New York Asian Film Festival 2021 Review: All U Need Is Love

Written by Patrick Hao

25/100

All U Need is Love is not a real movie. Well that is to say that All U Need is Love is about as real as a movie as The Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish) or the Love Actually Red Nose Day special are real movies. All U Need is Love is a charity special from the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild and the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers in association with the ten major Hong Kong film studios. Made during last summer, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this film’s box office was to benefit local film industry workers. That, in and of itself, is admirable. The final results, not so much.

Shot during the height of the pandemic, this star-studded affair centers on a hotel that sees an outbreak of a virus, leading it to go into lockdown to quarantine for 14 days. From there the various guests of the hotel go into various wacky antics and hijinks. There’s the hotel staff trying to get the hotel in order, a couple who were going to get married, two horndogs looking for an affair, two rival triad leaders stuck in the same place, all in the while the ever-present Epidemic Prevention Task Force is looming large around the hotel.

New York Asian Film Festival 2021

Invariably, it’s a pleasure to see which celebrity is going to show up. Stars would appear in various degrees of importance like Louis Koo, Big Tony Leung, Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Michael Hui, Gordon Lam, and even Yuen Qiu as her famous landlady character in Kung Fu Hustle, playing up their various personas. As someone who is familiar but not intimate with many of these personalities, the constant in-jokes just went over my head, even having some actors reprising their roles from previous movies. In that way, this movie seems reminiscent of the charity war bond movies Hollywood used to do in the 1940s like The Hollywood Canteen.

The movie, wrangled together by consummate pro Vincent Kok, has a mixture of genres from action, slapstick, and romance, none of it working very well. As a whole All U Need is Love is like a sampler appetizer platter of what mainstream Hong Kong movies are today. And like most sampler platters, none of it will fill you or be particularly appetizing. The comedy in particular feels dated, tinged with homophobia like it is a National Lampoon movie. The over-the-top reactions of the government to the virus outbreak also feels strangely out of touch especially from the time they filmed it and now, as the world faces rising numbers with the delta strain.

But it is hard to have any strong negative feelings towards a mindless entertainment that is not even really a movie. It is probably more effective than the slew of zoom reunions Hollywood pumped out last year. The aims are admirable and at least it serves as a curiosity piece in the landscape of Covid media. 

All U Need Is Love Trailer

All U Need Is Love was screened as part of the New York Asian Film Festival and is available to watch virtually through their streaming platform until August 22nd.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

Sundance 2021 Review: The Pink Cloud (A Nuvem Rosa)

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

70/100

The Pink Cloud is the third pandemic adjacent movie I’ve seen in these past few months, the other two being Little Fish, my favorite movie of 2020, and the atrocious Michael Bay produced Song Bird. The movie might seem familiar for those who have seen Contagion (2013), the South Korean The Flu (2013) or the Argentine Toxico (2020); what sets it apart however is the intimate focus on the psychological traumas of a pandemic. This first feature written and directed by Brazilian filmmaker Iuli Gerbase signals a somewhat of a resurgence of Brazilian cinema, especially movies that lean more towards the sci-fi/magical realism realm not unlike last year’s fantastic Bacurau. 

Here we continue that exploration through the eyes of Renata de Lelis’ Giovana and Eduardo Mendoca Yago who are forced together into isolation after their first date. In a relationship that would have probably lead to nowhere our leads are forced to explore their dynamic as a couple while navigating the loneliness isolation brings even if there’s some else there with you. While Yago accepts this new reality of confinement Giovana longs for normalcy and loathes her new reality. The struggles we see on screen are those psychological struggles and internal demons we confront at some point during our lives. All happening with the backdrop of a pandemic (quick note movie was written and made before the COVID19 pandemic) and is magnified by the uncommon situation our characters find themselves in. 

An intimate portrayal of life, all of its neurosis, and psychological trauma it can bring. The Pink Cloud is a remarkable debut feature from Iuli Gerbase. This is one of those films that I’d suggest you go into with as little information as possible and just sit with it when you’re done. I for one cannot wait to see what’s next for Gerbase and the continued resurgence of genre Brazilian filmmaking. 

Recommended

The Pink Cloud Trailer

The Pink Cloud is currently awaiting Distribution and it played as part the Sundance 2021 Film Festival.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Sundance 2021 Review: In the Same Breath

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

60/100

Anger is the overwhelming feeling that describes my experience viewing this documentary. As someone who has been personally affected by the death of a loved one from COVID, this viewing was not surprising, but painful to get through. Compared to 76 Days, the MTV produced, fly on the wall documentary about the early days of lockdown in Wuhan, In the Same Breath offers a much more critical perspective on how the events unfolded in China and caused a ripple effect around the world.

Billed as the documentary that “China doesn’t want you to see” Wang delved deep to uncover the “real story” behind the pandemic. The documentary starts with images of the 2020 New Year celebration in Wuhan or as Wang describes it “when life still felt normal.” On Jan 1st, an address by President Xi Jinping to celebrate the New Year was made on national TV. On the same day posts, allegedly, started circulating on social media that a new pneumonia was spreading around Wuhan.

The day the lockdown in Wuhan started on Jan 23, 2020, Wang was in the United States at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival promoting another, one of her projects with her husband, while her young son stayed in China with Wang’s mother. This personal story is the catalyst for the documentary as Wang detailed the government response to the virus. From there a series of, alleged, cover-ups included asking permission from officials to document the virus occurred every step of the way. Wang claimed that this was an intentional effort by the government and its propaganda arm to associate positive messages and not cause alarm about COVID19.

When Wang is focused on the governmental responses and compares the response in China and the one in the US the documentary is at its strongest. The personal stories about all the lives that were lost because of COVID19 are important but what Wang was trying to do here was tell a bigger story. She stated that “America was too advanced to be overwhelmed like China” and this actually seemed like reality until the number of cases skyrocketed in the US, during March 2020, and parts of the country went into lockdown. She also detailed that medical professionals in the US faced a similar type of resistance and pressure when they sounded the alarm about COVID19 at their hospitals as their Chinese counterparts. Some of them were even fired from their jobs.

In the closing moments, Wang argues that the idea of freedom is what attracted her to the US. She overlays this with videos of anti-lock down rallies across the US and comes to the conclusion that “ordinary people are casualties of leaders pursuit of power.” Albeit on the long end, I would recommend this documentary for anyone who wants a more critical perspective and less exploitative look into the “response” to COVID19.

In the Same Breath Trailer

In the Same Breath will be distributed by HBO Films on the HBO Platforms soon.

Recommended

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Episode 88: The Outside Story / MLK/FBI / 76 Days

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of the Prime Video Titles: I’m Your Woman & Sylvie’s Love. Followed by Official Selections to the Heartland International Film Festival, San Diego International Film Festival, and the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival. These Official 2020 Film Festival Selections are: The Outside Story, MLK/FBI, and 76 Days.

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Streaming links for titles this episode

MLK/FBI will be released by IFC FIlms on January 15th 2021

76 Days is currently available in Virtual Cinemas

The Outside Story is currently seeking distribution.

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