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February 28, 2006

GOLDEN ARMOR DESIGN SKETCHES

MonkeyPeaches has posted design sketches from Zhang Yimou's now-underway period film, CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR. One thing you can say for sure: this won't be an ugly movie.

design sketches from CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR

February 28, 2006 at 05:56 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

MYSTERY OF BRUCE LEE'S DEATH SOLVED

Bruce Lee's graveThey've always told us that Bruce Lee died of a cerebral edema brought on by an allergic reaction to a painkiller. But they are liars!

According to James Filkins, at the medical examiner's office in Chicago, it's far more likely that Bruce Lee died of "sudden unexpected death in epilepsy" a condition that wasn't even recognized until 1995.

SUDEP involves a seizure that stops the heart and lungs, brought on in men who are suffering from stress and lack of sleep, and it kills close to 500 men each year in the UK. Of course, you have to suffer from epilepsy to die of SUDEP, but mild epilepsy could have been missed or not diagnosed in Bruce Lee.

Sounds good to me. Case closed!

February 28, 2006 at 07:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

IT'S GOOD TO LIVE IN THAILAND

Thai horror flick, DORMIf you live in Thailand you must be so excited that you wake up singing these days. The Thai horror flick, DORM, has opened bigger than every other movie released this year except for UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION and it's already the top grossing Thai film of the year after only being in theaters for 4 days.

Then, the song in your heart gets louder, when you learn that the producers of FEARLESS, the hit Jet Li movie, plan to release the longer version of the movie in Thailand. Michelle Yeoh and Thai actor  Somluck Kamsing were cut from the movie for pacing reasons, but it seems that rumors have swept through Thailand that Somluck isn't actually in the movie, and so the producers are releasing the version that includes him and, as an added bonus, Michelle Yeoh.

And, finally, your whole body just explodes with music when you realize that the Bangkok International Film Festival may be up to the same tricks that a prestigious festival like the Tribeca Film Fest uses to "guarantee" sold-out screenings. Many people have been mystified that at the Tribeca fest there will be a sold-out screening of a film with only 10-20 actual audience members in a 100 seat auditorium. The same thing has been reported at the Bangkok International Film Festival and here's how the magic happens, at least in Tribeca. Many corporate sponsors either purchase, or have blocks of tickets set aside for their employees. These tickets can't be sold to the public until the last minute since they must be held for the sponsor. The result? A sold-out show with no one in the audience! Hey, presto!

There have also been some rumors that it's a faulty ticketing system that suggests a show is sold out when there are plenty of tickets available. Yeah, sure, blame the robots.

(Thanks to WiseKwai and Thaicinema.org)

February 28, 2006 at 07:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

HONG KONG/MAINLAND COPRODUCTION RULES TIGHTEN

We talked about this previously, but this article from the Hong Kong Filmart site seems to be overwhelmingly negative. When CEPA III was passed, it made it easier for Hong Kong to make co-productions with Mainland China. There were rules on content and casting (story must involve China, 1/3 of the cast must be Mainland Chinese) but they weren't enforced.

Well, now they are being enforced and it seems to be having a real impact on low budget Hong Kong movies. Patrick Tong, the managing director of Mei Ah, first says that this isn't a big deal:

"The tightening up of the co-production policies may not be necessarily bad for the Hong Kong film industry."

Then he changes his mind later in the same paragraph:

"Because of the Chinese market, many co-productions have adapted their stories and employed some unknown artistes from China in order to qualify as a co-production. This adaptation has always spoiled the film and neither the Hong Kong audience nor the Chinese audience like the story. As a result, the quality of many co-productions is not good."

February 28, 2006 at 07:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 27, 2006

THE BOLLYCOPY CRAZE

TAXI NUMBER 9211 starring Nana PatekarOver the weekend I went to see TAXI NUMBER 9211, the new Bollywood flick starring Nana Patekar, who's fast becoming one of my favorite actors. Besides being a lousy movie that was perfectly enjoyable for the first 2/3's and then took a trip into boring land as it wrapped everything up with a forced happy ending in the last 1/3, thus negating everything that had gone before, I was surprised to find that this was yet another Bollywood copy of a Hollywood movie: CHANGING LANES.

I'm a huge Bollywood fan, and I have no problem with remakes (in fact, I think the Hong Kong remake of DOG DAY AFTERNOON, PEOPLE'S HERO, is better than the original) but Bollywood has gone crazy with cheap knock-offs recently. While some fans attempt to defend this trend by claiming that "Hollywood copies, too" I would point out that these days if Hollywood wants to copy it has to either change the story dramatically or it pays for the remake rights. But Bollywood, in the past six months, has turned out ZINDA (a shot-for-shot remake of OLDBOY), TAXI NUMBER 9211 (swipes the plot of CHANGING LANES), FIGHT CLUB (a light-hearted remake of, well, FIGHT CLUB), EK AJNABEE (a plot swipe of MAN ON FIRE), and SARKAR (a remake of THE GODFATHER that lifts some scenes wholesale). What bugs me the most is that these are all big movies, for the most part, and ZINDA and SARKAR in particular have been praised for being original and exciting films.

Check out Bollycat which catalogues Bollywood movies that have been "inspired" by other movies.

February 27, 2006 at 09:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)

ZHANG YIMOU MOVIE SOLD

Zhang Yimou's CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR has been presold to 13 European territoriesZhang Yimou's CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR has been presold to 13 European territories, according to Focus Features.

Not bad, considering it just started shooting last week. Frankly, I'm surprised that, given Zhang Yimou's track record, and the stars (Jay Chou, Chow Yun-fat, Gong Li), he hasn't presold to every territory already.

February 27, 2006 at 09:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

ELECTION 2 PREMIERE

In a Chinese-language article in the World Journal, Johnnie To says that ELECTION 2 will be the opening film of the Hong Kong International Film Festival (starts April 4) and will then make its world premiere at Cannes, and open theatrically in May.

To will be supporting the opening with an exhibition of his photos, the first time he's ever done this.

Also, according to Shochiku, Takashi Miike's BIG BANG LOVE JUVENILE A and SHINOBI will play the HKIFF this year.

(Thanks to the sharp eyed reader who sent this in)

February 27, 2006 at 09:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 24, 2006

TONY LEUNG LANDS AMERICAN PROJECT

I have deep, and unmanly feelings towards Tony Leung Chiu-wai. One of the things I've always admired is the way he's never sought out an American project, but that's changed and he's now announced that he has a Western film coming up, and you know what? I'm still loving him because this is one of the best stories I've heard about an actor finding a project.

Apparently Tony Leung is a fan of Lawrence Block, the American mystery writer, and while I'm not a huge Block fan I have enjoyed a few of his novels and some of his short stories quite a bit. So while he was in NYC last year doing press for 2046, Leung met with Block and asked him to adapt one of his novels to the screen with Tony in the lead role. Block said "yes" and is now hard at work on a script for Tony Leung based on one of his books, with the lead character changed to an Asian-American.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who pointed this out)

February 24, 2006 at 08:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

DO FOREIGN FILMS HAVE TO BE GOOD?

foreign movies are viewed as the broccoli on the cinematic plateIn this week's Newsweek there's an epic, multi-page article by David Ansen and Ramin Setoodeh that wonders "In the era of globalization, why can't foreign films catch a break?" The article maps the depressing landscape for foreign films in the US, and criticizes the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for demonstrating "mediocre taste" in their selection of the five nominees for "Best Foreign Language Film".

These are all good points, and the article has some interesting things to say, but one of the major problems with foreign films in the US is that no one wants to see them. There's no audience. And in a way, people who value foreign films are to blame. The existing audience for foreign films has helped to kill its potential audience.

Take, for example, this Newsweek article. We have to assume that David Ansen and Ramin Setoodeh like foreign films, but listen to how they talk about them and look at the quotes they print. Everything they say reads like an attempt to divide the world into two kinds of movie: movies that are junk and movies that are good for you. And they seem to only value foreign movies that as far as those movies are "good for you".

- "The theatrical audience for foreign art fare (as opposed to kung fu, anime and Japanese horror) is a decidedly graying breed."

- "It makes me angry and sad," says Harvey Weinstein of the Weinstein Co., "that we deny the American public the great potential to learn from other cultures."

- "When I was an undergraduate, I lived for foreign films," says producer Mark Johnson ("Narnia"), who chairs the Oscar committee that selects foreign-language films. "In fact, it's where you took girls to impress them with how smart you were."

- "The South African entry, "Tsotsi," is likely the movie to beat. It's about the transformation of a ruthless, baby-faced gangster in Johannesburg. This feral, nameless boy comes to terms with his own traumatic childhood when he impulsively rescues a 3-month-old infant from the back of a car he's stolen, after shooting the child's mother. The movie features a mesmerizing performance by Presley Chwene-yagae, and it gets to your emotions. But it doesn't unfold like real life. Every plot turn is as inevitable as a '30s gangster movie with Jimmy Cagney. (For a shattering, truly revelatory foreign film about Africa, see the documentary "Darwin's Nightmare.")"

- "The other nominees aren't likely to challenge your assumptions, either."

- "Johnson would love to introduce five wild-card films into the pool of prospective nominees. "Take the top film from the five major film festivals and add them to the mix," he says."

So, basically, foreign films should challenge our assumptions, they should unfold like real life, film festival favorites are the best example of foreign films, watching foreign films is a sign that we're intellectual, watching foreign films should be about learning from other cultures, J-horror, anime and "kung fu" movies are not foreign films.

With this kind of implied attitude, is it any surprise that the average audience member avoids foreign films like the plague? As long as foreign movies are viewed as the broccoli on the cinematic plate everyone's going to eat around them. What people who love foreign films should be doing is making them more accessible, they should be assuring everyone that they are entertainment, too. They should be selling them as good movies, not as a course at the Learning Annex.

February 24, 2006 at 08:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (13)

DID THE DOG LOOK SOMETHING LIKE THIS?

An exclusive picture of the dog owned Bollywood actress, Manisha KoiralaBollywood actress, Manisha Koirala (DIL SE, ESCAPE FROM TALIBAN), currently has a 12 man police detail assigned to protect her and her two Persian cats, Mischief and Morgan, from Muslim fundamentalists who are furious about her dog. A group of 50 Muslims marched on the police station and lodged a complaint over her dog's name, Mustafa, which they say is the name of their spiritual leader and they demand that the dog's name be changed immediately. Manisha also reports that she's received death threats over her dog's name. And this brings us to the crux of the matter:

She doesn't own a dog.

Manisha says she doesn't own a dog, named Mustafa or otherwise. The police sent an inspector to her house to see if they could smooth this over and they also discovered that she doesn't own a dog.

This hasn't cooled the jets of Sheikh Furkhan who is bringing the noise.

"Five neighbours in Beachwood Tower have seen Koirala take the pet dog for a stroll," he blusters.

And...and...and...even if she doesn't have a dog:

"Koirala is a Nepali citizen. So how can she purchase a flat in her name? I will be filing a suit against her and also take out a morcha to protest both the issues. She has to apologise to our community or face the consequences," Furkhan thunders.

Poor, poor Sheikh Furkhan. With no Danish cartoons to protest, this Keystone fundamentalist is the king of amateur hour. Could some more professional and polished Muslim fundamentalist give this guy some pointers?

February 24, 2006 at 08:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

THE LOW, LOW PRICE OF CHINESE PORN

So how much does it cost to make a Chinese porn film? If you're porn producer Bobby, you're looking at about HK$600. That's about US$80. Wow! Who can resist a bargain, and in this translated article on a Chinese porn shoot from Eastweek magazine it all sounds so...so classy.

(Thanks to EastSouthWestNorth for bringing their "A" game)

February 24, 2006 at 08:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

MORTAL KOMBAT IN THE BOARDROOM

This isn't the funniest thing I've ever seen, but gory bloodshed always makes Friday go by faster. And there is gory bloodshed aplenty in this ad for the new Mortal Kombat game.

February 24, 2006 at 08:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

BANGKOK FILM MARKET CLOSES WITH A WHIMPER...

The Bangkok Film Market closed today with no major deals to announce and a growing feeling among sellers that they may not be back next year. Screendaily reports that Kadokawa's VP of International Sales says that he'll probably go to the HK Filmart next year instead of the BFM even though Filmart is more expensive. His grand total of business at the BFM? One sale of an Indian title.

Some buyers and sellers seem happy to come back if the BFM picks up all their travel costs because who doesn't want a free vacation to Thailand? The BFM's director, Christine Rush, says that it's the timing and that they'll almost certainly move it to January in 2007.

Some people still feel it's a good place to meet the Thai companies, so attendance may depend on what happens with the Thai industry in the coming year: will it be hot, or not?

As for the Bangkok International Film Festival, apparently half of its tickets have been sold. The organizers are currently struggling to put Thai subtitles on the festival's closing film...RENT.

February 24, 2006 at 08:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 23, 2006

THAI FILM FOLLIES CONTINUE

Bangkok Film FestivalThe film market at the Bangkok International Film Festival is of to a roaring start...oh, wait a minute, I lied. As of Tuesday, the first full day of the market, many of the exhibitor booths remained empty and by Tuesday afternoon many of the buyers and sellers had left the market and were off sightseeing. Shochiku and Toshiba looked to have skipped the festival this year, and according to Variety, the constant refrain was "Where are the buyers?" Malaysia and Thailand had a strong presence at the market but European buyers were few and far between.

However, in an attempt to keep things interesting, Sahamongkol films, the company owned by the ex-head of Federation of the National Film Association, Somsak Techratanaprasert, who stepped down over the controversy to date involving the festival, has not only continued its lone boycott of the Bangkok Festival, but they've also dropped WATER because it broke their boycott. Sahamongkol had acquired the rights to distribute Deepa Mehta's hugely successful WATER in Thailand, but they pulled all of their films from the Bangkok Festival line-up as part of their boycott, including WATER. However, Deepa Mehta had retained control of WATER's festival rights and she went ahead and screened it at the Festival anyways. Sahamongkol then dropped WATER, giving back the local license to Celluloid Dreams as a way of protesting Mehta's lack of protest.

This was a very silly thing for
Sahamongkol to do. WATER faced enormous violence when it was being made, and then went on to play at the Toronto Film Festival, to be picked up by Fox Searchlight and to earn over US$2 million at the Canadian box office, no small feat for a subtitled film that was originally released on just 33 screens. Its US release will be in Spring 2006.

(Read a review of WATER.)

February 23, 2006 at 08:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER ASIAN HORROR OMNIBUS MOVIE

Thailand's Five Star Films, Japan's Movie-Eye Entertainment, and Hong Kong's Filmko Entertainment have had a great idea that they just unveiled at the Bangkok Film Market: an Asian horror film with three directors! Featuring a 30 minute short each from BEYOND HYPOTHERMIA director, Patrick Leung, BANG RAJAN director Thanit Jitnukul, and HINOKIO director Takahiko Akiyama it's a bargain at US$2.5 million.

Called BLACK NIGHT, the stories are each based on an urban legend. It's currently in post-production and will be released in Thailand the first week of April.

February 23, 2006 at 08:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

GOODBYE UNCLE BILL

Hong Kong actor, Bill Tung Piu

Hong Kong actor, Bill Tung Piu, died yesterday of lung failure. He appeared in what we'll one day probably discover were hundreds of Hong Kong comedies, but he was best known as Jackie Chan's boss in the POLICE STORY and PROJECT A movies. A beloved screen presence, he actually preferred the ponies, having been born in a stable back in 1933, and then pursuing a career as a jockey. He was best known in Hong Kong as a horse racing commentator.

We'll miss you, Uncle Bill.

best known as Jackie Chan's boss in POLICE STORY and PROJECT A

February 23, 2006 at 08:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

TALES OF EARTHSEA TRAILER

Ursula K. LeGuin's A WIZARD OF EARTHSEAStudio Ghibli's adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin's A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA was supposed to post its trailer online tomorrow, but Catsuka scooped everyone by taping it off their TV when it aired and posting it today (as a downloadable RealPlayer file).

Directed, controversially, by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro, it's a good looking clip that mostly shows off the landscape and includes very little action. I'm surprised to see that LeGuin's medieval world has been given the obligatory Ghibli upgrade to the 19th Century, but that's what Ghibli does. Also, it looks like the film's official title is now TALES FROM EARTHSEA.

(Thanks to Twitch for the heads up)

February 23, 2006 at 08:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS UNVEILS LINE-UP...

...and there's nothing Asian in it. MOMA's prestigious annual festival is where Lee Myung-Se's NOWHERE TO HIDE made its US bow, but this year's festival features not a single film from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan or Korea. The only three Asian films are:

THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS from the Philippines.
CAVITE from the Philippines.
And and Indian film called JOHN AND JANE TOLL FREE.

Full line-up is here.

February 23, 2006 at 08:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 22, 2006

HKIFF ACTION RETROSPECTIVE

Although this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival (April 4  - 19) hasn't revealed its schedule yet, Peter Tsi, the festival's executive director, has let the cat out of the bag on the subject of this year's retrospective.

"There will be a 20-film tribute to Hong Kong action directors," he said in a story in Variety.

February 22, 2006 at 07:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

THE NEXT ZHANG ZIYI?

Zhang Yimou has just announced the young female lead and the last major cast member of THE CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR (official title) his upcoming epic period flick starring Chow Yun-fat, Gong Li and Jay Chou that starts shooting tomorrow. She's 17 years old, her name is Li Man, and she's currently a student at the Beijing Drama Academy, just like Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi were before Zhang Yimou plucked them from relative obscurity and made them international icons.

(Thanks to MonkeyPeaches for this one)

February 22, 2006 at 07:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

BEAUTIFUL BOXER BACK IN THE RING

transsexual muay thai boxer Nong Tum

The Economist, America's source for transgendered news, is reporting that Parinya Kiartbussaba (aka Nong Tum), the transsexual muay thai boxer who was the subject of 2003's BEAUTIFUL BOXER, is going to be fighting an exhibition match against Japan's Kenshiro Lookchaomaekhemthong. The only catch is that last year Nong Tum had her gender reassignment surgery and is now a woman.

Nong Tum says:

"It’s a matter of dignity. We both need the victory because I was a muay Thai champion and the Japanese boxer cannot lose to a woman."

That pretty much sums it up. The match will be held this Sunday at Pattaya's Fairtex Gym, and Nong Tum will be changing her name to "Nong Tum Fairtex Gym" for the event. This June she'll travel to the US to fight Lucia Rijker, the evil lady boxer from MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Is it just me, or does it seem like Nong Tum Fairtex Gym's management doesn't exactly have her safety as its number one concern?

(Thanks to Norman Wang and Wisekwai for this one)

February 22, 2006 at 07:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

WHY IS CHINA SO *sob* MEAN?!?

China nixes COOL WORLDChina continued to hang on to its reputation as the world's biggest meanie face by banning outright all imported movies that feature actors interacting with animated characters. Besides being a shocking display of good taste, this move is also sweeping, hard to understand, and sudden: it's nice to see the old China back. I was sick of the new WTO-joining, gladhanding, market-opening China anyways.

China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has been worried about the prevalence of foreign produced animation on TV, and has been trying to push for more locally-produced animation and this move was seen as a way to clear more airtime for local product. However, as some industry analysts point out, there actually needs to be local product before you can clear airtime. Many stations will suddenly have to scramble to fill their schedules.

The State Administration says that mixing CGI characters and 2-D animated characters with live action would endanger "the broadcast order of homemade animation and mislead their development."


So now more SPACE JAM, no more  COOL WORLD, no more THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE. Ha ha ha ha ha! Yaaay!

Wait...no more LORD OF THE RINGS, no more STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH, no more KING KONG.

Oh...oops.

February 22, 2006 at 07:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

ANG LEE AND YUEN WO-PING TOGETHER AGAIN

a movie adaptation of SHANG CHI: MASTER OF KUNG FU is in developmentThe movie adaptation of SHANG CHI: MASTER OF KUNG FU, a Marvel comics character created in the 70's to capitalize on the kung fu kraze, looks one more step closer to being a reality. In an interview with Spanish language publication El Mundo, Ang Lee said that he was producing the movie and Yuen Wo-ping was directing.

Marvel honcho, Avi Arad, confirms that a Shang Chi movie is in development.

(Courtesy of Ain't It Cool News)

February 22, 2006 at 07:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

ERIC TSANG: CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN BACON

Eric Tsang is CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN BACON

You thought Hong Kong actor, Eric Tsang (INFERNAL AFFAIRS), was just a mild mannered little dumpling whose eyes got all crinkly when he grins? No, Eric Tsang is CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN BACON. When his management company took on new singer, Gia Lin, they took on too much. She isn't just crooning the hits, she's been seen alone (at night) with singer Justin. Slut! The paparazzi has them cold: 1) they both wore the same kind of t-shirt; 2) Justin wears a cap; 3) they found a used condom in Justin's trashcan. Busted!

Tsang was reportedly upset about Justin and allegedly cursed out Gia and tried to stop her career. Then he changed his mind, and referred to Justin as "son-in-law". But just because Hidden Bacon is smiling, it doesn't mean he's not still a Crouching Tiger. Alan Tam, the legendary Hong Kong singer and actor who's getting a little long in the tooth these days, saw Tsang at the airport recently and their exchange went something like this:

ALAN TAM: Congratulations on becoming a father-in-law.
ERIC TSANG: I also congratulate you on still being alive for a couple of decades.
ALAN TAM: @#!*%
ERIC TSANG: #!@%*

Friends had to hold the two men back so that the fight didn't become physical.

(Learn more about the shocking relationship between Gia Lin and Justin - whom she refers to as "like a girlfriend")

(Thanks to Danwei for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bacon, a pastry spotted and photographed in a Shanghai bread store)

February 22, 2006 at 07:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

WEINSTEINS DRINK WELLSPRING DRY

Wellspring, the indie distributor with the chequered past and CAFE LUMIERE on its schedule, was just gobbled up by the Weinstein Company. TWC just signed a deal to handle any theatrical releases of Wellspring titles, and Wellspring let 10 people go, including their head of acquisitions. Wellspring will be saving $1 million in overhead each year, thanks to this deal and it'll be moving its operations to Santa Monica, where its owner, Genius LLC, resides.

This is part of a complicated shell game between TWC and Genius LLC in which Genius became the exclusive US distributor of TWC video, and TWC assumed 70% ownership of Genius LLC (to be renamed Genius Products LLC).

The "What You Talking 'bout, Willis?" Award for Corporate Gobbeldygook this week goes to Trevor Drinkwater, head of Genius LLC.

"This realignment supports an aggressive acquisition campaign to build on the Wellspring brand with critically acclaimed films that celebrate intelligent cinema, while at the same time supporting our strategy of leveraging our core competency by focusing on the sales and distribution of higher-margin, packaged entertainment products at retail."

Poetic and confusing.

(Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader who sent this in)

February 22, 2006 at 07:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

NEW REVIEWS!

Reviews! It's like you've seen the movie, only you don't have to waste the time. Read Variety's review of VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ and LoveHKFilm's review of MCDULL THE ALUMNI and you too can have an opinion about them.

February 22, 2006 at 07:40 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 21, 2006

CHINA BLOOMING LIKE LADY DETECTIVES WITH SWOLLEN TESTICLES

Go and watch this short film from Sundance 2006. It's called HA HA HA AMERICA and besides being vulgarly amusing and having a hypno roboto soundtrack that shoots right into your brain's pleasure centers, it pleases all political stripes. Depending on where you come from it's either a slam on America, or it's a call for America to stand up and fight the "godless Chinese" who exploit its generosity. Either way, where else where you hear so much talk of the "fragrant monkey's tail"?

This is agitprop of the highest order - the director is an Anglo American who wrote the rant, had it translated into Chinese and then Russian and then back into English, hence the syntax (akin to the Japanese to English subtitles on the MONTY PYTHON AND THE QUEST FOR THE HOLY GRAIL dvd).

February 21, 2006 at 09:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 20, 2006

ALL YOUR SCREEN ARE BELONG TO US

Who didn't see this coming? After spending six months engaged in a review of China's trade policies regarding film, US Trade Representative Rob Portman, came to the conclusions he had probably already planned on coming to six months ago before he read word one:

"As a mature trading partner, China should be held accountable for its actions and required to live up to its responsibilities, including opening markets and enforcing intellectual property rights. We will use all options available to meet this challenge."

Yep, the US is "cracking down" on China's closed markets. They've thrown piracy into the mix, but the closed markets are the other major target.

"Despite three consecutive years of growing U.S. exports to China, our bilateral trade relationship with China today lacks equity, durability and balance in the opportunities it provides. The time has come to readjust our trade policy with respect to China."

Dan Glickman, the head of the MPA, wrote a letter in which he "applauds" Portman and goes on to say:

"In addition, the MPAA will  continue working with USTR and other officials to expand the Chinese market to  provide a more level playing field for the benefit of all filmmakers."

Aw, we're going to do all that for little old China? They must be so happy. Portman is considering filing lawsuits with the WTO against China for restrictive trade practices.

The recent UNESCO agreement on cultural diversity (which everyone in the world signed except for the US and Israel) may provide some relief, but not enough. You can read a sober analysis of what it can and can't do here.

February 20, 2006 at 09:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

YONSAMA HAS A LOT OF MONEY

Korean actor, Bae Yong-Jun (aka Yonsama)Korean actor, Bae Yong-Jun (aka Yonsama), has a lot of money. So much money that when he decided he wanted a production company (something most actors have) he put his cash into an actively traded, public firm, listed on the KOSDAQ (something most actors would never do in a million years). Yonsama is now the majority share holder in Autowin Tech, a systems integration company, after he dropped 9 billion won (US$9 million) on it. The plans are to change the name to Key East and turn it into a content development company, as well as an entertainment management company. The other investors are Softbank Korea (investment: 3 billion won) and Interactive Media Mix (investment: 1 billion won).

Yonsama has said that stocks in Key East won't be publicly traded for two years.

February 20, 2006 at 09:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

ANOTHER TEKKEN MOVIE?

apparently the cast has been chosen for a TEKKEN movieChina's Sina.com is an internet portal that never met a rumor it didn't like, so take this with several grains of salt, but apparently the cast has been chosen for a TEKKEN movie. The kids today don't know what Tekken is, but back in the days before first-person-shooters and MMPORGs, back when we all still had gills and breathed ammonia, your ancestors played a very popular fighting game on their "console systems" called Tekken.

The movie looks like a Gaga Communications/Sony co-production, directed by Charles Stone III (DRUMLINE, MR. 3000) and starring:

Vicki Zhao Wei as Xiao Yu, the cute little Chinese fighter with her pet panda

Takeshi Kaneshiro as Jin, the boring main character

Brian White as Bruce, the black guy

Nathan Jones, the only man who's huge enough to play Marduk

And Gordon Liu as Wang Jin-rei, the old guy with the white beard

(You can see shockingly accurate photos of each actor matched with their gaming character over on the Asian Fanatic Forums)

Tekken movies have been rumored for as long as rumors have existed. Sammo Hung and Ekin Cheng starred in a Tekken movie that got ceased and desisted in a powerful combo move from Namco and had its name changed to AVENGING FIST. There have also been a couple of Tekken animes, but this might be the long-awaited (so long that no one cares much anymore) Tekken live action movie.

February 20, 2006 at 09:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

ZHANG YIMOU'S GOLDEN ARMOR BEGINS MASSIVE SETS

Zhang Yimou's FILL THE CITY WITH GOLDEN ARMORWith the kind of breathless excitement that used to be the province of Hollywood's Biblical epics (1000 Horses! 500 hand-made chariots! 9 million gallons of man sweat!) CriEnglish is reporting that construction on the sets for Zhang Yimou's FILL THE CITY WITH GOLDEN ARMOR aka FILL THE SCREENS WITH STARS WHO HAVEN'T WORKED IN A WHILE (ie, Chow Yun-fat, Gong Li) has begun and it's huge, huge, HUGE! Here's what was on Zhang Yimou's shopping list, found in yesterday's pants pocket that he sent out to the cleaners:

TO GET
- 3,000 poorly paid workers
- 3 million gold chrysanthemums (to be disposed of in environmental manner)
- 20,000 suits of armor
- 4 giant war chariots
- Jay Chou

DON'T FORGET
- start shooting next Monday (Tuesday?)
- remind Chen Kaige that when he cleans house today to make sure to MOVE the furniture when he vaccuums

February 20, 2006 at 09:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

ASIAN AWARDS AT BERLIN FESTIVAL

Note: Technical problems are causing this post to display incorrectly, see the comments for the correct text.

Asian movies didn't win much of anythingThe politely received Berlin Film Festival (Variety's final word, "There may not have been any major discoveries or artistic triumphs, but the fest will go down as a pleasurable 10 days of world cinema.") has passed out its award bears (different from Jackie Chan's buddy bears) and Asian movies didn't win much of anything. Of course, this could be viewed as totally normal given that there weren't many Asian films at Berlin in the first place.

BEST SCORE (silver bear!)
Peter Kam, ISABELLA

FIPRESCI Prize for a Film in the Forum
So Young-Kim, IN BETWEEN DAYS

CICAE PRIZE  for a Film from the Panorama
Zhang Yuan, LITTLE RED FLOWERS

NETPAC Prize
Yang Yong-hi, DEAR PYONGYANG

Grand Prix of the Deutsches Kinderfhilfswerk
Auraeus Solito, THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS

(Full list of awards here)

There seems to be a growing consensus that 2005 has been a relatively blah year for Asian films. The highly anticipated movies (SEVEN SWORDS and THE PROMISE are two examples) seem to be regarded as somewhat disappointing and enjoyable only if you squint hard and look at them sideways, whereas the movies that seem to be getting into festivals are mostly respectable, but not very exciting (SHANGHAI DREAMS, EVERLASTING REGRET). It's indicative of what a down year it's been that a solid, well-made action film, SHA PO LANG, has elicted such rapturous praise from the fan community.

February 20, 2006 at 09:41 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

SALMAN KHAN GOES DIRECTLY TO JAIL

Salman Khan, Bollywood's dancing set of washboard abs with a bad reputation, has not only been found guilty of poaching black antelope but he's been sentenced to a year in jail. His lawyer plans to appeal, but inmates are reportedly cackling in glee at the thought of the ripped and pumped, popping and locking film star sharing their cellblocks.

Animal rights activists should also take heart. In 2003, Salman was out drunk driving when he ran over five homeless men who had made the mistake of going to sleep on the sidewalk, killing one and injuring the other four. That time he was sentenced to a hard-hitting 17 days in jail, a full 348 days less than he got for killing two protected antelope. Too bad no one's put homeless people on an endangered species list, but I guess the courts figured that there were plenty of homeless folks to go around and losing a few beneath the wheels of Salman's car wasn't such a big deal.

Ah, justice...your workings are a mystery to me.

February 20, 2006 at 09:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 17, 2006

EXILED AND LADY FROM SHANGHAI POSTERS

Teaser posters are out for Johnnie To's MISSION sequel, EXILED, and for Wong Kar-wai's now-delayed Nicole Kidman project LADY FROM SHANGHAI.

(Thanks to Twitch and MonkeyPeaches)

Johnnie To's MISSION sequel, EXILED

Wong Kar-wai's now-delayed Nicole Kidman project LADY FROM SHANGHAI

February 17, 2006 at 07:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

FEARLESS RELEASE DATE ANNOUNCED

Jet Li's FEARLESSA sharp-eyed reader just pointed me towards the announcement of a North American release date for Jet Li's FEARLESS.....

....August 4, 2006. It's billed as a wide release which means at least 600 screens. It looks like Rogue is hoping to do the same thing for FEARLESS that they did for UNLEASHED (is that a good thing or a bad thing?).

Ladies and gentlemen, let STAR WARS-sized lines begin. Bring your sleeping bags and your dress-up fantasy kung fu robes.

February 17, 2006 at 07:19 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)

IS BORING THE NEW SERIOUS?

In the 70's, if you wanted your movie taken seriously you had to show some skin and bristle with anti-authoritarian cool like a hip porcupine, but these days there's only one thing you have to do if you want critics and film festival gatekeepers to know you've made a Serious film with a capital "S": make it boring. The more Seriously you want your film to be taken, the more boring you need to be. Long shots of people walking - good start. People sitting and staring off at something behind the camera - getting better. If you're a real daredevil and not scared to take it to the limit then try long scenes of people eating silently. You're the winner!

Lots of critics like to say that they loved Wong Kar-wai from the second they saw Leslie whip out his watch at the beginning of DAYS OF BEING WILD but WKW didn't become an international cool kid until CHUNGKING EXPRESS. And why did people sit up and notice CHUNGKING? Because it was fast and fun, but serious on the inside, like a nice chocolate bon bon with a tiny Nietzsche in the middle waggling his finger at you. So what happened since then? Why are the fun movies "guilty pleasures" and the serious movies boring?

Dunno. What I do know is that Wong Kar-wai (post-97 WKW), Hou Hsiao-hsien, Jia Zhang-Ke, Tsai Ming-liang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul have been to filmaking what that guy who takes his alcoholic buddy to a cocktail party and encourages him to get ripped is to alcoholism: enablers. These directors are all good directors, and they've all made some good films (I like WAYWARD CLOUD and PUPPETMASTER and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE quite a bit) but they've enabled a massive critical climate change and now serious filmmaking is a puritanical land where the pleasures of narrative are denied and the height of pleasure is to contemplate the frame rather than enjoy the movie. The surface elements of a movie (visual, aural) have been privileged over the fictional elements of a movie (emotional content, narrative). Creating an atmosphere or a mood is the ultimate achievement while creating a character or a plot twist is treated as a gauche display of vulgarity.

These movies play into critical insecurity - if it's difficult to enjoy then it must be good - and liking them is vital to film festival conversation: they're status markers. There is no more loaded question at a film festival than someone who is your social superior asking you what movies you've liked. Say you thought HOSTEL was good and you run the risk of seeing them mentally hang an "Idiot" placard around your neck. But tell them you liked TROPICAL MALADY or found A WAYWARD CLOUD "interesting" and you're on safe ground. They may not care about the movie, they probably don't even care about you, but you have successfully navigated the situation. And so the film festival atmosphere becomes even more rarefied and insular.

Again, boring movies can be good movies. KEKEXILI is a film that applies boring, important movie techniques to a loosely structured story and wrings every ounce of value out of them. The best movie at the Toronto Film Festival last year was, hands down, WALLACE AND GROMMIT: CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, and there's only been one editor I've met who has had the guts to say that out loud. But by not saying it out loud we allow a double standard to exist where as long as a movie wears the clothes of importance it's given a free critical pass, whereas movies that entertain us are given the consolation prize of box office dollars. The longer this bankrupt equation ("serious" = boring; "entertaining" = trivial) is accepted unquestioningly the wider the split grows between arthouse and multiplex, and that's bad for everyone.

February 17, 2006 at 07:18 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (19)

SALMAN KHAN: GUILTY

Remember how Bollywood super-badboy Salman Khan was supposed to go to court a while back over poaching a Black Buck? And remember that he blew off court for surgery? And remember that later it came out that the surgery seems to have been hair plug installation surgery?

Well, the judge has found him guilty, Guilty, GUILTY of killing that cute l'il animal and stapling it to his head and now Salman is facing potential jailtime, which he'll never serve.

February 17, 2006 at 07:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

DON'T LAUGH AT CHEN KAIGE. SERIOUSLY! STOP LAUGHING!

Hu Ge's BLOODY CASE THAT STARTED FROM A STEAMED BUN, his tremendously popular online video parody of Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE, has done something THE PROMISE has not: entertained millions of Chinese people. But it's also managed to send Chen into a whirling frenzy, threatening lawsuits and hiring lawyers.

At a press conference in Berlin, Chen said, ""We have decided to sue the filmmaker, Hu Ge, for damaging the copyright of THE PROMISE. I can't imagine a man could be so impudent."

Hu Ge has publicly apologized to Chen Kaige but Chen has hired a lawyer who made the following statement:

"What matters is that Hu Ge repeatedly claimed in public that he didn't infringe on the copyright and Chen has no reason to sue him. This made my clients upset and they decided to protect their rights by law."

This rationale is from a very complicated piece of legal theory known as "So There!" law. Hu Ge claims he can't be sued. So Chen Kaige sues him and now Hu Ge is wrong. So There! The case hasn't gone to court yet, or been officially filed, but folks are saying it's a publicity stunt by a once-great director who has seen his reputation and career slipping away.

This isn't the first time Chen has freaked out in public. According to a sharp-eyed reader, back in 2005 at a pre-release press conference a reporter asked Chen:

"You said that your movie is related to your dignity, so what will happen if THE PROMISE bombs?"

Chen responded by bawling out the reporter who ran from the room. He also ducked out of his scheduled interviews after the Golden Globe when THE PROMISE failed to win anything.

Chen may hold the legal high ground (and according to Chinese law he'll probably win the suit) and he may also have won legal power points for his aggressive "So There!" prosecution, but Hu Ge is coming out of this a winner. He's been offered a job by a Guangdong TV station who want him to make more short films and public support is overwhelmingly on his side. Chinese internet portal Netease just conducted a poll and while 843 people supported Chen, 14,760 supported Hu Ge.

Even Chen Kaige's wives aren't in his corner on this one. His current wife, Chen Hong, has said that the parody is no big deal because it had no commercial motive and his former wife has posted on her blog, "He is too petty-minded to tolerate a little bun."

The media seems to be firmly on Hu Ge's side, claiming that at least his movie made them laugh whereas Chen's film just wasted their money. But their BS antennas were twitching like crazy and Wang Xiaoyu writing for Southern Metropolis Daily hit the target dead on with this comment:

"As Chen Hong said, Hu Ge's video clip has no commercial motive.  But the deceptive thing was that Chen Kaige was able to manipulate it for commercial publicity.  The current heated debate about the law is just a cover, because the identity of the final victor is immaterial.  Nobody loses: the plaintiff gets the "eyeball effect" and the defendant gets the support of the majority of netizens.  Everybody gets what they need."

(Many thanks to EastSouthWestNorth)

February 17, 2006 at 07:14 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 16, 2006

CONGRESS GETS CHINESE INTERNET ISSUES ALL WRONG

The huddled masses of China should be breathing easier today. They should be rising up, lighting torches and throwing off their shackles because now the full force of the United States Congress is coming down like a ton of pissed off bricks on the heads of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems that have ratted out Chinese dissidents by giving Chinese cops dissident IP addresses and the contents of their inboxes. Worse than that, they've even blocked political content (like pictures of Apple spokesmodel, the Dalai Lama) that the Chinese authorities deem objectionable. And now, in the halls of Congress...A DAY OF RECKONING! (lightning bolt! Sha-pow!)

So what has been the reaction of actual, real live Chinese people to this display of righteous wrath on their behalf?

"Who cares?" writes blogger EastSouthWestNorth.

For all the hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing in Congress over the internet companies' "abhorrent actions" (Rep. Tom Lantos), the reality is that this just doesn't matter. Although it has given Congress a chance to cut loose with the verbal fireworks. Here's Lantos again:

“When you type in the words 'oxymoron' you find the names of Google, Microsoft Yahoo and Cisco….What congress is looking for is real spine and willingness to stand up to outrageous demands of a totalitarian regime.?

The totalitarian regime in question has 110 million internet users. It may be a totalitarian regime but it's a totalitarian regime with the world's second largest internet market, and that's with only 10% of its population online. They call me Mr. Totalitarian Regime, Lantos. What companies are learning, over and over again, is that China cannot be ignored. It is a huge market with oodles of potential and the Chinese government knows it, causing it to become as desireable and as coy as a vestal virgin. China plays a tune, and everybody dances, to use a less sexualized metaphor.

The problem with the Congressional hearings (despite being ridiculously weighted towards an anti-China point-of-view) is that they offer the soothing balm of righteous condemnation without offering a single practical solution.

Companies cannot do business in China and ignore a warrant from the Chinese courts to produce information about a user any more than a Chinese company can do business in the US and ignore a court order from the US courts. Chinese commentators have played up the irony that the US is deriding China's suppression of freedom of speechwhile simultaneously suppressing additional Abu Ghraib photos. But this issue is not about freedom of speech, it's about what legal rights a foreign company has in another country. To do business overseas you must abide by the laws of the country in which you do business. The problem isn't that the internet companies obeyed a court order, but that the court order was issued in the first place. But if you're waiting for the Chinese government to change, don't hold your breath because you'll turn blue. And die. And rot away into dust. And the dust will die. And it will rot away into even smaller micro-dust. And so on.

The one intelligent issue the Congressional hearings have raised is what happens when a local law conflicts with an international law, or a higher law? This is the boogeyman of human rights  everywhere: it's legal to arrest and imprison dissidents, but is it right? Here you have to look at the question from a utlitarian point of view. Forget for a moment that Google, MSN and Yahoo aren't major players in the Chinese internet market, and consider the basic ethical question: is it better for the Chinese people for these companies to be in China or would it be better for the Chinese people if they left?

Most actual Chinese people seem to agree that it's better to have these companies in China even if they don't get to see 20 different versions of that photo of the guy standing in front of the tank. Access to restricted content is better than no access at all, and the blogosphere has been hugely liberating for China. As China cracks down on the print media, the blogosphere has erupted with protest and uncensored first person accounts of incidents and editorials dealing with things like the closing of Freezing Point magazine and the editorial purges at The Beijing News.

Every portal company in China has to provide more content (well, except AOL whose content has been woefully lame so far), every company provides email service and many of them provide IM service. In the short term, I think every non-Luddite would agree that the more access people have to cheap and easy p2p communication the more liberty those people enjoy. In the long term, each of these services must be monitored (here's a translation of an article about a day in the life of a Chinese internet cop) and monitoring is expensive. The more there is to be monitored the more expensive the monitoring gets, and the less effective it becomes. By asking these companies to leave China, Congress is actually undermining the cause of liberty. Holy oxymoron, Batman!

ImageThief, a Western blogger who works a PR job in China, believes that the big problem lies with the fact that these companies didn't make the limits of what they could and couldn't do in China public right from the start, and I tend to agree with him. If there had been no illusions from the beginning then there would be no grand disillusionment now. Working in China comes with restrictions. They aren't right, but they're necessary and it harms the Chinese people more to leave them isolated and cut off from their options.

The sounds of thunder and the wrath of legislators issuing from the hallowed halls of Congress is the sound of someone singing in the shower. It sounds good to the singer, but everyone else knows it's crap.

February 16, 2006 at 07:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

BANGKOK FILM FEST OPENS TOMORROW - EXPECT MORE HEADACHES

Bangkok Film FestivalThe Bangkok Film Festival has been dogged by discontent, but no one could have expected the industrial strength servings of unhappiness and woe they spread around the Land of Smiles this year. In previous years the carping has been directed at the fact that actual Thai people who live in Thailand seem to have little to do with the Bangkok International Film Festival. It's organized out of Los Angeles, most of the movies aren't subtitled in Thai, and money is spent lavishly to bring over industry people who couldn't care less about the festival's interest-free programming and instead love getting a free trip to Bangkok. It was the little festival that couldn't.

This year it looked like the fest was making changes for the better, spreading the Thai movies around the fest rather than sequestering them in the Thai Panorama ghetto, scoring the much-anticipated INVISIBLE WAVES as the opening film, and going straight to the production companies to ask for films rather than letting the Federation of National Film Associations  act as the middleman. The result? The head of the FNFA called for a failed boycott and then resigned (he was also the head of Sahamongkol Film which produced the only Thai movies most people have heard of: ONG BAK and TOM YUM GOONG).

But that's exciting new criticism. What is there for people who miss the old criticism? Well, there's no shortage of that either and you can get your full helping here in this article from the Bangkok Post. Thai people snubbed, money wasted, programming irrelevant...ah, it's like a warm bath. Old criticism, I missed you.

February 16, 2006 at 07:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

MY SASSY GIRL REMAKE NEWS

Korea's hit 2001 comedy MY SASSY GIRLThe remake that nobody wanted is now officially inevitable. Korea's hit 2001 comedy, MY SASSY GIRL, about the love affair between a wimpy guy and the woman who beats loves him made a zillion bucks all over Asia five years ago and Dreamworks quickly scooped up the remake rights for several hundred thousand gold doubloons. The project thankfully languished in development hell for an amount of time that, apparently, was not long enough to kill it dead, and now it's resurfaced in Berlin.

Gurinder Chadha (BRIDE AND PREJUDICE) is set to direct, the movie isn't cast yet, but Japanese distributor Toshiba is apparently negotiating the Japanese rights to the movie for...wait for it...double the asking price.

Note to Dreamworks: I'll pay double what they're paying just to make this movie go away. Give me your Paypal account info and I'll have the money there by this afternoon.

February 16, 2006 at 07:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

February 15, 2006

INVISIBLE WAVES REVIEW

INVISIBLE WAVES preems at BerlinThe long-awaited collaboration between Tadanobu Asano, Christopher Doyle and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang from LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE is out and playing the festivals and it's been reviewed by Variety.

You can get to the trailers for the flick here on Twitch.

February 15, 2006 at 10:54 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

NEW PROJECTS FROM THE BIG SHOT DIRECTORS

Each year the Hong Kong Film Market holds the Hong Kong-Asian Film Financing Forum (HAF, for some reason) where filmmakers come and rattle the cup to get cash for their projects. Last year's HAF saw Wilson Yip kick off DRAGON TIGER GATE and funding appeared for MCDULL THE ALUMNI as well as for some movies that still haven't seen the light of day.

This year's HAF line-up has been announced and here's the details on the more interesting projects:

JULIUS CAESAR - Gordon Chan, who used to be a big deal writer and director (FIST OF LEGEND, BEAST COPS, FINAL OPTION), is adapting Shakespeare's play to the Shanghai underworld in 1930. For some reason Gordon Chan seems to believe that Caesar ordered his own assassination in order to be remembered by future generations, however. The movie is described as "theatrical" and the sets are supposed to be "highly stylized".

GREEN MANSION - bemoaning the recent trend of Hong Kong directors (like himself) making movies in and about China, ("This aptly explains why Hong Kong films in recent years have lost their unique quality,") Stanley Kwan is returning to Hong Kong for this melodrama set in a social club on Conduit Road in Hong Kong in 1955.

UTOPIA - part of the digital film series THE AMERICAN DREAM INSIDE/OUT (currently developing a Jean-Luc Godard flick) this is a dreamy fable from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand's arthouse darling. It's about a caveman wandering a snowscape full of "fashionable old American ladies". Caveman goes to sleep and wakes up with the world transformed into a lush rainforest. Trippy.

THE MAID: A NEW BEGINNING - sigh, another Asian horror movie, this time from the team that brought the world THE MAID. Now they've taken the same movie and set it in the 19th Century.

THE MYSTERY OF THE NUN'S DEATH - Herman Yau (UNTOLD STORY) in serious, dark, rainy mode in this flick about a cop investigating the murder of a nun 20 years ago. Yau says the project has been lingering in his mind for a while and that he wanted to make a movie about "God's will."

PLASTIC CITY - Yu Lik-wai (ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES, LOVE WILL TEAR US APART) is a director whose filmography sounds like a mix tape but I can't find a song named "Plastic City". The movie tells the story of nouveau riche Chinese living in Brazil and getting up to no good in the black market.

TAIPEI 101 - Fruit Chan leaves the arthouse behind to make a movie about the tallest building in the world, a super-typhoon that turns future Taipei into a swamp, and four childhood friends who belong to a magic political group fighitng to determine the fate of the world.

TOYOL - Nonzee Nimibutr returns to the ghost stories that made his name (NANG NAK) with this movie about a Hong Kong family who moves to Bangkok and the witchy Thai stepmother who marries the dad and torments the children.

THE UNSPEAKABLE CURSE OF THE OX FAMILY - out of all the movies in this list, this one's my favorite. Directed by Su Chao-pin, the writer of DOUBLE VISION and the "Going Home" segment in THREE, it's a comedy about a Taiwanese family who is cursed by an ancient evil. Their genius son is studying in the US and gets stabbed in the neck while shopping in the local mini-mart. He survives but the knife can't be removed. The daughter is the world's first Taiwanese astronaut who is trapped in a geosynchronous orbit above her bedroom. The father's giant butt is stuck in the toilet and everyone seems to be in love with the mom. How will this bloody mystery be solved and sent back to the darkness from which it came?

THE WEEPING SEA - Terence Tong, director of the 80's masterpiece COOLIE KILLER, returns to the big screen with this story of the attempted Japanese naval invasion of Korea in 1592 and the love affair between a Chinese and Korean doctor.

51 WAYS TO PROTECT A GIRL - Takashi Miike's movie is a serious disaster drama about two 20 year old kids who get stuck in a level 7.8 earthquake that hits Tokyo. The boy resuces the girl from an elevator (she's a princess, he's a slacker) and try to survive the chaos with nothing but a radio, a lighter, a handkerchief, two cell phones, some textbooks and cigarettes.

February 15, 2006 at 10:51 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

IMAGINASIAN BECOMES DISTRIBUTOR

ImaginAsian, the Asian cable channel and theater-owner, has stepped into the distribution business, acquiring all rights to the Korean film GREEN CHAIR, the return to filmmaking by director Park Chul-Soo (301/302). The story of a woman who goes to prison for having an affair with an under-aged boy, and who then comes out of the clink and promptly jumps back into the sack with him, this is a great movie that came out to little notice in 2003, but deserves a wider audience.

I'm actually kind of proud of this since GREEN CHAIR first screened at the New York Asian Film Festival which Subway Cinema holds each year. And we screened it, where else, at the ImaginAsian theater in NYC.

February 15, 2006 at 10:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

TRIPLE DIPPING DVD

THE REPLACEMENT KILLERSA sharp-eyed reader pointed out that on April 25, Sony will release an extended cut of the Chow Yun-fat/Mira Sorvino movie, THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that this is something no one cares about.

The movie was notable only because it was Chow Yun-fat's first US movie, director Antoine Fuqua went on to make TRAINING DAY and Mira Sorvino went on to be a sheriff's deputy. Apart from that this is a big slab of digital blah. I never heard anyone  complain that the movie felt too short, but Sony has added 11 minutes of footage to it for this edition. I'd say "wow!" if "wow!" really meant "who cares!"

If I'm counting correctly this is the third REPLACEMENT KILLERS DVD out there: a regular edition, a special edition and now this director's cut. Wow! Not just double dipping, but triple dipping.

February 15, 2006 at 10:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 14, 2006

SUBTITLES DONE RIGHT

NIGHT WATCH

Americans don't watch subtitles. That's the traditional wisdom among US distributors who view adding subtitles to a movie as a way to automatically wave bye-bye to a huge portion of your potential grosses, and they're right. Last year only ten foreign films earned more than US$1 million at the American box office, and foreign acquisitions seem to be slipping: out of 54 Oscar nominations, only 12 have US distribution in 2005, compared to 19 in 2004. Part of this decline is attributable to people who say they don't want to "read" movies and the only solution seems to be dubbing movies into English. But the Russian film NIGHT WATCH offers a third way and it impressed me to no end.

NIGHT WATCH is a big budget blockbuster about a war between good and bad vampires on the streets of modern day Moscow, and it was a huge hit in Russia when it was released a couple of years ago. Fox Searchlight picked it up for US distribution and they instantly had a big problem: what to do with a foreign language action/horror movie with no pretensions to the arthouse. Director Timur Bekmambetov had a solution: integrate subtitles into the visual design of the film so that they flow with the movie, rather than feeling like something tacked on at the last minute.

The result is subs that come and go as characters speak. They sometimes appear in different places on the screen, most strikingly when a character is hurled across a kitchen and his shouts of "No!" and "Stop!" explode across the screen like impact marks in a comic book. The words of a curse appear in red and disappear in puffs of digital mist. A computer's output types itself across the screen with a blinking cursor. Some of these stunts work, and some don't, and they may only make sense because this is a fantasy film. But one place that everyone could learn something is in the timing of the subtitles, because it's perfect. Jokes are set up so that the punchline doesn't appear full minutes before it's delivered onscreen. If a character pauses, the subtitles pause. If a different character starts talking the subtitles for the now-silent character go away.

The result of all this? Although the occasional sub stunt is too conspicuous, for the most part the subtitles disappeared completely giving the illusion that you were hearing the characters talk in their natural voices. And that's the goal of subtitles.

Fox Searchlight collaborated on this experiment with director Timur Bekmambetov and say that this isn't part of some new approach to subtitling all their movies. But this is something every distributor of foreign films should take a look at because it works.

(NIGHT WATCH opens in NYC on 2/17 and then opens in the 15 major markets the following week)

February 14, 2006 at 09:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

GORO MIYAZAKI ON MUSHROOMS

Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki and the kid with the world's largest Oedipal complex, is blogging for all he's worth and the Mutant Frog Travelogue continues to translate it in all its banal glory. This week: bicycle helmets!

"Inamura-san, “Ged War Journal? Art Director, is another person obsessed with bicycles.
He is the owner of a quite a pair of legs. Inamura-san is an avid user of an Italian-made helmet from a maker called Brico, and since it is very cool, once when I tied putting it on as a test, a “Docomo mushroom? with an evil look in its eye was standing before me in the mirror. It seems my head was too big compared to the depth of the helmet’s hat body."


Read on! It gets better!

No, actually it doesn't.

February 14, 2006 at 09:24 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

BRAVE STORY TRAILER

The big anime feature film from Japan this summer is Fuji TV's BRAVE STORY, about a little boy whose mother goes to the hospital and he has to go on a magical adventure to score some medical marijuana in a fantasy kingdom beyond space and time in order to make her better. Did I say "medical marijuana"? I meant "magical something or other". Based on a novel by the rather grim Miyuki Miyabe (CROSSFIRE) it's bound to be heavy.

The trailer is up in all its yummy Quicktime glory. Be the first one on your block to watch it on your iPod!

February 14, 2006 at 09:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

OMNIFARIOUS?

Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE may have been deeply hated in the Chinese blogosphere, but it did give birth to the parody video A BLOODY CASE THAT STARTED FROM A STEAMED BUN which used footage from the movie and a mock-serious voice-over to recast the entire film as a true crime story. Creator Hu Ge enjoyed tremendous popularity and there was even the rumor of a sequel to incorporate footage from HERO as well.

But Chen Kaige is not amused. At a press conference in Berlin he said:

"We have decided to sue the filmmaker, Hu Ge, for damaging the copyright of 'The Promise.' I can't imagine a man could be so impudent."

Impudent? Ye Gads, sirrah! Verily that varlet deserves to be smacked about the face with your fancy glove. Chen Kaige's wife, Chen Hong, the producer of THE PROMISE, had a more measured, more sane, and yet somehow more mystifying response.

"People can express their own opinions on the Web. The video is nothing but personal behavior. After all, the Internet is an omnifarious world."

Omnifarious?

Someone's been hitting the dictionary again.

February 14, 2006 at 09:16 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 13, 2006

AMERICAN ZOMBIE

AMERICAN ZOMBIE Documentary filmmaker, Grace Lee, is now shooting a feature called AMERICAN ZOMBIE, about a living dead community in LA. It sounds like it's going to be a mockumentary, but the most interesting thing about it is that it's entirely produced by a Korean company, iHQ. This company is planning to produce a whole raft of English-language pictures, the same way Columbia Tristar has an arm that produces Chinese-language movies.

"Thanks to the Korean wave, Korean films are able to expand their market further within Asia. It's now high time to go beyond that market," says president Teddy Jung.

iHQ also produced DAISY, the hitman romance movie from INFERNAL AFFAIRS director, Andrew Lau, with an all-Korean cast.

February 13, 2006 at 09:12 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

KRASUE VALENTINE REVIEW

KRASUE VALENTINEThe Phii Krasue is a uniquely disgusting Thai ghost which consists of a flying head with all of its internal organs dangling below it like some kind of gory pinata.

If you happen to be dating a Phii Krasue and don't know what to do on Valentine's Day then take your floating cranium lady love to see KRASUE VALENTINE.

If you're worried whether it'll be appropriate or not then check out WiseKwai's review. He seems to think it will be. And then, instead of arguing afterwards, you and your Phii Krasue can just make out.

February 13, 2006 at 09:09 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

THE PROMISE GETS US DISTRIBUTION

Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE was bought by the Weinstein Company, re-edited, then ditched by the side of the road like an ugly date when TWC unceremoniously handed it back to its original producers over a disagreement about their Oscar strategy. THE PROMISE was, at that point, damaged goods. The Chinese DVD was out, the movie had opened to mixed reviews, and it had already been submitted to the Oscars as a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.

But now Warner Independent Pictures has picked up the North American rights and plans a May release date.

February 13, 2006 at 09:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

EXTREME FAST FOOD WILDNESS

TACHIGUISHI RETSUDENMamoru Oshii is best known for GHOST IN THE SHELL 2, the mind-bending Japanese anime, but he's now abandoned the new flesh for quarter pounders in TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN, a semi-anime about fast food freaks making their way in post-war Japan.

The animation style is wild and wooly and will be familiar to anyone whose eyes were blistered by MIND GAME, and the story sounds plenty weird (what on Earth is a "fast food grifter"). If you don't believe me, then take a look at the Flash embedded trailer on the official website and if your brain screams to be put out of its misery afterwards, don't blame me. I warned you.

February 13, 2006 at 07:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

THE HAIR HORROR! THE HAIR HORROR!

Folks who have been wondering what SUICIDE CLUB director, Shion Shodo, has been up to need wonder no longer. He's been spending his time pondering the horror that is hair extensions. And now he (and Toei Studios) bring you a horror movie about hair extensions...EXTE. The star is Chiaki Kuriyama, of BATTLE ROYALE and KILL BILL.

I thought Korean horror had reached a new low with THE WIG...but apparently there were depths left unexplored and EXTE will explore them. Can you stand the fear that is bad hair!?!

Chiaki Kuriyama will star in Shion Shodo's horror movie about hair extensions EXTE

February 13, 2006 at 07:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

WKW ANNOUNCES HIS SCHEDULE

Asia's favorite arthouse name has been announcing project after project but at Berlin he seems to be buckling down and making an agenda. And, surprisingly, he seems to be shooting mostly in New York.

First up for Wong Kar-wai is MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS, a Norah Jones vehicle budgeted at about US$10 million, about a shop owner who falls for a chick who eats blueberry pies.

Then he's going to shoot LADY FROM SHANGHAI, his long-rumored and sometimes-announced Nicole Kidman flick. Budgeted at US$30 million it's his first US studio picture and it'll require a full script. It's slated for 2007 and I guess it'll be to his resume what DOUBLE TEAM is to Tsui Hark's. It will also shoot in NYC.

Once he's finished with these two movies he'll shoot his long-delayed biopic about Bruce Lee's master, to star Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

Somewhere in all this is Rachel Weisz who's announced she's appearing in WKW's next movie. Which one it is still remains a mystery but that's why he's Wong Kar-wai.

February 13, 2006 at 07:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 10, 2006

WHERE'S MY COOKIE?

That's the host of the show, not meThey told me there’d be cookies. That’s what the producers promised me. “Oh, you’re in Media 3? We’ve got great cookies there.? But when I showed up what did I find? Three lone chocolate cjhip cookies on a paper plate sitting at the reception desk like something left out for Santa Claus. With only three cookies I couldn’t bring myself to take one, it would be like taking the last piece of cake. These cookies weren’t a yummy treat. These cookies were a trap for the unwary. Sort of like the show itself.

When a producer called me on Thursday morning and asked me to be on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country? that night I figured “why not?? I’m a relentless whore for attention and the glamour of being on television has seduced weaker minds than mine. There was no pay involved but they would send a car to pick me up and bring me home like I was some kind of high-class call girl.

The segment was about a new Turkish movie, VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ which is basically a Turkish Rambo where the bad guys are the Americans in Iraq, played by Gary Busey and Billy Zane. Zane plays an evil US soldier who sounds like a Christian version of Ron O’Neal’s Colonel Bella in RED DAWN. Gary Busey plays a doctor at Abu Ghraib listed on the movie’s official website as “a Jew? who harvests organs from dead Iraqis and sells them on the black market. For Busey this is a step up from his role in last year’s GINGERDEAD MAN and for Zane, well after he slapped around Kate Winslett in TITANIC doesn’t everyone think he’s evil anyways?

The day was spent being fattened up like a lamb for the slaughter. A producer called and told me that host Chuck Scarborough “responds well to facts? and that the other guest was going to be William Donahue, president of the Catholic League. The make-up woman told me my skin was very well moisturized and problem-free.

“Ooh,? she cooed. “It’s so rare to find a gentleman who is comfortable with skin care.?

While I waited I called every number in my cell phone to calm my nerves but no one was home, not even my mother. Actually I did talk to two of my sisters but I’m not sure it helped. I love my sisters but they’re way too smart for their own good.

“Keep your mouth closed so you don’t look like stupid,? said one. “Don’t touch your face or clear your throat. It’s called ‘respiratory avoidance’ and it makes it look like you’re lying.?

Great. Respiratory avoidance. Another thing to worry about. My other sister was even more encouraging. “Either it’s going to be really funny, or else you’re going to get destroyed on national TV. I can’t wait!?

I don’t have cable, not because I’m smart but because I would never get anything done if I had easy access to the Home Shopping Network, so sitting in the bathroom-sized lounge while I waited to go on the air was the first chance I had to see the show.

The host, Joe Scarborough, was talking about the Murder in Massachusetts but it wasn’t his intensity or his “power fingers? that riveted me, it was his vast, immobile forehead. How much willpower does it take to keep one’s forehead completely motionless? Was it Botox? An ancient martial arts technique? I still don’t know, but I do know that Joe Scarborough will never be trapped inside a burning building because he can always batter his way to safety with his mighty forehead.

The talking heads would finish their segments and then come back to the teeny weeny little lounge to get their coats. On TV they were all bug-eyes and weird teeth like some race of earnest goblins, but in person they looked completely normal. The camera was like a funhouse lens twisting their faces into caricatures. At that point I knew my goose was cooked since my face is already twisted into a caricature. To have it further distorted on TV would be like pouring gasoline on a roaring bonfire.

Before I could panic a producer bustled in and took me to a tiny broom closet. There were a few lights clipped to the ceiling and a pull-down backdrop of New York behind me. There wasn’t even a camera, just a lens on the wall. A long, dildo-like earpiece, covered in alcohol, was inserted into my right ear; an experience akin to getting a Wet Willie that just won’t stop. William Donahue was down the hall in another broom closet, and Joe Scarborough was in Washington DC presumably in a broom closet of his very own.

“Look into the lens,? the producer said. “Don't ever look away from the lens. And try not to let them bulldoze you.? And then I was shut in. My only connection to the show was the Wet Willie, which was barking instructions at me: “Don’t look away from the lens. Sit up!? In the background I could hear Scarborough’s voice talking about anti-American extremists and that’s when I realized what I was: the designated extremist.

Suddenly he was talking to me. Between not slouching, trying to keep my hands away from my face, avoiding clearing my throat and staring directly into the lens I barely heard what he was saying. But it was exactly what I had figured: they were out to crucify Gary Busey and Billy Zane. They “had a problem? with Zane and Busey’s career choices. I’m sure Gary Busey’s agent can empathize.

The first thing I said was that as a patriotic American I believed in freedom of speech and of association and that these guys could do whatever they wanted as long as it wasn’t illegal even if I didn’t agree with it. Then Bill Donohue launched into a tirade and I interrupted him.

“I think it’s important for the viewers to know that none of us have actually seen this movie,? I said.

“Shut up, pal,? Donohue snarled. Then he said that most actors would sodomize their mothers to get a paycheck. Trust the Catholic to bring up sodomy right off the bat, the less charitable side of my nature thought. Then they sprung the trap. The movie was anti-Semitic. How could I defend anti-Semites?

To hear William Donahue, the man who had appeared on this very same show a while back to say, “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular,? getting upset about anti-Semitism was like getting punched so hard by Superman that I had ripped through the fabric of space and time and landed in Bizarro World. My wife is Jewish and if she’s representative of Jews in general, I think they’re more than capable of defending themselves.

Then Scarborough brought the end game. “So you’re telling me that if Errol Flynn made a movie in the 30’s that was pro-Nazi you wouldn’t have a problem with that?? Nazis are to debate what the atom bomb was to World War II: the end. When Nazism comes up in a conversation a bell should ding and everybody should be allowed to go home. If the only way to defend your position is to resort to the Nazi analogy then you need to accept that you can't actually defend your position.

But I failed. I was weak. I answered him. “No, I wouldn’t. I think he has a right to do what he wants no matter how objectionable I find it.? Then Scarborough said it. The other conversation killer. “Whatever.? I was stunned. This was a political debate and he had just said “Whatever?? The word that makes parents see red. The word that is the conversational nuclear option for tweens?

“Whatever? What are you guys?? I asked “A couple of teenage girls?? I began to laugh and threw the “whatever? W but the camera had cut away and the conversation was over. I would like to take this moment to apologize to teenage girls. I know teenage girls and Donahue and Scarborough are no teenage girls. The producer dashed into the room, “That was great, that was great,? she said, sponging blood from the walls. “Look, you should know that Bill Donohue is in these same offices so you might run into him. I’m just warning you.?

I scrammed. A friend called my cell phone and as we chatted the elevator door opened and I was confronted with an impassable wall of garbage. Bill Donahue sprung up behind me and I froze.

“That’s the service elevator,? he said. “The one you want is around the corner.?

I hung up and went and waited for the elevator with him.

Someone else engaging in professional wrestling “That was fun,? I told him. “Next time they should just dig a pit and let us wrestle for it.? He laughed and shook my hand.

“Usually I’m the one they tell to shut up. I almost never have to tell the other guy to shut up. You just have to start yelling and get in there first.?

And then we had a very nice elevator ride, both of us pumped up on adrenaline and laughing and chatting. And I have to say that he was a very decent fellow, offering some tips and saying that he thought it went well. And that’s when I realized: this was professional wrestling. Public discourse has become a sport where everyone takes on a personality and acts outrageously because they want to be invited back. It wasn’t about debating the topics, it was about making yourself the best guest possible.

Who knows if Bill Donahue believes the things he says? But they’re good TV and that’s why he says them. Even if he responds to this post who knows if it’s how he really feels or if he’s merely maintaining his public image? And realizing this makes me depressed. It depresses me for the same reason the “Would you have a problem with Errol Flynn in a pro-Nazi movie? question depresses me.

What do they mean “would I have a problem?? Would I lose sleep over it? I don’t know. Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were both Nazi sympathizers and I don’t stay awake at night because I’m tormented by that thought. I find Nazi-ism reprehensible, but if “having a problem? means that I have to accuse Errol Flynn of incestual sodomy and scream about his career choices then no, I don’t have a problem. An individual vocally condemning racism, or any of the other isms, is making a meaningless gesture. Racism is something you choose not to paricipate in, or you choose not to encourage, it's not something you dust off your soapbox and stand on to denounce. That's like proclaiming that ice cream is yummy: it's a "duh" argument. It makes you feel righteous and gives you the illusion of being moral, but it doesn't accomplish the American ideal of bringing people together despite their differences. So within the context of the show I didn't have “a problem" with Errol Flynn in a pro-Nazi movie because "having a problem" is meaningless. That's like asking someone if they'd “have a problem" with someone who killed their parents. Of course they would, but there are people who seek to forgive those who've done them harm and engage them in a dialogue despite their personal pain and I find those individuals far more worthy of praise and far more admirable than people who begin and end with "having a problem".

But because I don’t “have a problem? I’m the one with a problem. It means I’ll never be invited back to “Scarborough Country?. And if I never get invited back, I’ll never get my cookie.

You can watch streaming video of the segment here at MSNBC's site.

February 10, 2006 at 02:56 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (20)

PORNO PENANCE

A 19 year old office lady for the contracting firm Huser Management feels terrible about the corruption scandal that has rocked Japan recently. Apparently, Huser was selling poorly manufactured condos that were likely to collapse at the slightest sign of an earthquake. This was revealed and lots of people are furious that they've been ripped off. Rina Noguchi is also upset that she was an unwitting participant in this scandal and, well, Mainichi Daily News says it best:

"Having played a minor role in Huser's affairs, which have largely dominated Japan's news coverage for months, Rina is racked with guilt.

But, because she's also racked in other ways, the 19-year-old decided to make up for her company's wicked ways by getting wicked herself, albeit by performing as an adult movie actress."

The adult video is a parody of Huser's problems and is described in hilarious detail by Mainichi. As Rina says, "I'd be delighted if my sex scenes made life even a little better for the residents of the affected apartments."

February 10, 2006 at 10:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

SEVEN SWORDS SEQUEL UNDERWAY?

Seven SwordsTsui Hark has a habit of publicizing everything he does as a potential film project, which means that just because he announces his plans to make a film it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen (his JOURNEY TO THE WEST adaptation has been rumored to be happening for several years now). But now Nansun Shi, his wife and producer, has announced that they're going to film a sequel to SEVEN SWORDS later this year.

According to MonkeyPeaches, Tsui blames the poor critical response for SEVEN SWORDS to the fact that it's only the beginning of a very complex story and that the sequel will clear a lot of things right up. The movie is based on a book series, and the following volumes depict the martial arts masters in the film fighting their way to Beijing to meet the emperor, only to discover that he is a weakened figurehead who is tired of being manipulated by his advisors.

February 10, 2006 at 10:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

OLD ZHANG ZIYI MOVIE BECOMES NEW ZHANG ZIYI MOVIE

Arclight Films has created an Asian films subsidiary called Easterlight Films and the first movie they've picked up is Zhang Ziyi and Joan Chen's JASMINE WOMEN. The movie, about three generations of Chinese women starting in the 1930's, sees both actresses playing several different roles. It premiered at the 2004 Tokyo International Film Festival in 2004 but has since been recut and has not been screened anywhere else.

February 10, 2006 at 10:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

HEAD OF THAI FILM FEDERATION RESIGNS

The escalating fracas in Thailand revolving around the Bangkok International Film Festival took its next step yesterday when the head of the Federation of the National Film Associations of Thailand, Somsak Techarattanaprasert, resigned.

"If people think I make trouble for the federation, why should I stay?" he asked, rhetorically. He then went on to accuse the Tourism Authority of Thailand of causing these problems.

"The TAT is behind the conflict. They should take responsibility," he claimed.

A temporary head is now installed and in 30 days the Federation will hold elections for a new chairman.

Also, a correction to the previous story. It read:

"In addition, no films were programmed for the SF Cinema City theater which is very close to the festival's main screens, and which is owned by Somsak Techaratanaprasert, head of the Federation of the National Film Association."

A reader pointed out to me that SF Cinema City is owned by the Thongrompo family. Mongkol Cinema, Somsak's exhibition company, owns a share in SF Cinema City and is on close personal terms with the head of SF, Suwat Thongrompo, but there is a common misperception in the Thai media that Somsak has great power over SF when in fact he does not.

(Thanks to Wisekwai and ThaiCinema.org for staying on top of all this head-exploding detail)

February 10, 2006 at 10:25 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 09, 2006

KAIJU SHAKEDOWN ON MSNBC TONIGHT

That's the host of the show, not meSo apparently some show on MSNBC called SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is going to have me on tonight to talk about VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ. From what I can tell it's one of those shows where everyone just screams at other, and I haven't seen the movie, but that's not stopping anyone.

Tune in and see my new haircut! I just got it yesterday and the guy who cut it was glued to some "Ten Greatest Superbowl Coaches of All Time" show on ESPN while he took the clippers to me. You can tell.

Update: The show is repeated later tonight at 2am ET/11pm PT.

Update 2: You can watch streaming video of the segment here at MSNBC's site. (Thanks Wolf)

February 9, 2006 at 11:14 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (29)

AKIRA IFUKUBE DIES

Born in 1914, Akira Ifukube composed over 300 pieces of music, much of it for movies, and won Japan's highest cultural honor in 2003, but fans around the world know him best as the composer of the theme music from GODZILLA. He passed away on Wednesday at the age of 91. Let's face it, Godzilla has survived multiple directors, King Kong, ugly designs, a lousy American remake, and some of the worst scripts ever to hit the big screen and he's survived them all because of those guys in his suit who play him so well and because of Ifukube's stately, funereal scores.

An expanded version of the original 1954 GODZILLA soundtrack was released in 2004, and there's also a Toho-approved CD of many of Ifukube's tracks for the film series.

Akira Ifukube

February 9, 2006 at 07:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOHNNIE TO'S EXILED SOLD ALMOST EVERYWHERE

EXILED, Johnnie To's upcoming sequel to THE MISSION, has been sold by Media Asia to dozens of territories including Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. However, no one in America is buying it, which is almost exactly what happened when Media Asia sold ELECTION to almost every territory in the world except North America last year.

It boggles my mind that tons of junky Japanese and Korean horror movies, some of which were huge flops in their home countries, sit on video store shelves all over the US and yet Johnnie To's movies, which scoop up awards, make money at the box office, and regularly premiere at Cannes are dissed like chop sockey junk.

February 9, 2006 at 07:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER

Can you watch Choi Min-Shik in a movie and not want him to be your dad? He's cool, craggy, conflicted, and he's got that dangerous, hangdog stare down pat. Now he's oozing virtue from every pore as he takes to the streets in a one-man protest against the Korean government's controversial reduction of the film quota system which they cut after intense, years-long pressure from the US government.

Choi walked down to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, went to the first floor information desk while holding a picket sign reading  "No screen quota, no OLDBOY", and handed back the Og-Gwan Order of Cultural Merit which he won when OLDBOY took the Grand Prix at Cannes saying that the medal is now  "nothing more than a sign of disgrace, and it is with a heavy heart that I must return it." He then left the building, walked across the street, and held a one man picket for the rest of the day.

Choi Min-Shik

This is just one of several one-actor protests against the reduction of Korea's screen quota system with Ahn Sung-Ki and Jang Dong-Gun who held the first protest - Choi was the second - but Jang who had to cancel his protest after one hour due to the huge number of fans and reporters who showed up. Each actor's protest lasted 4 hours.

Hundreds of actors, studio workers and company executives also took to the streets over the weekend to demonstrate against the cutting of the screen quota system in -10C weather.

February 9, 2006 at 07:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

DRAGON TIGER GATE TEASER IS UP

DRAGON TIGER GATEWilson Yip first appeared on the map with the all-around-excellent BIO-ZOMBIE, followed by the uneven BULLETS OVER SUMMER, and then by the very serious JULIET IN LOVE. After that, something happened to his brain and he made nothing but those bubble-headed international action flicks that infested Hong Kong like a plague around 2000. Last year's SHA PO LANG, while relentlessly overhyped, was a return to good moviemaking for him and was probably one of the top two or three Hong Kong movies of the year.

In short order he's now made DRAGON TIGER GATE, a big budget adaptation of a popular 70's martial arts comic, with action by Donnie Yen and it looks super-rad.

You can see the trailer on the official website. It's Flash embedded but to get there just go to the official site, click on the second Chinese title from the left on the bottom of the page and let it load. Short and sweet, and full of very old school looking credits.

(Thanks to MonkeyPeaches)

February 9, 2006 at 07:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 08, 2006

BANQUET DIRECTOR CALLS A SPADE A SPADE

Click the poster for a better lookFeng Xiaogang, the director of the upcoming period action flick, THE BANQUET, gives an interview to Yahoo which is worth reading. But the real meat comes when he points out the obvious:

"Some Westerners said they didn't really understand it [his film, BIG SHOT'S FUNERAL which flopped in the US]. In reality, I think they didn't get it because of a feeling of cultural superiority. I don't believe Westerners don't understand that kind of humor, they didn't want to understand. It seems like Western audiences have an easier time accepting Asian stories set in ancient times. That's a reality. I don't think it's a good thing, but for me, I wanted to make that kind of change."

At least he's not pretending he's making this movie because he wants to - he's making it because he wants a hit.

February 8, 2006 at 01:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

GORO MIYAZAKI: STILL BLOGGING

The new Studio Ghibli movie, based on A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA, is being directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro, and the elder Miyazaki isn't too happy about it. Goro has been blogging about the movie and over on Mutant Frog they've been translating his posts from time to time. Go here to read Goro's latest entry, a particularly incomprehensible story about Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii (director of GHOST IN THE SHELL) hanging out and arguing.

(Thanks to the Mutant Frog Travelogue)

February 8, 2006 at 01:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ REVIEW

Gary Busey and Billy Zane in an anti-American Turkish action movie about the War in Iraq? I always knew there was something wrong with that guy, ever since he snapped at Kate Winslet in TITANIC. This movie has kicked up a mini-dust storm on the dusty old blogosphere, and so now we cut through the hype with this review from Oge with full descriptions of the scenes most liable to cause offense. Oge originally posted this to a list serv and generously agreed to let us repost it here (profanity removed as per Variety rules):

I have to admit, this sh*t was pretty entertaining. I also have to say though that watching MUNICH (which came out recently here, coinciding with the Hamas rout) and this around the same time was definately bizarre, and not really because of any direct point involving Jewdom. Billy Zane takes his cue from those neo-Nazi guys in those B action movies, dressed in a safari hat and jacket with a thin purplish-blue scarf around his neck and all, provoking civil war while pretending to prevent it etc.

As far as the anti-Semitism, there's this hilarious scene where our hero is in a fancy smancy hotel for shady influential evil people in Northern Iraq and demands that the hotel be evacuated, and the camera catches an Orthodox Jew with locks, black robe and hat shuffling out the door. Besides that there's the "Tel Aviv" (Among New York and London) written on iced lunch boxes carrying the much talked about human organs that they're harvesting from unfortunate wedding goers. That Garey Busey (who is so right for this) is Jewish only comes up later and implicity when Billy Zane argues about how his people are more chosen than Busey's. All this might have something to do with the whole grudge story about Israel commandos training the Kurds in Iraq for an independent Kurdistan...last year a couple Turkish newspapers claimed that our foreign minister leaked their part of the story to Seymour Hersh because the government was pissed off that Israel was simply ignoring their concerns. But overall, the anti-Semitism in the movie is pretty much overshadowed by Crazy Motherf*cking Christian Guy. There's a long scene where the camera pans across Christ on a cross in front of which Billy Zane is praying and going on about how his blood will flow through Babylon or something.

Despite a couple of solidly campy scenes--like when they seemingly run out of American actors and
impersonate American soldiers with local talent, and when they show a woman with a broken Turkish-English accent ripping off the clothes off of an Iraqi and throwing him on a human pyramid, thumbs up, as the camera zooms out in order to capture the imitation of the infamous real-life photo, and like when Busey flips out at a guy for killing all the captives because he needs them alive for their organs, yelling, "They're not animals, they're human beings damn it!"--at the end of the day, it's really not a so-bad-its-good movie. It does in fact stay within some sort of logical boundaries in order to work as propaganda.

"They gave the mountains to the Kurds, the desert to the Arabs, and the oil to themselves" complains a Turkmen Iraqi. A group of soldiers wait outside of a wedding party and once the people start firing into the air, the commander smiles and says, "Now they're terrorists...let's go in." An American soldier is killed when he says he will report the guy who just mowed down a truck full of wedding guests, one of his last sentences being, "they may be terrorists, but they're people too damn it!" A lot of air time is given to a Sheikh who lectures a woman when she says she wants to be a suicide bomber and besides the whole Islam forbids it line, he wisely notes, "they may die, but others will die too, damn it." There's also a scene with Islamic terrorists videotaping the beheading procession of a  Western hostage where they're going on about cleansing Iraq from Americans and Jews and what have you when the same Sheikh comes in all what-the-f*ck-is-going-on-here like and verbally bitch slaps them into humiliation, releases the hostage, and gives the long samurai blade that was being pointed at the hostage's neck to the hostage and tells him to behead one of the terrorists. The journalist then drops the blade and weeps at the Sheikh's feet. They did manage to include an interesting action scene in which a gun battle ensues right at the epicenter of a suicide bombing. Although the bomber was a guy whose son was killed by an American soldier, the emphasis in the scene is on the blown up limbs and wriggling torsos of the bystanders amidst which a couple of rogue Turkish special ops people and American soldiers try to take each other out.

Of course, what is intentionally ironic about the movie is that for a film motivated by nationalism it has an awful lot of Kurdish dialogue. At one point, when two Turkish guys are under fire and ducking for cover, one of them yells, "goddamn Kurds" to which the other responds "dude, I'm a Kurd" to which the first guy says, "yeah, but you're different."

February 8, 2006 at 01:08 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (98)

February 06, 2006

JACKIE CHAN'S NEW GAL PAL

Jackie Chan and his co-star in the baby-napping picture PROJECT BBSomeone once made the comment, around the time that Jackie Chan released GORGEOUS, that his co-stars were getting younger and younger as Jackie got older and that at some point he'd be reduced to dating a fetus. Well, it looks like he's one step closer to the womb.

Just kidding! Actually it's a still of Jackie and his co-star in the baby-napping picture PROJECT BB. You can see more set photos here.

February 6, 2006 at 05:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

HURRICANE WONG KAR-WAI

Wong Kar-wai is reportedly interested in making a movie about the Hurrican Katrina disaster in the US, and is interested in Adrien Brody as the star. However, the script still isn't finished.

I'm filing this in the "wait and see" department since WKW first has to finish LADY FROM SHANGHAI with Nicole Kidman, and then the bio-pic about Bruce Lee's master with Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

But still, sometimes I like to sit and dreamily imagine all those step-printed, smudged frames of people hacking their way onto their rooftops to wait out the floodwaters, and the gorgeously lit images of Ray Nagin shouting at folks on the telephone that are bound to show up in the picture. No one does rain, sweat and tears better than WKW and by all accounts Hurrican Katrina had plenty of all three.

February 6, 2006 at 05:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

NEW FILM FROM VOLCANO HIGH DIRECTOR

VOLCANO HIGHKim Tae-Kyun, the director of the Korean martial arts eye candy movie, VOLCANO HIGH, has a new film out and Darcy Paquet reviews it briefly over on his site.

It's called A MILLIONAIRE'S FIRST LOVE and it's about a rich high school kid who has to move to the country where he learns about life and love.

Between taking insulin injections, Darcy weighs in that it's not much to look at but has one great performance at its core.

February 6, 2006 at 04:39 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

SETH FISHER DIES

Seth Fisher, the Japan-based comic book artist, passed away last week after falling off the roof of a club in Osaka. Fisher lived in Japan with his wife and child, and although I don't know his age he was somewhere in his mid-30's. Fisher was probably the most talented and avante comic book artist working today and if you're in doubt you should check out his gorgeous-looking website.

He believed that art was just an extension of math and that it was merely another way to engage in problem solving. He also liked to shave his chest hair into funny shapes.

February 6, 2006 at 04:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

THAI FILM INDUSTRY: THE INFIGHTING CONTINUES

a halftime rodeo clownWisekwai has been covering the unfolding infighting in the Thai film industry for a few weeks now, and it looks like the rumble will continue indefinitely, so I thought I'd pop up here in the middle like a halftime rodeo clown to provide the Cliff Note's version of what's been going on.

Round 1 - Napakapa "Mamee" Nakprasit was nominated for a Suphannahong Award in the "Best Supporting Actress" category. Mamee was ticked that she had been nominated for "Supporting Actress" when she clearly felt she had the lead role. Five Star Entertainment, the film's production company, wrote a letter to Somsak Techratanaprasert, the head of the Federation of the National Film Association, who hold the awards. Somsak is also the head of Sahamongkol Film, a rival studio which produced HELLO YASOTHORN, TOM YUM GONG and a bunch of other high profile Thai films. The result of the letter was that the funds allocated by the Federation of the National Film Association for Five Star's travel to the Awards were canceled. Five Star then declined to participate in the Awards. Not surprisingly Mamee didn't win for "Best Supporting Actress" and the winner for "Best Actress" was Narawan Techratanaprasert for BEAUTIFUL, WONDERFUL, PERFECT. Narawan is Somsak Techratanaprasert's 8 year old daughter.

Round 2 - the Bangkok International Film Festival, which has been criticized in the past for supposedly representing the Thai film industry while being programmed and run by a management company based in Los Angeles, and for not including Thai subtitles on many films, rendering them inaccessible to a majority of the local audience, announced its line-up this year with what looks like a heavier focus on Thai films than in previous years. However, this year the Tourism Authority of Thailand approached Thai production companies directly without going through the Federation of the National Film Association. In addition, no films were programmed for the SF Cinema City theater which is very close to the festival's main screens, and which is owned by Somsak Techaratanaprasert, head of the Federation of the National Film Association. The FNFA called for a boycott of the festival and asked local production companies as well as the Major Cineplex chain to honor their boycott. Also, on a separate note, some critics began to point out that the fact that the FNFA was did not participate in the Bangkok Film Fest in a fair manner since it was run by the head of Sahamongkol Film and accusations were made that the Film Market sidebar at the Festival, which had been organized by the National Film Association, had been heavy on the Sahamongkol Films and hadn't promoted movies from other companies as well.

Round 3 - the Bangkok International Film Festival announced that it would not hold a separate Thai Panorama as part of the festival this year, instead scattering Thai titles throughout the program. The festival would kick off with INVISIBLE WAVES, and include Five Star titles like OOPS! THERE'S DAD and ART OF THE DEVIL 2, as well as the Anglo-Thai film, GHOST OF MAE NAK, THE TIN MINE, and seven other Thai films.

Round 4 - Five Star Entertainment, RS Films and GTH resigned from the National Film Association, announcing that they couldn't support the boycott (the full details of the press conference are on ThaiCinema.org).

The big issue here is that whether it's intended or not, the dominance of Sahamongkol Film as a production company and as Thailand's biggest exhibitor is being challenged by the number 2 and number 3 companies whose profile has been growing rapidly in recent years. That the FNFA is run by the head of a major production company, and that that individual was increasingly accused of using the Bangkok Film Festival to promote his company's own films and exclude other films from other companies, made this a situation that was bound to boil over eventually. Expect further developments.

February 6, 2006 at 04:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 05, 2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TONY JAA!

Today sees the Thai Tasmanian Devil, Tony Jaa, turn 30 years old. You make me feel lazy and unsuccessful, Tony. Happy Birthday!

February 5, 2006 at 02:15 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2006

TURKEY UNVEILS GARY BUSEY/BILLY ZANE PICTURE

VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ is Turkey's big budget action film that's set to open February 9 in Turkey and 120 European cities. Billy Zane and Gary Buesy joined the cast to make a movie that sports a mega-budget and takes place in Iraq. The saner synopsis I've read comes from the movie's distributor and it talks about US forces turning against their Turkish allies, and sending them off to prison with hoods over their heads, and the Turkish forces then leading a resistance against the US. Apparently this is based on a popular TV show in Turkey with the same name about a cop infiltrating the mob, but the movie keeps the title, dumps the plot and takes the action to Northern Iraq.

US soldiers arrest Turkish troops, pump an entire wedding full of hot lead, deport folks to Abu Ghraib and - from what I've been told - sets a Jewish vivisectionist to work on extracting their organs for the black market. Could it get any more scandalicious?

Is it wrong of me to want to see this movie so badly? Film is a medium that lends itself to propaganda very easily and I'm enamored of propaganda movies, despite the nefarious purposes to which they're put. There's something about the hysteria and the straight-faced way directors of propaganda put forward patently ridiculous images (Jews stealing internal organs?) as if their seriousness is enough for them to be taken seriously.

VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ

Update 2/8: We have a review of the film.

February 3, 2006 at 09:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (48)

MTR CONTROVERSY

Hong Kong's subway system, the MTR, is ridden by the most delicate people in the world. How else to explain the MTR's history of banning movie posters they think will upset their riders? My favorite case was their ban on a poster of a ghost riding the MTR for Ann Hui's VISIBLE SECRET. You'd think the MTR would love the implication that even dead people need to get around and that for the stylish and discerning spook nothing was better than the MTR. But no, they were worried their riders would be terrified at the suggestion that they might be sharing their precision personal space bubble with the living dead.

Now the MTR has banned the nipple-less poster for TWO BECOMES ONE, the pun-happy title of the new Miriam Yeung movie about breast cancer. The original title was MOURNING FOR THE BREAST which was a little too downbeat and depressing. I mean, breast cancer isn't a country-flavored hoe-down with an all-you-can-eat buffet or anything but I'm glad to see that this flick might not be taking the position that losing a breast is necessarily followed by shaving your head, rejecting the material world, and entering a nunnery to die a sad and lonely life.

Miriam Yeung says that she's bummed by this decision and thinks the poster is perfectly fine. The Hong Kong press, never shy about asking the important questions, asked if the naked body on the poster was hers.

"I hope I was her too! If I had that alluring figure, I wouldn't mind flaunt it on a movie poster. Unfortunately, my body isn't that perfect, so it would be unwise to display."

Give her some points for being good-natured about what may be the stupidest question of 2006.

TWO BECOMES ONE

February 3, 2006 at 09:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

KON ICHIKAWA BACK IN DIRECTOR'S SEAT

Japan's iconoclastic master director, Kon Ichikawa, is back in the director's chairEveryone's reporting this one, but I had to spread the word: Japan's iconoclastic master director, Kon Ichikawa, is back in the director's chair at the grand old age of 91. He's been selected by Kadokawa to shoot the remake of his 1976 hit, THE INUGAMI CLAN.

The film will star its original lead, Koji Ishizaka, and Kadokawa has put a slower shooting schedule in place to accommodate their elderly director. I'm excited to see the final results, and hoping that it'll continue to buff up Japan's reputation as the land of the aging directors (Suzuki Seijun, Kinji Fukasaku - now deceased - are the other two biggies).

(Thanks to Hoga Central for the tip)

February 3, 2006 at 09:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

ROGUE PICKS UP FEARLESS FOR US

Rogue, the folks who released last year's underrated UNLEASHED, just picked up the North American rights to Jet Li's latest: FEARLESS. A good decision since the film cleaned up in Asian over its opening weekend.

February 3, 2006 at 09:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

CJ WISES UP - OPENS THEATERS IN US

CJ Entertainment

Frustrated by the US distribution model (sell movie to US distributor, US distributor waits forever to release movie, US distributor decides maybe not to release movie after all) CJ Entertainment, Korea's massive movie conglomerate, is trying to create a vertical model of distribution in the US.

Step one: they're building their own theater in the US. The first one will be on two floors of an entertainment center in downtown LA called Madang. Kini Kim, CJ's VP of International Sales says:

“With individual sales, a film has to go to one of the major studio’s 'Classics' divisions to get a sizable release. Otherwise, with an independent distributor, the most you can hope for is a roadshow. Of course CJ is thinking of direct distribution, since it could cover the niche market and even branch into the mainstream.?

Kini Kim is nobody's fool and this is just one of the things CJ has done to try to tap the unlimited revenue for Korean films they see in the US after their recent deal with Dreamworks to distribute TYPHOON. I think this is a smart move by these guys, but I don't think there's as much money in America as they assume. I'm also curious to know if the anti-trust laws that decided United States vs. Paramount Pictures back in 1948 will affect this since that decision required that the studios separate their production and exhibition arms. Does it not apply to an overseas company?

February 3, 2006 at 09:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

CHINESE CO-PRODUCTION CONTROVERSY

The Painted VeilThis one is still developing and I ask any Chinese-speakers to let me know what they think because I'm not getting a good sense of this story at this point.

A sharp-eyed reader pointed out recently that, according to a couple of Chinese language sites, the rules for Hong Kong/Mainland co-productions are being tightened. China only allows 20 foreign films to be distributed each year, but if the movie is a Hong Kong/Mainland co-production then it's treated as a Chinese film.

Censorship and script approval has always been strict (shooting on SHAOLIN SOCCER was reportedly delayed for a year due to the use of the word SHAOLIN in the title, and Stephen Chow called the censor's office himself during the shooting of KUNG FU HUSTLE to make sure the use of Buddha's Palm was okay) and many American films have to make a choice between big profits and creative control. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 shot in Shanghai and the producers chose to keep creative control, but in doing so they lost guaranteed screening slots in China and if the movie is approved for Chinese release they'll only make 13% of the box office. THE PAINTED VEIL, on the other hand, is a co-production (click the poster for a larger view). Chinese authorities have the right of final cut, but the film gets a big tax break, a guaranteed slot, and a bigger slice of the Chinese profits pie.

According to this reader, Hong Kong/Mainland co-productions now face the following rules:

1) A third of the cast must be from the Mainland. This is an old requirement but maybe enforcement is being stepped up?
2) The Mainland actors must play Mainland characters.
3) The story must relate to Mainland China.

It'll be interesting to see what comes of China's tight rules. Will filming there and releasing films in the Chinese market be so lucrative that producers cede final cut and content control to China, or will large productions just avoid it altogether. I don't think Hong Kong can afford to ignore the Chinese market, but Hollywood has that luxury.

Read more in Danwei (an older article but a good perspective).

There's a recent article in Newsweek.

Cri-English also gives it some coverage.

February 3, 2006 at 09:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

HK DISNEYLAND CONTROVERSY

At least you can't say no one's going anymore. Hong Kong Disneyland, the newest addition to the Disney empire that took advantage of the economic hardships and soft-headed legislators that Hong Kong has to endure in order to cut an incredibly lucrative deal for itself, has been swamped with visitors during the Chinese New Year. The park maxes out at 30,000/day and has had to stop selling tickets and has even begun turning away people at the door. The cops even had to be called out when some of the potential "guests" began acting like they hadn't read their Emily Post and got violent.

February 3, 2006 at 09:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

BOLLYWOOD STING?

Remember EK AJNABEE? The MAN ON FIRE remake from Bollywood that just came out at the end of last year? Well, now the producer, Bunty Walia, has received a letter from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the US asking for a script of the movie so they can add it to their collection.

Director Apoorva Lakhia is ecstatic and Bunty Walia says:

"After all the backlash we got for 'Ek Ajnabee' being plagiarised... this honour. I believe only three other films - Ashutosh Gowariker's 'Swades', Nikhil Advani's 'Kal Ho Naa Ho' and Leena Yadav's 'Shabd' have been honoured in this way. I am quite flattered."

Yes, well, I predict you're about to get quite sued. The first step in a lawsuit for copyright violation would be to get a copy of the screenplay in question and once the Academy has a copy in their library all kinds of eager lawyers will be able to check it out.

If 2006 ends without any word of a Bollywood producer being taken to court by someone in Hollywood for copyright violation then I'll eat my hat (I have three to choose from - I reserve the right to select the sauce).

February 3, 2006 at 09:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 02, 2006

TWO FLAVORS OF ZU

Tsui Hark's 2001 film, LEGEND OF ZU, now retitled ZU WARRIORSA sharp-eyed reader points out that Buena Vista is listing a DVD release of Tsui Hark's 2001 film, LEGEND OF ZU, now retitled ZU WARRIORS. This flick was originally slated to be a subbed theatrical release from Miramax in the summer of 2005, but those plans fell by the wayside.

Interestingly, the disc will be of the 80 minute cut of the film, rather than the originally released 104 minute cut. However, those who want the original version of the movie (and if you want this movie I'd be surprised if you didn't) can find it on the same disc. Yep, somehow the original has become:

"Includes Bonus Version Of The Film: Original Hong Kong Extended Version"

Wow! I can't wait for their 77 minute version of RAGING BULL that includes:

"Includes Bonus Version Of The Film: Original Director's Cut"

That's some nice box art, though.

February 2, 2006 at 09:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (14)

February 01, 2006

MORE D-WAR DETAILS

Forget SNAKES ON A PLANE - D-WAR is the angry reptile movie to watch in 2006!

More details in the Korea Times today about D-WAR, the giant monster/snake/dragon movie from Korea about scaly reptiles destroying LA (cue lawyer jokes). Apparently the flick's going to run two and a half hours (youch!) and effects shots make up about an hour of that. Shim Hyung-Rae the director and creator of D-WAR says that he's attracted a lot of attention because it looks like he's staked his life on this movie, investing way more time and money than he could ever hope to make back.

I kind of admire the guy when I hear him talk about choosing not to outsource the special effects but to instead create a special effects studio with a staff of 150 (many of whom apparently live at the studio). That's the kind of crazy investment in infrastructure that can make or break and industry. It's like Peter Jackson's WETA...only different.

February 1, 2006 at 09:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

ALL YOUR NEW CHINESE MOVIE DETAILS

Screendaily is feeding you nourishing nuggets of info on all the big Chinese flicks that are churning through the cameras as you read this. The most interesting tidbits are:

- Well, first a digression. Most of you have read about Zhang Yimou's next epic martial arts movie, THE CITY FILLED WITH GOLDEN ARMOR, starring Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li, but check out Stephen Chow's dis of the source material. The movie is loosely based on Cao Yu's THUNDERSTORM, a Chinese melodrama set in the 1930's (check out these pictures of all the chair-chucking mayhem) which has been shot as a movie more than once (and got caught up in rape charges between the makers in Hong Kong the last time it was made). Go back to Stephen Chow's KING OF COMEDY and watch the scene where his band of intrepid actors are performing a serious play for a bored audience of about three people. The title of the play? THUNDERSTORM.

- Jiang Wen's new movie, THE SUN ALSO RISES, which I had previously seen described as a Chinese Canterbury Tales now sounds quite different. Starring Jaycee Chan (Jackie's son), Anthony Wong and Joan Chen it's apparently four stories about a guy's life and loves (and wicked enemies) all across China from the 50's to the 90's.

- arthouse hearthrob, Tian Zhuangzhuang, is in post-production on his Chang Chen/Sylvia Chang picture about legendary Go player, Wu Qing-yuan.

February 1, 2006 at 09:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

OSCAR NOMINATIONS ARE IN...

...and not a single Asian movie is among the bunch. And please don't point out the few nominations for MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. Please. The only Asian film that got a nod was HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE which is one of the three movies up for "Best Animated Feature Film". The "Best Foreign Language Film" nominations were a dismal array of compromise and apology.

Italy, whom the Academy had ticked off by disqualifying PRIVATE, had DON'T TELL nominated, which seems awfully convenient. Same as PARADISE NOW being nominated. Didn't the Academy say that Palestine wasn't a country back in 2002 when they disqualified DIVINE INTERVENTION?

France's JOYEUX NOEL and Germany's SOPHIE SCHMIDT again demonstrate that while Germany is sentenced to always make movies about Nazis as far as the Academy is concerned, and that France will never get to nominate one of their movies that is actually released in American theaters (where was A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT last year? Where was THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED or KINGS AND QUEENS this year? Although K&Q was technically a 2004 movie, so was Vietnam's BUFFALO BOY).

And TSOTSI, while being a very good movie, got the unofficial Miramax slot, whereas the Weinstein company's one shot at a Foreign Language Oscar, THE PROMISE, got thrown to the dogs in a disagreement over Oscar campaigning for the film. Were the Weinstein's prescient? Or did their abandonment of THE PROMISE keep it out of the final five?

February 1, 2006 at 09:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

RDB: BIG IN INDIA

Aamir Khan's RANG DE BASANTI

After the flop of THE RISING, Aamir Khan (LAGAAN) returns to the screen with RANG DE BASANTI which looks like it might be one of the biggest Bollywood hits in a long time. The numbers are trickling in slowly, but Box Office Mojo is reporting that it earned US$5.5 million on its opening weekend worldwide.

The film is stirring up plenty of controversy which is bizarre for those who watched the trailer and listened to the pre-release hype. It looked like a coming of age movie about a gang of college kids who are rounded up by a documentary filmmaker who's doing a doc on her grandfather's colonial memories and needs some actors for the historical reenactments. The trailers put the focus squarely on buff chests, flawless skin and healthy hair. Well, apparently the movie has all that, plus political assassination, cops taking the old baton to protesters, and plenty of corruption. Some reviews have called it "frightening" and a "lynching" while others have called it "...a crazy piece of mainstream art."

February 1, 2006 at 09:22 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

FEARLESS: BIG IN ASIA

Jet Li's FEARLESS opened big over the weekend, kicking the previous opening records of movies like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, HERO and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS to the curb. In total, it sucked US$7.5 million out of pockets all over Asia.

The basic breakdown:
China - US$3.7 million
Hong Kong - US$1 million
Taiwan - US$1.3 million

February 1, 2006 at 09:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

KING AND THE CLOWN: BIG IN KOREA

relatively low-budget, understated KING AND THE CLOWN2005 looked like a year that would see WELCOME TO DONGMAKOL and MARRIED TO THE MAFIA 2 dominate the Korean box office, but the relatively low-budget, understated KING AND THE CLOWN crept into theaters in December, slid a quiet knife into the back of the vastly-expensive and vastly-disappointing TYPHOON, and has been creeping up the charts on little cat feet until it's at the number two spot with over 6 million tickets sold (2 million more than KING KONG and twice as many as the latest HARRY POTTER iteration).

The film, about two actors who go to prison for satirizing the King back in old timey times, is a comedy that takes a turn for FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE territory, and apparently it's not much to look at. Its success has been attributed to its script and its acting, not to any flashy special effects or the like and that is downright bizarre these days.

Darcy Paquet gives it an insightful review on KoreanFilm.org.

February 1, 2006 at 08:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (20)