Category Archives: Chapman To

From Vegas to Macau 賭城風雲 (2014) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 27th January 2013

Directed by: Wong Jing
Starring: Chow Yun-fat, Nicholas Tse, Chapman To, Jing Tian, Annie Wu, Kimmy Tong, Phillip Ng

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Let’s rejoice as we witness yet another good film from the infamous Wong Jing. In fact, director Wong Jing is on a winning streak of making quality Hong Kong cinema that he should be proud of. His latest action and gambling comedy reunion of sorts with the “God of Gamblers” – Chow Yun Fat is a good one and with one gag after another, easily making “From Vegas to Macau”, one of Wong Jing’s funniest film in years. With lavish production values and an A-list cast, long time Hong Kong cinema fans will likely embrace this one with both arms out. This is why when Wong Jing tries, he can still manage a few tricks and while some jokes are rehash of his former glory, you will probably give it to him for this one.

Chow Yun Fat headlines this film and returns to a genre that created a gambling craze around Hong Kong people in the early 90’s. Chow is an excellent dramatic actor, but he is equally wonderful as a comedian. His comic timing is always funny and goes a long way in providing the film with the light-hearted feeling from start to finish. Despite looking more like “Detective Conan” with his blue suit and hairdo, Chow have not lost his screen presence and simply steals the screen time as his costars Nicholse Tse and Chapman To roam along with him. I thought that there could be more character depth for Tse as his coolness and seriousness tended to feel of out place at times. Still, alongside comedic relief role of Chapman To, the two play off each other in quietly entertaining fashion and To showing that despite his recent leading fame, he has not lost any of his comic timing in a smaller role.

As usual a Wong Jing’s film cannot be completed without his usual hunger of flower vase roles. Kimmy Tong continues to appear and this time as Chow’s daughter and Tse’s love interest, and despite being sexy, she definitely needing more acting lessons. Jing Tian appears in yet another big Hong Kong and Chinese co-production (after sharing screen-time with Donnie Yen in “Special ID” and Jackie Chan in “Police Story 2013”). I am still yet to discover her attraction and while she manages to hold her own with iconic Hong Kong superstars, her lack of chemistry with Yen, Chan and now Chow leaves a lot to be desired. Rising action stars Phillip Ng does okay in a small undercover role, while Zhang Jun from his “Grandmasters” fame continue to be impress with his menacing look and kung fu chop. While the much missed Annie Wu (Donnie Yen’s “Ballistic Kiss”) makes an appearance.

What I really enjoyed about the latest Wong Jing’s adventure is the pure senseless fun of it, the expected jokes, the simplicity of how an otherwise serious or complicated situation gets resolved via a funny gag or “laugh out laugh” humor. While, Wong Jing inserted himself into the dialogue a few times too much, but he finally managed to realise that by not appearing on screen even for a short moment, actually made the film better. All in all, “From Vegas to Macau” is what senseless and mindless fun is about and while we are unlikely to feel nostalgic, long time Hong Kong cinema undoubtedly miss the gambling action comedy genre. Adding Chow Tun Fat to the mix, plus a half decent script and an actually trying Wong Jing, this is as good as it gets. Is this “God of Gamblers”? No, but this is good enough for now. (Neo 2014)

I rated it 8/10

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The Midas Touch 超級經理人 (2013) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 16th September 2013

Directed by: Fung Chih-chiang
Starring: Chapman To as Chiu, Charlene Choi as Suen, Gillian Chung, Wong Cho-lam, Yumiko Cheng, He Jiong, Lo Hoi-pang, Louis Cheung, Vincy Chan, Hins Cheung, Gao Yunxiang, Deep Ng
Film Distributed by Emperor Motion Pictures
In cinemas Hong Kong from 4th September 2013

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At the very least, “The Midas Touch” is more entertaining than last year’s struggle, but well acted “DIVA”. The film actually tries hard to convince the audience and almost managed to pull it off in a somewhat touching finale. Chapman To is now an established actor and like in “DIVA” his best dramatic performance is usually when he restrain himself from over-acting. In “Midas”, Chapman To never overacts and in turn is able to relate to the audience with a character that is extremely likable and quite frankly pulling off another good display of matured acting. The main problem of “Midas” is that it tends to drag out its sequences and with some smarter editing, 120 minutes of screen time is not entirely necessary. I am also not really sure which direction, the film is trying to take. In terms of genre, it is neither funny enough to qualify as a comedy, not dramatic enough to fill the audience with tears and definitely not romantic enough to go down that path. As a result, “The Midas Touch” feels all over the place, insignificant and sometimes uninteresting. Director Fung Chih-chiang, previously made the above average “The Bounty” and even shows glimpses of potential, but with a bigger budget and lesser directorial control, Fung fails to fully deliver.

What I am impressed about Chapman To is his ability to channel versatility in his acting. When I first noticed his potential, it was not in “Infernal Affairs”, but rather the well-made Wong Jing’s clone “Colour of Truth”. In that film, he manages to show his comic timing and stole the show despite his limited screen time as a supporting player. Of course, Chapman has improved loads and bounds since then and in “Midas”, he has now matured to the stage, where he can carry a film on his broad shoulders despite his unconventional leading man looks. His lack of chemistry with Charlene Choi is perhaps one of the reason why the film did not entirely convinces. Choi have a far more successful transition from childish antics of the past to a now fully matured and fledged 30 year old. Although there are still some glimpses of cute antics, her “My Wife is 18” days are by far and long gone. The weakest link in “Midas” is the lack of an identifiable character for Choi and while her performance shows maturity, her character is rather uninteresting and at times insignificant. In essence, Choi pales in comparison to Chapman To’s sympathetic and likable performance. As for the rest of the newcomers and models, most of them are raw and by the end of the film, none of them are able to stand out from the pack. While it is not exactly time for the panic button, but for one to be a true star, it requires something special, stand out and worth remembering. However, in this film, none of the 7 girls took their opportunities with both their hands.

All in all, “The Midas Touch” does have its moments where the audience are actually connected and in some ways, the film is actually pretty well made, but none of the scenes shows a level of fluency and flow that adds up to the finale. Instead, the films takes nearly two hours to tell a story or a well-meaning message, when it could have easily taken 90 minutes. There is also not enough laugh out loud moments for the film to be a comedy and when it tries for dramatic effects, it feels rather odd. Still, there are things that we can appreciate in Fung’s work, namely Chapman To’s performance and also some moments of cinematic magic (courtesy of a storming finish). It would be harsh to say that “The Midas Touch” is a bad film, as it is not, or at the very least, it tries hard not to be, but being average is not exactly what the local audience is after. With Chapman To at the height of his fame and a maturing Charlene Choi on display, I just expected more. (Neo 2013)

I rated 6/10

SDU: Sex Duties Unit 飛虎出征 (2013) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 23rd July 2013

Director: Gary Mak
Produced by: Pang Ho Cheung and Leung Kai Yun
Starring: Chapman To, Shawn Yue, Matt Chow, Derek Tsang, Jim Chim, Siu Yam-yam and Dada Chen

Film Distributed by Media Asia Distributions and Making Films Production

In cinemas across Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand from 25th July 2013.

Hong Kong Box Office taking: HK$16,711,696

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Pang Ho Cheung continues his dominant taste and form with the Hong Kong audience, while at the same time providing the Hong Kong critics a direct reply upon his “Vulgaria” snub earlier this year. In an era where Hong Kong movies aren’t really that anticipated by the local audience, it is almost paramount for a pure Hong Kong production to strike a chord with the audience. It needs to be smart with relevant dialogue, uniquely Hong Kong style, and naughty and over the top and ultimately so hilarious that it cannot pass the Chinese censorship. In Pang’s last year “Vulgaria”, he did exactly that and while “SDU: Sex Duties Unit” isn’t as good, it makes up for an over the top exercise and enough laughs to ensure another HK$30 million Box Office hit looming for the producer and writer Pang.

This time around, the focus is no longer on purely Chapman To, but rather the comedy and chemistry is spread between four key characters. The somewhat serious Shawn Yue juxtaposes perfectly with the seedy yet hilariously funny Matt Chow, while Chapman To is “Chapman To”. Surprisingly Derek Tsang gives a wonderful effeminize performance that is likely to draw many laughs.

Director Gary Mak is surprisingly effective and at times, it really seem as though we are watching a Pang Ho Cheung movie. While in some way, you would have preferred a more personal style, it is almost undeniable that Pang will always have a heavy influence in films that he produced. After-all the auteur have not made a single bad movie in over a decade and have already overtaken Wong Jing’s mantle in the local box office.

In terms of nudity, the film never exposes in a crude and disrespectful manner, which is to be complimented. Everything act of the film goes towards producing a moment of laughter. While “SDU” will never revitalize the industry, but it gives a much needed boost to the quality starved local audience. As usual the supporting veteran players Jim Chim and Siu Yam-yam in their respective roles as “mama-san”, which all, but increase the value of entertainment. The constant interplay and referral to the “Vulgaria”‘s donkey jokes is also welcoming.

All in all, in creating “SDU: Sex Duties Unit”, Pang Ho Cheung is fast becoming Hong Kong’s most bankable local movie producer and with an acquired taste of local interest in smart, naughty, sexy and fun. Pang manages to strike the gold pot once again and despite leading man Chapman To taking a back seat, the four SDUs interplay are always impressive, full of jargon in-jokes, super wordplay and a delightful display of Macau’s vibrant and sexy nightlife. “SDU: Sex Duties Unit” is certainly not as good as “Vulgaria” in terms of quality filmmaking, but it is most certainly outrageously funny and sometimes, that is precisely what the local audience demands. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7.5/10

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Hotel Deluxe 百星酒店 (2013) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 19th February 2013
Releasing in cinemas in Hong Kong, 7th February 2013

Director: Vincent Kok
Cast: Sandra Ng, Chapman To, Ronald Cheng, Teresa Mo, Lynn Xiong, Raymond Wong, Fiona Sit, Eric Kot, Karena Ng, Yu Bo, Janelle Sing, Jim Chim

Hong Kong Box Office Takings: HK$19,469,958

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Setting an entire film within a hotel is not something new, as Michael Hui did it to a certain degree in “Funny Business”, the Japanese followed suit in “The Uchoten Hotel” and most recently China scooped in with “Happy Hotel”. The latest Vincent Kok’s lunar Chinese New Year film comes in the same format with “Hotel Deluxe” and follows the same formula as the predecessor, while without the same effect.

There is no denying that Sandra Ng, Chapman To, Ronald Cheng and Theresa Mo have great rapport and an instant undeniable chemistry. The instant chemistry provides the audience with plenty of spontaneous laughters. When the cast is clearly having fun acting, the feeling is easily translated to the audience. However, as a lunar new year film, it feels rather empty and at times losing the Hong Kong flair in the midst of a Chinese co-production. Director Vincent Kok tries hard to keep the film afloat and manages to scrap through with the cast of experienced comedians and Lunar new year films alumni.

Ronald Cheng gets the most screen time and brutally overacts to maximum comic effect. Cheng in recent years have finally reached a stage of maturity and seemingly grown out of the previously castes shadow as Stephen Chow’s predecessor, to be a character actor in his own right. Here we see an extremely likeable Cheng that is funny rather than annoying. Theresa Mo is always wonderful in film like these and provide an excellent presence. Mo in many ways seems to be leading the pack like a mother. Sandra Ng once again impresses the audience by inducing plenty of laughter in her role as the hotel keeper/ cleaner. The man of the moment (2012 in particular), Chapman To is only given limited screen time, but the audience has gotten used to To’s style of antics, that he is funny regardless of what he does. Karena Ng is largely underused and her career seem to be stale since “Magic to Win”. Fiona Sit is essentially Fiona Sit and her sub-plot with Ronald Cheng manages to be most interesting part of the film. Although 2012 was a big and active year for Sit, but none of the roles requires her to go further in her acting depth. It is a shame that Sit’s best work remains her chapter with Jaycee Chan in films like “2 Young” and “Break Up Club”. As usual, what new year film can be without producer Raymond Wong and surprisingly he doesn’t ruin the film with his presence this time around.

All in all, “Hotel Deluxe” is really light weight lunar new year entertainment that manages to be decent due to the calibre its experienced cast and crew. It is a shame that more is not made out of its Hotel premises and director/writer Vincent Kok does not take more leaves out of the Korean and Chinese earlier versions. Still, in terms of light hearted entertainment, “Hotel Deluxe” manages to be decent, if only a little empty. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 6.5/10

[36HKIFF] Vulgaria 低俗喜劇 (2012) – Hong Kong

@ 36th Hong Kong International Film Festival – International Premiere
Review by: Andrew Chan (Neo) FCCA
Review Date: 11 April 2012

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Pang Ho Cheung does it again and this time, he goes over the top in creating possibly the most foul language film of Hong Kong cinematic history and the most laugh-out-loud movie event of the year…

Reviewer note: However, knowledge of Hong Kong cinema, language, culture and everything else is a must for full enjoyment.

“Vulgaria” is very much a local Hong Kong fair and for that alone it is worthy of its admission price. It’s been a long time running since, I laughed out loud together with a full-house screening of a Hong Kong movie. In fact, it is probably since “Hang Over” that I laughed so much continuously at a cinema screening. There is no question about “Vulgaria”‘s entertainment value and in terms of that; it is truly up there with the best. Director Edmond Pang Ho Cheung once again strikes a chord with the local audience and this time, he succeeded in creating a laughing cord connection. Comedies are never easy, but black comedy and satire is truly Pang’s forte. Think no further than his debut work (still one of Pang most hilarious and smart film) “You Shoot, I Shoot”. What makes this film a success is very much due to ability of Chapman To to deliver an all-out comedic performance and a clever script to boot?

Chapman To is one fine actor. I still remember the lad appeared in almost every other Hong Kong movies back in 2003-2005 periods. In recent years, To have proved to be as much a capable leading actor in combining dramatic and comedic roles in particular “La Comédie humaine”, in which he delivered one of his finest performance. In “Vulgaria”, the To is able to own the film in a manner where he is truly coming of age and becoming a star in his own right, own style and own flair. It is not since Stephen Chow that there is a second coming and while To may not have the same star power, his performance here is second to none. Likewise the Chow heir apparent, Ronald Cheng overacts as the rich Mainlander provides a perfect combo To-Cheng duo act as the two play of each other and radiates the screen, whenever they collides. Unfortunately the weakest link of the trio comes in the form of hot and sexy Dada Chen. While Chen is hot whenever she comes onto the screen, she is unable to create a character in a role that require much more. Not unlike “My Name is Fame“, where the aspiring actress Huo Siyan is able to make the role her own; the same cannot be said about Chen. Surely a step up from her steamy hot performance in “Lan Kwai Fong“, but still a far cry from the rest of the cast. Despite, her limited screen time, veteran Susan Shaw is perfectly casted as herself in a straight talking role that actually contributes to one of the funnier moments on the screen.

All in all, Pang has hit the jackpot once again and it is not surprising, considering he is one of the few directors to never having made a bad movie. In fact, all his movies are smart and somewhat refreshing and in “Vulgaria”, Pang goes all out to create smart and efficiently scripted cheap and effective laughs. It’s not every day we watch a movie where the actors and crew have so much fun in rooting animals and using popping candies as a sexual foreplay. Adding with some strong performance from Chapman To and Ronald Cheng, Pang is able to deliver one of the freshest and funniest entry to 2012 Hong Kong cinema. Although the film may not appeal to the older generation and some may even find it offensive, but for an age group of 20-40, this is surely a film not to miss. “Vulgaria” may not win any awards, but in terms of entertainment value, Pang has done it again…(Neo 2012)

Neo rates it 9/10