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Sherlock Holmes - Blackwood

Before you get overly excited, I have not managed to get my hands on the sequel set to be released in December next year, Sherlock Holmes 2. No, unfortunately I am merely reviewing the first installment of the action mystery film that was released in December of LAST year.

So, why am I writing this review you may ask? Well, it was my intention to go to the cinema at some point in 2010 and watch this movie on the big screen. But you know how these things work - something pops up that means you can’t go to the cinema that week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Before you know it, the film is no longer at the cinema and you missed your chance to watch it!

Now, almost a year later, I get to finally watch the film I have been longing to for over a year. Not on the big screen, but rather via a fake Chinese DVD in my Shanghai apartment – far from ideal, but it’ll do.

Regardless of how it was viewed, the film was definitely worth the wait. It had the usual swagger of a Guy Ritchie movie: witty one-liners, raw action sequences and some dark comedic moments. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Rock ‘n’ Rolla. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, watch them and all will become clear.

The part of Sherlock Holmes is brilliantly played by Robert Downey Jr. Holmes seems metaphorically lost in London until he is asked to investigate a series of murders, seemingly connected to occult rituals. The villain in the movie, Lord Blackwood, has somehow returned from the grave with a plot to take over the British Empire via the dark arts.

The movie as a whole works well, with hard-hitting action scenes alongside a twisting and intellectual plot. In the role of Dr. Watson, Jude Law competently portrays a paternal force over the sometimes childish Holmes. As a pair, their chemistry on-screen is palpable and they effectively expose an image throughout of bickering siblings. The role of the deceptive Irene Adler, a former adversary of Holmes, is played by Rachel McAdams, of The Notebook and Wedding Crashers fame. The chemistry between McAdams and Downey Jr. is again evident as she toys with his emotions throughout.

My only gripe about the movie is that it signposts a sequel. I am happy there will be a second installment, yet I would prefer it was inferred, rather than made quite so plainly obvious. Nonetheless, I give it a healthy 4 stars.


Potocki Wódka Launch at Waldorf Astoria

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Potocki Wódka launch at the Waldorf Astoria’s Long Bar. To call this venue luxurious would be a gross understatement. Composed of 34 metres of shining mahogany and manned by an overwhelmingly cordial staff, the Long Bar epitomizes sophisticated splendour, making it the ideal locale to publicize the exclusive vodka, a beverage renowned for being served at London’s Dukes Bar to the James Bond mastermind himself, Ian Fleming.

Right before the tasting I had a chance to meet with Jan-Roman Potocki, a Polish vodka guru and the mind behind Potocki Wódka. Suave, elegant and fluent in many languages, you’d think Potocki was a Bond villain if he didn’t harbour such an amiable demeanour. But similar to your average Goldfinger or Blofeld, he does possess a grandiose plan-to bring the European drinking experience to Shanghai in the form of purer vodka.

Potocki was nice enough to disclose to me his mission’s details in a short lecture describing how Shanghai’s current vodka culture is marred by fruit and soft-drink laden cocktails, which hinder the beverage’s potential to become a truly high-brow drink. As a result, to our favourite British spy’s dismay, he serves the pure, chilled elixir straight from the bottle, neither shaken nor stirred. “When you serve it pure, you can’t hide the taste,” said Potocki. He then cheekily exclaimed, “You have to give it a chance to show its legs.” But beyond simply bringing great vodka to Shanghai, Potocki is reviving an age-old family tradition formerly erased by the Soviet regime in Poland in the early 20th century. As Potocki eloquently put it, “I don’t sell vodka; I sell my passion and history.”

The vodka experience itself was superb. Specially crafted tableside with a more than healthy dose of Potocki Wódka, a dash of vermouth and either a lemon-peel or olive garnish, the ‘strong’ martini indisputably lived up to its name. However, although one sip packed enough punch to kill a cocker-spaniel, the concoction surprisingly maintained a silky smoothness, allowing it to perfectly complement the Long Bar’s delectable selection of oysters and hor d’ourves creations.


7.8 磅



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Drunken Dragon Pub Crawl

They say the easiest time to meet and greet is when alcohol is involved. Booze relaxes people and can offer that sometimes essential Dutch courage to speak to anyone and everyone. If meeting people is what you want to be doing in Shanghai then look no further than the weekly Drunken Dragon Pub Crawl. Here you’ll meet other tourists, students, interns, expats and young professionals.

The festivities begin around 9.30 at O’Malleys on Taojiang Lu, where ‘registration’ takes place. Although it sounds very formal, it is in fact anything but, with an hour of open bar, a bit of food and some acoustic live music. An open bar is the perfect way to get into the swing of things and soon enough the conversation is flowing and tales are exchanged. After an hour at O’Malleys, crawlers are ushered onto the ‘party bus’ to begin the Dragon trail to the three other hot spots.

By this time, most people are in the mood and the guides keep spirits up by strolling up and down the aisle, free-pouring flavoured vodka into the gaping mouths of the expectant party-goers. Upon arrival at the second jaunt, drunken dragons are welcomed to complimentary shots and special drink deals.

Crawlers then hop aboard the party bus for more flavoured vodka before arriving at the third stop on the trail. Here, more complimentary shots are provided until the guides rush you back onto the bus to reach the final destination – one of Shanghai’s infamous clubs. For your money, you’ll get entrance into the venue, not have to queue and be handed a few drinks tokens to keep you quiet.

If nothing else, the Drunken Dragon Pub Crawl is a good way to get out there, meet new people and sample some of Shanghai’s up-and-coming bars. At RMB 150 per head, its very good value-for-money and for any newcomers to the city, it is a decent way to be shown around and taste that world-famous nightlife.



Anonymous's picture

cool post

 Nice write up. Definitely an accurate portrayal of the debauchery. 

Happy Thursday!

Fashion 'Snow' @ Spam Art Gallery

Shanghai's chic and stylish gathered at the Spam Art Gallery on Xinle Lu for the aptly titled Christmas Fashion 'Snow' yesterday evening. So, in my Berghaus jacket, M&S scarf and Adidas zip-up hoody, I felt a little under-dressed to say the least.  Nonetheless, despite a few discerning glances here and patronizing smurks there, I wasn't all too disgruntled.

Scheduled to start at 6.30pm, proceedings didn't really get going until around 8pm, but that gave enough time for the gatherers to tuck into the free-flowing wine and festive French nibbles. Organised by O-Marketing, the event seemed as much a place to network as it was to witness the 'fusion of Art and Fashion' - this is Shanghai after all. Alternative prints decked the walls and eclectic music set the scene.

As for the fashion show itself, the layout of the site did not facilitate a smoothly-run event. Too many people were crammed into the awkwardly shaped gallery. As a result, the crowd began to meander up and down the three-floor staircase, making movement a hapless task. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that the three separate 'shows' were performed on a different floor. So, one may have been perfectly placed for one of the shows, but unable to view the second or third. The lights constantly turning off and on, too, only served to confuse the audience further.

Despite the inconveniences, the three separate shows were classy in their own way. The first, orchestrated by Italian designer Arianna D'Auria, featured two secretaries strutting their way around an office in stylish black dresses. Short-lived though it may have been, it was well-received. The second show featured the designs of Frau Ana from Germany. As the show began, Ana shouted to the crowds to not be afraid of colour and her clothes certainly were not. The model, imitating getting ready for an evening out on the town, went through lots of outfits, with pink and turqoise the dominant colours. The third and final show,  put together by Chinese designer Qiao Tao, was performed behind glass. The performance involved three models having their hair groomed, while dressed in seductive dresses and garish stockings.

All in all the event was a success, yet it would have been far better in a more spacious location, or indeed with fewer people in the vicinity. Either way, it was a good display of Shanghai's cosmopolitan characteristics.


Anonymous's picture

juicy juicy

Nice show but too squeezed !  Hey guys, think about charging entrance fee!!!

Anonymous's picture

too much

It's was fucking crowded!!!!! Next time please, charge the entrance ..... no space to move. 800people in that small gallery, how can u guys do that stuff?


Last week I went down to the press conference announcing the new government approved mma fighting championship in China. Its name… the Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation., its goal…to bring the spectacle of two grown men beating the hell out of each other to the adoring, and admittedly blood thirsty public.

The idea is a simple one. Try and recreate the incredible success of MMA in the west here in China. But, it seems, from the outset that the promoters have other motives as well.

RUFF will encourage individuals and families to lead healthier lifestyles and help them reach their martial arts and fitness-related goals. Placing emphasis on the positive benefits of martial arts as a great way to build character, and keep China's youth healthy in body and spirit. A great message by any standards if you ask us.

There is no news as to whether any established fighters from the UFC will jump ship, and in reality its probably way too early for the brand to be courting the likes of Josh Koschek, and George St-Pierre. But who knows where they'll be a year frome now. And knowing China, the sky's the limit.

The first fight is due to take place on March 5th at the Shanghai Grand Stage and from what I saw at the press conference its going to be one of the hottest tickets in town. Fighting and ring girls…what’s not to love?

Click here for a video.


Money TALK: Sending Money to China

The old saying goes, bad news comes in threes. And earlier this week I had a proverbial three-way. But the only thing relevant to this blog is that through a series of banking errors all my bank cards were cancelled. This left me alone in the city with no money and no hope of getting any by traditional means.

But through the rigorous research by myself and a couple of diligent helpers a couple of solutions were discovered, and the following blog offers the wealth of my experience so you don’t have to go through it yourself. I’m a nice guy right?

First of all you can get a Western Union transfer. From anywhere in the world, axis of evil aside, you can have money sent to Shanghai or anywhere else for that matter for a small fee. For me it cost RMB 60 for the money to get to Shanghai in 10 hours and from what we understand that’s a universal price across the board. You can of course pay more and have it at the desired location faster, but being a bit of a cheapskate I chose the cheapest option.

Secondly, you have the far more complex process of transferring money from a western bank account to a Chinese one. To do this you need a couple of things. Obviously, you need a bank account. But more importantly you need to have you ‘bic’ and ‘iban’ numbers. These are specific to your bank branch and bank account respectively and can be found out by either calling the bank direct, checking your statement, or going into the branch that you set it up at originally. There is a charge of around RMB 200 to send money out of other countries to China, but it’s usually in your Chinese bank within one working day. And you don't even have to leave the house.


Live TALK: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Expect the unexpected. That should be the motto of Concordia International School’s theatre program. The last three productions to hit the stage have been Macbeth, Aida and now Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. On the surface there appears to be little connecting the three. Other, perhaps, than a sincere desire on the part of Director Chad Doering to discourage return performances?

This is the third production and 6th performance I’ve attended. That’s math you might want to argue with, but I admit I liked Aida and Macbeth so much one viewing just couldn’t suffice. Time constraints meant I couldn’t adopt the same multi pronged approach to R&G, but nevertheless I made sure my name had been marked in indelible ink on a seat for the penultimate performance.

For those of you not au fait with the storyline, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is an absurdist, tragicomedy (depending on who you ask… we’ll get to that) by Tom Stoppard. It expands upon the exploits of the titular characters, who are taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. While there are direct reenactments of scenes from Hamlet involving the two figures, the majority of R&G focuses on the protagonists’ musings from what would have been their “off stage” moments from the Shakespeare original.

I’m rather glad I’d done my homework going in. Mostly because I sounded awfully knowledgeable during the two intervals as I commented on points of existentialism, farce and art vs. reality to my neighbours, most of whom looked at me with what I feel was a profound reverence. Thankfully no rigorous examination of my shockingly loosely made arguments followed as I’d memorized only the first two paragraphs of Wikipedia’s synopsis. However, as I suggested earlier, the beauty of R&G is that it invites interpretation and challenges rigid analyses. The audience is encouraged to join the two character’s philosophical wanderings and make their own judgments.

So, easy enough to act that then, right?? Surprisingly you might think so, given the excellent performances on show. It’s high time I refrained from falling back on the usual bromides (“amazing for their age”, “acting beyond their years”) and accepted that Concordia Theatre productions and the actors within are genuinely very good in their own right.

The two leads were actually played by four actors, as each character had a shadow of himself providing his subconscious face. This was a construct designed by Concordia Theatre and worked extremely well. Given that a large proportion of stage time involves just the two leads, it would have been hard both on actor and audience had it been handled by only two actors. Furthermore, it must be said that the back and forth between the two sets (Julien Chien and Esther McLachlin as Rosencrantz, Nathalia Tavares and Michael Zhou as Guildenstern) was very sharp and offered another platform for expressing Stoppard’s witty dialogue.

Despite Mr. Doering’s best efforts, there were a number of familiar faces on show. Chien was back once more after prominent roles in Macbeth and Aida. With a whiff of a death scene in the script, Don Zheng also reappeared and again proved he’s peerless when it comes to ‘terminalising a character’. He also mastered delivery of some of the best lines on offer (“Murder, seduction, incest…what do you want?”). Other returnees included Garvin Price, Vinia Bao, Lina Pan and Sarah Bieniek. 

Zheng and Thomas Parker (as the Tragedian, Alfred) added some fantastic physical comedy to proceedings. In fact, all credit to Parker for carving up a memorable place in my memory of the show with a sum total of about two lines of dialogue.

Once again, the backstage elements of the production were outstanding, with particular praise going to the lighting crew this time. The soft backdrops and supportive shading magnified my feel for the performance and greatly enhanced it overall. Compliments to Zach Estey, Anthony Wonsono and Doering.

All round, another notch on the stage post of excellent shows!

Keep an eye on the Concordia website below for future productions.


·         Glutton for Punishment Award: Julien Chien. His body of work is now only rivaled by a combination of Clint Eastwood and Adoor Bhasi (Bollywood legend – 549 film appearances).

·         Till Death Do Us Part Award: Don Zheng. Rumour has it Don refused the role of Boromir in Lord of the Rings as he felt the death scene was underplayed.

·         The Acting Bug Award: Sarah Bienik, who valiantly fought through sickness to take the stage and was apparently one of a number who had early winter illnesses. The show must go on.

·         Best Catchphrase Award: Michael “Show Time” Zhou. Throwing those two words around with indecent recklessness, Zhou was the heartbeat of rehearsals. Or persistently confused as to the start date.

·         A Time And A Place Award: Joey Schwalbach. Never afraid to push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable. Put the ‘feel’ into feelings.

·         Devoted To Their Craft Award: The entire male cast who expressed a fearsome desire to work with heavyweight thesp Megan Fox in future productions




Anonymous's picture

 I really enjoyed the stage

 I really enjoyed the stage setup. It was simple, yet creative and colorful and was absolutely complimentary to the play, which was pointed and moving. Hats off to the young leads for memorizing all these difficult dialogs! 

Anonymous's picture

Quirky...yet surprisingly good

    I did not want to go, (because it was Stoppard) but I am so glad I did! The show was quirky but surprisingly entertaining. I loved all the death scenes, especially poor Gertrude and Claudius near the end! I also particularly enjoyed  the boat scene. Hats off to all of the actors who put hours and hours into memorizing - it was fabulous!

Anonymous's picture

RGAD Lives!

Having seen other Stoppard plays over the years, I truly wondered if Concordia could pull this one off.  After debriefing my wife before the show, I was pleased to find that she and I both just needed to relax a little and enjoy the ride.  It was a plus to have a child in the show as well. There is so much in this play worth contemplating, but while it is going on, it is sheer entertainment.  Comment should be made of the tragedian's caravan that was wheeled on and off stage and the wonderfully farcical boat stage piece for Act 3 with multiple trap doors,  What fun!

Anonymous's picture

R&G Review

The best lines were actually at intermissions. "I have no idea what they are talking about!" "At least they make you laugh!" "Maybe I should have read the cliff notes."

Brilliant, just brilliant.  The performance stays with you for a long time.


Diane Long

Anonymous's picture

Concordia Performance

I heartily agree with the reviewer's take on this most recent performance.  Stoppard is not something that just anyone can take on and I believe the Concordia Thespians did an outstanding job.  The pairing of the two main roles was inspired and really helped with the flow of a very complex play.


Live TALK: Booshkabaash

You may have been wondering where all the blogs had gone. Thinking to yourself,  ‘why it has been a week since the last meaningful update to blog?’Well here’s the answer. I have been in Suzhou writing up the forthcoming Suzhou special for our wonderful magazine’s January edition. But I have returned, and other than mild case of the flu I’m taking back the blogosphere by storm.

The first thing on the to-do list is to make you aware of a free concert that is going down tonight… Booshkabaash. Concert goers can expect to hear musical styles as varied as punk, jazz and even a set form a Caribbean steel percussion band. Not only will there be varied performances but the Lions of Puxi (recently voted the best band in Shanghai) will be playing a set, and I’m sure that is something we can all get excited about.

In a message to potential patrons, festival organiser Michael Luevano said “I am proud of the home-grown performance talent here in Shanghai, and I’m just as impressed with the diversity in the community”. He continued. “With Booshkabaash I want to help spread that creative gift to everyone!”

Luevano says he hopes Booshkabaash will continue grow bigger year by year to encourage and expose more up-and-coming bands in the community, while giving the Shanghai scene more exposure overseas. He adds that the audience can expect a lot of improvisation and an inclusive stage presence.  Asked what he thinks the music festival means for China, he says it’s a cultural melting pot for the creative future of a new generation.

This is sort of thing that makes Shanghai so special. A cool event, in a great location, and all for free. The event goes on all night so if you’re looking for something to do tonight then you should get down there and check it out.

When: 6pm, December 10th

Where: Melting Pot, 288 Tai Kang Lu

How Much: Free


Baby it’s Cold Outside

By Nicholas Garrett

Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen at the Ke Centre for Contemporary Arts

Children’s stories are simply terrifying! Perhaps the effects had been dulled by time and I’d forgotten the harrowing episodes I must have suffered in childhood reading them, but experiencing these stories again now I am at a loss for words in denouncing my parents devil may care attitude to child rearing. What were they thinking? Did they simply not have time to raise me in an attentive manner? Or was it some kind of socio-evolutionary experiment?

A huge number of authors of children’s books must have been in serious danger of finding themselves on a child offender list. You can imagine the mail-out: “We’d just like to inform you that that Lewis Carroll figure has moved into the neighbourhood at No.18. It goes without saying that you should now keep a closer eye on your children.” (I make no allusions to any danger other than reading his works)

Hansel and Gretel, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Witches, pretty much anything published by the Grimms… These tales comprise a veritable cluster bomb of acts of cruelty towards children. I say we put children back in the mines where they’re protected. This mental torture is just unforgiveable.

Speaking of torture, "contemporary" is nearly always a word I fear when used in conjunction with entertainment. I tend to like my theatre to be traditional, but still reserving space for a more is more approach to show tunes. Interpretive acting gives me the heebie-jeebies. However, the Shanghai Repertory Theatre (SRT) have been churning out excellent performances for a while now (or so I’d heard), so I was willing to forego my anxiety regarding the contemporary setting and give it a whirl.

The Snow Queen marked SRT’s first birthday and perhaps the giddy delights of being a year old prompted the temporary diversion away from their customary more mature productions. The Snow Queen revolves around two children, and best friends, Kay and Gerda. When Kay is stolen away by the evil Snow Queen, ruler of the snowflakes, Gerda embarks upon a long and desperate search encompassing thieves, talking flowers, a prince and princess, mountains of non-sequiturs and the Lord’s Prayer.

Rosita L. Janbakhsh, producer and director, is fast becoming a torturously difficult to pronounce house-hold name in expat circles. And I can see why, as, despite myself, I rather enjoyed the show. The performance was an abundance of colour, humour and music. And enough indoor scarves in the audience to make you think you were in France. 

The Snow Queen is a perfect choice for the season and one for adults and children alike and there’s still time to see it!

It running until this Sunday, 12 December at the Ke Centre for the Contemporary Arts at 613-B Kaixuan Lu, near Yan’an Xi Lu. It’s worth noting the phone number (6131 3080) as it’s a little tricky to find. It’s 8pm daily during the week and twice daily (3pm and 8pm) in the weekend.

For further information, please email [email protected]

Style TALK: M on the Bund

I have always been of the opinion that when someone gets you a diary for Christmas it’s them subtlety telling you that they don’t really like you that much, and couldn’t be bothered to think of decent gift for you.

So I was surprised when the guys who write the print magazine featured a diary in the ‘Hot and Cool’ section. To me this sounded like laziness on their part. But I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. The diary in question is the one from M on the Bund, and as far as diaries go this is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

The thing is amazing. From CD’s, pop-up pages, parlour games, and informative blurbs, the diary has everything you would expect from a diary but can also hold you attention like any good coffee table book does. I’ve already got my copy and couldn’t be happier. I literally spent almost an hour this morning flicking through it, while I should have been working. They have even included a couple of free gifts.

Price: RMB 198. Available at the M on the Bund and Chaterhouse Books. Web:



Anonymous's picture

Um ok

That would or might be valid except that in general cannibalizing your own editorial isn't done by a magazine's blog. Also the link for the story is on the sidebar and all the stories are put online...

Alex.Charnaud's picture

It is true that all the

It is true that all the content is put online. However as I said before many people who read the website don’t read every article from the magazine. I’m not really sure what the problem is. however, i do like it when readers offer constructive advice on how to improve the blog. the blog served to offer more coverage for something that i thought was legitimately cool and people might be interested in regardless of whether it was featured in the magazine.

Anonymous's picture


How does this qualify as a blog post? Paying a backhand compliment to your coworkers and then writing about something that was written about in the print edition?

Maybe you should stop being lazy and generate your own content.

Alex.Charnaud's picture


Im sorry you felt it was a lazy post. but not everyone who reads the website reads the print edition too. and i felt that the diary was cool enough to merit a blog post too. thans for readign and i hope you find future posts more in keeping with your interests.


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