Friday, January 31, 2003

Review of Shanghai Knights ( spoilers beware )

I've never watched a Jackie Chan film in the cinema before, and what a treat this was! He's already great on the small screen, but it's ten times magnified on the big one. Owen Wilson is once again in his element as the cowboy sidekick, and let's not forget Fann Wong, who makes her Hollywood debut as Chan's on-screen sister.

The story is simple and nonsensical, like that of its predecessor. But the irreverent humour is its strong point, and never sinks to the moronic level. There's lots of poetic licence and name-dropping -- everyone from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charlie Chaplin and even an uncredited Jack the Ripper are thrown into the mix. The chemistry between the stars is dynamite, and look out for Donnie Yen and newcomer Aidan Gillen as the villains. The latter makes a big impact with his eye-popping swordfighting skills in the climactic fight scene with Chan himself, managing to outshine the veteran, can you imagine! He looks like a cross between a young Gary Oldman and PeeWee Herman, relishes his bad-guy role and looks set for bigger things in the near future.

So how does Wong fare in her first big role? Well, it all depends on your taste. If you're already a big fan and don't care if she plays a deaf/blind mute, as long as she looks good, then this movie's right up your alley. But if you're hoping for some star quality that will make her get noticed by the Hollywood big shots, then you'll be sorely disappointed. She has an atrocious accent which will probably make international audiences think all Singaporeans can't speak English for nuts, and resorts to pouting and lip-biting when trying to emote. Her fight scenes are also obviously stunt-doubled, unlike Zhang Ziyi and Lucy Liu, who displayed admirable "hai-YA!" chops in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "Hero" and "Charlie's Angels".

My advice: don't go for Wong's sake. Chan and Wilson are the main attractions, and the chemistry between them remains strong and guaranteed to draw the crowds. I especially enjoyed a scene with Wilson stuck at the bottom of a lake, gurgling in conversation with an apologetic Chan. Subtitles are even provided as a guide. What a hoot! And ultimately, no-one compares to THE Jackie Chan as kungfu master. Just watch him flip, bounce and fly ( he does all his own stunts ), and you'll be amazed at his gravity-defying physical agility. Wow...

Last but not least, stay for the outtakes, which are worth the ticket price alone. I particularly like the one with Wong licking Wilson in a kama sutra scene, after which she smiles shyly at him, and he softly whispers, "Should I lick you back? I think I should lick you back. What do you think?", fixing her with his half-closed eyes. Lucky woman! :D

Next, the 2nd episode of American Idol II was painful. Many of the contestants failed to live up to their own expectations, never mind those of the judges’, and my favourite, Danny Rodriguez, was eliminated! Aaaaack! But he was a very good sport about it, belting out “My Way” when the results were announced. But hey, I predict he’ll get a recording contract anyway. Someone somewhere would want to harness his talent, so good for you, Danny!

Just bought the latest Russell Watson CD, Reprise, and it’s his best one yet. It’s got 18 songs, including classics like “Santa Lucia”, “Ave Maria”, plus other beautiful pieces from Verdi and Puccini. I love “La Danza”, which has Watson doing vocal gymnastics effortlessly and showing off his remarkable range and stamina. There’re also famous favourites like “That’s Amore” ( sounding uncannily like Dean Martin ), “The Living Years” and even “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. But my favourites are always the love songs, and here, “The Best That Love Can Be” – a duet with Cleopatra – stands out. Watson continues to astound us all with his versatility, managing to carry off opera and rock with equal aplomb. He’s got a baby face, and is only a couple of years my senior. Truly unbelievable! It’s a fabulous album, so get it ASAP.

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