Thursday, 28 April 2011

Mother's Day 2011.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom and Esther. Thanks for everything.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Chinese Ghost Story 2011 (倩女幽魂 2011). all honesty I did not know they actually remake the classic 1987 movie. I saw the advert in the cinema page couple of days back, and did not even have the opportunity to read any review. Told Esther I would be going off the see it in the cinema, even though she has had her own reservation pertaining to the overall quality and more importantly, will the remake capture the spirit, so to speak, of Tsui Hark highly memorable version? Sad but true to Esther's prediction, I came out of the cinema kinda disappointed. With Wilson Yip ( 葉偉信) helming the film, whose directorial debut is the excellent 1995's 3-in-1 horror comedy 1.00AM and in between, came up with the superb 2008's Ip Man, with the casts led by an ultra-tan guy called Louis Koo as the taoist Yin Chik Ha (燕赤霞), and re-surging popularity veteran actress Kara Hui (惠英紅) (who won the 2010's 29th HK Film Awards for Best Actress in Malaysian director Ho Yuhang (何宇恒)'s nihilistic At The End Of Daybreak (心魔) for her heartbreaking portrayal of a single mother who went all the way to protect her son) as the 1000 year-old tree demon Lou Lou, it should be alright, right? Wrong. First they tweaked, nay, warped the storyline. What come across as a simple, straightforward forbidden love story between a human and a ghost now becomes a love triangle. According to the world of Wilson, Yin is a demon hunter in love with Nip Siu Sin (Liu Yifei 聶小倩) a fox spirit/vixen (instead of a murdered concubine whose body is buried near the roots of the tree demon). As a trainee, he was assigned to kill the fox spirit but unable to bring about the act after being smitten by the sight of her without a thread on her body. Nip, later ambushed Yin in order to kill him but became interested in/distracted by, of all things, the crab apple candy Yin was carrying at that time. Thus a relationship based on a candy was born. It became serious and physical or metaphysical after that (but of course, the audience in the cinema did not have any opportunity to see any love scene between the two courtesy of the censorship pakciks and makciks). After receiving flak from a fellow demon hunter played by Louis Fan (樊少皇), and causing some of his fellow demon hunters to be killed by Lou Lou, a guilt filled Yip severe their relationship by stabbing Nip on the head with a form of charmed blade with the intention to make her virtually forgetting him and their love affair. And the blade happens to be the only weapon which can destroy the Old Tree Demon. Great. (Prior to that the demon hunters managed to seal/imprison Lou Lou within a pool of waters inside the Orchid Temple). And after bum rushing the audience through the beginning and end of the relationship between Yin and Nip, enter Ning Choi Sun (Yu Shaoqun 寧采臣). This time, Ning is not a tax collector but a sort of engineer who promises a bunch of grubby looking and even uglier villagers headed by Elvis Tsui (村長) to find water source from the nearby Black Mountain (the villagers are suffering from a drought. I guess they are grubby cos they earn their livelihood through clay pot making, and perhaps have not bath in a long time). With a bucktooth guy called, appropriately, Iron Teeth and a bunch of criminals in tow, Ning went up the hill but instead of fetching a pail of water like Jill asked him to, they are lured by some sexy demon ladies (including a pair known as the White Snake and the Green Snake) with some saucy dance moves for a bit of time out fun time at the Orchid Temple. And curiously, the interior of the temple, in stark contrast with the village, is bathed in technicolor, psychedelic even, with a hint of some downtown nightclubs with karaoke vibes. And the GRO-like demon girls know how those men want some Motown action due to their brown-ish, oily bodies emitting some scent. But of course, before the men could get what they want, the ladies sucked out all their energies before it is even spent. But we know Ning would survive coz there would be no story without him and what follows are kind of rehash of the 87 version. How naive he was, how Nip fell in love with him so on and so on (at one point, the love scene between the two is again snipped out by the censors. But honestly by this stage, I no longer care about the story). Until the end when Louis Fan's demon hunter reappears with his anarchist-punk-ish looking sister (Wang Danyi Li 王丹怡慄) to take on Lou Lou. That's because the insipid Ning has earlier indirectly blown the bottom of the pool, thus releasing Lou Lou (as well as also poisoning the villagers with skin disease for drinking the water of which Lou Lou has soaked in for years). During the final battle, Yin has no choice but to pull the plug, I mean, the blade from Nip's head and stab Lou Lou with it. Except prior to that Yin has been swallowed by Lou Lou, and in essence, they are actually sharing the same body. So Yin sacrificed himself to kill off the Old Tree Demon, and Nip, having remembered her first true flame, cried a bucket load but decided to hug the more metro sexual looking, with skin as smooth as a baby's bottom Ning in the end while the hapless and dying Yin gets swallowed by the rickety and collapsing Orchid Temple. But except she decided too, that she will perish with Yin as she believes they could not be together. So Ning and the other two demon hunters survives. But again, except that when Ning is on his way, someone with Yin's voice call out for him and he turns around, smilling at the audience. The end. I am lucky to survive this mess of a remake. By all fairness, these are all capable actors and actresses. Yet, the characters are not as memorable as the '87 version and I find no connection at all with them. Louis Koo's Yip looks schizophrenic as a guy who forces himself to forget Nip and not wanting to confront his true feeling (in fact, the other Louis portrayal of the other demon hunter feels and sounds more like the Yip I come to understand in character). Liu Yifei's Nip and Yu Shaoqun's Nin looks and speaks like two teenagers infatuated instead of in love. Kara Hui's Lou Lou is kind of slightly over the top with her banshee like laughter. The dialogues are flat and the humour doesn't jive at all. Somehow I suspected that perhaps there is a lack of material/script/storyline/plotline for the auteurs to fully flesh out their characters. Which is a pity. I guess the director wants to introduce new and fresh elements to this classic to younger audiences, but maybe comes up with too many choices which only adds to the complexity of the plots and storyline. Just keep it simple, like the old classic. But at least I can rest in assurance that the 1987 version helmed by Tsui Hark (徐克) with the late Leslie Cheung (張國榮), Joey Wong (王祖賢), Wu Ma (午馬) and Lau Siu Ming (劉兆銘) still remains the definitive silver screen version of the short story by writer Pu Songling's Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (聊齋誌異).

Monday, 25 April 2011

Gallants (打擂台).

"If you don't fight you won't lose but if you fight you must try to win."

"It is not about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you get hit, and still keep moving forward."

Fresh from winning The Best Movie at the 2011 HK Film Awards, as well as Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Teddy Robin (泰迪羅賓)and Susan Shaw (邵音音) respectively, this 2010 martial arts comedy paid tribute primarily to the old school 70s Shaw Brothers kung fu movie genre, and naturally, casts most actors (and an actress) of Shaw Brothers alumni from that era. Primary among them are Bruce Leung (梁小龍), one of those whom were marketed as a Bruce Lee clone during the brief Bruceploitation period shortly after the death of the latter, as well as last seen personally in Stephen Chow's 2004 hit, Kung Fu Hustle as the ultimate antagonist. And he still shows those Juet Kuen Do-like moves in this movie; Chen Kuan-Tai ( 陳觀泰), whom appeared in at least 80 Shaw Brothers productions and one of the first actors with a true kung fu background; Lo Meng (羅莽), the muscular martial arts actor from the latter Shaw Brothers production period ; Susan Shaw, whom was initially famous for her portrayal in the early wave of erotic sexploitation movies, including some directed by the infamous oft-parodied Lui Kei (吕奇). It also features Michael Chan (陳惠敏), known for his triad taiko roles and real life kickboxing expert, and several others in brief or special appearances, faces of actors and actresses from the time when I was just born, yet still appears sporadically in series or movies whom faces are instantaneously recognisable. Oh, it is narrated by veteran comedy actor singer Tam Ping Man (譚炳文) too. Rounding up the casts are Wong Yau Nam (黃又南), of boy band duo, Shine and last seen in Ip Man as an irritating forgettable character,the delicious looking yet feisty JJ Jia (賈曉晨); and the famous chopstick hip hopper, MC Jin. Co-directed by Clement Cheng (鄭思傑) and Derek Kwok (郭子健), and produced by Gordon Lam (林家棟) with the executive producer role being handled by a guy named Andy Lau, reportedly at a comparatively low budget of USD 643, 200 with the film being shot within 18 days. So why do I like this movie? Coz apart from getting to see some of the Shaw Bros production boys and a girl of which Dad and Mom would perhaps recognise, I would say it is because of the excellent fighting scenes, humour and parody laced dialogues, and how the storyline and plots tied everything together in a nifty little package with an emotive conclusion which provide huge entertainment and escapism to me in an otherwise increasingly dour offering from the movies churning mill of Hong Kong cinema.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The tortoises...

Got Leo a "companion" of sort from The Curve, late last year. But Leo would probably "crush" it. Thus, for the time being, until the growing catches up, I keep them separated. The sulcata is growing fine 'cept for the pyramiding scutes of which it has already developed when I got it off hand from someone. A true eating machine, keeping a sulcata can surely blow a hole in my pocket. And I definitely do not want to overfeed it. It is a balancing act, as like Leo, it would come lumbering towards me each time I am around. Once it spooked off Chloe as it came too near her. Dylan on the other hand, would still try to sit or poke at its shell, of which I strongly discourage him from doing so obviously.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Victoria Bergsman

Heaven, a gateway, a hope

Just like a feeling I need,

it's no joke

And though it hurts me to see you this way

Betrayed by words,

I'd never heard, too hard to say

Up, down, turn around

Please don't let me hit the ground

Tonight I think I'll walk alone

I'll find my soul as I go home

Each way I turn, I know I'll always try

To break this circle that's been placed around me

From time to time, I find I've lost some need

That was urgent to myself, I do believe

Oh, you've got green eyes

Oh, you've got blue eyes

Oh, you've got grey eyes

And I've never seen anyone quite like you before

No, I've never met anyone quite like you before

Bolts from above hurt the people down below

People in this world, we have no place to go

Oh, it's the last time

Oh, I've never met anyone quite like you before

Oh no, I've never met anyone quite like you before

~ New Order, Temptation.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Milo Manara, Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri

...they are simply two of the best, most prolific illustrators and storytellers in the field of erotica. "Memorable (and complete with very naughty ideas)" titles from Manara include "Butterscotch" and the "Click" series, whereas Serpieri gives us one of the most erotic female form on pen and paper through Drunna, the highly sexual protagonist in the Morbus Gravis series. Definitely not for the "faint hearted".

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Three Kingdoms : A Historical Novel.

The world under heaven, after a long period of division, will be united; after a long period of union, will be divided. (話說天下大勢,分久必合,合久必分。)

Having read through the entire three volumes of the Outlaws of the Marsh ( 水浒传), I decided to move on to the next Four Great Classical Novels of the Chinese Literature ( 四大名著), the hugely prolific and immensely popular epic, Three Kingdoms (三國演義) authored by Luo Guanzhong (罗贯中), the stylised name of Luo Ben (罗本)(c.1330 - 1400) and translated into English by Moss Roberts. Also known as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this part historical mixed with part legends and myths is based on events and occurrence during the tumultuous Three Kingdoms period (220–280 AD). It depicts the various warlords battling amongst themselves to establish their own power over the nation during and after the fall of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 AD). Eventually, three warlords - Cao Cao (曹操) , Liu Bei (刘备) and Sun Quan (孙权) - established the states of Cao Wei (曹魏), Shu Han (蜀汉) and Eastern Wu (东吴) respectively, and continue trying to outmaneuver each others in several battles although without much significant outcome, leading to a temporary stalemate. The beginning of the end of the three kingdoms came about shortly after the death of Guan Yu (关羽) and Zhang Fei (张飞)'s assassination. Shu Han, after the deaths of Liu Bei and his loyal chancellor, Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮) , was conquered by Cao Wei in 263AD due to the incompetency of its ruler, Liu Shan. By then, the Sima family clan led by Sima Yi (司马懿) had established strong authority and influence on Cao Wei after the death of Cao Cao. Sima Yi's grandson, Sima Yan (司馬炎) later usurped the throne from then ruler of Cao Wei, Cao Huan (曹奐) and subsequently established the Jin Dynasty (265 - 420AD). Eastern Wu was finally conquered by Cao Wei in 280 AD, no less due to another tyrannical ruler, Sun Hao (孙皓). With several hundreds of characters contain within the story, and lasting three generations, this explain why I keep back paddling after a few pages ahead in order to keep track of the intricate plots.

Pork Chop.

[the Big Bad Wolf is theaching his three cub sons about the anatomy of a pig, with a chart showing such as well as the tasty bits of the creature]
Big Bad Wolf:
Ist das nicht ein sausage meat?
Three Little Wolves: Ja, das ist ein sausage meat.
Big Bad Wolf: Ist das nicht ein pigsen feet?
Three Little Wolves: Ja, das ist ein pigsen feet.
Big Bad Wolf: Ist das gut for schweiner stew?
Three Little Wolves: Dat ist gut for schweiner stew.
Big Bad Wolf: Ist das nicht ein curly cue?
Three Little Wolves: Ja, das ist ein curly cue.
Big Bad Wolf: Roasted pork, glass of schnapps, ham und eggs, porken chops, pigsen feet, sausage meat, little pigs ist gut to eat. All together now.

- The Three Little Wolves (1936-Disney's Silly Symphonies).

One of Chloe and Dylan favourite movies is a compilation of Disney's Silly Symphonies short animations from the 30s featuring the Three Little Pigs and their nemesis, the Big Bad Wolf. Each time Esther cooks porky chop for the family, a snippet of the dialogue from a scene showing the wolf teaching his three young cubs about the deliciousness of a succulent, nicely cook fresh pork always run about in my mind. The two kids are not so much into pork as their old man does. And if time and money permit, I love to visit those handful of Bierhaus with Esther in the city for a nice meal of sausages and roasted pork knuckles to go with some delicious wheat beer.