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December 30, 2005


MarebitoI'm extremely bad at ending these giveaways on time, but I promise to do better in the future.

Anyways, for those who care, the Tartan Fun Pack giveaway has ended: three packs of Tartan DVDs, and one pack of Tartan DVDs with AB-NORMAL BEAUTY signed by a Pang Brother. The question was: How did the guy at the beginning of MAREBITO kill himself? And the answer was: By stabbing himself in the eyes.

The DVDs in the Fun Pack?

AB-NORMAL BEAUTY (lesbian horror flick)
KOMA (organ donation nightmare)
SORUM (incestuous haunted house movie)
SPIDER FOREST (good looking killer spider, bloody sickle flick)
SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (Park Chan-Wook's masterpiece)
WHISPERING CORRIDORS (killer dead Korean school girls)

The winners have been notified privately, and the losers are sobbing softly into their pillows.

But one thing I do have to say is that I was surprised by the large number of entries from Sweden and Germany. Kudos to you ladies and gentlemen since I can only assume that English is your second language and yet somehow you're able to make sense of my gibberish. You make me ashamed of myself and my monolingual ability.

December 30, 2005 at 10:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


- Blogwar...it's on! Disgruntled Chinese media types take their grievances to the BLOGOSPHERE but that really hacks off the PRC powers that be, who want this new-fangled technology known as the "intrawub" to reflect only one point of view...theirs!

- Wong Kar-wai's luggage is an alternate source of film distribution! China's artsy films like KEKEXILI, PEACOCK and BEIJING BICYCLE are finally getting public screenings, and that auteur of movies with one word titles (SHOWER, QUITTING, SUNFLOWER), Zhang Yang, writes an essay talking about exactly how his first film got distributed overseas.

- SHA PO LANG causes crime! It does. Remember that scene where all those gang members defy the cops by smashing their beer bottles to the ground? Now it's happening in real life but instead of causing Sammo Hung to cruise onto the scene and all kinds of crazy, kung fu hi-jinx to bust forth, in real life it just caused the cops to call other cops who showed up and arrested pretty much everyone who looked at them cross-eyed. (Full story, plus helpful diagram, here on EastSouthWestNorth)

SHA PO LANG causes crime!

- And in shark news a stoner was, like, totally attacked by a shark in Oregon but he punched it in the nose and it let go. "As I was waiting outside I just felt this shark thing grab my leg...I felt its rubbery feeling of the shark. And I could see the little black dots on its nose just really up close. It was just crazy..." Back onshore his friends tried to carry him to safety, but the pallet they made for him broke, sending him crashing to the ground. Finally they had to carry him on their shoulders.

December 30, 2005 at 10:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Those wacky reviewersWhere do they get all their wacky opinions? How did they get their jobs? Why are they so wacky?


But here's another installment of THOSE WACKY REVIEWERS!

Jeff Lau's JOURNEY TO THE WEST meets EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS flick A CHINESE TALL STORY has just come out (this is the movie that made Charlene Choi ugly) and those wacky reviewers are kicking it around like a ten cent soccer ball. "It falls rather short. Heck, it misses the branch, drops to the ground, and lands flat on its face." Ouch!

"The humor is somewhat unrefined and many scenes are downright weird." Yikes!

The whole is a bombastic fantasy mess, but some charm does exist in there. Somewhere." Zing!

The Hollywood Reporter continues in its role as the internet's self-elected contrarians with their review of the greatly-loved ELECTION. It's old news, but let's just mull over their assessment once more as they call Johnnie To's incisive film "A repellant movie filled with gratuitous violence..."

Variety summarizes THE PROMISE as  "...a mixed bag of near-risible storylines, second-rate CG effects, some fabulous set pieces, somewhat cartoonish martial arts fighting and difficult international casting."

Then Screen Daily says that the widely reviled THE PROMISE is Chen Kaige's "most enjoyable movie in years" and predicts that it will do HERO-sized business in the US and that its success in China "...is assured given its rich fantasy elements and the fact that it has been submitted as China’s Oscar entry." And people say that I make speculative leaps...

But what else do you expect from THOSE WACKY REVIEWERS?

December 30, 2005 at 10:02 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 29, 2005


Weinstein Co. dumps THE PROMISEIt's a little like a John Hughes movie gone wrong. The ugly duckling gets herself all pretty - she takes her nose out of her schoolwork, lets down her hair, takes off her glasses, puts on some make-up, maybe even gets a little cosmetic surgery - and comes down the stairs in a prom dress like a vision in taffeta. The jock stares open-mouthed, gulps and then the two ride off to the prom to be crowned Homecoming King and Queen.

Now imagine she's coming down the stairs, the jock stares open-mouthed, gulps, and says, "You know what, I think I'm going to the prom with Heather VonEaterupper anyways. See ya."

That's what's happened with Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE and the Weinstein Company. After cutting the movie by about 20 minutes, paying for an intro written by Anthony Minghella, and changing the title to MASTER OF THE CRIMSON ARMOR, the Weinsteins have dumped THE PROMISE and the North American, Australian and UK rights have reverted back to Moonstone Entertainment and the China Film Group.

The story according to Variety is that Moonstone and CFG wanted the Weinsteins to push THE PROMISE for a bunch of Oscar categories, and TWC was busy pushing those two big hits TRANSAMERICA (what?) and MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS (huh?) instead, so they amicably parted ways. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Moonstone and CFG wanted the Weinsteins to give the movie a wide release (2000 + screens) a la HERO, whereas the Weinsteins wanted a "limited release" so they have amicably parted ways.

I smell a rat. The Weinsteins have never amicably parted ways with anyone, especially not someone whose movie they have ruined. Ruined? Yep - THE PROMISE was red hot at Cannes earlier this year, but it decided to walk down the aisle with the Weinsteins. One of the things it was holding out as a deal sweetner was that the movie was doing a virtually simultaneous global release on Dec. 16. Now the movie has come out in China and Hong Kong, DVDs will be sure to follow in short order, it's been panned by critics in both countries, and is tagged as a stinker that the Weinsteins dumped.

Also, aren't things like release patterns and Oscar campaigns one of those things that get worked out in distribution deals? So either the deal was a loosely worded general agreement, or someone welched.

So when Harvey Weinstein says, "We have thoroughly enjoyed working together for the past seven months," said Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co. "We have tremendous respect for Chen Kaige, Etchie Stroh and (producer) Han Sanping and are all rooting for them as they go forward releasing this film."

I hear, "Lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie," said Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co. "Lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie (producer) lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie releasing this film."

December 29, 2005 at 09:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Official poster for Johnnie To's ELECTIONJohnnie To hates the triads. Hong Kong's secret criminal fraternities are street gangs and protection rackets existing in a smokescreen of tradition and ritual that they use to obscure their motives from the police, average citizens and, ultimately, themselves. Originally established four hundred years ago to overthrow the foreign Manchu rulers, the triads have existed secretly ever since: underground societies of brothers bound by oaths of loyalty and dedicated to restoring the strength of China. These days they are underground societies bound together by illegal businesses and profit margins dedicated to little more than boosting their bank accounts. Their image as a band of brothers fighting the good fight has been celebrated in pulp fiction and in Hong Kong movies, but it doesn't exist in real life. In real life they're just thugs, fighting over territories and new drug dealerships like hungry dogs.

Hong Kong's film industry has made dozens of triad movies that glorify these crooks, but Johnnie To is interested in what's left when you pick away the legend and ELECTION is a slap in the face to anyone who buys the line about a global conspiracy of righteous criminals. While GOODFELLAS was supposed to be a warts-and-all look at the mafia, compared to ELECTION it's a kiddie film that makes it all-too-plain that its director has fallen under the sway of the cool waves radiating off his subjects; he's bought their BS in a way Johnnie To hasn't for a minute.

The plot is blood simple: Lok (Simon Yam) and Big D (Tony Leung Kar-fai) are up for chairman of Wo Sing in this year's election. Lok is a reasonable businessman who values harmony, Big D is a stupid bonehead who values yelling. I'm not going to tell you what happens, but things come down to a fight over a ceremonial baton: the 100 year old symbol of Wo Sing's leadership. It's been hidden in China for safe-keeping and whoever holds it will be the guy with the leverage. With the bigwigs taken off the field by the cops, the election results comes down to a bunch of small potatoes racing after the baton and fighting over it as it passes from one bloody hand to another.

No one is who they seem, and there are moments in the middle of the movie when you'll be lost in a quicksand of competing motives and hidden agendas, but just keep breathing and don't think too hard. Go with it, as they say in Lamaze. Kudos go to Lam Suet (as a loyal soldier with an ugly head), Eddie Cheng (as a stuttering mountain of mild-mannered righteousness) and Nick Cheung (yep, the most annoying actor in Hong Kong rocks this movie hard) but the real revelation is Simon Yam. Tony Leung's flashy performance has earned the most kudos but to me he seemed in danger of going wildly over the top every time he appeared onscreen. Simon Yam's portrayal of a locked-down businessman with the heart of a monster is an actor's master class in keeping the stone face but letting revelatory moments shine through like a lighthouse, broadcasting what's lurking beneath the placid surface to the world. Late in the movie, he picks up the baton for the first time and his face lights up from within, like some kind of radioactive jack o'lantern that just crawled out of hell. It's gorgeous for those of us who like our evil hot.

Shot mostly in broad daylight, and with some scenes of violence that are almost unbearable to watch, ELECTION isn't a movie that I think will have any kind of mainstream appeal in the US. It's so bleak and unrelenting, and so dedicated to overturning a romanticized portrait of organized crime that's alien to Westerners, that I can't imagine general audiences getting all shook up over it. But presented the right way, I think this could be a critical hit because his message is sadly universal.

In the world according to Johnnie To, we're all animals. Triad members are merely the animals with the freshest blood on their muzzles.

December 29, 2005 at 09:32 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (4)


DRAGON SQUAD is a dour, joyless, slambang action ride

Executive produced by Steven Seagal and with its sense of fun surgically removed, DRAGON SQUAD is a dour, joyless, slambang action ride that provided me with more laughs per second than KUNG FU HUSTLE. The plot is about 5 kids (the Dragon Squad!) from different agencies (CIA, SAS, INTERPOL, MIA, PDA, ASPCA) who come to Hong Kong to deliver evidence in a trial against Panther Chien, a bad guy. But Panther gets abducted by a group of mercenaries and the disgraced kids are left in the care of Sammo Hung.

Try these motivations on for size and try not to giggle. The Dragon Squad wants to capture Panther Chien because they want to restore their good name. Within the Squad, Shawn Yue wants to make his sick brother proud of him, Eva Huang (KUNG FU HUSTLE) is an undercover cop who once fell in love with her target and now she needs closure so she can love again, Lawrence Chou Vanness Wu who's the new kid and is recording everything with a video camera in order to get at "the truth," is one of a quartet of kids who lost their dads in a police shootout years ago and she wants to make her dead father proud, while sniper Xia Yu is nursing a crush on Eva Huang but he's too shy to tell her. Sammo Hung not only needs to reconcile with his daughter who hates him for being a workaholic, but he also wants to get back at one of the mercenaries, Ko, who killed his officers in a robbery bust gone wrong. But Simon Yam blames Sammo Hung for the death of his men for acting without orders, and Ko blames Sammo Hung for the death of his criminals that day. Meanwhile, Petros (Michael Biehn from THE TERMINATOR) is not only in love with Panther Chien's brother's ex-girlfriend, Lee Bing-bing, but his brother was killed by Panther years ago on that exact same shootout! The mercenaries want to kill Panther and his brother, Tiger, who betrayed them and wow! I'm out of breath.

If a movie with these kind of over-motivated, under-developed characters doesn't grab you right off the bat, then just wait until you hear about the wall-to-wall action. Its arteries hardened with whip pans, smash zooms, freeze-frames and flashbacks, with portentous titles flashed on the screen like "Hidden Character, Veiled Strength" the action scenes are DOA. Playing fast and loose with time and space, characters are on the third floor of a parking garage one minute, and down on the street the next. A woman ducks around a corner and two seconds later she's managed to rig the entire area with complicated booby traps, some of which involved 200 foot long cables and treetop pulley systems.

But if you go in knowing how bad this movie is (and it's bad) you can get by on the jokes. The Dragon Squad keep returning to a shooting gallery for some reason to prove some hazy, difficult to understand point, and here's a slo-mo jogging sequence that might have you wetting your pants with laughter. Every cliche you've ever seen in an action movie (character dying in slow motion while Cantopop plays, guy electrocuted to death, dead body falls out window with chain around ankle and dangles, fellow killed in movie theater in sync with onscreen gunshot) is on full, risible display.

Simon Yam must have shot his scenes while on lunch break from ELECTION, and he's barely in the movie. Sammo Hung, Michael Biehn and Maggie Q all survive with their dignity somewhat intact. The rest? They get to the end of this flick with whatever dignity they had in tatters.

Daniel Lee (WHAT PRICE SURVIVAL? BLACK MASK) was once one of Hong Kong's most promising stylists, but now the world has caught up with him and rendered whatever talents he once had totally redundant. Lie down, Daniel, let them shovel dirt on you. It's over.

December 29, 2005 at 09:31 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 28, 2005


This looks like a pretty bad Bollywood movie, doesn't it?Rediff has weighed in with the 10 Worst Bollywood Movies of 2005. The list is well worth reading but here's the titles with a brief pull-quote from Rediff, summarizing their problems with it.

And can I just take a moment to say that I much prefer this kind of year-end, guided missile attack to the mind-numbingly boring, marching-in-lockstep Year End Best Of lists that US critics are unleashing right now? I understand that every movie critic needs a week when they don't actually do any work and instead just sit around in their bathrobes and type up their Big Thoughts on the year in movies but good god - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, 2046, MUNICH...A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, 2046, MUNICH...SQUID AND THE WHALE, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, MUNICH...I'm ready to blow my brains out, such as they are.

Anyways, on to Rediff's list:

WAQT - "unwatchably wrong"

PADMASHREE LALOO PRASAD YADAV - "Mahesh Manjrekar should not direct"

KAAL - "Another of Ajay's [Devgan] mistakes in a year littered with them."

BEWAFAA - "Taking a good cast and making them look bad is a pretty tough ask, but Darshan handles it with ease."

NEAL N' NIKKI - "...might just be the most unwatchable thing to ever come out of the hallowed Yashraj stables."

BACHKE REHNA RE BABA - "...Rekha exhibiting a strong case for overdue retirement."

HOME DELIVERY - "...we're better off remaking SHOLAY."

MR YA MISS - "...brutally bad performances."

SHAADI NO. 1 - "There was a time when David Dhawan's movies used to be genuinely funny..."

MANGAL PANDEY (aka THE RISING) - "A ridiculous mix of irrelevant nautch girls and satis, full with homoerotic man-on-man mudwrestling subtext."

(Many thanks to Jennifer Young for this one)

December 28, 2005 at 10:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


Election2_aJohnnie To is everywhere,
Everywhere you look.
He's in your pants, and on your bed,
And even in your books.
A sharp-eyed reader drops a line
From his home in highest heaven
To say Breaking News is opening
(In America)
On January Twenty Seven.

He (or she) also says
Prepare for ELECTION TWO.
It's just wrapped up its shooting,
And here are screen captures just for you.

Election2_bThis time around it's Simon Yam
Who's running triad Wo Sing.
A guy named Jimmy isn't happy
With the way he's doing things.

Jimmy wants to leave Wo Sing
But that's not so simple, see
He's got some guys who want to make a deal
And they're from the PRC.

"Hey Jimmy," these officials say
"You should be the king
"We'll give you access to Chinese markets,
If you lead Wo Sing."

Just when he thinks it's over
Jimmy is pulled back in like Al*
But this time his triad boys are chopping necks
In the name of Hu Jintao.

*That would be Al Pacino in the GODFATHER 3

(A non-rhyming version of the ELECTION 2 synopsis can be found on the Celluloid Dreams website. More ELECTION screen captures can be found here, here, and here.)

December 28, 2005 at 10:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


"Sha bi" is a bit of popular Beijing slang that means "stupid c*nt" and by all accounts it's one of the city's most popular expressions. The Chinese media has recently been shocked - SHOCKED - to hear this vulgar phrase all over the city and some of them want the Beijingers to clean up their language by the 2008 Olympics. Coming from New York where "f*ck" is practically our national anthem I'm offended by this school marmish, puritanical outcry. How can you change the vocabulary of an entire city just to impress some tourists? You may as well roll over and become Las Vegas at that point.

Massage Milk (a Chinese blog) has mounted a vociferous defense of swearing as part of Beijing culture, and it ends with a scathing attack on the Five Friendlies, reading:

"There are many, many uncivilized things in Beijing. If a city is full of sha bi things, why the hell do you want to stop people calling out sha bi? The people have sha bi rights!

If one day this city solves all of its sha bi problems, then perhaps you won't hear Beijing swearing.

Think about it: with such sha bi looking Olympic mascots, why the hell can't we scream out sha bi when we attend Olympic events?"

F*ck it! Word up!

(Thanks to the ever-reliable Danwei for the translation)

December 28, 2005 at 10:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige are the two best known directors from China's so called Fifth Generation of filmmakers (I like that "so called", don't you?) and they both have movies out right now. For Zhang it's his Ken Takakura flick, RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES. For Chen it's THE PROMISE. What do these two movies have in common? The Chinese media (blogosphere included) is not impressed.

THE PROMISE has apparently become the most-loathed movie on Chinese blogs and here's an English translation of the most linked blog post taking its pants down and giving it a public whipping.

Dou Jiangming, the entertainment editor of Southern Metropolis Daily, has a blog post up about Zhang's RIDING ALONE that starts with his lunch and ends with another critic chiming in with a "Fuck it, word up!" Check out the English translation.


(Super Thanks to the Tireless and Never Ceasing Miracle of East South West North)

December 28, 2005 at 10:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 27, 2005


Tartan's Asian Extreme line is releasing Korea's Vietnam War ghost movie, R-POINTTartan's Asian Extreme line is releasing Korea's Vietnam War ghost movie, R-POINT, on Region 1 DVD on February 14, and they're releasing the Korean, sci fi boondoggle, NATURAL CITY later this spring. NATURAL CITY was a huge flop when it was released in 2003, but R-POINT was the one big horror hit from Korea's 2004 summer horror line-up.

R-Point can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com.

That's the DVD cover art for R-POINT on the right.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas!

December 27, 2005 at 01:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 26, 2005


Well, it's official: the Weinstein Company has cut Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE by about 20 minutes, changed the beginning and the ending, and added an Anthony Minghella written intro. Patrick Frater writes about the whole deal over at Variety and he says:

"Anthony Minghella has written a preface to communicate to Western auds the soul of eastern culture in Chen's film..."

For those who beat their chests and cry that Asian directors need to demand final cut when dealing with the Weinstein Company, well Chen Kaige did have final cut. Apparently he was convinced that the movie needed to be re-edited and cut so it runs 97 minutes. Chen says:

"Western audiences may not have the same patience as Asians. What we have now looks more of an action movie, but I think the soul of the movie is still there. Harvey sent people to help with things like the subtitles, and I participated all the way."

I'm sure he was also contractually obligated to say nice things about his movie being recut, as well.

So let's be clear: MASTER OF THE CRIMSON ARMOR does not equal THE PROMISE.

December 26, 2005 at 07:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)

December 25, 2005


Does MASTER OF THE CRIMSON ARMOR = THE PROMISE?MASTER OF THE CRIMSON ARMOR (the movie formerly known as THE PROMISE) is doing a one-week Academy qualifying run in LA at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 (9036 Wilshire Blvd.) starting on December 30. Go check it out and tell us what you see.

But will what you see actually be Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE? The ever-unreliable IMDB.com lists the running time as 128 minutes, but the Laemmle's Music Hall lists it as being 102 minutes. Has it been cut?

Also, a sharp-eyed reader informs us of that Eastday is reporting that Anthony Minghella has created an introduction for the movie and his wife, Carolyn Choa, has done the subtitles.

There was originally a rumor that Minghella was giving MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA this kind of intro treatment, but it looks like it was for MASTER OF THE CRIMSON ARMOR.

As you enter the holiday weekend, don't forget your math homework:


December 25, 2005 at 06:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (13)

December 23, 2005


If the thought of anther 2005 "Best of" makes you want to shoot yourself...oops! This blog needs every single reader it can get or Variety will send Army Archerd to my house, programmed to kill me! And he'll do it too, because that's how crazy he is.

But because you didn't ask for it....KAIJU SHAKEDOWN'S LIST OF THE BEST OF ASIAN FILM IN 2005

KOREAN MADNESS. It's short, it's funny, it's like KAMIKAZE GIRLS meets HANA & ALICE with better choreography than RENT, THE PRODUCERS and PERHAPS LOVE all put together. You can go watch it here.

ANTARCTIC JOURNAL. "See, in the movie these guys are in the Antarctic and they walk in the snow. They walk and they walk and they walk. Then they find a hut!" Uh, does anything else happen? "Sometimes they're in a tent."

DRINK, DRANK, DRUNK. Derek Yee followed up his harrowing and accomplished ONE NIGHT IN MONGKOK with this epic ode to the onscreen hurling of stomach contents. I lost count after the fifth time Daniel Wu tossed his cookies. And speaking of Daniel Wu...

If by "Best Actor" you mean "Guy who's been in every single movie this year" then that would be Daniel Wu. Aided and abetted by a law requiring every movie producer in Hong Kong to cast him in their film, Daniel Wu was in 5 movies this year, down from last year's high of 7.

THE LATE BLOOMER. Just knowing that even people confined to a wheelchair with MS can still get it together and become serial killers offers hope to millions of the differently abled.

With remakes of THE GODFATHER (SARKAR), OLDBOY (ZINDA), MAN ON FIRE (EK AJNABEE) and FIGHT CLUB (FIGHT CLUB) in 2005, Bollywood takes this prize hands down.

What you really want in a boss is consistency, and when they moved to a new company a lot of people worried that they might go a-changing. Don't sweat it, Harvey and Bob Weinstein are still up to the same tricks over at The Weinstein Company: acquiring Asian product and sticking it on the shelf. Let's all hope they start re-editing their acquisitions soon or I'll lose my faith in them.

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride: it's Wu Jing! He's been playing third fiddle in movies since 2001 but I wouldn't be surprised if you could find him in the background of movies going all the way back to 1946. This year's role: the cool bad guy in SHA PO LANG. He's talented, he's a good actor, so why can't he land a lead role? I guess he just ain't marriage material.

YAJI AND KITA: THE MIDNIGHT PILGRIMS. The flick starts off in black and white, with a brief joke about Tetris (using corpses), a quick lecture on the poisonous eyebrows of elephants, and then, suddenly, YAJI AND KITA launches into full color and song 'n dance, simultaneously. With lyrics like, "I'm Gaaaaaaay!" and a motorcycle ride into the future, there's no doubt that this is the musical number to beat in 2005.

The SIN CITY knock-off number over the titles of Ram Gopal Varma's JAMES.

Jackie Chan's first foray into CGI, THE MYTHBEST ACTION SCENE
THE MYTH. Jackie takes on a pack of Indian cops in a glue trap factory and proves he can still pull out the fun stunts when it counts.

THE MYTH. The laborious finale was larded with bad CGI the way a stomach-cramping plate of nachos is drowned in processed cheez whiz and cheap hamburger meat.

Sammo Hung in SHA PO LANG. The Sammo-lator comes storming back into the biz like a pissed off refrigerator covered with jailhouse tats.

Donnie Yen in SHA PO LANG. Striking only three or four of his patented pretty boy poses in the entire film, Donnie Yen demonstrates that he can turn the fancy lad dial down to zero and deliver the goods when necessary.

The roof of a skyscraper according to SHA PO LANG. Do these guys ever meet in a Starbucks to chat like regular people? And you know they take the stairs, too.

The Sunekosuri in Takashi Miike's THE GREAT YOKAI WAR. Little more than a sock puppet, and at times just a stuffed doll, this little booger delivers the most heart-rending performance of any special effect I've ever seen and that includes Gollum and King Kong.

Takashi Miike is the new John Waters not because of his grossness, but because of his good-natured embrace of bad taste. At the climax of THE GREAT YOKAI WAR when the Kirin Ichiban corporate logo comes to life and springs into the sky, Miike has his 11 year old hero hop on board and shout "Hooray!" This manages to top the random moment a few scenes back when a cooler full of Kirin Ichiban beer with magical powers falls out of the sky. Not since WAYNE'S WORLD has selling out been so fun.

Korean poster for A Bittersweet LifeBEST DRESSED
It's a tie between Lee Byung-Heong in A BITTERSWEET LIFE and Lee Yong-Ae in SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE. Whether it's Lee's muted slate suits, or his downscale earth tone J. Crew "Working Man's" collection outfits, whatever he wears is just perfect for mass blood-letting and mayhem. In her scarlet eye shadow and her vintage 60's dresses, Lee Yong-Ae is definitely dressed to kill right down to her designer, double-barreled pistol. And that high-collared leather coat? Meow!

Korea takes this one. When Im Sang-Soo wanted to release THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANG about the assassination of President Park the dead president's daughter took him to court and got an injunction forcing the re-editing of the movie because she was worried it might hurt her political career. Then, when Yoon Jong-Bin submitted a script about warm friendships in the army to the Defense Department in order to film his UNFORGIVEN on a military base they were more than happy to grant him his wish. When he swapped scripts on them and instead shot a harrowing tale of military brutality they were a little less thrilled and sued. The case is still pending.

Jang Jun-Hwan, the genius behind SAVE THE GREEN PLANET, has spent most of 2005 locked in a hotel room, writing and re-writing his script about a superhero. A superhero movie from the man who brought us the alien invasion of STGP? I'm there.

December 23, 2005 at 01:58 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)


Continuing to consolidate its position as the premier useless list makers in America, if not the world, the American Film Institute has just released yet another list of things. This time around it's their 2005 Moments of Significance. You might think that some of their moments are just plain insipid (Fox's episodes of 24 for mobile phones, called "mobisodes") and some are just harmless advertisements ("America Online's exclusive on-line coverage of the multi-city Live 8 concert proved a seismic moment in global access to live events...") but their best moment of significance was...well, let AFI tell it:

"2005 marked a fully found artistic reaction to 9/11 and the new realities created in its wake. Art not only has the ability to expose the complexities of the changed world we live in, but also to provide a unifying voice for a country trying to heal while still in conflict."

And what movie do they cite? MARCH OF THE PENGUINS.


"MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, a French documentary that chronicled the journey of emperor penguins in Antarctica, proved the surprise hit of the year for its universal message -- the need to be part of a community that cares for each other."

The other movies cited? GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK and WAR OF THE WORLDS. No mention of PARADIESE NOW, PRIVATE, SYRIANA, HOMECOMING, THE WAR WITHIN or any other movie that actually had something to do with international politics.

So let me get this straight. The best way for art to "explore the complexities of the changed world we live in" is to ignore the real world completely and offer audiences a way to escape into a fantasy land of UFOs, dead newscasters, and penguin vomit?

Thanks, AFI!

2005: Another year that wouldn't exist if you hadn't weighed in on it.

December 23, 2005 at 01:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 22, 2005


Yamato_posterHaruki Kadokawa's YAMATO: THE LAST BATTLE opened in Japan last weekend and the first thing it did was tromp KING KONG ($2.9 million on only 354 screens, as opposed to the $2.7 million KONG made on 800 screens) and now it looks like it's going to be Japan's big hit for the year, beating out BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN spin-off, THE NEGOTIATOR (which took in $36 million).

This is a comeback for Haruki Kadokawa (read about his Hitler Haiku and old coke habit) and the movie has been denounced for representing a surge in Japanese nationalism. The story is about the massive battleship Yamato that Japan built in WWII and was promptly sunk by the US Air Force. On that same note, while Korean culture has taken off in Japan it's also spawned a nasty backlash with anti-Korean sentiment growing in some circles.

On the positive side, this looks like yet another feather in the Asian film industries' collective caps. Korea held onto a 55% box office share, with ticket sales up by .2%. China's box office is up from 2004 by US$62 million and with film production reaching a new high. It also looks like domestic films in Hong Kong have had a good year with movies like ELECTION and SHA PO LANG turning out to be surprise hits.

So while the US box office has been a source of hair pulling, it looks like several Asian countries may have had very good years.

December 22, 2005 at 09:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


MCDULL, Hong Kong's chronically depressed, animated pigletHong Kong's chronically depressed, animated piglet is the city's favorite son, and his third animated adventure is set to hit screens on Chinese New Year. If you can call a movie an "adventure" that's about a cute, animated piglet growing up and realizing that dreams of being a ballerina, a princess, or an astronaut don't put food on the table but maybe you could be a teller at the bank? MCDULL: THE ALUMNI will combine animation and live action.

On the bummer tip, Hong Kong's Imagi International just won the contract to do the animation for the 2007 computer generated hunk of junk TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: the feature film! So now we know who to blame.

December 22, 2005 at 09:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


New York's Music Palace theater was NYC's last Chinese movie theaterNew York's Music Palace theater was NYC's last Chinese movie theater and one of the very last Chinese movie theaters in North America, and after it closed in 2000 the building sat on the corner of Bowery and Hester St. just rotting.

Well some folks have bought it recently (for $14 million) and although their plans for it aren't known they do seem to be rebuilding. While their architect was drawing up plans the went into the basement and discovered a cache of 400-500 movies. There was a lot of speculation when the Music Palace closed as to what happened to the hundreds of 35mm prints that everyone knew were floating around the building. Well, apparently they were in the basement just sort of sitting around.

The new owner plans to catalogue the prints and give them to "someone who will appreciate them". They say that most of the movies are from the 1970's, 80's and 90's.

December 22, 2005 at 09:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


Eric Khoo's Sinaporean film, BE WITH ME, is not authentic enough for the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Despite having played at the Toronto Film Festival, Cannes and the Telluride Film Festival, BE WITH ME was disqualified as Singapore's entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar because, after timing the print, the Academy decided that it had too much English in it. An Academy rule says that Foreign Film submissions must be made in a non-English language, and when they sat down with the stop watches they discovered that English got more screentime that Hokkien, ISL or Mandarin in BE WITH ME.

This is the eighth film disqualified from the Foreign Film category this year, including the very well known PRIVATE (Italy's entry about Israel didn't have any Italian in it) and CACHE (Austria's entry had its dialogue in French, not German).

The Academy doesn't see it as a problem that their rules have a 1950's view of the world (English is widely spoken in Singapore, and every Singaporean movie I've seen, except for FIFTEEN, had scads of English in it) and said that if this happens next year maybe, just maybe, they might rethink their rules.

December 22, 2005 at 09:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 21, 2005


Chen Zhisheng lives in a cageIn Zhucuopu Village a 52 year old mental patient, Chen Zhisheng, lives in a cage. Known in the village for violent outbursts that eventually drove away his wife and children, Chen was just an unpredicatable pain in the butt until last year when he walked out of his house, saw a 70 year old guy who shares the same name, and beat him to death. A woman tried to intervene and he beat her badly as well.

Because he's mentally ill he couldn't be sent to prison, and no one in the village could afford to send him to a mental institution so they pooled their money and built a cage. Now Chen lives in the cage full time. His cousin, Lao Wu, takes care of him, and he receives a 100 yuan a month subsidy for food and supplies. That should have been the end of things, but instead something odd happened: Chen became a celebrity.

The word got out that Chen could predict special lottery numbers for people who illegally played the Hong Kong lottery. His odd behavior was thought to be rife with mysterious clues that had to be interpreted. One man gave him a 50 yuan note for some tips, Chen tore it in half, and the man said, "Ah ha! The special number is 25." He played 25 and won. Chen's visitors come from far and wide, poring over his behavior and trying to convert it into lottery numbers. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don't, but they keep on coming.

You can read the whole story, with pictures, over on the magical East South West North blog.

December 21, 2005 at 01:00 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS isn't just for movie theaters anymore. The wuxia desert epic was also shot as a TV series that'll be airing on China's CCTV during the Chinese New Year (Feb 3 - 14) with three episodes being screened each day. Apparently, Tsui Hark turned in the series a while back, but CCTV has spent 6 months taking out the violence and the "draggy" parts, reducing the length from 40 episodes to 36.

I wish someone had done that to the movie.

(Thanks to the Wu Jing Fansite for the news)

December 21, 2005 at 12:57 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


French poster for THE PROMISEA sharp-eyed reader reports that THE PROMISE has broken box office records in China. Chen Kaige's poorly-reviewed period fantasy film has taken in a staggering US$9 million in its first four days of release, breaking the previous opening day record held by KUNG FU HUSTLE.

With no competition this week it looks like it'll keep raking in the yuan, until it piles into Zhang Yimou's RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES which opens this coming weekend. While Zhang's movie is a medium-budget, character driven kind of film and Chen's movie is a big-budget special effects extravaganza, I have to say that I'm pulling for Zhang's movie because it not only stars Japan's Ken Takakura but it also laid out a 900 foot long dinner table for guests when it premiered. 900 feet! Check that out.

(and click on the image for a larger view of THE PROMISE's French poster)

December 21, 2005 at 12:56 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Big budget Korean blockbuster TYPHOONThis is how you do it. After a record-breaking opening in Korea, the big budget Korean blockbuster TYPHOON is getting a North American release, but no Hollywood studio has picked up its rights. Instead, CJ Entertainment has worked out a deal where Dreamworks/Paramount will be distributing TYPHOON in North America via their distribution network.

No dates yet for the release, but it looks like we're talking early 2006. It also appears that Dreamworks has picked up the remake rights to TYPHOON.

This is the second time an alternate means of distributing Korean films in the US has been tried. In early 2004, Tartan released an unsubtitled version of the hit Korean film SILMIDO in the US before it was even out on video in Korea and from what I've heard they made a nice pocketful of change on it.

Also interesting is the fact that CJ was one of the initial investors in Dreamworks back when it was founded in 1994 which reverses what we think of as the usual model where Hollywood money gets dumped into foreign film industries, here's Korean money being used to start a Hollywood studio.

This North American distribution deal for TYPHOON comes at the very end of a bonanza year for Korean film exports, which have been rising steadily for 9 straight years, and 2005 saw them increase 15% over 2004. A lot of this was due to Japan paying big bucks for Korean movies like APRIL SNOW ($7.5 million - it grossed $23.5 million in Japan), SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE ($3 million) and TYPHOON ($4 million).

DID YOU KNOW: that TYPHOON is about pirates? Argh!

December 21, 2005 at 12:49 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 19, 2005


Not living up to THE PROMISEChen Kaige's THE PROMISE opened over the weekend and while I'm not sure of the numbers in China, it is in third place at the Hong Kong box office (after KING KONG and HARRY POTTER) which isn't so bad. Except that  it's earned less than Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS did on its opening weekend and that's not so great.

Poor turn-out could be attributed to reviews like this one which calls the movie's kissing scenes "brutal to the eyes", says that Nic Tse "buzzes in and out of the story like an irritating mosquito" and has to resort to reading the production notes in the press kit to make any sense out of the story.

The title of this post is my first, last and totally lousy attempt to do a "Promise" play on words when talking about Chen Kaige's new movie. I promise.

(Thanks to Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review)

December 19, 2005 at 07:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


Over on Darcy Paquet's Korean Film.org discussion boards some news of Park Chan-Wook's (OLDBOY, SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE) new film is appearing. It's titled I AM A CYBORG and rumor has it that the two leads will be Bi (aka Rain) and Gang Hye-Jung (the lead actress from OLDBOY).

I had some more info in September, and the alternate English title I've heard for it is I AM A CYBORG (AND THAT'S OKAY).

December 19, 2005 at 07:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 16, 2005


Shikari, the Bollywood remake of KING KONG

Some of our favorite flavors are coming together to form great new tastes just in time for Christmas. The snarky Sepia Mutiny is unearthing rumors and scraps of information regarding a 1962 Bollywood remake of KING KONG called SHIKARI.

The poster (and t-shirt) you see here is from great flavor number 2 - Omar Khan's Bubonic Films website. Omar is an ice cream shop owner in Lahore who is one of the only people in the world preserving Pakistani movie memorabilia and he has a much better, review-heavy site here that is well worth your time. He even owns prints of several of the Lollywood films on his site and was instrumental in the Mondo Macabro release of ZINDA LASH, Pakistan's musical version of DRACULA.

Back to KONG or, rather, SHIKARI - the Sepia Mutiny folks are piecing together info on it and so far the movie seems to involve wrestlers, a fight in the forest, and a powerful ape. Read their comment board for what they've got so far. It's like CSI: BOLLYWOOD!

December 16, 2005 at 07:06 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Chris Doyle weighs in on exactly what he thinks of Martin Scorsese's THE DEPARTEDIn an article by Saul Symonds for the Hong Kong Filmart website, Chris Doyle weighs in on exactly what he thinks of Martin Scorsese's remake of INFERNAL AFFAIRS. The remake stars Matt Damon, Leonardo Dicaprio, Jack Nicholson and is called THE DEPARTED. Doyle was the "visual consultant" on INFERNAL AFFAIRS so let's all remember that he might be taking this a little personally.

He says:

"I find it disappointing, if not depressing, to see someone of the integrity and scholarship of Marty apparently not knowing or caring where the original originates from, which I find insulting to our integrity and efforts, our energy and perseverance...to have something fall into one's lap because one is supposedly competent in a certain kind of filmmaking is exactly why accountants are making non-subtitled versions of what we do."

I don't know what stings Martin Scorsese more: being reminded that he doesn't care about the original (supposedly he hasn't seen it) or being called Marty.

December 16, 2005 at 07:04 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)


Chinese superstar, Jay Chou, has had it with his mom!Chinese superstar, Jay Chou, has had it with his mom! He's so angry he's moving out!

According to Hollywood China:
"Jay Chou, 26, and one of China's biggest pop stars, recently threatened to abandon his long time roomate, his mother, after she accidently served him a peach daiquiri with alchohol in it. Chou had reportedly asked for a virgin peach daiquiri.

"He is the biggest popstar in Asia. I just thought it was time for him to party a little bit and act like a spoiled rock star for a change," said his mother, Yeh Hui-mei.

"I have enough going on right now. I just wanted to chill out, watch video's of myself, and drink a virgin peach daiquiri. But no! My mom has to spike it...with what I think was alchohol," said Jay Chou. "So as much as it hurt, I told her I was going to move out if she kept being a bad influence."

You can read the entire sordid story here.

(And if you're not laughing by the time you're done, then go look in the mirror for a full three minutes and think seriously about what kind of person you are and how you got to this point)

December 16, 2005 at 01:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


The first reviews are out for Chen Kaige's THE PROMISESo the first reviews for Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE are trickling out.

You can read some info from Michi (of Hoga Central) on our very own comment boards summing up some of the Japanese language reviews.

Then, Wisekwai has pointed us to what looks like the first English language review and it's a mean one.

Those of us in North America should take a moment of silence because this was the day that THE PROMISE was supposed to be released over here. Sigh.

December 16, 2005 at 01:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 15, 2005


Chicken vs. HelmetThe WTO ministerial meeting is going on in Hong Kong and there's been all kinds of fun, but the best thing so far is the Chicken vs. Helmet incident.

Briefly, folks are ticked that a TVB reporter put on a helmet before doing a live broadcast, giving the impression that things were dangerous and scary out there on the streets. However, absolutely nothing was going on and the protests were totally peaceful. Then the Chicken got into it.

It's better if you just read the whole thing.

(And thanks to Roland Soong of East South West North once again for his deadpan blogging)

December 15, 2005 at 11:02 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Andy Lau will be king of the world, and there's nothing you can do about it. And what does every king need? A throne. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Andy Lau Celebrity Endorsed Toilet (as seen in Shanghai).

Andy Lau Celebrity Endorsed Toilet 

This totally beats out Kelly Chen's toilet spray endorsement.

And in a bit of what I like to call "synergy" low level star Sonijia Kwok is heading to Mainland China for work. After being seen by the paparazzi going to the bathroom behind some trees, Sonijia vows that this time she will go to the toilets, no matter how far away they are. And, if she's lucky, they could be Andy Lau Celebrity Endorsed Toilets where she could answer the call of nature and get fired u about her career all at the same time.

(Thanks to Shanghai List for their keen reflexes)

December 15, 2005 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


South India's puckish, mustachioed film star, RajnikanthSouth India's puckish, mustachioed film star, Rajnikanth, just had his 56th birthday and we should all take a few moments to remember that Rajni means magic.

Gravity doesn't bother Rajni, he leaps and flies all over the place, spending approximately one minute on the ground for every 10 minutes he spends soaring through the skies in his movies. Sometimes a wall is too high for Rajni and he has to kill some bad guys on the other side. What does he do? He throws a gun into the air and uses another gun to shoot the trigger and kill the baddie. Someone shoots at you. I would die, you probably would too, but Rajni pulls a knife, cuts the bullet in half and each half kills a bad guy standing behind him. What about when someone shoots at a knife-less Rajni? Dude, he just catches the bullet in a piece of pipe, spins the pipe around, and it kills the guy who was dumb enough to shoot at him.

I think Saif Ali Khan (star of DIL CHATA HAI and EK HASEENA THI) should spend a little more time thinking, "What would Rajni do?" While driving home from rehearsals for the MTV Music Awards he ran over a kid. Rather than stomp on the accelerator and get out of there, Saif says he was "proud to do the right thing" and he took the kid to the hospital. Docs said he had a broken leg. Indian law says there has to be an arrest in every road accident and so later Saif was arrested and his car was impounded. Now the kid's uncle wants more money. "I won't be milked by people," declares Saif. "I've paid for my sin. Legal work is on. If there's a case, so be it." Besides, "It was a very crowded road and such mishaps aren't uncommon."

Is that what Rajni would do? No! Rajni does not lactate so he can't be milked.

Then there's Salman Khan, the guy who supposedly beat up his girlfriend, Aishwarya Rai, back in the day. The guy who ran over some homeless people while they were sleeping and he was drunk, killing one of them. The guy whose hot abs can cure the diseases of those who view them. Now he's in trouble for killing some protected antelope back in 1998 and he didn't appear in court this past Monday, causing the trial to be rescheduled. Salman's lawyer says the poor guy had some "minor head surgery" which sounds bad. Then everyone found out he had just gotten hair plugs, which sounds dumb.

What would Rajni do? He would laugh at Salman. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Silly Rajni.

(For totally hot Rajni flava, do yourself a fava and watch MUTHU MAHARAJA)

December 15, 2005 at 10:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Ahn Byeong-Ki, the Korean director of the horror movie PHONE and BUNSHINSABA (which I kind of liked), has announced that his next movie will be called APT (or APARTMENT for the abbreviation-challenged) and will be a comeback movie for once-super-hot actress Ko So-Young whose last performance was in the Han Suk-Gyu spy thriller, DOUBLE AGENT.

Based on a manga, APT is about a guy who finds a haunted apartment, which sounds reasonable. It also did about US$3 million in presales at Cannes this year, which sounds a little less reasonable.

December 15, 2005 at 10:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005


MarebitoIf you entered the Tartan DVD giveaway that's here then your chances of winning just increased by 25%. Or 30%. Some percent. Because Tartan just told me that they're adding a fourth prize pack to the three we've already been given and this one is the Grand Prize. It's the same as the rest, but the AB-NORMAL BEAUTY DVD is signed by the Pang Brothers.

Well, do you need anything else to make your family jealous over the holidays? My mom will just die of jealousy when she sees my signed Pang Brothers DVD...and yours will too!

ach Fun-Pak includes a brand new DVD of:

AB-NORMAL BEAUTY (lesbian horror flick)
KOMA (organ donation nightmare)
SORUM (incestuous haunted house movie)
SPIDER FOREST (good looking killer spider, bloody sickle flick)
SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (Park Chan-Wook's masterpiece)
WHISPERING CORRIDORS (killer dead Korean school girls)

That's 6 brand new DVDs with a retail value of $10,384!!!

All you have to do is answer one single question about MAREBITO, the new horror movie from Takashi Shimizu (JU-ON, THE GRUDGE) that opens today in the US, and I'll print out the emails with the correct answer, mix them up in a big hat, and pick three.

The question is:

MAREBITO kicks off with a nice, bearded man committing suicide. How does he do it?

Think about it, one ticket (or illegal DVD purchase) and you could win a prize worth $28,754!!!

Just email your answers to pandashine@yahoo.com with TARTAN FUN PACK in the subject line.

I'll close the contest and draw winners on Monday, December 19.

December 14, 2005 at 11:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 13, 2005


Ursula K. LeGuin's A WIZARD OF EARTHSEAStudio Ghibli, home of the big animation kahuna himself, Hayao Miyazaki, has updated their official site and announced that their next project (spoken of in rumors) will be an adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin's A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA and it'll be directed by Miyazaki's son, Goro. It's got a July 2006 release date.

Miyazaki has said he doesn't approve of his son directing a movie, and Goro responds on the new site. But it's in Japanese, and I can't read it. Curse them for writing in their native language. Anyone able to translate this?

(Thanks to Nausicaa.net for their fine work in bringing this to everyone's attention, and to Twitch which has more on the story)

December 13, 2005 at 08:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)


Jackie Chan's first foray into CGI, THE MYTHFor years Jackie Chan held out against using computer effects, claiming that audiences wanted to see what he could do, and that CGI leveled the playing field too much. Once you could paint anything you wanted onscreen with pixels then Jackie Chan wasn’t so special anymore. But in the past few years as the wear and tear of the years has reduced his joints to dust, Chan has embraced digital effects. At first it was just to erase cables, but in THE MYTH he’s using CGI to create sets and execute stunts and while most directors could stand to embrace change and catch up with the times, I wish Jackie Chan hadn’t. Because every time the movie goes to CGI it starts to suck hard, which is unfortunate, because this is the best Jackie Chan movie to come out in a long time.

The plot is the kind of character and location-heavy muddle that Chan’s once sharp script instincts have been reduced to lately. We’ve got Jackie playing an archeologist in modern day Hong Kong, India and China, then we’ve got Jackie playing a Qin Dynasty general in China and Korea. There’s a bunch of twaddle about levitating meteor rocks, holy men and immortality but you can pretty much tune all this out so it’s nothing more than a dull, comforting roar of white noise. Without a plot how does the movie work? The same way Jackie’s movies always work: on Jackie’s charisma and the action scenes. The action comes flying at the audience fast and furious and while some of it is a little creaky there’re some setpieces that’ll give you that old time brain buzz. If Chan isn’t as fast as he once was, he still understands the way the human body works like nobody’s business and he can deliver an action sequence that’s stunningly creative. Most notably there’s a factory fight in THE MYTH that’s right up there with anything he’s ever done. However you don’t find yourself gasping at the speed of the combat, or its brutality, but at how Jackie reduces his cast to a bunch of infinitely flexible props, a human jungle gym for him to climb around on.

But the finale of the movie takes place in an all-CGI environment and, to be honest, it stinks. The simple frission generated by Jackie bending around a few bodies in an earlier reel is replaced by the empty spectacle of Jackie floating around with a bunch of guys in front of a green screen. They’re supposed to be suspended over a bottomless pit and Jackie tries to throw in a couple of gags from ARMOUR OF GOD 2: OPERATION CONDOR but without the real threat of physical danger these stunts are just empty gestures, not cortex-stimulating brushes with death. When a stuntman staggered to the edge of a high platform in OPERATION CONDOR, pulling himself back just in time, your skin prickled because this was a real person saving themselves from real danger through sheer physical skill. When the same thing happens in THE MYTH it’s just a guy a couple of feet off the ground, clipped into a harness, with some folks in green raincoats standing around him. Nothing prickles here.

And that’s too bad because THE MYTH, for all its stupidity, works. Jackie Chan has rescued lots of his movies with a tragic ending, and THE MYTH has one in spades. People forget that for all his comedy, many of Jackie’s movies end on a strangely disaffected note. POLICE STORY 2 and 3 end with downbeat finales, with POLICE STORY 3 going for flat-out political discontent. DRUNKEN MASTER 2 plays Jackie’s brain damage for laughs, but that doesn’t change the fact that he ends the movie severely mentally impaired. And don’t get me started on PROJECT A, ARMOUR OF GOD 2: OPERATION CONDOR or POLICE STORY which all have deeply depressing endings with their main characters either about to die or go insane. THE MYTH returns to that grand old dark tradition with Jackie abandoned, rejected by those close to him, with those he cares about either missing or dead, sitting all alone in an empty mansion. The final 20 minutes of THE MYTH contain so much tragedy that it adds a retrospective weight to the previous fluffy plot line.

But then there’s that CGI. Undermining everything that Jackie is good at, negating the risks he takes, devaluing his skills. Jackie, please, this is one time where you should stick to your stubborn guns and reject the changing times.

Stay stuck in the past, Jackie. It’s where you matter most.

(You can pick which version of THE MYTH to order here, read the Variety review or Twitch review )

December 13, 2005 at 08:40 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (6)

December 12, 2005


Feast your looking holes on these stills from Erik Matti's epic, Philippino fantasy flick, EXODUS. More EXODUS news can be found here. (Click on each pic to see a larger version popup).






December 12, 2005 at 12:15 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)


Save San Francisco's Four Star theater!

The Four Star Theater is the last Chinese movie theater in North America, and it's been in a long-running fight with its landlord (a church) to keep the building. You can read more about the issues involved here and just to clarify one point, the Lees (who run the Four Star) had asked the landlord to come to them if he ever wanted to sell the building, but for some inexplicable reason he never allowed them to make an offer. Here's the latest email from the Four Star:

We've been counting on a San Francisco law passed last year, to allow us to keep our doors open and keep showing movies at 4Star, and to keep a thriving independently owned movie theatre as part of the neighborhood and community. However, we've been in litigation with the owners of the property since March 2005: They want to evict us, we are fighting to stay. The case will likely go to trial within two months.

The legal fees required for our fight have been mounting and we are asking for your support. This is our final battle, our LAST chance to save the 4 Star Theatre.  We need your help. Please come to the 4Star and show your support for the theatre on Saturday, December 17, 2005: it will be an all day fundraiser where we'll be screening films continuously from 1 pm until midnight.

Approximate screening times are as follows:
1:00 pm
SUPERCOP (1994) - Starring Jacky Chan and Michelle Yeoh
3:00 pm
THE LAST WOMAN OF SHANG (1964) - Starring Lin Dai
5:30 pm
LA PIENTRE (1995) - Gong Li
7:30 pm
DEAF MUTE HEROINE (1967) - Starring Helen Ma
9:30 pm
CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987) - Starring Leslie Chan
Thank you 4Star Theatre supporters.
To read the recent news article about our predicament in SFGATE:

For more information on how you can help, go here.

How can you turn down watching SUPERCOP and A CHINESE GHOST STORY for a good cause?

December 12, 2005 at 09:41 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Firecracker, the UK mostly-Asian films online magazine, has its new issue up and this one's got the goods. Not only are there plenty of reviews but, best of all, there's an interview with NOWHERE TO HIDE and THE DUELIST director, Lee Myung-Se, in which he addresses the question of whether or not THE DUELIST contains drugs.

They've also got one of those Best of 2005 lists that's the kind that is really the best of what they've seen in 2005 (KUNG FU HUSTLE shares space with RUNNING OUT OF TIME) rather than what was released.

December 12, 2005 at 09:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Banner poster for EK AJNABEE

EK AJNABEE, the Amitabh Bachchan starring Bollywood remake of MAN ON FIRE with action by the ONG BAK stunt team, was released over the weekend and the first decent review I've seen is here. In a nutshell: good start, predictable finish, great Amitabh. There's also a bonus review of Bollywood porn industry expose' KALYUG included with it.

December 12, 2005 at 09:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Bird Flu burgerDon't be fooled, if the New York Times offered me money and a byline I'd happily write whatever half-assed story they wanted me to write, but until they buy my shriveled little soul I'm free to point out just how lame their cultural coverage has become. Case in point: this Sunday's piece on the Hong Kong movie industry's "flu taboo".

"While the dream factory often doubles as a pop-cultural inventory for diseases, Hong Kong's busy film industry has been wary of the current flu strain, which emerged in the territory in 1997 and led to 18 cases and 6 deaths," the article says, leading one to believe that somehow Hong Kong moviemakers are avoiding the big box office awaiting a movie about the bird flu because they are "wary" - we're not told what they're wary of, but I would assume the implication is that they're wary of upsetting the government.

The article then does an impressive 180 and names two movies that do mention Asian bird flu (GOLDEN CHICKEN and the TV series "Virtues of Harmony II") and it talks about the SARS films that were made a few years ago. I can practically smell over-heated brain cells of the Times editorial staff all the way over here in my hovel. The mental energies expended on this piece can only be figured in BTUs.

Getting limper with every sentence, the piece ends with these immortal words:

"Indeed, the harder a disease hits, the greater its filmic potential, said Stuart Krassner, a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine. If the flu approaches the level of the 1918 pandemic, said the professor, 'there will probably be films about it.'"

The flu pandemic of 1918 killed around 50 million people, so I guess if that happened then sure, there probably would be films about it. Don't go too far out on that limb, Stuart.

Just as a point of comparison, the global death toll for bird flu is 70. So only 49,999,930 deaths to go before those bird flu movies hit the big screen. I can't wait!

If anyone from the New York Times reads this blog, allow me to pitch them a gripping story that will stun! And shock! The nation! Since 1999 the American death toll from West Nile Virus, a nasty disease transmitted from mosquitos to humans, has reached 650 people. 650 dead people and do I see a Hollywood movie about West Nile Virus? No! Because there is a Hollywood Virus Taboo. Hollywood directors are "wary" of West Nile Virus even though they know that including a character in their movies named "Niley" who has an enormous blood-sucking proboscis would drive up their box office by at least 20%.

Remember: the sacred duty of a newspaper arts and culture writer is to cash the check. And I am ready to shoulder that responsibility.

December 12, 2005 at 09:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


I just picked myself up off the floor after seeing this one: a Bollywood remake of David Fincher's FIGHT CLUB. I can't figure out too much about the plot, but there's a RealPlayer trailer here which contains the immortal lines, "Everyone has their issues. But it can be sorted out. Welcome to Fight Club." Please let there be lots and lots and lots of musical numbers in this one.

IndiaFm gets all breathless ("In these times of feel-good films and light-hearted comedies, the punch of a full-fledged action flick was missing for quite some time.") and soft-headed ("Despite not superstars, the multi-starrer 'Fight Club', in a unique way, uses the youth brigade of Bollywood to its advantage."). Unique isn't the word I would have picked.

Presented with year-end remakes of MAN ON FIRE, OLDBOY and FIGHT CLUB, Bolly-fans tear out their hair.

December 12, 2005 at 09:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 09, 2005


Big. Fat. Tartan Asian Extreme Giveaway. Just in time for Hanukah, Kwanza and Christmas. Three people (and by people I mean anyone reading this blog be they human, monkey, robot or shark) will win a Tartan Asian Extreme Fun-Pak. Each Fun-Pak includes a brand new DVD of:

AB-NORMAL BEAUTY (lesbian horror flick)
KOMA (organ donation nightmare)
SORUM (incestuous haunted house movie)
SPIDER FOREST (good looking killer spider, bloody sickle flick)
SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (Park Chan-Wook's masterpiece)
WHISPERING CORRIDORS (killer dead Korean school girls)

That's 6 brand new DVDs with a retail value of $10,384!!!

All you have to do is answer one single question about MAREBITO, the new horror movie from Takashi Shimizu (JU-ON, THE GRUDGE) that opens today in the US, and I'll print out the emails with the correct answer, mix them up in a big hat, and pick three.

The question is:

MAREBITO kicks off with a nice, bearded man committing suicide. How does he do it?

Think about it, one ticket (or illegal DVD purchase) and you could win a prize worth $28,754!!!

Just email your answers to pandashine@yahoo.com with TARTAN FUN PACK in the subject line.

I'll close the contest and draw winners on Monday, December 19.

Get thinking!

Marebito poster

December 9, 2005 at 11:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


A couple of weeks ago I was giving away copies of Michael Berry's new book Speaking in Images: Conversations with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers. I asked a question and the winners were selected from the correct entries. The winners have been notified, and their books are in the mail as I type.

But the question that was asked was one that I'm sure has been weighing on your minds ever since. It was:

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

Of course, as you all know, the answer is d) monkey-operated robot ninjas. However, I was very impressed with some of the thoughtful answers.

Two of the winners just sent in a terse "robots" and because they seemed so sure of themselves I figured they might have some inside information and, since I wanted to be on their good side, I sent them books.

But a surprising number of people made the case for sharks, including the following:

"Sharks of course.  When global warming hits us full on, all the monkeys, robots and ninjas will be join us in The Great Floating Shark Buffet.  Except for the Ninja Water Spider Attack Team, naturally
they'll be fine."

I found that pretty convincing.

However, someone sent in this chilling prediction of a ninja apocalypse:

"The answer is (c) ninjas.  The monkeys and the robots will be too busy with each other, the monkeys won't operate robot ninjas because they hate technology, and sharks have always been overhyped as a threat."

It sounds as firm as anything Nostradamus ever wrote down, and so away went a book to them.

My favorite answer, though, was from the person who actually spent the time digging up a picture of a monkey operating what might just be a robot ninja. I was appropriately horrified and so here is that picture. Gaze ye upon the future and tremble, humanity.

A monkey operating what might just be a robot ninja

December 9, 2005 at 10:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Ram Gopal Varma is the first mainstream Bollywood director (that I'm aware of) to have his movies completion bonded. He's turned to the Film Finances Company of HollywoodLand, USA to provide completion bonds for movies coming out of the RGV Film Factory.

What's the big deal? Well, in the past Bollywood filmmakers have complained about having to turn to *ahem* alternative sources to get investors in their films. Most international investors, and every single US investor (except for maybe some drunk dentists you round up on a cruise ship) insist on a film having a completion bond, which basically means that if the movie they invest in doesn't get finished then they get their investment back. Sometimes the completion bond company will even send in a director or producer of their own to salvage a project that's gone off the rails since, like most insurance companies, they'd rather not have to pay their policy holders if it's at all avoidable.

The completion bond company insists on a finalized script, a firm schedule, contracts, all that jazz. So, suddenly. RGV has moved into the big leagues where he's going to be accountable to the bond company on the bad side, but he'll be able to attract overseas investors on the good side.

This is big stuff and could represent the beginning of the end of cowboy filmmaking in India.

(More info on completion bonds)

December 9, 2005 at 09:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


A sharp-eyed reader points out that THE PROMISE (aka MASTER OF THE CRIMSON ARMOR) will get an Academy qualifying run in Los Angeles as follows:

Master of the Crimson Armor (MCARM)12/23/05 ACADEMY RUN LA;   

So if you can find it, and you can see it: go. Tell the rest of us how it is. We all want to know.

December 9, 2005 at 09:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


AZN, Comcast's Asian-American cable channel was the Death Star of Asian television contentAZN, Comcast's Asian-American cable channel was the Death Star of Asian television content. With deep pockets and huge distribution it was set to basically blast the playing field with its mega-ton death ray and leave the other all-Asian channels (ImaginAsian and the assorted MTV Asian channels) reduced to little more than lightly smoking carbonized pellets. They were throwing sponsorship money around like candy and had greenlit lots of original programming that was being shot by nice people who loved children and animals.

Then, this past Monday, it got shut down.

Jeff Yang has an article on what happened here but the short story is that AZN's programming was all part of an elaborate financial transaction that required the company to keep it alive for a year in order to collect a cash windfall (around $545 million in tax free gold doubloons). The year is up and now the plug has been pulled and pretty much everyone has been laid off.

Comcast released the following statement:

"We are restructuring AZN to leverage consolidated network functions in Comcast's programming operations. As we complete this restructuring, we will continue to deliver high-quality programming for Asian Americans, and the programming and viewing experience will remain essentially unchanged."

Except, of course, there won't be any.

December 9, 2005 at 12:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 08, 2005


No, no, not the story of Moses leading the Jews to freedom, but the new film from Erik Matti (GAGAMBOY) about "...a grim, unsmiling mercenary with extraordinary fighting skills and a murky past." Sounds like MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA to me.

EXODUS was shot on HD and featuring over 700 CGI effects (the most special-effects-stuffed flick ever from the Philippines) it's a LORD OF THE RINGS sort of movie where Exodus and his fellowship of monsters have to go kick the evil butt of a despotic king who lives in a gigantic, city-sized tree.

There's a cowardly centaur, a bratty fire-flining kid (whose fireballs turn into twin fighter sidekicks) and an aswang, which according to the notes is a creature that "...has the wings of a bat, the face of an angel, and the temper of a devil" which, again, sounds like Zhang Ziyi in MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA.

Fans of GAGAMBOY will be happy to know that the lovely Aubrey Miles is in EXODUS and fans of Hong Kong action will be happy to know that Philip Ko (he "discovered" Yukari Oshima and played a baddie in EASTERN CONDORS, DRAGONS FOREVER, and appeared in tons of old school Hong Kong flicks like 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER and DRAGON GATE INN) and his 12 strong stunt team did the action.

Big fantasy film. Lots of special effects. Decent cast. Wacky monsters. We all know Matti has a good sense of humor. Despite my better judgement I sort of have high hopes for this one.

Click here to download the "Exodus" trailer. It's a 3 megabyte Quicktime file, and I think its the right Quicktime format to be watchable on a video ipod.

December 8, 2005 at 09:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


Francis Ng and Harvey Keitel in ONE LAST DANCE

A few stills here from ONE LAST DANCE, the Singaporean hitman movie that's playing at Sundance this year.

It stars Francis Ng as a hitman with a very severe haircut, hired to kill the people responsible for the kidnapping of a businessman's son. "With every death, the killer gets closer to the last kidnapper's name... his own," breathlessly intones the IMDB, which either means that Francis was also involved with the kidnapping or that this is one of those movies where he doesn't remember who he is and each person he kills has a Scrabble tile that will eventually spell out his name.

"Tober? Berto? Robert? Am I Robert?!?"

Harvey Keitel, on the other hand, plays someone named Terrtano. "Anoterret? ToneRatr? Ranttero?"


With a part in his hair, Francis Ng means business

December 8, 2005 at 07:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Kim Jong-Il has vowed to beat HollywoodThe Dear Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, has vowed to beat Hollywood and turn cinemas around the world into a sea of money all pouring into his pockets.

He claimed recently that, "We are not competing with U.S. and European films. We have to beat U.S. films." And, supposedly, the first international blockbuster from North Korea is already in the pipeline.

I'm holding my breath. Hope I don't turn blue. And die.

(Thanks to Niraj Bhatt for pointing this out)

December 8, 2005 at 07:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 07, 2005


The Weinstein Company has postponed its release of Chen Kaige's THE PROMISEWell, we saw that coming. The Weinstein Company has postponed its release of Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE, moving it from the announced December 16 slot, to a date sometime in 2006.

Originally, THE PROMISE was going to be released in China, Hong Kong and the US on or around Dec. 16, which seemed to be a smart distribution strategy in an ever-shrinking world where today's hot potato was tomorrow's stale biscuit.

Instead, the Weinsteins are choosing to focus on their holiday releases HOODWINKED (computer animated flick about fairy tales, Dec. 23) and WOLF CREEK (fact-based horror movie, Dec. 25).

December 7, 2005 at 02:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Buffy's back. Sarah Michelle Gellar has signed on to star in the Takashi Shimizu-directed sequel to his remake of his own film, JU-ON: THE GRUDGE. The sequel starts shooting in mid-January, for an October 20, 2006 release.

Full details here.

December 7, 2005 at 02:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


A link to the Japanese trailer of the new Jet Li movie, FEARLESS (called SPIRIT in Japan) is here as a Windows Media File. All the poshness you'd expect from director Ronny Yu (THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR) and all the jumping and kicking in slow motion you'd expect from Jet Li. If it is, indeed, his last martial arts movie, as he's claiming, then he's going out with a classy bang. A "bong" so to speak.

(Courtesy of Kung Fu Cult Cinema)

December 7, 2005 at 02:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Vivek Oberoi, before Aish dumped himIt was Bollywood's worst kept secret - and now it's over. Vivek Oberoi (the hunky young star of COMPANY) and Aishwarya Rai (DEVDAS, BRIDE AND PREJUDICE) have broken up after three years.

The reasons? The Rais didn't like Vivek. He was too public about their relationship. She wanted marriage (32, don't you know?) but he wanted to focus on his career (29...ah, youth). Folks say the end arrived when Aish returned to town after shooting a film and went right into production on DHOOM 2, leaving Vivek all alone.

Sigh. Why is it so hard for two mega-stars whose every move is scrutinized by the ravenous press and whose lives are a narcissistic whirl of self-absorption spun by a web of managers, agents and publicists to fall in love?

December 7, 2005 at 01:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)


Amitabh Bachchan's recent surgery has put a kink into almost all of Bollywood's end-of-the-year releases. Still in the hospital, folks are estimating that after he comes home it'll be 4-5 weeks before he can return to work. This news makes producers pull their hair out. How could his body betray them?!?

FAMILY is reportedly held up because the Big B didn't finish his dubbing work on it (although the producers claim it was filmed in synch sound and is still on time) and two premieres were canceled because of the Big B's poor health: the premiere of Rohan Sippy's BLUFFMASTER was canceled, and the premiere of EK AJNABEE was canceled as well.

December 7, 2005 at 01:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


Japan's Mainichi Daily NewsOne of my favorite news sites is Japan's Mainichi Daily News, but perusing its headlines on Monday was like opening a super-special door into hell. It was on apocalyptic headline after another.

Woman locked teenage daughter at home for 10 years
Her brother and sister went to school, teachers visited her home to try to get her mom to let her come to class, and yet no one did anything for 10 years until she escaped and wound up living in public parks.

Police believe killer of 7-year-old girl cased abduction scene
The Peruvian guy who says the devil possessed him and caused him to kill a little girl while he was distracted by thoughts of his own daughter back in the old country turns out to have been a little less impromptu than he claimed. In fact, he was seen casing the playground beforehand.

Man attempted to abduct girl from Osaka school by posing as her guardian
He convinced teachers he was legit by using his target's first and last name, but the tot was smart and ran away.

Man collared for faking nose injury to swindle store
He sez a piece of furniture hit him in the nose...but he lied!

Fake doctor arrested for working at 20 hospitals
Killing patients since 1997.

Carpenter busted for making obscene phone calls to girl he found through pen pal ad
She wanted to talk about animated films, but he wanted her to take off her clothes.

Truck driver nabbed for beating young son of live-in girlfriend
"The boy kept food in his mouth for a long time and couldn't swallow it, so I got infuriated," says the defendant. The kid now has permanent brain damage. That'll learn him.

Man nabbed for drugging teen schoolgirls with sleeping medicine
Then he just drove them around in his car.

3 construction firms face investigation for falsifying building strength data
208 properties are under investigation. 23 of them may not even exist.

Hated comic may have last laugh with unlikely career revival

He's barely performed this year, but some producers view the total contempt audiences have for him as a sort of reverse popularity. More offers are suddenly in his future.

Spiteful slave drivers strike subjugated staff
Complaints of workplace violence - delivered from bosses to their staff - have doubled since 2001. And that's not even counting complaints from people like a Fukui man who was beaten and kicked by his boss and a Nagoya man whose boss attacked him when he refused to accompany him for an after-work beer. Why? Because the former is dead and the latter is still in the hospital.

But there is some hope. On the same front page is the following headline:
Survey finds 75 percent of young people unenthusiastic about work
Really? But...but why?

Mainichi Daily News - providing a brand new glimpse of human suffering every day.

December 7, 2005 at 01:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 06, 2005


Soi Cheang's HOME SWEET HOMESlipping into theaters (and now onto DVD) with barely a ripple, Soi Cheang's HOME SWEET HOME continues Soi Cheang's chronicling of the black and twisted souls of the Hong Kong bourgeoisie.

His first movie, DIAMOND HILL was a stunning DV gothic about lost kids and lost souls, then he made HORROR HOTLINE...BIG HEAD MONSTER which was a great horror flick with Francis Ng as a soul-sick DJ that fell apart at the end when the movie devolved into a shot-by-shot remake of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. NEW BLOOD was a muted, alienated urban horror flick that owed a little too much to the J-horror craze crawling around the continent at the time, but the follow-up LOVE BATTLEFIELD was an exceptional film about young love bumping into heavily armed Mainland criminals. Now comes HOME SWEET HOME which returns to the squatters at the heart of DIAMOND HILL and, while wildly uneven, it's worth your notice.

Shu Qi and Alex Fong move into a housing estate in Hong Kong, built on the bulldozed remains of a squatter community. These shanty-towns dotted Hong Kong for a long time, but when the government decided to develop the land and lease it to development companies, the result were near-riots as hundreds of tenants were cleared out by the police and their homes and possessions were leveled. Gleaming housing estates sprung up in their place and Shu Qi and Alex Fong are the eager beaver yuppies who snap up an apartment.

They're barely settled when their brat goes missing, abducted by a monster who lives in the ducts. What follows is a mommy versus mommy battle with some truly sick twists along the way. Unfortunately, Soi Cheang seems distracted and dilutes the power of the ideas behind the screenplay with numerous digressions and wandering plot lines. The worst offender is the revelation at the one hour mark that Shu Qi and Alex Fong own a dog that seems to understand the basic principles behind elevator operation. The elevator knowledge isn't the shocking thing here, what's shocking is that the dog exists at all since it hasn't even been hinted at previously. Major characters vanish with their fates left unresolved and, most disappointingly, Shu Qi has mental problems that are hinted at several times but nothing is ever made of them. She comes so close to going bonkers that you really want to see her cut loose and go psycho (a la Anita Yuen in the under-rated TIL DEATH DO US PART) but, alas, it's not to be.

The movie is strongest when it drops the plodding police procedural plot and leaves behind the standard issue horror movie tropes and embraces Soi Cheang's favorite thing: sick group dynamics. There's some great near-STEPFORD WIVES moments at the beginning of the movie but, again, nothing ever comes of them. The acting style is uniformly crazed but Karena Lam as the mom-ster manages to turn in a really great performance and almost single-handedly saves the movie from sinking without a trace.

The idea of a Phantom of the Housing Estate who embodies Hong Kong's paved-over past is so electrifying that parts of HOME SWEET HOME spark with high voltage. But that leaves the rest of it looking that much dimmer and drearier.

December 6, 2005 at 11:22 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)


Just because so few people have seen it, here's a review of Soi Cheang's DIAMOND HILL that I wrote a long time ago for YesAsia.

If ambition and good intentions counted for anything, DIAMOND HILL would be the best movie of 2000. With a cast consisting of Carrie Ng, Milkyway alums Maggie Poon (SPACKED OUT) and Hui Siu-hung, and comedian Cheung Tat-ming you won't find a movie with better actors doing better work than in this icy-fingered ghost story. Cheung Tat-ming delivers an Oscar-worthy performance, his home videos rivaling Takeshi Kaneshiro's FALLEN ANGELS tapes for poignant laughs. Carrie Ng plays a mother whose daughter may as well be another country; when they interact, Ng wears the tense expression of someone trying to understand complicated instructions in a foreign language. Maggie Poon is Carrie's daughter, whose entire life is a dark, strange ride and whose whisper can send chills down your spine.

The first urban gothic from Hong Kong, DIAMOND HILL is made with all the technical precision of THE SIXTH SENSE. Tremendously accomplished it spends so much time in flashbacks that eventually the present day seems more like a flash forward. The beauty of the film is its unexpectedness, and I would hate to ruin the experience for anyone so I'll limit my plot comments. In fact, I'll cut them out completely except to say that just when you figure out where this movie is going it cuts across lanes and veers off into the night leaving the image of Maggie Poon, legs pumping, racing down the middle of the nightime streets in her school uniform, imprinted on your retinas.

Upon its release, this movie barely made HK$7,000 and more's the pity. The VCD seems to have been filmed off a stained tv screen, but it features readable English and Chinese subs. The grotty transfer ultimately aids its cause, creating a story barely seen out of the corner of your eye. DIAMOND HILL has its problems, so don't let my praise get your hopes up too high. It's ultimately a small movie, but it's about people who're defying logic, reason, biology, and every form of common sense to remake the world into somewhere they can live. Five years later it's still a movie whose ambitions outstrip movies with ten times the budget and it's worth discovering for yourself.

December 6, 2005 at 11:21 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2005


How come the projects Tsui Hark announces never seem to come to pass (SEVEN SWORDS sequel, anyone?) but the projects he releases don't seem to get announced.

It turns out that while we weren't looking, Tsui Hark has written, action directed and art directed the animated film THE WARRIOR.

Initially started a while back, the project came to a halt when the composer, Huang Zhan, died before he could complete the score. Hong Kong's super-composer Peter Kam took on the job and finished up the music. Set in the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA universe, it looks like it could be really gorgeous, but it could really stink. Hopefully it represents some steps forward from the CHINESE GHOST STORY: THE ANIMATION which was good-looking and interesting but not inventive enough to capture too many hearts and minds.

People in the know are discussing a Dec. 25, 2005 release date.

There's a trailer here.

(Thanks to Twitch and WuJing.org)

December 5, 2005 at 10:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Bollywood crime film, APAHARANThis weekend saw the release of out of nowhere Bollywood crime film, APAHARAN.

Starring Ajay Devgan (COMPANY) it's set in Bihar and is about the business of kidnapping. Ajay plays a businessman's son who is dogged by failure and humiliation until a botched kidnapping lands him in the clink. After getting out and hitting the streets a free man, he hooks up with some real kidnappers who know their stuff and tries to commit to the gun n'grab route.

APAHARAN sort of just popped up at the last minute, without a whole ton of pre-release hype, and it's causing some bigtime confusion.

A few critics are calling it too grim and dark. Others say it's perfect. Others say it's too long.  Some people say it's great. Some folks say it starts strong but can't go the distance. Others say it's too confusing and makes you feel bad. And some folks don't like the musical numbers.

Whatever the word, it sounds like another strong end-of-the-year crime flick from BOLLYWOOD (I'm still waiting for this week's EK AJNABEE, and then ZINDA and FAMILY).

December 5, 2005 at 10:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


A while back it was noted that the trailer for the US remake of PULSE steals a shot from the Japanese version of PULSE and since this is very strange it caused much puzzlement in these quarters.

Well, The Reeler has wrapped everything up and put a bow on it for us. Apparently, Dimension asked Magnolia's permission to swipe the shot. And Magnolia granted it.

More details and quotes, complete with snarky commentary, here.

December 5, 2005 at 10:22 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Star salaries published for all to seeA Guangzhou communications company received so many emails from clients asking how much it would cost to get celebrity X to be an "image ambassador" for product Y, or to do a public performance, that they just pasted all the salaries up on their website for the world to see. Here are the big names and what they make (loosely converted into US currency because I'm a nationalist snob):

Jay Chou - US$123,700
Nicholas Tse – US$80,000
Leon Lai – US$80,438 (you're getting old, Leon)
Cecilia Cheung – US$65,588 (a bargain at twice the price)
Vicky Zhao Wei – US$43,313

Chow Yun-fat – US$1.54 million for two years
Jacky Cheung–US$644,000 for one year
Andy Lau –US$1.03 million for two years

You can read the nearly-complete salary listings here.

December 5, 2005 at 10:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2005


Zu_dvd A sharp-eyed reader points out some news I can barely muster a weak hooray for...just as folks predicted, Disney is releasing movies that Miramax was holding onto, starting with ZU WARRIORS on March  7, 2006 (details here).

Some folks are speculating that this means Disney is delving into the Miramax vaults and will start releasing a lot of their back catalogue including TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER, the Shaw titles, and more. I mean the Miramax boys stockpiled a bunch of Asian flicks over there in their time together with Disney. But unfortunately I don't share the good feelings. ZU WARRIORS was just about to get a theatrical release this past summer, up to the point that a new print was made, new subtitles commissioned, hell they even paid me to write a press kit for it. Everything was poised to go, and then...nothing. So Disney may be releasing things that were already in the starting gate and rarin' to hit the slopes, but I have my doubts they're going to dig deep for the tastier morsels.

I'd love to be proved wrong, though...

December 1, 2005 at 07:33 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Marebito Takashi Shimizu, the director of the fear phenomenon JU-ON and the Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle, THE GRUDGE, directed MAREBITO between those two movies and now it's getting a December 9 North American release from Tartan.

The official site, with trailer, is here.

In New York City it's opening at the Angelica Film Center and we've got tickets to give away.

All you have to do is send an email to pandashine@yahoo.com with MAREBITO in the subject line and you could be a winner. A winner, do you hear me? A winner!

Polls close on Monday.

December 1, 2005 at 07:27 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Japan's Shochiku studios has found big success with Yoji Yamada's TWILIGHT SAMURAI and THE HIDDEN BLADE, and now they've got Yamada locked away shooting his third samurai flick, ONE-LINE SAMURAI.

But the bigger news is that they've convinced Hirokazu Kore-eda to direct a samurai film. The director of "After Life" and "Nobody Knows" is currently shooting his period samurai movie, HANA YORI MO NAHO, and it will be released in Spring 2006. The stars are Rie Miyazawa and Tadanobu Asano.

December 1, 2005 at 07:18 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Remember the Friendlies? Of course you don't. The mascots for the Beijing Olympics are so horrible that you've blocked them out, but click here for a quick reminder. Now that you've stopped screaming, realize this: the Friendlies have generated the most disturbing thing I've ever read - rumors that Jackie Chan is psychic.

Yes, Jackie Chan.

Not only did Jackie appear on the TV gala that unveiled the mascots, and not only did he dance around with two stuffed mascots in his hands like a dancing fool, but he also says that he guessed the identities of two of the mascots before they were unveiled. The mascots are the panda, the tibetan antelope (see KEKEXILI), a carp, a swallow, and the Olympic flame. Chan guessed the panda and the antelope.

On second thought, I could have guessed the panda and the Olympic flame, so maybe we're all just a little bit psychic after all.

December 1, 2005 at 07:09 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


New York Press is a free paper given out in New York that will print anything. I once heard that someone gave them some paper they found wadded up in their pocket and the NY Press printed it. On the front page. Every week it gets thinner and lamer, and most folks think they're on their way to going belly-up any minute. So they've added a gossip column. The problem is that they can't afford a good gossip columnist so they've resorted to someone called "Dope Peddler" who runs whatever the drunks tell them on the endless circuit of bottom feeder receptions and openings they troll when they're not refilling the office copy machine's paper tray.

My favorite is the following item they ran:

Conservatives in this country like to decry the immorality of Hollywood. Maybe it's a good thing they don't live in India. A rich married investment banker, who is from the subcontinent and specializes in Indian equities, reported to Dope Peddler that he's slept with quite a few B- and C- level Bollywood stars who are at least moderately well-known there - and it wasn't his balding looks that did the trick, so to speak. These actresses are women on the level of, say, Catherine Keener. They aren't big stars, but plenty of people have heard of them.
"The sums involved," he says, "are surprisingly small. In some cases, $2,500 will do it. It's interesting because a lot of them play women in the movies who are religious figures, and they're supposed to be sweet, wholesome, virginal. But believe me, the affairs aren't all that hard to arrange if you know who to talk to."
The actresses, he explains, have film roles, fans, and fan clubs. But it's just not considered all that strange for such women to supplement their salaries in the manner of 19th-century courtesans.

There are so many racist and sexist assumptions in that little tidbit supplied by the Dope Peddler's drunk, bald, banker friend that it would take more time than it's worth to point them out. However, Instead, I'd like to suggest some blind items to the Dope Peddler in the spirit of this piece.

A rich, married investment banker told me that many Chinese actors require all their scripts to be written in math because that's something all Chinese people understand...

A billionaire, divorced commodities trader told me that pop stars in Japan kill themselves if they can't hit the high notes in their live performances...

A zillionaire, polyamorous panda trainer told me that everyone in Singapore plays violin by the age of five and that children who don't are fed to feral cats...

Wow, this is easy! Maybe I'll become the "dope peddler".

December 1, 2005 at 07:03 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Bollywood_news Bollywood's biggest celeb, Amitabh Bachchan, went into the hospital last week for some "minor surgery". Once the surgery was over it came out that his minor surgery was actually major surgery. Apparently the Big B was suffering from colitis, and now after nearly two hours of surgery he's apparently recovering in the Intensive Care Unit of Mumbai's Lilavati Hospital. Indians here and there prayed for his recovery (see right), which brought back memories of 1983 when he was injured while shooting COOLIE and almost died, practically shutting down India for three days while people prayed for his recovery.

Up and coming pipsqueak, Saif Ali Khan, has turned down a role in Ram Gopal Varma's upcoming remake of SHOLAY so the role has gone to ol' reliable Ajay Devgan who's putting a brave face on it.

And the el cheapo motorcycle movie about pizza delivery boys who steal money, DHOOM, is getting the sequel treatment. With 8 crore budgeted just for the action scenes, DHOOM II stars super-big stars Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. I was believing this one until they went and said "Aishwarya Rai".

And, by the way, if you know how much a crore is, chime in. Cause I sure don't. Except I know it's a lot of rupees.

December 1, 2005 at 06:42 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)