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May 31, 2006


One of Bollywood's most anticipated projects has been the super team-up between director Ram Gopal Varma and megastar Shah Rukh Khan in a project called THE TIME MACHINE. Varma has always stayed away from the star system, preferring to mint his own celebrities (Manoj Bhajpai, Urmila Matondkar, Vivek Oberoi, Antara Mali) rather than wait for a brief window of opportunity in the schedule of the notoriosuly overworked superstars like Shah Rukh Khan. But in recent years he's started working with this calibre of celeb, like Amitabh Bachchan in last year's SARKAR.

THE TIME MACHINE was supposed to be RGV's next movie, but he just announced in an interview that it's been shelved. The reason? He couldn't "get" SRK's image. Says Varma:

"With Shah Rukh's project I felt I was going back to school. I hated school. It was like something that had to be done. It was work. See, I never grew up watching Shah Rukh. I was just informed that he's a superstar. On the other hand, Amitabh Bachchan is a superstar to me because I sat in the theaters of Hyderabad as a boy watching all his films. It didn't seem right to do a film just because he's supposed to be a superstar. In my heart I felt no enthusiasm or excitement."

So Varma's next project will now be his much-debated remake of the classic curry western, SHOLAY.

May 31, 2006 at 01:38 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Pop idol, CHUNGKING EXPRESS star, and professional "Hiding from the Media" lady, Faye Wong, gave birth to her second daughter yesterday in Beijing. The father is Li Yapeng, an actor. Her first daughter was fathered by her ex-husband, hard rocker Dou Wei. Xinhua brings the news, including the driest closing sentence of one of their articles I've ever seen:

"Dou came out of police custody yesterday in Beijing after an attack on a Beijing News staff on May 10. The rock star also set fire to his car."

May 31, 2006 at 01:08 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



UMIZARU 2: TEST OF TRUST, the blockbuster sequel to the Japanese "TOP GUN for the Coast Guard" flick UMIZARU, is still rocking the box office in Japan. It's pulled in over US$40 million since its release in early May and it's predicted to be the second-highest grossing Japanese live action movie, after BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 2 (which scooped up US$156.5 million and is produced by the same folks). Star Hideaki Ito has been pressing the flesh and driving up ticket sales by meeting with fans in a whirlwind 4-city, 11 hour tour.

And it's not just in Japan. On Thursday, June 29th UMIZARU 2: TEST OF TRUST will make its International Premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival with stars Hideaki Ito (WHEN THE LAST SWORD IS DRAWN, PRINCESS BLADE) and Ryuta Sato (LORELEI) in attendance along with director Eiichiro Hasumi. We're pleased as punch so come on out and see the hit of the year from Japan before anyone else. Scuba divers, rescue missions, a sinking ship, celebrities...the only downside is that you may have the makers of POSEIDON sitting behind you in the audience and taking notes.

There're trailers for UMIZARU 2 here, and I recommend the 90 second spot as being particularly tasty.

May 31, 2006 at 12:38 PM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


For some reason I can handle an MUMBAI MBBS remake - it may even be good, although I'll never get over the weirdness of saying "Chris Tucker will play the role originally played by Sanjay Dutt" - but a SEVEN SAMURAI remake with Donnie Yen just sounds lame. Wasn't SEVEN SWORDS a SEVEN SAMURAI remake with Donnie Yen?

Apparently Donnie has spoken with the Weinsteins about the remake, and his management company is spreading the rumor that the budget would be at $100 million (although how they came up with that number without a script is a mystery to me). And they claim that Zhang Ziyi will be invited to join the cast and so will George Clooney.

And there's been speculation - by the Hong Kong press, not by anyone else - that George Clooney would play the role of Kambei (Takashi Shimura), leader of the seven samurai

(Thanks to Monkeypeaches for additional info)

Takashi Shimura played Kambei in THE SEVEN SAMURAIa role George Clooney may play in a remake

May 31, 2006 at 12:08 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack


Sanjay Dutt Mira Nair is off the MY SASSY GIRL remake but it looks like she's set to remake the hit Bollywood comedy, MUMBAI MBBS. Starring Chris Tucker in the Sanjay Dutt role. That simple sentence has opened up a wormhole in time and space. Sorry.

Sanjay Dutt is famous for his gangster roles (notably in VASTAAV), his self-deprecating sense of humor and comic timing, and his inability to dance convincingly. In MUMBAI MBBS he played a gangster who impersonated a doctor in order to make his parents happy. Now Nair is remaking the film with Tucker in the lead role and while she's looking to cast some of the original actors she's also looking for a female lead to co-star.

Chris Tucker "Chris Tucker will be playing the main character in the film," said Nair, adding that filming should begin after Tucker finishes making "Rush Hour 3."

(read the full story here. And thanks to Al and Jennifer for sending this in. I could feel their horror through the email.)

May 31, 2006 at 11:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006


ELECTION 1 and 2 have been picked up by Tartan Films USAIt was announced today that ELECTION 1 and 2 have been picked up by Tartan Films USA. They have all US rights.

In an additional bit of detail, the assistant general manager of Milkyway, Shan Ding-yuin, said that ELECTION 2 would be released in the US theatrically before the end of the year with a large marketing campaign.

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

May 30, 2006 at 10:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Director Imamura Shohei died age 79Ryuganji puts it succinctly and simply:

"Director Imamura Shohei (79) died today at 3:49pm of a metastatic liver tumor." 

There are no details at this point. Shohei Imamura was one of Japan's most acclaimed directors in the second half of the 20th Century and some of his classics include DR. AKAGI, VENGEANCE IS MINE, A HISTORY OF POSTWAR JAPAN AS TOLD BY A BAR HOSTESS, and PIGS AND BATTLESHIPS.

I've seen several of his films and while I admire all of them they can be awfully hard to like. However, two of his early movies, STOLEN DESIRE and ENDLESS DESIRE are two of my favorite Japanese movies of all time. Made in the first year he started directing, before he became an extreme experimentalist, both movies hail from 1958. ENDLESS DESIRE is a sprawling, pre-Robert Altman movie about a theater troupe descending on a small town, kicking up complications, and then packing up and taking off. It's funny, sad and really something special.

Director Imamura Shohei died age 79STOLEN DESIRE is a pitch-perfect film noir about a gang of thieves who return to a formerly bombed out neighborhood to retrieve their buried stash of illegal morphine. But a pharmacy has been built on the burial site and they wind up renting the house across the street and tunneling into the pharmacy basement to steal back their money. Very, very dark but very funny.

I may have the two titles reveresed (which is STOLEN? which is ENDLESS?) but if you ever have a chance to see either movie, please check them out. You won't be sorry. And if you are, you know where to find me.

May 30, 2006 at 09:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


super-big-budget, mega-disaster spectacle, JAPAN SINKS!A long review of Ryu Seung-Wan's CITY OF VIOLENCE is up over on KoreanFilm.org. This is the first long review I've seen online - it looks like Variety and the other sites haven't bothered to post theirs yet. It wasn't part of the competition, but it was a major film by an important international director, so it'd be nice to see something else from someone somewhere.

FANAA, the Aamir Khan Bollywood romance featuring the return from retirement of leading lady Kajol, has broken records across India. Mumbai theatres have been selling out like mad, and the film has recorded the third best opening in this decade, as well as the best opening day gross collections ever. There are some reports that posters of Aamir, who's been politcially outspoken recently, have been burned outside theaters in Mumbai and Jabalpur but otherwise all is quiet save for the sound of making money. That's pretty good for a movie that the multiplexes boycotted claiming that the distributor, Yash Raj Films, was asking for too big of a slice of the profits. Less than 24 hours before the release of FANAA an agreement was worked out, but no details were released.

Tetsuya Nakashima follows up his KAMIKAZE GIRLS with MEMORIES OF MATSUKOThe Daily Yomiuri reviews MEMORIES OF MATSUKO, the new movie from the director of KAMIKAZE GIRLS. It sounds delicious and crunchy, like bacon, and the best description I can walk away with is: CITIZEN KANE via shojo manga.

Ryuangi links to Jason Gray's blog which contains exclusive coverage of the press premiere for the super-big-budget, mega-disaster spectacle, JAPAN SINKS!

And, finally, Wong Kar-wai is going into preproduction for MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS with a confirmed cast of Norah Jones, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman.

May 30, 2006 at 09:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


The Uninvited

THE UNINVITED, one of my favorite horror movies from Asia, arrives today, courtesy of Panik House Entertainment, the folks responsible for the Pinky Violence Collection.

This seriously painful movie arrives on a special features loaded Region 1, English subtitled DVD that includes:
- Behind the scenes featurette
- an interview with star Jeon Ji-Hyun (of MY SASSY GIRL)
- a weird feature called ABRIDGED: THE UNINVITED CONDENSED
- an essay by Art Black
- audio commentaries

I did an article on Korean horror for Film Comment a while back and here's what the young me had to say about THE UNIVITED:

"The problem with SORUM is that, like A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, nothing happens. The characters start out dead and just get deader. We may learn some tragic backstory, but there’s a suffocating predetermination to the plots. By contrast, Lee Su-Yeon’s THE UNINVITED (2003) features traditional character development but it only serves to make things worse. Written and directed by yet another first-time director, the script caused an industry buzz but audiences felt let down by the movie’s refusal to hew to horror movie conventions.

When yuppie architect, Kang, gets off the subway at the last stop one night he notices two little girls asleep on the seats, but he doesn’t want to be bothered and takes off. The girls turn up dead the next day and before long his wedding plans are interrupted by their silent ghosts sitting at his ultra-chic dining room table and just staring at him. His neighbour (played by Jeon Ji-Hyun, thoroughly soiling her pert, brassy image from MY SASSY GIRL)  is a puffy-eyed narcoleptic who lost her baby in a grotesque accident, but when she sees the ghosts and reveals that she's the daughter of a mudang (Korean shaman) he begs her to help him remember his blanked-out childhood. This turns out to be a major mistake as it turns out that he killed some people as a kid and, of course, he’s adopted.

Shot in a sterile apartment complex, full of homicidal mothers and suicidal shut-ins, THE UNINVITED gives us characters completely alienated from authentic experience. The Confucian order of the universe is totally overturned as the film builds to a harrowing final betrayal, and it becomes a statement of complete and utter emotional isolation. Although it’s immature in its one-sided depiction of a world paralyzed by grief, THE UNINVITED’s articulation of that world is passionately accomplished: its sound design, script, cinematography and acting are all of a masterfully fabricated piece. With nothing allowed to stray from its laser-guided mission to make us believe that we are utterly alone, it feels like the conclusion of a journey Korean horror’s been on for the past six years."

May 30, 2006 at 08:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Tartan is still churning out the DVDs and while I wish they were doing some more non-genre flicks, they've still got the most reliable schedule in town:

ONE TAKE ONLY - August 22. Oxide Pang's directorial debut.

THE MAID - September 12. The Singaporean horror movie that will probably bear the inevitable tag line: She doesn't do windows.

LADY VENGEANCE - September 26. Bound to be a special edition disc.

May 30, 2006 at 08:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The big news is that Wang Chao's LUXURY CAR won the top Un Certain Regard prize. Past winners include THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, MOOLADE and BLISSFULLY YOURS so a US release looks good.

A round-up of translated info on ELECTION 2 and SILK's press and public screenings breaks down as follows.

Apparently ELECTION 2 gave its press screening to an almost sold-out house and was applauded enthusiastically at the end. A Chinese reporter asked a French reporter what he thought of the movie and was told that he loved it. And at the public screening there was reportedly screaming from some audience members when Louis Koo feeds the dogs.

Not so great over at the SILK press screening which featured considerable inappropriate laughter and walk-outs throughout.

The Pang Brothers' eye candy movie, RE-CYCLE, got panned in Variety (although they admit that it looks great) and Cannes even let the cast and crew walk up the red carpet although according to the rules they should have been restricted to the less prestigous blue carpet.

And hints are squirming out about Venice's possible line-up. Marco Muller, the festival's director, was seen at the Cannes reception for THE BANQUET so it looks like that one may be a gimme. And it sounds like Kore-eda's HANA is likely, as well.

Finally, Wong Kar-wai gave a shout-out to the sexiness of the jury this year, noting at the press conference that this was "the most hot-looking jury I've ever seen." Variety says he's talking about Zhang Ziyi and Monica Belluci but we all know he's talking about himself. And can we just mention how fabulously kitschy it was that the Cannes stage was decorated like the Oriental Hotel lobby from Wong Kar-wai's 2046 for the awards ceremony?

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who did the translations on these)

the Cannes stage was decorated like the Oriental Hotel lobby from Wong Kar-wai's 2046 for the awards ceremony

May 30, 2006 at 07:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 26, 2006


A typical scene at CannesSo how did it go at Cannes for the Asian films on display?

The winners were THE HOST and BABEL, with Koji Yakusho and Rinko Kikuchi as two of the characters in this multi-stranded movie about Very Bad Things happening to people. Wang Chao's LUXURY CAR didn't make a lot of waves but it got a great review in Variety. Kim Ki-Duk's TIME also got a good review, but didn't make a big splash. It will be opening the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic next month, however.

Lou Ye's SUMMER PALACE seemed to be a disappointment. Reviews were mixed - some good, some bad - but after all the build-up around the whole "will it or won't it screen?" question it seemed to be a bit of an anticlimax.

There were several losers. CITY OF VIOLENCE (which just opened in Korea and got picked up by The Weinstein Company) didn't get much publicity at all from its screening and actually turned some people off who were excited to see it. Apparently few folks were at the screening and due to a scheduling mix-up many of them were expecting a different film. SILK garnered a very negative review from Variety, although it got a much more positive one from the Hollywood Reporter. And Jo Odagiri film YURERU (SWAY) has just picked up its first negative Variety review.

Overall, there was a much stronger Asian presence at Cannes, and some commentators were impressed that the tables seemed to have turned with Asian producers and distributors no longer being treated like second-class citizens. One article contains some fun quotes backing this up, like this one:

"We cannot sell anything to Korea these days. They don't need us," bemoaned one Blighty seller.

And there were also issues with certain Asian territories just not wanting to pick up some Euro and American product. Even the latest Woody Allen movie couldn't be sold to Japan. And that, to me, is a good thing.

(Big thanks to the many sharp-eyed readers who kept me posted on what happened at Cannes. It's all over now, so have a rest)

May 26, 2006 at 01:23 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack


Tetsuya Nakashima follows up his KAMIKAZE GIRLS with MEMORIES OF MATSUKOTetsuya Nakashima follows up his KAMIKAZE GIRLS with MEMORIES OF MATSUKO, out this weekend in Japan. The movie is a musical tragedy about a woman who falls into a life of crime, full of eye-popping visuals and lots of singing. Over at HogaCentral they sum up the movie as follows:

"And still, she sings how wonderful the life is and dances in colorful flower print dress.  Plastically shiny and colorful cinematography with girl's manga animation is prominent for this film..."

Nakashima has this (plus more) to say about his film:

"It is messy and unrealistic.  But I still think it is important to picture humans with reality. Sometimes very serious emotions of one person look funny for another.  It is not right to make pure tragedy or pure comedy, just because it is easy for audience to understand."

You can find the trailer here.

May 26, 2006 at 12:41 PM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


HATSUKOI, the story of Japan's biggest bank robbery, is a big budget period movie getting ready to hit Japanese screens, and it stars Aoi Miyazaki of NANA as the high school girl behind the crime.

You can see a good-looking trailer here and despite the sentimentality and swooping J-pop angst this looks really good. Great riot scenes and good character design, plus one of the funniest blows to the head I've seen in a long time = anticipation.

Does anyone know if this is the same crime that was covered in the last year's LADY JOKER?

May 26, 2006 at 12:21 PM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Representing the first of what looks to be a wave of Hollywood-produced live action adaptations of manga and anime, DEATH NOTE is getting ready to hit Japanese screens.

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko and produced by Warner Brothers, DEATH NOTE represents, as far as I know, the first time Hollywood has brought a live action anime or manga property to the big screen.

You can check out the trailer here, and I have to admit that it looks far, far better than I expected.

May 26, 2006 at 12:01 PM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Derek Elley writing for Variety pans SILK, the Taiwanese horror movie from director Su Chao-pin. He claims that it "...doesn't have one decent scare in two hours..." and that it "...gradually runs out of steam after the first 40 minutes." I've actually been looking forward to this one since I've liked Su Chao-pin's past work (he wrote DOUBLE VISION) and I have to offer reservations I have about Elley's review or at least about his points of reference.

Elley writes:

"Pic suffers from all of the same problems that afflicted earlier Taiwanese psycho-thriller, "Double Vision" (2002), which Su scripted: fuzzy writing, lack of on-screen chemistry between usually reliable thesps, and no real imagination beyond the f/x."

Then he says:

"Though made on a fraction of the "Silk" budget, there's more creepiness and invention per foot of film in last year's Taiwanese spookfest "The Heirloom."

So now I feel better. While it had its problems, I enjoyed DOUBLE VISION quite a bit. I thought Tony Leung Kar-fai was good in it, and I thought David Morse was exceptionally good. The movie was really well-written and the scene that shocked me was the temple massacre, which didn't involve much in the way of special effects. Also, besides some nice camerawork and a creepy-looking repeating shot of a mass suicide, I found THE HEIRLOOM worthless. It's another "young kids solve old mystery to keep ghost from hurting them." There's nothing really wrong with it if you like repetition, but I was so bored while watching it that my eyebrows started to hurt.

May 26, 2006 at 11:41 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Magnolia Pictures has picked up the US rights to Bong Joon-Ho's THE HOST, which has turned out to be the must-see film at Cannes this year. They've announced that they plan on releasing it in late 2006, which is great news. Let's hope they stay committed to a 2006 release. If they do release it in late 2006 it should coincide pretty closely with the movie's Korean release, which is scheduled for later this year as well.

Also, you can see some monster footage from the movie over here on Twitch and it's pretty impressive stuff. It's edited together from a special about the movie so when you see a jumpy cut it's not the movies fault.

May 26, 2006 at 11:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2006


THE DEPARTED, Martin Scorsese's remake of INFERNAL AFFAIRS, finally has a release date: October 6, 2006. It could change, but that's what it is for now, so thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who sent it in.

THE DEPARTED also gets a gift of some choice words from Christopher Doyle, Hong Kong's acclaimed cinematographer and the visual consultant on INFERNAL AFFAIRS. Saul Symonds, a writer in Hong Kong, interviewed Doyle and these are the outtakes, which are fascinating. Here's what Doyle had to say about THE DEPARTED:

"I find it disappointing if not depressing to see someone of the integrity and scholarship of Marty:

1) apparently not knowing or caring where the original originates from (which I find insulting to our integrity and efforts...when of all the filmmakers in the world Marty is the one who pretends to celebrate excellence and integrity and vision in cinematography)

2) needing to suck box office, or studio, or whoever's dick he feels he needs to suck...it can't be for the money...it can't be for the film (for the reasons above)...it must be just to work...which is mostly my motivation most of the time...but to have something fall into one's lap because one is supposedly competent in a certain kind of filmmaking is exactly why we are moving on and accountants are making non-subtitled versions of what we do.

3) it makes me very sad to see Marty and so many others genre-fying and gentrifying himself into mediocrity. Granted, mediocre is not just a Western ailment...but it would seem the disease is malign and endemic."

Quotes like this are why I love Chris Doyle. No BS, no worrying about burning bridges, just speaking his mind and not caring what the result is.

May 24, 2006 at 10:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack


The Weinstein Company The Weinstein Company's big announcement at Cannes was that they are launching their video line, Dragon Dynasty. The line will release THE PROTECTOR (aka TOM YUM GOONG), SHA PO LANG, SEVEN SWORDS and DRAGON SQUAD in North America. Some of the titles may receive theatrical releases as well.

Quentin Tarantino will "...actively work with the Weinsteins in all aspects of brand development for Dragon Dynasty."

We've been here before with Miramax's boutique label for QT a while back, Rolling Thunder. They released CHUNKING EXPRESS, SONATINE, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS and MIGHTY PEKING MAN among a few others. The theatrical releases were barely promoted and the DVDs were watchable but not great and the line sputtered out in short order. So Dragon Dynasty may die a quick death by neglect or turn into a straight-to-Blockbuster, bare bones company in short order. With the Weinsteins it's rarely forever.

No release dates were announced, no real details. But the one good thing in the press release is the announcement that former Hong Kong Legends guy, Brian White, is the Director of Asian Brand Management and Post Production. They say that some of the titles will be double-disc special editions including FIST OF LEGEND and TAI CHI MASTER.

The Weinstein Company, "...is developing a number of Special Edition packages for its new
brand, including 2-Disc Platinum Editions of Jet Li's world-acclaimed "Fist of Legend" and "Tai Chi Master." Each Dragon Dynasty DVD will possess a unique and carefully crafted identity, and will
include many groundbreaking, informative and exclusive special bonus features such as
rare behind-the- scenes footage, deleted scenes, out-takes, and specially commissioned documentaries and interviews featuring cast members, filmmakers and celebrity enthusiasts of Asian film."

The line will also include 43 titles licensed from Fortune Star, the 50 Shaw Brothers titles they brought from Disney, and some indie acquisitions including THE KILLER, HARDBOILED, A BULLET IN THE HEAD and A BETTER TOMORROW 1 AND 2.

They name some of their Shaw Brothers titles as well:

"36th Chamber of Shaolin," "Eight Diagram Pole Fighter," and "Heroes of the East," all starring Gordon Liu ("Kill Bill"), "King Boxer," the first Hong Kong movie ever to be a worldwide theatrical hit, "Martial Arts of Shaolin," a classic title from Jet Li, "Come Drink With Me," starring Cheng Pei-pei ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon")."

But for me comment that sounded like the first hollow, thud of dirt landing on a coffin lid was this one:

"The company has ambitious plans to continue building the library, and will be acquiring titles across all genres of Asian film such as contemporary action, martial arts, epic swordplay and hi-octane thriller."

The Asian action boom was huge when the Weinsteins first started picking up their titles and doing Rolling Thunder, about 10 years ago, but it's largely irrelevant now. Asian comedy and romance, manga and anime, are going to sell far larger numbers than dusty old action movies from the 80's and if the Weinsteins are going to try to sell to the Criterion crowd with special edition releases and restorations then they've got an uphill battle to convince home video consumers and collectors that their brand means quality. They've spent years selling their brand as the one that means re-edits, dubs, and cut versions. Changing that perception is going to take more than a year and a couple of titles.

(Thanks to Niraj for sending this in)

May 24, 2006 at 07:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

May 23, 2006


UdonRemember that udon booth that Fuji TV was putting together at Cannes as a stunt for their upcoming film, UDON?

Well, apparently it really exists...and it's sold out of udon noodles. Too bad for you.

May 23, 2006 at 11:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Election 2 french posterA sharp-eyed reader reports that ELECTION 2, after 25 days, has grossed HK$13.5 million which ain't bad for a Category III movie. Also, despite reports that ELECTION 2 is the third highest grossing Cat III movie ever, that's just not true. It's the third highest in a long time, but not ever.

Another reader has put together a Chinese-language list of the top grossing Cat III movies ever released in Hong Kong and here's the top three of all time:

BASIC INSTINCT(1992) - HK$27.79 million.
SHOWGIRLS(1995) - HK$18.91 million
SEX AND ZEN (1991) - HK$18.42 million

Any city where SHOWGIRLS and SEX AND ZEN get this much love is a city that's alright by me.

May 23, 2006 at 10:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


With the film quota system apparently cut by half, despite last ditch efforts to preserve it, Korea's film industry is facing its greatest challenges yet but it's rising to face them in fine style. So far this year, nine out of the ten top grossing movies are domestic releases, with only MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA slipping into tenth place. One Korean movie after another is grossing above the previous high-water mark of 5 million tickets with WELCOME TO DONGMAKOL and KING AND CLOWN being the two major hits from last year. Productions are being greenlit like crazy, with Korean companies borrowing cameras from Japan, and the schedule through the end of the year looks to be packed.

Choi Min-Shik and Bong Joon-Ho are conducting a silent vigil to protest the cutting of the screen quota system outside the Palais Lumiere in Cannes, but the far more effective protest seems to be occuring in Korea where audiences are rejecting foreign movies en masse and spending their money on domestic product, just like in America.

May 23, 2006 at 08:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack


CJ Entertainment's CITY OF VIOLENCE is going up on the auction block, but advance word from the press screening hasn't been overwhelmingly positive. Nevertheless, the action flick from Ryu Seung-Wan has been sold to Germany, Spain, France and the UK.

May 23, 2006 at 08:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The first major review for Bong Joon-Ho's monster movie, THE HOST, is up on Variety from Derek Elley and it starts with, "On almost every level, there's never quite been a monster movie like "The Host." and gets dreamier and more full of lust from there. Elley seems to not quite believe what he's seen, muttering "...could stand tightening...could be tightened" over and over again like those people they pull out of mine disasters who mutter, "So dark...so...dark," until they're sedated. He reaches what is known as a critic's money shot when he favorably compares the film to a late-70's/early 80's horror movie (Larry Cohen's Q in this case) and it's basically impossible to read the review and not see the love oozing from your monitor.

Happy reading.

Also, Manohla Dargis from the New York Times weighs in briefly ("...the best film I've seen to date at this year's festival.")

And Mike D'Angelo (late of TIME OUT NEW YORK, now over at NERVE) wears his "I love THE HOST" t-shirt, too ("The Host makes comparatively grown-up summer flicks like War of the Worlds and Batman Begins look downright sunny by comparison.")

(There's a thread that discusses the rough cut of THE HOST shown to the Cannes selection committee which may explain why it wasn't selected over at KoreanFilm.org)

May 23, 2006 at 07:58 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006


BRUCE LEE & I region 3 DVD coverIn 1973, when Bruce Lee died on the bed of his alleged mistress, Betty Ting Pei, he had only completed four movies and shot a fair amount of a fifth, GAME OF DEATH. But after his death he would be responsible for a gob-smacking number of films - there were at least seven Bruce Lee clones churning out dozens of documentaries, unofficial sequels, and knock-off films for a full decade after he was in the ground. A veritable tidal wave of Brucesploitation would swamp the world like a flood of filth but by far the strangest and sleaziest was Betty Ting Pei's contribution to the genre: BRUCE LEE & I.

Made by Shaw Brothers, who had no love for Bruce since he had been working for their increasingly successful rival, Golden Harvest, and starring Danny Lee as Bruce Lee and Betty Ting Pei as Betty Ting Pei, BRUCE LEE & I supposedly tells the true story of how Bruce really died. It was a project initiated by Betty Ting Pei and it is a stunning combination of sleaze and sanctimony.

Shot in eye-searing Shaw style where no sofa is complete unless its radium green upholstery clashes with its interplanetary purple throw pillows and the arterial blood red shag carpeting on the wall behind it, BRUCE LEE & I is a mod graveyard for everyone's innocence. Reject your received notions about Bruce and Betty because the real story is stranger than you think.

The flick kicks off when Bruce shows up at Betty's apartment that fateful night and they make love, sweet love. Bruce Lee is a martial artist so powerful that he can turn invisible and pleasure Betty telepathically, causing her nude body double to writhe and moan like an alley cat in heat, even when he's not in the room. Then, like magic, he materializes on top of her, a towel carefully arranged so that no one catches a peak of eye-blasting man ass, and he tokes up, pops pills, and turns invisible again, sending Brillo-haired Betty into paroxysms of pleasure. She goes to take a shower but, the second her back is turned, Bruce dies. Now Betty is an outcast. The world hates her. Women in the supermarket lurk by the evaporated milk and call her a witch. Mechanics stops rubbing greasy rags over their faces and run out into the streets to jeer her.

Finally she takes refuge in alcohol, guzzling brandy at a gay bar called The Back Door. With its padded walls, and carpet-sample decor, The Back Door is a place for Betty to destroy her brain cells with alcohol the way she destroyed Bruce Lee with lust, until the leather-vested bartender confronts her with reality like a glass of week-old VSOP cognac in the face: even gay bars have to close sometime. Go home, Betty. Go home.

But on her way out the front door of The Back Door a gang of Bruce Lee look-a-likes wearing tight jeans accost her. Not only do they have pictures of nunchakus on the backs of their t-shirts, but they have real nunchakus in their hands and they want to kill Betty for killing Bruce! But the bartender is a man of iron will and determination and he clears the bar, locking he and Betty inside. And then he makes a crucial mistake. Pouring a glass of the strong stuff he asks Betty, What...what really happened?

BRUCE LEE & IBetty was just a simple girl going to high school and dreaming of the movies. But because she was really a 30 year old woman pretending to be a 16 year old student the other kids rejected her and she had to fight them! But fighting gets her expelled. Loitering in the only place she knows, the local movie theater, she's approached by a sleazy guy who says he's a producer and he takes her upstairs to his office where he gets her drunk and takes nude photos of her. Betty's problem, as she later explains, is that she's so hot no one can see her as an actress...they can only see her as a porno actress!

In a surprising twist, it turns out that this sleazeball really is a producer and he tries to use Betty on a porn shoot taking place upstairs from the movie theater. Betty is horrified but he shows her the nude photos he took of her and explains that he'll blackmail her unless she does it. Appalled, Betty runs home and tries to kill herself, but before she can do it a talking candle appears and tells her that she is intended for great things and that she will one day meet a man, a man who sleeps on a trampoline, a man named Bruce Lee.

Time passes, outfits change, and we're introduced to a song that will repeat throughout the movie with a catchy chorus that goes, "My hairstyle is unchanged for you..." And, indeed, the one thing Betty will not change for the rest of the movie is her hairstyle which is unfortunate because her head looks like someone glued Brillo pads to it.

In short order, Danny Lee shows up playing Bruce Lee at the height of his fame. As the talking candle promised, he does sleep on a trampoline, but despite his best efforts, Betty will not sleep on it with him. Bruce is also suffering from intense headaches that make him clutch his wig while the camera spins around sympathetically. As anyone can see, the headaches are caused by his pants which are too tight. Rarely has a movie been made with more male cameltoe than BRUCE LEE & I - Danny Lee's bifurcated scrotum gets so much screentime that it deserves above-the-title billing. But here's the real tragedy of Bruce Lee...he couldn't take off his pants. No matter what happens in this movie, Bruce Lee's tight trousers stay on. Crowbars, blowtorches, dynamite, nothing can pry the denim from his thighs. Even when Betty finally gives in and decides to put the "tramp" in "trampoline" with Bruce, they have pillow fights, they cuddle, they bounce, they roll around and giggle, her pants come off but...his pants stay on. Didn't anyone notice that his pants were killing him? Didn't someone stop and say, "Hey, this guy can't get any blood to his torso because his pants are too tight." The tightness of his trousers will eventually kill Bruce Lee but no one cared, and that's the tragedy.

There is a happy ending to this movie. It turns out that Bruce didn't die during drug-crazed lovemaking but while getting ready to make Betty the happiest woman in the world by getting her a part in GAME OF DEATH. He died on her bed because he was standing near it while she was in the shower washing her unchanging hairstyle. And here we all thought she was a mercenary gold-digger just out to shake Bruce Lee's corpse until some more money fell out, when all along she was just a misunderstood gal whose only crime was that she loved too much.

Back in the present, in The Back Door, the bartender looks like he wishes he'd never asked Betty what really happened since she shows no signs of shutting up. He gives a short, philosophical speech about how Betty has suffered more than anyone and that people should just leave her alone, and then he throws her out on the street and locks the door behind her. The last time we see Betty she is wandering on a highway that spirals up, and up, and up...to heaven. And there she, and Bruce, and the talking candle will finally be reunited and Bruce Lee

Can finally take off.

His pants.

(A Region 3 DVD of BRUCE LEE & I is available, as is an all-region, English-subtitled VCD)

May 22, 2006 at 12:23 PM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (8)


Not much to say about this one. Zhang Ziyi. Yuen Wo-ping. Tan Dun. Etc. Etc. One of the biggest movies from China in 2006. A Quicktime and Windows Media trailer, in English, up on HelloZiyi. Go watch.

(Thanks to Twitch for the pointer)

May 22, 2006 at 10:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


According to ScreenDaily, China's large press contingent at Cannes is in receipt of an official communication from Beijing that reminds them not to cover "sensitive subjects" which includes Lou Ye's SUMMER PALACE. Apparently a number of them have returned to China, but whether that was their plan all along (since the only Chinese film in competition, SUMMER PALACE, has already screened) or was a result of this communication is unclear.

May 22, 2006 at 10:24 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The Host poster

Bong Joon-Ho's THE HOST just had its first screening in Cannes and I got a phone call from one of the attendees who said that it was so good that in the middle of the screening several audience members who were on crutches suddenly stood up, approached the screen, touched it and were cured. They just threw away their crutches! Also, the production company has released a press release about how great the screening was and while that's not the most unbiased source of information possible, the quotes all do sound good.

So the word now? Cannes made a big mistake to pass this over and let it go to Director's Fortnight. What with the generally lukewarm SUMMER PALACE and the badly reviewed SOUTHLAND TALES (from DONNIE DARKO director, Richard Kelly) being called an "...enormous flat pancake..." it sounds like the official competition at Cannes this year is pretty weak.

May 22, 2006 at 10:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Variety reports that the Weinstein Company has picked up six movies from Mei Ah and it's a head-scratching list:

PTU - Johnnie To's police solidarity movie. Palm owns the US license for this 2003 movie, unless it expired in three years (which is a pretty short license), or Mei Ah has double dipped.

DRAGON SQUAD - no surprise here. This lackluster flick with two or three decent action scenes had heavy involvement from Bey Logan who is acquiring Asian films for the Weinsteins.

FULL ALERT - hopefully this will get a respectful release. One of Ringo Lam's best.

DRAGON FROM RUSSIA - not a very good movie, but certainly weird and watchable. And more Maggie Cheung is always nice.

VICTIM - no word if this is the Ringo Lam horror movie (that's interesting but not great) or the very early Sammo Hung neglected masterpiece.


Looks like TWC is filling up its library to introduce a straight-to-video Asian action line.

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

May 22, 2006 at 09:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006


EVERYONE OTHER THAN JAPAN SINKS In the 1970's the preeminent Japanese disaster flick was THE SINKING OF JAPAN. Based on a blockbuster 1973 novel by Sakyo Komatsu, it followed the horrible events that occur when it is revealed that the Japanese islands are sinking into the ocean. 2006 sees a huge, special-effects-loaded remake hit screens on July 15, directed by Shinji Higuchi. This flick has received major coverage and there's even a good-looking trailer out there to take a look at.

But that is not the best movie ever.

The best movie ever is the parody version, EVERYONE OTHER THAN JAPAN SINKS. Based on a short novel written by Japan's extremely famous sci fi parodist, Yasutaka Tsutsui, which was conceived during a drunken evening out back in 1973, it is now being made into a feature film by Minoru Kawasaki (director of CALAMARI WRESTLER and BEETLE, THE HORN KING - which is playing at this year's New York Asian Film Festival). The plot is about what happens when every country in the world except Japan sinks into the sea.

On May 15, the crew of EVERYONE OTHER THAN JAPAN SINKS held a press conference. According to HogaCentral, TBS (the television station investing in THE SINKING OF JAPAN remake) attended and asked, "What will you do if your version is a bigger hit than ours?"

Director Kawasaki apologized "I am very sorry!" but the novelist Tsutsui screams out "you have to make the original a hit, otherwise we will sink too!".

Set to film between May 7 and 17, EVERYONE OTHER THAN JAPAN SINKS will be released in the fall. HogaCentral admits to having no idea what the above photo means, but it is definitely a photo from the press conference of the novelist with a very dodgy Bruce Willis impersonator and a slightly more successful Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator.

May 19, 2006 at 11:49 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Crit Cine, the SE Asian online film magazine, has a really great interview with Thai film critic, Kong Rithdee, in which he discusses the Bangkok International Film Festival and the state of the Thai industry.

And then three years of programming a huge whomping mass of Japanese movies at the New York Asian Film Festival pays off as Variety gives special coverage to Japan. According to Mark Schilling, it's at its highest level in 30 years with 356 movies produced in 2005 and domestic releases accounting for a whopping 41% of the local boc office.

There's also coverage of the careers of Koki Mitani and Jo Odagiri (SHINOBI) and another piece with coverage of a bunch of folks, including Kenji Uchida (whose STRANGER OF MINE is in this year's New York Asian Film Festival).

May 19, 2006 at 11:14 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Monkeypeaches has set photos from Zhang Yimou's movie formerly known as CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR. In the photos, Jay Chou is leading a coup against his father (Chow Yun-fat, right?). And they have to do it in knee-deep water, apparently.


May 19, 2006 at 10:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Thanks to WiseKwai and a sharp-eyed reader for sending in links to the following photos of billboards at Cannes. One is for ONG BAK 2 and one is for Wong Kar-wai's Norah Jones project, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (from Hollywood-Elsewhere).

Wong Kar-wai's Norah Jones project, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS


May 19, 2006 at 10:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 18, 2006


Afdlin Shauki makes some fun, laid-back comediesMalaysia confuses me. On the one hand you've got ass-hat decisions like the one to ban Amir Muhammad's THE LAST COMMUNIST and the ticket stuffing campaign to keep viewers from going to see Yasmin Ahmad's GUBRA. Several acclaimed movies like THE BEAUTIFUL WASHING MACHINE will not be shown in Malaysia and on a recent news show the following topic was discussed: SEPET AND GUBRA - CORRUPTERS OF MALAY CULTURE (although as Yasmin was quick to point out, this show actually caused a spike in flagging ticket sales for GUBRA).

On the other hand Malaysia can make some good movies when it wants to. GANGSTER, a nihilistic, crime-ridden slab of ooze from 2005 will be screening at this year's New York Asian Film Festival and it rocked the box office in Malaysia last year. And Afdlin Shauki makes some fun, laid-back comedies. And now there's a new movie coming out called S'KALI about four multi-ethnic friends. You can find the website here and a downloadable teaser trailer here. It's bound to be controversial, and hopefully that will be good for their box office.

May 18, 2006 at 12:59 PM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack


Yoji Yamada's THE HIDDEN BLADE was supposed to go straight-to-video, but a last-minute change of heart over at Tartan USA has resulted in the movie being released theatrically. It'll open on June 23rd (after a special advance screening at the ginormous Town Hall, of all places - ritzy!) and will run at Cinema Village in NYC.

May 18, 2006 at 12:00 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Dave Kehr writes that a source close to ELECTION 2, now screening out of competition at Cannes, says that Mainland Chinese authorities seized and burned promotional brochures that had been prepared for Cannes. Apparently the source of the trouble was To's director's statement which compared triads to the Chinese government. You can download a pdf of the brochure here, and the text in questions is here.

(Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader and another unnamed source who confirmed this for me. It's true! It's true!)

Election 2

May 18, 2006 at 11:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack


Lou Ye's SUMMER PALACE has split in two, and now exists in two different realitiesLou Ye's SUMMER PALACE continues to exist in a state of uncertainty and disagreement between the Chinese and French co-producers ("They should really stop talking to journalists. Lou Ye is here in Cannes, happy, and the film is being screened for the press." says Sylvain Bursztejn in Variety). But the press screening has gone ahead, leading to a series of reviews.

Variety has panned it.

Time Out New York panned it too.

The Hollywood Reporter has praised it.

Pete Timmerman loves it, too, although he said the theater was about a quarter full for the screening he caught. Which is a little empty for a new movie from a director who has had two films (SUZHOU RIVER and PURPLE BUTTERFLY) released in the West.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who emailed me these links)

May 18, 2006 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


the crew of Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE did extensive environmental damage to some Chinese historical sites

Following an outcry against "extensive environmental damage" done by the crew of Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE to some Chinese historical sites, the Chinese government has passed new legislation that will compel film crews to avoid or repair:

- Damage to slopes, embankments, pathways and lawns caused by the movement of camera dollies and other filming equipment
- 'modifications' performed to a location; including the construction or alteration of buildings and landscapes to fit in with the look of different areas and time periods
- Littering or the releasing of chemicals and other man made substances.
- All forms of accidental damage caused to locations by film crews

Film productions that don't get the proper permits or don't restore sites to their original condition will be hit with heavy fines. While some people say this is just another chance to pick the pockets of film productions, others say that after the extensive damage done by THE PROMISE there is no other choice and that this legislation has been a long time coming. THE PROMISE (actually, Warner Independent) is accused of damaging the Bigu Temple site by constructing artificial roads, building sets and abandoning them, and killing around 60 trees by painting them in Autumn colors.

Warners/THE PROMISE say that they left plenty of money behind for the local government to clean up the damage and that if that money has vanished without the repairs being done then it's not their fault. But adding insult to injury, has been the fact that Chen Hong and the other producers of THE PROMISE have refused to apologize for the damage. As this editorial in Southern Metropolis Daily wonders, "Chen Hong, Can You Say Sorry?"

(Thanks to EastSouthWestNorth for the translation)

May 18, 2006 at 10:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack



After a long hunt for a title, Vishal Bharadwaj's adaptation of OTHELLO has settled on OMKARA and its site has opened. Featuring an all-star cast, and with a release date of July 28, this is the second major adaptation of Shakespeare to come from Asia this year, the other being THE BANQUET from China. As far as I can tell the cast breaks down as:

Ajay Devgan - Othello
Saif Ali Khan - Iago
Kareena Kapoor - Desdemonda

May 18, 2006 at 09:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Korean director, Lee Myung-Se (DUELIST, NOWHERE TO HIDE), is directing a horror movie called M, produced by Core Studios and budgeted at about US$5 million. The plot synopsis describes it as "a supernatural love story between a 30-something writer and a mysterious young girl."

Director Lee has been working on this project for as long as I've known him and lots of it is based on his dreams, including the cryptic title M which is also the name of his production company. I read a script for it years ago and while I'm sure that the movie has changed shape many times since then I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I say that, among other things, M stands for Miriam.

May 18, 2006 at 09:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2006


TYPHOON, the big budget Korean action flick from the director of FRIENDTYPHOON, the big budget Korean action flick from the director of FRIEND, is getting released in the US on June 2 in a special "director's cut". The movie was a major disappointment in Korea, with bad word of mouth and not a lot of box office, and its American chances aren't helped by the fact that it's been rated R. But maybe this director's cut will make it a better movie?

A US trailer is up on its official site and it certainly looks slick. Follow the link, click on English (or Korean) and go to "Multimedia" for the trailer.

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

May 17, 2006 at 12:52 PM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Akira Kurosawa Film School will not openA recent bit of good news has now curdled into bad. An Akira Kurosawa Film School which would be owned and operated by former staff and colleagues of the great director was set to open in September with Nogami Teruyo as the principal and Nakadai Tatsuya as the chairman.

According to the invaluable KineJapan list, the plan is off. Two former employees (not sure who they are) caused major problems with another company and that forced Nogami to resign earlier this month. Then Nakadai resigned and now the school will definitely not open.

May 17, 2006 at 11:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Lou Ye's SUMMER PALACE has split in two, and now exists in two different realitiesLou Ye's SUMMER PALACE has split in two, and now exists in two different realities - let's call them "Cannes Reality" and "China Reality". Which reality you live in depends on which language you speak and where you get your news.

According to Variety and ScreenDaily, the print of SUMMER PALACE is in Cannes and the premiere will go ahead no matter what the Chinese certification board says. In this reality the certification board says that it rejected the print because of a technical flaw in the soundtrack and will reconsider it when a new print is submitted. Producer Sylvain Bursztejn says that he's not sure if the reason for the rejection is technical or whether that's just a sop to cover other reasons. With Lou Ye in Cannes it looks like the premiere will happen with him present.

Danwei is reporting that the Chinese press is carrying a very different story. Producer Li Fang says that he had no idea SUMMER PALACE had been submitted to Cannes and that the international producers did it without his knowledge. Producer Nai'an says that the film was rejected by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television because they didn't like his experimentation with blurred and out-of-focus shots and "fuzzy lenses". She says, "Lou Ye needs to consider calmly what it is he is pursuing."

In order to preserve the film's Chinese marketability, the film has been withdrawn from Cannes and Lou Ye is already heading home. According to Ms. Nai'an:

"Lou Ye tried out some new artistic methods in this film, but the censor committee judged it as not being up to technical standards. This struck a blow to the director, and he cannot accept this result at present."

One movie, two realities. With the premiere set for tomorrow, we'll see which one is true.

May 17, 2006 at 10:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng's TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER has been gathering dust in a Miramax vault somewhere since 2000

In America, Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng is extremely well-known but almost unseen. His excellent TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER has been gathering dust in a Miramax vault somewhere since 2000 and CITIZEN DOG hasn't been able to find a US distributor or get much play at American festivals since it was released in 2004.

For his third film there have been a number of projects announced including the Europa-produced NAM PRIX, a period foodie film, and ARMFUL, a take on the ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN story produced by Singapore's One Ton Cinema. They're trying to round up investors at Cannes, and no one knows its exact status right this minute. Now it's announced that he'll be directing THE UNSEEABLE, a low budget Thai ghost movie, for Five Star Entertainment.

(Thanks to Twitch and Wisekwai)

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


Silk, the directorial debut of Su Chao-pin, is playing out of competition at Cannes this year

SILK, the directorial debut of Su Chao-pin, the writer of DOUBLE VISION, is playing out of competition at Cannes this year and it finally has a teaser trailer available online. The movie is about scientists who trap a ghost, and it involves lots and lots of little floating cubes.

Read an article about it in CriEnglish, where Su says that lead actress Barbie Xu "...doesn't show all three dots!" in her love scene, and see the Taiwanese film referred to throughout as "Chinese".

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who sent in the link)

May 17, 2006 at 09:39 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2006


I can't hate on this remake of Korea's IL MARE too hard. At least it's not a remake of an action or horror movie. I'm not sure how good it will be since the trailer is as cheesy as if it milked the cow and separated the curds itself, but that's the nature of trailers. But what about that bizarre, instant-gro tree? Was that in the original movie?

Here's the trailer in all its glory.

May 16, 2006 at 10:37 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


Brett Ratner doesn't just have his sticky fingers on Aishwarya RaiDirector Brett Ratner doesn't just have his sticky fingers on Aishwarya Rai, now he wants...well, let him tell you what he wants:

"I want Yao Ming, the basketball player, to be in it [RUSH HOUR 3]. I want to recreate the fight sequence from the Bruce Lee movie where he fights Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but I want to do the reverse; I want Chris Tucker to fight Yao Ming. I want that to happen. I want Aishwarya Rai [the biggest female star in Bollywood] and I would love Gong Li [last seen in Memoirs of a Geisha] to be in the movie. There's some people that I want, but I don't know if I'll be able to get them. Tony Jaa [star of last year's Ong Bak: Thai Warrior] I want, too. I love him."

He wants, he wants, he wants. What about us, and our needs? I told you this would happen, I told you all. First he came for Aish and no one said anything. Then he came for Yao Ming, and no one said anything. Now he's coming for Gong Li and Tony Jaa and who will say something now?

May 16, 2006 at 10:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack


The Weinstein Company has picked up Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDSThe Weinstein Company has picked up Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS. Their deal is for US film and video rights and this is another Bey Logan-helmed acquisition. Sez Bey: “Seven Swords is a dynamic and visibly impressive film with remarkable cinematography and fight choreography and we are excited to be working again with Tsui Hark and Donnie Yen."

There's also the cryptic "big Weinstein Company announcement" that will supposedly come out of Cannes next week. My guess would be that the announcement will reveal that they are licensing their Shaw Brothers titles to some cable channels and video release dates for the Shaw titles as well as some of their Asian titles like TOM YUM GOONG (which has been testing in a subtitled print in NYC recently under the title of THE PROTECTOR), SEVEN SWORDS and a few others.

May 16, 2006 at 09:24 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 15, 2006


Dog Radio ThailandThai film, CITIZEN DOG, which has been kept off international screens for a long time now, is finally getting a June 12th release in France.

In a not-unrelated bit of news, Thailand now has a radio station for dogs. Anupan Boonchuen runs a dog grooming school and he's started Dog Radio Thailand to offer pop music that will soothe and relax dogs. In the near future, DJs will also talk to their canine audience.

The DJs will, "...talk to the dogs in Thai and the canine listener will be encouraged to respond. At 9AM we may have a dog greeting show in which we'll repeat 'sawasdee' (hello) over and over...If we say 'sawasdee' in some houses the dog may lift both paws in response. In some houses the dog may lift one paw. It depends on how the dog was trained. If we play a slow song, we may have the DJ howl... because dogs howl too, when they hear sad songs."

How do I get a job here?

May 15, 2006 at 11:11 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


The Seattle International Film Festival just announced its line-up and of note are screenings of the Pang Ho-cheung film ISABELLA which is worth your time. They're also screening SEVEN SWORDS.

The much-maligned Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (now with a new director!) will kick off on July 13 - 22 with a record-setting 250 films. This year they'll focus on Italian horror, a Teruo Ishii retro, Fritz Lang silent films and four restored director's cuts of classic Korean movies from the 70's and 80's.

The competing fest, made up of ex-PIFF staffers, Real Fanta, that rose up like a mighty challenger last year doesn't look like it'll do much rising this year.

May 15, 2006 at 10:05 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Andy Lau is rumored to be attached to a remake of Hong Kong's classic Lung Kong film, STORY OF A DISCHARGED PRISONER. The Patrick Tse movie was about an ex-con trying, and mostly failing, to make his way in the free world and it served as something of an inspiration for John Woo's A BETTER TOMORROW. Now, Stephen Fung (director of the not-as-good-as-it-should-have-been HOUSE OF FURY) is interested in directing a remake and Focus Films will be trying to test the reactions of  international buyers in the movie at Cannes.

A spokesperson for Focus says, ""We are at an early stage of development. We don't have a script yet but Andy likes the story."

May 15, 2006 at 09:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Box office updates! Get yer box office updates right here!

ELECTION 2 - at this point E2 is the third highest grossing Category III movie in recent Hong Kong history after ELECTION and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Over the weekend it took in around HK$220,000 to come to a rest at about HK$12.95 million in just 18 days.

THE PROMISE - has doubled its American opening week gross and taken in $510,000 (estimated). This isn't bad, but since it's in over 200 theaters it's also not that great, either.

LADY VENGEANCE - after two weeks, LADY VENGEANCE has grossed a disappointing $23,181.

KEKEXILI - has taken in a not-bad but not-great $86,884 after almost four weeks in theaters.

The box office seems pretty soft right now, but foreign films in the US seem to be getting hit especially hard since they've rarely been strong players in the first place.

May 15, 2006 at 08:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 12, 2006


Bob Christo, one of many Anglo/foreign actors working in BollywoodWired, of all places, has a story on Anglo/foreign actors working in Bollywood. Sure the pay is $25/day but the mention of a potential $5,000 for a few weeks work raised my eyebrows.

"Westerners will do a lot of things on camera that Indian's just won't do," says Kaneez F. Khan, a Chennai-based producer. "It's easier just to outsource the role to someone who doesn't have anything at stake."

Hey, at least we're good for something.

May 12, 2006 at 11:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack


Wisekwai brings us the latest news on the GHOST GAME flap. The Thailand Ministry of Culture refuses to yank the movie off screens, which is what the Cambodian government is requesting, but they are holding a one-day meeting with Thai producers to enhance cultural sensitivity.

''I believe the film producers did not mean to offend Cambodians. They were just careless and poorly informed about our neighbour's culture,'' says Ladda Tungsupachai of the Cultural Monitoring Center.

Full story is in the Bangkok Post.

May 12, 2006 at 10:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


movies formerly known asDear readers,

The movie formerly known as FEARLESS now wishes to be called JET LI'S FEARLESS. (Is that apostrophe a possessive or a contraction? Please, please let it be possessive. Otherwise the movie is formally called JET LI IS FEARLESS).

The movie formerly known as CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR will only answer to CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. Focus Features has requested the change hoping to increase the international marketability of the movie because, you know, Woody Allen's CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION did so well.

In the future if you see either of these two movies please do not embarrass them by calling them by their older, less marketable names.

May 12, 2006 at 09:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


The producers of SUMMER PALACE never submitted their movie to Cannes

The trouble with Lou Ye's SUMMER PALACE comes to a boil with a recent comment from the international relationship department of China's government certification board. According to the department, the producers of SUMMER PALACE have broken the law by submitting the film to Cannes without getting approval from the board first. This is the same fix Zhang Yimou got into when he sent TO LIVE to Cannes without government certification, but there's a difference here.

The producers of SUMMER PALACE never submitted their movie to Cannes.

Fang Li, one of SUMMER PALACE's producers, says that he finds this very sad because the producers of the film had no idea the movie had been submitted. He thinks it was done by the international sales agents without his knowledge and he says that Cannes never even contacted the producers in China to tell them SUMMER PALACE was accepted to the festival. He only learned that the movie was in Cannes when he read it on the internet.

He gets his news from the internet, just like us!

(A million thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who is translating these articles like a fiend)

May 12, 2006 at 08:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006


Kim Ki-Duk's Time Kim Ki-Duk's latest movie, TIME, about plastic surgery disasters, has not been invited to Cannes this year. Last year his THE BOW was invited. Is TIME worse? Or is this just an example of a director relentlessly doing his own thing and falling out of favor with the fickle film festival crowd? Anyways, the movie will make its premiere in the Cannes market, and has already been sold to 15 territories. So there!

There's a lot of talk that Kim Ki-Duk is a misogynist and the treatment of women in some of his movies - BAD GUY, in particular - is undeniably harsh. TIME seems to enter into that same queasy territory and tromp around in it with hob-nailed boots. Originally it was described as a movie about a woman who uses plastic surgery to change her appearance and keep her boyfriend interested in her. But after watching the trailer it's clear that it's about a woman who freaks out, leaves her boyfriend because she's worried he's going to leave her, gets plastic surgery to look totally different and then, pretending to be a different woman, she gets back together with him. "You're scary," he says, and it's true - this looks like a "women are psycho" movie.

But then, later in the trailer he gets plastic surgery, too, and now I don't know what to think. Women are psycho? Men are psycho? Everyone is psycho? Kim Ki-Duk is psycho? Dunno, but it does look like another provocation from Kim, and that's always worth 90 minutes of your time.

May 11, 2006 at 05:39 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


...huh? wha?!? oh, sorry. I fell asleep after writing that headline and just woke up. Apparently THE PROMISE peeing in the pool didn't stop the kids from partying, and yet another big budget, Chinese, martial arts movie has been greenlit. This time around it's INFERNAL AFFAIRS director Andrew Lau who's getting his wu xia on with an untitled project based on a Taiwanese comic book and written by Thirteen Chan.

I think I speak for the entire population of the world (or at the very least the entire population of the inside of my head) when I say with complete and utter certainty that no one cares. But I would like to be named Thirteen.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who ruined my day with this news)

May 11, 2006 at 01:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 10, 2006


sea monkeys! UMIZARU (roughly "Sea Monkeys") was a Japanese flick from two years ago about Japan's Coast Guard that did great business in Japan (and screened at the New York Asian Film Festival with the cast in attendance - all dressed in full scuba gear on a blistering hot June afternoon) and spawned a TV series.

Now, the sequel has opened in Japan: LIMIT OF LOVE - UMIZARU. Opening during last week's Golden Week holiday the Fuji TV movie has grossed an astonishing 960 million yen over the weekend - 460% of what the original grossed.

Fuji TV are a savvy bunch and this movie is yet another hit from them (they're also responsible for the BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN films from which this blog gets its name - aw, cute!). Yah! Look out! An unstoppable wave of sea monkeys!

May 10, 2006 at 03:34 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Lou Ye's Tianamen Square film, SUMMER PALACE

Apparently Cannes hasn't gotten tired of the "last minute film from a Chinese director" routine. Last year it was Wong Kar-wai's 2046 that swooped in at the last minute (or was that the year before - I don't go to Cannes and so it's a big blur of silliness to me, full of photos of silicone breasts and yachts) and this year it's going to be Lou Ye's Tianamen Square film, SUMMER PALACE.

Lou's film has, predictably, run into problems getting approval from China's government certification board and I imagine if it doesn't make Cannes there're going to be loud cries of censorship from the Western press. Being censored in China is great publicity and movies often wind up bragging about it, like STOLEN LIFE (even when it's not true), or when it's a case of legal issues rather than government pressure, like with BLIND SHAFT (which trumpeted the fact that it didn't have a certificate to be shown in China, implying that it was censored for its raw, uncompromising look at Chinese mine workers. The fact was that the producers never submitted it for certification because they filmed illegally in privately owned mines and were worried about getting sued by the mine owners).

Lou Ye's SUMMER PALACE is a case where the movie isn't finished so it hasn't been officially submitted to the certification board, but it has been accepted to Cannes. This has caused problems for directors like Zhang Yimou in the past, but it's more an issue of not filling out the right forms rather than being somehow banned in China. The material is sensitive (the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests is a prohibited subject) but Lou Ye has reduced it to background and my guess is that, like PURPLE BUTTERFLY, unless you know the history already you won't have too much of a clue as to what's going on. Here's the plot synopsis that manages to gloss over anything controversial, as is the way of all plot synopses.

The movie was shown in rough form to the certification board who suggested edits and changes before it was officially submitted. But one week before Cannes starts there's been no official submission because Lou Ye is still working on the final sound mix.

But real censorship does exist all over the world, and it's not always an exagerration. Amir Muhammad's movie, THE LAST COMMUNIST, has been banned in Malaysia after being approved by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board to screen uncut (and being approved by Singapore's censors to play uncut). It was even screened (by special request) for the Special Branch unit of the Malaysian police force. But a campaign by a conservative paper to generate a phony public outcry over the film seems to have resulted in the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs banning the film throughout Malaysia (it was supposed to open on 3 screens).

So what is this terrible, controversial movie? It's a road movie/musical/documentary about the towns that Chin Peng, who was the exiled leader of Malaysia's communist party, lived in during his life. That's it. The movie talks to people in those town, some songs play, people chat - the end.

Malaysia seems intent on turning itself into an international example of "how not to have a film industry" with its bizarre censorship policies and Muhammad's THE LAST COMMUNIST is yet another casualty of a short-sighted government that doesn't value freedom of expression. You can read a fascinating step-by-step look at this car wreck over on Muhammad's blog.

(Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader and MonkeyPeaches for following the Lou Ye story)

May 10, 2006 at 02:27 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


The ELECTION 2 updates keep on coming. Despite some grumbling that ELECTION 2 focuses on Louis Koo to the exclusion of the rest of the cast, it's pulled in HK$11.1 million in around two weeks. It's also been sold to France and to Spain. As previously reported, ARP Selection will release it in France. Avalon Productions in Spain (who released ELECTION 1) will release it in Spain. Still no word on a North American sale.

Just for the record, I'm fine with the focus on Louis Koo. I liked him in the TROUBLESOME NIGHT movies which he anchored for the first six installments, and I thought he was funny in LA BRASSERIE. His tan is a little alarming, but the guy likes to lie out and tan while listening to music and that's his right as a human being. Also, something that no one is mentioning, but he plays a stoner in ELECTION 2. Several scenes revolve around him toking up, and I can't remember seeing this much in a HK movie when it wasn't treated like a freakish addiction. He won't be on the cover of "High Times" anytime soon, but it's nice to see stoners making something of themselves in movies.

May 10, 2006 at 07:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack


A sharp-eyed reader sends along news that Derek Yee's drug movie is going to be called PROTEGE, not BLOOD BROTHER. Also, Peter Chan will be producing. Chan is the director of COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY, PERHAPS LOVE and the producer of the famous THREE omnibus horror flicks. Chan is super-savvy and super-connected and with him on board you can be assured that PROTEGE will be a classy-looking, well-made movie and that Derek Yee is going to get every single thing he asks for.

Yee has said that Andy Lau and Louis Koo will star in the movie, and Chan has said that he's pretty sure the movie will be a big deal on the international scene when it comes out. In addition, Chan says that the movie won't be edited for Chinese certification, meaning that blood, gore, drug use, and corrupt government officials won't be taboo in this one.

May 10, 2006 at 01:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 09, 2006


The Gamera movies reviatalized the kaiju genre back in the 90's with Shusuke Kaneko at the helm. Now everyone's favorite flying turtle is back on the big screen returning to his roots as "a friend to all children." Check out the trailer for GAMERA LITTLE BRAVES. He's small, he's cute, he's fighting a creature with a pulsating, veined purple tongue that shoots out like a shaft from its mouth. He's Gamera, fighting sexual subtext for the sake of all children.

May 9, 2006 at 11:03 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


YURERU (translated as sway) is a Japanese psychological murder mystery that's one of the few Asian movies invited to Cannes. Previously I said there wasn't much info about it, but I lied. Ryuanji has a plot description for this Kore-eda produced movie starring screen heartthrob Jo Odagiri.

Japanese film Yureru will screen at Cannes

May 9, 2006 at 05:05 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


SACRED EVILSometimes you watch a movie trailer that feels like the last 30 years of film history never happened. Corny plots, hysterical nuns, sapphic subtext and flashes of lightning - and what's even more fun about SACRED EVIL (besides its oxymoronic title) is that it's an Indian movie. But between the Anglo cast, English-language trailer and nun-heavy imagery you'd never guess it.

Unleash the cheese!

May 9, 2006 at 12:37 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 08, 2006


Wisekwai...after being absent for so long, he's back. And he's chronicling the high price tag of Thai film these days. The one Thai flick invited to Cannes this year is a 17 minute short called GRACELAND, described as a cross between BLISSFULLY YOURS and 3,000 MILES TO GRACELAND. But the most stunning thing about this movie is that there was a camera malfunction giving a blue tint to the footage which the director spent US$50,000 to correct. The film was a Columbia University Thesis project and with that kind of budget you're looking at a movie that cost over US$3,000/minute. That's expensive homework.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand isn't going to take this lying down. The group that puts on the ultra-expensive, ultra-irrelevant Bangkok International Film Festival every year is blowing its wad on a May 19th Cannes party to celebrate Thai film (even though only one 17 minute short has been invited to Cannes from Thailand). Apparently the room alone for the event costs about US$120,000 and then they're flying over guests, serving lots of food, wine, putting people up in hotels and the purpose of this all? To promote the Bangkok International Film Festival. Expect a big announcement about the festival's new leadership for next year. Expect absolutely nobody to care.

Thailand's Ministry of Culture is sponsoring a six day trip to Cannes for industry professionals who want to get tips on cultural management and that'll probably cost a bit too.

Imagine how much homework could get done for this kind of money.

May 8, 2006 at 01:58 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Andrew Lau's DAISY seemed like an unstoppable movie - the director of INFERNAL AFFAIRS, who doesn't like INFERNAL AFFAIRS? Starring Jeon Jae-Hyun from MY SASSY GIRL, who doesn't like MY SASSY GIRL? Set in Amsterdam, who doesn't like Amsterdam? But the film was panned on its release in Korea and was generally derided as being a pretty miserable movie without much to offer modern day audiences capable of feeding and dressing themselves.

The Japanese trailer is out and you can take a look. Not good, not bad, but there's some high camp romance going on in there. And check out that announcer's voice at the end. Is he selling perfume? If so, I'm buying.

May 8, 2006 at 12:46 PM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Derek Yee (ONE NIGHT IN MONGKOK) is one of Hong Kong's best directors who seemed to go soggy for a while before making a heroic comeback with ONE NIGHT which won a wad of awards and was generally an excellent movie that no one could deny - even if you hate Cecilia Cheung and Daniel Wu you have to give them a break for this one. Now it's been announced that when Derek Yee finishes shooting his latest film, IF TIME GOES BACK (which started shooting last week), he'll start shooting BLOOD BROTHER, a thriller about the drug trade that's supposed to resemble TRAFFIC. First he has to finish up his teen romance set in the 1970's, but BLOOD BROTHER is expected to start filming in June.

But maybe we all shouldn't hate on IF TIME GOES BACK so hard. Look how happy everyone is in this pic from the first day of shooting.

first day of shooting Derek Yee's IF TIME GOES BACK

May 8, 2006 at 08:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


The US remake of Korea's MY SASSY GIRL looked like it was dead for a long time, but a few months back it came back to life when it was announced that Gurinder Chadha was attached to the project. Now a new director is attached, Yann Samuell a Belgian filmmaker (a little more info on him is here). Not much to say beyond that except for this neither here nor there plot description:

My Sassy Girl centres on a Midwestern man whose world is turned upside-down when he falls for a reckless free spirit. Casting will be announced in due course.

May 8, 2006 at 06:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack


You'll hear these numbers spun seven ways to Sunday, but the simple truth is that THE PROMISE opened this weekend and bombed. With 213 screens it grossed $271,000 (a lousy $1,272/screen). Now a lot of Asian films coming to America don't ever cross the $100,000 mark but those films don't open on over 200 screens.

Of course, THE PROMISE is in good company since M:i:3 opened with disappointingly low numbers as well.

May 8, 2006 at 04:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Tartan has long been known in the UK for quality Asian releases, and when they opened in the US a couple of years ago they rapidly released a slew of high profile Asian titles: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, OLDBOY and LADY VENGEANCE. They also own tons of second string Asian titles - MAREBITO, R-POINT, VITAL, SAMARITAN GIRL, HEIRLOOM...

But they seem to be experiencing a bit of turnover recently. The past six months have seen them gear up for the US release of HIDDEN BLADE and LADY VENGEANCE, release a ton of movies on DVD, sign a TV deal for their Asian Extreme line on the Sundance Channel, and in the meantime the two top dogs at Tartan - Bob Myerson and MJ Peckos both formerly of Dada Films - have moved on. Myerson now works on special projects for Tartan but is no longer fulltime and MJ Peckos announced last week that she was moving on to open her own niche distribution company, Mitropolous Films.

So who's going to be steering the Tartan ship and where is it going in the future? If you care about Asian film in the US then you should care about Tartan.

May 8, 2006 at 12:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 05, 2006


Tony Jaa is getting his first shot at directing with ONG BAK 2. Prachya Pinkaew will be producing, and Panna Rittikrai will still be around but it's Jaa who's taking the reins.

So what's the movie about? Apparently it's a sequel to ONG BAK in name only, but the storyline is described as "It's definitely an action movie and the story is inspired by khon dance." My guess is that it will strongly resemble ONG BAK and TOM YUM GOONG.

(Thanks to Wisekwai for the news)

May 5, 2006 at 02:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


The old school, 1972 Shaw Brothers action flick 14 AMAZONS is going to Cannes. Which is weird, any way you look at it. But 14 AMAZONS and Hayao Miyazaki's NAUSICAA are going to the Cannes Classics Section in newly restored prints. Buena Vista is providing the print of NAUSICAA and the Wild Bunch is supplying the print of 14 AMAZONS.

May 5, 2006 at 01:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 04, 2006


In case you're worried, ELECTION 2 is still going strong. The HK Filmart site reports its weekend take as HK$6.1 million and it's being reported by a sharp-eyed reader that the 6 day take for the film is HK$8.3 million. HK$10 million here we come.

May 4, 2006 at 09:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A fair amount of buzz is building up over the next production from RGV's Factory, GO, but that's yesterday's news, grandad.

Right this second the buzz is building for the next, next production from RGV's factory: ZABARDAST. Starring Karan Nath (one of the kids from MR. INDIA, all grown up) and Nisha Kothari, ZABARDAST is directed by Prawal Raman who turned in a segment for the RGV horror flick, DARNA ZAROORI HAI, it's said to be a boxing film (the original title was BOXER - a decent indication of the subject matter) but now Prawal describes it as "...a love story woven with thrills and light moments," which could describe pretty much any movie ever made.

May 4, 2006 at 08:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006


The heated war of words between CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR producer Zhang Weiping and an unnamed producer of Chen Kaige's THE PROMISE keeps heating up. Welcome to round two.

The PROMISE producer intially said that Zhang Weiping's comments about how THE PROMISE had ruined the chances of other Chinese movies was a publicity stunt. But in his official statement he gave the following sequence of events for why the Weinsteins dumped THE PROMISE. He claims that the Weinsteins wanted to give THE PROMISE a release similar to CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. But the Chinese production company felt that THE PROMISE is very different from CT, HD and want to give it a very different kind of release and the two amicably parted ways.

Zhang Weiping responded by saying that he had met Harvey Weinstein who personally told him that he and Chen Kaige had been editing THE PROMISE for four weeks and they still couldn't agree on a version Harvey liked so even though he knew his company would lose $900,000 if they dumped it, Harvey dumped it. Zhang adds that Zhang Yimou and Jet Li would both back up his version and that if he's so desperate for publicity why is Steven Spielberg visiting his set?

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who keeps sending in reports from the front)

May 3, 2006 at 09:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 02, 2006


Every time Hollywood plans a release, China laughsThere's a saying, "Every time Hollywood plans a release, China laughs."

M:I:3, the last best hope for Tom Crusie to regains some public credibility, thought it was doing all the right things. It shot in China for over a month, it's an official co-production, the script was submitted for - and received - approval, and China Films receives a credit. But despite the fact that THE DA VINCI CODE is getting a day and date release in China, M:I:3 is being pushed back to July. A black-out for foreign releases from June 10 - July 11 has been put into place, and M:I:3 had already been pushed from May to June to make way for DA VINCI.

There are no big Chinese productions to be protected during this period, and the producers of M:I:3 are gutted since this 10 week pushback means that piracy will eat up almost all their potential profits in China. Some sources are saying that the depiction of a crime at the start of the movie that the Public Security Bureau doesn't know about casts Chinese law enforcement in a bad light, but we all know the real reason for the delay: China just likes to mess around and freak everybody out. No one tells China what to do!

May 2, 2006 at 09:11 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


It's tough for Asian movies in film festivals this year, and it's probably just going to get tougher. With many of the big productions set for late-summer releases the pickings are a little lean and Cannes is reacting accordingly. Director's Fortnight just announced its line-up and it contains only two Asian films.

One is the previously announced THE HOST from Bong Joon-Ho and the other is the Japanese psychological thriller, YUREU, directed by Miwa Nishikawa, a female director who is considered something of a protege of Hirokazu Kore-eda (he produced her first film and she was an assistant director on his DISTANCE).

May 2, 2006 at 08:41 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


French poster for ELECTION 2A sharp-eyed reader in Hong Kong let us know that ELECTION 2 rocketed to a HK$5.6 million opening last weekend, and seems set to sail past the HK$10 million mark at the local box office, something that was unheard of for a Category III movie in recent years before ELECTION and SHA PO LANG did just that thing.

But there are a few rain clouds on the edge of this picture. ELECTION 1 grossed HK$5.7 million on its opening weekend last year, and while ELECTION 2 has gotten generally good reviews in HK, there are some bones of contention among the rank and file, ranging from disappointment with the focus on Louis Koo at the expense of the other characters, to criticism that the ending is simplistic. And, of course, the expected "it's too violent".

But with their combined budget at HK$50 million, any way you slice it there's almost no way for ELECTION 1 and 2 not to be profitable. Foreign sales were brisk for ELECTION 1 although they seem to have stalled at this point with no new territory sales in a while for the combined ELECTION 1 and 2 package. But there's still DVD to come, a UK release in June, and a potential North American sale somewhere off in the mists of the future.

On a side note: the Hollywood Reporter just weighed in with a very positive review. In the first paragraph they ask, "It's hard to say why To hasn't transcended cult/art house status outside of Asia and specialty festivals..." but they might want to consider the possibility that their extremely negative review for ELECTION bears some responsibility. After all, who would want to acquire or release a film that's been called, "A repellent movie filled with gratuitous violence, ELECTION is bound to find an appreciative audience among those who like their cinematic criminals noisy, stupid and deadly."

(And that's the French poster for ELECTION 2 in all its tiny postage stamp glory.)

May 2, 2006 at 07:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack


Back in March we reported that Taiwan's oldest studio, Central Motion Picture Corp, had been sold, was shuttered and would probably be torn down. Housing Taiwan's first soundstages, complete production facilities and a library of 250 films, CMPC was sold to the China Times Group which really didn't want it, but it came as part of a bigger deal, and there was a lot of speculation that the studio would be leveled and the land sold to developers.

But now businessman Gou Tai-chiang has ridden to the rescue, paying around $94 million for the studio. With its first board meeting scheduled for May 8, the new CMPC plans to appoint KMT legislator Tsai Cheng-yuan as chairman of the board, and inside sources say the studio will return to feature film production.

Hooray for the good guys who happen to have $100 million in their back pockets!

May 2, 2006 at 06:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Lau Kar-leung

Lau Kar-leung is one of Hong Kong's great action directors and if you've seen him in Sammo Hung's PEDICAB DRIVER or Jackie Chan's DRUNKEN MASTER 2 you'll agree that he eats up the screen with his skills whenever he's given the chance to bust loose. But he's had little to no luck in recent years. Many modern directors consider his choreography too old fashioned (he was removed from DRUNKEN MASTER 2 and Jackie Chan choreographed that final factory fight himself). His last movie, DRUNKEN MONKEY, in 2002, came and went without anyone giving it much attention.

But now he's working on a new project and he wants your money. At 70, Lau Kar-leung wants to film the story of Hung Gar kung fu, the style he practices. Hong Kong Cinemagic has a few details about the project and then they have this paragraph:

"If you are producer or investor, and would like to know more about the movie which will undoubtedly be a classic more traditional than Zhang Yimou's HERO and more spiritual than Ang Lee's CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, please kindly contact the HKCinemagic.com staff and check out this website."

May 2, 2006 at 06:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


GO, the latest flick from Ram Gopal Varma's FactoryCheck out the fast, wet trailer for GO, the latest flick from Ram Gopal Varma's Factory. It's a bike-racing movie with some harsh-looking action, a government conspiracy plot, and pretty much every scene unfolding in the midst of a torrential downpour.

Directed by first-timer Manish Srivastav, this trailer is a perfect example of the Factory style: sleek, slick, dark and looking like it's got a much bigger budget than it actually does.

May 2, 2006 at 05:44 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 01, 2006


More details leaking out about the rumored Johnnie To/Ringo Lam/Tsui Hark "jigsaw" project. I heard that this was pretty solid, and very likely to happen. Originally it was supposed to be one film and each director turned in 30 minutes of it. But now it looks like it's mutating before our eyes. In an interview with Sina.com, Tsui Hark said that each 30 minute segment would be its own short film a la THREE...EXTREMES.

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

May 1, 2006 at 09:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


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

April 28th was supposed to usher in THREE DIVA ARTFILM CATFIGHT WEEKEND with the releases of CLEAN (Maggie Cheung), THREE TIMES (Shu Qi) and LADY VENGEANCE (Lee Young-Ae). But things got off to a weak start when Tartan moved its release of LADY VENGEANCE to May 5 (going head to head with THE PROMISE). But that stills leaves Maggie Cheung and Shu Qi in the ring. Neither could beat Robin Williams' caa-caa comedy, RV (which grossed a depressing, in every sense of the word, US$16 million) but they could beat each other. And the winner????

Results uncertain, check again later.

THREE TIMES took in US$15,900 on four screens for a per screen average of US$3975. But CLEAN's box office isn't being reported yet.

May 1, 2006 at 08:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Fortissimo Films has picked up the international rights to Taiwanese auteur, Tsai Ming-liang's, latest movie, I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE. Starring Lee Kang-sheng and Cheng Shiang-chyi, the movie is set in Malaysia.

May 1, 2006 at 08:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


IT'S ONLY TALK, the powerful manic depression drama from Ryuichi Hiroki (VIBRATOR), won "Best Film" at the Singapore International Film Festival last night. The film will premiere in the US as part of the New York Asian Film Festival (June 16 - July 1, 2006).

May 1, 2006 at 08:08 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Not a week goes by without tons of Milkyway Image updates, and here's some more so you don't get worried.

- THROWDOWN will finally get a Japanese release on May 13 of this year. For some reason it's never been released there. Here's the Japanese trailer.

- A Milkyway Image CD with tracks from most of their recent hits seems to be out. You can order it here. The track titles are in Chinese but it includes two discs, a vocal disc and an instrumental disc:

"The vocal disc features the theme song for Election, performed by Silver; Sammi Cheng's hit songs from Needing You, My Left Eye Sees Ghosts, Wu Yen, and Love on a Diet; Andy Lau's hit single from Love on a Diet; a song from Gimme Gimme, performed by Pinky; and Stefanie Sun's hit Golden Horse Award-winning theme song to Turn Left, Turn Right. Featured in the instrumental collection are themes from Election 2, PTU, Running Out of Time, Running Out of Time 2, Fulltime Killer, A Hero Never Dies, Expect the Unexpected, The Odd One Dies, and The Mission."

- There's also a Milkyway Image book coming out down the road. It's called MILKYWAY IMAGE, BEYOND IMAGINATION - WAI KA-FAI + JOHNNIE TO + CREATIVE TEAM (1996 - 2005) and it includes essays about ten Milkyway films in English and Chinese.

May 1, 2006 at 07:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Silk posterTaiwanese horror movie, SILK, and ELECTION 2 are both screening out of competition at Cannes this year, and both have been picked up by French distributor, ARP Selection. SILK has been assigned an October 18 release date (very close to its Taiwanese release date). You can SILK's French poster on the right. And click here for the ARP Selection poster for ELECTION 1.

May 1, 2006 at 07:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A sharp-eyed reader translates and sends in this fun little nugget from Sina.com, China's massive internet portal. Apparently, when the Weinsteins dumped THE PROMISE it caused an enormous cloud of toxic fall-out to settle over China and other producers are terrified that THE PROMISE will devalue all their upcoming movies. Zhang Weiping, producer of many Zhang Yimou movies (CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, HERO, THE ROAD HOME), says everyone in Hollywood knows that the Weinsteins were willing to lose a lot of money and dump THE PROMISE because it was so bad, and now Hollywood has lost its faith in big budget Chinese movies.

His solution has been to turn the set of CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR into a veritable three-ring-circus of press and high profile visitors in order to give it the highest profile possible and have as many opportunities as possible to distinguish it from THE PROMISE. He says that Zhang Yimou isn't too happy about this, but has accepted it because he knows the marketing is more important than ever. Cosequently, folks like Oliver Stone, Steven Spielberg, sales agents from US distributors, and lots of Chinese and international press have tromped through the CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR set.

A spokesperson for THE PROMISE responded to these comments by saying that the Weinsteins dumped THE PROMISE because they suffered from "economic problems" and that it had nothing to do with the quality of the movie.

Steven Spielberg on the set of CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR

May 1, 2006 at 07:02 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack