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September 30, 2005


ShinobiMark Schilling gives a glowing review to the Japanese flick, SHINOBI, that gets released this weekend over at the Japan Times. It's about a lady ninja, death stares, and, well, more ninjas.

Check out the J-pop-a-riffic trailer here. It makes it look like the unofficial sequel to Ching Siu-tung's SWORDSMAN 2 and EAST IS RED.

While you're there, check out this goth-rockin' trailer for the fantasy samurai flick ASHURAJO NO HITOMI which is based, of all things, on a stage play.

If you're in need of a burst of pure estrogen, the trailer for the just-released NANA will get your glands pumping.

September 30, 2005 at 06:41 PM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (4)


THE WAR WITHIN While most critics were busy humping David Cronenberg's leg this week (and last - and expect more humping before the end of the year) the first, and best, serious American movie about terrorism has crept up on us unnoticed. THE WAR WITHIN is a digital film with a lousy title and some great acting (Sarita Choudhury and Nandana Sen - from BLACK - as well as co-writer and star, Ayad Akhtar) and it's being universally ignored/dismissed/protested by thin-skinned Western critics who would prefer their commentaries on violence to come courtesy of Aragorn, son of Arathorn.

As a thriller, WAR WITHIN is top-notch,or, as the New York Times puts it, it's "...a thriller with wartime overtones, rather than a character study that thrills." The cinematography is great for a digital movie (although the transfer goes all staticky in the darker scenes) and the sense of narrative is dead-on. The less you know about this movie the better, but suffice it to say it's about a fundamentalist Muslim suicide bomber who goes to a Western country to blow himself up. It's loosely  based on the account of a Palestinian suicide bomber who boarded a bus, had a last minute change of heart, told the other passengers what he was about to do, got off the bus and detonated himself in a field.

It's not a perfect movie, but since terrorism is the biggest thing to hit America in the past 5 years, and since no American movies have seriously dealt with the subject before, this movie is worth your while. Some people may not like it, others may love it, but your $10 won't be wasted.

It's funny, but other countries have been making movies about terrorism for a long time (check out Thailand's OKAY BAYTONG and India's DIL SE for two great ones) where they give equal time to both sides, refusing to demonize the enemy. But here's a sample of the reviews in the US for THE WAR WITHIN (and, once again, that title - please - could it be any worse?):

The New York Post sez: "CHILLINGLY realistic but deeply repellent, "The War Within" is a film that should not have been made. It puts us in the shoes of a Pakistani who wants to bomb Grand Central Terminal. But I don't want to be in those shoes. I want those shoes on his feet — and those feet chained to a wall at Gitmo. "

Some guy named Tony Medley says: "Based on pure entertainment value, this does hold the viewer’s interest. But because of its disgraceful point of view, I can’t recommend it." Then he goes on to say it's like making a movie about a sympathetic Nazi.

Mike Atkinson at the Village Voice dismisses it as wearing "...clichés like concrete boots" although I'm not sure how something that's never been depicted in American cinema before can already be a cliche. His point seems to be that the movie isn't radical enough.

James Bowman over at the New York Sun gets the most ridiculous, claiming that: "...the filmmakers stop just short of advocating suicide bombing themselves," and that it's "...crude anti-American propaganda."

I don't want this to turn into a political debate, but as a thriller, and a thriller that takes terrorism seriously, THE WAR WITHIN can't be beat. You shouldn't miss it.

September 30, 2005 at 06:39 PM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (14)


THE ADVENTURES OF TOBISUKEThe San Diego Asian Film Festival kicked off today and Tokyo Filmex starts on Nov. 19.

Tokyo Filmex has a pretty awe-inspiring line-up:

- SHA PO LANG starts things off with the sound of wet meat hitting the pavement

- Hou Hsiao-hsien's THREE TIMES will be screening

- there's a 12 film Nobuo Nakagawa retro. He's the horror movie director responsible for the super-cool looking JIGOKU, and that's a still from his THE ADVENTURES OF TOBISUKE on the left. Check out that mouse!

San Diego is featuring MARATHON, ONE NIGHT IN MONGKOK, 20:30:40, AND THEREAFTER (which is one of the most twisted documentaries you'll ever see - this family will make yours look like a Norman Rockwell painting), MY GIRL (FAN CHAN) - the sentimental Thai hit from last year, CRYING FIST and WWII drama ONLY THE BRAVE.

September 30, 2005 at 06:34 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Two much-anticipated flicks are heading into production this month. First up is Jiang Wen (the actor and director of DEVILS ON THE DOORSTEP, and the star of THE MISSING GUN and RED SORGHUM) and his new directorial project: WHERE THE SUN RISES. Starring Jaycee Chan, Anthony Wong and Zhou Yu it's basically a Chinese version of THE CANTERBURY TALES and will shoot in Yunnan province (click here for set photos).
(Thanks to MonkeyPeaches)

Second up is Wilson Yip's DRAGON TIGER GATE which the Kung Fu Cult Cinema site says started preproduction work and may even be moving into production soon. Wilson Yip's SHA PO LANG is the toast of the internet these days, and he's even been talking to Donnie Yen about starring in this adaptation of a 1970's Hong Kong comic (Nic Tse is also up for a part, if not the lead).

September 30, 2005 at 06:31 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 29, 2005


With THE MYTH cleaning up at the Chinese box office, Sammi Cheung is supposedly worried about the prospects of EVERLASTING REGRET at the Mainland box office. Of course, the bigger problem is that the movie just doesn't work, although rumor has it that this may not be Stanley Kwan's fault. The grapevine is buzzing with word that he may not have had final cut and that lots more of the movie is missing than was previously revealed. Let's hope it one day gets the "director's cut" that CENTRE STAGE did.

September 29, 2005 at 12:05 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Even the cops are promoting this months Japanese release of the INITIAL D live action movieEven the cops are getting in on promoting this months Japanese release of the INITIAL D live action movie. They've stepped up their arrests at famous drift racing points like Shomaru Pass, which has become popular after getting a shout out in the INITIAL D manga and anime. Between January and June of this year, Shomaru pass has seen 41 accidents, 7 of which were serious or fatal.

Cops handed out numerous tickets for speeding and called in the Ministry of Land to hand out illegal modification tickets as well.

(Thanks to Anime News Service)

September 29, 2005 at 11:58 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Peng Chia-chia masturbation VCD scandalEastSouthWestNorth has more developments on the Peng Chia-chia masturbation VCD in Taiwan.

Breaking news: Peng hits his limit, falls to his knees and begs the press, "I don't have another 50 years.  I have a mother and I have three children to take care of.  Will everybody just let me go?"

Result: the media swarms him like hungry sharks.

September 29, 2005 at 11:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Some Chinese TV producers have announced that they're going to be shooting an Anita Mui bio television series in the most tasteful way possible: by holding a national celebrity look-a-like contest in order to cast 10 celeb impersonators as the 10 stars Mui was rumored to have an affair with during her career. 2,000 wannabe's were whittled down to 47 finalists who tromped to Shenzhen to sing and dance like their more famous doppelgangers.

The producers were seeking look-a-likes of Anita Mui, Andy Lau (who was barely even linked to Mui romantically), Jacky Cheung, Nicholas Tse, Leslie Cheung (her guy pal), Allan Tam, Andy Hui, Jackie Chan, Anita's ex-boyfriend Zhao Wenzhuo and Anita's elder sister Ann Mui.

Unfortunately no Jackie Chan, Andy Lau or Zhao Wenzhuo copycats made the cut but the producers sanguinely said they'd probably ask those three to play themselves.

Anita Mui's mom has authorized this incredibly dodgy venture.

September 29, 2005 at 11:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 28, 2005


On Thursday, Sept. 29, from 6-7 PM, Park Chan-Wook (director of OLDBOY, SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE - retitled LADY VENGEANCE for the US - and JSA) will be at the Tower Video at 20 East 4th Street in Manhattan.

He'll be signing DVDs, posters, and live squid.

September 28, 2005 at 09:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Khan is a Punjabi Sikh?Wow, the things you learn on the internet (and besides, it's a slow news day):

Khan in STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN is a Punjabi Sikh?

September 28, 2005 at 09:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


NANA, the live action version of the manga institutionWhat's big in Asia right now?

If you're in Japan, it's NANA, the live action version of the manga institution, which brought in $1 billion yen at the box office in its first week.

If you're in China, it's JEWEL IN THE PALACE, the Korean TV drama where Lee Young-Ae plays a woman in the court. TV transmission companies in Beijing have been swamped by viewers in older buildings who can't get JEWEL and they want it now. Best of all, this series seems to be a couple of years old but only now getting broadcast around Asia.

If you're in Taiwan, what's big is Peng Chia-chia's masturbation video. At a party, the inebriated (or just party hearty) singer/tv host pleasured himself over a woman. No one's quite sure about the woman's involvement but what they are sure about is that she was a gangster's niece and Peng had to cough up a huge payment (in the millions) to keep from getting abused for real.

If you're in Korea, what's big is MARRYING THE MAFIA 2 which cleaned up at the box office this past week (with a US$7 million take).

If you're 3,000 feet below Japan's Bonin Islands, what's big is the first and biggest giant squid to be caught on film. 26 nightmare-inducing feet.

September 28, 2005 at 09:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005


Ha Ji-Won stars as Namsoon in THE DUELISTDirector Lee Myung-se's latest movie, THE DUELIST, is a whirl of movement, a ballet of bloodshed and a candy-colored carnival of clashing characters  but it is most definitely not an action movie: it's a romance. Marketed as a period action flick like HERO or CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, it's releasing its audiences divided into warring factions: heart-on-their-sleeve romantics who sob softly, overwhelmed by what they've just seen, and baffled and underwhelmed adrenaline junkies shaking their heads and wanting to know why the action looks so good but leaves their thrill buttons unpressed.

The story is simplicity itself: Namsoon is a young cop in the Joseon Dynasty whose precinct winds up unraveling a knotty counterfeiting case that turns out to be a political plot to destabilize Korea's economy. During the course of her duties, she crosses paths with Sad Eyes, a King of the Vampires-looking henchman for the baddies. He barely says a single word in the entire movie, but gazing out from behind his bangs like an animal peering out through the bars in his cage; he becomes the movie's emotional center. Anyone who's attuned to motion picture cliches will know that Namsoon and Sad Eyes will fall for each other, but they're on opposite sides of the law and everything will end in tragedy. But Lee Myung-se embraces cliches because they give him a place to stand while he deconstructs the world. He likes to pick them up and bang them against the wall until their rust, barnacles, and familiarity falls off like dust and the kernel of what makes them resonate is exposed.

On a lot of levels, Director Lee's previous film NOWHERE TO HIDE offered nothing new from the standpoint of narrative, the story was blood simple: cops chase a crook. But he's not happy with movies unless he's stripping them down to first principles and reinventing the wheel and NOWHERE TO HIDE became a movie about motion. The movie became an essay on the addiction of adrenaline and the way the thrill of the hunt reduced human beings to nothing more than action junkies. (I blather a lot more about this in this review, if anyone's interested).

THE DUELISTSo reject your assumptions, jettison your baggage, and forget every other movie you've ever seen when you walk into THE DUELIST. There are barely 10 pages of dialogue in the whole film, because Lee isn't happy with his points unless he's written them in sweat and blood, muscle and sinew. Every shift in emotion, mood, and thought is conveyed visually, zapped into your brain via your eyes at 24 frames per second.

This mutagenic masterpiece isn't happy unless it's at least two or three different movies at once: it wants to be a romance told with action and it samples a dozen different genres like a DJ at the turntables. In Korean, the title means DETECTIVE and the scenes of stake-outs, raids, buy-and-bust operations, interrogations, and even a scene of the angry cop turning in his badge are all there, but given a "Flintstones" charm by transporting the story back in time 400 years. A full third of what you see onscreen isn't even real. There are conversations played out where characters wish they could say things they'll never utter, there are ghosts, fables and folktales and alternate courses of action all thrown up onscreen as if they exist. Director Lee's movies are governed by his dreams and to him the line between reality and fantasy isn't just thin, it's invisible.

Kicking off in an enormous marketplace riot, THE DUELIST has a sneaky agenda up its sleeve: it wants to break your heart. Early summertime scenes of slapstick humor, Keystone Kops kollisions, and Namsoon striding around with a sneer on her face and her sleeves rolled up like Jeon Ji-Hyun in MY SASSY GIRL are buried like a corpse beneath a layer of snow as the movie turns serious and the price of violence is exposed. These guys are engaged in a deadly game, and while the first half of the film puts the focus fully on the "game" part of that phrase, the second half brings home the "deadly."

Gang Dong-Won plays Sad Eyes in THE DUELISTWhat pulls you through the movie is the movement. Drunk on tango classes and sword lessons, Ha Ji-Won (Namsoon) and Gang Dong-Won (Sad Eyes) whirl and twist around one another as if they're falling in love for the first time. And in a way, they are. The bitter bite of the movie comes from the assertion that these two kids, who by all rights should be humping in a field somewhere, have been betrayed by the older generation. Namsoon's mentor, Ahn (played by Korean legend, Ahn Sung-Ki), has taught her how to fight, but that's it. He's sent her out into life equipped with a hammer, and to her every problem looks like a nail. How to relate to another human being without hitting them is beyond her grasp. Sad Eyes is just as crippled. Trained by his surrogate father to be nothing more than a killing machine, and not even told his name, he only knows killing. If he can't make something bleed, then he's not interested.

The two of them stalk each other for the first half of the movie, and they love it. For the first time in their lives someone is watching them. Namsoon is following Sad Eyes and he revels in the attention. And Sad Eyes toys with Namsoon and she loves it, too, because she's finally found a playmate. Of course, they're playing with swords and that's their inherent tragedy: these are kids who were never given any toys but loaded guns.

Director Lee likes to show action, not consequences, and THE DUELIST forces the viewer to re-evaluate how they watch movies. Traditional scenes of action and romance aren't given the time and weight we're used to, scenes begin and end both faster and slower than we expect, what catches Director Lee's eye is how people move and what that says about their souls, not how cool it is to show a badass with a sword. His presence hovers over this movie like a deity, and the further you can wriggle into his head the greater the reward. He's impatient with finicky narrative details and hurtles over them at full speed, leaving half-awake viewers shaking their heads and dazedly eating his dust. He's as much a character in THE DUELIST as Namsoon and Sad Eyes, and for viewers who like to start from a familiar point, he's the bad guy. There's not a convention of moviemaking, from how to shoot a love scene to how a plot unfolds, that he doesn't question and undermine.

But if you can tune into his wavelength, this kind of intervention feels human and benevolent. The story ends in tragedy but Lee Myung-se uses his directorial prerogative to wrest a happy ending out of the jaws of defeat and allow his characters a final, spectral pas de deux, before the credits roll and their world ends. It's the kindest moment in movies this year, and for a director who thinks that Korean cinema is currently obsessed with violence and brutality, it feels like a third alternative, and maybe even a manifesto for a return to romance.

September 27, 2005 at 06:17 PM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (11)


Philippino DV thriller CAVITE

The Woodstock Film Festival is screening the Philippino DV thriller CAVITE this week (on Sept. 29) and you can see the tons of trailers and clips for the movie here, as well as read its production notes here.

It looks like a cross between CELLULAR and PHONEBOOTH but the location work is great.

September 27, 2005 at 10:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


The unevenly reviewed Jackie Chan/Stanley Tong flick THE MYTH has not only done big business in Hong Kong but it's big in China, too. Xinhua reports that it scored the biggest opening day of the year (8 million yuan, beating out INITIAL D and SEVEN SWORDS' opening day grosses of about 7 million yuan each). It also beat the opening record for any Jackie Chan film in China in recent history.

THE MYTH's total weekend take was about 26.5 million yuan.

Go, Jackie, go!

September 27, 2005 at 10:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Mum Jokmok's Midnight, My LoveWiseKwai reports that the 3rd WORLD FILM FESTIVAL in Bangkok, that I previously gave a hard time for not having any Thai films, has added a Thai film. The addition: MIDNIGHT, MY LOVE.

This is the Mum Jokmok flick from earlier this year where Thailand's favorite comedian plays it straight as a cab driver in love with a massage parlor girl. Although the movie already screened in Thailand, the festival hopes that spotlighting it will earn it some more attention since it was pretty roundly rejected by audiences when it was released.

September 27, 2005 at 10:18 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 26, 2005


According to Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review, the Jackie Chan/Stanley Tong flick THE MYTH, has had the second biggest opening in 2005 (right after INITIAL D) and has soundly trounced the last big Jackie Chan movie, NEW POLICE STORY, with a HK$6.2 million weekend opening. This despite mostly negative reviews for the movie.

NEW POLICE STORY opened last year with a weekend take of HK$5.7 million.

September 26, 2005 at 06:27 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Cecilia Cheung has been teasing fans for monthsCecilia Cheung, who stars in the upcoming Chen Kaige movie THE PROMISE (out in December all over the world, including the US thanks to the Weinstein Company), has been teasing fans for months.

First off there were the reports (go to the link and scroll down) that she was dating a white guy, sending foreign hearts aflutter as they thought there might be hope for them yet.

Now, thanks to gossip items like the sentence above, she's considering leaving the entertainment business and says that her role in THE PROMISE would make a nice swan song.

Cecilia, I'm sorry. Don't go! I'll never write gossip about your life again.

(Thanks to Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review)

September 26, 2005 at 06:25 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)


Korean 'let's kill the president' movie THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANGKino's theatrical release of the Korean "let's kill the president" movie THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANG, will happen on October 14.

That's barely three weeks away.

Go get in line!

And read Variety's review while you wait.

September 26, 2005 at 06:21 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Zhang Ziyi, not nakedWe previously swallowed our dignity and reported that other people were reporting that Zhang Ziyi was naked in MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and that pics were circulating on the internet.

Well a savvy reader or two has informed us that this just ain't so. Dave Cheung says that the screenshots with fire in the background are from Kinji Fukasaku's HOUSE OF FIRE, and another eagle-eyed reader says that the screenshot without fire in the background is from a Hong Kong softcore flick called HIDDEN DESIRE. None of the screenshots feature Zhang Ziyi.


September 26, 2005 at 06:18 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)


The Screen Quota System in Korea is given a lot of credit for the Korean film boom that started in 1998 and shows no signs of abating. The system ensures that Korean movie theaters show Korean movies for 115 days of the year and many film industry professionals, including Kang Je-Gyu (director of SHIRI and TAE GUK KI), claims that it is essential for Korea to be able to protect its market against a Hollywood steamroller.

Finance Minister, Han Duk-Soo, has been having meetings with actors to discuss replacing the screen quota system, and he is now in Washington DC saying: "Hey, anyone have any good ideas on how to replace this system?"

The Motion Picture Association of America has long been an opponent of the quota system, and arguments over the quota system have kept the US and Korea from signing a Bilateral Trade Agreement. The WTO currently considers film an "industrial" rather than a "cultural" product and as such it is subject to all free trade agreements between countries.

There is a UNESCO-proposed Convention on Cultural Diversity that seeks to exempt movies from free trade agreements but it's still in the drafting stages.

If anyone thinks that Korea can withstand open competition with Hollywood, I direct your attention to the Mexican film industry which almost totally self-destructed after government support was withdrawn as part of NAFTA. There are only two countries in the world that I know of which have domestic movies holding a majority of the box office (besides the US) and that's India (which imports almost no Hollywood movies) and Korea (which has the screen quota system).

September 26, 2005 at 06:12 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (11)


Korean arthouse production company LJ Films (which produces most of Kim Ki-Duk's movies and just did THIS CHARMING GIRL which won oodles of prizes all over the world) is moving to New York. Currently shopping for offices in Manhattan, LJ is planning to start producing American arthouse films. Their recent productions also reveal a bent for the international arthouse: next up is LOVE TALK, from the director of THIS CHARMING GIRL, about Korean-Americans in LA; and then LOVE HOUSE about Korean-Americans working in the online porn biz.

(Thanks to this story, scroll down to the end for the info on LJ)

September 26, 2005 at 06:05 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Oh, China. Haven't you realized by now that the internet is unstoppable? The State Council (China's cabinet) just issued revised rules about what is and is not allowed on the internet. Previously, they stated that no "unhealthy" content was allowed (bye-bye porn), but now they want to make sure that everyone understands the following two points:

"Internet news shall not include content that ... incites illegal gatherings, associations, marches, demonstrations and crowds to harm social order."

"Internet news shall not include content that ... aids illegal civil organizations to hold activities."

This is a reaction to the huge wave of protests that have swept China in the last year about everything from police brutality to Falun Gong to land requisition laws.

Danwei points out that the Beijing News reported the story, noting especially that internet-incited protests were not allowed, right next to a photo gloating over this weekend's enormous anti-war protests in Washington DC. I'll take my irony plain, please.

September 26, 2005 at 06:04 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Beacon, created this female Ronald McDonaldJapanese communications company, Beacon, created this female Ronald McDonald for a deeply influential McDonald's commercial that was aired in Japan. Kazoo, the strangely nicknamed supergenius behind the promotion, denies that he has created a female Ronald McDonald and instead says that this is a riff on Ronald derived from cosplay fandom, where folks dress up like their favorite fictional characters.

The ad was so popular that J-pop star, Namie Amuro, asked Beacon to revamp her image after seeing the ad. This won't happen anywhere outside of Japan, however, because no one outside Japan is being allowed to air the commercial.

Kudos to McDonalds for utilizing clown porn to sell their burgers. Now I have another disturbing image in my head.

September 26, 2005 at 06:02 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Yan Yi dartboardRemember when Lydia Shum's daughter, Yan Yi, dressed up as Snow White and sang and danced to celebrate the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland? And remember how it generated a record-breaking number of complaints calling her performance "disgusting" and claiming it would "scare children away"?

Thanks to the great EastSouthWestNorth blog, we can now see the double-page Yan Yi spread published by 3Week magazine in Hong Kong that readers are supposed to use as a dartboard.

At the time, Yan Yi's dad, Adam Cheng, told his daughter, "Complaints are not bad..." but what about being used as a dartboard? That's bad.

September 26, 2005 at 05:54 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


In 2003, the sentimental kids' picture, FAN CHAN (MY GIRL), was a surprise hit in Thailand. Its goopy, sentimental nostalgia trip was the product of six writer-directors (all of whom were friends in university) and it earned 140 baht at the box office. Now the "Fan Chan Six" are moving on to other movies, according to this Bangkok Post story, and here's the rundown on three of them:

Komkrit Treewimol - has the first film of the bunch, CLOSEST FRIEND (PUEN SANIT), about a guy at art school who falls for his best friend and then there's a cute nurse and now we've got a cozy love triangle.

Nitiwat Tarathorn - is shooting SEASONS CHANGE, a love story in a music college.

Adisorn Treesirikasem - is shooting a football comedy called MAK TAE.

September 26, 2005 at 05:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

September 23, 2005


SAIKANOThe Tokyo International Film Festival (Oct. 22 - 30) has Zhang Yimou and Koji Suzuki on the jury, a new mandate to focus on indie flicks and not so many red carpet premieres and as a consequence it's loaded down with movies I've never heard of.

SAIKANO - a live action version of this popular anime and manga series. Not interested? It's the story of a schoolgirl who's actually a government created cybernetic war machine. Saikano is played by Aki Maeda (BATTLE ROYALE). Interested now? (thanks to Anime News Service for the info). It looks like the title it's under at the festival is THE LAST LOVE SONG ON THIS LITTLE PLANET.

MASKED RIDER THE FIRSTMASKED RIDER THE FIRST - the live action Kamen Rider movie. Masked superhero on a motorcycle! With music by Da Pump!

REINCARNATION - the new Takashi Shimizu (JUON) horror movie.

SKI JUMPING PAIRS: ROAD TO TORINO 2006 - a mockumentary about Japanese ski jumping that has had several incarnations, from animation to short student film. This time it's a live action feature directed by Masaki Kobayashi of HARAKIRI and THE HUMAN CONDITION. That can't be right.

TAIWAN BLACK MOVIES - this looks like a documentary about Taiwanese "black movies" which were social realist sex and violence flicks from the 1980's that have since fallen out of favor. Chu Yen-ping features in the cast - he's the director of all those SHAOLIN POPEYE movies about kiddie kung fu fighters from back in the day.

CHOCOLATE RAP - a hip hop dance contest in Taiwan, with music by Takeshi Kaneshiro's mentor.

TRIO - an early film by Park Chan-Wook.

MONDAY MORNING GLORY - a Malaysian flick about the investigation of a terrorist bombing in an unnamed SE Asian country.

JONI'S PROMISE - a Sabu-style Indonesian film about a film print delivery man.

MIDNIGHT MY LOVE - Thai comedian Mum Jukmok stars in this change of pace about a taxi driver trying to save a prostitute from her life.

CURSE OF LOLA - Li Hong comes out with a horror movie about a dance troupe.

September 23, 2005 at 10:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Yep. This is the second set of pics to hit the internet purporting to show everyone's favorite crossover gal in the altogether. Danwei reports that the Tianya Club has a series of foggy stills of Ken Watanabe and Zhang Ziyi with their pants off and their nubbly bits rubbing up against one another on the set of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. For what? The X-Rated hardcore director's cut of MEMOIRS OF A HO?


Apparently Tianya Club has posted the pictures in the interests of national pride, not prurient interest, using them to accuse Zhang of not having enough nationalist fervor to keep her pants on in the presence of a Japanese man.

Danwei goes on to pick on all the folks who are mad that Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh are playing Japanese people in the movie, challenging them to head over to All Look Same and see if they can actually tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese faces.

September 23, 2005 at 10:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)


the tire outside Jackie Chan's OfficeYou think you know something about Jackie Chan cause you prowl around all the big boy and girl message boards on the internet? Let me tell you something: you don't know Jackie the way the kids at the Jackie Chan Kids' Corner Message Board know Jackie.

Did you know he has a new dog? His name is Jones.

Chanielover7 doesn't like seeing knives in alive things!!!! Bet you didn't know that.

Do you have a clue as to what the tire outside Jackie Chan's Office says? (click the pic for a closer look) It did say "Welcome Back to School" but now it's changed!

September 23, 2005 at 09:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Last year's Thai submission for Best Foreign Film Oscar was THE OVERTURE and Kino is giving it a US theatrical release next month. They've got the trailer posted here and you can see it's a tasteful, well-appointed movie that Merchant Ivory could have had something to do with. Too bad the trailer glosses over the best part of the movie which is the absolutely loco, fire-shooting-up, kung-fu-style xylophone battles which were parodied hilariously in BANGKOK LOCO.

September 23, 2005 at 09:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Miss New York Chinese Beauty PageantMost beauty pageants focus on talent, evening wear and swimsuit competitions, but not so the Miss New York Chinese Beauty Pageant. These delicate flowers had to make a martial arts movie. Yes, it's two opposing demographics crashing together in an earth-shattering collision of fake eyelashes, diet aids, and the 18 legendary weapons of Shaolin. The short flick will screen tonight (9/23) at the Museum of the Moving Image, and then expect it to show up online somewhere lascivious. I'm speechless at the pure weirdness of this.

September 23, 2005 at 09:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 22, 2005


Sure it's in Chinese, but THE PROMISE has a website up and Chen Kaige looks like he missed Fashion Week by just a few days. Giant costumes with enormous shoulders and tiny little human heads fight each other and everything looks too fabulous.

This will be the first Chinese film in which two designers engage in gravity-defying combat while wearing gold masks.

"I said distressed quilts worn as tunics!"

"I said chain mail halter tops!"

I seriously, seriously can't wait.

September 22, 2005 at 10:16 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Did the Yakuza destroy New Orleans?Professional kook, and local weatherman, Scott Stevens, believes that the Yakuza, using weather weapon technology bought from the Russians, are the people responsible for Katrina. Apparently, the Yakuza are the best operators of Russian weather weapons (probably because they're so good at video games!) and "The Yakuza can shoot another Katrina anytime they wish!"


Read more of his insane babble here. And marvel at the fact that this story is getting picked up all over the place (mostly to make fun of it).

September 22, 2005 at 10:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Wise Kwai has started posting the latest Thai movie news from the Nation's print-only column Soop Sit on his site. Among the tasty morsels:

- Mum Jokmok's HELLO YASOTHORN has now joined TOM YUM GOONG and HOLY MAN as one of the three Thai movies to hit 100 million baht in 2005.

- the director of BEAUTIFUL BOXER has started shooting his new horror film

- the director of AI-FAK (THE JUDGEMENT) has started training herds of dogs for his new movie

Find more here.

September 22, 2005 at 10:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Jackie Chan and Stanley Tong's The MythReviews are in for Jackie Chan and Stanley Tong's recent collaboration and they seem to agree that it's close, but no cigar.

Elizabeth Ng at The Star says it's "basically an empty promise". You can read the full review here.

Variety seems dismissive but states that the flick "ranks far above such previous botched Chan-Tong adventures as "Jackie Chan's Police Strike" and "Rumble in the Bronx," and that it marks one of Stanley Tong's rare foray into period movies. It's actually his only "foray". You can read the full review here.

There's also some more favorable review on the Asian Cinema Discussion board over at the Mobius Home Video Forum.

September 22, 2005 at 10:06 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (6)


Michael Medved, fighting the good fight on behalf of USA Today, helpfully breaks down the problem with female stars in this article. Apparently, the success of Julia Roberts is linked to the general failure of female action heroes (forgetting the fact that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, all three original STAR WARS movies, blockbuster CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, TOMB RAIDER, ALIENS and the BUFFY franchise are all cash machines dependent on scrappy gals).

The article builds to this dizzying peak of logic: "Public rejection of such fare reflects the deep-seated refusal to accept trendy notions that women match men in brute and violent tendencies. Despite political correctness, most of us continue to harbor a visceral preference for brawny male cops or firefighters to come to our rescue in emergencies."

He then goes one step beyond with: "The public doesn't yearn for stylish chicks to replicate the sweaty brutality of male action stars, but prefers watching characters who display the distinctively feminine strengths associated with the natural superiority of women."

I think this pretty much clears things up for folks who wonder why America doesn't have the same legacy of female action heroes that Japan and China do.

Mr. Medved, my hat's off to you.

(Thanks to The Beat for first posting this.)

September 22, 2005 at 10:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2005


As I plink away at my keyboard and scan the internet for movies getting releases all over the world that will never see the light of day in the US, I wonder: are we getting left behind? Asia, with the enormous markets of India and China, is obviously where future economic growth lies, and Asian pop culture (from Hello Kitty to Pokemon) rots the minds of millions of American babies every day and manga is the fast-growing sector of publishing in the US. But for some reason we seem to be on an entirely different page than Asian people when it comes to movies. Is it us?

Think on this:
- Hayao Miyazaki is the world's most respected animator, and his movies consistently break box office records in Japan and Hong Kong. Yet not one of his movies has made more than US$10 million at the American box office.
- KAMIKAZE GIRLS was a big hit in Japan and selected by the film magazine KINEMA JUMPO as one of the best movies of 2004. In America, it came and went without a trace and was called "too long", "tiresome" and "implausible".
- SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and OLDBOY have been hailed by critics around the world as important movies, and OLDBOY took home the grand prize at Cannes last year. In the US, OLDBOY (which was a decent hit in Korea) earned rave reviews and made about US$700,000 and SYMPATHY earned a mix of good reviews and pans and went on to make around US$35,000.
- MEMORIES OF MURDER and JSA, both of them hits in Japan and Korea and much loved by critics and fans around the world, were unceremoniously dumped on the US market and vanished without a trace.
- INITIAL D which has been setting the box office on fire all over Asia isn't even getting picked up by an American distributor.

I have a hard time believing that American tastes are this different from the tastes of people in Japan, China, Hong Kong and Korea. Is the cultural divide really this large? What is it about the American market that makes it so resistant to Asian movies, or conversely, what is it about Asian movies that makes them so difficult for the American market to absorb?

I refuse to believe it's biology, it can't be culture because I've seen US audiences go nuts for certain Asian films, so what is it? Exposure? Education? I'm at a loss.

September 21, 2005 at 12:10 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (17)


NANA, the comic-book-based new movie from Kentaro OtaniThe Japan Times' Mark Schilling raves about NANA, the comic-book-based new movie from Kentaro Otani, and TBS the production company responsible for the hit KAMIKAZE GIRLS. While NANA is also about a two young women becoming friends, it's supposedly more emotional and less hectic than KG.

NANA the manga is about two girls named Nana, and since it debuted 5 years ago it's sold 22 million copies.

On a side note, another comic book movie debuted in Japan this past weekend, INITIAL D, which immediately broke the box office record previously held by the animated INITIAL D feature. Stay tuned to see which is more popular: animation, or live action.

September 21, 2005 at 12:03 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Taiwanese horror film THE HEIRLOOMWith a cast and crew full of young actors and produced by Three Dots, the folks behind Formula 17, the Taiwanese horror film THE HEIRLOOM is raking in big bucks - $105,000 on the opening weekend to make it the biggest opening of the year.

The movie is a deliberately paced ghost show about a Taiwanese-American who inherits a spooky old family mansion. And...it's spooky.

Read a review here that discusses the entire plot in great detail, or read this article which doesn't spoil any surprises.

September 21, 2005 at 11:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Kazuo Umezu's manga LEFT HAND OF GOD, RIGHT HAND OF THE DEVILShusuke Kaneko, the auteur behind the revitalized GAMERA flicks in the 1990's has taken over production on the live action feature version of the manga, LEFT HAND OF GOD, RIGHT HAND OF THE DEVIL. The original director was Hiroyuki Nasu (DEVILMAN) who died of liver cancer this year. Kaneko will still credit Nasu and will be utilizing his pre-production work.

The movie is based on a manga by horror artist Kazuo Umezu about evil spirits hovering over folks' backs. That's a cover for it on the left.

(From Anime News Service)

September 21, 2005 at 11:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Hayao Miyazaki, may adapt Ursula K. Le Guin's EARTHSEA booksTwitch has the news first posted on the Anime News Network that Japan's master animator, Hayao Miyazaki, may adapt Ursula K. Le Guin's EARTHSEA books as his next movie, specifically the first book, WIZARD OF EARTHSEA. An anonymous editor at a Japanese publisher has reported that a producer linked to Studio Ghibli was looking into the film rights for the books, and Miyazaki has said he's a fan of these books in the past.

WIZARD OF EARTHSEA was a Sci Fi channel miniseries this year with Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang from SMALLVILLE), Danny Glover and Isabella Rossellini. Sci Fi claims it was a big hit, but the biggest noise the poorly reviewed series received was when Ursula K. Le Guin came out against it online. Saying that she intended the characters in all her books to be non-white, she claimed that Sci Fi had "whitewashed" her book and turned it into a "generic McMagic movie". Sci Fi gave the canned response that changes had been made in turning a book into a movie, but they ignored the crux of her concern which was the race of the cast.

After this experience you'd think she'd be reluctant to stick her face in the fan again, but maybe Miyazaki's name is enough to win her over?

September 21, 2005 at 11:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 20, 2005


The unfortunately named 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok has announced its full line-up and WiseKwai reports that it ain't got no Thai movies. Sure, there're some shorts, a digital video flick called INNOCENCE by a former Miss Thailand, the documentary CRYING TIGERS, and the Oxide Pang produced REMAKER, but that's it. The Thai Night program which had been in the previous festivals has been canceled for undisclosed reasons.

While the Festival site brags about offering 60 films from 20 countries, apparently its home country doesn't count.

September 20, 2005 at 08:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)


HELLO YASOTHORN, the TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER-looking comedy by ONG BAK's "Dirty Balls", Mum Jokmok, is out and ThaiFilm.org has a review.

It's mixed. They say that on the one hand it is "adequately entertaining" but on the other it's full of "slapping the head, kicking in the butts, and foul cussing" and it's "predictable". Then again, it could be "...fairly entertaining if you can look past all these flaws."

September 20, 2005 at 08:58 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)


Dr. Uwe Boll, the world's worst directorDr. Uwe Boll, the world's worst director, is still shooting DUNGEON SIEGE with action by Hong Kong's Ching Siu-tung (the genius behind SWORDSMAN 2, A CHINESE GHOST STORY and HERO, amongst others).

Dr. Boll brags that the movie has a five month shooting schedule and that it may have to be split into two movies "...like KILL BILL." He also says that Ching Siu-tung is getting an opportunity to do "...stuff that he had never even done in Hong Kong cinema..." like make a really, really bad movie.

(Thanks to Fangoria)

September 20, 2005 at 08:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Jadoo, the sawed-off, double-thumbed, pucker-mouthed alien KOI...MIL GAYA the saccharine Bollywood flick about Jadoo, the sawed-off, double-thumbed, pucker-mouthed alien that turned Hrithik Roshan from a retard to a hunk, is getting a sequel.

KRRISH is loaded with special effects and it's being shot in Singapore. It's set for a 2006 release (probably June) and fans will be disheartened to learn that Hrithik tore a hamstring on the set while performing a stunt where he rescues people from a burning circus.

September 20, 2005 at 08:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Amitabh & Abhishek BachchanRamesh Sippy, director of the classic 1975 SHOLAY, is back to directing after a ten-year break.

The big news is that his next movie stars Amitabh & Abhishek Bachchan. Any movie that reunites the SHOLAY star with the SHOLAY director is a big deal, but the article says that Sippy won't confirm Bachchan's participation.

And then Sippy does confirm Bachchan's participation.

But he really doesn't. Expect more confusion.

September 20, 2005 at 08:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 18, 2005


SEVEN SWORDS is clearly a movie about the US invasion of IraqTsui Hark has made the most interesting movie so far about the insurgency in Iraq, and I'm surprised no one else is talking about it. SEVEN SWORDS is so clearly a movie about the US invasion of Iraq, and a celebration of the insurgents who are fighting back, that I'd be surprised if it could even get an American distribution deal. I'm not trying to suddenly make this movie unmarketable, but I really did think that there's no way to argue that 7 SWORDS is about anything else.

Check this out for a plot: the Emperor is worried about weapons of mass destruction (ie, martial arts) being used against him and so he declares that no one but his soldiers can study martial arts. He sends his army, clad in clunky body armor and wielding exotic weapons, out into the rocky, inhospitable desert to conduct raids on villages where it's rumored martial artists lurk. There's massive collateral damage as the baddies wipe out women and children along with the insurgents. Then, out of the mountains of Tora Bora...oops, I mean Mount Tian, come seven swordsmen who are pure of heart and soul. They engage with the superior invading forces and beat them through a combination of super skills and booby traps. Later they have to hide refugees in mountain caves and the Emperor's army bombard them with artillery. Within the ranks of the insurgents there are people from the previous dynasty who served as the Emperor's torturers, now making an uneasy peace with their former victims as they fight back against the invaders, there are collaborators, traitors, and foreign fighters. Maybe there's too much Newsweek in my diet, but this sounds so much like the situation in Iraq that I can't imagine Tsui didn't intend parallels.

But maybe all this is just some fever dream fantasy I concocted to keep myself occupied while watching 7 SWORDS, because there wasn't a lot onscreen to do it for me. It's not a bad movie, but it's a deeply unsatisfying one. With 7 SWORDS and seven swordsmen to wield them you'd think that Tsui would have his hands full trying to keep the characters straight but instead the movie is really about: a) an old horse; b) a Korean slave; c) a kid who has to learn to stand up for himself d) a village that has to learn not to be too judgemental and it isn't until we get past those four plot points that we get to e) seven swordsmen.

The original cut was 4 hours long, and I'd be interested to see it, but so much of what I did see had a "been there, seen that" vibe that I'm not sure two more hours will help. The bad guy, Fire Wind (no indigestion jokes, please), is played with relish, and mustard, and sauerkraut and all the gooey fixins' by Sun Honglei, and he's a blast, but the other actors are not so tasty. Leon Lai plays a guy who sounds like a fortune cookie every time he opens his mouth. Donnie Yen does strong dark and silent. Lau Kar-leung is poorly dubbed and he's barely onscreen in the second half of the movie. Xiong Xin-xin reprises his clubfoot role from ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 2. Everyone else is interchangeable. Even the climactic action scene is thrilling until you remember that it was done bigger (and better?) back at the end of ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 2 (with Donnie Yen as well, no less). 

The 4 hour version may not make a better movie but it could go a long way towards explaining the geography. Much is made of the advance of Fire Wind's army on the peaceful village ("Eek! They're 300 hundred miles away!"), but suddenly it turns out that the village is a four hour pony ride from the bad guy's giant fortress. Fast ponies, I guess. Even after the villagers flee, it still doesn't take more than a couple of hours to get back to Fort Bad Guy from wherever they are, which is weak tea from a director who's always had a firm grip on the spatial relationships in his movies.

The one person who should be lobbying to keep the 4 hour version out of stores is Michael Wong. Hong Kong's favorite white man has a decent cameo as The Duke, but less is always more with the good Mr. Wong and another 10 minutes of his role may ruin the magic.

September 18, 2005 at 11:21 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (12)


Eli Roth's HOSTELIt's not an Asian movie, but I went to see Eli Roth's HOSTEL last night - his follow-up horror movie to CABIN FEVER - and the smell of Takashi Miike filled the theater. Claiming that he felt the US had ceded its duty to make disturbing horror movies to directors from Japan and South Korea, Roth said that SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and a Thai website were his two direct inspirations for this exceedingly graphic, exceedingly gory, but deeply satisfying flick about Americans backpacking in Europe who discover that there're worse things to get than crabs.

Takashi Miike himself has a cameo in the movie as a businessman coming out of a sick art exhibit, earning a round of applause from the depraved Canadian audience. During the Q&A after the film when the cast was asked what movies had ever disturbed them, the two male leads instantly replied, "Ichi the Killer" and "Visitor Q". Of course the female lead's answer "Herbie: Fully Loaded" only showed that maybe America hasn't entirely left making disturbing movies up to Japan, after all.

September 18, 2005 at 11:20 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2005


Sammi Cheng in EVERLASTING REGRETIn which Sammi Cheng cries three times; a name is dropped; the Cultural Revolution doesn't look nearly as bad as you expected; and everyone is thoroughly confused.

Stanley Kwan could be Hong Kong's best director of women after Wong Kar-wai. He knows how to make them look good, he knows how to get their best performances out of them, and he knows how to convince them to go beyond their comfort zones. Even so, after he basically reinvented Maggie Cheung with CENTRE STAGE, showed Anita Mui's tragic side in ROUGE, and gave us an unexpected Chow Yung-fat, Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Elaine Jin in LOVE UNTO WASTE (and even did wonders for Chingmy Yau in HOLD YOU TIGHT), even after all this it still seemed like an iffy proposition that he could pull the same thing off with Sammi Cheng in EVERLASTING REGRET. As stories about Sammi's erratic behavior came off the set everyone thought that either she'd shine like a star in this flick, or crash and burn. When Mainland Chinese pressure was brought to bear and the order came down that the movie had to be slightly altered to pass muster, it seemed that maybe Stanley Kwan had hit it out of the park with a movie that was too close to history for comfort.

No such thing. Set in Shanghai from the 40's to the 80's and following Sammi Cheng as Qiyao, a woman whose heartlessness and selfishness cause her to alienate everyone who loves her, EVERLASTING REGRET looks real pretty, but even if my life depended on it I couldn't tell you what went on.

Sammi Cheng isn't exactly bad in this movie, but she doesn't really do a whole lot of anything. I guess the problem with making a movie about a woman whose emotions are closed off and kept hidden is that it doesn't give the audience a lot to look at, especially in a movie that's shot almost entirely in close ups. The credits say that William Chang (Wong Kar-wai's constant collaborator) is the production designer here, but I wouldn't know since the camera rarely drops below the actors' neckline.

Tony Leung Kar-fai more than earns his paycheck as the one performer who really stands out, playing a photographer who loves Qiyao from afar but winds up a broken wreck. There's some life from the other actors but every time one of them appears you find yourself missing them once they leave. Couldn't the movie follow the life of Qiyao's friend, Lili (Su Yan, a Mainland TV actress), who seems to actually do things and displays actual emotions? But no, we're stuck with Sammi and the movie rapidly devolves into a series of Mainland Chinese art film cliches: here's the scene of two Chinese people sitting at a table and staring off in opposite directions; here's the man in a sweater vest staring out the window and smoking a cigarette; here's the scene at a Shanghai nightclub with pretty dresses; here's the wife breaking something; here's the stolen kiss in the hallway. The only thing the movie misses is a tearful farewell in a train station, but maybe that will be on the director's cut DVD.

Sammi's performance is so tamped down that in the three scenes where she demonstrates actual emotions she seems completely over the top. The first time she feels an emotion she's so upset by it that she bangs her head against a wall and collapses to the floor sobbing; the second time she screams like a banshee; the third time she's a squirming, squalling wreck. For a movie that plays mostly on mute this is a very painful experience.

The biggest problem with the flick is that it makes no sense. Just as Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS plays fast and loose with geography, EVERLASTING REGRET gets loosey-goosey with chronology. At the start of the film, Qiyao hooks up with Officer Li. The characters comment that they've been involved for about a year. Then, suddenly, she's signing a lease on an apartment he's gotten for her and the date on the contract is 1956. Seeing that the movie started out with a bunch of gangsters hanging around a gaudy dancehall, sticking guns in each others' stomachs after a hard night at the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant I thought the movie had to start in the post-War/pre-Revolution years (sometime between 1945 and 1949). But if that's the case then how can she be involved with Officer Li for one year and at the end of that year sign a contract dated 1956? I don't think that there were a whole lot of Miss Shanghai pageants after the Communist Revolution in 1949. Were they hanging out in dog years?

This turns out to be one of the least confusing things that happen. As the movie progresses, questions rapidly outstrip answers and the whole "When did she get the aparment?" conundrum starts looking downright obvious. It pains me to admit it, but I couldn't understand almost anything that happened in the second hour of the film. I thought it was just me until, on the way out of the theater, I saw Gavin Smith. Gavin in the editor of FILM COMMENT magazine, which is the flagship publication of the big brain cinema set, and if anyone's going to know what's going on in a movie it's got to be Gavin and his whirling neurons. But even he was confused about an awful lot of plot details. Kudos to Stanley Kwan for baffling someone who has to be the smartest film guy in the US, and if that was his goal then he totally scored.

Watching EVERLASTING REGRET is like going to a dog convention where the dogs do all the talking. It's interesting, and certainly watchable, but you can't make heads or tails of what's going on. And somehow I don't think that's the point.

September 17, 2005 at 07:11 PM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 16, 2005


Is America getting left behind? Johnnie To's ELECTION has sold like hotcakes to France, Italy, the UK, Australia and Japan but not the US of A (which is starting to stand for "Un-subtitled Always") (sorry, that's the best I could do).

Meanwhile, Mr. To is working on a follow-up to ELECTION as well as a movie called EXILED for Media Asia with Anthony Wong and Francis Ng set to star. They say it's an action flick. Goodie!

September 16, 2005 at 10:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Watermelons are everywhere (and people are doing everything with them, from juicing to humping them)I have to confess: I've never seen a Tsai Ming-liang film before. It's a horrible thing to have to say, like hearing the waiter at a steakhouse admit he's allergic to red meat. On the one hand this positions me as an ignoramus. On the other hand it positions me as an ignoramos who's going into THE WAYWARD CLOUD free of preconceptions. The movie has earned almost universal pans, and no one likes to talk about it much, but maybe it's just a sign of the final death throes of my tiny mind that I liked it a lot.

The story is minimal. Taiwan is gripped in a heat wave, water is a precious commodity, watermelons are everywhere (and people are doing everything with them, from juicing to humping them) and a guy and a gal living in the same apartment block fall for each other. According to other reviewers, these are the same couple from WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? and they went their separate ways at the end of that earlier film. Okay. That's neat.

Anyways, the guy is an actor in porn movies and he obviously doesn't want the gal to find out what he does for a living. Their lives turn into a game of cat and mouse up and down the stairwells and through the corridors (he's currently shooting a porno with a Japanese actress upstairs) as he virtually does backflips to keep his day job secret. Some things to know about this movie: the shots are long, the scenes are long, no one talks much and everything is broken up with cheapo musical numbers set to 50's Mandopop.

The Wayward Cloud is the most scathing denunciation of pornographyThis doesn't sound very promising, and the musical numbers are pretty pointless (except one that an older actress bursts into right after getting the stud's money shot squirted onto her face - it's the keeper of the bunch) but this flick that starts out as a quiet visual comedy evolves into the most strident anti-pornography movie I've ever seen. Variety's review (here) says the last scene of the movie is the most misogynist of director Tsai Ming-liang's career. Uh, sorry, but it's actually most scathing denunciation of pornography (damn dirty pornography!) I've ever seen. Which just goes to show that there's a lot of room to read things into this flick.

Folks made a big stink about the blow job scene in BROWN BUNNY between Vincent Gallo and Chloe Sevigny. Please. If you haven't sat through the deeply upsetting sausage gobbling in THE WAYWARD CLOUD, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.

September 16, 2005 at 10:26 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (5)



Takashi Miike had lost it as far as I was concerned. GOZU was full of chewy morsels but we've already got David Lynch for that kind of thing. ZEBRAMAN is a movie I wanted to like so badly that my ears bled, but at the end of the movie I checked myself and, nope, not amazed. But THE GREAT YOKAI WAR joins HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, ICHI THE KILLER and AUDITION as the Miike movies I'll alwasy love, no matter what he does next. After stumbling out of the Midnight Madness screening last night I wanted to fly over to Japan and give him a hug. But first I wanted to enjoy a frosty can of Kirin Ichiban beer which is marketed relentlessly throughout the movie.

Family film that it is, GYW kicks off with Takashi (kid kommando thespian, Ryunosuke Kamiki) having a nightmare about an incinerated Tokyo. Then a slinky demoness with a beehive comes dangerously close to some peeky cheeky action out the back of her mini skirt, followed by the birth of a goo-covered, flayed, talking cow fetus and a promise of the apocalypse. The fact that children in Japan can sleep at all is something of a miracle.

Takashi gets elected the Kirin Rider in a dumpy village where one half of his broken home is hiding out, trying to get over the trauma of his parents' divorce. Each year there's a little village celebration and some kid gets selected as Kirin Rider (I assume "Kirin" either means "dragon" or "giant corporate logo" in Japanese) and it mostly means the rugrat gets some nasty-looking azuki beans to eat and a hand towel. In Takashi's case it means he has to go to Goblin Mountain, get the Goblin Sword and stop evil, fascist wizard, Kato, from starting a war. Oops, too late. War's already broken out.

Blah, blah. Been here. Done that. Bought the t-shirt. But GYW attacks its material with all the stops pulled out, and its war, for all its CGI and ridiculous declarations, is something you can feel in your guts. The evil wizard Kato is a part-therapist/part-madman who's declared war on humanity in the name of...garbage. All the things we've thrown out, all the broken junk we've dumped, all the shoes we toss when they get too small or go out of style, all of it has souls. Unwittingly we've perpetrated a holocaust, and now Kato is holding us accountable. It's a little bit like that Ikea commercial about the lamp thrown out in the rain, only minus the joke. You have to admit it: the evil wizard has a point.

The yokai are goblins out of folktalesThe yokai are goblins out of folktales and in an age of Digimon and Dragonball; what's more neglected than a bunch of crummy old folkstory characters? Kato captures the mostly harmless  funky-looking yokai and unleashes all their rage at humanity that they've kept bottled up inside and it come volcanoing out, ripping the creaky old yokai apart and turning the pieces into vicious mechanical monsters.

By the end of the flick a homicidal city has been unleashed, Takachi has had to slaughter his cuddly best friend, adults have demonstrated they are morally bankrupt, and the yokai have gone to war. Seeded throughout this mix-o-matic madness are jokes, sudden breaks to celebrate the azuki bean in song and to warn kids not to try particularly dangerous stunts at home, some of the darkest black humor to cast a shade across the screen (an elderly village cop tries to shoot one of the mechanical monsters and instead plugs its helpless human victim right between the eyes), and the funniest product placement for Kirin Ichiban beer I've ever seen. If Miike doesn't deserve an Oscar for this one he at least deserves an Addy (the Oscar of the advertising industry).

When GYW was first announced it was claimed that it would be Japan's answer to LORD OF THE RINGS and the Harry Potter movies - not quite. The movie is too weird, too Miike, to capture the imaginations of millions. But he delivers a short, sharp shock to the system in the final scene that perfectly captures the elegiac sadness that Peter Jackson tried to reach at the conclusion of LOTR but failed to pull off. Every quest has an ending and no childhood lasts forever; Miike lets his movie extend beyond its climax and it's one of the saddest things I've ever seen. Amidst the imagination of mass destruction at the heart of this movie that sweeps up the film into a burning fusion of ridiculous ideas, be very still and quiet. That sound you hear is a child's heart breaking.

September 16, 2005 at 10:23 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 14, 2005


I'm off to the Toronto Film Festival so anyone who wants to spit in my eye can find me there.

No news on Thursday - but more updates, pernicious gossip, and insulting adjectives will be slung around on Friday.

September 14, 2005 at 11:21 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


The latest Yash Raj production from Bollywood, SALAAM NAMASTE, opened big in the US according to this Indiewire article with about US$500,000 over the weekend translating into a pretty darn good US$8,000 per screen.

You can read a review here.

September 14, 2005 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Hong Kong Disneyland has been open for exactly one day and at the luncheon to celebrate, George Mitchell (Disney Chairman) announced plans to build another Disneyland on Lantau near the first one. Apparently this is the same deal as Tokyo Disneyland and EuroDisney, but it still seems like a lot of Disneyland for one island.

He also said that no agreement had yet been reached for a Shanghai Disneyland.

In this Variety article, George says that he is "impressed with the cooperation" of the Hong Kong government. Oh, you mean the fact that they picked up most of the costs to build the park and get just over half the profits, whereas Disney put in about 10% of the costs and own the rest of the profits, including regular royalty payments whether the park is profitable or not?

September 14, 2005 at 11:58 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Lydia Shum's daughter, Yan Yi, is something of a performer herself. But rather than entertaining audiences like her mom and making them laugh, apparently she upsets audiences and makes them angry. On a children's award show she kissed Ron Ng and generated precisely 54 complaints.

Now, at the opening show for Disney Hong Kong she dressed up like Snow White and danced with the Seven Dwarves (didn't Rob Lowe try this once?) generating the most complaints ever for one show: 171. Her dad, Adam Cheng, says that "Complaints are not bad..." but these complaints are enough to strip the paint from Tammy Faye's face. They say her performance was "disgusting", "repelling" and "will scare children away."

Hong Kongers feel strongly about Yan Yi. 45% of the people in an informal Sing Tao poll say that Yan Yi should lose a lot more weight, and some of the internet conversations about the subject run to over 200 pages.

You can get a relatively tame taste of it on the Asian Fanatics Forum here.

September 14, 2005 at 11:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

September 13, 2005


Mickey Mouse AlienIn sweltering 90 degree weather, Hong Kong Disneyland, the fifth and tiniest Disney theme park, officially opened to the public on Monday. Michael Eisner made a speech from Main Street USA at the park, rhapsodizing about how the last time he stood on that spot it was beautiful Penny's Bay but now the bay has been filled in and covered with stores selling ceramic Snow White figurines and overpriced bags of cookies.

British children said the LA Disneyland was "better" and "had more rides" while Japanese tourists proclaimed, "This park is cheap. I like it!."

The Hong Kong government threw in US$3.5 billion on the park, and they're sweating bullets hoping it will pay off since, as the Asia Times reports, this is one of the most unfair deals Disney has ever struck with a local government - Disney is investing about 10% of the project's cost and is earning almost 50% of its profits, plus an enormous guaranteed royalty every year whether the park makes money or not.

The HKSAR has the world's highest disparity between rich and poor, its poverty rates have been growing steadily for years, it recently abolished estate taxes and cut benefit payments to the elderly (with a "devastating" impacy according to a government report), it has no minimum wage, and it seems to be experimenting with trickle-down economics to fix what's broken.

Does it really need to foot the bill for Disney to open a new park while Disney CEO Robert Iger is talking about trying to build a Disneyland in Shanghai (thus slitting the throat of Disneyland Hong Kong which is supposed to generate huge profits from Mainland visitors)? The success of Disneyland Hong Kong will be leverage for Disney to negotiate terms for a Mainland Disneyland, and for getting the Disney Channel back on PRC television, where it's currently banned. Expect Hong Kong residents to keep asking why the HKSAR is spending its money on Disney's corporate goals.

September 13, 2005 at 08:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Are there are State Secrets in Christy Chung's bottom?Danwei has an item today about a 25-word article in Xinhua, the paper of record for the PRC, which announces that the death tolls for natural disasters are no longer a State Secret (at least three journalists are currently rotting in prison for revealing State Secrets). Don't get too comfortable, though. It's still a state secret to: reveal the numbers of the dead or wounded in wars since 1949; reveal the results of environmental quality reports; reveal anything having to do with "health disasters caused by environmental pollution"; or to reveal data about "negative social phenomena" that may cause "instability in the human mind and society", so talking about Paris Hilton on the cover of Vanity Fair is right out.

Danwei then asks the probing question: Xinhua has just published this racy photo gallery of Hong Kong actress Christy Chung, but pixilated her crack. Are there are State Secrets in her bottom?

September 13, 2005 at 08:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Tsui Hark's next project is LIGHT BLUE, DARK BLUETsui Hark's project after SEVEN SWORDS started filming about a week ago, and it's not a 7SWORDS sequel, nor is it any of the other projects Tsui has announced. It's a kid's movie called LIGHT BLUE, DARK BLUE shot in Mainland China, directed by Yuan Wei-dong and produced by CiWen, the producers of 7SWORDS.

It looks to be a light comedy about sportsmanship with 30 celebrities in the cast including Hong Kong stalwart, Max Mok, wu shu champ and sometime actor, Zhao Wen-zhou, and a fistful of Chinese Olympic athletes as well as cosmonaut Yang Li-wei (pictured). The inimitable Xiong Xin-xin does the action choreography which is supposed to be intense but bloodless, according to the Wu Jing fansite, which has more details on the film.

The production will take about two months. You can read more details here.

September 13, 2005 at 08:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


The brand new version of the DonnieYen.us fansite was unveiled a couple of days ago, and while it takes a few minutes to load, it's packed with groovy new things to read if you like to read things about Donnie Yen.

It's a good thing.

September 13, 2005 at 08:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Jackie Chan says he only needs five more years as king of the world before permanently retiring from action flicksIt's that time again. The time, every five years, when Jackie Chan announces that he's winding his action career down and packing it in as a martial arts star in favor of directing smaller films, training new directors, and doing more producing. This time he says he only needs five more years as king of the world before permanently retiring from action flicks.

We've all known that Jackie won't be forever. The fact that he's prolonged his action stardom beyond the life expectancy of the cartiladge in his knees doesn't mean that the guy isn't getting tired. This is the third time in my memory that he's made this announcement which always seems to follow a period in his career when he's had more flops than hits. But like many Cantopop stars, his retirement is always followed by a comeback.

This time, I hope he's serious. Jackie Chan is a big deal in movies, but recently he's become totally irrelevant. His latest outing as a producer (EVERLASTING REGRET) is already getting hammered, and his latest outing as an actor, THE MYTH, has attracted lots of bad buzz before it's even been released. Even his last "good" movie, NEW POLICE STORY, wasn't that good, it was just better than the other movies he'd been making. His last Hollywood vehicle, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, was a flop, and the only viable franchise he has left (RUSH HOUR) is a franchise that he's publicly claimed he doesn't really want to participate in but he'll do it for the paycheck...I mean, the fans.

Please. Jackie. Don't wait five years - take a vacation now. Put some ice on your damaged spinal column and that soft spot on your skull where the bones never fused properly. Put your feet up (as far up as your damaged hips can lift them, at least) and relax. Strike some shiny new prints of your best movies and let career retrospectives unspool at fancy theaters and film festivals all over the world. Endorse some more Japanese soft drinks. But please, retire now before people forget why they loved you in the first place.

September 13, 2005 at 08:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 12, 2005


MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA has been confusing American test audiencesThis just in from Hollywood Elsewhere: apparently MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA has been confusing American test audiences with its Japanese culture. Why those people eat with sticks? Why they don't speak English? Why they wear bathrobes everywhere?

So Anthony Minghella, director of THE ENGLISH PATIENT and COLD MOUNTAIN, has been brought in to write a voice-over that will probably say something like: "This is Japan. Can you say it with me: Juh-Pan. It is a country over the sea, near China, where everything you are wearing was made."

To read the original post, go to Hollywood Elsewhere, go to the "Wired" box, and scroll down to the post from 9/11 at 6:06AM.

September 12, 2005 at 09:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (12)


Not to be out-done by Toronto, the Vancouver International Film Festival has announced its traditionally Asian heavy line-up.

There's all kinds of movies over at the official website, but here's the highlights (and many thanks to the inexorable Paul Kazee for letting me know about these):

There's screenings of KEKEXILI, Lee Myung-Se's THE DUELIST, CITIZEN DOG, Ryu Seung-Wan's CRYING FIST, Bae Doo-Na's Japanese film, LINDA LINDA LINDA, PRINCESS RACCOON, TAKESHI'S, Eric Khoo's BE WITH ME, and Hou Hsiao-hsien's THREE TIMES.

The indie Chinese movies MONGOLIAN PING PONG, and the very strange, very boring, extremely fascinating OX HIDE (the director shot it in her parent's flat starring herself and her parents as themselves) will be screened. PEACOCK, the great Chinese feature from Gu Changwei, the cinematographer to the gods. STAR APPEAL, a queer film from China about a naked Martian and Judgement Day. GIE, an epic  Indonesian film about the real-life activist, Soe Hok-gie, who opposed the Sukarno government.

BAMBI ? BONE, a Japanese film (directed by a woman - yow!) about pedophilia and child abuse. Nagasaki Shunichi's HEART, BEATING IN THE DARK from 1982, and the director's response to his own film also called HEART BEATING IN THE DARK. Thailand's M.A.I.D. (a spy/maid comedy), and the documentary from Thailand CRYING TIGER. And IF YOU WERE ME 2, the sequel to Korea's omnibus film about human rights, this one including a short by Ryu Seung-Wan.

More on the official website.

September 12, 2005 at 09:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Cyril RaffaelliMidnight Madness programmer, Colin Geddes (who is the secret santa supplying all those drool-worthy set photos from INVISIBLE WAVES) rings in to say that the choreographer behind the one bright spot in the mucky mess otherwise known as TRANSPORTER 2 is not Hong Kong action king, Corey Yuen, but rather the star of French sci fi action flick, BANLIEUE 13, Cyril Raffaelli.

Mon dieu! The French have stolen Hong Kong choreography and made it their own? Merde, Hong Kong is in trouble now.

September 12, 2005 at 09:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)


Over at Twitch Film they've been posting reviews of the new movies at the Toronto Film Festival as fast as they can play them.

Here's links:

TAKESHI'S - verdict: uh, what the hell just happened?

THE DUELIST - verdict: pretty, and pretty empty.

SEVEN SWORDS - verdict: sucks.

BE WITH ME - verdict: half a good movie.


Expect more disappointment.

September 12, 2005 at 09:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Anurag Kashyap's Black FridayIndian director, Anurag Kashyap (not to be confused with National Spelling Bee Champion, Anurag Kashyap), seems to be jinxed. He wrote several movies for Ram Gopal Varma, including the now-classic SATYA, but his directorial debut, PAANCH (2000), hasn't been released due to problems with its subject matter. By all accounts it's a pitch-dark, horror-movie-influenced noir film and that wasn't something that anyone was going to release.

His second movie, BLACK FRIDAY, is a grueling investigation of the 1993 Mumbai bombings which is one of the most intensive, and exhausting, motion picture investigations of terrorism ever made. Unfortunately, the Bombay High Court ruled that it can't be released until a verdict is reached in the case, and that may take years. It has played numerous film festivals in the meantime and earned rave reviews. There's also been talk of turning the movie into a TV series.

This interview with Anurag talks about his frustration with the case, his new movie GULAL (a sci fi film) and his pro-piracy position.

Some folks have said that Anurag is cursed, but now there may be hope as producer Boney Kapoor picks up the rights to PAANCH and says he's going to release it.

September 12, 2005 at 09:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


Websites are springing up like mushrooms after the rain.

Here is the English-language website for SHA PO LANG, which will premiere at the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto Film Festival in just a few days.

And here's the English site for Stanley Kwan's EVERLASTING REGRET which is getting savage reviews. Savage, as in bad.

September 12, 2005 at 09:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 11, 2005


Sammi Cheng went bonkers to get amped up and in character for EVERLASTING REGRETIt's been shooting forever. Sammi Cheng went bonkers to get amped up and in character for it. It's been dogged by scandals and censorship. So, was EVERLASTING REGRET, Stanley Kwan's latest movie, worth it.

Variety sez: No.

Derek Elley calls the flick out as beautiful (William Chang production designing - natch) but says it's dramatically dead. And as for Sammi's "She's not crazy, she's acting" work? He calls it "mask-like" and "out of her depth."

September 11, 2005 at 08:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Ang Lee's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN won the big dog prize at VeniceDespite all the cocktail parties, and statements about Asian movies ruling Venice and beating up all the smaller, weaker movies, not a single Asian-produced flick won a prize at this year's Venice film festival.

But what did win was a film directed by an Asian: Ang Lee's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. In fact, it won the big dog prize, the GOLDEN LION!

So my question is: did an Asian film win the Golden Lion?

Here's Variety's list of the prizewinners.

September 11, 2005 at 08:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 09, 2005


Hong Kong's East Weekly magazineHong Kong's East Weekly magazine has published an expose saying that HK stars shooting TV series in Mainland China are so relaxed with no paparrazzi around that they're taking all their clothes off and having sex with hookers, masseuses, and young kids who work on the set (which the article unfortunately translates as "assistants-cum-escorts").

An undercover reporter went into the hotel in Dongguan where the cast for the TVB series REVOLVING DOOR OF VENGEANCE is filmed and found a karaoke lounge where the waitresses wear bikinis!

The stars who've been named by East Weekly as sex happy scrump bunnies include: Simon Yam, Eric Tsang, Gallen Lo and Ng Man-tat. The stars say that they're so busy all they do is work and sleep and don't have time to have drug-fueled orgies with hookers.

Fans are horrified at the depths to which the press will sink.

Expect more to spill out of this scandal pinata in the days to come.

(Thanks to Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review)

September 9, 2005 at 09:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Deepa Mehta's WATER opened the Toronto Film Festival and Variety gives it a rave, which it didn't give the other films in her elements trilogy, EARTH and FIRE (but where's WIND?).

WATER has had huge problems, what with unhappy Indians rioting and burning its sets to the ground, and while I'm not a Deepa Mehta fan no movie should face this kind of mob violence. Unless it's THE MAN.

Fox Searchlight is releasing it in the US.

September 9, 2005 at 09:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Zhang Yimou directed the ballet version of RAISE THE RED LANTERN that the National Ballet of China will be performing on its tippy toes all over the US this Fall.

Their NYC stop is the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The National Ballet of China will be performing the ballet version of RAISE THE RED LANTERN on its tippy toes all over the US this Fall

Surprisingly, Zhang Yimou has been directing dance and opera for a while. He directed an 8 minute Chinese dance piece that helped close the Athens Olympics, there's a TV film of him directing the opera TURANDOT in Beijing, and the MET has commissioned an opera ("Emperor Qin Shihuang") from composer Tan Dun (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) that Zhang Yimou will direct.

September 9, 2005 at 09:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


The Asian Film Foundation is hosting FOREVER LESLIE, a Leslie Cheung memorial event tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, September 10) on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

Not only can you watch two Leslie movies (OKINAWA RENDEZVOUS and FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE) but you can have snacks and purchase memorabilia that was specially donated and signed by celebs for this event (no, the signatures are not from Leslie...he's dead, silly).

It's been two years since Leslie Cheung killed himself on April 1 and the Hong Kong film industry has been poorer without him.

There's two Leslie Necrophile...I mean memorial and tribute organizations and they are:

THE LESLIE LEGACY ASSOCIATION (which has a picture on its homepage that scares me)
and RED MISSION which has an oath on its homepage that you can chant.

September 9, 2005 at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


People having fun on Jackie Chan's J-MATAs Jackie Chan's film career winds down (you can't deny it) he's looking to other money-making opportunities and one of the weirdest is JACKIE CHAN STUDIO FITNESS. It's a video game system where the controller is the patented J-MAT!!! You run on the J-MAT while watching TV and doing things, virtually, that Jackie Chan can do, in actuality.

There's a game where you run through the streets and fight people and one where you juggle things, and the press release ominously promises more to come.

The point is to give you a workout, but the idea of Jackie Chan sneaking electronically into our homes and making us do things is a little unsettling. What they're not telling us about is the game where young starlets lie on the J-MAT and the virtual J-Man delicately massages their bodies while promising to put them in the movies.

Their site is coming here.

September 9, 2005 at 09:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Mockumentary MOKDUGI VIDEOIt started as an a pay-per-view website, went on to be released on video, then got screened on TV and finally got a theatrical release: it's MOKDUGI VIDEO!

A mockumentary about a videographer who sees dead people on a frame of porn he shoots, the movie is a straight-faced investigation into the fake ghost, and it's been described as, "THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT minus the hysteria."

Look at the scary poster then read a review here on KoreanFilm.org.

September 9, 2005 at 08:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


After extracting revenge in three different flavors (Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, and Old Boy), what's next for director Park Chan-Wook?


Park is now making I AM A CYBORG for CJ Entertainment about a young woman in a mental asylum who thinks she's a cyborg and who falls in love with a presumably non-cyborg guy. Described as a "strange romance" one assumes that the movie will not feature octopus-eating, tendon-slicing or hammer-assisted dentistry.

September 9, 2005 at 08:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Bae Doo-Na in Mina Park's TEA DATEApparently Bae Doo-Na loves NYC and when she's not cruising around the streets, she's starring in short films over there. TEA DATE, by director Mina Park, is a three-character short that features Bae as a too-cute-for-words English student visiting her elderly, Hobbit-looking teacher at his apartment.

The simple and sweet short just got accepted to Pusan, and here's a digital pic from the flick of the glamorous Ms. Bae to start your Friday out on the right note.

(And for those who don't know, Bae Doo-Na is the super-star of movies like BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE and SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE).

September 9, 2005 at 08:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 08, 2005


'Kamikaze Girls' plays the New York Asian Film Festival, Fantasia and the Los Angeles Film FestivalYou wouldn't know it, but Viz's live action flick KAMIKAZE GIRLS opens today in select theaters.

This is a big deal: up until now, most US distributors have only picked up Asian genre movies for theatrical release. Horror, action, and highbrow exotica gets snatched right up while superior comedies and romances are left to gather dust. For the past two years at the New York Asian Film Festival I've watched the horror movies (in particular) and the action movies attract a smaller and smaller audience while the comedies and romances do big business. Our audience awards for the past three years have gone to comedies and romances exclusively: PING PONG from Japan, PLEASE TEACH ME ENGLISH from Korea and THE TASTE OF TEA from Japan. (None of which have US distribution)

Every year all of us at Subway think: man! Some savvy distributor is going to snag an Asian comedy one day and the first one to do it will probably clean up.

Manga/Anime company Viz snagged KAMIKAZE GIRLS (a flick we showed at the festival this year and that was the runner-up for the Audience Award - playing to two packed, and very happy, houses) and vowed to give it a theatrical release. With tie-ins to the anime and manga fan community, this movie seemed like a shoo-in for a long roll-out with plenty of teenage kids and diehard fans flocking to see it.

Doesn't look like it's going to happen. Critics are already harshing on the movie ("saccharine", "too long", "fluff", and most incomprehensibly "could find an audience in the West as a latenight attraction at gay fests.").

But don't blame the critics, Viz doesn't even mention the movie on its website, either on the front page or on their "New Releases" page (although there is this four week old press release buried in their newsroom - which I guess matches the fact that the official site for the movie hasn't been updated in 4 weeks either), I couldn't find a mention on the Anime News Network except for this press release from back in June.

It doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the quality of the movie that almost every quote Viz has pulled for the movie comes from a website, either.

Let's hope that the fans turn out in force and do what Viz hasn't been able to so far: stir up interest and generate support for this worthy flick.

September 8, 2005 at 09:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


Ah, September. The month of A SOUND OF THUNDER, THE MAN and a million different varieties of bad movies dumping out of various studio orifices and stinking up our screens. I understand the studio point of view: this is the month of colonics, when they purge their corporate bodies of poisons and toxins by spraying out all the clunkers and flunkers that have been causing them to bloat. The consequence, however, is that late August/early September is a wasteland: in both the literal and figurative sense.

Not so in Korea. The box office is primed to explode with:April Snow

- APRIL SNOW: it's gotten a 40% ticket presales figure and it's starring popular TV actors. It already looks like it's going to be a big deal, and it's an 18-rated (R rated) melodrama.

- THE DUELIST: Lee Myung-Se's return after about six years is much anticipated and stars another big Korean TV star, and it's being released on tons of screens.

- MARRYING THE MAFIA 2: the sequel to the huge comedy hit is set to unfurl momentarily.

With WELCOME TO DONGMAKGOL still raking in the big bucks (it's almost at 7 million tickets - the big no man's land between 5 million tickets and 10 million tickets for Korean movies) and MARATHON surprisingly having hit the 5 million ticket mark earlier in the Spring, it's been a rocking year so far in Korea.

Go here for an in depth TWITCH analysis of the numbers.

September 8, 2005 at 08:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Yahoo!It's not really movie news, but...

Barely three months before buying a US$1 billion stake in China's largest e-commerce firm, Alibaba.com, it just came out that Yahoo! turned police informant, turning over emails from journalist Shi Tao's Yahoo account to the Chinese fuzz who sentenced Shi Tao to 10 years in prison for passing on the text of an internal Communist Party memo talking about fears of unrest on the 15th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.

Yahoo! won't turn over this kind of info in the US without a fight, but they say they have to abide by the laws of wherever they are. Especially if they want to buy a gargantuan stake in a gargantuan new market.

Read the allegations here.

September 8, 2005 at 08:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


INVISIBLE WAVES has been moved to next yearSure, INVISIBLE WAVES has been moved to next year, but more set photos continue to leak out and if the movie's half as good as the set photos then I'll start looking forward to this flick from Pen-Ek Ratanaruang of LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE fame.

(Thanks to WiseKwai for the heads up)

September 8, 2005 at 08:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Beijing is cleaning up the multilingual signage around the cityBeijing is spending lots of RMB cleaning up the multilingual signage around the city in anticipation of the Olympic games.

I dunno, I think the old park sounds like fun.

September 8, 2005 at 08:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Bey Logan will unleash his Mandarin to help put together co-production dealsThe all-around Hong Kong Kid, Bey Logan (author of "Hong Kong Action Cinema", writer of THE MEDALLION and GEN-X COPS, producer of THE TWINS EFFECT, actor in CIRCUS KID, guy who did something undefinable with Media Asia and Hong Kong rep for Arclight Films) has a new job as the Weinstein Company's Asian rep.

His official title is VP of Acquisitions and Co-Productions and he'll unleash his Mandarin to help put together co-production deals (like KILL BILL enjoyed) and scoop up Asian titles (Arclight is involved with SHA PO LANG -- does this mean it'll go to the Weinstein Company?).

Prediction: Bey Logan has a big personality. Harvey Weinstein has a big personality. I expect a year of some brilliance followed by the announcement that Bey has moved on to bigger and better. But it'll probably be a pretty good year, and from the sounds of this article I get the feeling that Harvey and Bros. will be doing some pretty heavy duty shopping at the Asian movie supermarket to build up their library.

September 8, 2005 at 08:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

September 07, 2005


The Pusan International Film Festival is featuring 10 Thai movies this yearThe Pusan International Film Festival is featuring 10 Thai movies this year: six new and four old.


INNOCENCE is a digital video production shot by a former Miss Thailand about a group of Hill Tribe kids taken to see the ocean by the principal of their boarding school. It and 3 FRIENDS are both independent productions.

MIDNIGHT MY LOVE is a romance starring big-mouthed Mum Jokmok (ONG BAK) as a lonely cab driver who falls in love with a passenger.

The old movies are by director Rattana Pestonj and include:
Sugar Is Not Sweet (1965)
Black Silk (1961)
Country Hotel (1957)
Dark Heaven (1958)

Rattana is the Iranian-Thai director who was one of the first to bring Thai films to Western festivals (BLACK SILK played the Berlin film fest in 1961) and he died in 1970 while giving a speech encouraging the Thai government to support the film industry. You can read more on his life here.

September 7, 2005 at 12:31 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


SARS WAR, the lo-fi zombie comedy from Thailand you've all been waiting forThanks to Wise Kwai's Thai Cinema page for pointing out that not only are the Firecracker folks putting on a big, fat buffet of Asian movies right this minute, but they're also reviewing a bunch of Thai films and interviewing Yuthlert Sippapak, director of KILLER TATTOO, and the new PATTAYA MANIAC.

Their current reviews include: BORN TO FIGHT, and SARS WAR, the lo-fi zombie comedy from Thailand you've all been waiting for.

Director Taweewat promises that his next film will be about a giant sperm attacking Bangkok, but after the production company behind SARS WAR vanished into oblivion let's hope someone has given his worthy new project a new home.

September 7, 2005 at 12:26 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Sammi ChengUh-oh, we all saw this coming: Stanley Kwan directed Maggie Cheung in the classic CENTRE STAGE and his latest film, EVERLASTING REGRET, stars Sammi Cheng, who has been fighting a storm of negative publicity that mostly deals with the fact that she may have gone stark, raving mad during the shoot. Now Stanley is saying that he thinks Sammi is the new Maggie.

But...but...the old Maggie is still alive. (click the pic for more Cheng)

September 7, 2005 at 12:21 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Well, not really a riot, but the park is revamping after being open for a shakedown week. Sunday was a charity day and the park hit its capacity of around 30,000 visitors. The lines were long, the people were angry, the people were hungry. With two big holidays coming up, HK Financial Secretary Henry Tsang is meeting with Mickey, Goofy and the gang to figure out ways to make it better.

They've added 187 immigration officers at the border for Mainland guests, added 20 food carts and 600 more seats to the restaurants, they're extending the operating hours and limiting the number of daily tickets that can be sold to 15,000.

So let me get this straight: the park's capacity is supposed to be 30,000/day. But they're hitting capacity, it's not working, so now they're going to halve the amount of tickets that can be sold?

It sounds like Uncle Walt didn't do his marketing studies.

September 7, 2005 at 12:12 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 06, 2005


Korea's Pusan Film Festival is the big, 800lb gorilla of the Asian film fests, and it just announced 307 movies for its 10th Anniversary Edition (Oct. 6 - 14). There will be a retro of Lee Man-Hee, Peter Greenaway will be a guest, the judges include Abbas Kiarostami, Mika Kaurismaki and Lee Hye-Young and it'll feature the premiere of Sabu's HOLD UP DOWN and the premiere of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's mummy movie, THE LOFT.

September 6, 2005 at 12:07 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


A single glimpse of his awfulness has been known to kill the elderly and small children.If you've seen a Bollywood movie then you have, unfortunately, seen Johnny Lever.

With his shiny curls, his long, tapering, constantly squirming fingers, his screeching voice and his rubbery face, a single glimpse of his awfulness has been known to kill the elderly and small children.

Yet this man is the most popular comedian in India. Like Martin Lawrence, or Rob Schneider, he's one of those people who is cast in comedies not because he's particularly funny, but because he's been in other comedies and the producers figure, "Why not? Someone must like him." Although I suspect the awful truth is that no one likes him.

If you've seen a Bollywood movie then you have, unfortunately, seen Johnny LeverIn this interview with the Terrifying Mr. Lever he says that his talent was given to him at birth and that he's such a gifted mimic that "I once spoke with an African man for 30 minutes in his language without knowing it and he had no idea I didn’t know a word."

Dear god in heaven.

September 6, 2005 at 12:00 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


Yep. Tuesday morning. Asian films still rule the world.
From Hong Kong: they're holding fancy receptions to celebrate the fact that Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS and Peter Chan's PERHAPS LOVE are the opening and closing films of the Venice Film Festival.

From Japan: Takeshi Kitano's TAKESHIS' is the "surprise last minute addition" to the Venice Film Festival and while Kitano says "Today I saw the film again and it's terrible." he's taken home the Golden Lion and the "Best Director" awards from Venice before, so he may do it again, given the rapturous reception it's receiving.Today I saw the film again and it's terrible

From Korea: Park Chan-Wook's SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE received a 5 minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival.

Yep. Tuesday morning. Asian films still rule the world.

September 6, 2005 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Petchtai Wongkamlao, aka Mum Jok Mok, aka Dirty BallsPetchtai Wongkamlao, aka Mum Jok Mok, aka Dirty Balls, is best known to Westerners as the funny little guy in ONG BAK, but in Thailand he's a major filmmaking force. He appeared in KILLER TATTOO, ONG BAK, and just about every movie of note that Thailand put out (this year he appeared in HOLY MAN and DUMBER HEROES and was paid for his work with a case of beer). His directorial debut, THE BODYGUARD, is a relentlessly stone-faced takedown of action movie cliches that wields more manic pressure per square inch than anything since Stephen Chow's mid-90's comedy kamikaze attacks on common sense.

His next film is a send-up of Thai musical comedies of the 60's and 70's called HELLO YASOTHON. You can read a synopsis here, or go to the trailer here.

Best of all, ol' Dirty Balls is working on a sequel to THE BODYGUARD and he wants to make a historical epic, "like TROY...but still a comedy, of course."

September 6, 2005 at 11:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Reports are popping up on the message boards (like this one here or this one here) that while the Region 1 ONG BAK DVD claims to have three subtitle tracks, it does in fact have two. There's a set of Spanish subtitles and a set of Closed Captioning English subtitles but no regular English subtitles.

This doesn't seem like a big deal to you, but wait until you try to watch a movie where every sound ("man singing", "punches thrown" "techno music") appears in the subtitles. It will scar your mind and sear your soul.

The GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE DVD had the same problem and they ultimately had to all be recalled. Notice that both companies initially responded to consumer complaints by blaming the victim (Dreamworks claimed that this wasn't a problem, just an indication of how much they loved their hearing impaired customers; Fox is blaming the problem on people who don't know how to properly turn on their subtitles the Fox way).

September 6, 2005 at 11:51 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 02, 2005


THE CONSTANT GARDENERSepia Mutiny has a scorching analysis of Archie Panjabi's treatment in every critics' darling, THE CONSTANT GARDENER, followed by a real life look at a Pakistani femme fatale infiltrating the British High Commission in Islamabad using...gasp!...sex.

Panjabi played the older sister in BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM but SM regrets she's little more than a "desi Tonto" in GARDENER, and they point out that they don't even spell her name right in the credits.

September 2, 2005 at 12:33 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Fox Searchlight has picked up the rights to Deepa Mehta's controversial, riot-inducing flick, WATERFox Searchlight has picked up the rights to Deepa Mehta's controversial, riot-inducing flick, WATER, which will kick of this year's Toronto Film Festival. I'm not a big Deepa Mehta fan, but any movie that takes five years to make, has to hide under a phony title to avoid violence, and gets this many people this upset has to be deserving of at least a look.

Expect Fox to play up the controversy angle when they get around to releasing this one.

Go here for a pretty gripping article by a camera assistant on WATER about the violence surrounding the film. And hey! Look over there: it's a mob going to burn down the set.

September 2, 2005 at 12:30 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


ScreenDaily says that it's now confirmed that Zhang Yimou's next movie will not only start shooting in February 2006, but that its title is not AUTUMN REMEMBRANCE and it is not about the empress, Wu Zetian. It is, however, a period piece, and it will star Chow Yun-fat and reunite Zhang Yimou with Muse Number One: Gong Li.

September 2, 2005 at 12:26 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston's production company, Plan B, is interested in remake rights to Singapore's hit horror flick THE MAIDBrad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston's production company, Plan B, is already producing THE DEPARTED - Martin Scorsese's remake of INFERNAL AFFAIRS.

Now Plan B is reportedly interested in remake rights to Singapore's hit horror flick, THE MAID. Given that the movie is about a Filipino maid becoming entangled in unfamiliar Chinese supernatural folklore I'm not sure what angle an American remake can take.

Oh, wait, it could be a nice American girl who becomes a maid for a Singaporean family (?!?) and gets terrorized by ooky Chinese traditions and folklore. Ah, the racist angle. Kewl!

September 2, 2005 at 12:21 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Kung Fu Cult Cinema reports that Stanley Kwan's EVERLASTING REGRET is cleared to go to Venice (and then Toronto) by the Mainland Chinese censors. Kwan says that the changes they insisted on did not involve actual cuts in the movie but instead they wanted some titles re-written, but he also seems to suggest that he did re-edit some of the film while waiting for approval. Now Kwan can lock the final sound mix and edit, just in time for the movie's Sept. 8 premiere at Venice.

September 2, 2005 at 12:18 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


THE GREAT YOKAI WAR will premiere at TorontoWhat's up with Takashi Miike? He's gone from being an outsider V-cinema director, to being a festival fave directing warped little sickies, and now he's refashioned himself as a family friendly director. First came ZEBRAMAN, his all-ages superhero flick with Miike regular, Sho Aikawa, in the role of his career as a superhero fan who's the earth's last defense against aliens.

Now he's back with THE GREAT YOKAI WAR which will premiere at Toronto. Miike gets all goblin-licious in this wild yarn about a kid who has to go up Goblin Mountain and get a magic sword. This is not the Miike who flooded the world with breast milk in VISITOR Q. That said, Mark Schilling at the Japan Times writes that it ain't all bad and is, in fact, pretty entertaining.

Miike also spent the summer directing episodes of Ultraman Max, the Ultraman TV series (other directors include Shusuke Kaneko of GAMERA fame - and check out the lousy new GAMERA movie and see the depths of suckiness to which the franchise has fallen without Kaneko on board) and now Miike is hard at work directing the new Ultraman feature film, ULTRA Q.

September 2, 2005 at 12:16 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


The SEVEN SWORDS DVD will have English subs and be the 153 minute versionTwitch is reporting that the online listings for the SEVEN SWORDS DVD (released September 30) will have English subs and be the 153 minute version. Yep, it's the 2 1/2 hour flick, not Tsui's promised 4 HOUR version.

Screen Daily has posted a review here that sez: ignore the movie, watch the action.

And Variety has also posted a review that sez: it's good here and there, but too long, too confusing and it ain't no BLADE.

SEVEN SWORDS opened the Venice Film Festival Wednesday with fireworks spelling out its title, and so far it's made US$10 million in China and about US$1 million in HK.

September 2, 2005 at 12:04 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005


Lee Myung-Se's THE DUELIST set a record for a sale to JapanFive million dollars. Five. Million. Dollars. That's how much Lee Myung-Se's THE DUELIST made for a sale to Japan. That's the highest price ever paid in Japan for a Korean movie, and it may be explained by Japan's current mania for Korean TV dramas and the face that the star of THE DUELIST is Ha Ji-Won from TAMO, a Korean TV drama which the movie is somewhat associated with (in both, Ha plays a female detective in ancient Korea).

Read a review of the flick here. It opens on Sept. 8 in Korea and, reportedly, Japan.

September 1, 2005 at 10:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Ever wonder how much it costs to buy a Korean movie?Ever wonder how much it costs to buy a Korean movie? Well now you can know by looking here.

SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE set a record with its US$400,000 sale to the US (to Tartan, I believe).

Kim Ki-Duk's SPRING,SUMMER,ETC. was a bargain for Sony at only US$70,000 (it went on to earn a few million), whereas TUBE was bought for US$300,000 (sucker!), THE WAY HOME went for US$230,000 and OLDBOY cost US$200,000 (which seems awful low given its pedigree).

September 1, 2005 at 10:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Apparently the Thai film industry is experiencing a crisisApparently the Thai film industry is experiencing a "crisis" according to the Culture Minister, Tipawadee Meksawan, who wants to "inject new life into the dying industry" according to this Bangkok Post story.

They plan to create a department that will be like Korea's KOFIC to spread the joy of Thai movies around the world. But what's the crisis? I know THE TIN MINE didn't perform up to expectations, and TOM YUM GOONG keeps getting bad reviews (but that's not stopping it from making a zillion baht), but does anyone know what's going on to warrant the alarm?

Things look good from a creative standpoint with the World Film Festival Bangkok announcing that it's going to try to use the American ratings system this year hoping that if the experiment is successful maybe the Culture Ministry will think about setting up the ratings system in Thailand, allowing filmmakers to tackle more controversial topics (except for religious topics and stories about the monarchy, which the assistant director of the festival agrees might need censoring; of course, this is the guy who one paragraph earlier says that violent films can lead children into behavior like drugs! And crime!). The festival itself doesn't seem particularly Thai Film friendly yet as it hasn't announced a single Thai film in its line-up (besides an Apichatpong Weerjasethakul short - of course they've also only announced one Asian film, Tsai Ming-liang's porn-musical THE WAYWARD CLOUD).

So where's the fire? Anyone? Bueller?

September 1, 2005 at 10:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)