Review: ‘We 12,’ starring Mirror

May 5, 2024

by Carla Hay

Pictured from left to right: Tiger Yau, Lokman Yeung, Anson Kong, Edan Lui, Alton Wong, Jer Lau, Anson Lo, Keung To, Ian Chan, Stanley Yau and Jeremy Lee in “We 12” (Photo by Edko Films Ltd.)

“We 12”

Directed by Berry Ho

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the action film “We 12” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with one white person) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: The 12 estranged members of a crime-fighting group are summoned by their boss to work together again to find and confiscate an evil scientific invention that will destroy the world’s ecosystem. 

Culture Audience: “We 12” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Mirror, because they are probably the only ones who might be willing to overlook all the flaws of this vapid and uninteresting movie.

Edan Lui, Jeremy Lee, Jer Lau, Stanley Yau, Lokman Yeung, Anson Lo, Keung To, Ian Chan, Anson Kong, Tiger Yau, Alton Wong and Frankie Chan in “We 12” (Photo by Edko Films Ltd.)

“We 12” is a disappointing mush of missed opportunities. What could have been an entertaining action romp starring singing group Mirror as a crime-fighting crew becomes an incoherent mess by the middle of the film. The group doesn’t even sing in the movie.

Directed by Berry Ho and written by Cheung Lai Sze, “We 12” is more obvious about its “cash grab” intentions than most ill-conceived movies starring pop singers. That’s because almost no effort was made to come up with a good story. “We 12” also fails to showcase the individual personalities of the 12 members of Mirror, a group that was formed in 2018, on the Hong Kong reality TV show/talent “Good Night Show – King Maker.”

In “We 12,” the members of the group are reduced to being identified mainly by the special skill each character with not much to make their personalities unique and distinctive. The members of Mirror portrays estranged members of the Kaito Association, a group of crime fighters who have secretive missions. Here are the roles that the members of Mirror have in “We 12”:

  • Frankie Chan is Kaito Frankie, whose specialty is sixth sense.
  • Ian Chan is Kaito Ian, whose specialty is strategic planning.
  • Anson Kong is Kaito AK, whose specialty is animal telepathy.
  • Jer Lau is Kaito Jer, whose specialty is disguise.
  • Jeremy Lee is Kaito Jeremy, whose specialty is super memory.
  • Anson Lo is Kaito A.Lo, whose specialty is agility.
  • Edan Lui is Kaito Edan, whose specialty is abseiling.
  • Keung To is Kaito KT, whose specialty is hypnosis.
  • Alton Wong is Kaito Alton, whose specialty is cyber attacks.
  • Stanley Yau is Kaito Stanley, whose specialty is eavesdropping.
  • Tiger Yau is Kaito Tiger, whose specialty is lip reading.
  • Lokman Yeung is Kaito Lokman, whose specialty is lock picking.

These members of the Kaito Association are summoned by an unseen supervisor called The Boss (voiced by Kenny Wong Tak Bun, also known as Tak-Bun Wong), who communicates with them only by phone on an emergency hotline. The Boss gathers them for a secret mission and says they have to put aside their conflicts to work on this mission. The Boss tells them about the Forbidden Science Society, which is doing harmful things that must be stopped. For example, the Forbidden Science Society has genetically engineered chicken called right wing chicken, which causes cancer when consumed.

The mission assigned to the Kaito Association is about an evil scientist professor (played by Barry Cox), who has invented a mosquito zapper, which seems like a useful invention, since mosquitos are considered a nuisance. However, The Boss explains that the professor’s goal is to eradicate mosquitos in the entire multiverse, which would cause an ecological imbalance. The Kaito Association’s mission is to find and destroy the mosquito zapper.

The rest of “We 12” consists of a jumble of scenes where the Kaito Association members use their special skills in this good versus evil mission. The dance skills of the members of Mirror certainly look like they come in handy for some of the choreographed fights and stunts. However, these fights just fill up time and don’t do much to enhance the thin and flimsy plot. The movie has two types of dialogue: forgettable or simply atrocious.

“We 12” is also uneven in how it only has a few members stand out with the most memorable tricks. Jer, as the master of disguises, goes undercover as a bartender during a scene at an upscale party. But then, the movie has other members of the group also disguise themselves at the same party: Ian and Tiger are dressed as waiters, while Edan is a violinist. It muddles the purpose of Jer being the main “disguise” guy.

Stanley and Lokman disguise themselves as bellhops at a hotel, where AK sees a German Shepherd and can read its mind. The mind reading of the dog is supposed to be hilarious, but it’s just a nonsensical scene that might elicit a few mild chuckles. A.Lo is supposed to be the most agile, yet he gets himself into a situation that contradicts this special ability.

“We 12” never explains why these members of the Kaito Association were estranged in the first place. And for a group of heartthrobs, it’s strange that they have no love interests in the movie. The only female character with a real speaking role in “We 12” is a pretty young woman named Princess (played by Lin Min-Chen), who randomly shows up once in a while to say something cute and then leaves again.

It’s certainly possible to do an entertaining heist film with more than 10 members in the heist group having personalities that are every easy to distinguish from each other. (For example: director Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean Eleven,” “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen” movies.) The members of Mirror aren’t outstanding actors, but they aren’t terrible actors either. They’re just in a terrible movie. Tiger (playful), Jer (mischievous) and A.Lo (suave) are the characters who have the most memorable personalities in “We 12.”

It seems like such a waste to have this ensemble film not do much to give all 12 members of Mirror a chance to equally shine in what could have been an adventure film that’s fun to watch. “We 12” is one of those bad movies that uses the end credits to show bloopers and deleted scenes, where the cast members laugh at their mistakes and joke around with each other. All this demonstrates is that the stars of the movie had a lot more fun making the movie than viewers will have enjoying it.

Edko Films Ltd. released “We 12” in select U.S. cinemas on April 26, 2024. The movie was released in Hong Kong on March 28, 2024.

Review: ‘Time Still Turns the Pages,’ starring Lo Chun Yip, Sean Wong, Curtis Ho, Ronald Cheng, Rosa Maria Velasco, Sabrina Ng and Henick Chou

January 24, 2024

by Carla Hay

Lo Chun Yip in “Time Still Turns the Pages” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films)

“Time Still Turns the Pages”

Directed by Nick Cheuk

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the dramatic film “Time Still Turns the Pages” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A teacher at a high school finds out that one of his students has anonymous written a suicidal note, which prompts an investigation and triggers memories of his own unhappy childhood.

Culture Audience: “Time Still Turns the Pages” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching emotionally moving films about effects that depression and anxiety can have on people and the dangers of not properly treating these mental health issues.

Sean Wong and Curtis Ho in “Time Still Turns the Pages” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films)

“Time Still Turns the Pages” is a meaningful and well-acted drama about the effects of child abuse, as well as how loneliness, depression and anxiety are often mishandled or ignored. Without being too preachy, the movie has a message of being more aware and more compassionate of people who might be having these issues. Although the movie isn’t ultra-violent in showing the child abuse, some of these abuse scenes might be very disturbing to some viewers.

Written and directed by Nick Cheuk, “Time Still Turns the Pages” (which takes place in Hong Kong) begins by showing a 10-year-old boy jumping off of the roof of a high-rise building. Viewers later find out that the boy’s name is Eli Cheng (played by Sean Wong), and he is several flashback scenes that show what led him to get to this suicidal point. Did he survive or did he die? The movie answers that question.

Meanwhile, in the present day, at Lo Fuk Tong High School, a teacher named Mr. Cheng (played by Lo Chun Yip) is aware that some of his students are involved in bullying fights at the school. Near the beginning of the movie, a student named Vincent, nicknamed Van Gogh (played by Henick Chou), is shown getting reprimanded in the school principal’s office because he pushed another student down some stairs. Vincent has injuries on his face that indicate he was in a physical fight. Vincent is one of Mr. Cheng’s students.

The movie leaves it open to interpretation about who started the fight until a flashback scene later in the film reveals the full story. There are several examples of how “Time Still Turns the Pages” shows something that seems to be about one thing but reveals it’s actually about another thing. Writer/director Cheuk seamlessly weaves various timelines and story threads together in ways that are creative and poignant without being emotionally manipulative.

One day, Mr. Cheng finds out that a school janitor (played by Peter Lau) has discovered an unsigned suicidal note in Mr. Cheng’s classroom. The note was written by a student and says things such as “I am worth nothing to anyone” and “I could be easily forgotten.” Mr. Cheng is deeply affected by this note and wants to find out who wrote it.

During a meeting with other faculty and staff members about the note, there is some debate over how to find out who wrote the note. The general consensus is that it’s a delicate matter that should be handled with discretion. When the school’s social worker Halena (played by Luna Shaw) suggests that the note is a hoax that could be plagiarism from something off of the Internet, Mr. Cheng explodes with anger and says the note is not a hoax.

Eventually, it’s decided that the a trustworthy student will be enlisted by the school officials to help with the investigation. The chosen student is a class prefect named Bethany (played by Sabrina Ng), who is later revealed to have some past emotional issues of her own. The investigation weighs heavily on Mr. Cheng because he is afraid that one of his students could commit suicide before getting any professional help or counseling to prevent the suicide.

Mr. Cheng’s emotional outburst at the faculty meeting is because he has been triggered by his own memories of an unhappy childhood. The movie has various flashbacks to showing the Cheng family, which includes his abusive father Hung Cheng (played by Ronald Cheng), who is a successful attorney; Hung’s fearful wife Heidi Cheng (played by Rosa Maria Velasco), who is a homemaker; sensitive Eli Cheng; and his overachieving brother Alan Cheng (played by Curtis Ho), who is one or two years younger than Eli. These flashbacks show that Hung verbally, emotionally and physically abuses Eli and Heidi, while Alan is considered the “golden child” of the family.

Eli frequently gets punished for not getting the academic grades that his parents expect from him. And although his mother Heidi is also a victim of Hung’s abuse, she is occasionally abusive to Eli too. She sometimes says hateful insults to Eli or slaps him hard, so that she doesn’t get punished by Hung for being too “soft” on Eli. Heidi also inflicts this cruelty out of her own self-hatred and because she’s taking a lot of her anger out on Eli. Other times, she comforts Eli and is very loving to him. It’s a realistic portrayal of an abused parent who is trapped in a miserable marriage and is conflicted about how to handle it.

During Eli’s childhood, Alan seemed to keep an emotional distance from him, as if he didn’t want to be associated with his underachiever brother. Eli found comfort in reading comic books, an activity his father despised. Eli’s favorite comic book series was called “Pirate,” and he greatly admired. Eli eventually started a secret journal to write down his innermost thoughts. He also became emotionally attached to his piano teacher Miss Chan (played by Jessica Chan), a young woman who was the only adult who was consistently kind to Eli in his home.

Mr. Cheng’s flashbacks also show that he got married to a voice actress named Sherry (played by Hanna Chan), whom he met when they were teenagers. Sherry and Mr. Cheng dated other people but reconnected later in life, fell in love with each other, and got married. This marriage was negatively affected by Mr. Cheng’s unresolved issues from his childhood and his memories of his own parents’ bad marriage. Sherry and Mr. Cheng have moments that are happy and unhappy. A turning point in their marriage happens when it comes to a decision made about family planning in their relationship.

“Time Still Turns the Pages” will take viewers on a very emotional journey in finding out more about Mr. Cheng and what happened in his family, as well as how his childhood trauma affects him in his current life. The movie takes a necessary and empathetic look at how people who show signs of anxiety and depression are often misunderstood and punished, which makes their mental health issues worse. “Time Still Turns the Pages” will make a lasting impression on viewers to be more aware of warning signs in suicidal people and to reach out and help as much as possible.

Illume Films released “Time Still Turns the Pages” in select U.S. cinemas on January 19, 2024. The movie was released in Hong Kong on November 16, 2023.

Review: ‘Mad Fate,’ starring Gordon Lam and Lokman Yeung

August 22, 2023

by Carla Hay

Lokman Yeung and Gordon Lam in “Mad Fate” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films)

“Mad Fate”

Directed by Cheang Pou-soi

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the dramatic film “Mad Fate” has an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A fortune teller becomes obsessed with tracking a young man who is a serial killer.

Culture Audience: “Mad Fate” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching an artsy pyschological thriller.

Gordon Lam in “Mad Fate” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films)

“Mad Fate” is about a cat-and-mouse chase between a fortune teller and a serial killer. This frequently bizarre and psychedelic-looking murder mystery isn’t for everyone, but there’s enough to hold viewer interest until the very end. It’s the type of movie that requires a viewer’s full attention because some important details might be missed if a viewer is distracted by other things while watching the movie.

Directed by Cheang Pou-soi and written by Yau Nai-hoi and Melvin Li, “Mad Fate” had its world premiere at the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival. The movie begins by showing a fortune teller called The Master (played by Gordon Lam) doing a ritual in a graveyard. The Master’s specialty is telling his customers that he can help change their destiny. It’s implied that The Master dabbles in the dark arts.

The Master soon finds out about a man in his 20s named Siu-tung (played by Lokman Yeung), who has developed a fascination for becoming a serial killer. The majority of the film s about The Master trying to track down Siu-tung before any killings happen to see if he can change the destiny of the intended victims.

“Mad Fate” has a lot of suspense but the movie also touches on serious issues such as mental illness and criminal justice. Is The Master a vigilante, or is he a well-meaning citizen? If Siu-tung is captured, should be be in prison or a psychiatric facility? “Mad Fate,” through riveting but somewhat convoluted direction, leaves it up to viewers to decide.

Illume Films released “Mad Fate” in select U.S. cinemas on August 11, 2023.

Review: ‘The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell,’ starring Aaron Kwok, Louis Koo and Sean Lau

July 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Aaron Kwok and Sean Lau in “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“The White Shadow 3: Heaven or Hell”

Directed by Herman Yau

Cantonese and Thai with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong and in Thailand, the action film “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: Two undercover cops from Hong Kong have conflicts with each other when they gain the trust of drug dealer and escape with him to the Golden Triangle.

Culture Audience: “The White Storm 3: Heaven and Hell” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching loud and obnoxious action flicks that have jumbled storytelling.

Louis Koo and Sean Lau in “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” is a sloppily edited mess that jumps around too much in the story’s non-chronological timeline. This substandard action movie also does nothing new or interesting with a plot about undercover cops and drug dealers. The films in Hong Kong’s “The White Storm” movie series have no connection to each other, except that they are all action movies about undercover cops trying to arrest big-time drug dealers. Unfortunately, “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” has no connection to quality filmmaking.

Written and directed by Herman Yau, “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” has three main characters (two cops and one drug dealer) who get caught up in a crime caper filled with deception, false identities and issues over trust and loyalty. In the beginning of the movie, two undercover police officers from Hong Kong’s Narcotics Bureau are part of a major drug bust that takes place at a harbor on the high seas south of Kong Kong. Young cop Cheung Kin-hang (played by Aaron Kwok) is more impulsive and more likely to take risks than his older colleague Au Chi-yuen (played by Louis Koo), who is much more methodical and “by the book.”

A ship at this harbor is carrying about $300 million worth of heroin that was hauled out of metal trash bins hidden in the sea. King-hang and Chi-yuen have both been tasked with arresting drug lord Hong So-chai (played by Sean Lau), nicknamed Suchat, as well as Suchat’s gang, who are responsible for this drug shipment. During this drug bust, several members of the gang get arrested, by Suchat gets away.

Heroin is the main drug that Suchat’s sells, but he’s also dealer of methamphetamine, nicknamed ice. Suchat meets King-hang and Chi-yuen while these two cops are undercover. King-han’s alias is Billy. Chi-yuen’s alias is Wing. King-hang is able to win over Suchat’s trust easier because King-hang gets shot during a police raid where Suchat flees. Suchat sees it as a sign of loyalty that King-hang “took a bullet” for Suchat.

Through a series of events that are muddled, because the movie’s three-year timeline goes back and forth in haphazard ways, all three men end up hiding out together in the Golden Triangle, near the border of Thailand and Myanmar. They also spend time in Laem Chabang, Thailand. King-hang and Chi-yuen pretend to be outlaws with Suchat.

The foundation of Suchat’s drug-dealing business comes from the opiate poppy-harvesting work done by local villagers, who rely on this money to survive. King-hang meets a young female harvester named Noon (played by Yang Caiyu), who lives with her ailing grandfather in one of these villages. King-hang and Noon are attracted to each other, but King-hang doesn’t want to blow his cover by telling her his true identity.

What happens to the potential romance between King-hang and Noon is very easy to predict in this violent story that’s just a bunch of scenes with characters lying to each other and fighting each other. Here’s an example of the mind-numbing and idiotic dialogue in the movie. Noon tells King-hang soon after they meet that she does not know why the region where she lives is called the Golden Triangle: “I’ve never seen any gold … We can barely make money to feed ourselves.”

The car chases, shootouts, explosions in “The White Storm3: Heaven or Hell” are all just distractions from the movie’s very flimsy plot. The acting and dialogue in the movie are very generic or just outright terrible. “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” is just another soulless action flick with nothing uniquely distinctive about it. It’s most definitely a type of hell to watch for viewers who want an action movie with an enthralling story and compelling characters.

CMC Pictures released “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” in select U.S. cinemas on July 20, 2023. The movie was released in China on July 6, 2023, and in Hong Kong on July 27, 2023.

Review: ‘Shadows’ (2023), starring Stephy Tang, Philip Keung, Tse Kwan Ho, Ben Yuen, Ling Man Lung, Justin Cheung, Jennifer Yu and Babyjohn Choi

July 17, 2023

by Carla Hay

Stephy Tang in “Shadows” (Photo courtesy of One Cool Pictures and M2M Entertainment)

“Shadows” (2023)

Directed by Glenn Chan

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the horror film “Shadows” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A forensic psychiatrist, who has psychic abilities that allow her to read people’s minds and see their past, begins to suspect that another psychiatrist has been manipulating some of his patients to commit murder.

Culture Audience: “Shadows” will appeal primarily to people who like murder mysteries with supernatural elements.

Tse Kwan Ho in “Shadows” (Photo courtesy of One Cool Pictures and M2M Entertainment)

“Shadows” is a haunting and effective thriller that mixes the supernatural and criminal law. The movie works better as a horror story than as a story about solving murder cases. Some of the plot is too mysterious, but the visuals and acting are impressive. The movie’s ending will probably divide viewers. Some viewers with criticisms about the last few scenes will probably argue that the movie should have had a different outcome. However, the movie had enough clues hinting that the story could have ended in this way.

Directed by Glenn Chan (his feature-film directorial debut) and written by Chang Kai Xiang and Mani Man Pui-Hing, “Shadows” had its world premiere at the 2020 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, but the movie didn’t get released in theaters until 2023. “Shadows” takes place in Hong Kong, where a series of murders are being committed by people who had no previous history of violence. What all of these killers have in common is that they are or have recently been patients of a particular psychiatrist, who is known for believing that people are inherently bad.

“Shadows” begins at the murder scene that sets off the investigation. An award-winning social worker named Chu Chun Yung (played by Justin Cheung), who is 36 years old, has just murdered his 9-year-old-daughter (played by Leung Lok Ching), his 34-year-old wife (played by Lai Jessica Whitney) and his wife’s 64-year-old mother (played by Pang Mei Sheung), who all lived with him in an apartment building. Yung is seen confessing to the murders when he calls an emergency number to summon police. After making the phone call, Yung jumps out of an apartment window.

It’s soon revealed that Yung survived the jump. He has been arrested and taken to a hospital, where a forensic psychiatrist in her late 30s named Dr. Tsui Hiu Ching (played by Stephy Tang), who works closely with the local police, has been tasked with evaluating Yung’s mental stability, to determine if he was insane or not at the time he committed the murders. Yung seems to be in a trance-like state when Ching interviews him. All he will say about the murders is that it was like feeling hungry and then eating a satisfying meal.

Before meeting with Yung, Ching is seen having a private one-on-one meeting with one of her patients named Kloudia (played by Jennifer Yu), who is a timid and forlorn teenager. Ching tries to get Kloudia to open up to her about what’s bothering Kloudia. All that Kloudia will say is, “It’s too late. There’s no escape.”

At that moment, viewers find out that Ching has psychic abilities. She can enter into people’s conscious minds and see into their past. When Ching enters Kloudia’s mind, it’s like she’s stepping into the same where Kloudia s and reliving her past experiences as as n observer. However, the other people in the room cannot see Ching.

During this psychic trip (which is depicted in a very spooky way with murky locations and menacing black smoke, Ching can see that Kloudia’s father (played by Li Ying To) has been physically and verbally abusive to Kloudia. Ching witnesses Kloudia’s father beating Kloudia and tries in vain to shout to Kloudia to run away and not take this abuse any more. Suddenly, Ching is brought back from this psychic trip and sees that Kloudia is has been screaming in her chair and cowering with fear.

Kloudia’s father, who has been paying for these therapist sessions, suddenly bursts into the room with Kloudia’s mother (played by Leong Cheok Mei), because they’ve heard all the commotion on the room. (Kloudia’s parents don’t have names in the movie.) Ching immediately accuses Kloudia’s father of abusing Kloudia.

Kloudia’s mother scoffs at this accusation and defneds her husband by saying that he’s a good man. Kloudia’s father also denies the abuse and questions Ching’s competence. Needless to say, that’s the last time that Kloudia has a session with Ching. But it won’t be the last time that Kloudia is in the movie.

The homicide detective who is the lead investigator for the Chu family murders is a bachelor named Ho Shun Fatt (played by Philip Keung), who is tough on the outside, but he can be tender on the inside. His tenderness mainly comes from taking care of a foster daughter named Dao-Dao (played by Keira Wang), who is about 6 or 7 years old. Dao-Dao is intelligent and adorable.

The movie doesn’t really explain Dao-Dao’s background and how Fatt ended up being her foster father. However, it’s shown more than once in the movie that Fatt gets so busy with his work, he’s sometimes late in picking up Dao-Dao from school. Dao-Dao has an easygoing schoolteacher named Cheung (played by Babyjohn Choi), who usually looks after Dao-Dao until Fatt arrives to pick up Dao-Dao from school.

Around the same time that the Chu family murders are being investigated, Ching does a speaking appearance at a local university. The subject is psychiatry and the human condition. Two people are interviewed on stage for this speaking appearance: Ching and a well-known psychiatrist named Dr. Yan Chung Kwong (played by Tse Kwan Ho), who has beliefs that are the opposite of Ching’s. For example, Ching is more likely than Kwong to believe that mental illness can cause people to commit murder.

Ching tells the audience that people are inherently good, while Kwong tells the audience that people are inherently bad. He says it’s why laws are in place to prevent people to giving in to their natural impulses to sin and to punish people who break the laws. Kwong believes that if people were inherently good, there wouldn’t be a need for these laws in the first place. Kwong later says in the movie, “The more evil someone is, the more likely they are to pretend otherwise.”

Kwong is a mysterious, middle-aged bachelor whose past is explained at one point in the movie. He was living in Europe for several years but recently moved back to his native Hong Kong. Ching becomes suspicious of Kwong when she finds out that several of his past and present Hong Kong patients, who had no prior history of violence, have been murdering people. Former social worker Yung is one of those patients. Kwong had recently been treating Yung for anxiety and depression.

Fatt reports to the no-nonsense Inspector To (played by Leung Kin Ping) and has two younger subordinates who are working closely with him on this case: Officer Choy (played by Locker Lam) and Officer Judy (played by Fung Hoi Yui), who are all somewhat generic characters. Fatt is the police detective with the most clearly defined personality and the best lines of dialogue. He’s diligent about his work in the office and out in the field. He also doesn’t like to jump to conclusions and likes to gather as many facts as possible.

The investigation takes Fatt and his colleagues to various places. One of them is Ping Che Nursing Home, where a young male nurse named Lau Po Keung (played by Ling Man Lung) comes under suspicion when two of his elderly patients—a man named Chiu (played by Mak Lok Sun) and a woman named Mui (played by Yeung Yee Yee)—disappear from the nursing home. Keung’s co-worker Wong Zi Hin (played by Cheung Lap Fung) is also questioned.

One of the criticisms that “Shadows” might get is that it never fully explains how long Ching has had her psychic abilities. However, there are hints later in the movie that Ching probably didn’t have or wasn’t aware of these psychic abilities until she became an adult. Fatt wonders about Ching’s own mental stability when she becomes more insistent that Kwong is brainwashing his patients to commit murder. Fatt does a background check on Ching and finds out that Ching’s widower father Tsui Yong Sek (played by Ben Yuen) was a construction worker who has recently been released from prison.

“Shadows” is occasionally gruesome in some of its horror aspects. Viewers who get easily squeamish should be warned that there’s a scene that involves a murderer removing skin from someone’s body—not in full, explicit details, but blood and the skinning aftermath are shown. The police procedural aspects of “Shadows” move along at a very good pace. And the banter between Ching and Fatt is interesting to watch, even if Keung’s cop character is the type of police officer who has been in many other movies and TV shows.

Tang gives the best performance of the cast members, since her character is the most complex and the most unique. Tse is also noteworthy for his unsettling performance as Kwong. Up until a certain point in the movie, viewers will be wondering if Kwong is a cynical psychiatrist, or if he is truly evil. The answer is revealed about halfway through “Shadows,” but this revelation doesn’t take away from the suspense that this flawed but fascinating horror movie has to offer.

One Cool Pictures and M2M Entertainment released “Shadows” in select U.S. cinemas on July 14, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on February 23, 2023, and in Singapore on March 2, 2023.

Review: ‘Over My Dead Body’ (2023), starring Teresa Mo, Wong You Nam, Ronald Cheng, Jennifer Yu, Lau Kong, Bonnie Wong and Hanna Chan

May 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Alan Yeung Wai Lun, Teresa Mo, Wong You Nam and Jennifer Yu in “Over My Dead Body” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio)

“Over My Dead Body” (2023)

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the comedy film “Over My Dead Body” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Some residents and employees of a co-op apartment building try to hide the body of an unidentified naked man who was found in a hallway of the building.

Culture Audience: “Over My Dead Body” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a shallow “screwball” comedy that makes no sense.

Bonnie Wong and Lau Kong in “Over My Dead Body” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio)

“Over My Dead Body” is a comedy that’s as creatively inert as a corpse. This repetitive and frequently incoherent movie, which is about people trying to hide a body, is plagued by annoying plot holes, scatterbrained characters and a foolish ending. And with a total running time of two hours, “Over My Dead Body” is entirely too long for the movie’s flimsy story.

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin and Kong Ho-Yan, “Over My Dead Body” is about several residents and employees of a Hong Kong co-op apartment building trying to hide the body of an unidentified naked man in his 30s (played by Kenneth Cheung), who was found in a hallway of the building. There’s also a clumsy subplot about a young woman who doesn’t live in the building but is getting married. Don’t try to make any sense of what happens in this moronic film, which quickly grows tiresome with all the shrieking and yelling over what do to about this stranger’s body.

“Over My Dead Body” begins by showing the family members who end up discovering the body outside their apartment unit. The apartment building, located in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district, is an upscale, 25-floor building called Seaside Heights, which has 100 apartment units. Seaside Heights is marketed as evoking an “exquisite French lifestyle,” according to an ad shown in the movie.

There’s really nothing French about this apartment building. It’s just an excuse for the movie to have a bizarre fantasy sequence of many of the apartment building residents dressed in 18th century-styled French costumes, as if they’re about to have tea with Marie Antoinette. The movie has even more weirdness—and not in a good way.

There are five family members living in the apartment unit where the body is found outside the unit. Before this shocking discovery, tensions were already running high in the family. The apartment unit is owned by divorcée Meghan So (played by Teresa Mo), who is the household’s primary source of income.

Meghan shows a lot of resentment over having to carry most of the financial burden for everyone in the household. Also living in the household is Meghan’s daughter Yana Chung (played by Jennifer Yu), a flight attendant whose husband Ming To (played by Wong You Nam) is currently unemployed. Yana and Ming have an adorable daughter named Yoyo (played by Lau Ying Yu), who’s about 5 years old.

Meghan has another child named Kingston Chung (played by Alan Yeung Wai Lun, also known as Yeung Wai Lun), Yana’s goofy younger brother who is also unemployed. However, Meghan shows much more tolerance for Kingston than she does for Yana. Kingston says he will be able to make money when he launches his “brand.” The movie later reveals that Kingston wants to start a company called the Anti-Facial Social Club, which sells facial stickers designed to prevent facial recognition done by technology.

One of the early scenes in the movie shows Meghan clashing with Yana and Ming when the spouses talk about their desire to move out so they can have more space to raise Yoyo. Meghan warns the couple that it would be expensive for Yana and Ming to get their own place on the couple’s limited income. This leads to more complaining from Meghan about how she has to pay most of the living expenses in the household.

During this argument, someone happens to open the front door to the apartment unit. The arguing family members are shocked to see a naked man slumped on the hallway floor in front of the unit. No one in the family knows who he is and have never seen this stranger before.

When they determine that the man is dead, everyone except Meghan immediately wants to call for help. Kingston goes as far as dialing 999 (the emergency number in Hong Kong), but Meghan forces him to hang up before he can say what the problem is. Meghan yells at everyone that if the news got out that there was a naked dead man found in the building, then the building’s property value will decrease.

The rest of the movie shows various people finding out about the body and trying to hide it too. An elderly couple named Boron Chan (played by Lau Kong) and Betty Chan (played by Bonnie Wong), who are retired schoolteachers, are very superstitious. They want to hide the body because they think if they don’t hide the body, then people will think the building is haunted. Boron is also the treasurer for this co-op building.

A bachelorette named Mary Tse (played by Grace Wu) is described as a “young single mother” who is very protective of her baby, which she covers up in a carriage when she goes out in public. But surprise! It’s revealed early on in the movie that Mary’s “baby” is really a small dog. Dogs are not allowed in the building.

Meghan threatens to tell the building management that Mary has a dog, which is why Mary goes along with the plan to hide the body. Mary has a maid named Nancy (played by Valenzuela Lucy Navarette), who gets ensnared in the body-hiding conspiracy because Mary threatens to have Nancy deported back to Thailand if she doesn’t cooperate. “I’m from the Philippines,” Nancy tells Mary. This is what’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in “Over My Dead Body.”

Other people who get involved in hiding the body are a taxi driver named Bear Cheung (played by Ronny Cheng), who lives in the building and has a strained relationship with his son Mesai Cheung (played by Edan Lui), who is in his early 20s. Bear and Mesai have lived together, ever since Bear’s wife/Edan’s mother (played by Xenia Chong, shown in flashbacks) left them and had a bitter divorce. Mesai blames Bear for the breakup of the marriage.

Mesai is a video game/computer enthusiast. Somehow, he has found a way to hack into the building’s video surveillance system. It becomes a subplot in the movie when the building’s security chief S.G. Lee (played by Jiro Lee) finds out about the body too. S.G. Lee brags that he knows who all the building residents are, but he does not know who the mysterious nude man is and how he got into the building.

As already revealed in the trailer for “Over My Dead Body,” some of the apartment dwellers end up in a jail cell, where they meet a bride-to-be named Sue Yu (played by Hanna Chan), who gets mixed up in this awful mess. And where is Yoyo during all of these silly antics? She’s conveniently kept out of sight for most of the movie, which only shows Yoyo for some “cute kid” moments.

“Over My Dead Body” is a stagnant cesspool of irritating characters shrieking, hollering, and doing things that never look believable. None of the acting in this movie is any good. The movie’s direction and film editing are often unfocused, jumping from one character to the next in clumsy ways. The sloppy screenplay leaves no room for character development.

The movie saved the worst parts for last. In the movie’s last 15 minutes, when it’s revealed who the mystery stranger is, “Over My Dead Body” takes an abrupt turn into phony sentimentality. The movie, which was already failing to be amusing, tried to be an edgy and irreverent satire about status-conscious people for most of the story. In the end, “Over My Dead Body” just turns into a huge, mushy plothole that insults viewers’ intelligence.

Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio released “Over My Dead Body” in select U.S. cinemas on May 19, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on March 24, 2023.

Review: ‘Lost Love’ (2023), starring Sammi Cheng and Alan Luk

May 16, 2023

by Carla Hay

Ng Tsz Kiu and Sammi Cheng in “Lost Love” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal)

“Lost Love” (2023)

Directed by Ka Sing Fung

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place over 13 years in Hong Kong, the dramatic film “Lost Love” features an almost all-Asian cast of characters (with one biracial person) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After losing their son in a tragic accident, two spouses become foster parents to several children, who have various personal issues.

Culture Audience: “Lost Love” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a simple but effective story about love between foster parents and their foster children.

Sammi Cheng, Jiu Kai Nam Matt and Alan Luk in “Lost Love” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal)

Beautifully filmed and simply told, “Lost Love” is a “slice of life” drama that centers on a married couple’s 13-year journey as foster parents to a variety of children, after the couple lost their own child to a tragedy. It’s a movie puts an emphasis on realism instead of heavy melodrama. Therefore, scenes in “Lost Love” that show everyday life routines might be too dull for some viewers. However, the movie has much deeper meaning in how it depicts coping with grief over the loss of a loved one.

Directed by Ka Sing Fung (who co-wrote the “Lost Love” screenplay with Lo Kim Fei), “Lost Love” (which takes place in Hong Kong) begins by showing Chan Tin Mei (played by Sammi Cheng) on a school bus. She’s talking to the driver, who is one of her co-workers. The driver says that they lost a bid that year and the bus’ owner (whose name is Fat) is selling the bus.

At home, Mei and her husband, Ho Bun (played by Alan Luk), feel a void in their lives. Their son Toh (played by Wong Tsz Hin, in flashback scenes) died from a drowning accident at the age of 6 or 7. Mei’s income will be affected by the bus sale, so she suggests to Bun that they become foster parents. At first, Mei is only thinking of the extra income that they can get from the government for being foster parents. She has no idea how deeply affected she will be by the foster children who come into her life.

Before officially becoming foster parents, Mei and Bun have to be approved by child welfare services. A government social worker named Miss Mok (played by Hedwig Tam) is their main liaison who does the inspections and evaluations. After inspecting the home, Miss Mok tells Mei and Bun (who are both smokers) that the only thing they need to do if they are to be approved as foster parents is not smoke inside the house.

Mei and Bun’s first foster child is named Sam (played by Wong Tsz Lok Sean), who is about 5 or 6 years old. Sam is shy and somewhat anxious child who wets his bed. Sam’s single mother is unable to take care of him. Mei is much more impatient than Bun when it comes to take care of children, so she gets easily irritated by Sam’s bedwetting problems.

One night, Sam’s biological mother shows up at the home unannounced and physically attacks Mei before Mei is able to fight her off. It’s a shocking incident that could have turned Mei off from being a foster parent. Instead, it’s a turning point for Mei, because she begins to understand that Sam’s bedwetting comes from untold trauma that he probably experienced because of his dysfunctional biological family.

Bun remains a consistently laid-back and supportive parent throughout this journey. Mei’s evolution is much more fascinating to watch, because she went to foster care thinking it was just a temporary way to make extra money and it became the type of rewarding experienced that can be labeled with a price tag. She becomes so devoted to her foster children that Bun starts to feel a bit neglected in the marriage.

“Lost Love” is almost like an anthology film with segments that show the different experiences that Mei and Bun have with their foster children over the 13-year period. One of the most memorable parts of the movie is how Mei teaches a foster daughter named Fleur (played by Ng Tsz Kiu), who’s about 7 ot 8 years old, how to have confidence when she is teased and bullied by other students because of having a cleft lip. Other foster children featured in the movie are quiet Ching (played by Leoni Li), who’s about 3 years old and who learns how to make dumplings from Mei; friendly Ming (played by Jiu Kai Nam Matt), who injures him arm; mischievous brother and sister Lee Ka Long (played by Tsui Ka Him) and Lee Ka Hei (played by Tsang Yui Tung Maya); and unnamed 17-year-old biracial boy (played by Toure Muntar), who appears to be of Asian and African heritage.

“Lost Love” also has poignant references to flowers and a certain bridge, whose significance is explained at one point in the movie. The last 20 minutes of “Lost Love” are emotionally powerful. Cheng gives a quietly outstanding performance in this contemplative film that is not only about recovering from the loss of a loved one but also discovering new ways to love that are unexpected and meaningful.

Illume Films and Imagi Crystal released “Lost Love” in select U.S. cinemas on May 12, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on March 2, 2023.

Review: ‘Say I Do to Me,’ starring Sabrina Ng, Chan Kin-Long, Candy Lo, Mixon Wong, Yat Ning Chan and Jacky Tong Hoo-lin

April 25, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sabrina Ng in “Say I Do to Me” (Photo courtesy of Edko Films Ltd.)

“Say I Do to Me”

Directed by Kiwi Chow

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the comedy film “Say I Do to Me” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A social media personality, who has crafted an image of being happily single, decides to stage a public wedding where she will marry herself, while she hides the fact that she has a boyfriend, who is jealous and insecure about her admirers who want to date her.

Culture Audience: “Say I Do to Me” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a romantic comedy that goes off in different directions with many fake-looking scenes.

Chan Kin-Long and Sabrina Ng in “Say I Do to Me” (Photo courtesy of Edko Films Ltd.)

The comedy misfire “Say I Do to Me” ruins an interesting concept (a social media personality wants to marry herself in a public ceremony) with too many awkwardly staged scenarios and horrible dialogue. It’s trying to be cute but it’s all very annoying. The wedding ceremony is supposed to be the big climax to the movie. After all the buildup, the last 20 minutes of the film, which were supposed to be the best section of the film, is actually the worst. It’s just a mess that drags on for far too long.

Directed by Kiwi Chow, “Say I Do to Me” has several subplots that never really gel in a cohesive way. The story jumps from subplot to subplot, bringing up many questions that the movie never bothers to answer. It doesn’t help that the protagonist of “Say I Do to Me” is very flaky and not very interesting. And almost all of the characters are written and portrayed in such superficial and hollow ways, they seem more like caricatures than relatable people. “Say I Do to Me” director Chow co-wrote the movie’s disjointed screenplay with Frankie Wang-Kit Chung and Isis Tso Yin-Sin.

In “Say I Do to Me” (which takes place in Hong Kong), Ping Cheung (played by Sabrina Ng) is a semi-successful social media personality who is mainly on YouTube and Instagram. Ping, who is in her early 20s, has about 1 million followers on Instagram, but throughout the movie, it’s shown that Pink has hasn’t had much luck getting sponsors. In other words, she has a large audience but hasn’t found a way to make money from the social media platforms that she uses. And in this day and age, 1 million followers on Instagram, although commendable, is still a low number for someone who expects to get rich from social media.

Ping has made a name for herself by creating a media platform brand called Sologamy. The concept for Sologamy is to celebrate self-love and to be unapologetically single in a society that pressures people to get married or be in a committed romantic relationship. Publicly, Ping has an image of being a happily single and not currently dating anyone.

Privately, Ping has been dating Dickson (played by Chan Kin-Long), who is her live-in boyfriend. Ping and Dickson have known each other since they were in middle school. Dickson handles all the technical aspects of Ping’s social media accounts.

Even though Ping and Dickson are a “couple,” the movie oddly never shows Ping and Dickson having any romantic moments together throughout the story. It’s one of many things about “Say I Do to Me” that make it look like a phony and not well-made. In various parts of the movie, Dickson gets jealous when a few of Ping’s admirers start courting her. She has to pretend that she’s available, which infuriates Dickson even more.

The subplots involve the various entanglements that Ping has with people who are in and out of the movie in scenes that don’t flow well together. (In other words, the film editing is pretty bad.) Ping does some voiceover narration explaining who these people are, but some of these characters are still introduced in ways that might confuse some viewers.

Stephanie Cheung (played by Yat Ning Chan) is a rich and famous relative of Ping’s. Stephanie is 39 years old. And she calls herself Ping’s older sister. But surprise! Somehow, someone in Ping’s audience found out that Stephanie is really Ping’s mother. Ping then has to make an apologetic confession video to her audience.

The movie never gives an adequate explanation for why Stephanie insists on Ping acting like Stephanie like a sister instead of a mother. It’s also never explained how long Stephanie and Ping were lying about the true nature of ther family relationship. It’s implied that Stephanie has some mental health issues and is emotionally immature.

Stephanie treats marriage and divorce like redecorating. She’s been married and divorced six times. Stephanie also overshares too many details about her love life with Ping, which is one of the reasons Ping has tried to distance herself from Stephanie. Stephanie’s cavalier attitude toward marriage has also made Ping wary of getting married.

One day, Ping gets a promising invitation to meet with a potential sponsor. He’s a successful and handsome 30-year-old businessman named Charles Ko (played by Mixon Wong), who invites Ping to his office for an interview. It soon becomes obvious that Charles is romantically attracted to Ping. The problem is that Charles is dating one of his employees named Kitty (played by J. Lou), who is very jealous. Kitty is barely in the movie, and when she is, her scenes look very forced and clumsy.

Tsz “Daniel” Chun (played by Jacky Tong Hoo-lin) is a platonic friend of Ping’s but he is romantically attracted to her too. Daniel is nerdy and timid. He’s also a very religious Christian. Ping is a Christian too, but she’s not as devoted to praying and going to church as Daniel is. Ping employs Daniel to do part-time work for her, such as giving her car rides and doing errands. He eagerly accepts any offer to spend time with her.

Another admirer who wants to get close to Ping is Yi “Yee” Lok (played by Candy Lo), who owns a flower shop called Mona Lisa. Yee is a stranger who is an avid follower of Ping on social media. Yee and her devoted husband Kenneth (played by Gregory Wong) have been married for 20 years. Yee contacts Ping to meet her in person because Yee says she might want to sponsor Ping and possibly become her friend. Yee also has a big secret that she eventually confesses to Ping.

Speaking of friends, Ping is never shown having any close platonic friends besides Daniel. The movie never explains if Ping was always a loner type or if her social media obsession negatively affected her ability to make friends in the real world. “Say I Do to Me” has no character development for Ping. This very unfunny movie is just a series of poorly edited scenes that are filmed like scenes from a substandard sitcom.

Ping’s self-wedding day is supposed to be a major event for her, but she’s hardly seen planning it for most of the movie until a few hastily crammed-together scenes toward the end of the film. “Say I Do to Me” also goes off on a mishandled, weird tangent about Internet haters harassing Ping in person: These agitators are disguised as stuffed animals. And because Ping and Dickson do not have convincing romantic chemistry with each other, the stakes are non-existent in the Ping/Dickson relationship when Ping gets romantic attention from other people.

“Say I Do to Me” is the type of overstuffed film that tries to do too many things but ends up not saying or doing anything substantial. It could have been a hilarious story about the pitfalls of inventing a fake persona online, but the comedy and characters are completely bungled in this movie. The acting performances range from bland to barely watchable. Ironically, for a movie about someone who’s created a fake persona online, “Say I Do to Me” doesn’t look believable at all.

Edko Films Ltd. released “Say I Do to Me” in select U.S. cinemas on April 21, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on January 26, 2023.

Review: ‘The Sparring Partner,’ starring Yeung Wei Lun, Mak Pui Tung, Louisa So, Michael Chow and Jan Lamb

April 1, 2023

by Carla Hay

Pictured in front: Louisa So, Mak Pui Tung, Yeung Wei Lun and Lin Haifeng in “The Sparring Partner” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“The Sparring Partner”

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin

Cantonese, English and German with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place from 2012 to 2015, in Hong Kong, the dramatic film “The Sparring Partner” (based on real events) features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An affluent young man and his intellectually disabled friend are pitted against each other when they go on trial for the brutal murder of the affluent man’s parents, and jurors must decide how much responsibility each man has in this horrific crime.

Culture Audience: “The Sparring Partner” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in true crime stories and suspenseful movies that have courtroom drama.

Matt Chow in “The Sparring Partner” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

Even though “The Sparring Partner” has a total running time that is a little too long (138 minutes), it’s still a gripping true crime drama that gives a memorable portrait of a twisted killer’s mind. The movie serves as a warning about a sociopath’s personality traits. “The Sparring Partner” achieves a challenging task of looking at a courtroom trial from different perspectives.

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin, “The Sparring Partner” is based on the true story of the Tai Kok Tsui double homicide: In Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong, 65-year-old Glory Chau Wing-ki and his 63-year-old wife Moon Siu Yuet-yee were viciously murdered in 2013. They were also dismembered, and their body parts cooked and stored in a refrigerator. Their youngest son Henry Chau Hoi-leung (who was 29 at the time of the murder) and his friend Angus Tse Chun-kei (who was 35 at the time of the murder) went on trial together in 2015 for this double homicide, among other crimes related to the murders. The nine-person jury not only had to decide if the defendants were guilty or not guilty but also how much responsibility each defendant had in planning and committing the crimes.

What makes “The Sparring Partner” a little more complex and more intriguing than the average courtroom drama is that flashbacks shown during each defendant’s testimony often show the attorneys and jurors also in the flashbacks as observers or commentators. Each defendant has a different version of what happened before, during and after the murders. And therefore, the reactions can vary from the people who weren’t actually there.

In addition, the movie takes viewers inside the jury deliberation room, where the jurors argue, debate and reveal their own personal biases. All of these perspectives could easily turn into a jumbled mess, but “The Sparring Partner” keeps everything mostly cohesive and easy to understand. Much of it has to do with the movie’s suspenseful screenplay, written by Frankie Tam, Kwong Yuen, Oliver Yip and Thomas Leung.

In “The Sparring Partner,” the son on trial for murdering his parents is named Henry Cheung (played by Yeung Wei Lun), who is portrayed as a cold-hearted manipulator who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else in the investigation. It’s revealed during the trial that Henry isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, because was arrested after bragging about the crime on social media. Henry’s accused accomplice is mild-mannered Angus Tong (played by Mak Pui Tung, also known as Mai Peidong), who has mental-health issues and intellectual disabilities after suicide attempts when he was younger left him with brain damage.

Henry’s attorney Wu Guanfeng (played by Lin Haifeng) argues that Angus is mostly to blame, since he was the one who committed most of the violence. Angus’ attorney Carrie You (played by Louisa So, also known as Su Yuhua) argues that Henry is mostly to blame, since he was the mastermind who planned everything and pressured Angus to participate. The prosecutor Ellen Chu (played by Zhou Wenjian) argues that Henry and Angus are equally responsible and should be punished accordingly. The judge (played by Michael Chow) often has to restore order in the court when things get too contentious.

One of the things that Henry claims in his testimony was that his father Cheung Kuen Kawai (played by Au Shiu Hee James) was abusive to his wife Shiu Suet Yee (played by Chan Fung-Kam) and son Hin Jo. It sets off a heated discussion over whether or not this claim of domestic violence is believable and how it should be judged in this case. “The Sparring Partner” also depicts the media coverage in the case and how that coverage can influence the court of public opinion.

Some of the other supporting characters are Tang Wenshan (played by Yang Shimin), Angus’ sister, who gives some heart-wrenching testimony; Henry’s older brother Cheung Hin Jo (played by Chu Pak-Him), who was the one who reported their parents as missing; and attorney Wilson Ying (played by Jan Lamb), who is on Henry’s defense team. “The Sparring Partner” also shows how police law enforcement investigated the case, which Superintendent Kam (played by Matt Chow) leading the investigation.

The movie has somewhat unnecessary scenes of the jury selection, where people are shown giving excuses for what they can’t serve on the jury. Some of these potential jurors are dismissed, while others are not. One of the standouts in the jury is former teacher Liu Men Yan (played by Ursule Wong), who is very opinionated.

“The Sparring Partner” pulls off a very good balancing act of showing testimony coming to life and showing people’s reactions, based on their own agendas and prejudices. Many people who watch this movie already know what was the outcome of the trial. But whether or not viewers know what the trial verdict was in real life, “The Sparring Partner” gives a fascinating story about how facts, truth and justice aren’t necessarily working in tandem with each other during a trial, and are definitely not viewed the same way by different people.

Well Go USA released “The Sparring Partner” in select U.S. cinemas on December 9, 2022. The movie was released in Hong Kong on October 27, 2022. Well Go USA will release “The Sparring Partner” on digital and VOD on April 4, 2023.

Review: ‘Everything Under Control,’ starring Hins Cheung, Ivana Wong, Jeffrey Ngai Tsun Sang, Michael Ning and Kaho Hing

January 22, 2023

by Carla Hay

Hins Cheung, Michael Ning and Jeffrey Ngai Tsun Sang in “Everything Under Control” (Photo courtesy of Trinity Filmed Entertainment)

“Everything Under Control”

Directed by Ying Chi-Wen

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the action comedy film “Everything Under Control,” a remake of the 2004 South Korean horror comedy “To Catch a Virgin Ghost,” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with a few white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: After a jewelry heist goes wrong, two armed guards and a robber go to a remote jungle to find the armed guard who stole the jewelry, and they all encounter a strange commune that appears to be protected by a ghost.

Culture Audience: “Everything Under Control” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of “To Catch a Virgin Ghost” and action movies that have a lot of moronic comedy that just isn’t funny.

Ivana Wong in “Everything Under Control” (Photo courtesy of Trinity Filmed Entertainment)

“Everything Under Control” squanders the potential to be an entertaining and zany heist film, by overloading on repetitive gimmick jokes, tacky visual effects, and nonsensical, time-wasting scenes that lower the quality of this already bad movie. The cast members try too hard to funny, giving “Everything Under Control” a forced and awkward tone. The movie also goes off on some bizarre tangents that don’t fit the intended comedy at all.

Directed by Ying Chi-Wen, “Everything Under Control” (which takes place in Hong Kong) is a remake of the 2004 South Korean horror comedy “To Catch a Virgin Ghost,” which had another remake with the 2021 Taiwanese film “Trick or Treat.” “Everything Under Control” is much more of an action film than a horror movie, since there’s nothing remotely scary about “Everything Under Control,” unless you think it’s scary that people actually thought this awful movie was worth getting made.

“Everything Under Control” begins by showing a group of employees who work for a company called So Good Security, whose specialty is armored vehicle transportation. The company’s drivers (who are all men in their 20s and 30s) look up to the “alpha male” of the group: Yau Shing (played by Hins Cheung), who is a cocky and rebellious guy. Yau Shing has been tasked with training a rookie named Penguin (played by Jeffrey Nagai Tsun Sang), who is very nervous and insecure.

One day, a group of So Good Security employees are driving in an armored van for a delivery of valuable diamonds. In the vehicle are Yau Shing, Penguin, an awkward misfit named Jelly (played by Kaho Hung) and a loudmouth named Pig Blood (played by Hou Dee). During this ride, Yau Shing brags that he’s “seen it all” in this security job, except that he’s never experienced a robbery.

As soon as Yau Shing says that, you just know a robbery is going to happen. The leader of the armed robbers is an ill-tempered buffoon named Monk (played by Michael Ning), who isn’t as tough as he’d like to think he is. The real menacing thug in this gang of thieves is Monk’s boss Mr. Lai (played by Juno Mak), who is sadistic and ruthless. Mr. Lai isn’t actually at the scene of the robbery, by he’s the mastermind behind this heist.

A chaotic shootout occurs during the robbery. Jelly tries to be a flashy hero by spinning around a shotgun, but the shotgun ends up landing on his head. It’s enough to knock him temporarily unconscious. The robbers are so inept, they don’t notice until it’s too late that they don’t have any of the diamonds. Jelly has suddenly disappeared, so Yau Shing, Penguin, Pig Blood are kidnapped by the robbers and taken to the back of a butcher shop, where Mr. Lai orders that these captives undergo water torture to try to force them to tell the robbers where the diamonds are.

What happened to the diamonds? Jelly stole the diamonds. When it becomes obvious that Yau Shing, Penguin, Pig Blood don’t have the diamonds, and Jelly stole these jewels, Mr. Lai decides that Monk will accompany Yau Shing and Penguin to look for Jelly. Pig Blood is left behind in the butcher shop and will experience more torture unless Yau Shing and Penguin can find Jelly and the diamonds.

During his getaway, Jelly accidentally crashes his car in a remote jungle area. He makes his way through the jungle and finds a weird commune of five people (two women and three men), who have rituals that look very much like these commune members are in a cult. The group’s domineering leader is Wong Cool (played by Ivana Wong), who tells Jelly that the group doesn’t want to help him because they don’t trust outsiders.

While Jelly is using a toilet on the commune’s premises , he makes the mistake of leaving his phone outside with the commune members. When the phone rings, one of the commune members answers it and finds out that it’s a very agitated Yau Shing looking for Jelly and the diamonds. The commune now knows that Jelly wants to go into hiding, so they hold him captive.

Monk, Yau Shing and Penguin somehow find out that Jelly is in this wooded area and go looking for him. The rest of “Everything Under Control” involves a battle between the commune members and this search party. There’s also a very mishandled subplot involving a young woman ghost named Chi (played by Suey Kwok), who appears to be haunting the commune’s property and scaring off unwanted visitors. An artist painter named Poussin (played by Angus Yeung) offers some clues about the mystery behind the ghost.

“Everything Under Control” has some gross-out comedy involving defecation and farting that is so unnecessary, it’s really pathetic. It’s the type of slapstick set-up that looks like it came from the mind of a 10-year-old child. All of the movie’s characters are hollow—either too ridiculous to be relatable or too generic to be interesting. The title “Everything Under Control” is a contradiction of this mess of a movie, which is an example of filmmakers who let a potentially hilarious action flick descend into mindless chaos.

Trinity Filmed Entertainment released “Everything Under Control” in select U.S. cinemas on January 20, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on January 21, 2023.

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