Review: Forever Young is a poignant love letter to the world

 I cried three times in the process of editing this review. This sweepingly beautiful but simple ode to Tsinghua University is a tear-jerker for all seasons.

Set against one of the most stunning visuals of the year, Forever Young 无问西东 tells its simple tales with an incredibly romantic lens that makes it difficult not to admire.  Director Li Fangfang (Heaven Eternal, Love Everlasting) always manages to play my emotions just right to evoke all my emotions for the world she captures.

The film from centers around four loosely connected stories of six characters (played by Wang Leehom, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Huang Xiaoming, Tie Zheng, and Chen Chusheng) facing their true selves through making difficult choices, from scary ones like life-and-death decisions to the even scarier decision of picking a college major. Continue reading

Review: Suddenly Seventeen

Verdict:  You would probably like it if you like chick flicks, and not if otherwise. 

A  cross between Freaky Friday and Seventeen AgainSudden Seventeen 28岁未成年 is a fun, heartwarming, albeit  cliched chick flick that surprisingly does not have a romantic message.  It’s also a monumental tribute to the beauty of Ni Ni.  

“Today is the tenth day of Summer (Ni Ni) being a perfect housewife.  Like the 3650 days before today, she got up at 7 am, had perfect hair and a perfect outfit, made breakfast, and is ready for her beau (Wallace Huo) to awake up. But today was different. She had seen a ring in his coat and he was going to propose.”

When it turns out the ring was for someone else, Summer breaks down and in the midst of her breakdown, sees an advertisement for chocolates that will make her happy again.  It turns out that a bite of the chocolate makes her … drumroll…. seventeen again.   Continue reading

Review: Detective Chinatown 2

[Image: Sorry there’s no image, I already wasted enough time to write a synopsis for this potentially great film tainted by too much poo. ]

Verdict:  A sequel whose quality lives up to the original, with a tight, intriguing detective story and almost no wasted plot points.  Unfortunately, the humor moves from voyeurism and verbal misogyny to straight-up sexual harassment from the leads, and ended with a  huge  f- you to the audience  from the director Chen Sicheng that made me decide to never see another movie by him again.

In Detective Chinatown 2, scriptwriter-director Chen Sicheng proves himself once more as a talented scriptwriters and directors, but also the  misogynistic jerk we all know he is. The sequel features a whodunnit story that’s just as compelling, full of plot twists, and sharply written as the first one.  Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) and  ( Liu Haoran) once shine as the buddy cop pair, this time joined by the welcomed addition of Xiao Yang, the new guy framed for a series of mysterious murders in New York City.

Unfortunately, the story’s treatment of its female characters left me with so much bitter taste it’s hard to enjoy it.   With two women in fridges, multiple sexual harassments and one incident that I think looked like sexual assault by Tang Ren, a cheap plot of “she-left-me-for-money” to get rid of the former female lead (Tong Liya), the story was oozing with misogyny.

*spoiler below* Continue reading

Review: Detective Chinatown

Easily one of the best mysteries and best comedies of the past few years, Detective Chinatown is a sure crowd pleaser.

A belated review for one of my favorite films of 2016 to get ready for the sequel. Detective Chinatown 2 will be distributed by Warner Bros in the U.S. and will open in 48 markets (biggest in a long time for a Chinese film).

A clean and twist-filled mystery embellished with well-executed humor and splashes of romance kept me on the edge of my seats  for Detective Chinatown 唐人街探案. The buddy cop flick from actor-turned-director Chen Sicheng  proves that he continues to be one of China’s best young commercial directors.
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Review: A Better Tomorrow 2018

A Better Tomorrow 2018 is a bold visual and auditory delight and a boatload of fun.

From some of the boldest music choices to drastic switches in tone of cinematography to one of the most interesting shootout scenes in a while,   A Better Tomorrow 2018英雄本色 2018 felt like a firework so  bursting with life that  it left me too busy savoring every minute details of brilliance to think about its flaws. You can just feel how much love and thought director Ding Sheng and the cast put into every scene.  Even all the jokes avoid lazy one-liners but instead are all carefully set-up earlier to land perfectly.

Spoiler level: little more than what you would know from the trailers

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Review: Once Upon a Time

When designer Lawrence Xu puked rainbow unicorns over Liu Yifei and Yang Yang.

Liu Yifei is pretty much the definition of fairylike for me, and so I was so excited when she announced she’ll be playing a fox immortal in Once Upon a Time三生三世十里桃花.  Unfortunately, even her and Yang Yang’s face could not savage the film’s undeveloped characters, zero chemistry, poor acting, and atrocious aesthetics. 

The film opens as Bai Qian (Liu Yifei), a fox fairy that is 30,000-years-old, runs through the forest like fairies do and then enters a giant jellyfish carriage to attend a wedding.    There we find out that the immortals have terrible taste in fashion, and Bai Qian  finds a wandering child  who speaks like Siri.    Soon we learn that Bai Qian looks just like the child’s mother, and the child’s father is her betrothed (Yang Yang) . What a small world!

It’s hard to criticize this face, but it’s about the only thing going for the film.

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Review: Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield

Promotional theme song: Deep love is as subdued as you by Zhou Shen (still on repeat in my playlist)

Aptly titled The Infernal Battlefield, the second instalment of the Brotherhood of Blades film series brings together a talented cast of actors in one of the best wuxia epics in recent years. The story formula hasn’t really changed since the first movie, but it’s worth watching for the cinematography and action choreography alone. Minor spoilers ahead.

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Review: The Devotion of Suspect X

Verdict: Director Alec Su’s second attempt is an improvement from his first and benefits from a much better story, stunning cinematography, but the screenplay is still choppy and leaves more to be desired.

The brilliant story of The Devotion of Suspect X is recaptured for the Chinese audience in director Alec Su’s second film. Aided by a much superior story, a better cast, and more fitting cinematography, Alec Su unfortunately is handicapped by his poor control of the film.

The suspense/detective tale with a twist features Zhang Luyi as Shi Hong, a genius and a loner who tries to help his neighbor Chen Jing (Ruby Lin) to cover up her murder of her ex-husband. Unfortunately for the pair, their crime caught the eye of Tang Chuan (Wang Kai), a physicist and Shi Hong’s best friend in high school. Tang Chuan is called upon to help detective Luo Miao (Ye Zuxin) to solve the murder, but along the way gets caught in the crime itself.

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