« October 2006 | Main | December 2006 »

November 30, 2006


Chinese DVDs

This is an article I wrote about five months ago for Slate that never ran. See the italicized paragraph at the end for an update.

China is the world’s biggest movie market but with four times the population of the United States it only has 2,396 movie screens, one fifteenth of America’s 38,000. Hollywood is eager to sell movies to what it views as an underserved market, but China only allows 20 foreign movies to be imported each year. Hollywood wants to increase the screen count by building multiplex chains across rural China, but China won’t allow foreign companies to own more than 49% of cinemas outside of the seven major cities. Hollywood is desperate to stamp out piracy, but China’s efforts to cooperate are sporadic at best. And so China is the beautiful, unattainable market that drives Hollywood crazy.

China does its best to flummox its suitor. Their State Administration of Radio, Film and Television is a massive Mao-era bureaucracy that operates like an eccentric uncle.

They recently baffled the world by banning all foreign movies that mix live action and animation, such as “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “Space Jams”. Then they ruffled feathers further by yanking “The Da Vinci Code” from theaters at the peak of its successful run, with no explanations given.

The Da
Vinci Code, before it was dropped from theaters

The face that Hollywood, and America, presents to the international film world is the Motion Picture Association. In the US they’re called the Motion Picture Association of America and are best known for administering the ratings system, but internationally they are the MPA, a powerful lobbying group. The MPA wages a constant war against piracy, and also a constant war for market access that has been enormously successful and extremely unpopular. They’ve lobbied hard for Korea to drop its screen quota system, protested vociferously when Mexico proposed a one peso tax on movie tickets to aid local filmmakers, and generally been advocates for an end to market protectionism.

Hollywood movies account for over half the local box office of almost every major country in the world except for Korea, India and China, and there’s a major disconnect in how this situation is regarded. The MPA sees it as proof of Hollywood’s superior product, whereas many foreign countries see it as proof that money talks and no one has more money than Hollywood.

The result has been the Unesco Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions which was approved last year by 148 countries (only the US and Israel opposed it). The convention affirms a “sovereign right” for countries to “…protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions…” which many believe grants countries the legal right to protect their film industries from the vagaries of the international marketplace with subsidies and quotas.

Greg Frazier, the MPA’s senior vice president for trade policy and international affairs, sounds a tone deaf note when he claims that countries around the world don’t need more cultural diversity because Hollywood produces enough diverse movies for everyone (“…no one produces a greater array of entertainment than the American film industry.“) and he goes on to attribute the passage of the overwhelmingly popular treaty to “anti-Americanism.”

In China, the MPA sees piracy as their biggest battle. They’ve estimated that Hollywood loses billions of dollars to Chinese bootleggers every year and they’re distressed by China’s lax approach to intellectual property laws.

“Any American movie you want to see, you can find in China,” Frazier says. “The good guys selling legitimate copies can’t get into China, but the bad guys are already there selling pirated copies.”

Frazier believes that as long as piracy runs rampant in China the market will be stunted by low profit margins. Theaters won’t get built, the market will remain closed to international investment, and the one billion strong potential audience will get the screens he feels it deserves.

But the MPA is fighting not only a losing battle in China, but the wrong battle. “To me the piracy concern is BS,” says Jeremy Goldkorn, who runs an advertising agency in China and the Chinese media blog, Danwei.org. Goldkorn is a savvy analyst of the Chinese media scene who speaks fluent Mandarin and has lived in China since 1995.

“Hollywood can’t lose money on movies that they can’t sell. Piracy is not where they should be spending their efforts. But the US trade delegation comes to Beijing and sees “Mission Impossible 3” DVDs for sale outside the door of the St. Regis hotel and it slaps them in the face. But until their movies are allowed into the market it’s meaningless.”

Chinese_mpaAsia has traditionally skipped certain steps in technological development that America thinks are necessary. Some Asian countries don’t have a fully-developed landline based telecommunications infrastructure because they embraced cell phone technology early on. Korea and China have largely skipped dial-up and gone straight to broadband internet access. The result is that China is the on the bleeding edge frontier of the post-copyright world.

Young people in China think of movie theaters as over-priced, musty mausoleums and would prefer to either download content or pick up a DVD. Add to that the fact that the internet is less regulated and vastly more open in China than any other form of media and you have a compelling argument for Hollywood to embrace a download-oriented delivery mechanism in China, rather than the old fashioned brick and mortar approach.

“When it comes to the cultural industries,” says Goldkorn, “the timetable is going to be set by the Chinese government and they’re not going to listen to anyone about it. If I was in the MPA’s position I would look at IP TV, which they’re starting to experiment with in China; it’s where foreign media companies have the best chance of getting in.”

But the MPA serves Hollywood studios who feel threatened by downloadable content, and so instead of trying to make an end run around SARFT they keep banging their head against the same wall, and in their frustration they’re rattling the saber.

“America supported China’s membership in the WTO and it’s an international obligation that’s costing hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” Frazier says. “Going to court is an option that’s on the table.”

If that’s the case, then they’re in for a fight. SARFT takes a perverse pleasure in foiling Hollywood. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: 3 wanted to open on the same day around the world and the producers figured that having shot extensively in Shanghai, with their script approved by SARFT and with the Chinese Government as a co-producer, they would have no problems. So imagine their surprise when SARFT pushed the movie’s opening date back by seven weeks, to July 20. SARFT also insisted on editing the movie, taking out shots of laundry drying on bamboo poles placed there by the M:I:3 art department in an attempt to make Shanghai look less modern. But there’s nothing ancient about China anymore. As far as movie distribution is concerned, we’re the ones stuck in the past. They’re already downloading the future.

Well, eat my words and call me full: a few weeks ago six Hollywood studios got ready to sign deals with the Shanghai Media Group to provide their movies to Chinese audiences via video-on-demand over the internet. Details are forthcoming. Yay for forward thinking! Fight bravely into the future, little Hollywood soldiers.

November 30, 2006 at 11:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Interim Village Voice film editor, Allison Benedikt, is staying on as full-time editor. The Voice has a film editor, ladies and gentlemen! That is all.

November 30, 2006 at 10:41 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Bangkok International Film Festival Britney has said "sayonara" to K-fed. Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson have bid their farewells (over BORAT?!?). And now another bad relationship has broken up: the Bangkok International Film Festival have split up with their American overlords, Film Festival Management of Beverly Hills. There have been problems aplenty, and with the coup going on I guess everyone thought it was time for a fresh start.

Bangkok Festival says: “Both TAT and FFM still maintain a close and friendly relationship of mutual respect and there is a possibility of us collaborating on future festivals”.

Film Festival Management says: “While tremendously disappointed that we will be unable to take the Bangkok International Film Festival to the new heights that we planned for 2007, we are grateful to the Thai government for the years of support and the wonderful relationship we share. We wish TAT and the festival staff nothing but success and look forward to working again with them in the future.”

Ah, the new heights planned for 2007...would these be anything like the old heights you had planned for 2005 and 2006 which turned the BIFF into an international joke, under-attended, unloved, and an excuse for a bunch of industry players to have a vacation in Bangkok on the government's dime? Those were awesome heights. Hell, Subway Cinema runs a better festival with five people and not a dime to our name.

(Full story on Monsters and Critics)

November 30, 2006 at 10:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Magnolia unveiled its American trailer and poster for THE HOST over at CHUD and it's not bad. The trailer's nice: aimed squarely at the mainstream market with plenty of pics of the monster. I personally hate the "fade to black like a spooky heartbeat" editing tic, but it's standard language for American movie trailers so I'm sure that no one much notices it. And kudos to them for going with a red band, R-rated trailer.

The poster's not bad, but not great either. There were so many snazzy designs to choose from with the multiple Korean posters that this one is a bit of a disappointment. I see where they were going, but I don't think they got there. And I really don't like the retro 50's monster movie font for the title. But all in all it's not bad. Now to see if anyone comes.

Host US poster

November 30, 2006 at 10:01 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 29, 2006


Dukun DUKUN, a grotty-looking Malaysian movie about one of the nastiest crimes ever committed by a shaman is now being held by its backer, Astro Star, who are worried that it's going to offend people and it looks like it's going to get cut up.

The flick tells the truly nutso true-life story of Mona Fandey, a witch doctor/shaman who had provided supernatural assistance to the career of Mazlan Idris, a state legislature member, which provides a text book example of a bad employer/employee relationships.

After receiving the support of the witch doctor for years, Mazlan was decapitated, skinned and chopped into 18 pieces by Mona, her husband and her assistant. Reason: unknown. The corpse was found buried near Mona's home and the assistant confessed to participating in the ritual killing.

Mona was quite a dresser and the case (in 1993) captured national attention. Before she was hung, she proclaimed "I will not die," which is so much better than "I'm sorry" if you want to seriously creep people out for years to come.

DUKUN is certainly gruesome-looking (you can see a teaser trailer below) but it's now on hold thanks to Astro Star's cold feet. Astro Star also denies it's based on the Monda Fandey case. Cuts, reshoots look likely. Right now everyone's waiting while Astro Star "reviews" the film.

(DUKUN official website)

(Thanks to WiseKwai for the heads up)

November 29, 2006 at 09:56 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (1)


It's not just Hong Kong where Andy Lau's BATTLE OF WITS ruled the box office, but it was the number one film in China as well, pulling in 20 million yuan (about US$2.5 million) over the weekend. It did drop off steeply to 200,000 yuan (about US$25,000) on Monday, but since it doesn't face any competition for the next two weeks before CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER opens on December 14 it looks set to continue a strong run.

November 29, 2006 at 09:22 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Sanjay Dutt

It's a one-two Bollywood punch! Sanjay Dutt, one-time action star turned funtime comedian, was one of 123 people charged in the ten-year Mumbai Bomb Blast Case and this past week he was found guilty of illegally possessing weapons but not guilty of conspiracy. Having already spent 18 months in jail (with a four week bail to make some movies) Dutt is unlikely to get more jail time in his sentence, which will be handed down in December. Yay, Sanjay! You were a bonehead who stored weapons for criminals and got caught, but you didn't conspire to kill 90 innocent people.

And who really cares what Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan were seen at temples doing prayers with the whole Bachchan family at 3am?!? The prayers were for Amitabh's dad, but why was Aishwarya there? These are prayers usually only done by married couples, apparently. Then they hit another temple at 4:30am to do even more prayers. What's going on? Are they getting secretly hitched? The supposed Most Beautiful Woman in the World and the son of the Biggest Movie Star in the World? Can the world survive this?

(Thanks to Jennifer and Al for sending this in)

Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan

November 29, 2006 at 08:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)



You're all eager to know which Bollywood movie opened over Thanksgiving weekend, and I'm eager to tell you. DHOOM 2, the idea-free, multi-starrer (Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan), cops and robbers macaroon hit screens around the world (how come Bollywood is the only industry to master the global "day and date" release business?) and sucked in massive amounts of money.

It was the number two specialty release of the weekend, racking up approx. $15,000 per screen which put it just behind VOLVER ($17,000/screen) and just ahead of HISTORY BOYS ($14,000 per screen). Even the New York Times reviewed it!

November 29, 2006 at 08:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 28, 2006


Prison Break prostate ad With Fox's hit TV show, "Prison Break", returning this season there have been a huge number of ads, promo billboards, viral marketing campaigns and magazine features on the series and its star, Wentworth Miller.

But Chinese site, Youth Weekend, has rated all these advertising efforts and decided that the best one was the newspaper ad for prostate problems in a local Fuzhou newspaper featuring the craggily handsome visage of Mr. Miller. Is this a secret endorsement project of Miller's? Is he concerned about the hundreds of millions of prostates of China? God bless him.

(And God bless EastSouthWestNorth for covering China with a relentless magnifying glass)

(And other international ads for "Prison Break" can be seen here)

November 28, 2006 at 09:08 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Chinatown's Music Palace

It's gone. 6 years after closing its doors, the Music Palace has been bought, leveled, and a hotel is set to go up in its place. This was one of the last Chinese movie theaters in North America and now it's a big hole in the ground. Gone with it is the gigantic mural of Chinatown's pitfalls and pleasures that sprawled across its northern wall. I got so numb to the MP being closed years ago that I've got nothing left to say anymore. All hail the homogenizing of the North American Moviegoing Experience!

(You can read about the Music Palace and see tons of Goran's photos of it in its heyday over here)
(Thanks to Curtis for the photo)

November 28, 2006 at 08:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)


Andy Lau and Jacob Cheung's Warring States film, BATTLE OF WITS, hit screens in Hong Kong over the weekend and handily won the battle of box office, hauling in HK$5.7 million with the number two place going to Kevin Costner's Coast Guard flick, THE GUARDIAN, which made a piddling HK$1.13 million. WITS opened simultaneously in China, Malaysia and Singapore and will be hitting Taiwan on December 8.

The only reviews I can find so far are over on the IMDB and despite sentences like "And since time immemorial, you always have the incompetents possessing the heart of insolence, with characters of sloth and ill intentions, straddling from a high horse." (What does it mean?)

The general feeling I get is that both reviewers loved the movie, calling it "HERO meets PLATOON" and saying that even though it's missing that patented Zhang Yimou "epic armies clash on the plains" CGI feel, the tight writing, good acting and tense plotting more than make up for it. And when was the last time you heard an Andy Lau movie praised for its writing?

November 28, 2006 at 08:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)



This is old news by now, but one of the most famous movies lost to the Miramax vaults is Wisit Sasanatieng's first flick, the eye-searing, brain-shearing TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER.

Buried in the Miramax vaults back in 2000 it's been a restless corpse and, recently reanimated by Magnolia money, it's clawed its way back into the light for a theatrical release on January 12 at NYC's Film Forum courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

A shout-out to the entire history of Thai cinema, a rousing Western, and a tear-duct-scalding romance, TEARS is a movie whose reputation is entirely earned - it's smarter, funnier, and better-looking than anything you might expect. The only way to see it for the past 6 years has been on imported DVD or a lousy VCD and that just ain't doing justice to its wicked visuals.

Its absence has been so notorious that someone informed me that Film Forum has a sign below its poster in their lobby reading, "Saved from the Miramax vaults!" Now there's some brand identity for you.

I strongly urge anyone who wants to send a message to folks who buy Asian movies and never release them to head on over to Film Forum and see this movie on January 12th. Money talks, internet BS walks, and a big fat gross will let everyone know that these are movies that are meant to be seen, not stored. Also, you can buy Film Forum tickets 7 days in advance online, so the week before TEARS opens why not do your part and buy a ticket, just for the hell of it?

November 28, 2006 at 08:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 27, 2006


Bruce Lee is going to be one of the first CGI actors A sharp-eyed reader has thoroughly ruined my morning by sending in news that Bruce Lee is going to be one of the first CGI actors in a movie from Rob Cohen, director of DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.

The film is being made in conjunction with Dreamworks and with the participation of the Lee family, who apparently practice the martial art stance of "Ceaselessly Squeezing Cash from Father's Corpse" and it's called RAGE AND FURY.

The original script is reviewed on Latino Review and it sounds like what the world has been waiting for: a KARATE KID remake with Bruce Lee in the mentor role as a ghost, a la Obi Wan Kenobi in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Rob Cohen then emailed Latino Review to say that he also thought the script was pretty awful and is re-writing it to make it "...older, tougher and more realistic to life today, stylized as I did in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS." Then he reveals that Bruce Lee will be a CGI actor, like Jar Jar Binks, and that all of his dialogue will be lines from his old interviews and movies.

I...I...I know that making money is fine, and I know if Rob Cohen didn't do it someone else probably would but...I mean...do you think putting a padlock on Bruce Lee's coffin would help? The formula for the new millennium? Rob Cohen = Betty Ting Pei only without the perm.

November 27, 2006 at 11:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)


RUSH HOUR 3 = people sleeping Jackie Chan's on-set diary from RUSH HOUR 3 is fascinating reading. Seriously. He compulsively documents everything he does: the traffic home, what time he went to bed, how much Home Shopping Network he watches.

But the best entry is the one where, in an act of pure psychic inspiration, he documents the likely audience reaction to RUSH HOUR 3 with his gallery of photos of people sleeping.

November 27, 2006 at 10:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


Goldenhorse1_web Political wrangling and angry directors were the order of the day in the run-up to Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards Ceremony, the largest and most prestigious Chinese film awards which are attended by the largest number of Chinese film celebs. But the ceremony itself went off with no punches thrown and no Susan Sarandon-style speeches at the mic; and this year, surprisingly, art took top prize.

Last year, Ang Lee spat some choice insults when Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE took home bigger and better awards than the latest art flicks from Taiwan's senior film-heads, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. This year he just nodded and smiled a lot.

In the days leading up to the awards, China withdrew Tian Zhuangzhuang's THE GO MASTER, his typically snail-paced and highly worthy biopic about a master of Go, with no explanation given. Tsai Ming-liang's I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE didn't have to compete, either, after Tsai took his movie out of the competition complaining that it didn't get enough nominations (only two: "Best Supporting Actress" and "Best Sound").

Nevertheless, the day was taken by Patrick Tam's return to filmmaking, AFTER THIS OUR EXILE, starring Aaron Kwok (who won his second "Best Actor" Golden Horsie in a row - last year he won for DIVERGENCE). Kwok's next movie is Chinese billionaire, Terry Gou's, first project. Not surprisingly Kwok will play a Chinese business marvel who just happens to be from Gou's home province, building a business empire in the Qing Dynasty. Tam's first artfilm in 17 years, AFTER THIS OUR EXILE, took "Best Picture", "Best Actor" and "Best Supporting Actor" for Gow Ian Iskander, Kwok's nine-year-old co-star.

BATTLE OF TIEN MOUNTAINPeter Chan took home "Best Director", "Best Song", "Best Cinematography" and "Best Actress" (Zhou Xun) for PERHAPS LOVE which is, amazingly, still winning awards approximately a year after it hit theaters (it was on Chinese screens December 2, 2005).

But the evenings best award went to Chen Zi-fu, Taiwan's legendary movie poster painter. Capable of cranking out a poster in three hours, Chen has painted around 5,000 posters in his 50 year career. At 80 years old he's hailed as a national treasure, and his two personal favorite works are his black A TOUCH OF ZEN poster and his poster for BATTLE OF TIEN MOUNTAIN (on the right). Someone issue a book of this guy's posters, please. You can read more about his career here.

November 27, 2006 at 10:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 23, 2006



It's Thanksgiving in the States which means it's time for everyone to leave work early and not lift a finger for a couple of days. This is the last you'll be hearing from me before Monday as I fill my body with canned pumpkin pie filling until it swells up like an enormous bag of suet.

Shanghai Daily has a feature article on Andy Lau's new movie, BATTLE OF WITS.

Jason Gray writes up Kiyoshi Kurosawa's RETRIBUTION.

And Jack Chick, famous American crazy person manufacturing religious tracts, shows us the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

November 23, 2006 at 10:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 22, 2006


We never have any news from the Philippines up here, but all that's changing. Check out this awesome anti-hunger ad that will burn its way into your eyes and brand itself upon your brain. In the Philippines they fight hunger by coming up with images that will haunt your every waking moment.

(Thanks to Gawker, of all places)

November 22, 2006 at 09:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Jackie Chan is the Asian Representative for Segway

Now that his knees and hips have turned into dust, Jackie Chan needs some way to get around Paris where he's filming RUSH HOUR 3. Enter: the Segway PT (Jackie sez: "PT means Personal Transporter"). Jackie is now the Asian Representative for Segway and he's been riding his little man scooter all over Paris, "accidentally" bumping into a Segway tour group and singing its praises:

"The Segway PT saves a lot of time for the cast and crew. The first assistant director, Jamie, could use it to communicate with the cast and crew, the stunt co-coordinator, Conrad, could use it to get more stunt gear, and I could use it to get to the bathroom fast!"

Jamie and Conrad could do all those things, but they don't want to look like total tools, Jackie. On the other hand, I don't want you to wet your pants, either.

In other news: Jackie is worried about wine being served for lunch on the set. Don't worry, Jackie! Jonathan Lee isn't playing any shows in France. Drink up!

(Thanks to Yan Wang on the KFC Boards for the links)

November 22, 2006 at 09:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Korean strikers protest proposed school and labor reform bills

The plan to halve the Korean screen quota system to 73 days/year and to compensate the film industry with a $674 million support package has been rejected by the Korean Film Director's Society. They want the old screen quota system back, they don't want the $674 million, and they want KOFIC (Korean Film Council) restructured so that politicians wield less influence over it. Oh, and they want the establishment of a film promotion fund.

On the other side of the coin, government meddling with the Korean film scene is getting worrisome as lawmakers propose limiting distribution of individual Korean films to no more than 30% of the screens in the country, after THE HOST made a zillion dollars by blanketing a massive number of theaters with its big ol' blobby self.

THE HOST also just won "Best Lighting", "Best Cinematography", "Best Special Effects", "Best Sound Effects", "Best Director" and "Best Film" at the Korean Film Awards.

All this is unfolding against a background of strikes by 52 unions in Seoul that required 7,700 riot police to be deployed around City Hall. The strikers are protesting proposed school and labor reform bills as well as laws that will be enacted as part of Korea's Free Trade Agreement with the US.

November 22, 2006 at 08:51 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 21, 2006


Claiming to be the first full-length Chinese language movie ever made in Malaysia, SEED OF DARKNESS is doing for in vitro fertilization what Angelina Jolie is doing for adoption: making it eeeevil. Due out in December, SEED is about a chick who gets impregnated by the Seed of Darkness and winds up having a Baby of Darkness.

There's a trailer on YouTube, and thanks to 24 Frames per Second for staying on top of this movie that's sure to have doctors uttering praise.

November 21, 2006 at 10:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Bjarne Wong's Possessed

Bjarne Wong's gnarly-looking Malaysian horror movie, POSSESSED, hits theaters on November 30th and the full website is now up and running, including a trailer with some footage that at least gets points for making the most of some worn-out material. What's far more interesting is that the plot synopsis sounds like some kind of Twins biopic that's ripe for a Hong Kong remake:

"Born in China, Amber and her sister, Lisu, are expanding their modeling and singing careers in Malaysia when Amber suddenly falls into a coma while Lisu goes missing. Amber is sent back to China for treatment and wakes up 5 months later but has no recollection of her past...Dino appears, claiming to be her boyfriend...Back in Malaysia, Amber meets Cisse and Belle and decides to continue her modelling career. However, Amber is harassed by a secret male fan, experiences nightmares and decides to search for her missing sister...Amber's behavior becomes increasingly erratic and strange..."

Yep, sounds like the Twins to me. Or could it come to America and be set up as an Olsen Twin vehicle? Roy Lee? Bjarne Wong is calling.

(Thanks to 24 Frames per Second for the news)

The Twins are possessed

November 21, 2006 at 10:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Wong Kar-wai's English-language debut, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS

CriEnglish has a longer article on Wong Kar-wai's English-language debut, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS, and for those of us who feel that if Wong Kar-wai moves any slower he'll be dead, it sounds hopeful.

Shot in "just" seven weeks, it's scripted by Lawrence Block (who seems to be the go-to American author for Hong Kong movies these days), shot by Darius Khondji (SEVEN), and is described by WKW as being "off the cuff".

On the negative side, he's shot 150 takes of a single kiss, Chris Doyle isn't on the project, it stars Norah Jones, and this scene is apparently pivotal:

"It’s closing time, and Ms. Jones, the only remaining customer, is slumped on the counter, her eyes shut. A smudge of cream rests on her upper lip...Mr. Law, cleaning up behind the bar, gazes at her, slowly leans in and steals a lingering kiss. When he surfaces, the cream on her lip is gone."

Women with smudges of cream on their lips and Jude Law licking it off? That's just smutty. Does WKW really need to work blue in order to make it in the marketplace these days?

November 21, 2006 at 09:58 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 20, 2006


Dorm Tartan has scooped up a big ol' batch of new titles for 2007 and rather than bore you with a further intro, here they are:

ARANG - a Korean horror movie that I haven't seen and probably won't. It looks like a million other movies we've all seen before.

CINDERELLA - Korea's plastic surgery disaster horror flick. I haven't seen it and while I'm enticed by the potential of kinky surgical scares, this doesn't look like my cup of tea.

DORM - the brightest of the bunch. Despite having an "everyone lived happily ever after" ending that springs up out of nowhere, this movie is more akin to Guillermo del Toro's THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE than anything else. A Thai, haunted boys' school movie that manages to look good and make sense, it's one of the better horror movies I've seen in a long time.

SHUTTER - a good Thai horror movie, there's not much new here but its spirit photography does manage to get creepy and the scares and story are well-executed. I'm bored of horror, which is why I'm not too excited by this one, but it's also a consistent, well-done horror flick that manages to pull off something slightly new.

Shutter TO SIR, WITH LOVE - I admit it: I suck. This movie is cheesy, melodramatic and over-the-top but I really like it a lot. Good gore, MOMMIE DEAREST-worthy drama and a return to the 80's slasher genre. I expect hardcore horror-heads who've seen it all and been left wanting will be disappointed but I ate it up like Christmas pudding. That's not to say it's good, however. Then again, is FRIDAY THE 13TH good? Beer is recommended.

Tartan is also releasing the well-reviewed PERTH (which they bill as "Singapore's answer to TAXI DRIVER") on 1/16 and the big budget, Hong Kong non-thriller DIVERGENCE on 1/20.

November 20, 2006 at 10:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)


boy, those PlayStation 3 lines sure are long The current "ain't life weird?" news meme: boy, those PlayStation 3 lines sure are long. As much as we all hate lines, they wield a weird fascination over the news and every time a long line is formed every news organization in America races to cover them. But the PlayStation 3 news stories have missed the boat, hypnotized by the lines rather than who's in them. Here's a sample:

"Electronics stores in Japan have sold out of PlayStation 3 consoles after thousands of gamers queued for hours in the cold to buy them." - BBC

"Gamers anxious to get their hands on the console have begun forming lines in Tokyo ahead of Saturday's launch." - PC World

"Gamers withstand foul weather, hecklers to buy coveted new console." - MSNBC

So who's lining up for these PS3's that can walk on water and turn lead into gold? Gamers. Over and over you see "gamers" and MSNBC even has a picture of a little 7 year old kid picking up his console just to drive the point home. Posing the little tyke for that picture must have driven the folks waiting behind him on line into a frothing rage.

But it looks like the people with the grit and willpower to stand in line for 9000 hours are not gamers, they're resalers. Lines in Japan were supposedly full of people standing in line for other people who plan to resell the consoles. Customers are picking up 30 consoles at a time where it's allowed. A reporter in San Francisco desperate to interview gamers instead came up with a line full of resalers.

a line full of resalers ebay has instituted special rules: only allowing people to sell PlayStation 3 who have 50 feedback comments with a 98% or greater positive rating, they can only use Paypal for payment, they can't use "Buy it Now" and they have to have a photo of the receipt - nevertheless, search for PlayStation 3's on ebay and you'll dredge up over 25,000 current auctions. A Craigslist search dredges up  about 1,000 units for sale in every major citiy.

The Norman Rockwell newstory of gaming nerds lining up for hours to see STAR WARS buy a PS3 is a false one. The reality is that these folks are mostly lining up to bootleg STAR WARS resell their PS3 for $1500 - $3000 on peer-to-peer auction services. It's like a mash-up where the consumers are taking a corporate product and finding a way to make themselves some cash off of it, remixing a managed, big budget press event into an opportunity for personal money making. Sony, who's losing $200 - $300 on every PS3 sold, winds up looking like a corporate dinosaur being taken down by fast-moving, wired mammals.

November 20, 2006 at 10:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Takashi Miike's SUKIYAKI WESTERN: DJANGO Okay, okay, nobody likes a remake but Takashi Miike's SUKIYAKI WESTERN: DJANGO gets a pass because it's a freak fest of largest proportions. A remake of Sergio Corbucci's legendary exploitation spaghetti western, DJANGO, this is a Japanese Western, shot in English and featuring Quentin Tarantino in a prominent role.

Hideaki Ito, Koichi Sato, Masanobu Ando and Kaori Momoi star in this flick that mixes the Genpei War with the Wild West as the Minamoto and Taira gangs turn innocent folks caught in their gang war crossfire into swiss cheese until a mysterious gunman, played by Ito, comes to their rescue. The cast has endured two months of English training as well as horseback riding lessons and gun handling courses but, as Miike says, "Real actors are generally hardcore masochists, and the tougher it gets the harder they work to battle through."

Tarantino will be a major non-selling point for a lot of people and Miike describes him in a way he hasn't been described in about ten years, "He's a guy who doesn't play by Hollywood rules, so I thought he'd suit this film." Tarantino probably is the Hollywood rules these days, but that's okay. Miike's been too busy making actual movies to notice what's happening in our backwaters industry.

Miike flew to the States to ask Tarantino to appear and the Big Chinned One will play a mysterious gunfighter named Ringo who fights with a female cast member at the start of the film.

To top it all off, the theme song will be an enka version of the original DJANGO theme, sung by Saburo Kitajima. Shooting is expected to wrap in December and the movie is set for a Fall 2007 release.

(Thanks to Ryuganji for the news. You can read the original articles here and here.)

November 20, 2006 at 10:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 17, 2006


Is it? Is Friday really Fun-day? Or is Friday the end of the world? The way this week has been going I'm betting on it being the end of the world.

The first horsewoman of the apocalypse, Bai Ling, is now on national television. And here comes the second horseman: iku iku byo. For those of you who don't suffer from this debilitating condition, it's a disease that's sweeping Japan and it's better known as Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome (or PSAS). Women suffering from this condition can experience up to 300 orgasms in a single day, brought on by stimulation no greater than having their hand held, or getting on a subway train. Manga artist and self-styled "sexpert", Akira Narita, says he has slept with around 1,000 women and:

"There must have been about 15 who came without me doing a thing. We'd only need to stare in each other's eyes and they'd start wiggling about, gripping tightly onto whatever was around them and their bodies would start to shake. There were others who'd orgasm repeatedly just because I'd stroked their hands. I'd always thought of these women as types who got off in their minds, but I think perhaps they may have had PSAS."

Horseman number three arrives in the form of Angeline Jolie's bodyguard team who have been beating people up all over India. She's there shooting her film, A MIGHTY HEART, and her bodyguards are relaxing by swinging their fists enegetically in the direction of peoples' faces, including some actual human beings at a school where she was shooting.

The Anjuman-e-Islam school, where Jolie is shooting, let parents in to pick up their kids and the bodyguards began to shout at them, allegedly referring to one as "You bloody Indian," and shoving kids around. Poor ethnic people. If Angelina Jolie can't adopt them then she sends her bodyguards to beat them up. Adopted or assaulted: it's one or the other in Angelina's world.

So we have Bai Ling, PSAS, and Angelina Jolie's bodyguards. But the Fourth Horseman is worse: lazy, crummy people. When a used car salesman was used as an ashtray and for target practice by his colleagues, the fourth horseman is what made most of his co-workers stand by and do nothing until the poor sap wound up in a mental hospital. When Japanese prostitutes lose their work ethic, the fourth horseman is to blame. When a Chinese actress reveals that she was given contracts in writing offering her TV and movie roles in exchange for having sex with directors and stars and no one is printing all the relevant names...the Fourth Horseman. When Tian Zhuangzhuang's THE GO MASTER is pulled from the Golden Horse Awards due to "political sensitivity" that's not really the Fourth Horseman but I wanted to get it in here. Even Chow Yun-fat has noticed the lazy wave that's sweeping the world, claiming that the Hong Kong film industry is better than Hollywood because Hollywood's system results in too many pampered and lazy actors.

Is there any doubt that a D-WAR-sized apocalypse is just around the corner?

This week gets scary, devil bicycle man. Maybe we can save this next week.

scary, bicycle-riding, phallus devil man

November 17, 2006 at 12:05 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Bai Ling is too crazy for LOST LOST is a pretty crazy show, so who better to appear on it than everyone's favorite international cat lady, Bai Ling?

But even Bai is too crazy for LOST to handle and so they're only going to expose the unsuspecting viewing audience to her in a Matthew Fox flashback.

Expectant mothers are advised not to watch as exposure to the pure insanity that is Bai Ling is liable to warp fetuses into weird swirlee shapes.

(Read the news)
(The news is confirmed!)

November 17, 2006 at 11:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


Nana 2 PlayStation game Apple Japan has posted the Quicktime trailer for NANA 2 and they've managed to make the new cast members look exactly like the old cast members. It's freaky!

From what I can tell of the plot, this time around both Nanas are trapped in the all-white apartment they share, unable to escape. There seems to be some kind of invisible gravitational field that keeps them there and everyone who visits winds up stuck as well - including Nana's band! The only thing that previously enabled the Nanas to escape the pull of apartment 707 was the power of their two matching strawberry glasses but now that one is broken the gravity field is out of control.

I'm super-psyched about this one!

November 17, 2006 at 11:04 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (4)


D-WAR delayed until 2007

A sharp-eyed reader sends in news that we may not being seeing the apparently completed D-WAR as soon as we thought.

Costing US$70 million (as opposed to the US$11 million of THE HOST) D-WAR is going to have to do some pretty major numbers in international sales to even make back its budget and it's going to have a hard time making that sale since it's not an arthouse movie and it's from a director who has only kids movies and a major flop to his name (although, rather touchingly, a Showbox exec says, "I consider the complete lack of expectations to actually be a strong marketing point,"). But now the producers are holding back the movie until an American sale is made:

"After delaying the Korea release of "D- War" several times, Jeong now says that the film will not hit screens domestically until an American company has signed on and everyone can coordinate the film's release (and prevent piracy from zapping the film's international potential)."

That's actually a pretty smart thing to do. And then they have to go and ruin it with this statement:

"I'm not even looking at the boxoffice," Jeong said. "I think it's a success already."

(Read the full article)

November 17, 2006 at 08:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Clint Eastwood LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, Clint Eastwood's movie covering the Japanese half of the battle for Iwo Jima, has had its release date moved from January to December in order to get it in the running for an Oscar.

HogaCentral reports that it just held its world premiere in Japan (where it will open on December 9) and Clint Eastwood made all kinds of fabulously incisive comments, like, "the film depicts how meaningless the war is," and "I would like to dedicate this movie to all the young people who participated in the war." Yeah man, war - what exactly is it good for.

Ken Watanabe was there but conspicuously absent was Shido Nakamura, who appears in the movie (yay!) but whose recent marital difficulties (like cheating) have made him paparazzi bait.

The film will open in the US on December 20.

November 17, 2006 at 08:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2006


Mani Ratnam's GURU

It was just announced that GURU, the much-anticipated Mani Ratnam film, has been delayed.

Originally scheduled for December 22 it's now coming out on January 12, that is if the post-production work gets finished on time. This is a major problem for Bollywood, and I've seen first-hand how it can really mess up exhibitors. A major movie is announced, the release date is moved several times, then it's confirmed, then rumors spread that it's moving, then it moves.

It's the kind of thing that really keeps people from spending a lot of money marketing these films overseas.

November 16, 2006 at 08:22 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Village VoiceThe Reeler offers up a careful dissection of exactly what happened, when, and maybe even why with regards to the recent seismic shake-ups in the Village Voice's Film Section.

Is this what "journalism" looks like? It's perhaps the only time you'll see film critics interviewed as if they're normal people and not the night-dwelling circus freaks they really are. They seem normal enough in this piece, but I wouldn't get too close to the bars if I were you...

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

November 16, 2006 at 07:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 15, 2006


old school Bollywood TEESRI MANZIL

If it wasn't for the comments section of this blog I'd never learn terms like "tumbleweave" and I never would have heard the plaintive cry of a few readers who want to know what Bollywood movies to watch. There're a lot of Bollywood movies out there, they're all on region free DVDs with English subtitles, and they all look exactly the same. Every single movie, be it love story or revenge thriller, has the cover of a bad Harlequin romance. So here's a cheap attempt for me to justify the hundreds of hours of Bollywood movies I've watched by giving you a list of ten films you should see from Bollywood.

DIL SE - the first Bollywood movie I ever saw and still the best movie about terrorism ever made. A full-blown musical about suicide bombers starring Manisha Koirala and Shah Rukh Khan, two of Bollywood's biggest stars. Everything about this movie is perfect.

COMPANY - cold and tight, like the death grip of a corpse, Ram Gopal Varma's masterpiece is an exceptional gangster flick that'll send you scurrying out to find his other works. Try SATYA (his first Bollywood gangster movie), EK HASINA THI (female revenge film produced by Varma), AB TAK CHHAPPAN (corrupt cop movie produced by Varma) and read more about his career here.

MAST - Varma again, but this time he's making a poisonous love letter to the big Bollywood masala movies that he loved as a fan. It's sick, and weird, and very very glam.

BOMBAY - Mani Ratnam of DIL SE fame made this Hindu/Muslim love story and while it ends like a Coke commercial there's no denying the two hours plus of great acting, riot scenes, and people being burned alive that precedes the finale.

DISCO DANCER - if wacky is more your taste then please treat yourself to DISCO DIDDY. Movies don't get any more head foggingly weird than this one which features guitar trauma and the finger snap attack.

MUTHU MAHARAJA - okay, maybe Rajni in MUTHU is weirder. Take DISCO DANCER and MUTHU MAHARAJA together and feel your brain recoil in terror. There are no reviews I can find for this fine, fine film but that'll change soon.

NAYAK NAYAK - if you can find a disc of NAYAK that hasn't falled prey to digital decay then grab it. A news cameraman becomes Prime Minister of India for a day and fixes things by punching people in the stomach. Well-produced but bone-headed, this the fantasy film that features the infamous "naked MATRIX" fight scene.

DEVDAS - three of Bollywood's biggest actors swoon and suffer on Bollywood's biggest sets in this adapatation of Bollywood's most famous love story. Eyeball grabbing decor-joy and a plot that's lowest setting is "intensely tragic" make this my Bollywood guilty pleasure. Get some ideas on how to decorate YOUR villa here.

ABHAY ABHAY - the Hindi disc is a mess that freezes halfway through so order the Telugu version (same movie, different language) instead: AALAVANDHAN. This may not be to everyone's taste, but Kamal Hassan has made the definitive serial killer horror musical and his performance as the psychotic SWAT commander and his psychotic serial killer brother is totally ginchy. (note: there are apparently some minor edits of drug use in the Tamil version. Can anyone confirm this?)

TEESRI MANZIL - old school Bollywood the way it ought to be: a nutty plot, fabulous Dr. Seuss inspired musical numbers, Helen acting nasty just because she can, and lots and lots of strangeness from another dimension. That said, TEESRI MANZIL has a lot more going for it than you'd expect, including some great performances and a plot that actually makes sense. (Get some historical context for TEESRI MANZIL.)

And if any of these movies get you interested then there are millions more, literally tons of Bollywood fun, to be found. Try MARD (vampires! in colonial India?!?); MUGHAL-E-AZAM (a period epic that cost a zillion rupees to make); KABHI KUSHIE KABHI GHAM (family-sized melodrama); APAHARAN (kidnapping!), SARKAR (the GODFATHER remake!); OMKARA (OTHELLO goes to Bollywood!); AANKHEN (blind guys rob bank!) and on...and on...and on...

(And, yes, before people start getting boring: I know all of these movies aren't official Bollywood product, some are from other film industries in India, but they all are part of the Bollywood aesthetic)

November 15, 2006 at 09:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (20)


Kent Cheng

A sharp-eyed reader sends in news that Kent Cheng has joined the cast of Wilson Yip's CITY WITH NO MERCY and that news sends a thrill through my soul.

Cheng was a major actor in 1980's Hong Kong and he was still good all through the 90's. Most people know him as "the fatty" but he had some real chops and carried a lot of movies, which is rare for a guy who looks like a bullfrog (check out HE LIVES BY NIGHT or RUN AND KILL for two of his best films) and now he's reunited with Ray Lui (another 80's/90's stalwart) in CITY OF NO MERCY. First Mark Cheng in ELECTION 2 and now this? Truly I can die happy.

(Download a Realplayer file that's a postage-stamp-sized trailer for TO BE NUMBER ONE, a Hong Kong gangster flick with Ray Lui and Kent Cheng - that's Ray limping and shouting and Kent slapping his own mouth and asking for some oral relief)

November 15, 2006 at 08:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)


If you thought it was only a rumor, then think so no more. The SANJURO remake is alive and kicking and has never felt better - the first ever Japanese remake of an Akira Kurosawa movie held its press conference just a few days ago. Directed by Yoshimitsu Morita (LIKE ASHURA) and starring Yuji Oda (of BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN fame) in the Toshiro Mifune role, it's slated for a December 2007 release.

Says Oda, "There are lots of corruption and bullying problems nowadays, and I think the story that Sanjuro and young people stand against such a problem fits to the mood of the current generation.  Sometimes I am tempted to copy Mr. Mifune, but I am trying hard to express Yuji Oda's Sanjuro."

(Thanks to HogaCentral for the news)

November 15, 2006 at 07:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)


The trailer for Magnolia's DYNAMITE WARRIOR is now a downloadable file over at Twitch. Savor the missiles.

November 15, 2006 at 07:19 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2006


I don't know if anything much has turned up about this, but Sion Sono's next film takes J-horror to its logical conclusion. First it was dead girls with long, black hair. Then it was their wigs. Now it's their hair extensions: EXTE!

Fortunately, EXTE is redeemable because it's so far over the top (at least judging by the promo reel) that the top becomes the new bottom and it stars stalwart Ren Osugi and everyone's favorite Chiaki Kuriyama:

"What if extensions carried the grudge of the individual to which the hair originally belonged and started attacking people wearing it at random?

Customs agents discover a huge amount of human hair used as materials for 'hair extensions' along with the dead body of a young girl with a shaved head. With the corpse being soon transported by the police, the results of the autopsy determine that the woman's internal organs have been harvested. the possibility is pointed out that she was kidnapped in some foreign country and was a victim of black market human organ racketeering ring. A sinister, fearless smirk comes over Yamazaki, the morgue night watchman.

[Note: this is a job that should be eliminated immediately as morgue night watchmen, as a rule, wind up being insane killers and deviants]

Yuko is a young wannabe hair stylist apprenticing at the Gilles de Rais [Note: ha ha] hair salon. After working late each day, after returning home, she tirelessly practices her skills on head mannequins with wigs. One day, her sister, Kiyomi, forcibly entrusts her eight-year-old daughter, Mami, to Yuko. For some reason, Mami is abnormally timid and frightened and has several wounds on her body from abuse.

Meanwhile, Yamazaki cuddles up with the corpse of the girl he stole from the morgue which now occupies his room. Hair has become to grow from her head once again, not only from her head but from where her organs were removed: the scars of her stomach and even her empty eye socket.

Later, Yamazaki shows up at Yuko's salon with Mami who got lost looking for Yuko. Yamazaki takes one look at Yuko and is captivated by her lovely flowing hair...

Look for it in February 2007.

Sion Sono's EXTE

November 14, 2006 at 07:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 13, 2006


What Taiwanese caper flick from the director of gay film FORMULA 17 shares similarities to a poster from the Will Smith comedy HITCH from a few years ago? There's a hint in this post. Can you find it?

CATCH poster

HITCH poster

November 13, 2006 at 12:41 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


The website for the Tony Leung Chiu-wai/Takeshi Kaneshiro noir from the directors of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy (and INITIAL D!) is live. It's a bare-bones affair but one hopes that the CONFESSIONS OF PAIN site will sport a trailer and some stills before too long. At least it reveals more of the plot, which actually sounds pretty rabid.


November 13, 2006 at 12:11 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)


Reviews are popping out all over, and they're a neat way for you to waste time when you're supposed to be working!

- Brian reviews THE PASSION (a rape revenge thriller from Thailand), Wisit Sasanatieng's horror movie, THE UNSEEABLE, and Thai horror film, THE VICTIM.

- the godless Canadians over at Twitch review A DIRTY CARNIVAL and the two-disc set of DOG BITE DOG.

- Variety reviews the new flick from VIBRATOR director, Ryuichi Hiroki, M. And the Carina Lau psychodrama, CURIOSITY KILLS THE CAT.

November 13, 2006 at 11:50 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (2)


The latest acquisition from Magnolia, DYNAMITE WARRIOR, features the lead actor and action choreographer from BORN TO FIGHT but judging by this trailer on YouTube it's far more focused on fantasy and wirework elements than the gritty elbow to jaw action of BORN 2 FITE.


November 13, 2006 at 11:30 AM in Trailers | Permalink | Comments (2)


Kim Ki-Duk's TIME

Cineclick Asia has sold Kim Ki-Duk's latest movie, TIME, to North American distributor, Lifesize, the company which also released OASIS and BAD GUY in the US.

That is all.

November 13, 2006 at 11:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


The official Western reviews of Zhang Yimou's CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER are popping up all over and they tend to be largely negative. Robert Koehler reviews for Variety, giving it a largely negative write-up calling it "strange" and "troubled", "hysterical" and "mannered".

"Ominous meanings emerge in rather murky terms, and the constant barrage of ploys, counter-ploys and revelations are as weighty and elaborate as the lavish, glistening interior decor of the palace (by production designer Huo Tingxiao). Indeed, the webs upon webs of intrigue tilt over the edge of drama into comedy, with viewers' attention waning...the eventual battle scenes are imagined in God-like master shots involving seemingly millions of soldiers. Complaints directed at recent epics like TROY for reducing battleground troops to digitized army ants applies here in spades, resulting in turning what should be a moving and suspenseful war between imperial factions into a kind of video game."

Mike Goodridge reviews for ScreenDaily, suffering under the delusion that there was a young male action audience for HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS:

"China's most expensive production to date has every yuang up on the screen. One of the most sumptuous and almost absurdly opulent spectacles on screen in recent memory, Zhang Yimou's $45m epic CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER is fortunately not just a pretty face. It's also a meaty, blood-soaked melodrama filled with intrigue, deception and incest that would make Lady Macbeth and Emperor Nero proud...A warm reception should be forthcoming from critics and arthouse audiences around the world, although GOLDEN FLOWER is short on action and unlikely to crossover to the young males who lapped up Zhang's martial arts spectaculars HERO and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS."

He then goes on offer unqualified praise for every aspect of the production. Gong Li is "magnificent", Chow Yun-fat is "impressively imperious", the set design is "a wonder" and the action is "...too much visual splendour and information to digest in one sitting."

And finally, the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt weighs in with a negative review that calls the movie a "bad soap opera" and "disappointingly inert" before predicting a strong opening at the box office. It's the new way critics hedge their bets: I hate this movie, but if it makes money then I called it. He also uses the word "Alas":

"Despite Zhang's collaboration with action director Ching Siu-Tong, the film's few fights are cluttered and undistinguished, in direct contrast to the clarity of the terrific stunt work in the director's previous action films. Zhang over-relies on CGI, but the level of success in no way matches the battles of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, the high bar to which any film attempting vast battles must now aspire. In the hand-to-hand combat, the action is often jarring and even confusing. Alas, in CURSE the costumes and sets have all the good lines."

November 13, 2006 at 10:48 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink | Comments (11)

November 10, 2006


Do you miss your celebrity gossip? Do you need it the way a junkie needs his fix? Then welcome to Friday is Fun-Day: All Gossip Edition! Is it true? Is it a lie? I got the news from several different sources who ought to know, and most of it's been published somewhere, so you be the judge.

- Isabella Leung, star of ISABELLA and DRAGON TIGER GATE, has been suspended for one year by her management company, Emperor Entertainment, due to her "attitude problems". She's also required to take interpersonal training classes every Tuesday and Friday at Emperor HQ.

Anthony Wong - Anthony Wong's English language flick, THE PAINTED VEIL, was expanded to give Anthony more screentime after director John Curran saw him bust out the acting and got excited over how good he was. Naomi Watts and Edward Norton co-star. No one gave them any additional scenes.

- It looks like Sony will be pushing for "Best Actor" and "Best Actress" Academy award nominations for Gong Li and Chow Yun-fat for their performances in CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER.

- When does no one care about piracy? When it's Eason Chan begging fans not to upload and illegally distribute his new music video. Um, he was going to make a lot of money off of that?

- Is Cecilia Cheung pregnant? Nic Tse says "no", but paparazzi photos seem to indicate that she's either digesting a bowling ball or hatching a baby. Also, she took down a "Baby on Board" sticker from her van after reporters started pestering her about it. There are also claims that she's been to the hospital more than once recentl and that she's due in June 07. Her manager says only, "She has always wanted to be a mother." Oh, and then there's the fact that the organizer of the First Annual Chinese TV Audience Festival accidentally revealed that she's two months pregnant, citing that as the reason why she hasn't confirmed her participation.

- Derek Yee is saying that PROTEGE may be playing the 2007 Berlin Film Festival.

- Johnnie To's new movie is being produced by Wai Ka-fai and stars Jay Lau (from DAYS OF TOMORROW) and Kelly Lin in a double role.

- Folks are saying that CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER may get an "R" rating in the States.

Takeuchi Yuko and Nakamura Shido - Nakamura Shido (PING PONG, FEARLESS) and his wife of 16 months, Takeuchi Yuko (famous for her television performances), are getting divorced. The reason? Shido was cheating on Yuko, apparently. The irony? Now Yuko is returning to the big screen with a role in A DOG IN THE SIDECAR, where she plays a man's mistress who takes over his family after his wife leaves home.

(Thanks to all the readers who translated these salacious tidbits, scouring all corners of the globe to send them in)

No Darth Kitty this week, but some fancy artwork instead.


November 10, 2006 at 11:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)



A while back we mentioned that Viz had picked up PING PONG, A TASTE OF TEA and LINDA LINDA LINDA. Well, although you wouldn't know it, LINDA LINDA LINDA is now playing in the theaters around the country. Currently they've just got one print running around:

Now! November 10th! LINDA LINDA LINDA at the ImaginAsian in New York City
November 10-16 19

December 8th! LINDA LINDA LINDA at Facets Cinematheque in Chicago

December 29th! LINDA LINDA LINDA at the Grand Illusion Cinema in Seattle

LINDA x3 sold out both screenings at the New York Asian Film Festival and the New York Times gives it a rave in today's paper saying:

"If a movie about guitar-strumming Japanese high school girls isn't high on your list of weekend destinations, you could be missing one of this year's most unexpected pleasures."

Time Out New York gushed about it, too:

"Nobuhiro Yamashita's po-faced ode to schoolgirls, garage rock and the smell of teen spirit hits like an endorphin rush even as it employs a deadpan attitude and deliberate pace...imagine downing Jarmusch's entire output along with a six-pack of Jolt...Pop narcotics simply don't come any purer."

If you ever wanted to try something new, go on the perfect date movie, or support Asian cinema, you should get yourself to one of these runs for LINDA LINDA LINDA.

LINDA LINDA LINDA official site.

(I'm not getting paid to shill this. I just think it's a fantastic movie and Viz seems to have no clue about how to publicize their theatrical releases. So I enthuse and hope it makes a difference.)

November 10, 2006 at 10:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)



It's the unlikeliest match you've ever seen. The world's premiere "leave me alone" director, Wong Kar-wai, teams up with the world's most hands-on producers, the Weinstein Brothers, to bring MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS to the USA.

BLUEBERRY NIGHTS is Wong's first English-language movie, starring Norah Jones and a fistful of other Western celebs. This could be a marriage made in heaven or a match made in hell, but the first grim portent is the fate of 2046, Wong's previous release. When it hit screens in the US it received worshipful reviews from critics who practically sacrificed their children to the film, describing it as "sensuous", "throbbing", and "sweaty" leading one to suspect that their engagement with the film went far beyond what was proper. Despite this near-sexual praise from reviewers, the movie made only $260,000 or so at the American box office.

Why is this is a problem? Because the devil's deal that people accuse Harvey Weinstein of making with filmmakers is, "Do you want anyone to see your movie?"  and that box office failure gives him a wedge to insert his lever and pry. He suddenly has a leg to stand on to make any changes he decides will increase the movie's marketability and despite his once-golden touch, he's not always right.

Expect to hear the sound of screaming on both coasts as Harvey and his new bride start chucking the good china at each other on their wedding night.

November 10, 2006 at 10:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

November 09, 2006


Ekin Cheng as Huo Yuanjia Hong Kong actor, singer and recovering major celebrity, Ekin Cheng, is the Man of Many Silly Names. He was Noodle Cheng. He was Dior Cheng. Now he is Ekin. Most famous for his role as Chan Ho-nam, the stylishly coifed and smooth-chested leader of Hong Kong's hippest gang of violent criminals in the YOUNG AND DANGEROUS movie series (which ended in 2000 right before it had to be retitled OLD AND CROTCHETY) there was a time when Ekin was synonymous with Mr. Cool. He even starred in a movie called GOODBYE MR. COOL in 2001 and that's the crux of Ekin's problem. He was a transitional celebrity, helping to bridge the gap between the celeb-deficient mid-90's and the mid-00's when everyone's a star. 1996 - 2001: Ekin Cheng, RIP.

But there's a problem: Ekin won't stay buried. Eternally just slightly over the hill, veins flowing with embalming fluid, he's now attempting to become everyone on the planet, starting with Jet Li in FEARLESS. He's shooting a remake of the Huo Yuanjia story, which spawned a 1983 TV series and 2006's movie FEARLESS, where he plays Huo with his YOUNG AND DANGEROUS sidekick, Jordan Chan, returning to sidekick duty.

Ekin Cheng as Ultraman Elite Then Ekin is playing Ultraman Elite in a new 52 episode Ultraman TV series, PROJECT ULTRAMAN. The show introduces a couple of new Ultramen and is embroiled in a legal quagmire thanks to an intellectual property scandal involving the Ultraman creators, Japan's Tsuburaya Productions, and a Thai company called Chaiyo that claims they have the rights to Ultraman outside Japan. The case is long and complicated but kind of thrilling with its swarms of angry fans, forged documents, shoddy production values, chain-of-title evidence based on a single snapshot, and endless hearings that have taken place in Japan, Thailand and now China, prompting the Chinese to launch a superpowered "Ultraman Copyright Study Group."

Chaiyo looks like they're sparing every expense to produce the show and, despite playing one of the main characters, Ekin says he only shot for two weeks since he's replaced by another actor once he turns into Ultraman.

See, Ekin is everybody. And everybody is Ekin.

November 9, 2006 at 09:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)


Warner Brothers China multiplex

Warner Brothers, one of the major US studios that had made the most aggressive inroads in China, has thrown up its hands in disgust at the rules of doing business in China and has closed shop on its multiplex plans for the People's Republic.

Fortunately, not a lot will be affected by Warner's understandable tantrum at not getting their way in the marketplace. They'll sell their controlling interest in three current cineplexes, and either abandon or sell two half-constructed cineplexes and one planned future plex.

Of course, they could confound everybody by turning around and re-purchasing the developments themselves via joint partnerships in which they don't have a majority stake. That way they don't get the headaches but do get the money.

But...it's not a lot of money. The theaters do great business, but it's great business in China which means that the three plexes rake in about US$15 million/year in total. Not a major chunk of Warners annual income.

Warner's move was based on China's "Several Opinions on Foreign Investment in Culture Industry" issued in 2003 which allowed foreign ownership of businesses in seven major Chinese cities to reach 75%. However, it was issued on a trial basis and in December 2005 they issued an amendment stating, "Chinese mainland investors must own at least 51 percent or play a leading role in their joint ventures with foreign investors." Warners petitioned for this to be reversed and threatened to withdraw from the Chinese multiplex business if it wasn't.

It wasn't, and they did.

November 9, 2006 at 08:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2006


Reel Asian FilmsToronto's Reel Asian Film Fest (November 15 - 19) is ten years old, traditionally the "tin" or "aluminum" anniversary. To celebrate they're showing more artsy movies than you can shake a stick at, so if you live in Toronto and you feel dumbed down then you should get on over and soak up the culture.

What's playing?

- Patrick Tam's first flick in 17 years, AFTER THIS OUR EXILE, sets the tone

- Zhang Yuan's excellent LITTLE RED FLOWERS featuring cute kids learning about Revolutionary politics

- the Vietnamese boat people epic, JOURNEY FROM THE FALL

- the queer film CUT SLEEVE BOYS

- Asian American musical and audience favorite, COLMA: THE MUSICAL

- Indonesia's comedy, JONI'S PROMISE

So head on over and bring them an aluminum can or some nice jewelry you've made out of tin foil. It's the thought that counts!

November 7, 2006 at 09:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Maggie Lee has been keeping the Tokyo Film Fest's "Winds of Asia" blog and it's a gas. There's plenty of English-language content including:

- interview with CRAZY STONE actor Guo Tao (his next movie: a Qing Dynasty prison flick)

- Su Chao-pin (SILK) talks about "ghost rights"

- Roger Garcia writes on Patrick Tam's film, AFTER THIS OUR EXILE and Kong Rithdee takes on Thailand's money-making comedy, NOO-HIN: THE MOVIE

November 7, 2006 at 08:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 06, 2006


INFERNAL AFFAIRS III Jason Gray says that PACCHIGI!, the head-butting story of a Japanese guy in love with a Korean girl in the 60's, has a sequel in the works with a May 2007 release date on the horizon. Director Izutsu Kazuyuki returns for the film but some roles have been recast and the era has been "updated".

And a brief line of text in a Variety article about the current AFM has caught the eye of several readers:

"Warner is understood to be looking at a sequel to THE DEPARTED which was based on the first two parts of the Hong Kong trilogy INFERNAL AFFAIRS."

Okay, hits breed sequels and with $91 million at the box office and running, THE DEPARTED is definitely a hit. But can we get a little less of Jack in the movie? That's all I'm asking. Or maybe they can set up an Eyebrow Jar on set and everytime he raises his eyebrows he has to put in a dollar and they can donate the proceeds to orphans.

November 6, 2006 at 10:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)


WONG JING aka NAKED WEAPONThe direct-to-video market is often where foreign films go in America, presumably to die. But while reading a story about the DTV market in the US a sharp-eyed reader sent in the following quote about Joe Amodei, president of Hart Sharp Video, a DTV company:

"Among his biggest successes are 2005's CODEBREAKERS, an ESPN drama about the U.S. Military Academy's 1950s cheating scandal, and 2002's NAKED WEAPON, an Asian action film he purchased for less than $200,000 after seeing it at AFM two years ago. "It's still one of my top sellers," Amodei says, noting that the film already has brought in more than $1 million in combined DVD, electronic and TV sales."

I don't know what I find more incredible: that NAKED WEAPON pulled in over a million bucks or that someone paid $200,000 for it.

November 6, 2006 at 09:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)


Ryuhei KitamuraRyuhei Kitamura and Shunji Iwai are two brands of Japan's pop cinema. Kitamura is the shonen: all out boys adventure, hard hitting, fast paced and short attention spanned. Iwai is the shojo: slower, more emotional and anchored in real life.

Their collaboration, BANDAGE, is a rock movie that Iwai says he's finished the script on and that Kitamura is supposed to direct, probably sometime after Kitamura shoots his first Hollywood movie - something some people say he's been auditioning for for a long time. It's an adaptation of Clive Barker's short story, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, about a guy who haplessly stumbles across the gory secret that the city father of Manhattan is an enormous monster who needs to eat human flesh. It's a property that's been banging around Hollywood for a while.

Shunji IwaiIwai on the other hand is working on a documentary about Japan's directorial legend, Kon Ichikawa. Shooting on the set of Ichikawa's new movie, MURDER OF THE INUGAMI CLAN, Iwai is titling his film THE KON ICHIKAWA STORY and it'll be finished and ready to screen on Dec.9, about 7 days before Ichikawa's new movie hits theaters.

November 6, 2006 at 08:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 03, 2006



The latest incarnation of Korea's comedy action series, MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER, stars Hong Kong's very own Shu Qi. Playing the daughter of a triad boss from Hong Kong sent into hiding in Korea, Shu Qi winds up living with the rather thick Gi-Chul (Lee Beom-Soo from CITY OF VIOLENCE) and has to unleash copious amounts of beat-downs on thugs sent to take her out. And there's a trailer too:

November 3, 2006 at 11:20 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (6)


Prachya Pinkaew's CHOCOLATE

So what has the director of ONG BAK and THE PROTECTOR, Prachya Pinkaew, been up to? CHOCOLATE. With choreography by Panna Rittikrai (ONG BAK, BORN TO FIGHT), CHOCOLATE is a female centric action movie that's sort of like a homeless LA FEMME NIKITA meets ONG BAK.

Len is a young, autistic girl who has razor sharp fighting skills and lives with her mom. When mom gets cancer the kid picks up her mom's diary containing a list of people who owe her money and, one by one, she tracks them down and kicks their butts until they cough up the cash so she can pay her mom's medical bills. But most of the debtors belong to a group known as No. 8 and their membership includes some powerful politicians who decide that this spin-kicking teen has the potential to make them look bad so they decide to kill her.

The movie seems to be in post-production. Download a production notes flyer for CHOCOLATE (.jpg file)

November 3, 2006 at 11:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)


The Door

One of the movies I've been excited about for a while is THE DOOR, the first horror film from China's Li Shaohong. Li is the only female director from China's Fifth Generation and she's best known overseas for BAOBER IN LOVE, her eye-popping riff on AMELIE that managed to roll in first love, the modernization of Beijing, mental illness and felinophobia into one stunning package.

THE DOOR is a psychological thriller in the vein of Polanski or Hitchcock and the logline reads as follows:

The Door"Against the backdrop of contemporary China, the story centers on a young intellectual who feels 'marginalized' and is losing out in the ever changing society, and whose dignity and pride rest solely on the relationship with his beautiful girlfriend. When the girlfriend suddenly walks out from him, he becomes so distraught that he embarks on an ominous journey to find her and the truth behind the breakup…"

Originally slated for a December 1st release, its release date has been pushed back to mid-January due to the release schedule of the lead actor Chen Kun and to the fact that CONFESSIONS OF PAIN and CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER are coming out in December. The special effects and stunt work are being finalized now (the stunts are courtesy of the Hong Kong team that took the falls and crashed the cars for MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3) and the trailer should be ready soon. Look for it here.

(By the way, those are the new posters for the film. I like the old poster a little better but still they're not half bad)

November 3, 2006 at 10:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


THE HOSTRoy Lee, king of the remake deals, has set up a remake of THE HOST over at Universal pictures. I'm betting that this is a project that will go nowhere fast. The key part of the Variety story:

" Producers have yet to set either a scripter or a helmer. Although the pic is a simple monster-cum-hostage move, the retread will likely need some tweaking. Korean story had social and political undertones that included sideswipes at the U.S., which has a large military presence in Korea."

This is an example of a remake that may be based solely on market frenzy. People in the States see that it's made US$84 million in Korea, and they think, "We should remake that." Not realizing that by taking the story out of Korea they basically lose all the elements that made it unique. You don't need the remake rights to shoot a movie about a monster in the Mississippi that steals a little girl from her dopey dad. With a few tweaks you could come up with a totally different project and never pay a dime. But there you go: remakes know no rhyme or reason. They just are.

(Read my review of THE HOST)

November 3, 2006 at 10:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (16)


Dynamite Warrior

Magnolia has picked up Thai flick TABUNFIRE (now re-titled "Dynamite Warrior"), produced by Prachya Pinkaew, with action by Panna Rittikrai and starring Dan Chupong (BORN TO FIGHT). Sahamongkol, the Thai studio, has started acting as its own sales agent recently after taking its titles back from its previous sales agent, Golden Network, and in the last month they've made a big sale to the Weinstein Company (for 13 BELOVED) and now to Magnolia, which is pretty hot stuff for them.

The press release gives the plot as follows:

"Produced by Prachya Pinkaew (ONG BAK: THE THAI WARRIOR) and featuring death-defying stunts from acclaimed coordinator Panna Rittikrai (ONG BAK, BORN TO FIGHT), DYNAMITE WARRIOR stars Dan Chupong of BORN TO FIGHT as Zieng, "The Rocket Thief," a young man riddled with grief and bent on revenge after witnessing his parents’ murder by a callous and malicious killer. The only information Zieng has as to the killer's identity is the tattoo-covered man who is part of an organized group of cattle rustlers. Zieng makes it his mission to stop all cattle rustlers and in the process return each head of cattle back to its rightful owner."

Later in the press release Magnolia president, Eamonn Bowles, can't help himself, "DYNAMITE WARRIOR is an absolute blast," he puns painfully. Ouch, he really BLEW it. I hope Dan Chupong BLOWS UP BIG.

Magnolia previously brought Tony Jaa to the US with ONG BAK who then took his business over to the Weinstein Company (who are also involved with ONG BAK 2) leaving Magnolia with action choreographer, Panna Rittikrai, who may wind up being the better deal. Panna has excelled at choreographing both THE PROTECTOR and ONG BAK, and he's also ventured into widescale mayhem with BORN TO FIGHT. I actually prefer BORN TO FIGHT (coming soon from Dragon Dynasty) to ONG BAK and THE PROTECTOR and I'm hoping DYNAMITE WARRIOR is more along those lines, emphasizing massive stuntwork over fighting.

November 3, 2006 at 10:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Shaw Brothers' Five Venoms

When Celestial acquired the bulk of the Shaw Brothers library back in 2000 they claimed they'd be developing remakes as well. Everyone sort of ignored that news in the rush of excitement over the Shaw Brothers movies finally coming to DVD but now the other shoe has dropped. Kirk Wong (CRIME STORY, THE BIG HIT) has been assigned to write and direct a modern day FIVE VENOMS remake, retitled FIVE DEADLY VENOMS and with one of the male characters replaced by a female Spider Girl.

In addition, Teddy Chan (PURPLE STORM, THE ACCIDENTAL SPY), has been tapped to direct a remake of Ho Meng-hua's THE FLYING GUILLOTINE with a script by Su Chao-pin (DOUBLE VISION, SILK) and Emi Wada (HERO) designing the costumes. Sadly, "...a new romantic twist is injected into the story."

I'm glad Kirk Wong is working again (his last movie was the under-rated THE BIG HIT back in 1998) but unless he and Teddy Chan can bring a really unique vision to this then I'm prepared for DRAGON TIGER GATE 2 and 3: over-produced, under-written, about as substantial as a paper napkin. Hopefully I'll be eating my words. Giving weight to the argument for the prosecution is the fact that Philip Lee will be producing both films. Lee is credited as a producer on CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and HERO but also on WINDSTRUCK and TOMB RAIDER 2.

November 3, 2006 at 09:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 02, 2006


Folks have been sending this in, and so the details will erupt! Dragon Dynasty strikes back with a two-disc special edition of Jackie Chan's 1985 POLICE STORY. A movie still absolutely fresh 20 years later, except for Maggie Cheung's clothes, and the flick that made Westerners sit up and take notice of Chan when it played at the New York Film Festival in 1987 (and got snarkily dissed by a rather smug-sounding Vincent Canby).

Now it's disc number deux from the Weinstein Company's Dragon Dynasty label. The film's on two discs, anamorphic widescreen, with an English dub and English subs, the original Cantonese soundtrack in 5.1, deleted scenes (from the Japanese cut of the film), an interview with Jackie, a tribute to his stunt team, and a whole mess of other stuff.

But what's sure to draw fire is an audio commentary by Bey Logan and Brett Ratner. Apparently, Jackie wouldn't do one and so they wanted to get someone on to bump up the value of the film and, as much as I hate to admit it, the Rat-Man is a name (Director of RUSH HOUR! Director of X-MEN 3!).

The movie is still gorgeous, it's still getting a great treatment, but it grates on my nerves that it takes a hand from the Rat-Man to push this movie to the masses. But if Jackie won't do it, somebody has to. Besides, if we didn't have his audio commentary what would we make fun of when the disc streets on December 19? It's like a fan's early Christmas present.

(Full specs and cover art here).

November 2, 2006 at 09:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

November 01, 2006


Now you can keep your whack b-boys and your thug rappas because Kaiju Shakedown rolls with...da Hong Kong CPAs! Yeah, that's right. Chartered Public Accountants. Because they all up in your district slicing off some fresh rhymes for you in their very first, super positive hip hop video: TUTE IN DA HOUSE. Word to the mothership, ya'll. Peace out, Edison style.

(A million thanks to Frederick V. for sending this in...and if you want to know more then you can read all about it here)

November 1, 2006 at 11:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)


Zhang Jingchu RUSH HOUR 3! The movie no one has been waiting for, except Chris Tucker and he's been waiting so quietly, so patiently, like a spider in the middle of its web sitting motionless while his pawns play into his trap...

Tucker's trap snapped when shooting began back in August with an international cast who sound like something that traveled around 19th Century Eastern Europe in a Gypsy caravan and charged admission: Max Von Sydow! Roman Polanski! Vinnie Jones! Hiroyuki Sanada! And now...Zhang Jingchu. Who? She's the Chinese actress who starred in PEACOCK, is acting in the upcoming PROTEGE, and who also appeared in SEVEN SWORDS and Finland's THE JADE WARRIOR.

Word has been spreading like a spilled milkshake that she's joining Brett Ratner's ever-expanding mega-cast for RUSH HOUR 3 and while she's not Aishwarya Rai or Yao Ming at least she's Asian so she's sort of like them, too. Everyone, relax. Eventually Brett Ratner will cast all of us in RUSH HOUR 3.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who translated this news - more photos of Zhang here)

November 1, 2006 at 10:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)


Protege If you're at AFM (the American Film Market in Santa Monica - for those of you not on the inside looking out) then hie thee hither to Loews Suite 859 to check out the promo reel for Derek Yee's new drugs n'thugs epic: PROTEGE.

It's being handled by sales agent, The Little Film Company, who were responsible for the US sale of TSOTSI which won "Best Foreign Film" last year. That's the only thing that's keeping me from saying that PROTEGE has Tai Seng written all over it. I mean, ONE NITE IN MONGKOK was a good movie from Yee and Tai Seng snagged that.

Also, it looks like the Little Film Company is repping THE EYE 3...directed by Tsui Hark? Methinks there is a misprint here. Produced by Tsui Hark, maybe?

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

November 1, 2006 at 09:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (12)