Badges of Fury (不二神探)
A crime thriller featuring martial arts superstar Jet Li (李連杰), who plays veteran police officer Huang. His partner is young buck Wang (played by Wen Zhang, 文章) who is constantly getting the two into hot water. There are echoes of the Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon franchises in the mix of high-octane action and buddy movie humor. For those looking to balance out the muscular antics of Li and his police pal, there is also Liu Shishi (劉詩詩), Michelle Chen (陳妍希) and Liu Yan (柳岩), who provide plenty of eye candy and cross-Strait appeal. The story, as far as it goes, involves the duo, who are forced to go undercover to trace a killer, entering the glamorous world of aspiring movie star Liu, and engaging in some very improbable wire-assisted combats with various bad guys. This is the third collaboration between Li and Wen as a martial arts duo, and the film is helped by the good chemistry between the two.
Caught in the Web (搜索)
Based on an award-winning Internet novel, Caught in the Web is this year’s nomination from China for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. The story that starts with a seemly minor infringement of civic etiquette — a young woman refusing to give up her bus seat to an elderly man, caught on video and posted online by an intern journalist — sparks a public outcry and shakes up the lives of the young woman (Gao Yuanyuan, 高圓圓), the intern journalist (Wang Luodan, 王珞丹) and many of their friends and associates. Directed by Chen Kaige (陳凱歌), the creator of classics such as Farewell My Concubine and self-indulgent dross such as The Promise, Caught in the Web shows, despite its heavily melodramatic tone, a certain edginess by being rooted in the digitally savvy, status conscious and wealthy new China.
The first problem with The Internship is that it is a bit too much like a two-hour commercial for Google. The second problem is that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have done this comedy duo before, and better. The third problem is that director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Date Night) mistakes persistent efforts at charm as a substitute for actual humor. And I could go on, and on, and on. Two middle-aged goofballs find their careers in marketing obliterated by technology, and then find themselves in an intern program for Google as it selects the best and brightest. They form a team with a bunch of other losers, and inevitably, find new self-belief as they struggle against hopeless odds and a total disconnect with the modern digital world. You know the rest.
If you loved Monsters Inc then you will love Monsters University, a prequel with attitude, that happily covers much the same ground as the original film, without much originality or new inspiration but with plenty of energy and good humor. Solid craftsmanship ensures that most audiences are unlikely to be disappointed, and a voice cast that includes Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Helen Mirren provides a depth of characterization that is constantly entertaining. On the other hand, for fans of Pixar’s groundbreaking early work, Monsters University might disappoint, for though it is a return to form following the failure of Cars 2, it is a long way from the cutting edge of animation filmmaking that it once inhabited.
My Awkward Sexual Adventures
Billed as “the funniest Canadian sex comedy ever” in the trailer, which kind of puts the film in perspective. How many Canadian sex comedies have you seen? This one is occasionally funny and occasionally gross, as a conservative accountant enlists the help of an exotic dancer to guide him on a quest for sexual experience so that he can win back his girlfriend. Genitalia jokes get a full workout, but rather than finding inspiration from its characters, the film takes the easy route of working through a variety of stock scenarios that sees the film’s lead being a fish out of water in strip clubs and massage parlors, and attempting cross-dressing and S&M.