyanmarAFP

Stills from The Lady (Sina)

Elin: “I lost another phone!”

No doubt her ex-lover Chinese millionaire and South Beauty Restaurant Group heir Wang Xiao Fei, who recently wed Taiwanese actress Barbie Hsu, will be humiliated if the pictures did turn up on the Internet.

A1: Nude shots of HK D-cup model leaked (Phoebe Hui), Sina

Cecilia Cheung and her younger brother returned to Hong Kong from Milan yesterday under heavy security escort


Ceci and a fan in Italy


The start of The Lion Roars 2, scheduled for July 1, has been delayed. The official reason is that William Chan’s costumes are not ready and has nothing to do with Cecilia Cheung’s marital problems. (Sina)

Takeshi Kaneshiro’s secret girlfriend?A1: Is she Takeshi Kaneshiro’s new love?

Bosco Wong was furious when censored nude photos of himself in his Fo Tan home were splashed across the cover of Sudden Weekly magazine - owned by Jimmy Lai - two weeks ago.

MSN: Ming Dao avoids national service enlistment by staying in school

The actor has yet to graduate after 11 years of studies in the university

The actor had reportedly accumulated six out of 74 credits. The principal said that at this rate, Ming Dao can only officially graduate in 20 years’ time.

Beginning Of The Great Revival (Screen Daily review)

Filed under: Reprints — dleedlee @ 11:44 am

Beginning Of The Great Revival
Dirs: Huang Jianxin, Han Sanping. China. 2011. 124mins

By Brent Simon
A propagandistic telling of the origins of the Chinese Communist Party on occasion of its 90th anniversary, Beginning Of The Great Revival encompasses war, crumbling social institutions, societal upheaval, melodrama and plenty of political backbiting and gamesmanship, all in a package to be perhaps more admired than enjoyed. The film’s technical accomplishment and narrative scope win out, by slim margin, over plotting that is stodgy and characterisations that are thin and functionally sketched.

Directed by Jianxin Huang and Sanping Han, and produced by the state-owned China Film Group for around $11 million, the film serves as a companion piece to 2009’s blockbuster The Founding Of A Republic, which detailed the Chinese Civil War and the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China. Known as The Founding Of A Party in mainland China, Beginning Of The Great Revival should outstrip its predecessor’s $65 million homeland gross.

Overseas returns — it’s opening in major metropolitan markets in the United States and Canada as part of distributor China Lion’s exclusive deal with AMC Theatres — will obviously be far more modest, though the style and scope of the movie will attract some foreign arthouse patrons, in addition to Stateside ethnic minorities.

The movie details the historic events surrounding what is referred to as the Chinese Revolution — the period from 1911 to 1921 when Sun Yat-sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty and planted the roots of what has become modern day China’s Communist government. The story charts the beginnings of the country’s most influential first-generation leaders, including ambitious warlord Yuan Shikai (Chow Yun-Fat), who undertakes an attempt revive the Chinese monarchy.

When word leaks out of Yuan acceding to neighboring Japan’s 21 demands in exchange for foreign support of his ambitions, it stirs dissent, led by Tsai Ao (Andy Lau), the pro-Republic governor of Yunnan. Yuan abdicates his throne, leaving a power vacuum and much social unrest. Against the backdrop, the film charts the development and political maturation of Mao Zedong (Liu Ye) and later Communist comrades like Zhou Enlai (Aloys Chen) and Deng Xiaoping (Wen Zhang), among others, culminating in the sweeping student uprisings of May 4, 1919.

If one accepts or shrugs off the robust subjectivity herein, there is a fair amount of reward to be found in the grandeur of Beginning’s telling. As did its state-sanctioned predecessor, the film features a cast of China’s biggest box office stars, many of whom apparently waived their fees to appear. Their appearances go a long way toward establishing and maintaining the sense of an important story being told.

Still, the screenplay, by Zhe Dong, Junli Guo and Xin Huang, seems to be trying to serve too many masters. It’s rife with arm-waving speechifying, but never really digs into, in a substantive way, the average life of the proletariat that the eventual Chinese Communist Party claims to wish to bring uplift.

There is little concrete sense of the omnipresent foreign threats to China so often discussed, and by and large the movie sweeps the cult of personality surrounding Mao Zedong under the rug, in favor of a friendlier telling of the party’s founding. Crucially, the characters all come across as two-dimensional as well, devoid of the sort of foibles or details that would enrich a portrait of their historic undertaking.

Production value is extremely high. Various war scenes are capably staged, and the costume and production design are each transportive. The cinematography is agreeably lush for certain outdoor segments, but also makes deft use of lighting and various film stocks to mark shifts in time and place.

Production company: China Film Group

Domestic distribution: China Lion

Executive producers: Hongshi Lu, Ma Zhengquiang, Gao Chengsheng

Producer: Han Sanping

Screenplay: Zhe Dong, Junli Guo and Xin Huang

Cinematography: Zhao Xiaoshi

Editor: Xu Hongyu

Production designer: Yi Zhenzhou

Costume designer: Wang Wenxum

Music: Shu Nan and Ma Shangyou


Main cast: Liu Ye, Chow Yun-Fat, Qin Li, Andy Lau, Dong Jie, Chen Chang, Daniel Wu, Aloys Chen, Wen Zhang, Zhang Jiayi, John Woo
Screen Daily

June 27, 2011

June 27, 2011

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — dleedlee @ 8:49 pm

Variety: Communist Party pic finds time to sell

Product placement is irritating Chinese auds in the most unlikely of places. Communist purists are up in arms over a scene in the newly released propaganda pic “Beginning of the Great Revival,” in which Chairman Mao is given a gold Omega watch by his girlfriend.

Variety: Yulu review

In a generic package of contempo Chinese success stories has flickers of interest, but their repetitive message of hard work and perseverance becomes a didactic drone.

Revenge: A Love Story (Variety)

A tricky crime tale on the cusp of horror, balances the grisly and the sentimental without wallowing excessively in either.

FBA: Return Ticket review

Modest but involving drama of migrant workers in Shanghai intiguingly blends Taiwan and Mainland talent.

Following The Piano in a Factory, on which she took an executive producer credit, the film marks another strong recent role for the distinctive-looking Qin Hailu

Q&A: Gordon Chan Talks About ‘The Mural’ (THR)

The Hong Kong film veteran talks about the arrival of effects-heavy films in China, and how far Chinese filmmakers still have to go.

Watch the music video of “Lost in Jianghu”, the theme song of Peter Chan’s film “Wu Xia”.

Wu Xia poster (Sina)

3D The Monkey King poster featuring Peter Ho, with Joe Chen Qiao-En and Xia Zitong


The film is directed by “Roots and Branches” director Yu Zhong. The cast also includes Alex Fong Chung-Sun and Wang Pei.

CF: Actress Tang Wei to Attend Taipei Film Festival

Sylvia Chang receives Honorary Fellow of Performing Arts from the Hong Kong Academy of Peforming Arts

Disciples Rene Liu and Angelica Lee attended as well as Richie Ren, Sammi Cheng. Media Asia boss, Peter Lam, received an honorary doctorate from the academy as well as music composer Joseph Koo.

Sylvia Chang

Angelica Lee, Rene Liu

Sammi Cheng (Sina-slideshow)(hkapa)

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai celebrates his 49th birthday today with a strawberry cake from his company


Cecilia Cheung working in Europe (Xinhua)

According to reports, Ceci wanted to bring her two sons with her but reconsidered due to the long 10 hour flight involved. It is thought that her sister is looking after her sons. Ceci’s intinerary included a flight to Germany before landing in Milan for a photo and video shoot. (Sina)

CNA: 3D porn film “3D Sex and Zen” to screen in Singapore with no cuts

The international version of the film clocks in at 102 minutes, 27 minutes shorter than the 129-minute version shown in Hong Kong, which was again six minutes shorter than the 135-minute version its director Christopher Sun had originally put together.

HKStandard:  TVB caught up in drama over cover of extras

A trade union organization has slammed free-to-air station Television Broadcasts for failing to provide insurance cover and Mandatory Provident Fund contributions for extras.

June 25, 2011

Yulu (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — dleedlee @ 9:27 pm


An Xstream presentation of an Xstream production in association with BBH. (International sales: Xstream, Beijing.) Produced by Jia Zhangke. Executive producer, Jia Zhangke. Co-producers, Chow Keung, Johnny Tan, Jasmine Huang. Directed by Jia Zhangke, Chen Tao, Chen Zhiheng, Tan Chui-mui, Song Fang, Wang Zizhao, Wei Tie.

With: Cao Fei, Huang Doudou, Zhang Jun, Zhou Yunpeng, Zhang Ying, Zhiao Zhong, Wang Keqin, Wang Yiyang, Luo Yonghao, Xu Bing, Pan Shiyi. (Mandarin, English dialogue)

The combination of Sino-style wisdom and chutzpah that has changed (and keeps changing) China is showcased in short-docu compilation “Yulu.” Festival darling Jia Zhangke leads a coterie of mostly unknown, mostly mainland Chinese filmmakers to deliver a generic package of contempo Chinese success stories. The stories have flickers of interest, but their repetitive message of hard work and perseverance becomes a didactic drone. Sponsored by a Western whiskey company, pic could be fragmented for Internet postings, but the package will score fest slots on Jia’s name alone.

Seven filmmakers, including Jia, offer upbeat docus about 12 prominent Chinese personalities, from artist Xu Bing to environmentalist Zhiao Zhong. Segs uniformly fit the chic advertising slickness of Jia’s opening template as subjects pontificate about life, delivering carpe diem messages too short to resonate emotionally. Malaysian Tan Chui-mui distinguishes herself by shooting in monochrome, but like the other shorts, her piece on journalist Wang Keqin uses wobble-cam and fails to scratch below the surface. Each seg’s intro title card sports the icon of the whiskey sponsor, but pic avoids product placement as judiciously as it avoids history and economics. Title means “wise words.”

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Nelson Yu Lik-wai; editors, Tan, Chen Tao, Song, Wang Jing, Bu Yang, Zhou Jingjing, Shen Ao, Xie Qi; music, Lim Giong. Reviewed at Shanghai Film Festival (Spectrum Documentary), June 14, 2011. (Also in Hong Kong Film Festival.) Running time: 87 MIN.

Revenge: A Love Story (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — dleedlee @ 9:10 pm

Revenge: A Love Story

An ETA production. (International sales: All Rights Entertainment, Hong Kong/Paris.) Produced by Conroy Chan. Executive producer, Andrew Ooi. Director, Wong Ching-po. Screenplay, Wong Ching-po, Jill Leung, from a story by Juno Mak.

With: Juno Mak, Aoi Sola, Lau Wing, Chiu Siu-ho, Wong Shee-tong, Ho Wah-chiu, Lam Ling-yuen, Sun Wai-lin, Yu Tat-chi, Leung Tat-keung. (Cantonese dialogue)

Wong Ching-po’s “Revenge: A Love Story” crafts a tricky crime tale on the cusp of horror, balancing the grisly and the sentimental without wallowing excessively in either. Fans of outre Hong Kong action cinema should approve, with healthy home-format prospects and possible remake potential outside Asia.
A killer is targeting Hong Kong police officers and their pregnant wives, murdering the former outright and gutting the latter of their unborn children. When Kit (Juno Mak), whom we’ve already seen committing these acts, is apprehended trying to flee a police roadblock, he’s hauled in for the brutal interrogation apparently typical at this precinct, triggering a lengthy explanatory flashback.

Some time before, Kit had been a humble steamed-bun seller, smitten with occasional customer Wing (Aoi Sola), a beautiful if simpleminded teenage schoolgirl. When her grandmother/caretaker dies of old age, Wing is unable to process this drastic change; she ends up committed to the local sanitorium, from which Kit springs her.

They temporarily shelter in the apartment of a kindly prostitute neighbor. While she and Kit are out, however, a drunken john shows up, assumes Wing is also a “pro,” and is busy assaulting her when Kit arrives to knock him unconscious. The two youths go to the police to report this attack; unfortunately, it turns out the john was one of them, the vile-tempered, inebriated and corrupt Du Ge (Lau Wing).

The violent fallout of this encounter eventually brings us back to the film’s start. Script (which leaps ahead a timespan or two later on) cleverly maintains interest in what might have become a routine”Ten Little Indians”-style series of revenge killings, mixing things up stylistically in a few strikingly violent action setpieces. Though credibility could easily have flagged earlier, pic only goes over the top with a final setpiece involving a church boys’ choir.

While characters are fairly one-dimensional, especially the innocent-to-the-point-of-idiocy girl served up for despoilage, perfs avoid caricature. Tech and design aspects are first-rate.

Camera (color, widescreen), Jimmy Wong; editors, Wong Ching-po; Cheung Ka-fai; music, Dan Findlay; art director, Cinnie Fung; costume designer, Wen Choi; sound (Dolby Digital), Chen Chi-kien; sound designer, Benny Chu; re-recording mixer, Stan Yau, Chu; assistant director, Julie Lau. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival (To the Extreme), June 10, 2011. Running time: 90 MIN.

June 24, 2011

June 24, 2011

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — dleedlee @ 4:46 pm

Donnie Yen: The Last Action Hero (WSJ)

WSJ: Zhang Ziyi’s Favorite Films

FBA: Rest on Your Shoulder review

Magical romantic fantasy is better suited for ingenuous youngsters than picky adults.

Variety: Mr. Tree review

A character study masquerades as social commentary without succeeding as either in Han Jie’s “Mr. Tree.”

Variety: Beginning of the Great Revival review

A Chinese propaganda film without the heavy dogma and dour treatment that would have been expected a generation ago, “Beginning of the Great Revival” is a slick and lavish historical epic charting the 1921 formation of the Chinese Communist Party.

A worthy history lesson on the founding of the Chinese Communist Party with only partially entertaining aspects.

EpochTimes: Propaganda Film Inspires China’s Youth to ‘Overthrow Dictatorship’

Epoch Times is pro-Falun Gong publication

Three lives clash in the Taiwanese crime thriller “Make Up”when a closeted music teacher takes her life, leaving a trail of unanswered questions for a make-up artist, a psychiatrist and a detective to follow.

The Pretending Lovers opens today (Sina)

Veteran actor Chen Kuan-Tai is working on a new martial arts film (lit. Assassin) now under production. The film is being described by director, Miao Shu, as a Warring States version of Infernal Affairs. Ricky Lau Koon-Wai is producing. The story involves rival kings sending assassins to each other.

Ricky Lau

Miao Shu, opening lens ceremony

Chen Kuan-Tai

Chen Kuan-Tai and director Miao Shu

Zhou Yichen

Jiang Chao

Jiang Chao

Leung Kar-Yan

Zhou Yichen, Dong Zhihua (Sina)23456

The actress, who is currently working in Germany, claimed that Nicholas is a frequent liar. She added that he was the person behind the attacks on her, in order not to transfer any properties to her.Cecilia Cheung breaks silence over marital woes

Cecilia Cheung has broken her silence on her marital woes, and in an explosive interview with Oriental Daily News, told her husband Nicholas Tse to stop pretending to be a good man, good husband and good father.

“Even up until yesterday, right before I got on the plane, he was still secretly ‘releasing’ information to the public. I truly couldn’t stand it anymore and felt that I needed to come out and say something.”

I’ve been married to him for 5 years and have known him since I was 18 years old – of course I know what type of person he is! All this time, he has always projected the image of being ‘cool’ and ‘suave’, wearing his sunglasses all the time and such. I once asked him why he always wears sunglasses, to which he replied that with the sunglasses on, people can’t tell whether he is lying or telling the truth! So him getting ‘Best Actor’ is truly ‘deserving’ then! (Q and A with Cecilia, translated)

Airport security guards for Ceci’s departure (Xinhua)

Beginning of the Great Revival (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 11:46 am

A China Film Group, Huaxia Film Distribution Co. release of a China Film Group Corp., China Lion Distribution presentation of a China Film Group production. (International sales: China Film Promotion Intl., Beijing.) Produced by Han Sanping. Executive producers, Ma Zhengqiang, Gao Chengsheng. Directed by Han Sanping, Huang Jianxin. Screenplay, Dong Zhe, Guo Junli, Huang Xin.

With: Liu Ye, Feng Yuanzheng, Chow Yun-fat, Li Chen, Andy Lau, Li Qin, Chen Kun, Chang Chen, Ma Shaohua, Chen Daoming, Zhou Benshan, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun, Huang Jue, Zhang Jiayi, Feng Gong, Zhou Xun, Wang Xueqi, Angelababy, Fan Bingbing, John Woo. (Mandarin, Japanese, English, French, Russian dialogue)

A Chinese propaganda film without the heavy dogma and dour treatment that would have been expected a generation ago, “Beginning of the Great Revival” is a slick and lavish historical epic charting the 1921 formation of the Chinese Communist Party. Like co-helmers Han Sanping and Huang Jianxin’s previous megahit, “The Founding of a Republic,” the pic packs the frame with famous faces attractive to younger auds. The tactic paid off handsomely, as the pic has reaped $17 million since its June 15 mainland bow, and should have a modest future offshore when it rolls out in Oz, New Zealand and the U.S.

One of no fewer than 28 films officially endorsed by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television to mark the CCP’s 90th year, pic bowed on more than 7,000 screens and 20 of China’s 24 Imax venues; it accounted for 3 million admissions and 57% of all B.O. biz in its first five days. Still, the film opened softer than “The Founding of a Republic,” and appears unlikely to best its predecessor’s whopping $61 million domestic gross.

Kicking off with the Wuchang Uprising of October 1911 that triggered the Qing Dynasty’s downfall, the narrative initially focuses on Sun Yat-sen (Ma Shaohua), pioneering revolutionary and leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), ) and fellow anti-imperial agitator Chen Duxiu (Feng Yuanzheng). After the establishment of the first republic in January 1912, provisional president Sun is edged aside by Yuan Shikai (Chow Yun-fat), a Qing warlord who takes the title of Emperor of the Great Chinese Empire.

One of the few sections given any significant breathing space is Yuan’s downfall at the hands of former Yunnan governor Cai E (Andy Lau) and his severely outnumbered Republic Protection Campaign forces. Handed a juicy role by young scripters Dong Zhe, Guo Junli and Huang Xin, Chow brings gravitas to a figure whose legacy remains hotly debated.

While viewers who’ve studied the history should be able to follow the proceedings, others may find it difficult keep up with the complex machinations inside the many arms of the pro-Republican movement. Though understanding the finer details can be challenging, the script ensures the big issues and events driving the cause are easy to grasp.

Little more than a bit player for the first 40 minutes, Mao Zedong (mainland heartthrob Liu Ye, “Curse of the Golden Flower”) comes more prominently into the picture following the raw deal China received as a victor nation at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Script strongly enforces the sense of betrayal and belittlement felt by the country at the hands of foreign powers as a factor inspiring Mao to leave Hunan for the hotbed of activism at Peking U. Surely the handsomest actor to portray Mao, Liu impresses, whether rallying students into action or sharing a number of sweet romantic moments with future wife and co-revolutionary Yang Kaihui (Li Qin).

The undoubted highlight of the pic’s second half is the staging of the May 4 Movement in 1919 and the protests that followed in its wake. Marshalling all the resources of grand epic filmmaking, Han and Huang capture the necessary exhilaration and excitement of the moments in which Mao and comrades Chen, Li Dazhao (Zhang Jiayi), Hu Shi (Daniel Wu) and Li Da (Huang Jue) realized their dreams had the mass support to become reality.

Gorgeously lensed in widescreen by Zhao Xiaoshi (”Wheat”) and decorated to the hilt, pic’s every frame is a pleasure. CGI reconstructions of old Peking and other locations are tops, and visual enhancements create a genuinely breathtaking sequence set on a boat in Shanghai’s South Lake. The lush orchestral score by Shu Nan and Ma Shangyou is on the money most of the way, with just a few dips into overkill. All other technical aspects are first-class.

Co-helmer Han has announced plans to make a biopic of Mao to complete the “Red Film Trilogy.”

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Zhao Xiaoshi; editor, Xu Hongyu; music, Shu Nan, Ma Shangyou; production designers, Yi Zhenzhou, Wang Wenxun; costume designers, Wang Qiuping, Zhang Ling; sound (Dolby Digital), Wang Danrong; associate directors, Li Shaohong, Shen Dong, Lu Chuan. Reviewed at Event Cinemas George Street, Sydney, June 23, 2011. Running time: 130 MIN.

Mr. Tree (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — dleedlee @ 11:41 am

Mr. Tree (Hello! Shu xian sheng)
A Shanghai Film Group Corp., Beijing Bona Film and Cultural Communication, Xstream Pictures production. (International sales: Xstream Pictures, Beijing.) Produced by Jia Zhangke. Executive producers, Ren Zhonglun, Yu Dong, Jia Zhangke, Han Jie. Co-producers, Wang Tianyun, Zhang Hao, Chow Keung. Directed, written by Han Jie.

With: Wang Baoqiang, Tan Zhuo, He Jie, Li Jingyi, Wang Dazhi, Wang Yabin. (Mandarin dialogue)

A character study masquerades as social commentary without succeeding as either in Han Jie’s “Mr. Tree.” Riding heavily on the charm of thesp Wang Baoqiang, this tale of a man who goes from town drunk to village idiot via a stint as seer is content to cut narrative corners rather than do the hard work of storytelling. Due to Jia Zhangke’s producing imprimatur, pic will automatically make the must-see list for upcoming fests, but will be greeted elsewhere with folded arms. The film scored the grand prize and the director award at Shanghai.

In a small mining town in Jilin, a northwestern Chinese province bordering North Korea, devil-may-care Shu (Wang) has an established rep as a drunken layabout and a danger to himself and others. When Shu temporarily blinds himself while welding in a garage, the ennui that follows builds on his unresolved despair over the death of his older brother, hanged from a tree by their now-deceased father.

Once his sight is restored, Shu takes a joyride with friends to the nearby town of Jitai, where he meets attractive, mute massage-parlor girl Xiaomei (Tan Zhuo). An awkward courtship ensues, and Shu’s attempts to transform himself into marriage material only sow the seeds for greater disaster, including his wedding day.

China’s increasing urbanization is on Han’s thematic agenda from the opening scene, in which a roaming van loaded with loudspeakers spligblatts consumer goods bribes for the small town populace to uproot to modern property developments. While a sense of disapproval rumbles under the yarn’s surface, Han’s pointed observations tend to feel like heavy appendages by the time they’re made explicit.

The script’s elliptical tendencies place the character’s sudden shifts in personality at the mercy of the helmer’s allegorical whims. Frequent arty cutaways to Shu (whose name means “tree” in Mandarin) cowering in a tree are deliberately jarring but add nothing to the narrative; a sudden song-and-dance number is likewise clumsy. Han relies heavily on Wang’s easy charisma, but without a strong narrative throughline, the thesp’s substantial charm is insufficient to carry the film.

Lenser Lai Yiu-fai deploys an almost docu style that gels well with Wang’s perf, but the multiple attempts at meaningful moments, a dark finale that bathes the screen red is the only artistic moment that rings true poetically. Tech credits are OK.

Camera (color), Lai Yiu-fai; editor, Matthieu Laclau, Baek Seung-hoon; music, Lim Giong; art directors, Zhang Xiaobing, Liu Qiang; sound (Dolby Digital), Zhang Yang. Reviewed at Shanghai Film Festival (competing), June 13, 2011. Running time: 86 MIN.

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