If The Twilight Saga has not satiated your craving for teen romance in a world threatened by the supernatural, there is now The Host, also based on a novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer and featuring many varieties of overwrought adolescent emotion. When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) risks everything to protect the people she cares most about. Transcendent love once again proves to be a force that aliens have not reckoned with. Directed by Andrew Niccol, who wrote and directed the excellent Gattaca in 1997, isn’t doing himself any favors with this ponderous, self-important production, but Ronan proves once again that she can shine even in unpromising material.
Saving General Yang (忠烈楊家將)
Big-budget kungfu drama from Hong Kong director Ronny Yu (于仁泰), whose Fearless (霍元甲) back in 2006 proved a massive box office success in the region. With Saving General Yang, Yu has drawn on a classic of Chinese literature, telling the story set during the sunset years of the Song Dynasty, when nomads from the north were pressing hard on China’s borders and power struggles where tearing the government apart from within. The film mixes a small dose of intrigue with big battle sequences and powerful, though often rather one-dimensional, emotions. The story about seven brothers facing the might of the nomadic Liao kingdom in an effort to rescue their father is inevitably dominated by forthright, manly passions, and lots of hacking up of hapless extras. The film also sees the debut of Taiwan’s Vic Chow (周渝民) in a costume drama.
It’s not terribly sophisticated, but who cares? Summer is coming, and light, easy entertainment that does that insult your intelligence is something to be cherished on those occasions when a trip to the cinema is required for the whole family. Ok, the film does feature Nicolas Cage, but at least it is only his voice, and you don’t have to actually see him or his hairstyle. The story is a familiar one about a family adapting to unfamiliar circumstances, though in this case the family is the Croods, a group of early Homo sapiens faced with catastrophic environmental change. It’s kind of Ice Age with people and family instead of buddy dynamics. Emma Stone voices Eep, a teenage girl who is the central character, and there is plenty of well-worn humor rejigged for a Paleolithic setting.
A hard-hitting action flick with a social conscience features Dwayne (formerly “The Rock”) Johnson as a dad who goes undercover for the DEA in an effort to obtain a plea bargain to get his son off a charge of drug smuggling. Susan Sarandon is the tough DA who wants to get the most out of the deal as possible, and Johnson is soon up to this biceps in seedy Mexican drug barons, heavy-duty armaments and big car chases. Johnson has been lauded by some critics for his convincing imitation of acting, while others have seen the film’s attempt to deal with serious issues of law enforcement as a fatal flaw that tears the film apart as it tries to balance the adrenalin rush of big stunts with a discourse on the judicial system. Directed by Ric Waugh, a stunt coordinator turned director, the action is good enough to cover the film’s other failings.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (明天記得愛上我)
Directed by Arvin Chen (陳駿霖), who had considerable success with Au Revoir Taipei (一頁台北) in 2009, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? is yet another urban romance that draws inspiration from the melodramatic style of TV soaps. It sports a big name cast, which may or may not be enough to bring in the punters. Mavis Fan (范曉萱) playing Ah Feng, a woman who believes that she has the perfect marriage with optician Wei Chung (Richie Ren, 任賢齊), discovers that not everything is as rosy as its seems; it turns out Wei has a romantic past that is not completely over and done with. Wei’s sister does a runner at the altar steps in the hope of finding true love. The film rings the changes competently enough but doesn’t go anywhere you wouldn’t expect.