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City Of Life And Death Trailer


Set in China 1937 around the battle of Nanjing. The Japanese army has just taken the capital city of Nanjing and what was to follow the citizens could never envisage. In the weeks following the takeover thousands of Chinese POW's and citizens were brutally treated and murdered.

Continue: City Of Life And Death Trailer

Blood Brothers Review


Good
John Woo turns up as a producer of Blood Brothers, and it's not too surprising since the film is a reimagining of an earlier Woo effort, Bullet in the Head, which has a similar setup and plot points. Both films track the adventures of three friends from the boonies who seek to make it in the big and dangerous outside world but get much more excitement than they bargained for.

While Bullet in the Head is set in Vietnam during the war, Blood Brothers takes us back to the glamorous nightclubs of Shanghai in the '30s. Feng (Daniel Wu), Kang (Liu Ye), and Kang's brother Hu (Tony Yang) decide to leave their poor village and venture into town to see what they can make of themselves. It's rough going at first, with the guys taking on menial and humiliating jobs such as rickshaw pulling, but Hu lucks out by landing work as a waiter at the gorgeous Paradise Club, where all of haute Shanghai comes to party and to pay homage to the crime bosses who run it. The star of the show: Lulu (Shi Qi), who's the plaything of the big boss but is secretly in love with Mark (Chang Chen), one of his bodyguards.

Continue reading: Blood Brothers Review

Dark Matter Review


Very Good
In his feature-film debut, well-regarded Chinese opera director Chen Shi-Zheng makes a strong impression with Dark Matter, the story of a Chinese cosmology genius invited to America to join the team of a legendary cosmologist only to find that America isn't quite the land of opportunity that he had been brought up to believe. Based on the true story of a Chinese student who went ballistic at a major American university in the early '90s, Shi-Zheng's film, which originally premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival, was held from release after the shootings at Virginia Tech last April. Now, only a few days before the anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, it would seem the pushback, though well-meaning, was useless.

Broken into five acts represented by symbols of the five elements, the film begins with Liu Xing (a very good Liu Ye) walking into a Western university to meet and join legendary cosmology theorist Jacob Reiser (Aidan Quinn). Funded by socialite Joanna Silver (Meryl Streep), an avatar of America's fetishizing of Eastern tradition, Liu is invited to experience monuments of fake Americana (a mock ghost town) and droll bits of Chinese history. Her husband (Bill Irwin) sees it simply as a tax write-off, but Joanna has a deep want for things outside her closeted realm.

Continue reading: Dark Matter Review

Curse Of The Golden Flower Review


OK
A pageantry of pageantry that would put Bertolucci or Lean to shame, Zhang Yimou's The Curse of the Golden Flower piles spectacle upon spectacle, and tragedy on top of tragedy, until the whole contraption fairly disintegrates under the fervid weight of it all. Normally this wouldn't really be an issue, as late period Yimou films like House of Flying Daggers and Hero have been perfectly acceptable as period-piece baubles, rife with dynamic wuxia action sequences and dashing costumes -- things that Golden Flower has in abundance. While packed with emotion, those earlier films could certainly be enjoyed on surface detail alone, but there was still some heft to them; one doesn't buy for a second that Zhang Ziyi could fight like that without some help from gravity-defying wires, but the films were still able to dance that line between escapism and drama without leaving either behind. But Golden Flower can't dance.

Set in a royal court during the 10th century Tang dynasty, Golden Flower starts in and spends most of its time inside those same palace walls; which at first doesn't seem like a bad place to be. The place is a bejeweled rainbow of color, splashed with sunlight that sparkles off the golds, reds, and greens, and the camera greedily prowls its corridors looking for fresh spectacle. Yimou starts off with a feverishly choreographed ballet of servitude as hundreds of courtiers ready themselves in synchronized grace for the arrival of the long-traveling Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat, regally villainous). His three princes await him, each curious about how and if he is going to divide up power between them, as his health seems to be in decline.

Continue reading: Curse Of The Golden Flower Review

Curse Of The Golden Flower Review


OK
A pageantry of pageantry that would put Bertolucci or Lean to shame, Zhang Yimou's The Curse of the Golden Flower piles spectacle upon spectacle, and tragedy on top of tragedy, until the whole contraption fairly disintegrates under the fervid weight of it all. Normally this wouldn't really be an issue, as late period Yimou films like House of Flying Daggers and Hero have been perfectly acceptable as period-piece baubles, rife with dynamic wuxia action sequences and dashing costumes -- things that Golden Flower has in abundance. While packed with emotion, those earlier films could certainly be enjoyed on surface detail alone, but there was still some heft to them; one doesn't buy for a second that Zhang Ziyi could fight like that without some help from gravity-defying wires, but the films were still able to dance that line between escapism and drama without leaving either behind. But Golden Flower can't dance.

Set in a royal court during the 10th century Tang dynasty, Golden Flower starts in and spends most of its time inside those same palace walls; which at first doesn't seem like a bad place to be. The place is a bejeweled rainbow of color, splashed with sunlight that sparkles off the golds, reds, and greens, and the camera greedily prowls its corridors looking for fresh spectacle. Yimou starts off with a feverishly choreographed ballet of servitude as hundreds of courtiers ready themselves in synchronized grace for the arrival of the long-traveling Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat, regally villainous). His three princes await him, each curious about how and if he is going to divide up power between them, as his health seems to be in decline.

Continue reading: Curse Of The Golden Flower Review

The Promise Review


Weak
Chen Kaige has always had a weakness for the theatrical, something that can be put to grand and operatic effect in films like Farewell My Concubine and Temptress Moon. It can also lead to quite questionable dramatic choices - or just blatantly silly ones, as is the case his newest, The Promise. The biggest budgeted film in Chinese history ($35 million, about what Bruckheimer spends on catering), it's another in a string of costume action epics that have constituted the bulk of Chinese cinematic export to this country over the past few years. So why does it look so cheap and inspire not awe, but giggling?

It all starts off quite epic. Back in China's distant mystical past, there's a kingdom in which a battle had been waged, and a young girl scavenging food from dead soldiers. She's offered a tempting proposition by the Goddess Manshen, a floating apparition who seems to like messing with mortals: the girl will have everything she's ever desired, but everyone she loves will be taken away from her - unless time runs backward, snow falls in the spring, and the dead rise from the grave. The girl, not having a lot of options, agrees. This sets the stage for a grand, widescreen, Technicolor love triangle two decades down the line, the sort of thing one would imagine that Kaige could pull off in his sleep. The result is something quite closer to self-parody.

Continue reading: The Promise Review

Postmen In The Mountains Review


Excellent
If you want to make a grown man cry at the movies, give him a story about an estranged father and son who reconcile and come to love and respect each other before it's too late. Postmen in the Mountains is such a tale, told amidst the stunning mountain scenery of China's remote Hunan province. It's a simple and moving story, a walk in the woods that leads to a beautiful and uplifting conclusion.

The unnamed father (Rujun Ten) is a rural postman whose job entails humping a huge backpack full of mail on a three-day walk through the mountains, stopping at all the tiny villages along the way. He's done it several times a month for 25 years, never missing a trip. Now the postal bureaucrats have forced him into retirement because his legs, ruined by the arduous route, have started to give out. As the film begins, the father has passed the route on to his son, and the son is ready to make his first trip.

Continue reading: Postmen In The Mountains Review

Floating Landscape Review


Excellent
On the surface, Floating Landscape is all about quiet nighttime snowfalls, hushed conversations, and empty streets in an ignored corner of a provincial Chinese city, but don't let the meditative mood fool you. The film packs a powerful emotional punch as it takes on big issues about death and detachment and redemption through love.

It all starts with the death of Sam (Ekin Cheng) after a long illness. His girlfriend Maan (Kar Yan Lam) is paralyzed with grief and finds solace only through the act of recopying one page of his journal each day. Though she has been with Sam for a long time, she knows nothing of his childhood, so not knowing what else to do with herself, she journeys to Qingdao, a seaside city notable for its old and crumbly colonial architecture. Somewhere nearby there must be a modern downtown of skyscrapers humming away, but director Miu-suet Lai restricts the action to the quaint cobblestoned sections of town, where winter snows are dusting the streets.

Continue reading: Floating Landscape Review

Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress Review


OK
One has to wonder what gave Sijie Dai the impression that his screenplay for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress -- an adaptation of his own best-selling novel and co-scripted by Nadine Perront -- was structurally sound. About three-quarters of the way into his story, and in one of the more baffling and ineffectual transitions to be found in recent movie memory, Dai jerks his narrative forward by two decades literally in the blink of an eye. The sudden shift only makes Balzac's weaknesses in the character department that much more glaring. As we watch his characters, aged now by makeup, and reminiscing about their teenage years after a long separation, we become aware of how superficial our understanding of them actually is. That awareness robs his flash-forward technique of any poignancy it might otherwise have had and points perhaps to his lack of fluency with the film form.

Set amid lush mountains in an isolated region in China in the early 1970s, Dai gives us a gently paced semi-autobiographical account of two teenage boys, Ma (Ye Liu) and Luo (Kun Chen) who arrive at a Maoist camp for "re-education." Because they are the offspring of the "reactionary" elite -- the very class that Mao sought to purge during his Cultural Revolution -- the boys are prescribed a daily regimen of lugging buckets of shit to fertilize the local rice fields alternated with tedious shifts in a copper mine. Through Dai's eyes, though, what ordinarily might be a rather bleak portrayal of suffering is viewed through rose-tinted lenses. The Communist Committee chief of their village (Shuangbao Wang) is, true to fashion, a by-the-book ideologue. He wants to come off as a hardliner, but he's won over easily enough by Ma's claim that the Mozart lieder he plays on his violin is, in fact, a tribute to Mao. This would be fine if it led to a more complex dynamic between the chief and the boys, but this cheeky repartee goes no further.

Continue reading: Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress Review

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Ye Liu Movies

City Of Life And Death Trailer

City Of Life And Death Trailer

Set in China 1937 around the battle of Nanjing. The Japanese army has just taken...

Blood Brothers Movie Review

Blood Brothers Movie Review

John Woo turns up as a producer of Blood Brothers, and it's not too surprising...

Curse Of The Golden Flower Movie Review

Curse Of The Golden Flower Movie Review

A pageantry of pageantry that would put Bertolucci or Lean to shame, Zhang Yimou's The...

Curse Of The Golden Flower Movie Review

Curse Of The Golden Flower Movie Review

A pageantry of pageantry that would put Bertolucci or Lean to shame, Zhang Yimou's The...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

Chen Kaige has always had a weakness for the theatrical, something that can be put...

Postmen in the Mountains Movie Review

Postmen in the Mountains Movie Review

If you want to make a grown man cry at the movies, give him a...

Floating Landscape Movie Review

Floating Landscape Movie Review

On the surface, Floating Landscape is all about quiet nighttime snowfalls, hushed conversations, and empty...

Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress Movie Review

Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress Movie Review

One has to wonder what gave Sijie Dai the impression that his screenplay for Balzac...

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