Friday, February 23, 2024

"Table for Six 2" was the first film I opted to view in the new year of the dragon!

The first Hong Kong movie I viewed in the 
new year of the dragon! :)
Table for Six 2 (Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2024)
- Sunny Chan, director and scriptwriter
- Starring: Stephy Tang, Louis Cheung Kai Chung, Ivana Wong, Lin Min Chen, Peter Chan Charm-man 
One of my favourite Lunar New Year traditions here in Hong Kong involves going to the cinema to view Chinese New Year movies with a receptive audience in the mood for laughs aplenty.  With three such cinematic offerings to choose from this new year of the dragon, I opted to first view the follow-up film to Table for Six, the smash hit family dramedy that originally had been scheduled to be a Chinese New Year 2022 offering, only to get released months later thanks to Covid and the Hong Kong government's then super strict pandemic restrictions including the shutting down of cinemas for a not inconsiderable period of time.    

Going into the screening of Table for Six 2, I knew that the first film's lead actor, Dayo Wong, would not be in this new movie which loosely revolves around three weddings and members of the family that had been at the heart of the first Table for Six now being in the wedding planning business.  But with the rest of the original ensemble being around for it and advance publicity for the festive offering showing that it would boast lots of cameo appearances by the likes of Jennifer Yu, Helena Law Lan, Woo Fung and Tse Kwan-ho, I figured that it would not lack for acting prowess and star power.  And so it proved.  
Disappointingly though, despite Table For Six 2 having the same director-scriptwriter (Sunny Chan) as that which is currently third on the all time Hong Kong box office chart for local releases (having ended up amassing a whopping HK$77.3 million!), there was a notable drop off in overall quality; one that comes from the main characters feeling more one-note and/or their eccentric tics often being overly exaggerated this time around, despite the better efforts of those who play them.  For example, Ivana Wong's Josephine sadly spends too much of her time onscreen this time around fuming (even more so than cooking); so much so that it's harder this time around to see why Lung (played by Peter Chan Charn-man) would care for and love her enough to get married to her.  
Then there's Meow (essayed by Taiwanese actress Lim Min Chen), who appears for much of the movie to have just two modes: cutesy; and alcoholic.  Though, as it turns out, she does end up having a great dramatic scene that may well be the heart of this movie which, like with the first Table for Six, is best when the mood gets more serious and reflective. Too bad then that much of it spent trying to be manically laugh-a-minute (or, it can feel more like, every 10 seconds or so; with one-liners, punch lines and visual gags being thrown out at a crazily fast pace, seemingly in the hope that at least some will stick)!
With Dayo Wong's eldest brother Steve being out of the picture (bar for verbal references aplenty to the character, including his absence being explained away by his having decided to go to Africa), it looks to have fallen on middle brother Bernard (portrayed by Louis Cheung) to anchor the family, and film.  And he does have his moments; with standouts including a musical comedy sequence involving the Leslie Cheung (no relation)'s hit song Monica.  He also gets to interact with his late mother (essayed again by Fish Liew) in scenes that will bring to mind those involving her and Steve in the first film.     
Still, it might be fifth returning star, Stephy Tang (playing Monica), who is given the most opportunities to steal the scene and shine in the film. Nonetheless, with my having viewed her, Louis Cheung, Ivana Wong and Peter Chan Charm-man in other, more serious and/or substantive roles in other movies, I really do reckon that she and all her co-stars deserve better material to work with than what they were given in Table for Six 2.  
All in all, I would have appreciated a less scattershot approach to trying to get laughs.  I also wish the movie's over-the-top tone, flimsy plot involving weddings being viewed primarily as a commercial enterprise rather than a serious affair and often nonsensical subplots, didn't threaten to make my head spin from too many lies being told and piling on top of one another.  And truly, it's quite the miracle that Table for Six 2 managed to ultimately come together and wrap as well as it eventually did.  
Still, less might have been more, actually.  At the very least, a more minimalist approach would have reduced the movie's 133 minute long screen time.  Nonetheless, I did get some enjoyment out of viewing Table for Six 2 -- even while being fully aware that it's no cinematic classic -- and on the first day of the new year of the dragon too.  Also, it even had a couple of scenes that put lumps in my throat and had my eyes watering in a way that told me that, amidst much silliness, I had been emotionally impacted after all. 
My rating for the film: 6.5 

Monday, February 12, 2024

Enter the new dragon year!

"Dragon" installation in a Hong Kong public park! :D
Kong hei fatt choi!  It's now the third day of the new Year of the Dragon and I feel a need to mark the occasion with a blog post as well as assure people who wondered if I was alive that I indeed still am so.  Also, for the time being, I don't have plans to entirely stop blogging... but I might take a break for a bit.  
Somehow, I've just not felt the urge to blog as much as previously; probably because there's so little sense here that there actually are people reading what I've written -- unlike, say, over on Twitter (and no, I refuse to call it X still!).   For now, let's play it by ear and see how it goes, shall we? 

At the very least, I do still want to write reviews of Hong Kong films I see here.  And it would be nice to finish chronicling my most recent (October 2023!) Japan trip here, I think; since I know of at least one person who seems interested in checking out those posts!

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Thank you to Lionel Messi and his new Hong Kong haters for giving us opportunities to laugh (at the Hong Kong government)! :D

Actually, I reckon Messi's no longer welcomed in Hong Kong... :D
And then there's the spectre of Article 23.  Re that which has been billed as Hong Kong's own security law: a sign of how fearful it -- and the national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong back on June 30th, 2020 -- already has made Hong Kongers can be seen in a Hong Kong Free Press article about people's views about Article 23 having been run without any of the people quoted in it having their personal names listed for the record (and more than one of them not even wanting to have their surname known).
And yet, many people have endured and been (unexpectedly) resilient.  And still know how to laugh.  And today, Hong Kongers were given something to laugh about -- and unite to hate! -- by way of the PR fiasco that came by way of footballing superstar Lionel Messi having come with his Inter Miami team to Hong Kong but ended up not playing even been on the pitch for even one second of the friendly game in which he was supposed to be the star draw!
After the game (which saw Inter Miami play and beat a Hong Kong selection by 4 goals to 1 -- not that anyone seems to care about the result or anything besides the fact that Lionel Messi had not played!), the American club's coach, Gerardo Martino, told reporters that the club's medical team had taken the decision to bar Messi -- and teammate Luis Suarez -- from playing after an assessment this morning.  But the match organizers (Tatler Hong Kong) didn't disclose this to match attendees and even announced that he was a substitute in the stadium

And then there's the angry response of the Hong Kong government that came as a result of it getting hit with quite the PR disaster.  A lesson I wonder whether it will learn: "[T]is is what happens when you use taxpayers' money to subsidise multi-millionaire soccer players."  If not, it is going to give people more opportunities to laugh at it!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

A guilty verdict in a trial involving actor Gregory Wong gets people thinking that so much, if not everything, is wrong!

Still image of Gregory Wong at Admiralty from 
This has been one of the weeks where so much has happened (including announcements that make people realize that the dreaded Article 23 may be pushed through faster than many of us had hoped) that I lost track of the days and thought for a time yesterday that today was going to be Friday, only to realize after a while that today's still just Thursday.  But let me focus today's blog post on just one subject: today's judgement by Magistrate Li Chi-ho at the end of a 34 trial in which six defendants stood accused of "rioting" on July 1st, 2019.  
Firstly, let's note for the record that Magistrate Li found four of the defendants, including actor Gregory Wong, guilty as charged.   We'll get back to Gregory Wong shortly but here's focusing now on the two defendants found not guilty of rioting: Wong Ka-ho, who was then a a reporter with a student publication at the City University of Hong Kong; and Ma Kai-chung, who then was a reporter with Passion Times.  Sadly, they did not get off scott free.  Specifically, Magistrate Li found the duo guilty of  "entering or staying in the precincts of the [Legislative Council] chamber" that a number of pro-democracy protestors had illegally stormed that day.
A reminder in a Hong Kong Free Press article about today's judgement of that event that was labelled "Taking Back the Legislature" (the title of a 2020 documentary film that I managed to view but which is no longer allowed to be screened in public in Hong Kong): "That night, protesters occupied the government building, smashing windows and spray-painting protest slogans on the walls. Some left by around 11 pm, according to the case details.  Police officers did not stop the storming. By the time officers entered the building, all protesters had left, according to a police watchdog report" (my emphasis).
As early as the night of July 1st, 2019, itself, people were pondering the following:"Seems possible, even probable, that the police and authorities in Hong Kong purposely retreated to create the circumstances and images that would justify a stronger backlash. Surely they had the means and the force to prevent the legislature being stormed... if they wanted to."  (This from France 24 journalist, James Creedon.)  
A little over a week later, Stephen Vines's July 9th, 2019, Hong Kong Free Press piece was headlined: Was Hong Kong's protestors' occupation of the legislature a dangerous trap laid by the police?" and in it, he noted that Fernando Cheung -- one of the many pro-democracy legislators (including the jailed  since February 28th, 2021, likes of Claudia Mo and Lam Cheuk-ting) who had tried in vain to stop protestors from breaking into the Legislative Council building -- had suggested precisely that.  And today's judgement looks to have proven Fernando Cheung, now no longer in Hong Kong (and, instead, one of the many Hongkongers who have emigrated in recent years to Canada) right.
Returning to Gregory Wong: he had pleaded not guilty and "told the court he entered the legislative council solely to deliver two chargers to reporters who were covering the break-in by protesters.  According to video evidence played by the prosecution, Wong left the chamber immediately after delivering the chargers to a reporter in a yellow vest."  And yet he was found guilty.  

The case magistrate, according to a Reuters report, "said Wong could have met the reporter outside the Legislative Council, so as to not "take risk to get in, and serve the purpose of helping others"."  According to an Associated Press (AP) report, magistrate Li also noted that Wong "had hugged a protester before leaving the chamber as an expression of support."  From this, magistrate Li surmised that Wong's “intention of entering the legislature is obvious, it is to join this riot"!

Also note what happened to another of the defendants, as detailed in the AP piece: Lam Kam-kwan "was convicted of rioting and a separate charge of criminal damage Thursday, had been detained in mainland China in August 2019 and had been forced to write a repentance letter. Lam said some Hong Kong police officers later met him and told him that if he would not admit his wrongdoing, he then could not return to the city."  Does that sound like a forced confession to you?  Because that's what it sounds like to me!
For the record: this was a jury-less trial.  I can imagine a trial by jury producing different verdicts.  So, yeah, it can feel when reading judgements like today's that, to quote a lawyer in a legal drama that did involve a jury trial -- and which I described in my review of it as representing "wishful thinking or plain fantasy on the part of its makers.  Or, alternatively, a reminder of how justice should be served" -- like "Everything is wrong", sadly enough! :(