HKMDB Daily News

February 8, 2014

The Monkey King (Hollywood Reporter review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 2:54 pm

The Monkey King
2/7/2014 by Clarence Tsui

The Bottom Line
A flat and surprisingly unengaging 3-D revisit of a now much-adapted story.

Hong Kong A-listers Donnie Yen, Chow Yun-fat and Aaron Kwok headline director Soi Cheang’s 3D origins story for the primate hero of classic Chinese novel “Journey to the West.”

The common Cantonese phrase “moon tin sun fat” — which translates as “Gods galore in the sky” — is used to refer to a chaotic state of struggling to get a handle on numerous loose ends. It’s a more than apt description for Hong Kong director Soi Cheang’s largely mainland Chinese-financed take on the classic 16thcentury Chinese fantasy novel Journey to the West. Focusing on the rite of passage of the story’s primate hero Sun Wukong, The Monkey King is filled to the brim with gravity-defying saints and sprites zipping across the screen in a litany of kinetic 3-D action sequences. But the stellar imagery hardly makes up for the film’s underwritten narrative, half-baked characterizations and emotional gimmicks.

Finally finished after many a mooted release over the past two years — the film’s production actually began in 2010, before Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which released to commercial acclaim this time last year – The Monkey King credits four screenwriters and two directors of photography. Surveying the result, the project indeed feels as if too many talents spent too much time dragging the film in different directions, without it ever coming to a satisfactory, full-fledged end. Leaving many of the story’s themes of kinship, betrayal and revolution untapped, the film is also weighed down by a lack of experimentation in style and storytelling, not to mention a dearth of innovation or precision in its slapdash 3D digital effects.

All those missed opportunities, however, have since been glossed over by the film’s booming performance at the box office: released on Jan. 30 over the Lunar New Year holidays in mainland China, the film broke Iron Man 3’s opening-day record in the country and has since taken $90.4 million there. A sequel is now in the offing, with the producers confident enough to have already hinted at the prospect onscreen by bookending the film with a monolog by Yuanzhuang (voiced by Louis Koo), the monk who would lead the monkey on a trip to secure holy scriptures in the next installment. Outside China, the presence of names such as Donnie Yen and Chow Yun-fat might appeal to Asian cinema aficionados, but a limited release will likely be the way forward for a piece that would need more stylistic innovation to avoid paling before its Hollywood counterparts.

Having established himself as one of Hong Kong’s most promising young auteurs with festival entries such as the Johnnie To-produced Accident and Motorway, Cheang might sense the irony of scoring his most commercially successful hit with a film on which he didn’t (or couldn’t) impose his own creative imprint — apart from the faint strain of a dehumanized lead protagonist struggling to engage with stifling social norms, a Cheang hallmark.

The monkey king (played by Yen, nearly unrecognizable in heavy make-up and/or digitally enhanced attire) begins the film blissfully unaware of his supernatural roots, as he leads his life as a mischievous chieftain of a tribe of primates in a small cave, using his exceptional dexterity to pick fruits and impress his charges. But his origins are accounted for well before he is introduced onscreen. During the film’s prolog – a high-octane, all-destructive battle between the upstanding Jade Emperor (Chow) and the horned, evil-incarnate Bull Devil (Aaron Kwok, Cold War) – the former is banished to exile by the latter, and the goddess Nuwa (Zhang Zilin) reconstructing the world with crystals generated from her body.

The monkey’s embryo is nurtured within one of these crystals, a paranormal beginning that leads to a sage, Puti (Hai Yitian), taking him away for some training and guidance. Bestowed with the name Sun Wukong and now seeing a much bigger world he might play with, he goes on to terrorize other deities (such as his destruction of the East Sea Palace, where he secures his legendary cudgel) and unleash bedlam in the Jade Emperor’s kingdom (where he briefly serves as the master of sovereign’s royal stable, an official appointment going horribly awry).

All this monkey business is played out over a darker conspiracy bubbling underneath, as Bull Devil attempts to avenge for his defeat with plans for another offensive at the heavenly realm. Defying discord with his wife (Joe Chen) – the Jade Emperor’s younger sister who eventually becomes the famed Iron Fan Princess – Bull prepares for his attack, as he secures inside help from “Erlangshen” Yang Jian (Peter Ho), the warrior god seeking a step up in the celestial hierarchy after spending most of his years as a gatekeeper. Aware of Wukong’s abilities and divine destiny, Bull also plants white-fox spirit Ruxue (Xia Zitong) into his life, with the hope of using the pair’s growing bond to incite the monkey in rebelling against the Emperor.

Somehow, these marginalized figures’ struggles with their lot all fall through the cracks, as the aspects of humanity they represent — piety, ambition and love — never really get substantially articulated. Then again, even the major characters come across as distinctly lackluster, with the Jade Emperor lacking poise, Bull short of menace and the Monkey King himself appearing mostly like a jester capering about, void of the subversion which defines him both in the original novel and also in the many modern film and TV adaptations of the tome. For all their glimmering costumes — designed by a foursome comprising the newly Oscar-nominated William Chang (The Grandmaster) — this triumvirate of god-like characters come across as distinctly two-dimensional protagonists struggling to find some lyrical life in a three-dimensional spectacle. It’s all much a deity about nothing.

Venue: Public screening, Hong Kong, Feb. 6, 2014
Production Companies: Filmko Entertainment, Shenzhen Golden Shores Films in a presentation by Filmko Entertainment (Beijing), Mandarin Films, China Film Group, Beijing Wen Hua Dong Run Investment and J Star Film, in association with Zhejiang HG Entertainment, Dongguan Boning Enterprise and Investment, Shenzhen Golden Shores Films, Filmko Entertainment
Director: Soi Cheang
Cast: Donnie Yen, Chow Yun-fat, Aaron Kwok, Peter Ho, Joe Chen, Hai Yitian
Producer: Kiefer Liu
Executive Producers: Kiefer Liu, Zhao Haicheng, Chen Jingshi, Luo Qi, Han Lei, Ye Dewei, Zhang Quanxin, Hou Li, with Harvey Wong, Cheng Keung-fai, Han Sanping, Mu Yedong, Zhang Quanyin, and co-produced by Xu Yongan, Chen Canqiu
Screenwriters: Edmund Wong, Huo Xin, Szeto Kam-yuen, Chen Dali
Directors of Photography: Yang Tao, Cheung Man-po
Editor: Cheung Ka-fai
Production Designer: Daniel Fu
Art Director: Yang Changzhi
Costume Designers: William Chang, Yee Chung-man, Guo Pei, Lee Pik-kwan
Music: Christopher Young
Action Director: Donnie Yen
Visual Effects Directors: Kevin Rafferty, Ding Libo
Stereoscopic Designer and Cinematographer: Daniel L. Symmes
International Sales: Filmko Entertainment
In Cantonese (Hong Kong version)/Mandarin (mainland Chinese version)
No rating, 119 minutes
THR

February 1, 2014

The Monkey King in 3D (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 4:14 pm

The Monkey King in 3D
JANUARY 31, 2014

Hong Kong helmer Soi Cheang infuses a simplistic, action-driven narrative with inexhaustible energy, but little style or substance.

Maggie Lee

More than three years in the making, and easily the most ambitious cinematic rendition yet of Wu Cheng’en’s 16th-century Chinese epic “Journey to the West,” “The Monkey King in 3D” nonetheless can’t match the technical refinement or storytelling smarts of its Hollywood counterparts. Hong Kong helmer Soi Cheang infuses a simplistic, action-driven narrative with inexhaustible energy, but one expects greater stylistic flair and substance from the veteran helmer behind “Motorway” and “Dog Bites Dog.” Still, this CG-cluttered fantasy epic will still do well if marketed as family entertainment; opening on multiple Imax screens at home, it’s already expected to break Chinese New Year B.O. records.

Chinese viewers will be compelled to compare “The Monkey King” with Stephen Chow’s recent “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons”; while that film filled in the gaps of Xuanzang’s early life, this one traces the path that led Monkey to become the monk’s disciple. Admittedly, Chow’s humor and brilliantly subversive instincts are inimitable, but the collaboration of four scribes here has nevertheless produced a shallow, juvenile screenplay that plays like “Journey to the West for Beginners,” with borderline-cardboard characters.

The pic kicks off in high gear with an apocalyptic turf war between the deities and demons, rendered in six minutes of nonstop, “Transformers”-style mayhem during which both sides seem less intent on defeating each other than simply smashing the surrounding celestial architecture to smithereens. The deities prevail, led by Jade Emperor (Chow Yun-fat), whose sister, Princess Iron Fan (Joe Chen), pleads for the life of rebel leader Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok), whom she loves. The couple is banished, along with the whole demon tribe, to Flaming Mountain.

The task of postwar reconstruction falls on the shoulders of goddess Nuwa (Zhang Zilin), who gives up her own body to fill the cracks in the firmament (don’t ask how). What’s left of her afterward is a pink, Kryptonite-ish substance that falls to Earth and enables the genesis of a primate embryo. And so Monkey is born.

While living inside his bubble, the infant Monkey is befriended by a snowy fox. When he grows up (now by Donnie Yen), he re-encounters the fox in the form of a pretty, fur-clad girl, Ruxue (Xia Zitong). They fall in love, entwining tails like in an old Disney cartoon, blissfully unaware that Bull has other plans for them in his scheme to retake the Heavenly Palace. Meanwhile, the Goddess of Mercy (Kelly Chen) sends Taoist master Puti (Hai Yitian) to be Monkey’s mentor and teach him magic. Unfortunately, Puti is not much of a disciplinarian, and his pupil, now called Sun Wukong, becomes naughtier than ever.

For more than 100 minutes, Wukong goes on a series of adventures, which invariably involve him vandalizing deity property like the Eastern Sea Palace, Jade Emperor’s celestial stable, or the fairy peach grove. Most Chinese kids know these chapters by heart, and there’s no new take here; the only novelty is that the effects are splashier in such a movie adaptation, with CGI so pervasive that one sometimes forgets they’re watching a live-action film.

“Journey to the West” was one of the few ancient classics not branded “revisionist” when the Chinese Communist Party took power: During the Cultural Revolution, in such propaganda films as the animated “Uproar in Heaven,” the Monkey King was celebrated as a role model for Red Guards — an anarchic force of nature that rose up against the ruling elite. In Jeff Lau’s “Chinese Odyssey” series, made on the eve of Hong Kong’s handover to China, the Monkey King was portrayed as an Everyman at the mercy of history, grappling with existential questions.

This current blockbuster incarnation, by contrast, is arguably the most vanilla of the bunch, portraying Monkey/Wukong as playful rather than rebellious, and only a threat to the social order when treacherously provoked. All of which makes him friendlier to a tyke audience, but it provides Yen with little room to flex his acting muscles or otherwise emote effectively; in fact, the thesp looks unrecognizable in his hairy suit and heavy makeup.

Jade Emperor is as majestic and magnanimous as any absolute ruler can get, but it’s a dull role, and Chow’s attempts to enliven it through occasional banter with Wukong come to naught. Kwow looks sexier than one might expect for a man with horns jutting out of his forehead, but his vengeful Bull is one of the flattest roles he’s played. Bull’s accomplice, the three-eyed celestial gatekeeper Erlangshen (Peter Ho), proves the most intriguing and psychologically persuasive character here, essentially a disgruntled employee who’s been denied a promotion or pay rise for several centuries.

Yang Tao and Cheung Man-po’s compositions and the computer illustrations (by more than a dozen vfx companies) boast a geometry inspired by traditional Chinese art, notably in a scene where a pack of flying horses form a beautiful symmetrical pattern in the sky. However, many of the visuals are oversaturated and simply sub-standard, resembling cheap computer-game fare; most annoyingly, the fight scenes are often obscured by scattered debris. The creature design ranges from magnificent to kitschy.

With so much animation crowding the background, the terrific high-wire action (directed by Yen) is frequently upstaged. Production design is sumptuous when it comes to the various heavenly and underwater habitats, but inexcusably slack in its evocation of the hellish Flaming Mountain, which consists of only two sets: a dreary, charred cave interior and a sooty pit.

Film Review: ‘The Monkey King in 3D’
Reviewed at UA Windsor Cinema, Hong Kong, Jan. 30, 2014. Running time: 119 MIN. Original title: “Xiyouji zhi da nao tiangong”

Production
(Hong Kong-China) A Filmko Entertainment, Newport Entertainment (in Hong Kong)/Beijing Anshi Naying Culture Co., China Film Group, Wanda Media (in China) release of a Filmko Entertainment, Mandarin Films Co., China Film Group presentation of a Filmko Entertainment, Shenzhen Golden Shores Films production in association with Zhejiang HG Entertainment Co., Shenzhen Golden Shores Films, Dongguan Boning Entreprise and Investment Co. (International sales: Filmko Entertainment, Hong Kong.) Produced by Kiefer Liu. Executive producers, Kiefer Liu, Zhao Haicheng, Chen Jingshi, Luo Qi, Han Lei, Ye Dewei, Zhang Quanxin, Hou Li. Co-executive producers, Xu Yong’an, Chen Canqiu, Keefer Liu, Harvey Wong.

Crew
Directed by Soi Cheang. Screenplay, Szeto Kam-yuen, Edmund Wong, Huo Xin, Dali Chen. Camera (color, widescreen, HD, 3D), Yang Tao, Cheung Man-po; editor, Cheung Ka-fai; music/music supervisor, Christopher Young ; production designer, Daniel Fu; art director, Yang Changzhi; set decorators, Zhang Haiwang, Zhao Zhanli; costume designers, William Cheung, Yee Chung-man, Guo Pei, Lee Pik-kwan; sound (Dolby Digital), Jay Yin; re-recording mixers, Steve Burgess, Chris Goodes; special makeup, Shaun Smith, Mark Philip Garbarino; visual effects supervisor, Kevin Rafferty, Ding Libo, Kim Wook, Kim Jung-hoon, Patrick Kim, Kim Chan-goo, Park Myung-song, Lee In-ho, Li Rui, Shin Chang-dong, Eric Xu, Rita Shi, Fort Guo, Billy Zhuang, Chris Q Yao, Adrian Chen, Jiang Weibin, David Ebner, Jeff Goldman; visual effects, GS VFX, Dexter China VFX, Dexter Digital, CJ Powercast, Idea, Macrograph, Illumina VFX, Wuji LMZ Art&Design, Mad Man, Digital Studio 21, More VFX, Revo Fx, Technicolor, PO Beijing, Studio 51, Lucky Dog, TWR Entertainment, Z Storm, DEVFX, the Resistance Visual Effects; stereoscopic supervisors, Daniel L. Symmes, Keith Collea; action director, Donnie Yen; stunt coordinators, Kenji Tanigaki, Yan Hua; assistant director, Mai Yonglin, Vash Yan; Casting, Liu Shiliu, Liu Sasa.

With
Donnie Yen, Aaron Kwok, Chow Yun-fat, Peter Ho, Hai Yitian, Xia Zitong, Joe Chen, Kelly Chen, Gigi Leung, Zhang Zilin, Calvin Cheng, Cheung Siu-fai. (Cantonese dialogue)
Variety

March 13, 2013

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 1:42 pm

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

03.10.13
Richard Kuipers

Visuals are more dazzling than the storytelling in “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons.” A qualified return to form for Hong Kong hitmaker Stephen Chow (“Kung Fu Hustle) after mushy sci-fier “CJ7,” this mostly entertaining action-fantasy-comedy about a demon hunter soars when pyrotechnics take centerstage, but is less successful when the focus switches to words. Nevertheless, “Journey” has gone bananas since its Feb. 7 domestic release and looks certain to crack the $200 million mark and overtake “Lost in Thailand” as the highest grossing Chinese movie. Commercial potential beyond Chinese-speaking auds appears limited. North American release details are pending.

The pic is the umpteenth movie inspired by Wu Cheng-en’s classic 16th century novel “Journey to the West.” The source material about the arrival of Buddhism in China provided the basis for “A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box” and “A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella,” domestic hits starring Chow as the mischievous Monkey King.

With Derek Kwok (“Gallants”) credited as associate director, “Journey” follows a simple pattern of elaborate set-pieces followed by brief pauses for reflection and explanation, not all of which are entirely compelling or convincing.

The first spectacular sequence shows young demon hunter Xuanzang (Wen Zhang) arriving in a fishing village during a gory, “Jaws”-like attack by the fearsome Water Demon. Chow’s knack for mixing suspense and slapstick is impressively displayed as Xuanzang leaps about rickety walkways and see-sawing bridges resembling the board game “Mouse Trap” before rescuing a baby just inches from becoming the creature’s next meal.

In one of several new ideas brought to the old tale by Chow, Kwok and six other credited writers, sensitive Xuanzang reads nursery rhymes to demons in the hope they will reject the dark side and join him as allies in the quest for spiritual enlightenment. His belief is that these beasties were once good-natured humans that suffered terrible injustice, and a lilting lullaby is all it takes to undo the damage. Watched by villagers as his technique restores the Water Demon to his previous human form as Sand Monk (Lee Sheung-ching), Xuanzang’s moment of glory is stolen by the sudden arrival of Duan (Shu Qi, “If You Are the One”), a feisty femme demon hunter with radically different ideas on creature control and a flair for showbiz that the nerdy Xuanzang lacks.

Duan invites herself on Xuanzang’s missions to challenge and change other demons — pig K.L. Hog (Chen Bing-qiang) and Sun Wukong, also known as the Monkey King (Huang Bo), an especially tricky customer who’s served 500 years of solitary confinement in a remote cave on orders from Buddha himself. While sequences such as Duan using her “Infinite Flying Rings” to disintegrate Hog’s minions at his restaurant-cum slaughterhouse are filled with razzle-dazzle CGI and exciting 3D effects, talk-based segs between showpieces too often lack the nimble scripting and heartwarming charm that distinguishes Chow’s best work, like 2001’s “Shaolin Soccer.”

The main problem is Duan’s wildly enthusiastic attempts to woo Xuanzang despite his avowed devotion to “a greater love” than what she’s offering. Pushing the opposites-attract notion a bit too far, Duan’s repeated declarations of passion for Xuanzang never ring true, and it remains a mystery why she finds him so irresistible. An early sequence showing Duan and her sexy comrade (Chrissie Chau) conspiring to activate Xuanzang’s libido produces chuckles, but variations on the theme prove far less mirthful.

Although Chow does not appear in the movie, his acting style and screen persona are writ large on the main cast. Shu is dynamite as the all-action Duan, Huang amuses as the eccentric Monkey King, and Taiwanese singer Show Lo scores big laughs as Prince Important, a narcissistic rival demon hunter with an entourage of soon-to-be-superannuated female sidekicks.

Where the helmer’s touch works least is the central role of Xuanzang. Mainland thesp Wen does nothing particularly wrong, but his perf as the nervous greenhorn feels Chow-lite, and his narrowly written character is less lovable than he ought to be. It doesn’t help that Wen sports a ghastly “finger-in-the-light-socket” hairdo more fit for a costume party than a serious young seeker of spiritual fulfillment.

The pic is beautifully designed and photographed in predominantly rich earthy tones by lenser Choi Sung-fai (“Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”). The orchestral score by regular Chow collaborator Raymond Wong adds plenty of punch to action sequences, but is slightly overused in the dramatic passages. The rest of the technical work is first class. Things conclude with a set-up for a sequel.

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
Sai yau: hong mor pin
(Hong Kong-China)
Reviewed at Hoyts Tea Tree Plaza Cinemas, Adelaide, March 4, 2013. Running time: 110 MIN.

An Edko Films (in Hong Kong), Huayi Brothers Media (in China) release of a Village Roadshow Pictures Asia, Chinavision Media Group, Bingo Movie Development, Edko Films production. (International sales: Bingo, Hong Kong.) Produced by Wang Zhongjun, Stephen Chow, Ellen R. Eliasoph, Han Sanping, Dong Ping, Bill Kong. Executive Producer, Chow.

Directed by Stephen Chow. Associate director, Derek Kwok. Screenplay, Chow, Kwok, Huo Xin, Wang Yun, Fung Chih-chiang, Lu Zheng-yu, Lee Sheung-ching, Ivy Kong. Camera (color, widescreen, HD, 3D), Choi Sung-fai; editor, Chan Chi-wai; music, Raymond Wong; production designer, Bruce Yu; art director, Eric Lam; costume designer, Lee Pik-kwan; sound (Dolby Atmos), Zhu Yanfeng; visual effects supervisor, Ken Law; visual effects, Macrograph, Different Digital Design; action choreographer, Ku Huen-chiu; line producer, Ivy Kong; associate producer, Alice Chow; assistant directors, Leung Kwok-fai, Keith Chan Cheung-kei, Ng Ka-pui; second unit camera, Gao Hu.

With: Shu Qi, Wen Zhang, Huang Bo, Show Lo, Lee Sheung-ching, Chen Bing-qiang, Cheng Si-han, Xing Yu, Lu Zheng-yu, Chiu Chi-ling, Yang Di, Chrissie Chau, Ge Hang-yu, Fung Ming-hun, Yeung Lun.
Variety

March 11, 2013

Journey to the West — Conquering the Demons (Hollywood Reporter review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 11:55 am

Journey to the West — Conquering the Demons
3/11/2013 by Elizabeth Kerr

Combine rapidly increasing screen numbers, a voracious appetite for movies, a beloved literary legend and perhaps one of Hong Kong’s most popular actor-directors ever and you’ve got the recipe for a minor cinematic phenomenon. A lot would have to be dreadfully wrong for producer-writer-director Stephen Chow’s entertaining comedy-fantasy Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, to flop. And indeed, it has lived up to its potential, earning a massive $190 million in a few weeks in mainland China. Though the film was oddly beaten at home over the key Lunar New Year holiday weekend (by A Good Day to Die Hard of all things) this umpteenth iteration of the Chinese classic is likely to continue its successful streak beyond the Mainland and Hong Kong.

JTTW is Chow’s first film in five years, the last being the fatuous and uncharacteristically schmaltzy CJ7, and it boasts all the hallmarks of a Chow film: the slow development of running jokes and motifs, the wry asides, the everyman background characters that are often hilariously baffled or disbelieving on the viewer’s behalf, the tendency to allow scenes to run on organically. Though the film has more humanity and less of a sharp tongue than Chow has been noted for in the past, it’s undeniably his work (he doesn’t star in the film this time) and audiences and distributors receptive to surprise hits like King of Comedy and the groundbreaking Shaolin Soccer will want to get on the JTTW bandwagon.

The story kicks off with a stirring opening sequence involving a fake demon hunter, a fake water demon and a Taoist monk (the man that would be Tripitaka) Chen Xuanzang (Wen Zhang) dedicated to demon expulsion via love, kindness and a book of 300 nursery rhymes. Failing to get the job done and strung up for being a hoax, Xuanzang watches helplessly as the real water demon appears and wreaks havoc on a small village. The day is ultimately saved by real-deal Duan (Shu Qi) and her Infinity Flying Ring. Despondent at his failure, Xuanzang goes back to his master (Cheng Sihan) who tells him his lack of faith was the root of his demon banishing ineptitude. Cue the journey to betterment and wisdom.

Constructed in segments pivoting on encounters with the various demons Xuanzang meets — the opening fish demon, the Gao Family Inn and its Pig Demon proprietor (Chen Bingqiang), the closing Five Finger Mountain segment and a run-in with Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King (Huang Bo) with short bridging bits — Journey to the West is more picaresque than pure narrative. But Chow and his army of writers manage to hold on to their themes and ideas through each set piece. The central conflict in the film grows from Xuanzang’s very Buddhist quest to honor the greater love for all things under the sun — demons included — and Duan’s more earthly quest for physical and romantic love. Her aggressive pursuit of him makes Xuanzang uneasy, and challenges his already fragile hold on his faith. The film has a dark undercurrent, entertaining and colorful as it is. Chow has no time for unwritten rules that say toddlers can’t die on screen; the Pig Demon’s lair is truly grotesque; and the Monkey King isn’t the impish charmer that has dominated popular culture. Laughs bump up against loss time and again, giving JTTW a more adult edge than may be expected.

But Chow has a stellar cast that can soften the more gruesome elements without losing control of their purpose. Shu (Three Times) and Huang (Crazy Stone) are the standouts this time around, and help the bland Wen (The Guillotines) look stronger than he is. Huang is a proven comic performer but Shu surprises yet again with a nuanced turn that deftly balances the film’s emotional weight with its comic demands. The film’s 3D and CGI is adequate, and though it goes needlessly overboard in the closing segments, for the most part it avoids the effects-as-message trap. Journey to the West may not rank among Chow’s classics, but it’s a crowd-pleaser that also serves as a reminder of what the director can accomplish when he’s on his game.

Producers: Stephen Chow, Wang Zhonglei
Director: Stephen Chow
Cast: Wen Zhang, Shu Qi, Huang Bo, Show Luo, Cheng Sihan
Screenwriters: Stephen Chow, Derek Kwok, Lola Huo, Wang Yun, Andew Fung, Lu Zhengyu, Ivy Kong, Lee Sheung-ching
Executive producers: Wang Zhongjun, Dong Ping, Han Sanping, Ellen Eliasoph, Bill Kong
Director of Photography: Johnny Choi
Production Designer: Bruce Yu
Music: Raymond Wong
Costume Designer: Lee Pik-kwan
Editor: Andy Chan
No rating, 109 minutes

THR

May 10, 2011

May 10, 2011

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — dleedlee @ 8:05 pm

CRI: Gianna Jun’s Portrayal in “The Secret Fan” Revealed

CRI: Musician Gao Xiaosong Detained for Drunk Driving

Gao had attended a press conference in Beijing yesterday morning to release the trailer of his directorial film “My Kingdom” which stars Wu Chun, Han Geng and Barbie Hsu.

CF: ”Banquet at Hongmen” Releases Seating Plan Plot

The film [aka White Vengeance] features actors Leon Lai Ming, Zhang Hanyu, Liu Yifei, Feng Shaofeng, Anthony Wong, Jordan Chan and Andy On.

CF: ”The Devil Inside Me” Eyeing a Late June Release

CF: Poster Released for “The Pretending Lovers”

The movie revolves around a couple who travel around the world for true love.

The movie “72 Hours” will hit national screens on the third anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake,

3D The Monkey King posters designed for Cannes

Designed by William Chang, the posters contains hidden secrets to the film. One interpretation is that Donnie Yen and Chow Yun-Fat will battle to the death. The film is scheduled for a  summer of 2012 release. (Sina)

Cannes posters for Tony Ching Siu-Tung’s The Sorcerer and the White Snake. The star-heavy cast includes Jet Li, Charlene Choi, Miriam Yeung, Huang Shengyi, Vivian Hsu and Raymond Lam. The posters reflect the theme that love is a disaster, sometimes very violent.

(Sina)

Ning Hao, still waiting for the release of his film, No Man’s Land, announced a new film (tentatively, Case of Golden Puzzle) in Shanghai today. A black comedy, Ning Hao plans on completing it by mid-August. Huang Bo and other former cast members are participating. Set in 1941 Shanghai, Huang Bo plays a beggar that eventually organizes an anti-Japanese campaign. (Sina)

Poster for the upcoming Shanghai International Film Festival (Sina)

Jiang Wen’s cameo as a railroad engineer in Love For Life.  (Sina)

June Elle with Cecilia Cheung on cover

(Xinhua)

Oriental Sunday reports that Cecilia Cheung has ‘four rules’ for the shooting of her current film, Love Again: 1) Use of double/stand-in, 2) daily lunch break, 3) limit shooting to 6 hours a day, 4) return to Hong Kong daily [currently filming in Shenzhen]. (Xinhua)

Alan Mak

Alan Mak clarified rumours that he was seriously ill. Due to problems with his vision six months ago, Mak underwent a brain scan. To correct a little problme he was given medication to control a hormonal imbalance that had side effects and made him fat. Mak is fine now and his condition is under control and he is back to work in Beijing. (Sina)

Twins, Carol Dodo Cheng, Julian Cheung and Jim Chim appearing on the taping of TV game show All-Star Glam Exam. Lots of nice pics of Twins.

With host, one of the Grasshoppers, Calvin Choy

CF: Crystal Liu Graces Chinese May Issue of Harper’s Bazaar

Years after Cantopop diva Anita Mui passed away in 2003 from cervical cancer, the legal tussle over her estate finally came to a close on Monday.

Tam expressed she had no plans to contest her daughter’s will again but Mui’s elder brother Peter Mui said he will look for another opportunity to overturn the court’s decision.

CNA: Anita Mui’s millions to stay in trust fund after mother loses court appeal

(Xinhua)

The pregnant Hong Kong actress, who has gone past her due date, is apparently opting for induced labour

March 10, 2011

March 10, 2011

THR: Neil Gaiman Journeys East to Pen ‘Monkey King’ Movies in China

The “Sandman” and “Coraline” scribe signs with producer Zhang Jizhong.

Assessing the challenge of distilling one of the four great epics of Chinese literature for the big screen, Gaiman hesitated: “To the West, there’s nothing inherently not interesting aboutJourney to the West. It has the best bad guys. That’s absolutely universal.” (Sina)

FBA: Buddha Mountain climbs China BO

Li Yu’s drama Buddha Mountain starring Sylvia Chang, Fan Bingbing and Berlin Chen opened second place at the Chinese box office at the weekend.

My Wedding and Other Secrets is the second time she has told her true love story of how a Chinese girl falls for a white boy and dares not tell her conservative Hong Kong immigrant parents (Kenneth Tsang and Cheng Pei Pei). New Zealand Film To Be Released In Chinese Version

“Punished,” which is scheduled to make its world premiere at the upcoming Hong Kong International Film Festival on April 4, features veteran Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong as a ruthless property tycoon who uses intimidation tactics to confiscate land from local villagers only to be humbled after his rebellious daughter is kidnapped and murdered.

More pictures from boot ceremony for Lu Chuan’s King’s Feast held yesterday in Beijing

Qin Lan, Yang Mi

Liu Ye, Stellar Media chairman, Han Sanping (China Film Group chairman), Lu Chuan (Sina)

Alex Fong Chung-Sun

Newly released photos of Alex Fong from The Lost Bladesman (Sina)

Michelle Ye, director Calvin Poon

Michelle Ye

Carrie Ng, Michelle Ye

Front: Berlin Chen Bo-Lin, Carrie Ng, Michelle Ye, Pat Ha Man-Jik, Calvin Poon

Calvin Poon and the cast of Hi, Fidelity (lit.Derailed Women) promote the film at a press conference for the HKIFF which will premiere on the 20th. (Sina)

Gao Yuanyuan - Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Daniel Wu

Louis Koo

Johnnie To’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart will have a preview screening in Shanghai on the 11th. Reaction to the premiere in Beijing on March 2 has been positive.

(Sina)234

Huang Yi - Sky Fighters

(Sina)

CRI: Carina Lau Visited Drought-struck Village

Gong Li

Fan Bingbing

(Sina-slide show)

Also, check out ewaffle’s take on Fan Bingbing’s adventure in Paris: Fan Bingbing in Paris for Dior

CNA: Ekin Cheng’s odd first gift to girlfriend Yo Yo Mung: A life jacket

MSN: Michelle Reis reveals photo with son

The Hong Kong actress and her husband is also planning to set up a foundation to help other children

MSN: Korean actress Jang Ja-yeon sheds light on dirty industry practices

Furthermore, Hallyu star Jang Dong-gun’s wife Ko So-young was also rumoured to be a victim as she was once under the same management as Ja-yeon. CNA: Jang Ja-yeon’s death may be re-investigated after sordid letters

October 12, 2010

October 12, 2010

CRI: Slow Melody Added to ‘Wind Blast’

Film’s theme song is a slow tune written by Shao Yibei.

CRI: ’My Ex-wife’s Wedding’ Poster Released

In the film, Chen Kun’s character divorces Yuan Quan’s, and then introduces her to his best friend, played by Lu Yi. As his ex-wife enjoys her new romance, she asks him to plan her wedding, where he rediscovers his feelings for her.

(Sina-gallery)

CRI: Critical Film “Vegetate” Premieres in Beijing

The film is about a reporter who accidentally meets a human vegetable and both are involved in a case of fake medicine. The film reveals the dark side of the pharmaceuticals industry.

CRI: Video Clip of ‘Let the Bullets Fly’ Released

“Let the Bullets Fly” is due out in Chinese theaters on Dec. 16 during the New Year season. It will compete with a group of the big works such as Feng Xiaogang’s “If You Are the One 2″ and Chen Kaige’s “Sacrifice” .

Director of international sales leaving Huayi Brothers

THR: Huayi Bros.’ Bee leaving the company

CRI: Donnie Yen, Aaron Kwok Join Cast of ‘Havoc in Heaven’

Illustration for the Bull Demon King to be played by Aaron Kwok  in Filmko’s The Monkey King

Princess Iron Fan will be played by Joe Chen Qiao En (Xinhua)(Sina)

(Oct. 10) Zhou Dongyu and Dou Xiao begin Hong Kong promotions for Under the Hawthorn Tree with the release of the MV. The film opens in Hong Kong next month.

Playing three-legged race game

Huang Yi

NBA Commissioner David Stern

Huang Yi wore a custom-fitted Yao Ming jersey as a mini-skirt

Huang Yi, Stephen Fung attended the press conference for Amazing in Beijing

The Houston Rockets and New Jersey Nets will kick off the NBA China Games later this week and will be filmed for part of Amazing.

(Sina)23(NBA)(ESPN)

Dong Jie Madame Figaro photo spread

(Sina-slide show)

Yao Chen on the cover of November’s Vogue

(Xinhua-slide show)

“I have been with Carina for so many years already. Getting married is just something extra we did. It has not changed our relationship one bit.”

September 27, 2010

September 27, 2010

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , — dleedlee @ 12:37 pm

THR: ‘Legend of the Fist’ and ‘Ip Man 2′ get North American release

The companies are also bringing the popular Asian action pic “Ip Man” to select theaters starting Oct. 1, with an exclusive run at New York City’s Cinema Village theater, to be followed by a combination of traditional one-week runs and special one-off screenings for fans.

WSJ: Hong Kong Legend Yuen Woo Ping’s ‘Fantastic’ Past, Future

After four decades choreographing and directing some of the best-known martial arts films in contemporary Hong Kong cinema, Yuen Woo Ping is making the first American film festival appearance of his career.

Variety: Red Nights2

The funky pleasure of femme-vs.-femme intrigue, assassins and dragon ladies is undone by an ersatz fusion of giallo and John Woo-ish Hong Kong gunplay in “Red Nights.” Glossy, dumb item offers evidence that Gallic co-directors Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtland are fans of the genres in question, but their handling is utterly ham-fisted. Too many lethargic passages undermine the pic’s deep-midnight S&M weirdness and star Carrie Ng’s over-the-top camp appeal.

FBA: Under the Hawthorn Tree (山楂樹之戀) (8/10)

A striking change of pace for director Zhang Yimou, with a sensitive love story during the Cultural Revolution.

THR: China takes first stake in Hollywood firm

It’s finally happened: a Chinese entertainment company has bought a piece of Hollywood.

FBA: Chinese conglomerate makes Hollywood foray

FBA: TVB the centre of acquisition talk

CRI: ’Assassins’ Premieres ahead of Sept. 28 Release

Zhang Ziyi and Aaron Kwok in Life is a Miracle (Xinhua)

CRI: Zhang Ziyi Mixes Happy and Sad in ‘Tale of Magic’

Tony Leung Ka-Fai as Bruce Lee’s father Lee Hoi-Chuen (Sina)

My Ex-Wife’s Wedding poster

The rom-com directed by Lee Kung-Lok features Chen Kun, Lu Yi and Yuan Quan, opens Oct.22 (Sina)

Francis Ng, Li Nian

Francis Ng

Simon Yam

A passionate love scene in Midnight Pulse between Francis Ng and Li Nian may be cut. In addition, an ambiguous scene with Simon Yam and Yang Yuyu who play brother and sister may also be cut. No exact release date has been announced yet for Midnight Pulse but a November timeframe is expected. (Xinhua)23

Chow Yun-Fat and Aaron Kwok have been reported to be signed on for Filmko’s 3D version of The Monkey King. Chow will play the Jade Emperor and Aaron Kwok the evil Bull King Demon. Donnie Yen was previously announced in the role of the Monkey King.  (Xinhua)

CRI: Faye Wong Practices for Upcoming Concert

Previous reports suggest that besides Beijing and Shanghai, the concert will also be taken to various cities including Taipei in January of next year.

Simon Yam and Qi Qi donated a limited edition photo book for charity in Shanghai (Xinhua)

Getting an early look

Zhang Jingchu will be attending the Bally 2011 Spring Preview in Milan for Fashion Week in October. (Xinhua)

Angelababy - Cosmo photo shoot

(Sina-slide show)

Kelly Chen at a recent fashion event in Shanghai

(Sina-slide show)

Chrissie Chau has no worries about her safety when she goes to Japan next month despite recent Sino-Japanese tensions. (Sina)

Liu Yifei’s graduation photo

(Xinhua)

July 30, 2010

July 30, 2010

Poster for HK Summer International Film Festival AnD

City Under Siege poster

A grand premiere in Beijing is scheduled for Aug.1. Benny Chan’s pal Jackie Chan is reportedly going to appear to help support the film. Then, it will be on to Shanghai and Guangzhou to launch the film before a national release. (Sina)

WSJ: Critics Say ‘Aftershock’ Whitewashes China’s Past

CRI: The Stool Pigeon’ Unveils New Posters

CRI: Chinese Film ‘Detective Dee’ among Golden Lion Candidates

Tsui Hark’s martial-arts thriller “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” will be the only Chinese-language film to compete for the top honor at this year’s Venice International Film Festival, organizers have announced.

Zhang Ziyi to produce and star in 3D Mulan film

Zhang was said to have been planning this film since last year, but the project got shelved due to funding problems after she became embroiled in a string of high-profile scandals.

Jo Hisaishi

Producer Ma Ke, Joe Hisaishi and Jiang Wen

Jo Hisaishi will be producing the soundtrack for Jiang Wen’s Let the Bullets Fly. Jiang Wen has just returned from discussions in Tokyo to go over the film score. The two have previously collaborated on The Sun Also Rises. (Sina)

The Monkey King poster

Donnie Yen celebrates birthday and gets plastered

Donnie Yen works with SFX team from ‘300′ to prepare for the official October start of the 3D Monkey King tale of wreaking Havoc in Heaven

(Sina)23

CRI: Coming up: Monkey King’ in IMAX 3-D

Jess Shum

Macy Chan Mei-Si, Christine Kuo, Jess Shum Cheuk-Ying, Cilla Kung

JJ Jia Xiao-chen, Macy Chan Mei-Si, Christine Kuo, Jess Shum Cheuk-Ying, Cilla Kung, Sherry Chen Shuang

The Jade and The Pearl press conference (July 28)

(Sina-slide show)

Chrissie Chau and Jessica C with the Xbox 360 Kinect

(Sina)

In related news, Google reported that in the first six months of the year, Chrissie Chau and Angelababy came in 5th and 9th most searched for of the pseudo-models. Jessica C. (actually, a real model) came in 10th. No1. and No.2 were Carol and Dada (Chen Jing). Probably, their popularity is proportionate to their bust sizes. (Sina)

Hong Kong media reports that a grateful husband gave Gigi Lai a French yacht valued 15 million yuan in appreciation for risking birth at her advanced age (39). The luxury yacht is named Bon-heur, or Happiness. (Xinhua)

Gigi Lai (Sina)234(Xinhua)

Gigi Lai discharged from hospital

SG: New mom Gigi Lai doing well

Dodo Cheng

Dodo Cheng was among those who attended an event and received free limited edition iPhone 4s. Dodo, who rarely goes out in the evenings, was willing to suffer to get her hands on the iPhone 4 as she is a fan of the product since the first generation was introduced.

Rosemary, Mandy Lieu

Cherrie Ying

(Xinhua)(Sina)

Gigi Leung and host Tony Hung in Mexico for HK travel TV program

Gigi Leung in Mexico (Xinhua)

SG: Daniel Wu sings to Lisa S. every day

Daniel Wu to take break from showbiz, plans for children

In order to accommodate the couple’s numerous friends and associates in Hong Kong who were left out of their first wedding celebration, and avoid disturbing other restaurant guests, Wu decided to hire two event halls for the ‘make up’ wedding.

The couple donated all the gifts they received at the wedding to charity and gave a nod to conservation by dropping shark fin soup from the menu in favour of chicken soup.

Quintus

(Sina)

SG: Quintus Tse’s grand day out

HKStandard: Hong Kong police work’s no so glamourous side,

Pt. 2 - Operation Longhair

Pt 3 - Operation BaskavillePt 4 (To be continued?)

JS Lam served with Hong Kong police - `Asia’s Finest’ - for 32 years, reaching the rank of senior superintendent before retiring in 1996.

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