Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Four Sisters Restaurant

Inexplicably, this post on Anthony Bourdain's Washington D.C. episode from January gets me at least 5 hits a day.

In fact, if you google "DC" and "Bourdain," that post is number 1!

(Hooray for me!)

That said, I'm going to focus on something positive today regarding a former resident of The Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia.

The famous -- and rightly so -- Four Sisters Restaurant moved out of The Eden Center complex and into a shiny new space off of Gallows Road. I couldn't find it a few weeks ago but, yesterday, when I had a doctor's appointment in the area, I found it easily. It's less than a mile off of the Beltway exit for Route 50 so I'm sure I'll be going back.

Despite this blog, I never feel comfortable writing about food as 1) there are a ton of other food bloggers out there and 2) I usually just know what I like and can't explain why I like it.

So, the quick story is that I had the 5-course beef special and loved it. The beef fondue was my favorite which is surprising because, on paper, it sounds like something I would not like: thinly sliced beef meant to be cooked in a boiling fondue of lime-flavored sauce with a few onions in the mix. You can wrap this in rice paper crepes and add veggies as you like.

Just delicious and I say that as someone who usually avoids beef and heads for chicken and seafood on a menu!

I made the mistake of ordering summer rolls/garden rolls as well and I was totally full by the time that I ate those and the 5-course beef dinner!

The layout of this new location is interesting -- they occupy the ground floor of a condo-type building. There is free parking in the building as well.



What I had is on page 13 of the menu -- there are 159 dishes on that menu not counting dessert and drinks!

You can read some real reviews of the Four Sisters Restaurant here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Killer Clans

Killer Clans (1976)

I would be lying if I said I wasn't confused by this 1976 film. Killer Clans is considered a classic which is surprising because -- apart from a few nude scenes from Chen Ping -- the film feels like an average late 1960's Shaw swordplay saga. Not as acrobatic as a Cheng Pei-Pei flick, and not as bloody as anything directed by Chang Cheh, Killer Clans is really a story of court intrigue with a few sword fights mixed in.

And, of course, one heck of a cast of Shaw Brothers regulars.

The action is choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping's brother, Yeung Cheung-Yan and, yet, I'm forced to admit that not much of it was memorable for this fan apart from the sequence where Yueh Hua is held aloft by the ropes of a gang of henchman.

It would be a losing battle for me to try to recap the plot using the character names so I'm just going to use the actors' names. And my ability to follow the plot was not helped by some pretty weak subtitles -- lines of dialogue were frequently rendered twice in a row.

Basically, Yueh Hua is the most trusted member of the clan of Ku Feng's Uncle and then betrays the family. He then sets out to kill Uncle and his family members as Uncle flees with the aid of trusted confidantes.

There's also Uncle's son (I think) played by Chung Wa, an estranged daughter played by Ching Li, and a brief appearance from Fan Mei Sheng. And Ling Yun is there as well in a few scenes with Chen Ping.

I'll admit, I was not sure what her relationship was with the male characters in the film but she's always a pleasure to watch on the screen.

Add to this already impressive mix of stars, an inexplicable appearance by Lo Lieh. Admittedly, this is one of the best action scenes in the film but the actor is literally on-screen for less than 10 minutes and I had no idea who his character was.

Director Chu Yuan did a ton of movies in multiple genres for the Shaw Studios but he is perhaps most famous for The House of 72 Tenants -- here's a review from YTSL by way of Brian's old site, a film that is rumoured to be due for the remake treatment according to a link on Monday's HKMDB Daily News File.

The DVD has some short interviews with Yueh Hua and Ching Li but, unfortunately, they do not have English subtitles. There is also a short interview with Paul Fonoroff in English that is too basic to be of use to anyone other than people who know almost nothing about the Shaw Studios (no offense to Mr. Fonoroff).

And the usual Celestial Pictures extras are on the DVD as well.

You can order Killer Clans on DVD here.

[Photos courtesy YesAsia.com/Celestial Pictures]

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Li Ching Kick Continues

Yes, I had two more Li Ching films in my to-be-watched pile of Shaw Brothers DVD's and here they are!

Vengeance of a Snow Girl

Brian reviewed this film recently but I'm gonna take a stab at it too (mainly since I'm down to my last 10 unwatched Shaw DVD's before my upcoming trip to Hong Kong).

This long film from director Lo Wei stars Li Ching as the crippled daughter, Bing Hong, out to avenge the death of her parents and preserve and protect the Jade Phoenix Sword (which she keeps concealed inside one of her green jade crutches!).

The first half of the film is a lot of fun with Li Ching unleashing the vengeance of the title on the clan of Tien Feng and Ku Feng, her cherubic looks contrasting with her bloodthirstiness.

Bing Hong was hiding in a pool of cold water while her parents were murdered by the clan and now, some 10 years later, she remains crippled from the incident (despite the ability to use some serious wuxia wire fu to mount her horse and leap over her enemies). Yueh Hua falls for the young girl and soon he's convinced his father (Tien Feng) to help cure the girl and fight Ku Feng.

The second half of the film is not nearly as interesting as Yueh Hua and Li Ching set out to steal a magical pearl from a volcano which they need in order to brave the icy wastes of the "north" where Li Ching can be cured by bathing in a hot spring.

The sequence where Yueh Hua and Li Ching don magical armor that looks like the tinfoil spacesuits from an old episode of TV's Lost In Space is campy fun. The two descend into the fiery pit and Yueh Hua gets the pearl and then the two set off for the icy north.

Compared to the earlier Cheng Pei-Pei wuxia films that I've seen, this Lo Wei flick has a bit more wire-work than normal and it begs the question of why Bing Hong needs to get cured if she can leap over enemies already?

Anyway, despite a downbeat, somewhat silly ending -- though it is a poetic -- this remains a fun, if overlong, showcase for Li Ching.

Look for Lisa Chiao Chiao -- who I just saw in The Twelve Gold Medallions -- as the daughter of Ku Feng who refuses to give up on killing Li Ching; funnyman Lee Kwan under some weird make-up is here too, as well as Shaw regular Wong Chung Shun.

Have Sword Will Travel

Well, at least this time Chang Cheh let Li Ching have a few fighting scenes compared to her thankless role in the director's Sword of Swords. Still, compared to Vengeance of a Snow Girl, her character exists only to be rescued by David Chiang's lonely, rouge swordsman.

Ti Lung is from the clan of old, infirmed master Cheng Miu who has some sort of backhistory with the dastardly Ku Feng. I will gladly admit that the plot of this thing didn't seem too clear to me.

David Chiang's rouge swordsman talks more to his horse than he does to Ti Lung or Li Ching. Despite this, the duo takes a liking to him and they then involve him in their quest against Ku Feng.

There's not much plot except for a few fight scenes in different locales and a lot of slow-motion psychological business as David Chiang roams an unfriendly countryside.

I will admit that the final assault on Ku Feng's tower is a thrilling bit of business and I did find myself forgetting my dislike of some of Chang Cheh's films and enjoying this sequence a lot.

That is, until David Chiang's ridiculous death scene.

The action stops a good 10 minutes before the film ends and I thought: "Oh no, now what?" Well, David Chiang literally dies for those final 10 minutes, falling down steps in slow-motion, speaking profundities to Ti Lung, expressing some warm feelings to Li Ching -- even getting on his trusty horse one final time (!) only to fall off.

The whole section begs the question of why villains can be killed by one choice sword swipe from either of the heroes but David Chiang's swordsman endures multiple grievous sword wounds, a hail of arrows worthy of Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, and, yet, he manages to gird himself like he's only got a sprained arm, and stumble out of the castle -- never mind that he fell down the steps in slow-motion just minutes before!

I venture to say that this film would have been unwatchable for me without the presence of the 3 big Shaw stars in the leads. Yes, the castle sequence is a blast, though not nearly as interesting as earlier, less bravura, sequences in wuxia films with Lily Ho and Cheng Pei-Pei.

I'm a bit torn in recommending this film as it's certainly a disappointment for any Li Ching fan. However, the two leads -- especially a young Ti Lung -- are effective and they elevate the film into something interesting despite the pretentious efforts of director Chang Cheh.

The DVD is out-of-print but you can order Vengeance of a Snow Girl on VCD here.

I reviewed the US version of Have Sword Will Travel and you can order that DVD here.

[Pictures courtesy: YesAsia.com, Celestial Pictures]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

New Avengers Volume 10

Since I wait for collected editions (trade paperbacks or graphic novels), I always feel like I'm a good year behind the events of the Marvel Universe.

So, eagerly awaiting the new volume in writer Brian Michael Bendis' run on The New Avengers, I grabbed Volume 10 when it was released this week and read it in about 20 minutes.

Now, that's not an insult; It's a compliment.

Bendis has made me excited about these characters again. Some of my fondest memories of my comics reading career somehow involve The Avengers. However, in those days, it was usually the art of George Perez who drew me to the book. These days, it's the writing of Mr. Bendis that does it.

This slim volume collects only 4 issues (Secret Invasion: Dark Reign and New Avengers, issues 48 to 50) but it's required reading as it bridges the end of the Secret Invasion storyline and the start of the Dark Reign one.

Luke Cage needs to get his baby back; Spiderwoman (the real one?) needs to prove she is no longer the Skrull queen in disguise; Bucky needs to lead as the new Captain America and so on.

Lenil Yu's art was missed but the art in the various volumes is adequate; I found the multiple artists approach of issue 50 a bit jarring but the writing in this issue is pretty good with Bendis going inside the head of each combatant on the New Avengers team -- no one writes Spiderman quite like Bendis and his take feels true to this fan.

Four issues for $20 is a bit pricey but if you're caught up in the Marvel Universe at the moment, this is probably essential.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Whither Crispin Hunt?

Longpigs were not the most original band in the world. And, in 1996 - 1999, there were dozens of bands like them. However, lead singer Crispin Hunt possessed a delivery that I quite liked -- similar to Thom Yorke, histrionic but with perfect English enunciation.



Not to everyone's tastes, admittedly, but well-suited to tracks like "Blue Skies" from the band's second album "Mobile Home" which I picked up in England when it was relatively new.

The band was on U2's late Mother label and their first album actually got released in America; I even remember single "On and On" getting played on alternative radio in the same era when Oasis still could.

Despite Mr. Hunt's slagging of Kenickie in some interview I recall from around 1997, I still play tracks from the band's second album a bit, along with a few singles from the first one.

Guitarist Richard Hawley also played for a time in Pulp and enjoys a decent solo career.

Crispin Hunt has not done much in the public eye but he was on a platinum album in England from Newton Faulkner and he's probably able to live comfortably off of that.

And here's a recent (?) interview that I just found.

I'm pretty sure that his vocal stylings would be ridiculed these days but, for now, here's one of my favorite tracks where he's -- actually -- a bit restrained.

Longpigs "Blue Skies"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Interview with Francoise Yip

Following my earlier review of Doris Yeung's Motherland, I got to interview the gracious Francoise Yip today and here is a rough transcript!

On Motherland (2009)


Francoise Yip: Hi Glenn.

Glenn: Hi. Thank you so much, really.

F: No problem.

G: This is pretty exciting for my little blog.

F: [laughs]

G: How did it feel to be offered a lead role that is probably the most fully developed Asian-American character in an American film in probably the last 15 years?

F: [laughs] Oh, really? Yeah, I haven't seen the film but I am hearing some good things about it.

Yeah, you know, I think not only for that reason, but just being able to be given a chance to work on a character or a role that has, like, the potential to have that much put into it -- I think whether it's Asian-American or whatever...

G: Right.

F: I think any actor would jump at the chance to do that because it's just...I don't know it's just...the ability to start something, go through it, and finish with something instead, of, you know, a lot of smaller -- not so much smaller but less developed roles where you feel like you're just jumping in and jumping out, know what I mean?

G: Right.

F: Like it's just a sort of a snapshot of the character as opposed to, you know, having a history, going through it, and wondering what's going to happen in the future-kind-of-thing.

Yeah, it was a great chance to do that and a really great opportunity, I think.

G: That kind of leads into the second question. The film is pretty subtle in the way in which the character of Raffi is developed. And your performance is very subtle.

The thing I wondered is: did you feel the need to have a complete backstory for the character or did you...how did you approach the acting of that character, based on what's revealed on screen, even though you haven't seen it yet?

F: Right. Well, I think it's kind of...I kind of tried to approach it with some of my own personal history as well as some sort of facts of the story because it's sort of based on a story, it's not just from Doris' imagination-kind-of-thing.

G: Right.

F: It's sort of based on some events that happened. So, I think that I wanted to take, obviously, some of the realistic parts of it, like what actually happened, and the events that happened to her, but also put in some of, you know, how I personally would deal with things, or react to things so I think maybe that -- maybe that is where -- maybe that's where the subtlety comes from because it wasn't particularly strongly me or strongly based on any events, do you know what I mean?

G: I think so.

[PR arranger] said that, in a way you tried to take on some of Doris' mannerisms in your performance?

F: Yeah, well, I mean it's kind of -- when you're with someone, you know -- [laughs] -- 18 hours a day...

G: Right.

F: [laughs] ...it's kind of hard not to.

But, yeah at the same time, I think it's...I think it's hard when you get into a role, a character that's in-depth like that -- it's impossible not to put some of yourself in there.

But, also you have to be able to look at the character outside of yourself. Because it isn't yourself; you can't just put all of yourself in there because you have to pay respect to who the character is in the storyline.

Does that make sense?

G: That makes sense.

F: So, it's sort of a line of really immersing yourself in the character but not losing yourself in it, if that makes any sense.

G: I think so, I think so.

This question is a little bit silly but I think there's something to this -- [laughs] -- as the characters of this film are very specifically Asian-American...

F: Right.

G: And I was wondering, as a Canadian actress who had a background in Hong Kong cinema, did you approach this differently than maybe other roles? Did you approach this differently as a Canadian actress who worked in Hong Kong where you're playing a very specifically Asian-American character?

F: Right.

G: Whose experiences are very American.

F: I think that...I think that...I mean, I was talking about this with another interviewer about how it is specifically Asian-American, but it is also...it's not Asian-American. And there's certain elements that are specifically Asian but it doesn't...it's not defined by that, do you know what I mean?

The other themes that are in there, like, trying to find...an immigrant coming to America, trying to find, you know, his future.

G: Right.

F: Or, you know, relationships between a child and parent. And family relations. Those kind of are across the board no matter where you're from?

G: Right, right.

F: But there are...I mean, definitely how things are handled and how people react and are expected to react are specifically Asian, do you know what I mean? I don't think the movie is defined by "Oh you know, this is just specifically Asian and it would only happen if you were Asian."

G: Oh no, right.

F: It's not that. But there's definitely elements that...I mean, you don't forget that it's an Asian family.

G: Right.

I was going to say that the thing I ...I've watched the film twice and I found that the scenes in your father's family home...I thought it was intentional, the lack of anything overtly Asian, do you know what I mean? Besides the prayer beads.

F: Right.

K: And I wondered if she was maybe trying to send a message about his level of assimilation that he had made this decision to...do you know what I mean?

F: Oh right. Like, in order to succeed you have to sort of give up everything...kind of give things up that you, like, culturally, or you give things up culturally in order to get ahead in other ways, is that what you mean?

G: In a sense. I mean, it seemed very intentional that there was no....there was nothing that you would see in the background of any scene in the home...except for those prayer beads.

F: Right.

G: And I thought that was interesting.

F: Yeah. I mean,...I'm not ...I don't know. I'll have to think about that one because I think ...I think also there's a difference between...he was the immigrant and obviously Raffi is the second generation

G: Right.

F: But I think ...I think it's kind of...I don't know. I think his priorities in life were...his priority in life, which was , you know, to support his family, and make money, and do well and everything maybe got in the...like those became the first things in his life as opposed to where he came from. Or what he was about.

G: Right.

F: Which happens to a lot of people coming here, not necessarily Asian. It's all about getting ahead, doing better but, then, you kind of lose where you come from and why you're doing it in the first place.

G: Right and there's quite a few...yeah, Barry Levinson's Avalon, comes to mind. The Polish Jewish family has no observation of their religion, and changes their names and everything...

F: Yeah.

G: ...that reminds them of Europe is gone.

F: Yeah.

On her Hong Kong career and Black Mask

G: Any memories of working with the great Anthony Wong in Black Mask?

F: Oh right. [laughs]

G: [laughs] He's...he's...

F: Other than that he's crazy? No; he's not crazy.

G: He's always working.

F: Yeah.

G: He does a ton of films.

F: Yeah, I think he was actually...that was quite a long time ago!

[both laugh]

F: I do remember the scene! I just remember him being sort of up for anything, do you know what I mean?

G: Right.

F: Like quite...trying to think of the words...doesn't really care what...you know how some actors have a kind of an idea of how they should be or how they should look?

G: Right.

F: Or how they're portrayed or whatever, what people think of him. I just remember him being, like, quite confident in self, and self-assured, and really doing whatever needed to be done.

G: You should see the pictures of him -- I think it was at Cannes -- and he's got almost a Mohawk with a kind of a male dress on. It's quite a look and I think only he could pull that off.

F: [laughs] Yeah, because for stuff like that you kind of have to fully commit to it, otherwise it doesn't work. [laughs]

G:
Right.

On Anita Mui

A lot of people will probably ask about Jackie Chan so I'm not going to ask about that but I am very curious about.. you didn't have very many scenes with her but you did star in Rumble in the Bronx with the great, and late, Anita Mui.

Do you have any memories of that even though you you didn't have very many scenes with her?
F: No, I..you know what, I always...I was quite...I didn't really know her that well pre-working with her; I just met her a few times on set, I didn't really work with her that much but I met her, you know, at dinners and social things that we did.

And I always found her very, um, very...almost quite regal.

G: Yeah?

F: Like quite self-possessed, quite elegant, very subtle, very understated. And then I remember afterwards finding, like after I worked with her, finding that she was considered the Madonna of...

G: Right, right. I was going to say that...

F: I remember being quite surprised as she didn't come across like that at all to me. She came across as very...regal is the word that comes to mind.

Like the kind of person that you wouldn't want to swear around.

G: Oh, okay!

[both laugh]

G: That's a new one.

F: But not unapproachable either. I would talk to her and she wasn't snobby or anything like that. She just seemed very calm and and very in control of everything that was going on.

I never sort of saw her blow-up or react.

G: Right.

F: So I remember meeting her and thinking...someone that kind of garners respect.

On Lau Ching-Wan

G: You've worked with Lau Ching-Wan (Sean Lau) on two films.

F: Yes.

G: Do you follow his career considering he's probably one of the most respected and popular actors in Hong Kong cinema at the moment?

F: I haven't seen him in anything for awhile.

I'm trying to remember the last thing I saw him in...He always plays a cop. [laughs]

G: He's quite good in a film called My Name is Fame where he's kind of a fading version of himself in Hong Kong.

F: Oh.

G: And he's takes under his wing an actress from the Mainland who's not quite as talented and I think he finally did win the Best Actor award for that.

F: Okay.

G: That kind of leads into my next question. Do you follow any...I mean, Hong Kong cinema is kind of in a lull right now, do you follow it at all?

F: You know, there isn't that much that comes to mainstream theaters; you really have to try to seek it out.

I sometime will come across...especially if the film's been to a festival, or if it's been given some awards or something like that but there isn't that much opportunity for me to see it unless I go to specifically Asian, specifically Hong Kong movie rentals.

On King of Fighters

G: Is King of Fighters finished?

F: Yes.

G: The director of ...that's not necessarily a Hong Kong film, though you have Gordan Chan and Maggie Q, I think...

F: Yeah.

G: So it's going to be an international, big budget blockbuster, right?

F: Yeah, that's about it -- everyone else is sort of North American in that. One of the producers is from Hong Kong. There's Gordon.

G: Right.

F: But it's definitely more international than specifically Asian...

G: Well, that's a big step for Gordon Chan, I think, as a director.

F: Yeah, yeah. And I think he wants to do more like that, I think he's trying to take the next step of integrating sort of the Asian themes, stories with Asian actors, but doing them in the States so that they have sort of a wider appeal.

G: Right.

F: So that they're not specifically Asian, so to try to get that experience out but in a way that's, you know...to use a different medium than just having it as a Hong Kong movie?

G: Uh huh.

F: Having a more international movie... that people like myself can go see it.

G: Right.

F: And also that it's more accessible and also that it's more...that there's more information, more press, other than just what's spoken about in Asia. 'Cause a lot of it doesn't come over this way.

More on Motherland and Josie Ho and Director Doris Yeung

G: I noticed the second time I watched Motherland, Josie Ho's name in the credits, in the "Thank You's" and I wondered what was her connection to the film -- I know you haven't seen it yet -- she's one of those actresses...and she's a singer...and she's kind of ...she would do better leaving Hong Kong, really...

[Both laugh]

F: Oh I know exactly what you mean. I can't remember now but there is a reason for that but I can't remember what it is now.

G: She's very much like Anthony Wong; very versatile; continues to work, and yet, the things that become popular are not very good, frankly. Sometimes.

F: I think people like Anthony, like her, or like Sean...

G: Uh huh.

F: They have that, it's like an appeal that crosses..it's not just because they are Asian; they just have that screen appeal.

G: Right.

F: They have that screen appeal.

On her beginnings

G: Rather than rely on Wikipedia, if you could tell me maybe the short version of how you went from pianist, to political science major, to model, to...

F: [Laughs]

G: To Jackie Chan costar?

F: [Laughs] I did the Jackie Chan movie in Vancouver and I had started to..done a little bit of modeling when I was younger and I did probably about a year where I kind of got into commercials, 'cause commercials were getting popular to do in Vancouver, so I was trying to make some money at that.

G: Okay.

F: And then I went to...I have never acted before I had never gone out for a speaking role and I had never gone to an audition...

I think that was my first audition I had ever went to! [laughing]

G: Oh?

F: For Rumble in the Bronx. I had no idea what I was doing... [laughing]

I went to this audition, I think I went on a, like, a Thursday or Friday, and we started shooting on Tuesday so I really just kind of got thrown into it. Which I think was the best learning experience I could have. [laughs]

And everyone was really great. Jackie was really supportive and Stanley was really patient -- the director Stanley Tong --

G: Right.

F: He was very patient with me, because you know, I was basically learning everyday, sort of what to do on set, what to do in front of the camera. [Laughs] Everything you would learn little-by-little, I kind of learned in the first five months.

[Both laugh]

I was doing it! I felt a little bit, you know, thrown in the deep end without water wings-kind-of-thing but, it was a great experience because nothing could be...I wasn't expecting anything; I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how it was it supposed to be, so everything was fun. I was open to anything because I wasn't expecting it to be anything.

The future

G: Your performance in Motherland is really stunning and controlled...and very subtle.

Looking at your filmography, you could almost predict, in a few years from now, you would see, you know, this Hong Kong period, then you see this kind of American TV/film period, and now you're going to see this kind of indie -- maybe American or European -- indie period.

F: [Laughs]

G: How do you feel about that idea?

F: Well, you know what? I actually really maybe ...because when I came back from Hong Kong, I remember, you know, doing some TV, some film work, some North American stuff, and after a few years of that, and you know, I was taking acting classes, and getting more into acting, I remember thinking: "How come...I want to do, like, something interesting and maybe something indie and low budget and something..." But it wasn't...maybe because of what I had been doing -- I wasn't in that world. I wasn't connected to people in that world. Or maybe people that did those kinds of films didn't really watch the kind of stuff [laughs] that I did, you know?

G: Right.

F: So that would be great. I remember thinking that a few years ago. "I want to get into something and do something interesting and meaningful." So yeah, this was a great chance and I'd love to do more of it because I think after a while, you start of...what you want to do changes as your career goes on, you know?

You do so many years of what I did, or you do so many years of doing a certain kind of thing, and you want to do more after a while.

You want it to mean more.

G: Of course.

Before this interview, I tried to sit through Alien vs. Predator: Requiem

[Both laugh]

It was on cable, On-Demand, and I had my hand on the Fast-Forward button and I had to give up after about an hour.

[Laughs] No offense to whatever...

F: You know, I haven't actually seen it, and I think I'm only in about the last 3 minutes of it.

G: So there you go; that's that's how I missed that!

F: At the very very end. I'm at the very very end. I think it was great because I was like "This means that I can do something in the next one!"

[Both laugh]

G: I don't think you'll need to do that anymore because I think that Motherland is going to get a lot of attention.

And hopefully it's going to get released this Fall to indie theaters, you know?

It's a really stunning performance, really impressive.

You're going to be very happy when you you finally see it.

F: I know.

Everyone I've talked to has seen it. I'm like "I haven't' seen it yet!"

G: The second time...Byron Mann's performance -- the first time it didn't quite click for me but the second time, I really appreciated what he was doing.

F: Hmm. Uh huh.

G: He's like the All-American guy in that movie.

F: Yeah. yeah. He's quite like that; he's very likeable. I liked working with him.

G: The first time he felt a tiny bit creepy -- what history is there?

F: Right.

G: But the second time, it was a bit different for me.

F: Did it feel a bit more genuine? Like he actually cared. It didn't come from a weird place.

G: Right.

F: It came from just wanting the best...wanting something...what am I trying to say? -- from an honest place not from a creepy place?

G: It seemed that he was wanting to do the right thing for its own sake not because of some past affection on your character, you know?

F: Yeah, yeah.

On On Fire

G: I have lot of friends that are going to be a little bit jealous of this interview.

F: [Laughs]

G: Well, the the guys from Lovehkfilm were telling me that I should ask about On Fire but they said you might not want to talk about it.

F: [Laughs]

G: I haven't seen it.

The reason they asked, they thought it was really brutal for you as an actress and you as a character.

F: That was the one with all the Lucky Stars? Right?

G: On Fire is where you play a character with the same name, right?

F: Oh...the one...where I'm kidnapped or something.

G: The one with Louis Koo before he was quite as tan and popular as he is now.

F: Right, right, right.

Where they kidnap me. I think that was it.

You know what? There's a few movies back then that I was like "Hmm, yeah, I guess..." It was at a stage where I was still in that, like, not questioning anything kind of [laughing] perod.

G: Okay.

F: And I was just doing anyting that was kind of thrown -- "Okay I'll do that."

I'm a little more discerning now!

G: Definitely.

F: [Laughs]

More on the future

G: So what would you like to do next? If you could just pick anything you want, or with anybody you could work with after Motherland?

F: [thinking] You know, I'd like to do something comedic, to tell the truth.

G: Really?

F: Yeah.

G: Okay.

F: I don't do a lot of it and I don't think I'm like some untapped comedic genius or antying like that -- [laughs] -- but I'd love to try something, do something.

I love comedy and I love watching it, and I know it's really hard to do but I'd like to try something but not have a huge role. But I'd love to be around it and be around filming it and try to figure it out more, and see how people do it.

G: And you wouldn't mind working in American film, Hong Kong film, or indie film? -- wherever the good films are?

F: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

G: That's great.

F: Because nowadays it's so global and international...I think it's more having a great script and a great story and it doesn't matter so much where it's being filmed.

G: How did it feel working with Doris [Yeung]? This is her first film? What was the experience like with a first-time director?

F: It was good because she was...she listened quite a lot and I never felt like I wasn't being heard or anything.

I think she took a lot of suggestions to heart and really considered them as opposed to having an agenda and not being flexible. And being like "No, we're going to do it like this!" You know what I mean?

G: Right.




F: So that kind of felt more like a bit of a collaboration as opposed to me just doing what she wanted. Does that make sense?

G: I think so. And I think some of your best scenes are some of the quiet scenes the film.

F: Yeah?

G: Where things are not quite spelled out for the viewer.

F: Yeah, well , I think she definitely had that in mind and she definitely wanted things left sort of ambiguous and left for the audience to sort of wonder which way it was going because it's more realistic that way. Instead getting everything answered for you.

G: Right. And you have about 3 -- at least 3 -- reaction scenes, where the drama is your reaction and I thought that was very interesting, especially in an American film these days. It was very quiet and subtle in a way that was refreshing, really.

F: Well, thank you.

G: Thank you very much.

F: Thank you, Glenn.

G: And I hope everything goes well tonight and I think you're going to be very happy [when you see the film].

F: Thanks a lot! Thanks for the interview!


Motherland website

Dengue Fever on Comcast On-Demand

If you have Comcast cable and the On-Demand feature you can see the Dengue Fever film, Sleepwalking Through The Mekong for free!

I made the pleasant discovery last night by browsing to the Music tab and then the Concert.TV listing.

I saw Dengue Fever in D.C. at The Black Cat in March of 2008 and they were just great!

I can't easily explain their appeal in words but, for those doubting the redemptive power of simple pop songs, watch the end of the feature for proof; as Dengue Fever performs pop gems from a Cambodian past that was almost eradicated during the Pol Pot regime, I defy you not to be a bit moved.

Trailer for Sleepwalking Through The Mekong

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Motherland with Francoise Yip

I was lucky enough to receive a screener DVD of the new 2009 feature film Motherland in the mail this week and here are some thoughts on this bold American film.

I'm guessing that the majority of this site's readers know actress Francoise Yip from her somewhat thankless roles in Black Mask and Rumble in the Bronx but here the actress turns in a really stunning, commandingly cool and coiled performance in this feature from writer/director Doris Yeung.

Francoise plays Raffi Tang, an Asian-American woman living in Mexico who receives word of her mother's murder in San Francisco. The images of Mexico in these early scenes play off of the preconceived images of the American West from a lifetime of American cowboy films and also provide a bit of space to what will soon be a somewhat claustrophobic journey as Raffi returns to the United States.

As Raffi journeys back to America, past an Asian-American U.S. customs agent at the airport (a nice touch that hints at some of the issues of identity in the film), I was struck by the use of a limited series of almost nondescript American locations, the familiar scenes taking on a kind of sterility that matches the distance between Raffi and her family. Obviously, the film was made on a small budget but this works to the director's advantage as, clearly, it made her focus that much more precise.

As Raffi meets with family members she has not seen in years, and a series of lawyers retained by her mother, none of the locales seem as warm and inviting as that early opening shot of the Mexican landscape. The viewer is denied the liberation of an outdoor shot and, when that shot comes later in the film and we see the San Francisco morning skyline, it is all the more special.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

The nice thing about the film is that, for the most part, the family history is slowly revealed in small details and we're not quite sure exactly what has happened between Raffi and her father (Kenneth Tsang), or what history exists with family friend, Michael Wong (Byron Mann) -- is he someone Raffi once dated or once rejected? What are his motives with her family now?

We do know that Mr. Tang has remarried a much younger woman; that he has a quite young daughter (Raffi's half-sister); and that some sort of litigation has been underway for quite some time between the estranged ex-Mrs. Tang and Mr. Tang.

What struck me in these early scenes was what a wonderfully nuanced performance Ms. Yip was giving. However, my first thought in the first scene with the actress was that her somewhat glamourous looks were going to be a bit too jarring. But I quickly appreciated how Raffi's beauty was a bit of a burden as well, with the creepy detective making a not-too-subtle pass at her during an interview at the police station.

The viewer gets the backstory of this family with a minimum of exposition: Raffi *is* indeed the beautiful daughter of a successful and apparently wealthy Asian-American family and, yet, she's decided to live in Mexico and has had a lesbian relationship that her family may or may not approve of -- her father still seems to think she is going to be won over by Mr. Wong.

While the film is having its premiere at the 2009 Outfest in Los Angeles, the sexual orientation of Raffi is handled so matter-of-factly and directly that the film never once becomes some sort of polemic.

The only scene that felt a bit too obvious for me was one with Raffi's uncle breaking down over his sister's death and railing against the old woman's belief in the American Dream.

It is significant that this is one of the very few scenes where the characters speak Chinese; is the director trying to hint that the uncle represents the real motherland of the title as he rails against his sister's now-dead dream of success in America? Maybe. The scene, for the most part, worked and the actors brought a great deal of warmth to this moment in the film.

Overall, the film belongs to Ms. Yip who brings a somewhat -- for lack of a better word -- haughty demeanour to her early scenes. She reminded me of someone who, in the middle of an argument, stops to hear what the other person is going to say and then braces herself for the worst. Raffi always seemed on the edge of losing control in the early scenes and Ms. Yip looks as formidable in these moments as she did fighting Jet Li in Black Mask!

I don't say that lightly for Raffi is every bit an emotional warrior entering hostile territory. Given that the character begins the story in another country, it's not simply a daughter who "doesn't get along" with her family. No, this woman and her family have a history and the viewer will probably never learn the entire reality in a mere 92 minutes.

Kenneth Tsang brings his usual class to a thankless role which is not to fault the writer; if the character is a tiny bit aloof and one dimensional that is not to say that there are not older Asian-American patriarchs like this in the suburbs of this country. Mr. Tang doesn't get to earn our sympathies but the story is really not about him anyway.

The story is -- as the filmmakers have explained -- about the American Dream and the cost of pursuing it; not for nothing do the title cards arrive over a magnificent shot of the Golden Gate bridge lost in a fog bank -- our destination over that golden bridge not only a hazy unknown but also an ill-defined goal in the clouds.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I would like to praise Ms. Yeung for using a minimum of locales to great effect. The Director of Photography, Christopher Lockett, also deserves special praise for the crisp imagery and the judicious use of a limited number of setups.

The close-up shots and tight spaces fit the story and the emotions of the lead characters perfectly.

The music by Steven Pranato is quite limited but effective, using simple patterns of notes to great effect.

The film is not so much a mystery -- though it is in some ways one -- but a personal journey; the backstory doesn't matter as much as the sense that Raffi makes of her mother's life, as well as her death.

But, quite simply, the film is also a showcase for lead actress Francoise Yip and it is thrilling to see someone from Hong Kong cinema shine like this; not only is it a great part, it's a great part for a woman in her 30's.

For that reason alone, I highly recommend this film and hope to see similar work from director Yeung and Francoise Yip in the future.

Buy tickets for one of the Outfest screenings here.

Read more about the film at Motherlandmovie.com.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Blog Header (The Final One?)

Rather than troll the internet for new stylish shots of my muses of the moment, I've tried to come up with the definitive blog header that says it all in word and image.

And, apart from the font, this might be it.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has not bored me in the past 11 years -- in fact, she's more interesting now than when she was fronting theaudience -- so her place is secure.

And this blog will still have room for the Chinese starlets of past and present but they don't need to be on the header necessarily.

The Death of the Single


It's not entirely an exaggeration to say that I first went to England for CD singles.

I've blogged before about my obsessiveness regarding the purchase of import UK CD's from shops in the D.C. area in the 1980's and 1990's

(Somehow, in my totemic devotion, something sounded better if it had never been released in America and I had to pay more for it!)

And that constant mission of being on-the-lookout for a new find involved my favorite record stores as well, all now gone.

So the death of the single means, as the NME rightly surmised, the death of the flipside, and the death of music retail as well.

I had no problem digitizing my collection and selling or storing it. C'mon, admit it: It *is* more convenient to have dozens of Manic Street Preachers singles in one long list in my iTunes software than having to open and play them individually, isn't it? And having one massive Luke Haines playlist is a trifle easier than sifting through his various projects under a half-dozen or more different names, eh?

However, that's not to say that I don't miss the shopping.

As I recalled on Facebook, there was something magical about finally finding Kenickie's "Millionaire Sweeper" on CD single in 1999.

It was my first trip to England and my last day in London when my friend Mike and I stumbled upon a record fair in Camden. With barely an hour to go on that Saturday afternoon, we FLEW through the merchants' stalls, sometimes flipping through collections being boxed up by sellers at the time.

I remember not finding a lot of treasures -- some things were a bit overpriced in all honesty and we had just spent 3 days buying hundreds of things from the bargain basements of the Music and Video Exchange shops in London -- but I did finally get that Kenickie single which I desperately needed to complete my collection at the time ("Catsuit City" was still quite out of reach -- was it ever on CD? -- and *I think* I found "Skillex" on CD a few days earlier) and that memory is certainly richer than just pointing-and-clicking will ever be.

For the record, the flips I needed were:

"Perfect Plan 9T6" 1:14
"Kamikaze Anelids" 1:05
"Girl's Best Friend" 1:36

Less than 4 minutes of music, but I'd rather have 4 minutes of interesting flips than a 50-minute Stereophonics album anyday but that's just me!

In conclusion, I offer this photo of myself in the English April of 1999, near a famous watery landmark in Manchester. This is about 4 days after that record fair and, if you look very closely, you will see a bulge in that suitcase, said bulge being the mass of CD's and CD singles accumulated in the previous week in London and Liverpool.

Yes, I'm the guy who took a chance on Northern Uproar for 50p-a-single!

No gems in that flipside catalogue but it was certainly fun weeding through it.

(And I did sell the lot of that band's singles on ebay later for one lump sum!)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Shepherd Girl with Julie Yeh Feng

The Shepherd Girl

This is the first film featuring actress Julie Yeh Feng that I've watched and I'm smitten. By 1963, I'm guessing that the actress was in the second wave of her acting career and, while she looks a bit older than the girl of the title, that tiny bit of age lends the character some weight which helps to ground the picture in a way that Li Ching's Sweet and Wild was not.

Julie plays Xiuxiu, whose father (Yeung Chi Hing) owes money to a local innkeeper. To settle the score, Xiuxiu has been promised to a hunter/trapper (Zhu Mu) despite her love for fisherman Kwan Shan (the real-life father of Rosamund Kwan).

The plot is pretty slight but the songs propel the story forward and Zhu Mu makes for an interesting villain.

Villain is probably not the right word because the guy is not entirely a bad sort, just not as refined as Kwan Shan's Dailong. The hunter even defends the village's lone fallen woman (Ouyang Shafei) just like Dailong does in a subplot that is largely superfluous.

There's a very moving sequence where an offscreen chorus sings of Xiuxiu's predicament while Julie Yeh Feng strides through barren woodscapes and an abandoned country temple, praying and thinking of her situation.

And if the final fistfight between Kwan Shan and Zhu Mu felt both entirely unnecessary and completely predictable, the manner in which it was enacted felt new to me, with Zhu Mu bringing a real modern acting style to the scene when it seems that he's "won" the fight.

This scene, the zooming-and-panning camera around the fight in the woods, and Xiuxiu's earlier solo scene all elevated this film into a richer work of art than Li Ching's very similar film.

And the songs were more memorable, especially the one sung by the men and women in the bonfire scene.

Now, I guess I should work backwards and find out more about Julie Yeh Feng's earlier films?

[As always, duriandave has some great links about actresses of this era, including this one about Julie Yeh Feng.]

You can order The Shepherd Girl on DVD here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Passing Flickers

Passing Flickers

Have I finally seen enough Shaw Brothers Celestial/IVL re-issues to appreciate this film? Let's see.

(And for those keeping track at home, my count is about 115 so far!)

I may be one of the few people who's seen some of director Li Han Hsiang's erotic films and still not watched The Love Eterne with Ivy Ling-Po or The Warlord with Michael Hui (they're in my to-be-watched pile of my remaining dozen Shaw reissues!). But, in my defense, I watched those somewhat risque films because of a bit of an obsession with 1970's Shaw sexpot Shirley Yu.

Hey, at least I've seen some Shaw re-issues in multiple genres, right?

Okay, onwards to 1982's Passing Flickers. The biggest problem with this film is the complete lack of a plot. The 89-minute is nothing but a series of vignettes on the film sets and behind-the-scenes at the studio. It's amusing but there really is no larger point or story to the whole thing.

So, with that out of the way, I can report that for even a casual Shaw aficionado, the film is a lot of fun if you don't have high expectations.

A viewer gets a real sense of what it must have been like to be at the Shaw Studios, propsmen and cameramen and makeup women scurrying around from a period wuxia film set to a modern erotic film's set, chasing actors and actresses to apply fake facial hair and adjust prop wigs, catching the old man meant to play a Taoist priest in a wedding caravan prop with a significantly younger ingenue and on and on.

The dumb wuxia star played by Anthony Lau Wing treats the crew by dividing up a $100 bill among the 20 of them and the old men promptly go out and visit a brothel. The brothel looks like a set from one of the real director Li Han Hsiang's films -- Facets of Love maybe? -- and the crewmen promptly waste their time with the unglamourous working girls: the lighting guy fixing the lights in his room and so on.

The crew then runs into a studio producer essentially buying his way into producing a film for a former dancing girl.

That sequence is the closest the film comes to a larger plot which is unfortunate as the juxtaposition of the romantic reality for the behind-the-scenes workers with the producer buying sex in a different manner was interesting and a bit comical.

Not a masterpiece, but an enjoyable film that I'm sure I liked more now, 115 films in, then I would have a few years ago.

Unfortunately, this is an early title in the reissue series and it is letterboxed when, given the era, it should have been anamorphic widescreen like other 1980's Shaw titles reissued later. However, picture quality is good -- better than some of those older films in the first waves of the Shaw reissues.

You can order Passing Flickers on DVD here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rant: What The Hell Happened To Borders Bookstores?

I got my first DVD player at Christmas of 2000, and in January 2001, I hit both Tower Records and Borders pretty hard in buying a lot of DVD's for the first time.

Tower is gone. Is Borders next?

I ask because of a few reasons:

One, stories like this always make it sound as if Borders is on the verge of going under.

Two, the evidence. All of the Borders stores that I visit in the D.C. area look like they are getting rid of the majority of their DVD stock.

Inexplicably, Barnes and Noble somehow beats Borders in DVD sales.

I find this a bit odd as Barnes and Nobles' prices are usually list and the best you can get is some rare sale OR pay to join the "club" and get a Barnes and Noble card and get maybe 10% or 20% off of a purchase.

Borders, on the other hand, has a free-to-join Borders Rewards program where you can get sometimes up to 40% off with a coupon.

And even if you don't get that kind of deal, there are always Borders coupons available via a quick Google search every week; at a minimum, you can find a 20% off coupon within seconds.

Add to this that the DVD sections at most Barnes and Nobles stores are so tightly packed that it's awkward to even browse them -- they look designed for photographs, not actual shopping.

So, as early as 2001, my friends and I quickly gave up on buying DVD's at Barnes and Noble and switched to Borders.

Another important factor in our decision was the fact that -- at the time at least -- Borders operated like a little cousin of Tower and seemed to carry at least one copy of most DVD releases. If Something Weird or Blue Underground or Tai Seng put out a DVD, you could be reasonably sure that a few of the Borders stores in the area would carry it.

Now, every Borders I go into looks like they have cut the DVD section in half.

And most of those offbeat titles say "online only" when you look them up on the inventory kiosks in the stores.

If Borders closes, will there be anywhere left for a geek like me to simply shop and browse? I don't buy much prerecorded music in America anymore so that limits the few record stores still in existence and, apart from the comic book stores, there are no stores where it's fun to simply browse and find something cool to purchase not at full list price.

Borders wasn't Tower but they were certainly better for shopping and a leisurely browse than Costco or Walmart, eh?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Goddess of Mercy

1966's The Goddess of Mercy is -- more or less -- the story of the Chinese deity Kwanyin (or at least one story of the deity's origin). Li Li-Hua plays the daughter of Emperor Miao Cheung who attempts to bring mercy to her people (and her father's prisoners of war) and then suffers the wrath of her father.

From what little I know of Li Li-Hua, the role wasn't much of a stretch for her; she looks the part and acts with a good deal of grace throughout the film, never even soiling her garments when sloshing through mud(!). While she makes for a believable Kwanyin-figure, she doesn't make for a believable human character of Princess Miao Shang. And her scenes with Commander Wei (Cheung Kwong Chiu) fall a bit flat.

The film is a series of scenes with the princess constantly pushing back at her father's abuse and mistreatment of his subjects.

Eventually, there are some instances of direct divine intervention which make the film feel like "The Song of Bernadette" or something.

Still, I did find it fascinating to see a film with a real layer of Buddhist thought to it (unlike those Journey to the West films where the Buddhism is an afterthought to the adventures).

Look for Ouyang Sha Fei and future director Kao Pao Shu as the two other daughters, and Chen Yan Yan as the mother.

I must have watched a lot of these Shaw features because I was right when I thought I recognized Lily Li in a very small but important part as a handmaiden who falls afoul of the emperor.

The ending was surprisingly bloody but, in retrospect, seems almost inevitable now given the earlier parts of the story.

And if that ending shocked me, it shouldn't as it clearly illustrated some basic Buddhist concepts perfectly.

The film was reportedly a big budget Chinese/Korean production of the time and the money is on the screen; the production values and sets are impressive and there are certainly a lot of extras in the film.

A minor film but certainly an interesting one that attempts to illustrate morality without too much preaching.
You can order The Goddess of Mercy on DVD here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Journey To The West, Shaw Brothers Style

When these Shaw re-issues started in 2003, I purchased a few on DVD and a few on VCD and one of the first in that latter category was The Cave of Silken Web (which thoroughly confused me). So, when I finally got that film and the other three titles in the Journey to the West series on DVD, I set them aside for the time being with the understanding that, one day, I would sit down and watch the 4 in a marathon session.

Well, I had a long weekend over the 4th of July so I decided to finally watch these in order.

The Monkey Goes West (1966)

Future director Ho Fan plays Tang, the monk on a mission to get Buddhist scriptures from the West (India).

I'll admit that I thought this first film was a bit tedious (but I was a little tired when I watched it).

It is fun to see so many Shaw stars in one place -- I didn't recognize Yueh Hua as the Monkey King, but there's the quite recognizable Paang Paang as Pigsy.

And after a long first half detailing Tang's journey and Monkey's release from imprisonment, with intercession and instruction from the goddess Kwanyin, the two happen upon Pigsy in his human form about to marry to goddess-like Diana Chang.

[duriandave's blog has a lot of great information about Diana Chang, like this post.]

There is much 1966-style comedy and Pigsy's human lusts eventually cause him to be turned into his porcine form.

He joins the duo and there's a further adventure under the sea (some bad special effects there) and Pigsy proves his worth in battle.

Look for actress Kao Pao Shu as the woman attempting to trick Pigsy into marrying her 3 daughters (who bathe with a surprising bit of rear nudity for 1966!). Kao Pao Shu ultimately became a director for the Shaw Brothers studios.

Now, on to feature number 2!

Princess Iron Fan (1966)

A vast improvement upon the first film in the series, 1966's Princess Iron Fan moves at a pretty good clip (it *is* some 20 minutes shorter than the earlier film).

With the story already established, we can simply join the heroes as they continue their journey.

The first section of the film follows Sun Wukong (The Monkey) as he attempts to get the Iron Fan from the title Princess in order to put out the flames of the Flaming Mountain which is preventing the group's passage.

Princess Iron Fan is played by Pat Ting Hung -- check out duriandave's blog for links like this on the beautiful actress. The princess is one of two sets of women that the Ox Demon is keeping and, once the Monkey disguises himself as the Ox Demon, this section of the film turns into a fun little case of very mistaken identity. Again, some surprising rear nudity in this one, this time from Pat Ting Hung as she bathes which must have raised some eyebrows in 1966.

Look for Lily Li as one of the handmaidens in the bathing scene.

The rest of the film is spent with Pigsy and Sun Wukong matching wits with the devilish Madam White Bone (Cheng Pei-Pei) and her sister (Lily Ho). Cheng Pei-Pei seems to be having a blast playing a villainous character instead of her usual virtuous swordswoman and if Lily Ho is underused here, Cheng Pei-Pei makes up for it.



There are tricks, double-crosses, and by the film's end, the heroes are reunited, with Sun Wukong drawn back into battle to save his comrades. Tang doesn't get much to do in this film and that's probably a good thing; a pure pilgrim is kind of a boring character.

Look for Ku Feng as one of the people the sisters masquerade as to ensnare the heroes.

The Cave of Silken Web (1967)

This third film in the series is (as of this writing) the only one released in America (by Image Entertainment, I do believe) and one can see why: it's trippy, has 7 beautiful women in sexy outfits, and it plays like some weird episode of "Lost in Space" or something.

The majority of this 82-minute romp (10 minutes shorter than the previous film in the series) is set in the underground cave of the title where the heroes are menaced by the 7 seductive spider sisters (or something).

With each film, Sun Wukong seems to gain more and more powers and it begs the question: "Why doesn't he just turn into a giant again and then run real fast and get the scriptures and then no one has to journey to the West?" I know, I know; I'm missing the point probably but the question did cross my mind after the umpteenth time of watching the Monkey change identities and rescue his fellows.

It's worth noting that Yueh Hua no longer plays Sun Wukong. The role is now assayed by Chow Lung Leung who brings a bit more of an acrobat's energy to the part which helps as the series gets sillier and sillier.

One of the lead sisters is played by Angela Yu Chien and -- once again -- I recommend checking out duriandave's site for links like this on the sexy actress.

Maybe I'm saying this because I'd already seen this installment on VCD about 6 years ago, but this film seemed the most consistent of the 4 films in the series.

One more to go!

Land of Many Perfumes (1968)

This final film is, like its predecessor, only 82 minutes long, and it's probably the weirdest and most confusing of the series. The confusion stems in part from some really bad special effects in some sequences that are so distracting as to cause the viewer to wonder what the hell is going on.

I say that with the knowledge that, yes, it's 1968 and technology's limited but, compared to any Ray Harryhausen film from that era, these are some really bad special effects.

But, the production design and attractive cast of female actresses almost make up for those bad fx.

The quartet of Tang, Pigsy, the Sand King, and Sun Wukong find themselves in a land of women and the first scene of the female populace going crazy at the sight of the men approaching on the road is quite funny; big women lifting weights and older women knocking over food stalls in the castle square are very farcial elements that made this film seem a lot less serious than even the third film in the series.

Look for Fang Ying as the daughter fighting her mother for Tang's affections.

And kenixfan favorite, Irene Chen has a few prominent scenes as well. Unlike her wonderful little part in Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers, her presence was not enough to keep me enthralled for the entire 82-minute length of this film.

Chow Lung Leung again plays Sun Wukong. Kao Pao Shu shows up again after her appearance in the first film in the series, this time as a villainous scorpion queen.

There's not much more that a layman like me can write about these 4 films. They are about Buddhism almost as much as "Le Morte d'Arthur" is about Christianity: not very much.

The Buddhism, like the Christian elements in the tale of King Arthur, is merely a device to propel the story forward and -- perhaps -- provide an impetus for tiny instances of pseudo-morality in the tales.

Considering how quickly this film faded out, I think most viewers were like me and wondering when we'd get to see the characters actually get the scriptures.

No, Sun Wukong turns back into a turtle, saves the heroes, there's a fight at the end where the heroes are fighting the women who have turned into clones of them and then it's all over. I didn't even manage to figure out who the "real" characters were in that scene.

Rush, rush, rush and then it's over.

It's worth noting that the director of these 4 films, Ho Meng Hua, recently died and I recommend reading this tribute from French journalist Frederic Ambroisine.

You should also check out Sanjuro's reviews of these 4 films as well. The links are here, here, here, and here.

You can order The Monkey Goes West on DVD here.

The DVD of Princess Iron Fan is out-of-print but you can order the VCD here.

The DVD of The Cave of Silken Web is out-of-print but you can order the VCD here.

The DVD of Land of Many Perfumes is out-of-print but you can order the VCD here.

[Photos: YesAsia/Celestial Pictures]

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rose Elinor Dougall's New Video - UPDATED

I posted about the new single from Rose Elinor Dougall in early June, and now there's a video!

The song still makes me think of the early Broadcast releases more than Rose's old band, The Pipettes, but that's okay; the song is haunting and I've played it a few times a week since I purchased the MP3 almost a month ago.

In America, you can buy the download from Amazon.com here.

Or from the iTunes store here.

You can also buy the single (and the earlier one) from her website it looks like:

Rosedougall.com