LIBERATION (2019) review

143259.52732712_1000X1000Liberation was directed by Li Shaohong and Chang Xiaoyang – the former in charge of the drama and the latter handling the spectacle – to commemorate the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Like most recent Chinese propaganda films, it is packed with action – seemingly gone are the days of stately, talky epics like The Founding of a Republic or Beginning of the Great Revival – yet like most recent historical Mainland propaganda, it was met with general indifference from Chinese audiences, even after its being pulled at the last minute from the opening night of the Pingyao Film Festival drummed up a bit of media drama about it (‘technical issues’ were cited, though our money is the hypothesis that it didn’t placate censors well enough).

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THE KNIGHT OF SHADOWS: BETWEEN YIN AND YANG (2019) review

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In Yan Jia’s The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang, Jackie Chan plays an imaginary version of Pu Songling, the late 16th-century, early 17th-century author of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio – a collection of supernatural stories on which films the A Chinese Ghost Story or the Painted Skin franchise are more or less loosely based. This Pu is a writer too (and one eager to peddle his stories), but he’s also an actual demon hunter who operates from a mountain-top house, assisted by goblins Farty, Happy and Thousand Hands. While helping a hapless sheriff’s assistant (Lin Bohong) catch a jewel thief who’s actually a pig demon, Pu comes across Nie Xiaoqian (Elane Zhong), a demon who along with her sister Jing Yao (Lin Peng) feeds on the souls of young women, after promising them eternal beauty. Also on Nie Xiaoqian’s trail is Yan Chixia (Ethan Juan), a wandering demon hunter who’s none other than her former lover.

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