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November 29, 2005


Thepromise So most of the big deal holiday movies have already announced their release dates and press screenings. I know when the screenings are of KING KONG, MUNICH, CASANOVA pretty much all the big flicks. But as for Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE, I haven't heard a word. Supposedly it'll be released world wide on Dec. 16 by the Weinstein Company, but it's getting late to put together a press push.

I also noticed that the Weinstein Co. held a test screening of the movie last night at the Loews on 11th Street in NYC. The movie now seems to be officially called MASTER OF THE CRIMSON ARMOR and they managed to round up a big bunch of folks for the screening. If you were there, I'd love to hear from you.

Still, it's a little late to do a test screening, especially if you decide to make changes.

It looks to me like someone's getting cold feet.

November 29, 2005 at 07:29 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (10)


Pinkyviolence There is no forbidden fruit more intoxicating than Japanese female exploitation flicks from the '60s and '70s. Just thinking about them gets me dizzy. From the deep-dipped visual fireworks of FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41, to the soul-abrading CARMEN FROM KAWACHI by the incomparable Suzuki Seijun, these movies find freedom in the razor-blade stares, eyeliner-caked eyes, and outrageously shocking short shorts of their lead actresses.

When I heard about Panik House’s PINKY VIOLENCE COLLECTION it sounded like the best idea I’d heard in a long time.

I tremble just thinking about a DVD box set packed with everything I think of when I think of '60s Japanese girl gang pictures: zazzy zooms, topless catfights, classroom knifings, vengeance castration in the hot pink back room of a go-go joint. You know, the usual. But the four movies here are a lot more stylistically conservative than one would think, definitely not in the same league as FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41, and two of them are only so-so. Two phenomenal flicks out of four isn’t bad but when you’re dealing with a pink vinyl box called THE PINKY VIOLENCE COLLECTION, that may not be quite good enough. Fortunately, the two movies that deliver deliver like UPS: fast and sexy.

Starting with a scream, TERRIFYING GIRLS’ HIGH SCHOOL – LYNCH LAW CLASSROOM is a high school end times chronicle that opens with death by blood donation and ends with a full scale riot featuring plenteous teargas-smogged schoolgirl on riot cop action. Directed by Norifumi Suzuki who also directed the “not my cup of tea” SEX & FURY, this flick is a high school drama gone deeply wrong. The “School of Hope” is a stained humping post for the perverted old men who hand out the diplomas, but the student-run Disciplinary Committee is the real danger. These gimlet-eyed upper grade women are murderers, torturers, closet lesbians, and literally bloodthirsty guardians of school spirit. But their sins come back to haunt them and everything can only be resolved by revolutionary action. An intoxicating brew of '60s sleaze and solidarity this is the best movie in the box and will reward every one of your viewing minutes ten-fold.

Giving TERRIFYING GIRLS’ HIGH SCHOOL – LYNCH LAW CLASSROOM a run for its money as the leader of the pack is CRIMINAL WOMAN – KILLING MELODY which doesn’t feature many melodies but does feature heaps of killing, and one tuff criminal woman who dishes it out. It's also so similar to Park Chan-Wook’s SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE that if Japanese movies hadn’t been banned in Korea until recently I would have suspected that Park crafted his recent critic-tickling flick as a modern day response to Atsushi Mihori’s 1973 revenger.

Gorgon-eyed Reiko Ike goes to prison for trying to take out the boss of Oba Industries because he killed her dad whom she didn’t like anyways, but still he’s her dad, you know, so she's gotta make the effort. She gets caught and sent to prison, meets some co-conspirators, gets out wearing natty fashions and with her hair in a fierce ‘do and then teams up with her gal pals to turn the crank on her precision revenge machine, oiled and greased with the sweaty juices of her black, black heart.

Sound familiar?

Unlike Park’s movie, which puts the focus firmly on a thoughtful examination of whether revenge is worthwhile or not, director Mihori declares revenge the worthiest of endeavors practically from the first frame and spends the rest of the movie pressing the pedal to the metal. The one thematic concern he slows down to linger over is endurance: endurance of torture, making sure your hate endures long incarceration, and enduring one of the longest, grottiest knife fights in the history of women-in-prison movies. It all winds up being an unlikely whiff of girl power and far more narratively satisfying than LYNCH LAW CLASSROOM, while being stylistically more sedate. But it’s got plenty of pretty poison for every viewer.

Historically the first of Toei’s pinky violence films, DELINQUENT GIRL BOSS – WORTHLESS TO CONFESS is a by-the-numbers film that has a hypno-center that keeps you watching despite your better judgement. It could be the movie’s finely-tuned sense of melodrama, or its relentless piling up of incidents leading to an inevitable bloodbath, but I think it’s lead actress Reiko Oshida’s unbeatable charisma that keeps this movie watchable. A long-limbed, lopsided Amazon, Oshida carries this entire movie around on her broad shoulders and doesn’t show the strain for a minute.

Coming out of reform school and settling in with the estranged father of one of the really bad girls she bunked with, Oshida comes across as fresh as a flower no matter how many times she’s on the wrong end of the pounding fists of yakuza thugs. In its last third this stingy movie finally cuts loose with the action and makes up for the relatively sedate pace of the previous reels. Full disclosure: I did shed a tear during the touching reunion of the reformatory school girls at the end as they get ready to slice and dice the knuckle-draggers who’ve made their lives a living hell. It was like reading a really good “American Girls” book only with more violence.

GIRL BOSS GUERILLA has the opposite problem: a rad beginning but an ass-dragging end. The insanely intense Miki Sugimoto is the leader of the Red Helmets, a female bike gang that heads for the supposedly soft-touch paradise of Kyoto. Once there they discover that Kyoto already has a girl bike gang of its own and outrageous insults and drawn-out catfights ensue.

Unfortunately, just as things are settling into a satisfying groove, director Norifumi Suzuki decides that what we want to see is these two gangs make peace. And worse than that, he saddles Miki with a boyfriend. This punch-drunk lug is a loser boxer looking for his big break and, as in DELINQUENT GIRL BOSS – WORTHLESS TO CONFESS, the addition of a bit of man meat only serves to make our female barracudas sluggish and boring.

Towards the end, Suzuki ditches the love story trappings for gruesome torture, but it’s too late. By that point I was totally off the movie thanks to the lame-o love story and I struggled through to the end out of a sense of duty. I love you, Miki. I hate you, Boxer Man.

Each of the movies come with bios and audio commentaries from a variety of Japanese film loving round eyes, like journalist Andy Klein, some of the folks at Panik House and Chris D. of the American Cinematheque. These guys are all delighted to be watching these movies, and are entertaining talkers, but the amount of information they convey isn’t great, and most of it is already covered in the disc’s bio info. I also have to say that Chris D and I parted ways when I was dipping in and out of his audio commentary for Norifumi Suzuki’s SEX & FURY and, during a scene when star Reiko Ike had been tied up topless and was being severely beaten, I heard him say, “It’s amazing how Reiko Ike keeps her dignity in these movies.” Dude, what planet are you on? There’s all kinds of different ways to watch these films, but I don’t need to defend my enjoyment of them by pretending that the half-naked, tortured actresses are somehow monuments to female empowerment. At times they can be, but in a movie like SEX & FURY which uses every opportunity to strip and mutilate its lead actresses I just don’t see it.

Anyways, crawling off my soapbox, the commentaries are fine, but you’re here for the movies.

Packed in pinky vinyl and with extensive liner notes (aggressively formatted so that they look like pages out of the late, unlamented “Raygun” magazine) written by Chris D, the PINKY VIOLENCE COLLECTION may not be something you wanna show your mama but it’s worth owning. 

THE PINKY VIOLENCE COLLECTION from Panik House Entertainment has been delayed until Dec. 6 but sources deep within the company confirm that nothing can stop this barrage of vintage 60’s sleaze from spilling out onto the world on the 6th. The Box is complete, now it just needs to be opened.

(And check out the price over at Amazon! The set is marked around $100 but they’ve got it for just over $50. Go, go Cyber Monday!)

November 29, 2005 at 07:22 PM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)


Jetandwife I like Jet Li. Seriously, I do. But when someone becomes an international mega-star it's often convenient for them to rewrite their history. Inconvenient details like first marriages, ditching your home country, and career failure wind up going in the dustbin of history and instead you do everything possible to make yourself look like some young godling who was destined for the heavens at birth.

Well, it looks like Jet Li is getting tired of leaving out big parts of his life, and he's talking about his first marriage to Huang Qiuyan. On the Chinese TV show "Life of Art" Jet describes this marriage:

"My family was poor. Her family was well-off. She often took care of me. That's how it happened. I didn't know what love was."

So romantic! My head is spinning!

At least he admits that he was a cad.

"In terms of how much emotion each person devoted, she maybe gave 90 percent or 80 percent. At most I gave ... I still haven't figured out."

Jet and Huang met on the set of Jet's second film KIDS FROM SHAOLIN (1983) and got married in 1988. Huang made such an impression on Jet that not once in his essays about his first three movies does he mention her. On his website he talks at great length about his movies and while he discusses taking baths, fighting with Lau Kar-leung, diving into ice cold rivers and the weather, he doesn't really think meeting the mother of his kids is all that important. Doesn't mention it once. According to Jet the best part about making KIDS FROM SHAOLIN wasn't getting some nookie but cooking eggs on the superheated ground.

The Shaolin craze sparked by SHAOLIN TEMPLE died out pretty fast with the next two Shaolin films (KIDS FROM SHAOLIN and MARTIAL ARTS OF SHAOLIN) doing only so-so business and Jet and Huang moved to San Francisco in 1988 where they had two daughters and tried to break into Hollywood (he's a US Green Card holder to this day, and I believe he still keeps a home in San Francisco). The result of all this effort was a couple of pieces of lo-value junk: THE MASTER and DRAGON FIGHT. They're poor movies in every sense of the word, but on DRAGON FIGHT, Jet met Nina Li Chi, a Hong Kong actress whom he left his wife for. (And on THE MASTER he fights Tae-Bo shill, Billy Blanks. But he didn't leave his wife for him.)

Nina was already in movies with Chow Yun-fat (THE SEVENTH CURSE and the upcoming TIGER ON BEAT) who was huge at the time, and she had PEDICAB DRIVER with Sammo Hung on the horizon (Sammo was always a big deal on the action side of the Hong Kong film biz). Mercenary, or loverboy, Jet Li jumped ship. He divorced Huang in 1990 ("When we parted, we were really like friends," he says. Uh-huh), went back to Hong Kong and starred in Tsui Hark's ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA and became the star he probably always figured he was supposed to be. So goodbye past, goodbye failed marriage and goodbye career slump.

But if Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that you can ditch your past all you want but eventually there's going to be a television special and it'll all come crawling back up out of the grave, hungry for the taste of your success.

November 29, 2005 at 07:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


According to Chen Hong, Chen Kaige's wife (and producer of THE PROMISE), some big Broadway muckety mucks are flying over to China to discuss putting a musical version of Chen's THE PROMISE on the Big White Way.

It's good to have dreams, but before anyone gets too excited about seeing the big tap dance number "I Slice You in Half (Reprise)" I have to be the bringer of bummers and remind folks that the last time anyone tried something like this it was called BOMBAY DREAMS and those investors are still explaining to their kids where the college money went.

November 29, 2005 at 06:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Sneakpeeks If you haven't seen them yet, HelloZiyi is hosting a bunch of stills (and some footage) from the upcoming Yuen Wo-ping/Zhang Ziyi HAMLET adaptation, THE BANQUET. That's one of them on the right. I forget which part of HAMLET features freaky-looking mimes but I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

There's a new trailer up for BRAVE STORY, the Fuji TV animated feature that's coming out next summer, and it's looking better and better.

Mark Schilling reviews the two new J-horror movies - BOOTH and SHIZUE - in the Japan Times and *surprise* doesn't think that much of either one of them.

Finally, a trailer is up for the American remake of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's PULSE and it looks like it entirely misses the point. However, Jason Buchanan over on the Mobius Home Video Forum has identified a shot in the trailer that's been swiped from the original movie. You can see a frame grab from the US trailer here and a nearly identical frame grab from the original PULSE here. Homage or laziness...you be the judge.

November 29, 2005 at 06:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 28, 2005


Cyber_speakingimagesWhoa, it's Cyber Monday...a prefabricated "magic day" designed to make you more amenable to taking money from your pocket and putting it in the pockets of people who run dodgy on-line businesses. Please send me $20 immediately, and no excuses like you're waiting for Cyber Tuesday. It's Cyber Monday and you have to do it.

I would also like to use this moment to make a correction to a previous post. While reviewing Michael Berry's excellent Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers I said that it cost around $65. That's true of the hardcover version, but the paperback costs a mere $24.95 (or $24.50 if you get it at Amazon).

We're sending magic emails to the winners of free copies tomorrow, and they're all going to be bummed to discover their prize has already been devalued by $40. That's life.

November 28, 2005 at 12:10 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Screendaily has recently added Chinese and Hong Kong production news to their International Production Listings, and it's like uncovering a chest of pirates booty, only without the whole being killed by living dead pirate skeletons wielding blood-stained cutlasses part.

To_2 Besides learning that the Pang Brothers are still desperately trying to squeeze more box office blood from the horror movie stone (two horror flicks in pre-production, one in post) we also have the encouraging news that there is an avalanche of movies spilling out of Milkyway Image, the home of Johnnie To.

ELECTION 2 - looks like it just finished shooting in November. The plot introduces the triad heroes of the first film to the one force bigger, badder and more corrupt than they are: the Chinese government.

MOURNING FOR THE BREAST - Miriam Yeung and Richie Jen just started shooting this breast cancer comedy. Uh, a comedy? To is producing and Law Wing-cheong is directing.

SHOPAHOLICS - Milkyway's Chinese New Year's release (Jan/Feb 2006) plops To's creative collaborator, Wai Ka-fai, behind the camera and Lau Ching-wan, Cecilia Cheung and Jordan Chan in front of it. No info on the story.

EYE IN THE SKY - only in pre-production, this is a To-produced action flick about the Hong Kong cops starring the ELECTION team of Simon Yam and Tony Leung Kar-fai, and directed by writer Yau Nai-hoi.

The ghost of THE MISSION rears its head in the two following flicks, both listed as "in production":

THE SPARROW - Johnnie To's intricately choreographed Simon Yam/Kelly Lin pickpocket movie which has been shooting off and on since April, 2005 and is slated to end this year. Read this plot description and tell me this doesn't sound like a slick, minimal flick in the vein of THE MISSION:
"They are known as the “sparrows” which is Hong Kong street slang for “pickpockets”. They work in a group lifting wallets from unsuspecting tourists until one day an irresistible woman of unknown origin appears before them, requesting the gang to steal a key for her. The set-up begins to unravel itself when the mission is completed. The pickpockets realise this exotic beauty has been slowly leading them onto a path of no return."

And, finally, big news:

EXILED - the sequel to THE MISSION just started shooting on Nov. 12. It's got a big budget (US$5 million; To's average budget seems to clock in at about US$3 million) and it stars Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Richie Jen and Nick Cheung. Here's the plot description:
"Two gangsters from Hong Kong sent to execute a renegade in Macau are faced off with two former comrades trying to protect him. While the four gangsters are negotiating, a fifth gangster appears out of nowhere and takes the renegade out. A final showdown ensues amongst the five gangsters."

All I have to say is: Go, go, Johnnie To!

November 28, 2005 at 09:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Tsui3 Tsui Hark is always talking about upcoming projects that never come to fruition or that get cannibalized into other forms, but let's pretend that's not true so that we can say that his next announced project is THE WHITE PHOENIX, produced by Peter Loehr (a Beijing-based producer who produced Zhang Yang's recent flicks and is CAA's man in China).

The movie synopsis reads:

"An Imperial Magistrate is sent to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the Crown Prince. As he faces danger from assassins, pirates, corrupt officials and ruthless businessmen in Tang Dynasty Guangzhou, Judge Dee only discovers what he’s up against once he reaches the chaotic southern Port City."

There's no cast or other details, except for that name, Judge Dee. Will this be the big screen version of China's famous Tang Dynasty judge/detective, Judge Dee, who's best known as the hero of Dutch diplomat Rober van Gulik's series of Judge Dee mysteries?

The flick is in pre-production now, with filming scheduled to start in early 2006.

November 28, 2005 at 09:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Peter Chan's PERHAPS LOVE made its North American premiere over the weekend, and even won an award. How'd that happen? It happened in utmost secrecy at the Queens International Film Festival where PERHAPS LOVE picked up the "Best Foreign Film" award as Xinhua crows, "...beating out five other nominees." Of course, the fact that those five nominees were actually four nominees and they were the lightweights PAHELI (India), THE LAND HAS EYES (Fiji), LOVELORN (Turkey) and A WONDERFUL NIGHT IN SPLIT (Croatia) is just an annoying reality check that only a real killjoy would mention.

Meanwhile, Cambodia is just about to spring its 2nd Annual Film Festival, and 9 of the 22 entries are horror movies. This didn't sit well with the Prime Minister who, in his opening speech at the festival, said Cambodian filmmakers will only succeed if they choose subjects  "more relevant to reality in Cambodia." And that's a whole different kind of horror movie.

Anyone who knows anything about Cambodian horror movies, sing out and share your brain with the rest of us.

November 28, 2005 at 09:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)


Leestatue2Leestatue1The beatings came fast and furious over the past week.

  Bosnia beat Hong Kong to the Bruce Lee punch by unveiling their Bruce Lee statue one day before Hong Kong whipped the cloth off theirs. The Bosnian statue was smaller (and shinier) but it was the first so hooray for Bosnia. Unfortuantely, a few hours later, "hooligans" stole one of the statue's nunchuks. As a bystander said, "Once again we've shown what Balkan savageness is!"

Meanwhile, Disney is playing "Hide the Numbers" with the majority stakeholder in Hong Kong Disneyland: the Hong Kong government. Some SCMP reporters stood by the gate and counted admissions to the park, coming up with numbers just over 10,000 which is a far cry from the 15,000/day number the park needs to fulfill financial expectations. Disney said it wasn't going to reveal their numbers to anyone because it was proprietary information. However, they finally relented and said that the park has had 1 million admissions in 100 days, which still averages out at about 10,000 visitors per day. Even worse, critics are saying that this 1 million number includes the park's pre-opening phase (before the Sept. 12 grand opening) when heavily discounted and free tickets were given away like candy in a Halloween parade.

Humanity received a crushing blow as the world's least-anticipated sequel, RUSH HOUR 3, was greenlit with Chris Tucker making $20 million and Jackie Chan making $15 million.

And, finally, it looks like no one can stop the upcoming release of the giggle-inducing Bollywood remake of Korea's OLDBOY, ZINDA. Despite threats from the Korean producers, the movie's website went live over the weekend, offering up further damning evidence that ZINDA isn't just inspired by OLDBOY but is a frame-for-frame copy with worse wigs and more musical numbers.

November 28, 2005 at 09:08 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


How come Saddam Hussein lips off to his guards about walking up four flights of stairs and it's international news, but when Jackie Chan warns Asians everywhere that Hollywood is coming to kill their children and implant microchips in their brains no one cares?

It could be because this is just one in a long line of recent "Jackie, please sit down and hush up before the few microns of cartilage left in your knees evaporates" statements from Jack-o (if you just woke up: Jackie on how the Hong Kong film industry isn't good enough, Jackie on how mean the press in Hong Kong is, Jackie on how lame Chinese audiences are) or it could just be because most of the world doesn't care that much about Jackie Chan anymore.

In true in depth Kaiju Shakedown fashion, however, let's delve into this topic and plumb its depths. Let's dissect Jackie's statements for meaning just like how we dissected poetry and frogs in college.

Jackie, in an interview with the Times of India, says, "Asians should unite against American cinema." Okay, can't argue with that.

Then he says: "Why do we need to ape their culture? I see an Indian saying 'Yo Man!' but that's not what Asians are about."
I hear you! I see an American ordering General Tso's chicken and I wanna be all, "That's not what America is about" too!

So now Jackie has his opponent reeling and he knows that this is the time to deliver a devastating verbal spin kick to the head and put his enemy on the floor. Hence:
"Cinema reflects culture and there is no harm in adapting technology, but not at the cost of losing your originality."

Oh, no, you didn't! Did he just say "originality"? Did the recently-signed star of the $600 billion RUSH HOUR 3, the star of THE ACCIDENTAL SPY, FIRST STRIKE, THE TUXEDO and WHO AM I? just say "originality"?

Wacky_jones Confused, I turned to the number one source of news about Jackie Chan: Jackie Chan's Kids Corner. But Jackie is no longer speaking on this website and his Golden Retriever, Jones, is handling questions instead. What does Jones have to say on this matter?

"Hello, my name is Jones. I am a Golden Retriever and I live with Jackie and his family in Hong Kong."

Yes, Jones, but will Jackie be able to put a positive spin on all the negative press he's been getting lately?
"I know that some of you out there are Jones fans and I want to make a place to visit with you."

Sure, sure, Jones, but Jackie's films seem increasingly bereft of new ideas. On the one hand he doesn't seem to have the lock on the Asian market that he used to, while on the other hand he seems to feel more and more uncomfortable with his lucrative but unfulfilling work in Hollywood. What can he do? Is there a third path for Jackie's career to take?
"I hope that you like my new clubhouse."

Oh, Jones...

November 28, 2005 at 08:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 22, 2005


The Quicktime trailer for Takeshi Shimizu's new movie, REINCARNATION, is up and it is totally crazed. Listen to those announcer's voices. I have no clue what they're saying but they sure sound excited. I'm not sure if the world needs another J-horror film, but...but...but, well, it's Takeshi Shimizu.

November 22, 2005 at 07:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Just like they did with Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS, Euro-distributor Fortissimo has latched onto Jacob Cheung's Andy Lau epic, A BATTLE OF WISDOM. This is the fifth or sixth name for this movie, based on an animated series, about an ancient Chinese kingdom repelling invaders with the help of photogenic Andy. Fortissimo will produce (the budget stands at US$16 million) and handle international sales.

Invisiblewaves_web_1In other Fortissimo news, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's INVISIBLE WAVES (starring Tadanobu Asano and Eric Tsang), will not be completed in Jan/Feb 2006 as previously reported. Now it looks like it's got a March 1, 2006 completion date.

November 22, 2005 at 07:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Although lots of people are salivating over the shot-in-Thailand, Amitabh Bachchan flick, EK AJNABEE, which is a remake of MAN ON FIRE, there's one more Bollywood action movie starring the Big B before the end of the year, and it actually looks a lot better.

FamilyFAMILY stars Amitabh Bachchan as a crime boss who has two families - one which doesn't want anything to do with him and one which is his offical family with wife and kid. There's a trailer here and with all the slow zooms in on Amitabh looking as iconic and craggy as a stone idol unearthed in the deepest jungle, and some of the hospital action this has moved to the top of my "looking forward to" list for Bollywood.

November 22, 2005 at 07:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Casshern_1 2004's Japanese brain-burner, CASSHERN (trailer is here), was a must have for a lot of sci fi fans, and it's been available on DVD for a while (and is definitely worth seeing), but after Dreamworks subsidiary, Go Fish, picked it up in late 2004 it appeared to vanish down a dark hole.

So almost one year later, what's happened to CASSHERN? There's been some rumblings that it'll be released theatrically in the US in 2006, but why so long? Apparently, Go Fish is cutting a new version of the film for the American market. Before you cringe too hard, this is a flick that could use some a bit of cutting (although not too much, it's psychedelic story is part of its appeal), and the cut is being supervised by director, Kazuaki Kiriya.

November 22, 2005 at 07:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 21, 2005


The folks at Columbia University Press want you to read Michael Berry's fabu new book "Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers" but it's got a stiff price tag ($65!!!).

So to make you happy, they've given Kaiju Shakedown ten copies of the book to give away.

Holy cow!

All you have to do to win a book is answer this question:

a) Monkeys
b) Robots
c) Ninjas
d) Monkey-operated robot ninjas
e) Sharks

Send your answer in an email to pandashine@yahoo.com with "Kaiju Shakedown" in the subject line and I will pick the winner and announce the 10 lucky people who get a brand new $65 book next week. Then I'll mail it to you! That's incredible!

November 21, 2005 at 05:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Michael Berry's Speaking in ImagesMichael Berry is a translator and an assistant professor of Chinese Cultural Studies at UC Santa Barbara. Already you have enough info to write him off as an irrelevant egghead, composing knotty sentences full of big words that absolutely no one can understand, like some kind of deviant, academic demon.

It just ain't so.

He's just written a book "Speaking in Images" that is the best book of interviews with Chinese directors that I've ever read. Well, at least since Miles Wood wrote "Cine East". The best thing English-speakers can read about Asian film are interviews. Academic and historical articles are all well and good, but for the monolingual amongst us there's nothing more valuable than interviews with these filmmakers because there's no other way to know what it is they're trying to say with their movies. And the problem is that there just aren't enough good books of interviews.

But "Speaking in Images" goes a long way to rectifying that. While I wish Berry had ranged a little further afield in his selection of interview subjects, the interviews with Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and Ang Lee are the best I've ever read. Clocking in at 20 - 40 pages each, these interviews can get bitchy and mean, and the directors are pretty blunt about which of their films they can't stand to watch, and they dish up plenty of behind-the-scenes gossip.

Split into three sections - Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong - the book covers the following filmmakers:

Mainland China


Hong Kong

While I want to see more emphasis on the mainstream directors, these interviews are still pretty great and I found myself absorbed by the Wu Nien-Jen interview, which I really had zero interest in.

You can buy the book here and that's about it.

Also, in case you're interested, here's two other books of interviews with Asian filmmakers that I think are invaluable. Feel free to add in other books you like.

CINE EAST by Miles Wood

November 21, 2005 at 05:33 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 18, 2005


That sound you hear is the sound of a dead horse being beaten. Apparently Jackie Chan has joined the cast of KUNG FU PANDA, with Dustin Hoffman, Jack Black and, possibly, Lucy Liu. Black provides the voice of the panda, Hoffman and Chan play his teachers, Master Monkey and Master Viper, and I will provide the vital role of the guy who sits here shaking my head over how quickly Jackie Chan lost all credibility as a filmmaker.

Of course, Dustin Hoffman's creaky martial arts displays in MEET THE FOKKERS looked a little like Jackie does these days, so maybe this is a match made in heaven. Could they be the new Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau team?

November 18, 2005 at 05:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Beat Takeshi vs. Takeshi KitanoJapanese film critic, Casio Abe, has just made his book on Takeshi Kitano available in English. Called "Beat Takeshi vs. Takeshi Kitano" this sexy-looking paperback approaches Kitano's career by contrasting his television career and public image (Beat Takeshi) with his image as a film director and film actor (Takeshi Kitano).

Really exhaustive, Abe's book is also a little exhausting. Full of details, it is also full of passages like the following: "As if to recall VIOLENT COP, which was so much of a 'walking film', SONATINE begins with a scene of Murakawa and Ken walking side by side down the street. However, one gets a completely different impression here than from VIOLENT COP. As I suggested earlier, VIOLENT COP's walking scenes completely strip bare the body of the actor Beat Takeshi. Walking is part of the propulsive force that drives VIOLENT COP forward. In SONATINE, on the other hand, the effect of the initial walking scene could be summarized as 'floating'. In this opening scene, the frame of the film cuts of Murakawa and Ken's feet so that they lie outside the audience's field of vision. This eliminates the sense of power we get from the scenes in VIOLENT COP where the characters tread firmly on the earth."

This can get to be a little much at times, unless you're someone who grooves on Film Studies.

On the other hand, the book is filled with excerpts from Kitano interviews and lots of minor details that fill out the picture of the director who doesn't have nearly enough written about him in English. Flipping through the book you can find enough of this to graze on for a few hours at least. So if you're a Kitano head, and you want more details, this one's for you. For the uninitiated, however, you probably won't get much out of it.

You can buy the book here or read what the good folks at Office Kitano (the fansite) have to say about it here.

November 18, 2005 at 05:18 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)


In an interview with Xinhua, Peter Chan of COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY and PERHAPS LOVE has announced what's tentatively on his plate. First up, he's executive producing the Hollywood remake of THE EYE, starring Renee Zellweger and directed by THE RING's Hideo Nakata.

His Applause Pictures produced the original so this might just be an honorary title, but in the interview Chan says, "If I didn't produce my own work, I would be subjecting my career to others' hands. And in this line, it's three strikes and you're out." So maybe he'll have a more active role than it seems.

But his next film, he says, is a period action film called, for now, ASSASSINATION OF MA, about Chinese politics and conflict in the 1800's.

So let's see, which big name directors have turned to period action films since the major success of HERO?

Chen Kaige - THE PROMISE
Lee Myung-Se - THE DUELIST
Feng Xioagang - THE BANQUET
Jacob Cheung - BATTLE OF WITS

I'm sure I'm missing some, so feel free to chime in. Is wuxia the new J-horror?

November 18, 2005 at 05:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 17, 2005


Johnnie To's ELECTION may not have done well at the Golden Horse Awards last weekend, but it did just squeak past the HK$15 million mark (if my math is right) making it an official Hong Kong hit. Hooray for Johnnie! The US still hasn't picked ELECTION up for distribution, but everyone else in the world has snapped it up (21 countries and counting according to the sales company).

DRAGON SQUAD, the new Sammo Hung film, opened at number 1, but it was a weak opening with a low per screen average; Japan's NANA is still going strong and sitting pretty at number 2. CORPSE BRIDE and INNOCENT STEPS were at 3 and 4, respectively; and ELECTION is down at number 5. But it's performance is almost unheard of for a dark, violent, Category III movie with no major stars.

November 17, 2005 at 06:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Ang Lee vs. Stephen ChowIn a Ming Pao article, Ang Lee expressed surprise that Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE beat out Hou Hsiao-hsien's THREE TIMES and Tsai Ming-liang's WAYWARD CLOUD at this past weekend's Golden Horse Awards. Ang Lee think that Stephen Chow's victory is a surprise since he believes THREE TIMES was a better film than KUNG FU HUSTLE. Lee then said that whereas Tsai and Hou were adults, Chow was just a kid. Then, while Chow was down, he delivered the coup de grace, saying that whereas Hou Hsiao-hsien's movies can make people think, KUNG FU HUSTLE left people feeling empty.

He closed brilliantly by offering Chow a compliment. At least Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE was a box office success.

Ladies and gentlemen: ouch.

(This first appeared in a post in the Kung Fu Cult Cinema forum, but a sharp-eyed reader went back to the source and translated the Chinese again just to make sure there was no mistake in the poster's interpretation of the article. There wasn't.)

November 17, 2005 at 06:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)


Lots of Japanese movies are based on books, and while that’s not so surprising, what is sort of odd is how many of these books are getting released in English. Often without fanfare and without much publicity. One day you're walking through a bookstore, minding your own business, and suddenly there's BATTLE ROYALE the novel, or RING in hardback.

So are they any good?

RING – RING is a much better book than it is a movie. Koji Suzuki was a stay-at-home dad, writing the occasional book on child rearing while his wife taught high school history. Suddenly, out of the blue he got the idea for RING and knocked the novel out in about 3 months. Writers talk about inspiration taking them by surprise, but Suzuki’s unease with what was crawling out of his subconscious is evident on every page. Much more detailed than the movie, with every meal, nap and conversation his characters have meticulously noted, RING the book is all the better for being grounded in minutely, almost mind-numbingly, observed reality. The major difference for readers is that the book's protagonist is a man, not a woman, and his companion in mystery-solving is a possibly-unbalanced pal from college. Published in the US by a company called Vertical this is a really handsome hardback (and it's not too bad a softcover, either). Vertical may not have a big staff, but RING sports a hypno-cover by celeb cover designer, Chip Kidd, and the translation is impeccable.

SPIRAL – as if in reaction to the illogic and madness of RING, this sequel is determined to explain things. What things? Everything. This sequel to RING has absolutely nothing to do with the movie version, RING 2, and reads more like a bizarre journal article in LANCET or the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE. Think a Halloween episode of “ER” or “Quincy” and you're going in the right direction. SPIRAL takes place immediately after RING, with a medical examiner trying to figure out exactly how someone can die from viewing a videotape. The book is determined to come up with a plausible explanation for how the Ring virus works and I’ll be darned if they don’t manage to pull it off. Received wisdom says that the inexplicable is scarier than what we can explain, but the more ooky biology they get into in SPIRAL the worse the situation seems to be. The book’s a fast ride, and a brainy one, but it’s just as compelling as RING and I frankly enjoyed it more since the story was all new to me.

BATTLE ROYALE – if Vertical is a “how to” for publishing Japanese books in the US, then Viz provides us with a “please don't” in BATTLE ROYALE. A first novel by Koushun Takami, BATTLE ROYALE was a hit in Japan even before Kinji Fukasaku adapted it into his film of the same name. Unfortunately, the book is lousy. Clocking in at 616 pages, it covers the same ground as the movie except for a few minor differences. The main difference is that the novel is set in an alternate history version of Japan in which Japan is an authoritarian empire that won World War II. There still isn’t a reasonable explanation for what result the government wants from its “Program” that pits ninth graders against one another in a death-match, but whereas Fukasaku left the motives behind while he raced pell mell towards the finish line, letting emotional intensity cover up the cracks in logic, BATTLE ROYALE the novel is written in the kind of meticulous, overly-descriptive language common to online fan fiction. The book is so lumpily written, and so laborious to read that the experience rapidly becomes unpleasant and it isn’t helped by how badly it’s printed or translated. Spelling and grammar mistakes abound, and even a grammar dunce like me was distracted by blatant misuses of the English language. In an effort to, I assume, fill as few pages as possible, Viz has used extremely tight margins, and starts chapters at the top of the page which does even more damage to your already-endangered reading pleasure. And, if you were wondering what fills these 616 pages, then you'll be unhappy to know that it's mostly backstory. Gobs of backstory. More backstory than any of these two-dimensional characters could possibly warrant.

OUT – this is one of my favorite Japanese movies, and it has never gotten enough attention. When Subway showed it in the 2002 New York Asian Film Festival, audiences were small but they loved it deeply. There were even a couple of Hollywood producers and directors who were going after remake rights but they wound up being denied. Nothing was heard, and then Kodansha brought out a hardcover version of the book: a deep, dark, kind of sick noir by Natsuo Kirino. The book did okay, but not great and while it popped up here and there it seemed destined for obscurity. And then Vintage released a paperback version of OUT and it took off. Press everywhere, and it became a word of mouth hit. Nowadays I see women reading it on the subway and I hear women recommending it to their friends in Starbucks. People pass it along as a gift, always followed by the caveat “This is really good, but a little dark” and it seems to have taken on a new life as a darker, more downbeat alternative to chick lit faves. Kirino is one of Japan’s most popular mystery writers and OUT is a great book that, unfortunately, has a lousy ending. The story of four middle-aged women wrestling with debt, kids, husbands and life while working crummy jobs at a box lunch factory, it’s a deeply detailed, deep dark look at crime down at the bottom of the pond where the scum-eaters dwell, but the last 30 pages takes a wrong turn into head-trip land with a bunch of "I rape you, you rape me" mumbo jumbo. But until then, this impressive slab of a book (in a great translation) is a skeevy, dark story.

November 17, 2005 at 05:29 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2005


Jet Li as a monkMuch has been made about Jet Li's decision to give up martial arts movies in favor of less violent fare, but that doesn't necessarily mean the movies he's making in the future are better. In fact, they might be a whole lot worse.

According to the Shanghai Youth Daily, Jet Li has two projects for 2006: a sequel to his video game, RISE TO HONOR, and A MONK IN NEW YORK.

A MONK IN NEW YORK is a project that Jet Li developed with KISS OF THE DRAGON screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen back in 2001 with Corey Yuen doing the action duties. At the time, Miramax reportedly paid Jet Li $10 million to appear in the film, but later they dropped out and the rights reverted to Li. Now it looks like he's going to really do it and he has full creative control of the project.

The story? It's about a Tibetan monk played by Li (so far so good), who wins a trip to New York (still going strong) and brings peace to an inner city neighborhood. Okay, maybe I'm jumping the gun when I say "Argh!" but maybe not.

(Thanks to Wu Jing.org for the tip off)

November 16, 2005 at 05:22 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


This past Monday was it. The end. Finito. All done.

On November 15, 1990 the brutalised body of a 13 year old girl was found in Hwasong, Kyonggi Province. She was the ninth and last victim of the Hwasong Serial Killer, whose identity has never been discovered. Korean law has a 15 year statute of limitations on murder, and this past Monday, November 15, 2005 was the last day prosecutors could present evidence gathered by the 4 man team that still keeps the  case alive. As far as I know, no evidence was presented and so the crimes look like they'll never be solved.

Bong Joon-Ho memorialized the investigation of these killings in 2003's MEMORIES OF MURDER.

Chillingly enough, in October, 2004 a young woman on her way home from the pool in Hwasong went missing. She was on her way home, which was about 3 miles from her home. She got off a bus and was never seen again (as far as I know - I couldn't find any follow-up stories). Although investigators say the details of the crime were different, it was still similar enough to cause concern.

November 16, 2005 at 05:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


The new Japanese flick from the director of RETURNER, ALWAYS 3-CHOME NO YUHI, debuted at number one this past weekend in Japan. Based on a manga that ran for 30 years about life on a working class street in 1950's Tokyo, this flick is basically a giant special effect that gives a brain-bogglingly detailed look at old timey time Tokyo according to Marc Schilling's review.

It also appears to have legs, since 98% of people who viewed the movie said it was "good" or "very good".

(Thanks to Hoga Central for pointing this out)

November 16, 2005 at 05:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 15, 2005


I told you this was happening, didn't I? I tried to warn you and you just laughed and laughed. But seriously, the robots are going to kill us all. Why are we building giant robots that can crush our homes and gun us down as we flee, screaming? You'll have to ask Nagumo Masaki who has built the Land Walker, a two-legged, walking robot that you can see here.

The mechanical monster goes about 1 mile/hour right now and shoots rubber balls from an air cannon, but how long before it's running around at 50 miles/hour and those rubber balls have become fiery lead? I was somewhat mollified to see this Windows Media video and realize that this thing doesn't walk so much as it rolls, with all the grace of an arthritic inline skater, but still...is it really a good idea to tempt fate this way?

November 15, 2005 at 08:02 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


It's getting seriously dangerous to love Bollywood.

Every time I turn around it seems like there's a set being burned down or a theater being bombed and now...Somalia. Over this past weekend, 11 people were killed and 20 wounded during fighting in Mogadishu as militias belonging to the Islamic courts attacked theater owners who show Bollywood movies. There is no central government in Somalia, and the Islamic courts have been using their militias to try to establish themselves as a force for law and order. But they also can't stand Bollywood with all its "immorality" which they claim is a source of crime, drug abuse and bad lip-synching. They also don't like the fact that the theaters open early in the morning.

In October, a militia stormed a dubbing studio where Bollywood films were translated and destroyed a bunch of equipment and so this weekend's fighting isn't entirely unexpected.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the chairman of the Islamic courts, takes it to the next level by accusing the theaters of showing "scandalous movies to children even not allowed by producers in their home country".

Bollywood movies too scandalous for India?!? Send 'em to me, please! I'm curious.

You can read the BBC talk about it here, Sepia Mutiny josh about it here, or go here to learn a teeny tiny bit about a Somalian Bollywood fan.

November 15, 2005 at 05:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 14, 2005


According to Nausicaa.net, the next film from Studio Ghibli will be directed by Goro Miyazaki. Who? It's Hayao Miyazaki's son, who until recently was known for his landscape gardening and was the director of the Studio Ghibli Museum.

Holy Nepotism, Batman! Well, not quite. Although the movie's details will be announced on December 13 (for a Summer 2006 release) apparently Hayao Miyazaki is "fiercely against the idea" according to producer Toshio Suzuki who announced the news at a lecture at Meiji University.

(Thanks to the Anime News Service)

November 14, 2005 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


The Five Friendlies

It's Beijing's 2008 Olympic mascots: the Five Friendlies.

I know that if some of my blood is put in an electron microscope and magnified enough, you will see these hideous creatures hitching rides on my white blood cells and clinging to my hemoglobin. Beijing's Olympic Committee says their goal is to "carry a message of friendship and peace--and blessings from China--to children all over the world" but I know that they are really a visual plague designed to make eyeballs explode and to make children all over the world whimper with fear and wet their beds. "Mommy! The Five Friendlies are coming to kill me!"

Let's just hope they fade from the collective cultural consciousnous as quickly as the dire Izzy (Atlanta, 1996), the ghastly Phevos and Athena (Athens, 2004), bloodthirsty Hidy and Howdy (Calgary, 1988) or the shadowy Amik (Montreal, 1976).

November 14, 2005 at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)


Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE won several awardsChinese awards rained from the skies over the weekend with Taiwan's Golden Horses, China's Golden Roosters and Taiwan's television industry awards, the Golden Bells all taking place at once. And in the case of the Golden Roosters this means that they want to upstage Taiwan's Golden Horses (and they've opened themselves up to nominees from Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong for the first time ever). However, the Golden Horses ain't sweating it.

From the biggest to the smallest...

Winners of the Golden Horses were handed a generic bronze award onstage while stagehands frantically glued the winner's nameplate onto the actual trophy backstage, and that's the most interesting thing you'll hear about a celebrity-heavy but totally boring ceremony this year. Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE won Best Director, Best Film, Best Supporting Actress, Best Visual Effects and Best Make-Up and Costume Design. Benny Chan's Aaron Kwok vehicle, DIVERGENCE, served to block Johnnie To's ELECTION from all the slots it was expected to win, with Aaron taking Best Actor, and DIVERGENCE taking Best Editing and Best Cinematography. ELECTION got Best Screenplay and Best Sound Editing which is an awards ceremony's way of saying, "Here, kid. Shut up and go play in the corner." Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS won Best Action Choreography and with Xiong Xin-xin, Lau Kar-leung and Donnie Yen in the cast it would have been weird if it didn't, while Shu Qi won Best Actress (presented by Johnnie To and Tony Leung Kar-fai who should have had a better evening). The biggest dis of the night was to Tsai Ming Liang's WAYWARD CLOUD which was the highest-grossing local film in Taiwan this year, was nominated for three of the big awards, and didn't win one.
Go here for a full list of award winners and presenters.

China's Golden Roosters don't have near the oomph as Taiwan's Golden Horses, but that doesn't stop them from trying. They gave Jackie Chan the Best Actor award for NEW POLICE STORY (and he even attended!) and Zhang Ziyi was named one of the 100 Most Outstanding Film Actors (she didn't!) and four foreign films took home prizes: two Roosters for Russia's COUNT DOWN, one for the Russian movie STATE COUNSELOR, two for America's THE ARYAN COUPLE, and one for Korea's MARATHON. As for the domestic movies, there was more prize-sharing with the top awards being split between two movies, with only KEKEXILI being a film anyone outside of China might have heard of (ON MT. TAIHANG, anyone?).

Taiwan's Golden Bells go to the best TV programming and, while in the past it was variety shows that scooped up the prizes, this year it was dramatic serials hoovering up trophies. And although prizes did go to shows like "One Foot, One Step: Discovering New Formosa" the ceremony sounds more fun than the Golden Roosters as shows like "Love's Lone Flower" about a couple of lesbians in 1940's Taiwan was nominated for several awards (although lead actresses, Angelica Lee and Hong Kong's "Where is she now?" gal, Anita Yuen, weren't allowed nominations since they didn't apply for work visas), and Wu Bai (from Tsui Hark's TIME AND TIDE) rocked out with a medley of Taiwanese songs.

November 14, 2005 at 10:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 11, 2005


Johnnie To's THE MISSION has long been rumoured to be the subject of a remake, and now it's official: THE MISSION remake has been set up at Universal. The remake rights were held by Roy Lee's Vertigo Entertainment, which has a first-look deal with Universal.

The director of the remake will be Peter Berg, and I don't know which Peter Berg this is. There's about a million of them out there. The writer is Dario Scardapane whose one writing credit is POSSE, the Mario Van Peeples Western from 1993.

Here's the plot synopsis, probably taken right off the Universal press release:

Set in San Francisco and Las Vegas, "The Mission" will center on a group of criminals who bond as bodyguards for an aging crime boss. Their brotherhood is tested when one of them breaks ranks."

Call me a cynic, but unless it becomes a musical I don't have high hopes.

(On a related note, the classic Japanese disaster flick from the 70's, THE SINKING OF JAPAN, is getting remade in Japan by TBS, sporting a $20 million budget and directed by Shinji Higuchi, who directed LORELEI: WITCH OF THE SOUTH SEAS.

November 11, 2005 at 09:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)


Peng Chia-chia is a winnerRemember the Peng Chia-chia masturbation case that we covered here and here? The quickie details: Taiwanese entertainer, Peng Chia-chia, was caught on VCD masturbating on a woman. He wound up having to pay millions in blackmail fees to some triad types who threatened to beat him up over the tape. Then he got down on his knees and begged the press to leave him alone.

Now, there's a happy ending for Peng as a prosecutor has filed charges against four people whom he says bilked Peng out of NT$44 million. One of those indicted is Lu Ching (the woman in the VCD) and her gangster uncle. Yay for Peng! There's a description of a tape found in Lu Ching's home here (courtesy of EastSouthWestNorth) or you can click on the image to the right (courtesy of Apple Daily) that shows what exactly occurred in that fateful room. This week: Peng Chia-chia is a winner.

The epic film being shot in China with Andy Lau, BATTLE OF WITS (as it's now called - click here for pictures of the set and of Andy), had a slight hitch as Andy Lau jumped from the top of a city gate to the ground and wound up in a splint going all the way up to his knee. This week in Japan, an art student jumped into a river while holding a 16mm camera for a movie she was making, and she drowned. How come stars can jump off things all they want and never get hurt? This week: Andy never loses.

Mark Schilling gives a positive review to the latest Edogawa Rampo movie to hit screens in Japan, RAMPO JIGOKU. Four segments, each one starring Tadanobu Asano, and shot in high style. Could it be the start of yet another Edogawa Rampo craze? This week: Edogawa Rampo is a winner.

November 11, 2005 at 09:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 10, 2005


Katsuhiro Otomo's MushishiAnime legend Katsuhiro Otomo, director of AKIRA and STEAMBOY, has announced that his next project will be a live action sci fi film based on the anime, MUSHISHI (aka MUSHISHI MASTER). Based on a manga by Yuki Urushibara, the story is set in turn-of-the-century Japan about a guy who can see invisible life forms called Mushishi which give humans a hard time. And guess what? It's a horror manga! Yay, more horror! Hopefulyy Otomo will bring something new to the table, like he did in his last live-action movie, 1991's WORLD APARTMENT HORROR.

November 10, 2005 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


Red Shoes posterThe watchword these days continues to be: "If you can't innovate; imitate," as distributors continue to snap up last week's next hot thing: Asian horror movies. It used to be that martial arts movies were the big thing from Asia, then action movies, and now it's horror, and if you want to know what I think of most of these movies then click here for more of my big fat mouth flapping in the wind.

AFM is where the action's happening these days, and France's Wild Side Films has picked up Thai horror flicks ALONE and DORM, while Tartan has picked up Korea's THE RED SHOES. ALONE is the next project for SHUTTER directors Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun, and it goes into production in March 2006 with a Korean lead actress. DORM is getting released in Thailand in Feb 2006 and is by the director of MY GIRL, and it takes place at a boarding school. While I enjoyed SHUTTER for what it was, DORM sounds like a Thai version of the Korean girls school ghost flicks.

THE RED SHOES has gotten terrific reviews and sounds at least interesing, more like a creepy fairy tale than a straight-up imitation of J-horror. Interestingly, neither SHUTTER nor THE RED SHOES has made a big mark at their local box offices.

November 10, 2005 at 11:58 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Banner poster for EK AJNABEE

EK AJNABEE, the upcoming Bollywood action flick set in Thailand with stunts by Seng (the guy who choreographed the tuk tuk chase in ONG BAK), held its press conference last night in NYC and, as usual, it was like jumping into a pool full of piranhas. I'm honestly surprised I emerged with all my arms and legs still attached. It was held in the smallest room they could find, but the reason it was such a feeding frenzy was because Amitabh Bachchan was there. Yep, the Big B himself was slouched at the front of the room in all his laid-back glory, giving off fatherly vibes and being as charming as it's possible for one human being to be without imploding.

Also present was the director, Apoovra Lakhia, co-star Arjun Rampal, and Vikram Chatwal. Vikram is NYC's socialite Sikh, famous for his hotels and this is his first movie (he got the role because he's a friend of the director - which is okay because, as Amitabh said, he did the movie because the director is a friend of his son). Vikram provided the comic relief for the evening, jumping in and tiring everyone out with his long, fully baked answers to questions directed at other people onstage, rambling on about Strasberg and mathematics and reminiscing about wonderful conversations he had in Thailand about the breeze. Whenever he opened his mouth the room was filled with the sound of a hundred eyeballs rolling.

The conference kicked off with some footage from the movie (about 5 trailers worth) none of which showed much of anything except a bit of what I hope is a hip-hop item number from the movie. Then Amitabh and Co. entered, whipping the press into such a frenzy that they began to feverishly bite their own arms and legs. Vikram set the tone for the evening by delivering an interminable opening lecture.

Amitabh Bachchan "Please do not call this a Hindi film," he said, several times. "Don't call it a Bollywood film. This is a film with all new editing and photography and it is like nothing you've seen before. This is not a remake of MAN ON FIRE."

Then director Apoorva Lakhia torpedoed Vikram by standing up and saying, "I think of this film as a Hindi version of MAN ON FIRE. But I believe the result is good and I'm very proud of it."

The stated justification for the remake was that there have been several movies that look like MAN ON FIRE and this is India's. The movie was shot in just 40 days (although they had to wait 2 years for Amitabh Bachchan's schedule to open up for him to perform in it) in Thailand (because Apoorva wanted his two lead actors, Bachchan and Arjun, to "stand out", which prompted Arjun to reply, "Thank you for telling us we don't stand out anywhere in the world except Thailand.")

Amitabh was asked why he did the movie, and after saying that Apoorva is a friend of his son, he was quite frank, "As a 64 year old, I'm happy to be in a movie where I'm the main character. The film industry does not have a lot of time for a 64 year old actor." He claimed that the stunts weren't too difficult, and that the action was kept on a realistic level, noting that as an actor it was his job to make sure he was physically fit so that what he did on screen looked good.

I've been to a press conference with Shah Rukh Khan before and I have to say that as charming as he was, I think the Big B has him beat for pure, unadulterated, laid back cool. Amitabh talked about economics, the Mahabrata and child actors without ever once sounding like he was stretching or showing off. As he said at the end, "The Indian film industry makes films for our fellow Indians, wherever they are in the world. If you're not Indian and you like our films, then welcome. But we are not trying to cross over."

Then there was an explosion of digital camera noises as Amitabh Bachchan left the room and the assembled media went bananas, shoving, pushing, kicking and punching each other to get the best shot possible.

(Quick note: according to Amitabh, the little girl who stars with him in Sanjay Leela Bansali's BLACK, a Bollywood version of THE MIRACLE WORKER out earlier in 2005, was not only a novice actor but when she attended the premiere of the movie it was the first time she'd been in a movie theater in her life)

November 10, 2005 at 11:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

November 09, 2005


Yes, it's that still for 'THE HOST' againAn intrepid member of Subway Cinema has been lounging around Korea, guzzling live octopus and prying into dark nooks and crannies. One cranny in particular was the set of THE HOST, Bong Joon-Ho's latest movie after his blockbuster, MEMORIES OF MURDER. THE HOST is about a retarded father (Song Kang-Ho) who is trying to save his daughter from a monster that lives in the Han River. Here's our intrepid adventurer's report from the set:

"They were shooting a large scene, where people are protesting against Song Kang-ho's character's imprisonment, and also against the government's intent to kill the monster by releasing a poisonous gas (known as "yellow agent"). The cops are starting to break up the demonstration, and all hell breaks loose when "yellow agent" gets released from some sort of a device that was hanging off of a crane."

Also present on the set that day were stuntmen from Jung Doo-Hung's Seoul Action School, artisans from US visual effects company, The Orphanage, and folks from an Ausatralian animatronics company that created the monster's head.

November 9, 2005 at 08:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

November 08, 2005


Not Bob and Harvey WeinsteinThe Weinstein Company is buying Asian movies at AFM, but what they're buying makes no sense.

Having previously declared INFERNAL AFFAIRS the pinnacle of Chinese cinema, Harvey has now picked up INFERNAL AFFAIRS 2 and 3 (Miramax still owns INFERNAL AFFAIRS 1, and never exercised its option to pick up the sequels) but hasn't declared any plans for the films. The sequels don't come with remake rights either, since Warner Brothers picked those up for THE DEPARTED, Martin Scorsese's INFERNAL AFFAIRS remake that is coming out sometime in the next 6 months.

Continuing a weird pattern of purchases (mostly from Media Asia), the Weinsteins then bought A CHINESE ODYSSEY 1 and 2, Stephen Chow's 1995 two-part "Journey to the West" films. These are great movies for Chow fans, but incomprehensible to people who don't already like Chow and who don't have a familiarity with "Journey to the West". I'm a huge Chow fan, and I didn't even make it through these two when I first watched them.

Is there a method to the madness, or is this just two guys grabbing whatever's on the table? Only time will tell if they're crazy, or crazy like a fox!

November 8, 2005 at 12:49 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)


Shaw Brothers logoImage Entertainment has shared with us 18 of the titles (probably the first ones they'll release) in their recent 30 film deal with Celestial to re-release the Shaw Brothers classics in the US.

INTIMATE CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN - Image wanted to do a new transfer of this one because some info is missing from the top of the Region 3 disc, but the original print is too damaged to do anything with. Still...
THE MAGIC BLADE - lots of folks said that the best thing about the Celestial re-issues was the discovery of director Chor Yuen and a new appreciation for his work. And most of them claimed THE MAGIC BLADE was one of his best movies (although I prefer INTIMATE CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN, which provided the plot for Clarence Fok's later, legendary NAKED KILLER)
LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA - considered one of the classic Shaw movies. There have been complaints that the Celestial disc has some awkward new foley effects, but it's reasonable to assume that Image might be taking these off.
VENGEANCE IS A GOLDEN BLADE - cult director, Ho Meng-hua, does a swordplay epic.
SHAOLIN INTRUDERS - I don't know much about this 1983 Shaw production but it stars Derek Yee, who just directed ONE NIGHT IN MONGKOK.
SUPER INFRAMAN - the delirious cult classic sci fi film finally on a Region 1 DVD. There will be dancing!
BIG BROTHER CHENG - bloody urban action starring the underrated Chen Kuan-tai.
HEAVEN AND HELL - this flick starts out with massively weird musical numbers/martial arts battles and then moves on to a sort of "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Guide to Buddhism" starring the Five Venoms.
THE KILLER SNAKES - this lurid and depraved Hong Kong roughie about a guy who uses snakes to kill is a masterpiece of sleaze and Image will be doing a new 16x9 transfer for their DVD.
HUMAN LANTERNS - I'll be the first to admit that some Shaw Brothers cult classics sort of sucked once you actually saw them, but HUMAN LANTERNS paid off in every way. This movie is absolutely great but one of the biggest complaints was that the Celestial DVD was an edited version of the movie. Not so the Image DVD which will do a new 16x9 transfer of the uncut original. (here's a long review which includes info on the edits that will presumably be restored)
BLACK MAGIC - Ho Meng-hua's crunky, gruesome horror flick.
CAVE OF THE SILKEN WEB - this and MONKEY GOES WEST are parts 1 and 3 of Shaw's adaptation of Journey to the West and they are mighty fine fantasy kung fu flicks, especially the spider vixen filled SILKEN WEB.

The Image discs will (hopefully) start releasing in April 2006 and there will be two per month. April will probably see the release of SUPER INFRAMAN with the other title to be determined. Not only will each disc feature all the extras from the Celestial discs, but there will be new special features that Image is keeping mum about for the time being.

November 8, 2005 at 12:44 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (13)

November 07, 2005


Gold Circle will remake BREAKING NEWSGold Circle Films, the folks doing the EYE 2 remake (now called IN UTERO), have just cut a deal to remake BREAKING NEWS, Johnnie To's super-popular action flick that was his first movie to play Cannes. I don't get all the praise heaped on this one, but lots of people love it a lot, so fair enough.

The most interesting thing about the deal is that Media Asia will get a share of the gross revenue of the BREAKING NEWS remake.

Also of interest in the Screen Daily article is the news that Media Asia is handling sales of EXILED, the long-rumored sequel to THE MISSION.

(Thanks to Colin Geddes for the heads up on this one)

November 7, 2005 at 09:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Thai comedian Mum Jokmok takes on Thai terrorThai comedian Mum Jokmok (Dirty Balls in ONG BAK) is taking on the torrent of Thai terror that's hitting the silver screens in upcoming months with his take on the genre, GHOST VARIETY.

The movie features Mum Jokmok as a loser director leading a crew of accident prone idiots who are shooting a reality show about Thai ghosts and it's directed by Thailand's uber-producer, Uncle Wattleela, who hasn't directed in quite some time, despite having produced everything from BANG RAJAN to BANGKOK DANGEROUS and TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER.

Wisekwai has the scoop, as well as a listing of the Thai horror movies coming down the turnpike which include SCARED, ART OF THE DEVIL 2 and DORM.

November 7, 2005 at 09:22 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Faye Wong has officially announced she is three months pregnantChinese pop siren and star of 2046 and CHUNGKING EXPRESS, Faye Wong, has officially announced she is three months pregnant, something the paparazzi has been claiming for four months. This time, though, Wong's Hong Kong agent has confirmed the news so it seems slightly more credible. The baby is, of course, the spawn of Wong and her hubby, Li Ya-peng.

Wong has also announced that she's giving up her singing career, sold all her Hong Kong land holdings, and recently moved back to Beijing, her hometown. This past Saturday her Hong Kong apartment (about 100 boxes worth!) was packed up and shipped away by a moving company.

November 7, 2005 at 09:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)


Johnnie To's ELECTION has held the number 2 place over the weekendJohnnie To's ELECTION has held the number 2 place over the weekend at the Hong Kong box office, and it's now approaching the HK$15 million marker, the official demarcation line for a hit in Hong Kong. This is completely unheard of for a violent, dark movie starring Tony Leung Kar-fai and Simon Yam (most HK hits of late have starred Andy Lau or one of the hot young things of today, like Shawn Yue or Jay Chou). The fact that ELECTION is also Category III, which is basically as restrictive as an NC-17 with all the respect of an X, makes this the first of its kind as far as I know. With ELECTION 2 already in production, ELECTION is the new INFERNAL AFFAIRS.

Johnnie To is still Johnnie To, however, and he's still administering verbal slap-downs to everyone in Hong Kong whom he thinks has gotten too big for their britches. This week's victims? Andy Lau, Jordan Chan and sycophantic managers.

On a smaller note, Soi Cheang's Shu Qi/Karena Lam horror mommies flick, HOME SWEET HOME, has now made HK$3.8 million after 11 days, in contrast to Soi Cheang's last movie, LOVE BATTLEFIELD, which had made about half that in 11 days.

(Thanks to Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review)

November 7, 2005 at 09:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


There's a new Taiwanese horror movie coming out soon, it's got a big budget, it's at AFM and it features an all-star cast. It's name is...SILK.

Written and directed by Su Chao-pin, who wrote the Taiwanese hit horror film DOUBLE VISION and Peter Chan's segment "Going Home" from the first THREE movie, it stars Chang Chen (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON), Karena Lam and Japanese actor, Yousuke Eguchi. The plot is about some scientists who manage to trap a ghost that's been suffocating people with silk. The flick is budgeted at US$5 million and finished shooting in August, and is now in post-production. It's had a low profile but you can read some of the standard-issue "our horror movie was haunted" stuff here.

By the by, if you haven't seen DOUBLE VISION and you like horror movies it's well worth your time until it goes off the rails at the very end. You can read a review here, and it's available on DVD and VCD all over the place. Heck, it even stars David Morse.

November 7, 2005 at 09:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


She is not being screwed by just one Japanese person, for she is being screwed by every Japanese person!Great Krypton, but I love Chinese editorials! Seriously, if these sound even half as good in Mandarin as they do translated into English then I'm going to Berlitz and signing up for a course right now because no one, and I mean no one, on Earth writes editorials better than Chinese writers.

Take the latest volley in the "Zhang Ziyi strips in MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and it makes me sad" war. First off, there were fake pictures of Zhang Ziyi's naked tukkis in MEMOIRS and numerous people claimed that they were upset by this because, as Shi Changqing wrote:

"She is not being screwed by just one Japanese person, for she is being screwed by every Japanese person!  She is not the only person to be screwed by the Japanese people, for every Chinese person is being screwed by the Japanese people!  She let shame fall on the Chinese people!  How could such a person deserve to be a Chinese?"

Well, then it turned out that she wasn't really naked at all. This news was met with a deafening silence. Now, it looks like there may be some nudity in MEMOIRS after all and Zhu Xueyuan has weighed in on why this doesn't matter in the slightest.

Please, he writes, "If you think that Zhang Ziyi's butt can represent your face, then I do not object to that.  But could you please not bring the entire Chinese population into this!"

He goes on to mention Zhang Ziyi's "big white butt" about 30 times, while administering a sound verbal spanking to Chinese nationalists who get all worked up over nothing, and then signs off by quoting some classical sounding Chinese about the rights of the people. He also manages to work in the word "super-dispirited". Rock!

It's the kind of fiery verbal fireworks you don't see very often and EastSouthWestNorth has kindly translated the whole thing and posted it here. Do yourself a favor and at least skim it.

November 7, 2005 at 09:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Toshiaki Toyoda, the director of NINE SOULS and the new HANGING GARDEN (now at AFM), appeared in court on Oct. 20 and received 3 years probation after being arrested with drugs when his house was raided back in August. This is good news for Toyoda who can keep on making films (although someone over on Twitch seems to think that he's having other problems that might make this unlikely for a bit) and I guess it's why HANGING GARDEN has been released from movie jail and is at AFM and enjoying a small Japanese release.

Read the translated article at Twitch here.

November 7, 2005 at 09:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Donnie Yen is also popular in Japan right now with his new bookThey got it. The new company run by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, The Weinstein Company, has picked up the US, Candaian, UK and Irish rights to Wilson Yip's SHA PO LANG, starring Simon Yam, Donnie Yen, Wu Jing and Sammo Hung.

This isn't much of a surprise. Bey Logan was just hired by TWC to be their Asian go-to guy and he was previously working for Arclight Films doing sales of SHA PO LANG. Expect more Asian acquisitions from TWC as Logan sniffs out the hot new films like a French pig rooting for truffles. My prediction for the next acquisition: DRAGON SQUAD, the Steven Seagal-produced action film with Sammo Hung in it. Reason? Bey Logan was also heavily involved with that movie which is also having its sales handled by Arclight.

Donnie Yen is also popular in Japan right now with his new book, "Donnie Yen's Action Secrets". Released only in Japan (with a roll-out to China and beyond later this month) the book, which is apparently a tell-all memoir (although details are sketchy) is selling "like hotcakes".

November 7, 2005 at 09:08 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 04, 2005


Fun day!It's Friday, and you don't want to think too much because pretty soon you'll be free! But take a moment for a Friday is Fun-Day round-up of the week's best news:

- In Japan, a young girl has been arrested for poisoning her mother and blogging about it. D'oh! Her principal says he can't understand how this happened, "This girl is a serious student belonging to the chemistry club." What's he so surprised about then? That she didn't get away with it?

- Kuldeep Singh is a bus driver in New Delhi who saved lives...because he watched Bollywood movies. There was a bomb on Singh's bus! Singh grabbed it and threw it off! People were saved! Singh says, "Seeing the wires and the clock, I realized it was a bomb. I had only seen it in Hindi movies." Hooray for Bollywood!

- Takeshi Kaneshiro is studying English at UCLA and inconsiderate fans are following him all over campus, into classrooms, and taking his picture. It's disruptive! Now, he's had to be moved to different classrooms. The nerve of some people. Does anyone know what classroom he's in now? Email me.

- Stephen Chow was an hour late for a press conference and the Mainland Chinese press attacked. "Why are you so late?" "Do you know how to pose?" "You look really dumb like this." Finally, they asked why he wasn't nominated for a Golden Horse award for his acting in KUNG FU HUSTLE. "Duh!" Chow replied. "I didn't get nominated because I'm a really terrible actor."

- China is ecstatic that 150 Chinese movies have been found pirated and available for download on an American website. Ha ha ha! Americans pirate too! Ha ha ha! When it's still, and the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can hear them laughing all the way in New York.

- Here's a review of the happy ending version of Johnnie To's ELECTION that was put together to play in Malaysia and Mainland China.

- Tony Leung Kar-fai was arrested for drunk driving this week, but the beating he administered to a bus driver after a drunk driving accident three years ago has come back to haunt him. As if Fate has a sense of humor, this week the beaten bus driver filed a claim for damages, claiming that Tony Leung Kar-fai has fists of steel that damaged his spine and caused him to lose his job.

- And here's something sent in from a sharp-eyed reader who wanted everyone to know that the Steven Seagal-produced Hong Kong action flick (with Sammo Hung), DRAGON SQUAD, has a downloadable Windows Media Player trailer available here.

November 4, 2005 at 08:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA is basically SHOWGIRLS set in Japan This has been all over the place for a while, but I hadn't checked it out yet. If you're in the same boat, then go here to see the Japanese trailer for MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (called SAYURI).

After realizing that this is basically SHOWGIRLS set in Japan I am super-psyched to see this. I was worried it would be a tasteful, Merchant-Ivory kind of movie, but now I know that it's about the bitch-slapping, and the burning the costumes of the competition, and the fighting over who shall be Japan's Next Top Model...I mean, Geisha.

And it's all in English. Zhang Ziyi's having a little trouble with her lines, but everyone else is purring out "This one I shall take. The other one...no." like they were born to be on "Dynasty".

November 4, 2005 at 08:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


After hearing about Terence Chang adding one more international co-production budgeted at a zillion dollars to his slate, yesterday, I was flabbergasted to see even more planet-sized productions getting the green light today.

First off, there's the Taiwanese-New Zealand epic version of MADAME WHITE SNAKE, budgeted at US$69 million and scheduled to be released in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (if they happen). It will be live action, but a producer says they're "hitting it with the Peter Jackson stick."

And this one isn't planet-sized, but it involves Korea's Cineclick and Japan's Happinet (who have produced a few Kim Ki-Duk flicks) are getting together to produce the newest movie from Siddiq Barmak (Afghani director of OSAMA), THE OPIUM WAR, about two US soldiers (one white, one black) who stumble across a tank full of Afghanis in, of all places, Afghanistan.

November 4, 2005 at 08:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


the MIAMI VICE shoot is in troubleThank god for the New York Post, otherwise how would the real issues get covered?

According to the Post's Page Six, the MIAMI VICE shoot is in trouble. Didn't we speculate that there might be problems when we posted these Gong Li pics from the set last week? Fortunately, the Post is here to provide ammunition for our vague psychic predictions.

Some of the problems are typical (over schedule, over budget), some are particular to this production (Jamie Foxx wants as much money as Colin Farrell, shooting had to move from Miami to Peru because of Hurricane Wilma) and some are just plain weird (Farrell is growing man boobs).

Read all about it and get suffused with that warm "I told you so" glow.

November 4, 2005 at 08:05 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Jay Chou is having a bad weekJay Chou, the Asian pop star who played the lead role in gargantuan hit INITIAL D, is having a bad week.

First off, his new album NOVEMBER'S CHOPIN, is being accused of stealing from other songs. A bunch of fans noticed it first and then the media picked it up. His song, BESIEGED, is supposedly lifted from a band called GSindikatas and now folks are saying parts of it are also lifted from a Linkin Park song.

The worst part is that "Besieged" is an attack on the paparazzi who are just eating this plagiarism charge up like candy.

Then, the 26 year old was accused of wearing a toupe'. A toupe'! Folks say he's got thin hair and is balding and then, suddenly, on the cover of NOVEMBER'S CHOPIN, he's got thick locks. His manager admitted he was wearing a wig, but that it was for artistic purposes only. The press, in the meantime, is shocked, just shocked, because Jay's rug was Made in Japan!

November 4, 2005 at 08:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (40)

November 03, 2005


Last night in New York there was a test screening for Stephen Chow's 1996 movie, GOD OF COOKERY. The screening was billed as being a "work print" with an "unfinished score and special effects" but it was, in fact, just a projection of the Hong Kong DVD.

The audience was reportedly into it, and very enthused about the movie. Afterwards there were test cards given out with questions about whether the subtitles were any good or not - so it looks like there's some thought about just porting over the HK disc onto a Region 1 DVD or maybe just using the HK DVD subs if there's a theatrical release, which wouldn't be such a good idea since some folks find the GOD OF COOKERY subs really lousy.

Unknown if this was for a theatrical release or not, but they were pulling audience members to do a focus group afterwards.

(Thanks to a Brave Comrade for giving us a heads up about this one)

November 3, 2005 at 08:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)


PERHAPS LOVE (out in December)Chris Doyle - go figure, right? The guy will turn out some movies so visually stunning that they become milestones in movie making (CHUNGKING EXPRESS, FALLEN ANGELS, AWAY WITH WORDS, HERO) and then he'll do some stuff that just looks blah (PSYCHO) or movies that look like they're almost Chris Doyle movies, but not quite (THE QUIET AMERICAN, RABBIT PROOF FENCE).

Here's a fistful of news of what he's got coming down the pipeline:

First up there's PERHAPS LOVE (out in December), the Peter Chan musical that's getting good reviews (read Variety's review here, read a brief Peter Chan interview here) which he shot with Peter Pau (Doyle's films often have a second cinematographer: Andrew Lau shot part of CHUNGKING EXPRESS with him, and Lee Pin-bing shot part of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE).

Then there's the last movie from the full Merchant-Ivory team, THE WHITE COUNTESS, a spy drama set in 1930's Shanghai and starring Ralph Fiennes, Hiroyuki Sanada and Natascha Richardson (isn't Wong Kar-wai's next movie, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, a spy drama set in 1930's Shanghai, too?). WHITE COUNTESS was written by Kazuo Ishiguro who wrote REMAINS OF THE DAY and THE UNCONSOLED, and Chris Doyle, of course, shot it.

There's a great interview with Hiroyuki Sanada here where he talks about getting drunk with Ralph Fiennes, the difficult dialogue, working on THE PROMISE, and his bad Mandarin. In case you don't know, Sanada is one of Japan's great actors, and you probably saw him in the Michelle Yeoh vehicle ROYAL WARRIORS back in the 80's or in THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI. (Note: Yeoh and Sanada are both in Danny Boyle's new sci fi flick, SUNSHINE)

(Thanks to Michi at Hoga Central for the Sanda interview)

November 3, 2005 at 08:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee are in NYC shooting their new flick, and you can read all about it over on the BollyWhat forums here.

Rani's feet hurt! No Indian extras! Crappy green vans! You want to know what it's all about, don't you?

(Thanks to Steve Barr for the heads up)

November 3, 2005 at 08:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (295)


UnclemortyOkay cubicle monkeys, slip on your headphones and prepare to make it all go away for just a few seconds.

ImaginAsian is an all-Asian cable station (or satellite or something? I'm not sure how they broadcast. Telepathy?) that has a show called "Uncle Morty's Dub Shack" where they dubbed in new dialogue over movies they picked up that they don't know what to do with. There's a bunch of clips over here, but the three best ones are "Goatman", "You Are It!" and "Tic Tac".

Unclemorty2Watching these at work is like crawling into a blissful cavern of stupidity and rolling a giant boulder over the door behind you. You'll have to come out eventually, but not for a few minutes.

Read more about "Uncle Morty's Dub Shack" here.

November 3, 2005 at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


Terence Chang, John Woo's producing partner in HollywoodTerence Chang, John Woo's producing partner in Hollywood, is known for doing...nothing much these days. Um, BULLETPROOF MONK? PAYCHECK? Nothing anyone cares about since 2000? Chang came over to Hollywood with Woo and after the two made a huge initial splash they've both sort of faded into the background, becoming famous for announcing projects that never came to completion.

But now, well, Terence Chang is going to work. Work, Terence, WORK! The latest news is that he's teamed up with Cineclick Asia for CHRISTMAS CARGO the three-years-in-the-works-so-far Korean war movie that has been developed by Blue Storm (the folks who did APRIL SNOW) and has an unnamed director attached to it, but I'll eat my hat if it's now Kang Je-Gyu (SHIRI, TAE GUK KI). Budgeted at US$20 million, the movie is about the Christmas 1950 evacuation of US and South Korean troops from Hamhung, an event sometimes referred to as "the Korean Dunkirk." It doesn't make anyone, except maybe the North Korean Army and PLA look good and you can read an eyewitness account of the retreat to Hamhung and the evacuation here.

This is the third big project Chang is undertaking. He's also producing John Woo's humungous THE BATTLE OF RED CLIFF and the Thai action film DETOUR.

Shooting for CHRISTMAS CARGO is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2006.

Ladies and gentlemen, make way. Stand aside. Terence Chang is coming through. Terence Chang is going to work!

November 3, 2005 at 08:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


Shaw Brothers logoThe major story in Chinese film over the last 5 years has been Celestial's purchase of the Shaw Brothers library. 700 and some odd movies from the heyday of Chinese martial arts film had lain, hidden and unreleased, in the Shaw Brothers vaults since the late 70's and everyone figured they would never see the light of day.

Then Celestial purchased the entire library and started releasing the movies on DVDs, restored and looking good. But these were Region 3 DVDs, how would sad Americans see the movies? Enter Miramax, which purchased 50 movies from the library in 2003 and then...and then...they did nothing with them. Nada. Zero. Zip.

Now, Image Entertainment has bought 30 movies from the Shaw library and will probably roll them out sooner rather than later. More details later, but for now some of the titles they picked up are HEAVEN AND HELL (wild, Chang Cheh exploration of the afterlife via Power Rangers special effects and giant dance numbers), THE SHADOW BOXER and THE MAGIC BLADE.

For those who aren't already thrilled, Image are the folks who do the Criterion Collection.

The Miramax deal remains in effect.

November 3, 2005 at 08:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (11)

November 02, 2005


Labor-intensive Jackie Chan pumpkinIt's official: everyone in the world now has a celebrity playlist at iTunes. The sign that the end has arrived: Jackie Chan's official playlist. I can mock all I want, but what does this list say about Jackie? Eyes are the windows to the soul, but your celebrity playlist is the escalator to your heart. And what's inside Jackie's heart?

Jia Xiang de Long Yan Shu - the first thing we find inside Jackie's heart is: himself! Yes, savvy media whore that he is, Jackie's number one song is the title track from his latest album (also available at iTunes). We love you, Jackie! And so do you!

Zhu Zhi Ge (Song of Pigs) - by Xiang Xiang. This one is actually interesting. Xiang Xiang is a 21 year old woman in China who sings into a headset microphone while sitting at her computer, singing along to pre-recorded backing tracks. No studio, no musicians, no expensive gear. She uploaded this song (an ode to a happy pig with a curly tail) to a site where it was made available for free downloads. Cue one billion of them, from all over Asia. Now she's signed with a record label and her first album sold 800,000 copies. (Read about Xiang Xiang via the BBC here)

Lao Shu Ai Da Mi - another Xiang Xiang song, this one called "The Mouse Loves the Rice" aka "Mice Love Rice". Yeah, yeah, Xiang Xiang's great and all, but this song is another internet phenom. A kid named Yang Chen Gang (remember that name - it comes up later) says he recorded the song in 2000 and in 2004 someone posted it on the internet. The site hosting it suddenly started getting 200,000 hits per day before Yang landed a recording contract, and there are now 16 (sixteen!) cover versions of this song floating around. In one year: 16 versions. You can read about the song's litigious and complicated history here.

I'm skipping the Liu Jia Liang song because, to my tin ear, it's just a boring power ballad.

Next comes "Di Di Di" by Hang on a Box, an all-girl band from Beijing that Jackie calls, "a unique alternative and punk group from China." Here's what the Hang on a Box gals think about being called "punk":
"What does being "punk" mean to you?
WANG YUE: We're not punk! NO!!!
SHEN JING: I love many retro punk bands from the '70s. Besides that, nothing else about this question [pertains] to me.
YILINA: It's none of my business."
And here's how Wang Yue handles disrespect from the crowd (the group reportedly was beaten badly many times early in their career): "I definitely will cuss them in the words which will kill them." So watch out, Jackie. You'll be cussed by words which will kill you if you keep calling them punk! So stop already.
(Read the rest of this nastily honest interview with Hang on a Box here)

"Girl Loves Me" - typical Mandopop with more bubblegum than usual from the aforementioned Yang Chen Gang. His squeaky, high-pitched voice makes him a shoo-in to join The Wiggles or to sing adorable songs about mice loving rice. Oh, wait, he already did that. But there's still The Wiggles.

There's four more songs on the playlist, but I'm bored. So what have we learned on this magical journey through the heart of Jackie Chan? That's a question you'll each have to answer for yourselves, I'm afraid. In the meantime, check out that labor-intensive Jackie Chan pumpkin that some anonymous kid carved for Halloween and posted on Jackie Chan's Kid Corner. Yikes.

November 2, 2005 at 10:19 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Chen Kaige's movie THE PROMISE has already opened in Chengdu, China

Chengdu, ah, Chengdu. Known for its beautiful embroidery, giant pandas, and now for the first screenings of the Chen Kaige movie, THE PROMISE. In order to qualify for the Academy Awards, THE PROMISE has to screen for a week in its home country and the evil geniuses behind the movie have looked at China and seen Chengdu and they have said, "It is good. Release our movie in one theater for one week only so that we may win a so-called Academy Award, like Sally Field, or Joan Crawford."

And so, starting October 1, THE PROMISE ran for one week in Chengdu.

Why haven't you heard about this? Why does no one talk about these screenings of the hotly anticipated martial arts film/fashion show a full two months before it hits screens all over the world? Because all the media in Chengdu has taken a vow of silence. And they're sticking to it. They will not report on THE PROMISE now, and they say they won't report on it when it is released in December. Why? Because the producers tried to yank them around and issued an order known as the Three No's:

*    NO #1: There shall be no arrangement for these reporters to view the movie.  If they want to see it, they will have to buy their own tickets.
*    NO #2: There will be no interviews with Chen Kaige and Chen Hong.  The reporters can go greet them at the airport and take photographs.  But there will be no interviews.
*    NO #3: There will be no negative comments about The Promise.

It's this last "NO" that has sent the reporters over the edge: no negative comments? They can't buy their own ticket and then write an honest review of the movie? That's BS, in any language. The media of Chengdu met in a teahouse and decided not to write a word about it. The theater owners (not the movie producers, but the poor theater owners who are hoping to make a living this week by booking in a hotly anticipated movie but quickly discovered they can't sell tickets if no one knows it's playing)  approached the press, offered them free tickets and even offered them free snacks and interviews with Chen Kaige. But Chen never called, and so the wall of silence stands: solid, imobile, silent. It's been up for one month now, and shows no sign of cracking.

As for why Chengdu was chosen for this one-week qualifying run of the movie? Apparently the producers tried Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Hangzhou but no one in those cities would promise them no negative comments, so they went to Chengdu.

(Read more about it at EastSouthWestNorth)

November 2, 2005 at 10:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


ZINDA, the Bollywood remake of OLDBOYIf you love Bollywood the way I love Bollywood (and if you live in Iowa, Rhode Island or Delaware you probably shouldn't) then nothing will make your morning like this trailer for ZINDA, the Bollywood remake of OLDBOY. (It's a downloadable RealPlayer thing)

Sanjay Gupta is helming ZINDA, and he's the dude responsible for KAANTE which is a Bollywood RESERVOIR DOGS knock-off, but unfortunately Gupta isn't known for flashy song n'dance numbers (which are becoming something of a thing of the past in Bollywood - these days MTV-style montages seem to be par for the course) so those looking for intricately choreographed numbers like "If I Had a Hammer" or "The Octopus Song (I Got Love in My Tummy Reprise)" may go home disappointed. However, according to this story, there is going to be at least one "toe-tapping" number in the movie.

Sanjay Dutt, who's a likeable clod of an actor with a self-deprecating charm (but he can't dance a step) is playing the Choi Min-Shik role and John Abraham will play the Yu Ji-Tae yoga role. I think Ms. Universe, Lara Dutta, will play the female lead.

My favorite thing about this movie is the breathless, no doubt completely planted, stories that are popping up on the Bollywood websites like this one that claims the trailer (the one above) is leaving everyone in Bollywood breathless and it is on the par, technically and plot-wise, with international films. Yes, international films like OLDBOY.

November 2, 2005 at 10:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

November 01, 2005


If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at allPlease. Somebody. Make it stop. SIGAW (The Echo) is a new horror movie from the Philippines, which landed on my doorstep a while back and I held off on reviewing it because, as my mama always said, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. I wanted to like this movie - I really, really did. Besides the fact that the folks who made it send me a DVD for free, it's got some things going for it. The cinematography is dark, dank and damp and the sound design is unusually good for low budget feature. It's also got something on its mind (the evils of family life) which puts it in the small percentile of horror movies that want to be about something more than simple shocks.

Marvin has scrimped and saved and finally moved away from home into the only apartment he can afford: a one-bedroom fallout shelter in bleakville. His new building is so dank that mold grows on your shoulders while you wait for the elevator and the oppresive atmosphere isn't helped by the constantly fighting family down the hall. There's also the battered wife who keeps knocking on strangers' doors asking them to look after her daughter while her abusive husband bounces her off the walls.

Things are not, of course, as they seem and before long Marvin finds himself embroiled in one of those hellish real estate scenarios that afflict so many people who buy new homes in movies: can't move, but got a ghost haunting me.

Except for a couple of bits of really awkward acting here and there (and they're thankfully bits - few and far between) SIGAW is a decent, solid movie. The problem is, if it had come out in 1998, before THE RING, it would have rocked your socks. Coming out seven years later it feels like a retread. A tired retread. Ghostly little kids - check. Female spooks with long black hair - check. Growing feeling of dread - check. Cranky elevators - check. Clutching hands coming around doorframes - check.

Horror movies often attract first time filmmakers because it doesn't take a big budget to induce shivery chills. You just need to be a dab hand with the editing to do that. And horror movies are marketable everywhere. But don't any of these directors want to be original? I mean, after THE RING, THE RING TWO, THE RING VIRUS, NIGHTMARE, REC, SCISSORS, JU-ON 1 & 2, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, DARK WATER, KAKASHI, THE PHONE, SHUTTER, UNBORN BUT FORGOTTEN, INTO THE MIRROR, WICKED GHOST, SHIKOKU, ONE MISSED CALL, HORROR HOTLINE...BIG HEAD MONSTER, PULSE, R-POINT, THREE EXTREMES and on and on, this whole "long-haired-dead-wet-chick" trope is dead. Done. Finished.

Try telling that to first time filmmakers, however. Over on Stauffen.de you can see a trailer for KIDAN which has, naturally, a possessed kid and a spooky looking woman with long black hair (who looks exactly like the VCD cover art for SHIKOKU) and a trailer for PRAY and BOOTH which promise more of the same. My local Blockbuster features dozens of DVDs of Japanese TV series featuring tales of the spookernatural loaded with all the stale visual tropes of J-horror movies. More J-horror is coming down the turnpike. When will this stop? Must we destroy the planet to save ourselves from this flood J-horror knock-off movies?

My question to all filmmakers is: don't you want to be original? Doesn't it bother your creative sensibilities that you're humping the corpse of a trend that flatlined years ago? There can be good J-horror styled movies, and some of the movies listed above are movies I like, but it's over. It's done. Nail shut the coffin and shovel on the dirt. Bring flowers once a year and trim the weeds, but don't make another J-horror movie. There's no surer way to put your audience to sleep in 2005 than to include a shot of a dead-wet-long-haired-girl-in-a-white-dress - it's a Pavlovian response. We can't help it.

I can't recommend SIGAW. I wish I could. The filmmakers seem like nice people, they put a lot of hard work into their movie, and there's a lot of quality on display in the production values. But at the end of the day, all their hard work is in service to a creatively bankrupt idea. J-horror is dead. Someone, anyone, please get it to lay down and stop moving.

November 1, 2005 at 09:38 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)


THE TIGER BLADE: better than TOM YUM GOONG?WiseKwai has reviews up for two new Thai movies: THE TIGER BLADE (which he says is better than TOM YUM GOONG and has the catchy slogan, "When kick ass cops can't get the job done, bring in kick ass magic.") and AHIMSA: STOP TO RUN which is about a guy whose karma, embodied as a dude in a red track suit, comes back to hit him in the head, a lot. AHIMSA is from RS Film, the folks who did the superfun, superstupid BANGKOK LOCO last year, which played at this year's Toronto Film Festival. There's an AHIMSA trailer here and a TIGER BLADE trailer here. (RS are the folks releasing the upcoming gross Thai black magic flick NECROMANCER which has a trailer here).

If you like your Southeast Asian film a little more upscale, then keep your eyes on CritiCine, a new site that covers Southeast Asian movies from a more smarter bigger IQ perspective. Or, as Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (who is interviewed extensively by the site here) puts it: they're nerds.

November 1, 2005 at 09:35 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)


Cinema 3Yen hit the Tokyo Film Festival, but being run by good and decent human beings, their coverage avoided the tasteful flicks that won all the awards and instead they took in a double feature of a KAMEN RIDER episode and an episode of the little-known, 1971 Japanese superhero series, MIRAA MAAAN. That's MIRROR MAN to those of you too timid to shout the title out loud.

Apparently there's a MIRROR MAN feature coming in early 2006 (called MIRROR MAN REFLEX) and a MIRROR MAN DVD box set hitting stores in late 2005. See the trailer for MIRROR MAN REFLEX here (it's in the site, embedded deep within the flash) and go here for 3Yen's story of asking the lead actor to strike a patented MIRROR MAN pose for a photo.

November 1, 2005 at 09:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


ZHANG ZIYI IS EVERYWHEREZhang Ziyi's MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA is ready to come out in December and eat everyone's Oscar chances for a light snack. Reviews from press screenings have started popping up on Ain't It Cool here and there's a less impressed review here that gets points for comparing MEMOIRS to the Dolph Lundgren/Brandon Lee vehicle SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO (the connective tissue is actor Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa who appears in both movies) and accuses MEMOIRS of shot-for-shot stealing a scene from SHOWDOWN. Heavens above!

Zhang's other big movie is Feng Xiaogang's Hamlet-adaptation, THE BANQUET, with music by Tan Dun and action by Yuen Wo-ping. You can read more about it here or take a look at a clip of the movie here where you can hear some of Tan Dun's tracks (which are way better than the music he did for HERO) and see behind the scenes production stuff and bits and pieces of the impressive looking production.

(Thanks to HelloZiyi.us the Zhang Ziyi fansite)

November 1, 2005 at 09:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Tony Leung Kar-fai was arrested for drunk driving againHong Kong Minute...GO!!!

TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE took the number one box office spot over the weekend, with Johnnie To's ELECTION dropping to number 2 (now at HK$11.6 million, almost unheard of for a Category III movie), Andy Lau's ALL ABOUT LOVE at number 3, and Soi Cheang's HOME SWEET HOME (which he calls a "tribute to motherhood, masked as a horror movie") at 4 with opening weekend earnings of HK$2 million.

Read a HOME SWEET HOME review here.

Also, Tony Leung Kar-fai was arrested for drunk driving again. This time he merely rear-ended the car in front of him, rather than sticking around to assault a bus driver like he did the last time he was arrested for DUI in 2002.

A sharp-eyed reader points out that the new ELECTION posters feature a quote from Quentin Tarantino that reads: "I loved this movie." An early indicator that ELECTION is heading for "Quentin Tarantino presents..." territory a la HERO?

Five seconds left...and it's an item from China, not Hong Kong. Apparently, Chinese fans of Korean actor Bae Yong-Joon have pleaded with distributors to let them hear their heartthrob's voice and the distributors have listened. APRIL SNOW will be released in China both dubbed into Mandarin and in its original Korean with Chinese subtitles. This is one of only a few times that a foreign-language movie has been released subbed, not dubbed, in China.

Seacrest, out!

(Thanks to Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review for box office figures)

November 1, 2005 at 09:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)