Monday, October 21, 2013

Luc Besson and Scarlett Johansson in Taiwan

Scarlett Johansson is in the picture above. Don't you believe me? I know it's difficult. I had to stand away really far before being allowed to take a picture, yet the TV crews had it even worse because they stood away to the right, completely unable to see anything interesting. What you see is the front entrance of the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, where French director Luc Besson is shooting his latest: Lucy. More about that later.
Just in front of the hotel, you can  see black screens. To the right of the righthand screen stand a blonde woman and a man with a yellow cowboy hat. Yes, I just about saw them with my naked eyes, but on the picture, even if you zoom in hard, it's just a blur. The two were talking, the woman turned and wanted to go away, but the man pulled her back. They took several takes to complete this scene, and I have every reason to believe the blonde was Scarlett Johansson.

Most of the morning of Monday, October 21, 2013, was taken up by shooting a taxi scene though. Taxi coming up to the front entrance, passengers getting out, people in business suits walking away from the hotel. At first, I didn't realize this was a scene from the movie - until I saw the same 3 cabs turning back and coming up again, and the same passengers running down to board the cabs driving up to the front entrance again. A funny detail: a guy spouted water on the cabs before they drove up to the hotel, presumably to give the impression it had just rained.

The front of the Grand Formosa Regent, for at least two decades one of the top hotels in Taipei, even though the Taiwanese capital's epicenter has now moved east to Taipei 101. By the way, Besson's crew is also supposed to film over there, but the schedule is as tightly kept as the actors. It was virtually impossible to get anywhere near the scene, and 'heavies' checked first whether not too much would be visible to outsiders.
As promised, the story: 'Lucy' is about a foreign woman - Scarlett Johansson - living in Taiwan who is forced to smuggle drugs. One time, she takes one of those drugs - and obtains special powers. Sounds a bit like Limitless with Bradley Cooper. Morgan Freeman is apparently also starring in 'Lucy,' but he doesn't have any scenes in Taiwan. Besson's crew will stay around the Grand Formosa Regent for four days, the news is.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Mercedes S-class reaches Taiwan

When carmakers launch a new model in Asia, they usually pick glitzy shopping malls or dull trade fair halls for their promotional activities. Mercedes Benz in Taiwan went a whole lot further for the 2013 S-class last Wednesday. It turned the usually bare plaza in front of Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall into a 'lake,' be it one not deep enough to drown even a lizard. The 'island' in the middle featured a drum band and seats for the guests.
When I first passed there at noon, I already managed a close look at the top car models: the S500, the S350, the hybrid S400. The design of the new S-class didn't leave me breathless. I think Mercedes is under threat of falling prey to the same problem that has plagued Audi: too many cars looking too similar. The headlights of most Mercedes models these days, from A-class and CLA to M-class, look all the same.
Fortunately, the taillights of the new S-class saved it for me. When I went back to the site during a short dinner break, the show was in full swing with purple and red lights reflecting in the undeep pool. I went straight for the cars parked at the back, which fortunately had their own lights on but were kept out in the dark away from the big reflecting flashes which make getting nice pictures at regular car shows so difficult.
I have something for taillights, especially the ones on recent BMW models, but the new S-class is not too bad either in that respect. Just enjoy the pictures down here.