Posts tagged "China"

The Mermaid (Review)

The Mermaid

aka 美人魚 aka Mei Ren Yu
The Mermaid
2016
Written by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Kelvin Lee Si-Zhen, Ho Miu-Kei, Lu Zheng-Yu, Andrew Fung Chih-Chiang, Ivy Kong Yuk-Yee, Chan Hing-Kar, and Tsang Kan-Cheung
Directed by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi

The Mermaid
It isn’t really a secret that I’ve been less than enthused with the movie industry coming out of China in the past decade. As more and more Hong Kong stars and directors get lured away by big budget Mainland firms to pump out soulless imitations of Hollywood blockbusters, my interest in what they do great grows less and less. A few directors are working against the trends, but the only one with the clout to basically do whatever he wants is Steve Chow. Though Chow took extended time off in front of the camera to work more on the production side, his return to directing has been a welcome development. First he came back with Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, and soon after with The Mermaid, where Chow returns to his roots with a love story buried beneath a bunch of other movies. The Mermaid went on to slay at the box office, becoming the highest grossing film in China (not any more, lol!)
The Mermaid
The Mermaid feels like a first draft of a love story that everything else was stapled around. Some of the side scenes are amazingly awesome, while others fall short and seem weird. Overall there just isn’t enough in the rest of the film to seem like a filling meal. Chow obviously saw the Dolphin Cove documentary as we even get actual footage of the dolphins being slaughtered multiple times throughout the film, and the imagery is used again when the humans attack the mermaid hideout. The US military’s sonar that kills sea life is also mentioned, though here it is sonar developed by a company that causes fish to explode and damages the mermaids, leading to their hiding out in a cove. Tossing this stuff into a comedy is a brave move, and while not pleasant to see, helps put actual stakes on the table both within the film and in real life. Some people might think twice about where the food they eat comes from.
The Mermaid
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 22, 2019 at 6:34 am

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Lost In Apocalypse (Review)

Lost In Apocalypse

aka 末世人间道 aka Mo Shi Ren Jian Dao
Lost in Apocalypse
2018
Written by Sky Wang, Baiying Wu, and Fei’er Zhao
Based on the comics by Ruibo Cao
Directed by Sky Wang

Lost in Apocalypse
It wouldn’t be a film festival if I didn’t offer up a review of everything I saw there, and the final entry in the recent Another Hole in the Head Film Festival that I went to is Lost in Apocalypse, a tale of zombie attacks set in Mainland China. While the film isn’t bad, it was the least of the three films I did go see, the other two being Ghost Squad and Galaxy Lords, hence why I switched order for once and Lost in Apocalypse got caught in the crossfire. As regular readers of TarsTarkas.NET have probably figured out by now due to the dearth of reviews, but we don’t really watch zombie movies much at all. It just is a genre that got so over-saturated so quickly that I just didn’t want to sit through a bunch of boring ones. So automatically by the fact that I went to go see this one, you know it isn’t a run of the mill zombie story, but something good and worth watching.

We follow a group of characters that have to fight their way out of a zombie-infested hotel only to end up at an industrial plant where the zombies might not be the worst things around. (Spoilers: they aren’t, because Lost in Apocalypse follows the rules of good zombie movies and has people and their failings be more of a monster than anything else going on) There is Jack (Martin Yang) the school dropout working as a driver for Rich (Mingyi Yang), who is a jerk but Jack is loyal because he was the only one who would give him work when he was desperate. There is Helen (E’Naan Zhang) the news reporter who is caught in the trap of the only way her career will advance is if she sleeps with someone. Jack is involved in a business deal with Director Wu (Jia Fengzhu), which has something to do with schools but as we learn Director Wu has his hands in many pots and some of those pots are full of things that grab back. Jack reconnects with his old friend Michael, their paths diverging long ago due to Jack leaving school while Michael going on to become a successful reporter and family man. But before the deal can be finalized trouble bursts literally through the front door as a zombie comes in the room and people start getting chomped. There is a desperate stand as people who don’t necessarily like each other have to work together to try to escape, and due to a plot framing device we know several of them aren’t going to make it to later in the film.
Lost in Apocalypse
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 28, 2018 at 6:35 am

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China Heat (Review)

China Heat

aka 中華警花 aka Zhong Hua Jing Hua aka 霸王花之中華警花
China Heat
1992
Written by William Cheung Kei, Goo Siu-Yin, and Naam Fung
Directed by William Cheung Kei and Yang Yang

China Heat

I stop watching The Office after Steve Carell leaves and suddenly Dwight Schrute is a mob boss!


China Heat gives us Girls with Guns, lots of people getting shot, kung fu battles, and an big injection of 80s-90s American cop movie, complete with the cop who doesn’t play by the rules. There are a lot of Western actors in this movie, but they don’t really ruin the movie, the ones depicted as smart let the women take the lead, while the ones depicted as dumb try to get in their way or are working for the other side. It all results in a weird hybrid movie, but also gives China Heat a nice, unique flavor that doesn’t get in the way of the action enjoyment.
China Heat

This takes private jet to a whole new level!


Madam Wu (Sibelle Hu Hui-Chung) is a tough as nails leader of an anti-drug task force that not only engages in major firefights across Asia, but she pilots a fighter jet between countries (!!!) Someone got permission to shoot on an airbase in Asia and took full advantage of the situation! Her squad is massive, which is good because so are the resources available to the drug cartels and smugglers they are chasing. Madam Wu’s biggest assistants are Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey. They are after a squad of drug smugglers lead by Henry Hung, Henry has the amazing powers to be able to escape from gigantic shootouts as the only person from his side left alive. He uses one of those escapes to go to America, where the local mob bosses praise him and give him a special mob ring right before the police arrest him.

Madam Wu sends Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey to go escort him for extradition, and the American police Chief assigns the cop who doesn’t play by the rules named Michael to help guard the prisoner. We all know Henry is going to escape, lots of people are going to get shot, Madam Wu is going to have to arrive to help sort things out, and Michael is going to get thrown off the case. The joy isn’t in the story, but in the action sequences. There are large shootouts, long fight sequences in an airliner, warehouses, construction zones, and a giant shipping crane over the water. The villains even stoop to sending a squad of guys in dresses to attack the women in the ladies restroom! China Heat is not afraid to have obvious dummies with exploding heads used in some of the fight scenes, and I salute them for it.

China Heat

When you’re lucky this movie was shot while McDonald’s still served the McJordan Special!


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 16, 2018 at 6:16 am

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Animal World (Review)

Animal World

aka 动物世界 aka Dongwu Shijie
Animal World
2018
Based on the manga by Nobuyuki Fukumoto
Written and directed by Han Yan

Animal World
The trailer for Animal World featured a murder clown slicing and dicing his way through subway cars full of rejected alien designs from the Star Wars prequels. Also Michael Douglas was randomly in it. These things meant that of course I was going to go watch it if I got a chance, and thanks to the magic of it actually getting a release in America and MoviePass, I snagged me a seat as soon as humanly possible. It also meant that I saw two separate Michael Douglas movies in theaters in one week, as Ant-Man and the Wasp also dropped. This is what we call synchronicity, and further solidified the goal of seeing Animal World in theaters. While the trailers were almost entirely murder clown-focused, Animal World is actually a movie about high-stakes gambling, as in you play Rock/Paper/Scissors on a ship in international waters, and if you lose, you get experimented on until you die! Don’t worry, it’s even more weird than it sounds, yet I can’t say I was disappointed.

Zheng Kaisi (Li Yifeng) is your typical young guy with problems, in that his parents were brutally assaulted as a child, leaving his dad dead, his mom in a coma, and Kaisi imprinted with a cartoon of a murder clown that was playing on the television during the attack. Now, whenever he is stressed, he will start seeing images of the monsters and believes he is transforming into the murder clown himself and striking them down. While this leads to some ridiculous imagery, it doesn’t lead to a healthy mental life, which is why he’s working as a clown in an arcade and perpetually broke. He can’t even afford to marry his girl Liu Qing (Zhou Dongyu – This Is Not What I Expected), who works at a nurse at the facility his mom is kept at. This changes when his former childhood friend Li Jun (Cao Bingkun) reappears with a can’t miss opportunity to make money. We all know this will miss spectacularly, and now Kaisi is in massive debt. Big enough debt goons are following him. Goons working for Michael Douglas, who plays a bored bankster who has resorted to organizing death sports among people who have gigantic debts. I guess it’s more profitable than them dying in bankruptcy?
Animal World
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - July 7, 2018 at 7:52 pm

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How Long Will I Love U (Review)

How Long Will I Love U

aka 超时空同居 aka Chao Shi Kong Tong Ju
How Long Will I Love U
2018
Written and directed by Su Lun
How Long Will I Love U
Time-displaced romantic comedy How Long Will I Love U succeeds entirely on the backs of the chemistry of the two leads, Tong Liya and Lei Jaiyin. Thanks to them, what would be a by the numbers film instead becomes an engaging exploration of people chasing dreams while being pressured by life and tempted to make unsatisfactory choices to further their own goals.

In 2018, Gu Xiao-Jiao (Tong Liya) works at jewelry store desperate to marry but mostly because she wants a husband to buy her a house. A very specific house, the house she grew up in before her father died. But she’s over 30 and also the target of scammers who soon manage to walk off with most of her savings, putting her even farther away from her dream. In 1999 Lu Ming (Lei Jia-yin) is a struggling architect who has no one to sponsor his designs for construction. He’s also broke and stumbles across a plot at work from his supervisor to steal from his boss. His supervisor offers to fund his projects if he looks the other way, giving Lu Ming a real moral dilemma. Both of them live in the very same apartment in the same building 21 years apart. Now it’s time for time travel! Due to the power of it’s what happens for the plot, their apartments merge together into a sort of hybrid apartment.

Upon awakening Gu immediately starts hitting Lu Ming and chasing him around the apartment with a cleaver, but both of them stop when they realize half of the apartment is not the one they know, and the weather is completely different out of the two different windows (one shows a sunny day, the other a torrential downpour!) The door has handles on both sides, they figure out that if Ming opens his side, they arrive in 1999, while if Gu opens her side, they are in 2018. They cannot open the other person’s door side, and if they try to open both sides at once, the apartments begin contracting more. It’s time’s way of keeping things in balance. We see this later as computers won’t allow network access to Google what happened to Lu Ming, nor will Ming’s phone allow Gu Xiao-Jiao to call her father. An attempt to buy lottery tickets in 1999 results in the ticket blanking out.
How Long Will I Love U
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 4, 2018 at 9:10 am

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Dead Pigs (Review)

Dead Pigs

Dead Pigs movie
2018
Written and directed by Cathy Yan

TarsTarkas.NET returns for one last CAAMFest 2018 movie review! Even before Cathy Yan got tapped for Birds of Prey I was interested in seeing Dead Pigs, as it was getting some great buzz and people I trust on Twitter were thrilled with it. It’s a story of modern China as it goes through the growing pains of leaping forward to superpower status at light speed. It’s also five different interconnected narratives that are part of a larger picture of unintended consequences and reveal a lifestyle of walls of deception being put up to fake achievements that just haven’t quite happened yet. Pieces with multiple characters and stories can be complicated and sometimes just don’t work at all, but Yan has managed to weave together the parts into a wonderful tapestry, and I hope this is just the beginning of an amazing narrative career.

Old Wang (Yang Hao-Yu) is a pig farmer but his pigs start dying. The bigger problem is he borrowed a bunch of money to invest and got swindled by a fly by night operator. The pigs were his collateral and now the triads he borrowed the money from are angry. His sister Candy Wang (Vivian Wu Jun-Mei) women powered business with mantras and slogans and networking but lives alone with her dog in the house she grew up in. Right now it is a nail house, the last house standing where a modern development project is going in, and she refuses to leave. The desolate location is offset by the house’s bright colors and whimsical decorations, but all of which look quaint compared to the modern new architecture and design going up everywhere else.
Dead Pigs movie
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 27, 2018 at 8:08 am

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