“YOU’RE wishing your life away” is what she told me. I was complaining about having to go to a social function I did not want to attend and my friend told me I needed to stop wishing things were over. Explaining my reasons for not wanting to attend, she pointed out there was no choice in the matter since I was required to attend; so why keep complaining about it because nothing is going to change. She was right; there really was nothing I could do about the situation. Of course, that did not stop me from complaining and wishing I did not have to go to the event. I am so used to or maybe it is better to say I have been programmed for so many years to wish things away; let me tell you why. DEPENDING on my age I have spent a majority of my youth wishing certain things were different. As a young boy I wanted to fly or at least be invisible; when you cannot be seen you cannot get hurt. When I learned how to bowl it seemed it was a long time before my wish came true to throw a strike. By the time I was in high school my wish list expanded greatly. Besides wishing myself away I also wished something bad would happen to my tormentors. The list of “bad things” is way too long to list here; let me just say some of the wishes included burning, drowning and torture. These wishes created if you will an alternative world where I was in control and not getting hurt. During that time I did have other wishes like wanting to be skinny, strong and a world traveler. Correct me if I am wrong in my assumption but I do not think I was the only one who had wishes. Based on how many people I have seen at the convenience store buying lottery tickets, it seems many people wish for something to happen in their lives. Another example is the high school girl in this fantasy, horror thriller. FINDING an unusual discarded Chinese box Clare Shannon, played by Joey King (Wish I Was Here, Independence Day: Resurgence), discovered what she wished for would come true. What she did not know was the price that needed to be paid to make that wish turn into reality. With a cast that included Ryan Phillippe (The Lincoln Lawyer, Cruel Intentions) as Jonathan Shannon, Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner franchise, The Stanford Prison Experiment) as Ryan Hui and newcomer Mitchell Slaggert as Paul Middlebrook; this story had a decent idea that quickly dropped into the dumpster. There was nothing scary per se; just a few scenes of violence. If the writers were trying to unnerve the viewer with tension I did not see anything worthwhile. At one point I felt sad for the actors because the script was so typical it was easy to figure out what the next scene would be. I did not find the acting anything to write home about; it was close to forgettable though I was drawn most to Joey and Ki with their roles. For a majority of this film I sat in my seat feeling bored; wishing I did not have to be there, stuck watching it. Oh there I go again wishing for something to be over; but in this case, I feel I was justified. There were violent scenes and in the middle of the credits there was an extra scene.
1 ½ stars
The group of friends had a set monthly date to get together for dinner. They had originally first met when they were team players in a sports league. At the end of the meal when it was time to figure out the check they all agreed to split the bill; it was easier, making more sense instead of trying to figure out who ordered what and how much they needed to pay. There was one friend who usually had 2 alcoholic drinks with his meal, which also tended to be more expensive than everyone else’s food. Another friend from the group never had enough cash on hand; they always collected everyone’s money so they could then pay the entire bill on their charge card. No one minded nor knew their charge card rebated a percentage of the total monthly charges back to the cardholder. As an outside observer I would have gotten annoyed after awhile if a friend kept ordering the most expensive meals with drinks without ever offering to throw in a few more bucks to make up the difference. I at least know I have options: ask for separate checks, break the check down to each person’s share or just not order anything. Things like this can be irritating. They are not a life or death situation and I can have an effect on the situation. Compare it to the greed I see in the news, it is on a whole different scale. From a drug executive raising the price of a drug 5000% to a political figure disregarding public safety for monetary gain to a business financier setting up a Ponzi scheme to swindle workers’ retirement funds; I find the level of greed in people astounding. This comedic, dramatic fantasy had one solution for a greedy corporation. BUSINESS tycoon Liu Xuan, played by Chao Deng (American Dreams in China, Assembly), knew his reclamation sea project was killing the sea life, but he did not care. The project was worth billions. This film directed by Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) recently became the largest grossing film in Chinese history. With newcomer Yun Lin as Shan and Show Luo (Journey to the West, Hi My Sweetheart-TV) as Octopus, I have to tell you this “extravaganza” was trippy. Part Bollywood, part slapstick, part romance, part social commentary; this picture pretty much had everything in it. From a technical standpoint the special effects were cheesy, the acting was over the top and the script had some lame passages; but I have to tell you, this picture had a way of drawing the viewer in. I felt the message was an important one so I could appreciate all the effort it must have taken to create this movie. Bear in mind there were a few actual film clips of animals used that were hard to watch due to the content. All in all, this movie kept my interest while entertaining me. I am sure the film studio made a profit on this and I do not know, maybe they made a donation to a charity with some of the proceeds. Ultimately it is the studio’s job to make films and I commend them on tackling an important subject in a creative way. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles.
2 2/3 stars
When making a conscious choice I try not to regret the decision if it does not turn out the way I had hoped. If I had continued my studies in veterinarian science instead of switching into creative writing and photography could be used as one example. Then again there was a time I wanted to become a DJ. I could say I made a bad decision by taking the expressway instead of surface streets to cycle class, getting stuck in traffic and arriving late. At least my decision was an annoyance, not a life or death situation as it was in this comedic drama. Tipping his hat to the Coen brothers’ movie “Blood Simple,” visionary director Yimou Zhang (Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers) created a richly colored palette of decisions gone bad. Noodle shop owner Wang, played by Dahong Ni (Curse of the Golden Flower, The Message); was led to believe his wife, played by Ni Yan (My Own Swordsman, Inseparable), was having an affair with his employee Li, played by relative newcomer Xiao Shen-Yang. Hiring corrupt chief inspector Zhang, played by Honglei Sun (Seven Swords, The Road Home), Wang devised a plan to be away from the shop when Zhang would kill the adulterous couple. The dramatic aspect of this film was beautiful to watch, with vivid scenes of color and style. I only wished the comedic side was ditched because it consisted of slapstick humor that I did not find funny. Except for the scene on the making of the noodles, the two other employees of the shop were minor distractions to me. Not up to the caliber of Yimou Zhang’s other films, I do not necessarily question his choice on directing this story; I only wish the story would have been executed better. There were brief scenes of violence and blood. Mandarin with English subtitles.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
There are some things a border cannot contain. One item I can think of is ice cream. I mean really, who doesn’t like ice cream? Another item would be gym shoes. As for movies, I would like to believe they go beyond all borders and are a common denominator between cultures. The only reason I hesitate is my questioning if humor can easily transfer between different cultures. When I heard this movie was playing nearby, I decided to see for myself if the accolades I had heard were true. This Chinese comedy was the most successful film for 2012 in China. I was curious to see what Chinese audiences found funny. Keep in mind this film opened here without any advance marketing or reviews. As I walked into the movie theater and rounded the corner to find a seat, I was immediately struck by the absence of any patrons. It felt odd at first, but after 20 minutes I raised the armrests so I could stretch out across the seats. The story was about two business executives who were in a race to beat the other for control of a new additive called “Supergas” that would revolutionize the world. Starring Xu Zheng (Meet the In-Laws, Lost on Journey) and Huang Bo (Crazy Dinner Party, Design of Death) as businessmen Xu Lang and Gao Bo, their competition would take them to Thailand where Xu Lang was forced to ally with pancake maker Wang Bao, played by newcomer Wang Baoqiang. There were a few challenges in viewing this movie. The subtitles went by too quickly for me; I felt like I was in my own race to finish reading to the end of the sentences. I found the acting silly with its highly exaggerated expressions and movements. The scenes were made of slapstick childish humor. I just did not find anything new or funny with this film. I guess there are just some things that are better off not leaving home. Mandarin and Thai language with English subtitles.
1 2/3 stars