Saturday, September 5, 2009

Two Films in Macau

Ever since Star Wars made film-going an event in my young mind, I've had this weird ability to recall where I've seen each film I've ever seen in a theater. I can't recall the exact date -- year, yes -- but if you asked me: "Where did you see Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987?" My reply would be: "Beltway Plaza mall, the middle multiplex." Or: "Where did you see Airheads for the 2nd time in 1994?" I'd say: "Oh, that was that second-run $1 theater in Laurel, Maryland, near the McDonald's on the way back to Bowie."

Even if I didn't have this weird power, I think my visit to the Cinema Alegria in Macau to view two films would be quite memorable. duriandave did his homework and he gets the credit for finding the place.

It's a theater that was probably built 40 years ago but which looks clean and remains functional. There's no snack bar -- just some drink machines -- and in August the lobby is open to the street as you can see in the picture below. The ticket window is there on the left.

So, on a hot August Friday, we stumbled into the place to view one film -- we only decided on staying for two after the first lackluster feature.

This is the sort of place that rotates a set of films on one big screen. In other parts of the world, a theater of this size would have been carved up into a multiplex long ago but, thankfully, the Alegria remains intact.

The first film was Kungfu Cyborg: Metallic Attraction and I was dreading it. However, the first third of the film progressed at a nice languid pace as the cops of a future China's countryside dealt with robot cop Alex Fong and his affection for female cop Betty Li. I wasn't really sure where this sequence was going -- and apparently neither were the filmmakers -- but I liked how relatively mellow it was.

However, as the effects kicked in, the film became exactly the kind of Eastern riff on Transformers that I feared it would become. Add to that that the film's best action sequence is followed by another 20 minutes of exposition followed by more action and you get an idea of how tedious this thing was.

Kozo has a real review and I think he pretty much nails it.

Law Kar-Ying from kenixfan fave The Chinese Feast is wasted in a small role in the film.

So as the film ended and disappointments were expressed, we made the snap decision to avoid the heat and stay for the next film: On His Majesty's Secret Service.

It's worth noting that this film had a few more people in attendance in the theater; whether this was due to time of day or the quality of the offering, I'm not sure.

I do recall now the quartet of schoolgirls who seemed fascinated at the sight of two sweaty white guys watching a Chinese film in a Macau theater; maybe they were just shocked that we were paying for a Wong Jing film? Eventually the girls stopped turning around to watch us watch the film and they, like the others in the theater, settled in for this Louis Koo bit of silliness.

I think I liked this film more than Kozo did, judging from his real review but my expectations were quite low: I simply wanted something that felt like a real Hong Kong film -- even if I was watching it in Macau!

It's weird watching a modern Wong Jing film as the production values seem higher even if the style and tone remain as loose and sloppy as they were in his older films. Somehow the film felt tighter and Louis Koo seemed more confident than usual.

As I didn't much care for Connected, I was happy to give Barbie Hsu another chance and, while she's not as good as Cecilia Cheung was at this sort of thing in The Lion Roars, she's cute and eager in her performance.

Law Kar-Ying is in this somewhere as well as Lam Tze-Chung who I consider myself a fan of -- not because we're both fat! -- thanks to his directorial debut with I'll Call You, which I sort of liked despite its shortcomings.

A double feature that I'm sure to remember for quite some time.

I snapped this shot of the advance poster for Storm Riders 2 as we left.