Is it co-incidental that two of my favourite directors came up new releases shortly after one another? First, Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster. Now, Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. In his previous major release, the 2009 Inglorious Basterds, QT made it in the veins of old WW2 theme special squad movie like The Dirty Dozen while using Nazism and anti-Semitism as the film platform. In Django Unchained, he is inspired by old Italian spaghetti western genre, this time using the American horrific history of slavery as the basis for the storyline. And typical of QT, there're lots of violence and gore, vulgarity, and the "not suppose to laugh but yet I did" situations and dialogues. It is entertaining, in the way only QT could do it (as well as courting tremendous controversy on the subject matter). And yet, there is an underlying feeling that Django Unchained (and Inglorious Basterds) still lack something when compared to his previous works. I wonder why sometimes. It is kind of, for the lack of better word, cartoonish maybe, much like Inglorious Basterds, which both movies focus too much on, my personal opinion of course, the director's own brand of outright vengeance on behalf of those whom had been wronged in his own imaginative, alternative universe. Perhaps I enjoy, and still do, his previous movies due to different theme? Low life macho gangsters, hustlers, robbers, assassins, stuffs like that? Django Unchained is still entertaining, but I have a feeling that I may not give it a second watch, unlike his earlier works.
Monday, 8 April 2013
The Grandmaster is the latest release by Wong Kar Wai. It has been five years since his previous film, and only English debut, My Blueberry Nights. This movie was supposedly about Wing Chun master, Ip Man. I was thinking, what? Another Ip Man flick? I am very impressed by the 2008's version starring Donnie Yen as the titular leading character, directed by Wilson Yip, with action choreographed by Sammo Hung. While the producers of the former came up with the idea in 1998, Wong Kar Wai stated that the concept of making a movie about Ip Man has been around for 17 years, having supposedly stuck in development hell. Or maybe he was taking his own sweet time to do it, as the acclaimed auteur is notorious for. Comparison is inevitable. Wilson Yip's version stole the thunder first, catapulting the Wing Chun master into global limelight and recognition, mostly as the first master of the late Bruce Lee, and riding on its box office success, spawned a sequel, prequel and serials, all of which, in my personal opinion, do not hold a candle to the first. But having been a fan of the "oh so yesterday" term post modern works of director, that is, up to 1997's Happy Together (coz I became bored with 2000's In The Mood For Love, 2004's 2046 due to their supremely long, drawn out scenes and what I personally deemed as a Americanised version of 1993's Chungking Express, My Blueberry Nights, even though these are the ones which cemented Wong's position as one of the leading Hong Kong Second Wave directors internationally to mass acclaim). Starring long time first choice lead actor, Tony Leung as Ip Man, Zhang Ziyi as the fictional (but loosely based on the real life assassin seeking revenge, Shi Jianqiao) Gong Er and Chang Chen as another fictional character, Yixiantian (a composition of two Ba Ji martial arts personas), there are also tonnes of "guest appearances" by numerous actors, actresses, singers too many to mention. And by "guest appearances" I really meant ranging from a "miss him/her if you blink" to maximum of three scenes. But of course those who are acquainted with the director's choice of deciding who has the longest scene or ended up on the editing floor should know by now. The most unfortunate "victim" who still hold the record is of course Shirley Kwan in Happy Together. But you can get to see her in Buenos Aires Zero Degree documentary on YouTube. And perhaps followed by Takuya Kimura in 2046. Now, you may want to add Song Hye-kyo into the list, as Ip Man's wife. Tony Leung, as ever, seems easily carry off his role as Ip Man. Zhang Ziyi successfully fleshed out a strong, female persona worthy of the tragic character. And so does Chang Chen, though I am currently at lost how his character is linked to the entire story. Maybe as a parallel to Ip Man? The Grandmaster is a slight departure stylistically from his earlier works but still maintaining the trademark visual feasts for the eyes even though long time choreographer, Christopher Doyle has left, last collaborated with Wong in 2046. The action/fight sequence is simply incredible, beautiful and graceful even, courtesy of Yuen Woo Ping. Slight hint of The Matrix-like action there but executed nicely. No blurry, cut scenes of 1994's Ashes of Time style battle. Now, the story. Contrary to what everyone, including me, thought that this is another Ip Man tale, it is actually not. This is just a guess but my understanding, which could be wrong, is that Wong Kar Wai is using the same structure as in Ashes of Time, of which he uses Jin Yong's famous characters from The Condor Heroes novels as platforms to convey the message of fractured relationships, emotional desolation, inability to let go of past memories amidst the surrounding environments and situations which ultimately intertwine with the outcome, destiny and fate of each of the characters. Thus this is not about Ip Man. It is about Wong Kar Wai's socio-philosophical musing on the state of the Chinese martial arts amidst the tumultuous, changing times of the first half of the 20th century as well as how each of the martial arts masters cope with it, their own personal decisions and paths ultimately deciding the fate of the skills which they have had mastered. Some would be lost forever, some diluted, some becomes unpopular while others, like Ip Man, succeed in passing it on to the next generation. Thus there are many grandmasters, but like the tagline, the last man standing, I guess Wong Kar Wai muses that a true grandmaster should not only excel in combat, but how far they could persevere, with enough foresight to tread, adapt and survive the changing times, personal hardships and ultimately manages to pass on his/her martial arts skills to the next generations. Reminds me of Ridley Scott's Gladiator whereby Maximus said what we do in life echoes in eternity. Thus, the movie title, The Grandmaster, I guess, is Wong's reference to Ip Man specifically because in the movie, he is the only one whom succeeded not only in overcoming all other grandmasters in personal combat, but also managed to overcome all forms of challenges life throws at him. In a single stroke, as the credit rolls, I realised Wong Kar Wai managed to avoid comparison with Wilson Yip's version. To do so would be impossible, unfair even. The latter is a straightforward, action packed, entertaining movie. The former is a "thinking" piece, with "layers", very much in the spirit of his previous works. Though it still has it shortfall. That shortfall is the lack of or cryptic background information, underdeveloped characters, some which simply appear just for the sake of appearing. It also seems to be very rushed. As I understand, The Grandmaster stands to be Wong's biggest box office hit to date. But I would have loved to love this movie. Sadly, due to the lack of characters' and plots depth, even though the overall arc encompassing the storyline is engaging, I am sticking to Wong Kar Wai's earlier works.
Thursday, 4 April 2013
A (mis) intepretation :
Category: Mass production replicants.
Model type : The Tomorrow Kings - GEN 1.0.
Unit type: The Old Guards.
ID : Kda / The Black Tempest.
Function : close assault.
Incept Date : 29th September 1986.
Serial no.: TKG01MAC29091986.
Serial no.: TKG01MAC29091986.
Longevity : Four years.
Physical level : A.
Mental level : C.
Manufacturer : The Luthor Bean Jr. Corporation.
Armaments : Monomolecular edged katana x 1; Ion cyclotron power glove x 2.
Abilities : Panzer Kunst - anti-armour martial art; Superhuman strength, speed, dexterity, agility, endurance, senses.
The Kda series are a variant of the Kdo series Tomorrow Kings, and are amongst the first mass produced generation of the male replicants genetically engineered and manufactured by the Luthor Beans Jr. Corp. for the Underverse War against the Mortis Legion. They are the longest running replicants released for each incursions into the Warp rift battle fields as well as defence against the corrupted machine Titans of Queen Mortis.
Although banned from Terra, for the right price, a Tomorrow King or Queen, would be loaned out, or even given as a present, to a third party undertaking other roles such as a bodyguard, infiltrator, or even companion. They are highly prized, and only individuals with strong political connections and influential ties enough for the manufacturer would be considered. This include Big Shadow from New Andria, who receives a Tomorrow Queen every four years from Luthor Bean Jr. personally. Another is a Kda re-designated TK whom serves as a bodyguard for the TKYO four piece Tomorrow Kings boyband setup by Luthor Bean Jr. as to infiltrate the music industry. Kda is assigned to protect Luthor Bean Jr. investment after numerous attempts to destroy the TKYO by other competing bands, particularly the Funlicker 2215 and their roadies of Punkbots.
Ere's another TK. A variant of the BBICN exclusive KDO TK, the difference are the tee and shoes. The latter is the highlight. Very nice. Reminds me of AF1 from the swoosh brand. Officially, KDA is the bodyguard of the TKYO, a four figure TKs set offered last year and due to arrive anytime soon for those who ordered it as well as The Yellow Hornets which are yellow uniformed and the grey, Interloper set which comes with only the entire three sets pack, which caused so much emo in the 3A F5 Grill and Bar thread before release night primarily because of the retail price that I could still smell the smoldering flames from all those disgruntled keyboard commandos and trolls even now. Yes, when it comes to TKs and TQs, it has that mysterious pull into the light. Its coolness makes a fan loose his/her cool. I was very nearly pulled into the light for that set (which is a bargain if you were to average it, honestly), but resisted at the very last minute after keeping chanting the mantra "its a boyband, hate those trackies". And I'm glad I did, for now there's the TKLUB to look forward to.
OK, back to KDA. Nothing new here, cept for my own personal satisfaction. I got the RVHK red and yellow, couldn't afford the secondary nutty prices asked for the black and blue version, so KDA fills in the shoes nicely. This is also supposedly the last slim body they would use on a TK. It got a Ashley Wood signature tats on its left arm, and band aid on its cheek and right arm. And I guess that's 'bout it when it comes to designer figure. Oh, I nearly forget. It comes with a 1:1 scale tee which is the same one on KDA featuring an eye raising Lasstranaut in black. Now, I specified a size which is a tad too small, makes me look like a bak chang, so I gonna keep it as souvenir. Esther absolutely got offended by the art when I offerred her the tee. So off it goes, disappeared into the almari.