Review of Chinese Movies and TV Shows

Royal Feast Review

Royal Feast ArticleRoyal Feast (尚食) is a Chinese TV series that ran from 22 February to 26 March 2022, broadcasting 6 days a week on Hunan TV and Mango TV.

About

A young girl named Zijin enters the palace to become a maid in the food bureau. Through her excellent cooking skills, she works her way up the ranks. However, she has trained to become a Concubine, learning a lot to be able to become entertaining to the future Emperor.

Cast

Xu Kai (许凯) plays the future emperor.
He has numerous awards, first known for print ad modelling. He has starred in a couple of films and numerous TV shows. As I write this, he has been earmarked to be seen in three other TV dramas.

Wu Jin Yan (吴谨言) plays Zijin.
She studied in Ballet and joined the National Ballet of China where unfortunately suffered from a number of fractures to her feet. Unable to continue with her Ballet career she joined the Beijing Film Academy to study as an actor. She has been in numerous TV dramas and films. Her politics…hmmm.

Wang Yi Zhe (王一哲) plays You Yi Fan.
He studied broadcasting and acting but as a result of starring in the “King of Pop” reality show, he started acting in TV shows.

He Rui Xian (何瑞贤) as Yi Zi Ping.
Probably the best and most comical character. Right after Royal Feast aired she starred in another food orientated drama, “Delicacies Destiny”, the set for which looked very familiar.

Review

If it wasn’t for the food I may have dropped this how. In many of the episodes, they cooked marvellous meals. I don’t know if any of them are really traditional Chinese dishes or if they just made them up. A small number of them I had actually heard of. I wish there was a cookbook that would accompany the series, it would probably sell well, even if few people wanted to cook the meals.

The story could have been completed in less than 40 episodes, it did drag on. It wasn’t complex. Some of the characters were annoying, quickly switching from being a buffoon to something else, others were miserable throughout the series. He Rui Xian had the best role, at least her role was quite amusing now and again. The last two episodes were the best, not just because I was pleased to see the end of it, but they did wrap things up nicely, some of which were unexpected.

There was mainly a strong cast of female actors, which is good to see. One of the issues it addressed was being born into a certain role and there is no way of escaping it.

The costumes were pretty different, more Thai looking than Chinese.

I wish we had fast-forwarded parts of the show to get to the cooking. I did drop off to sleep halfway through some episodes.

So, my score is 2.5 out of 5. I can’t give it anything more than that. Others seemed to enjoy it more than I did so it’s worth giving it a try.

Where Can I See It

The episodes can be found on YouTube, however, some of the subtitles are machine produced and confusing.

Trailer

2022-05-14T04:37:53+00:0014 May 2022|Review China|

Ice Fantasy Review

Ice FantasyIce Fantasy [幻城] is a 62 episode TV series from China that was broadcast in 2016 on Hunan TV.

About

A fight for power between the Ice and Fire Tribes, the Fire being evil. Also, a challenge for power to be the King between Prince Ka Suo and his younger half-brother Yong Kong Shi. Ka Suo doesn’t want to be King but to live carefree with his love Li Luo.

Cast

Feng Shao Feng [冯绍峰] (or Feng Wei) plays Prince Ka Suo
A very popular actor with a very decent list of TV shows and movies. Evidently, he likes British crop circles!

Ma Tian Yu [马天宇] plays Prince Ying Hi
A mando-pop singer and actor. A long list of TV shows on his resume. His mother died when he was 5, his father left due to debts and was bought up by his grandparents.

There are a lot of characters of note but I have to make a special mention of:

Cheng Pei Pei [鄭佩佩] who plays Feng Tian (Grandma)
She lived in Hong Kong, trained with Shaw Brothers, best known in the movie Come Drink With Me. She moved to California to raise her children, attended business school at the University of California and taught Chinese dance. She starred in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and also had a Mandarin-speaking talk show on Los Angeles TV station KSCI. I think she is quite a catch for this TV show.

Review

The sets on this show were artistic which, for me, was the main draw. The Ice world was done the best, the Fire world was like hell but not so good.

The special effects are very similar to that on US daytime soaps,  similar technology.

So, there are some points about the sets and special effects. It was 62 episodes and must have been quite a struggle for the staff involved to keep the quality going, which they didn’t. Most of the work was done by green screen, the actors would move around but not in tandem with what was superimposed on the green screen. There were simply too many special effects so they seemed to get more amateur as the show progressed.

They obviously had a library of incidental music to use with the series, like a similar tune for the action sequences. Some of the music was exciting, some a little annoying, some just didn’t match the scene. They seemed to have reserved some original score for the last few episodes.

“Flame”, head of the Fire Tribe, actually looked like the lead character from Pirates of the Caribbean. Generally, the costume department did really well with the outfits.

Although there was one story throughout the series there were arc’s throughout. This cut this up into manageable chunks for the viewer. In parts, they would jump from one part of a story to the next without any explanation. The continuity was all over the place, something would happen and I would think “did I just miss something”?!

This was probably a difficult show for the actors as they had to use their acting skills but also work with so much green screen and position their bodies for the special effects. For 62 episodes this was probably quite exhausting for them. All the actors did quite a good job, I think the best performance was by Alina Zhang who played Princess Yan Da of the Fire Tribe.

SPOILER
The ending? Well, I didn’t expect everyone to be knocked off but 3 of them came back from the dead. I thought at that point it got a bit daft and pleased it was over.

There is a season two, called Ice Fantasy Destiny, which appears to be set in the future. It’s only 16 episodes so I might give that a go at some point.

Final Score

I would give it 2/5. It lost points on the script and struggle with the special effects. Reviewers gave it anywhere between 7.7 and 9.1 out of 10.

Where to Watch

Netflix had it for a while but it vanished from their library, for some reason. However, it’s currently on Viki. I notice Viki doesn’t have Ice Fantasy Destiny.

Trailer

2022-02-24T17:52:04+00:0024 February 2022|Review China|

Heroes Review

HeroesHeroes (Fearless/Fearless Heroes or 大侠霍元甲) was a 45 episode Chinese drama that was broadcast between July and August 2020.

About

Most websites provide the following information about the show “The Refornment Movement of 1898 resulted in the “Six Heroes” dying. Huo Yuan Jia, who was filled with patriotic enthusiasm, had been eager to participate.”

I would say it’s about the main character’s role in the invasion of westerners and Japanese into China, plus the problems with the Chinese who collaborated with them, and how he and his family find their place in that society to help the people.

Cast

Vincent Zhao (趙文卓) plays Huo Yuan Jia
He is a popular actor and director who has had martial arts training, he has been in numerous other similar productions where he uses that skillset. It is like this show was made for him or had him in mind. He is a good actor but not the best in this show.

Mao Lin Lin (毛林林) plays Wang Yun Ying
She plays Huo Yan Jia’s wife very well, she is underrated in this show. She is a very popular actress signed up to numerous other productions, I counted 5 TV shows.

Ashton Chen (释小龙) plays Chen Zhen
He was listed in the “main cast” but only appeared in half of the series. Like Vincent and some other actors he also has some martial arts experience, and it shows. He moved to the US and studied at the Professional Children’s School in New York City. He looks very short but in fact, is the same height as me.

There were other great actors in this show, too many to list here.

Summary

This was a really great underrated TV series but it did have its flaws.

There were some bumps in the script but overall it was written quite well with very good life events happening to the family; hardships and good times. Some of the “compromises” were written well, you will know what I mean when you get to them in the series. Some central characters got knocked off early on or halfway into the series, including two of my favourites so I was a bit upset about that.

The best parts:

  • Martial arts scenes. This was definitely an action-orientated TV series and a lot of effort went into how they were choreographed, I don’t think I’ve seen so much of it in a Chinese drama before. The show is worth watching just because of these scenes.
  • Female Characters. These evolved during the show but eventually, equality ruled which was really good. I would have liked some more female martial artists in the show.
  • Production Quality. The cinematography, sets and directing was very well done. I had seen some of the sets before in other productions, such as the one used for Shanghai, but they were utilized well.

The worst parts:

  • Voiceovers of the westerners. Often it is difficult to tell if any of the actors use voice-over artists but for the westerners, it was embarrassingly obvious. Some Caucasians spoke in two languages, such as French in Chinese, there was a different voice over artist for each of the languages, they didn’t even sound like each other. It was painful. Most of the westerners were very annoying.
  • The students of the Master kept on crying when something went wrong. I just wanted to slap them.
  • Master Huo Yuan Jia was quite flawed and kept making silly mistakes, his wife was more intelligent. Maybe they wrote it that way on purpose.

Overall:

As I said, it was very good and well worth giving it a go. I give it 4.5/5.

Where To Watch

The show is available to watch on YouTube, iQiyi and other online resources too.

Trailer

2021-12-12T23:49:15+00:0012 December 2021|Review China|

Age of The Legend Review

Age of The LegendAge of The Legend (英雄年代之九龙密钥) is a Chinese movie that was released by iQiyi this year, 2021.

About

At the end of the Qing Dynasty, a group of heroes get together to prevent the British and Japanese invasion of Guangzhou City. They are presented with numerous obstacles on the way that challenges them to reach their goal.

I suspect this might have been a “made for TV” movie rather than one that was released through the cinema. I can’t really know for sure.

Cast

Never heard or seen any of them before, but from what I could see the main character is of Taiwanese origin.

Adan (aka Gu Han Yun or 阿丹), from Taiwan, played the main character, not sure what the name of that character is. Age of The Legend looks like his first film role, he got his first break as a support role on Spicy Teacher back in 2000.

Summary

If nothing else this movie is good for a laugh but would take it with a pinch of salt.

The first thing I noticed was the accent of the British, they sounded spookily familiar to Russians. Many Russians play Caucasians in Chinese movies. Their accents and acting were slightly painful to watch.

The script was daft but oddly well presented. The CGI wasn’t great, such as the British ships and guns in the mountains.

The monk character was acted really well and was hilarious. There was an effeminate guy and of course, the script included how awful that person was, although was a hero of sorts as well. The main Japanese female character really did act evil, she was a good actress, although had to meet her demise eventually.

The fight sequences/choreography were really well-done with quite impressive camera work.

Overall, not a bad film for entertainment value, quite a few amusing moments I will never forget. I give it 7/10 and recommend everyone seeing it.

Where to Watch

This can be found on iQiyi and YouTube.

Trailer

2021-11-25T23:46:52+00:0025 November 2021|Review China|

The Digital Hunter Review

DigitalThe Digital Hunter aka The Unexpected Man (数字猎凶者) is a Chinese movie that was released on 27 September 2021.

About

Cheng Zheng, who works in the Bureau of Statistics, and a mathematical genius, helps the police solve a crime in which he was present at the scene. The culprits are caught but another mathematical genius Ding Ruobing threatens the city with bombs unless the police release one of the crooks from prison. In order to stop three bombs from going off in the city, Chen Zheng has to solve three extremely difficult equations. It is a race against time before many people are hurt.

Cast

Han Zhao plays Chen Xheng and twin brother Chen Mo. On some websites, this actor isn’t even listed. A couple of websites state he is more well known for Directing, but he has also been a writer and acted on the small and big screen.

Liao Wei Wei (廖蔚蔚) as the wife of Chen Xheng. Evidently, she has taken part in numerous TV magic and reality shows. She has appeared in a few films and appears to have her first TV drama coming soon, called Ten Day Order.

Qi Zhi (齐志) as the police chief. He hasn’t appeared in many productions. He was in the 2020 Chinese TV show called The Moon Brightens For You.

Summary

Let’s start off by saying it wasn’t a masterpiece. It felt like a Made for TV drama rather than a Box Office film.

The story was pretty sound. I liked the idea a mathematician was tasked to save the day. There is an alleged disabled person in it. I love the scene where all the mathematicians jumped out of their classrooms, into cars, and raced to the police station; you have to see the scene to understand what I mean. There was a dramatic twist in the movie even though I kind of guessed what would happen right from the beginning. I’m not sure the media in China reacts the same way as in the movie, I expect that in the West.

There weren’t many special effects. The scene where someone was knocked over in the street was badly done, almost laughable, but I think the main focus was on the story.

The acting was ok. Just ok. Han Zhao’s scary moments were acted well.

If you have nothing else to watch I would say this movie is good to pass away the hours. I give it 7.5/10.

Where Can I Watch It

The movie is available on iQiyi but not sure if anyone else has procured it.

Trailer

2021-11-01T23:26:58+00:001 November 2021|Review China|

The Story of Ming Lan Partial Review

I was actually looking forward to watching The Story of Ming Lan, a highly popular Chinese series broadcast in 2018, but gave up after episode 4.

About

Ming Lan’s mother dies at an early age and is raised by her paternal Grandmother and in order to survive the family uses methods to hide her genius. She then meets Gu Ting Ye, the second son of a rich marquis household who is supposed to be the heir to a fortune and a title. Both of them work together to correct the injustices against them.

Cast

Having watched Guardian, which I will review soon, I discovered this show by looking up actor Zhu Yi Long.

Some of the other cast members look familiar but haven’t spent time digging into them.

Summary

The first two episodes were dull as dishwater. The third episode gave me some hope that this would turn into an exciting series. Episode 4 continued along the same vein as 1 and 2.

The first four episodes were centred around wives and concubines who were constantly moaning and nagging throughout most of the episodes. In fact, most of the adults were completely deadbeat, useless and dysfunctional leaving the younger characters to pick up the mess. I got the feeling this was how the drama was going to continue. The relationship between wives and concubines may have been that way but it didn’t work well when it hit my brain.

The nagging and moaning took up quite a bit of episode 4 that I actually fell asleep during it. Since this is a 73 episode series I just couldn’t justify my time attempting to get through it.

However, other people do give it positive reviews so don’t be put off by me, go and check it out for yourself should this sound like a show you would be interested in. Since I didn’t see all the episodes I won’t rate it.

Trailer

2021-10-19T21:12:02+00:0019 October 2021|Review China|

1921 Movie Review

1921With a little trepidation, I saw the Chinese movie 1921 which outlines the early days of the Chinese Communist Party.

About

The movie was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, it premiered on 1 July 2021, and as far as I can tell has pocketed US$76.4m at the box office. Filming started on 1 July 2020 until 5 November the same year. Two actors were removed from the cast for related scandals.

It chronicles the events just prior to the creation of the CCP and the events that followed in particular the revolutionary leaders that bought this about.

Cast

There was a lot of actors in this movie, Chinese and some western too. Most of the western actors were in extra’s type roles with the exception of two.

Following are the Chinese actors I recognized:

Wang Ren Jun (王仁君) playing Mao Ze Dong
We have just started watching the TV Show “The Story of Ming Lan” and he is in that.

Turbo Liu (刘昊然) playing Liu Ren Jing
We’ve seen him in the films Detective Chinatown and My People, My Country, and TV Series Nirvana in Fire second season. A very popular actor with multiple films in the works.

Tian Yu (田雨) playing Cheng Zi Qing
We’ve seen this actor in the film The Legend of the Demon Cat and the TV series Joy of Life.

Zhang Ruo Yun (张若昀) playing Liu Shao Qi
He was also in the Joy of Life TV series, the actor that was kind of annoying by the end of that series.

Johnny Bai (白宇) playing Cai He Sen
We just saw him in the Guardian TV Series.

Zhu Yi Long (朱一龙) playing Zhou En Lai
We also saw him in the Guardian TV Series. He is a lead character in the TV Series The Story of Ming Lan that we have just started watching.

Ni Da Hong (倪大宏) playing Huang Jin Rong
We saw him the Netflix sponsored show The Rise of the Phoenixes. He appears to be in many TV shows, several each year.

Suffice to say, they stuffed as many well-known actors as they could in this film.

Summary

I wouldn’t rate this film very highly.

The cast was extremely impressive with a lot of well-known actors and actresses. Maybe the actors wanted to be in the film because it might be watched time and time again as a historical piece. Maybe the production company wanted to stuff in as many well-known people as possible to ensure its success and investment. So, during the movie, I spent most of my time “spotting the celebrity”.

The cinematography was alright, nothing special. There were a lot of overseas references but certainly, that was not Paris where they filmed, I am sure I’ve seen that set in other Chinese productions this time with a CGI Eiffel Tower. The car chase was the best scene, live-action wasn’t the main focus of the film though. The scenes of crowded people were good. Not sure whether they restored old footage or created new ones for some momentary “at war” clips. For the short interval they appeared on screen I am thinking they were just restored.

The storyline was boring and quite cringe-worthy. There were many political references I had seen in other movies, that was nothing new. They introduced a huge number of people and had no idea who they were or what they did back in that era. They had their names on screen so I could look them up but I will most likely not have the time, but good for those who want to use it as a springboard to learn more about that part of Chinese history. Towards the end there was a lengthy focus on Mao and a little girl, it was very cheesy, like elements of a propaganda film, or worshipping a God, which made me screech in mutant agony inside my brain.

So I see many are rating this online at around 7.5 out of 10. I will rate it as 5, and I am being generous. I am being generous as the film was shot during the peak of the COVID pandemic and it must have been difficult to produce at that time. I don’t regret seeing it but I wouldn’t want to sit through it again.

Trailer

2021-10-19T17:01:47+00:0019 October 2021|Review China|

Mutation on Mars Review

Mutation on MarsMutation on Mars (火星异变) is a short Science Fiction Chinese movie that was released on 27 August 2021.

About

The earth plans to colonize Mars due to scarce resources back home and top scientists from around the globe take various species and plants o test in that environment.

Asteroids hit Mars destroying a part of the base camp and the animals start to mutate leaving the current occupants unable to take off to save themselves. Chinese astronauts are sent to save them if they can.

Cast

I hadn’t seen any of the cast in this movie before although a couple of the actors seem awfully familiar.

Shi Lang (石凉)
I started to see The Wolf TV series of 2020 which he was in but didn’t go any further than 2-3 episodes, I may have seen him in that. He played a co-main character in the movie.

Ren Zhong (任重)
He has worked on many projects including directing. Looks like he has been signed up to 6 future TV series.

Suo Xiao Kun (索笑坤)
He is best known for his work on Martial Universe seasons one and two. After that, he starred on Mutation on Mars and has an upcoming TV series called You Are My Hero.

Review

Oh dear, what can I say?

On the positive side, I did manage to watch the movie from start to end. Spookily I want to find out what happened in the end.

The special effects were ok even though the story surrounding them wasn’t really that believable and poorly scripted. The space station and other vehicles were quite well-executed, although one looked awfully familiar to the chariot from the Netflix version of Lost in Space. I wasn’t quite sure what year this was supposed to be based on, the near future I would think, some tech was old and some new. The tech of the future was a current day Apple laptop. Also, there was immediate communication between Mars and Earth, with no delay. The wheel of the space station was moving too fast, I’m sure it would make them queezy.

Some of the more experienced actors carried the show and the less experienced ones didn’t come across that well. The Caucasian mad scientist guy, who looked/sounded like a Russian actor, was just dreadful, really cringe-worthy performance. One of the actors just overreacted to situations that might have been ok in a comedy but not a drama/SciFi show.

The best line of the movie was related to dumplings, which I won’t give away.

I don’t regret watching this movie, it was only 1 hour 5 minutes in duration. We had a good laugh and learnt that China is trying to make science fiction but has a little way to go to be competitive with the US/Canada/UK.

I think it’s best that I don’t rate it.

Trailer

2021-10-06T20:49:48+00:006 October 2021|Review China|

Oversize Love Review

Oversize LoveOversize Love (月半爱丽丝) is a Chinese movie that was released in October 2020.

About

Lin Xiao Xi protected her overweight friend Han Bing in school. Later in life, Lin Xiao Xi became overweight, and Han Bing lost it.

Lin Xiao Xi is overcome with emotion as she falls for not so decent celebrity Huang Ke and as a result is determined to lose weight but fails miserably. Then a rabbit comes along taking her to a magical house to temporarily transform her into a slim beauty but there are negatives surrounding the potion she takes.

Cast

Johnny Huang (黄景瑜) as Han Bing
The first show we saw Johnny in was Addicted which didn’t pass the censors in China but was a success globally. We’ve seen him in many other projects such as Moonshine and Valentine. He is a very popular actor and model.

Gabrielle Guan (关晓彤) as Lin Xiao Xi
Another extremely popular actress but we haven’t seen her in any other productions as far as I can recall. She has remained constantly busy since the mid-2000’s.

Review

I will say from the start that this was a terrible movie with its only redeeming feature were the actor’s performance.

The storyline showed some promise. I was expecting another fat shaming movie but turned out to be the opposite thankfully with a good message at the end. The female lead didn’t seem very overweight, and her face was a little out of proportion with the rest of the body, so they could have done better in this regard.

There was some original humour in the movie. There was a link to Alice in Wonderland, the 1865 English children’s tale by Lewis Carroll.

There may have been a small hint that the celebrity was bisexual, but I could have read something else into it.

The special effects were decent as they digitally manipulated Gabrielle’s weight, the bunny and magic house were quite well done too. There were often other digital effects through the movie which were annoying, like a children’s TV show. The production company was trying to make the film close to a Disney feature.

There were gaps in continuity during the movie, some points were stuck in suspended animation.

I’ve seen scores in the region of 7.0/10 online, but people were being too generous. I would mark it much less; I’m conflicted in giving it a score, so I won’t. Is it worth seeing? If you are a fan of Johnny Huang or any of the actors, it might be worth checking off, otherwise I would give it a miss.

Where Can I Watch

Right now, it’s listed as being on Viki and Amazon Prime Video. It’s not on Prime Canada.

Trailer

2021-09-27T17:10:41+00:0027 September 2021|Review China|

Looking Up Review

Looking UpLooking Up (银河补习班) is a very under-rated and patriotic blockbusting Chinese film that was released on 18th July 2019.

About

Ma Fei is about to meet his death while orbiting the Earth, in space. He recalls his life, as a child, being raised by his father, which bought him to this point.

The film lasts for 147 minutes. It is an emotional roller-coaster with numerous motivational messages.

Cast

The cast was outstanding and delivered brilliant performances.

Deng Chao (邓超) as Ma Hao Wen
He was not only the main character, the Father, but he also co-Directed the film with Yu Baimei.  This wasn’t the first production that he had directed. I hadn’t seen him in any other productions, but he certainly is busy with a TV show and two films in the works.

Johnny Bai/Bai Yu (白宇) as Ma Fei (the adult)
Many people will be aware of popular actor and singer Bai Yu, he’s very much in demand. We are currently watching him in the Guardian TV series and was looking around to see what else he’d done. I noticed his unmistakable laugh in this film which I’m familiar with from Guardian also, like a snicker.

Li Jian Yi (李建義) as Director Yan (in charge of the school)
Another busy actor, in my age group. He was in Joy of Life which I had seen but don’t recall him in that.

Sun Xi Lun (孙浠伦) as Ma Fei (school age)
He was fourteen or less when making this movie and did a splendid job. I didn’t realise it while watching the movie, but he also appeared as ChengLing in Word of Honor.

Review

Brilliant film. I am surprised to see hardly anyone else review it.

Production

The quality of the production was of a high standard, they must have spent a lot of money on it. There were multiple locations shown in the movie so they must have travelled around a bit filming. The cinematography was of a high standard too, vast landscapes to dingy apartments.

Story

Angela Liu authored the story; I couldn’t find any information about her.  There were some twists and turns, questions that were left unanswered, and of course an emotional roller-coaster with highs and lows. There are humorous scenes in the movie too, and at first, I thought it was going to be a comedy but really wasn’t, another scene towards the end looked slightly out of place but still amusing none-the-less.

Special Effects

I will mark it down slightly for special effects. There is a scene where the father and son watch planes flying by, these are clearly CGI of some sort, and I would say could have been cleaner. Most of the special effects launching the spaceship and orbiting round the earth were very well done. However, the spaceship in orbit seemed too small to hold two humans.

I’m not one for motivational messaging in movies and there was some of that in the movie almost done in a typical Chinese patriotic manner. I was surprised about the messaging around the education system trying to rebel against structural norms “Life does not necessarily have an A, B, C or D answer but critical thinking allows us to expand our horizons more”.

Looking at the trailer I notice one scene was cut from the film. I wonder if there were any other cuts.

A very deserved 9/10, a must see.

Where To Watch

As I write this the film is on Viki and AsianCrush.

Trailer

2021-09-20T17:51:51+00:0020 September 2021|Review China|