Review China

Home>Review China

Review of Chinese Movies and TV Shows

Strange Legend of Tang Dynasty

Strange Legend of Tang Dynasty is a Chinese 36 part TV series that was broadcast between 27 September thru 12 October 2022.

About

It is also known as “Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty” and is based on a novel by Wei Feng Hua.

Ling Feng, General of the Jin Wu Guards and Su Wu Ming, a disciple of Di Ren Jie, work together to solve numerous mysterious cases including that of a strange fountain of youth herb named the Black Tea in which those who take it die after a short period of time.

Cast

Yang Xu Wen (杨旭文) as Lu Ling Feng
Officially entered show business in 2014 he has become one of those “in-demand” actors with 8 upcoming contracts. As far as I can see he has only done 1 movie and the rest TV shows. He was billed first in this drama although I thought it was initially about Su Wu Ming.

Yang Zhi Gang (杨志刚) as Su Wu Ming
His sibling is a famous screenwriter and producer Guo Jing Yu.
A decent list of TV shows to his name, but no movie productions. He will be the Chief Producer of the upcoming drama Hua Xin Wang Ye Gong Lue (花心王爷攻略), which is supposedly a time travel web series in the comedy romance genre.

Review

Strange Legend was one of those surprise shows I didn’t expect to be so good.

There was a great mixture of fantasy, wuxia, mystery and comedy. If you are a fan of Detective Dee then this show is a must for you.

There appeared to be great chemistry between the cast, in the “making of” videos plus within the shows. Then there were the little pockets of really funny moments, especially in the final moments of the last show where they just seemed to make fun of themselves, reminding me of Stargate SG1.

The script was often a little complicated with the mysteries but was probably done on purpose as you saw Detective Dee’s disciple figure everything out while putting all the threads together. I don’t think it’s the purpose of the show for the audience to figure it out as I think it’s impossible. Over the 36 episodes, there are various mysteries they are challenged with, like different story arcs and one central theme.

Looking through how people are commenting on the show they 1) hope there will be a second season and 2) are looking for shows that are in a similar style. I think it would be difficult what they captured in this show.

One of the genres it was classed under was “Horror” and I didn’t think it was, more like fantasy, wuxia, mystery, thriller and comedy.

I will give this a 5/5, an absolute must-see show.

Where Can I Watch

You can see the show on either the official iQiYi website or its YouTube channel. Note that there are only a few of the first episodes available for free and the rest are pay-per-view.

2022-12-01T18:56:48+00:001 December 2022|Review China|

Really Movie Review

Really? [我说的都是真的] is a Chinese Movie released on 30th March 2018. It is also known by several other titles including “All I Say Is True”.

About

Han Zhi Gang exaggerates, or lies, about many things including his potential hunt for treasure in Iraq. He then witnesses what he thinks is a kidnapping and the victim’s death. He is then chased by the criminals as they try to kill the witness. As he is a compulsive liar no one believes his story except his daughter.

Cast

Wu Yue [吴樾] plays Han Zhi Gang
He has a long list of credits both in TV and film, we may have seen some of the films, like IP Man 4, that he’s been in.

There weren’t many others we recognized but I will give a special mention to:

Shao Bing [ 朱云峰] who played Ma Shuang
The reason why he gets a special mention is I think he was the funniest character in the film.
Baidu Profile

Review

The film was enjoyable but it wasn’t great. The actors and crew obviously worked hard on this project.

Some of the CGI and artwork in this movie were unique, I enjoyed it for that alone, it was very well done.  We thought the plane landing in the opening sequence was animated at first, but I suspect it was some fiddling with the camera view.

The script, well, there was nothing really new in it and there were spots in the movie that was a little bit boring, maybe a good time to go make a cup of coffee.

I would say it was very “slapstick” in style, a comedy of errors, especially the parts where the criminals tried to kill the kidnapping witness.

The moral of the story was of course “if you keep lying no one will believe you when you are telling the truth”.

I think the movie is good to have in the background and turn your attention to it when something exciting happens. I give it 2.5/5.

Interesting Snippet

There was a small clip of Hillary Clinton towards the end of the movie. I believe it was from 2016, so that was 2 years prior to when the movie was made. It didn’t appear derogatory in any way unless I missed something.

Hillary Clinton

Where to Watch

It is available on Viki and TubiTV.

I understand it’s also on YouTube although I’m not sure if it’s really supposed to be there.

Trailer

2022-11-01T05:21:18+00:001 November 2022|Review China|

The Ying Yang Master Review

Ying Yang Master (侍神令) is a Chinese movie that was released on 12th February 2021 playing on and commissioned by Netflix.

About

Part of the official summary of the movie:

“Captain of the City Guard Yuan Boya is stripped of rank after the imperial tribute he was guarding is stolen. Unwilling to let things lie, he searches for the thieves, only to end up entering a mystical world of demons.”

There is a sequel called “The Ying Yang Master: Dream of Eternity” but not really related to the first and has a different cast.

Cast

Chen Kun (陳坤) as Qin Ming
I immediately recognized him as he played Ning Yi on The Rise of Phoenixes, also commissioned by Netflix. A popular actor with a long string of TV shows and Movies.
Instagram

Zhou Xun (周迅) as BaiNi
Don’t think we have seen her in anything else but she is also a singer as well as an actor, and internationally recognized.

Qu Chu Xiao (屈楚萧) as Yuan Bo Ya
Started his acting career in 2016 and appears to be gaining in popularity.
Instagram

Review

This movie generally receives very good reviews, from reading comments Chen Kun was one of the main attractions with a huge fan base.

I will sum up my thoughts; this movie is about special effects and not really about the story.

The special effects were very well done and it must have been quite a task to put this movie together. However, there was really too much going on-screen throughout and I diverted my eyes through quite a few moments. At one point I almost fell asleep.

It’s great that they are so advanced now with CGI but the story has to be the main focus which this movie severely lacked. So, unfortunately, I will rate it as 2 out of 5. If action and special effects are your things then this is the movie for you.

Where To See It

Seems that this movie is only available on Netflix given that it was commissioned by them.

Trailer

2022-08-08T17:04:06+00:008 August 2022|Review China|

The Ark of Mr Chow Reivew

This is a review of the Chinese movie The Ark of Mr Chow (少年班) which was released on 19th June 2015.

About

Xi’an Jiaotong University has a gifted student program. Its director takes on students, who are geniuses but are also misfits. How will the students get along there? Will they be ready to take part in the international competition to solve tough maths questions?

Cast

The following are actors of note, to me:

Honglei Sun (孙红雷) plays Zhou Zhi Yong
Always wanted to be in acting, started break dancing, gave up studies to pursue dancing, then got into acting with many TV and Movies under his belt.

Wang Lixin (王栎鑫) plays Mai Ke
He looks awfully familiar but I don’t think we’ve seen him in anything. He is a pop singer and actor. The YouTube video below show’s his singing abilities.

Liu Xi Long (柳希龙) plays Wang Da Fa
He seemed to play the oddest of the oddballs in the film. I can’t find much about this actor, The Ark of Mr Chow may have been his first performance on screen.  He has also done a TV series called Tientsin Mystic, seasons 1 and 2.

Review

Ark of Mr ChowI thought this was quite gritty and open for a Chinese film. it felt like the antics I might see in a US film but with clearly Chinese themes.

None of the students fit in, they were completely out of place in that environment, and emotionally not quite with it. They were definitely like geniuses without direction.

The actors were very good in their roles. Each of the students had distinct personalities that the actors could get their teeth into. The role that stood out among all of them was the child actor, he got all the love. Wang Li Xin’s role stood out for me.

There was a lot of laughs, many dramatic scenes, some CGI and fairly good cinematography. I don’t think the camera work stood out, I don’t think that was the vocal point in the film.

The film is categorized as a comedy/drama, but I don’t think I would use the word comedy at all, I would just say there were some amusing moments.

This is another film that is under-rated, I would personally give it a 4.5/5.

Links

Awards

Yang Xiao was nominated, but didn’t win, the Huading Award for Best New Director for a Motion Picture

Honglei Sun won the International Chinese Film Festival award for Best Actor

Where to Watch

The film can be viewed on AsianCrush and TubiTV, and in some regions on AppleTV.

Trailer

2022-07-26T22:26:19+00:0026 July 2022|Review China|

Midnight Diner China Review

This is my review of Chinese movie called Midnight Diner (深夜食堂) which was released on 30 August 2019.

About

Midnight Diner originally started as a highly successful TV series in Japan. Other countries bought the rights to it including China, Korea and Taiwan, and each has had its own series or film.

The Chinese film adaptation is based in Shanghai and we saw the stories of those people who ate there, such as a taxi driver meeting a receptionist who wants to be a model, a singer who hasn’t long to live, a boxer struggling in his career and so on.

Cast

I didn’t recognize any of the cast except the main actor.

Tony Leung (梁家辉) plays the owner of the diner
He is from Hong Kong with a very long resume of films.

Review

I can’t help but compare it against the original Japanese version, and it did do a very good job to keep to the original story. The restaurant looked very similar, however, much cleaner than the one in Tokyo.

In the Japanese version, the characters were more diverse, not so much in this Chinese film. China is generally more conservative in its views on diversity.

The stories were very good, generally, most of them were short with the exception of the last one. The first story had more focus on the diner, which is similar to the Japanese version, however, the last story went on for too long and kind of forgot about the restaurant altogether. The scene with the revolving table was annoying and made me feel sick watching it.

Fat shaming can be an issue in Chinese TV shows and films but this was addressed brilliantly in the movie.

Like the Japanese version, there was a good mix of humour in the movie and that was also done very well.

I would give it a 4/5 and would recommend it. If nothing else, we got some good cooking tips from it!! Do you all have a favourite “Midnight Diner” in your city?

Trailer

2022-07-20T17:14:35+00:0020 July 2022|Review China|

The Wind Blows From Longxi Review

This is my review of Chinese TV Show The Wind Blows From Longxi (风起陇西), which aired between 27 April to 7 May 2022 on CCTV/iQiyi.

About

The Shu defeated the Wei using their specific crossbow design. Wei sent numerous spies into the Shu kingdom to steal the plans. Chen Gong and Xun Xu are Shu spies who go their separate ways to stop the plan.

Actually, there is more to the story than this, it’s quite complex, but I would just watch the series.

Cast

Chen Kun (陳坤) plays Chen Gong
I didn’t realise until after the show had finished but he played Ning Yi in Netflix’s The Rise of Phoenixes.
He is an actor, singer and also a very successful writer. He has won numerous awards for his acting. He is also on China’s Writers Rich List. He has one child, he isn’t married and hasn’t revealed the name of the Mother.
Instagram

Bai Yu (白宇) plays Xun Xu
A very popular actor who we’ve seen in a number of productions. He has won multiple awards, be voted the most handsome guy in China, and so on.

I recognized a couple of other cast members who had support roles in other dramas we’ve watched.

Review

The series was 24 episodes long, if it was something like 70 it would have been too tough to watch it all.

The storyline was quite complex and parts of the show, the text that appeared on the screen, weren’t translated by the production company, so parts of it were completely lost on me at first. I started to understand what was going on after the 5th episode. The final few episodes were the best, not just because it was coming to an end, but I had started to appreciate the story.

I would say this drama had a more realistic “look and feel” than many Chinese dramas we’ve seen. The sets were basic, with no fancy decor, just basic wooden houses or shacks may be to reflect the hard time they were going through. Even the short scene of the Emperor showed how un-fancy they were. No fancy tea or dinner service. The homes were dark with very little lighting. The costumes were the same way, very basic cloth and not posh at all. It was kind of refreshing to see this.

The drama had a serious tone, there wasn’t a lot of humour at all. There was romance and this shaped what one of the characters had become about halfway through the show. This isn’t necessarily an action-orientated show, although it did have some. I took it as a focus on the politics and relationships of war.

The acting was good. Much of what was said was done in whispers, very quietly spoken roles. This was the first show I’ve seen where Bai Yu hasn’t joked around or hardly smiled come to that, although there were times when that cheeky smile came across.

In the first few episodes there was this humorous person at the end, about 30 seconds, the summarize what had just happened. This, sadly, didn’t continue throughout the series. Maybe the production company realized what a complex story it was and decided to throw that in to help people like me out.

There wasn’t a lot of incidental music but the opening theme, with the drums, was awesome. The closing theme didn’t fit in with the drama at all but it wasn’t too bad.

The downsides of this show were the lack of female characters and the screenwriting should have been adapted to pull me into the show more, at least a the beginning.

Links

Where Can I Watch

The show is available on YouTube, with great subtitles, and Viki.

Making Of…

2022-07-10T23:31:45+00:0010 July 2022|Review China|

Restart The Earth Movie Review

Restart The EarthMy review of the movie Restart The Earth (重启地球) which was released in China on 3rd September 2021.

About

Humans developed drugs that promote accelerated growth of plants, however, it all goes horribly wrong as they become sentient and take over the planet bringing the human race closer to its demise.

A global task force to take back the planet is initiated and this is the story of the challenges China faces.

Cast

The following are the two central figures.

Mickey He (何晟銘) plays the lead character Yang Hao.
He is an actor and singer and has a long list of TV productions dating back to 2008 with a handful of films.
A lot of his music can be found on YouTube.

Zhang Ming Can (张明灿) as Yuan Yuan
She is a child actress and one of the best performances in the movie!

Review

Ugh. Where do I start?!

This film reminded me of the Lost In Space episode “The Great Vegetable Rebellion”. The city backdrop looked as though it was from the computer graphic-generated show “Swallowed Star”.

Some of the special effects were quite decent, some just seemed to have been done in a rush all on green screen. I would say the majority of them were ok. The angry vegetables/plants looked like half dragon half snake.

The acting, well, I think the actors did their best with an awful script. There will obviously be many who enjoyed the film, a bit of escapism, so they have to do their best for them.

The script is just awful. The movie did move along, it got stuck on certain things, but did come to a decent conclusion with the time allowed. It was full of cliches and one-liners that can just be dug out of a book like politicians do. I’m not sure what the screenwriter, Lin Zhen Zhao (林珍釗), was thinking with this movie, he actually won an award before, maybe he just needed to churn something out quickly, hope he got paid well.

I really want to be as generous as I can in rating the movie but I can only give it a 1 out of 5.

Where To Watch

You don’t have to pay to watch this, they just put it on YouTube and TubiTV. TubiTV has their copy dubbed in English which sounded really bad.

Trailer

2022-06-27T21:37:36+00:0027 June 2022|Review China|

For A Few Bullets Review

For A Few BulletsFor A Few Bullets (快手枪手快枪手) is a Chinese movie that was released on 16th July 2016.

About

The official short summary of the movie:

“A professional thief must team up with a special agent to stop the Japanese military from stealing a national treasure.”

IMDB describes it as “A con man and a Chinese government agent each has their own reasons for trying to recover a historical artefact from agents of Japan.”

I guess that is pretty much it.

Cast

Lin Geng Xin (林更新) as Xiaozhuang
This actor is ranked on the Forbes China Celebrity 100 list It appears he has appeared in quite a few TV shows, dramas and movies.

Zhang Jing Chu (张静初) as Li Ruoyun
Another famous actress was named one of “Asia’s Heroes” by Time Magazine in 2005. Numerous forthcoming movies and TV shows are in the works. She looks busy.

Review

Other websites had reviewed the movie with relatively low scores, such as 5.3 on IMDB. Some reviewers went from “rubbish” to “brilliant”.

From start to end there was always something going on in the movie. It was very much action orientated. The comedy blended in well even though it was an “expected” incident rather than come as a surprise.

They really tried to put in everything. Train, boat, aeroplane, desert, city, hallucination inducing murderous steampunk phantom, the dead boyfriend comes to life and some rude Carry On movie-style antics. People are right, it was like an Indiana Jones or a movie that was making fun of it.

The thing that stood out for me was the cinematography, it was beautifully filmed, especially the desert sequences.

I will give it an 8.5 out of 10. I think I enjoyed it more than others.

Where Can I Watch

It is available on Asian Crush and Tubi.

Trailer

2022-05-17T23:24:35+00:0017 May 2022|Review China|

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|