Thursday, 4 February 2016

Hong Kong Company Set to Supply Bus for Next James Bond Film

Long known to be looking for ways to update its iconic ejector seat concept, Eon Productions – the folk behind the James Bond films – are said to have stepped up their interest in the Hong Kong bus world after watching footage of a passenger falling through the exit door of a single-decker – while it was still closed!

Said to have been keen originally on incorporating a spontaneously combustible electric bus – of the type developed so successfully by the Hong Kong Productivity Council – into their next 007 project, the production team have apparently shelved that idea in view of the latest developments in the Hong Kong bus industry.

“To be honest, we were never 100% happy with the spontaneous combustion thing,” said Spira Broccoli, granddaughter of the founder of Eon, Chubby. “Dickens did it years ago in Bleak House and people never get tired of the old ejector trick. We have to be honest and say we had never considered a sidewise ejection in lieu of a vertical one, but we are all very excited about the possibilities afforded for exploitation in our franchise. I had always heard that Hong Kong was a cutting-edge place, but who could have thought that the envelope could be pushed out so far. Without even using a letterbox, as it were!”

Broccoli chewed things over for a few moments before continuing.

“The really exciting part of the whole thing is that you only require a force of 50 pounds to smash through one of these doors. Now that is the weight of a kindergartener, of course, but the glorious thing about the Hong Kong Incident is that it features a full grown adult being flung through the door. There are no struts or cross-bars to stop his ejection, so what you can basically get – without having to adapt the bus at all (and saving costs is as important in our business as in any other) – is a high-speed disembarkation that offers unlimited possibilities. Put the bus on a flyover and you could get the full effect of a passenger flying across the cityscape – maybe all the way over Victoria Harbour.”            

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing with messages from stuntmen (and women) who want to be the first to leverage the window of opportunity opened by this Incident. Well, more like smash through the window rather than leverage it, I suppose I should say!”

Asked to give details about the new Bond project, Broccoli remained tight-lipped, but industry insiders say that the film’s working title is The Man Who Flew Too Much.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Heaven’s Gate

In April 1979, a week after receiving the Best Director Oscar for The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino started filming on his new project, Heaven’s Gate. After six days he was five days behind schedule. The rest, as they say is history: Heaven’s Gate was on what seems with hindsight to have been an inexorable course to enter folklore as the biggest bomb in Hollywood history – the film that forced a studio to shut down.

As with most things about the film, neither statement is really true. United Artists was sold by its parent company, who had a bob or two in the bank, to MGM on purely business grounds, while the film itself has always been well received in Europe.

Watching the long version the other day – several versions exist, but basically we have a three and a half version and a two and a half hour version – I was as moved as I have been by a film in as long as I can remember. Ian Simpson, commenting on YouTube, sums up my feelings well:     

“The most haunting music accompanyies a truly brilliant film. If this film does not arouse the suspension of your disbelief, heaven knows what will. Please do not try to analyse the film – immerse yourself in an existential masterpiece and I bet this music and the images it graces will never leave your soul. Ausgezeichnet.”

It is interesting that the film won three Razzies (alternative Oscars for worst in class) for director, leading actor (Kris Kristofferson) and musical score, for the simple reason that each of these facets of the film stands out for its quality rather than lack of it. Consider, for example, ‘Slow water’, the musical number that is set against the backdrop of Montana’s Glacier National Park.


Much has been made of the casting of Isabelle Huppert as the third member of a love triangle also featuring Kristofferson and Christopher Walken, but who but a Frenchwoman could shed her clothes without shame or embarrassment, as she is required to do, and who better to play the role of the owner of a bordello? After all, it’s not that far from Quebec to Wyoming.

In fact, all of the principals – whose number also includes Jeff Bridges, Sam Waterston and John Hurt – give strong performances. To my mind, the weakest of the bunch is Walken, whose character cannot seem to decide which side he is on, and whose moustache is a constant distraction as it threatens to slither off his face.

Many stories have grown up around the making of Heaven’s Gate, possessed, one suspects, of varying degrees of apocryphicality. I think my favourite is Cimino giving the order to his set designer to broaden the main street of the frontier town they had constructed out in Montana by six feet, and being told it would take a considerable amount of time and money to push all the store-fronts, etc. back by that amount. “No,” replied the auteur, “I want this side pushed back three feet and that side pushed back three feet too.”

Such attention to detail – and the control freak that was perceived to be behind it – helps us understand why Cimino was so unpopular with so many people in the film business, critics not excepted. The other reason is not hard to find: they were envious of him.

Having cut his teeth on television commercials in the 1960s, Cimino was given his big break by Clint Eastwood, who asked him to direct his 1974 buddy-buddy film Thunderbolt and Lightning. It was on the back of the decent critical and popular reception of that film that Cimino got to make The Deer Hunter. As the dust settled after his highly personal Vietnam war drama had swept the board at the Academy Awards, many critics felt that they had been carried away on a popular tide of approval, and that they had in fact over-praised the film. And we all know that Hell hath no fury like a critic who thinks he hath been conn’d.

Seen in this light, Heaven’s Gate never had a chance. All I can say is, catch it if you can. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Cathy Pacific Defies All Odds and Becomes Duller

In a rebranding exercise intended to get them a bigger share of the Mainland market by using the Cathay name while keeping operating costs down by effectively retaining Dragonair as a separate entity (it’s cheaper to run than Cathay Pacific – not surprising really, when you consider what Cathay executives pay themselves), Cathay Pacific have renamed their wholly-owned subsidiary Cathay Dragon.

Now, if you think that the only change that resulted from the HK$100 million rebranding exercise was a change of name, you would be wrong.  They have also come up with a new livery for the planes: in place of the dragon we have precisely the same swoosh that you can find on Cathay’s tail, only – and this I guess is where all the money spent on consultants’ fees went – instead of using green, they use red!

But that’s not all. The creative people at Cathay got together with their advertising agency and any other creative types they could find who had not burned themselves out coming up with the colour-change concept and came up with a new tagline for their “new” airline. Here it is in full (and it is nothing if not full):

“By rebranding Cathay Dragon, we have the opportunity to grow [yuk!] our business and further develop our team, to better connect our passengers and create the kind of seamless travel experience [yeah, like 3 hour delays in China because the military are flexing their muscles over the South China Sea again] that enables a Life Well Travelled [M Scott Peck will be rolling in his grave if he knew you were pinching your poncey slogan from his seminal book The Road Less Traveled].”   

Step aside, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Dumb and Dumber is so 90s (or was it 80s?). Asia’s world airline and its little brother have brought out their own comedy (well, I reckon it has to be – it features Laurel and Hardy), known to all in the industry as Dull and Duller.   

Monday, 1 February 2016

Screwloose!

Screwloose! A new Kevin Bacon coming-of-age dancing flick is announced? No, it's our friendly bus company New World First Bus (NWFB)/Citybus (Hong Kong is so into added-value that you get two bus companies for the price of one), which has announced that it has withdrawn its five electric buses from service - again. 

That's twice in less than a month that the buses have been grounded, after a problem with the doors almost caused a falling out between Mainland manufacturers BYD and the fat cats at parent company NWS Holdings, whose flagship New World Development is justly famous as builder and purveyor of tatty boxes to live in that Hong Kong does so well.   

In the latest fiasco, some of the screws on one of the wheels of one of the new buses hadn't been screwed in properly and others were broken, which meant, according to one of their drivers, who performed his civic duty by reporting the problem to the press, that an accident "would certainly have occurred" if the problem had not been discovered and reported (to his own company first, one assumes) by the upstanding citizen-driver.  

In a delicious coda of the kind in which Hong Kong patricians specialise when they are called upon to ascend from the nether world of greasing palms in meetings at the Jockey Club or attending "members only" clubs at some dodgy bordello in the motherland, NWFB confirmed that the bus did indeed have what it charmingly describes as "screw problems" (that bordello must have been good), but emphasised that the wheel had remained attached to the chassis throughout the process.

Well, that's a relief! Enough, one suspects, to have Kevin Bacon sliding across the floor towards the sanctuary of Lori Singer's cello.

Friday, 29 January 2016

King Arthur Clarifies One Country Two Systems

                         I am Beijing's mouthpiece and CY is mine

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Hong Kong Develops New Technology for Heating Electric Buses

The variable compressor allows us to redirect the heating to the passenger compartment when the driver's cabin reaches optimal temperature   

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Top Ten Carry On Films

Between 1958 and 1992, a total of 30 Carry On films were made on a shoestring by the team of Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas out of Pinewood Studios near London. The films are typically around 80 minutes in length and are quintessentially British: they are uncomplicated, they are largely optimistic – and surprisingly moralistic – in tone, and they don’t take themselves very seriously.

Most of the films – and, it may be said, the best of them – rely on crude sexual innuendo that is so in your face as to be rendered harmless – indeed, almost innocent – while one of them provides such insightful socio-political commentary on the Heath/Wilson era that I would not be surprised if it were used in university courses dedicated to post-war British culture and politics.

Several of the films – though none of the most successful – are spoofs of other movies or movie genres. Into this category fall Spying, Cowboy, Screaming!, Cleo, Henry and Emmanuelle, and arguably others. Surprisingly perhaps, since it was the last of the series proper, the soft poon spoof is the most successful - apart from Cleo – of these spoofs, not least because of the uninhibited performance of Suzanne Danielle as the eponymous heroine. Watching her cavort about with an ageing Kenneth Williams, one feels she would have made a good fist as a successor to Sylvia Kristel; instead she chose to marry golfer Sam Torrance.

The first film Carry on Sergeant (1958) was made with little or no expectation of a sequel and accordingly it has very little of the feel of a Carry On film. There’s a couple of love stories at the army training base where it is set – the film is essentially a homage to National Service, which was being phased out at the time – but the humour, such as it is, is more of the slapstick variety than anything else.

Things start to pick up with the second in the series, Nurse, for two clearly identifiable reasons, as well as for the fact that the series was finding its feet and its comic space. First, it stars Leslie Phillips, who is outstanding in each of the three Carry Ons he made – as a bounder, of course – and, second, it benefits from the tight setting of a hospital. As a rule of thumb, the most successful Carry Ons are those set either on holiday or in a hospital. A certain tightness is typically required to allow the ensemble to best do what they are best at doing, and that, as Kenneth Williams would put it, is to “mess about”.

Following Nurse, we have one of the most interesting of the series, Teacher, which features once again the device of the double love-affair (fraught, naturally – the course of true love never runs smooth in these flicks), as well as a strong central performance (and the best Carry Ons always have a strong central performance, often provided by Sid James) from Ted Ray, the music hall and radio performer.

Carry on Constable marks the first of two picaresque Carry Ons, where the episodic nature of the story-line is more fitted for sketch comedy – or would be, especially in the case of Carry On Regardless, if it were actually funny. Constable, though, boasts one of the best scenes in the entire series, when Phillips (in his swansong) ends up providing marriage guidance counselling to the delectable Shirley Eaton rather than attempting to add her to his list of conquests. It is a key moment in the series, which may be viewed in toto as a paean to sexual fidelity in general and to the institution of marriage in particular.

Next up is the sleeper hit of the series, Carry on Cruising (1962). Sid James gives one of his best and most nuanced performances as the ship’s captain, while Williams and Kenneth Connor are strong in support in their customary roles as snob and bumbler respectively. But it is Dilys Laye, a last-minute replacement for Joan Sims, who gives arguably the standout performance as Woman in Search of a Husband, providing a memorable drunk scene before coming to her senses and realising that Connor is the man for her. He may be bumbling, he may not be flash, but he is after all British, and therefore unaffected, honest and an overall good chap.       

The series treads water with Cabby, Jack and Spying – though it should be mentioned that Juliet Mills sets the pulse racing in Jack – before hitting its straps with Cleo. Made not long after the epic starring Taylor and Burton, some of the props and costumes from that flop were used in what is certainly the most lavish of the series. Many people’s favourite Carry On, Cleo features a terrific performance from Amanda Barrie in the title role, in a performance which sets off her not inconsiderable charms against an idiocy that is usually reserved for the Jim Dale character.

After three films of debatable quality (Cowboy, Screaming! and Don’t Lose Your Head), the series reaches its first  nadir in 1967 with Follow That Camel, of which the kindest thing that can be said is that the American Phil Silvers (of Sergeant Bilko fame) is hopelessly miscast. (The second and final nadir is reached with Carry on England in 1976: essentially a remake of Sergeant and the only film in the series to feature full-frontal nudity – justified by the production team, I suppose, on the grounds that something was needed to make up for the dire plot.) 

Three of the best known films – Doctor, Up the Khyber and Camping – follow, with the pick of these probably being Khyber, which features Roy Castle in the Jim Dale role (a plus as far as non-fans of Dale are concerned) and a famous dinner party scene in which all the diners, apart from the craven and hypocritical missionary, played by the estimable Peter Butterworth, keep their sangfroid (or possibly not – they wouldn’t have a clue what a foreign word like that meant; we better then say their “stiff upper lip”) as shells fall around them and the dining room disintegrates.

No homage to Carry On can fail to mention Barbara Windsor, who, though she appeared in only nine films, is virtually synonymous with the brand. Debuting in Spying, she stars in Doctor and “comes out” in Camping, when her bra flies off, naturally enough landing on Williams’s face and causing the benighted PE instructor to ask the matron (Hattie Jaques) to “take them away” – and he’s not referring to the whole class of girls. Boom, boom!

Three eminently forgettable films follow (Again Doctor, Up the Jungle and Loving), of which nothing needs to be said apart from noting in passing that Up the Jungle marks the second of Frankie Howerd’s appearances (he had earlier starred in Doctor). While some “occasionals” took to the films like ducks to water – one thinks of Ray, Phillips and Castle – Howerd was one of those who was unable to accommodate himself to the ensemble nature of the work. Another was Silvers, but whether that was down to an oversized ego or the fact that he didn’t know what the hell was going on is a moot point. I would also include Harry H Corbett in Screaming!, where the re-casting of the central character would have improved the picture immeasurably.

The early seventies saw something of a renaissance for the brand, with Carry On at Your Convenience being followed by Matron and Abroad. 1971’s Convenience is the most interesting of the films, as it is an extended critique of untramelled union power. The film, set in a factory that makes lavatories, makes the connection between trades unions’ restrictive practices and Britain’s growing uncompetitiveness in an increasingly globalized world, and ends with an uncanny foreshadowing of what would happen at the end of the decade following the “winter of discontent”, when the wives of the striking workers decide to take matters into their own hands and re-open the factory before it is forced to close for good. Iron Ladies, indeed! Given that the main target audience for the series was the working-class, it is unsurprising that this was the first of the franchise to lose money at the box-office.

For me, the finest film of the lot is 1972’s Carry On Abroad, which, not insignificantly for such an ensemble enterprise, featured the highest number of Carry On regulars. Even the casting of Jack Douglas, in the first of several films in which he gives free rein to his irritating character with “Tourette’s”, is not enough to spoil things, as he is allotted cameo appearances at the beginning and ending of the film, in which he is actually quite funny.         

The Carry On films may be dated and corny (but, then again, they were dated and corny when they were released) but in a world of increasing uniformity and faux individuality they still have something to say. When a character in one of the early films delivers the line “The world is too much with us”, she is not only acting as the channel for the screenwriter’s homage to William Wordsworth, she is reminding us that aesthetics are temporal and seductive, but traditions are lasting and solid.   
     
So, finally we come to my list of the best Carry On films (in ascending order):

10. Carry On Doctor (1967)
9. Carry on Matron (1972)
8. Carry On Nurse (1959)
7. Carry On Teacher (1959)
6. Carry On Camping (1969)
5. Carry On at Your Convenience (1971) 
4. Carry On Cleo (1964)
3. Carry On…Up the Khyber (1968)
2. Carry On Cruising (1962)
1. Carry On Abroad (1972)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Next Star Wars Film Put Back Six Months

 We need to give our focus groups more time to dialogue about the light sabre sword thingie   

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Just Another Day in Sheung Shui

                                     One morning, five accidents

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Calls Grow in Australia for Big Bash League to Send out Healthier Message

                                        Come and get me, big boy

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Hong Kong Democrats Question Hong Kong Jason Bourne’s Identity

        We won’t be happy till we have seen his Supremacy

Australia in Mourning after West Indian Cricketer Flirts with Interviewer

Is it really true what they say about a black man’s cock?

Meanwhile, a white female tennis player shows how to flirt with a male Australian television presenter and get away with it.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Top Official Bewails Shenzhen Mudslide Disaster

If only they had been Government buildings rather than factories and dormitories for migrant workers, they would all be standing now

Monday, 21 December 2015

Stephen Chan Chi Wan Faces New Criminal Charges

Mr Chan is charged with presenting mindless TV shows that cause severe and permanent brain damage

Friday, 18 December 2015