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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LADY OF THE DYNASTY (2015) review

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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.

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MY KINGDOM (2011) review

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Some films just don’t know what their best assets are. Take Gao Xiaosong’s My Kingdom : it benefits from the considerable talent and gravitas of two great martial arts actors, Yuen Biao and Yu Rongguang, and as long as it is concerned with them, it’s a riveting film. But as soon as the plot calls for their exit, we are left with something far more plodding and average. They play rival Chinese opera stars, master Yu (Yuen Biao) and master Yue (Yu Rongguang). Yu has two pupils, Yilong and Erkui, the latter being the last surviving member of a clan that was executed by the prince regent of the Qing dynasty. One day, as master Yu is being awarded a golden plaque honoring him as the greatest opera performer of his time, master Yue challenges him in a spear duel, and wins. Yu’s defeat means he is not allowed to perform on a stage anymore, and he spends the rest of his life away from the world, teaching his two students the art of opera fighting. When they are ready (and have grown into Wu Chun and Han Geng), they leave for Shanghai with the intent to reclaim the plaque from master Yue and carve out a career in Chinese opera for themselves. They quickly defeat Yue and take over his troupe, among which Mulang (Barbie Hsu), his former mistress. But Yilong and Erkui have different ways of dealing with their newfound stardom…

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BUTTERFLY LOVERS (2008) short review

This featherweight retelling of a classic, Romeo and Juliet-like legend (already filmed in Tsui Hark’s The Lovers) is directed by the master of glitz, Jingle Ma, with a sure commercial hand but little in the way of a vision or even basic originality. Wu Chun and Charlene Choi are star-crossed lovers while Hu Ge is the bitter third wheel whose scheming precipitates a strikingly artificial tragic end. Charlene Choi is exceedingly cute, and estimable people like Ti Lung, Xiong Xin Xin or Fan Siu-Wong add a dash of gravitas and martial arts in supporting roles, but Butterfly Lovers remains as bland as its male lead, charisma-challenged Wu Chun. Falsely advertised under the title Assassin’s Blade and with an action-packed cover in some places, it is a corny affair that only really succeeds as eye-candy (and ear-candy, thanks to Chiu Tsang Hei’s score). **