Friday, January 9, 2009

Red Cliff II - a must see!

This is the sequel to Red Cliff. I think it is better than the first part because there are human elements inserted into the story.

Sun Shangxiang had a little puppy love for a soldier from Cao Cao's army and their bonding is sweet to behold. His death right before her eyes is a bittersweet ending to what could have been a romance, if she had revealed her true identity and if he had followed her to Sun Quan's army. After all, he fought for Cao Cao so that his family could survive, so perhaps his loyalty to Cao Cao is questionable.

I enjoyed Lin Chiling's portrayal of Xiaoqiao. She is demure, a good wife, passionate towards her country, brave, calm, devious and understanding. She was always there by Zhou Yu's side and the way she did the tea ceremony really brought out the etiquette it requires. Her bravery and patriotism caused her to go over to the enemy's side to attempt to turn the tables on Cao Cao. I don't think her acting is wooden, as some critics say.

Cao Cao is given a human side. He shows respect for Xiaoqiao when he could have raped her. After all, she gave herself to him by going there alone. He also tries to motivate his sick men by sharing with them his feelings as a father. These make up for the ruthlessness he shows in sending his dead soldiers to Sun Quan's army to infect the soldiers, and in poisoning Jiang Gan for his stupidity. Gan Xing sacrifices himself to aid the allies in reuniting for the ultimate battle with Cao Cao.

At the same time, some characters are developed very well. Zhu Geliang is seen in his brilliance and ingenuity, as Zhou Yu is. The way the former obtains the arrows and the way the latter gets the two generals executed are admirable. They are portrayed as equally wise and intelligent. Sun Shangxiang's bravery comes to a climax when she unravels the map of Cao Cao's army camp from her body. Sun Quan manages to overcome his fear and Cao Cao's taunting by shooting an arrow at Cao Cao's hairline.

Themes of loyalty, friendship and brotherhood, and mercy are also chronicled. These are most apparent when the sick soldiers of Cao Cao are moved by his sharing and chant cries of "Victory!" to signify their willingness to fight for him, when almost the allies gather before him and put him to shame with their unity, and when they show him mercy instead of killing him in the end. The didacticism conveyed is that no one wins in a war; everyone loses either his life or his loved ones.

The Little Nonya

I bought the DVD which shows the episodes from 1-12. The way Juxiang is, is the way I would like to be as a woman. She is gentle and cooks very well. She treats Ah Tao very well, unlike the other family members and conscientiously does the cooking, with patience, perseverance and humility. She is willing to learn how to cook from Chong Po, loves Tianlan a lot, and teaches Ah Tao how to cook Babi Pongteh and Fish Maw Soup. She expresses her feelings with her sweet smiles and facial expressions. Yes, my grandmother was a Peranakan and I can relate to Angela. Thus, Juxiang and Yueniang are my role models.

At the same time, she is feisty and makes choices to stand up for her rights, by running away from home to avoid marrying Charlie Zhang. Though she puts herself at a disadvantage by her handicap and is almost trafficked as a prostitute, she frees herself and others.

I like the sweet romance between Juxiang and Yosuke. It is a great pity that they died young. At the same time, it would have been good if Ah Tao and Tianlan had come to join her. Of course, this will make it a fairy-tale story. It will also make it a fairy tale if Xiujuan was matchmade with Jincheng, since they were already lovers, and if Chen Sheng liked Meiyu whom he was married to. Chen Sheng could then have lived with Meiyu till old age, if he had not been murdered.

I note that Angela has a photographer admirer in Jonathan too. She is in the same situation as her great-grandauntie, since Yosuke was a photographer who fell in love with the Baba culture too.

On a different note, I caught the finale of the whole serial and I am not too reactive over the separation of Yueniang and Chen Xi. I actually admire Yueniang's decision to leave Chen Xi though she clearly loved him too. It shows true love, self-sacrifice and strength of character. Instead, I wish that Yuzhu could have lived a good life. She was more of a victim than either Juxiang or Yueniang. To be raped and then prostituted by her own husband till she contracted venereal disease and went mad, is very very tragic. She was a well-educated, lovely and vivacious woman, before she went through all that. It would have been good too, if Yueniang could have died peacefully in her sleep, like Rose in Titanic: the movie did. Also, she could have lived to see Angela and Jonathan marry with kids. Oh well, this is just mere wishful thinking. :S

I must say that the actresses chosen to portray the characters in their different ages have similar looks, such that their aging process is realistic. :) Jeanette Aw and Xiang Yun both portray Yueniang, and Ng Hui and Zhu Xiufeng both portray Ah Tao. Funnily though, the other characters are portrayed by the same actor/actress with a change in makeup. Hmm.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Barbie's A Christmas Carol

I bought this from Borders with my $20 gift voucher and so had to only pay another $4.90. It is based on Charles Dickens's classic but is presented in a light-hearted version for young girls. The classic is presented as a story within a story that Barbie tells her sister Kelly, using a snow globe. This makes the viewers assume that Eden is related to them.

There are carols interspersed in the story and some more changes are present too.

In terms of characters, the Spirit of Christmas Future is revealed to be a beautiful woman underneath her hood, which makes the Spirit look much less sinister. Scrooge is Eden, an opera diva, Bob Cratchit is Catherine, her childhood friend, Jacob Marley is Aunt Marie and Tiny Tim is Tammy, a limping orphan.

In terms of plot, in Eden's past, she was forced to work on Christmas Day and was given a huge scolding by her aunt when she sneaked out to Catherine's house, nothing like Scrooge's jolly employer and broken relationship. In her present, her workers are angry with her for making them work on Christmas Day and she sees the orphans whom Catherine cares for, which is different from Scrooge's visions of Bob's and Fred's Christmas celebrations. In her future, she sees Catherine as mean as her, after having fired her workers for coming in to work a few minutes late, and sees herself leading a poor life with no help from anyone. Her change is seen when she hands out presents to her workers and goes to visit the orphans.