Zhou Xun

The Great Magician (2011, Yee Tung-Shing)

The Great Magician is a madcap romp through rural early twentieth century China. It never says rural–Peking is mentioned a couple times–but it feels rural, where a somewhat dimwitted warlord (Lau Ching-wan) can still be powerful. The time period’s a little confusing too. Moviemaking plays a significant part in Magician and all the example films are silents, but when people are making movies, they’re making talkies.

But those confusing parts are nothing compared to the rest. Magician is a political comedy thriller with a lot of magic, some quests, a love triangle, probably some of things too. Oh, right, it’s occasionally narrated by two townspeople who break the third wall to directly address the audience.

Even though director Yee’s not much for composition–Magician’s shots are adequate, but far too reliant on CG, something Kita Nobuyasu can’t seem to shoot–he does keep the circus together. Especially after Tony Leung Chiu-Wai shows up. Until he arrives, it seems like Magician could go anywhere (and even for a little while after he does). Once the film focuses on its tone, it gets to be a lot of fun to watch.

Leung and Lau are great together. Xun Zhou’s excellent as warlord Lau’s seventh wife who he decides is the one he really wants. Paul Chun’s funny as Lau’s scheming subordinate.

There are some great comedy interchanges; most end up being completely unpredictable.

Leon Ko’s excellent music is another big plus.

Magician is a strange, fun picture.



Directed by Yee Tung-Shing; screenplay by Chun Tin Nam, Lau Ho Leung and Yee, based on the novel by Zhang Haifan; director of photography, Kita Nobuyasu; edited by Kwong Chi-Leung; music by Leon Ko; production designer, Yee Chung Man; produced by Peggy Lee and Mandy Law-Huang; released by Emperor Motion Pictures.

Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Chang Hsien), Lau Ching-wan (Bully Lei), Zhou Xun (Liu Yin), Yan Ni (Lei’s third wife), Paul Chun (Liu Wan-Yao), Alex Fung (Chen Kuo), Lam Suet (Li Fengjen), Daniel Wu (Captain Tasi) and Kenya Sawada (Mitearai).

Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012, Wuershan)

Painted Skin: The Resurrection is an unpleasant experience, straddling the fence between stupid and bad. The script, from Ran Ping and Ran Jia-nan, is the weakest link. This magnificent, grandiose melodrama set in Ancient China only has a handful of characters in it. The side characters populating an elaborately constructed–physically and digitally–fall away to concentrate on the leads. While it makes some sense narratively, it makes Resurrection feel empty and fake; the script seems more geared towards cutscenes in a video game.

The CG doesn’t help the artificiality much either. Almost every shot–meaning ninety-eight percent, not sixty or some low figure–has some kind of CG in it. Suspiciously named director Wuershan composes–with his digital crutch–some lovely shots, unfortunately he can’t direct. The action scenes in Resurrection are atrocious, full of inexplicable slow motion. Then Wuershan carries over that slow motion to every sequence in the movie. Like the already boring movie needs to be artificially extended….

Resurrection is a pointless assault on the senses, with Ishida Katsunori’s lousy score an accomplice. It’s too much, every time–except when it comes to pixie cute demon, Mini Yang. The filmmakers inexplicably cheap out on her effects.

None of the acting is good, with lead Zhao Wei probably being the worst. She’s really, really bad. Her demon sidekick, Zhou Xun, is a little better. The object of their mutual affections–Kun Chen–gives the film’s “best” performance.

Resurrection‘s the pits from the opening titles.



Directed by Wuershan; written by Ran Ping and Ran Jia-nan; director of photography, Arthur Wong; edited by Xiao Yang; music by Ishida Katsunori; produced by Pang Hong, Wang Zhonglei and Chen Kuo-fu; released by Huayi Brothers Media.

Starring Chen Kun (Huo Xin), Zhao Wei (Princess Jing), Zhou Xun (Xiaowei), Mini Yang (Que’er), Feng Shaofeng (Pang Lang), Fei Xiang (The Witch Doctor of Tianlang), Chen Tingjia (The Queen of Tianlang) and Morgan Benoit (Wolf Slave of Tianlang).

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