films seen
average score
Alive and kicking
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Solid pieces

Reincarnation Land

2022 / 83m - China
Fantasy, Action
Reincarnation Land poster

More IQiyi genre fluff. Keep your expectations realistic, and their back catalog offers an incredible wealth of genre films. Reincarnation Land is another one of their action/fantasy hybrids, a continuation of the 90s Hong Kong films that topped the genre. Not quite up there with the best, but if you're looking for some fast-paced entertainment, this one delivers.

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A young girl is looking for her master, who disappeared one year ago. She enters a local competition that will grant her one question to the Ghost King. He shows her that her master is currently stuck in hellfire. Hoping to get another wish granted from the Ghost King, she helps him out with some odd chores.

The CG is subpar, though that's only a real issue at the very start of the film. The sets look pretty nice, the action is fast-paced, the fantasy elements are properly executed, performances are amusing, and the plot is fun enough. It's nothing you haven't seen before, but the short runtime and skillful execution turn this into tasty filler.

Forbidden Martial Arts: The Nine Mysterious Candle Dragons poster

A fine mix of fantasy and martial arts. The more I see of these recent Chinese genre films, the more I feel lost in the endless maze of releases. They all feel like they're part of bigger franchises (and I guess many are based on fantasy novels), but for an outsider like me there's just no way to tie everything together without guidance.

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Luckily, most of them are pretty basic fantasy tales. Take a dragon that threatens the neighborhood, a haunted general who protects the people from the dragon and an inn where most of the action takes place, and you have all the ingredients for a solid action film with strong fantasy elements.

The cinematography is beautiful, sets and costumes are lush and the action choreography is pretty impressive. The dragon lair is a bit of a bummer though, relying quite heavily on subpar CG to create a high fantasy setting. Performances are pretty decent and the short runtime is a definite plus. All in all this is great genre fare, the kind I can keep watching. It's a good thing then the market is being flooded with these films.

The inoffensive

Golden Spider City

2022 / 86m - China
Golden Spider City poster

More tomb raiding fun, though this time we're going even more fantastical, with even some minor sci-fi elements thrown in. And a Lara Croft lookalike, so you won't be mistaken where this film got its inspiration from. The result is pretty amusing, though, as is often the case with these films, let down by some pretty poor CG.

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Sima Cong and Lisa form a strong expedition team. An evil businessman forces them to raid a tomb, as he is looking for the Golden City. Then Cong's dad turns up out of nowhere, claiming he knows the location of the city, and he's willing to take his son there. The three of them set out on an adventure to the depths of the Earth.

It's nice to see a bit more variation in plot and genre elements, but in the end their impact is rather minimal. The film feels a bit too fluffy for a bona fide adventure, and the CG can really get below acceptable quality levels. Still, thanks to the solid pacing and short runtimes, films like these are hardly ever boring. I just wish they paid a little more attention to the details.

Knights of Valour

2021 / 80m - China
Action, War
Knights of Valour poster

Chinese historic war cinema on the cheap. It was only a matter of time before China would hark back to the glorious war epics that graced the screens almost two decades ago. The biggest difference with Knights of Valour is scope and budget. While director Yilin is used to making do with little, it's not easy when working in this particular niche.

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When Guan Xing's father is killed in battle and his weapon is taken by the leader of the Wu, Guan wants revenge. Two years later he gets his chance, when a map is discovered that leads right into a nearby city controlled by the Wu. With a small team, Guan is tasked to explore and infiltrate the city, but the closer they come to their goal, the more obvious it is they are running into a trap.

The CG is a little dodgy and the lack of massive battlefield scenes is hard to miss, but the focus on a small infiltration team is smart and the film looks pretty solid beyond its budgetary limitations. And so Knights of Valour is pretty decent filler, much like all the other short streaming fodder. Not bad, just don't expect it to stand out.