TAOIST MASTER: KYLIN (aka MASTER ZHANG 2) (2020) short review

Chen Cheng’s Taoist Master: Kylin is the quick fire sequel to Wu Yingxiang’s Taoist Master (released just a few months ago, already online), with Fan Siu Wong returning in the role of Zhang Taoling, the founder of the first organized form of Taoism, flanked by his disciple (Li Lubing, also returning). This time, Master Zhang arrives in a village near Mount Yun Jing, where Kylin, the legendary God of the Mountain, is rumored to prey on hunters and those foolhardy enough to venture into the mountain. While Taoist Master was on the higher end of Chinese direct-to-VOD films, this sequel is disappointingly average: it lacks the refreshing presence of Zhang Dong (who played a feisty huntress in the first film), it’s criminally low on fight scenes (one of the original’s strong suits), and the plot is the usual thudding supernatural set-up resolved with the censorship-placating hallucination card. Yet it’s nevertheless a brisk and entertaining affair, anchored again in the charismatic presence of the ever-underrated Fan Siu Wong. **

THE SACRIFICE (2020) review

The Sacrifice was reportedly shot in three weeks (an impressively short timeframe for a war epic) with three high profile directors at the helm: Guan Hu hot off another war epic, The Eight Hundred (but not that hot off it, as the latter film was long-delayed), Lu Yang (mostly known for his outstanding Brotherhood of Blades diptych), and Frant Gwo (of the sci-fi mega-success The Wandering Earth). It is set during the Korean war, as the Chinese PVA (People’s Volunteer Army) prepares for the battle of Kumsong, in which it is to back the Korean People’s Army against the US forces. For that to happen, the PVA must cross the Kumsong bridge on time, and thus constantly defend it and rebuild it as the US air force bombs it mercilessly. Across four chapters, we follow the soldiers crossing the bridge, the US pilots attacking it, the anti-aircraft artillery defending it, and in the end the sacrifice of hundreds of Chinese men forming a human bridge to allow the troops to arrive on time to the battlefield.

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