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Chinese cinema comes to town

Sci-fi love story, action-fi lled period piece on offer

Film distributor China Lion Entertainment is banking on viewers looking for a little exotic flavour in their diet of standard multiplex fare, with two new Chinese releases opening this week in select Canadian and U.S. cities.

From the directing team of Wing Shya and Tony Chan comes Love in Space, the contemporary story of a mother (played by Xu Fan, the lead in last year's Aftershock) and her three daughters, each of whom is looking for love. There's Rose (Rene Liu), an astronaut who is less than thrilled to be spending her first space mission with her ex (Aaron Kwok). Sydney-based Lily (Gwei Lun Mei) is a germphobic artist who finds Mr. Right, only to discover that he's a garbage man (Hong Kong pop star Eason Chan). Meanwhile, in Beijing, pampered starlet Peony (Angelababy) falls for a dorky waiter (Jing Boran) while she's in disguise, researching a role.

Production value is high on the film, a sequel of sorts to last year's Hot Summer Days set aboard the space station, where Rose and Michael bicker and romance each other in a perpetually weightless state. The cuteness quotient of Love In Space is even higher: a radio station contest leads to cupids of all shapes and sizes running wild in the streets of Sydney.

At the other end of the spectrum is the epic My Kingdom, which is set in the closing days of the Qing dynasty. A five-year-old boy is the only member of his family to escape beheading: he sings so beautifully that he is spared death. He's brought up with an elder "brother" in the traditional discipline of opera warriors. A spectacular stage duel- whomever loses must retire indefinitely from the stage-throws the boys and their opera master into exile in the mountains for years, and sets up the revenge odyssey that will take the men (Wu Chun and Han Geng) to British-occupied Shanghai in the 1920s. There's a love triangle, of course, set off by beautiful leading lady Xi Mu-Lang (Barbie Hsu). The men choose different paths, and it's only a matter of time before they're forced to face off against one another. But despite changing alliances and politics, even in Chinese opera "the show must go on."

The fight choreography is a marvel, thanks to the input of action guru Sammo Hung, who worked with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. The costumes are no less spectacular, and complement director Gao Xiaosong's noir-ish intrigue nicely. It's a sweeping epic with a retro feel, but infused with fresh, exciting martial arts sequences.

Both films start Friday. Love In Space screens at International Village Cinemas downtown; My Kingdom opens at Station Square in Burnaby. Both films also open at SilverCity Riverport in Richmond.

It's a quick trip to the theatre, but it's a world away from what you're used to.

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