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Reviews for February 17th, 2012


Directed by Doze Niu Chen-Zer

      Zoe Fang (Shu Qi), a sexy actress, leads a passionless life with her sugar daddy, Lu (Doze Niu Chen-Zer) and the man she has an affair with, Mark (Mark Chau), until she meets a waiter, Kuan (Ethan Ruan) who's not as wealthy as her other lovers, but has a plethora charm. After Mark ends his relationship with Zoe, he goes from Taipei to Beijing where he meets and romances a real estate agent, Xiao-Ye Jin (Vicky Zhao). In yet another subplot, Lu's daughter, Ni (Amber Kuo), refuses to get back together with her ex-boyfriend, Kai (Peng Yu-Yan), who had an affair with and impregnated her best friend, Yi Jia (Chen Yi-Han).

      Director/co-writer Doze Niu Chen-Zer doesn't offer anything new or surprising within the genre of romantic comedy, but that doesn't keep the film from being sweet, funny and uplifting. While the plot does feel contrived and convoluted, at least it as more charms than your average ensemble romcom nowadays. Every actor and actress gets his/her chance to shine--Shu Qi absolutely sizzles whenever she's onscreen. Compared to the classic romcom Love, Actually, Love falls short in terms of achieving a sense of realism that would make it as brilliant as that classic, though, but it's nonetheless a highly entertaining and crowd-pleasing date movie.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the AMC Empire 25.
Released by China Lion Films.

Putin's Kiss

Directed by Lise Birk Pedersen

      This often fascinating documentary follows 19-year-old political activist Masha Drakova who joins a political youth movement in Russia called Nashi. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin supports the movement, and even went to the extent of planting a kiss on Masha's cheek when she rose to the top of Nashi. Her rise to the top is pretty interesting to observe along with the way that the politics in Russia works (or doesn't work), but what's truly compelling is how Masha's political viewpoints evolved while she grew a conscience. Her change-of-consciousness ignites when her good friend Oleg Kashin, a reporter/blogger who's on the opposite political sphere, whose anti-government articles got him beaten up. An investigation of whom among the government authorized the beating would be a great topic for a separate documentary. What's clear here, though, is that it was an inside job that made it look like a merely violent mugging.

      Masha's quite a complex political activist, and her interviews demonstrate it: she's optimistic, articulate, energetic and full of panache. Yet, concurrently, she comes across as naive and confused. It's that paradox that makes the film rise above your average political documentary. It's also interesting to observe her complex dynamics with Nashi leader Vasily Yakemenko who she still respects even when she no longer agrees with Nashi's ideology. Wisely, director Lise Birk Pedersen refrains from passing any judgment on her, and lets you come up with your own conclusions, which will probably include many comparisons to the increasingly fascist U.S. political system.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at the Cinema Village.
Released by Kino Lorber.

This Means War

Directed by McG

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Opens nationwide.
Released by 20th Century Fox.

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