GOD OF WAR (2017) review

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A genre that dominated the 00’s in China and culminated with the massive success of John Woo’s Red Cliff and Peter Chan’s The Warlords, the war epic has been much scarcer in the 10’s, and much less successful in general, as indicated by the high-profile underperformance of passable examples of the genre like Andrew Lau’s The Guillotines and Ronny Yu’s Saving General Yang, not to mention the downright flop of Frankie Chan’s Legendary Amazons. It remains to be seen if Gordon Chan’s God of War can re-ignite the Chinese war epic’s popularity (even the success of Daniel Lee’s Dragon Blade in 2015 didn’t manage that), but it is, on its own merits, one of the finest examples of the genre. Set in the 16th century and based on historical events, it follows the efforts of Ming general Qi Jiguang (Vincent Zhao) and commander Yu Dayou (Sammo Hung) to defeat an army of Japanese pirates and Ronins led by Kumasawa (Yasuaki Kurata), and that has been pillaging the Chinese coastline for the enrichment of a Shogun whose son Yamagawa (Keisuke Koide) is among the pirates but disapproves of their treatment of civilians. General Qi enlists local peasants and trains them into a new and better-equipped army.

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MAGIC CARD (2015) review

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An impressively ill-conceived little caper, Keung Kwok Man’s Magic Card start with a quick-cut montage explaining that credit card fraud is widespread and complex, followed by the introduction of a well-organized credit card fraud gang. Then it sets all this aside for most of the film, before returning to it in the final 10 minutes. It’s as if the screenwriters bookended one screenplay with the introduction and conclusion of another, unrelated screenplay. The title refers to a card that the hero uses to determine if a bank terminal is fraudulent or not, but that card is not seen or mentioned in the film more than a few seconds in one single scene. And for most of its runtime, Magic Card tells of a computer expert (Kimi Qiao) who travels to Pavia (a idyllic town near Milan) to follow his foster sister (Dada Chan) and her vain, ineffectual and filthy rich boyfriend (Kainan Bai), as the latter prepares to buy and level an entire street to turn it into casinos and karaokes, much to the dismay of the locals, represented by a fortright lawyer (Maria Grazia Cuccinotta). Stepping in as a mediator is a rich Chinese businessman (Simon Yam), with whose daughter (Viann Zhang) the computer expert falls in love.

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SIFU VS VAMPIRE (2014) review

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Amazingly, Daniel Chan Yee Heng’s Sifu vs Vampire is Hong Kong legend Yuen Biao’s first lead role in a feature film since Ricky Lau’s Hunted Hunter in 1997. We could imagine a better comeback vehicle than a crass Wong Jing-produced comedy, but we’ll take what we can get. Yuen plays Master Chiang, a Taoist priest and exorcist who together with his disciple Lingxin (Jiang Luxia) teams up with a pair of hapless gangsters (Ronald Cheng and Philip Ng) to fight – and sometimes fall in love with – vampires old and new. There’s a definite throwback quality to the film, as it harks back to the vampire comedies of the eighties and beginning of the nineties, most notably the Mr Vampire series which already featured Yuen Biao. Contrary to Juno Mak’s impressive Rigor MortisSifu vs Vampire is straightforward and unpretentious, a loosely calibrated mix of (very) broad laughs, (very) mild scares and (very) sparse fighting.

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