THE SECRET OF IMMORTAL CODE (2018) review

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A (very) rare Chinese sci-fi horror film, Li Wei and Zhang Nan’s The Secret of Immortal Code is set in the middle of the 22nd century: the Rafael pharmaceutical company, headed by the enigmatic Doctor Yao (Zhao Lixin), claims to be close to perfecting a cure for cancer, and proposes to cryopreserve – for a price – patients in the final stages of the disease, so that they may survive until the cure is finally ready. Yet 20 years later, it seems no closer to delivering the promised drug, and families are suing for commercial fraud. Lin Ziqi (Liang Jing) is in the same situation: her cancer-stricken sister Yuqi (Landi Li) has been in cryo-sleep for 18 years. One day, she receives a notification that Yuqi has been unplugged for no reason, which gives her only a few days to live. When she confronts Doctor Yao about this, he invites her to join him on a sea expedition to the Arctic, when a Rafael research station may hold the key to finally perfecting the cure.

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THE ISLAND (2018) review

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In his directing debut The Island, Huang Bo is Ma Jin, a humble worker who pines hopelessly over his colleague Shan Shan (Shu Qi), and dreams with his childhood friend Xing (Zhang Yixing) of winning the lottery. One day, while on a sea-faring team-building trip with his co-workers, he realizes that he just won a whopping 60 million RMB at the lottery. But shortly after, a massive asteroid grazes planet Earth, unleashing a fierce tsunami: the group is left stranded on an uninhabited island island, with Wang (Wang Baoqiang) emerging as the de facto – and abusive – leader in the survival effort. But as the floating carcass of a polar bear alerts them to the fact that the world as they know it may not exist anymore, the small group must try to organize a new society.

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THE MYSTERIOUS FAMILY (2017) review

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Very loosely – and somewhat tastelessly – based on real-life events (the massacre of a whole family in Fujian province in 2014), Park Yu-hwan’s The Mysterious Family follows Miao Miao (Ariel Lin) a young student who one night is beaten and raped by a mysterious stranger (Blue Lan). This leaves her traumatized, dependent on medication and uncommunicative to her parents (Jiang Wu and Kara Hui) and brother (Xiao Chen). One Christmas Eve, upon returning home after training for a marathon, she witnesses her family being murdered by the same man who assaulted her months ago; yet she suddenly wakes up, as if from a vivid nightmare, on the running track where she had been practicing in the afternoon. But as she goes home, her family is again murdered by the same man, with subtle changes to the situation. And again Miao Miao wakes up on the running track. Stuck in a nightmarish loop, she must figure out how to save her family.

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THE LEAKER (aka THE LEAKERS) (2018) review

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2018 will have been a quiet kind of year for Herman Yau; The Leaker is one of only two films he’ll have had in theaters (the other being comedy A Home with a View, starring Louis Koo and Francis Ng, and out in December). Still, he’s already got two films in the can for 2019, with two more already planned, so no cause for alarm. The Leaker starts with the outbreak in Malaysia of a new and deadly disease carried by mosquitoes. The only available cure is an experimental drug manufactured by Amanah, a powerful pharmaceutical company. But when the elder son of Amanah’s CEO Teo Jit Sin (Kent Cheng) is found murdered, and his second son is kidnapped by a shady organisation claiming to have incriminating information to leak about Teo Jit Sin, Malaysian detective Lee Weng-kan (Julian Cheung) must team up with journalist Carly Yuen (Charmaine Sheh) and Hong Kong cop Wong Dai Wai (Francis Ng) to uncover the truth.

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DETECTIVE DEE: THE FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS (2018) review

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Tsui Hark’s second prequel to his career-resurrecting hit Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010), picks up right where there previous installment, Rise of the Sea Dragon, left off: Tang Emperor Gaozong entrusting Di Renjie (Mark Chao) with the Dragon-taming mace, a powerful weapon made of stardust steel and a symbol of his promotion to the highest level of responsibility towards the throne. But Wu Zetian (Carina Lau), the Emperor’s chief consort and co-ruler of the Chinese empire, views this promotion as a critical mistake, and she orders Yuchi Zhenjin (William Feng), the head of the Justice Department and Di Renjie’s sworn brother after the events of the previous film, to recover the mace. Torn between brotherly loyalty and imperial duty, and highly suspicious of the shady quartet of Taoist fighters the Empress assigned to assist him, Yuchi nevertheless obeys orders. Yet Di Renjie is always one step ahead, and Wu Zetian – councelled by a mysterious faceless lord – resorts to framing him for an assassination attempt on a member of the imperial family. Things are further complicated by the appearance at the imperial court of a giant, deadly golden dragon.

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COLOUR OF THE GAME (2017) review

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A belated third installment in Wong Jing’s ‘Colour’ series of Triad thriller – after Colour of the Truth (2003) and Colour of the Loyalty (2005) – Wai Ka Fai’s Colour of the Game centers on Dahua (Simon Yam), a weary Triad enforcer who’s given one last mission before retirement: to find and kill the degenerate son of gangster Brother Nine (Waise Lee), Robert (Ye Xiangming), who raped and killed Triad boss Dragon (Lau Siu Ming). Dahua enlists the help of his old comrades in arms Chun (Jordan Chan), fresh out of prison, and BBQ, retired with a bad leg but willing to assist his brother one last time, as well as Gao (Philip Ng), his protégé, Liqiang (Sabrina Qiu), his tough daughter, and Superman (Oscar Leung), a newcomer eager to prove his worth. The team gets to work, but as they’re being repeatedly ambushed by Robert’s men and followed closely by the police, they soon realize there’s a mole among them.

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ANIMAL WORLD (2018) review

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Adapted – and transposed to China – from Nobuyuki Fukumoto’s manga Ultimate Survivor Kaiji, Han Yan’s Animal World follows Kaisi (Li Yifeng), a young man adrift: ever since his father was killed when he was 8, he’s had violent urges and visions of himself as a clown – and of the people around him as grotesque monsters. He cares for his mother who is in a coma, but neglects his girlfriend Qing (Zhou Dongyu), a nurse who refuses to give up on him. Riddled with debts after a childhood friend coaxed him into a failed real estate scheme, Kaisi is approached by Anderson (Michael Douglas), a mysterious and powerful man who offers him a chance to write off his debt, and possibly make a lot of money, by joining dozens of players on the ship Destiny. There, the players have to engage in an elaborate game of ‘rock-paper-scissors’, with very specific rules but no ban on cheating, and a dire fate for the many who lose the game, while rich men watch and take gambles of their own.

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LOBSTER COP (2018) review

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The directing debut of actress Li Xinyun, Lobster Cop follows Yufei (Wang Qianyuan), Hua Jie (Yuan Shanshan), Neng (Liu Hua) and Chen (Zhou Yu), a squad of down-on-their-luck police detectives trying to bring to justice a dangerous trafficker known as The General. While staking out what they suspect to be an operating base for the General’s accomplices, they realize that a neighboring, decrepit lobster restaurant, owned by a nutcase (Shen Teng), would be a perfect vantage point to keep an eye on the activities of the suspects’ house. They gather enough money to buy the restaurant, clean it up and pretend to be a family, but Neng’s delicious spicy crayfish recipe unexpectedly turns what should have been just a front into an instant success, and the targets of their surveillance become regular customers. And soon, the four cops uncover a wider conspiracy.

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An Interview with Composer Elliot Leung

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To call Elliot Leung an overnight sensation would be incorrect, as it would be ignoring several years of praised work in video game, advertisement and documentary music. And yet there is indeed something meteoric about his arrival in the A-List of Chinese film composers: his thrilling score for Dante Lam’s spectacularly successful Operation Red Sea – now second only to Wolf Warrior II on the list of highest-grossing movies in China and still the fifth highest-grossing film worldwide for 2018 – marks the beginning of a promising big screen career, with no less than four high-profile films already on his dance card. A busy schedule in spite of which he graciously agreed to answer our questions.

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GENGHIS KHAN (2018) review

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There have been more than a few films made about the great 12th-century Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan – the most successful and closest to reality probably being Sergei Brodov’s Mongol (2007) with Tadanobu Asano – but none that have offered such a wild fantasy spin on his rise to power as Hasi Chaolu’s Genghis Khan. William Chan stars as Temujin (later known as Genghis Khan, which means “universal ruler”), a young Mongol boy whose romance with Borte (Lin Yun), a girl from a neighboring tribe, is abruptly interrupted when his father is killed during a battle by Kuchuru (Hu Jun), an evil warlord. But after being beheaded in combat, the warlord is resurrected by the love of his life, the witch Dodai (Zhang Xinyi). However, the resurrection comes at a price: Dodai is now hostage to the King of Hell, who thus has Kuchuru do his bidding: soon, an alignment of planets will signal the perfect moment for him to lead an army of orcs and skeletons to invade the grasslands of Mongolia. Years pass, and a now grown-up Temujin sets out to find Borte and marry her, but fate as other plans. Like his ancestor Cina, armed with the mighty spear Soledin, the Mongol hero is called to unite the tribes of Mongolia and take the fight for his land into the depths of hell.

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