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March 31, 2006


Eric Khoo's latest short film, NO DAY OFF, was promised to the Locarno Film Festival a long time ago. But now Cannes is sniffing around it and suddenly the producers are ready to take it to Cannes, kill anyone who stands in their way, bury the bodies, and eliminate all witnesses. Tactfully, they refer to this as "working out an arrangement."

March 31, 2006 at 02:25 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A sharp-eyed reader spotted the US trailer for KEKEXILI: MOUNTAIN PATROL and now you can see it, too. It's very, um, National Geographic. Full of the typical cheats, lies and compromises you normally get in trailers, this one also manages to come across like a motion picture produced by NPR. It does make me glad there are no Tibet jerks out there, because then trailers like this couldn't refer to Tibetans as "a people" all the time, making them sound like an entire country that does everything together.

March 31, 2006 at 12:23 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Chen Kaige at the Berlin Film FestivalChen Kaige don't get no respect. He got stood up for the prom by the Weinsteins who bought, then dumped, THE PROMISE. He's made himself a laughingstock in China by going after the guy who created THE BLOODY CASE OF THE STEAMED BUN, a super popular parody of THE PROMISE, and even his own ex-wife jumped on board the criticism train to say he was a stiff.

And now THE PROMISE is playing the Tribeca Film Festival and he has to come and talk before it screens. Poor guy. Can't we all just leave him alone? Look how tired he is in this picture and that was taken months ago in Berlin. He's going to be even more exhausted now.

March 31, 2006 at 10:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Bandai's new PSP time waster, RAIN WONDER TRIPIt's Friday and that means it's Fun Day! Please, try to contain yourselves. Because there are some serious issues to discuss today.

First off, the anti-porn campaign in Beijing has been a big success with lots of porno movies destroyed, but the result has been a serious price increase (from 7 yuan to 25 yuan) of porn. And then Danwei wonders, "Well if the police know the porn price has tripled they must be browsing some porn vendors, so why aren't they destroying that porn too...?"

Fortunately, the Five Friendlies are on the case. Nobody's favorite Olympic mascots are going to be the stars of a 52 episode, 3-D animated TV series in China that'll start in mid-2007. And in the first episode, they bring joy to children by distributing affordable porn to everyone. Thanks, Five Friendlies!

And if the mission is too intense for the Five Friendlies, then leave it to Rain who not only just began shooting Park Chan-Wook's I AM A CYBORG (BUT THAT'S OKAY) but he also just became a video game character in Bandai's new PSP time waster, RAIN WONDER TRIP.

Right about now, Jackie Chan wishes he was that magic. On the set of his new movie, ROB B HOOD (is this another title for PROJECT BB?), in a strange turnaround, a stuntman injured Jackie, sending him to the hospital after kicking him in the chest. Jackie says the stuntman was wearing the wrong shoes, but I think it might be that his chest is too big.

This kind of thing would never happen to Bruce Lee and just hearing about this foolishness makes me miss Bruce. You miss Bruce, too, so head over to "I Know Where Bruce Lee Lives" and drop dope beats on the interactive Bruce Lee remix machine. Niraj sent it in but it was invented by - wait for it - the Germans. Of course it was. At least it wasn't invented by the Italians, whose PM just accused China of using boiled babies as fertilizer. We all know that's not true - China has always fertilized its fields with mashed up bits and pieces of the Five Friendlies.

March 31, 2006 at 01:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2006


For lo these many posts I've been following the fortunes of Jiang Wen's movie, SUN RISES AGAIN, a movie that stars Anthony Wong, Jaycee Chan and Joan Chen. Do we know more than that? No. Jiang Wen has taught us that we know nothing. We are like blind babies in the woods surrounded by loud air raid sirens. We are lost and confused. The movie has been described as a Chinese "Canterbury Tales", as a series of stories told on the road, and as a movie that covers several decades. But now the plot is related over on MonkeyPeaches and they say it's about a couple sent to be re-educated, and the husband goes to kill his wife's lover, and there's something about a piece of velvet in there, too.

Then MonkeyPeaches breaks down and confesses: no one knows what it's about. Anthony Wong says it's an erotic film with songs; Jaycee Chan says it's an action movie; Joan Chen says it's ROMAN HOLIDAY and Jiang Wen says it's an amazing new device that removes stains from upholstery and keeps your drink cold. Then there's the shopping list. This movie required: trained birds, trained animals, lots of bullets, hundreds of burning tents, a big Tibetan house, thousands of river rocks and a ship.

What is this movie? I dunno, but bless the little hearts of MonkeyPeaches for continuing to keep us informed of the most intriguing Chinese film of the year.

March 30, 2006 at 01:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 29, 2006


The most anticipated Hong Kong movie of 2006, FEARLESSThe most anticipated Hong Kong movie of 2006, FEARLESS features Jet Li (issuing a well-timed statement that this would be his last wu shu movie), Michelle Yeoh, director Ronny Yu (THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR) and Yuen Wo-ping's action choreography and it seemed like an unbeatable brigade of badness, and not the kind of "badness" that smells funny but the kind of "badness" that Michael Jackson sings about. Right before it was released 40 minutes and Michelle Yeoh were cut from the film, but it went on to open big at the box office across Asia and people jumped up and down and cheered.

But is it any good? Well, yes and no. Good and bad are relative terms when talking about movies, so maybe it would be more accurate to say that FEARLESS is a red-blooded, full-on, go-for-broke throwback to Hong Kong moviemaking of the early 90's. This was the era when Jackie Chan was making DRUNKEN MASTER 2, Jet Li was making ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA and Ronny Yu had turned in THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR. For a few years Hong Kong seemed to wield an unbeatable fighting stance. It was making populist cinema that satisfied audiences - men, women, Westerner and Chinese - carried deeper resonance, was technically accomplished and profoundly entertaining. Not every movie was perfect, and some were misbegotten creatures that still slither and stink in the slimy sewers to this day, but the ones that got it on and banged the gong just right made some of the sweetest music in the world.

FEARLESS is one of those movies with a limp. Technically it can't be beat. The fight scenes throw down so hard you can't get up again, and the camerawork and technical credits are as slick as you want them to be. Jet Li has turned into a much better actor since UNLEASHED and while his performance is a bit theatrical it's also pretty magnetic, like watching footage of Henry Irving or any of the other great Victorian melodrama actors, stalking the boards and giving you goosebumps. The story is the life of martial arts hero Hua Yuanjia, a Chinese martial artist around the turn of the century who defeated a lot of foreign fighters and made Chinese people proud until, the story goes, he was poisoned by the Japanese and died. FEARLESS adds some backstory: Hua was an arrogant champion who killed a rival, went into seclusion in Thailand, learned to love the earth, and came back as an even bigger badass just when China needed him most.

But the downside of early 90's Hong Kong cinema is apparent in FEARLESS as well. From the whiny child actors, to the substitution of half-baked sentimental indicators for actual emotions, to the frustrating way the director finds it necessary to pander to the lowest common denominator just when the film's built up enough emotional capital to make a different choice, FEARLESS reminds the viewer again and again that Hong Kong cinema ran hot and cold, even at its best. Hua Yuanjia's grandkid is suing Jet Li and the film because he says it makes his dad look bad, but I don't know what movie he was watching - in FEARLESS Hua is practically a saint. In fact, he's St. Francis of Assisi, complete with a dissolute upbringing, an incident with a beggar, and a spiritual awakening in a foreign country. Then he sort of turns into Jesus with a public crucifixion. And underneath the weight of this kind of baggage, FEARLESS sags and cracks like an ancient train porter carrying a 500 lb trunk.

Ronny Yu is so focused on his aerial tracking shots and his massive sets that he missed a dozen different chances to give his supporting characters some shading. Nathan Jones and Shido Nakamura play Hua's two biggest opponents at the end, and while they're both shown to be jolly fellows who value good sportsmanship, they're little more than foils against which Jet Li unleashes a barrage of fortune cookie banalities. To squander an actor like Shido Nakamura (PING PONG, NEIGHBOUR NO. 13, and a bunch of Kabuki) in a role like this should earn the director at least a ticket and maybe a little time in movie jail where he can consider what he's done and vow to do better next time. Ronny Yu is not some kind of great auteur, but he has a distinctive style and BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR was a fortuitous fusion of his talents with a story that played to his strengths and pushed him out of his comfort zone. FEARLESS, unfortunately, is like wet paper, and unlikely to push anyone anywhere. Ronny Yu goes for the easy score again and again, whether it's Thai peasants taking some time to "feel the wind" which I at first thought meant that dinner had left them a little gassy, to the poisoning of Hua at the end.

Ultimately this is a refreshing throwback to the early 90's in Hong Kong, but it ain't no ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA. It's almost a FONG SAI YUK, however, and these days that's more than enough.

March 29, 2006 at 12:01 PM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


Look out, America, here come the ninjas. The Japanese popcorn flick about super-ninjas has been best described by my Subway partner in crime as:

"What if Stan Lee, Gardner Fox and Billy Shakespeare were all contemporaries in ancient Japan?  What if they imagined Romeo and Juliet as the heirs of opposing warrior Ninja Clans?  And what if these warriors had abilities less like your run-of-the-mill household Ninja, and more like those of Spider-man, Wolverine, and the Flash!  Might the result just be the long dreamed of screen combat-to-the-death between the New Avengers, the X-Men, and the Justice League of America?"

Purchased by Funimation, SHINOBI has no release date, but it does have ninjas-a-plenty and so it's probably playing in American multiplexes right now and we just can't see it. Sneaky ninjas!

And, Fortissimo has just sold Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS to Canada. It's been picked up by Seville Pictures (who distributed IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE in the North Country) and they're planning on a late summer/early fall theatrical release. I know that Canada is not technically America, but I think of our comrades to the north as fellow countrymen because I know that in our hearts we are all North Americans. Right, guys? Right?

March 29, 2006 at 10:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


SILMIDO, the 2003 Korean blockbuster about the 684 Unit, has done a lot of good. The 684 was officially denied until 2004 around the same time that the movie was released. The families of the 684 soldiers have been denied compensation, but now the government is putting its shoulder to the wheel and taking the first step by recovering the bodies of the unit's four missing soldiers. Whereas most of the unit were killed on the streets of Seoul, four of the soldiers were executed and buried, then the location of their grave was lost.

A group of university students and an Army unit are conducting the search.

The 684 Unit was a secret commando team formed by the South Korean government to invade North Korea and kill Kim Il-Sung. It was made up mostly of convicted criminals, many of whom were reported to their families as being dead. The unit was kept in seclusion until they mutinied and died in street fighting in Seoul. SILMIDO speculates that the reason the unit mutinied was because they were going to be decommisioned and executed by the South Korean government who were embarrassed by their continued existence.

March 29, 2006 at 09:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A few new Hong Kong movies have crept into production while no one was watching and Screendaily carries the full updates. The first is EYE IN THE SKY, the new Milkyway movie and the directorial debut of Yau Nai-hoi, the writer of almost 20 Milkyway Image films. Slated to be released in August 2006 and starring the ELECTION team of Simon Yam and Tony Leung Kar-fai, there's little to no info about the script except that it's a thriller set in the CIB.

Canadian poker player Eve NgThere's two Pang Brothers movies in pre-production, DEATH OF FOREST and DIARY, both of which are horror movies. ZEN DRUMMERS is also in pre-production and it's a musical gangster flick starring Anthony Wong. Also, the Chow Yun-fat/Ann Hui film, POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT, is listed in post-production but has no release date yet.

My favorite movie, however, has to be JESSICA CAUGHT ON TAPE starring Anthony Wong (as usual). The plot?

Jessica, a young and beautiful Eurasian girl from France, arrives in Hong Kong with dreams of becoming a movie star. But the Hong Kong film industry proves unforgiving as we witness the brutal destruction of Jessica’s dreams through her fast-paced voyeuristic video diary.

I get the feeling that Evelyn Ng, the Canadian poker player, is going to be playing Jessica, the French sacrificial lamb. I guess the reason I like this so much is that I think of myself as Jessica, and Kaiju Shakedown as our very own fast-paced voyeuristic video diary.

March 29, 2006 at 07:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


David Chute and I couldn't disagree more on movies, but he loves Bollywood, and that counts for a lot these days when Bollywood seems intent on making itself harder and harder to love.

Over on his blog he's considering the irony of the fact that just as Westerners are starting to embrace Bollywood's differences, Bollywood is falling all over itself to Westernize and eliminate those differences. I'd have to agree that this seems to the biggest problem with finding Bollywood movies I actually like. The stuff I can't stand is cloned from Western films, or shows a distinctive lack of charm and craft: THE RISING, TAXI NUMBER 9211 and ZINDA are three recent examples that spring to mind.

But at the same time, slavish devotion to the past isn't doing it for me, either. The Yash Raj formula is looking increasingly threadbare and the fun on display in movies like BUNTY AUR BABLI feels cheaper and tackier with each passing year. I still hold our hope for Mani Ratnam, although his YUVA really didn't do much with its musical numbers. Ram Gopal Varma seems to have eliminated songs from his movies entirely, and Sanjay Leela Bansali has done the same with BLACK.

So where does that leave us? Well, RANG DE BASANTI is a movie I'm still hoping to check out, and KRISSH. Apart from that, is there anything on the horizon that is new, but still contains that chewy nougat center of yummy Bollywood goodness?

March 29, 2006 at 01:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006


Zhang Ziyi's JASMINE WOMEN, her family melodrama where she plays her own mother, grandmother and daughter, is finally being released in China in April of this year after winning a few festival awards back in 2004 and then vanishing. The film also stars Joan Chen and you can download the posh-looking Quicktime trailer here.

There's lots more info on the movie over at HelloZiyi.

March 28, 2006 at 02:56 PM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Bollywood actress, Manisha Koirala, has problems a-plenty. She's fought the Taliban in ESCAPE FROM TALIBAN, played a suicide bomber out to kill the Indian Prime Minister in DIL SE, and she's had her imaginary dog targeted by fundamentalist Muslims. But now she's being accused of murdering her own secretary. For a celebrity, this is the ultimate horror.

Abu Salem was one of the gangsters in the Dawood gang who terrorized Bollywood in the 90's. He was recently extradited from Portugal to India with his galpal Monica Bedi, a Bollywood bitplayer, to be questioned in 60 murder cases, including the daylight murder of music producer Gulshan Kumar. He's also wanted for questioning in relation to the 1993 Mumbai bombings. And he's wanted for questioning in the 2002 murder of Ajit Deewani, Manisha Koirala's secretary.

Abu Salem reportedly confessed to her murder in a statement in February of this year, but now a TV news show is reporting that Salem says, "Manisha made me do it." Supposedly he claimed that Manisha was in a money dispute with her own secretary and had Abu Salem kill her over it.

This is backed up by no police statement, but is merely being reported on a news show in India. Expect this one to dry up and go away. Unless it doesn't.

March 28, 2006 at 01:49 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


EDISON CHEN A sharp-eyed reader directs our attention to this little blurblette in Variety that seems to say the unsayable: Edison Chen is in THE GRUDGE 2.

Edison was just fine in INITIAL D, but come on, doesn't anyone remember his jive-talking bad guy from GEN Y COP where he tore up the screen with Paul Rudd?

Now he's paired with Amber Tamblyn and the mind reels at the kind of hardcore thesping these two will get up to.

March 28, 2006 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack


Eddie Murphy in Coming to America Two Chinese movies are coming to America, just like Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in their hit movie. Unfortunately, I think both movies are going to be a bit more Arsenio Hall than Eddie Murphy. And if you're sitting there thinking, "Whatever happened to Arsenio Hall?"...Exactly.

Apple is carrying the US trailer for Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE and they almost manage to make it look like a good movie even though it sounds like it's being narrated by a character from THE DARK CRYSTAL. But, they run out of sane footage by the end of the trailer and have to resort to the Superman flying clip which still looks silly no matter how you slice it.

Then, the Weinstein Company picked up Jackie Chan's NEW POLICE STORY a while back but no one's been able to figure out their plans for it. Well, they plan on releasing it straight to video on May 16. This may be an indicaiton of their plans for their other acquisitions like TOM YUM GOONG and SHA PO LANG.

March 28, 2006 at 07:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 27, 2006


Tony Jaa may turn out to have the fastest rise and fall of any major talent to hit Asian screens in the last few years. ONG BAK got everyone to sit up and take notice, but it drastically under-performed in the US. TOM YUM GOONG was generally considered a so-so film (okay, okay - a really bad film) with great action scenes, which is a pretty fair assessment. It also saw the producers ditch Europa, who had lavished great care on ONG BAK, for the promise of a higher payday at another sales agent. It was scooped up by the Weinstein Company who seem to have no plans for its release.

Now, the Weinstein Company has picked up ONG BAK 2, which is slated to begin production in the fall, from Sahamongkolfilm and it looks like choreographer Panna Rittikrai, Tony Jaa's mentor, is set to direct.

All the previous major action stars brought something new to the table: Bruce Lee brought anger, Jackie brought comedy, Jet Li brought Chinese nationalism. So far Tony Jaa hasn't brought much more than the ability to knee someone in the forehead. Which is impressive, but without something extra I see him getting squeezed dry and put out to pasture.

March 27, 2006 at 09:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

March 24, 2006


It’s the worst job in the world: censor. You get blamed for doing too much and stifling freedom of expression, or for doing too little and corrupting children. You watch hundreds of movies for a living, burning out the part of your brain that once found movie going pleasurable. Your career is a dirty little secret because it’s practically an insult: censor. As far as bad jobs go, this is the end of the line.

No one really plans on becoming a movie censor. Maggie (not her real name) left Malaysia to attend graduate school in the U.K. She returned to Malaysia to become a university professor but unable to find work she wound up at one of Malaysia’s few private television companies, sitting in a windowless room and watching movies. She’s not the official in-house censor, but her job is to make sure that Muslims in these films are not shown doing “haram” things: drinking, smoking, or encountering pork products. She has generated hundreds of pages of notes that read: “Scene in which the Koran is discussed in relation to belief in the supernatural needs to be further looked into.” When she started she was promised some training, but a year later none has materialized. It’s just her and a VCR locked away in a tiny office.

This is an entirely voluntary project by her television network, which wants to preemptively remove anything that might upset government agencies. This kind of self-imposed sensitivity is crucial in Muslim-majority, multi-ethnic Malaysia, but, at times, it can seem a bit over-zealous. If a movie shows a Muslim girl walking into a restaurant with roast pork hanging in the window the scene is cut in order to avoid offending Muslims.

This caution is understandable when one realizes that the network takes their cues from the draconian Malaysian censor board, Lembaga Penapis Filem Malaysia, which is responsible for all decisions regarding theatrically released films. The board has decided that if Muslims don’t like pork, then they would really go bananas if confronted with pork that sings and dances: “Babe” was banned, as was “My Life as McDull” a popular, Chinese musical cartoon about a singing piglet. Muslims were not allowed to buy tickets to see “The Passion of the Christ” in a concession the government made to Muslim clerics who claimed that the film not only violated the tenets of Islam by visually depicting a holy figure but that Muslims, inspired by the film, might convert to Christianity. This was a step forward given that Malaysia had outright banned Jim Carrey’s “Bruce Almighty” for the same reasons. To avoid offending Buddhists, the Hong Kong movie “Running on Karma” had its title changed to “Mr. Fit.”

Censor1_webBut while some of these decisions make sense, no one can figure out the motivation behind changing the title of the Hong Kong horror film, “Ab-Normal Beauty”, to “Normal Beauty.” “Zoolander” with its plot hinging on an attempt to assassinate the Malaysian Prime Minister was understandably banned, but “Schindler’s List” was banned because it was viewed as “propaganda with the purpose of asking for sympathy, as well as to tarnish the other [German] race." It was eventually allowed through after being heavily cut. The critically acclaimed Malaysian movie “Sepet” about an interracial romance between a Chinese boy and a Malay girl received eight cuts, including a scene of the two lovers sitting on a motorcycle together. And then there are the rules that just make life harder. Pity the poor editor who made the cuts to “Lord of the Rings”. The censor says an arrow can be shown in flight, but not striking a body part, something that happens approximately five billion times in Peter Jackson’s trilogy.

The more rules there are, the harder the job of the censor, but while Malaysia seems to operate on the principal of “when in doubt, cut it out” the truly tormented censors live in the UK and Canada. In the United Kingdom, the British Board of Film Classification must review and issue a classification certificate for every movie and video that sees daylight, and offending material is snipped. The BBFC gets it from both sides: papers like “The Guardian” criticized them for refusing to give classification certificates to movies like Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” (for its video release) while at practically the same time there was a “name and shame” campaign run by the Daily Mail which published the identities of the examiners who granted certificates to “filth” like David Cronenberg’s “Crash”.

But what the BBFC spends much of its time watching is porn. Every single porn film must be classified and Robin Duvall, the BBFC Director from 1999 – 2004, says that while the BBFC offices are already “Dickensian…demoralized…and a little bit paranoid” he feels that regulating porn is the “least attractive and most exhausting task of an examiner.” Psychological counseling services are provided for those who have a hard time with it.

Jan Chambers is one of the bodies found trapped beneath the porn avalanche. She quit the BBFC after six months of writing up reports that read in part: “"Woman strips on bed and masturbates. At two minutes man comes in. At six minutes double penetration of anus and vagina.” Usually the report would end with, "All sexual activity consensual and fine within current BBFC guidelines." In the beginning, Chambers considered herself a liberal, pro-sex kind of gal. After six months of classifying porn she just considered herself exhausted.

What the examiners cut out of porn films are scenes of degradation, rape, bestiality and water sports. The definition of water sports is a fluid area, which has led to trouble with the female ejaculation brigade. The BBFC considers female ejaculation urination, but many feminists say it’s a legitimate female response to sexual stimulation. The two groups clashed over a 2001 video, “British Cum Queens” but the BBFC carried the day, claiming that female ejaculation did not exist.

Censor4The “is it pee or isn’t it?” question has also led to one of the most gripping exchanges within Canada’s Ontario Film Review Board.

“Can we go back,” says a 60 year old woman. “Was that urination?”
“I’m sorry, what was the problem,” asks a gentleman with a gray moustache.
“Urination,” she repeats. “See, it’s coming down her leg.”
“I think it’s just lubrication seeping down,” says a guy in a vest.
“I don’t think it’s urine,” says moustache. “Unless you disagree.”
“No,” the woman responds, “I guess I’m okay.”

Probably the most hated censorship organization in North America, the Ontario Film Review Board has publicly put its foot in it more than once. In 1999 it ordered cuts in Toronto documentarian, Ron Mann’s, 1999 film “Grass”. The charge was cruelty to animals, and the material in question was decades old archival footage of restrained monkeys being forced to smoke pot. The distributor took the case to the media, the ruling was overturned and the Ontario Film Review Board became a laughingstock. The Board gets so little respect that the Ontario Supreme Court recently stripped them of their censorship powers, declaring them unconstitutional.

But lesbian filmmaker, Siobahn Devine, who was on the Board for three years, has revealed the citizen behind the curtain with her documentary “My Tango With Porn” and it’s full of scenes, like the great urination debate above, that make the Film Board look downright cuddly.

Censor2_webThe Board is a volunteer army, mostly made up of school teachers and retirees, who work five days a month. And, as in the UK, they have to review and classify lots of porn. In one year, Devine watched 700 porn films, mostly on fast forward, with occasional breaks for very polite, near-rabbinical debates on bukkake and what represents a load too far.

Starting as a “stay out of my bedroom” liberal, her triumphant moment came when the Board ordered the removal of a scene in “Filthy French Debutantes” containing what they believed was an authentic rape. Being Canadian, it took them eight full viewings to reach a conclusion. But the last straw was 2000’s “Baise-Moi” a French rape-revenge flick that was too pornographic to be classified under the mainstream guidelines, but had too much violence to be classified as a pornographic movie. After much soul-searching the Board ordered a 13 second rape scene removed because they worried that if allowed, it would set a precedent for violent rape in porn. “13 seconds of someone’s art wasn’t worth an explosion of explicit rape scenes in porn flicks,” Devine says. Soon after, she retired from the board. “I was tired of watching porn.”

The United States is virtually unique in that its film classification system is 100% voluntary. The Motion Picture Association of America only assigns ratings to movies that have been submitted to its Certification and Ratings Administration (CARA). Although an unrated movie might have trouble finding local papers to carry its ads, there’s nothing to stop producers from releasing any kind of movie they want.

Censor5_webBut if you do pay your fee (the MPAA charges between $1500 and $15,000 to rate a film, depending on movie’s budget) and accept the rating, then you encounter a group of hard-working individuals who might just have the most thankless job in Hollywood: the Advertising Administration. These folks ensure that your advertising material is appropriate for all ages. They review everything: every single poster, television ad, print ad, all your video box art, any freebies like t-shirts that are given away with the movie, every clip that plays on “Entertainment Tonight”, every pre-packaged video interview, your trailer, your radio spots, your behind-the-scenes featurettes, your billboards, the stills in your press kit…everything. And if it’s not appropriate, they send it back. Nothing escapes their eyes. Only G and PG-rated movies can advertise that they are “fun for the whole family”. Red blood cannot be shown on posters, it has to be colored black. A gun can’t be pointed directly at the audience in a trailer or a television ad. Individuals who work in the Ad Administration seem happy and well adjusted, but one worries about the medical effects of consuming such massive quantities of inane marketing material.

People are always quick to decry censorship, but the real victims here are the army of unnamed censors who watch the unwatchable to preserve the sanity of the rest of us. They’re the only people who police pornography, the only ones who make sure that a severed head on a poster doesn’t freak out your kid. Who doesn’t feel a tugging at their heartstrings when they ponder the plight of the censor? For us, we can shrug and say, “You couldn’t pay me to watch ‘Stay Alive.” For the censor, there is no excuse.

March 24, 2006 at 12:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006


UltramanULTRAMAN MAX and MIRRORMAN REFLEX are two Japanese TV series that are going to be trying to scare up buyers at MIP-TV, the television market at Cannes this year. ULTRAMAN MAX is the Ultraman show that features episodes directed by Takashi Miike and Shusuke Kaneko (of GAMERA fame) and stars US actor, Sean Nichols.

MIRRORMAN: REFLEX is a return to the tiny screen for MIRRORMAN, a 70's Japanese TV superhero whose series inspired a cult following but who never really went anywhere. Earlier it was reported to be a feature film, and it still is, but there also seems to be a TV show with the same name.

I mostly just wanted an excuse to mention Takashi Miike and Ultraman in the same sentence and to post a few ultra-stills.


March 23, 2006 at 03:19 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Fortune Star video library

The coveted Fortune Star video library has been licensed by a distributor who previously wanted to remain unnamed but who promised good quality, special edition releases. Now the distributor has been revealed: Joy Sales Films and Video Distributors.

With 469 titles to choose from, and dozens of options for how to best release the movies on DVD, Joy Sales is doing something so obvious it's amazing no one has thought of it before - they're asking the fans.

Go and fill out their survey for how you want to see the movies (anamorphic, original mono tracks, special features?) and then fill out their survey where you pick 20 movies you most want them to release.

There's a few titles that I was surprised to see on here, and they made it onto my top 20 list:

The great, unseen, grokky, rubbery horror ooze fest DEVIL FETUS!

The doomed Chow Yun-fat/Brigitte Lin romance DREAM LOVERS!

The zonked out Yuen Clan classic, TAOISM DRUNKARD!

MONSTER WORE JEANS, the kooky Shing Fui-on horror flick better know as BLUE JEAN MONSTER!

Leung Po-chi's nutty, fabulous HE LIVES BY NIGHT!


So get voting!

(Thanks to Ian for flogging the heck out of this)

March 23, 2006 at 01:24 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack



First Run Features has picked up Ning Hao's MONGOLIAN PING PONG and is planning a national arthouse release. MONGOLIAN PING PONG is a Chinese movie about two Mongolian kids who find (natch) a ping pong ball and try to track it back to its source.

It's gotten good reviews and mixed reviews and here's a list of its playdates:


March 23, 2006 at 12:03 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Toshiaki Toyoda's HANGING GARDEN is downright spectacularIf the Tribeca Film Festival was a puppy I would kick it. If the Tribeca Film Festival needed a blood transfusion and I was the only person with the same rare blood type I would laugh and say I'm afraid of needles. If the Tribeca Film Festival was an extraterrestrial stranded far from home who needed my help I would knock it on the head and call my friends over for a barbeque.

That said, one of the few Asian movies they're showing this year is HANGING GARDEN which is downright spectacular. If you get a chance you should go check it out. Directed by Toshiaki Toyoda of NINE SOULS fame, it's a family drama that makes Takashi Miike's VISITOR Q look well-adjusted and it's yet another installment in the new Japanese film wave.

I'd pit any current Japanese film against movies from most other countries these days if movies had to fight it out in cage matches. Whereas Korean movies get all the festival attention, and Hong Kong and Chinese mega-productions get all the cash, Japan has spent the last four years quietly turning out a bunch of movies that are, quite simply, the most innovative and best movies on the market.

You may not love all of them, but look at HANA & ALICE, PING PONG, CASSHERN, OUT, KAMIKAZE GIRLS, PRINCESS RACCOON, 9 SOULS, VIBRATOR, UNIVERSITY OF LAUGHS, MIND GAME, TWILIGHT SAMURAI, YAJI AND KITA: THE MIDNIGHT PILGRIMS and THE TASTE OF TEA. This is a selection of flicks that pop immediately to my mind and I can't think of 13 movies from the last four years from any other country that cover this wide of a range and are this singularly accomplished. You may not love them all, but each is totally unique and carries a great fresh taste that's loaded with vitamins!

March 23, 2006 at 10:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


I've heard that Spike Lee is in love with the Bollywood musical, DIL SE, which might just be the greatest movie about terrorism every made. The story of a journalist who falls in love/obsession with a suicide bomber, it's a full-blown song n'dance musical and it's Bollywood at its very, very best. Lee's new movie, the extremely good INSIDE MAN, opens and closes with DIL SE's signature tune, "Chaiya Chaiya," the one Shah Rukh Khan sings on top of the train in the opening. What is it about this song? Andrew Loyd Weber hears it and goes into production on BOMBAY DREAMS, Spike Lee hears it and instantly drops it into his latest movie where, incidentally, it doesn't really fit. But it's still a great song.

March 23, 2006 at 09:25 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Wong Kar Wai will not make a movie about Hurrican KatrinaWong Kar Wai is talking to the Hong Kong press (according to Monkeypeaches) and he's clearing up some rumors and giving some dates and times which he'll probably ignore at his leisure. His Norah Jones, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law movie (all that creamy skin) MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS is set to be his next project. It's a road movie set in the States, and WKW says that the rumors over a Hurricane Katrina project probably arose when he was seen scouting locations in New Orleans. But there is no Hurricane Katrina project. Repeat: WKW will not make a movie about Hurrican Katrina. Cameras are set to roll on this one in June.

He'll then go into production on LADY FROM SHANGHAI with Nicole Kidman, but she needs time to do her Baz Luhrman project first so that's a bit down the road. Then the Tony Leung Chiu-wai project about Bruce Lee's master, Ye Wen, will be pushed back to 2007 because Tony needs time to practice his martial arts.

Unless he's turned over a new leaf, don't expect to see any of these movies until 2009.

March 23, 2006 at 08:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006


HAF, the market at the Hong Kong Filmart where producers and directors walk around on their knees begging people to fund their movies because their children need medicine, usually presents about 25 projects and it seems like less than half of those ever see the light of day. This year there were projects from Takashi Miike, Fruit Chan, Zhang Yang, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and a bunch of other big brand names, but what is going to actually get made from all this madness?

Well, it's still too early to tell but they give out monetary awards to some projects, and some projects are already funded, so what do we have to look forward to?

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's caveman film, UTOPIA, got an award as did MAID - THE NEW BEGINNING and the amazing sounding UNSPEAKABLE CURSE OF THE OX FAMILY. Royston Tan's 132 got an award and so did PART OCEAN, PART FLAME.

The only project that looks like it's fully funded at this point is Zhang Yang's AIR (at US$2.5 million) but with production grants and cash in their pockets, these other projects stand a chance of seeing the light of day. AIR is Zhang's black comedy based on a true story about a migrant worker who carries the corpse of his dead friend across China and back to his hometown for burial. Fortissimo has come on board to handle worldwide sales.

March 22, 2006 at 03:49 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I don't really care about the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema (March 30 - April 11), but I really do care about their Danger After Dark program put together by Travis Crawford, a mild-mannered gentleman who, when touched by moonlight, transforms into an enormous, flying ant who fights crime. This year, Travis has focused a little bit less on crime fighting and a little bit more on gathering together an amazing collection of Asian films in his underground kingdom, as if they were so many grains of yummy sugar.

So there's some of the usual suspects: LADY VENGEANCE, Takashi Shimizu's REINCARNATION, and THE GLAMOROUS LIFE OF SACHIKO HANAI which is building up a real cult following. Then there's the stuff of dreams.

HELL, the new Thai horror film that doesn't end with teens being slaughtered, but follows them down to Hell to see them eternally tortured, too!

TOKYO ZOMBIE with Tadanobu Asano fighting off a zombie horde!

MEATBALL MACHINE about aliens turning humans into necroborgs! Necroborgs?!? How dare they!

STRANGE CIRCUS, and incredibly divisive follow-up to Sion Sono's SUICIDE CLUB about a sexually abused little girl and her active fantasy life.

Philadelphia: easily accessible by rail, road or sea, and protected by a crimefighting ant.

MEATBALL MACHINE is about aliens turning humans into necroborgs

March 22, 2006 at 01:28 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Patrick Tam was the director to beat back in the giddy, glorious days of Hong Kong's New Wave but after making classics like LOVE MASSACRE, THE SWORD, MY HEART IS THAT ETERNAL ROSE, NOMAD and FINAL VICTORY he vanished from the scene. Since 1988 he has surfaced only to edit DAYS OF BEING WILD, ASHES OF TIME and, most recently, Johnnie To's ELECTION.

But now he's got an Aaron Kwok movie, of all things, called AFTER THIS OUR EXILE with Tony Leung Kar-fai, Eric Tsang and Charlie Yeung filling out the cast. It's playing at the Hong Kong Film Festival next month, but it just got picked up by the lovely people at Focus Features who plan a Hong Kong release in August.

March 22, 2006 at 11:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Picked up in a bunch of places that aren't North America, that is. Ha ha, made you look! This seems about par for the course these days: if you like Asian action movies then you need to move to France. Wilson Yip's DRAGON TIGER GATE (produced by Nansun Shi, Tsui Hark's wife and the producer of INFERNAL AFFAIRS) has been picked up in a bunch of foreign markets including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, France and Scandinavia. Not America.

It's set for a July 28 pan-Asian release, and then Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen move on to make SHA PO LANG 2, which might be difficult because SHA PO LANG 1 ended with pretty much the entire cast dead. But maybe it's a prequel set back when all the characters were in kindergarten?

March 22, 2006 at 09:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Brett Ratner is looking to sign Aishwarya Rai for RUSH HOUR 3

This morning took a sudden turn for the worse as a sharp-eyed reader sends in news that Brett Ratner is looking to sign Aishwarya Rai for RUSH HOUR 3. In my head there's an image of Aish paddling around in the water, just minding her own business, rubbing some L'Oreal shampoo into her hair just because it's such a great, great product; and behind her is an enormous, greasy shark monster like Paul, the hammerhead/human hybrid from HAMMERHEAD: SHARK FRENZY, and he's sneaking up on her, hiding behind waves and ready to swallow her alive.

The incriminating dialogue was captured in this probing interview by Robert Sanchez (my favorite line: "I really like your work. FAMILY MAN, I came from the automotive industry, I actually used to manage a tire store so I really related to him."). Sanchez was in Las Vegas to look at clips from X-MEN 3 but, as it so often does, conversation soon turned to RUSH HOUR 3.

Q: You mentioned that you are looking for an Indian actress, a really hot Indian actress to be in Rush Hour 3.

BR: I love her, Aishwarya Rai, the most beautiful woman in the world.

Q: Would you cast her?

BR: I am trying to right now. She's the most beautiful woman in the world and it's my dream to put her in the movie, Aishwarya Rai is considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world.

Yes, Aishwarya Rai is considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Yes. The most beautiful woman in the world. She is considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world.

Snap out of it!

I bet Julia Roberts really regrets having once said that about Aish. It's as if you ate a donut and said, "This is the best donut ever!" and one week later there was a huge sign over the store flashing "Best Donuts Ever".

You can read the whole interview (insightful!) and Ratner has a few more nuggets to excrete about RUSH HOUR 3 including, "Hopefully Chris Tuckers' character is going to grow and learn something from this experience and Jackie Chan as well."

We can always hope.

March 22, 2006 at 08:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Bollywood's most interesting director, Ram Gopal Varma, has his new movie coming out this May: SHIVA. There's a lot of backstory on this one. Originally RGV produced JAMES which was supposed to be his take on the "angry young man" genre, a popular Indian genre. But RGV wasn't happy with the final product and disavowed it the way Hayao Miyazaki dumped Goro Miyazaki: hard and fast. At the same time, RGV has gotten sick of the cyclical criticism that has dogged his career where he'll make a big movie, the next four or five come and go like the wind, critics say he's over and then he makes another big movie, rinse and repeat. So he's decided to show folks what's what. Taking the star of JAMES (Mohit Ahlawat) and the female lead (Nisha Kothari) he's cast them in SHIVA, a remake of his first movie made when he was a total unknown with no more experience in filmmaking than running a video store.

But this is not a slavish remake of SHIVA. That movie was about college gangs and one brave young man who punched them all in the chest so hard they died. The new SHIVA is more like the RGV-produced SHOOL about a young cop who winds up in a corrupt police department. And it's about driving spikes through people's foreheads. As RGV says, "My new SHIVA is a remake of my old one, but in a way that JAMES was meant to be."

Unclear? Then check out the trailer for SHIVA (downloadable Realplayer) and realize that while this may be a fantastic new movie, with violence this harsh it probably won't be a hit.

March 22, 2006 at 12:02 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2006


John Woo's producing partner, Terence Chang, announces almost as many projects as John Woo, and just as few of them come to fruition. But now he's seen a gap in the Chinese market and he's rushing to fill it with three, medium-budget (US$10 million), commercial features that he doesn't plan on sending to Cannes or Toronto. They're just mid-sized movies with no other goal than to make money. This is a formula that stood Hong Kong in good stead for years, but these days without some artistic ambition you might be turning out future classics or you might be turning out direct-to-video junk. It's hard to tell.

While working in China putting together John Woo's 2007 BATTLE OF RED CLIFF, Chang saw his opportunity and is releasing three movies before Woo's flick starts rolling. Director Alexi Tan has pretty much abandoned his other Terence Chang project, the Thai film DETOUR, for the first of these, an unnamed 1930's gangster flick. Then there's an adaptation of the Japanese manga, IRON FIST CHINMI, without any names attached. Finally, there's CITY OF NINE DRAGONS, a 1950's flick set in Hong Kong, again with no names attached at this point.

This is either very interesting, or else it's a guide to future movies to avoid, or a list of future projects that won't materialize. Right now it's too early to tell.

March 21, 2006 at 01:18 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


KAMIKAZE GIRLS should have been a hit in the US last year but for some reason it slunk in and out of theaters without anyone noticing, which doesn't change the fact that it's more fun than a roomful of puppies. Director Tetsuya Nakashima now has a new film coming out called MEMORIES OF MATSUKO. Subtitled, "yet another Cinderella story" it's set in the early Showa era and its trailer looks like a cross between BAOBER IN LOVE and CITIZEN DOG.

To see the trailers, click on the third little pink speech balloon on the homepage. But to see the best trailer in a Windows Media File, just click here.

(Thanks to Nick for digging this up and translating)

March 21, 2006 at 10:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Big Tony? Or Little Tony?At Hong Kong's Filmart there was some more news about John Woo's BATTLE OF RED CLIFF as ScreenDaily reports that "...local superstar Tony Leung acknowledged that would be among the stars featured in the large-scale film."

Do they mean Big Tony? Or Little Tony? Aiyah, these Westerners need to learn that there's two Tony Leungs: one who is in Wong Kar-wai movies and one who gets arrested for drunk driving. There's Little Tony making some important looking announcements at the opening of Filmart, with skin so dewy you could make a wallet out of it. Is this the Tony they're thinking of?

March 21, 2006 at 09:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Sammo Hung will be directing HOWLING ARROW for SundreamThe news is coming out of the Hong Kong Filmart fast and furious. The most recent tidbit: Sammo Hung will be directing HOWLING ARROW for Sundream (the folks who are producing Jacob Cheung's BATTLE OF WITS). The film is about a group of gangsters in northeast China around the turn of the century and, according to the president of Sundream it will have roughly a US$16 million budget and he adds, "We aim to capture some of the unique characteristics of Hong Kong movies. The style of martial arts action design will be very realistic without heavy use of special effects.”

It's been 9 years since Sammo directed a movie, and that's 9 years too long. Although his films have rarely been hits they are absolutely breathtaking. If you're a Hong Kong movie fan at least one of his movies is in your top ten list, and most directors should be forced to watch his movies to learn how to use space. A lot of hoohah gets spouted about defining the space in action scenes but no one breathes more rambunctious life into this concept than Sammo. Even Jackie Chan's MR. NICE GUY has some nice work early on in an alley and the action scene that Sammo directed for THUNDERBOLT (in the pachinko parlor) makes you sit up and shut up because it's the best thing in this forgettable movie. But the final fight in MILLIONAIRE'S EXPRESS doubles as a map of the town in which it's taking place, and no other action director has handled a final fight unfolding simultaneously between multiple combatants as gracefully as Sammo in the finale of EASTERN CONDORS as the camera zooms, pans, tracks and glides from one fight to another. And has Jackie Chan ever been in an action scene that looked more like an art film than the final construction scene slapdown in HEART OF DRAGON?

Sammo, we've missed you wearing your magic director's hat. Nice to have you back.

March 21, 2006 at 09:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


Given that he makes films at the same rate most blogs are updated, was there ever a doubt that Takashi Miike would take to blogging like a duck to water? We've talked about it before, but please try to follow the English-language translations of his blog over on Ryuanji as closely as possible. While Goro Miyazaki's blog is compellingly weird and kind of touching, Miike's blog is like a taking a glass of rubbing alcohol right before bed.

In this recent entry he talks about how successful he is, mentions F1 racing, talks about his stress, and then blames it on global warming.

March 21, 2006 at 09:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Media Asia aims to be the biggest Chinese distributor in 2006Media Asia seems driven by some sick, inner need to be the biggest Chinese distributor in 2006. What's wrong with them? Were they beaten up a lot as a young studio?

Their slate for 2006 includes Feng Xiaogang's THE BANQUET, with Zhang Ziyi, Johnnie To's THE EXILED (his sequel to THE MISSION), as well as Miriam Yeung's just-release 2 BECOME 1, which did quite well in Hong Kong. And there's ISABELLA by Pang Ho-cheung, which will be released on April 6 and was the only Chinese film to win a major award at Berlin this year (a silver bear for "Best Score").

But they've also just announced that the INFERNAL AFFAIRS gang, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, will be heading up two projects for them. The first is BEHIND THE SIN, like INFERNAL AFFAIRS it's a Tony Leung Chiu-wai flick with a weak pun for a title, about a cop and a private investigator looking into the murder of the cop's father-in-law. Budgeted at US$7.7 million it's set to start shooting in May. Lau and Mak will also team up later this year for a Media Asia-produced gangster epic, set to begin in the 40's and span 30 years, about a trader who moves from China to HK and falls into a life of crime. It looks like super-star (and INITIAL D star) Jay Chou will star in this flick.

As if that hasn't proved that they're the biggest kid in the playground, Media Asia is also producing the next movie from Teddy Chen (WAIT TIL YOU'RE OLDER), a modern day martial arts flick about a bunch of monks. Budgeted at US$5 million they're looking to have a complete script by May and start shooting this year.

Media Asia also hopes to go back in time and reshape the Grand Canyon into their corporate logo, save small children and lost puppies at least twice a week, and they promise to use their powers only for good.

March 21, 2006 at 05:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


original Cathay buildingCathay, like Shaw, has been undergoing a revival in recent years, reissuing its discs and engaging in new projects. But since Cathay is famous for its dramas, comedies and musicals rather than its action and horror films, it doesn't make as much noise among Western fans when it does the things it does. But Cathay demonstrates something rare in developer-crazy Asia, showing respect for the old buildings and theaters with which it was historically associated.

This week they reopen the redeveloped Cathay building in Singapore which housed the city's first air conditioned cinema, and was Sinagpore's first high rise. The new building has an extra storey, maintains the original facade and houses an 8 screen multiplex.

That's a before picture up there on the right, and an after picture below.

the redeveloped Cathay building

March 21, 2006 at 12:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006


Colin Geddes is over at the Hong Kong Filmart and he's blogging as fast as he can. He's posting posters and photos from a number of upcoming projects and seems to be following a fine philosophy: let other people drool over the next Zhang Ziyi movie, we want to know about REVENGE OF THE HANDICAPPED.

REVENGE OF THE HANDICAPPED features the the tag line: "As World Cup approaching, a handicapped gang was desperate for victory of soccer match with crazy kung fu in ancient China." Which tells you everything, and yet nothing at all.

There's also a Thai film called COLIC with a poster of a baby eyeing a bloody blender (why remake old TV shows when you can remake old dead baby jokes?) and this killer DRAGON TIGER GATE poster:


March 20, 2006 at 01:45 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Flying a little under the radar, Andrew Lau (INITIAL D, INFERNAL AFFAIRS) has just wrapped his first English-language movie, THE FLOCK, starring Claire Daines and Richard Gere.

The plot description:

FLOCK follows a hypervigilant federal agent (Gere) who, while training his young female replacement, must track down a missing girl who he is convinced is connected to a paroled sex offender he is investigating.

It seems to be slated for a November 3, 2006 release date.

March 20, 2006 at 12:00 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


The Hong Kong Filmart is in full swing and one of the projects being pre-sold is Yuen Wo-ping's THE WAR, described somewhat cryptically as being about a war between Japan, Korea and China and it can't be too offensive since it has backers from all three countries. Yuen is also working on LITTLE EAGLE, directed by Wu Tian-ming and written by MARCH OF THE PENGUINS writer Michel Fessler. Wu Tian-ming directed KING OF MASKS, but more importantly he was head of the Xian Film Studios in China during the 80's when Zhang Yimou and other Fifth Generation Directors were getting their start there. If anyone could be considered the Godfather of the Fifth Generation, it's Wu Tian-ming. Still doesn't change the fact that KING OF MASKS wasn't that great of a movie.

The same article in Variety also mentions that Fruit Chan's NEON GLOWS OVER MYANMAR, which is in presales at the HK Filmart, is a US$7 million martial arts movie.

March 20, 2006 at 10:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Ursula K. LeGuin's A WIZARD OF EARTHSEAStudio Ghibli has found itself in a strange place with its upcoming TALES FROM EARTHSEA, directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro Miyazaki. Previously, Ghibli walked on water and was treated with reverence by the press and fans, as if its films could cure disease when watched respectfully enough. However, when they announced that Goro, previously a landscape architect, was the director of TALES FROM EARTHSEA something went wrong. Hayao Miyazaki hasn't been shy about his disapporval of the choice of directors and the studio has raced to correct public perception that this is sheer nepotism.

Goro's been blogging about the movie's production (where does he find the time?) and now Ghibli has posted an essay by the Japanese translator of Ursula K. LeGuin's EARTHSEA books, Masako Shimizu. Ms. Shimizu is not involved with the movie, in fact the article mostly deals with her turning down their request for her to handle the translation. But based on her few meetings with Goro she's able to say that  he has a good face, "A well-defined face, with clear eyes and a straight gaze," which is, well, great I guess.

What concerns Ghibli is that she's giving her blessing to the project, but what's of interest to me is the following sentences:

"Perhaps it was at the end of May that I received a letter from Ursula Le Guin, and learned that people from Ghibli visited her home in Portland, Oregon. It was a cheerful and buoyant letter, and did not touch upon the tense situation that Mr. Suzuki, the producer, revealed in his long interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun later on."

Does anyone know what situation she's referring to? And does anyone know what's the next step in Ghibli's campaign to rehabilitate poor ol' Goro?

March 20, 2006 at 08:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 17, 2006


Bollywood actor turned Member of Parliament, Govinda, hasn't been a major movie player for a while but suddenly he has registered four movie titles with the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Programme Producers (AMPTPP). The titles are:

And, since he couldn't make up his mind, BABLOO BABLAA and

So is Govinda returning to the screen? His business manager says yes and no, but mostly no:

"Yes, the film titles have been registered with the Association, but right now Govinda has no plans of producing any film."

(Thanks to Jennifer Young, who should be doing something more worthwhile with her time)

March 17, 2006 at 11:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


How'd I miss this? It turns out that in January of this year, Tsui Hark staged a version of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST in Taipei starring Wu Xing-guo, the scholar from GREEN SNAKE. Combining Peking Opera and Kun Opera the costumes, which look fabulous, were designed by Tim Yip who did the CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, DOUBLE VISION, and WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? costumes.

Tsui Hark staged a version of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST in Taipei

March 17, 2006 at 09:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Krrish poster

Summer 2006's big Bollywood movie is the superhero flick KRRISH starring Hrithik Roshan and with action by Hong Kong's Ching Siu-tung. I've been disappointed by Bollywood so many times recently that I feel stupid getting excited about a Bollywood movie, but like a deranged version of Pollyanna all I have to do is stare at my rainbow maker for long enough and I start to get all smiley and bubbly over KRRISH as if EK AJNABEE, TAXI NO. 9211, ZINDA, FIGHT CLUB, SWADES, VEER ZAARA and BUNTI AUR BUBLI never happened.

Oh, look, it's the KRISSH poster!

(Thanks to Naachgaana for this one)

March 17, 2006 at 07:19 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (53) | TrackBack


There's stupid and then there's stupid and the distributor of the huge, huge Bollywood film RANG DE BASANTI is definitely the second kind of stupid. When pirated DVDs of RDB started to float around the movie's producers, UTV, began to look into the matter and it didn't take them long to discover that the discs had originated in the offices of one of the distributors. Now they're talking about suing the pants off the distributor and, frankly, putting him in a dunce cap and parading him through Mumbai isn't entirely out of the question either.

March 17, 2006 at 05:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


This is sort of old news, and I've only been able to pick up bits and pieces of the story, so chime in if you've got anything to add.

One of the big questions surrounding SHA PO LANG, last year's stripped-down, lightning fast Hong Kong action flick, was what happened to Wu Jing? His performance was a scene-stealer and for those of us who've been waiting for him to become a star it looked certain that he'd be able to capitalize on this role and really go places. Sammo Hung went right into DRAGON SQUAD (whoops!), Donnie Yen went on to do DRAGON TIGER GATE, Simon Yam went on to ELECTION and ELECTION 2, but what happened to Wu Jing?

Well, it turns out that some people involved in Abba, the company that produced and originally repped SPL, were arrested in a 24 hour sting called "Sounding Arrow" for the embezzlement (basically) of HK$100 million. One of them was Chan Tat-chee, aka Uncle Ba, who founded Abba and is Wu Jing's godfather. A trial date is still being set, but Uncle Ba decided it was prudent to pull all his investments, including his money that was invested in Wu Jing's next project.

According to the Wu Jing fansite, he's now set to star in an upcoming film about Xanda, the Chinese underground fighting art, and he's training in Beijing as you read this. Ronald Cheng is set to co-star as is Miki of the Cookies. This doesn't make me too happy since Tsui Hark once made a Xanda movie, called XANDA, and the finished project was perhaps one of his least-watchable movies ever.

(Thanks to the Wu Jing Fansite for the news)

March 17, 2006 at 03:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Shoji Tabuchi

Branson, MO is the home of family-friendly, Christian-flavored, country western, wholesome musical entertainments. It's Las Vegas without the hookers, gambling or yard-long margaritas and it's currently playing host to Debbie Reynolds, Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, Frankie Avalon & Brenda Lee and the Oak Ridge Boys.

But there's also another performer whose show has run for 30 years in Branson, a performer who has his very own theater that includes a bathroom that critics consider one of the best, most relaxing lavatories in the world, a performer whose wife, Dorothy, has crafted an elaborate stage show around his country fiddling, a performer called...Shoji Tabuchi!!!

Hailing from Daishoji, Shoji Tabuchi's life was changed when he heard Roy Acuff play the fiddle. He came to America years ago and built his stage show to incorporate samisen playing, a little bit of Kabuki, and a lot of "Oriental" knick knacks. It features a "Gospel Medley", a "Japanese Medley", a "Country Medley" and, most thrillingly, a "Black Light Medley!"

Is this a good thing? According to a local paper, yes:

"With the number of people that Shoji entertains each year, he has come a long way in easing Japanese American relations. Many servicemen, servicewomen and others who have attended his show have finally set aside their long-held prejudice and have literally rallied around Shoji in celebration of their newfound personal freedom."

The average age of the Branson audience means that many of them may have fought in World War II and that leads us to the uplifting part of this post: entertainment has no borders. How can you hate someone who's playing a Black Light Medley? You can't. And so I propose that the UN leave behind their boring meetings and put together the United Nations World Peace How Can You Hate Me I'm Tap Dancing For You Travelling Stage Show as soon as possible.

(Thanks to Jennifer Youngs for sending this in)

March 17, 2006 at 01:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006


For those who felt that Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS was rushed and choppy, the 40 episode TV series version of the same story begins airing in China Friday. Shot simultaneously with the movie, based on the same source material ("Seven Swords of Mount Tian") but utilizing a different cast, the movie covers 20 years in the lives of its seven sword-slinging heroes. Starring good old Zhao Wen-zhuo (THE BLADE), Ada Choi and young Mainland star, Wang Xuebing, the series has already aired in Taiwan where it was selected as the number one Chinese TV series of the year.

In the TV show, Tsui Hark says he wants to explore the idea that these aren't just a bunch of chivalrous icons but are instead people who live in an zone of dubious morality where the bad guys aren't all bad and the good guys aren't all good.

Heck, it already sounds way better than the movie.

7 swords

March 16, 2006 at 06:13 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Japanese skater, Shizuka Arakawa's Ina BauerJapanese skater, Shizuka Arakawa, won the gold in Torino but are the bitter Americans going to shake hands and say "Good game"? Never! Instead, they will use advertising for cheap-o horror movies to mock Arakawa and they will do it on Japanese TV.

The ad running in Japan for the upcoming release of THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE has sparked a rash of complaints from viewers who are upset that at the end, the movie's star bends her demonically-possessed body backwards in what could only be interpreted as a sick imitation of Arakawa's signature backwards bend known as the "Ina Bauer."

Shocking! Demonic! Upsetting!

March 16, 2006 at 04:36 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


The buzz-worthy teaming of India's alpha director, Ram Gopal Varma, and Bollywood's alpha star, Shah Rukh Khan, is enough to make anyone's eyes water. The duo is being tight-lipped about their project but Ramu has allowed the tiniest sliver of information to escape his lips. It's going to somehow tie into THE TIME MACHINE:

"Not the entire story, but a part of it will be on those lines," he says.

The film is set to start shooting in August. Expect the planet to stop spinning briefly in order to show respect to the first shot.

March 16, 2006 at 12:49 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Afdlin Shauki reading LOS DAN FAUNAfdlin Shauki the hyperactive Malaysian director and actor behind BULI BALIK, BAIK PUNYA CILOK and the upcoming SUMO LAH has just announced his next project which he describes as: "The first Malaysian Sherlock Holmes meets GHOSTBUSTERS, meets DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES movie, called LOS DAN FAUN."

You want photographic proof? There's a picture of Shauki and his collaborators having their first reading of the script.

March 16, 2006 at 07:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The much-publicized Anita Mui look-a-like contest that was held to cast the upcoming, family-approved Anita Mui TV biopic has been over for a while and its winner, Jiao Xuan, has collected her dubious prize. However, now the TV movie has started filming and it's Hong Kong actress Alice Chan who's playing Mui instead of contest winner Jiao. Chan became famous for her role in the TV series MY DATE WITH A VAMPIRE and won the 1996 Miss Asia contest.

Sigh...this was a pretty tawdry project from the beginning, but now it's getting even worse. Is Wong Jing somehow behind this?

March 16, 2006 at 04:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


As part of this year's HKIFF there will be an exhibit of Johnnie To's set photographs. Grainy, black and white, and featuring different flavors of celebrity man candy staring off into the distance these are like Bruce Weber going all middle-aged and macho.

Apple Daily has samples, mostly from ELECTION and THROWDOWN, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The last post about Johnnie To. I promise.

At this year's HKIFF there will be an exhibit of Johnnie To's set photographs

March 16, 2006 at 01:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


the Maggie Cheung junkie saga, CLEAN, is part of the Silver Lake Film FestivalThe Silver Lake Film Festival will be holding a Fusion Asian Cinema program (March 23 - 31) that doesn't make much sense as far as a title goes (what are they fusing?) but is actually a pretty good slate of films. Foremost among these are a four film retrospective of Japanese horror director Nobuo Nakagawa including GHOST STORY OF YOTSUYA, MANSION OF THE GHOST CAT, A WICKED WOMAN and the classic HELL (JIGOKU).

They'll also be screening Bollywood's MAN ON FIRE remake, EK AJNABEE, Korea's RED EYE and ANTARCTIC JOURNAL, the Maggie Cheung junkie saga, CLEAN, Shinya Tsukamoto's HAZE and more.

Go here for the full schedule.

March 16, 2006 at 12:08 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2006


the cast of the new SUKEBAN DEKA film in their schoolgirl costumesRyugangi has linked to the first pictures of the cast of the new SUKEBAN DEKA film in their schoolgirl costumes.

The SUKEBAN DEKA series was an enormously popular manga, that then became several TV series, and a couple of feature films.

The story focuses on Japanese schoolgirls who fight evil with their yo-yos and an arsenal of secret weapons and it is absolutely, positively not targeted at creepy older guys who fantasize about being beaten up by high school girls.

The new film is being directed by Kenta Fukasaku, son of Kinji Fukasaku, and is set for an Autumn release.

March 15, 2006 at 04:00 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Jun Awazu, the director of the all-CGI kaiju movie, NEGADON, has posted a message up on the movie's official site and while most of it is a bunch of hype he also tells how he made the movie:

"NEGADON is “a movie created in a garage.”  Well, not actually created in a garage, but our team members, including all staff and cast, were as few as only 11 people. Me included, of course. I created most of the video by myself on my PC using 3D Studio Max and After Effects software."

Then there's CASSHERN, the mostly-all CGI movies from Japan that is currently rotting in the Dreamworks vaults (just a hint guys: the longer you hold onto CASSHERN without releasing it, the more valuable it becomes. Like fine wine!) was made on a shoestring as well with much of the computer equipment cannibalized from older equipment and tricked out by the crew to do what they needed.

Why are these guys so smart? And why do I feel so bad about myself whenever I hear them telling how they created an epic movie using a stick of gum and Excel?

March 15, 2006 at 02:11 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Pusan...it's not just for film festivals anymore. ScreenDaily has a round-up of who's filming what in Pusan, which is a handy snapshot of what's coming down the road:

- Park Chan-Wook will shoot I AM A CYBORG (AND THAT'S OKAY) in Pusan.

- Yu Ha (ONCE UPON A TIME IN HIGH SCHOOL) is shooting the gangster flick A DIRTY CARNIVAL at a couple of festival locations (in front of the Pusan theater and down on the beach).

- Kim Dae-Sung (BLOOD RAIN) is shooting his love story about the 1995 collapse of the Sampoong Department Store in Pusan.

- Jang Jin (SOMEONE SPECIAL) is also currently scouting Pusan locations for a Jung Jae-Young movie.

March 15, 2006 at 01:43 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


ELECTION 2 is set to open in Hong Kong on April 27!
(The same day as INVISIBLE WAVES)

And on May 5, LADY VENGEANCE (aka SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE) opens at the Angelica in NYC and in LA, then rolls out nationally afterwards.

March 15, 2006 at 11:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Yesterday Apple Daily reported that Johnnie To would be remaking John Woo's HARD-BOILED in Hollywood with Chow Yun-fat and an unnamed American actor. The article claimed to have quotes from Chow and To verifying their participation.

But MonkeyPeaches tells us that today's issue of the Hong Kong Sun reports that To denies this remake report and that while he has considered many Hollywood projects (of which the HARD-BOILED remake is one) and while he would like to work with Chow Yun-fat, he has yet to pick a project.

And so it would seem that Johnnie To is not remaking HARD-BOILED with Chow Yun-fat.

But then a Chinese-speaking reader took a look at the Hong Kong Sun article and says that it's not Johnnie To who's quoted, but an unnamed assistant. And that the assistant goes on to say:

"There are still no answers about those questions: when will the HARD-BOILED remake begin filming, which US actor will star in the HARD-BOILED remake, which company will finance the "Hard Boiled" remake......  Because the script of the HARD-BOILED remake is still not finished."

In the March 8 CriEnglish, the same unnamed assistant to Johnnie To stated that Johnnie To was in Hollywood two months ago considering projects but he wouldn't confirm the HARD-BOILED project. Then he said:

"He's (Chow) over at Hollywood. It would be a good thing if they make a foreign film together, but it's too early to say now."

This CriEnglish article has apparently also been picked up by the AP.

So while it looks like Johnnie To is not remaking HARD-BOILED with Chow Yun-fat there is still the possibility that he is remaking HARD-BOILED with Chow Yun-fat and it's just too early for anyone to say anything. So, like Shroedinger's Cat, we would have to say that Johnnie To exists in a state where he is simultaneously remaking, and not remaking, HARD-BOILED.

March 15, 2006 at 09:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 14, 2006


We just mentioned Ryu Seung-Wan's CITY OF VIOLENCE yesterday, and now Twitch has gone and dug up a teaser trailer for it today. You can watch it in all its Windows Streaming Media format here. Then go read cast details over at Twitch.

March 14, 2006 at 01:33 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Johnnie To will be directing Chow Yun-fat in the Hollywood remake of John Woo's HARD BOILED?

A sharp-eyed reader forwarded me the link to a story in Apple Daily, Hong Kong's premiere tabloid-style newspaper (think the New York Post in Chinese) that claims Johnnie To will be directing Chow Yun-fat in the Hollywood remake of John Woo's HARD BOILED.

Apparently, the remake rights have been purchased by a US company who signed Chow on to repeat his performance. They then tried to get John Woo on board to direct, but Woo declined saying that he didn't want to remake his own movie. Chow then recommended that they contact Johnnie To who agreed to direct.

Although this is still at the "rumor" stage, apparently both To and Chow confirmed the story to Apple Daily with To saying that the story would be different from the original but that it would still be called HARD-BOILED. An American actor will play the Tony Leung Chiu-wai role. Production will begin in May 2007.

(The original story is here, registration is required)

March 14, 2006 at 10:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 13, 2006


ThailandThe shenanigans involving Thailand's Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand have been long and involved and I get tired just thinking about them. You can read all about them here and here and then you will be exhausted, too.

And now...more developments. The last time we saw the FNFA it was without a president.  Even nominee, Chaiwat Theaweewongsangthong, withdrew his nomination in the hopes that former head, Somsak Techaratanaprasert, would return. However, Somsak contacted him personally and asked him to be president if every other candidate refused to take the position.

Well, they did and he did.The former president said he was too busy, and some of the nominees withdrew their nominations for various reasons. And so now, Chaiwat Theaweewongsangthong is the president of FNFA.

And what about Somsak? What's his message to the three major production companies that resigned from the FNFA in protest over his leadership?

"Please come back, we have a new president."

(Thanks to Wisekwai for updates on this byzantine situation)

March 13, 2006 at 03:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Ryu Seung-Wan, the director of ARAHAN and CRYING FIST, likes action. A lot. And he's a student of Tae Kwon Do. Previously you had to get a couple of drinks in him to get him leaping and kicking, but now he's doing it for the camera in his own movie, CITY OF VIOLENCE. This flick is barreling down on theaters at lightning speed, and CJ Entertainment is distributing it which means it'll get plenty of attention and probably travel to a bunch of film festivals since the folks at CJ are pretty savvy about their international profile. The plot? Pure, old school kung fu bliss:

The year is 2005. Tae-su, a detective fighting organized crime, returns to his hometown for his high school friend Wang-jae's funeral. At the funeral, he meets with his old friends Pil-ho, Dong-hwan and Seok-hwan and recollects their past. Tae-su and Seok-hwan suspects something fishy about Wang-jae's death and starts to investigate it each in his own way. The more they find out, the more they realize that Wang-jae's death is connected to a land development project that Pil-ho is directing and the two embark on a difficult battle…

Since he's the director and the star, I assume Ryu Seung-Wan has cast himself as Tae-Su.

Ryu Seung-Wan, the director of ARAHAN and CRYING FIST

March 13, 2006 at 01:42 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


CJ Entertainment will be out in full force at the Hong Kong Filmart and their newsletter promoting their upcoming titles features this plot description of Park Chan-Wook's I AM A CYBORG:

Young-goon, mentally deranged and frequently electro-charging herself with a transistor radio, has been admitted into a mental institution. Firmly believing herself to be a cyborg, she refuses to consume like a human being. One day, Young-goon finds Il-soon play ping pong in an awkward stance wearing a mask. Despite the mask, Il-soon’s good looks leave a good impression on Young-goon. At the same time, Il-soon finds Young-goon’s large and white fore-teeth most attractive.

They give it a December 2006 release date.

(Thanks to Colin Geddes for pointing this out, and check out his blog which features links to some pretty amazing footage of Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah doing a martial arts showcase back in 1987 to promote EASTERN CONDORS)


March 13, 2006 at 11:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Jennifer Youngs has sent in a (very) mini-movie featuring Amitabh Bachchan that delivers the world's most uncomfortable truth for those of us who wring a living out of the internet. Go see it and shiver at the thought that this could be true.

March 13, 2006 at 09:24 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 10, 2006


If you follow Hong Kong movie news at all then you probably spend quite a bit of time at Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review, Sanney Leung's site which was one of the first and best Hong Kong movie sites on the internet. Week after week, Sanney has fed readers all the news, gossip, paparazzi photos, reviews and box office rankings that they can stand in his always funny and always sincere style.

The site hasn't been updated in the past month and John Charles finally reveals why: Sanney has Nasopharynx cancer. Sanney is, I believe, in his 30's and an avid jogger and non-smoker so this is completely unexpected for everyone. While undergoing chemotherapy he has contracted a chest infection and been admitted to the hospital indefinitely.

More than any other film industry, the Hong Kong industry owes its international success to fans. It was fans who created awareness of stars like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Anita Mui and Stephen Chow overseas and fans who passed around bootlegged tapes of their movies like some kind of underground spy network. It was fans who created an audience overseas for these stars and their films, and Sanney is an enormous part of this. His site has provided all the information, in English, that you ever wanted to know about a certain Hong Kong actor or an upcoming Hong Kong film and I remember back when the internet was largely steam powered poring over his "Fluff in Pictures" with a near-religious intensity.

You can learn more about his condition here, and if you've ever visited his site I encourage you to email your support to John Charles who will pass them on to Sanney at mail@dighkmovies.com.

And, if Sanney or anyone in his family reads this, know that you're in my thoughts and I'm praying for a speedy recovery for Sanney so he can get out of the hospital and back online where he belongs.

March 10, 2006 at 01:30 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


While we previously reported that Yoji Yamada's HIDDEN BLADE DVD would have a March release, I've since learned that the release date hasn't been set yet but it looks to be summer 2006.

Also, Hou Hsiao-hsien's THREE TIMES, which will be released by IFC on cable and theatrically simultaneously looks set for an April 26 release.

We had previously reported that Li Shaohong, the director of the stunning and largely unseen BAOBER IN LOVE, was shooting a film about General Kwan starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Zhang Ziyi. Oops. Turns out that the press has amended their earlier reports, THE BLADE OF THE GREEN DRAGON is not cast. Zhang and Kaneshiro have been contacted by the director, but they haven't yet responded. (Thanks to MonkeyPeaches for this tidbit)

And, finally, in an "I told you so" moment of juvenile vindication...the ultimate Johnnie To epiphany for me came when I saw THROWDOWN, his Akira Kurosawa-inspired ode to judo. This was the first time I saw one of his movies and thought, "This guy isn't just a good director, he's a great director." It was the first movie of To's that I thought really showed he was more than a top notch genre director and much more of a world class talent like Akira Kurosawa himself or Zhang Yimou. This was a guy who wasn't just making great action films, he was making great films period. This isn't a popular opinion, and I rarely get to talk about how much I love THROWDOWN without being ridiculed by people who hate it. But, at a press conference for the upcoming HKIFF, Johnnie To was asked which of Milkyway's movies were his favorite. His answer? THROWDOWN.

March 10, 2006 at 11:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)


A sharp-eyed reader passes along this link to the US poster for THE PROMISE. Not bad.

US poster for The Promise

March 10, 2006 at 09:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 08, 2006


The theatrical release of the stunning KEKEXILI: MOUNTAIN PATROL is chugging right along. Samuel Goldwyn is releasing the film on April 14 in conjunction with National Geographic World Films who are the folks responsible for STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL, which had a very high profile when it was released a few years ago. Odds are looking good that KEKEXILI will be getting the attention, or at least the release, that it deserves. Of course, I thought the same thing about THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANG and the audiences sure proved me wrong on that one.

Now all they have to do is convince American audiences to actually say KEKEXILI.

Official Site

March 8, 2006 at 01:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 07, 2006


THE HIDDEN BLADE, Yoji Yamada's follow-up to his samurai film, TWILIGHT SAMURAI, was acquired by Tartan but, unlike TWILIGHT SAMURAI, it won't be getting a theatrical release in the US. Instead it will come out, straight to video, on March 21st.

TWILIGHT SAMURAI got its US release courtesy of Empire Pictures, and got great reviews but did tepid business and, in the current frosty American climate for foreign films, this probably killed any chance of a Yoji Yamada picture ever getting a theatrical US release.

(Thanks to HogaCentral and Jennifer Young)

March 7, 2006 at 03:31 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 06, 2006


KING AND THE CLOWN is the highest-grossing Korean film ever madeTHE KING AND THE CLOWN has just entered history as the highest-grossing Korean film ever made, beating out the previous record-holder TAE GUK GI.

KING AND CLOWN has sold 11.7 million tickets, meaning that one in four Koreans has seen the film. What's most interesting is that this is a historical comedy/drama with little to no special effects, action scenes or stunts. It's just actors, a good script, and period sets and costumes.

Now we wait and see if this has any effect in the US. Previous "Biggest Korean Movie Ever!" films have been picked up by US distributors: TAE GUK GI (Sony), SILMIDO (Tartan), JSA (Palm), SHIRI (Samuel Goldwyn). But these were all action movies. Record holders like MARATHON (which wasn't on top except for briefly, but was one of the biggest hits of last year) and WELCOME TO DONGMAKOL have been left alone, and my guess is that a movie like THE KING AND THE CLOWN won't find a US distributor, either.

March 6, 2006 at 12:00 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)


The Japanese Oscars took place on March 3 and the results are a little bit shocking. ALWAYS - SUNSET ON THIRD STREET took 12 out of 13 categories.

  • Best Director:  Takashi Yamazaki ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Screenplay:  Takashi Yamazaki, Ryota Furusawa ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Actor:  Hidetaka Yoshioka ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Actress:  Sayuri Yoshinaga (YEAR ONE IN THE NORTH)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Shinichi Tsutsumi ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Hiroko Yakushimaru ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Music:  Naoki Sato ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Cinematography:  Kozo Shibasaki ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Lighting:  Kenichi Mizuno ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Art Direction:  Anri Kamijo ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Sound Recording:  Hitoshi Tsurumaki ("ALWAYS")
  • Best Film Editing:  Ryuji Miyajima ("ALWAYS")

The only other movie to get an award (besides MILLION DOLLAR BABY for "Best Foreign Film") was the "Best Actress" win for Sayuri Yoshinaga for YEAR ONE IN THE NORTH.

Apparently total sweeps like this aren't too rare at the Japanese Oscars. The last sweep this big was a 13-category sweep for SHALL WE DANCE in 1997 and a 12 category sweep for TWILIGHT SAMURAI in 2003.

(Read more at Hoga Central, and thanks to Michi for letting us know about this)

March 6, 2006 at 10:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Wow...so the Oscars weren't quite as bad as I feared. The entertainment value was up thanks to Jon Stewart who came on strong and then seemed to flag as his material was reduced to "Wow, we're going great!" after the first hour. The self-congratulatory factor was in the red, though, and I was surprised at how liberal/leftie the Oscars were willing to be. I guess they figured if they were going to champion unpopular movies then why not go all the way? At least they had a thought process, something that was demonstrably absent in previous years.

Those weird montages (the Film Noir one and the Epic one) were sure padding though, and the last thing the Oscars need is padding. And speaking of padding, what was that on Charlize Theron's left shoulder? A crow? A little pillow in case she got sleepy? I'm not sure what it was, but it scared me almost as much as Dolly Parton's face work. Every year she gets tinier and her face gets more streamlined and smooth. Eventually she'll just be a six inch tall dancing lady with the face of a 4 year old. And we'll all still love her.

March 6, 2006 at 09:16 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 03, 2006


According to folks in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong International Film Festival screenings of Johnnie To's ELECTION 2 sold out 2 hours after going on sale. Dear Supreme Being, let their be riots at the box office.

March 3, 2006 at 07:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Sally Field in an Oscar momentThe Oscars are this weekend and, speaking for everyone who lives in my head, we couldn't care less. I used to love the Oscars and considered it a point of pride that I would always make it through the broadcast. But the Oscars have been suffocated by phony good taste since Rob Lowe and Snow White sang "Proud Mary" back in 1989, and last year's ceremony was the first one I turned off before the ending in a desperate act of self-preservation.

I probably won't even watch the Oscars beyond the red carpet hijinx and the first 40 minutes this year and I'm not alone (with these voices in my head, I'm never alone). This might be the year when Oscar advertisers start to ask why the Oscars are only slightly higher than "American Idol" in the ratings but charge about three times the price per 30 second ad. The SuperBowl charges a little more than the Oscars for ad spots, but it has twice the audience.

The Oscars this year have a "Best Picture" line-up that feels more like NPR than a snapshot of the multiplex. Collectively, the "Best Picture" nominees this year have grossed half (and in some years, a third) of what the previous five years of "Best Picture" line-ups have grossed, and when the nominations were announced "Munich" and "Brokeback Mountain" actually dipped at the box office, rather than grabbing a bump in business off their nomination. Things don't look good for Oscar and its advertisers this year. And, as far as I'm concerned, it's about time.

March 3, 2006 at 07:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)


The Central Motion Picture Corp, Taiwan's oldest studio, was bought from the government in December 2005 by the China Times Group and is now being closed down, department by department. The soundstages and printing department have been closed and the production department is expected to follow. The key players are being tight lipped about this, but some folks think it was bought as a real estate deal and there's an investigation into whether a fair market value was charged (the studio was bought for US$121 million in cash, and the assumption of US$160 million in debt).

Founded back around 1943, the Central Motion Picture Corp. has been used by every major Taiwanese filmmaker, from Ang Lee, to Edward Yang, to Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. But now no new director will ever get that chance and this continues what has looked to be Taiwan slowly shutting down its film industry, piece by piece, over the past 15 years. Wanna know what a country looks like with a dying film industry? Check out Taiwan.

March 3, 2006 at 07:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Like a last minute rescue by the calvary coming over the hills, the Seoul Theater Association has announced that they will independently observe a screen quota of 106 days for Korean films even though the government has lowered that number by almost half. 60% of the STA has agreed to observe the previous quota no matter what the government decides. Lotte, Megabox and CGV are the major theater chains that have agreed to do this and it makes sense when you realize that CGV is part of CJ, one of Korea's major film production companies. This could be hot air and we'll see if it lasts, but this is a passionate issue in Korea and I wouldn't be surprised if it happens at least for the rest of 2006.

In a further "F*%# you" to the government, theater owners in Korea have announced that they will also change the existing 60/40 profit split with foreign film distributors (where the foreign distributors get 60%) to a more equitable 50/50.

Polls show that 3 out of 4 Koreans favor keeping the old screen quota, and a move is underway to make the original quota law, which would endanger current Free Trade Agreement talks with the US. There are also rumors of a massive protest planned for Cannes, and Chung Dong-Chae, the head of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, has been replaced by actor, Kim Myung-Gon.

I think the MPA assumed that Koreans would simply "get over" the reduction in the screen quota system, unfamiliar with the fact that Koreans don't just quietly "get over" anything they don't like. Haven't they seen OLDBOY?

March 3, 2006 at 07:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)


Parody of Chen Kaige's THE PROMISESo here's the scoop on THE PROMISE hitting North America. Warner will release a shorter, 102 minute version of THE PROMISE in the top 20 markets on May 5, then expand to other markets on May 12th, and expand (supposedly) even more on May 26. I'm glad THE PROMISE is getting a release but the questions are twofold: 1) will mainstream critics appreciate the big silliness? 2) will anyone care about it when it's released?

I've got a big gold thumb ready to turn up or down on this one. I just can't decide which way to go yet.

March 3, 2006 at 07:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)



NEGADON is the all-CGI giant monster movie from Jun Azuwa that Central Park Media plans on releasing next year. It's a giddy throwback to the heyday of the kaiju eiga and even though it's only about 40 minutes long it looks a lot better than a whole lot of all-digital productions I could name if I was feeling cranky. This trailer is CPM's official teaser (they plan to release it this summer) and it's all new and all exciting robot versus monster action.

Download the Quicktime file here. (You have to scroll down to find it)

March 3, 2006 at 07:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Takashi Miike is Japan's biggest brand overseas, and now the young old master is blogging. And Don Brown is translating it just for you. So what does Miike blog about? The first time he saw the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and curling at the Olympics.

(Thanks to Twitch for the heads up)

March 3, 2006 at 07:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 02, 2006


DRAGON TIGER GATE looks like super-sharp wire-fu in a world built of Jolly Ranchers

The DRAGON TIGER GATE website has been updated and while navigating it is brain-crampingly hard for English-only speakers, there's good stuff in there for those willing to dig.

If you click on the first bottom button on the far left you'll get a huge number of stills from the movie.

If you click on the second bottom button from the left you'll get a new trailer with lots of smoking hot footage. The movie looks like super-sharp wire-fu in a world built of Jolly Ranchers and without  a lightbulb budget.

It's listed as having a release date of 7/28/06 and I can't hardly keep my shirt on.

March 2, 2006 at 01:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)


Goro Miyazaki's blog is like MOMMIE DEARESTThe Mutant Frog Travelogue has posted yet another translation from Goro Miyazaki's blog and it is, as always, fraught with father-son drama. In this installment, Goro talks about how the only way he could know his dad was through his movies, and that while his dad may get a zero for fatherhood, he gets an A+ for directing animated films. An A+? Yay!

This is like MOMMIE DEAREST only it's unfolding before our eyes. And it's about a father instead of a mother. And they're Japanese animators. And no one's hit anyone with a wire hanger yet. But give it time. Give...it...time...

March 2, 2006 at 01:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 01, 2006


Hong Kong's international film festivalHong Kong's film festival has good years and it has bad years and recently I've felt like it had more bad years than good. That said, 2006 is undeniably a good year. They just announced their line-up and this is the sharpest programming I've seen from these guys in a while.

There's an eight film tribute to Milkyway Image which will include its best films: TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1, THE LONGEST NITE, RUNNING OUT OF TIME, THE MISSION, PTU, THROWDOWN, ELECTION, and ELECTION 2. ELECTION 2 opens the festival, along with ISABELLA from Pang Ho-cheung.

A slamming tribute to action choreographers featuring screenings of (among others) DIRTY HO, THE BLADE, A TOUCH OF ZEN, THE MAGIC BLADE, THE YOUNG MASTER, MARTIAL CLUB, ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, FONG SAI YUK and ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 2.

The rest of the line-up includes INVISIBLE WAVES, a tell-all about the Hong Kong celebrity machine featuring documentary footage as well as a parody of the industry called FILM SURPRISE, a preview of the first movie by Patrick Tam since MY HEART IS THAT ETERNAL ROSE called AFTER THIS, OUR EXILE (starring Aaron Kwok and Charlie Young; Tam also edited ELECTION), and outdoor screenings of MASKED RIDER THE FIRST (the new Kamen Rider movie), I NOT STUPID TOO (Jack Neo's sequel to I NOT STUPID) and ALWAYS - SUNSET ON THIRD STREET.

Interestingly, although Shochiku claims that SHINOBI is in the festival, I couldn't find it anywhere.

My hat's off to the festival this year. This is a pretty amazing line-up by anyone's standards. Go check it out.

March 1, 2006 at 08:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)


It looks like Warners is planning to release Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE on May 5 of this year, but we don't know if it's going to be a limited or a wide release, although previously it was reported as wide.

The trailer for THE PROMISE may be attached to DUCK SEASON and ASK THE DUST.

March 1, 2006 at 08:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Here's a still from ELECTION 2 that just came my way. I see Lam Suet, Louis Koo and I think that's stuttering Eddie Cheng from ELECTION. (click on it for a better look). I couldn't be more excited for this one.

Election 2

March 1, 2006 at 08:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


The battle over Korea's screen quota system took a new turn as a group of 150 directors and the Korean Movie Picture Producers Associations which includes Korea's major studios and production companies, began a boycott of Korea's conservative paper, Chosun Ilbo. The paper had made negative comments about director Park Chan-Wook after he staged a one-man protest against the reduction of the screen quota system in Berlin, and it is largely viewed as a mouthpiece for the Korean government's anti-screen quota position.

The group of directors, known as Director's Cut, and the Korean Movie Picture Producers Association have said that they will not give any interviews or grant access to Chosun Ilbo or its reporters until they decide otherwise.

March 1, 2006 at 01:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)