Review of Chinese Movies and TV Shows

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|0 Comments

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|0 Comments

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|0 Comments

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|0 Comments

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|0 Comments

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|0 Comments

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|0 Comments

Joy of Life Review

Uncle Wu and Fan XianJoy of Life is a Chinese program that was broadcast between November 2019 and January 2020.

About

The main character is Fan Xian who was bought up by his Grandmother and following the visit from a stranger he heads to the capital to find out more about his mysterious Mother which leads him into political intrigue.

Cast

Characters of note are:

Zhang Ruo Yun plays Fan Xian. For some reason he looks remarkably familiar but looking through his CV I don’t see anything he’s been in that we’ve watch. Watching various videos online he does seem to be playing himself in this show. He seems to in the process of many dramas and appears to be very popular actor now.

Wu Gang plays Chen Ping Ping. We’ve only seen him in the film Super Me, he was vastly different in that movie. He played the part of creepy Chen Ping Ping very well.

Guo Qi Lin plays Fan Si Zhe. We felt he should have had a larger role in the show, one of our favourites and this is the case with fans. He’s character is the underdog and sweet.

Thomas Tong (Tong Meng Shi) plays Uncle Wu. An extremely popular actor with numerous projects in the pipeline. His character in this show was very mysterious and was always around to protect Fan Xian. His character was like Daredevil, not exactly blind but wore something round his eyes so he couldn’t see, not sure if he is blind.

Review

Major spoilers.

There is one side of the story which is Fan Xian discovering his mother’s past and his venture into the world of politics. The other more scifi/fantasy part is something they never got into much. In what looks like the present a university student who looks like Fan Xian is drafting a story which is in fact what we see in Joy of Life. Then there are clips of dream sequences (?) when Fan Xian 1) sees himself in a modern hospital in a coma, 2) his real home is a huge city of the future covered in ice and 3) Fan Xian retains some knowledge of the future or a parallel universe. Hopefully, those will be explored in seasons 2 or 3.

The first episode was a little odd, I wondered if this was a comedy show, it was slightly annoying. Then it became more serious and complex with twists and turns. The main character just got too annoying at times, it felt he was indestructible and not learning anything along his journey, little character development. Uncle Wu and the brother Fan Si Zhe were our favourites and should have featured more in the show.

The special effects are becoming more sophisticated in Chinese drama shows and this series was no exception, really raising the bar. It seems the production company may have put in quite a bit of effort with the musical score, sometimes it was over-kill but appreciated that there wasn’t too much repetition. The closing title’s theme was fantastic, the best I’ve heard out of all the drama’s I’ve seen.

Summary

This drama is well worth the watch, ignore my negative criticisms as these are just my observations. I would give it a 8/10. Other reviewers have given it an average of 9/10 as I’ve seen on various Asian site.

Trailer

2021-09-13T21:32:29+00:0014 August 2021|Review China|0 Comments

Dynasty Warriors Review

Dynasty WarriorsThis is a review of the Chinese film Dynasty Warriors which can be viewed on Netflix.

About

Let’s see, how would I describe what this movie is about. Appears to be a bunch of warriors from all over the country rising-up against the evil Dong Zhou. The story is more focused on three characters with amazing skills trying to save the day.

Crew

I’m not sure why these prominent actors signed up for this movie but these were ones I recognized:

  • Wang Kai – he played Cao Cao but was better known for me in the 2015 version of Nirvana in Fire, he played Prince Jing in that.
  • Louis Koo – I briefly saw him in Step Into The Past and S Storm.
  • Gülnezer Bextiyar – I never heard of this actress but interesting to note she is of Uyghur descent and was named ‘The Uyghur Venus’ due to her perfect skin. She played a minor role in this film.

Review

Major Spoilers Ahead!!

Oh dear, where do I start with this one.

There was action from start to finish of this film. It was more about the special effects than the story line, however, neither were done that well. The characters didn’t really have any development, they were just there to do battle. There weren’t any strong female characters, the women that had roles barely spoke and their storyline was a little bizarre. As far as I could make out the three main characters saved the evil guy, not knowing who he was, but then went onto be his enemy.

We see part of the story where this evil bloke, with the biggest feather you have ever seen, commits to marrying someone he doesn’t know, not even her name, and as a seal of his love stabs himself with a knife just before going into one of the biggest battles of his life. It does not make any sense. Then, his girlfriend goes off to marry the evil character against her will then the film finish with no clue whether she will be saved. We also don’t know whether the good guys will go onto beat the baddies. There was also no “To be continued” message at the end of the film.

The movie is based on a Japanese game so I guess the ending might be where that will take you when you are playing it. I’m not sure the film stands on its own very well.

Was post-production rushed or interrupted due to the pandemic? I wondered why it was constructed so poorly.

Summary

Give it a miss. I would give it a generous 2/5, for special effects.

Trailer

2021-09-13T21:34:01+00:006 July 2021|Review China|0 Comments

Nirvana in Fire Season 2 Review

Nirvana in Fire is a brilliant Chinese TV series that has now aired 2 seasons with another season to come.

About

Nirvana in Fire 2: The Wind Blows in Chang Lin takes place 40 years after season one. There are 50 episodes that aired in 2018.

Rather than me figure out how to explain the plot this a better one:

Xiao Ping Zhang and Xiao Ping Jing are the talented sons of Xiao Ting Sheng, the Prince of Changlin and general of the Liang dynasty’s most powerful army. Ping Zhang is the eldest and heir of Changlin, while Ping Jing is carefree and receives teachings from the master of Langya Hall in the jianghu.

The Changlin Manor exists, first and foremost, for the people of Da Liang. They are greatly respected and trusted by the current and past emperor and they act with high integrity and loyalty to the country. However, there are those who worry that the Changlin Manor is gaining too much power and favour, and there are those with old grudges to repay. As such, shadowy plots battle once again with righteous conduct in this sequel, as familial ties, moral values, ambition, and coming of age themes take the protagonists through a tumultuous road to finding themselves.

Crew

Nirvana Season 2I had never heard any of the actors that appeared in season two but have since seen them in other productions. These are the main actors from my perspective:

Turbo Liu (刘昊然) playing Xiao Ping Jing.
The actor appears to be in demand for movies rather than TV shows now. We have seen him in 1 of the 3 Chinatown Detective movies. He did look a little out of place in this show as they made him look quite pretty.

Wu Hao Chen (吴昊宸) playing Xiao Yuan Qi
Like Turbo they made this character slightly pretty and I didn’t expect his character to turn in the direction that it did. He has two upcoming TV series.

Review

I thought season 2 was better than season 1, this was down to two reasons. Firstly, there were various story arcs throughout the series which made it more watchable for me. Also, there was more action, some of it leaning toward wuxia.

I see many ask whether you need to watch season 1 in order to watch season 2. I would recommend it. There are subtle references to season 1 and they revisit some of the sets in some of the episodes.

The acting was pretty good from most of the actors. None of them was too over the top and played their parts consistently.

There were horse-riding episodes that you could tell were filmed on a green screen and they were quite funny, even though they were meant to be serious to ultra-romantic. The other special effects/CGI, for the fighting sequences, was executed very well.

The opening theme song was a variation on the first. There were two closing themes, they changed halfway through the series, the second version was much better.

I don’t think it’s rewatchable simply because it’s way too long, but I might go back to specific episodes. I will use it as a reference should season 3 come to fruition.

I would highly recommend both season 1 and season 2 of Nirvana in Fire. I rate it 9/10.

Where To See It

The series is available on various platforms but the best version is on YouTube simply because the English subtitles are so easy to read.

Trailer

2021-09-13T21:34:29+00:0024 May 2021|Review China|0 Comments