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Only Fools Fall In Love (1995) Directed by: Vincent Kok

Ford (Lau Ching-Wan) is a rich man's son, spoiled, rude, manipulative and full of himself. Still, he obviously needs to marry and continue the bloodline but his brother (Dayo Wong) wants to be the successor instead. To the point that he arranges an accident that makes Ford lose his memory and sense. Dubbed Fool instead, he's taken in by tailor Dee (Wu Chien-Lien) and her father (Yuen Wah). Dee and Ford were originally paired up for marriage but teaching Fool basic skills about life again, actual love may be blossoming. All while Ford's brother has become the primary son in the family finally...

Produced by Johnnie To, director Vincent Kok provides the expected moral of the story and a polished commercial feel that takes few chances. Unexpectedly not going the nonsense comedy route with the premise, there's still some wild, funny sights gathered up such as the wife candidacy in Ford's family being handled American Idol-style and Ford being reduced to beggar also very quickly makes him grow dreadlocks! Totally amusing but a bit overlong, much of the very bearable nature to Only Fools In Love is due to the fine chemistry and presences of Lau Ching-Wan and Wu Chien-Lien. Wu is exceptionally fetching in period wear (always has been), even flashes her on-screen kung-fu skills at one point and Kok really lights up the screen with her face via various perfect close-ups. It's a sweet and fun time she provides together with her leading man. Also with Billy Lau, Jerry Lamb, Roy Chiao, Wong Yat-Fei and Vincent Kok himself.

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On Parole (1993) Directed by: Lee Gwok-Laap

Hung (Kara Hui) follows through on her deceased husband's (Dick Wei) demand that she gets out of the gangster world. Her legal path consists of working more with her brain and her fellow ex-con sisters as she runs a village restaurant. But as the saying partly goes, they pull you back in...

A bit flimsy told but Sea Root director Lee Gwok-Laap has noble intentions. Shooting in synch sound, he gets Kara Hui to nicely own the strong-willed character or rather the one that has to be as the leader of her sisters. The directing consisting of lining up actors, rather poorly scripted so called deep character connections and loud melodrama doesn't further any intentions however. But... a realistic and more village bound atmos combined with reserved pieces of action (violence rather) has On Parole showing its intended hand. We get it but don't wholly approve. The sequel On Parole No.2 - Do Unto Others followed the same year. Also appearing are Lo Lieh, Henry Fong, Chin Kar-Lok and a male saviour in the all women environment, the kind hearted character played by Vincent Wan.

On Parole No.2 - Do Unto Others (1993) Directed by: Lee Gwok-Laap

A little bliss has been infused in the surroundings when we meet up with Hung (Kara Hui), her lover Nan (Vincent Wan) and the girls of the ex-con restaurant again. However past grudges and secrets harboured threaten to destroy all. That connection is lawyer Donald Tang (Tan Lap-Man) who screwed over Hung and is the husband of Chin (Yip San), the mother of Nan's child. Donald is a bit of a meanie too as he continually loses it when approached with this connection. It's still loud melodrama, this time about parental responsibility, but a better paced experience. Oh the intensity and violence does its share in that regard and this plot really is an op for that level of harshness that Lee Gwok-Laap illuminates pretty well. It's not pretty watching the rape and abuse on display but again with a fine anchor in Kara Hui, the On Parole-continuation ends up working a lot better.

Operation Lipstick (1967) Directed by: Inoue Umetsugu

Establishing early that you don't need to strap in for a tense ride, Inoue Umetsugu (Hong Kong Nocturne) provides a light time using the era's spy-trend, popping colours and a playful Cheng Pei-Pei showing what a star she was for this ALMOST family friendly time. A singer (Pei-Pei) born into a family of thieves gets involved in the chase of a microfilm containing atomic energy research. Good and evil wants it, the chase, deception and twists follows subsequently. Not only playful but very funny and sexy too, Cheng Pei-Pei is a natural fit and Inoue Umetsugu truly seems inspired working with a game and so many game performers. Clicking in at a brisk 90 minutes, aside from one rather grim death at the end, everybody is in it for the fun and even says goodbye to the audience by the end. Also with Ku Feng, Tien Feng, Paul Cheng and Tina Chin-Fei.

Operation Pink Squad (1988) Directed by: Jeff Lau

A little bit of Angel, Inspector Wears Skirts and Stakeout is mixed together for Jeff Lau's second film as director. Also known as Thunder Cops, Lau crafts both lame, amusing and even dark results from his action comedy, giving Sandra Ng both a fine comedic showcase but also an early chance to show off dramatic chops (which would be developed later in the 90s to a fine degree). While never truly fast paced and entertaining like the best Jeff Lau movies are, Operation Pink Squad really is a throwaway effort but does its job neat and quick with the fight scene at the playground being the standout moment in terms of action. Lau shows that he can create dark atmospherics effectively but his successful recipe in my mind has always been when dabbling with the supernatural on a comedic level. Thankfully he went on to shoot the sequel to this (Operation Pink Squad 2: The Hunted Tower) and Haunted Cop Shop 2 subsequently then. Billy Lau, Woo Fung, Lowell Lo, Ng Man Tat, Lam Chung, Helena Law, Charlie Cho, Suki Kwan, Ann Bridgewater and Ricky Hui also appear.

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Option Zero (1997) Directed by: Dante Lam

With Dante Lam's debut feature, it's hard not to head into it thinking it's standard, generic SDU, or in this case, Special Branch-action. That expectation is something Lam takes advantage of as he instead offers up a cop soap opera where the action and police plotting in a way becomes secondary. Something that really is a theme that runs through the film as well as the characters inner wishes, in this case the other halves of the various relationships that are left in the background in favour of the work, is to become primary. Heck, even the title Option Zero rings true of some poignancy.

What saves Lam's movie from becoming sappy to a nauseating degree is also a refreshing quirky stance towards the material (even within the action directing), mostly thanks to Anthony Wong (here seen as his larger self during his sickness). Option Zero ultimately falls short of its goals though as it's a little bit too scattershot to be thoroughly great as a quirky action-comedy or as a serious love drama. A bland Julian Cheung in the lead doesn't help either as he simply lacks the chops to carry the movie. It comes to the point where it's hard to distinguish him from any other of the cop characters.

Dante Lam's debut effort is very much appreciated and unexpectedly good though. However hard it is to admit. Also with Carman Lee, Monica Chan and Michael Wong.

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HK Flix.com
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Osaka Wrestling Restaurant (2004) Directed by: Tommy Law

Generating no laughter and trying desperately to do so, Tommy Law's over the top comedy about two brothers (Timmy Hung & Wayne Lai) opening up a wrestling themed restaurant follows the template this rise and fall (and then rise again) story usually contains. Along the way it tries to populate the proceedings with a cartoon sense that simply better actors and comedians probably would've elevated. Here instead we get a bland Timmy Hung, an ocassionally energetic Wayne Lai with Japanese actress Ueno Miku, Sammo Hung, Law Kar-Ying and Sam Lee also appearing. Watch The Chinese Feast or Kung Fu Chefs instead.

Osmanthus Alley (1987) Directed by: Chen Kun Ho

Splendid Taiwanese drama, telling the biographical tale of Tihung (Lu Hsiao-Fen - Rosa) and her seemingly predestined choices in life being filled with grief and unjust bad luck. Losing her parents and brother at an early age as well as her husband Ruiyu (Emil Chow - Purple Storm), she wanders between resigning to fate and looking for hope that not only her sons life will turn out prosperous but her own as well. Writer/cinematographer Chen Kun Ho asks his characters and us all eventually if we actually have lived a full life and should our hearts therefore be fulfilled? It's definitely a cruel and dark story, shot within a static cinematic landscape with the low-key style working well as an advantage to director Chen. He never is clear with his intentions, such as the jarring time jumps in the story, but doesn't have to resort to that kind of exposition to affect through the theme of the film. Therefore Osmanthus Alley is highly affecting but never on the weepie scale, which is an intention that does work. Anchoring all this and embodying Chen's intentions is Lu Hsiao-Fen, displaying a much needed professionalism in her performance, ranging from a sweet innocence to the authoritative leader figure in the Hsin family with an inner emotional turmoil throughout most of her life.

Simon Yam appears briefly as a small but ultimately important character for the full circle of the film as well as Emil Chow. As Raymond Chow was the executive producer, the injection of Hong Kong talent was probably a decision on his behalf.

A Chinese subtitled dvd has been released in Taiwan but those in need of English subtitles will have to hunt down the Hong Kong laserdisc by Winson.

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The Other 1/2 & The Other 1/2 (1988) Directed by: Clara Law

Clara Law's feature debut is largely lighthearted and at times typically overly broad for the genre. However Law (working from partner Eddie Fong's screenplay) venturing deeper into theme of financial crisis in the light of the 1997 handover and emigration issues in the end creates a tale that springs to life as a human and real story, with humans and real issues. Helping along are leads Kam Kwok-Leung (in a rare screen appearance far from the sadistic side of him in The Killer Snakes or Purple Storm) and Tien Niu, with chemistry between them that grows nicely alongside Law's more somber directorial choices. The Other 1/2 & The Other 1/2 makes relatively little impact overall but is worth the effort for the times it breaks out of genre staples to deliver poignancy. Also with Eric Tsang and Cora Miao.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com
Yesasia.com

The Other Half (1990) Directed by: Jeffrey Chiang

The romantic comedy template and even its outcome can be spotted miles away but that's alright for The Other Half. Carol Cheng's Sue is married to woman zing and cheating jerk (Mark Cheng), starts working for a buddy of his (Eric Tsang) and develops feelings for the little, sweet guy over the course of the movie. Although Tsang's superior is both mean and manipulative at the start, the beats signaling change and more easy going bonding between the characters also signals a flow for the movie. All due to good chemistry between Carol and Eric. Thoughts of predictability lingers but not constantly thanks to stars getting the basic job done along with director Chiang (The Killer Has No Return). Also with Ellen Chan.

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