Gee, that year was quick! While not THE site to visit for reviews of every single new release, I hope So Good... has managed to secure some form of identity among the other so much better review sites out there over the years. My balance of new and old (and Cat III) is one that feels very comfortable for me but what about the new that Hong Kong cinema gave us this year? Action purists got back Jackie Chan in New Police Story but what I'll take with me from 2004 are admirable efforts such as One Nite In Mongkok, Love Battlefield, Fantasia, Love Trilogy, Breaking News and 20 30 40. Last but not least, Stephen Chow's Kung-Fu Hustle is already at the time of writing doing extraordinary well at the box office. A much needed shot in the arm as the earnings weren't high during 2004 (Fantasia otherwise lead the pack). While not everyone's cup of tea since not all embrace every facet of Hong Kong cinema (be it the quirky, melodramatic, trashy or ballistic nature to it), there's much to still be hopeful about and thankful for in my humble opinion. Hong Kong cinema may not thrive like people want it too but for the multi-genre travelers such as myself, there's still new and old to discover. During 2004, there were a whole lot than 10 movies that stayed with me but a decision had to be made.

Thanks for your support during 2004 and hope you stay on for another one!

To read the entire review of a selected movie, click on the cover art

1. The Bastard (Directed by: Chor Yuen)
Think of me what you will but there's something about bleak, downbeat movies that just strikes a chord with me. Among all the cannon of directors that Shaw Brother's had to offer, Chor Yuen and his superb visual sense, usually associated themselves with adaptations of complicated Wuxia novels by Gu Long. However The Bastard were among the different beasts as it expertly told a dark, touching tale of the corrupted powers within wealth and how innocence crushes underneath it. With top performances by Chong Wa and Lily Li, Chor Yuen's punishing drama (with a dash of martial arts) is an age old story that never does and probably never will become old.
2. Rouge (Directed by: Stanley Kwan)
This multiple award winning drama produced by Jackie Chan is a fitting tribute to the memory of Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung, both of which died in 2003. Stanley Kwan infuses Rouge with a thoroughly enchanting atmosphere, well in tune with the ghost aspect of the film and Anita Mui's otherworldly character. Words cannot do justice to the beauty on display here and again an effort that has survived without a scratch over the years. Sadly the remastered print on IVL's dvd has framing issues that I hope will be resolved in an eventual reissue.
3. Three: Going Home - Director's Cut (Directed by: Peter Chan)
Originally part of the horror anthology Three, Going Home easily stood out already at its shorter length. Fact of the matter, the extended length of 4 minutes doesn't do much to enhance an already excellent return for Peter Chan. Fooling us early on into thinking we're going to experience traditional horror (albeit traditional horror photographed by Christopher Doyle), Chan instead brings us a fleshed out portrayal of the lengths one can go to salvage love. It becomes increasingly real and touching as we close in on a surprising climax. Leon Lai and newcomer Eugenia Yuan were both rightly awarded for their performances.
4. Fantasia (Directed by: Wai Ka-Fai)
Possibly the best Lunar New Year comedy ever? Fantasia became further proof that Wai Ka-Fai directs extremely well on his own (as does his usual partner in crime Johnnie To). This loving and frequently hilarious tribute to Hong Kong comedy, specifically that of the Hui Brothers, requires you to at least be familiar with The Private Eyes though. With that firmly planted in your mind, you're in for a wonderful, weird treat with top impressions (not performances) by Lau Ching Wan, Francis Ng and Jordan Chan. Andy Lau's cameo (sort of) also ranks as the funniest of 2004.
5. Lost In Time (Directed by: Derek Yee)

The reliable Derek Yee's (this year again occupying two spots on the list) return to directing after being a reliable producing force for the likes of Law Chi Leung and Daniel Lee. Lost In Time did what many great movies do; tell an age old story well. In the case of this Cecilia Cheung/Lau Ching Wan starring vehicle, proceedings are about finding your correct path in life again after tragedy has struck. Melodramatic only when it has earned it and with typical Derek Yee well directed performances, Lost In Time was again a very much welcome return.

6. Little Cheung (Directed by: Fruit Chan)
Fruit Chan's closing chapter in the 1997 trilogy sees him unleashing many downbeat thoughts in the face of the handover, this time through the eyes of the very young. Simple, understated and naturally acted, the independent roots of Little Cheung are used to the fullest advantage to create a real portrait of this particular section of the Hong Kong populous. Yiu Yuet-Ming as the titular character is a revelation in his natural reacting ways and proves to be a capable anchor for the film as well.
7. A Fishy Story (Directed by: Anthony Chan)
A 1989 sync sound gem that truly once again solidifies the moviestar aura around Maggie Cheung. Otherwise actor (also in this film) Anthony Chan balances the joyous feel of a Hollywood 1950s romance set against a serious backdrop in Hong Kong history, simply wonderfully well. In addition, A Fishy Story also has one of the best cut trailers of any Hong Kong film I've seen.
8. One Nite In Mongkok (Directed by: Derek Yee)
Stars Daniel Wu and Cecilia Cheung actually are the weak links in Derek Yee's hard hitting and violent thriller. Despite, One Nite In Mongkok is a genre excursion with more thought and hits to the gut than most. My primary wish for this film come awards time is to see Alex Fong get the recognition he deserves. Yee directs the characters such as Fong's Milo in a scattered way and lets the acting do the work to add suitable weight for the running time. An always daring choice that doesn't fall flat on its face with Yee behind it and One Nite In Mongkok easily manages to outdo its weaknesses.
9. Intruder (Directed by Tsang Kan-Cheung)
From the co-writer of Shaolin Soccer, King Of Comedy and God Of Cookery comes "easily one of the most unsettling Cat III films ever made" ?! It's true, the Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai produced effort really is a nasty little piece that doesn't apologize for it either. Armed with Milkyway's in house cinematographer Cheng Siu-Keung, director Tsang brings both the character, horror and atmosphere that the best of them Cat III filmmakers could. Wayne Lai logs one of his best performances as the unlucky victim of Wu Chien Lien's torture.
10. The Accident (Directed by: Julian Lee)
Another Category III rated one but this time a drama about an unseen train accident that strands a couple of individuals in urban Hong Kong. Julian Lee dives into the theme of loneliness and overcoming it, even if temporary. In fact, there are some uneven sections in performing and in characters but the impact The Accident has is much due to Ben Ng's amazing performance as a mild mannered gay taxi driver. Make this a double bill with Red To Kill and you'll get the shock of your life when the contrasts in Ng's versatility dawns on you. Ben had an opportunity and truly took it.