Category Archives: Chinese

Vanguard (2020)

I can’t say “Vanguard” is boring, because like someone waving a toy in front of a baby’s face, its color and movement make it distracting. As well as expensive (though why so many of the CGI effects are so bad given what this movie must have cost, I have no idea). But it is senseless and ridiculous, even by the most lightweight fantasy-action-movie standards. It really feels like they said “OK, we have about a dozen ideas here for generic ripoffs of other movies…hey, let’s cram them all into ONE movie, and stick Jackie Chan on top!” From one scene to the next, this film has no idea what it wants to be–so it tries everything, badly. I laughed out loud at some things that were meant to be taken seriously.

I’m not sure bloodthirsty terrorists need to be heavily featured in a movie geared towards 10-year-olds, but that seems the approximate age group targeted here. Yet at the same time “Vanguard” isn’t exactly a family film–or anything else, for more than a few minutes at a time. What it is, is a mess. A loud, expensive, busy mess that does Jackie no favors, or any of the younger cast members either.

Please note that if you click on their names, every single “user” here who gave “Vanguard” ten stars has mysteriously never reviewed another film, and only been on IMBD for a month. This movie flopped even in China, but Chinese bots sure are working overtime to try to push it here.

Review by ofumalow

Till The End Of The World (2018)

Bearing the distinction of being the first film shot – at least partly – in Antarctica, Wu You Yin’s Till the End of the World follows Wu Fuchun (Mark Chao), a successful businessman on his way to Antarctica for a bold publicity stunt. On the small plane he chartered is Jing Ruyi (Yang Zishan), a scientist on her way to a polar station to study auroras. But when a snow storm leads the the crash of their plane, Fuchun and Ruyi survive but are left stranded in the immensity of the south pole, with almost no hope of rescue. Though they find shelter in a small cabin with a few supplies, their only hope of salvation is to locate the station to which Ruyi, now immobilized by a leg injury, was headed. With no idea of their location, they decide that Fuchun will venture in all four directions for a few days at a time (at a time of the year when there’s no night), but soon love blossoms between the two survivors.

A very close cousin to Hany Abu-Assad’s The Mountain Between Us and, to a lesser extent, Zhao Hantang’s Seventy-Seven Days, Till the End of the World benefits, like these two films, from the majesty of its inhospitable snowbound landscapes, which are so jaw-dropping that even an episode of The Young and the Restless would achieve some poetic resonance if it were set within them. Wu You Yin’s film is passable as a tale of survival, full of interesting facts about Antarctica (dispensed sometimes so straight-fowardly that the film starts looking like a documentary with a very dramatic voice-over), and dire situations, such as when Fuchun gets stuck in a glacier, or when a passing whale cracks the ice of a frozen lake. But verisimilitude is too often thrown to the polar winds for the film to really be visceral and intense: for example, after running out of air and losing consciousness in frozen water, still manages to awake and swim to the surface.

As a love story, the film is broad but effective: rather than finding hope in love, as in so many romances, Fuchun and Ruyi find love in hope; their romantic feelings seemingly a result of their being alone in this world and determined to survive. Mark Chao’s performance is a teary bid at acting awards but nevertheless compelling in its thoughtless optimism slowly cracking under the weight of fate. Yang Zishan knows tragic love like the back of her hand, and though her character initially feels too dour to be engaging, it soon appears to be simply on a higher level of subtlety than the film itself. If merciless, majestic Antarctica is an obvious metaphor of fate, her mix of strength and resignation (and indeed strength in resignation) is as haunting as its winds. The film sometimes wavers in tone, with cameos by cute penguins and a subplot involving a frozen turd that Fuchun thinks is a meteorite (not kidding), and its final image involving a whale is a bit heavy-handed (heavy-finned ?), while Joe Hisashi’s score is a bit too florid yet mixed too low, to slightly awkward effect. Still, in choosing fate and inevitability over cheap inspiration, it’s a welcome addition to the subgenre of survival love stories.

Long Story Short: Though it sometimes stretches believability and occasionally wavers awkwardly in tone, Till the End of the World is an effective and at times haunting tale of strength and resignation. ***

Review by AsianFilmStrike

Final Recipe (2013)

Having premiered in various festivals in 2013 and 2014, Gina Kim’s Final Recipe had to wait two years to get released anywhere, and has still only come out in Mainland China. A South Korean-Thai production shot in English and Mandarin, it tells of Mark (Henry Lau), a student who was raised by his grandfather Hao (Chang Tseng), after his mother died and his father left on a business trip and never came back. Hao owns a restaurant but his exacting standards and bad temper have chased customers and employees away, and foreclosure is impending. Thus Mark decides to join a TV cooking competition called Final Recipe, hosted and run by Julia Lee (Michelle Yeoh) and her husband David Chan (Chin Han), who lost a son years ago before meeting her. In order to enter the show, Mark has to pose as a Russian contestant who didn’t show up, and soon rises through the ranks under the name Dimitri Bekmambetov. But one day as Julia Lee tastes a pork dish the young man just made, she is instantly reminded of the first time she met her husband, fifteen years before…

It’s hard to understand why Final Recipe has stayed buried for what in theatrical years amounts to an eternity, especially given the popularity of TV cooking competitions: it’s a minor crowd-pleaser, a simplistic but charming little diversion that’s an absolute torture to watch on an empty stomach (seriously, get a sandwich before watching it). The plot goes from trite  set-ups to blindingly obvious twists, with a few glaring plot holes a thick serving of melodrama, not to mention cringeworthy dialogue (“Disappointment with a side-serving of lies? I know what it tastes like! Sorry, forgiveness is not on the menu.”). And yet it’s a difficult film to dislike. Its food porn is well-shot, its disposition is sunny and unpretentious, and its Pan-Asian cast does much to win the audience over: Henry Lau is charmingly natural, Aden Young and Lika Minamoto provide some pleasing supporting bickering as competitors, and more importantly, there’s Michelle. In a role integral to the plot but often peripheral to the action, she serves mostly as a reaction-shot generator, whether it be tasting dishes or emoting in silence while other people get reunited and/or reconciled. Looking so beautiful she easily upstages all the lovingly-shot noodles and fried pork (trust us, we are not being ironic), she also provides a depth of emotion that is certainly not in the script.

Long Story Short: Trite and simplistic though it may be, Final Recipe is a charming bit of food porn that benefits from an appealing cast – especially the ever-classy Michelle Yeoh.

Review by asianfilmstrike

The Taking of Tiger Mountain (2014)

Like John Woo’s ‘The Crossing’, Tsui Hark’s ‘The Taking of Tiger Mountain’ is set during the Civil War in the late 1940s; but instead of depicting the struggle between the People’s Liberation Army and the Nationalists, Tsui and his four other screenwriters pit a certain Unit 203 of the PLA against a band of ruthless bandits whose stronghold is located high up in the snowy Tiger Mountain. Key to the PLA’s strategy was a certain Yang Zirong, who infiltrated the bandits’ stronghold and provided vital information which enabled his unit to triumph guerrilla-style against their more numerous and more well-equipped enemies.

No matter that he has been made to look like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Zhang Hanyu commands every single moment he is on screen as Zirong with a compelling performance of nuance and gravitas. While Lin Gengxin plays the righteous leader of Unit 203 Shao Jianbo with conviction and Tony Leung Kar-Fai is suitably hammy as the bandits’ leader Lord Hawk, it is Zhang who truly owns the entire film, and it is no coincidence that his character is the most fully formed one of a movie which sometimes struggles to find the right balance of tone between fiction and history.

That is perhaps inevitable given the slightly uneasy fit between material and filmmaker. Much as Tsui Hark is no stranger to epics, he isn’t exactly the sort of filmmaker who tells a straightforward historical tale – even his arguably most popular ‘Once Upon A Time in China’ trilogy about the legendary folk hero Wong Fei Hung was embellished with his penchant for the theatrical. And so it is with his latest, which depicts the heroism of the 203 Unit with the sort of self-serious posture which historical accounts typically adopt but the loutishness of the bandits with the sort of eccentricity that made his fantasy epics such as ‘The Legend of Zu’ and the more recent ‘Detective Dee’ enjoyable flights of fancy.

Amidst the tonal shifts, Zhang more than holds his own as Tsui’s protagonist, an enigmatic stranger who joins the 203 with the medical officer Bai Ru (Tong Liya) and is at first met with doubt and scepticism by Jianbo. It is Zirong who comes up with the plan for him to go undercover by bringing to Lord Hawk a much coveted map with the locations of treasure left by the fleeing Japanese at the end of the Sino-Japanese war, and also to his quick-witted credit that he manages to win the trust of Lord Hawk to be sworn in as one of the league of brothers.

It is a shaky one though – not only is he tested from within by his Second Brother (Yu Xing) who stages a mock invasion by the PLA and Lord Hawk’s woman Qinglian (Yu Nan) who is under orders to try to seduce him, Zirong’s identity is also threatened when a spy planted by the bandits within the villagers escapes after a failed attack by the former on the PLA soldiers protecting the latter. Such moments of genuine tension are perfectly positioned to keep the narrative taut, which largely unfolds as a buildup to the storming of the bandits’ fortress on the eve of New Year’s Eve on the occasion of Lord Hawk’s birthday.

Quite unlike the typical Tsui Hark movie therefore, this one has clearly fewer setpieces; indeed, we count just three – the first encounter between the PLA 203 Unit and the bandits at an abandoned warehouse; the failed attack led by Fifth and Sixth Brother on the village protected by the same unit; and finally the incursion of Lord Hawk’s bastion to annihilate his reign of tyranny once and for all. Nonetheless, apart from some gimmicky slo-mo shots meant to justify the price of 3D for those who paid to see it with the additional dimension, these setpieces unfold with the scale and spectacle that one would expect from Tsui, the latter two in particular pop with thrill and imagination using a combination of old-school stunt staging and some nifty modern day CG effects.

Not quite so successful is Tsui’s attempt to capture the poignancy of the historical event – besides Zirong, the rest of the PLA heroes are portrayed with as much dimension as a propaganda film commissioned by the Chinese government itself, especially when their enemies are cast as their complete opposites. A sub-plot based upon the reunion of mother and son – the latter a young boy named Knotti the 203 Unit rescues and the former who turns out to be Qinglian – is too manipulative to be persuasive, even more so when it is used to bookend the narrative with a prologue and a coda set in 2015.

Notwithstanding Tsui’s autobiographical intent, the nexus that Tsui draws with present day is stretched most tenuously with an utterly unnecessary alternate ending that sees the Wolverine-lookalike Zirong turn into the very superhero by trying to rescue Qinglian from a twin-propeller plane that Lord Hawk is trying to take off in from a private airstrip in the mountain. As far as analogies go, this is a perfect example of the Chinese saying ‘draw snake add feet’ – so much so that its inclusion almost takes way what legitimacy Tsui had tried to build into the story in the first place.

As probably his first historical epic, ‘The Taking of Tiger Mountain’ sees Tsui Hark struggle to find the right balance between reality and myth. Tsui’s best films have been those which have allowed him to express his own inner eccentricities, but which prove out of place in a straightforward recount like this. The narrative flaws are all too obvious at the start and at the end, but thankfully, as far as the titular tale is concerned, Tsui has fashioned a gripping story of espionage that does history justice.

Review by moviexclusive

Dying to Survive (2018)

It starts with A middle-aged man with his father in need of his money for operation, his wife planning to take away his child. This man accidentally was introduced to a man with serious cancer who asked his help to smuggle Indian drug to save his life to replace the Swiss extremely expensive one that he cannot afford.

He gradually “imported” and got his first capital from this business. However as he understood more about the truth, he went to his self redemption road and earned himself “the god of cancer drug”.

It’s a shame that this movie doesn’t get the international recognition that it deserves. Because unaffordable medicine is a global problem not that of China alone. It’s also a problem in first world countries even those with a sophisticated welfare system. It just so happens that it hits third world countries harder because of the wealth gap.

Pharmaceutical companies, mostly western ones holds a monopoly position in the industry and claims that the high costs is needed to fund research of new medicine. How much of that is true is to be debated. Especially when most pharmaceutical companies are listed in the stock exchange, one is left to wonder why the funds for research cannot be collected through stock and shares. And the assumption is easily made that most of the money goes directly as profit into the pockets of the management. Earning money over the bodies of others as they say….

Well done of these Chinese film producers to make this issue go public and open for debate, and many other countries should be ashamed for not addressing this subject. The movie is very raw and well shot, with some comedic elements and some very emotional scenes. All of the actors brought their A game and it made you feel as if you were watching a documentary instead of dramatic version of the story which is based on real event.

The overall message is clear, sometimes one have no choice to go against the mainstream, in order to do some good. For all the people concerned they meant well.

 

Review by wesseldj-48581

 

The Great Hypnotist (2014)

The Great Hypnotist offers an intriguing mixture of a psychological thriller and a mysterious drama. The movie convinces with a gloomy atmosphere from start to finish. With a length around one hour and a half without the credits, the film has solid pace and is coherent and consistent. The story is also very interesting and comes around with a few minor surprises and one twist that might be predictable for genre experts but that is still greatly executed because the movie offers many clues and details to the viewers. This immersive film is quite intellectual and offers some food for thought and debates long after you have watched it.

The story revolves around a famous psychologist who uses hypnosis to make his patients fight their inner demons. One day, the case of a troublesome woman who believes to see ghosts around her but doesn’t understand their purpose is referred to the psychologist. It turns out that this isn’t only going to be his most complex but also his most personal case.

There aren’t too many negative elements to mention in this very good film. What bothers me a little bit is the fact that the two main characters are hard to symapthise with at first contact. The psychologist is full of himself while the patient acts in a hostile way. Some of these behaviors are explained towards the end and the last third of the film changes the initial perceptions completely. Still, the slightly antipathic characters make an initial approach to the film somewhat difficult. However, your patience will be rewarded by the end of the movie.

In the end, you should watch The Great Hypnotist if you like psychological thrillers or mysterious dramas. This movie stands out with its challenging story that requests the viewers to immerse themselves fully into a highly atmospheric film. Thanks to a gloomy atmosphere, this film is best enjoyed on a lonely night at home.

 

Review by Kluseba

Wolf Warrior 2 (2017)

Jing Wu – One of the best martial artist and his stunts are always eye catching and stunning to watch. At this best in this movie.
Frank Grillo – Casual and smart
Celina Jade- Cute and Simple
Gang Wu – Matured and Well done in the stunts
Hans Zhang – Cute and Honest performance
Others – Well supported
Story – An ex special force guy lives a peaceful life in Africa, hunt for a killer who killed his lover and also protect the people as a soldier
Cinematography – Effortless
Screenplay – Smooth
Direction – Top Notch
Wolf Warrior 2 (2017) – Action Flick! It’s a movie for action lovers. The revolution, stunts and action scenes makes the movie worth to watch. The starting stunt inside the water was awesome and credit to stunt and cinematography team for capturing it well. The team work is clearly shown in each and every scene, even though the story is simple and predictable. Some of the action scenes are raw and less CG is work is used. One of the high production Chinese movie shot in the Africa. Everyone does their part neat and executed well.

Throne of Elves (2016)

Fish – Cool and Smart
Liya – Beautiful
Others – Supportive
Story – In the mythical elven world of althera, A fight between two sisters where one is good and other one is evil. Finally the truth wins.
Cinematography – Cool
Screenplay – Mixed
Direction – Worthy
Throne of Elves (2016) – We all know that animation movies are fun to watch even though the story is predicable except the way they present it. The face of each characters are beautiful and cute. It’s a good movie with mixed of avatar touch and fantasy world.

Dumplings (2004)

Bai Ling – Casual and matured
Miriam Chin Wah Yeung – Competitive and honest
Others – Good
Story – A woman sells the special dumplings which has the power to stay young. Abortion and foetus are the reason behind the secret ingredients used in the dumplings.
Cinematography – Cool
Screenplay – Slow
Direction – Good
Dumplings (2004) – This movie is about staying young by eating dumplings who uses foetus as a secret ingredients. Some scenes are yuck and it’s still happening in china. Strictly for people with strong heart. Cannibalism.

Chongqing Hot Pot (2016)

Kun Chen(Liu Bo) – Rock and Roll
Baihe Bai(Yu Xiaohui) – Small role but strong performance
Others – Perfect
Story – When a friend tried to dig a hole to expand his restuarant where it leads to the vault which is going to be robbed
Music – Matching
Screenplay – Slow and Steady
Direction – Justified
Chongqing Hot Pot (2016) – Surprising and worth watching for some of the shots and scenes!