SKY HUNTER (2017) review

104547.14935402_1000X1000

Wu Di (Li Chen), Zhao Yali (Fan Bingbing), Gao Yuan (Leon Lee) and few others are the elite of the Chinese air force, and have started training under the strict leadership of flying legend Ling Weifeng (Wang Qianyuan) to be a part of the Sky Hunter task force, when a terrorist organization led by Rahman (Tomer Oz) takes dozens of Chinese citizens hostage in the fictional state of Mahbu, demanding one of theirs be released from prison.  But when the freshly-released terrorist is gunned-down by a vengeful father, it’s left to Wu Di and his comrades to rescue the hostages in a daring attack on the terrorists’ base.

(more…)

Advertisements

CALL FOR LOVE (2007) short review

165646.91526946_1000X1000

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

SKIPTRACE (2016) review

135731.53066606_1000X1000

After going through director and cast changes (as Renny Harlin and Johnny Knoxville replaced Sam Fell and Seann William Scott, respectively), a tragic on-set death (cinematographer Chan Kwok Hung drowned when shooting boat stunts on Lantau Island) and months of delay (it was initially to be released in December 2015), Skiptrace finally arrived in theaters in July 2016 and gave the Chinese film summer one of its rare hits. Jackie Chan plays Bennie Chan, a dour Hong Kong detective on the trail of a mysterious crime boss known as ‘The Matador’, and who may or may not be businessman Victor Wong (Winston Chao). Nine years ago, after his partner Yung (Eric Tsang) was trapped and killed by The Matador, Chan swore to protect his daughter Samantha (Fan Bingbing). Now she’s in Victor Wong’s clutches and Chan’s only hope is to track down American conman Connor Watts (Johnny Knoxville), who has evidence that could incriminate the Matador. The problem is, Watts doesn’t want to follow Chan to Hong Kong, and he’s himself being hunted by the Russian mob, after knocking up the daughter of a kingpin…

(more…)

LEAGUE OF GODS (2016) review

091457.13259170_1000X1000

Sometimes lazily and erroneously branded as a “Chinese X-Men”, a franchise with which it has very little in common beyond CGI and powers, Koan Hui’s League of Gods is actually much closer – in concept, story and visuals – to Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt, not that the marketing team would want to play that particular angle, following the much-publicized flop of that film (which we actually liked, for all its faults). It’s set in a mythical ancient China ruled by the evil king Zhou (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and his consort Daji (Fan Bingbing), who’s actually a Nine-Tail Fox demon who pulls the strings on every one of his power-hungry moves. But Zhou is met with resistance from the kingdom of Xiqi, ruled by king Ji Chang (Zu Feng) and old strategist Jiang Ziya (Jet Li). The latter sends his protégé Lei Zhenzi (Jacky Heung), the last of a once-flourishing winged tribe, on a mission to retrieve the Sword of Light, which is the only weapon that can defeat the Black Dragon, the evil and powerful entity from which king Zhou draws his power. In his quest, Lei Zhenzi relies on the help of Ji Fa (Andy On), his childhood friend and the son of king Ji Chang, Nezha (Wen Zhang), a rambunctious warrior who alternatively appears as a baby and a grown man, and Erlangshen (Huang Xiaoming), a mysterious warrior with a truth-seeking third eye. Lei Zhenzi also meets Blue Butterfly (Angelababy) a whimsical young woman with whom he falls in love, but who’s actually a creation of Shengong Bao (Louis Koo), king Zhou’s chief general, who has orders to kill him and his companions.

(more…)

LADY OF THE DYNASTY (2015) review

7d1fa269

A troubled project which started pre-production in 2009 with My Sassy Girl director Kwak Jae-Yong at the helm and Fan Bing Bing, John Lone and Wang Leehom as its leads, Lady of the Dynasty finally reached completion and release in 2015, after a series of starts and stops that saw Kwak replaced by Shi Qing (a man whose sole previous credit is as a writer on the 1989 Zhang Yimou thriller Codename Cougar) on the basis of artistic differences, while Leon Lai and Wu Chun stepped in to replace Lone and Wang, respectively ; Zhang Yimou and Tian Zhuangzhuang (director of The Go Master) chimed in as consultants and get co-directing credits. But for a film that spent so much time in the oven and had so many cooks, Lady of the Dynasty turns out oddly half-baked. It focuses on Yang Guifei (Fan Bingbing), one of the “Four Great Beauties of Ancient China” who has already been the subject of many films and TV series, most notably Kenji Mizoguchi’s Princess Yang Kwei-Fei (1955), the 1962 Shaw Brothers film The Magnificent Concubine and the 2007 mini-series Lotus Garden of Tang Dynasty, already starring Fan Bingbing. Chosen by Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty (Leon Lai) and his concubine Wu (Joan Chen) to marry their son Li Mao (Wu Chun), she then left him to be a Taoist monk, before being chosen by the emperor to become his concubine. Later, when a rebellion broke out, the emperor fled with her but was then asked to execute her as a scapegoat.

(more…)