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Entries in Comedy (7)

Thursday
Jan192017

GHOST TEAM

Stars: Jon Heder, Melonie Diaz, Justin Long, David Krumholtz, Paul W. Downs and Amy Sedaris.
Writer: Peter Warren; story by Peter Warren and Oliver Irving.
Director: Oliver Irving.

Rating: 3/5

As Paul Feig’s femme refashioning of Ghostbusters filled 4000 multiplex screens amidst wave after wave of e-coverage, Oliver Irving’s slacker spin Ghost Team crept through 10 theatres before a low-key US Netflix debut in December. Comfy-couch home viewing is the best way to enjoy this amiable, goofy supernatural laffer; 20-something basement-dwellers and die-hard fans of stars Jon Heder and Justin Long will find enough chemistry between the committed cast and the occasionally spooky moment to make the investment of a whopping 84 minutes worthwhile.

The proprietor of a strip mall printing shop, Louis (Heder, comfortably in his ‘lovable loser’ schtick) is stuck in a life rut; work, booze, pizza and bolstering his depressed and slovenly friend, Stan (David Krumholtz), who is convinced aliens annulled his engagement when they abducted his fiancée. The one bright moment of their day is the TV show Ghost Getters, a paranormal investigation lark not dissimilar to the SyFy Channel’s hit Ghost Hunters (look for cute cameos by small-screen stars Jason Hawes and Steve Gonsalves).

When the opportunity to do some paranormal sleuthing of their own presents itself, Louis and Stan set about gathering the tools and the talent; along for the ride are smart-mouth millennial d.b. Zak (Paul W. Downs), sweet and sensible Ellie (Melonie Diaz, always reliable), local cable psychic Victoria (a woefully underused Amy Sedaris) and wanna-be Rambo mall cop Ross (Long, stealing all his scenes). Branding themselves ‘Ghost Team’ (having disagreed on the far superior ‘Polter Guys’), they set about capturing evidence of the eerie goings-on at a decrepit barn, deep in the local backwoods.

On the way to a chaotic and not-very-supernatural third act that feels a tad ‘Scooby Doo’-ish, writer Peter Warren and Irving (who last directed the 2008 Robert Pattinson oddity, How To Be) conjure some genuinely creepy moments; Downs convincingly sells the terror of an encounter with a grey apparition that mutters that ol' horror movie chestnut, “You’re all going to die.” More fittingly, the timeless premise allows for some low brow antics and guilty giggles, all achieved on a budget that would not have paid for a day’s catering on Sony’s spectral adventure.

Credit to leading man Heder, whose comedic energy and sweet charm centres the narrative when it borders on becoming more aimless than amiable; he will always be Napoleon Dynamite, but he has worked hard and succeeded at establishing an engaging screen persona of his own since the sleeper hit of 2004. Given the production foregoes any expensively scary effects work, one can assume a big chunk of the budget went on acquiring the rights to Gary Wright’s 1975 yacht-rock anthem, Dream Weaver, its refrain both bonding the mismatched quintet while evoking that all-important feel-good audience vibe. DVD extras should be a hoot; if ever a film warranted a closing-credit goof reel (and very few do), it's Ghost Team.

Tuesday
Jul122016

GHOSTBUSTERS

Stars: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Zach Woods, Ed Begley Jr., Karan Soni, Andy Garcia, Cecily Strong and Charles Dance.
Writers: Paul Feig and Katie Dippold.
Director: Paul Feig

Rating: 3/5

The army of haters (nostalgists? misogynists? the undead?) that shrieked like banshees prior to seeing Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters will be haunted by the spectre of the director’s goofy, funny reboot. While it falls short of nailing the anarchic spirit and character chemistry of Ivan Reitman’s beloved 1984 blockbuster, Feig and his cast of game comediennes deliver enough thrills and giggles to both justify the long-in-development franchise-starter and smother the internet’s white noise of negativity.

Built upon a framework that will feel familiar to the legion of fans, the script by Feig and collaborator Kate Dippold (The Heat, 2013) reworks the famous ‘haunted library’ opening before honing in on fidgety academic Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig). Just as a career goal looms, her ex-BFF Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) derails Erin’s life plans and throwing the pair back together, reigniting their passion for the study of the paranormal. Fortuitously, New York City is about to experience an apocalyptic upsurge in supernatural activity, thanks to the evildoings of whiny ginger Rowan North (Neil Casey).

Poised to make it big as The Big Apple’s leading paranormal extermination and elimination team, the reunited gal pals team with Abby’s unshakeably cool lab partner Jillian (Kate McKinnon) and street smart NYC girl Patty (Leslie Jones) to face off against the ghouls of centuries past, who are conjuring to life at will and running rampant in downtown Manhattan. Also working against the Ghostbusters are a disbelieving mayoral office (Andy Garcia, Cecily Strong) and some ineffectual feds (Matt Walsh, Michael Kenneth Williams).

As expected, the big laughs fall to Wiig and McCarthy, a key point of difference between the reboot and the original. Reitman’s expertly managed ensemble of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis were vividly larger-than-life characters with strong comedic perspectives; it was a pure delight just to be hanging out with them. But very few actual ‘gags’ fell to the trio, and those that did grew organically from their personalities and the nimble plotting.

Feig is a master of onscreen ‘fem-istry’, but his Ghostbusters leads are not as finely etched as the ensemble in his biggest hit Bridesmaids, nor are they as deliriously funny as the key characters in his best film, Spy. Kristen Wiig is corseted as the tightly-wound Erin, the few moments when her trademark ‘zany’ peeks out proving hilariously memorable; McCarthy’s physical comedy shtick and motor mouth skill is well utilised, but a bit familiar; McKinnon is not the breakout star of the film, as was clearly intended, though she gets some big laughs.

Notably lacking in Feig’s reboot is a centralised romance similar to that between Murray’s Peter Venkman and Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett, which served to provide both a human warmth and personal stake. Instead, we have a glimmer of unrequited attraction between Erin and Chris Hemsworth’s dim-witted beau-hunk, Kevin, the ‘Ghostbusters’ receptionist, in an overplayed subplot that only amounts to minor giggles. A lot falls on the Australian actor’s broad shoulders, perhaps more than was wise in a cast of top-tier comedic talents, but he handles the part with…enthusiasm.

It is unclear if Hemsworth’s role was meant to fill the shoes of Annie Potts’ front-office firebrand Janine or Rick Moranis’ classic nerd Lewis, whose presence played such a crucial role in the original’s dynamic; it does neither. Also leaving a void is the conflict that was provided by William Atherton’s slimy EPA agent Walter Peck, aka ‘Dickless’; Feig’s film suffers in much the same way that the ill-conceived Ghostbusters 2 did, with no convincing villain to provide character tension and dramatic momentum. Technology denies the production the rich, evocative shadows and ‘real New York’ ambience captured by Reitman’s legendary DOP Laszlo Kovacs; instead, Robert Yeoman serviceably supplies the flavourless digital sheen of the modern film palette.

The ace in Feig’s deck is his obvious fondness for the property’s mythology and affinity with the fan base. The director skilfully mimics visual and audio cues that will (did) bring knowing nods and broad smiles from an audience that holds the original in warm regard. If the reimagining never establishes its own defining personality, it is only because it adheres so affectionately and respectfully to the legacy of its source material.

The ties that bind do not always serve the film well; shoehorned cameos are tonally disruptive and not worthy (one key reappearance reduced to a end-credit outtake slot). Nevertheless, as the latest brand to hop aboard Hollywood’s reboot train, Ghostbusters is better than most repackaged 80s nostalgia and provide no ammunition for those that were priming their keyboards for a misfire of biblical proportions.

Wednesday
Sep302015

ALEX & EVE

Stars: Richard Brancatisano, Andrea Demetriades, Helen Chebatte, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Zoe Carides, Simon Elrahi, Millies Samuels, Alex Lykos, Ryan O’Kane, Rahel Romahm, Nathan Melki and George Kapinaris.
Writer: Alex Lykos.
Director: Peter Andrikidis.

Rating: 3.5/5

Embracing the same broad ethnic-comedy brushstrokes that propelled Joel Zwick’s 2002 romp My Big Fat Greek Wedding, director Peter Andrikidis’ Alex & Eve can expect to evoke a similar warmth from audiences receptive to both well-timed rom-com tropes and the immigrant experience. As the kickstarter for the 2015 Greek Film Festival, launching October 14 in Sydney and Melbourne, organisers have delivered on the ‘feel good’ factor with this surefire crowdpleaser.

The central romance is an oft-told tale, one of true love forced to overcome the obstacle of prejudice to find its fullest potential and make better the lives of everyone it touches. The ‘Romeo’ is Greek maths teacher Alex, played with an unaffected ease by Richard Brancatisano, whose features and frame conjure a young John Cassavettes by way of ‘Friends’ clown Matt Le Blanc. His ‘Juliet’ is the wonderful Andrea Dimitriades as Eve, a strong-willed and modern Lebanese Muslim who is struggling with an impending arranged nuptials.

The first act offers up a series of unremarkable but efficient story beats, as the pair meet-cute, contemplate the pros and cons of their developing feelings and bounce off the advice and interference of friends and families. Best amongst the boisterous support cast are Millie Samuels as the blonde, blue-eyed Aussie ‘outsider’, Claire; comic veteran George Kapinaris as Uncle Taso; and, Nathan Melki, a standout as the fearlessly foul-mouthed high schooler.

The film finds its strongest, most stirring voice in the second-act scenes that explore the seething tensions and ingrained preconceptions inherent to each culture’s traditions. As the patriarchs of the respective clans, Tony Nikolakopoulos (as Greek blowhard, George) and Simon Elrahi (as sagacious Lebanese, Bassam), offer nuanced variations on potentially clichéd characterisations; similarly, the matriarchs (Zoe Carides as Chloe; the terrific Helen Chebatte as Salwa) have enough screen time and succinct dialogue to provide depth and dimension.

Playwright (and bit player) Alex Lykos thoughtfully adapts his own hit stage play, which has sold out theatres in Australia’s state capitals since it launched in 2006, spawning two ‘A&E’ sequels (‘The Wedding’ and ‘The Baby’). Detractors may gripe that his formatting is too ‘sitcom simple,’ but what Lykos’ structure lacks in ambition nevertheless provides the very platform for an insightful and, most importantly, accessible examination of generational multiculturalism.

One of the local industry’s most respected small-screen directors, Alex and Eve represents only the second time in a career spanning nearly four decades that Peter Andrikidis’ has ventured into feature film; his last, the much derided 2010 comedy, The Kings of Mykonos. But his skilful pacing and widescreen treatment is all pro, ensuring scant evidence of the project’s stage origins remain. With Sydney’s racially diverse suburban enclaves and harbourside splendour as the backdrop, the director and his DOP, veteran lensman Joseph Pickering (Windrider, 1986; Sons of Steel, 1988; Idiot Box, 1996) have crafted a fittingly evocative romantic cityscape, worthy of the engaging drama unfolding before it.

Alex & Eve will open the 2015 Greek Film Festival in both Sydney and Melbourne on October 14; other capitals to follow. Ticketing and venue information can be found at the event's official website.

Wednesday
Jun032015

ENTOURAGE

Stars: Adrian Grenier, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Billy Bo Thornton, Haley Joel Osmant, Perrey Reeves, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rex Lee, Debi Mazar, Ronda Rousey and Emily Ratajkowski.
Writer/Director: Doug Ellin.

Watch the trailer here.

Rating: 3/5

The Y-chromosome fever dream that is the world of Entourage heats up from frame 1 in series creator Doug Ellin’s bigscreen adaptation of his hit property.

A barely-clad Nina Agdal, the most current incarnation of supermodel hotness on the planet, gives a sly grin as her binoculars focus in on Turtle (Jerrry Ferrara), Drama (Kevin Dillon) and E (Kevin Connolly) speeding towards the multi-million dollar party-cruiser moored in the azure playground off Ibiza. The boat belongs to Vinnie (Adrian Grenier), who has bounced back from a fleeting flirtation with marriage by bedding Agdal.

The supermodel knows that, like all of us who have followed the lads through their LA adventures over eight HBO seasons, Vinnie is really only a complete man when conjoined with his ‘bros’. When the lads are unified, this long-in-development, short-on-narrative feature is at its best, too; like much of the west coast movie scene, it is high on boisterous personality and lavish adherence to base instincts.

But Ellin’s more expansive take on Hollywood life has not transitioned to the 2.35:1 scope seamlessly intact. The punchy energy and ironic verve that was the trademark of the 30-minute episodes is gone, replaced by some meagre plotting that sees the boys seeking the sweetness of romance and ushering them into the responsibilities of growing old.

Vinnie’s $100million directing debut, a wannabe-tentpole called Hyde has been shepherded through production by ex-agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who has graduated to studio head and rolled the dice on his old client’s vision of a blockbuster. None of this rings very true, which is at odds with the insider smarts that was one of the most endearing traits of the series. Needing fresh funds to finalise the film, Gold heads for Texas to woo financier Billy Bob Thornton, who puts his scumbag son Haley Joel Osmant in charge of the decision-making. Contrived machinations (mostly to do with the allure of it-girl Emily Ratajkowski) threaten Vinnie’s film and Ari’s job, as is to be expected.

As Vinnie’s business manager and first-time producer, Connolly’s E does very little of either, instead lumbered with a ‘babies vs boobs’ subplot that introduces some down-home moral goodness into the seething immorality of everyday A-list excess (perhaps to appeal to a broader movie-going base than the basic-cable followers of the series). Detractors who have wanted to nail Entourage for some borderline misogyny over the years get plenty of ammo in the form of two sexy starlets, who connive to frighten E into thinking he has fathered an unwanted child and caught an STD in the process.

Turtle romances cage-fighter Ronda Rousey, playing herself; Drama gets a few laughs doing what Drama does, struggling to build a career in the wake of his hotter, younger brother (as good as Dillon is, this should be the last time he plays an idealistic acting hopeful). Other series regulars (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rex Lee, Perrey Reeves, Constance Zimmer, Debi Mazar, Rhys Coiro) are all shoe-horned in; celebrity cameos abound.

Just as Time Warner resurrected its other HBO cash cow, Sex and The City, so to it does with Entourage. Given the general mediocrity of both, their bigscreen re-emergence hardly seemed warranted; only time will tell if Entourage earns its existence as Sex... did. Marketers will reaffirm that this “is one for the fans,” and it certainly is warmly familiar (and, yes, this three-star review is unashamedly seen through the rose-coloured glasses of a fanatic). The brand will gather a second wind, DVD box-set sales will get a jolt, and Vinnie’s crew can now fade into the pop-culture ether.

One hopes they don’t make the same sequel-mistake as Carrie and the ‘girls’ made. The next real-world step for these ‘boys’ will be settling into the comforts of their wealthy west-coast lifestyles, firming up career opportunities and foregoing their wild ways in favour of maturity. If they don’t, it would be sad. And I wouldn’t want to watch it.

Wednesday
Mar182015

MANNY LEWIS

Stars: Carl Barron, Leanna Walsman, Damien Garvey, Roy Billing, Simon Westaway and Richard Green.
Writers: Carl Barron and Anthony Mir.
Director: Anthony Mir. 

Rating: 2.5/5

Not the giddy rom-com romp its marketing would have you believe, Anthony Mir’s Manny Lewis is a rather more darkly-hued look inside the fractured heart and self-obsessed mind of that unique breed, the stand-up comedian. Baring his psychological all in the service of the script he co-wrote with his director is Carl Barron, stepping into the leading man role with a pleasing, if occasionally too understated dramatic ease.

Barron upped his profile from pub comic to stadium filler via appearances in the mid 1990’s on the blokish television hit, The Footy Show, and has carved a profitable, much-loved niche for himself in the Aussie showbiz landscape. His off-centre observations often involved his formative years as a misunderstood young man and later-in-life failings as a romancer; in that regard, Manny Lewis is Carl Barron, albeit a version of the man gripped by a stark loneliness and hollow-eyed depression that will take many of his followers by surprise.

So mopey is his persona, it is hard to gauge why Manny is popular at all (other than the passers-by yelling, “Hey, love you Manny!”). He has amassed considerable fame out of exploiting childhood memories, most notably ripping apart the parenting skills of his father (Roy Billing, too warm a screen presence for this role), yet is suffering through an existential crisis that is putting all he worked for at risk. The comedian is on the verge of signing a massive US deal and has a live primetime concert set to air, but baulks at any interaction with his fans and phones sex-worker hotlines when gripped by insomnia.

It is via one such anonymous hook-up that he connects with ‘Carolyn’ (Leanna Walsman), a voice with whom he can share his (many) woes. When ‘Carolyn’s real-life alter ego, Maria, stumbles across a) her phone-john’s true identity, and b) the man himself at the local café, a bumpy romance blossoms. These scenes should play with a lightness of touch that skims over the less plausible beats of the narrative, yet much of the first act plods. It is to Walsman’s credit that the tropes play with any conviction at all; her dramatic acting chops are the film’s key asset and explain away the absence of a ‘comedienne’ as the female lead (achieving a similar balance to that Paul Thomas Anderson created by casting Emily Watson opposite Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love, though all comparisons end there).

Barron and Mir (directing his first feature since 2003’s You Can’t Stop the Murders) never seem entirely invested in the romantic machinations of their story. They are far more concerned with the psychological framework of those that seek a career plying the stand-up craft. Yet the revelation that most comics are desperately yearning for the approval of their parents and are so self-absorbed as to not see the goodness of the world before them is not exactly groundbreaking. Fans will recognise that Barron is also retiring some old material; a bit he’s been doing for most of the last decade, the “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you” routine, is central to a third-act meltdown that all but ensures it won’t be dragged out for any Leagues Club encores in the future.

The ‘sad clown’ genre is filled with far more skilfully realised examples (Judd Apatow’s Funny People; Billy Crystal’s Mr Saturday Night; David Seltzer’s Punchline; Chris Rock’s Top Five), none of which take the sombre, maudlin route employed here. Unlike the bigscreen transition of such popular local comics as Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee), Jimeon (The Craic) and Mick Molloy (Crackerjack), Carl Barron’s brand of moody introspection and manufactured romance is unlikely to connect with old fans or win over many new ones.

Tuesday
May272014

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Hagen and Wes Studi.
Writers: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.
Director: Seth MacFarlane.

Rating: 1/5

If there is a contender to wrestle the 2014 Worst Picture Razzie from Adam Sandler and his much maligned non-com Blended, it may well be Seth MacFarlane for his starring debut, A Million Ways to Die in the West. One of the most misguided and flagrantly self-indulgent vanity projects in recent memory, ‘The Man Who Killed The Oscars’ puts his talent front and centre with this crude, witless western spoof that reaches its comedic peak when Doogie Howser kicks over a hat full of diarrhoea. Hooray for Hollywood.

MacFarlane refuses to take a backward step from critics who label his brand of shock-schtick frat-boy level puerile; the very first joke is a misogynistic slur, followed by a steady stream of body fluid gags, some homophobic stereotyping and lots of very modern cussing. His on-camera appearance is itself a non-concession to the conventions of the dustbowl melodrama, with his pearly white teeth, gelled hair and man-scaped features entirely at odds with…well, everything. Which, as was evident from his hosting of the Academy Awards, is the essence of his comic persona; MacFarlane looks the dapper traditionalist, but only to the extent that it allows him to infiltrate the establishment  and amuse himself by setting light to a bag of poo on their doorstep. A Million Ways to Die in the West represents his latest bag of poo.  

The widescreen lensing of DOP Michael Barrett captures the landscape imagery associated the genre, yet MacFarlane does very little to engage on a comedic level with the setting. In one seemingly endless rant that feels pilfered from an outdated stand-up routine, the shrieking actor rattles off all the negatives of the frontier life in 1880’s Arizona; surely some of these could have been explored in greater depth had the script been less reliant upon the auteur’s bottomless well of faecal references.

MacFarlane plays sheep grazier Albert, a whining nobody who loses his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) when she tires of his general unmanliness. Albert finds a (very) patient ear in his virginal best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his lovable Christian-whore Ruth (Sarah Silverman), but Albert is near the end of his tether. Things begin to brighten up when Albert saves the beautiful Anna (Charlize Theron)during a bar brawl and an entirely unfathomable romance blossoms, until it is revealed she is scouting the town for her gunslinging bad-guy hubby, Clinch (Liam Neeson, looking nonplussed). On the periphery is moustachioed creep, Foy (the film’s biggest asset, Neil Patrick Harris), who is wooing Louise and remains at odds with our anti-hero.

The solid cast is shunted aside for long passages, allowing MacFarlane underserved centre stage for most of the film’s inexcusable 116 minute running time. Deft comedians like Ribisi and Silverman are left floundering with weak, obvious gags before disappearing entirely; Seyfried’s career takes a backward step in a role that feels brutally truncated, as if the majority of it will bulk up the DVD extras package. The most awkward player is clearly Oscar-winner Theron, who good-sports herself for the benefit of her co-star’s project but is clearly uncomfortable. Broad comedy is not prevalent on the actress’ resume and her casting seems less to do with her comedic skill (despite her natural likability onscreen) and more to do with MacFarlane’s over-seer role; if given the power of veto as writer/director/producer on your first studio pic starring role, why not cast the world’s most beautiful actress, regardless of her suitability, as your love interest?

MacFarlane falls back on his well-worn trick of abstract pop-culture references, the likes of which sometimes worked in his overvalued TV series, Family Guy; the IMDb credit list spoils the surprise factor for fans of Christopher Lloyd, Gilbert Gottfried and Ewan McGregor, but there are some other A-list cameos, all affording the overall production no particularly advantage. Some druggy humour and shock-effect gore is employed, the likes of which may raise a goofy smirk amongst stoners, but the scenes are so devoid of inventiveness or context as to have no impact.

The failure of A Million Ways to Die in the West falls entirely at the feet of Seth MacFarlane and one hopes he wears the blame with the same enthusiasm with which he accepted the accolades for his surprise 2012 hit, Ted. In hindsight, the strength of that film was not the foul-mouthed CGI bear but the warm point-of-entry that its star Mark Wahlberg provided. MacFarlane’s follow-up lacks any connective tissue to human realness, preferring cartoonish coarseness and random excess; it is as if that twisted, needy sociopathic soft-toy was given a one-picture deal as reward for his success, and this is the end result.

Friday
May022014

3D NAKED AMBITION

Stars: Chapman To, Josie Ho, Candy Yuen, Yui Tatsumi, Aoi Tsukasa, Louis Koo, Nozomi Aso, Anri Okita, Maiko Yuki, Derek Tsang and Tyson Chak.
Writers: Chan Hing-ka, Ho Miu-ki and Chou Man-you.
Director: Lee Kung-lok.

Rating: 3/5

There is certainly enough curvy, nubile flesh to have mainland Chinese censors reeling but in every other regard, director Lee Kung-lok’s enjoyably silly Naked Ambition offers only minor titillation. It’s strengths, however minor, are in maintaining a giddy comedic air despite a plot as flimsy as lingerie; any controversy conjured by the puritanical brigade should prove a storm in a D-cup.

A sequel-of-sorts to Dante Lam’s more seriously-minded 2003 hit, Lee’s high-energy romp is ostensibly a vehicle for ageless comic Chapman To, cutting a dashing figure as Wyman Chan, the Hong Kong everyman who inadvertently becomes an AV (adult video) superstar in the lucrative Japanese market.

Part of a friendship clique who bemoan the dwindling quality and profitability of DVD porn, the group head for Tokyo to hook-up with their adult industry connection, go-between Shidaiko Hatoyama (a foul-mouthed and funny Josie Ho, returning to the franchise in which she made her screen debut over a decade ago). Here, they set about making their own skinflick, only to offend the leading man with their demands on the first day of shooting and leaving the production with no good wood to film their opus.

Stepping up when no one else has the…well, you know, Chan allows his female lead (real-life AV goddess, Yui Tatsumi) to dominate – an unwillingness that pays off when Japanese women warm to his ‘shy guy’, submissive man persona and turn him into a top-selling AV industry superstar (after a very funny 'training' montage with Tako Kato, an AV legend with over 5000 credits). To's ‘reluctant Romeo’ archetype has always been popular with audiences – Australian readers will recall the bawdy Alvin Purple misadventures of the 70’s; British audiences had Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974) and its sequels.

Lee’s film settles into a series of set-ups capturing on-set wackiness and featuring topless girls giggling a lot and bouncing up and down on top of the increasingly smug and smarmy Chan (a persona that will be pleasingly familiar to longtime fans of To, who played a similar character most recently in Ho-cheung Pang’s Vulgaria). Fans of Eastern erotica will find an extra giggle or two in the soft-core depiction of cultural references such as the mega-monster genre, pink-haired Harajuku nymphettes and crowded train-carriage fantasy. 

That is about it plotwise, until studly upstart Naoki Nagasaki (Louis Koo, another 2003 alumni) challenges him to a nationally broadcast ‘sex-athon’ to see who is indeed the AV alpha male. It is all preposterous, of course, as befits a film set in the ludicrous world of garish pop-porn, but it is played with a spritely energy by a cast that seems to be having a good time (in one scene, a stand-by woodsman accidentally ‘sprays’ To’s character, a splash to the temple for which the actor was clearly not prepared and which sends him out of frame, giggling).

If anything leaves a bad taste in the mouth, it might be the thinly veiled line in racial humour that creeps through the script by co-writers Chan Hing-ka, Ho Miu-ki and Chou Man-you. The Hong Kong ensemble utter several observations at the expense of their Japanese hosts, at one juncture ranting about their superiority over the local population. It reveals a mean-spirited streak that is out of place in such lightweight fare.

As expected, the third-dimension is predominantly used to assault the audience with close-ups of large breasts and provide extra-sensory immersion within the bedroom scenes. The Lumiere Brothers must be rolling in their graves, although Russ Meyer would love the new technology.