GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB (aka 7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB) (2018) review

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After fighting giant robots alongside Expendable Kelsey Grammer in Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, and before fighting a giant shark alongside Expendable Jason Statham in Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg, Li Bingbing is fighting giant spiders alongside Expendables Kellan Lutz and Kelsey Grammer (again) in Kimble Rendall’s Guardians of the Tomb. The Expendable-to-Creature ratio in her career is thus higher than that of, say, Angelababy (who only fought giant aliens alongside Expendable Liam Hemsworth in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence) or Huang Yi (who merely fought a giant lizard alongside Expendables Dolph Lundgren and Scott Adkins in Eric Styles’ Legendary).

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I DO (2012) short review

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Sun Zhou’s I Do follows Tang Weiwei (Li Bingbing), a thirty-something business woman who’s given her all to her career, neglecting her love life after being left heartbroken a decade before by her boyfriend Wang Yang (Duan Yihong), a struggling graphic designer she had supported through difficult times. Now she’s finally ready to get in a relationship again, and in comes Yang Nianhua (Sun Honglei), a former publisher gone bankrupt, whose easy-going charm and selfless devotion make him a prime suitor. But things get complicated as Wang Yang suddenly reappears in Weiwei’s life : now a wealthy businessman, he plans to win her back. It’s the tried and true rom-com formula of the woman torn between two opposites: here, the rich old flame or the modest but charming new leaf. The dilemma unfolds in a thuddingly talky way, each of the usual stakes (does wealth matter more than devotion, can we forgive someone who’s broken our heart once, etc…) being discussed at length against the backdrop of fancy restaurants, sleek offices and luxury apartments, while several subplots involving under-developped supporting characters either fall flat or go nowhere. And if I Do remains watchable, it’s because it has in Li Bingbing a lead actress of tremendous class and subtlety, whose chemistry with Sun Honglei (in a full-on charm attack) and Duan Yihong (excellent in a more thankless role) is immaculate. Would that all romantic comedies had such appealing leads. **1/2

ZHONG KUI : SNOW GIRL AND THE DARK CRYSTAL (2015) review

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A prominent figure of Chinese mythology, the rotund and ugly but very powerful demon hunter Zhong Kui has surprisingly not had many film incarnations in the past decades. There was a female version of the character (played by Cheng Pei Pei, and thus not exactly rotund and ugly) in Ho Meng Hua’s The Lady Hermit in 1971, and Wu Ma directed and starred in a version of the myth in 1994’s The Chinese Ghostbuster, which transplanted the character as a fish out of water in 20th century Hong Kong. There has also been a few TV series, but Zhong Kui : Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal is definitely the character’s first blockbuster incarnation, and given the film’s success during the 2015 Chinese New Year period, it’s unlikely to be the last. Directed by Peter Pau, who’s been more celebrated as a cinematographer – a position which he occupies on this film too – than as a director (his last directorial effort was the messy Michelle Yeoh vehicle The Touch in 2002), and Zhao Tianyu, who until now had been a director of much more low-key fare (like 2008’s culinary thriller Deadly Delicious), it incongruously yet somewhat inevitably casts a handsome – some would say pretty – star in the title role, where one would have logically yet somewhat unrealistically expected a more corpulent and rugged actor like Jiang Wu or Zhang Jinsheng.

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SILVER HAWK (2004) review

Following her rise to international fame thanks to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Michelle Yeoh founded Mythical Films with her then-companion Thomas Chung, with an eye towards giving herself tailor-made roles in films with an international ambition. The venture led to Peter Pau’s The Touch, a sporadically enjoyable Indiana Jones-wannabe that was successful in China but not anywhere else, and to Silver Hawk, which replicated The Touch’s pattern of success. Both films are vanity projects of sorts for Yeoh, as she cast herself first as a fearless adventurer then as a fearless super-heroine, in films that glorified the grace of her moves and the flawlessness of her skin. Not that there’s anything wrong with the idea of a film glorifying Michelle Yeoh. One of the most beautiful actresses in the world, a skillfull martial artists of unparalleled grace in action, but also a powerful dramatic actress (as evidenced in films like the aforementioned Ang Lee film and Far North, among many others), Yeoh is the very definition of a true movie star. But the cold, hard truth is that Silver Hawk is as misguided a star vehicle as it gets.

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