Horrid Junes and True Legends

Life’s Rich Pageant has been rather more pageant-ly of late. Enough so that I became certain the month of June was cursed. Not Total Catastrophe-style cursed, but certainly here-let-me-fuck-with-you-some-more cursed.

We’ve already covered the Wife’s annual visit to the hospital. Four days after her return, the house’s AC cratered. At first it seemed to be an electrical problem. I found out my wife had continued to pay out money to a Home Warranty outfit that I considered to be on the level of a pyramid scheme, but she’d paid the money, so let’s use them. Received an e-mail detailing the contractor’s contact info, and was assured they would call me for an appointment in 24 hours. When they didn’t, I called them – it was now Friday afternoon. Was given an appointment the following Monday, because, sorry, they’re not open on weekends.

This seemed appropriate.

This seemed appropriate.

This was – naturally – during a period of 100 degrees + days in H-town. We elected to stay in a hotel for the weekend. Come Monday, the electrician came and told us that yeah, he would have assumed it was an electrical problem too, but it was actually something with the unit itself, and he would put in the call to the AC tech. When the 24 hour period had passed – once again – I call the AC guy myself, and was told the earliest he could get there was Thursday. By this time, we were staying with a neighbor.

He came, and it turned out to be something which – if I only knew a tiny bit more about AC technology, I could have remedied myself. But when he found out how long we had been without AC, he was shocked and refused to charge us anything. So guess whose business card is up on my refrigerator now?

The shows on the weekends have been the usual parades of petty annoyances. I hate drunks, I hate performing for drunks, and I hate performing for people who consider me the cheap version of 3D TV. Why the hell you shell out that much money to have a conversation is beyond me. The absolute nadir came when I found out a table full of drunks – who, of course, knew they were improving the show with their shouted bon mots – when I found out one of the drunkest and loudest was a pregnant woman. Pregnant, and rapidly approaching what my pal Dave refers to as “puke-ass drunk”. It is one of the few instances in my life where I found the phrase “Jesus wept” to be appropriate.

This week, there are no shows, which is good on every level but the financial. This Sunday is the 4th of July parade (held on the 3rd, yeah, I know), which is going to involve me hauling my porcine semi-crippled butt out to the parade site at Noon and spending the next seven hours, in the sun, setting up for a live broadcast of the blessed event. This will be the first time for a new “improved” parade route, and the scuttlebutt is there are markedly fewer participant registered for this year – but that only affects the actual run time, not the set-up time. I’m looking forward to at least a nine-hour day. Likely more.

So I guess it was important that I write this today in case I don’t survive.

An old friend who works at one of the bigger cinemas in Houston told me that Ip Man 2 actually played there for a week with absolutely no advertising or promotion of any kind, though he – Bruce Lee fanatic that he is – would have watched it had he known the subject matter. I find that sad, even if I do think the first Ip Man was better. But this also started nagging me on another matter. Ever since the trailer for Yuen Woo Ping’s movie True Legend showed up on the Apple movie trailers site, I had been looking forward to it:

…and I was beginning to fear that it had suffered the same fate.  So I rushed over to Amazon, found the DVD and ordered it. I received it at the very beginning of the AC debacle, and was surprised to learn that it was a Region 3 disc. That really shouldn’t have surprised me, since I didn’t recall any announcement of an R1 release, but there you have it. While sequestered at the hotel and the neighbors house, I was cut off from my region-free players.

So finally I did get to see it and… what a disappointment.

The narrative is pretty scattered, and really feels like three different movies. The first is the truly impressive opening, as our protagonist rescues a prince from barbarians. Huge fight scenes with lots of guys.

Then our hero retires from military life to concentrate on his wu shu. His adopted brother shows up to clean up some family business – Hero’s father killed brother’s parents for being evil practitioners of the Five Venom Fist, then Hero married the sister. Brother had mastered the Five Venom Fist, and sewn “dark gold armor” into his skin to make himself invulnerable. Hero is defeated, goes into hiding, and is taught superior fighting skills by “The God of Wu Shu”, who turns out to be a figment of his imagination.

All that is the major portion of the movie, and that sounds like a typical kung fu plot. But it comes to a tragic end with about 25 minutes left to go… and then we enter the third movie.

You see, True Legend is supposedly the story of Beggar So, the guy who originated the Drunken Fist style of fighting. Where this ends up is So, now an alcoholic wreck dragging his son around China, is taught the drunken style by yet another figment of his imagination, just before he finds himself involved in a deadly competition with foreign fighters, more by accident than anything else.

But this is where I enter “Oh come on” territory. No, not when the God of Wu Shu is shown running over the tops of tall grass, holding a drunken monk at arm’s length like a cackling Olympic torch. That I willingly accept. It’s the big fight-for-our-honor-against-foreign-devils conclusion.

It seems that the last four major Chinese martial arts films that I have seen – Jet Li’s Fearless, Ip Man, Ip Man 2 and now True Legend – end with this conceit, and frankly I was kinda tired of it by the end of Ip Man 2. I’m beginning to wonder if this  is now a mandated part of Mainland China cinema. At least this one has multiple wrestlers, and the ring is surrounded by a pit filled with hungry tigers. Ha! Take that, Donnie Yen, you wuss!

As I said, disappointed. There are many parts of the movie that are great, but the overall structure is too disjointed in an effort to be epic. Michelle Yeoh is criminally wasted in a small role. Interesting to see David Carradine in a career-lapping role yelling “Kill that Chinaman!”. Jay Chou as the God of Wu Shu is outstanding; he is likely the only reason I will ever watch the Green Hornet movie.