HOW LONG WILL I LOVE U (2018) review

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Gu Xiaojiao (Tong Liya), a broke thirty-something luxury sales assistant, wakes up one morning next to a complete stranger, Lu Ming (Lei Jiayin), an equally broke real estate salesman. The thing is, they’ve both been living in the same flat, but she occupies it in 2018, and he occupied it in 1999. And through a freak space-time disruption, the flat has become a crossroads between both years: the entrance door now has a handle on the left and a handle on the right: if they open one they’re in 1999, and if they open the other they’re in 2018. After some initial hostility and adjustments, Xiaojiao and Ming decide to use this anomaly to their advantage.

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LEGEND OF THE DEMON CAT (2017) review

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Based on a best-seller by Japanese author Baku Yumemakura, this massive, 200-million dollars production – whose enormous sets are soon to become an amusement park – is a uniquely ambitious co-production between Mainland China, Japan and Hong Kong. It takes place in the year 805, as a mysterious black cat stalks the imperial palace in Chang’an, just as the gravely ill emperor Dezong dies from a violent fit ; the same cat appears to Chen Yunqiao (Qin Hao), captain of the imperial guard, and to his wife Chunqin (Zhang Yuqi), revealing to them a cache of money, but asking in return to be fed eyes – the eyes of any creature, including humans. Buddhist monk Kukai (Shota Sometani), who had arrived from Japan to meet the emperor and senses the presence of the black cat, joins forces with scholar, poet and newly-fired imperial scribe Bai Letian (Huang Xuan) to unravel the mystery: they soon realize it takes its root thirty years before, when Tang emperor Xuanzong (Zhang Luyi) had his consort – and legendary beauty – Yang Yuhuan (Sandrine Pinna) killed. A known historical fact, about which Bai Letian has been writing a poem for the past few years: and yet it may be a lie, as the personal account of Abe no Nakamaro (Hiroshi Abe), a scholar who knew the emperor and his consort, seems to reveal.

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THE UNITY OF HEROES (2018) review

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22 years after his last appearance as folk hero Wong Fei Hung (in the Tsui Hark-directed final episode of the Wong Fei Hung TV series), Vincent Zhao is back, he’s a producer now, and he has barely aged at all, as the first shot of Lin Zhenzhao’s straight-to-VOD revival seems designed to prove: a topless Zhao running with his disciples, looking like it’s still 1996. This leads to a re-staging of the classic “Wong Fei Hung training with dozens at dusk” opening of Tsui Hark’s seminal Once Upon A Time in China, and indeed The Unity of Heroes is a veritable checklist of Wong Fei Hung tropes (something Roy Chow’s flawed Rise of the Legend did consciously avoid). There’s rival martial arts masters, 13th Aunt bringing western culture to Canton and flirting coyly with Wong, disciples Fatty, Bucktooth and Leung Foon bumbling around, some lion dancing, and of course, evil Gweilos. It all feels very familiar – in a nice, nostalgic way – except for one detail: a drug that gives super-human strength to those who take it.

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SPECIAL MISSION (2018) review

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Yin Chenyang’s Special Mission follows an elite mercenary (Fan Siu Wong) who joins forces with a detective (Augusta Xu-Holland) to find and rescue a Middle-Eastern princess who’s been kidnapped in Bangkok by a shady criminal known as ‘Black Star’ (Si Ligeng). As bland and generic as its title, the film clocks in at barely 70 minutes and isn’t much more than a string of perfunctory scenes trying hard to resemble recent Chinese hits. There’s tanks and a unit called “The Wolves” (Wolf Warrior 1 & 2: check), there’s naval officer determinedly pacing on a military vessel’s deck (Operation Red Sea: check), and more importantly there’s a duo of operatives investigating in Thailand (Operation Mekong: check). Of course, while it’s all shot and edited with a basic amount of technical competence, everything looks puny in comparison to the aforementioned blockbusters. So instead of a drawn-out speedboat chase on the Mekong, you’ll have to make do with a short jet ski chase on the Chao Phraya.

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A OR B (2018) review

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Zhong Xiaonian (Xu Zheng) is a ruthless businessman who made a fortune using insider trading and blackmail, with the help of his old partner Tang Wanyuan (Wang Yanhui). But this has been at the expense of his marriage with Wei Simeng (Wang Likun), who gave up her journalism career for him, but is now at the end of her tether and wants a divorce. One day, Zhong wakes up alone in his mansion: he’s been locked up in his bedroom, and the windows have been boarded up. A mysterious caller informs him that he has to play a game: he will be given a series of impossible choices between an agonizing option A (for example, publicly reveal he’s been evading taxes) and a no less agonizing option B (such as sacrificing a friend) – not choosing will result in both options being enforced. While trying to escape and discover the identity of his tormentor, Zhong can only count on the help of Tian Yu (Duan Bowen), a journalist he managed to contact with a talkie-walkie.

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