« March 2006 | Main | May 2006 »

April 28, 2006


June 16 – July 1, 2006
at the Anthology Film Archives and the ImaginAsian Theater

The New York Asian Film Festival is five years old and we’re still broke, still doing this by the seat of our pants, still armed with nothing but a love for good movies and our credit cards. Come celebrate five years of fun with us by watching the latest and best movies from Asia, hand-selected for your viewing pleasure. No arthouse cynicism. No trendy gloom and doom. Just futuristic motion picture entertainment set on hyperdrive and mainlined directly into your brain.

We’re still waiting to hear back from a lot of folks (especially the Korean and Hong Kong companies) and we’ll be announcing new titles for the next couple of weeks, but this is what we’ve got so far and we’ll keep you posted on the news. Also, keep your eye on www.nyaff.org for updates.

Click onwards to read about all the titles confirmed so far, including films from Japan, China, Thailand and Malaysia. Films include: ART OF THE DEVIL 2, BEETLE THE HORN KING, CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL, DUELIST, FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT, GANGSTER, THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, IT’S ONLY TALK, LINDA, LINDA, LINDA, OH! MY ZOMBIE MERMAID, PACCHIGI (WE SHALL OVERCOME SOMEDAY), PEACOCK, SHINOBI, SKI JUMPING PAIRS: ROAD TO TORINO 2006 and several films from Ram Gopal Varma including the world premiere of SHIVA.

ART OF THE DEVIL 2 (Thailand, 2005, 100 minutes) Directed by The Ronin Team
US Premiere

Forget every Japanese horror movie you’ve ever seen, full of dead, wet, grumpy girls with bad haircuts. ART OF THE DEVIL 2 (no familiarity with ART OF THE DEVIL 1 required) only owes a sideways debt of paternity to Takashi Miike’s torture/dating film, AUDITION. A hit at the Thai box office, and winner of numerous Audience and technical awards, this slick, sick flick is all about teachers and students and black magic. Eye-searingly beautiful Ms. Panor, a teacher in the countryside, has six wonderful students. The wonderful students play a nasty prank on Ms. Panor and her reputation is ruined. Then they all go away to college. When they return to their hometown they discover that Ms. Panor seems happy, and even more beautiful than before. What they don’t know is that Ms. Panor has spent a lot of time learning black magic and summoning demons. What they don’t know is that she is a good teacher who still has lots to teach them. She wants to teach them about pain. She wants them to learn about suffering. She wants to help them open their third eye with a power drill. Directed by a team of seven filmmakers known as the Ronin Team, ART OF THE DEVIL 2 will remind you of your special time in high school. That is, if you attended high school in hell.

BEETLE, THE HORN KINGBEETLE, THE HORN KING (Japan, 2005, 65 minutes) Directed by Minoru Kawasaki
US Premiere

In Japan there is a wrestler. His name is legendary. His sombrero is enormous. His mask is cool. His name is BEETLE, THE HORN KING. A masked wrestler with his own theme song and the strength and agility of the mighty king beetle, he fights for truth, justice and fairness in wrestling around the world with his homies, the International Masked Wrestler Association. But alien wrestlers based on lesser insects have invaded the planet and must be laid low with Helicopter Kicks. Like a bizarro broadcast of MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS filtered through Jack Black’s NACHO LIBRE this is the ultimate collision of masked Mexican wrestlers, Japanese sci fi, and bug-loving weirdness. As a wise man once said, “Watch BEETLE, THE HORN KING and discover the peace inside yourself.”

CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL (Japan, 2005, 85 minutes) Directed by Yudai Yamaguchi

Cromartie High! An at-risk school controlled by gangs where no one comes to class and anything goes. Cromartie High! A school with entrance exams so lousy that they’ve even enrolled a gorilla and Freddie Mercury. Cromartie High! The school where upright student Kamiyama, enrolled by mistake, must battle robots, demonic possession, masked wrestlers, the dangers of smoking and mind-controlled Shaolin monks to recover Cromartie’s school spirit and defeat an alien armada of Space Monkeys.

A send-up of Japan’s popular juvenile delinquent movies, CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL was a runaway anime and manga hit before it reached the silver screen. Turning stupidity into a high-level martial art, CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL demonstrates a surprisingly sophisticated comedic sensibility. Why not deal with the drug problem by shipping all the drugs to the world’s neediest children? Stupid earthlings! Never give up! As long as there is hope…nothing is hopeless.

DUELIST (Korea, 2005, 108 minutes) Directed by Lee Myung-Se

Korean director Lee Myung-Se’s return to filmmaking after 6 years is a whirlwind of movement, a ballet of bloodshed and a candy-colored carnival of clashing characters but it is most definitely not an action film: it's a romance. Set in the Joseon Dynasty, it’s the story of a female cop and the assassin she pursues through chaotic marketplaces, winter snowstorms, and elaborate birthday parties, but when they cross swords you can’t tell if they’re fighting or dancing. A mutagenic masterpiece that rejects every convention of filmmaking and insists on rebuilding the language of cinema from the ground up, there are barely 10 pages of dialogue in the whole film, but every shift in emotion, mood, and thought is conveyed visually, zapped into your brain via your eyes at 24 frames per second. The flick starts as a chaotic Korean action comedy full of kooky kineticism but slowly the film peels the protective shells off its characters revealing just how screwed up you have to be if you’re running after thieves or running from the cops all your life. How do you fall in love when violence is all you know? What kind of adult comes from a kid who was given weapons for toys? As expected, the movie ends in tragedy but Lee Myung-se uses his directorial prerogative to wrest a happy ending out of the jaws of defeat and allow his characters a final, spectral pas de deux, before the credits roll and their world ends. It's the kindest moment in movies this year, and for a director who thinks that Korean cinema is too obsessed with violence and brutality, it feels like a third alternative, and maybe even a manifesto for a return to romance.

FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT (Japan, 2005, 150 minutes) Directed by Katsuhito Ishii

Not since David Lynch crept onto the scene with ERASERHEAD has a more singular vision broken out of one man’s skull and run riot across the silver screen seducing audiences with its sugary strangeness. But FUNKY FOREST: FIRST CONTACT is a hermetically sealed, fifth dimensional artifact from Planet Japan beaming into our galaxy through your eyes. The only movie with an A side and a B side this is a full-on invasion of three-dimensional earth brains by twelfth dimensional alien consciousnesses.


From the director and cast who brought you last year’s Audience Award Winner THE TASTE OF TEA, this flick invites you to drink the Kool Aid, take the red pill, show us your dancing and break the chains of reason and logic that bind your brain. Director Katsuhito Ishii (who directed the animation in KILL BILL VOL 1) and a crew of ace comedic actors (including Tadanobu Asano as the laconic Guitar Brother) have made a movie featuring TV’s made of giant buttholes, powered by navel-generated energy and capable of producing slime coated, miniature sushi chefs. This is not for everyone - as the Shorty Trio says, “Some days people laugh, some days…they don’t.” With its shoe obsession, fixation on Snickers bars, and its firm belief that the secrets of the universe can be unlocked by dancing, FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT strips everyday life of meaning, turns mundane tasks into bizarre rituals, and makes surrealist hay out of our most sacred ideas. This is not a movie. This is an invitation to join a dancing army of holy fools and travel across time and space to Planet Piko Riko.

GANGSTER (Malaysia, 2005, 90 minutes) Directed by Badaruddin Azmi

A nihilistic blood bath from Malaysia, GANGSTER is a slab of 1980’s Hong Kong criminal cool, carved off the bone and served hot. Seething with desperation, it was the number one movie in Malaysia last year by a landslide. But who knows why Malaysians flocked to a movie about illegal street racing, gutter-crawling losers ripping off their dealer and fleeing the country, nightclub assassinations and prostitutes with lethal pimps? Maybe every now and then you have to bathe your brain in bleakness to stay sane. Telling three overlapping stories about three desperate losers who’ve hit bottom and are running out of air, GANGSTER follows a hooker who plans to rip off her boyfriend, a food stall owner who’s borrowed too much money and doesn’t know how to pay it back, and an illegal car racer, as monomaniacal as Captain Ahab, who’s willing to turn pedestrians into grease spots if that means he can beat the top ranked driver. With three roles played by Malaysia’s popular actor, Rosyam Nor, this flick takes every convention from film noir movies, throws them out on the streets of Kuala Lumpor, and picks them up the next morning after a grueling, hellish night on the town.

THE GREAT YOKAI WAR (Japan, 2005, 124 minutes) Directed by Takashi Miike


A LORD OF THE RINGS-sized epic from Takashi Miike, Japan’s Evil Genius, this rowdy deranged monster movie returns Miike to the front ranks of Japanese directors after years of disappointments. Billed as a family film it kicks off with a nightmare vision of a devastated Tokyo, moves on to a slinky female demoness with a beehive and a short, short skirt wielding a whip, then stops off at the birth of a goo-covered, flayed, talking cow fetus who prophesizes the apocalypse. It’s a wonder kids in Japan can sleep at all if this is the kind of movie they get.

A young boy has to go on a quest to Goblin Mountain to retrieve a magic sword, and stop a mega-sized battle royale between the forces of technology and the lovable, creepy, long-necked, giant-nosed, hairy-faced, wall-shaped, creeping, hopping, flying, gerning, pogoing demons (yokai) of Japanese folklore. Delivering massive battles, non-stop special effects and a story that’s as tight as a drum, Miike makes a masterpiece out of suspect materials. But he also delivers the kind of truth that Peter Jackson shied away from in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: every quest has an ending and no childhood lasts forever. Amidst the burning fusion of ridiculous ideas at the heart of this movie take a moment and be very still and quiet. That sound you hear is a child's heart breaking.

IT’S ONLY TALK (Japan, 2005, 126 minutes) Directed by Ryuichi Hiroki

From the director and star of VIBRATOR (which was in the 2003 NYAFF, where Time Out New York called it “Probably the best Japanese movie of 2003”) comes this intimate portrait of sex, suburban life and manic depression. Yuko (Shinobu Terajima, VIBRATOR) is a thirty something woman living an aimless life supported by the insurance settlement from her parents' death. A manic depressive, she picks up stakes and moves to the decidedly un-chic burb of Kamada, a downscale little hood on the fringes of Tokyo, and begins to hook up with people she meets in a manic depression chat room. Her cousin, newly separated from his wife, comes to town just in time for her to hit a low in her cycle and he has to nurse her back to health.

Hardly a slice of grand drama, this poignant, empathetic, and ultimately human film is a tiny little essay about living. Yuko will never “get better”, she’ll always spin from high to low no matter how much medication she’s on, and if one wants to be tough about it then she’s a waste of time. But she’s also a person and for director Ryuichi Hiroki that means she’s entitled to some respect. A movie about how we find meaning in our lives by bumping up against other people, leaning on them, pulling them down, and lifting them up, IT’S ONLY TALK asks for nothing more than your patience and an open mind. In exchange, it will show you one human life in all its messed up glory. And sometimes that’s worth the entire world.

LINDA, LINDA, LINDA (Japan, 2005, 114 minutes) Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita

This flick sneaks up on you like an affectionate cat and slowly rubs against you until it begins to purr. Its leisurely pace, laid back attitude and near plotless narrative may test your patience in the early going, but by the end you’ll be completely and mysteriously hooked. It’s a film of awkward conversations, listless moments and shy glances, but when Bae Doo-Na finally breaks exultantly into “Linda Linda Linda” it is completely cathartic and when she turns and smiles radiantly afterwards the world could end and it would be perfect.

In three days Shiba High is holding their annual Holly Festival complete with a musical talent show, but trouble is brewing in a girl’s rock band when the lead guitarist, Moe, injures her finger and has to bow out. One of the co-founders, Rinko, tries to bring in a male replacement but this doesn’t sit well with the three other members and they decide to form their own band with Kyoko (Aki Maeda – BATTLE ROYALE) on drums, Nozumi (Shiori Sekine from the real life band “Base Ball Bear”) on bass and Kei (Yu Kashii – the very cool looking secret weapon in LORELEI) switching from keyboards to guitar. And finally there’s the shy Korean exchange student they randomly decide will be their singer (Bae Doo-Na, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE). They plan to cover three songs from the 1980’s band “Blue Hearts” – “My Right Hand”, “Endless Song” and their biggest hit “Linda, Linda Linda”.  And that’s the movie. But the longer you stare at it the more perfect you realize it is.

A word of warning – you will have a hard time getting the “Linda, Linda, Linda” tune out of your head as it ricochets around in there like a crazed bee. The Blue Hearts were a popular Clash-esque band from the mid-80’s till their breakup in the 90’s and whenever the girls are asked what they are playing, they respond “The Blue Hearts” and everyone just nods their head and says “cool” and so they are. The soundtrack is from James Iha of the "Smashing Pumpkins" who keeps things tight and simple until the finale. A quiet, mesmerizing ode to rock and roll, it's hard to hate on the summery, easy charms of LINDA LINDA LINDA.

OH! MY ZOMBIE MERMAID (Japan, 2004, 99 minutes) Directed by Naoki Kudo

Like a musical production of SPLASH, mashed-up with Bruce Lee’s GAME OF DEATH, performed by flamboyant fighters from the World Wrestling Federation, OH! MY ZOMBIE MERMAID works as an over-the-edge action film and an over-the-top send-up of disease-of-the-week Lifetime movies. Real-life wrestler Shinya Hashimoto plays Shishio, a wrestler who builds a perfect home for his demure and pretty wife, only to have it destroyed in an off-the-ropes wrestling throwdown when his rival, Ichijoh (deliciously evil Westerner and real life K-1 fighter, Nicholas Pettas) shows up and starts throwing elbows. Shishio’s wife is hospitalized and is infected by the Mermaid Bacteria, causing her to grow fins and scales. Hoping that a new house will cure her, but weighed down by debt, Shishio accepts the offer of a fine new home from a slezy TV producer. The only catch? He has to clear the house of a team of horror movie wrestling opponents including a zombie and an Amazon before he can take possession.

Will you like this movie? It’s hard to tell so rate yourself on this continuum. Dick Cheney would probably hate this over-the-top wrestlemania goof. But George Bush would probably love it.

Note: sadly, star Shinya Hashimoto died in 2005 of a brain hemorrhage.


PACCHIGI (WE SHALL OVERCOME SOMEDAY) (Japan, 2004, 118 minutes) Directed by Kazuyuki Izutsu

Awarded the top spot in Japan’s prestigious 2005 Kinema Junpo critic’s poll, this film doles out equal amounts of tender romance and bottle breaking brawling in a raucous retelling of Romeo and Juliet set amidst warring clans of Japanese and Korean students in 1960’s Kyoto. The Korean immigrants who live in Japan and the Japanese who regard them as interlopers bang heads one afternoon in 1968 when a couple of insolent Japanese high school students wander into the Korean part of town on a school outing and mess with a few neighborhood girls. This brings down the wrath of the nearby Korean high school and the Japanese students are taught a lesson when they are beaten and then for good measure their school bus is tipped over. It’s on between the two schools but amidst all the busted skulls and breaking bottles young Kosuke (Shun Shioya) gets a glimpse of Kyung-ja (Erika Sawajiri, SHINOBI) and falls in love. They begin to shyly date, but the fighting between the Koreans and Japanese escalates with Kyung-ja’s tough brother Ang Son (Sosuke Takaoka) leading the Korean forces. There seems little chance for the couple to seal their love among such bitterness until Kosuke plays the Korean song he learned – "The Imjin River" - on the radio one night and in a finale that will send shivers down your spine the melancholy song wafts over the city at night as two large forces break into a fight on the river bank, a friend is put to rest, a baby is born into the world and a young woman runs to the man she loves.

Amusing at times, wrenching at others, the film is fueled by winning performances, a heady whiff of nostalgia and an underlying human element that speaks volumes to the fact that with all of our differences we are all still just people trying to do the best we can for our family, our friends and ourselves.

PEACOCK (China, 2005, 142 minutes) Directed by Gu Changwei

Whereas most Chinese arthouse movies do actual medical damage to viewers with their chic nihilism and long boring shots of people riding around in trucks, PEACOCK is a balm for your soul. A two-hour plus movie about a family making their way in the world after the Cultural Revolution sounds deadly, but in the hands of Gu Changwei (Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige’s cinematographer) it becomes essential viewing for the dejected, downtrodden and just plain weary. This is a film that traffics in the belief that it doesn’t matter how bad today gets because as long as we’re alive there’s always the hope for a better tomorrow.

SHINOBI (Japan, 2005, 101 minutes) Directed by Ten Shimoyama

Not the ninja movie you’d expect, SHINOBI is more like what you'd get if the X-MEN teamed up with BATMAN and took on the Justice League who were led by SPIDER-MAN, and the whole thing was directed by Michael Bay who had just gotten a total blood transfusion from Tim Burton and the script was written by Stan Lee. It’s a nuclear popcorn movie with a Romeo and Juliet core where ninjas don’t just fly and leap and kill but shoot their fingers out, stretch, run faster than the Flash, steal your face, shoot lethal eye beams, and breathe poison clouds.

In the early Tokugawa, ninjas are super-bad weapons of mass destruction and the two coolest ninja clans have been exiled to two remote mountain villages where they won’t be able to leap around in public and freak everyone out. Gennosuke (screen idol, Jo Odagiri) lives in the Koga clan’s ninja village and their mortal enemies, the Iga clan, live around the mountain. But one day Gennosuke bumps into Iga gal, Oboro (Nakama Yukie) and they fall for each other. But their forbidden love comes to an abrupt halt when the Shogun, a paranoid recluse, is convinced that he needs to wipe out the ninjas for his own safety. He holds a contest pitting a team of the top Iga ninjas against the top Koga ninjas and sits back to watch these problematic ninjas destroy each other. And destroy they do. Each one gifted with a different super-power, and trained from birth to hate their rival clan for no good reason except it keeps them weak and divided, the ninjas are only too happy to shred each other into CGI blood mist, dancing on the Shogun’s strings. Slowly darkening into real tragedy as the kill crazy, manufactured war escalates, SHINOBI was a critical and commercial hit in Japan when it was released last year and is being prepared for a US release. Truly, this is the ninjapocalypse.

SKI JUMPING PAIRS: ROAD TO TORINO 2006 (Japan, 2005, 82 minutes)
Directed by Riichiro Mashima & Masaki Kobayashi

If you watched the Torino Olympics it’s likely you missed the most beautiful tribute to human endeavor and scientific progress ever to grace the games, but it was there: Ski Jumping Pairs. It’s like the ski jump except the skis hold two – TWO! – top athletes who must strike acrobatic poses in the air and stick their landing. Based on an obscure branch of physics known as Rendezvous Theory, which posits that at low temperatures, objects in flight duplicate themselves in order to provide greater stability, Ski Jumping Pairs is the brainchild of physicist Professor Harada and his twin sons. And now, finally, there’s a documentary that follows this sport from its brave beginnings in an laboratory to its greatest triumphs and tragedies (including the painful “Bermuda Incident”) and, finally, its inclusion in the Torino Olympics.

Not since THIS IS SPINAL TAP has a movie made audiences question reality like this. Disguised as a po-faced Japanese television documentary (in three episodes) SKI JUMPING PAIRS is actually a comedy that hides its anarchic Monty Pythonisms beneath talking head interviews, dramatic recreations, and earnest actors pontificating about true Samurai spirit. Making its debut as a CGI graduation project from Riichiro Mashima a few years ago, the short film version of SKI JUMP PAIRS screened around the world at 40 festivals, picking up awards and acclaim along with way. Now it has burst onto the scene as this full-fledged CGI and live action faux-documentary (with the live action shot by Masaki Kobayashi). Prepare yourselves for the world’s most beautiful sport. You will cry. You will cheer. You will see The Koala.

Rejecting the formulaic musical romances of Bollywood for a slew of sleek, stylish horror and crime films, Ram Gopal Varma is India’s superstar director. Self-taught (he was a former video store owner), RGV burst onto the scene with his brutal college gangland movie, SHIVA, and after getting the musicals out of his system he began making intense crime dramas loosely based on real-life cops and criminals drawn from Mumbai’s seething underworld. These days he runs The Factory, where dozens of directors turn out movies that he produces and where he keeps his own productions under tight control. Unknown in the West, RGV is a brand name around the world and we’re proud to introduce his work to a New York audience, like a bullet to the head.

In Mumbai there are encounters – incidents between police and thieves where the bad guys wind up mysteriously dead and no witnesses can be found to say the cop pulled the trigger – and there are also encounter specialists: cops who work as hitmen for the department, rubbing out criminals who are too hard to round up. Produced by RGV, AB TAK CHHAPPAN, is the story of an encounter specialist whose days may be swiftly drawing to a close. Ruthlessly realistic, this is a movie where the gunfights take ten seconds, the good guys are murderers, and the only rich people are crooks. Nana Patekar, one of India’s greatest actors, anchors the film with the performance of a lifetime as the doomed encounter specialist, using his charisma to draw in bad guys and the audience alike until the entire world revolves around his corrupt, evil, big-hearted, larger-than-life dispenser of street corner justice.

COMPANY - (2002, India) As cold as the flicker of a cobra’s tongue, COMPANY is the epic saga of the rise and fall of a global criminal cartel and the men and women who built its marble halls on a mountain of corpses. Combining Francis Ford Coppola’s panoramic sweep and Martin Scorsese’s delicate touch with actors, Ram Gopal Varma delivers the greatest crime story to hit the screen since GOODFELLAS. Universally considered one of the best Bollywood movies ever made, this flick’s cast of movie-mad Muslims, hotheaded Sikhs, pacifist getaway drivers and Hindu women who are hopelessly in love with men who are hopelessly lost feel like the entire population of the world crammed into a crime flick that stretches from Mumbai, to Hong Kong to Africa, leaving a trail of blood and corruption wherever it goes.

EK HASINA THI - (2004, India) A gothic women’s revenge film, EK HASINA THI, starts like a heavenly romance and ends up in hell, making stops at all points in between. Longtime RGV actress, Urmila Matondkar, stars as a repressed office worker who falls in love with a cute guy who’s just mysterious enough to make her feel all sexy and special. By the time she’s taken the rap for his drug smuggling, been sent to prison, and is being beaten daily by the butch boss who runs Cell Block B a lot of that sexy specialness has worn off. What her boyfriend didn’t count on is that his pouting pretty girl has a screw loose and it’ll take more bullets and bodies than he can throw at her to stop her revenge. The highlights from every female action movie ever made are stitched together into this insane Frankenbeast of a film, produced by RGV, that comes screaming at you with blood under its nails and a mad, empty gleam in its eyes.

SHIVA - (2006, India)
RGV remakes his ground-breaking first movie as SHIVA a big-budget action film about corrupt cops that is one of the most anticipated Bollywood movies of the year. Subway Cinema is honored that Ram Gopal Varma has chosen the New York Asian Film Festival to host the World Premiere of SHIVA. Don’t miss it.

April 28, 2006 at 11:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack


Holy publicity, Batman. Monsters and Critics are carrying coverage of the latest Thai/Cambodian dust-up. Frequent rivals, the Thai entertainment industry irritated Cambodia in 2003 when a Thai soap star said that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand, resulting in riots, the burning of the Thai embassy in Cambodia, and the emergency evacuation of Thai citizens from Cambodia. Then it turns out that the actress never made the comment and it was all just a rumor (shades of Manisha Koirala's Muslim-baiting invisible dog).

Now, the Thai movie, GHOST GAME is being released and Cambodia is ticked. The film is about a gang of kids who have to spend the night in an abandoned Khmer Rouge torture camp, resembling (strongly) Toul Sleng prison. The prison turns out to be haunted and the kids are killed one by one. Cambodia allowed filming but only if no reference to actual events - like the Khmer Rouge killing 2 million Cambodians - was made. The GHOST GAME producers decided to stay in Thailand but people who've seen the film think there's no mistake about where it's set or who the ghosts are.

The head of Cambodia's Cinema Department in their Culture Ministry, Kong Kendara, says, "They want people to be scared, but the deaths (of hundreds of thousands of people) is not a game."

Now the movie's Executive Producer has apologized, saying, "“We should have made a clearer distinction between fiction and reality.”

April 28, 2006 at 11:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


In the middle of a story about the final scene of PROJECT BB, the latest Jackie Chan flick, MonkeyPeaches reports that Jackie doesn't have a lot of love for the younger generation. The final scene, set in a prison, sounds quite funny but less funny are the reports that PROJECT BB is way over budget and over schedule.

That's usually a good sign on a Jackie Chan movie since longer and more expensive means he's doing bigger and better stunts. But in this case, Jackie blames the baby for the hold-ups. Bad baby! Jackie's son, Jaycee Chan, injured his back recently while filming a scene in a Mainland action film called PK.COM.CN. Jackie says, "Good," indicating that now Jaycee will understand how difficult it is to do stunts in movies.

I call for a new reality show where Jackie Chan, Hayao Miyazaki and their spawn, Jaycee and Goro, go on a father/son bonding trip together and hug a lot to dispel the negative cross-generational vibes.

April 28, 2006 at 10:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


We previously reported that the big-budget Korean film, TYPHOON, was going to be released in the US by its producers, CJ Entertainment, and Dreamworks. It looks like they've announced a release date of June 2, and Paramount Classics is handling the limited release.

You can read a review of TYPHOON and scroll up that page to see its box office result: around 4 million tickets sold which is very disappointing for a movie that was reported as the most expensive Korean film of all time (at US$15 million). In Korea, 3 million tickets is decent, 7 million tickets means a blockbuster, and an increasing number of mega-hits are passing the 10 million ticket mark.

April 28, 2006 at 10:19 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


ELECTION 2 opened this weekend in Hong Kong and the box office results for the first day are in. On its opening day, ELECTION 2 grossed around HK$1.16 million. This is about HK$70,000 more than ELECTION made on its opening day a year ago and it looks like To's gangster epic is headed towards a HK$4 million opening weekend, which is very good.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who is tracking this for me)

April 28, 2006 at 09:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


The Host poster

More and more films getting announced for Cannes, some movies being moved from non-competitive slots to competitive slots, and Director's Fortnight details are leaking out all over. The Fortnight is non-competitive but has a slightly competitive relationship with the main festival, and it's known for bringing over more crowd-pleasing fare.

What's in the Fortnight this year? Well, folks are saying that Bong Joon-Ho's much-anticipated monster movie, THE HOST will be there. And that's the official HOST poster up there. The film isn't supposed to be released until later this summer, so there's no news if it's even finished or not at this point but Variety (which is like the Bible, only shorter) says that it was announced in advance of the rest of Director's Fortnight so that the main competition couldn't nab it.

April 28, 2006 at 09:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2006


The New York Asian Film Festival (my cooperative baby I've birthed with four other mutant parents) celebrates its fifth anniversary this year and tomorrow (Friday) we reveal our line-up.

Although not every slot is filled (some people are sloooow with answers this year, but we love them anyways) we've got enough of it locked down that we feel the time is right to whip off the veil and show you what we got. World Premieres. A nice, juicy focus on a certain director. Pro wrestling. Ninjas. Monkies from space.

Make sure you tune in tomorrow. Same bat-time. Same bat-blog.

April 27, 2006 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


Jet Li flick, FEARLESS, and KING KONG are neck-and-neck at the Chinese box office, each having wrestled up a record US$12.5 million and they're still going strong. For reference, that's about half what HERO made in China, but almost twice what CHRONICLES OF NARNIA grossed.

April 27, 2006 at 10:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


China Star chairman Charles Heung and his wifeChina Star, the hugely successful Hong Kong production and distribution company that includes One Hundred Years of Film amongst its various tentacles, is opening a casino in Macau. Inevitably, this has caused rumors to rustle that they're getting out of the film biz and getting into the very lucrative casino business instead. China Star's chairman is Charles Heung, whose father allegedly founded the Sun Yee On triad and supposedly his brother, Jimmy, runs the triad to this day. And it's not just me saying this. Charles Heung was actually convicted of running Sun Yee On in 1988, but the conviction was overturned on a technicality and a 1992 Senate Subcommittee identified him as an officer of Sun Yee On.

That aside, he's an incredibly powerful film industry figure whom most folks say has left any criminal ties behind. Now, amidst the rumors of China Star leaving movies, a sharp-eyed reader sent in a report that Heung's wife is speaking to Ming Pao Daily and clearing things up. She confirms that China Star is opening a casino in Macau, but says they will still make movies, although they will be more careful about what kind of movies they make. Movies like the triad drama, ELECTION, were profitable for them and that's the kind of project they still want to participate in.

In a related bit of news, Studio City is another project being built in Macau that'll include a casino and a film studio. One of the investors is ESun Holdings which has links to Media Asia, Hong Kong's other major film company.

April 27, 2006 at 10:02 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


Until the Weinsteins get bored, The Weinstein Company will own everything on earth that there is to own, and some things that shouldn't be owned at all. Genius Products, their video distribution label, has signed an exclusive deal to distribute Tartan USA videos, including their Asian Extreme line.

July 25 will see a straight-to-video release for the Korean horror film, CELLO, and on August 8, Yoji Yamada's THE HIDDEN BLADE will plop out into stores on DVD. All hail the new flesh.

April 27, 2006 at 09:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Martin Scorsese's remake of INFERNAL AFFAIRS, THE DEPARTED, hasn't even come out and we already know how it ends - which is far different from how the Hong Kong movie ends, and robs the Hong Kong version of its point. In a recent interview, Matt Damon reveals the fate of his character (he plays the Andy Lau role) when he answers the question, could there be a sequel:

"It'd be tough because [[I get shot in the face.]] Though I'm sure if it's a success Warner Brothers will find a way."


April 27, 2006 at 08:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 25, 2006


That's the title of a Chinese online parody video sending up revolutionary movies and CCTV's Young Singer Contest. The popular download takes clips from the 1974 propaganda - I mean, patriotic - film and uses them to tell the story of the young singer entering the competition solely for the cash and his dad bribing the judges to let him win. Created by the People's Liberation August 1st Film Studio, the movie is being defended by the same studio which issued a statement claiming the video:

"...includes dirty language, subtitles and changing the studio name from August 1 to August 7,  but also changing the story so that the little hero dreams of making money through singing. The changes not only hurt filmmakers but also mislead youngsters. Those who ignore the Chinese revolutionary history will encourage more people to mock patriotic movies."

Well, we can't have even more people mocking propaganda - I mean, patriotic - movies than we do already. The unnamed videographer backed down saying he was greatly touched by the August 1 Studio's statement. "I call for all netizens and Web sites not to spread or download the video any more, otherwise all the aftereffects have nothing to do with me."

April 1 Film Studio says they still might sue him. Who says China isn't just like America?

April 25, 2006 at 11:41 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Hong Kong Disneyland is shuffling executives like a three card monte dealer shuffles cardsHong Kong Disneyland is shuffling executives like a three card monte dealer shuffles cards.

Three months ago Managing Director, Don Robinson, quit. Last month the Sales Director, Mabel Chau, quit. Then last week Senior VP of Marketing and Sales, Roy Tan Hardy, and Director of Strategic Marketing, Jennifer Chua, quit.

And the costumed cast members are mighty miffed that they get paid less than the show performers, plus they find it hateful that they have to work such long hours dressed as dogs, bears and princesses. 90 of the 120 costumed cast members have signed a petition with their clumsy paws and want to present it before everyone in senior management hits the resignation road. Disney gives sweatshop justification for the wages:

Each of our resorts has been tailored to meet local labor practices, culture and traditions. Hong Kong Disneyland works to ensure that the pay for our cast members is appropriate."

Don't worry, Disney. All this will be irrelevant once you open Shanghai Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland is an empty ghost town filled with feral cats.

April 25, 2006 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


The Zhang Ziyi/Hamlet project, NIGHT BANQUET, just flipped the switch on its official website. Monkeypeaches has translated the menubars so you can navigate without fear, as well. And check out the gorgeous posters for the film over on Sina.com. They look like some serious Shakespeare action. I mean, check out that iron crown.

poster for Zhang Ziyi/Hamlet project, NIGHT BANQUET

April 25, 2006 at 10:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


So what's Shochiku selling at Cannes this year? MIDNIGHT SUN, about a photosensitive street musician who must overcome great difficulties to play guitar on the street. Kore-eda and Yoji Yamada's samurai projects HANA and UNTITLED, a flick about a baseball player on a submarine in WWII, SEA WITHOUT EXIT, and "Do not board the haunted train..." a movie about teens on a haunted train called GHOST TRAIN. And, of course, the inevitable HELEN THE BABY FOX.

April 25, 2006 at 09:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Lam Suet, Johnnie To and Louis Koo releasing fish to atone for the violence in ELECTION 2

A really funny AP report about ELECTION 2 sent in by a sharp-eyed reader that claims ELECTION 2 features...cannibalism. Apparently there's no point in writing about Asian movies when their directors are making money, fighting incursions from Hollywood, and going to Cannes. But when they make a violent movie...stop the presses! The story is about Lam Suet, Johnnie To and Louis Koo releasing fish to atone for the violence in ELECTION 2. According to To, "We're just doing what we're supposed to do."

In other news, please read Louis Koo's English-language blog. Besides such tidbits as, "It's very relaxing to tan and listen to music at the same time," he talks about films he's working on and comes across as a really sincere, very shy, very concerned guy. You'd never catch a Hollywood star cheering, "Here, I would like to cheer on all students for who will soon be writing the HKCEE or A-Level exams.  All of you need to work hard!!  "Study hard and play hard"!  Have a good preparation for the exams!!"

April 25, 2006 at 08:24 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I'm already predisposed to dislike Cannes because for most of the year I listen to sales agents saying, "I'll get back to you with a decision after Cannes," and I have a sneaking suspicion that it's not nearly as fun as people say it is. I just watched a documentary with a producer who went a few times who described it as "lonely" and I'm betting that's a more accurate assesment. But still! It's exciting! Everyone wants to be at Cannes!

Which must be why it hurts so bad for directors who have been rejected. Rumor has it that Darren Aronofsky's THE FOUNTAIN was rejected from competition and offered a non-competitive slot, which Aronofsky in turn rejected. But we're talking about Asian film, and so let's look instead at HANA. Kore-Eda's samurai movie, which Derek Elley of Variety had previously pegged as a contender. Where is it now? Dunno, but the print's ready since over on the official site they're announcing a June 3, 2006 release date.

The BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN director and producer who have teamed up for the Japanese food comedy UDON (releasing in Japan on August 26) are going to open an udon joint at the market in Cannes, serving several hundred bowls of noodles to hungry sales agents who probably could care less because they've seen it all before and where are the naked ladies? The star of the film, Yusuke Santamaria (star of THE NEGOTIATOR) is sick of eating udon in the movie but, according to HogaCentral, he improvised a dance onstage at the press conference to "cheer up eating udon." Maybe that'll hold their attention.

In other Cannes news, for the 2007 festival they've hired 20 directors to make 6 minute shorts in honor of their 60th birthday. According to the Chinese press, Tsai Ming-liang is one of the chosen ones.

April 25, 2006 at 07:51 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Johnnie To has never been one to hide his feelings, and now he's taking on Taiwan. Taiwan's Government Certification Board has said that ELECTION 2 will not be allowed for public screening unless a scene of Louis Koo getting his Alpo Glow on is cut. Maybe they expected the cut to be made? It wasn't, and it won't be. Instead, To made this statement:

1. There will be only one version for ELECTION 2.  I wouldn't do any new version for censors.

2. ELECTION 2 is uncut in Hong Kong, it is also uncut in Cannes.  Taiwan is a democracy, a free land; the ideas of artists should be respected, and the  artists should be given the chance to show their ideas. I'm hoping Taiwan government certification board will re-consider their descision and give this movie a chance.

In Malaysia, ELECTION 2 has been approved for public screening with 9 minutes of the film cut, and it's been given an 18PL certificate.

(A thousand blessings to the sharp-eyed reader who sent this in. You know where to pick up your paper bag of cash.)

April 25, 2006 at 12:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006


Koji YakushoI missed this in all my grumping about Cannes last week, but the competition does include BABEL directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

And who does the movie star? None other than Koji Yakusho!

Smile, Koji! You're on the red carpet.

April 24, 2006 at 05:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Ultraman Mebius was PostMaster for a Day in NagoyaKids. What are you going to do about them? If you're Katsunao Ujiie, the fellow accused of killing an infant in a supermarket, the answer's pretty straight forward. And when a woman who had been beaten by Ujiie appeared in court to testify against him, well, Ujiie beat her up again. In court. She required ten days treatment for her injuries.

Then there's the loving, 60 year old couple who were sick of their unruly 28 year old daughter and beat her to death with a glass ashtray for being too argumentative.

Although things are looking up in the baby department since Hong Kong actress Sandra Ng just had a 7 pound baby girl one month early. Hubby is director Peter Chan, who's supposedly working on a remake of the Shaw Brothers flick BLOOD BROTHERS.

The Hu Jintao/George Bush meeting at the White House has been dismissed as next-to-useless by most of the press, but only EastWestNorthSouth brings the pain about how bad the ceremony at the White House really was: 1) Apparently the Chinese National Anthem shouldn't have been played. Not sure why, but it shouldn't have been. 2) The Chinese translation (of Bush's speech) was awful by several accounts, and slow. 3) Chinese press is speculating that the protester was a plant. 4) The meeting wasn't well-choreographed and Bush had to show Hu how to get off-stage.

But everything isn't all bad. Really. There's light and sunshine out there in the universe, yet. Ultraman Mebius was PostMaster for a Day in Nagoya. But the story brushes up against the tragic:

"While he appeared hesitant about using a pen -- something he normally doesn't do -- he managed to carry out his duties."

Yay, Ultraman Mebius! You bring energy and power!

April 24, 2006 at 04:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Malaysia is a nice country with lots of wonderful ports, it's the world's biggest exporter of natural palm oil and those Patronas Twin Towers are pretty darn tall. But don't try to release a movie about Chinese boys dating Malaysian girls. Yasmin Ahmad is the director of SEPET, an incredibly popular love story from 2004 about just this kind of interracial hook-up. Despite censorship (one shot of the two leads sitting on a motorcycle together was ordered cut), the movie was widely praised and did well at the box office. Yasmin just released GUBRA, a sort-of sequel which picks up with the two main characters later in life.

But don't try to buy a ticket. Despite being awarded 4 out of 5 stars in the Singapore Straits Times, someone is trying to keep Malaysians from watching GUBRA. If you call for a ticket, or try to order one online, you'll be told that the film is sold out. Cool! Except if you happen to arrive at the cinema you'll find that the theater is half full, or less than half full. Apparently someone is block-booking huge chunks of tickets and then never showing up to claim them. The tickets aren't released until a half hour before the show, and only at the box office, so the tickets are, to all intents and purposes, taken off the market.

Some people are speculating that this is simply some kind of mix-up with the reservation system, but reports are pouring in of people being told a theater is sold-out, or has only 1 seat left, then they enter the hall and find that over half the seats are empty.

Yasmin is reporting that GUBRA has died at the box office, but that people can still make their voices heard by letting the press know if they had this experience at a theater showing GUBRA.

April 24, 2006 at 02:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A sharp-eyed reader steers us to this clip of Stephen Fung on David Letterman last week. Actually it's Paul Rudd on Letterman, but who cares about him? He makes some comments about having been in GEN Y, talks about jumping out of a car and how his wife thinks he looked like Simon LeBon, and then we see the clip and there's Stephen Fung in all his flooppy-haired glory.

I haven't seen this movie since it first came out, but it holds up pretty well in this clip, and here's my vote for a Criterion DVD of GEN Y COPS with Paul Rudd, Stephen Fung and Sam Lee on a commentary track.

April 24, 2006 at 01:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 20, 2006


You heard it here first. Over two weeks ago we reported that the much loathed Bangkok International Film Festival director, Craig Prater, was stepping down. Reason: no one liked him, and not many people liked the festival, and he didn't seem to like the Thais and there was just a lot of negativity going around and it was harshing everyone's trip, man. Screendaily picks up the less-than-breaking news today and although they don't have the official statement yet, the official reason for Prater leaving is now being cited as:

Personal reasons.

What could these personal reasons be? Unrequited love? Male pattern baldness? Gassy bloating after heavy meals? Embarrasing foot odor? A love that is wrong? Your guess is as good as mine.

April 20, 2006 at 09:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


It's going to be a bad year for film festivals given how reluctant overseas distributors and sales agents are to part with movies this year, but thank god for China and the MPAA which just opened the first! ever! 2006 Chinese Film Festival in Washington, DC (April 17 - 23). It's a public love lick between Hu Jintao, the National Geographic Society and the MPAA which is strange since the MPAA has been making threatening noises about dragging China to the WTO for disciplinary action over piracy. Huggles! And why the negativity? These guys are getting together to bring the best in Chinese movies to DC screens. Movies like HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS! KEKEXILI! And Zhang Ziyi was there!

I actually just interviewed someone at the MPA for an upcoming article in Slate about China's film industry and I was shocked at how out of touch he was, or how out of touch he appeared to be. When I pointed out that people around the world did seem worried about Hollywood having a negative impact on local film industries since every country in the UN signed the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity (except for the US and Israel), he claimed that the Convention was motivated by anti-American rabble-rousing. Then we had a surreal moment when he said that protectionism had never helped a local film industry. I pointed out that the Korean film quota system had done well for Korea. His response? That the quota system had resulted in Korean theaters sitting dark because there weren't enough movies. I said that I had never heard of this and that Korean film production was at a high these days. His response?

"I’m not facile enough to debate the actual facts."

We talked for another minute or two and then returned to the subject and he made a comment which floored me:

"My opinion, and it’s not based on any kind of facts, is that the Korean industry grew because the country opened to outside investment, developed its economy and lifted restrictions on filmmakers, not because of the screen quota."

I'm not as powerful or as important as the folks over at the MPA, but I would like to suggest that the next time they go on the record to a reporter they may want to base their arguments on facts. And if they don't have the facts then at least don't admit it. Because I've been having trouble with my phone line I took notes during the interview rather than recorded it, but I'm kicking myself now. Can you imagine how sweet a drum and bass late night remix would be with samples of "I'm not facile enough to debate actual facts" thrown in there? Rock!

April 20, 2006 at 07:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack


With Wong Kar-wai and Zhang Ziyi on the jury you'd think they could do better than this, but Cannes has announced their line-up and they've only got one Asian film in competition: Lou Ye's SUMMER PALACE. Which is weird because the last I heard this flick still hadn't been approved by Mainland censors and we all know it's bad form to announce a film is in your festival before Chinese officials say it's in your festival. Maybe they fast-tracked it?

Johnnie To's ELECTION 2 and Su Chao-pin's SILK (the Taiwanese horror film) are official Cannes selections but they're in the Midnight Screenings, which isn't nearly as prestigious since that means they're not in competition (I think, can anyone confirm if the midnight shows are in or out?). But at least the DA VINCI CODE made it in there. Phew!

The non-competitive Un Certain Regard was also announced and there're a few more Asian movies in there. They must be out of their minds, but the Pang Brothers' RECYCLE is there, as are Wang Chao's LUXURY CAR and Yoon Jong-Bin's THE UNFORGIVEN.

April 20, 2006 at 06:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 18, 2006


Tartan's LADY VENGEANCE website is up and it's sort of interesting that the featured quote is from Harry Knowles. I thought that no one cared about that guy now that all the STAR WARS movies were out? It's now slated for a 4/28 release, the same week as Maggie Cheung's CLEAN and Shu Qi's THREE TIMES come out in the US so expect a threeway catfight where no one's the winner that weekend.


April 18, 2006 at 09:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack


THE INHERITANCE It turns out that while Toronto Film Fest programmer Colin Geddes was swanning around Asia recently he wasn't just eating lots of cake and getting his back walked on by midgets with educated feet. He was also visiting the set of Philippino director, Romeo Candido's, THE INHERITANCE. The flick is a horror movie about a Canadian-Philippino snowboarder whose family inherits a spooky mansion back in the homeland and he gets sent over to check it out. Shot in a giant, crumbling house that has a building on the property once used by Japanese soldiers to torture the locals it's got plenty of atmosphere and Colin has photos galore.

There's also an official website.

April 18, 2006 at 08:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Maggie Cheung is a nappy-headed junkie mommie! Lee Young-Ae is a fashion forward jailbird who loves eye shadow! Shu Qi is three, three, three actresses in one! It's the THREE DIVA ARTFILM CATFIGHT WEEKEND coming up on April 28.

CLEAN trailer! Maggie Cheung bangs her head against the wall!

LADY VENGEANCE TRAILER! Lee Young-Ae primps in the hand mirror!

THREE TIMES TRAILER! Shu Qi rides a boat!

One actress will win victory - two actresses will be crushed like bugs. There can be only one!

(My money is on Lee Young-Ae)

April 18, 2006 at 08:11 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006


Hong Kong sugar-pop duo, the TwinsHong Kong sugar-pop duo, the Twins, are not twins. They're not sisters. They're not even related. But somehow Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi keep their place in my heart. Besides the normal creepy reasons, why would a grown man love two young, Chinese pop stars? Here's one reason: their reaction to the news that Gillian's face was plastered across lampshades in a Japanese whorehouse.

On a Metro Radio interview the Twins were asked about the bawdy lampshade. Gillian laughed, “Wow, they look up to me very much!” She was asked if she would sue and said she wouldn't. Then the interviewer pointed out that Cecilia Cheung had won millions suing an organization that illegally used her name, and she changed her tune. Then Charlene asked “Can I have half of the compensation?” And Gillian responded, "No, but I'll buy you dinner if I win."

Yay, Twins!

But there's always a dark side. A sharp-eyed reader sent in this extremely long interview with Edison Chen from the set of THE GRUDGE 2. Edison is shocked he didn't need to bring his assistant, in awe of craft services, and admits it's nice to have a script in English so he can finally understand it. These are not things the Twins would say.

April 17, 2006 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Zhang Ziyi has confirmed she'll be a judge at Cannes this yearI'm so bored of news about Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li going to Hollywood and how people overseas kiss the hems of their garments as they pass. But anyways, it looks like Zhang has confirmed she'll be a judge at Cannes this year. And then it came out that Gong Li is going to be in a movie with...sigh...does anyone care? Go here if you do.

Also, big fun for National Geographic viewers. NG is celebrating Asia in its May series "About Asia" that includes the titles: "Thunder Dragons", "Sumo: Dance of the Gargantuans", and "Zhang Ziyi: Creative Asian Beauty."

April 17, 2006 at 10:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON musicalShowbiz is breaking out all over. Chinese actors are chipping the crud off their tap shoes, scraping the green mold from their leotards, and shaking the roaches out of their dance belts as they prepare to audition for the cavalcade of stage entertainment that's about to be unleashed on the world.

The planet will be free of brightly-colored, fashion forward martial arts movies for two years while Zhang Yimou takes a break after CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOUR in order to direct the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Steven Spielberg is the creative consultant, which means that he's the guy who decides where the obligatory version of "We Are Family" goes.

"All of us are dedicated to making this Olympic opening and closing ceremonies the most emotional ever seen," Spielberg says. And what expresses emotions better than a medley of disco hits?

Japanese actors needs not feel left out since Don Gregory is preparing an April 2007 Broadway musical called "The Flying Tigers" about the American Air Corp that defended China from Japan in WWII. So any Japanese who feel like singing a song called, "Banzai! I Hate Freedom!" should start practicing now. The musical also contains many opportunities for actors and technicians to get crushed by scenery since Gregory wants to portray dogfights onstage. He's counting on American companies in China to chip in the $20 mill budget, and since the musical is about Americans defending China from Japan and an American pilot romancing a Chinese lady doctor expect Chinese people to rally around this portrayal of themselves as a nation of surrender monkeys and comfort women.

David Henry Hwang and (maybe) David Bowie (!) will be providing marque name-power for a Bruce Lee musical in 2008. But no one does it like the Weinsteins who are embroiled in a suit with Columbia over who gets to make a CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON musical. Which is a little like kids on a playground fighting over who gets to eat the freshest pile of dog poop. Apparently, the Weinsteins have an agreement for the "Crane Iron Pentatology" of five novels written by Wang Du-lee. But then one of Wang's family made an agreement with Columbia giving them the rights. It looks pretty cut and dried since the Weinsteins got it in writing and Columbia only got it oral, so after a protracted legal battle expect to see sequels to CT, HD and the inevitable musical.

April 17, 2006 at 10:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Updated: Ryugangi continues its essential translation of Takashi Miike's blog along with organizing a film festival and translating Tadanobu Asano interviews. In the latest installment Miike not only ponders the eternal "Which is better: sushi or girls?" question, but also says that he's pondering the question on his way to LA to convince Forest Whitaker to join the cast of one of his films.

April 17, 2006 at 08:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 14, 2006


Tartan has just released the J-horror flick, PRAY, on DVDTartan has just released the J-horror flick, PRAY, on DVD and you - yes, you! - can win a free copy. What do you have to do - absolutely nothing!

All you have to do is send an email to pandashine at yahoo . com containing an exciting message and I'll select five winners at random next Wednesday. It's new and different! You can start your Spring on a high note.

Read a review of PRAY or, if you don't want to win, you'll just have to go buy a copy using cash money.

April 14, 2006 at 11:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Studio Ghibli's TALES OF EARTHSEAGhibli has posted their Flash embedded TALES FROM EARTHSEA trailer and while it's always nice to see a new Ghibli movie moving towards completion, is anyone else as underwhelmed by this as I am?

I enjoyed the Earthsea books when I was a kid, so I'm in the camp that's pulling for this movie to be good, but there's nothing in this trailer that shows anything I'm excited about. It looks like the same thing we've seen from Ghibli over and over again: the character designs look like they're lifted right out of CASTLE IN THE SKY, and it's the same generic European setting as HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE or KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE. On top of that I don't get any sense of the story from this trailer, except for a few hints that this is CASTLE IN THE SKY again (young boy rescues kidnapped princess).

The cherry on the cake is that Ursula K. LeGuin raked the producers of the Sci Fi Networks' EARTHSEA over the coals for making the entire cast white, writing at length about how she thought of her characters as mixed race. But what do I see in this trailer? A bunch of lily white people with unblemished skin running around. No essay decrying this production from LeGuin yet, so either she feels that this is okay because Japanese people drew it, or she's just tired of fighting this particular fight.

Pretty scenery, though.

(Thanks to Ghibli World)

April 14, 2006 at 10:48 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Designed to make you feel old, fat and lazy on a Friday afternoon. From his corny black tank top, to his 80's hair cut, this kid is my new superhero. Check out his parkour video and feel the cartiladge in your knees crumbling in sympathy.

April 14, 2006 at 10:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 13, 2006


GOSPERATS! A Japanese rhythm and blues blackface sensation formed from left over members of 80's bands Gospellers and Rats&Star

God bless the polluted brain wave patterns of Dr. Patrick Macias. He brings us news and glad tidings of the GOSPERATS! A Japanese rhythm and blues blackface sensation formed from left over members of 80's bands Gospellers and Rats&Star. These guys made a great debut on Fuji TV's HEY HEY HEY MUSIC CHAMP and tore up the stage. As one member put it:

Q: "It's been a while since you guys put on blackface. How does it make you feel?"

A: "Strong. Like a light that's been turned on."

Q: "But back in the old days, you were the only guy who didn't put on make-up."

A: "Yeah. I was supposed to be the white guy."

(Cue laughter. Applause.)

Check out videos and music at their official website. It's blackface-errific!

April 13, 2006 at 10:12 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack


Raj Kumar, a legend in India's Kannada film industryHow come the only Bollywood news we seem to report these days is when someone dies, goes to jail, or has a riot? What's wrong with us?

Technically this isn't Bollywood news at all, however, so we're safe. Raj Kumar, a legend in India's Kannada film industry, passed away yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 76. The star of over 220 movies, Raj Kumar was known as a good guy (often called "Big Brother") who refused to smoke onscreen and, after his early days, would not play a drunk, either. In 2000 he was kidnapped by the notorious bandit, Veerappan, but was released after 108 days.

After his death, grieving fans wanting to pay their last respects, stormed his house and had to be dispersed with tear gas. The situation degenerated and police cars and buses were set on fire. Finally, his body was moved to a public park where the crowds could pay their respects more easily (read: without rioting). He will receive a state funeral today, which has been announced as a government holiday.

April 13, 2006 at 08:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A Reuters story about China tightening censorship rules on TV shows made the rounds yesterday and, not to pick on the hand that feeds me, one of the results was this article in Variety which begins:

"More bad news for Western media congloms vying to break into China's lucrative market: China's communist party has again tightened its grip on the industry with a raft of rules for TV dramas and news, while Internet orgs have pledged to censor indecent content.

The State Administration of Radio, Film & Television (Sarft) has ordered officials who vet TV dramas to make sure producers stick to the script and avoid forbidden subjects.

Historical soap operas dealing with political or military issues described by Sarft as "major or sensitive" must get government approval. If they vary from the script, they risk being banned."

But over on Danwei, they've reported the new announcement as largely positive, noting that it has turned over the responsibility for reviewing and determining the appropriateness of TV show topics to provincial level bodies, rather than a national body; that it has changed from a quarterly review system to a monthly review system; that previously where a project approved on a certain topic had a three year monopoly on that topic - resulting in a recent production of WHITE-HAIRED DEMONESS getting rejected because SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film and Television) said there were too many similar projects being planned - now the producers only have a 60 day window after approval to start filming or their production is scrapped; and they've opened up a website where producers can see all the other TV productions in the works and make their own determinations about what the market will bear. This is a big change for SARFT which previously had the responsibility of ensuring a balance of topics on TV. Now they've handed that responsibility over to production companies.

While Danwei notes, as do the Western articles, that the announcement also contains a warning for local news to get their info only from Chinese rather than foreign sources, they otherwise note that this is a good example of SARFT doing a little decentralizing, and letting the market determine what gets on TV rather than dictating it. In China, the press has mostly focused on how this is another remnant of the "planned economy" being phased out and while it could result in more censorship, overall it looks to be the opposite. They even include the following:

"Wang Weiping, deputy director of SARFT's TV Drama Department, admits that there may be some chaos in the industry as producers adapt to the new way of doing things, but he said that the government chose to relinquish a bit of its oversight because the country's production companies are relatively strong; some smaller producers, however, may find themselves unable to compete now that they no longer can acquire a monopoly on a popular subject."

So how did the Western media get from an annoucement that Chinese speakers view as largely a loosening of restrictions to a story about a tightening of restrictions? Danwei's suggestion: ignorance of how these documents usually appear.

"It's true that the preamble to the memo goes on at length about "strengthing political consciousness," but that sort of boilerplate may not mean anything significant. This "sensitive issues" have appeared in prior SARFT documents - the earlier system required certain topics to be pre-approved by relevant government departments, and SARFT's movie review system treats those topics as "special" as well. What seems to be going on here is that SARFT is turning its review responsibility over to provincial-level oversight bodies, and is reiterating its own in-house requirements for their benefit...It seems to me that Reuters simply did not do any homework about previous TV regulations, and assumed that the new rules must be stricter than the old..."

Unless one automatically assumes that every scrap of news that comes out of China is automatically government-issued propaganda the question becomes: does the West have too much of a vested interest in an outdated depiction of China to report on it accurately?

April 13, 2006 at 07:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006


Studio Ghibli's TALES OF EARTHSEAOver on the Mutant Frog Travelogue those emotional perverts have continued translating the interviews that chronicle the greatest Father/Son smackdown since Jesus and God went at it back at the Crucifixion. Yes, it's the most recent update in the Goro Miyazaki/Hayao Miyazaki feud. The latest is a juicy slab of translated interview from back in December 2005 with the film's producer, Toshio Suzuki, who finally reveals why on earth he chose Goro to direct TALES FROM EARTHSEA (the short answer: he forced him to do it for the future of the company).

But check out the great quotes by bad dad, Hayao Miyazaki, including the following:

On Goro running the Ghibli Museum: "If you’re OK with it, and he says he’ll do it, then there’s nothing I can do."

On Toshio Suzuki lobbying for Goro to direct EARTHSEA: "There’s something wrong with Suzuki."

And my favorite, on his son being chosen to direct the film: "There’s no way he can be a director. He can’t draw, and he doesn’t know anything about animation!"

April 12, 2006 at 11:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Salman Khan, Bollywood MegaStar goes to jail

I didn't think this would happenbut guess who spent last night in jail eating vegetable curry, plain bread, and holding onto a little pot of water? If you guessed "Salman Khan, Bollywood MegaStar" you're right.

Everyone thought his guilty verdict in the poaching case would result in a suspended sentence, but not so: Khan has been sentenced to five years in the slammer and is being treated pretty harshly by all accounts. He's in a separate cell for his own safety, but otherwise he's getting the regular guy treatment, including being denied a phone call to his mother who collapsed and was hospitalized after his sentencing.

But those savvy, cynical kids over at NaachGaana are speculating that this might wind up being good business for his latest film, SAWAAN - THE LOVE SEASON.

Look! There's Salman being escorted to the big house!

April 12, 2006 at 11:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


A sharp-eyed reader brings us this "will you look at that?" story: ELECTION 2 is available for sale in China. Dnoxin, a VCD/DVD distributor in China has it listed right there on its website as being available, before God and everybody. The film is already available for order before it's even been released theatrically in Hong Kong. But it may not be the ELECTION 2 that everyone else saw debut at the Hong Kong International Film Festival since it lists David Chiang in its credits. Chiang was in ELECTION but he didn't appear in ELECTION 2.

So what movie is this? A bootleg? A re-edited bootleg? Something else cobbled together out of bits and pieces, brought to life by electricity and released under the name ELECTION 2? It's entirely possible that it is an actual bootleg of ELECTION 2 since Wong Jing's DON'T OPEN YOUR EYES, which has yet to be released in HK, is also for sale on Dnoxin's website and I know someone who has bought a copy.

the Election 2 bootleg

April 12, 2006 at 10:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


We all know Wong Kar-wai is the king of the judges at Cannes this year, but now the Chinese press is making noise that Zhang Ziyi will be a judge as well. No one is confirming it and all the Chinese press has to go on is a comment from the president of the Huayi Brothers Co. that she'll almost definitely be attending the event, but somehow they've decided she's been invited to be a judge.

Expect this to spread around the internet like wildfire. Look! It's already started.

April 12, 2006 at 10:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


It looks like Russia is trying to remake Johnnie To's BREAKING NEWS, looking to satirize the Russian manipulation of television news. It's being produced by Sam Klebanov of the distribution/production company, Film Without Borders.

April 12, 2006 at 09:58 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Korean director Shin Sang-Ok

Last night, around 11pm, Korean director Shin Sang-Ok ended a two year struggle with Hepatitis C and passed away. He was 80 years old.

One of the big three Korean directors of that country's Golden Age, in the 50's and 60's Shin made many movies that are considered masterpieces, including MOTHER AND THE HOUSEGUEST, EUNUCH and EVERGREEN TREE. His movies were deeply felt and aesthetically accomplished, and many of the starred his wife, Choi Eun-Hee.

In 1978, Choi's wife was kidnapped by North Korea while making a movie in Hong Kong and six months later Shin was kidnapped as well. There has been some speculation that the two of them defected, but nothing was ever proved. For 8 years they lived in North Korea, where Shin made five films, including the giant monster/class consciousness flick, BULGASARI. In 1986, Shin and his wife escaped to the US through the American embassy in Vienna and lived there until 2000. During that time, Shin produced a number of kid's films under the name Simon Sheen, including three of the 3 NINJAS movies and a cheapo horror movie called GARDEN OF EVIL with Richard Grieco. He also directed one of the 3 NINJAS films, 3 NINJAS KNUCKLE UP. In 2000 he and his wife returned to Korea where he sought treatment of his Hepatitis.

Shin Sang-Ok was a truly great director whose life was derailed by a separated Korea. He directed 69 films and produced over 100, but when he was abducted to North Korea in 1978 he only had 8 left in him and one of them would star Hulk Hogan and Loni Anderson. Shin was born in North Korea, in the town of Cheong-Jin, while it was occupied under the Japanese, but he would make his masterpieces in South Korea (and he would make his dreck in America). One wonders what his career would have been like if it hadn't been sidetracked from 1978 - 2000. But, at least he died in Seoul.

April 12, 2006 at 08:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


The first review of Mamoru Oshii's TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN is out in Daily Yomiuri and while it's awful short, it's awful sweet, giving it 3 1/2 stars out of five. We also have the trailer to the director of GHOST IN THE SHELL's fast food grifter flick.

April 12, 2006 at 08:25 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2006


Three TimesA sharp-eyed reader passes along a link to the American trailer for Hou Hsiao-hsien's THREE TIMES.

That Jim Jarmusch quote at the front is part of a Jarmusch on Hou essay they're sending to everyone who might possibly know someone who may be friends with someone who might write a review of the film. They use a lot of quotes (and does anyone else find A.O. Scott talking about making love kind of ooky?) and you can feel them desperately flogging American viewers who are notoriously uninterested in Asian films with them: "Entertainment Weekly likes it! Why can't you?"

My prediction? Rave reviews and under $100,000 at the box office.

April 11, 2006 at 11:59 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


the latest Pang Brothers film, RE-CYCLEA trailer is up in a variety of tasty formats for the latest Pang Brothers film, RE-CYCLE.

Set to release this summer, the film looks pretty amazing but being a Pang Brothers movie my guess is that it's not going to be very good. If you get your hopes up too high, prepare to have them dashed.

April 11, 2006 at 11:28 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Maggie QHong Kong actor/director Danny Lee is much-loved and well-known for playing cops. In fact, some of his films, like TWIST, are gushing love letters to police brutality where the perpetrators of bloodless crimes are tortured in increasingly complicated and humiliating ways until they confess and then eveyrone cheers. In Hong Kong, Danny Lee is also known for believing he is a cop. He's played so many of them in film and on TV that some directors think it's gone to his head and he actually believes he's law enforcement.

But now, Maggie Q is set to pick up his pretend crown. Talking about her training on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3, Q said:

"This is not a kung fu movie where I have to spend a lot of time kicking and punching. This is Mission Impossible so I was trained by hostage negotiators and military experts...It was no joke. What I did in the film is real. I actually know how to rescue a hostage now."

I will now fly the friendly skies with a warm feeling, knowing that if we're hijacked it's entirely possible that a now-well-trained Maggie Q might be the one organizing my rescue.

April 11, 2006 at 10:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Not much more to say about this one. Wilson Yip's latest project, DRAGON TIGER GATE, based on a 70's Hong Kong comic book has been scooped up by the Weinstein Company for all English-speaking territories. It'll be interesting to see what happens to it. Based on the past, I predict we'll never hear from it again.

April 11, 2006 at 10:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack



Thas rite, dogg. Cuz therez a new blogger in town by tha name a EDISON CHEN!!! Whaddaya think 'bout, that? A sharp-eyed reader (my homie!) pointed this out to me and yo - this is the sh*t. People (like me) talk smack about Edison but, as he helpfully points out on his BLOGGGG!!!! "...sooner or later the paparazzi will get what is coming to them." Get 'em, Edison.

Although he does find the strippers at a street festival "un-tasteful" which isn't what I expected. The dude's got taste, and opinions, and feelings, and a little cow and you can read all about them on his blog.

April 11, 2006 at 12:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 10, 2006


Hong Kong Film Archive week continues at Kaiju Shakedown with quotes from old HKIFF publications. Today: the funny people. And many thanks to the original interviewees and to the Hong Kong Film Archives for preserving this material.

"The plot and the gags evolved slowly from long discussions with the production team. Had we had more time, there is a lot in the finished film that I would have liked to reshoot. The script is what always determines the quality of a film...the trouble is that nearly all scriptwriters in Hong Kong are terribly underpaid."
    - Eric Tsang interview about ACES GO PLACES, from 1982

"The density of gags in my films derives from my previous work in TV. In a 25 minute TV show you must furnish at least one gag per minute, or the audience will turn off. Most cinema comedies may aim for a big laugh every five or ten minutes, but that's not enough for me. I want the audience laughing non-stop."
    - Michael Hui interview about PRIVATE EYES, from 1976

April 10, 2006 at 02:47 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Ryoichi Kimizuka has been the creative force behind Japan's BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN series since it first appeared on TV, before becoming four feature films (BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN, BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 2, THE NEGOTIATOR, THE SUSPECT). Hoga Central gives the full-on interview treatment to Ryoichi and it's interesting stuff.

April 10, 2006 at 07:25 AM in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Saturday's papers carried a blistering attack on the HKSAR government by the executive director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, Peter Tsi. Accusing the government of supporting only imported tourist attractions like the Rugby 7's and Disneyland, Tsi pointed out that only 10% of ticket sales in this year's festival went to tourists and said:

"We have such a limited budget we cannot afford to invite big stars, critics and journalists...Pusan invites 2000 guests with 1000 overseas critics and journalists. We have $700,000 to promote the entire festival and can only invite about 90 people...Working with the Tourism Board is a very strenuous undertaking. They have no vision in building up the attractions of the city...People come for the rugby. What happens if Zhuhai steals the event next year? What will happen when Shanghai builds its Disneyland? If you bank everything on something that does not originate in the city's culture you take a big risk."

The Hong Kong Tourism Board responded by saying, "We have information about the film festival on our website." They then accused the festival of choosing a venue that's too small and couldn't support an influx of tourists, referring to the 1700 seat Cultural Center.

No one would argue that while Hong Kong was made famous around the world by its film industry, things are tougher now. But it seems that the HKSAR government has become an obstacle rather than a source of support for the beleagured industry. Despite having increased ticket sales in recent years, the HKSAR has cut the HKIFF's budget year after year. Last year, after a successful event that combined the Filmart and the HKIFF (something that didn't happen this year due to...well, it depends on who you ask) the HKSAR cut the HKIFF budget by US$50,000, leaving it with under US$1 million in funding.

The HKSAR has never made its lack of support for the HK film industry a secret. Location shooting has always been a nightmare in HK, the film fund was something of a joke, and they seem bedazzled by outsiders who come to film in Hong Kong while neglecting the world class talent they have in their own city. But given the fact that HKSAR's government has demonstrated a lack of transparency, struggles to stifle or dismiss dissent or criticism, and every time evidence of corruption surfaces it's hastily covered up (when a social worker recently reported an abuse of the medical fee waiver system she was criticised widely by her colleagues and superiors and finally quit; and there's the charming recent police shooting which may have been connected to a police corruption scandal but when Legco convened a panel to look into it the Security Chief sent two letters claiming the panel was inapporpriate, and the police on the stand stone-walled, saying the shooter acted alone). Is it any surprise that two different producers I spoke to about the government's support for filmmakers in Hong Kong said that there wasn't any support, but that they were glad since that would only make things harder?

Until the HKSAR government becomes a friend of the HK film industry, rather than an obstacle, Hong Kong will never be able to compete with countries like South Korea who regard their film industry as one of their greatest exports and who support it accordingly.

April 10, 2006 at 12:16 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 09, 2006


Our thoughts are with Hong Kong's Vincent Kok, the famed comedian, whose mother died on Friday after jumping from her second floor apartment. Kok is a writer/director/actor who has worked on films like SHAOLIN SOCCER, FORBIDDEN CITY COP, LOVE ON DELIVERY and GORGEOUS. Western fans will remember him best as the chunky soccer player who is left sobbing by Stephen Chow's skills. His mother was 77.

April 9, 2006 at 12:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 08, 2006


Hong Kong Film Awards The Hong Kong Film Awards took place last night and Johnnie To had to rent a truck to haul his statues while Tsui Hark (nominated for 11 awards) went home with nothing. To's ELECTION won "Best Film", "Best Director", "Best Screenplay" and "Best Actor" for Tony Leung Kar-fai. Tony and Johnnie both chose to skip the ceremony however: Johnnie To was shooting and Tony Leung was in a play, LOVE IN A FALLEN CITY, although he did thank the presenters in a live video link. Of course, he also fell during his live broadcast, but that's entertainment.

Jay Chou took "Best New Performer" for INITIAL D, while Anthony Wong won "Best Supporting Actor" for the same film. Kenneth Bi won "Best New Director" for RICE RHAPSODY and "Best Actress" went to Zhou Xun for PERHAPS LOVE who, having an unerring sense of showmanship, cried when she gave her acceptance speech.

More "adults only" coverage of the ceremony over on Variety where there is much talk of films "beating off" other films.

April 8, 2006 at 10:56 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Takashi Miike's IMPRINTTakashi Miike's IMPRINT is the installment in Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series famous for not being aired in the US, although Showtime's minions aren't hesitating to walk the flick around the film festival circuit. It just screened at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and I think the best way to describe it is as MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA with dead babies.

An American played by Billy Drago ("Charmed", "The X Files", HILLS HAVE EYES remake) visits an old timey Japanese whorehouse located on an island surrounded by the bloated, floating corpses of pregnant women. Like most people in movies who go to whorehouses he's not looking for a good time, rather he's searching for his lost lady love Komomo who, for some reason, took up a job as a prostitute while waiting for him to return to Japan and marry her. I'd have recommended she take in washing or maybe work in the food industry, but different strokes for different folks.

Drago can't find Kobopbop and so, invoking the "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" principle, he holes up overnight with a deformed prostitute whose face looks like a kindergarten art project. She tells him the deep dark secret behind Kowowo's death (yep, she's dead) but he demands to know the truth. Rather than yelling that he can't handle the truth, scarface then tells him the "real" story behind his honey's death. But it turns out that that's a lie, too, and there's yet another story to be told, this one involving buck-toothed hand puppets, mutiple abortions, dead babies floating downstream, and incest. There's also a midget with a leprous nose and a rooster on his head.

Takashi Miike's IMPRINTTaken straight with no chaser, IMPRINT is a lumpy and somewhat unsatisfying flick. The English language dialogue is hooked on phonics, Drago's acting is as broad as the Mississippi, and the story doesn't really have a point besides "prostitution and incest suck" and I think most people take those as givens. But if you look at this as a send-up of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA it starts to make sense. The gorgeous visuals (and they are gorgeous - torture has never looked so fashionable), the heavily-accented and poorly delivered line readings by non-native English speakers, the idea of a Western man sitting down to force a geisha/hooker to tell him "the Truth" about her life, all of this is taken directly from GEISHA and it's an artbomb planted in the heart of the original book.

The trouble with Miike is that he's so busy dispensing gruesome visuals and stylish characters that you start to not only wonder what it all means but you wonder if he even knows what it all means and then you wonder if that matters. Miike seems to put his id right up onscreen and I don't think he's so much a deliberate provocateur, as some folks have cast him, but an unconscious serial offender. IMPRINT ultimately dissolves into a series of shocks, some of which are silly and some of which are disgusting, but there's something to it even if Miike isn't able to fully drag it out into the open.

Maybe it's the gleefully twisted idea that Billy Drago is supposed to be playing Arthur Golden who sits down to get the memories of a geisha but, instead of a polite tale of rape and prostitution seen through a rose-colored lens and ready-made for American consumption, he gets a harrowing story about abortion, hatred, lies, incest, torture and rubber fetuses that not only answers the question of "What's under all that hair piled up on Japanese lady's heads?" but is, ultimately, unshowable to the very Americans who are supposed to watch it.

I like to think that Miike, fully aware of his status as the pet Japanese filmmaker on "Masters of Horror" made a movie that deliberately bites the hand that signed his check. "Make us movie about pretty pretty geisha girl. You make it crazy, Miike, so American fanboy post on internet," say the American producers. And Miike says, "No problem." And he gives them geisha. And he gives them pretty. And he gives them crazy. And he gives them dead baby, too. Uh-oh.

April 8, 2006 at 09:10 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack


Maggie Cheung in Clean A bunch of actresses will show up in American theaters the last Friday in April as CLEAN (Maggie Cheung), THREE TIMES (Shu Qi) and LADY VENGEANCE (Lee Young-Ae) all storm into theaters on April 28 and start making everything nicer.

You can check out the LADY VENGEANCE trailer for the US here. It's a little Enya at the start, but otherwise not bad. The most interesting thing is that it comes across as a black comedy...maybe that's the best way to promote a hard-to-categorize film like this?

April 8, 2006 at 08:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Aishwarya Rai demonstrates that not only is she "the most beautiful woman in the world" (patent pending) but that she also has an unerring super-sense for picking films. In January of 2007 we'll be able to see her in the Weinstein Company's Thomas Sangster (NANNY MCPHEE, TRISTAN + ISOLDE) vehicle: THE ENCHANTED SWORD (aka THE LAST LEGION). It's a magical adventure story set in the days of the crumbling Roman Empire and is directed by a veteran of the Kevin Sorbo "Hercules" TV-show. Oh, and he directed a little "Xena: Warrior Princess", too.

If she's also going to be in RUSH HOUR 3 then I detect a one-two Oscar nomination punch coming on for 2008. Reach for the stars, Aishwarya!

April 8, 2006 at 06:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


A sharp-eyed reader passes along two more ELECTION 2 reviews, one in Variety and one in Screendaily. I'm not sure what to say about them except "here they are". Variety generally assesses movies more than it reviews them, and Screendaily seemed to like the film but felt it dragged at the start. I'm never sure about that kind of comment, though. I've said it a few times in reviews myself and it is one of those weird things: if it drags at the start but you still like the movie doesn't that render the dragging comment irrelevant as a criticism?

I guess for me Johnnie To has hit that level as a director where thinking about whether I like his movies or not is sort of beside the point. Like Tsui Hark, until recently, the guy can obviously make a movie and their quality is irrefutable. The more interesting issue is trying to figure out why he's making a particular movie, how he's doing it, and what he's trying to say with it. To me, thumbs up/thumbs down reviews are irrelevant. Of course, that's what I said about Tsui Hark until he made SEVEN SWORDS, so what do I know?

April 8, 2006 at 03:45 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


DOG BITE DOG is the new flick from Soi Cheang (LOVE BATTLEFIELD, HORROR HOTLINE: BIG HEAD MONSTER) and the basic plot description makes it sound like typical action fare: cop chases hitman. The whole thing mutates radically when you find out that the hitman is Edison Chen playing a near-mute, near-retarded homeless dirtbag hitman and the cop is played by Sam Lee as a violence crazed sleazeball. Edison limps into HK to kill a judge, wipes out a fistful of coppers, falls in love with a chick whose dad is raping her, and winds up on the run from Sam.

Less an action movie than a session of primal scream therapy, it's slated for a fall release, but check out these stills.





April 8, 2006 at 12:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 07, 2006


Black Night posterJust when you thought it was safe to go use the bathroom, along comes BLACK NIGHT to tell you that if you don't slip on the soap, drown in the tub, suffocate in the shower curtain, or get electrocuted by a lamp you could still hit your head on the toilet. Three part movies have always been with us and ever since Applause released THREE they've gotten even more popular, what with THREE...EXTREMES and the new Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To "jigsaw" flick rumored to be in the works. BLACK NIGHT has a Hong Kong section ("Next Door" by Patrick Leung), a Japanese section ("Dark Hole" by Takahiko Akiyama) and a Thai section ("The Lost Memory" by Thanit Jitnukul).

Watching its world premiere at the Hong Kong Film Festival I was deeply impressed. I thought I had seen poor movies before, but I had never really considered the notion that three directors, working really hard, could make a bad movie three times worse. It's obvious, really, but I think you need to see this concept in action to really get it.

Patrick Leung's segment kicks things off and at first I only noticed how bad its story was. But, after watching the next two segments I realized that at least Leung's had looked good and moved briskly, qualities the next two segs lacked. Lots of accidents happen in the home, but Leung has to orchestrate one of the most complicated, silliest household accidents I've ever seen in order to make his movie work. I guess directors really are smarter than you or me because how else could they think of these things? When I walk into my home I'm instantly on guard against a million little things that could go wrong and kill me. But for Leung, he needs to orchestrate a symphony of stupidity involving a shower curtain, a full bathtub, running water, a locked door, a marble, a pair of handcuffs and a tile wall in order to get his plot engine to turn over.

Black NightBut I came to miss his slick visuals when we moved on to "Dark Hole" which I was hoping would be a little bit naughty. No such luck. Shot on an old VHS tape the director found in the glove compartment of his car and video toastered until it begged for mercy, "Dark Hole" is about a childhood friend of a little girl who has grown up to be a monster. The monster lives in the water, and at this point I was detecting a theme: wetness! Draggy and repetitive I kept checking my watch waiting for the monster to show up and when it did I was excited to see that it showed up in the quickest reveal shot in the world, lasting approximately .0005 seconds, which was understandable when I realized that the monster looked like a rubber boot with tentacles glued to the bottom.

At this point, the guy sitting in front of me cracked open a bottle of red wine and began to guzzle it. There isn't enough wine in the world to get you through BLACK NIGHT, but at least he had something to take the edge off when he rolled into "The Lost Memory". It's hard to believe that the guy who directed BANG RAJAN has sunk so low, but life is full of surprises. Some kind of silly hootenanny about child abductions (I think), a car accident, head trauma and, of course, water, none of it made any sense until I realized it was stealing liberally from THE SIXTH SENSE at which point I yawned a little and rolled over in my sleep. Least among its sins, and certainly one of its more entertaining moments, was when we finally see the hot stud who is the object of desire for the film's two nubile young starlets. This guy looked like the kind of middle-aged gentleman you might see going through the trash cans outside your house on recylcing day, or maybe working a toll booth on the New Jersey Turnpike. At least there was laughter.

Patrick Leung and several of the actors were on hand for the screening and I felt a little uncomfortable as waves of inappropriate laughter regularly rippled through the audience. But then I considered that these were the people who had cranked out this lousy flick hoping to use it to part me from my money. And I started laughing, too.

April 7, 2006 at 01:20 PM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


More quotes from old, old, old Hong Kong Film Festival interviews. Let's hear from the art film directors today:

"In one way, the impulse to make this film [AH YING] dates back to the death of my friend Koh Wu in 1982. He died before he was able to being shooting the film he had been scripting and I wanted to make a film about him. Most of my films are about people, and many are about people I've known."
            - Allen Fong, from a 1983 interview

"I started working for television at the age of 23. In a span of three years I made a lot of TV-films which I personally liked very much. But my first three commercial features were made with little awareness. After making them I went through two traumatic years: the abortion of two films halfway through the project and the death of someone dear to me. I was really at the cross-roads of both my career and my personal life. But one thing was clear: I could no longer make films which betrayed myself."
            - Yim Ho, from a 1984 interview about HOMECOMING

April 7, 2006 at 12:21 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Hou Hsiao-hsien's THREE TIMES was picked up by IFC's day and date release arm, First Take, which was going to release films simultaneously on cable and in theaters. Unfortunately, due to a dispute between Mark Cuban and Comcast, Landmark theaters will not be carrying the First Take Films for the time being. Apparently, Comcast won't pick up Cuban's channels, HDNet and HDNet Movies, and so Cuban figures, "Why the hell should I provide a venue for IFC's films?" If the dispute is resolved things look like they'll go back to normal, but the situation appears to have taken everyone by surprise and it isn't making anyone happy.

April 7, 2006 at 10:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Johnnie ToAt the HKIFF premiere of ELECTION 2, besides ushers prowling the aisles looking for folks pirating the film, Johnnie To made three requests of the audience. I can't remember the first one (but it may have been, "Give me $20."), the second one was a request not to pirate the film because, "Well, it is illegal." The third request was not to reveal the end of the film.

Good old Apple Daily! A sharp-eyed reader reports that sure enough, in yesterday's edition, Hong Kong's favorite scandal rag revealed the ending of the film. Hooray for freedom of the press.

April 7, 2006 at 09:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Cannes is getting ready to announce its official selections but a core sample of the line-up was taken by Derek Elley over at Variety and it comes back reading one (1) Asian movie: Kore-eda's samurai flick, HANA. Also, the Koju Yakusho/Bradd Pitt flick, BABEL, will be there as well. Other movies may materialize and he mentions:

Still Life," by China's Jia Zhangke ("The World"), "Summer Palace" by Lou Ye ("Suzhou River"), South Korean f/x-heavy monster drama "The Host" by Bong Jun-ho ("Memories of Murder") and Johnnie To's "Election 2."

ELECTION 2 has just been sent over, but rumor has it that THE HOST, STILL LIFE and SUMMER PALACE all won't be ready in time and are looking for fall fest dates.

Udine has announced its line-up and the biggest treat is a retrospective of Asian musicals mostly from the 50's, 60's and 70's. They've got a nice slice of contemporary Thai and Hong Kong flicks and the Takashi Miike "Masters of Horror" segment "Imprint", as well.

(a technical glitch means you should read the comments for the full text of this post)

April 7, 2006 at 09:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 06, 2006


Daniel Wu's directorial debut, HEAVENLY KINGS, a mockumentary about the Cantopop industry

The worst-kept secret in Hong Kong has been the identity of the movie listed in the catalogue as "Film Surprise". Not only did everyone pretty much know within ten minutes that this was Daniel Wu's directorial debut, HEAVENLY KINGS, a mockumentary about the Cantopop industry, but everyone seemed to hear it from Wu himself. When paparazzi got into the apartment across the way to take photos of him with his girlfriend, Wu supposedly blocked his own windows with HEAVENLY KINGS posters and for a while there was a rumor going around that if you went to sleep with your windows open Daniel Wu would creep in and whisper the release date in your ear.

Wu is a master manipulator of the Hong Kong media, and a regular on CHISEEN, a PUNK'D style show on Hong Kong television. When HEAVENLY KINGS was being made there was a war of words between Wu and bandmember Terence regarding the use of some concert footage but the press smelt something funny and suspected it was a stunt to generate publicity for the film and after seeing the movie I believe it was a stunt as well. If you read the Alive blog you'll see all kinds of tasty tidbits thrown out like chum for the carnivorous media to feed on and there's something refreshing in the completely fabricated nature of Alive.

HEAVENLY KINGS is shot on digital video and features talking head interviews with Jacky Cheung, Miriam Yeung, Karen Mok and other Cantopop celebs, intercut with animated dream sequences, real documentary footage and staged footage. Supposedly an expose of Alive it actually is more satisfying as a guided tour through the Cantopop caverns. The four boys of alive are Conroy (Josie Ho's husband), Terence (who once had a career in Taiwan), Daniel and Andrew Lin. From their roots as a no-talent bunch of slackers looking to cash in, to the finale when they are a Real Live Band the film follows them through contract negotiations, the hiring of professional fans, some tired but still amusing stylist jokes, a Near Disaster in Taiwan and back again.

More of a smile-inducer than a laugh-generator, the local audience sucked down the in jokes and the familiar faces with great gusto but someone who's not personally invested in the Cantopop industry will probably just find it a pleasant time-waster. The biggest problem with the movie is Daniel Wu's direction. He's certainly assured and the flick is well-made so that makes it even more frustrating that it has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be. At times it comes off as a real documentary as people like Nic Tse talk to the camera and plead for more cooperation amongst artists. Then it'll send itself up with a scene of Andrew bitching about Daniel. Then we wind up with a completely sentimental ending about how much the bandmembers like each other. It's as if they wanted to do a SPINAL TAP type movie but then lost their nerve because they couldn't bring themselves to do anything to actually injure the brand name Alive since it does provide them with a nice income.

If you're going to send yourself up, you have to be merciless, and Daniel Wu seems too personally invested in his friends and bandmates to give them the total skewering that would make this movie work outside of Cantopop friendly circles. Surprisingly, the best actor in the bunch turns out to be Andrew (yay Andrew! I love you!) who is also the only one who seems to be playing a role. Vain, petty and somewhat bone-headed his onscreen Andrew provides most of the the big laughs whereas the other three guys have their moments but none of them seems to have a handle on grabbing a "type" and playing it to the hilt the way Andrew does.

Overall, you could do worse if you've got 90 minutes or so to spare, and if you're familiar with the music it's a fun little stroll through a nicely appointed petting zoo. It's fine. Buy when you're promised a satire, "fine" just doesn't cut it.

April 6, 2006 at 01:01 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Another day, another Bollywood remake, but this at least sounds like it has the possibility to skate so close to the edge of disaster it might just thrill jaded sensation seekers: Bollywood's Ram Gopal Varma has signed Amitabh Bachchan to play the lead in a remake of LOLITA. Called NISHABD, it's supposedly going to put the emphasis more on romance and less on totally sick perverted obsession. The Big B will be playing opposite a new actress known only as Jia.

(Thanks to NaachGaana for the heads up)

April 6, 2006 at 12:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2006


For those of you just joining us here at Kaiju Shakedown, I'm in Hong Kong all week at the HKIFF, so feel free to drop me a line if you're over here, too: grady@subwaycinema.com

Reviews will be coming in fast and furious so expect write-ups of ISABELLA, Daniel Wu's showbiz satire, HEAVENLY KINGS, and the three-part horror anthology BLACK NIGHT.

Plus there will be tons of tasty tidbits popping up, like the fact that Lau Ching-wan and Johnnie To are working on a movie together that should start production sometime before the end of the summer. It'll be a Johnnie To directed project, not a Wai Ka-fai project.

April 5, 2006 at 11:45 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Simon Yam - Most Philosophically DressedAs last night's ELECTION 2 reception devolved into a karaoke free-for-all (who knew Lam Suet had such a sweet set of pipes?) Simon Yam took issue with his "Worst Dressed" award. I would now like to officially change that and award him "Most Philosophically Dressed Award". Apparently, and I missed this because I neither speak nor understand Cantonese, when Yam got up onstage with Yasuaki Kurata to introduce Lau Kar-leung, he spoke extensively about his jeans. He said that they represented the way Lau Kar-leung works: they're classic and timeless, and you can wear them over and over again, even until they're worn out, but that just makes them more comfortable. Then he said that whereas it usually took him a few months to break in a new pair of jeans, these had been worn out and broken in after only two days of training with Lau Kar-leung.

I did not know this, but now I do. And knowing is half the battle.

April 5, 2006 at 03:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Election 2

Remember in BLUE VELVET when Kyle MacLachlan comes home from his date with Laura Dern only to encounter a battered, naked and brutalized Isabella Rossellini staggering out of the dark, barely able to speak? Whenever I think of Hong Kong these days I think of it as Isabella Rossellini in that scene.

Hong Kong has Disney screwing them on one end and without universal sufferage they've got China screwing them on the other. In recent weeks the new Chief Executive has given interviews dismissing critics of his new budget in language that one normally only heard in China back in the 70's and the UN has issued a blanket condemnation of Hong Kong's human rights situation which has been dismissed out of hand by the local government. Hong Kong seems to be screaming as loud as it can and everyone in power is just patting it on the head as they lead it to the slaughterhouse. Who would have thought that the person to make a movie about this would be Johnnie To? But that's exactly what ELECTION 2 is: a savage, funny, pitch black vivisection of Hong Kong politics.

Picking up two years after the last election in the Wo Sing triad, we find our triads sitting pretty on a mountain of money. Lok (Simon Yam) has, like Caesar, brought two years of pax triadica and even the Uncles (the retired brothers who sit around playing cards all day and whose approval is crucial) have been able to spring for new sweaters, shoes, fancier cigars and some nice hair products. Jimmy (Louis Koo) is building a logistics center in China that will be his giant step from well-heeled bootleg VCD mogul to legitimate businessman. Jet (Nick Cheung) is mostly in hiding, popping out every now and then to rub someone out for Lok, but otherwise cooling his heels in a nearly-bare apartment with ambition curdling in him like poison.

Now the new election is coming and, as we all know, elections bring out the worst in Lok (as the movie reminds us in a tribute to the original's infamous fishing scene). When we left him at the end of ELECTION, it was evident that Simon Yam's Lok wasn't the cool, peace-loving big brother he appeared to be, but a bloody maniac and now his sick desire to hang onto the chairmanship for two more years causes his insanity to bleed out of his pores like greasy sweat. China's Security Bureau has a hand in all this, as well, and they seem to be the sickos who are standing just offstage in the shadows, pulling the strings.

Johnnie To is currently shooting ELECTION 2Unlike ELECTION, which at least built sympathy for Lok's team until it pulled a switcheroo in the last third, ELECTION 2 has no sympathy for anyone. The characters are soaked in gore up to their elbows and none of them has an ounce of pity or humanity left in the burned out little piles of ash that were once their souls. This would make for tough going, but fortunately To has the violence set to simmer in the first half of the film - you know something awful is going to happen but it's not happening yet. As the players position their pieces the tension gets so thick you can barely breathe and when the violence does come - and believe me, it does - you don't know whether to be sick or relieved.

Nick Cheung doesn't get a cool moment in this film the way he did in ELECTION, but he still manages to demonstrate that there's a terrific actor beneath all that schtick just crying to get out. This movie's revelation is Mark Cheng. At one time a standard fixture of the Hong Kong movie scene in flicks like PEKING OPERA BLUES, RAPED BY AN ANGEL and CHINESE TORTURE CHAMBER 2 he's only been in one film since 2000 and it's like having your long-lost cousin come through the door when he gets out of the car in ELECTION 2 and makes his grand entrance. Playing a professional sadist running a Gitmo-style torture camp with a continually updated bill for services rendered scrolling through his head, he's a welcome relief and his unwillingness to betray those who're paying his bills comes across like the highest moral fibre in a film where everyone betrays everyone else at least twice.

As bleak as an alcoholic clown at a children's birthday party, ELECTION 2, like Louis Koo, holds itself in check until its ending when things, remarkably and unexpectedly, get even more horrible and depressing. The image of Hong Kongers eating their young at China's command is the kind of thing that'll stick in your brain for a long time to come. Nevertheless, I imagine it's going to do quite well in Hong Kong. As the film launched itself at the throat of the PRC and said the things that everyone in Hong Kong is thinking the packed audience at last night's screening burst into cheering, wild applause, foot stomping and laughter and just on that basis alone I imagine the box office here will be brisk.

I don't want to give the impression that the movie is solely concerned with political points, but watching it with the current events unfolding as they are, with June 4th on the horizon, and with a hometown audience who lapped up the political jokes like warm milk, it's hard not to focus on them. But, really, the politics are merely one of the lingering tastes you're left with. There's also violence, black humor, good acting, very very dark photography, and more violence. And did I mention violence? More compact, tightly structured, and darker than ELECTION, ELECTION 2 is the year's nastiest, bravest, most accomplished movie, doing in two hours what a million strident DV docs about human rights could never accomplish. He'd rather die than admit it, but I get the feeling that Johnnie To loves his hometown and that this is his way finding where the guy who attacked it lives, and wading into his living room with a baseball bat in hand to settle a few scores.

April 5, 2006 at 12:01 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

April 04, 2006


One of the world's best organizations is the Hong Kong Film Archive, and the only problem they have is that they don't keep enough of their publications in print. Over the years they've conducted the best interviews with Hong Kong filmmakers, hands down, and I came across a bunch of them while browsing their resource library. If you've got a spare million, please donate it to the HKFA. As an added inducement, I'll be posting quotes from some of these interviews throughout the week. These interviews were conducted by Tony Rayns, Roger Garcia and dozens of others and we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

"I don't like violence in kung-fu films. I'm much more interested in comedy...For the moment, though, I have to meet the expectations of the audience."
                                                                                                    - Jackie Chan, 1980

"I like violence! It's exciting! But the censor took exception to some of the dialogue about murder in THE PRODIGAL SON. He was right, in a way: the film does promote aggression. Some of my peers in the film industry have said the same thing. But what can I do? Audiences love violence too!"
                                                                                                  - Sammo Hung, 1981

April 4, 2006 at 08:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Last night, the Hong Kong International Film Festival paid tribute to HK's action choreographers with a gala banquet and seeing Sammo Hung, Lau Kar-leung, Yuen Wo-ping and Ching Siu-tung standing shoulder-to-shoulder for photographers was both larger and smaller than life. Everyone looked a lot younger than I expected and while you can get the basics via Variety, here's an alternate set of awards bringing you the evening's good, bad and ugly.

Yasuaki Kurata with his shiny shoes and his dapper tuxedo took this one hands down. While everyone else looked nice there were a large number of t-shirts amongst the assembled stuntmen, but you have to give them a break. They're probably so concussed they were lucky to make it to the Convention Center at all. But Yasuaki Kurata took the cake with his swank, Clooney-esque ensemble, despite sporting a strange, canary yellow pocket square.

It's a known fact that if Simon Yam merely lays his hand on your child's head he can cure many diseases and increase your kid's IQ by up to 50 points. However, that doesn't change the fact that he was woefully underdressed last night, especially when sharing the stage with Yasuaki Kurata. The club jacket and t-shirt were all right, but the worn jeans with ripped knees and sneakers were not.

Not much competition here because there was only one cake in the room: a four foot tall fancy wedding cake fantasy in white frosting and many layers to celebrate the HKIFF's 30th B-Day.

Five choreographers were honored: Sammo Hung, Yuen Wo-ping, Lau Kar-leung, Ching Siu-tung and Jackie Chan. Everyone managed to show up except for Jackie. Where was he? Kicked too hard in the chest? Busy? Upset that he would have had to share the stage? No one knows, but the theories were flying.

Gordon Liu showed up in glasses that looked like safety goggles for the raquetball court and wearing a cream, deconstructed suit coat covered with designer grafitti and everyone just had to take a step back and let him through because we all knew he shopped at a store that was located in the future. The fact that he was accesorizing with Cheng Pei-pei's willowy daughter also helped.

Gordon Liu takes it again. Botox cannot be responsible for how young this guy looks. Does he bathe in virgin's blood? Get total skin transfusions every five months? Ching Siu-tung was the runner-up since he seems to be aging backwards: getting younger and more boyish every year. The "Most Timeless" Award goes to Ann Hui whom, I imagine, has always looked like a 50 year old woman. She was probably born looking 50, and will die looking 50. There's something to be said for someone whose face demonstrates this kind of consistency.

Settling in for a long evening, a ripple of minty refreshment swept the room when Yuen Wo-ping came to the stage to get his award. "Thank you," he said. "Thank you very much." And then he sat back down. No, no, Yuen Wo-ping. Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen...Coco Lee! Wherever there are cameras, there you'll find Coco Lee,  singing for her supper and here she was tonight, belting out a medley of the theme song from CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, "Reflections" from MULAN and "The Colours of the Wind" from POCAHONTAS. And let me tell you something, there is not enough alcohol in the world to get you through a medley like this with your sanity intact.

Jackie Chan's Stunt Team, hands down. It was like watching the Lollipop Guild from THE WIZARD OF OZ enter the room. Their faces were all recognizable, they've put their lives on the line in countless movies, and none of them were over five foot five. Very strange.

At the beginning of the presentation they ran a montage of action movie clips and it was rousing stuff until I realized that the only representatives of post-97 cinema were CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, a quick clip from HERO, and one from KUNG FU HUSTLE. Oh, and KILL BILL (speaking of which, Chiaki Kuriyama was on hand to say a few words for no real reason, but it was nice that she'd ironed her hair for the occasion). It was while watching this clip that I suddenly realized that we were attending something akin to a funeral. Action choreography is what made Hong Kong movies internationally famous, it's Hong Kong's major contribution to world cinema, and it's a dying art. These men and women had a talent they wanted to showcase and they created a brand new form of cinema in which to do it. And now it's over.

Hong Kongers are a tough crowd, and I can't think of a single moment when applause swept the room like wildfire. Many of the tables were booked by capitalist fat cats who had as much  interest in the stuntmen and choreographers being honored as housecats, however, while distracted, they could generally be counted on to rub their withered paws together at the designated moments, producing a dry, raspy sound which approximated applause. There was a lot of text messaging going on, but the worst offender was the representative from Harbour City, Hong Kong's biggest shopping mall. Throughout the speeches she yakked away on her cell phone, oblivious to the actually talented people being honored and every time she hung up it was only to call someone else. No one else seemed to mind, so maybe I'm just being uncharitable when I say that I hope her cell phone gives her a grapefruit-sized tumor on the side of her head.

When sitting through a long event conducted entirely in Cantonese, the simple-minded amongst us (like me) often suffer from the delusion that suddenly we're just going to start understanding what's being discussed. Prolonged exposure will cause our brains to break on through to the other side and suddenly we'll know Cantonese. Never happens. Apparently learning Cantonese still requires hard work and study. Crap.

Two moments have tied for first place. At the beginning of the ceremony, after the opening montage, the stuntmen were invited onstage and they poured up like a tidal wave of scarred and calloused flesh: Yasuaki Kurata, Ching Siu-tung, Sammo Hung, Yuen Wah, Lau Kar-leung, Yuen Wo-ping, Yuen Cheung-yan, Gordon Liu, Ti Lung, Yuen Qiu...the list went on and on and on. Photogs ran to the front of the stage to get snaps of this historic moment, and the guy who got there first, clicking away with his digital camera? Tsui Hark.

After the ceremony as people were making for the hills, Colin Geddes of the Toronto Film Festival approached Yuen Wo-ping with a copy of a MIRACLE FIGHTERS comic book that he'd picked up at a store on Hollywood Road. One of the first licensed comics from a Hong Kong film, he'd found it in a junk shop and wanted to show it to Yuen, who didn't get it at first, and then got very excited. A guy with YWP suggested he also show it to Yuen Cheung-yan who played the grandma in the film and as Colin walked off, Yuen Wo-ping turned back from the person he was talking to and watched the comic move away into the crowd, following it with his eyes. A 24 year old piece of his past had surfaced and was just as suddenly going away and he couldn't take his eyes off it. It was a little off-handed moment, no one else noticed and for some reason I found it really touching.

April 4, 2006 at 01:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack


Bangkok Film FestivalGossip overheard while hiding in a men's room stall in Hong Kong reveals that there's a strong chance that Craig Prater, the executive director of the troubled Bangkok International Film Festival, won't be returning to the festival next year. I take it back. It's 100% definite. Prater has made no secret of the difficulties faced by the fest (sample quote: "You can't have an international festival that works with only one airline. Hotels need to be reserved years in advance. But that is just not the Thai way.") and apparently he's had enough.

Expect a carefully worded press release some time before the next festival in which every word, every phrase, and every punctuation mark has been carefully selected to give the impression that this is an exciting, positive, fun! fun! fun! move, rather than a frustrated guy calling it quits.

April 4, 2006 at 12:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 03, 2006


Over on Kung Fu Fridays they've gotten to hang out on the set of some new Hong Kong movie involving dark city streets, duffel bags stuffed with handguns, and dramatic lighting.

Whose film could it be? Head on over for more stills.

the set of some new Hong Kong movie

April 3, 2006 at 08:30 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack