Just a quick note to say what films I have seen and what is still on the agenda to see while ensconced here in Hong Kong at the Evergreen Hotel. I picked up a load of HK film books at the HK Film Archives and the Kubrick book store as well as hundreds of pictures of many of my favorite actors at the Starlight Photo Store in North Point - well worth a visit if you are not claustrophobic and don't have nightmares about being killed by tons of pictures falling on you. This store has been here 25 years and is an amazing place crammed with literally thousands upon thousands of pictures in a place not much bigger than a shoebox. I will expand more later on these films but as its after 1 am now and as I have more movies to see tomorrow here is a quick rundown.
Heaven's Mission - Ekin as a reformed triad honcho (reputed to have been the fiercest!) who has literally seen the light and wants to do good, but the cops (Alex Fong) and his old gang (Ti Lung and Stephen Fung) won't believe him. A really solid group of actors and direction by James Yuen led me to have hopes for this even with a low rating from the local paper, but miscasting such as puppy dog like Fung as a nasty up and coming triad member did this film in and it just clunks along with way too many sub-plots and characters to care about.
Mr. Three Minutes - Ronald Cheng goes for family values and a mainstream audience with this familiar mix of comedy and drama. There is nothing new here at all, but it is a pleasant outing as he plays a womanizer who finds a 10-year-old son that he didn't know about on his doorstep one day. Mom is dead and the aunt thinks its time for dad to care for his son. It pretty much goes right where you expect it to with little of the zaniness that Cheng is known for. But nice turns by Teresa Mo as Cheng's assitant, Richard Ng as his dad and the ever so lovely Cherrie Ying as the aunt made this slightly more than passable entertainment.
My Mother is a Bellydancer - this is another first time director work from the good people at Focus Films and it is terrific. I have never been a huge Andy Lau fan, but his support for young directors all over Asia is simply a great thing to be doing. This has hit a few fests and deserves it. With a completely unknown cast of actors, this quickly sucks you into a grimy world of low class tenements where the crying kids, peeling painted walls, crowded living space and every dollar perhaps being the last one feels very real. The story tracks the lives of four women who live in the scary face of total indifference - from their children, husbands and life - they are just there to serve and be invisible. When they begin to take lessons in bellydancing at the local community center, it gives them a spark of life and hope. Funny, touching, painful and wonderfully acted. It's so rare and so nice to see such great roles for "aunties" - women into their forties.
Substitute Teacher - a sweet but rather innocuous film from China. A young woman from Shanghai journeys out into an isolated rural area to visit a woman for initially mysterious reasons. This woman turns out to be sick in the hospital and to be the only teacher to the children in a small one room school house. The young woman is convinced to take on the job until the other woman returns. Full of cute kids, moral lessons and nice landscapes.
Still to possibly come - Still Live (China), Diary (HK), Time (Korea), First Love (Japan) and on Thursday Battle of Wits opens up.