THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES II (2017) review

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Three years after Raymond Yip’s The House that never dies became the highest-grossing Chinese horror film, comes this Gordon Chan-produced sequel, featuring a different cast and a new set of characters, but still taking place at N°81 Chanoei in Beijing, a famous mansion believed to be haunted. This time, engineer Song Teng (Julian Cheung) is working on restoring the old mansion, while neglecting his wife He (Mei Ting), a doctor. The couple has grown estranged following the stillbirth of their child five years before, and Song’s apparent reciprocal fondness for his assistant (Gillian Chung) isn’t helping matters. In an attempt to solidify their marriage, He moves in with her husband in the old house, but soon she is plagued by visions and nightmares, that appear to be memories of a past life: at the beginning of the 20th century, a general (Julian Cheung) who lived in this mansion had to marry the daughter (Gillian Chung) of a warlord, to solidify an alliance and to ensure he would have an heir, after his first wife (Mei Ting) failed to beget him one. But the general’s affections were still for his first wife, and his new bride proved barren as well. And deadly jealous.

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ABSURD ACCIDENT (2017) review

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A feature debut Derek Yee liked so much that he hopped on as an executive producer to help it reach a wider audience, Li Yuhe’s Absurd Accident follows a motel owner (Chen Xixu) who’s sexually impotent and suspects his wife (Gao Ye) of cheating on him. He hires a doctor (Rui Cao) – who’s been treating his impotence and who claims to have mob connections – to find a pro to go and kill his wife. The doctor actually takes the money and goes himself, but nothing unfolds as planned: the wife’s survival instinct, a hapless robber (Lou Yunfei), a cop about to retire (Chen Chunsheng), and a couple on a date (Ren Suxi and Dong Bo) all get in the way of a seemingly simple plan.

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MEOW (2017) review

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Cats are actually aliens. They come from planet Meow, and those of them that exist on earth are actually there to colonize the planet, but they have been lulled into inaction by human love and food. And so a Meowian warrior, Pudding, is sent to earth with a magical weapon, to galvanize the troops and initiate a global takeover. Except that upon landing, Pudding loses the weapon and undergoes a transformation, due to the earth’s atmosphere, from alpha-feline warrior to chubby, oversized cat, while a mix-up leads to him being adopted by a family. The father (Louis Koo), is a well-meaning but hopelessly childish ex-football star, the mother (Ma Li) an highly-strung aspiring actress, the son (Andy Huang) a wannabe-film director who for know mainly collaborates with his pets, and the daughter (Liu Chutian) suffers from a bad leg which keeps her away from the sporting activity she would like to join in. At first, Pudding – now renamed Xixili – plans to break up the family, but soon he is won over by their kindness.

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DEALER/HEALER (2017) review

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Lawrence Ah Mon’s Dealer/Healer tells the true story of Chen Hua (Lau Ching Wan), a drug dealer and drug addict turned philanthropist, from his teenage years in the Tsz Wan Shan district of Kowloon, the start of a lasting friendship with fellow hellraisers Cat (Max Zhang) and Bullhorn (Lam Ka Tung) and of a romance with plucky waitress Kerou (Jiang Yiyan), to his time as a drug dealer in the infamous Kowloon Walled City, where he encountered drug lord Halei (Louis Koo) and reached the nadir of his addiction, and then to his reformed life – following a few years in prison – and his work in a Christian rehabilitation centre, while still mediating mob disputes to limit damage and avoid violence.

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THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X (2017) review

104113.18518464_1000X1000After a 2008 Japanese adaptation, a 2012 Korean adaptation, and before a planned American adaptation, comes the Chinese adaptation of Keigo Igashino’s crime novel The Devotion of Suspect X, directed by actor/singer and second-time director Alec Su. This will be a review of the film as an independent piece of work; for insight on how it compares to both the source novel and the previous adaptations, head to Maggie Lee’s review.

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EDGE OF INNOCENCE (2017) review

101346.25248684_1000X1000Based on the novel Summer, The Portrait of a 19 Year Old by Soji Shimada, Chang Jung-Chi’s Edge of Innocence follows Kang Qiao (Huang Zitao), a carefree student who ends up in the hospital with a broken leg after crashing his motorbike on the freeway. In between visits from his friends Zhao Yi (Calvin Tu) and Zhu Li (Li Meng), the latter hopelessly in love with him, he spends his time looking out the window, at a house where a stunning young woman (Yang Caiyu) lives with her parents (Chang Kuo Chu and Samatha Ko). Now spying on her daily with binoculars, Kang Qiao falls madly in love with the woman, until one day he witnesses her murder her own – apparently abusive – father with the help of her mother, and burying the body in their backyard. At the same time, he is approached on WeChat by a mysterious person who seems to know everything about him, and about what he has seen unfold in the house by the hospital.

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BEAUTIFUL ACCIDENT (2017) short review

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Ho Wi Ding’s Beautiful Accident is the latest installment in that subgenre of comedy where a supernatural occurrence or a unique time lapse brings new perspective to the lead character – think Groundhog Day or Miss Granny. Here, Gwei Lun Mei plays Li Yu Ran, a proudly lonely, career-driven lawyer who after a car accident finds herself in the offices of Fate, where she is told that her death was a clerical error and that she will be able to reintegrate her body in a week. But by then, she is to take the place of a recently-deceased mother. With no choice but to accept, Li Yu Ran finds herself catapulted in the life of a housewife, with an overworked husband (Chen Kun), a resentful teenage daughter (Nana Ouyang), and a young son who is the only to sense this is not his real mother. Droll situations ensue, peppered with the dime-store wisdom and rote use of serendipity often displayed in the subgenre, though the film is quite inspired in its depiction of the offices of Fate as a bureaucratic mess peopled with half-competent employees, let by a delightful Wang Jingchun. This is mostly a one-woman show, and as often in her more commercial film, Gwei Lun Mei overacts wildly; it can be jarring at first, but when the film becomes more heartfelt, she actually brings it much-needed subtlety. Chen Kun laudably steps back to a supporting function, though he puzzlingly often seems to be playing his character as slightly mentally retarded. All in all this is an entertaining and visually pleasing, but unmemorable little comedy. **1/2

RESET (2017) review

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Produced by Jackie Chan and directed by Korean helmer Yoon Hong-seung aka Chang, Reset unfolds in the near future, when time travel is becoming a reality: the discovery and use of portals to parallel universes allows scientists to experiment on sending living tissue back in the past – though only two hours back for now. Xia Tian (Yang Mi) is part of a research team that is on the verge of a major breakthrough, when her son Doudou a kidnapped and held for ransom by a mysterious man (Wallace Huo). If she wants to get her son back, she is to deliver the man all of her research. But even after she complies, her son is killed, and she has no choice but to send herself back two hours in the past to try and save him. With every failed attempt she starts again and in doing so, she creates multiple versions of herself, all dead set on rescuing Doudou.
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DIDI’S DREAMS (2017) review

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After co-hosting the wildly successful TV show “Kangsi Coming” for twelve years, Kevin Tsai make a joint big screen debut as writer-director and lead actress respectively with Didi’s Dreams. It follows aspiring actress Didi (Hsu, who’s the sister of Barbie Hsu), who goes from thankless walk-on roles to degrading appearances in commercial and TV shows, ever stuck in the shadow of her estranged older sister, movie star Lingling (Lin Chiling). In a recurring dream, she is the owner of an interstellar noodle shop who falls for a handsome space janitor, but she is called back to tragic reality when she is diagnosed with a brain tumor that gives her a year at most to live. She throws herself oblivious into any work that comes her way, ending up in a viral video that makes her an overnight sensation. Now she is being offered to co-star with her sister in a lavish film about palace intrigue, and the estranged siblings will have to resolve their differences.

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CALL FOR LOVE (2007) short review

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Zhang Jianya’s Call for Love is a masterclass in how to turn an amusing concept and a dazzling female ensemble into the most average comedy possible. It stars Xu Zheng as a bored salary man who cannot stomach the routine of his marriage anymore. And instead of trying to spice things up, he flat out asks his wife (Jiang Hongbo) for a divorce. She promptly kicks him out, and shortly after, he wanders into a phone-repair shop, whose eccentric owner (Liu Yiwei) lends him a magical phone: each of the ten buttons will allow him to date a different woman, one of whom may be his soulmate. Naturally he is eager to try out the magical phone, but though each of the women he meets is a stunning beauty, there’s always a catch. There’s a naïve party girl (a delightful Eva Huang), a policewoman who dislikes divorcees (a delightful Fan Bingbing), a real estate addict (a delightful Ning Jing), a overly bossy CEO (a delightful Annie Yi), a young debutante (a delightful Bai Bing) controlled by her mother, a dour and demanding career woman (a delightful Qin Hailu), a single mother-to-be (a delightful Song Jia), etc… As a playful showcase of some of China’s talented and promising actresses (though this was ten years ago and not all have seen their career take off), Call for Love is passably enjoyable, though its sitcom-worthy writing, direction and look border on laziness. It has nothing interesting to say about relationships or love, instead unfolding like a series of droll sketches dealing in unsubtle archetypes. Thankfully, mawkishness is scarce. **1/2