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April 28, 2005

In the Mood for Action

Tony Leung Chiu-waiDuring an interview this morning with Tony Leung Chiu-wai, I asked him about his next project. Here's what he had to say:

What are you doing next?
Me and Kar-wai will do another movie next year. A kung fu movie about the master of Bruce Lee. I will start training after this promotional trip.

What will the approach be? Will the film be slow and delicate like IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE?
I think we want to do something different. These 10 years time I think we are doing the same movie: we start from DAYS OF BEING WILD to 2046, we are somehow doing the same thing. One time we talked on the set and said we should do something different, at least for the audience. They want something different from us. So why not a kung fu movie? We never did a kung fu movie before. A pure kung fu movie, especially one set in the 60's, could be very popular.

Will it be historically accurate, or feature more action?
I think it will feature more action. I have to start training after I get home. I plan to train for six months. Because if you're the master of Bruce Lee, you should at least look like it.

An action movie from Wong Kar-wai and Tony Leung? Who'd've thunk it?
Here's a link with some of this info as well.

April 28, 2005 at 12:29 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rex Reed: Some of My Best Friends are Black

If you remember recently, Rex Reed of the New York Observer gave a bad review to the Korean film OLDBOY in which he described the film as "sewage" and went on to explain, "What else can you expect from a nation weaned on kimchi, a mixture of raw garlic and cabbage buried underground until it rots, dug up from the grave and then served in earthenware pots sold at the Seoul airport as souvenirs?"

Instead of tenderly wiping the drool from his chin, or getting him a home health care attendant or perhaps a gorgeous room in a retirement community, thin-skinned Asian film heads (like this one) wagged their fingers and huffed and puffed. Now, Reed has managed to show that he is truly a magnificent beast, by issuing an apology that is not only one of the most craven examples of pathetic namedropping to grace the internet in recent years, but also a piece of evidence that points out that Reed thinks it's still 1997 when "shock jocks" were thumbing their noses at the "politically correct" establishment and the "Where's your sense of humor?" defense carried the day. Hey, I liked 1997 as much as the next guy, but it's over already.

Courtesy of Twitch Film:

""Finally, a word about Korea. A few weeks ago, in my broadside against the gory Korean movie schlockfest Oldboy, I apparently raised the hackles of several readers who objected to the way I mentioned the Korean film industry and the fermented Korean national dish called kimchi in the same sentence. I’m not an admirer of political correctness in first-person byline opinion writing, but that doesn’t make me a racist, so if I inadvertently offended anyone who misinterpreted my humor, I apologize. I like Koreans. In truth, I have probably spent more time in Korea than any of the irate letter-writers currently bombarding me. I even lived there for several months while making a movie called Inchon! with Laurence Olivier, Jacqueline Bisset, Ben Gazzara, Richard Roundtree and Toshiro Mifune. We had many happy times, admired the lush landscape and liked the friendly people. We all hated the kimchi."

Ben Gazzara and Richard Roundtree? You're right, Rex, Koreans do suck.

April 28, 2005 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

Asian Movie Myths Debunked!

Korean movies are edgy and violent.
Most box office hits in Korea would give a diabetic sugar shock. In 2004, the four top-grossing flicks were TAE GUK GI (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN-style war melodrama), MY LITTLE BRIDE, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HIGH SCHOOL and GHOST HOUSE (a comedy/horror flick). In 2003, OLDBOY was beaten at the box office by MY TUTOR FRIEND (romantic comedy) and sold about as many tickets as OH! BROTHERS. Romances and romantic comedies are pretty much king in Korea, and directors like Kim Ki-Duk (THE ISLE, 3 IRON) are reviled (Kim won't give interviews after the Korean press said his parents had raised a sociopath). Park Chan-Wook's OLDBOY did good business, but his previous movie, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, was a bomb.

The Hong Kong Film Industry is Dead.
Everyone keeps saying this. They point out that in the late 80's and early 90's the city was churning out 300 movies a year and is now down to 50. That's more the result of the late-80's film bubble creating an unsustainable level of production than anything else. At that time, anyone who found some loose change in yesterday's pants could and would produce a movie that turned a profit. Since then, the bubble has burst due to overproduction, among other factors. While a lot of very good people have a hard time finding work in Hong Kong these days, it's much more reasonable for a city of about 9 million people to produce 50-60 movies a year, rather than 300-350.

Bollywood is the next big thing.
Back in 2001, content-hungry magazines crossed paths with money-hungry freelance writers who pitched them the following story: Bollywood is about to cross over. In 2001, MONSOON WEDDING and the theatrical release of LAGAAN were supposed to herald the beginning of the Bollywood crossover. In 2002, it was supposed to happen again, with the out-of-competition screening of DEVDAS in Cannes. Then, in 2003, Aishwarya Rai's publicists earned their money and the Bollywood crossover was written about again. In 2004, BOMBAY DREAMS and Gurinder Chadha's BRIDE AND PREJUDICE came to the US, prompting another round of the same old article.

Reality? LAGAAN flopped, BOMBAY DREAMS closed up shop quickly, DEVDAS didn't cross over, Aishwarya Rai has priced herself out of Bollywood and still hasn't found success in Hollywood, and BRIDE AND PREJUDICE and MONSOON WEDDING combined still haven't equaled what the AMITYVILLE HORROR remake made on its opening weekend. Recently, Lincoln Center held a retrospective of Amitabh Bachchan's films. Bachchan is the iconic Bollywood actor, who was voted "Most Popular Movie Star in the World" in a BBC poll a few years ago. Attendance at some of the screenings was as low as 16 people.

April 27, 2005 at 08:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

SAVE THE GREEN PLANET director speaks

Kung Fu Cult Cinema has an interview with Jang Jun-Hwan, the director of SAVE THE GREENSAVE THE GREEN PLANET PLANET. Director Jang explains that the Raelians (remember their Canadian clone baby?) and an anti-Leonardo DiCaprio website (which has since been replaced by a page selling hydrocodone) claiming the dewy young actor was an alien engaged in an plot to conquer our planet by seducing our women, were his inspirations for the film.

He's also curious as to how the movie will do in "the most powerful country on the planet", America. Um, not so well.

Currently, Jang is working on a script for a superhero movie. He's locked up in a motel, outside of Seoul, re-drafting his script to make it more audience friendly, right this minute.

You can see the SAVE THE GREEN PLANET trailer here.

April 27, 2005 at 08:55 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chinese Odyssey Part 3 finishes

Wong Kar-wai's creative partner, Jeff Lau, is known for his wild, time-traveling, anything goes flicks that play fast and loose with everything: logic, physics, narrative coherence, pee jokes. He directed Stephen Chow in Chow's two legendary CHINESE ODYSSEY movies, and now he's just finished part three of this CHINESE ODYSSEY trilogy based on the classical JOURNEY TO THE WEST about the spread of Buddhism through China (it's more fun than it sounds). The flick shot in China, cost HK$100 million and stars Hong Kong heartthrob, Nic Tse.

It's expected to come out Chinese New Year 2006. Chinese New Year used to be the big season for Hong Kong movies, with new releases from Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow and other stars coming out like clockwork. The past few years have seen it die as a season for Hong Kong films as the industry shrinks like a lanced boil, but with CHINESE ODYSSEY 3 slotted for New Year 2006, maybe this is the comeback the season needs.

Go here for the story. Courtesy of Xinhua.

April 27, 2005 at 08:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

WU JING interview

Wu Jing, the next big 
thing.People who bemoan the death of Hong Kong action films haven't seen SHA PO LANG. Directed by Wilson Yip and starring Sammo Hung, Donnie Yen, Simon Yam and Wu Jing it's a pitch black cop drama that unfolds over Father's Day night and it contains the best action seen in a Hong Kong movie in years. It's deadly serious and lightning fast.

Sammo Hung plays the main bad guy and his right-hand man is played by Wu Jing. Who? Wu Jing is a Mainland Chinese martial artist who comes from the same team (and coach) as Jet Li, and who started out in Yuen Wo-ping's TAI CHI 2. He's appeared in Tsui Hark's LEGEND OF ZU (the bald guy), and several other movies but he's never had a chance to shine the way he does in SHA PO LANG. He took the time to give us a quick interview about his work on the film.

Can you tell me a little about your background?
I started practicing wu shu around 1980 on the Beijing National Wu Shu team. It was the same team Jet Li was on, and I trained under his coach, Mr. Wu. I won several championships – about six – and traveled to America a few times for competitions and to teach. I did some coaching in New York, LA, San Francisco. Five of my brothers (teammates) and I went to Ohio for a competition, but I thought it wasn’t fair. The people we were competing against were sincere, but they practice wu shu part-time. We were professionals. I felt really embarrassed about that.

How did you get into film?
Cheung Sing-yim is the director of Jet Li's first movie, SHAOLIN TEMPLE, and he saw me training. He was looking to make a film, TAI CHI 2, with Yuen Wo-ping and they wanted to use me. But I had to wait until I left the wu shu team, since it’s against regulations to be on the team and to make a film. Whoa. Zippers.

Yuen Wo-ping is a very important person in my life. He is my teacher and he brought me into the movie world. He directed my first movie. The first, second, third and the fifth productions (film and television) I made were all arranged by Yueng Wo-ping.

What kind of character do you play in SHA PO LANG?
The first Chinese character in the title of the movie is “wolf” and that’s my character. A wolf is fast and cunning. I look at the rest of the cast and I see them as food. The wolf is a cruel, cruel animal: they take anything they can grab, without reason.

How was working with Sammo Hung?

Interesting. He’s a real gentleman. I treated him as an uncle. Throughout the shoot I learned from him.

Donnie Yen choreographed SHA PO LANG, and he is also one of Yuen Wo-ping’s students. Had the two of you worked before?
We had met socially before, but never spent much time together. We worked together quite a bit before shooting began, but for our big fight scene we improvised the choreography.

The fight between the two of us takes place in a long, narrow alley at night. We didn’t even talk to each other about it. We just showed up that night and started shooting around nine o’clock. The shoot finished at seven o’clock the next morning. We were exhausted but we didn’t want to give up. We’re both really demanding people, and we tried again and again to make it faster and more exciting. Wu Jing in SHA PO LANG.

In the scene, Donnie has a metal baton that he uses. The prop was made of wood and he broke it on my wrist in the exact same place…four times! I hurt his hand a few times in the same place, as well.

We’re both good martial artists, and sometimes that makes things easier, because we both know how to fight onscreen.

But sometimes it makes things more difficult because we stand across from each other and we get very competitive.

And, sometimes, it just makes things more painful.

What are you working on next?
I’m working on a movie that’s going to be shooting at the end of this year. It’s an action movie, of course, and I’m hoping to do something entirely new with martial arts choreography.

To read more about Wu Jing, check out the one and only Wu Jing fan page.

April 25, 2005 at 12:23 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Oprah Luvs Aish today

Bollywood's glamor girl, Aishwarya Rai, appears on the Oprah Winfrey Show today, wearing a lot of pancake makeup by the looks of it. Watch and see if she's actually able to move the muscles in her face underneath all that foundation. Aish is desperate to break over into the US now that she's virtually priced herself out of Bollywood, and we wish her the best. We also wish she'd scrape off some of that make-up.

(thanks to Jennifer Young at the Mobius Home Video Forum.)

April 25, 2005 at 08:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VC Film Festival

The VC Film Festival hits Los Angeles from April 28 - May 5 (that's now!) and it has a pretty large line-up of Asian movies.

Notable titles:
SPOTLIGHTING - Justin Lin (BETTER LUCK TOMORROW) shot this documentary about the Las Vegas lounge singers, The Sun Spots.
QUEEN OF ASIA - Joselito Torres' documentary that goes behind the scenes of Asia's gay beauty pageants.
THREE...EXTREMES - Takashi Miike, Park Chan-wook (JSA, OLDBOY) and Fruit Chan (LITTLE CHEUNG) team up to make an amazing three part horror movie.
RICE RHAPSODY - the latest feature from Sylvia Chang, one of Hong Kong's best actors and directors.

For more info, go to www.vconline.org

April 25, 2005 at 08:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005


Official poster for Ram Gopal Varma's SARKARIf you don't know who Ram Gopal Varma is, then you're missing out.

Bollywood's most innovative director, his gangster film COMPANY has been available on DVD with English subs for a few years and if you care about action movies, or movies at all, you should pick it up.

Now, his new film SARKAR is set for a July release date. It's an adaptation of THE GODFATHER with Bollywood's biggest icon, Amitabh Bachchan, playing the head of a criminal family and Amitabh's son, Abhishek Bachchan (who was out-of-control good in last year's YUVA, playing a disposable street thug), playing the Michael Corleone role. I'm sorry, but if you're not excited about this, you need to get yourself there. (By the way: Varma says that Abhishek did a better job onscreen than his dad. Oedipal Ouch!)

Check out the poster (courtesy of the Ram Gopal Varma fanpage) and then you can wet your whistle with this teaser from Indiafm.

April 22, 2005 at 09:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Color comes to Bollywood

An original black and white shot from MUGHAL-E-AZAMMade in 1960, over the course of ten years, with one song requiring a chorus of several hundred singers, MUGHAL-E-AZAM was the most opulent, most expensive, and most sense-shattering Bollywood film made at that time. It's a pretty simple story: prince meets girl, girl is a commoner, prince can't have girl, prince gets angry. But it's also pretty eternal, and while it's shot in beautiful black-and-white on some stunning sets, there are two musical numbers shot in Technicolor (at the time it was insanely expensive to do so).

The same shot, colorizedWell some Bollywood brainiacs recently had the idea of colorizing MUGHAL-E-AZAM and they released it to theaters where it did great business. Now, producers are digging around under their beds for the next film they can colorize and turn into a hit.

I think I'll always prefer the b&w MUGHAL, so thank goodness it's still on DVD in its original format. Watch for a colorized version of B.R. Chopra's NAYA DAUR next.

April 22, 2005 at 09:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shanghai Dreams poster

Here's the poster for SHANGHAI DREAMS, one of the Chinese movies at Cannes this year (click on the image for a bigger version)Poster for SHANGHAI DREAMS.

There's also a write-up of the film that someone kindly sent me that looks like it was taken from the official (and slightly confusing) press material:

"In the 1960s, encouraged by the Chinese Government, large numbers of urban families left the major cities to settle in the poorer regions of the country in order to "build the nation"  by  developing the local economies and local industry.

"The heroine of SHANGHAI DREAMS is nineteen and lives in the poor mountainous Guizhou province with her parents and her brother. That's where she has grown up; that's where her friends are; and that's where she first experiences love. It's the only home she has ever known....but  her father
believes that their future lies in Shanghai.

How can they live together when they don't share the same dreams?

Director: Wang Xiaoshuai (BEIJING BICYCLE)

World Sales: Fortissimo"

April 22, 2005 at 09:16 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

Germany to North Korea: let's make a movie

German company, Pandora, which co-produced Kim Ki-Duk's SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER...AND SPRING are in Korea discussing another co-production with LJ Film to come out in 2007. Titled THE WOUNDED DRAGON it tells the story of Yun Isang, a Korean composer who lived in Germany, where he was arrested by South Korean secret police in 1967, dragged back to Korea, accused of being a North Korean spy, was imprisoned, released two years later, and hightailed it back to Germany.

The movie will focus on these events in Yun Isang's life, and Pandora is asking North Korea to let the production shoot in Pyongyang. This will be the first South Korean film ever shot in Pyongyang.

What's interesting is that this comes on the heels of THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANG, another movie deeply critical of South Korean's modern history. BANG wound up with a court injunction that still stands, which ordered edits in the film and barred the public screening of the unedited version.

You can read more in the Korea Herald.

April 21, 2005 at 11:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 20, 2005

Box Office Shakedown

USA -- this week sees Asian movies rockin' and rollin' in the US and defying conventional wisdom. Most movies open big (the bigger the better) and then drop off. But OLDBOY and KUNG FU HUSTLE have wisely decided to open small and let word of mouth carry them and increase their box office as they add screens. OLDBOY added 14 screens to gross $85,350 with its regular per screen average of $3,161 (which hasn't changed much in the last 3 weeks). Its US total now stands at about $300,000.

KUNG FU HUSTLE made about $247,613 and stayed at 7 screens for a whopping per screen average of $35,000 and a total US gross of around $620,000.

Korean freakshow Save the Green Planet opens today. The Village Voice calls it "poignant" and "poetic" as well as "one of the best movies of the year...". The New York Times calls it "bile-raising" and "sick".

Also, Takashi Miike's One Missed Call opens in NYC today.

HONG KONG -- a slow weekend in the Special Administrative Region. Vin Diesel's THE PACIFIER took the top slot with almost HK$740,000, knocking Hayao Miyazaki's HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE out of the number one slot and down to number three with only HK$260,000 for the weekend. The Japanese film BE WITH YOU was in number two with HK$350,000. The Asian anthology film ABOUT LOVE which is, duh, about love, made HK$100,000 and came in fifth.
Just a quick note: the Hong Kong box office considers the HK$10 million mark as a sign of success for a domestic film. HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, Miyazaki's beautiful Japanese anime, has grossed HK$21 million and is still at number three after 25 days, despite the fact that the anti-Japanese riots in China have, sadly, now spread to Hong Kong. I predict HOWL'S will break HK$30 million and the only HK movie that'll do better than it all year will be Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE.
(thanks to Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review)

KOREA -- CRYING FIST continues to hold the top spot in its second week, with $1.8 million last week, for a total of $6.5 million. A BITTERSWEET LIFE (on its way to Cannes) made $1.3 million in its second week for a total of $5.5 million. The surprise hit, old lady vs. gangster comedy, MAPADO made $1 million (in its 5th week) to hold the number three spot with $15 million.

JAPAN -- CONAN: THE MOVIE VOL. 9, an anime series, debuted in the number one slot with $2.6 million. NATIONAL TREASURE is at number two, THE AVIATOR is at number three, and live action Japanese submarine flick, LORELEI, is at number four with $19 million in its sixth week.

Japan has released a ton of amazing movies in 2004 and 2005 and it continues to boggle my mind that none of them ever show up on the Japanese box office charts. However, a lot of distributors have realized that their hopes lie in home video and overseas sales, and on the plus side a lot of Japanese distributors have become a lot more easy to work with in the past couple of years.

April 20, 2005 at 02:04 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2005

Cannes Can-Can

Cannes has announced its line-up for this year's festival (May 11 -22nd) and the festival mostly brings back tried-and-true Cannes directors and doesn't introduce a lot of new talent. 2004 was a really fun year for Asian film, and so this is a pretty okay showing. Nothing bad, but nothing great, either.

BASHING, Japan, directed by Masahiro Kobayashi
Kobayashi is often considered "the most French of Japanese directors" and he's a Cannes vet, having been to the festival about four times previously. This will be his fifth trip to the festival. He gets French points for having been an assistant director for Francois Truffaut.

THE BEST OF OUR TIMES, Taiwan/Japan, directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien
The Chinese title is 最好的時光 and it's the Taiwanese auteur's reunion with Hong Kong/Taiwanese actress Shu Qi. Fans: commence your drooling. This is the director's seventh movie at Cannes, and his fifth in competition -- it's also been called "a journey into his own filmography."

ELECTION, Hong Kong, directed by Johnnie To
To's epic triad movie is a staggering film (from the little I've seen) with an evil, dark sheen and a fantastic symphonic score. It stars Simon Yam, Lam Suet, Tony Leung Kar-fai and a whole lot of violence. To's BREAKING NEWS caused a sensation in last year's Cannes (people couldn't stop talking about that opening shot) where it played out of competition. Well, now he's graduated to being in competition.

, China, directed by Wang Xiaoshuai
Set in 1970's Shanghai, I don't know much about this one except it's by the director of BEIJING BICYCLE and FROZEN. You can read his profile.

Midnight Screenings
A BITTERSWEET LIFE, South Korea, directed by Kim Ji-Won
The director of A TALE OF TWO SISTERS and THE FOUL KING brings his latest movie which is already playing in Korea. It's an extremely dark film about a guy whose boss asks him to find out if his wife is having an affair. Of course, she is, but instead of killing her like his boss requested, the guy lets her go. And all hell breaks loose. Read a review here.

Special Screenings
PRINCESS RACCOON, Japan, directed by Suzuki Seijun
Japan's professional madman has made this musical based on a Japanese folktale starring Zhang Ziyi. Here's links to stills and to the gorgeous official site.

Un Certain Regard
HWAL (aka "The Bow"), Korea/Japan, directed by Kim Ki-Duk
The controversial Korean director is so loathed in Korea that he's getting financial assistance from Japan as well. This film is about an old man who wants to marry a seventeen year old girl. It represents the first time the director has worked with digital effects (lord only knows) and you can read about it here. (Thanks to TwitchFilm.net for the link)

TAWA DURA YANNA, Sri Lanka, directed by Vimukthi Jayasundara
I don't know much about this one, except the director has been at Cannes in 2003 with a documentary (read his interview about it), and he studied film in France.

THE FORGOTTEN FOREST, Japan, directed by Kohei Oguri
Surprise! He's been to Cannes before. In fact, he won the Grand Prix in 1990 for his movie, STING OF DEATH.

April 19, 2005 at 10:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lord of the Bollywood

First you need to wrap your head around the fact that in Spring 2006, crafty Canadians will bring THE LORD OF THE RINGS to the stage as a musical. Take a moment, please. Then you need to think about the fact that Bollywood's greatest composer, A.R. Rahman, is doing the music. Don't know Rahman? He's sold about 100 million albums worldwide, and is an astounding musician. Go buy yourself a copy of DIL SE, with his music on it, or try NAYAK. You can also hear him do his thing (in a much watered down version) in the musical BOMBAY DREAMS, which closed on Broadway this year after a successful UK run.

April 19, 2005 at 10:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kung Fu Hustle star busted!

KUNG FU HUSTLE's audience-pleasing, lion-roar dispensing landlady, Yuen Qiu, was busted in late March in a raid on an underground mahjohng parlor. She was fined a few hundred bucks for illegal gambling.
(Thanks to Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review)

April 19, 2005 at 10:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2005

Zhang Ziyi - who hates ya, baby?

This is gossip, but what do you think I am, a journalist or something? Anyways, in the Very Strange Things Department, the weird relationship between Chinese actress, Zhang Ziyi, and the company that hosts her official website, Sina, is worth noting. Zhang Ziyi is the best thing in Wong Kar-wai's upcoming 2046, and she's an amazingly good actor who recently appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue. But so what? Sina wants to know if she's appeared nekked anywhere.

Sina is China's largest internet portal, and is a gargantuan, Yahoo-like company and they host and design Zhang's official website. Back in November, 2004 a cobbled together fake nude photo of Zhang Ziyi circulated on the internet. Not only did Sina post it on their entertainment page, but they also linked the phony nudie back to Zhang's official website, which they run.

This prompted the following statement from Ling Lucas, Zhang Ziyi's manager that you can read here, just scroll down towards the bottom of the page. The statement seems more confused at Sina's actions than angry.

Now, things get stranger, according to the unofficial Zhang Ziyi fansite, HelloZiyi.US, Sina has posted a loaded poll in their entertainment pages that ostensibly celebrates Time Magazine's selection of her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. According to HelloZiyi.US the poll is slanted towards Chinese criticisms of the actress, questioning whether she panders to Western critics, can't speak very good English, and is only famous because Westerners don't know any other Chinese actresses.

I don't read Chinese, but you can read a translation (plus commentary) of the poll here about halfway down the page.

This is hardly the kind of thing that determines the fate of nations, but it's still kind of fun.

April 16, 2005 at 05:42 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2005

3-Iron Trailer

Kim Ki-Duk's latest movie, 3-IRON, is getting a release from Sony Pictures Classics (HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, KUNG FU HUSTLE, and counting...) and I think it's his best movie since SAMARITAN GIRL, which I think is his best movie since THE ISLE, so there you go.

The trailer's sort of dorky but here you are .

April 14, 2005 at 11:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pushing up "Daisy"

Korean production company, iFilm, which made a lot of money with the MY SASSY GIRL-with-guns flick, WINDSTRUCK, last year just signed on Hong Kong director Andrew Lau (INFERNAL AFFAIRS) to direct a co-production called DAISY. It's a romantic action flick starring MY SASSY GIRL and WINDSTRUCK star Jeon Ji-Hyun, and it's set in the Netherlands. Apparently a cop and an assassin both fall in love with an artist, which is something that just happened to me last week. It's more complicated than you'd think.

Thanks to Screen Daily for the news.

April 14, 2005 at 11:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

Stephen Chow Speaks

I got to sit down with Stephen Chow recently and he was an incredibly nice guy. Very funny, soft-spoken and sporting the kind of non-haircut that only a totally confident superstar can get away with. Here's what he had to say:

I think i started directing becaue I can't control myself. I had this idea that in order to make sure the film is good quality I needed to have more control. I kept asking questions and asking more questions about it, until I had to do it.

I just want them to laugh. I just want to entertain them, and make them happy.

I think...I don¹t know...I don¹t quite understand the US market and I¹m still learning that. I'd like to find a way to fit in, actually, but of course it's a lot of adjustment. But one thing that I always believe is that a film that has good ideas and is of good quality will be accepted by different people all over the world.

I met Ng Man-tat on a TVB drama. Somehow you just meet someone that you feel easy to work with  and Man-tat is one of them. But also I think I learned a lot of things from him. There's a story that I like to think about. The first time I saw him sitting  on the ground and reading a script, only one page, and Ithink he had one line, one single line on that page, and he's just reading it fiercely. I go away for dinner or lunch, and then I came back after a few hours and he was still reading the page, looking at that one line with a lot of concentration and I was curious why he's doing this. So I say, "Are you really reading the line or are you thinking about something else?"

And he says, "Yeah I was reading the line. But it's only one line. You take a couple of hours to read this."

And he told me, "Yes, just because it's only one line I have to figure out how to make it exceptional. It has to be unique and very different because I only have one."

And this thing inspired me.

Who is Ng Man-tat? Go here and scroll about halfway down the page for photos and a bio.

April 13, 2005 at 12:22 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

David Lynch at Sea

That's the description of the next film from director Pen-ek Ratanaruang whose LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE gave him the glow of a burgeoning cult. The director's next film, INVISIBLE WAVES, sees him back with DP Chris Doyle and Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano to tell the story of a cruise gone wrong. The Bangkok Post has all the details you want.

April 13, 2005 at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2005

Box Office Shakedown

USA -- The big winner was KUNG FU HUSTLE, opening on about 7 screens with a per screen average of about $40,000. OLDBOY expanded to five more screens (making it a total of 13) and made about $44,946, with a per screen average of $3,400 (approx). What's nice for Tartan is that OLDBOY actually gained about 33% at the box office in this, its third week, after falling off by about 50% in its second week. OLDBOY has now made about $194,000 total.

KOREA -- CRYING FIST continues to top the box office, with Kim Ji-Won's A BITTERSWEET LIFE coming into second place. Old lady comedy, MAPADO, comes in third, and LONG AND WINDING ROAD about middle-aged Korean mothers came in fourth.

HONG KONG -- two Japanese flicks, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE and drama BE WITH YOU, topped the HK box office (even as anti-Japanese protests degenerated into riots in Beijing. MS. CONGENIALITY came in third (where's riots when you need them?) and Wong Jing's triad knock-off flick, COLOR OF LOYALTY, came in fourth.

JAPAN -- it's painful to read the Japanese box office report. Spots 1 - 3 were held by - gulp - NATIONAL TREASURE, THE AVIATOR and SHARK TALE. LORELEI, the Japanese submarine flick, held fourth place and in a refreshing change it's made about US$18 million in its five weeks of release, US$4 million more than SHARK TALE which is also in week five. Fifth place was held by the anime feature, ONE PIECE, which has been out for five weeks as well and has made about US$9 million. Of course, everyone is trounced by master animator, Hayao Miyazaki's, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE which has made a whopping US$175 million in 20 weeks.

April 12, 2005 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2005

Chow Interview

Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review has a great interview and report of the Hong Kong press conference with Stephen Chow over here. Half the report is about the machinations of a gang of reporters at this kind of event, and it's as evil as you'd expect.

April 11, 2005 at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bai Ling Will Make Any Sacrifice

Bai Ling is stripping for Playboy...lord help us. In this report in News Guangdong she reveals that she's done a four-day shoot for the magazine and sources say the issue should be out in May. All over the planet people have one question: why? Well, she's playing some kind of role in the latest STAR WARS flick, a character named Senator Bana Breemu, and this is a promotional event to capture the Playboy-reading, STAR WARS fan demographic.

She says, "I play a Senator of Coruscant. A beautiful, good, kind force in the movie. Yeah, even the names...I don't even know my character's name. It's weird. I don't know ... I don't know her name. It's weird, I say, 'How do you pronounce this?' I really don't know..."

There's been reports that her costume consists solely of tattoos, and one would guess she's got between 3 and 5 lines in the movie.

So it makes sense when she says that she'll make sacrifices in the name of art. Because it's art...right? Right?

April 11, 2005 at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Golden Durian Awards Announced

Hong Kong's bc Magazine announced their 3rd Annual Golden Durian Awards which are a look at the worst of the past year in Hong Kong film. I disagree with them about JIANG HU being a waste of talent (Jacky Cheung was great in it) but I do agree that Charlene Choi is the Twin who might wither and die if the two keep pursuing separate projects. Thankfully she gets to ride on Gillian's coattails in HOUSE OF FURY and acquits herself exactly like an actor who doesn't feel the cold breath of their 15 minutes of fame running out on the back of their necks. Now that's acting!

April 11, 2005 at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jackie Chan is 50

How'd I miss this? Jackie Chan turned 50 last week, and he even held a birthday party for himself. Good for him. You're only as old as you feel.

And to keep up with the latest news on his reunion film with moneymaker Stanley Tong, you can keep your eyes glued to the special Myth Report section of MonkeyPeaches.com. Neither Tong nor Chan have had a big hit in a long time, so both of them have a lot riding on this one. And considering that they're doing it their way with minimal outside interference, they'll only have themselves to blame if things don't go well.

April 11, 2005 at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Box Office Shakedown

The big news in the weekend box office is that Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE opened with $293,025. That's on seven screens. Yep, seven. That's a per screen average of $41,861. To put it in perspective, Tartan's OLDBOY opened two weeks ago with a per screen average of around $14,000 and people sat up and took notice. SAHARA, which opened on 3,154 screens and had a per screen average of $5,866. HUSTLE is set to expand to lots more screens on April 22. Sony has done right by KFH and it's nice to see them rewarded for it.

For now, the full box office report will come on Tuesdays, since Monday is a little early to get full numbers.

April 11, 2005 at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2005

What Do Pop Stars Do Next?

Hong Kong's Jackie Cheung is one of Hong Kong's best singers, and a magnetic screen performer (see him spazz in A CHINESE GHOST STORY 3, simmer in the recent JIANG HU or turn in his best role yet in PRIVATE EYE BLUES). But what do big pop stars do when they've conquered the world? They write and star in a musical. Cheung's SNOW WOLF LAKE is a love story full of giant stage effects and with enough power-pop ballading to make a grown man cry. It's been around for eight years and is already considered a classic. Now it's gone to Mainland China.

April 10, 2005 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Take That, Successful Festival!

The Hong Kong International Film Festival has received more kicks than a mangy mutt in recent years: under-attendance, SARS, the rising prominence of Pusan as Asia's biggest film festival, budget cuts, general malaise. This year, however, the Festival did a smart thing and instead of going it alone, all of Hong Kong's entertainment industry events happened at the same time. So the Filmart and the HKIFF were happening right on top of each other and things were happening. Deals were made, people buzzed, attendance was up all over the place.

So how to reward success? The Hong Kong government has cut the Festival's  budget by about US$50,000, leaving the festival with under US$1 million for next year's event.

Read more about it in this story from Movie Marketing Asia .

April 10, 2005 at 11:51 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2005

Seven Swords Info

Everyone wants Tsui Hark to make a comeback, and fans have been disappointed for almost five straight years as Hong Kong's greatest director has issued high megaton duds, or nothing at all. The world is abuzz about his latest picture SEVEN SWORDS which, we all hope and pray, is a return to form. Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review has basic info on the cast and the film here, and Twitch Film has the latest info on the production's status here.

April 9, 2005 at 01:04 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gang Wives Series is Back!

Mark Schilling has a review of the latest installment in the long-dormant GANG WIVES yakuza series. It's episode 11 in the series (which ended in 1998) and it actually sounds worth watching. Unlike this bit of news about Queen Latifah starring in a remake of Korea's MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER.

April 9, 2005 at 12:25 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2005

Critic Fight!

We wait for the moment eagerly. As eagerly as people watching a women-in-prison movie wait for the catfight with all its hair-pulling, uniform-ripping, and nubile-curve-exposing mayhem. We sense it coming, licking our lips with anticipation: a critic fight. First one critic climbs into the ring full of jello and beckons angrily at the other. Then the second critic climbs in and before we know it they're rolling around in the Bill-Cosby-endorsed gelatinous substance, their bellies heaving, their thighs locked around each others' slime-encrusted forms...

The latest critic fight has popped up over a piece that the great old white man of Asian film, Tony Rayns, wrote for FILM COMMENT a few months ago basically accusing Korean director Kim Ki-Duk of...well I'm not quite sure. Whatever the case may be, he certainly has harsh words for anyone who likes Kim Ki-Duk's movies (they even made me cry).

Next up, Chuck Stephens leapt into the ring with this defense of Rayns' article. Okay, so it's not the most thrilling critic fight out there, I mean basically it's a tag team of Stephens and Rayns taking on...well, it's not clear who they're taking on, although they don't seem to like blogs very much (oh, crap -- I should stop writing, quick!).

There's some notes and articles about the phantom critic fight here (in a blog, no less) and another blog (d'oh -- cover your eyes, Chuck!) over here. There's also a very nice little bit of chit chat about the backing and forthing over here (and it's on a discussion board, not in a blog...thank the lord).

If anyone has a good picture of Rayns in his wrestling uniform, or Chuck Stephens dressed as masked wrestler Santo, send it in. We're desperate for visuals and from what I've heard both men cut an imposing figure in their wrestling duds.

April 8, 2005 at 02:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stephen Chow Speaks!

WNYC's "Leonard Lopate Show" interviewed Stephen Chow today. Chow is an ever-perplexing interview subject who's able to verbally judo-throw the ablest interviewer. Listen to the broadcast here. Just scroll down the page to "Kung Fu Hustle."

April 8, 2005 at 12:35 PM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2005

Subtitle Reality Check

So it's not really an Asian movie, but here's a dollars and cents reality check for folks who want more Asian movies to come to the US. According to a Variety story by John Dempsey (synergy!) Starz has picked up THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES for its pay TV premiere. This is a movie that grossed $16.8 million and won an Oscar for Best Song. The price for the pick-up? Under $1 million. Why? The movie has subtitles. If not subtitled, the movie would have cost "at least $2 million for pay TV and then another $2 million plus when it went to basic cable."

Every country in the world except the US has a tradition of subtitled films competing in the marketplace and not having subtitles affect their business in any significant way. But in the States we don't watch subtitles. And because of that movies with subs garner about a third of what they'd get in cable and television after-markets if they were in English.

Sometimes I feel like my American passport is the global equivalent of a dunce cap.

April 6, 2005 at 10:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 05, 2005

Save the Green Planet Trailer!

At last! It's here! The SAVE THE GREEN PLANET trailer! I'm helping out with publicity on this movie, so of course I get to throw this out there first, and you get to ignore everything good I have to say about the movie because I'm totally morally compromised. It opens April 20 at Film Forum in New York City, then goes to San Francisco and the Bay Area in early May, then a bunch of other places right after that.

Keep watching www.savethegreenplanetmovie.com for details

But first, go here for the funky fresh flavor of the trailer.

April 5, 2005 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2005

Box Office Shakedown

The US of A -- OLDBOY has been doing about $14,000/screen on a handful of screens and is now just over the $100,000 mark. It's set to expand this week. It has now out-grossed SHIRI, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS and INFERNAL AFFAIRS in the US.

STEAMBOY has made about $3,400/screen for a US gross of $326,361 in three weeks. Considering the P&A costs of the film this is pretty weak beer.

And let's hear it for the two big non-success stories of the year. First up is HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS which earned $11 million in the US. Now, I don't have $11 million, but this is a bit disappointing when one considers that HERO raked in upwards of $50 million. However, all is right with the world because the movie was perceived as a success and that's pretty important for DVD sales.

And then there's poor ol' ONG BAK. This movie made about $4.4 million in the US this year, and it was released on a couple of hundred screens. Again, I don't have $4.4 million in my other pants, but this is a real disappointment, especially when one considers the huge chunks of change Magnolia Pictures spent on advertising and prints. This is their second Thai failure (their first was BANG RAJAN which made $24,000 in the US) and one would think it might be the last time they touch a Thai flick.

KOREAN -- thanks to TwitchFilm.net for this week's Korean box office figures. Kim Ji-Won's violent flick, A BITTERSWEET LIFE, has beaten out the boxing flick CRYING FIST at the box office to take the number one slot.

HONG KONG -- Miyazaki's HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE is perched on top with about HK$1 million over the weekend (its total to date is about HK$16 million) and Stephen Fung's action flick, HOUSE OF FURY, is in second place with HK$590,000 (its total is about HK$9 million). EYE 10 picked up HK$290,000 bringing its total to around HK$6 million. On a side note, HOUSE OF FURY will be the second HK film to break the HK$10 million mark this year, which is pretty sad considering that the New Year's blockbusters have already come and gone. (thanks to www.hkentreview.com for the numbers)

The Box Office Shakedown will appear every Monday, and will be beefed up quite a bit next week, covering more countries and more films.

April 4, 2005 at 05:23 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 01, 2005

New Johnnie To Poster

Official poster for Johnnie To's ELECTIONJohnnie To's latest is ELECTION, a slice of triad madness and mayhem served up with the able assistance of Simon Yam, Tony Leung Kar-fai, Wong Tin-lam, and Lam Suet, as well as a bunch of other muy macho Hong Kong actors. Expect trouble. Triads are Hong Kong's underground gangs, sort of like the mafia, and depicting triad ceremonies, hand signs, or using triad language in a movie gets it instantly slapped with a Category III rating (Hong Kong's equivalent of an NC-17, first developed in 1989 so cinemas could show THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST to art film hungry expats, and now its very own exploitation genre).

Here's a peek at the poster, which cannot be shown in Hong Kong due to the massive, unapologetic display of triad hand signs.

Previous reports that the movie would be released in two parts also may not be true, as To is currently trying to edit it all down to one massive slab of triad intensity.

April 1, 2005 at 04:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Most Disgusting Video Ever Made?

Given all the outcry over the "artsploitation" flicks crawling out of Korea and Japan these days, one wonders what those who cry "debasing and disgusting" over movies like OLDBOY and BAD GUY would think if they encountered  something that was actually disgusting. Like what? Oh, like this Japanese roach fetish video.

April 1, 2005 at 04:19 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rex Reed Shows Those Wily Asians Who's Boss

New York Observer movie reviewer, Rex Reed, is by all accounts a nice guy. Unless you're Asian. His review of the recently released Korean revenge flick OLDBOY was a lovely stew of racist generalizations garnished with a generous helping of bizarre ethnic putdowns. Try his first paragraph on for size:

"For sewage in a cocktail shaker, there is Oldboy, a noxious helping of Korean Grand Guignol as pointless as it is shocking. What else can you expect from a nation weaned on kimchi, a mixture of raw garlic and cabbage buried underground until it rots, dug up from the grave and then served in earthenware pots sold at the Seoul airport as souvenirs?"

In paragraph two he starts really serving up the goodies, gleefully mixing and matching countries, probably figuring that all Asians look the same, anyways.

"Blood flows, there is much vomiting...and more screams than Japanese kabuki. Part kung fu, part revenge-theme Charlie Chan murder mystery, part metaphysical Oriental mumbo-jumbo, all of it incomprehensible."

Guess he didn't like the movie.

If you'd like to suggest to the editors that Reed be put out to pasture, feel free to email them at:  comments@observer.com

April 1, 2005 at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack