BUDDIES IN INDIA (2017) review

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With the flood of Monkey King film adaptations in recent and coming years, it is refreshing to see one attempting a radical spin: Wang Baoqiang’s directorial debut Buddies in India transposes the myth to nowadays, following an agile and mischievous monkey trainer called, of course, Wu Kong (Wang Baoqiang) who refuses to sell his house to make way for a vast urban construction project. As Tang Zong, the chairman of the group in charge of the project, feels his end is near after a serious heart attack, he instructs his son Tang Sen (Bai Ke), a lonely geek, to go get his will in Nandu Gaun, India. At the same time, he asks Wu Kong to accompany Sen as a bodyguard, in exchange for which his house will remain untouched. Wu agrees, and the two set off for India, where they are helped by Zhu Tianpeng (Yue Yunpeng), cross paths with Wu Jing (Ada Liu), a woman once scorned by Sen, and are hunted by two Chinese assassins hired by Tang Sen’s devious uncle Chasu (Huang Bo), who wants to inherit the group instead of his nephew.

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THE INCREDIBLE TRUTH (2013) short review

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Wei Ling (Christy Chung) is the friend and make-up artist of starlet Jia Jia (Ada Liu Yan), who recently left for Japan to visit her boyfriend Hirato (Ikki Funaki) but has ceased all communications. Despite going through a traumatic experience in Japan a year before, Wei Ling decides to go look for Jia Jia, and follows her trace to a forest inn owned by Hirota’s family. There, she hits a wal as everyone says they’ve never seen Jia Jia, but the inn staff’s hostility,  Hirota’s distraught behavior, and frequent visions of her friend tell her another story. Sam Leung’s The Incredible Truth has pleasingly garish cinematography, a reasonably intriguing start, and the welcome sight of Christy Chung in a lead role – looking not a day older than in her late-nineties heyday – as well as watchable supporting turns by Ada Liu and a distinguished Japanese cast. But is all too eager to check a laundry list of horror-mystery clichés (including the heroic duo of lazy mystery plot devices: visions of the disappeared one, and a detailed diary left behind), and relies too much on weird behavior – get ready for a LOT of lurid smiles – and an almost comical, quickly grating amount of jump scares. And it wraps its plot up with one of the laziest twists in recent memory, basically bringing a whole new, never-yet-mentioned character in the story in a desperate attempt at surprising the viewer. *1/2

AN INSPECTOR CALLS (2015) review

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Considered a true classic of 20th-century English theatre, J.B. Priestley’s three-act play An Inspector Calls has been brought to the stage countless times since it was first performed in 1945, and it’s been a fixture of the BBC’s TV and radio programming (with yet another mini-series in preparation for 2015, starring David Thewlis) but it has comparatively been the object of few big screen adaptations. In fact, Raymond Wong and Herman Yau’s film is the first time the play is adapted for theatrical release since Guy Hamilton’s (of Goldfinger fame) 1954 adaptation. And surely it’s the most unexpected iteration of the story since the 1979 Soviet mini-series Inspector Gull. Screenwriter Edmond Wong transposes the setting from the North Midlands of Great Britain in 1912 to Hong Kong in 2015, but follows J.B. Priestley’s narrative pretty closely : the mysterious inspector Karl (Louis Koo) pays an unexpected visit to the rich Kau family’s estate. Mr. and Mrs. Kau (Eric Tsang and Teresa Mo) are in the final preparations for their daughter Sherry’s (Karena Ng) engagement party as she is soon to marry a handsome young businessman Johnny (Hans Zhang), while their son Tim (Gordon Lam) looks on in contemptuous bemusement, and clearly annoyed at his own girlfriend, socialite Yvonne (Ada Liu Yan). Inspector Karl informs them that a young woman (Chrissie Chau) from Mr. Kau’s factory has been found dead from what appears to be a painful, protracted suicide by disinfectant ingestion. As he starts to interrogate each member of the family in turn, it appears everyone of them was linked to the deceased woman, and everyone may have played a more or less active role in her eventual demise.

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