SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD (2019) review

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A Chen Sicheng-produced remake of the successful 2015 Hindi thriller Drishyam (itself a remake of a Malayalam film from two years earlier), Sam Quah’s Sheep without a Shepherd follows Li Weijie (Xiao Yang), a Chinese immigrant in Thailand and owner of a modest IT company, living a peaceful life with his wife Ayu (Tan Zhuo) and two daughters Ping Ping (Audrey Hui) and An An (Zhang Xiran). But it all goes to hell when Ping Ping is drugged and raped by Suchat (Bian Tianyang), the wayward son of a local power couple, chief of police Laoorn (Joan Chen) and mayoral candidate Dutpon (Philip Keung). Suchat has filmed his deed and is planning to use the footage to coerce Ping Ping into sexual favors; Ayu, whom she confided to, tries to intervene, but as he assaults her in a fit of blind rage, the distraught daughter kills him by accident. With his mother being the chief of police, and corruption running rampant in the town’s police force, Weijie knows his wife and daughter will be sent to jail regardless of having acted in self-defense. Drawing on his love of classic thrillers, he hatches a plan which he hopes will clear them of suspicion, but Laoorn is a formidable investigator.

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THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES II (2017) review

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Three years after Raymond Yip’s The House that never dies became the highest-grossing Chinese horror film, comes this Gordon Chan-produced sequel, featuring a different cast and a new set of characters, but still taking place at N°81 Chanoei in Beijing, a famous mansion believed to be haunted. This time, engineer Song Teng (Julian Cheung) is working on restoring the old mansion, while neglecting his wife He (Mei Ting), a doctor. The couple has grown estranged following the stillbirth of their child five years before, and Song’s apparent reciprocal fondness for his assistant (Gillian Chung) isn’t helping matters. In an attempt to solidify their marriage, He moves in with her husband in the old house, but soon she is plagued by visions and nightmares, that appear to be memories of a past life: at the beginning of the 20th century, a general (Julian Cheung) who lived in this mansion had to marry the daughter (Gillian Chung) of a warlord, to solidify an alliance and to ensure he would have an heir, after his first wife (Mei Ting) failed to beget him one. But the general’s affections were still for his first wife, and his new bride proved barren as well. And deadly jealous.

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LADY OF THE DYNASTY (2015) review

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A troubled project which started pre-production in 2009 with My Sassy Girl director Kwak Jae-Yong at the helm and Fan Bing Bing, John Lone and Wang Leehom as its leads, Lady of the Dynasty finally reached completion and release in 2015, after a series of starts and stops that saw Kwak replaced by Shi Qing (a man whose sole previous credit is as a writer on the 1989 Zhang Yimou thriller Codename Cougar) on the basis of artistic differences, while Leon Lai and Wu Chun stepped in to replace Lone and Wang, respectively ; Zhang Yimou and Tian Zhuangzhuang (director of The Go Master) chimed in as consultants and get co-directing credits. But for a film that spent so much time in the oven and had so many cooks, Lady of the Dynasty turns out oddly half-baked. It focuses on Yang Guifei (Fan Bingbing), one of the “Four Great Beauties of Ancient China” who has already been the subject of many films and TV series, most notably Kenji Mizoguchi’s Princess Yang Kwei-Fei (1955), the 1962 Shaw Brothers film The Magnificent Concubine and the 2007 mini-series Lotus Garden of Tang Dynasty, already starring Fan Bingbing. Chosen by Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty (Leon Lai) and his concubine Wu (Joan Chen) to marry their son Li Mao (Wu Chun), she then left him to be a Taoist monk, before being chosen by the emperor to become his concubine. Later, when a rebellion broke out, the emperor fled with her but was then asked to execute her as a scapegoat.

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