Legendary Amazons (楊門女將之軍令如山)
Frankie Chan (陳勳奇) is probably best known as the composer of the scores of Chungking Express (重慶森林) and Ashes of Time (東邪西毒), but as director of Legendary Amazons, he is not doing himself any favors. The inappropriateness of the English title alone suggests that the film is not really intended to go much beyond the Chinese-speaking world, and the presence of people like Cecilia Cheung (張柏芝) pretending, without any tongue-in-cheek, to be hardened combat veterans of vicious desert campaigns, really just stretches credibility too far. There are some decent big battle set pieces, but the film does not go beyond the historical romances that have been coming out of Hong Kong for decades.
Magic to Win (開心魔法)
From Wilson Yip (葉偉信), director of the solid Ip Man (葉問) martial arts films, Magic to Win shows a lighter side to the director. Unfortunately, it also seems to highlight other less desirable qualities, including a slap-dash approach to narrative coherence and a propensity to cherry-pick ideas from recent Hollywood productions. His new film, with its mixture of the mundane and the supernatural, both equally unbelievable, requires a huge suspension of disbelief if you are to go along for the ride. If you do, the film is filled with energy and high spirits, and perfectly enjoyable, though it fails to achieve the innocent good humor of the Happy Ghost (開心鬼) franchise of the 1980s, which it is clearly trying to emulate. Forgettable entertainment, but with enough familiar faces, including Louis Koo (古天樂) and model-turned-actress Karena Ng (吳千語), to command some attention.
The Source (La source des femmes)
A film that tries to combine sexual comedy with social issues fails to do justice to either in a story that is all cliche and lazy exoticism. The story revolves around the women from a small village in North Africa banding together against their husbands in an attempt to get the men to help in the dangerous and burdensome task of fetching water from the spring. Led by Leila (Leila Bekhti), a young wife from a less conservative part of the country, the women decide to withhold all sexual favors until the men chip in with the domestic work, enduring both physical and psychological abuse for their efforts. The characters are all one dimensional, and director Radu Mihaileanu squanders a talented cast in a tale in which he works through a catalog of standard scenarios toward a predictable end.
Coming to the scene on the wake of the high-profile Moneyball, Touching Home, a based-on-real-life against-the-odds inspirational tale from the world of baseball, fails to distinguish itself. Released in 2008, it is also more than a little shopworn, and despite a solid performance by Ed Harris as an alcoholic father making amends with his twin sons by helping them pursue their dreams to make it in professional baseball, the story is all just a bit too formulaic to make an impression.