The Sorcerer and the White Snake (法海:白蛇傳說)
From the hands of director Ching Siu-tung (程小東), a veteran of Hong Kong cinema who took the helm in Chinese Ghost Story (倩女幽魂) parts two and three, as well as The Legend of the Swordsman (笑傲江湖之東方不敗), this is a big, effects-heavy take on a well-known folk story that is a standard of traditional Chinese opera. The legend tells of a white snake demon who falls in love with a young scholar, Xu Xian. She uses her supernatural powers to help him, but when her real identity is revealed to him by the monk Fa Hai, he flees. The white snake and her sister the green snake battle Fa Hai, and after many twists and turns, love conquers all. The Chinese title of the film underlines the fact that the main character is the monk Fa Hai, who is a peripheral figure in the traditional story. Jet Li (李連杰) plays the kill-joy monk, but he does not get much of a chance to display his martial arts talent, as he is the only real fight specialist in the film. White and green snakes are played by Eva Huang (黃聖依) and Charlene Choi (蔡卓妍), respectively, and Vivian Hsu (徐若瑄) has a cameo as one of Fa Hai’s early demonic victims.
Four Hands (麵引子)
Historical melodrama by director Lee You-ning (李祐寧), Four Hands relates a family drama that spans China and Taiwan over three generations. The story deals with a veteran of the Chinese Nationalist army who retreated to Taiwan only to discover that the dreams of “reconquering the mainland” are empty rhetoric. He builds a new family in Taiwan, but after his wife dies, goes back to China to visit what’s left of his family, including a son he has never seen. He returns, disappointed, to Taiwan, having failed to connect with a man who cannot understand his father’s abandonment. Only when he is near death does his son rush to his father’s bedside, where half a century of misunderstanding is resolved.
John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1984 remains an iconic work of horror even after more than 25 years, so one cannot really hold out too much hope for the 2011 prequel/remake by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Carpenter’s film was all about pacing and the gradual buildup of tension as members of an Antarctic research station gradually get taken over by a mostly unseen alien creature. The remake follows a similar formula, and has a perfectly adequate cast led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (most recently seen in Scott Pilgrim vs the World), but the action has been put on fast-forward, so while it never gets boring, the characters don’t hang around long enough to make an impression.
I Don’t Know How She Does It
How does Sarah Jessica Parker do it? She keeps on getting leading roles in movies; and the sad thing is that I Don’t Know How She Does It actually has an interesting premise, an above-average script and a wonderful supporting cast that includes Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. But Parker does not cut it as a high-powered financial executive juggling work and home life. You just know that she is going to start getting the vapors over a pair of shoes at any minute, and so much of her personality is a straight riff on Carrie Bradshaw. Perhaps its the only role she has ever been comfortable playing, but 13 years on from the first release of Sex and the City, whatever appeal this persona might have had has long since worn off.