Sunday, November 22, 2015

Our Times

I don't necessarily complain about how a lot of the Chinese and Taiwanese movies hitting the United States are kind of similar in the review, but I really have seen enough of these nostalgic romances over the past few years to feel pretty much done. This and A Journey Through Time with Anthony are actually fairly different movies, but seeing them three days apart was a bit much.

Still, I was pretty happy where two of the three previews for Chinese movies before this one involved punching and kicking. Kind of interesting contrast in release strategies, though: Well Go is holding Ip Man 3 back until late January, presumably to take advantage of a weak schedule around that time versus being slammed at Christmas, especially if they figure Mike Tyson will draw a bigger crowd. Wanda, meanwhile, is going to be releasing Mojin - The Lost Legend on 18 December, making me very worried about local theaters giving it a screen that could go to Star Wars. But, hey, who knows?

Third trailer: Fall in Love Like a Star, which looked crazy generic.

Wo de shao nu shi dai (Our Times)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 November 2015 in AMC Boston Common #8 (first-run, DCP)

So, here's a weird coincidence - two Mandarin-language movies reaching American cinemas a mere two days apart, both nostalgic romances that, at different points, involve the young characters needing to meet up at McDonald's. They're from different countries (China and Taiwan) with very different focuses, and while I like this one a bit more, it seems like this part of the world is pumping out a lot of movies like this, and this one isn't one of the best.

This time, we're looking back on the late 1990s, when Lin Truly (Vivian Sung Yun-hua) was a high-school student with a celebrity crush on Andy Lau and a more close-at-hand eye on star basketball player Ouyang Extraordinary (Dino Lee Yu-hsi), though boys seldom seems to notice Truly with the beautiful Tao Minmin (Dewi Chien Ting-yui) living next door. That's why when Truly gets a chain letter promising misery if it's not passed on, she sends a copy to Minmin, one to a sadistic teacher, and one to Hsu Taiyu (Darren Wang Da-lu), the school's resident bad boy. When he discovers it, he proceeds to torment Truly, but he's got a crush on Minmin and discovering that Ouyang and Minmin are together transforms Truly and Taiyu to initially-reluctant allies.

This is, as is often par for the course, bookended by present-day bits with Joe Chen Qiao-en as the adult Truly, and it's one of the more peculiar uses of this over-used technique: After a fantasy sequence that isn't particularly well-delimited, it shows Truly as frustrated, self-doubting, and unrespected, and while she was certainly that way as a teenager, the 1990s material mostly has her on a trajectory that would seem to indicate her ending above that, which means that we spend much of the film waiting to see what's going to derail the happy ending, and that's not a whole lot of fun. It's a weird fit in other ways - neither the situation that inspires the flashback or her reaction afterwards really fits the story it tells, and the final present-day bits are a rickety story that seems primarily held together by Chen being extremely likable as the older Truly and Andy Lau being a really good sport.

Full review on EFC.

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