Empire Of The Sun Shanghai Filming Locations

Once I’d booked the trip to Shanghai a couple of months back I started to take a much closer look at movies filmed in Shanghai and was quite surprised to find that very few films were actually shot in the Chinese city. One that was though was Steven Speilberg’s 1987 epic ‘Empire Of The Sun‘ which featured Christian Bale a long, long time before he became the Dark Knight of Gotham City in the Batman flicks.

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The early scenes of the movie were shot in Shanghai with a brief glimpse across the Huangpu River of the famous Peace Hotel next to the Bank of China building appearing 2 minutes into the film to the tune of the boys choir. This hotel was once the most luxurious hotel in the Far East and its lobby is supposedly still a great example of Art Deco interior. It stands on the Bund at 20 Nanjing Donglu and made an impression on me for its pyramid roof as well as old-style look which is a great reminder of Shanghai’s past.

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Seconds later, as the sound of the choir continues, we see St. Ignatius Cathedral (also referred to as Xujiahui Cathedral) on Puxi Road in Xujiahui in the Xuhui District. This is where viewers first see a very youthful Christian Bale hitting the high notes as Jamie “Jim” Graham who is a young boy living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai. I wanted to visit this church but a mixture of being short on time and being unable to access the internet meant I was sadly unable to get the match-up photos I craved. For the record the nearest station is Xujiahui Metro station on Lines 1 and 8 and as I’m researching this after my trip I now realise how close I actually went to this area of the city! Oh well…

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The colonial home of Jim and his family was actually filmed in the city’s English settlement with the interiors shot back in Britain in a bungalow at Sunningdale in Berkshire. The family are on their way to a fancy dress party 10 minutes into the film where the enormous crowd scenes of mass tension and unrest on the Bund were somehow coordinated by Speilberg. The former Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (which I never knew until this trip was the acronym HSBC despite banking with them for most of my life!) building features prominently and today holds the Pudong Development Bank and some offices. The view across the river with the Oriental Pearl Tower in the background (lower right) doesn’t feature in the film but shows the view in the opposite direction.

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The bridge seen on 12 minutes is the Waibaidu Bridge (Garden Bridge) which is adjacent to the Bund and connects the Huangpu and Hongkou districts. The present bridge (below right) opened on 20th January in 1908 and was just round the corner from my hotel.

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Jim later signals to the Japanese Zero aircrafts flying above and some 25 years later the shot is pretty much identical which is always a delight for movie location geeks like myself. The building on the right is the aforementioned Peace Hotel and the one on the left is the Peace Palace Hotel which is also commonly known as the Peace Hotel South. Its location is 23 Nanjing Donglu (Nanjing Road).

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The rest of the film was made in Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, Knutsford in Cheshire and Trebujena in Cadiz, Andalucia (Spain) was the setting of the prison camp set.

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TF Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Whilst I have been excited about this release for a long time now I never quite realised how hotly anticipated this third and final part in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy was. Sadly the opening weekend release in the United States was one of terrible tragedy with regards to the Colorado cinema shooting where 12 people were killed and 58 were injured.

  

Here in Japan we only had to wait another week for it to come out and though I couldn’t see it on the opening day I was there the following day to see if it could possibly live up to its hype. Having sat through all the Batman films in the last month (not just the last two!) I was never really expecting it to be better than ‘The Dark Knight‘ (2008) or my personal favourite ‘Batman Begins‘ (2005). I managed to avoid all trailers, previews, reviews and news stories relating to it as I wanted the end of the trilogy to be a complete surprise.

The Dark Knight Rises‘ is set eight years after the events of its predecessor with Batman no more, Wayne Enterprises crumbling and Bruce Wayne having not moved on to anything else in life. Whilst he is moping around Commissioner Gordon is also feeling guilty about ‘hero’ Harvey Dent’s crimes being kept under wraps and wants to set the record straight but decided his speech is not quite ready to be relayed to the Gotham public. Naturally it falls into the hands of the main villain Bane who I can’t say I took to in any way and it really is difficult to hear his dialogue through the mask. Obviously Bain is a far more physical antagonist compared to The Joker but is rather single dimensional and lacking the charisma him and Ra’s al Ghul (who does appear in this film too) had in the last two films.

  

You really do need to have seen the previous two films I think but then again why would you be watching this one if you hadn’t! There are lots of little flashbacks and dream sequences with a slight nod to ‘Inception‘ I guess and ultimately one particular dream has a massive bearing on what we see at the end…..or does it?! If I can be so vague without giving away any spoilers that is open to ones own interpretation.

It takes a while to see Bruce Wayne actually back in the Bat suit having been persuaded to come out of retirement by Gordon and Officer Blake. That does open up the chance for Christian Bale to put in more of an acting performance than is needed when he’s just wearing the suit. Michael Caine puts in a fine supporting role as you’d expect from an actor of his fine reputation and the emotional content of the film is driven by the stories involving his character Alfred. All the other characters – Tate, Blake, Selina and so on – are efficient enough but nothing exceptional as, for me, they are there just to help move the story on and so there is not so much in the way of background or expansion of their characters.

If I’m to be perhaps overcritical there are a few things which suspend belief such as 3000 cops being buried underground for three months and then getting out clean, healthy and basically ready to fight a mass of fully armed baddies by just charging them down.

At a very lengthy 165 minutes I felt it did lag a bit in the middle third due in part to my tiredness and the fact that about three stories were going on at once and I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was happening but unlike some viewers I’ve never been too worried about such a thing. The final part of the film is great albeit a bit over the top but more than satisfactory with all the ends more-or-less tied up but leaving it slightly open for another director to take over the reins sometime in the future. In fact, by that stage I could have actually watched a bit more of this movie.

  

Tokyo Fox Rating 8/10

London Film Museum – Batman Special

As I’ve mentioned on here in the past I have always been a Batman fan when it comes to the super-heroes and there were a fair few items of memorabillia relating to that franchise in the London Film Museum. The most noteworthy item may well be Christian Bale’s batsuit (lower left) from ‘Batman Begins’ but myself and Richard Richard were probably happier to have our pictures taken with a plastic Batman mannequin.

   

In addition to all that I also visited a couple of filming locations from the last couple of Batman films. Below left is Criterion at 224 Piccadilly which is visited by Bruce Wayne in ‘The Dark Knight’ and is actually a French restaurant owned by Marco Pierre White. The eye-lid entrance of CityPoint (below right) on Ropemaker Street was the shooting location in ‘Batman Begins’ where he arrived with a couple of playmates.

 

TF Film Review: Terminator Salvation

The Japanese release of this new installment in the Terminator franchise was for once only a couple of weeks after the western world and having bought my ticket in advance a few weeks ago (saves 500 yen!) I went to see this reboot of the Terminator series on Sunday with a work colleague.  It has to be one of the noisiest films I’ve ever seen, full of gunfire and things blowing up. Inevitably I enjoyed it though to be honest I don’t think it will live too long in the memory. Furthermore, I can’t really see it being so appealing to the casual cinema-goers who aren’t really Terminator fans. I love what Christian Bale has done to help rejuvenate the Batman franchise which had become a bit of a joke but his fellow actor Sam Worthington stomped all over him in this one with a big metal foot. Also, nice to see that there was no mis-placed humour though this could be debated with the famous lines ‘Come with me if you want to live’ and ‘I’ll be back’ included as almost throwaway lines. There was also the appearance of a certain Austrian former body builder albeit in CGI form as his Governor of California duties meant he was too busy to film a cameo. Given his age that was maybe for the best.
You can see my photos of the Terminator Exhibition in Odaiba here.

TF Film Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

Of the comic book heroes the one that I always liked best was Batman. I could come out with some cool reason for preferring him to Spider-man or Superman like the fact that he has no truly supernatural powers. Sadly I wasn’t that thoughtful as a kid and a more likely (but still probably not true) reason was that I just liked the idea of wearing blue underpants over the top of grey trousers better than the other outfits! Or it may have even been because I played Batman in the school playground and in later years really liked the Batman game on the Amstrad CPC 464. As you can see I was easily pleased as a child! More likely reason is that I just thought (and still do) that Batman’s more cool than the other super-heroes.
Now I’m not really a cinema-goer but for some reason I have seen most of the Batman movies on the big screen (I did give Batman and Robin a miss though) so I was very keen to see The Dark Knight (released in Japan on August 9th) which I went to a couple of weeks ago with Gideon. I loved Batman Begins in 2005 and this was gripping stuff too and thoroughly enjoyable although Christian Bale’s voice as Batman seems to be more over the top than in the last film. Overlong too though thats more to do with my poor concentration for films beyond the 90-120 minute mark. Anyway, it did enough for me to live up to its hype which was of course heightened by the death of Heath Ledger who gave a very dark and fairly scary performance as The Joker fitting in with the films quite threatening image.
After a couple of hours my chair started to jolt which I thought at first was due to Gideon having a shaky leg but it wasn’t him and neither was it a special effect of the cinema as this was no Universal Studios ride. Instead the room was shaking due to one of the earthquakes which take place in Japan day in day out.
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