Flashback: Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils 2003 stills

This still looks exactly like the illustrations in Jin Yong books.

Often lauded as director Zhang Jizhong’s best Jin Yong drama, his adaptation of Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils has all of his fortes without any of his weaknesses. A perfect combination of solid hand-to-hand combat and artistic license in the action choreography, a stunning cast in equally stunning on-location scenery, a focus on the grandeur of the stories but finally with nuanced relationships and chemistry between the characters. Hu Jun is truly one of the few actors who pulls off the rugged-at-large-soft-in-the-heart Xiao Feng, while Jimmy Lin’s idol-drama-take on Duan Yu makes him much more likable than the original character. Liu Tao’s Ah-Zhu was the first TV character who made me cry, while Jiang Xin’s Mu Wuantong remains her most gorgeous role to date. Chen Hao and Shu Chang also gave amazing performances as two complex female antagonists.

The impeccably cast series stars Hu Jun, Jimmy Lin, Gao Hu, Liu Tao, Chen Hao, Jiang Xin, Shu Chang, Liu Yifei, Yang Rui, Xiu Qing, Tong Chun-Chung, Christy Chung, Diana Pang, etc.

(more…)

Photographer Friday: Liu Zongyuan

Known for his use of light to decorate his objects, Liu Zongyuan’s photographs often feel like they come from the impressionist school of painting. You might remember him from the famous Mulan-like photoshoot he did for Liu Yifei, but that photoshoot is not even up there among his best. He often brings an ethereal beauty to his subjects and their surroundings. Liu Yifei is probably Liu Zongyuan’s most common muse and the one who put him on the map, but he is also a frequent collaborator with actresses like Liu Shishi (who loves him so much she got him to do her wedding shoot) and Li Qin.

(more…)

Review: Liu Yifei is the only good part of the live-action Mulan

How is it that Chen Man’s photoshoot for Liu Yifei got a calligrapher to write out Mulan’s slogan – Loyal, Brave, and True – but Disney couldn’t seem to get one for the movie with their 200-million-USD-budget.

The original Disney’ Mulan wasn’t perfect, but you could tell that the people who worked on it poured their hearts into it through details. Yet films often reflect societal attitudes, and gone is the time when China was still a subject of wonder for many filmmakers in the West, when filmmakers were sometimes insensitive but at least interested in China. In the live-action Mulan, almost every aspect of the film seems to send the same message: China is the world’s second-biggest box office and we will use the minimum efforts it takes to give them what we think they want.

Disney’s Mulan is not a bad film, but it is a disappointing film. The basic story of Mulan is compelling, the scenery is beautiful if often obviously New Zealand, and its lead Liu Yifei is charming enough and did what she could with the role. Yet it’s very hard to watch the live-action Mulan and not judge it for what it could’ve been or see the lack of effort behind it. One expects a live-action to have the same humor and heart as the original, and it doesn’t. There isn’t a single change I can name that improved the story.

(more…)

Watch Liu Yifei’s audition tape for Mulan

A photo of Liu Yifei in 2005 that recently made its rounds on Weibo. How is she so adorable all the time.

Mulan director Niki Caro recently released a clip of Liu Yifei’s audition and Liu Yifei is soooo cute in it. This was right after flying from China to the U.S., too. In the lines, you can tell they allude to the story of unable to separate between male and female rabbits from the original ballad of Mulan. Niki Caro also released a few audition tapes of other actresses, including Leah Dou, Lan Yingying, Zhang Yishang and Yang Caiyu.

The film’s been pushed back to July 24 as of now, but I assume it’s all up in the air.

Mulan delayed, round-up 4

Liu Yifei at the Mulan Premier earlier this week.

Mulan Promos Round-Up 1Round-Up 2 ; Round-Up 3

According to Variety, Disney’s Mulan has been delayed indefinitely across the globe due to the coronavirus. I’m actually really sad about this, and I really hope we can see this film soon.

I went ahead and got the book of the live-action. The story feels more “Disney princess-y” in terms of her transformation, and Mulan’s decisions feel less subtle, but overall it follows the same plot as the original film and Mulan has the same heart. Some people were accusing Disney of removing Li Shang because he’s too queer, but that’s definitely not the case based on the book. There’s an exchange between Mulan and the new male lead that’s way more queerbait than anything in the original.

A new Mulan clip (spoilers) of the moment Mulan decides to go on her journey:

(more…)

Liu Yifei sings Reflection, more by Chen Man, and American merchandise round-up

The Mulan poster by Chen Man we deserve.

Mulan Promos Round-Up 1; Round-Up 2

Liu Yifei covers the classic Mulan song Reflection. She sounds flawed but still beautiful and more importantly, it sounds like her. I’m really happy that they didn’t over-autotune her too much for this song like they did for the other princesses. My only complaint is that the erhu is a very minimum-effort addition, but I like how the rest of the music was re-arranged to fit her voice.

(more…)