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四大天王 (2006)
The Heavenly Kings

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 07/29/2007
Summary: spinal pop...

daniel wu, terence yin, andrew lin and conroy chan are actors, who have decided to form a boy-band. the thing is, apart from terence who released an album in taiwan several years ago, they can't sing; will their fame and their manipulation of the media be enough for them to succeed?

directed by daniel wu, 'the heavenly kings' follows their band - alive - as they attempt to make it big, struggling through recording, contract wrangles and live performances. filmed as a fly-on-the-wall documentary, the film is part mocumentary, part documentary; featuring input from the the likes of jacky cheung, karen mok, jaycee chan, miriam yeung and a host of other cantopop stalwarts.

despite running out of steam a little, in the final third, this is a very funny film. daniel, terence, andrew and conroy all participate with a great sense of humour and self-deprication, which is very endearing. as they manufacture their band and begin to build up their profile, the hong kong music industry (and some of its stars) are quite harshly critiqued, to great comic effect.

as the film progresses and becomes more mock, than doc, it does lose a little of its swift pace and laughs, although what it has followed more than makes up for this.

highly recommended...

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 07/19/2007

Could a bunch of Hong Kong actors, only one of whom can sing, form a successful Boy Band simply by hype and manipulating the marketing machine? That’s the question asked by The Heavenly Kings, an occasionally hilarious comedy filmed as a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The film’s title is an ironic reference to the four “Heavenly Kings” of Cantopop (Aaron Kwok, Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai and somebody called Andy something) and opens with a bleak fact – in 1995, the total revenue from the Hong Kong music industry was HK$1.68 billion, while in 2005 it was HK$700 million. There’s no doubt that piracy is the main culprit, but there also seems to be a (global) social change in attitude towards music that’s hitting sales these days. It’s into this world that Daniel Wu and Co enter as the new Boy Band Alive.
Daniel sings like a drain, but is clearly the leader, and has the pretty-boy appeal necessary to make a hit with the girls. Andrew Lin is the serious one, and can often be seen talking to the camera about the problems facing the band. In stark contrast, Conroy Chan (AKA “Ba Ba”) is clearly just going along for the ride and takes nothing seriously at all (and declares: “I’m the fattest Boy Band member ever!”). Terence is the ringer; he can actually sing, and once released an album in Taiwan.

Upon entering the studio, it becomes apparent that Alive have got problems. However, with modern technology (specifically AutoTune, which corrects out-of-tune vocals), these problems are overcome with ease and the band cut their first record and enter the industry proper. Against all this are real interviews with real pop stars telling real horror stories about the industry and sharing their experiences. Most of these clips are interesting, but I found it hard to take Jacky Cheung bemoaning AutoTune and saying it was much harder in his day. His peak was in the 80’s, hardly the dawn of time as far as music goes!

Alive then hit upon the idea of deliberately uploading their tune onto a file-sharing network for everyone to download. This is a stroke of genius, as they gather together for a press conference to cry ‘foul’ on the music industry and the bootleggers. The result? A much higher profile for the band, public support and sympathy in a scene reminiscent of Gillian Chung’s (or was it Charlene Choi’s?) “Bra-gate” scandal. The group even set up their own website in a blaze of publicity. The cynicism doesn’t stop there though, in a world where “professional fans” can be hired (“F4 use them!”) to scream and wave placards at gigs, and where image stylists can create outfits the Village People wouldn’t have been seen dead in.

The Heavenly Kings is a mostly great exposé on the music business but towards the latter half the film loses its subtlety a bit, and the illusion is dented. Furthermore, the ending is a little familiar and predictable. Nevertheless, there aren’t many films that get me to laugh out loud these days and this achieved that rare feat a couple of times. It also seems to have achieved CAT III status simply with its use of swearing, which I found bizarre.

You certainly don’t need to know anything about the world of Cantopop to enjoy this film as the issues it addresses are pretty much global. And although I detest the whole manufactured pop world, I found myself cheering on this bunch of inept but likeable pop stars-in-waiting.

Where can I get the album?

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Tonic
Date: 06/18/2007

Very enjoyable, even with my limited knowledge of cantopop. I think pretty much anyone who's little cynical about the pop industry will find this very funny, regardless of whether they know anything about Hong Kong or its industry.

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 11/19/2006
Summary: Thoroghly enjoyable look at HK's music industry...

Directed by first-timer Daniel Wu, The Heavenly Kings (referring to the four gods of Cantopop, Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok and Leon Lai) is a "documentary" in the vein of the classic "This Is Spinal Tap." Actor Andrew Lin recruits three other actors (Daniel Wu, Terence Yin and Conroy Chan) to form the group "ALIVE" and they set out to conquer the HK pop music world as yet another boy band. There is one slight catch... no one in the band, save for Terence who released an album in Taiwan years ago, can sing a lick, and none can dance to save their lives. Other than being semi-well known actors, how are they going to survive in this new sphere of entertainment? After an initial disappointment with the underhanded music company, they decide to use the one outlet that has always been a thorn in their side and manipulate the media into their promotional tool.
"The Heavenly Kings" is definitely not a straight documentary, but neither is it a totally scripted film. The oft-used term "mockumentary" is probably the best way to describe this very enjoyable debut from Daniel Wu. There are many parts of the film that happened exactly as they are filmed, from the band's first press conference to the endorsements, press junkets and concerts that follow. In addition, there are scenes featuring actors playing roles that are fictitious (or at least I think they are). What is borderline brilliant about this film is the line between these two genres, documentary and comedy, is so slight that at any moment you are not sure what you are seeing is real or being acted. In some ways this could be frustrating, but I found it to be very thought-provoking. All four members of ALIVE, each having their own reasons to be a part of the band, are excellent in this film, especially Daniel Wu and Terence Yin. Daniel really wants to have the group be successful and becomes the spokesman for ALIVE on their short-lived tour. He also becomes the most frustrated as the other members start to slack off and lose interest. Terence, having been burned once by a record company, is completely jaded by the industry and decides to just take advantage of the situation wherever they go, indulging in parties and women throughout. Andrew Lin and Conroy Chan are simply trying to break out of their B-status in the film industry. Interspersed throughout the film are short snippets of interviews with top-billing music stars such as Jacky Cheung, Karen Mok, Nicholas Tse and Miriam Yeung who give their insight into the cut-throat and for the most part, completely unfair world of Cantopop. It all serves as a kind of expose on the Hong Kong music industry, where looks will get you further than any kind of inherent talent. Of course, this is true in any image related business, whether it be in Hong Kong or in Hollywood.
I really enjoyed this film and definitely recommend it on its fresh look at our image-obsessed world.

Reviewer Score: 8