Posts tagged "China"

Hanson and the Beast (Review)

Hanson and the Beast

aka 二代妖精 aka Er Dai Yao Qing
Hanson and the Beast
2017
Written by Xiao Yang and Guo Yiwen
Directed by Xiao Yang

Hanson and the Beast
A tale as old as time in Chinese cinema is humans and fairies hooking up, and Hanson and the Beast is the latest incarnation of that situation. To try to switch things up, Hanson throws in a bunch of economic anxiety and racial oppression being used as a tool of power by a corrupt official. The result is a big budget effects film that seems like it has a lot to say, even as there is an obvious point where they ran out of money and the themes are mostly simplistic when looked at with any depth. That being said, Hanson and the Beast manages to be enjoyable in a sweet way and I ended up coming out of it liking it a lot more than I thought I would. Somehow this cynical soul is growing soft as he hits middle age. Must be popcorn poisoning or something!

Hanson Yuan Shuai (Feng Shaofeng) is a broke zookeeper (we learn he was bamboozled out of money trying to get a film financed and the resulting drama caused his dad to have a mental breakdown) trying to get rich quick through an arranged relationship deal. He has a gang of tryhard Triads trying to shake him down for the $2 million he owes them, and to top it all off, now a crazy woman is stalking him. Except she’s not crazy, she’s just weird, and believes she is a fox that he saved as a child from some bullies. Of course she actually is, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie! She’s Bai Xianchu (Liu Yifei – The Forbidden Kingdom, The Four) and her reveal as a fox fairy causes Yuan Shuai to freak out and run down the road screaming in his underwear.
Hanson and the Beast
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 5, 2018 at 7:06 am

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Kung Fu Yoga (Review)

Kung Fu Yoga

aka 功夫瑜伽 aka Gong Fu Yu Jia
Kung Fu Yoga
2017
Written by directed by Stanley Tong
Kung Fu Yoga
Jackie Chan is still a legend, and though he’s running past retirement age, he’s still out there punching bad guys in the face. We get plenty of action in Kung Fu Yoga, a sprawling archeological adventure that spans the whole of Asia while not forgetting to be fun on the way. Fans of CGI lion puking will be especially pleased with Kung Fu Yoga. In an era where Chinese blockbusters can be hit or miss, Kung Fu Yoga delivers a win, even though at first glance you would wonder if it could.
Kung Fu Yoga
Jackie Chan is Jack, the famous Chinese archeologist who is one of the best archeologists anywhere, even though he will repeatedly point out that he’s just one guy and there are many good archeologists in China. Jack is humble, see, but he’s popular enough that the mysterious Ashmita (Disha Patani) has brought an ancient map from her family’s archives that might point the way to the lost treasure of a Chinese army that went to India. We see parts of this flashback in the opening sequence in Playstation-3-o-vision, as CGI Jackie Chan, Aarif Lee, and Sonu Sood battle amidst elephants and nameless troops. Jack and his grad students – Xiaoguang (Zhang Yixing) and Noumin (played by famous yoga practitioner Miya Muqi) snag the son of Jack’s old archeology bud, Jones Lee (Aarif Lee Chi-Ting, and his name is far from the only Indiana Jones reference in the film!) to go treasure hunting! Also Eric Tsang is briefly there because his character owns an oil refinery company that can break through ice. Science and industry, synergizing together!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 8, 2018 at 9:35 am

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Bleeding Steel (Review)

Bleeding Steel

aka 機器之血
Bleeding Steel
2017
Story by Leo Zhang Li-Jia
Screenplay by Cui Si-Wei and Erica Xia-Hou
Directed by Leo Zhang Li-Jia

Bleeding Steel
In the climax of Bleeding Steel, Jackie Chan battles goth cyborgs on a Star Destroyer in the futuristic world of 2020 to save his dead daughter who was revitalized with magic blood and a robot heart. That is just the tip of the iceberg here, folks! Moviepass has become a blessing, enabling me to go catch the various Asian flicks that sporadically appear unannounced at the local multiplex for a few days before vanishing into the ether. Chasing the Dragon, Never Say Die, and The Thousand Faces of Dunjia were all benefits of this, and when Bleeding Steel popped up in the listings while I was trying to find times for The Shape of Water, I knew merman love could wait a day! And thank goodness it did, because Bleeding Steel is one of the most bonkers films I have seen all year, it delights in being insane, continually going over the top and then continuing to climb and climb. I filled two pages of notes and then gave up because things were happening too fast to keep up with, and just enjoyed the ride!
Bleeding Steel
Jackie Chan is a super cop named Lin, who leaves his young daughter Xixi dying in the hospital (how many kids has Jackie buried in films now?) because he needs to lead the police escort of a mad scientist named Dr. James, who has switched sides and brought the magic biotech he was working on along with him. Despite there being around 50ish heavily armed police officers, that is not even slightly enough. The villain Andre appears (Callan Mulvey, from Captain America Winter Soldier and Batman v Superman) along with four goons dressed as Cobra B.A.T.S., armed with high powered weapons and a robot snake that plants bombs (and is never seen again or even acknowledged!) Andre is dressed like Emperor Palpatine, bald with pale white skin but his entire jaw is painted black (probably from chewing all the scenery!) He randomly fires grenades at the cops, and when a repeatedly shot Jackie Chan tries to run him over, Andre starts shoving the car! Jackie Chan does manage to blow up Andre, but Chan’s daughter dies alone, Jackie almost dies, every cop except Su (Erica Xia-Hou Qi-Yu) is dead, and the scientist is mortally wounded.
Bleeding Steel
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 24, 2017 at 4:28 pm

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The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (Review)

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia

aka 奇門遁甲 aka Qi Men Dun Jia
Thousand Faces of Dunjia
2017
Written by Tsui Hark
Directed by Yuen Woo-ping

Ni Ni Thousand Faces of Dunjia
The Thousand Faces of Dunjia isn’t just another martial arts film, it is a wuxia fantasy with science fiction elements, including alien invaders in search of weapons of ultimate power. It’s directed by Yuen Woo Ping,a remake of his 1982 The Miracle Fighters, except it is completely different, more of a remake in concept only. The script is by Tsui Hark, and it stars some great actors like Zhou Dongyu and Da Peng. The film should have worked, which makes the fact that it didn’t even more disappointing.

Ultimately The Thousand Faces of Dunjia falls into the same trap that has ensnared so many other Chinese films, it becomes as soulless as the big budget blockbusters it tries to live up to. In a weird example, the best scene in the entire movie is a mid-credits scene where they basically roast on some of the more ridiculous concepts that happened earlier. It’s the kind of heart and good-natured ribbing the rest of the film should have been filled with. There were some humorous scenes, but mostly slapstick style humor, nothing that is basically on the same level.

Despite the group of heroes being made up of a solid core of actors, the villains are largely CGI creatures. They mind control a few martial arts masters into their bidding, but it is largely just CG villains arguing with each other and vaguely working against the heroes. Basically the entire villain side of the film completely fails, and that sort of sucks. Of the CGI monsters, the initial fish monster is the most fun, largely because they designed it to look like a crazy stop motion creation running around. When the larger villains show up, one is made of a bunch of red tendrils while the other is like a gargoyle. One of the heroes also turns into a CGI character, a blue phoenix that is vaguely symbolic.
Zhou Dong-Yu Thousand Faces of Dunjia
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 21, 2017 at 6:57 am

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Never Say Die (Review)

Never Say Die

aka 羞羞的铁拳 aka Xiu Xiu De Tie Quan
Never Say Die
2017
Directed by Yang Song and Chiyu Zhang
Never Say Die
A fun body swap comedy that throws any sort of sexual politics to the wayside in favor of lots of wacky antics, Never Say Die often runs into mo lei tau territory. That is fantastic, there just hasn’t been enough weird, fun stuff coming from Chinese cinema, and if they have to crib from Stephen Chow’s playbook to do it, fine with me. Never Say Die has been rewarded for being funny with some good box office returns (some of which might even be legitimate!), and gets the TarsTarkas.NET Seal of Approval! (Note: Seal of Approval does not contain actual seals.)

The film is merciless towards ultimate fighting, depicting it as an incredibly corrupt institution controlled by a family that profits off of the use and destruction of the other fighters, while promoting their son, Fight King Wu Liang (Xue Haowen) as the undefeated champion for years. Edison (Allen Ai Lun) is even introduced as being part of this machine, his first appearance is holding own on throwing a fight while demanding more money, and his character is coming off a suspension for giving bribes to the Fight King (for a match Edison lost and had his arm broken during) Later fighters are obviously bribed, including one who complains that the fighter won’t even try to attack them so they can fake lose.

Reporter Ma Xiao (Ma Li) is a no-nonsense sports reporter who will do whatever it takes to get her story, which is usually about how awful the various ultimate fighters are. Which is ironic, given that she is engaged to the Fight King himself! As Edison is announcing his big comeback for a rematch with the Fight King (provided he wins enough qualifying matches to do so), she harasses him at the press conference and then overhears him discussing with his manager, Ma Dong (Tian Yu), about how Ma Dong bribed enough fighters to take a dive to ensure a rematch. An attempt by Edison to retrieve Ma Xiao’s take with incriminating evidence results in the two switching bodies thanks to the power of accidentally kissing while falling in a swimming pool when lightning strikes. You know, the usual stuff. The fun then begins as they both walk several miles in each others shoes and realize things aren’t as simple as they first appear (or as I have described them above!)
Never Say Die
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 2, 2017 at 7:19 am

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This Is Not What I Expected (Review)

This Is Not What I Expected

aka 喜欢你
This Is Not What I Expected
2017
Written by Yuan Li and Yimeng Xu
Based on the book Finally I Get You by Lan Bai Se
Directed by Derek Hui Wang-Yu

This Is Not What I Expected
You better eat before you sit down to watch This Is Not What I Expected, because the lavish and constant footage of the porniest of food porn is enough to send any viewer’s stomach rumbling (spoiler alert, even the main characters have growling stomachs in the final scene!) From the opening shot of a steak on the grill to the intricately timed details for the perfect instant ramen bowl, the food becomes the media the rest of the romantic comedy is built around.

Let’s just ignore the implausibility of parts of the plot (that’s par for the course in a romantic comedy!) and just focus on the chemistry of the leads, the infusion of the plot elements, and whether the male character goes into stalker creeper mode. Things do get a bit messed up later on down the line, but it is nothing an extra line or two couldn’t have fixed. This is Derek Hui’s feature debut, usually spending time as an editor (Wu Xia, Man of Tai Chi). He does a some neat sequences and montages that give it a visual edge over the average romantic comedy, but it also made me greedy for more.

Gu Shengnan (Zhou Dong-Yu – Under the Hawthorn Tree) is introduced scratching rude words into the hood of a car, revenge on her friend’s cheating boyfriend (her friend Xu Zhaodi is played by model Ming Xi) It turns out to be the wrong car, belonging to billionaire investor Lu Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro – K-20: Legend of the Mask), who after some convincing promises not to call the police if she gets the hood repaired at his preferred shop before a certain time. Her life isn’t going well, as her boss who is also her secret boyfriend dumps her, and she feels her chef job is going nowhere. Gu Shengnan is 29, while in the US there is pressure for ladies to marry before they are 30, in China it is even worse where 29 is considered by many to be so old the women are a lost cause.
This Is Not What I Expected
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 20, 2017 at 7:19 am

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