January 19, 2007

THE FUTURE AND THE PAST IN REVIEW

Week_good_250 With Kaiju Shakedown closing up today, I am totally disappointed that I'll never know how some things will turn out.

- Will THE HOST make money in America? Magnolia's betting the farm on this one and it could go either way. The opening weekend number that'll be reported on March 12 is going to make or break a lot of upcoming movies and could either spark a feeding frenzy or put a chill on Asian genre film acquisitions for a long time to come.

- Will 2007 be the year Johnnie To goes mainstream with TRIAD ELECTION (aka ELECTION 2) coming up from Tartan and EXILED coming up from Magnolia? Or will these just be more Johnnie To movies that the American public really doesn't care about?

- Wither Tartan? A sharp-eyed reader reports that Tartan is teasing some big surprise that'll pop up on their Asian Extreme website soon. But they've got some real underperformers in their catalogue, a lot of staff have left, and there seem to be some cash flow problems. I wouldn't count them out, however, they can still turn this around.

- Wither Dragon Dynasty? I never thought I'd see the day when the Weinsteins are actually putting out a respectable line of Asian DVDs but here we are in 2007 and they've got four titles under their belt and more on the way. The line is new and it's got both weaknesses and strengths so it could go either way - to the Dark Side or the Light - and only their performance for the rest of this year will tell the tale.

Bongprotest_250- Thailand? Korea? Both countries had a moment in the sun when they thought they were invincible but have fallen into shadow. Thailand thought it was going to mint money with Tony Jaa and it did mint money, only not as much as they anticipated. Industry infighting and a laughable film festival threw mud on what was left of their self-esteem. Korea made tons of cash in 2005 but in 2006 it discovered that success was a double-edged sword. The film quota system has been cut again, exports have dropped, and local producers complain that management companies hold too much power and certain movies have a monopoly on screens, keeping smaller movies from competing. So what does 2007 hold for them?

- Will Japan keep on keeping on in '07? Japan had a record year in '06 and now it just remains to be seen if this is an anomaly, or if the sudden, massive popularity of Japanese movies is the real dizzle fo shizzle or was it just some kind of crazy bump in the road.

- Will DYNAMITE WARRIOR really be released by Magnolia in Summer '07?

Sperm_250 - Is THE SPERM actually going to be good?

- What about THE BODYGUARD 2?

- Is PROTEGE going to be just another TRAFFIC knock-off?

- Will Shilpa Shetty win "Celebrity Big Brother"?

- Will another celebrity get drunk at Jackie's concert in Vegas and crawl up onstage and sing with him?

- Where's Jones?

- Is MAIKO HAAAN as annoying as it looks or is it secretly a work of genius?

- Will Bollywood start making movies I like again?

- Will CI MA be more like COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY or more like PERHAPS LOVE?

Cat - Will either of these two posts ever die? Or will Malaysian film fans and Indian film fans keep posting comments and keep this blog alive forever, like the Flying Dutchman?

- Will we ever find out who ate that Japanese lady's toes?

And lest we forget...

- Eric Tsang is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bacon


Eric Tsang is CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN BACON

- Andy Lau is on your toilet

Andy Lau Celebrity Endorsed Toilet

- Scary, bicycle-riding, phallus devil man.

scary, bicycle-riding, phallus devil man

January 19, 2007 at 04:52 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (20)

AND SO, WE BID FAREWELL...

This is the second to last post on Kaiju Shakedown. As much as I've been the frontman for this blog, it also owes its existence to my editor, Alex Romanelli, who has fought the good fight behind the scenes, done a lot of heavy lifting that would have gotten my shirt dirty and who's built this blog with me from the ground up. Alex is moving on from Variety and I don't think it will be what he and I have always wanted it to be without both of us working on it, so I've decided to end it now rather than continue on without him.

For several years, Kaiju Shakedown has been Variety's most popular blog by some insane number that I can't even remember anymore and I want to thank everyone for participating - you've built this blog as much as I have. Thanks for all your posted comments, your links, your anonymous gossip and insider tips. You guys have made this blog what it is. I also want to send a special "thank you" to Al, Jennifer and a sharp-eyed reader in Hong Kong who have sent in more of these news items than I care to count, and Rhythm-X, RunningMan, Eliza Bennet and all the other regular posters on here.

I also want to thank everyone who sent in hate mail. I've been called un-American, anti-white, racist, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, I've been invited to leave the country and threatened with physical harm both by anonymous weirdos and by people who work in the film industry. Thank you. I figure if folks like you don't like me, then I must be doing something right.

And so, like Godzilla and all the other kaiju, this blog looks down on the rubble strewn around its feet, picks some schoolchildren jam out from between its toes, then sadly turns and strides off majestically into the sea leaving the world of man behind as the sun rises in the distance and a synthesizer plunks out a melancholy tune.

Goodbye, and thank you. - Grady Hendrix

January 19, 2007 at 04:31 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (54)

DORORO ACQUIRED

Massive Japanese fantasy film, DORORO, has been picked up by Universal for North America. Whether they'll give it a theatrical release or it'll go straight-to-video is unknown. Release date is set for Japan on 1/27.

Watch the really gorgeous trailer and try not to wet yourself anticipating munching popcorn and seeing this on the big screen.

January 19, 2007 at 08:40 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (4)

OH NOES! THE DEPARTED IS A TRILOGY?!?

In an interview with MTV.com, Marky Mark says that Scorsese is mulling over the idea of a DEPARTED trilogy, just like the original INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy with both a prequel and a sequel. It's not definite, but apparently Scorsese is even talking to Robert DeNiro to play a role.

Yikes.

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

January 19, 2007 at 08:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

January 18, 2007

CHINA PRAISES THE YOUNG: DISSES THE OLD

Angry old Chinese menChina's SARFT (State Administration of Radio Film and Television) has announced that young people rule and old people drool. They've established a fund to promote good movies and you have to be under 45 to qualify for the US$64,267 for each script that they approve. Next year you'll have to be under 40. So far, they've awarded the money to 16 young directors, including Jia Zhangke, Ning Hao and Wang Xiaoshuai. Ning Hao looks to be the first one to start shooting his fund-winning film, CRAZY RACING CAR.

The reason given for starting the fund is that China needs more sophisticated, and more creative scripts and movies. Then:

"An official of the administration said crowd-pleasing entertainment productions filled Chinese theaters, especially those directed by Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and Feng Xiaogang, the fifth generation of directors in China. These big-budget movies earned a lot of money rather than a good reputation because of their lack of creativity, culture and philosophy, the official said."

Ouch! That burns.

January 18, 2007 at 10:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

UK RACE WAR!!!! IT'S ON!!!!

Shilpa Shetty and Jade on Celebrity Big Brother

You thought you wouldn't read the recent post about Bollywood B-lister, Shilpa Shetty, on the UK's "Celebrity Big Brother". You thought, "Oh, I'm too highbrow for that trash." You figured it was just a silly TV show. WRONG. Shilpa Shetty is the catalyst for the UK to transform into full-blown CHILDREN OF MEN-style apocalypse! Right there on the cover of the Sun, one of the UK's sleazier papers, right between the tortured poetry of  "Sienna - Love Rat Torment" and "Posh - No sects please" is a massive feature on "CELEB BB: WORLD IN CRISIS"!

"Celebrity Big Brother" has everyone in a twist. Bookies have Jade at 1:50 odds to be the next contestant booted out of the house! Shilpa says "It IS racist"! Channel 4 says, "No it's not, and please don't make us cancel our failing show that's suddenly jumped up by a million viewers. Please." Effigies of the producers are being burned in the streets. The PRODUCERS! A police probe is in the works! Tony Blair is issuing statements about the show! There's even a one-armed lesbian involved and she says of Shilpa: “She is an Indian. Listen, I also called her the S-word hundreds of times but I never said it to her face."

I implore you, go read these links or when this one goes nuclear you're going to be fighting for your life over a can of beans and not even know the reason why.

January 18, 2007 at 09:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

KOREAN FILM EXPORTS DOWN

Korea sadKorea was so proud that they exported so many movies in 2005, grossing around US$76 million! Yay, Korea. But like over-achieving high school students, they have met difficulties in 2006 and all their dreams have turned to dust and rumor has it that it's hoarding pills and doodling nooses in its school notebooks.

The 2006 report: US$24.5 million in exports. That's a whopping 68% drop. And who's the bully responsible for all this? Japan. Japan which imported US$60.3 million worth of Korean movies in 2005 suddenly decides that it only wants US$10.4 million in 2006. So not cool.

But they did sell 12.6% more tickets in 2006 than they did in 2005 on their home turf, and they got a lot of heart, so things don't look all bad. Cheer up, Korea.

(Read the full report on Variety Asia)

January 18, 2007 at 09:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

OSCAR SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED

The shortlist for "Best Film in a Foreign Language" nominees has been announced by the Academy and the world couldn't care less. The nominees who made it this far without being voted off the island are:

Deepa Mehta's WATER

Because we only care about Asian films round here.

January 18, 2007 at 08:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

BENNY CHAN MAKING A MOVIE

Benny Chan, director of more "That wasn't as bad as it could have been" movies than I care to count, is all lined up to start work on his next project, INVISIBLE TARGET, which is sure to be greeted with universal half-hearted acclaim. Budgeted at US$8 million, it'll star Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue and Nic Tse as three cops out to defeat the not-so-mysterious Ronin Gang. Andy On and Wu Jing also star.

Also: the Pang Brothers continue to make horror films.

(Thanks to Hitman for the news)

January 18, 2007 at 08:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)

YUBARI IS BACK!

Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival

When the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival died earlier this year all the elephants in the world cried because they were so sad. But now there's news that it's back from the dead, just like Jesus! Or Dracula! Ryuganji reports that the Yubari Aid Film Festival focusing on new foreign films will announce its line-up on January 18!

January 18, 2007 at 08:14 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 17, 2007

STEPHEN COLBERT MEDIATES BACHCHAN/KHAN FEUD

I know half the jokes are about their names, but I actually found Stephen Colbert's mediation in the Amitabh Bachchan/Shah Rukh Khan tussle pretty funny. Props to Colbert for giving praise to Preity Zinta and for having writers who know enough to namedrop Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor even if I'm not sure they even know what they're saying. See, when amateurs on "Celebrity Big Brother" make fun of Indian names it's racist. But when a professional like Stephen Colbert does it, it's funny.

(See the clip)

(Thanks to Jennifer for sending this in)

January 17, 2007 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

GOODBYE, AZUMI MUTO

Azumi MutoThe Muto's are a prominent family in Tokyo whose fortunes are founded on that most sadistic of all medicines, dentistry. Nevertheless, even dentists don't deserve what happened to them on January 3 of this year.

The family had gone off to visit relatives in Fukushima Prefecture, leaving 20-year-old Azumi and her 21-year-old brother, Yuki, home alone. Yuki was a struggling dental student who, some say, harbored incestual thoughts towards his sister. This wasn't entirely irrational since his sister, Azumi, was a serious student who had starred in a direct-to-video flick, CREAM LEMON, about a girl who has a joyous incestual relationship with her brother. But, today she was picking on Yuki for not being a very good student. Yuki snapped, battered her, drowned her, then mutilated her breasts and genitals, chopped up her body, stashed it in garbage bags, stole a pair of her panties, and went to study club. When the family returned they found their daughter's body and, according to the media, instantly suspected Yuki.

Yuki was arrested, describing his sister to investigators as "arrogant and ungrateful" but saying he was sorry he had killed her.

(You can read more about the CREAM LEMON series here)

January 17, 2007 at 10:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

GOODBYE, WALTER TSO

Walter Tso Tat-wah

Walter Tso Tat-wah, a longtime veteran of the Hong Kong film scene, passed away due to a stomach hemorrhage at the age of 91 on Saturday, January 13. Having appeared in around 700 movies, Tso Tat-wah was best-known for his work in wu xia films like the BUDDHA PALMS movies from the 60's and for his trademark trenchcoat and fedora in a ton detective movies. He started his own studio in 1948 (Yau Kin) and was last seen doing the bulk of his work in Shaw Brothers flicks like MY YOUNG AUNTIE and THE KILLER CONSTABLE as well as appearing in the LUCKY STARS and ACES GO PLACES series.

He eventually moved to the UK but still returned to Hong Kong from time to time to work in movies and TV. His last film was A GAMBLER'S STORY in 2001.

Filmography
Full Bio

January 17, 2007 at 09:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

TEARS OF THE GURU

TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER

So what did foreign films make that opened in New York over this four-day MLK weekend? Well, you had two to choose from. One was TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER, opening at Film Forum and the other was GURU opening at the ImaginAsian. TEARS is the fave of Western critics right now, getting well-deserved praise from pretty much every single media outlet there is. GURU is the biggest Bollywood film of the year starring two of India's hottest actors and receiving little to no Western press. Both movies opened on one screen. It's the Western critical establishment versus Bollywood stars. Who's got the juice?

Bollywood stars.

TEARS made a very respectable $7,954.

But GURU made $25,139.

You can't fight the power of the paparazzi...especially the Bollywood paparazzi.

(As for DVD sales, I fully expect TEARS to clean up while GURU is probably already being pirated and DVD sales will most likely be only so-so)

January 17, 2007 at 09:13 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 16, 2007

PANG HO-CHEUNG SET PHOTOS

Pang ho-cheung

He didn't only have a rough time casting his actors, Pang Ho-cheung also lost his backing from Media Asia for his latest movie. The official reason from a Media Asia spokesman:

"It is because the changing of this project's production scale.  Having Sammi Cheng would make this movie become a major movie; it wouldn't be reasonable for that budget without Sammi Cheng."

Filmko is currently producing the film. You can see more set photos here.

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

January 16, 2007 at 10:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

DON'T FEED THE BEGGARS

Beggar scam

For anyone who ever swished by a panhandler in Hong Kong without a second thought, Apple Daily has done an in-depth investigation and revealed that they're part of a begging guild so don't feel bad. Apparently there's a group made up of three women and one man who recruit old women in Hunan in groups of ten, bring them to Hong Kong on three month tourist visas, and house them in a dorm in Yau Ma Tei. They're tossed out on the streets at select locations every day with food, water and a mattress and they beg, closely monitored by their handlers. They make about HK$300/day, fork over HK$20 for rent, keep 30% of the money and give 70% to their handlers. After three months, a new batch is brought over.

Forget panhandling. What they really need is Stephen Chow, King of Beggars, to transform them into a fighting force.

(Thanks to EastSouthWestNorth for the translation)

January 16, 2007 at 09:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 15, 2007

COMPARE AND CONTRAST: NEW VS. OLD SASSY GIRL

Stills are starting to leak off the set of the American remake of Korean box office hit MY SASSY GIRL. First, a shot from the original starring Jeon Ji-Hyun. Second, similar shot starring HOUSE OF WAX/24 starlette Elisha Cuthbert. You be the judge.

My Sassy Girl

My Sassy Girl remake

January 15, 2007 at 03:47 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (11)

PANG HO-CHEUNG CASTING BLUES

Avant Hong Kong director, Pang Ho-cheung, has received massive attention for his high-concept comedies like I SHOOT, YOU SHOOT (an out-of-work director and hitman team up for a personalized assassination service), MEN SUDDENLY IN BLACK (action spoof of wives vs. husbands) and ISABELLA (corrupt cop discovers he has illegitimate daughter) and now he's getting ready to shoot his new flick (written by the inimitable GC Goo Bi) about a guy who starts to suspect that all women want to kill their husbands. However: casting.

Originally it was going to be Eking Cheng and Cecilia Cheung starring, but they both pulled out. Then Pang cast Anthony Wong and Sammi Cheng but Cheng pulled out for unknown reasons. Rumor has it that she thought the script made no sense. Pang's official reason is the rather catty "I wanted someone younger for the role." Now Simon Yam and Annie Liu are set to star.

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

January 15, 2007 at 12:21 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

SHILPA SHETTY ON BRIT TV...AND IN LOVE WITH FACE?

Big time B-list Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty, has been on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother and no one told me?!? Now she's rumored to be one of the contenders for the final two and I had to find out from a Chinese website? Which also told me that she's been wooing 61-year-old Dirk Benedict (Face from The A-Team) on the show?

"Although I can't pronounce her name, which is a hindrance, I've been flirting with her," says Benedict.

Shetty was paid more than anyone else on the show (around half a million US dollars) in order to suck in the South Asian audience since producers didn't think that Jermaine Jackson, Ken Russell and Leo Sayer probably wouldn't appeal to this particular demographic which is increasingly valuable and vital in the UK.

See Shilpa go toe to toe with Jade Goody a previous Big Brother contestant and having the presence of mind to say, "This may be good TV but I don't want to do this."

Still...Dirk Benedict. He's looking awful...strange in these episodes.

January 15, 2007 at 11:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

ABHISHEK & AISHWARYA GETTING MARRIED

See? The paparazzi was right again. Amitabh Bachchan, proud papa of Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan, spilled the beans to the press on January 14th after the roka (engagement) ceremony at bride-to-be Aishwarya Rai's house. Abhishek and Aishwarya are currently starring together in the inexplicably well-reviewed GURU right now (which is the biggest onscreen celebration of polyester since SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER) and they're going to also be starring in several upcoming films together including Ram Gopal Varma's sequel to his hit crime flick, SARKAR, and a new movie produced by the unstoppable Karah Johar in 2007. Beyond that they're intent on driving the paparazzi crazy by acting like their impending nuptials are no big deal.

(See the Times Square premiere of GURU with Aish and Abhishek in da house)

January 15, 2007 at 11:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

JACKIE PLAYS VEGAS

Jackie ChanSet your watches for February 13th because that's when Jackie Chan will be doing a big Las Vegas performance at the Aladdin. He's part of some oddly-spelt event called FU-SION and he'll be appearing with A-mei, Shin Band, some of the SUPERGIRLS (from China's version of "American Idol") and Liberace. But will he provide as much entertaiment as he did in his last concert appearance?

January 15, 2007 at 10:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 12, 2007

LOUIS KOO: NOW BLOGGING TWICE AS FAST

Louis Koo blogs

A sharp-eyed reader sends in news that Louis Koo now has a second blog to go along with his first one. The first blog continues to be updated and you get the occasional juicy detail, such as word from the SHA PO LANG 2 set that his onscreen house just got blown up.

But the new blog is more photo heavy and here's some excerpts:

"The filming of IRON TRIANGLE is close to the end.  Due to the term of the rented location, we have to film days and nights these few days.  The shooting location is quite faraway and open, the afternoon weather is a bit hot, so it's quite tough to work under these conditions."

"If possible, I wish I could turn into Darth Vader."

"Yesterday when I went to buy the rice roll, I was picked pocket by a bastard and had even broken my leg while I was chasing him."

Then there're his collections. Holy cow! Louis Koo is a nerd? I'm loving him more and more. Keep blogging, man!

January 12, 2007 at 12:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

JET LI WANTS TO RAISE A BABY WITH YOU

Jet Li has a blog Seriously. He does. Listen to him on his new blog:

"I'm just like a newborn baby's father with no idea how to raise the child...So let's raise it together.

Together we can raise this child. I think I am the father.

Let's start from the first day. From today's blog we will start to nurture this child. I hope this child one day can walk, run, and jump! What do you think? Do you agree? I'll leave this for you to think about today."

Whoa. Jet Li is my baby daddy? I generally prefer taller men, but okay.

Actually he's talking about his foundation, The One Foundation, which sort of sounds creepy like some kind of global domination religion from a 70's movie, but is actually the relief organization he's founded with the Red Cross and that he flogs mercilessly on his new blog that he's writing during the filming of CI MA.

A lot of the blog is about how cold it is on the set, getting snacks from Takeshi Kaneshiro, and what a bad actor he thinks he is. Read it. And maybe make a donation too. It's kind of sweet that Jet Li wants to snuggle up to all of us this way.

January 12, 2007 at 11:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

GO MOB GURU!

Yesterday the new Mani Ratnam film, GURU, starring two of the biggest stars in the Bollywood firmament - Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai - made its international debut in Toronto at the Elgin theater where riot police were ready for the millions of fans who probably showed up. No reports on the event itself, but pre-event publicity reveals organizers getting the watery-kneed feeling that they may have bitten off more than they could chew.

If you're in NYC today, then swarm the AMC Empire 25 at some point this evening where it's rumored Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, director Mani Ratnam and composer, A.R. Rahman, are all lined up to put in a special appearance.

If only GURU was a better movie. Here's my review. But then again, I expect to be blown away every time I go in theaters.

(And on a very different note: I just caught PAN'S LABYRINTH and CHILDREN OF MEN and I have to eat some crow and admit that they were both really good. I've really been sick of all the boring movies critics championed in their year-end lists but these two really made me feel like the $452 I spent on tickets wasn't a waste of money.)

(Thanks to Al for the news)

Guru poster

January 12, 2007 at 11:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

GOSSIP GOSSIP GOSSIP

Artforum The Host What's the point of a blog if you can't disseminate a little unsubstantiated gossip?

This year we're seeing a slew of Asian films get wide releases from Magnolia and Tartan. So what're they up to?

Rumor has it that Magnolia is trying all different kinds of campaigns for THE HOST as they zero in on a way to sell it. As THE HOST bombs in this country, or does better than expected in that country, all hands race around on the deck of the good ship Magnolia trying to figure out how to anticipate problems in the US and how to get around them. On the good side, promotion for the movie started before Christmas and if I could get my new camera phone to work I could post pictures of HOST posters that have been blanketing my neighborhood. And did anyone else check out the latest issue of Artforum? I check it out every month - you know, for all the art - but this month's issue features a massive piece on Bong Joon-Ho written by Gary Indiana.

As for Tartan, they're still getting ready for their release of TRIAD ELECTION, but more employees left at the end of last year and things don't look great for them internally from everything I'm hearing. They're still on track for an April 25 release of TRIAD ELECTION but it just came out in France and while it drew a respectable 1,473 on opening day, this comes out to a per screen average of 264. A far cry from ELECTION's opening weekend per screen average of 2794. Let's see if it's just a slow start or if interested has dropped off this much. If it did, then all hail Tartan for their decision to release just one ELECTION in the US rather than both of them. But strong reviews in France for TRIAD ELECTION may still make a difference.

Also, a bunch of DVDs are coming up from them. There is an exceptionally good cover for TO SIR WITH LOVE, now renamed BLOODY REUNION. Here's the cover for THE BOW and here's the cover for BLOODY TIES.

January 12, 2007 at 11:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 09, 2007

CATCHING UP ON CHINESE ANGER

Angry Chinese men Even though this blog took its Xmas hiatus to get pumped full of the blood of young children so that it can continue to lurch forward in 2007, Chinese people didn't stop getting angry at each other.

Shanghai people were miffed at Ang Lee that his Eileen Chang flick, LUST, CAUTION (starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai, newcomer Tang Wei and Leehom Wang) shut down the traffic in their fair city and caused numerous jams. "Sorry," Ang says. Then he headed back to Shanghai for another month of shooting.

Jia Zhangke is mad that longtime Zhang Yimou producer, Zhang Weiping, is mad that he won the Golden Lion at Venice for his flick, STILL LIFE. Weiping told a newspaper that the voting was rigged because the head of the Venice festival, Marco Muller, was an investor in STILL LIFE. Jia wrote an open letter to Weiping saying, "I hope Mr. Zhang will provide evidence to prove that Marco Muller is an investor in STILL LIFE. Your comment has already harmed my reputation and I'm considering resorting to legal procedures."

Angrychinese1 Zhang Yimou finds criticism of CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER "laughable" especially now that CURSE has beaten CONFESSION OF PAIN at the box office. It wasn't really a fair contest since CURSE was booked into three times the number of screens as CONFESSION even though exhibitors were reporting 95% of the seats available for CONFESSION were sold, and that they had to scramble at the last minute to add a few screens. Nevertheless, CURSE made US6.4 million over the weekend versus CONFESSION's US$3.08 million. This took CURSE to a year-end total of US$24.73 million. But people like Jia Zhangke and others have criticised the move by the industry to make nothing but gargantuan, period martial arts flicks. Zhang Yimou responds by blaming China for this problem. He says that overseas, arthouse movies and big budget movies are distributed through different channels. "You don't see the anger toward big-budget films overseas. There are specialized art-house movie theater networks ... Every genre has its own rules. There isn't a question of who dominates. There isn't a question of survival or mutual exclusiveness."

Huo Yuanjia's grandson is angry that he lost his defamation suit against FEARLESS. The legendary martial artist's last remaining descendant had sued Jet Li and the studio for producing FEARLESS which he said was a libelous and defamatory depiction of his granddad. Not so, said the judge, who felt the wind and found nothing libelous or defamatory in the movie, ruling for the defendants. Grandson is considering an appeal.

Not angry yet, but potentially angry down the road, are the families of Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-fat. After the miscarriage of his daughter, Chow says he and his wife have no further plans to have children and that he's leaving his entire estate to charity after his death. He and his wife are currently speaking to a lawyer to make it so. Jackie also says he'll donate half of his estate to charity after his death. Expect lawsuits.

January 9, 2007 at 12:27 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

STEPHEN CHOW + EDISON CHEN = ???

Stephen Chow and Edison Chen Caught unawares by the paparazzi. A secret 8pm meeting. Stephen Chow and Edison Chen. They meet to discuss a dance movie with Chow producing and writing the screenplay. Rumor has it that Edison has been offered the lead role by Chow. Nothing firm yet. Let's see what Edison has to say on his blog:

"industry people pray also
pray we dun take too much of ya money away hahahahha"

I don't even know what he's talking about. I am "old".

January 9, 2007 at 12:05 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

FRENCH ELECTION MAKES MONEY

Simon Yam is on the cover of Cahiers du CinemaTaking time out from eating unpasteurized cheese and soaking up the Provencial sun, a certain reader who is obsessively keeping tabs on the fate of ELECTION 1 and 2 in France sends in his latest update. And ELECTION looks like it's beating out all comers with opening weekend admissions of 16764 for a per screen average of 2794, the highest for the weekend.

Said reader then whips out some chart action to show that this is a way better turnout than most Asian movies that have played France. Here's their opening weekend numbers for comparison:

OLDBOY - 1164 (Paris) , 535 (all around France)
LADY VENGEANCE  - 974 (Paris), 384 (all around France)
THREE TIMES  - 1577 (Paris), 758 (all around France)
NOBODY KNOWS - 1700 (Paris), 1080 (all around France)
SHANGHAI DREAMS  - 656 (Paris) , 593 (all around France)
BREAKING NEWS -  2102 (Paris) , 497 (all around France)
PTU - 737 (Paris) , 338 (all around France)
THE MISSION - 1028 (Paris) , 391 (all around France)

That's depressing in a lot of different ways. I'm always going to be staggered at just how few people actually buy tickets for Asian movies overseas.

January 9, 2007 at 11:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

RETRIBUTION COMING TO NYC

A sharp-eyed reader sends in this link proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that not only will Shinji Aoyama's CRICKETS and Yang Heng's BETELNUT be playing up at the Walter Reade theater, but Kiyoshi Kurosawa's RETRIBUTION will be playing in Film Comment Selects.

January 9, 2007 at 11:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

WHAT THEY REALLY WANT IS TO DIRECT

Simon Yam With CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER and INITIAL D under his belt, Jay Chou has decided that he's actually really more of a director. SECRETS THAT CAN'T BE SPOKEN, budgeted at US$1.25 million is currently underway with Chou directing and starring. The story is based on tales of his hot and sweaty high school romances...well, his publicist calls them his "love affairs" but if it's high school they're more like his clueless scrumping. Guey Lun-mei and an unknown actress play the recipients of the scrump, while Anthony Wong plays his dad a la INITIAL D. Then, in March, Jay will fly to Shanghai to star in the live action version of the basketball manga, SLAM DUNK.

But watch out Jay Chou! By the time you finish your third film, Simon Yam will be nipping at your heels. In a recent interview, Yam announced that once he finishes his five current projects (Pang Ho-cheung's new movie, TRIANGLE, the PTU tv series, SHA PO LANG 2, and THE SPARROW) he's going to be making an American movie and then he wants to direct. Sometime in 2009.

January 9, 2007 at 11:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

PARK CHAN-WOOK ANNOUNCES NEXT PROJECT

At least it's not about revenge. After having his fanny paddled for making I'M A CYBORG (BUT THAT'S OKAY) Park Chan-Wook has announced that his next movie will be his vampire flick, BATS. No details are available, although Hitman on the KFC Boards says that it is also being called EVIL LIVE. I can't think of which name is worse - expect them to change.

(Here's the original article, with the Park news way at the bottom after listing of a whole slew of new projects coming from Hur Jin-Ho and others)

January 9, 2007 at 10:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 08, 2007

AMERICA'S GREATEST EXPORT

Stupid ninjas. You can't stop Chuck Norris with guns.

Chuck Norris Marvel comic

January 8, 2007 at 11:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

JOEY YUNG: FASHION PIRATE

internet pinata Joey Yung At Commercial Radio Hong Kong's Award show, Joey Yung earned the nickname "Roast Swan Lake" for her "Swan Lake" looking tutu ensemble, roundly mocked on the internet. But mockery turned to flat-out derision when it turned out the dress was a knock-off of a Viktor & Rolf dress. Yung claimed she'd seen it and been inspired to have her own made and said that next time she'll be smarter and won't copy it exactly. But still, the issue remains, a Hong Kong celeb is pirating intellectual property and refuses to apologize.

According to EastSouthWestNorth she's now an internet pinata.

(You can see the original dress here)

January 8, 2007 at 10:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

JACKIE CHAN: KILLJOY

JACKIE CHAN: KILLJOY The latest installment of Jackie Chan's RUSH HOUR 3 blog is a pre-Christmas post and man is this guy a grump. He goes in to work and the hairstylists are giving each other presents. “The happiest moment is when you first open your present. After you open them, you probably won’t use them and will probably put them away," Jackie says to them.

Then there's the terrible condition of the garbage cans: "For a while, next to every garbage can, a little container was attached for recycling. Now that container isn’t there anymore and nobody seems to have noticed. How can we recycle when there are no recycling containers?"

He even manages to make me feel sorry for Brett Ratner. "When I went to Brett’s trailer today, I saw that he had thrown away two barely used envelopes. I was really upset and told him to recycle. I grabbed him, punched him (lightly) and told him not to waste paper."

Then the crew has the temerity to give him Christmas presents, inspiring one of the most depressing monologues I've ever read.

"I really can’t use most of the things people give me. I thank them but can I really eat another box of candy or chocolate? Should I eat a whole box by myself?...Why did someone buy me socks when I already wear my own custom designed socks? Why did someone buy me wine when I have my own label? Why did someone buy me a tie when I never wear ties unless it’s for my character in a film?"

Merry Christmas to you, too, Jackie.

January 8, 2007 at 10:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

CECILIA CHEUNG PREGNANT

CECILIA CHEUNG

It's true! The paparazzi was right. Everyone who denied it was a liar. Black is white and up is down. Happy Monday.

January 8, 2007 at 10:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)

THAILAND: 2007

Wisekwai has a month-by-month rundown of all the Thai flicks hitting screens in the Land of Smiles in 2007. There's a new movie from Pen-ek Ratanaruang, the spermatic monster flick SPERM in March, KING NARESUAN in January, and THE BODYGUARD 2 in February. This is the sequel to Mum Jokmok's Stephen Chow-esque comedy action flick THE BODYGUARD which was bizarre but a lot of fun. You can see the teaser trailer here. Kong Rithdee also gives the lowdown on a bunch of upcoming Thai movies as well.

January 8, 2007 at 09:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2007

"HER EYES AFLAME WITH HATRED..."

Ballets are eternal. Who didn't have to sit through the Nutcracker over the holidays with its 50's Balanchine choreography? But why don't dance companies do something that might get real people into seats? Like ballets featuring "Rifle Drill", "Grenade Practice" and descriptions like "Her eyes aflame with hatred, she will wreck this man-beast's lair at the first chance." Bring back China's "The Red Detachment of Women" - after you browse this photo essay on this Cultural Revolution ballet you're gonna want to see the whole thing.

HER EYES AFLAME WITH HATRED

January 5, 2007 at 10:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

HONG KONG DRIVE-IN

Hong Kong's first drive-in theater I'm tired of words today. I just want to look at pretty pictures.

Check out this slick pic of Hong Kong's first drive-in theater.

You can see a larger version and read more about how it all works over here.

January 5, 2007 at 10:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

M PROMO IMAGE

One of the nice things about this blog is that I don't have to write about news that I think is boring. So go elsewhere to read about Berlin's competition line-up, because that puts me to sleep. But if you want to stay here, then let your eyes feed on this promo image from Lee Myung-Se's ghost story, M.

(originally posted by Hitman on the KFC forums)

M

January 5, 2007 at 10:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

FRENCH ELECTION: SO FAR, SO GOOD

A sharp eyed reader is keeping close tabs on the fate of ELECTION in France, and after opening on 6 Parisian screens, the news looks good so far. The first-day, per/screen attendance average to date is 506. Compare that to the Parisian first-day, per/screen average of A GOOD YEAR (201), HOLLYWOODLAND (318), BREAKING NEWS (385) and PTU (121).

Related, CONFESSION OF PAIN is going to open in France on March 28 of this year.

January 5, 2007 at 09:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

CHEN KAIGE'S NEW MOVIE

Chen Kaige has tried to make every kind of movie since the major international success of FAREWELL, MY CONCUBINE but he's been greeted with poor box office, critical derision, public parody, and accusations of eco-insensitivity at every turn. So, finally, he's going back to a happy place and his next flick will be a bio-pic of Cantonese Opera star, Mei Lan-fang. Shooting mostly on a set, production will begin in May. Leon Lai and Leehom Wong are rumored to be up for the part of Mei.

January 5, 2007 at 09:14 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 04, 2007

WEE WEE THE POOP: COMING SOON!

The Hong Kong Asian Financing Forum has just announced their new raft of titles - films seeking funding at the upcoming Hong Kong Film Mart. These are the folks who helped get projects like DRAGON TIGER GATE, ONE FINE SPRING DAY, UNTOLD SCANDAL, THE WAYWARD CLOUD and INVISIBLE WAVES off the ground. Not all these projects will see the light of day, many of the most interesting ones will never be heard from again, but some of them will emerge from the primordial slime of film financing and splat onto screens at some point later in their evolutionary cycle.

Clara Law and Mabel Cheung, two blasts from Hong Kong's past, are here with THE MESSENGER and ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS: RED ROSE AND WHITE ROSE. Hong Kong artsy box office champ Pang Ho-cheung has NOW SHOWING. Kore-eda is present with NIGHT-FRAGRANT FLOWER which finds a companion piece in Brian Tse's WEE WEE THE POOP. Zhang Yuan = ONE NIGHT IN BEIJING. Lou Ye = THE LAST HOUR (hey, wasn't he banned from making movies in China for 5 years?). UNTOLD SCANDAL's E J-yong weighs in with HOMECOMING. And Kim Ji-Won's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD pokes up its funky head.

(Read the full list)

January 4, 2007 at 10:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

THE FRENCH ELECTION

Simon Yam is on the cover of Cahiers du Cinema So the Brits didn't like ELECTION, and Tartan won't release ELECTION in the US (instead releasing ELECTION 2 only and calling it TRIAD ELECTION) but the French have made a living of appreciating the fine things like Euro Disney and they really appreciate ELECTION 1 and 2. Look at this snazzy trailer they've cooked up for it. If you read French, cast your eye over these glowing reviews. Look at all those stars! These are more stars for the movie than BATTLE ROYALE or A BITTERSWEET LIFE. Sacre bleu!

ELECTION opened in France yesterday. ELECTION 2 opens on January 10. The reviews are good. The trailer is good. Simon Yam is on the cover of Cahiers du Cinema. Frankly, I smell a big pile of francs.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who braves the complicated grammar and pronunciation of the French language to put together all this news)

January 4, 2007 at 08:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

THE DEPARTED COST $1.75 MILLION

CONFESSION OF PAIN Andrew Lau, co-director of INFERNAL AFFAIRS, says that he's disappointed in the way THE DEPARTED turned out. "It loses the spirit of my original movie," he moans. That didn't stop him from quickly cashing the $1.75 million check his company got for the remake rights. Now he says that several US companies have approached him about selling the remake rights to his new, poorly-reviewed movie CONFESSION OF PAIN, and maybe directing the remake himself. But he's holding out for $1.75 million for this one and he says he already has a US film he'll be directing in Hollywood with a Western cast starting in June.

Didn't he already direct an English-language movie in Hollywood? Didn't it star Richard Gere? Wasn't it called THE FLOCK? Oh, right. It's been indefinitely delayed.

(Uh oh! Another bad review for CONFESSION OF PAIN. Okay, okay. Andrew will sell it to you for $1.55 million.)

January 4, 2007 at 08:25 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 03, 2007

BLOODY TIE ON DVD

Everyone's releasing DVDs these days, even video distributors like Genius. Mostly they've been sticking to bottom-of-the-barrel J-horror flicks, but now they're upping their game to bring the well-received Korean gangster flick BLOODY TIE to US video store shelves on February 20.

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

January 3, 2007 at 09:22 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

TARTAN FIRES NEW DVD SHOTS

The Bow

Tartan has been busily picking up movies all through the end of last year, despite what looked like major staff cutbacks. Street dates are appearing, thanks to a sharp-eyed reader, and there's a good side and a bad side.

Fortunately, Tartan is releasing the respectable Thai horror flick, SHUTTER, on March 27. And they're releasing the totally disreputable Korean slasher flick TO SIR, WITH LOVE retitled as BLOODY REUNION on March 13.

Unfortunately, they're releasing Kim Ki-Duk's THE BOW straight-to-video. No theatrical release for you, Director Kim. That'll learn you to think you'll get more respect overseas than you do in Korea. The street date for THE BOW is March 27.

January 3, 2007 at 08:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

MASSIVE WEINSTEIN DVD ATTACK

While we've all been on vacation, chewing undigestible flesh and drinking gruesome amounts of corn liquor, the Weinstein Company's Asian DVD label, Dragon Dynasty, hasn't been sleeping. They have been on the treadmill, working out and getting in shape, and they've got more releases lined up than you've had Yuletide hangovers.

First up, the INFERNAL AFFAIRS box set. This is all three IA movies in one sleek little package emblazoned very cleverly with "The Motion Picture Trilogy that inspired 'The Departed'". No details are available beyond a $39.99 price point, and a February 13th release date. (Full cover art here).

On February 13 there will also be a reissue of a Collector's Edition of POLICE STORY 2 with a pull quote from Brett Ratner on the rather anonymous looking cover.

Seven Swords key artOn January 16, however, there's another double shot of Dragon Dynasty with the release of a two-disc SEVEN SWORDS and a two-disc THE PROTECTOR. The specs are as follows:

SEVEN SWORDS
 
Running Time:
                     153 minutes
MPAA Rating:
                       R
Languages:
                         English and Mandarin
Subtitles:
                              English and Spanish
Sound:   
                                English 5.1, Mandarin 5.1 and DTS

SPECIAL FEATURES
- 7 Deleted Scenes
- Audio commentary with Bey Logan and Tsui Hark
- "Making of" featurette
- Four "Behind the Scenes" featurettes
- Storyboard gallery
- Trailers and TV spots
- Interviews with Tsui Hark, Donnie Yen,  Zhang Jing-chu, and Duncan Lai

The Protector key art THE PROTECTOR
Running Time:
                     83 minutes
MPAA Rating:                       R
Languages:                          English and English/Thai
Subtitles:                              English and Spanish
Sound:                                   5.1 and DTS

SPECIAL FEATURES
- Audio commentary with Bey Logan
- "Making of" featurette called "No Wires Attached"
- "Making Tony Jaa" featurette (I'm not sure what this means. Is he bionic?)
- Director's Guided Tour
- TOM YUM GOONG "Making of" featurette
- Theatrical Trailer

 

 

January 3, 2007 at 08:11 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (17)

December 23, 2006

BANGKOK FILM FESTIVAL = LITTLE MATCH GIRL

Bangkok Film Festival Nobody loves the Bangkok Film Festival, it seems, not even Thai exhibitors. After firing the Americans who'd managed to turn the festival into an international freebie bag it looked like things could turn around as actual Thai people were put in positions where they could program the fest and they decided to do things like have Thai subtitles on prints so actual Thai audiences could attend. But then "because of financial considerations" the Paragon Cineplex, which was to play host to the festival, apparently balked at putting in the fest in late January 2007 (about a month away!) when parts one and two of KING NARESUAN would be released.

The festival has now been moved to July 2007.

(Of course, the Americans aren't all to blame. Wisekwai wisely links to a great article on the whole mess courtesy of Kong Rithdee.)

December 23, 2006 at 06:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 22, 2006

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY Chiyoko Tanisaki really loved that block of concrete in front of her house, because when the road was changed from dirt to asphalt the construction crew had to remove it and she, playing shoot the messenger, began a two-year campaign of peeing in a cup and throwing it into her neighbor's yard. Their crime? They were the ones elected to tell her the block would have to be removed.

Park Chan-Wook knows what it's like to have urine thrown on him. Korea's most over-praised director just announced that I'M A CYBORG (BUT THAT'S OKAY) will be yanked from theaters this week, two weeks after its release and right before the super-lucrative holiday season. It's had only 780,000 admissions (compared to around 3 million for OLDBOY) and will be replaced by THE RESTLESS, a martial arts flick also repped by CJ Entertainment (as is CYBORG). I guess that'll teach Park to never deviate from movies about horror and abuse again.

There's a trailer up on YouTube for CONFESSION OF PAIN, the Takeshi Kaneshiro/Tony Leung movie from the directors of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy and before you even start to say it looks good, check out all these people throwing the urine of Chiyoko on it. This Malaysian website says the movie "never finds its pulse", a user on Yahoo Movies Malaysia gave it one star and wrote "What I loved most: nothing; What I really hated: everything", and The Hindu (in an AP piece) calls the movie "an artistic failure". I love the internet - ruining movies for us before they're barely released.

You thought there would be good cheer? Ha! The urine of Chiyoko is just getting warmed up. The work ethic of everyone on RUSH HOUR 3 gets the next dose. Except for Jackie. Jackie Chan is like Woody Allen: he can't slow down, he has to make movies, and he'll never stop even if it's a good idea to take a break. Not so the other folks on the film. End of November: Chris Tucker is "sick" for two days. Beginning of December: Brett Ratner is "sick" for four days (no one tells Jackie, so he shows up on set and gets in costume). Is this the kind of "sick" that Lindsay Lohan gets?

And, finally, a little flick of the urine of Chiyoko at Zhang Ziyi who will now voice the evil villain in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. Sigh. Doesn't she know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a sign of the end of the world? Four turtles = four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

December 22, 2006 at 02:16 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

HOLIDAY CHEERS

A sharp-eyed reader just informed me that according to Apple Daily one of the directors of Johnie To's PTU TV series is...wait for it...wait for it...Lawrence Lau. Did you not feel your heart just skip a beat? No? Then you may not be familiar with Lawrence who is, in my oh-so-humble, Variety-sanctioned, well-paid and tremendously well-considered opinion, one of the best directors in Hong Kong. If I had to organize a retro of great, realtively unsung Hong Kong directors he'd top the list (Po Chi-leung would run a close second).

He's made three movies - GANGS, QUEEN OF TEMPLE STREET and SPACKED OUT - that are classics in Hong Kong cinema. He gets amazing performances from amateurs and veterans alike, he's uniquely sensitive to actresses and he's got a fabulous eye for seemingly casual compositions. He's like Fruit Chan without the aspirations to high art. This is the best Christmas present I could receive.

December 22, 2006 at 01:21 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

INTERVIEW WITH TEKKONKINKREET DIRECTOR - HE'S ANGLO!?!

This is news to me. Studio 4C's upcoming feature animation, TEKKONKINKREET (aka TEKKON KINKURITO) based on the manga known in the States as "Black & White" is directed by a white guy. Huh??!?? Is this the first Japanese theatrical anime to be directed by a whitey? You can read all about Michael Arias in an interview with Patrick Macias. And here's Patrick breaking down the tale of how this came to be.

(See a trailer for the film)

December 22, 2006 at 12:32 PM in Interviews, News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (2)

THE MYTH SOLD TO US DISTRIBUTOR

THE MYTH has been picked up by a US distributor Over on his obsessive compulsive diary, Jackie Chan reveals that THE MYTH has been picked up by a US distributor who plan a theatrical release in 2007. He's been recording the English dub track (which he hates doing) and he had a really bad dinner. Then comes one of the most insightful posts of his career, which might explain why he hasn't given a lot of support to DVDs of his movies:

"I worked so fast yesterday that I was able to finish early.  I was really happy that I was done. Since there was still time, they asked me to do a commentary on the entire film for the DVD. Ugggh!! I didn’t really want to do it because I’ve already seen the film over a thousand times. Now I had to sit there, watch it and talk about it."

But then he tries the commentary and lo and behold!

"As soon as I started doing it, believe it or not, I had a lot of fun. Talking about the film brought back so many good memories of making the film. I felt really comfortable, as if I was sharing stories with my friends."

Too bad he didn't learn this until the end of 2006.

By the way: English dub track? "Let's just record an audio commentary real quick, k?" Does this smell like a straight-to-video release to anyone else?

December 22, 2006 at 12:15 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

December 21, 2006

AWARDS, PREMIERES, BEST OF LISTS!

Best of lists are busting out all over It's that time of year when Best of lists are busting out all over and the same movies show up again and again and again, awards go to the movies you thought awards would go to and so on and so forth. Here's the rundown:

- the list of Hong Kong's top-grossing artists have been released with Aaron Kwok heading the pack (HK$105,380,000), Andy Lau coming in second with about half that (HK$68,380,000) and in a surprising upset, Joey Yung (#3) outgrosses the Twins (#4) by HK$4 million.

- THE HOST has cleaned up at Korea's Blue Dragon awards, including "Best Picture", "Best Supporting Actor" (Byun Hee-Bong), "Best New Actress" (Ko Ah-Sung), "Best Technical Achievement" and "Best Lighting". RADIO STAR stars Ahn Sung-Ki and Park Joong-Hoon shared "Best Actor" and Kim Hyee-Soo won "Best Actress" for TAZZA: THE HIGH ROLLERS. "Best Director" went to FAMILY TIES director, Kim Tae-Yong. KING AND THE CLOWN got one award: "Best Music".

- the Rotterdam Film Festival is honoring Johnnie To in a sidebar next year. The Berlin Film Festival will honor 50's and 60's director Kihachi Okamoto.

-the Japanese Academy Awards were announced with Yoji Yamada's LOVE AND HONOR hitting 12, SUITE DREAMS in at 11 and HULA GIRLS at 10. But the star of LOVE AND HONOR, Takuya Kimura, turned down his "Best Actor" nomination. His manager, the agency Johnny & Associates, gave the weird explanation that it didn't "want to put him in a position of competing with other actors for the prize." Uh, okay.

-Film Comment's critics poll for 2006 is out, with LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA coming in at #16 for best film of the year and then for unreleased movies we had SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY at #1, THE HOST at #2, Tsai Ming-liang's I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE at #4, STILL LIFE at #6, TRIAD ELECTION at #13, IN BETWEEN DAYS (#15), and THE GO MASTER (#19).

- Indiewire's poll is out, and it's basically the old Village Voice poll, run by Dennis Lim, but over at Indiewire instead of the Voice. THREE TIMES comes in at #6 and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA at #19. FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT is the #10 undistributed film with 6 votes (one of them mine) and you can read the list I sent them.

These Best of lists are a pain because you have to know what exactly constitutes a release: can a 1996 movie released in NYC in 2006 count as a 2006 movie? What about something like PAPRIKA? I didn't put it, THE HOST or ELECTION 2 on my list of undistributed movies because they're all getting distributed next year. But this kind of thing can be frustrating - proving the point that it's still hard to see foreign movies the year they're released.

A real "Best of" list will show up here tomorrow - only Asian movies movies released in 2006.

December 21, 2006 at 10:02 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)

December 18, 2006

THAILAND MAKES VERY LONG AND VERY SHORT MOVIES

Pen-ek Ratanaruang (LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, INVISIBLE WAVES) is best known for taking Christopher Doyle and Tadanobu Asano, retreating to a hidden location, and producing a very strange movie some time later. But now he's teamed up with Nike and made a 40-minute DV film called TOTAL BANGKOK that sings the praises of soccer (football to most of the civilized world).

A documentary shot on a makeshift soccer pitch beneath an overpass, the flick is already getting high marks for its relentless energy and its cast of real world oddballs, and that's perfectly understandable when you see who Pen-ek teamed up with to make the movie: Santi Taepanich, director of the amazing documentary CRYING TIGERS. If you haven't seen CRYING TIGERS then please complain loudly. There's not an English-subtitled version out there but it's an amazing Asian movie that's fallen between the cracks in the West. I saw a bad VHS transfer over a year ago and it movie blew me away.

But, as if to spit in the eye of directors who make short movies like this, it's just been revealed that Thai period epic, KING NARESUAN, isn't going to be a two-part movie, but a three-part movie. According to Wisekwai, major battle scenes are still being shot, the January 18 release date still seems to be set in stone, the movie doesn't have a script, and the final running time looks to be 7 hours. Folly, or art? On the plus side of the ledger, it's a big budget historical epic and it's directed by an actual prince. We can only wait until January when parts one and two come out, followed by part three at the end of 2007 to know for sure. (I can't tell if the trailer looks really good or pretty bad - but you can find it on the official website)

KING NARESUAN poster

December 18, 2006 at 12:28 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

CHINA: ZOMG! THE BIG NEW MOVIE MADE A GILLION DOLLARS!!!!

THE PAINTED VEIL CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER opened in China over the weekend and it made so much money that the entire country has run out of cash and people are having to buy their groceries with barter. Every citizen has seen CURSE twelve times, driving its box office sky high. If you stacked up all the money it made in just five seconds, that stack would reach Mars! The People's Liberation Army were brought in to tear tickets so there wasn't a riot! OHMIGOD! The world has never witnessed anything like this before! The sky is falling! The sky is falling! China rules the waves!
(note: all box office figures, in every country, are self-reported)

The China-shot Anthony Wong/Edward Norton movie, THE PAINTED VEIL, is getting its first reviews and they're mixed. Variety praises the "intelligent script" and "solid thesping" which is exactly what my wife said to me after the last time we got romantic. But they say it's too "old school" and "remote" to be very good. In a blatant act of heresy, Anthony Wong is not mentioned once, even though Diana Rigg gets a shout-out for her role as a Mother Superior. When grading my romantic technique my wife usually mentions Anthony Wong at least twice, so she's twice as good as Variety.

Over in ScreenDaily, THE PAINTED VEIL is "palpably alive" and "heart-rending". But they don't mention Anthony Wong either, besides a sideways reference to the fact that the movie "features several Chinese name cast." Which is either ungrammatical, or an example of ScreenDaily trying to do Variety industry-speak.

Shamed by this slight against Anthony Wong, China reasserts its supremacy by announcing that the title song in THE PAINTED VEIL is sung by 2006 Super Girls winner, Shang Wenjie. The song is "A La Claire Fontaine" which is French, but that's no problem for the new Chinese singing idol who's one of the top-rated French translators in Shanghai.

The triumphant article in CriEnglish describes the movie as featuring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. But Anthony Wong isn't mentioned.

December 18, 2006 at 12:17 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

December 15, 2006

RINGO LAM IS DIRECTING AGAIN

A sharp-eyed reader reports that Ringo Lam has started shooting his segment of the three part Johnnie To/Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam movie, TRIANGLE.

That is all.

December 15, 2006 at 11:25 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 14, 2006

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: MEET KIEU CHINH

Kieu Chinh ImaginAsian, the Asian film company that I'm consulting for, is releasing its first movie in March, 2007: JOURNEY FROM THE FALL. It's the story of what happened in Vietnam after the war was over in '75 and while it's occasionally over-the-top and has some awkward moments (it's the director's first feature, after all), it's also a really powerful movie through virtue of the fact that the story is insane (and true) and the actors are terrific. I've been putting together the press notes for the film and I recently had to write a new bio for Kieu Chinh.

You've probably seen Kieu Chinh before: she was the older mother in THE JOY LUCK CLUB and she's been on more TV shows than I've had hot dinners. I had to interview her over the phone to get some bio details and she started telling me the story of her life and I was, frankly, blown away. Below is the bio for the press kit, and while it's a little dry and bio-ish it's also...well, read it for yourself. Vietnam. Don Johnson. And a major actor whose career just went missing one day.

Born in North Vietnam, Kieu Chinh has had two separate careers. In America, she has appeared in dozens of movies, from GLEAMING THE CUBE to THE JOY LUCK CLUB. She’s also played roles on almost every American TV show, from her first job on  “M*A*S*H” to a recurring role on “Dynasty”, with appearances on “Chicago Hope”, “Fantasy Island” and “ER” in between. But before that she was one of Asia’s most famous actresses and a producer who shot a movie on the front lines during the Vietnam War and was arrested in Singapore as she escaped from Vietnam just two weeks after she had been in town doing press for one of her movies. Her filmography reaches almost a hundred films.

Chin2 Kieu Chinh’s mother died during World War II, when Chinh was very young. She emigrated for the first time in 1954 during the IndoChina War when France split Vietnam into two parts, Northern and Southern, and the Geneva Agreement gave everyone 300 days to decide where to live. Chinh’s family split into three parts: her sister moved to France, her father and only brother decided to stay in the North, and Chinh moved to South Vietnam. She never saw her brother or father again.

In 1957 she starred in her first film, THE BELLS OF THIEN MU TEMPLE and she soon became one of Vietnam’s most popular personalities. Speaking fluent Vietnamese, French and English she worked all over Southeast Asia, making movies in Japan, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore. She also appeared in several American co-productions in Asia, including THE DEVIL WITHIN shot in India by Twentieth Century Fox, A YANK IN VIETNAM shot by Allied Artists, OPERATION: CIA with Burt Reynolds and DESTINATION: VIETNAM shot by Paramount.

Then, at the height of the Vietnam War, in 1972, she produced and starred in WARRIOR, WHO ARE YOU? her most popular movie, shot on the front lines and cast almost entirely with soldiers. The male lead was played by a Lieutenant Colonel in the Special Forces and Chinh toured with the movie around the world, including the then-massive Asian Film Festival where she won “Best Actress” and the movie won “Best Movie Against the War”.

As the Northern Vietnamese army approached Saigon in April, 1975, Chinh realized her life was in danger and she fled Vietnam on the last Pan Am flight to leave the country. Arriving in Singapore, where she had been two weeks earlier promoting her latest movie, she was immediately arrested at the airport because her passport was issued by a country, Vietnam, that no longer existed. From jail she managed to get in touch with some crew members she knew from a previous shoot and they bailed her out, but the Singapore government gave her 24 hours to leave the country. At the time, under international law, if an individual was in a country when his or her country fell to a communist government they would become a resident of the country through which they were traveling. Chinh’s friends bought her a round-the-world ticket so that she could go from country to country, airport to airport, waiting for Saigon to fall. She flew from Singapore to Bangkok, then Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo. Confined to the airports, she was in each country for only a few hours. She continued to Paris, London and finally she landed in Canada on April 30, 1975. That same day, Saigon fell and she officially became a refugee. 

Chinh had fled Vietnam in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans with nothing but her pocketbook containing now-useless Vietnamese currency and her address book. Making her way to a social services agency called Welcome House, Chinh was given some donated clothing, $75 for food, and a series of interviews with job placement agencies. She went from interview to interview and when they asked her what she could do and she responded “I’m an actress,” they would laugh and tell her that they weren’t running a casting agency. Finally she landed work hosing out the pens on a massive chicken farm. For several days she spent 10 hours a day cleaning the excrement from thousands of chickens for $2.15 an hour. At night she burnt up the phone lines, calling everyone she knew in Hollywood: Burt Reynolds, William Holden, Glenn Ford, Danny Kaye, but she could never get through to them. Finally, as a last resort she called Tippi Hedren whom she had met just once when Hedren was a guest on Chinh’s talk show.

“Right away she remembered me and I was crying and crying. She said ‘I will help you’ and she sent me a ticket and signed all kinds of paperwork to sponsor me to come to the US. She opened her arms and her heart to me,” Chinh remembers.

Once she arrived in Los Angeles, Chinh faced other problems. She didn’t have a Screen Actors Guild card, nor did she have an agent. So it was back to minimum wage. For six months she would take three buses every day to get to her job with a Catholic Charity working with refugees, for $500/month. In the meantime, Tippi Hedren, her then son-in-law Don Johnson, William Holden and director Robert Wise began writing letters to the Screen Actors Guild and the William Morris Agency on behalf of Chinh. Finally, as the year drew to a close, Chinh received her SAG card and the William Morris Agency agreed to represent her. Her first job was on Episode 607 of “M*A*S*H*”, an episode written by Alan Alda and loosely based on her own life story.

Kieu Chinh Since then she has received an Emmy in 1996 for her television documentary “Kieu Chinh: A Journey Home,” a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2003 Vietnamese Film Festival and a Special Acting Award at the Women’s Film Festival in Turin, Italy.

Now living in Southern California, Kieu Chinh actively supports cultural and social causes. In 1992, together with journalist Terry Anderson, Kieu Chinh co-founded the Vietnam Children’s Fund, and helped raise millions of dollars to build 61 schools for Vietnamese children.

And that's one to grow on.

December 14, 2006 at 07:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 13, 2006

CHINA: TALKS SMACK, ON CRACK

China China continues to be the land where reality does not affect what comes out of the mouths of government officials. As foreign investment in the Chinese movie and television industry gets beaten like a red-headed stepchild, Zhu Hong, general office director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, says "China will stick to the opening and reform policy in the broadcasting, film and TV industry."

He then went on to say that the view that China was making foreign investment harder was actually wrong and that just the opposite was true: foreign investment was getting easier.

"China's broadcasting, film and TV industry is experiencing a deep reform which involves unprecedented areas and far-reaching effects."

It's a deep reform which recently eliminated the ability of foreign companies to hold minority shares in Chinese production companies. So now, foreign investors have to work on a movie-by-movie basis and set up a new financial structure for each project rather than being able to set up a co-production company in China that allows them to co-produce several movies or TV programs through one venture.

At the earlier press conference announcing those changes, Zhu was present to say, "Our policy is to temporarily not approve the creation of new joint companies. People can jointly invest in filming individual movies and individual television dramas, but we are not going to approve the creation of program production companies."

At the same conference, Zhu said that foreign TV channels, like Star TV, would not have their broadcast rights expanded. Currently, Star TV can only broadcast to luxury hotels, some apartment buildings for foreigners, and a little wee bit of Southern Guangdong.

Sounds like that market is busting open!

December 13, 2006 at 09:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

IWO JIMA FLIES; NANA 2 FLOPS

Over in Japan, Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima pic, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, has been doing quite well at the box office. Total weekend attendance was 393,000 (493 million yen) with the box office being only 86% of THE LAST SAMURAI but 263% of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, Clint Eastwood's companion film told from the American perspective.

NANA 2, on the other hand, was a movie that a lot of folks (myself included) thought would turn out to be the year's final feather in the "Japan rules the Japanese box office" cap. Unfortunately, it's tanking hard and fast. It opened over the weekend and made 170 million yen, a mere 31% of the original NANA's opening. Bloggers in Japan suspect that it has less to do with Yui Ichikawa replacing Aoi Miyazaki and more to do with the near-constant reports of strife and tension on the set as well as the lack of TV advertising.

(Thanks to HogaCentral for the news)

December 13, 2006 at 08:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

THE HOST IS NOT A GOOD GUEST

Anticipating the round of "Host" inspired headlines that are bound to break out like a rash once this flick comes to America in March, 2007 the title of this post is my own lame attempt at same. Forgive me.

But a sharp-eyed reader writes in to point out that THE HOST is not doing that well overseas. The numbers, please:

Japan
THE HOST sold to Japan for US$4.7 million. So far it has only made about half that money at the box office since its release back in September.

France
Over in the land of the baguette, THE HOST opened on 223 screens, more than even JET LI'S FEARLESS or 2046. After two weeks it has sold  134, 368 tickets which isn't bad, but it also isn't that great for a movie which is on so many screens.

United Kingdom
Opening on 45 screens (more than either INFERNAL AFFAIRS or BATTLE ROYALE), THE HOST has made US$247,466 after four weeks. Not bad, frankly, but INFERNAL AFFAIRS made $526,983 and BATTLE ROYALE made $369,613. On less screens.

The upshot is that THE HOST isn't living up to expectations outside of Korea. It's still a good, heck it's a great, movie. But for some reason it can't seem to get that blockbuster traction at the box office. I wonder if this kind of damp reception around the world is going to temper Magnolia's fever for the film?

December 13, 2006 at 08:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

December 12, 2006

HE'S A CYBORG BUT IT'S NOT OKAY

Park Chan-Wook's I'M A CYBORG BUT THAT'S OKAY opened in Korea over the weekend and...donk. The movie has pulled in only 472,000 admissions over the weekend and while that's not enough to sink it, it means that it's going to be a DUELIST-sized hit and not some kind of massive blockbuster.

Granted, Park doesn't have to hit it out of the park every time up to bat, but with a major pop star like Rain on board I expected better numbers.

December 12, 2006 at 10:51 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

THE JEWS RUIN EVERYTHING. AGAIN.

VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ Man, what's up with Jewish people? Can't they let anyone have a good time? My wife is Jewish and I thought it was just her, but it turns out that it's all of them who want to rain on my parade. Wear a Hitler outfit for Halloween? Can't do that. Make a movie about Jews killing Jesus? You can do it if you're Mel Gibson, but everyone else is screwed. Get arrested and blame your arrest on a global Jewish conspiracy? Can't even do that anymore. And now they won't let us watch VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ.

A few weeks ago we said that VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ was coming to American screens from the fine folks at Filmmates. They even issued a press release saying:

"We are pleased to be working with an exciting new filmmaker and to bring his vision and storytelling to U.S. audiences through the distribution of 'Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. This film has been a resounding international success, and we expect considerable additional attention with its U.S. release."

Later in the press release - further proof that they either didn't watch the film or that their heads are full of mashed potatoes:

"Given the attention that this film has already received internationally, the addition of 'Valley of the Wolves: Iraq' to FilmMates Entertainment distribution channels is an important milestone in the company's development. By acquiring theatrical and home video distribution of this film, FilmMates Entertainment has raised its profile in the movie industry as well as increasing its long-term revenue potential and value for ECC shareholders."

That would be John Bailey, chief executive officer for Entertainment Capital Corporation and Jay Malla Maldonado, senior vice president of development for FilmMates Entertainment, claiming that they think it's a great idea to bring a movie to America that's basically received a "shoot on sight" order from every media outlet in the country. Shareholders, do not let these men touch your money.

But still, I was excited that someone cared so little for financial success that they were bringing this film to America. I wanted to be there on opening night with my box of nachos and a Big Gulp, ready to be appalled in a way that I haven't been appalled in a cinema since I watched LITTLE MAN. And then...

The film was dropped from release schedules without an explanation. The only thing we can find is a letter from the ADL Chairwoman and the National Director to the Turkish Ambassador in Washington, DC stating that they are concerned about the anti-Semitism in the movie. It's the only smoking gun out there so I'm going to follow a time honored principle and "when in doubt, blame the jews."

On the one hand I'm annoyed that people are protesting a movie they haven't seen (if they have seen it then I'm annoyed they're buying bootlegs), on the other hand...duh.

(Thanks to Jennifer Young for sending this in)

(PS - you know, no one's really sure that the letter from the ADL caused the film to be dropped, but I'm blogging here so if someone else says it then I get to say it, too.)

December 12, 2006 at 10:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)

December 08, 2006

CONGRATULATIONS, FRANK! THE FOUR STAR IS SAVED

Four Star theater in San Francisco

What a way to end the week. After years of legal battles and a lengthy court process in which, frankly, the owners of the Four Star didn't really have a leg to stand on, Frank Lee and his wife have stared down the Canaan Lutheran Church and saved the Four Star Theater. The church feels victimized and they say that it's not worth the bad blood to keep fighting and they've sold the theater to Frank for $1.45 million.

The Canaanites' lawyer says:

"With all the adverse publicity and politics, it would have been an uphill battle to build their church. So they bit the bullet and sold it, at an overall loss, to the Lees. Now the church is back to square one. These are good citizens who have tried to do the right thing. But they didn't want to throw good money after bad  --  it's not a wealthy church."

Frank's first plan? To renovate.

This is good news for San Franciscans and for everyone who wants diversity in movie-going. It's not a solution but it's a step in the right direction. And for that we all get a very special appearance by Darth Kitty. Have a great weekend, everyone. And, Frank? Start painting.

(Thanks to Jennifer Young and Adam Douglas for sending this in the second her delicate nostrils scented the whiff of news)

Hello Darth Kitty

December 8, 2006 at 11:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

JAPANESE MOVIES ARE BETTER THAN YOUR MOVIES

Japanrules Japan can't stop dominating things. Now it's the domestic box office. Jason Gray sums it up:

- 400 new movies this year...more than at any time since 1977!
- 5 of the box office top ten are Japanese movies, and it may go up with NANA 2 out this weekend.
- 6 Japanese films have broken $5 billion yen...the Big Hit Gold Standard! An all-time record!
- Japanese movies are at a 47% box office share - highest since 1988!

Yoji Yamada's LOVE AND HONOR, about a blind swordsman, also opened last weekend (this weekend is NANA 2 - don't forget to set your watches to NANA time) and Marc Schilling gives it a rave in the Japanese Times while Aaron Gerow in the Daily Yomiuri basically pans it. Either way, it kicked CASINO ROYALE out of the number one spot on its opening weekend and CASINO was on more screens. Ha!

You know what? Hollywood cinema is like a cockroach, and Japanese cinema is like a wily samurai. Look! A visual!

Or maybe Japanese cinema is a virile mugger and American cinema is a helpless victim that can only do step aerobics while robotically intoning "Spare Me My Life" and "Take anything you want" . A visual!

(Thanks to the KineJapan mailing list for the video)

December 8, 2006 at 10:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

TWC: POLICE STORY, NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE, SEVEN SWORDS

SEVEN SWORDS is straight to video The Weinstein Company extends its tentacles all over the place this week. One tentacle bought all English-language rights to Shinya Tsukamoto's NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE: UK, US, Australia, Canada. This was the best movie I saw at Pusan and I had the hots for it something bad. I'm guessing they wound up paying in the $100,000 - $150,000 range for it. Although they might have paid $200,000 since they did pick up everything. The best thing about NIGHTMARE is that it's extremely remake and franchise friendly. Tsukamoto's already working on NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE 2 and 3 and he should be. This is TETSUO meets THE X-FILES.

A sharp-eyed reader, and a few others, send in the info that Tsui Hark's SEVEN SWORDS will be going straight-to-DVD in January, which is hardly a surprise. Some people liked this movie but I wasn't one of them. It's a two-disc set and it's streeting January 2, 2007.

I also just received my POLICE STORY disc so expect a review early next week. The cover is sort of anonymous and I don't understand why they aren't able to find higher-profile publications to blurb on the front of the boxes, but I'm expecting a bang-up disc when I finally pop it into my player.

December 8, 2006 at 10:06 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (13)

December 07, 2006

JET LI'S UNDERGROUND MANSION

Jet Li has just finished his mansion in Shanghai and is getting ready to move his entire family from the US to Shanghai which is the hometown of his current wife. The mansion is three separate three-storey buildings, coming in at about 15,000 square feet. The buildings are connected underground tunnels. And that is the coolest thing I've heard all day.

The press is calling it the biggest Chinese celebrity mansion in the world. Which means that Jackie Chan will be building an even bigger one next year.

December 7, 2006 at 09:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)

PETER CHAN'S NEW FLICK: NOW WITH JET LI

Jet Li, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau You know what's wrong with Peter Chan? After making some great movies like COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY (is there a more perfect romantic film?) he got caught up in business and stopped shooting films for all intents and purposes. Sure, he did PERHAPS LOVE, and the "Going Home" segment of THREE. And he produced DUMPLINGS. But that's not enough.

So now Peter Chan wants to make me happy. He's put together Jet Li, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau and announced that he's got US$40 million in the bank to shoot CI MA ("This Violent Land") his massive, martial arts period piece. Set to be released at the end of 2007, the flick is based on a Qing Dynasty story, "The Assasination of Ma" which Chang Cheh filmed as BLOOD BROTHERS back in 1973.

Jet Li, having to live down his "I'm retiring from kung fu movies" statement used to promote FEARLESS says that this isn't a martial arts movie, it's a movie about friendship. Well if it's not a martial arts movie then what's he doing in it?

December 7, 2006 at 09:05 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

December 05, 2006

THE TASTE OF TEA COMING TO AMERICA

THE TASTE OF TEA Viz has picked up modern day Japanese classic, THE TASTE OF TEA, and is releasing it on Feb. 9, 2007. It's playing in NYC at the ImaginAsian and god only knows where else.

You can read all about the movie elsewhere, but I just wanted to say that one of the great movie-going experiences of my life was watching TASTE in the New York Asian Film Festival last year. I was dreading it: the last film of the run at the Anthology Film Archives, the air conditioner was hardly working, the screening was over-sold, and this 2 and a half hour movie started at around 9:30. We were running late, as usual, so by the time the projectors sparked to life it was closer to 10pm. And Sunday's a schoolnight!

I have never seen an audience so into a movie. There were two moments of spontaneous applause that ripped across that auditorium (if you've seen the movie you can probably guess where) and people stayed through the credits. It was hot, it was stuffy, it smelt like BO but for almost three hours a movie did what it was supposed to do: it moved me, it showed me something I'd never seen before (well, I had but you know what I mean) and it took my mind to another planet. And the best thing was that it did it for all 230 of us simultaneously. We were all there, all together, all waiting for what came next and all hoping that it would never end.

I'm bringing a lot of emotions to the table on this one that probably weren't there, but this is how I remember it, and I had the same experience a year later when we screened the director's next film FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT. Forget reviews. Forget thinking. Forget analysis. Movies like this just Are. And sometimes that's more than enough.

December 5, 2006 at 11:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

PLEASE CONSIDER PAPRIKA

Satoshi Kon's amazing new movie, PAPRIKA, is up for an Oscar thanks to a qualifying run earlier this year. It won't win "Best Animated Feature" but it should. I wish Sony'd held off till next year to run it, but I guess it gets more attention for the Winter release if they do it this year.

And check out the very pretty "For Your Consideration" poster it's got (courtesy of a sharp-eyed reader).

For Your Consideration: Paprika

December 5, 2006 at 10:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

STRANGE CIRCUS STRAIGHT TO VIDEO

STRANGE CIRCUS Sion Sono is famous in film circles for his compulsively cultish movie, SUICIDE CLUB. It's sold an astonishing 17,000 copies on video and made Sono a bit of a brand name. His movie STRANGE CIRCUS was picked up for US distribution by TLA Video but it looks like it's going straight to video on March 6, 2007.

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

December 5, 2006 at 10:18 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

CHINA: STILL ANGRY, NOT CENSORING

Last week the clever clockwork people who write this blog covered the yanking of SUMMER PALACE from the Author Film Festival for political reasons. Now, a sharp-eyed reader sends in a twist: the movie is back in the festival. Serbian officials have now put SUMMER PALACE back into the festival for two screenings, free of charge.

Festival organizers say, ""The festival does not conduct state policy."

An aide to the Prime Minister, Vladeta Jankovic, says, "It is quite certain that screening the movie in spite of a courteous appeal via diplomatic channels would not aid our attempts to resolve the Kosovo problem in the way we want."

Yeah, yeah. But now everyone gets a free movie.

December 5, 2006 at 08:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 04, 2006

PLEASE LEAVE BRUCE LEE ALONE

Bruce Lee is dead

Bruce Lee is dead. Seriously. But some people just don't understand that simple fact and, like the 8 year old tyke who tearfully begs daddy to dig up Mr. Whiskers one more time, they can't let the dead stay in the ground. Or in the air. Or wherever. Not only is Rob Cohen of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS scrabbling at the hard-packed cemetary dirt to dig up Bruce's corpse for his movie, but now there's a Bruce Lee theme park opening in China and Chan Kwok-kwan, who played a Bruce-Lee-a-like in Stephen Chow's SHAOLIN SOCCER, is starring as Bruce in a 40 episdoe Mainland Chinese television series about the life of Bruce Lee.

The trouble is that eventually daddy has to start saying "no" when asked to dig up Mr. Whiskers for "one last goodbye" the ninth or tenth time because, frankly, Mr. Whiskers isn't smelling so good and no one seems to know where half his head went. Chan Kwok-kwan says, "I'm really very happy that I got the lead role. This isn't about the money. I'm really excited to play Bruce Lee."

No, Chan. This is pretty much all about the money.

December 4, 2006 at 11:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 01, 2006

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHINESE MOVIE THEATERS IN AMERICA

The Music Palace was the last Chinese movie theater in New York City


I wrote this article a few years ago for AsianAvenue.com and thought it might be fitting to post it here for those of you with an interest in the Chinese cinema circuit in America. The info is a little out of date (eg the ImaginAsian has since screened some Chinese movies) but the historical information is as relevant as ever.

The Music Palace was the last Chinese movie theater in New York City, and it sat on the Bowery like a great, rotting shipwreck for almost forty years. Pleasantly dank in the summer, painfully cold in the winter, its interior was a dark cavern lit only by the flickering light of the projector. Double features cost $6, and what you did inside the theater was your own business. The air was full of the sound of people fishing out their box lunches and beers, lighting cigarettes and reading newspapers.

In 2000, the Music Palace showed its last double feature and closed its doors for good, and it’s only one name in a litany of the dead Chinese movie theaters: Great Star, Pagoda, Kuo Hwa, Garfield, Sun Sing, Jade, Essex, Wah Dor, Rosemary. The Chinese movie circuit used to stretch across the United States with between 50 and 100 Chinese movie theaters in the US and Canada playing first run flicks from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Mainland. Now there’s only half of one left: the Four Star theater in San Francisco. One screen of the Four Star shows second run Hollywood movies, the other shows first run Hong Kong movies and revivals. And if their landlord has his way, in a few months the Four Star will be no more.

Four Star theater in San Francisco

Frank Lee Jr. owns and operates the Four Star which he opened in 1992. He’s the son of Frank Lee Sr. who ran fifty movie theaters in Chinatowns across the country during the go-go days of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

“My father opened his first theater, the Bella Union, in 1964 in San Francisco,” says Lee. “Then he opened theaters in New York, LA, Vancouver and Toronto. At that time, any major city with a Chinatown had a theater. Business started picking up in the late 60’s because of the Taiwanese films, the Jimmy Wang Yu stuff, then the Brigitte Lin movies.

“In the early 70’s, after the Vietnam War ended, there was a wave of Vietnamese immigrants who came over to this country and they loved Shaw Brothers stuff -- Ti Lung, Chang Cheh -- and they started opening Chinese cinemas.  Every weekend our theaters did great business. There wasn’t much for Chinese to do, back then. There was no Chinese TV, no videos, no karaoke. The only form of entertainment for Chinese were movies. It was so lucrative; we had midnight shows, double features. It was just madness. But those times are gone.”

Lee opened the Four Star with the intention of only running Hong Kong movies, but that wasn’t making financial sense. He tried several configurations before settling on a mix of Mainland Chinese arthouse films, mainstream and indie American fare, and first run Hong Kong movies, which seemed to work. “But I really did want to stick to Asian films 100% in the beginning,” he says.

Lee signed a 13—year lease with the owner of the theater in 1992, and made extensive renovations. In 2001, the Canaan Lutheran Church paid $1.5 million for the building, and although Lee matched the bid, the owner sold to the Church. With Lee’s lease expiring in May of 2005 he tried to negotiate a renewal of his lease with the Canaan church, which refused.

Unable to come to an agreement, Lee went to the media and the resultant outcry has given the Four Star a brief respite. Five days after an article about the theater ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, concerned city supervisors contacted Lee, and a 45-day moratorium on theaters being demolished in San Francisco was recently passed. One city supervisor has also drafted a permanent piece of legislation that would prohibit the demolition of neighborhood theaters unless the owner has a pressing reason, and the plan must pass through strict city and neighborhood planning channels. Lee says he feels relief, but that it’s not over yet. “I feel better, but this is only round one of a much longer battle.”

Among Lee’s supporters is Jon Soo, head of theatrical distribution for Tai Seng, the last Chinese film distributor in North America. “We’re behind Frank all the way, because he’s the last one left.” Soo says. “The Four Star is a landmark. It’s the last place to watch Chinese movies in America.”

Grand View Chinese movie theater

From dozens of theaters in the 1970’s and 80’s, to one screen in one theater in 2004, it’s taken thirty years for a vital part of the Chinese American experience to be completely eradicated. It’s a typical immigrant assimilation story, but that doesn’t make it any less depressing.

“These days, the younger folks’ interests have shifted. These kids are interested in what’s cool right now, and that’s Korea, not Hong Kong,” says Soo.

“I was born and raised in Singapore. I remember I’d tag along with my mom and watch Chinese movies with her in the back stalls for fifty cents, and I’m still loyal to these movies. But Hong Kong had a very down period in the mid-90’s when you didn’t see a lot of good stuff coming out, and the younger generations didn’t grow up thinking of Hong Kong movies as quality films.”

It’s bleakly ironic that the destruction of the Chinese movie circuit in America is happening at the same time that Chinese movies are having a huge impact on Hollywood. Modern American action movies routinely ape Hong Kong action conventions, and actors like Jackie Chan and Jet Li are marquee names. Zhang Yimou’s HERO made over $50 million at the box office, and no film festival is considered complete without a full complement of Asian films.

There’s even an all-Asian cable channel, ImaginAsian TV, that’s getting ready to launch next year. ImaginAsian currently owns and operates the ImaginAsian Theater in New York City. The theater shows only Asian movies, but ironically while they’ve shown Japanese, Korean and Philippino films since they opened six months ago, they haven’t screened a single Chinese movie.

And so, the burden seems to rest on Frank Lee.

“A lot of these films don’t make much money,” Lee says. “I show them for the sake of showing them, and there’s never come a moment when I wanted to pack it up. Never. Especially now that there’s only us. It definitely makes my wife and I feel like we have to fight harder for the Four Star, since we’re the last one in North America. But we can’t stop. It’s in our blood.”

Sun Sing Chinese movie theater

December 1, 2006 at 07:16 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

PTU TV SERIES PHOTOS

A sharp-eyed reader sends in stills from the PTU TV series like this one right here. Head on over to the link to feast your eyes on a few others.

PTU TV

December 1, 2006 at 06:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

CHINA: BIG, FRIENDLY AND ANGRY ABOUT LOU YE

Those heathen Chinese! After ticking off everyone in the State Administration of Film, Radio and Television by submitting his new movie, SUMMER PALACE, to Cannes before it was officially approved, Chinese director Lou Ye found himself banned from filmmaking for five years. Now it looks like China is requesting that film festivals not screen Lou's SUMMER PALACE at all.

The Author Film Festival had booked SUMMER PALACE and were all set to screen it when the local Chinese embassy registered a protest, asking them not to show it "in the interests of keeping good bilateral relations." After some debate the festival pulled the film and the festival chairman, Dinko Tucakovic, resigned over the decision.

The Cultural Chairman of the Serbian capital, Darijan Mihajlovic, said "We were in a position to make a choice between a smart and brave decision, so Serbia made a wise one...Following a clear message from the higher level, a consensus was reached that we are not in a position to insult a big and friendly country like China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council."

Apparently, Serbia is relying on China to block Kosovo's bid for independence and doesn't want to do anything that might put a kink in the deal.

December 1, 2006 at 05:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

HONG KONG GETS A...DRIVE-IN???

Hong Kong is opening a new movie theater and it's...a drive-in? Opening on December 7 with Takashi Shimizu's THE GRUDGE 2 the theater will be a single-screen, followed by a second around Christmas and a third and a fourth screen tentatively scheduled for Chinese New Year. Golden Scene (who produced Stanley Kwan's EVERLASTING REGRET) are programming the screen and say each one has 80 fixed seats and room for 100 cars. This is just too weird for words.

December 1, 2006 at 01:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 30, 2006

THE MPA VS. CHINA

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)

THE VILLAGE VOICE HAS A FILM EDITOR

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 FILM FEST SAYS "GOODBYE AMERICANS"

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)

THE HOST - US TRAILER AND POSTER

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

THE DUKUN STORY: I WILL NOT DIE

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)

BATTLE OF WITS BIG IN CHINA

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 CONVICTED; AISHWARYA RAI HITCHED?

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)

DHOOM 2 MAKES A MINT

DHOOM 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 ENDORSEMENT

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)

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - THE MUSIC PALACE HAS LEFT THE PLANET

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)

BATTLE OF WITS RELEASED; MAKES MONEY

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)

REVENGE OF THE TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER

TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER

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: STILL LUCRATIVE

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 (6)

JACKIE "PSYCHIC" CHAN

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)

GOLDEN HORSIES HAPPEN; NO ONE INJURED

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

WHAT I'M THANKFUL FOR

Thanksgiving

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

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE PHILIPPINES!

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 SHILLS SEGWAY

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)

SCREEN QUOTA RUCKUS CONTINUES

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

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO HAVE IN VITRO FERTILIZATION...

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)

POSSESSED: THE TWINS STORY

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: WORKING BLUE

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

TARTAN'S NEW SLATE

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)

PLAYSTATION 3: MASH-UP CONSUMERISM

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)

WEIRDNESS HO! - MIIKE REMAKES DJANGO

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

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY! OR IS IT THE END OF THE WORLD?

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)

INTERNATIONAL CRAZY LADY, BAI LING, JOINS LOST

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)

D-WAR DELAYED

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 SAYS: WAR IS STUPID

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

OUCH! GURU ISN'T COMING

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)

PANIC IN THE FREE PAPERS

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

BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BOLLYWOOD

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 BACK IN THE SADDLE

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)

SANJURO REMAKE IS GO

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)

November 14, 2006

EXTE - HORROR YOUR HAIR HAS NEVER KNOWN

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

GREAT IDEAS STRIKE TWICE

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)

CONFESSIONS OF PAIN WEBSITE LIVE

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.

CONFESSIONS OF PAIN poster

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

TIME SELLS TO NORTH AMERICA

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)

November 10, 2006

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY: ALL GOSSIP EDITION!

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.

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER

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

LINDA LINDA LINDA - IN THEATERS NOW

LINDA LINDA LINDA

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)

WKW + WEINSTEINS = MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS

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 IS EVERYBODY

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 CAN'T STAND HEAT: LEAVES KITCHEN

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 IS TEN YEARS OLD

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)

A MILLION LITTLE INTERVIEWS

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

EVERYONE LOVES A SEQUEL

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 A SUCCESS IN AMERICA

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 KITAMURA AND SHUNJI IWAI

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

SHU QI IN MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER 3

MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER 3

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)

CHOCOLATE: NEW FROM PANNA RITTIKRAI

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)

DETAILS ON THE DOOR

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)

ROY LEE STRIKES AGAIN: THE HOST REMAKE IS BORN

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)

MAGNOLIA GETS INTO THE PANNA RITTIKRAI BUSINESS

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)

KIRK WONG DIRECTS FIVE DEADLY VENOMS

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

POLICE STORY: DRAGON DYNASTY PART 2

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

TUTE IN DA HOUSE!!!

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)

RUSH HOUR 3 GETS ARTSY!

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)

AFM ALERT! PLUS: TSUI HARK'S NEW MOVIE

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)

October 31, 2006

FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL CURSE ERIC TALMADGE'S NAME

wine tasting robot

We have armed robots. We have robo-monkeys. We are developing robot blood. Wasn't that enough?

Not for the guys at the Mie University NEC Lab in Japan. Their idea seemed harmless enough: build a little robot that can taste wine. The tiny chap was unveiled in September of this year and performed admirably. He can even determine which apples are sweet and which are sour without slicing into them. He can taste wines, and all kinds of different foods.

And then Eric Talmadge, an AP reporter, let the little robot taste him.

"Prosciutto," the little guy chirped in his "childlike voice". Then he instantly scanned a cameraman.

"Bacon," he squealed.

Dear God, Eric. I know you have to get your story but did you have to let the robot taste our flesh?

Armed robo-monkeys will hunt our children down through the rubble of our future cities, hungry for their crispy skin and it will be all your fault.

October 31, 2006 at 12:17 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

SPERM ATTACK!!!

Taweewat Wantha's THE SPERM


Wisekwai is rounding up the year-end films from Thailand and among the fun is SPERM a movie from Taweewat Wantha, director of the truly unhinged SARS WARS.

What is SPERM? What is it about? I met the director a long time ago and he mentioned that he was working on a film about a sperm that grows to enormous size and attacks Bangkok. Was he kidding? Or is this the plot for...SPERM????

I had no idea this was even in production but can I just say that maybe I'm a moron, but if a Thai movie about a Godzilla-sized sperm raining down kaiju-sized destruction on a major metropolitan area is coming out before the end of the year then I will take back every mean thing I've ever said about Thailand. If this is true then Thailand truly is the Land of Smiles.

October 31, 2006 at 11:14 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

NO MERCY FOR ANDREW LAU

Andrew Lau Andrew Lau, one half of the directing team that brought the world INFERNAL AFFAIRS and which just wrapped up CONFESSIONS OF PAIN, shot an American movie THE FLOCK. Starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes, the film was slated for a Nov. 3 release date but has now been postponed indefinitely.

One problem is that its distributor, Bauer Martinez, is run by Philippe Martinez, a dude who did some time in France for fraud back in the 90's when he scammed some folks in a moviemaking venture. Now he's opened Bauer Martinez as an independent studio in Hollywood but he's having a lot of problems with his first releases - namely that folks are saying he's a liar and can't deliver on his financial commitments.

But to add to that, there's word popping up on the IMDB message boards (hardly the Bible, but...) that Andrew Lau has left the movie because the producers wanted to go in a darker direction. The film was turned over to the associate editor who gave it a darker ending. But Richard Gere apparently doesn't like the harder ending and is lobbying for them to bring the old ending back. The movie has been finished since late August, and I'm guessing it gets dumped on the market in February 2007.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who tracked this, gunned it down and sent it in all wrapped up like a baby deer)

October 31, 2006 at 10:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

WEINSTEINS BUY ANOTHER MOVIE

NO MERCY FOR THE RUDE The Weinstein Company has just announced the purchase of Core Studios' NO MERCY FOR THE RUDE a Korean riff on Dexter, about a hitman with a speech impediment who only kills people who are rude. TWC has picked up North American rights. Variety called this one with their review which read in part:

"If ever there were a Korean import aimed at Stateside auds and ready for the Tarantino seal-of-approval, this is it."

The flick stars Shin Ha-Kyun from SAVE THE GREEN PLANET.

October 31, 2006 at 10:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

KIM JI-WON AND THE KOREAN SLAVES

Kim Ji-Won (A BITTERSWEET LIFE, TALE OF TWO SISTERS) is going into pre-production soon for his next movie, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD a Western set in China starring Song Kang-Ho (THE HOST) in the role of "the Weird".

Other slaves will probably star in the movie, too. Slaves?!? Yes, Korea's entertainment industry is currently going to war over slavery. "Slave contracts" are what talent in Korea sign, shackling them to management companies that take huge fees and basically call the shots over film production thanks to the massive power they wield. These contracts run for decades, and are virtually unbreakable, bringing down massive penalties on the signer if they leave for a better offer. The management companies say they spend hundreds of millions of won (that's Korean money!) developing their stars and therefore it's no fair if they leave for a better offer. And, of course, this keeps production costs down by keeping star salaries from being escalated beyond reason in bids to lure stars away.

Now, however, the Seoul courts have ruled that these slave contracts are illegal. Expect the Korean entertainment industry to explode as freed slaves run around looking for better deals.

(Thanks to Twitch)

October 31, 2006 at 09:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

UNSEEABLE GETS SEEN

Wisekwai has seen Wisit Sasanatieng's Thai horror movie, THE UNSEEABLE. I've been nervous about this. Wisit is a great director whose TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER will be the movie that the Weinsteins will have to account for not releasing once they reach the afterlife. A glorious explosion of Thai pop cinema from the 60's, TEARS is a candy colored mushroom cloud of fun that lies mouldering in the Miramax vaults.

On the other hand, why would a terrific director want to make another Thai horror film? Thai horror movies are, to put it kindly, not so good. In fact, they're so not good that when a competent one comes along (like SHUTTER or DORM) it gets wildly overpraised.

But now THE UNSEEABLE has been seen and Wisekwai says it's good. Actually he says, "...this intelligent, spooky ghost thriller still oozes old-timey Siamese atmosphere, and for that alone, it's a beautiful film to watch."

There's also another UNSEEABLE trailer up - and this one is much spookier than the first.

October 31, 2006 at 09:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

LINEAGE ANIMATED MOVIE?

Lineage is Korea's answer to World of Warcraft - an online game where a bunch of players (1.4 million for Lineage) pretend to be elves casting spells on one another - and now, like World of Warcraft, it looks like it might be getting a feature film.

A poster over on the KoreanFilm.org discussion board links to dozens of Lineage game cinematics up at YouTube and restates the rumor that NCSoft, the Korean software company behind Lineage, is secretly laying the groundwork for a hush-hush feature film project.

Anyone heard anything about this?

October 31, 2006 at 08:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

M vs. M

Lee Myung-Se Ryuichi Hiroki

This week marks the start date of shooting on Lee Myung-Se's doom-driven horror movie, M.

The Korean director of NOWHERE TO HIDE and DUELIST is nutty about the letter M and even named his production company M Productions. He likes M. What does it stand for? There's a rumor that M stands for "Must be a hit," but in reality it came to him in a dream.

But according to Jason Gray there's another director laying claim to the moody letter M: Ryuichi Hiroki. Director of flicks like IT'S ONLY TALK and VIBRATOR, Ryuichi Hiroki's latest film (which is a fun-sounding goulash about repressed housewives, kinky sex, and the yakuza) is also called M.

And it looks like it was released at the end of October, giving it the precedence advantage.

Will Lee Myung-Se's movie change its name to N? Stay tuned for updates.

October 31, 2006 at 08:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2006

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY

Carina Lau and Tony Leung Chiu-wai Only one item in Friday's Fun-Day celebration, but it's the best news ever: Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Carina Lau have come out of the closet. It happened a few days ago, but I haven't seen many people carrying it so it may have passed you by so here you go:

After 20 years, Carina Lau and Tony Leung have finally said they're a married couple. These two have been targeted by nasty rumors for decades (he's cheating! she's cheating!) which haven't been helped by Little Tony's tendency to deny that they're married (like when Carina said she was wearing a wedding ring and he basically called her a liar in print). But the rumors that they're gotten married have become so prevalent that they've almost become fact even though the dynamic duo have never copped to it. But now they have!

These guys have been through a lot and they deserve their happiness.

So congratulations!

It's news like this that earns this week the Darth Kitty seal of approval.

Hello Darth Kitty

October 27, 2006 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

A NEW TARTAN IN 2007?

OLDBOY three-disc set I've been pretty astonished at Tartan's release schedule since Tartan USA first opened a few years ago. Their titles looked good, they came out regularly and they seemed to be intent on releasing every horror movie being made in Korea. CELLO, FACE, R-POINT, WISHING STAIRS, ACACIA...I didn't know if there was a market for these movies in the US or not, but regardless Tartan was releasing them.

Scattered through their catalogue are real gems: MEMENTO MORI, DOPPELGANGER, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, and several others. But for the most part they've been heavy on the horror and some of their acquisitions don't seem to make sense. Is there actually an audience for GHOST OF MAE NAK?

But their strategy could be changing. They're still having a huge sale over at Wal-Mart, which is almost definitely a sign that the titles on sale are facing big returns which could be something of a wake-up call, and they've got two huge movies in Johnnie To's ELECTION 1 and 2 which are coming up in 2007. And now they're re-issuing their tentpole film, OLDBOY, on a three-disc set (you can see making of clips from the disc over here on YouTube "What a Drag", "Hammer Time", "The Art of the Upchuck", and "Ants Marching"). What I'm hoping this means is that Tartan is going to maybe slow down on the indiscriminate release of every single horror movie, regardless of quality, and instead focus on their big, prestige titles in 2007.

With the right handling, the ELECTION movies can be as big for them as OLDBOY and I'm really hoping they take the time and the care to nurture these two deserving flicks into full bloom as enormous money trees.

October 27, 2006 at 11:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (15)

SUPER GIRLS SUPER STATUE

Statue_web It's the time of year when movies like ISABELLA are winning Thai film festival awards and reviews are going up of TRACES OF LOVE which opened Pusan, and Japan's Yubari Fantastic Film Festival has come back from the brink of death and I find my attention taken hostage by none of it.

Instead, I'm obsessed with this statue of the 2005 winner and runner-up in China's version of "American Idol", SUPER GIRLS. A show with hundreds of millions of viewers, SUPER GIRLS gets right up the nose of China's cultural conservative old guard but maybe this social realist style statue will bring them around.

Inspired by the Russian statue "Workers at the Collectivized Farm" (one of my favorites) it's part satire and part genuine celebration of the new wave of world hero. You can read an interview with the sculptor over at EastSouthWestNorth.

October 27, 2006 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2006

CHINESE NEW WAVE

Danwei links to a video from Chinese New Wave band, New Pants. 

From its Golden Harvest logo opening to its Bruce Lee smack-down center, the song ("Dragon Tiger Pancea") rocks the synthesizer hard.

October 26, 2006 at 11:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

DEREK DISSECTS VENICE

Variety's Derek Elley dissects the Venice Film Festival's Asian film line-up with painful precision (" Like most programmers of large festivals, Muller is a politician first and film buff second..."). Read it.

October 26, 2006 at 11:16 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 25, 2006

PAPRIKA CATCHES A BREAK

Paprika I loved Satoshi Kon's PAPRIKA but I would say it's got a snowball's chance in hell of doing well theatrically in the US.

But that's not stopping the intrepid team at Sony Pictures Classic. They're the people behind the American release, which means that PAPRIKA is going to get a high profile shake at the box office and a good marketing campaign to boot.

Go Sony! Go Sony!

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

October 25, 2006 at 09:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (14)

CONFESSION OF PAIN GETS A DATE

The Takeshi Kaneshiro/Tony Leung Chiu-wai flick CONFESSION OF PAIN has a release date...and it's going toe-to-toe with Zhang Yimou's CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER this December.

CURSE is a juggernaut with Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li in the lead roles, a massive budget, and it's been getting good word of mouth (for once). But it's an old timey time martial movie, a trend that has been wearing out its welcome of late (see: THE PROMISE, Chen Kaige's disastrous bomb).

CONFESSION OF PAIN is a twisty urban thriller from the team that brought INFERNAL AFFAIRS to the screen and they've got an unbeatable string of hits under their belts (the three IA movies and INITIAL D).

So who'll win the battle of the Christmas box office? Modern day movies? Pretty as a picture period films from China? There can be only one!

October 25, 2006 at 08:48 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

October 24, 2006

QUEEN OF LUNG-GASUKA STILL!

Nonzee Nimibutr (NANG NAK) is hard at work shooting his epic fantasy film, QUEEN OF LUNG-GASUKA, and the first stills are starting to trickle out (courtesy of 24 Frames per Second). I saw some more production art from this film at Pusan and it's truly magnificent looking. If he can pull it off this will be the biggest Thai film ever, and that's saying a lot.

QUEEN OF LUNG-GASUKA

October 24, 2006 at 12:02 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

13 BELOVED GETS REMAKE?

At the Pusan Film Market the Weinstein Company picked up the remake and North American rights to 13 BELOVED (which is referred to as 13 in this Variety story). The flick was screaming out "high concept" from the minute I first heard about it, and I figured it was only a matter of time before someone decided to remake it.

If you have a problem with remakes, now's the time to make your peace with them. After THE DEPARTED and GRUDGE 2 both dominated the box office on the same weekend last week the gates have been opened for remake rights to be snapped up for all kinds of Asian movies. Remake fever is in the air again, and I imagine a lot of flicks will have their rights picked up. On the plus side, this is a nice infusion of cash for the filmmakers, and it's not like the original is going to be destroyed or anything. On the negative side, it does seem a bit lazy and like copying off the test paper of the person sitting next to you.

October 24, 2006 at 10:52 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

BROKEBACK THAILAND

Wisekwai has the posters today for Yuthlert Sippapak's new film, GHOST STATION. Sippapak is the director of KILLER TATTOO and the movie is supposedly a comedy but nothing is known about it except for its rockin' good, denim-clad poster.

Ghoststation_web

October 24, 2006 at 10:25 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23, 2006

ASIAN ZOMBIE MADNESS

Asian zombies So not only is ZIBAHKHANA a zombie movie from Pakistan, and not only is ZOMBIE KG PISANG a Malaysian zombie film, and not only is Grace Lee's AMERICAN ZOMBIE an Asian-American zombie film, but now Korea has an upcoming zombie flick, too.

MOMMY'S RISEN from Cineclick Asia has sold rights to Wild Side films and is set for a 2007 release. Directed by Jane Shin the movie tells the tale of a dead mother who crawls back from the grave to take care of her orphaned children.

October 23, 2006 at 12:55 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

WHAT I LEARNED IN PUSAN

Pusan Film Festival's Asian Film Market

I just came back from the Pusan Film Festival's Asian Film Market, a first-year event where everyone's favorite film festival tries to create the new, go-to film market for Asian film.

Held on the top floors of the Grand Hotel there was something submarine about the whole event. Trapped in a hermetically sealed, mammoth hotel that had seen better days, a sort of endtimes fever gripped everyone as the lines for the three elevators became truly epic and unshaded lamps were thrown into the stairwell to light up the murk as clusters of buyers marched from floor to floor in the throes of market fever.

Closed off from the outside world, with mealtimes slipping past unnoticed, you'd sit in meetings and trail off into silence as you looked over the shoulder of the person you were speaking with to see the ocean and beach spread out through the windows behind them.

The reason I was there was because the ImaginAsian folks have just signed a home video deal with video distributor, Genius, and they'd hired me to be a consultant for their acquisitions team. It's fun, but a probable conflict of interest to the max. Thank god this is only a blog and not some kind of serious journalism. Keep your eyes peeled for a large, red warning label we're developing so that you know when certain posts are coming to you compromised by my new-found corporate interests.

I'd never been to a film market as a buyer before, and it was an eye-opening experience. What did I learn?

- Horror sells. Almost every single horror movie at the market had a bid on it from an American distributor. Some of the movies were good, some were great, and some were just lousy. But they all have US-flavored love attached to them in the form of a check. The deals might not have been closed yet, but the money was there.

- Cluelessness is pandemic. People don't see what they don't want to see and some of the sellers had little to no idea about the American market. The price tags attached to some truly dodgy pictures were in the six digits, an amount that anyone who's not the Weinsteins would find prohibitively expensive since there's no way you can pay a six figure minimum guarantee, pay P&A on a theatrical release and hope to make your money back in this lifetime. Better to take your acquisitions money and head out to Vegas where the chance of a return is greater. But comments from sellers ranged from, "America is a big country" to "This is the best I can do" while showing off price tags from Mars.

Even after Asian films have flopped repeatedly in the States, sellers seem to only remember hits like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and HERO. But why should they know US box office figures? I met more than one seller who had no idea that their company's film was either already sold to the US or had already been released over here.

- High price tags aren't unreasonable for Asia. The Japanese tearjerker, NADA SOUSOU, is doing well at the Japanese box office and it just sold its Korean rights...for a price reportedly over a million dollars US.

- The news was slow. The general feeling at the market was that it was a good thing, in general, but that not a whole hell of a lot happened. Not a lot of major deals. Not a lot of news to report. Just generally quiet. A lot of deals will probably close at the upcoming AFM, but overall things in Pusan were quiet, like a main street in small town America on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

October 23, 2006 at 11:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

PTU TV SERIES

PTU TV seriesA sharp-eyed reader sends in the news that one of the directors of the PTU TV series is Law Wing-cheong, Johnnie To's assistant director on many of his projects, and that one of its stars is CRAZY STONE's Teddy Lin.

You can see some set photos off of Teddy Lin's site over here, and here.

October 23, 2006 at 10:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

TORONTO AFTER DARK

TORONTO AFTER DARK If you're a beer-swilling Canadian and you're in Toronto to sell some beaver pelts before heading back to your trapper's camp, then hie thee hither to Toronto After Dark. Tonight (Monday) they're screening a double feature of TOKYO ZOMBIE and FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT and you can't go wrong with those two movies.

It comes to you courtesy of the folks over at Twitch, who have built the entire festival out of little wooden pegs and who generate their own electricity.

October 23, 2006 at 10:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

TRIAD ELECTION US RELEASE

So TRIAD ELECTION (maiden name: ELECTION 2) is coming out on April 25 at Film Forum in New York followed by a national roll-out and the DVD of ELECTION 1.

Bummer, but the movies have been extremely profitable for Milkyway. ELECTION 1 and 2 had a combined budget of HK$50 million and a combined box office gross of HK$29 million and combined overseas sales (according to Dennis Law, Milkyway's chairman) of HK$40 million (which is about US$5 million).

Not so good news for EXILED, which opened to do HK$430,000 on 37 screens on its first day (ELECTION and ELECTION 2 had opening grosses of over HK$1 million on their opening days and they were both Category III movies). EXILED went on to gross HK$2.62 million over the weekend, despite good reviews, a wide marketing campaign and a wide release - this makes it the number two movie for the weekend (after WORLD TRADE CENTER) and gives it a softer opening than even THE DEPARTED (HK$3.89 million).

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

October 23, 2006 at 10:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

October 20, 2006

TARTAN TITLES FOR CHEAP!

Between now and the Devil's Day (Halloween) Wal-Mart is selling a bunch of Tartan DVDs for $9. If you ever wanted 'em, now's the time to get 'em. Here's the list with commentary:

MAREBITO - for the artsy crowd, this is probably the only non-JUON film from Takashi Shimizu. And it stars Shinya Tsukamoto.

CELLO - haven't seen it.

FACE - haven't seen it.

KOMA - haven't seen it.

PHONE - a good horror flick from Korea. Plus it features one of cinema's most psychotic infants.

WISHING STAIRS - solid entry in the schoolgirl horror films from Korea. Not the greatest, but nothing wrong with it, either.

WHISPERING CORRIDORS - see where Korea's schoolgirl horror films began. A movie I like a lot, although it does look a little dated nowadays.

MEMENTO MORI - the best of Korea's schoolgirl horror films. Teenage sapphic sweethearts, all-school hauntings, and a fractured narrative that's designed to break your heart. A good movie about ghosts, high school and lesbians.

ACACIA - not so hot. A haunted tree. Visually accomplished, and nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't grab you by the neck, either.

UNBORN BUT FORGOTTEN - high concept about killer pregnancies is diluted by ridiculous plotting. Still: killer fetuses. But overall: meh.

DOPPELGANGER - get it! Out of everything on this list, this flick is the crown jewel. Kiyoshi Kurosawa + Koji Yakusho = 2 gether 4 evah.

THE BOOTH - haven't seen it.

PRAY - haven't seen it.

So go shopping!!!

October 20, 2006 at 05:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (11)

JOHNNIE TO: BANNED IN CHINA! BANNED IN HONG KONG!

We all know that Johnnie To's EXILED isn't going to be allowed a theatrical release in China, but now the HKSAR is asking him to cut his movie. A sharp-eyed reader sends in the news that the Hong Kong Certification Board wants him to cut a handshake from the film or they'll slap his movie with a Category III rating. Triad hand signs and language will automatically give your film a Cat III rating (equivalent, roughly, to an NC-17 in the US) and the Certification Board says that during a handshake in one scene someone throws a triad sign.

Johnnie To says he asked some triad members if the scene had a triad sign in it and they said "no". But the HK Certification Board said they asked some triad experts the same question and they said "yes". So To cut the shots from the movie and it earned a Category IIB rating.

So if you live in Hong Kong and you want to see the handshake, you're probably going to have to wait until the DVD comes out. You can see the shots in question over here on Apple Daily, and I can testify to the fact that these shots are in the print that's being screened for the press in the US, and so they will probably be in the US release.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who translated this news and sent it in)

October 20, 2006 at 03:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 19, 2006

READ THIS BLOG

Blogs suck but there's one out there that doesn't. Brian, my Subway Cinema colleague, is currently hiding from a crime he didn't, personally, commit by travelling around Asia and he's taunting the authorities by blogging about all the movies he's sucking up through his eyes.

The latest gossip! Reviews of Jackie Chan's ROB-B-HOOD and the soundtrack from DON! A review of 13 BELOVED! It's everything you ever wanted, all wrapped up in a little package called Brian.

October 19, 2006 at 02:27 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

SHAMO - THE KILLER...WHALE?!?

Shawn Yue in Shamo Soi Cheang's follow-up film to DOG BITE DOG is now in production. And its name shall be SHAMO.

Starring Shawn Yue and, supposedly, Franic Ng, the flick is based on a Japanese manga called SHAMO. The touching story of a boy who has everything until he slaughters his parents, is sent to a reformatory where he's gang raped and abused, and then learns karate and turns himself into an unstoppable beating, hitting, kicking, punching and biting machine, this seems like a logical follow-up to DOG BITE DOG.

There's a still of Shawn Yue on the set, and there are more set photos here, here, here and here.

Many thanks to Little Sam (and one other sharp-eyed reader) for the heads up on this one.

October 19, 2006 at 12:50 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

LEE MYUNG-SE'S M

Moody. Melancholy. Momantic (is that a word? who cares!). I just got back from a quick visit to the production offices for Lee Myung-Se's M pictures and Core Studios new film, M, and things look good. This is Director Lee's first movie since DUELIST and it stars Kang Dong-Won who played Sad Eyes as a writer who has lost his memory and is trying to find the woman he loved. Kind of. There's more to it than that but since this is a Lee Myung-Se movie most of the "more to it than that" stuff is in the visuals and the editing and is hard to describe.

The camera tests look fantastic - the movie is shot by Hong Kyung-Po who shot TAE GUK GI and SAVE THE GREEN PLANET - and shooting is set to begin in November.

Lee Myung-Se is a director you love or hate - I'm firmly in the love department - so your level of anticipation may vary. Nevertheless, this is going to be eye and brain candy of the highest order no matter how you feel about his movies.

October 19, 2006 at 11:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

ZIBAHKHANA: MUSLIM MIDGET ZOMBIES!

a still from ZIBAHKHANAWhen I was in the UK recently I had the pleasure of sitting down for an over-priced drink with Pete Tombs and Omar Khan: producer and director, respectively, of ZIBAHKHANA.

What is this ZIBAHKHANA, I hear you say? It's the title of Pakistan's first (well first in a long time) true-blue, gore-encrusted, flyblown, no exit, kill em all, horror movie. Featuring gruesome deaths, gore, and zombies (midget zombies! muslim zombies! all kinds of zombies!) it was shot on High Def and the stills I've seen (some of which I hope to post soon) look waaay better than I expected.

I wrote an article for Variety about the film. And that's called Shameless Plugging!

October 19, 2006 at 10:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 16, 2006

WO HU MOVES DATE

WO HU poster A sharp-eyed reader lets us know that WO HU, the Wong Jing-produced triad film that looks like a cross between INFERNAL AFFAIRS and ELECTION (a trailer is available) has moved its release date to 10/26, going up against Oxide Pang's DIARY instead of going up against Johnnie To's EXILED.

You can read a plot synopsis here. The film has two directors (just like INFERNAL AFFAIRS!) and it stars Francis Ng, Eric Tsang, Shawn Yue and Jordan Chan.

October 16, 2006 at 11:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

NEW YOJI YAMADA FILM

Shochiku has announced the next Yoji Yamada film and - surprise! - it's a period piece. But what's genuinely surprising is that it's set not in the distant past like TWILIGHT SAMURAI or THE HIDDEN BLADE, but in the 1940's.

KABEI is based on a nonfiction account of a mother living through hard times in the 1940's called Chichi Eno Requiem. It stars Sayuri Yoshinaga who last worked with Yamada 35 years ago in two of the Tora-san films, TORA-SAN'S LOVESICK and TORA-SAN'S DEAR OLD HOME. It's her 112th film.

The movie is set for a 2008 release and currently in the planning stages. Yamada has this to say about it:

"I would like to make this film with homage to all of the tender mothers who held her family in her arms and lived through hard time like a raging roller storm."

Expect to cry.

October 16, 2006 at 01:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 14, 2006

PUSAN UPDATE

I'm currently at the Pusan Film Market (part of the Pusan Film Festival) and the news is flowing fast and furious, like a giant river of syrup. It looks like there's a new Chinese, period, martial arts epic, THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON and it stars Andy Lau and Maggie Q. Daniel Lee is directing and Sammo is doing action choreography.

Also, Aussie sales agent Arclight has picked up Soi Cheang's DOG BITE DOG and is now trying to make an international sale.

October 14, 2006 at 06:40 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

CURSE OF GOLDEN FLOWER PREMIERE

CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION, uh, GOLDEN FLOWER

Zhang Yimou's sumptuous and surprisingly-well-regarded CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION GOLDEN FLOWER will close the AFI Fest on November 12 in Los Angeles. Presented by Audi, the festival is the posh film fest arm of the ginormous, marginally insane American Film Market. It'll also be screening RE-CYCLE, THE HOST, Kim Ki-Duk's TIME, Ken Watanabe's MEMORIES OF TOMORROW (which is not a world premiere no matter what their site says), ELECTION 1 and 2, LUXURY CAR, THE BANQUET and a bunch of others.

While it's certainly amazing that the film is completed and ready to go, again it is not a World Premiere as the AFI Fest is claiming, since the movie publicly played in China to qualify for next year's Oscars. This would be called an International Premiere, guys. But I guess that's not as sexy as a World Premiere, and frankly I think most people (myself included) would do the same thing. Thank goodness blogs like this are around to keep everyone on the straight and narrow!

October 14, 2006 at 01:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2006

EDISON CHEN TAKES NEW YORK

Edison Chen, in casual wear?

Edison Chen is at LA's Knot Berry's Farm theme park for the premiere of his Hollywood debut, THE GRUDGE 2, although he could not go on any of the rides since he was there for the premiere.

He wore casual wear, causing one poster to call him "a punk" for his casual dress. Western reporters seemed to recognize Edison and it looks like he's starting to take America by storm. According to his blog:

- he got flowers in his room when he checked into the Gramercy Hotel
("sweet and cute...................")
- he had dinner with Kanye West at Spice Market
("i had some good food and a real good talk with kanye and don bout life and sh*t")
- he then had sexual relations with Kanye, or maybe just back to his room
("upon that we went up to kanye's private spot and we hit up the meeting")
- he signed with a new publicist
("the same people who do leonardo dicaprio, justin timberlake, ben affleck, john mayer, michelle wie, gilbert arenas and now edison chen also and so so so much more are representing me as well so holla at ya boy")
- and is now back in New York City
(" where exactly am i?????
u go figure that out but big days coming up
welcome to the jungle...")

I only hope that his busy new schedule doesn't keep him from more blogging.

October 12, 2006 at 01:28 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

BATTLE OF WITS UPDATE

Andy Lau's massive period flick, BATTLE OF WITS, has started hitting the internet hard over the past few weeks as it gears up for its release at the end of November. Starring Andy Lau and Ahn Sung-Ki, it tells the story of a tiny kingdom in China which holds off a much larger, much angrier neighbor during the Warring States period thanks to the sage advice of a military consultant (Lau).

It's budgeted at US$16 million. Directed by Jacob Cheung it's based on a Japanese manga called STRATEGY.

Striking character posters have been released as has a teaser trailer.

Battle of Wits

October 12, 2006 at 12:08 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 11, 2006

SHALL WE MOLEST?

Koji Yakusho is the lawyer After a ten-year hiatus, the director of SHALL WE DANCE? and SUMO DO, SUMO DON'T is back making pictures. His latest one is SOREDEMO BOKU WA YATTENAI, a courtroom drama about a man falsely accused of being a molester. Ryo Kase stars (who's in LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, Clint Eastwood's next film) and Koji Yakusho is his lawyer. His mother is played by Masako Motai from ALWAYS.

Release is scheduled for January 20, 2007.

(Thanks to Hoga Central for the news. Many more details are in their post)

October 11, 2006 at 11:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

THAILAND MADNESS IS BACK!

Insane Thailand Maybe one reason the Thai film industry has seen a slump in quality is that everyone's too busy fighting behind the scenes to actually focus on making good movies.

The latest kerfluffle?

The Federation of National Film Assn. of Thailand announced INVISIBLE WAVES as Thailand's Oscar entry for "Best Foreign Film" but then, suddenly, they decided that they'd enter AHIMSA...STOP TO RUN instead. Which came out in 2005.

The FNFA said that they never announced that INVISIBLE WAVES was their submission at all.

"We didn't replace INVISIBLE WAVES with AHIMSA, " a spokesman for the federation said. "Because of a very short lead time in transporting the print to the U.S., we were concerned that we would miss the deadline and decided to submit another film to the Oscar committee instead."

This was a bit of a shocker for Palm Pictures, which owns the US rights to INVISIBLE WAVES and was already planning a marketing campaign for the movie's theatrical release in early 2007 based around its nomination. Also surprised was Five Star Entertainment, INVISIBLE WAVES' producers.

"As soon as the federation made it known to us that the film would represent Thailand, we immediately arranged the transport of the print through (sales agent) Fortissimo Films," said Five Star Prods. production executive Aphiradee "Amy" Iamphungphorn. "If the federation hadn't announced in the first place that INVISIBLE WAVES would be the nominee, we wouldn't be so upset."

Now, Fortissimo films is getting in on the act. They're the international sales agent for INVISIBLE WAVES and their president, Michael Werner, has written a letter to FNFA stating that the submission of AHIMSA will be, "
embarrassing to the name, reputation and image of Thailand."

FNFA has never been a fan of INVISIBLE WAVES, an international co-production, and earlier this year they had said that it wasn't truly a Thai film at all and shouldn't be allowed to open the Bangkok International Film Festival.

Read all of Kong Rithdee's article (from which the above quotes are snagged) which dissects the issue in delicious detail. Expect further developments.

October 11, 2006 at 10:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

WHAT HO, JOHNNIE TO?

EXILED won't be allowed a theatrical release in China And I don't mean "What ho!" as in: "Which skanky prostitute is being referenced here?" But "What ho!" as in the hunting cry of the British upper class.

The Johnnie To news keeps piling in - the guy has something like 80 movies coming out before the end of the year. He was just in NYC for the NY Film Festival screening of ELECTION 2 (which went extremely well but prompted some walk-outs during the doggie scene) and Ed Douglas over at ComingSoon was able to get the updates on the status of LINGER (his romance), TRIANGLE (his movie with Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam) and THE SPARROW (his pickpocket movie).

Then Monkeypeaches has the news that it looks like EXILED, To's latest film, won't be allowed a theatrical release in China, even though it will be allowed a DVD release. The reasons given are that it's too violent and the subject matter is all about gangs with no cops playing much of a role. I think this is a bit of a stretch. The real reason, I suspect, may also include the fact that the film takes place on the eve of Macau's handover to China and the event is referred to as basically a new gang taking over. People talk about settling scores before the handover, and just ensuring that things appear to go peacefully during the transition which is very different from things actually going peacefully during the transition.

Finally, more news on the PTU sequels we mentioned before. It turns out that this is actually a television miniseries. The entire cast (Lam Suet, Simon Yam, everyone) will return for four 90-minute episodes, each helmed by a different director. I'm actually pretty excited about this and I'm dying for it to come out on DVD. PTU's not one of my favorite movies, but I really like the world it created and I'd love to see these characters get more life.

October 11, 2006 at 10:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

October 10, 2006

STEPHEN CHOW HAPPY WITH EYELIDS

Ah, spin. A sharp-eyed reader sent in a link to a story that's an attempt by Stephen Chow's publicists to spin the news about Chow's freak-out when co-star in his new film, Zhang Yuqi, returned after a break in filming with new eyelids. Dude, she'd had plastic surgery! During filming! I'd freak out too.

Now a spokesperson for Chow's production company says, "Lies, lies, lies." And "She didn't have surgery." And "There wasn't even a break in shooting for her to have the surgery in." And "Her performance keeps getting better and better."

Oh dear. I don't believe that for a minute. You can read the spin in Chinese, too.

October 10, 2006 at 09:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

WILSON YIP GOES BACK TO HONG KONG

Wilson Yip's new movie now has a title - CITY WITHOUT MERCY (PO JUN) - and a location: Hong Kong.

Originally slated to start shooting any day now in Macau, the production has returned to the good old HKSAR because they couldn't find enough extras. With 8 billion new casinos going up in Macau everyone is busy and no one has time to be an extra. Yip was going to import 250 extras to Macau from HK and China before someone said, "Why don't we just shoot in Hong Kong?" Which was very sensible, and it turns out to be exactly what they did.

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

October 10, 2006 at 08:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

13 BELOVED - BEST THAI OF THE YEAR?

13beloved_web

Accolades are starting to pop up for a new Thai movie, of all things. These days I've come to assume a Thai film is going to be a waste of my time after seeing so many bad ones, but the very wise Wisekwai is lavishing praise on 13 BELOVED just released over there in the Land of Smiles. The director is a 25 year old with one other flick (EVIL) under his belt but the plot sounds wicked. A salaryman in Bangkok tries to make it to a 100 million baht jackpot by performing in an underground reality show that requires him to undertake 13 increasingly dangerous and humiliating stunts.

After the jump are two trailers for the film, and  learn a little about director Chukiat Sakweerakul in this article.

First trailer:

Second trailer:

October 10, 2006 at 07:54 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 09, 2006

ANDY LAU GIVES DEPARTED 8 OUT OF 10

Andy Lau Andy Lau had some choice words for THE DEPARTED at its Hong Kong premiere over the weekend. He thought the movie was too long, had too much swearing and that the makers of THE DEPARTED owe more money to the producers of INFERNAL AFFAIRS since they only bought the rights to IA 1 but used parts of IA 2 and 3. That was him making a joke. I think.

Overall, Andy?

"It was all right to watch and the actors were pretty good."

His spokeswoman, Alice Tam, confirmed his remarks on Monday.

"It's correct that he gave it eight on a scale of 10...the effect of combining the two female characters in the original into one isn't as good as in the original...He said he focused on his character's psychology, and that the character didn't look like a bad guy on the surface," she said.

(Thanks to Al)

October 9, 2006 at 11:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

OVERWHELMED AND EMBARRASSED

the villain of India's classic SHOLAY There is no figure from Indian cinema who grips the imagination like Gabbar Signh. The villain of India's classic SHOLAY, he's the Darth Vadar of Bollywood - a pop creation who casts a long shadow.

Now that Ram Gopal Varma's SHOLAY remake is in production people want to know what he looks like since he's being played by Amitabh Bachchan, who played one of the  heroes in the original film. Wait no more, because his look was just unveiled, causing the Big B to feel "...overwhelmed and embarrassed."

"Gabbar Singh in my SHOLAY as opposed to Gabbar in the Chambal Valley is that the latter [the original] is cut off from civilisation," says RGV. "Mr. Bachchan is a devious gangster who lives in Mumbai and challenges the authorities to catch him. So he isn't on the run, nor is he in prison. He will be suave, dapper and elegant...He's in touch with the minds of terrorists from all over the world...There is no huge changes in his look, we aren't using a wig...and no, he doesn't sport stained teeth. But he does exude terror."

Gabbar Signh Varma has faced intense criticism for his SHOLAY remake since the original is one of the most popular movies ever to burst out of Bollywood. The son of Amjad Khan, the original Gabbar Singh, has issued a statement saying the movie shouldn't be remade at all and numerous industry folks have warned Varma not to remake this classic. But, as Varma says, "Well I've one consolation for them. Since the critics have already exhausted all their expletives for SHIVA, they'd have nothing left to say about SHOLAY." This is his reference to the fact that his much-anticipated recent film, SHIVA, was eviscerated by critics. Varma says he knew the movie would get bad reviews. Whatever, dude. It still got trashed. Would you please go back to making good movies?

(Thanks to Victor and the gang at NaachGaana)

October 9, 2006 at 09:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOX OFFICE BATTLE!

Jackie Chan's ROB-B-HOOD This weekend saw the release of INFERNAL AFFAIRS remake, THE DEPARTED; Jackie Chan's ROB-B-HOOD; and Taiwanese horror flick, SILK.

THE DEPARTED blasted to the number one spot with $27 million, fueled by red hot reviews and the biggest release for a Scorsese movies ever. It beat his previous record-holder for opening weekend, CAPE FEAR, which hauled in just over $10 million on its opening weekend, and it beat TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE REMAKE #2 which made around $19 million. Surprisingly, studio tracking showed that it hit every demographic equally: old, young, men and women.

Meanwhile, over in that mysterious region we like to call Asia, Chan's ROB-B-HOOD sucked up a whole lot of cash over the National Day Holiday this weekend. It took in $1.13 million in the HKSAR and $2.6 million in China. This was a thorough pounding for THE BANQUET which has been open for 19 days in the HKSAR and hauled in a mere $1.03 million. SILK held the number four spot in Hong Kong with $108,846.

Meanwhile, the hotly anticipated Japanese fighting schoolgirl flick, YO-YO GIRL COP, is now in its second week of release and it's only made $281,000 so far. Does this mean there's no future for sailor suit schoolgirls with killer yo-yo movies? That's a world I don't want to live in.

October 9, 2006 at 08:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2006

SAYONARA, VILLAGE VOICE

Village Voice A million different people have sent me links to the following story so here it is. Just when you thought the Village Voice couldn't get any less interesting, they've gone and fired Dennis Lim and Mike Atkinson. Maybe they were let go. Made redundant? Gently ushered in an outwards direction? Whatever it is, they're gone, reducing what I read in the weekly Voice to the sex column in the back pages and maybe a quick skim over the ads for trannie hookers.

What does this mean for foreign movies? Dunno. It's too early to tell since the new hires aren't in place yet (although rumor has it that Nathan Lee - who got me my first reviewing job at the New York Sun - may be stepping in). The Voice's film coverage has been on a steady decline for a long time with space restrictions and style mandates being handed down from up the corporate ladder, which is too bad.

J. Hoberman, Mike Atkinson and Dennis Lim all cared about foreign films and they all championed foreign directors. The Voice always gave extensive coverage to the New York Asian Film Festival which I help run, whether it was the late, lamented Barry Long covering our very first event (a retro of Milkyway Image back in 2000) or Mike Atkinson devoting massive amounts of space to the New York Asian Film Festival year after year.

It was a relief to read their coverage of whatever the hell they wanted to cover, whether it was a Mizoguchi retro or the big new release. One of the first film articles I can remember reading was J. Hoberman's piece about a Wong Kar-wai retro down in Chinatown at the late lamented Rosemary Theater (palace of sex flicks, now a buddhist temple) right after CHUNGKING EXPRESS came out in 1994. The only other high profile magazine that's this eccentric is the New Yorker's film coverage and it would be a shame if that changed.

October 6, 2006 at 10:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 03, 2006

STEPHEN CHOW VS. THE EYELIDS

Stephen Chow working on LONG RIVER 7 Zhang Yuqi is being touted as the next Cecilia Cheung and she's currently working on Stephen Chow's new movie, LONG RIVER 7, which has something to do with aliens. But now her career hangs by a THREAD!!!

During a week-long break in filming she returned to the set having had double eyelid surgery in the interim. This is why you don't give actors breaks during filming. Because they go off and screw everything up.

She's in tears, Chow is furious, and here's the best line from the item:

"The paper added that Chow and his crew considered reworking the script to retain Zhang but they felt that she would not appear as natural as before even if she got her old look back."

Stephen Chow may not even let her back in the movie if she has her plastic surgery reversed?!? He's tougher than the Pope. One mistake...Goodbye!

(Thanks to Hitman at the Kung Fu Cult Cinema forums)

October 3, 2006 at 12:29 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

MARTIN SCORSESE CAN'T STOP THE REMAKES!

Last November, Martin Scorsese (best known for his remake of INFERNAL AFFAIRS: THE DEPARTED - which is getting rave reviews) announced that his next movie would be SILENCE, an adaptation of Shinoda Masahiro's movie 1971 SILENCE, in turn based on the historical novel SILENCE by Endo Shusaku. It's about the persecution of Catholic missionaries in sixteenth century Japan.

Now, if I can believe Jason Gray's translation of this article, it looks like he's moving forward with it.

(Read more here)

October 3, 2006 at 11:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

IT'S OSCAR SEASON!

OscarIt's never too early for the "Best Foreign Film" contenders to start screening. (I've already talked about China and Hong Kong's choice of entries)

Head on over to the Porn Festival Berlin for my favorite Japanese movie of 2006: THE GIRL SNARFS ROACHES. Here's a summary:

Filmed in 2005. The idea for this film came about when a porn actress
said to Kitano 'I want to have a sex while eating bugs'. Other actors in
the film are friends of Kitano. There are many strange people around
Kitano. Some people say that Kitano is an odd man, but he thinks that he
is a normal person. His inability to touch even one cockroach proves
this. He says. The film is 'Shokuchuu shoujyo 1' which means there is
sequel 'Shokuchuu shoujyo 2'. Basic story line of 'Shokuchuu shoujyo 1'
is sex surrounded by 3000 catapillers crawling around the actors. Please
do not watch this if you do not like bugs. We cannot accept any
responsibility for fainting.

'Nuff said.

October 3, 2006 at 11:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 29, 2006

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY!

Who can you trust? No one, apparently. Malaysian director, Afdlin Shauki, learned this lesson when a production runner took off in the company Mazda with $60,000 worth of lighting gear in the back...and never came back.

The naive crew filed a missing persons report on him, and that's when they learned that the guy had a record for possession of stolen goods. There was a happy ending a few days later when someone spotted the van and the crew went and got their vehicle and lights back, but the thief was nowhere to be found although the cops were seen grabbing him earlier in the day. When asked, the cops said they had no one by that name in custody...and Shauki figured it was better not to ask too many questions.

Can you trust Japanese people? I thought you could, but now these skyfishing DVDs have me wondering if they're on the level. Skyfishing is a bit like air guitar, only for fishing, but the people who sky fish say that they're fishing real, invisible, flying fish unlike people who play air guitar who don't believe they're actually playing a real, invisible, super-cool guitar.

Now two DVDs have been released focusing on Kozo Ichikawa, a 64-year-old skyfisher who says he's great at the sport but he's too old to take reporters with him to the really good spots, and that he catches the fish with his bare hands and lets them go so he doesn't have any samples to show. And why does he do this?

"They feel so good to touch," he says.

You can't trust Shido Nakamura (FEARLESS, PING PONG) who was arrested for drunk driving recently. He was fined 200,000 yen and in the process it was revealed that his real name isn't Shido Nakamura. It's Mikihiro Ogawa.

Thank god for the Hong Kong stars, because they continue to do exactly what's expected of them.

Jackie Chan uses his son's traumatic childhood to advertise his latest movie, ROB-B-HOOD.

Donnie Yen seems clueless that these actors were probably trying to kill him.

And Cheng Pei-pei scores one for China when she bags on Zhang Ziyi in an interview. ("I know she has worked hard [at acting]. I can't say she has not improved at all, but I expected more.")

Thanks to the consistency of Hong Kongers we'll close out the week with a soothing image of Hello Darth Kitty.

Hello Darth Kitty

September 29, 2006 at 11:58 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

THE FESTIVALS KEEP COMING

More festival news from a sharp-eyed reader who sends in the Sitges Film Festival (Oct. 6 - 15) line-up for this year. Sitges is the number one genre festival in the world and the movies begin on page 7 of this downloadable .pdf.

September 29, 2006 at 10:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 28, 2006

HOW DID THE PROTECTOR DO?

an 84 minute mess called THE PROTECTORSo how did the Weinstein Company's release of THE PROTECTOR do at the US box office? This was the widest release any Thai film has ever received in North America, and the film was terrible: not great to begin with, but re-edited into incomprehensible mush.

Here's a handy comparison chart that I made myself with scissors and glue:

THE PROTECTOR (2006)
screens: 1,541
# of weeks: 2.5
total: $11 million
per screen average: $3,266

ONG BAK (2005)
screens: 387
# of weeks: 11
total: $4.5 million
per screen average: $3,449

HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (2004)
screens:1,189
# of weeks:18 weeks
total:$11 million
per screen average:$1,461

HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is a tough one to compare it with, since it started in limited release and then expanded, which threw off its per screen average (which was something like $22,000 on its opening weekend). But from this I get the picture that there's a limited audience for Asian action movies no matter what kind of publicity you put behind them. You seem to top out around $10 million. I would think this means we should expect many more limited releases in the future. The Weinsteins should be so lucky to get the press and the cash from a $10 million grossing release, and if they plan accordingly they can limit their losses. If the numbers are right they only need around 400 prints to hit their magic number. And that's a good thing, because it means now that the marketplace has been defined we can expect to see more movies get released.

THE PROTECTOR might have legs, but I doubt it. It's had a 50-60% drop-off for each week it's in release. So we're probably seeing the end of its box office life right around now.

(all numbers courtesy of Box Office Mojo)

September 28, 2006 at 12:53 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (11)

ALL HONG KONG BASE ARE BELONG TO CHINA

Demonstrating its new role as China's sidekick, Hong Kong announced that it would submit THE BANQUET as its "Best Foreign Film" entry to the Oscars. China has been trying to choose between THE BANQUET, CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, CURIOSITY KILLS THE CAT and THE ROAD for its Oscar submission so it helped that they had somewhere to dump THE BANQUET that would let them save face but would also keep them from having to submit a movie that's gotten, largely, not-so-great reviews from the foreign press.

And, of course, the very rich Huayi Brothers company president swore that THE BANQUET would be submitted for an Oscar this year by China, so now that the shine is off their film Hong Kong is a useful escape valve for embarrassed SARFT officials.

God forbid they try to submit ELECTION 2 which will most likely be getting a US release around Oscar time.

Now rumor has it that China will probably submit Zhang Yimou's CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. Yesterday I talked about how there were rumors that SARFT thought a big period movie would be the wrong thing to submit to Academy voters but now the word is that it's exactly the right thing. Stay tuned.

Incidentally, Taiwan is submitting BLUE CHA CHA, the acclaimed story of a woman just released from prison, if anyone cares.

And check out the over-sized poster for THE BANQUET after the jump:

THE BANQUET poster

September 28, 2006 at 11:10 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

FILM FESTIVALS AHEAD!

The film festivals keep announcing their line-ups. Is there anything we can do to stop them? There are so...many. Must...fight.

Looming on the horizon like the Death Star is RomeFilmFest (Oct. 13 - 22), the giant new contender in town that has managed to anger/scare/threaten every other European film festival with its size (95 movies), and its money. Plus it's allied as a "cultural partner" with the Tribeca Film Festival, instantly sweeping away any misconceptions about what side of the good/evil debate it's on. Although, I have to say, I can't get too frightened about a festival that's screening AKEELAH AND THE BEE.

Like Tribeca, Rome has a pretty anemic Asian line-up but that doesn't mean there aren't some good films in there. Shinya Tsukamoto's NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE is in competition, as are AFTER THIS OUR EXILE (Patrick Tam) and THE GO MASTER (Tian Zhuangzhuang). Out of competition you've got two films from the Philippines (surprisingly): HALFLIFE (Briccio Santos) and SUMMER HEAT (Brillante Mendoza). Then there's RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES (Zhang Yimou) and HOW IS YOUR FISH TODAY (China, Xiaolu Guo).

In Japan, there's the Tokyo International Film Festival (Oct. 21-29) and Tokyo Filmex (Nov. 17-26) getting announced. Tokyo International Film Fest is screening AWAKING (Junji Sakamoto), Yoji Yamada's LOVE AND HONOR, CRICKETS (Shinji Aoyama) among others.

Filmex opens and closes (respectively) with STILL LIFE (Jia Zhangke) and I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE (Tsai Ming-liang). There'll be screenings of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest, RETRIBUTION, THE HAPPINESS (Masahiro Kobayashi), and more.

(Thanks to Jason Gray and a sharp-eyed reader for the info)

September 28, 2006 at 10:16 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 26, 2006

VALLEY OF THE WOLVES COMING TO AMERICA

Oy vey! Turkey's smash hit action movie, VALLEY OF THE WOLVES: IRAQ, that takes on the US forces in Iraq, and stars Gary Busey and Billy Zane, is coming to America! The ever-reliable master list of upcoming releases shows it slotted for a November 3 release from a US company called FilmMates.

I can't wait! Expect hundreds of boring op-ed pieces to sprout up in newspapers like toadstools. Maybe I can get on TV again!

September 26, 2006 at 01:45 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

EARTHSEA COMES TO US IN...2009

Studio Ghibli's TALES OF EARTHSEAA sharp-eyed reader directs our attention to a passage in ScreenDaily's review of the new Ghibli movie, TALES FROM EARTHSEA:

"However, although Disney has a US distribution deal with Ghibli, Stateside audiences won't be able to see Earthsea until 2009, when the copyright on the Sci-Fi Channel's Earthsea TV series (the subject of much criticism by Le Guin) runs out."

2009? I'll be looking forward to that.

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

FILM FEST UPDATE

The Pusan International Film Festival (Oct. 12 - 20) and the Chicago International Film Festival (Oct. 5 - 19) have both just announced their line-ups. Let's take Chicago first, simply because it's smaller and therefore easier to chew:

PAPRIKA - Satoshi Kon's new animated film

JASMINE WOMEN - older Zhang Ziyi film no one's seen yet.

TAKING FATHER HOME - it looks like one of those sentimental Chinese pics like GOING TO SCHOOL WITH MY FATHER ON MY BACK.

SUMMER PALACE - Lou Ye's banned film.

LITTLE RED FLOWERS - Zhang Yuan's exceptional story about schoolkids in China.

THE HOST - Bong Joon-Ho's monster-sized monster movie.

DIRTY CARNIVAL - Korean gangster movie.

HOST AND GUEST - a truly terrific Korean art film that's funny and savage. We wanted it in this year's festival in NYC but the slots all filled up too fast and we ran out of room.

KING AND CLOWN - Korea's massive word-of-mouth hit.

TIME - I think this is the North American U.S. premiere of Kim Ki-Duk's latest.

THE UNFORGIVEN - the movie about the harshness and inhumanity of Korea's military that earned lots of hate from the country's armed forces.

INVISIBLE WAVES - the latest collab between Chris Doyle, Tadanobu Asano and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang.

TRIAD ELECTION - it's ELECTION 2!

SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY - the latest art meditation from Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

MIDNIGHT MY LOVE
- the truly terrific cab driver movie starring Thailand's Mum Jokmok. It would be a great movie if only it wasn't for that cyborg rape scene...

And as for Pusan? There're more movies than I know what to do with. The latest from Shinya Tsukamoto. Patrick Tam's new movie. A slew of premieres from the Philippines. Just go check it out.

September 26, 2006 at 10:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

OLD CHINA OR NEW CHINA TO THE OSCARS?

CURIOSITY KILLS THE CAT, starring Carina Lau So what China will go to the Oscars this year? My money is on Old Timey Time China with CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER doing a qualifying run in Beijing as you read this, and with Zhang Yimou, Gong Li and Chow Yun-fat attached since they're all easy-to-recognize names.

THE BANQUET could be the other movie since it's just played the major festivals, stars Zhang Ziyi and is based on HAMLET, another easily-recognized name.

But the previously-mentioned racy movie, CURIOSITY KILLS THE CAT, starring Carina Lau, is making a bid for being China's Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film and it's set in Modern Fast Zippy China. Telling the story of weird events occuring in a luxury apartment building the movie has submitted its application to be a nominee to SARFT and it might carry the day. Apparently, SARFT officials are getting worried that Academy voters are sick of Old Timey Time China.

(Read more over on 24 Frames per Second)

September 26, 2006 at 09:19 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

TETSURO TAMBA DIES

Tetsuro Tamba One of Japan's major screen presences passed away yesterday: Tetsuro Tamba died at the age of 84. With well over 300 movies in his filmography, Tamba appeared in two of the greatest Japanese movies of all time - HARAKIRI and KWAIDAN - as well as dozens of so-so flicks, artfilms, and mainstream movies. Western audiences know him best as Tiger Tanaka in the James Bond film YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, or as Grandpa in Takashi Miike's HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS.

He was also a pivotal figure in Japan's Great Spirit World Cult.

You can read obituaries here and, more memorably, here.

September 26, 2006 at 08:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 25, 2006

CAN'T GET ENOUGH EXILED NEWS

Exiled Johnnie To's EXILED got great reviews at its festival screenings but the fun doesn't stop there. Hot on the heels of acquiring Bong Joon-Ho's THE HOST, Magnolia has picked up the North American rights to EXILED. No news about a release date, yet, but it's hard not to be excited.

Magnolia has had a tough time with some of its Asian releases in the past but here's hoping that a one-two punch of EXILED and THE HOST in 2007 will make them so much money they have to throw it all into a big room and swim around in it like Scrooge McDuck.

EXILED has a pretty barebones (but good looking and free of annoying Flash) website up over here featuring lots of pretty, sepia-toned stills.

The Hong Kong release date for EXILED, which stars Francis Ng (among others), has been set for October 19, when it will go up against another Francis Ng movie: WO HU. A Wong Jing project, WO HU looks like one more installment in the recent spate of triad/cop movies from Wong Jing, although with Eric Tsang and Shawn Yue in the cast it can't be all bad. You can watch a trailer of WO HU and marvel at how it looks exactly like the love child of INFERNAL AFFAIRS and ELECTION.

And as a final tidbit, Simon Yam has been talking to the Hong Kong Mainland Chinese press and saying that there will be two sequels to Johnnie To's PTU and that he's involved with them.

(Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for all the news. And thanks to Little Sam for posting the WO HU trailer)

September 25, 2006 at 02:45 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

GANDHI FIGHTS THE BUS PIRATE

Gandhi fights pirates While riding the bus from Pune to Mumbai, Indian actor Dilip Prabhavalkar (who plays Gandhi in the huge Sanjay Dutt comedy hit, LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI, currently in theaters) was shocked to see that the in-bus entertainment was a screening of LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI. It was a pirated disc!

Leaping into action he dialed the film's director on his cell phone, the director called the United Copyright Protection Association, and at King's Circle, Mumbai, the bus was raided by a squad of cops, pirated copies were seized, arrests were made, and suspects were taken into custody.

What's most astonishing to me about this story was that Dilip Prabhavalkar was riding a bus in the first place. That puts Nic Cage to shame.

(Thanks to Al for the heads up on this one)

September 25, 2006 at 01:44 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

WHAT CHUSEOK?

MAUNDY THURSDAY Korea's Chuseok holidays are here, which is when a slew of big, fancy movies hit the screens all over the country. THE HOST is still at number 4 (having taken in an astonishing US$76 million in just 7 weeks) but a bunch of lightweight movies are in holding the other top five slots, and they're about to be stomped like fluffy bunnies trying to take on Godzilla.

Last year, Chuseok saw the release of APRIL SNOW (huge overseas, so-so at home), MARRIED TO THE MAFIA 2 (critics hated it, audiences loved it) and DUELIST (not a ton of money, but it did okay and created a minor cult). So what's coming this Chuseok?

Darcy, at KoreanFilm.org takes a look at the three big movies:

- MARRIED TO THE MAFIA 3 - he didn't see it, it probably stinks, but there's already a MARRIED TO THE MAFIA 4 on its way so it doesn't really matter, does it?

- MAUNDY THURSDAY - Song Hye-Sung (FAILAN) does a big, glamorous movie about capital punishment starring Kang Dong-Won (DUELIST) and Lee Na-Young (PLEASE TEACH ME ENGLISH) . Darcy says: "The film pulls its political punches and may have too much Christian imagery for some, but as a nice-looking tear jerker with a bit of directorial restraint, it's not bad."

- RADIO STAR - Lee Joon-Ik made KING AND THE CLOWN which became a massive word-of-mouth hit in Korea and he can basically make any movie he wants to make now. So what movie does he want to make? A sentimental comedy about a rock star growing long in the tooth who moves to a small town in the country and learns all about friendship. Starring Ahn Sung-Ki and Park Joon-Hoon (who last crossed swords in Lee Myung-Se's NOWHERE TO HIDE) Darcy found himself surprised by this one: "After seeing it, I'm convinced it's going to be a huge hit. Yes, it's sentimental and somewhat predictable, but Lee and his regular screenwriter Choi Seok-hwan's strengths in storytelling manage to overcome all of that...I can't say that on a personal level it's one of my favorite films of the year, because it's just not my style, and I don't think the film has any real international potential, but within the context of Korea it's a slam dunk."

WAR OF FLOWERS - Choi Dong-Hoon made THE BIG SWINDLE which was much-loved by critics but didn't really set the world on fire at the box office but now he's made this flick which is about the super-complicated Korean card game of hwatu. Darcy sez: "The buzz after yesterday's press screening (which I missed, unfortunately) was electric, with people saying that it surpasses THE BIG SWINDLE on several levels."

Read his full thoughts over at KoreanFilm.org

September 25, 2006 at 12:28 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

THAILAND STAGES COUP! NIC CAGE UNHARMED!

Cage factor As tanks rolled in Thailand last week, as the military seized power in that country's 18th coup d'etat since 1932, as friends emailed me from Thailand to let me know what was going on and that they were okay only one thought burned in my brain: was Nic Cage safe?

For those of you who don't track Cage's movements around the world using maps and bits of paper, Nic Cage was in Thailand shooting the Pang Brothers remake of their first big movie, BANGKOK DANGEROUS (which sports the working title BIG HIT IN BANGKOK).

Cage, who said recently that he was "half-asian" thanks to having worked with John Woo on FACE/OFF and to being married to a Korean-American, has a private plane waiting to ferry him away at the first sign of coup trouble, but otherwise he is - despite the total disinterest in his fate on the part of the Western press - sitting tight. The production is on hiatus while the coup settles down.

I am very depressed that the only person to cover this story is Yahoo! Canada, and Wisekwai.

But, thanks to my savvy editor, I now know that Army Archered covered this story on his blog at Variety, as well. He speaks with the movie's producer, William Sherak, and this is one of many, many wonderful quotes in the post: "Hong Kong beauty Charlie Young is the femme lead and the role calls for her to be deaf. "It's a very special relationship with Nicolas," said Sherak. "It's a very special story."

There you have it, folks, straight from the producer's mouth: it's very special.

(I was out of the country last week - could you tell? - and so I may have missed some media coverage of Cage's condition. If anyone saw some, please let us all know.)

September 25, 2006 at 11:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

AFTER THE BANQUET...THE ASSEMBLY!

Feng Xiaogang is, apparently, raking in the bucks across Asia. His Zhang Ziyi movie, THE BANQUET, sucked up 40 million yuan in China on its opening weekend, coming within 9 million yuan of DRAGON TIGER GATE's total box office takings. Up until now, DTG has been the number one Chinese movie in China in 2006 but it seems almost inevitable that THE BANQUET will kick its butt and take the number one place, then prance around the ring pumping its fists in the air and shouting, "Number One! Number One!"

Feng is already prepping his next movie THE ASSEMBLY which is set to start shooting on October 6 (with a US$10 million budget) and with a planned release for late 2007. The movie is a war flick set during the end of China's civil war and the start of the Korean War about a commander who is ordered to fight until he hears the assembly call...but the call never comes. Fight! Fight! Fight! Ack, everyone dies. Oh, the humanity!

Feng is a big fan of Korea's giant war film, TAE GUK GI, and he went to that movie's director, Kang Je-Gyu, and asked for advice. Kang turned Feng over to his production company, MK Pictures, who will be handling special effects, make up and cinematography for the war scenes.

September 25, 2006 at 10:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

ZOMG! CHINESE AUDIENCES DON'T HATE BIG NEW MOVIE!

I love Chinese audiences because they hate every major Chinese movie that comes along. They're like that parent who looks at the A on your report card and says, "Where's the A+?"

When CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON came out they all made fun of Chow Yun-fat's accent. When HERO came out Chinese audiences said that it either had no story or was a justification of the One China Policy. When HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS was released I can't remember many nice comments, and everyone in China took turns kicking THE PROMISE. All these movies made money in China, but it was almost like everyone felt they had to buy a ticket so they could hate on the films.

Now, THE BANQUET is out and it's getting mixed reviews as well with plenty of hate as a garnish. But there is one upcoming Chinese movie that is getting positive word of mouth. One movie that in some freakish twist no one in China seems to hate. Yet.

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER.

It's screening in Beijing right now to qualify for a "Best Foreign Film" Oscar nomination and China's press doesn't know what to make of the fact that people seem to like the movie. They say it's got good actors, a good story, and it looks nice. Even Gong Li is so moved by these comments which are, relatively speaking, like a big sloppy wet kiss from Chinese audiences that she's busting out all over:

Gonglibust_web

(Thanks to MonkeyPeaches)

September 25, 2006 at 09:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

September 15, 2006

KAIJU SHAKEDOWN: THE TV SHOW

A long time ago the Washingtonienne blog got optioned to be a TV show, and Slate came to me and asked me to write about the exciting life of a blogger and how it could make a compelling TV series. I wrote it, but they never published it, the pop culture engine having moved on. But here, for your amusement, is my article on the exciting life of what goes on behind the scenes at Kaiju Shakedown. Note my annoying tendency to sound like Bridget Jones.

I am a blogger, which means that I make more money and lead a more exciting life than you. In today’s world, I could have a book, a TV show, a podcast or 15 minutes with the President whenever I want whereas all you get is a house, kids and a career that has dignity and meaning. A lot of my old friends know that I blog and when they saw that the Washingtonienne blog was being turned into a TV show their first question was: “Grady, can you turn Kaiju Shakedown into a TV show, too?” Of course I can. In fact, I spend so much time pouring cold water on producers’ pants that it’s eating into my blogging. “But Grady,” they continue. “Your blog is about the Asian film industry and although it’s insightful and frequently hilarious don’t you think it has a limited audience in America?” Uh, no. This kind of question is the reason why they’re my old friends.

Not that I have anything to prove, because I don’t have to prove anything to anyone but myself, but here’s a typical week in the life of Kaiju Shakedown so you can see that it contains all the thrills and drama that you, the American people, want to see on TV.

MONDAY
Early blogger gets the worm, and am up at 10AM typing away. Something in kitchen doesn’t smell good but forgot about it when I notice that rival blog, Twitch, has run a piece linking to a trailer for MEMORIES OF MATSUKO. I linked to that first and they know it. So why couldn’t they link through Kaiju Shakedown, my adorable and Variety-sponsored blog? The only person who sponsors them is a tacky DVD wholesaler. Develop further distaste for Todd who runs Twitch. Actually, maybe it is beyond distaste by now and has matured into dislike? Remember meeting Todd once and he didn’t seem so great. Wish I could put unflattering photo of him online without people misinterpreting that as bitterness rather than a desire for accuracy and fairness in journalism. If people saw how old he is they would turn against him. Feel betrayed and hurt.

TUESDAY
Noticed that many readers of Kaiju Shakedown, my unique and well-written blog, seem to think that I am Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Feel good about this until I realize that I am not Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Considered passing self off as Shah Rukh Khan but realize big difference, viz. he is Indian. Become lethargic. Kitchen still smells bad. Has something died in there?

WEDNESDAY
Wife asks what I’m doing. Working, I say. That’s not working, she says. Then she attempts to show off by calculating hours spent blogging vs. money made blogging. Winds up comparing me to sweat shop laborer making Nikes in China. I point out that Nike does not have factories in China. Score! I win. Bring up possibility of sex. Rebuffed Reason: she claims I do not wash enough because I spend all my time blogging for my uplifting and inspirational blog, Kaiju Shakedown. I feel this is an unfair characterization. Spend time online. Take article from Twitch and don’t give them attribution. Pigeon lands on windowsill and stares at me reproachfully. Why must everyone persecute me?

THURSDAY
Post hot item about Ekin Cheng breaking up with Gigi Leung. Cancel errands (laundry, groceries, Blockbuster, meet with producers to talk about interactive WebTV show based around ground-breaking and spiritually-advanced blog, Kaiju Shakedown) anticipating wave of fan comments about article. Wait. Wait. Continue waiting. Finally someone posts a comment. It is an ad for herbal Viagra. Consider deleting ad but decide to leave it. Maybe it’s some kind of sly commentary on auto-posted blog Spam by one of my cutting edge readers? What smells so bad in the kitchen?

FRIDAY
Angry email from Todd this morning demanding I put in a link to his blog (the badly-designed and spiritually desolate Twitch) because I have “stolen” one of his posts. Did you know that Todd has a baby? Maybe even three, I can’t remember. Someone told me this once. What kind of blogger has a baby? Todd’s kind, I suppose. That’s why he’s so jealous of me because you lose your figure after you have a baby. Think about this for so long that I wind up posting a two-year-old news item by accident. Instantly receive six comments pointing out that article is out of date and inaccurate. Where were these people when I broke the Ekin/Gigi break-up story? So much negativity in the world. Same negativity is probably reason there is all this trouble in Iraq. I get choked up thinking about plight of the Iraqi people and how it mirrors my life. Similarities are scary when you think about it.

SATURDAY
Kitchen situation totally out of hand. Wife asks what is going on in there. I say I am not the keeper of the kitchen. She points out that since I work from home I am responsible for house. Makes annoying quotation marks with fingers when she says “work”. Feel oppressed by this. Point out that since she’s home now and obviously so obsessed with it maybe she should look in kitchen. After investigation she finds frozen pizza I forgot in the oven. She gives me a pointed look. I try counter-argument: maybe if she used oven more this kind of thing wouldn’t happen. Receive second, more complicated, look. I can detect bits of anger, rage and pity mixed in with a large amount of exasperation but can’t quite sum it up with one word. Throw out pizza. Day ruined. Unable to blog.

SUNDAY
Read other blogs. Decide this is “homework” for my cutting edge and ergonomic blog, Kaiju Shakedown. Forget shower, again. Kitchen still smells. Why is this? Decide that other bloggers seem happier than me. Become even less happy. This is hardly fair. Todd has posted something on his ridiculous site about Ekin and Gigi breaking up. Has attracted 22 comments. Ha. They are probably all ads for herbal Viagra. Not that he needs it. He has three babies. Become despondent. Yearn for frozen pizza. Realize there is an almost-new one in garbage. Ponder ethics of situation. Decide that the week has been so bad I can reward self with a drink. Then I reward self with runner up award drinks. Decide that beautiful and Christ-like blog, Kaiju Shakedown, would probably sweep any awards show that was judged fairly and so reward self with all the drinks. Run out of Alize before I run out of categories. Consider going to store for more rewards but decide to pass out on laptop instead so I can be up early and ready to blog. Hopefully I will not drool.

How about them apples? Can you not wait for the television show? Seriously, I am excited just typing this up. I’m thinking Michael Rapaport from “The War at Home” might be good at this. Please, comment on this article as I plan to show it to a producer who’s considering starting a comic book that he’ll leverage into a feature film and then franchise into a TV series all based around the greatest blog on the planet, Kaiju Shakedown.

September 15, 2006 at 02:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (25)

September 11, 2006

HONG KONGERS HATE ON MOUSE

Although the trouble-plagued Hong Kong Disneyland has failed to hit its 5.6 million attendance figures for its first year, it did pull in around 5 million visitors which is pretty impressive. Except that Disney won't tell what this figure includes, meaning it could include visitors who attended on promotional days and free passes that were given out.

But a public opinion survey earlier this year revealed that 70% of Hong Kongers had a negative impression of Disney. Ouch.

September 11, 2006 at 10:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

STILL LIFE WINS, BUT...

Jia Zhangke wins the Golden LionJia Zhangke's last-minute addition to the Venice Film Festival, STILL LIFE, won the festival's Golden Lion but it has received extremely negative reviews from Variety and Screendaily.

Derek Elley at Variety says it "...has almost zero plot but molto mood. It will appeal to the most faithful of the director's camp-followers and no one else."

Dan Fainaru at ScreenDaily says it "...will not gain much of an audience beyond festivals or very specialised programming."

So how'd it win?

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

September 11, 2006 at 09:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

September 08, 2006

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY

Those with weak stomachs beware. Because you're about to hear Any Lau talking about things like "...an abundance of saliva."

Andy has Hepatitis B, not a huge deal in and of itself. But now fans are starting to criticize him for still doing love scenes, ignoring the reality that it is almost impossible to transmit Hep B via kissing. And unless Andy's got a career in hardcore porn that I don't know about that would be about all he's doing onscreen. Andy sums it all up in one disgusting sentence.

"One can only contract the virus through kissing if there is an abundance of saliva. I am not afraid to shoot kissing scenes and will do more," he says.

That grating sound you hear is me scraping the bottom of the barrel with this next item. I can't even talk about it. But if you want to read something so disgustingly funny, wrong and potentially upsetting then check out this article on the workplace woes of a Japanese urologist from an article in the Japanese magazine, Weekly Playboy. Just be warned: you cannot un-read these words.

So THE PROTECTOR hits theaters and is a trainwreck. Andy Lau talks about an abundance of saliva. An internet rumor starts about Alain Delon appearing in a Johnnie To movie. And THE BANQUET turns out to be not so great after all.

It's been an evil week. Take it Scary Red Bicylce Phallus Man.

scary, bicycle-riding, phallus devil man

September 8, 2006 at 12:54 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 07, 2006

DEFENDING EASYFINDER

GILLIAN CHUNG'S BRA Three controversial op-ed pieces appeared in Hong Kong's Apple Daily this week defending the position of EasyFinder magazine which has refused to issue an apology in la affair Gillian. EastSouthWestNorth posts translations of the three articles, saying:

"These three essays are highly controversial.  The first one is written by an independent writer, who has been accused of selling her soul.  The second one is by a regular Apple Daily columnist, who has been accused of bundling the Hong Kong democratic movement with the EasyFinder case.  The third one is written by the regular AP commentator Li Yi.  Since Li has been prominent on issues of democracy on Hong Kong, he has been accused of lacking principles."

And they are doozies. But before your blood reaches the boiling point check out the take-down by Hong Kong blogger Diuman Park at the end of the post that elegantly and humorously tears the essays to pieces. And also pause to consider that there is an actual issue at stake in Hong Kong since some folks have apparently been calling for legislation to regulate what journalists can cover using Gillian's bra exposure as leverage. It would be a shame if Gillian's bra struck a blow against the freedom of press.

September 7, 2006 at 11:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR THIS MORNING...

...and watch this video clip.

Cheap Trick = righteous
Cheap Trick in Japan = very righteous
Cheap Trick in Japan being interviewed by puppets = an experience beyond human understanding

If alien armageddon is ever about to occur I plan to show them this clip. How can they destroy a planet that produces such things?

(Courtesy of An Eternal Thought in the Mind of Godzilla)

September 7, 2006 at 09:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 06, 2006

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS MICHELLE YEOH?

Michelleyeoh

Everyone's favorite Hong Kong actress* is busily at work on Danny Boyle's SUNSHINE, but afterwards will she return to Hong Kong and make the crummy special effects dreck that we've gotten used to from her? Will the world have to collectively pretend to get excited over, and then totally ignore, THE TOUCH 2 or SILVERHAWK: THE RETURN? Actually, no.

TRUE NORTH is the next film from Asif Kapadia (THE WARRIOR) and it's got Celluloid Dreams attached and Sean Bean and Michelle Yeoh set to star. Set in Norway, the third banana in the cast, Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan, says the movie will be about the relationship between two women, one of whom we have to assume is Sean Bean.

Then, according to French news sites, Ms. Yeoh will star in a sci fi film, BABYLON AD, with Vincent Cassel and Vin Diesel. Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, the movie is based on the novel "Babylon Babies" about a young woman carrying a genetically modified fetus that's supposedly the next messiah being escorted from Russia to Canada. Yeoh will play "Sister Helen".

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who sent this in)
(*if you care about Hong Kong and Chinese movies then you just automatically have to like the HEROIC TRIO three: Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Anita Mui. Even if your personal tastes run in another direction, you must acknowledge that these three actresses are like goddesses in the Chinese movie pantheon and that Michelle Yeoh, with her butt-kicking big sister vibe, is some kind of modern day saint just waiting for the right religion to come along and worship her. She'll accept our hymns of praise in the meantime.)

September 6, 2006 at 12:33 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN TV MOVIE

The fourth BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN spin-off movie will be showing up on television tubes in Japan as the big finale of a BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN spin-off movie marathon this October. This time out it's Hideki Haijima, a lawyer from THE SUSPECT who will be the focus, caught up in the battle over an important piece of land. The title is HIDEKI HAIJIMA, ESQUIRE and it will be directed by the assistant director of THE SUSPECT, Daisaku Kobayashi. Norito Yashima will play Hideki Haijima.

September 6, 2006 at 11:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

SINKING OF JAPAN SINKS HOST

THE HOSTKorea has a new movie in the number one slot after THE HOST has been crouching there all wet and slimey for five weeks: THE SINKING OF JAPAN.

US$3.2 million worth of Koreans showed up to see Japan destroyed by natural disasters, making SINKING the Japanese movie with the second-highest opening in Korea, beaten only by HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE.

THE HOST was in Japan this weekend as well, opening up at the number 7 spot, beaten at the box office by SINKING OF JAPAN which is on its eighth week of screenings in its home country.

(Thanks to HogaCentral and Ryugangi)

September 6, 2006 at 09:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 05, 2006

LOU YE BANNED

Louye_web As punishment for screening SUMMER PALACE in Cannes without official approval from SARFT, China has imposed a ban on director Lou Ye and producer Nai An that will keep them from making movies for five years.

This is the second ban for Lou Ye, who received a two year ban for letting SUZHOU RIVER screen in Rotterdam without official approval. This must be especially galling for Nai An who advised Lou Ye against screening the movie in Cannes ("Lou Ye needs to calmly consider what he is pursuing.") And the other producer, Li Feng, said that the European sales agents accepted Cannes' invitation without consulting with the Chinese producers, putting them in a tricky position.

But it's not just movies that fall afoul of SARFT that get in trouble in China, sometimes it's movies that fall afoul of Mr. Zhao that get into hot water. One example: Carina Lau movie, CURIOSITY KILLS THE CAT.

Mr. Zhao is an employee of Beijing Film Developing and Printing & Video Laboratory and while processing the print of CURIOSITY he decided that some of the sex scenes were in violation of SARFT guidelines and he called a halt to all developing of CURIOSITY materials.  Zhou Hongsen, the vice-director of the film branch of SARFT sent a fax to the lab saying that they had his permission to process the print, but Mr. Zhao suspected the fax might be a fake. The production company reasonably asked for their negative back and Mr. Zhao refused.

After seven days, SARFT told the head of the lab that CURIOSITY had passed its review by SARFT and was A-OK, so the lab and the production company signed a contract absolving the lab of its responsibilities and returning the print materials to the producers. But Mr. Zhao would not give back the offending scenes, saying he was holding onto them "for safekeeping".

Over 20 days after this situation began it was resolved with further meetings between the producers and the lab, Mr. Zhao calmed down, and the movie is slated for a mid-October release.

But before you go thinking that Mr. Zhao is some kind of a nut, he had a reason for his caution: ten years ago Mr. Zhao was punished by the China Film Bureau for a similar matter and has been jumpy ever since. Or, as the head of the lab puts it, "Mr. Zhao was bitten by a snake and has had a fear of ropes for a decade." In the agreement arrived at by the producers and the lab they write that, "The punishment Mr. Zhao suffered ten years ago should not happen again."

See, it's not just the government censoring folks. Except when it is. Last week the Foxconn affair became a restricted topic, and newspapers were no longer allowed to print stories about the controversy. You can read a reporter's editorial on this, including his article that was yanked after the ban was passed, over on the invaluable EastSouthWestNorth.

But then again, it's not always the government doing the censoring. Sometimes it's private business just helping things get a little chilly. Foxconn and China Business News, the paper they sued (which I've been reading as First Financial Daily which might be a direct translation) issued a joint statement that they were seeking ways to work more harmoniously together in the future, sending a clear message to its reporters: hands off my iPod.

September 5, 2006 at 02:34 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

SECRET VENICE FILM REVEALED

The secret, last-minute addition to the Venice Film Festival has been revealed and it's Jia Zhangke's new movie, STILL LIFE, a feature length drama. The film takes place in a village near the Three Gorges Dam project in the future when the area will be under water (Jia also has a documentary about the impact of the Three Gorges Dam, DONG, screening in Venice this year) and Monkeypeaches describes the plot as follows:

"[STILL LIFE]....is about a man and a woman who went travel to the Three Gorges area of China's Long River (Yangtze River). The man was a miner, whose 'wife' he purchased was rescued by the police and sixteen years later, he left home and found her. They fell in love and decided to get married for real. The woman is a nurse, who is looking for her husband. After she found out that her husband was no longer the man she knew, she decided to devoice him."

That came right out of left field and I never would have guessed it.

September 5, 2006 at 01:49 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

BONG JOON-HO DID PROTEST

In an earlier post I wondered where Bong Joon-Ho (THE HOST) was in all these one-celeb protests to support Korea's quota system. I had seen news about Ryu Seung-wan, Park Chan-Wook, and Choi Min-Shik protesting but nothing on Bong. But now, Gege sends in the news that Director Bong participated in the mass protest, as well as doing a one man protest, as well as photographic evidence to back it up. Yay, Bong!

Bong Joon-Ho protesting

And in other news, on Saturday THE HOST passed THE KING AND CLOWN's record of 12.3 million tickets to hit 12.37 million tickets sold, officially becoming the most popular movie in Korean film history. It hit this mark in 38 days, as opposed to KING AND CLOWN which hit it in 112 days and now Bong has been given the keys to Korea and when he walks down the street everyone has to give him their umbrella and their change if he asks.

September 5, 2006 at 01:28 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

THE BANQUET DISAPPOINTS

THE BANQUET had its world premiere in Venice over the weekend and the word on the street is...meh. This much-hyped period film starring Zhang Ziyi, Ge You and Daniel Wu, directed by Feng Xiaogang (WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES) with action by Yuen Wo-ping, art direction by Tim Yip and music by Tan Dun is supposedly based on HAMLET and has kept a rolling boil of internet interest since it went into production.

But the reviews are in and they say: too long, not enough happens, little to no action, little to no story until the last half hour. Derek Elley reviews for Variety ("...not helped by the principals' slow, pregnant delivery of their lines, lack of acting chemistry (normally a strength of Feng's pics), and the unremittingly gloomy look.) Dan Fainaru reviews for ScreenDaily ("...stodgily told and clumsily directed, inter-cut with expertly performed but by now predictable masses of martial arts choreography") and they both come across as uncomfortable guests at a failed dinner party ("I...I thought your costume design was really terrific and that tedious plotting was very...interesting. I've never had it served with quite so much gravy before.")

The Chinese press has far more interesting details. Chief among CriEnglish's criticisms is that Western critics wanted a more "Chinese" film and found it "too Occidental", and then they say that the version screened in Venice was dubbed in English. I haven't seen a mention made of this elsewhere, and Variety says that the dialogue is in Mandarin so what planet does this news come from? According to CriEnglish, when THE BANQUET had a sneak preview in Guangzhou the audience laughed at it, couldn't understand the old fashioned style of speaking and walked out during an "awkward scene". They claim that said "awkward scene" was removed from the print screened at Venice.

Will this set the tone for Chinese coverage of THE BANQUET? Will they now turn on the movie after crowing about it for months? Maybe they only just found out that Zhang Ziyi is in it?

THE BANQUET

September 5, 2006 at 12:55 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

September 01, 2006

BABY GOT BACK - AND RONNY YU WANTS TO KILL SAM JACKSON

Cecilia Cheung Perhaps inspired by the hip-swiveling number that Bollywood choreographer and director Farah Khan staged for Shakira at the VMA Awards, Cecilia Cheung says that she's packing on the pounds.

She quit smoking and gained ten pounds, but the talking stick says that her boyfriend, Nic Tse, couldn't be happier. "He forces me to eat sometimes," the emaciated actress said in a phone interview.

If Nic's a chubby chaser he's got a long way to go with Cecilia, who last weighed in at an astonishing 12 ounces, but I predict lots of feeder fun as Cecilia joins the ranks of the SSBBW's.

Meanwhile, Ronny Yu reveals the real reason he didn't direct SNAKES ON A PLANE in an interview on The Slug. Apparently, he wanted Samuel L. Jackson to die during the movie. He says:

"If I'm allowed the creative freedom, then I'll do it a little differently with Samuel L. Jackson. I'll make him more of a surprise for the audience. ... He can be a cool guy, but kill off the cool guy, so people hate those snakes. Rather than have the normal hero come save the day, I think the audience wants to see something a little bit different, unpredictable. Of course, working with a studio you have to follow what they set down, what their rules are."

So he left. And is there any doubt that the madman behind FREDDIE VS. JASON, BRIDE OF CHUCKIE and WARRIORS OF VIRTUE could have made a better SNAKES ON A PLANE? Not from where I'm sitting.

September 1, 2006 at 03:33 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

IPOD MAKERS: THE WORK HARDER THAN MULES, THEY EAT WORSE THAN PIGS

Apple This hasn't been getting too much play in the West, but it's been a big story in China and fortunately the untouchable EASTSOUTHWESTNORTH has been keeping this story so juiced up on posting power that's it's starting to slide over onto the Reuters wire service. And now, a happy ending.

Back in June, the UK-based Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mirror wrote a story about the poor working conditions at a plant in Shenzhen that makes iPods. Claiming that the plant was breaking the law by forcing workers to etch Bono's autograph on iPod U2 Special Editions well past quitting time and with no overtime pay, the stories prompted Apple to look into the issue. Apple responded that the conditions weren't as bad as they were being reported and that they had spoken to the plant's owner, Foxconn (a subsidiary of a Taiwanese manufacturing concern), who would rectify the teensy, tiny little problems.

Foxconn But over in China, Foxconn wasn't quite so meek and mild, slapping a US$3.7 million defamation lawsuit on the Shanghai based newspaper, First Financial Daily, that also reported the story. In a really mean move, the suit was directed not at the newspaper, and not at its owners, but at the reporter and her editor. The first motion they filed was to have the two individuals' personal assets frozen for the duration of the court case - houses, cars, bank accounts, everything. And they were.

Foxconn has done this kind of thing before with a newspaper in Taiwan (a reporter had her assets frozen in a suit by Foxconn's parent company), but international outcry made them back off that time. Unfortunately, there was no outcry this time around. In fact, while there was lots of Foxconn coverage in the press while this was going on ("FoxConn boxes make the eyes boggle," read one headline) only the Shanghai Daily reported the lawsuit story. And, of course, the internet.

First Financial Daily fought back by giving the reporter and editor blogs and posting their comments about what the impact of the lawsuit was on their parents, friends and families. It was a PR war, fought online, with legal advisors weighing in on the illegality of Foxconn's actions and of the judge carrying out the motion. Finally, the news came down: Foxconn has dropped its suit from 30 million RMB to 1 RMB (about 13 cents) and the Shenzhen Intermediate Court has unfrozen the assets of the defendants. Foxconn says it's doing this, "to refocus the public's attention back to the real issue," and they issued a noxious press release talking about "...the minority who wrongfully abuses their so-called freedom of speech..." and saying that they were only suing to "...protect the Chinese dignity." They also say they'll donate the entire settlement, if they win, to a non-profit. The Red Cross is already filing suit in court to assert their claim to this massive 13 cent donation.

It's a qualified victory for the rule of law in China, but shame on Apple for not making a public statement condeming the actions of their manufacturing partner. In a scathing act of protest I will turn off my iPod for half and hour today. Let's see how Steve Jobs likes them apples.

September 1, 2006 at 01:38 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

ANDY LAU + WISIT SASANATIENG = ARMFUL

Andy Lau's Focus Films has joined forces with One Ton Cinema in a magical union that will cause Wisit Sasanatieng's ARMFUL to spring from its psychoplastic loins. Focus will find an international sales agent and kidnap the children of potential investors in order to round up the US$8 million budget as ARMFUL moves forward and Wisit's other film, NAM PRIX, keeps gestating in development for the time being. Here's how the press release characterizes the movie:

"The Chinese-language stylised tragicomedy will feature a pan-Asian cast, most likely from Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Thailand.

Set in 1970's South-East Asia, the film's influences range from Chinese martial arts films of the '60s and '70s to the gritty revenge tales of today."

So does this mean that Wisit's movie for Five Star, THE UNSEEABLE, is all finished?

teaser art for Wisit Sasanatieng's ARMFUL

September 1, 2006 at 12:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

RYU SEUNG-WAN PROTESTS AT VENICE

Ryu Seung-WanThe one-celebrity protests against the reduction of the screen quota system continue. After Korean celebs and mega-directors fought the power in Berlin and Cannes, Ryu Seung-Wan and the cast of CITY OF VIOLENCE continue the tradition in Venice.

Director Ryu will today stand outside the Palazzo Del Cinema at 4pm and hold a placard denouncing the planned reduction. On Saturday his cast will join in the fun.

Why these guys? Because Ryu Seung-Wan's CITY OF VIOLENCE is the only Korean film officially selected for the Venice Film Festival.

I'm waiting for Bong Joon-Ho to join in the protests. With the biggest movie in Korean history under his belt you'd think his pronouncements would hit like thunderbolts thrown from atop Mount Olympus. Park Chan-Wook and Kang Je-Gyu were both vocal opponents of plans to dismantle the screen quota system when they were riding high on SHIRI and JSA. So where's Bong? Not that he has to - free country and all that - but it would be a nice gesture.

September 1, 2006 at 10:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

BATTLE OF RED CLIFF CAST ANNOUNCED

John Woo's BATTLE OF RED CLIFF - which was announced in 1904, will go into production in 2012 and be released in 2021 - has just moved one step closer to the start line.

Woo has signed a co-production deal with China Film Group (original co-producers, Asian Union Film & Media, have dropped out and are trying to make a TV series based on the same story) and has confirmed his main cast: Chow Yun-fat, Ken Watanabe, Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Taiwanese supermodel Lin Chi-ling.

The flick tells the story of the massive, million-man battle that established the Three Kingdoms in China and it's budgeted at $50 million, with a release date of 2008, just in time for the Olympics.

September 1, 2006 at 09:23 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 31, 2006

WHAT'S VENICE'S SECRET?

Marco Muller, the director of the Venice Film Festival, has said he will reveal in a few days the last-minute addition of a major Chinese film to the Venice Film Festival competition section this year. What on earth could it be? Johnnie To's EXILED and Tsai Ming-liang's BLACK-EYED are already in competition and BANQUET and PROJECT BB are there, but out of competition, so what is it? CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER? I'm guessing it's either the Anthony Wong/Edward Norton movie THE PAINTED VEIL (slated for a December 15 release in North America) or the Wen Jiang/Anthony Wong movie THE SUN RISES AGAIN which we haven't heard from in a while.

Whatever movie it is, Muller better hurry since the festival has already begun.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who translated this article)

August 31, 2006 at 12:46 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

LUCKY LOSER NOW LUCKY, BUT STILL A LOSER

LUCKY LOSERLUCKY LOSER, the Thai movie about a Laotian team competing in the World Cup that looks to be COOL RUNNINGS for soccer, was deemed so potentially offensive to Laotians that it's been sitting on a shelf since it was completed earlier this year.

Now, Wisekwai tells us, it's been re-edited and re-shot into a completely non-offensive form. Re-shoots and clever editing got rid of Laotian flags and banners and the word "Laos" was dubbed into the name of another country. And what country is that? Instead of being from Laos, the team now hails from the fictitous land of Aa-wee.

My question is: what is it about Thai directors that makes them want to offend people? I've never seen a country get in so much trouble, what with GHOST GAME, LUCKY LOSER and CORPSE all in a row. It's almost like they do it on purpose, and if they're doing it by accident then I feel terrible for them. It must stink to keep getting into hot water over and over again for something you're not quite grasping. "You mean, Cambodians might get offended if we set a horror movie in a Khmer Rouge death camp? Crazy!"

August 31, 2006 at 11:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

YOUR JOHNNIE TO MINUTE

Johnnie ToJohnnie To keeps casting 'em, and bless him for it. First it was nearly-vanished 90's star Mark Cheng providing the performance of his career in ELECTION 2, and now it's nearly-vanished 90's star Ellen Chan who says that she's in EXILED and that she gets to fling around a little of the sexy stuff.

Chan is probably best known for ETERNAL EVIL OF ASIA in which any number of horrible things happen to her, often while she's naked. She's also played a psychotic lesbian in THE LOVE THAT IS WRONG and a minor role in MEN SUDDENLY IN BLACK.

In case anyone missed it, EXILED will be getting its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

Then it looks like TRIAD ELECTION (the retitled ELECTION 2) won't be getting a theatrical release in 2006 as planned. It'll still play at the New York Film Festival but according to ComingSoon it'll be released in 2007 instead.

Finally, rumors are laid to rest about Johnnie To's upcoming projects. Shan Ding, his assistant, gives the following news:
- To won't start shooting his Mainland movie, LINGER, until he returns from Venice and Toronto in mid-September. Cast in the movie are Li Bingbing and Vic Chou (of boy band F4).
- THE SPARROW, Johnnie To's pickpocket movie, is still being shot and is an ongoing project. Sort of like PTU and THE MISSION.

And, finally, let's all feel good about David Richardson, a man who proves that there are second acts in American lives. An editor who started off working on movies like CYBORG 2, Jean Claude Van Damme's REPLICANT, and Uwe Boll's HOUSE OF THE DEAD, he is now the editor of Johnnie To movies like BREAKING NEWS, THROWDOWN and EXILED. Although he is editing Uwe Boll's DUNGEON SIEGE I like to think he's just doing it to see the Matthew Lillard outtakes which are probably hilarious.

(Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for keeping us up to speed)

August 31, 2006 at 10:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

August 30, 2006

SYNCHRONICITY!

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's LOFT Giles Daoust's THE ROOM

Sometimes two poster designers will get the exact same idea at the exact same time. Check out these two posters, one for Kiyoshi Kurosawa's LOFT and the other for Giles Daoust's THE ROOM.

I mean, what are the chances? It's like the year ARMAGEDDON and DEEP IMPACT both came out: a case of genius lightning striking twice...at the same time! Right down to the fonts, man. That's eerie.

I'm also looking forward to works inspired by these movies: THE NOOK, THE WALK-IN CLOSET and THE JUNIOR ONE BEDROOM UES.

August 30, 2006 at 11:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

SOBER JACKIE ORGANIZES PROTEST

Jackie Chan's protest against EasyFinder

Jackie Chan has found a new crusade that does not involve having one too many with "Japanese friends" and then climbing onto someone else's stage.

This time, he's taking the war to EasyFinder magazine for publishing the photos of Gillian Chung changing backstage at her concert in Malaysia. Forming an army of 100 celebrities he took them to a televised protest special where they denounced EasyFinder and spoke out for the right to privacy.

I can recognize a lot of these people, but what I'm most curious about is whose management companies are represented here. Isn't Jackie managed or connected with Emperor's Group, which also manages the Twins? And Daniel Wu as well, right? Sandra Ng was there, talking about her pregnancy (go, Peter Chan!) and I see Andy and is that Simon Yam whispering something in Jackie's ear? He's probably saying, "We're all going to Bar 96 after this, getting loaded and hitting the Alive show after this. Wanna come?"

August 30, 2006 at 01:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 29, 2006

LAU CHING-WAN TALKS JOHNNIE TO PROJECT

Lau Ching-wan revealed the basic plot of his upcoming Johnnie To project recently. It's about a cop who develops a mental illness and takes a leave of absence, but still insists on investigating a crime. And, surprise, the mental illness helps him to solve the crime. This sounds a little bit like the first great To/Lau collaboration LOVING YOU where Lau Ching-wan plays a jerk of a cop who loses his sense of smell and becomes a better person while tracking down a killer.

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

August 29, 2006 at 04:21 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

LEON LAI SHOOTING IN NYC

Leon_webLeon Lai, everyone's favorite Cantopop-star-turned-actor, is moving behind the camera.

In fact, he's already there. Currently shooting his directorial debut in New York City, Leon's untitled film stars Janice and Jill Vidal as well as Charles Ying.

This isn't the first time Lai Ming has done more than just act. In 2004 he co-wrote the script for the Wilson Yip, Leon Lai, Faye Wong movie, LEAVING ME, LOVING YOU.

August 29, 2006 at 02:47 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 28, 2006

THE MANY WOES OF SAHAMONGKOL

MERCURY MAN, a big budget Thai superhero movie

Sahamongkol is probably the biggest and most internationally successful production company in Thailand with ONG BAK, TOM YUM GONG, and BORN TO FIGHT all under their belts. But they seem to have hit a run of bad luck lately. First there was the infighting surrounding the Federation of the National Film Association earlier this year which saw the head of Sahamongkol, Somsak Techratanaprasert, dealt a resounding vote of no confidence in his role as head of the FNFA and he stepped down from his role there. Then came their movie, CHAI LAI'S ANGELS, a Thai "girls with guns" flick that did okay business at the box office but is excruciating to watch.

This month saw them release MERCURY MAN, a big budget Thai superhero movie (budgeted at about US$1.1 million, which is twice the budget of most Thai films). The film was given a mild sniff by local critics and bowed with a first week gross of 12 million baht (about US$320,000) which is a disappointing figure for all invovled. Director Bandid Thongdee says, "Maybe Thai audience still doubt whether a homegrown superhero will be as exciting to watch as 'Spider-man' or 'Superman'. However, we believe that the film has a strong potential for international sales." Whether it sinks or finds its legs and swims, MERCURY MAN is Sahamongkol's centerpiece of its international sales plan. This is all reminiscent of the early 2000's when Hong Kong companies where risking the farm on big, international productions that weren't Hong Kong enough to excite foreign buyers, but were too international to really make it at home.

Now, Sahamongkol has become the latest company caught in the "My movie has offended someone," sweepstakes. First it was GHOST GAME, then it was LUCKY LOSER, and now it's CADAVER. Originally called AJAAN YAI, a term of respect for a body donated to science, this aroused the ire of a bunch of doctors. So the movie has now changed its name to SOPE, or "Corpse."  Wisekwai posts this statement from Sahamongkol:

"We're doing everything we can to comply with the requests of the group in order to be able to release the film on schedule," the Sahamongkol Film marketing director Awika Techaratanaprasert is quoted as saying. "We have already called back all the promotional materials they found offensive and have put out information to make it clear that this is a work of fiction, not a true story."

You can see a trailer of CADAVER here and judge for yourself: would you spend money to see this movie?

August 28, 2006 at 10:38 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY

The movies, they are killing us. Or they're at least putting us to sleep like in this supposedly overheard conversation between two young Japanese women who decide that TALES OF EARTHSEA is the perfect sleep aid if you don't have pills and air conditioning dries out your skin too much.

But they're killing us literally in the case of this guy in India who took his estranged wife to see Karan Johar's KANK, hoping that it would convince her to let him marry his girlfriend. It didn't work so he shot her then threw her out on the road. She survived (oops) and turned in a statement against him to the police (double oops). Karan Johar was shocked. He just wanted his movie to make a lot of money, not start a crime spree. “When I made the film, I never thought it would incite such strong emotions,” he said.

But no one is killing people the way Futoshi Matsunaga killed people. Currently appealing his death sentence for crimes he committed in 1998, Matsunaga should win some kind of award for his complete and total insanity. He managed to get his psychic talons into his 44-year-old lover, Junko Ogata, and then used her as leverage to take control of her family. He turned all seven of them into his slaves and kept them confined to a single room in an apartment.

Using electric shocks he broke their wills and turned them against one another, goading them into fighting each other for his favor. Then killing each other. They would grind the dead bodies of their family members into a thick paste that was flushed down the toilet, one by one. And how does this tie into the movies? Well Ogata says he isn't responsible for what happened.

"I was only the producer who showed them what they needed to do," he says.

And, as we all know, the producer never gets blamed. Just the director.

In that spirit, let's ring out the week on an evil note with a picture of scary, bicycle-riding, phallus devil man.

(Thanks to Al for sending in the good stuff)

scary, bicycle-riding, phallus devil man

August 25, 2006 at 01:32 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

GILLIAN CHUNG'S BRA MAKES HK GO CRAZY

GILLIAN CHUNG'S BRA EASYFINDER weekly magazine in Hong Kong published its most recent cover and it all hit the fan. Hong Kong has gone berserk. There is rioting in the streets. Copies are flying off the stands and newspaper vendors are having to reorder from their distributors. Miriam Yeung screams, "This is outrageous! It's very wrong!" Karen Mok is increasing her security. Alex Fong ejaculates, "I think it's way overboard and against morality." Management companies are looking into legal recourse.

So what happened?

Gillian Chung of the Twins was photographed in a backstage changing area and you can see her bra and part of her breast. Let the apocalypse begin.

You may think this is much ado about nothing, and play the world's smallest violin for Gillian, but after reading that Gillian and Charlene take their trash with them when they check out of a hotel so reporters can't go through it, you may feel a little sympathy for these gals. And I thought the American paparazzi was bad.

August 25, 2006 at 11:08 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)

CICAK MAN: MALAYSIA'S FIRST SUPERHERO

Thailand had MERCURY MAN. The Philippines had GAGAMBOY. And now Malaysia has CICAK MAN. Set in the fictional city of Metrofulus, the movie uses CGI and live action to tell the story of two best friends. One is turning into a superhero and it seems to be killing him, while the other is racing for a cure.

40% of the movie will be green screen and it'll use a host of special effects. The genre is comedy-action and it's slated for a release at the end of 2006.

The official site is here and it's loaded with behind the scenes photos so we at least know it's really happening.

(Thanks to 24 Frames per Second for the heads up)

Cicak Man

August 25, 2006 at 09:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (31)

THE PAVILLION SALAMANDRE

THE PAVILLION SALAMANDREWho is Masanori Tominaga? And why do we care about his new movie? He previously directed the KAMEMUSHI short film series which earned him the title of one of Japan's hottest up and coming directors, and now he's busting loose with his first feature THE PAVILLION SALAMANDRE.

Starring Jo Odagiri as an X-ray technician sent to verify that the giant salamander, Kinjiro, a Japanese national treasure exhibited at the 1867 Paris World Expo is actually what it is claimed to be, it looks like good stuff. The salamander has been entrusted to the care of four sisters who have made out like bandits in government grants ostensibly slated for the care and feeding of Kinjiro but now it looks like their long-lived salamander might be a fake.

If all of that has you intrigued, then check out the trailer. I have to admit that I'm more than a little interested in this very weird movie starring a very fake giant lizard. And check out who else is starring in it over on Ryugangi.

August 25, 2006 at 05:55 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (0)

KOREAN FEST IN NYC

Every year the New York Korean Film Festival (August 25 - September 3) haul in a heap of Korean movies that you may not have heard of. They don't show the major titles like THE HOST, but what they do show are the movies that slipped between the cracks and have a much lower profile in the West but which make up a majority of what fills Korean cinemas year round. While not every title is an undiscovered masterpiece, there are some unexpected finds and it'll give you a totally different picture of the Korean movie scene.

There's full festival info over here and the stand-out movies are MY SCARY GIRL, which was a big word-of-mouth hit in Korea, the aggressive HOLIDAY, and GRAIN IN EAR which got a lot of festival play. They're also doing a four-film Lee Man-Hee retrospective. Lee was a genre craftsman in the 60's and prints of his films have been making the rounds this year.

August 25, 2006 at 01:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 24, 2006

TONY JAA IS ALL OUT OF BUBBLE GUM...

Video clips of what Tony Jaa did at the Museum of the Moving Image this past Sunday after he ran out of gum.

(Thanks to Goran and Joe)

August 24, 2006 at 11:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 23, 2006

IS KIM KI-DUK CRAZY LIKE A FOX?

In a recent talk show interview, Korea's most successful overseas export, director Kim Ki-Duk, went on a bit of a tirade. Calling THE HOST “the apex where the level of Korean movies meets the level of Korean audiences” and stating that this wasn't entirely a positive thing he went on to say that it was unfairly dominating Korean screens.

There was an immediate online backlash which Kim responded to by claiming that he was being attacked by people "out of an inferiority complex demonstrating their level of understanding." Meow. Does catty want a bowl of milk?

Kim has now offered up an apology that is also a statement of future plans. Saying that his comments were intentionally over the top but not meant to offend, he also apologized to everyone involved with THE HOST.

"After winning several awards and seeing them screened overseas, I took the arrogant attitude of trying to educate Korean viewers, and I later regretted saying things that should not have been said. I hope that the public can forgive my brutal way of expressing the point that this is a market where it is difficult to release lower-budget films."

He also said that if his new movie, TIME, fails he will stop "exporting" his movies to Korea and may leave the country entirely.

"The scolding I got from the public made me look back at my films, and I’m starting to think that I made miserable, self-regarding films and exaggerated the dark and ugly side of Korean culture in an overbearing manner and so made audiences uncomfortable. I became aware of the fact that I’m consciousness-disabled, and that makes it very difficult to live in Korea."

It all seems to be a brutally honest self-assessment but all this brouhaha occurs right as his latest movie TIME is about to be released. Is there no such thing as bad publicity? This may cause the large number of Koreans who don't like Kim's films to stay home (where they would have stayed anyways) but it may also put the spotlight on his latest movie which probably doesn't have the biggest marketing budget in Korea. But maybe they do have a controversial director who's willing to go out in public and get himself crucified for the sake of headlines.

August 23, 2006 at 11:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

I'M A CYBORG FINISHES PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY

I'M A CYBORG (BUT THAT'S OKAY) has completed principal photographyPark Chan-Wook's latest movie, I'M A CYBORG (BUT THAT'S OKAY), has completed principal photography, according to this post over on KoreanFilm.org.

I sort of thought that Park's "Vengeance Trilogy" was a case of diminishing returns (even though they were all nice to look at, and passionately made) so I'm excited that he's driving somewhere new.

The plot, for those who don't remember (and this movie has been flying below the radar), is a love story between two people in a mental institution. Pop star Rain is the male lead and the female lead is Lim Su-Jeong (A TALE OF TWO SISTERS) who thinks she's a cyborg.

You can see a close-up of that still here.

August 23, 2006 at 09:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 22, 2006

PANG BROTHERS REQUIRE RESHOOTS

Bad news for Pang Brothers fans, but good news for people who like good movies. Ghost House (Sam Raimi's production company that released THE GRUDGE) had hired the Brothers Pang to direct THE MESSENGERS, a Canada-shot horror movie about a haunted sunflower farm starring Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott and John Corbett. But apparently they weren't happy with what they got and they just did reshoots...with another director. Bloody-Disgusting has the news, but they can't reveal the director's name. I recommend not heading over there, however, because their site features some annoying new pop-ups that are almost as bad as what you get on a Bollywood site. The film is set for a January 19 release.

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

August 22, 2006 at 05:26 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

MICHELLE YEOH IN SUNSHINE

Michelle_yeoh This is old news for a lot of folks, but Michelle Yeoh and Hiroyuki Sanada are both co-starring in Danny Boyle's new movie, SUNSHINE. A hard sci fi film set 50 years in the future when the sun is dying, Yeoh and Sanada play part of a crew sent on a mission to the sun to reignite it. Most folks know Boyle from 28 DAYS LATER and TRAINSPOTTING but if you haven't seen his kids' movie, MILLIONS, you should check it out. All the years that Yeoh has spent making crummy action movies are worth it if she winds up in a Danny Boyle sci fi film. Here's a larger version of that pic, taken on her birthday on the set, and here's a Michelle Yeoh site with more images and info on her in the movie. Nothing for Sanada, yet, though.

August 22, 2006 at 12:29 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 21, 2006

ZHANG + SPIELBERG = RUMOR

The popular Steven Spielberg site, Spielberg Films, have cut straight to the chase regarding the "Steven Spielberg and Zhang Yimou team up and make the coolest JOURNEY TO THE WEST movie ever" rumors that popped up around the internet like little toadstools last week. Calling Spielberg's offices directly, the site reports that the official word is that the Zhang/Spielberg super team-up is not a team-up at all. Saying that Spielberg hasn't decided on his next film, let alone a project two years in the future, the Spielberg offices say: "It's not impossible that something vaguely might have been said which was interpreted that way," but  "...there does not appear to be anything to it."

A day or two later, Zhang Weiping (Zhang Yimou's producer whose comments spawned this rumor), corrected his comments with the following statement (printed on Monkeypeaches):

"Producer Zhang Weiping just told Beijing's Star Daily that the press has miss-understood what he said. He means the if Zhang Yimou and Steven Spielberg were doing a movie, they should pick a Eastern subject such as 'Journey to the West.'"

So there you go. Blame the press.

August 21, 2006 at 03:57 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

TONY JAA IN TOWN, KICKS PEOPLE

Tonyjaa2 Tony Jaa (ONG BAK) strutted his stuff at the Museum of the Moving Image yesterday, giving a martial arts demo before a screening of THE PROTECTOR (aka TOM YUM GOONG). I didn't stick around for the movie, but the demo was good stuff although it was over before it began. Taking place on a portable dance floor set up in a parking lot behind the museum (they called it "the courtyard" but if I'm standing on asphalt within ten yards of a dumpster then it's a parking lot) and a surprisingly large number of folks showed up, formed a humid little crowd and waited for Tony, who finally made an appearance in a natty white outfit. Graceful and gracious, as he always is in these public appearances, he did a lot of bowing and smiling, a few forms, and then proceeded to make an attempt to pound his stuntmen through the ground with his feet. As someone pointed out, if filmmakers could capture a tenth of charisma and charm that Tony Jaa demonstrates in live appearances on film then he'd be a Jackie Chan-sized celebrity already.

Unfortunately, after a few kicks and punches and an abortive attempt to kick signed soccer balls into the audience (called off by the museum staff, it seemed, who probably had images of the liability issues involved when someone got decapitated by a flying ball), there was a contest to win some of the soccer balls. "Name the other Tony Jaa movies!" an eager MC shouted. There was silence. "There's two of them," someone volunteered. Silence. Crickets chirped. Now this was weird. He's only made two movies that have been released in the US, and the audience was there to see one of them. And I think it's a fair bet that if they've come out on a sweaty Sunday to see the second Tony Jaa movie then they've probably seen the first one. But no. And so the increasingly desperate MC tried "How many elephants are in Tony Jaa's THE PROTECTOR?" More silence. Finally they gave up and just threw the ball into the crowd - to great cheers - the demonstration was over and everyone headed indoors to watch the movie.

The screening was sold out, which is either a good thing or a bad thing. From a glass half full point of view, it's a good thing showing that lots of people are interested seeing THE PROTECTOR. From the glass half empty point of view, the entire audience for THE PROTECTOR just saw it at the Museum of the Moving Image and they won't be seeing it when it's released in theaters. Fortunately, lots of kids were in the crowd and I hope they saw the movie because according to the TV ads for THE PROTECTOR (and there are a lot of them airing, which is nice to see), the flick is rated R so absolutely no one under 18 will be admitted. I guess you can get an R for depicting graphic violence or for having Tony Jaa in a movie, since ONG BAK was R-rated, as well. What is it about Tony that causes the ratings folks to see R-ed?

And, in the meantime, a trailer on YouTube featuring lots of fight footage from Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai's SPIRITED KILLER, which is way better than being a DISPIRITED KILLER, will tide you over until THE PROTECTOR's release.

August 21, 2006 at 03:56 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

AVAST, YOU SCURVY THAI PIRATES

Queen_of_l_2 Thai director, Nonzee Nimibutr (NANG NAK, OKAY BAYTONG), has announced his next project and...wait for it...it's a pirate movie! A fantasy pirate movie! That soft thump you hear is your frontal lobe exploding. His latest movie, QUEEN OF LUNG-GASUKA, is a pirate fantasy flick about three sister queens in Thailand's Southern Peninsula who seek the help of a Chinese sea wizard (Ananda Everingham, SHUTTER) to put the kibosh on a gang of scurvy pirates led by a wizard princeling who's gone feral. Promising sea battles, whale attacks (whale attacks!?!), and wizards who communicate Aquaman-style with underwater monsters, the flick began filming earlier in August and will take a year to complete. The US$3 million picture was originally slated to be a LOTR-sized, three-part epic but the producers, Sahamongkol, have been in turmoil recently so part one was greenlit with parts two and three dependent on the first movie's reception.

The Bangkok Post are the first reporters on the set, and you can see a huge number of astounding production sketches and concept art over here (that's a sample on the right). Although Southeast Asian fantasy movies can sometimes go terribly awry (EXODUS, anyone?) I'm nothing but psyched that the man behind OKAY BAYTONG is now tackling an action epic.

(Thanks to 24 Frames Per Second for the heads up)

August 21, 2006 at 03:55 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 18, 2006

SUMO-LAH STARTS AND FINISHES PRODUCTION

Sumolah Good news from Malaysia's actor/director, Afdlin Shauki: SUMO-LAH is almost done shooting. Described as "ONG BAK for sumo" this comedy-action film is about waiters at sushi restaurants in Kuala Lumpur who blow off steam by participating in underground sumo matches by night. Originally SUMO-LAH was supposed to start production months ago, but Shauki's LOS AND FAUN came up and went into production first and SUMO-LAH went on the backburner.

But now, according to Shauki's blog, SUMO-LAH has not only started shooting, it's almost finished. He says the footage looks like "a foreign film with Malaysian actors" and you can keep up with it on its very own, super special SUMO-LAH blog or check out this behind the scenes footage of Outback Sushi versus Diamond Sushi. Watch this space for updates.

August 18, 2006 at 12:42 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

EXILED STILL SHOOTING

Exiled_still It's been selected for Venice (based on a one hour tape) but it's still not finished. Johnnie To is still shooting EXILED as I type, according to an article sent in by a sharp-eyed reader. To chalks up the delays to the series of typhoons that have hit Hong Kong recently which have kept him from bringing the shoot to a timely conclusion. According to the article, he's shooting the final part of the film now.

(And check out that photo from the set -- Johnnie To showing Anthony Wong and Lam Suet how to kneel?!?)

August 18, 2006 at 12:39 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES LINE-UP

Paprika_1 This year's New York Film Festival (Sept. 29 - Oct. 14) looks to be one of the best in years. There's new Almodovar (VOLVER), new del Toro (PAN'S LABYRINTH), new Lynch (INLAND EMPIRE), and old Warren Beatty (REDS). But you want to know what they're showing from Asia, and here it is, with the biggest news held for the end.

THE GO MASTER - I'm not a fan, but Tian Zhuangzhuang is one of China's most respected arthouse directors and this biopic of a Go master torn between Japan and China sounds more eventful than some of his earlier movies.

THE HOST - what kind of film festival would they be if they didn't have Bong Joon-Ho's monster movie?

INSIANG - Lino Brocka has been called the Fassbinder of the Filipines and he's generally considered that country's greatest director, with his films making their way to Cannes on a regular basis in the 70's. Now, the New York Film Festival screens his 1976 classic as a reintroduction to one of those great directors whom the West has forgotten about.

PAPRIKA - Satoshi Kon (PERFECT BLUE, PARANOIA AGENT) is one of the best animation directors working in the world right now, and it's easy to forget that. His latest movie is described as a mix between Hello Kitty and Philip K. Dick - about a machine that lets therapists enter their patients' dreams. You can watch a trailer here.

SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY - Apichatpong Weerasethakul's entry in the series of films commemorating the birth of Mozart.

WOMAN ON THE BEACH - Hong Sang-Soo can't seem to break through in the West, but that doesn't mean he doesn't keep trying and his latest movie looks like one of his most relaxed yet. You can watch a trailer for it here.

TRIAD ELECTION - huh? What's this movie? This is the new title for Johnnie To's ELECTION 2. Tartan is definitely planning to release ELECTION 2 in theaters this year, and they'll most likely release ELECTION on DVD at roughly the same time. But rather than go the Magnolia route and release both movie and sequel simultaneously, they're sticking with the stronger ELECTION 2 and giving it a new name so that people don't stay away assuming it's a sequel to a movie they haven't seen, which it will be. To me, ELECTION 2 was so tied to ELECTION that taking one without the other robs it of a lot of meaning and resonance, but I can't blame them for going in this direction. Selling Asian movies theatrically is a fool's game so trying anything that works is as good a strategy as anything else. Here's their synopsis from the NYFF press release:

"Jimmy (Louis Koo, one of the superstars of Hong Kong cinema) is in the running for the coveted post of Triad president. He faces resistance from his “godfather” Lok (Simon Yam), who has served his two-year term and makes an increasingly desperate effort to throw tradition to the wind and maintain his position. As the power plays escalate, so does the violence ... not to mention the virtuosity of director Johnnie To, who creates one spectacular cinematic set piece after another. To is working deep within the gangster genre, whose traditions he observes with the greatest respect even as he’s busy revitalizing and re-contextualizing them. But he’s also given Triad Election a genuinely political edge: in To’s dog-eat-dog vision, the body of free-market expansion beats with a savage heart."

(Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader, Steve, Raymond and Twitch for the info)

August 18, 2006 at 12:37 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 16, 2006

URSULA K. LEGUIN SPEAKS OUT ON GHIBLI EARTHSEA

Earthsea_3 Ursula K. LeGuin, bless her irascible old heart, has written an open letter on her website about the Ghibli Earthsea movie. In it, she proceeds to tear Goro Miyazaki a new one.

LeGuin is a great writer, and reading her blow by blow beatdown of Ghibli is a pleasure. She says that Ghibli's TALES FROM EARTHSEA misses the point of her books, is not very good, and that she is deeply disappointed that Hayao Miyazaki not only didn't direct the picture, but that he was totally uninvolved with the movie. She says she's only speaking out because Goro has posted personal comments she made in support of the movie on his blog, and that she made those comments privately and in order to be polite and they were in no way to be taken as an endorsement of what she sees as a subpar effort.

The most interesting part of the letter is the genuine hurt she seems to feel over Goro replacing Hayao Miyazaki as director of the film. Apparently, Hayao Miyazaki asked about adapting the Earthsea novels 20 years ago and she turned him down, being unfamiliar with his work and not liking animation very much. Then she saw MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO and was sold. She approached Miyazaki and said if he ever wanted to make a movie out of her books she'd be delighted, and she made him an offer of authorship, telling him that he could feel free to explore the gap of 15 years between the first and second EARTHSEA books in order to give his imagination free reign and develop that time as he saw fit. This is an amazingly trusting thing for an author to say to a director and it really testifies to how much confidence she had in Miyazaki. When Goro was proposed as the director, LeGuin says she only said yes because Hayao Miyazaki said he would be involved, but to her it soon became apparent that he wasn't and she was told he had retired from filmmaking. You can hear the betrayal in her voice when she writes: "I am told that Mr Hayao has not retired after all, but is now making another movie. This has increased my disappointment. I hope to put it behind me."

Anyways, read the letter. It says it all, and more, better than I ever could. This isn't the first time LeGuin has spoken out about a film adaptation of her work that she finds subpar. This open letter is a sequel of sorts to a much harsher open letter she wrote regarding the Sci Fi Channel's EARTHSEA miniseries.

(Thanks to Michi at HogaCentral for the news)

August 16, 2006 at 01:04 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

THE HOST IS BIGGER THAN ALL OF US

THE HOST, Bong Joon-Ho's monster movie, is a monster hit and it's set to pass the 10 million admission mark this coming Thursday which will put its gross at about US$68 million (not bad for a flick that cost US$15 million to make). It'll be the fourth Korean movie to sell this many tickets, (SILMIDO, TAE GUK GI and KING AND CLOWN are the others) but what's mind-blowing about this is that THE HOST will have done it in only 21 days -  about half the time it took the other movies cross the same benchmark.

But not everyone is happy with so many movie screens (550) playing host to THE HOST. According to a poster over at KoreanFilm.org, THE HOST, unlike KING AND CLOWN, is seen as benefitting at the expense of other movies, and the staff of the production and distribution companies are having to be careful not to appear too celebratory over their success. It also appears that this may prompt industry talks to set up guidelines that will limit the number of prints in distribution of one title or establish an "arthouse" circuit that can counterprogram.

But the good news is that Bong Joon-Ho now has a free pass to make any movie he wants to make, for the rest of his life. And if they're anything like BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE or MEMORIES OF MURDER then that's something to look forward to.

August 16, 2006 at 01:01 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

SHAH RUKH KHAN: KING OF THE WORLD (except for his security guards. who shoot each other.)

Shahrukhkhan_1 If you want to read the post with the most number of comments on this blog, then hop on over to this 53 word entry entitled "Shah Rukh Khan and Rani in NYC" and read the endless string of personal messages, complete with email addresses, poetry and astrology, addressed to SRK. Why so many comments? Because Shah Rukh Khan is the reigning King of Bollywood. His new movie, KANK (aka KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA) is the latest  mega-romance from Karan Johar and it's a bit like CLOSER with two different couples experimenting with infidelity. It's been invited to the Toronto Film Festival with SRK and co-stars in attendance, so if you want to see what real celebrity madness is then I advise you to head on over.

KANK broke box office records based on its prebooking but it may not be able to keep the fires burning in India. Reviews have been harsh (like this one which sums up Shah Rukh's performance thusly, "Shah Rukh hams supreme...each facial twitch exaggerated to painful proportions. From heavy breathing to simpering, breathless sobs to caricatured anger, KANK provides a virtual gallery of Khan at his most over-the-top...") and there's even been talk that the movie is too expensive to make back money, and that some exhibitors are trying to renegotiate the terms under which they booked the flick because of its bad word of mouth. But overseas it's going gangbusters - the New York Times called it "suprisingly engaging" and it's made $3.5 million in the overseas market in just 3 days, $1.35 mill of that in North America alone, breaking previous box office records. And look at this trailer! I haven't seen framed pictures and glassware smashed like this since...well, since the last movie about marriage.

KANK isn't the only mega-project that Shah Rukh has on his plate. He's also involved in the remake of funkalicious 70's gangster film, DON, which will come out this November. The original DON was a joyous chunk of 70's cheddar and based on this teaser it looks like the new DON will be a splendiferous celebration of late 90's corn. Although the MATRIX-style fashions have got me down, shots of SRK spitting fire and sloshing his face with champagne get me back up again.

The original DON was played by Amitabh Bachchan and he was a man who could kill another man over the style of his shoes. In SRK's house, it takes less than that to get killed. Yesterday, one of his security guards shot and killed another security guard who made fun of him. Yatendra Singh Chauhan had only been on duty for two weeks when Sandeep Vijaysingh started making fun of him for sitting in a chair. The two were posted at a side entrance to SRK's bungalow and so they had plenty of free time and to Vijaysingh free time meant making fun of the new guy. What followed was inevitable:

"Vijaysingh poked fun at Chauhan, saying he earned a salary of Rs 15,000 per month for just sitting in a chair. He also said he doubted whether the revolver Chauhan was carrying could actually be used. In a fit of rage, Chauhan placed his .32 bore revolver on Vijaysingh’s chest and fired a shot, killing him on the spot," says the deputy commisioner of police.

Police say security around Shah Rukh has been increased following this incident, which doesn't really sound like the best solution to me.

August 16, 2006 at 12:59 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

August 15, 2006

CAN YOU RESIST LEEKSPIN?

Leekspin Whatever this is...

Wherever it's from...

However it got here...

...it will hypnotize you.

August 15, 2006 at 10:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

SPIELBERG + ZHANG = INTERNET RUMOR

Zhangspierlberg Let's see how far this most slender of internet rumors can go. Will it be picked up by Entertainment Weekly? Will it be reproduced far and wide?

Producer Zhang Weiping says that Spielberg and Zhang have discussed shooting JOURNEY TO THE WEST together but that they'll have to wait until after their 2008 Olympic commitments in order to do so.

"Shooting JOURNEY TO THE WEST is just a plan," he says. "Everything has yet to be decided. We have been longing for a chance for them to co-direct a blockbuster. And Spielberg has shown his interest and intention to do so."

Let the cross-posting begin.

August 15, 2006 at 10:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

SECOND PLACE IS FIRST PLACE FOR LOSERS

Gubra Hong Kong's Golden Bauhinia Awards were distributed on their tenth anniversary and the list of winners looks like a journey into the land that time forgot, with the categories full of movies from 2005 that I had forgotten were even released (like CRAZY N THE CITY). I'm so used to China living in the future that I forgot they also had a past. So here's the winners, a veritable trip down memory lane:

Best Film: ELECTION
Best Director: Peter Chan, PERHAPS LOVE
Best Actor: Simon Yam, ELECTION
Best Actress: Zhou Xun, PERHAPS LOVE
Best Supporting Actor: Anthony Wong, INITIAL D
Best Supporting Actress, Teresa Mo, 2 YOUNG
Best Screenplay: CRAZY N THE CITY and ELECTION

Best New Actor: Isabella Leong, ISABELLA

And my favorite category:
Best Idea for a Film: RE-CYCLE

And it's not just Hong Kong handing out the awards. This past weekend also saw viewers trying to choose between watching the Golden Bauhinia Awards and the 19th Malaysian Film Festival Ceremony. With only a fistful of real contenders to choose from, the jury went with Yasmin Ahmad's GUBRA (the follow-up to her other award-winner, SEPET) which won "Best Film", "Best Screenplay" and "Best Actress". Shuhaimi Baba won "Best Director" for his horror flick PONTIANAK HARUM SUNDAL MALAM 2, as well as "Best Art Direction" and "Best Theme Song". Director Afdlin Shauki won "Best Supporting Actor" for his role in his own movie BULI BALIK. 

(Thanks to MonkeyPeaches)

August 15, 2006 at 10:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL(S)

Akikoyada_1Celebrities. It's hard to be them. Sometimes people act like you're the devil, and sometimes you are the devil, but that's usually just because you're misunderstood. Like poor Taiwanese rapper Jeff Huang. In 2003 there was legislation to limit the fees performers could be paid for legally downloaded music and Huang, never one to back down from an opportunity to spit rhymes, named the 43 legislators supporting the bill in a song, claiming they were being "bribed by the website owners" and that they should watch out and might die unexpectedly. Stunned that Huang was organized enough to kill 43 legislators, the Taiwanese legislature swung into action and three years later, Huang is being indicted for the threats. Former party leader Chiu Yi-ying wants to make Huang apologize and says she'll drop the suit if he does. Huang says he's not apologizing and Huang fans are supporting their hero Naomi-Campbell-style by calling Chiu's office and verbally abusing her staff.

"She is complaining about the truth, and I will not compromise when it comes to that," Huang says.

Which is exactly how Aflac Japan feels about Japanese star, Akiko Yada. A spokesmodel for insurance giant Aflac for the last 4 years, Yada has kept her image so clean that it squeaks. That is until she was spotted on a Hawaiian vacation with Manabu Oshio a notorious bad boy who spits at the paparazzi. Aflac dropped her from the campaign like a hot potato and a producer for the commercials refused to compromise about the truth when he said, "When the women's magazine took photos of her pouring suntan lotion over the back of guy whose body was covered in tattoos she looked like nothing more than a typical yakuza whore."

Perhaps he should have attended the Hong Kong Sex Workers' Film Festival so he could have a reference point. Featuring movies by and about sex workers from all over the world, it opened August 10 and the organizers are already complaining that it's underfunded. There's a simple solution to that problem right there in the title of their festival, and I bet when they realize it they're going to be kicking themselves.

This would be a better way to make money than the eight recently-raided Malaysian DVD pressing plants which were making pirated discs at the same time that they made officially licensed DVDs and VCDs of the exact same movies. How they thought they wouldn't get caught is a puzzlement, but it was fun while it lasted. Then the MPA swung into action and arrests were made.

But let's not forget that there is also goodness in the world. Gwyneth Paltrow's "I am African" ads. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Imaginary Suri stopping to lift a burning car off six homeless orphans and their pet baby seal. And Zhang Ziyi making soup. Apparently the much-loathed Chinese star is such a swell gal that she made soup for the art and cinematography departments on THE BANQUET and spooned it into their mouths herself while they desperately assembled her mile-long silk gowns with bloody, shredded fingers for three dollars an hour.

But what if you really are the devil? Is there any hope? The short answer is: no. Akuma was just a normal kid born in 1993, like millions of others, but his parents named him "Akuma" which means "devil" in Japanese. The Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau challenged the name and it became a national obsession for a while until poor Akuma was allowed to be named Akuma after all and the fame clock hit the fifteen minute mark. Akuma Update: his dad lost his business in 1994, and in 96 he got divorced from Akuma's mother and was subsequently convicted on drug charges and went to prison. Akuma was sent to a Boys Home. Dad's out of prison now, but says Akuma's too expensive and is keeping him in the home. But he's a good soccer player and as a relative says, "He spends his summer holidays with relatives and always goes back to the Boys Home with a really good tan."

See, Suri Cruise-Holmes. Just because you bear the name of the devil, it doesn't mean things are going to turn out badly for you. You can always get a really good tan.

(Thanks to Jennifer for all the hope, and to Suri Cruise-Holmes for proving that being imaginary doesn't mean that you can't inspire everyone)

August 15, 2006 at 10:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2006

CHINA: THEY LIVE IN THE FUTURE

Kellychentoilet China. So large. So many different patterns. And...They Live In the Future! You think banning liquids on airplanes is a new security regulation? China has been doing it for years, because they like plane passengers to be slightly dehydrated when they fly because that makes them lighter and less expensive to transport.

But that doesn't mean that China doesn't like all liquids. Chinese celebrities like to brag in public about washing their privates with water. Like Kelly Chen who is spokesmodel for a new kind of ToTo toilet which is part toilet, part bidet. As the giant billboard says: "Have you started washing already? She's started washing..."

Soon, children in China will have more time to wash just like Kelly Chen because China has banned foreign cartoons from primetime. Between 5pm and 8pm kids can only watch Chinese cartoons on TV, which kind of stinks since foreign cartoons are popular and domestic cartoons can't seem to get an audience. Oh well, that'll all change now since the kiddies don't have a choice in what to watch -- which might make them angry. And if they get really angry they can head on over to...

...the Rising Sun Anger Release Bar. Located in Nanjing, this bar encourages customers to scream, break glasses, verbally abuse the staff, and beat designated employees. Sometimes the employees will even dress up like someone you really hate - like the folks at SARFT who won't let you watch foreign cartoons during primetime. But if you're still angry you can be counseled by psychology students. Who can also be beaten for a fee. Why does this bar exist? Because the owner, Mr. Wu Gong, learned about the anger in China firsthand when he was an immigrant worker. He says most of his customers are women. Why is this? Because...

China Lives in the Future.

(Thanks to Danwei, Matt and Steve for this broadcast from tomorrow)

August 14, 2006 at 11:53 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

REVIEW MCNUGGETS

Mcnugget_reviews_1 Little tidbit reviews trickle out of Asia today the way Kelly Chen has water trickle on her...never mind. Wisekwai weighs in briefly on MERCURY MAN, the much-anticipated Thai superhero movie. His verdict, not great, but not bad.

Then a sharp-eyed reader in Hong Kong weighs in on THE HOST (it has "...many very clever, off-beat moments..." but the ending isn't so great and keeps it from becoming "...a real cult masterpiece.") and DOG BITE DOG ("...DOGBITE DOG and SHA PO LANG are the same kind of movie, but DOG BITE DOG's story make more sense, DOG BITE DOG also has more emotion impact..." however it has some problems that may keep it from wider appeal.)

August 14, 2006 at 11:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

DASEPO NAUGHTY GIRLS GOES TO BERLIN

Dasepogirls_1 The new movie from E-J Young is DASEPO NAUGHTY GIRLS, a live action adaptation of a popular webcomic about a school full of perverts where even the youngest kids are into S&M, and it opened over the weekend. (You can download a trailer here, featuring Sir Mix-a-Lot's "I Like Big Butts") The movie features Bollywood-style song and dance numbers and it's apparently more sophisticated than audiences expected. In a discussion over on KoreanFilm.org it becomes clear that marketing DNG to a teen audience has resulted in something close to a disaster as it earns huge negative word of mouth online (with kids calling it "the worst movie ever made") despite largely positive reviews.

No matter. Berlin has invited DASEPO to this year's festival and it's going to attend. It's a little early, but someone leaked the news and now everyone in Korea knows that the movie will most likely make its international premiere in Berlin 2007.

August 14, 2006 at 11:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

THE HOST MOVES?

Over on the official Cineclick Asia website there's a write-up about their monster movie, THE HOST, which continues to suck up all the money in Korea. In their write-up they say that THE HOST will be released in the US in Spring, 2007. This is very different from the original news that it would hit American screens later this year, but since it's making its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival (in September) and some people have said that this is Magnolia's chance to see how an audience reacts to give them ideas about marketing, then a Spring release makes far more sense than a Winter release.

August 14, 2006 at 11:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

August 11, 2006

BATTLE OF THE ANIMATED MOVIES - JAPAN!

Last week in Japan, two animated big budget features went toe-to-toe: Fuji TV's BRAVE STORY and Studio Ghibli's TALES FROM EARTHSEA directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro Miyazaki. The movies opened to okay business but who was the winner? Which charming, childhood fantasy pummeled the other into a pile of shattered teeth and bloodied bones? Which adorable animated film made the other its jailhouse punk? Who was ZOMG PWND?!?

Neither.

Japan's animated movie that has the most buzz and is doing the best business is THE LITTLE GIRL WHO CONQUERED TIME, which got a limited release on July 15 and is now expanding. It's directed by Hoosda, who was the original director of HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE before he was fired and replaced by Miyazaki. Now the blogs are buzzing that this is his revenge on Ghibli since THE LITTLE GIRL WHO CONQUERED TIME is getting great buzz and the nepotism-fest that is TALES FROM EARTHSEA is getting trashed. Japan's Eiga Seikatsu website that collected user reviews and assigns them a collective rating is putting EARTHSEA at 46.38 and BRAVE STORY at 51.66. LITTLE GIRL comes in at 89.69.

Not bad for an animated film that's a remake of the 1983 live action Kadokawa movie by the same name (which is screening at the Japan Society in November).

(Thanks to HogaCentral for the story)

August 11, 2006 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

SHAW BROTHERS REGION 1 DVD DETAILS

K_shawbrotherscoversThe people in my head were very excited by the news last year that Image would be releasing super-fancy, remastered Shaw Brothers DVDs in the US in 2006. They said they were shooting for an April 2006 release date but that's long since come and gone with no DVDs. But now they're set to roll, and the line-up is looking good.

First up:

BLACK MAGIC - September 12 (disc details in the link)
SUPER INFRAMAN - October 3 (disc details in the link)
THE WATER MARGIN - October 17 (disc details in the link)
THE MAGIC BLADE - November 11 (disc details in the link)
THE BOXER'S OMEN - November 21 (disc details in the link)
INTIMATE CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN - December 5 (disc details in the link)

There are lots of special features on these discs (trailers, and so on) and they're retailing for only $19.99. Image takes great care with their releases and so you can expect pristine sound and video. And, these will also present the mono soundtracks which are the original tracks from the movies, so there will be none of the audio futzing that affects so many of the Celestial Shaw Brothers discs.

While I'm not a huge fan of the covers (that's one for SUPER INFRAMAN right there) they did the best they could considering that (holy cow!) they had to have Celestial approve the cover art on every single DVD.

You can read more on this thread on the Mobius Home Video Forum.

August 11, 2006 at 11:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

THE WEEK IN REVIEW - GOOD OR EVIL?

So how was this week? Good? Or evil?

ON THE EDGE from Herman Yau may actually be good.

K_week_good The new Karan Johar film is going to Toronto.

Fortissimo is distributing HULA GIRLS which looks like it's not their normal artsy fare.

There are action figures for DOG BITE DOG.

There are set photos and stills from PROTEGE, EXILED and CONFESSION OF PAIN.

KILL ZONE (ugh) is getting a great special edition release DVD from the Weinsteins (yay).

And it looks like those Image Shaw Brothers DVDs are going to hit stores this fall.

So the rating is...Good.

Take it, Sanrio Darth Vader!

August 11, 2006 at 11:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

PETER CHAN NOT REMAKING SHAW BROTHERS FILM

Previously, several people (including me) reported that Peter Chan (PERHAPS LOVE, COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY) was remaking the Shaw Brothers movie THE BLOOD BROTHERS. It was supposed to be loosely based on Chang Cheh's classic Shaw Brothers movie and it was going to be called TZE MA or THE ASSASSINATION OF MA.

Now Variety is reporting (in the last sentence of this article) that this movie will not be a remake of BLOOD BROTHERS in any way shape or form. These movies will have nothing to do with each other. However, TZE MA looks like it will definitely be Peter Chan's next project after he finishes producing Derek Yee's PROTEGE.

August 11, 2006 at 11:54 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 10, 2006

BOLLYWOOD GOES TO TORONTO

K_kank_1KANK is going to the Toronto International Film Festival. The latest Bollywood flick from Karan  Johar, KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA, will have already been released all over the world by the time the festival starts but Toronto is bending its rules to accomodate this prestige flick which stars Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee - who will all be present at the screening, ensuring sell-out crowds and near-riot conditions.

Johar is best known for his other two blockbusters, KABHI KUSHIE, KABHIE GHAM and KUCH KUCK HOTA HAI - better known as K3G and K2H2. This is the first Bollywood film to screen at Toronto in 31 years leaving us to wonder: what happens when Karan Johar makes a movie that doesn't have a catchy acronym?

(Thanks to Al for sending this in)

August 10, 2006 at 10:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

THE PROTECTOR MOVES ITS DATE

The movie that The Weinstein Company calls THE PROTECTOR but that you and I know as TOM YUM GOONG is moving its release date. Previously slated for August 25, it's now packing its bags and shuffling over to September 8. This puts it even closer to Rogue Pictures' September 22 release of Jet Li's FEARLESS.

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

August 10, 2006 at 10:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

CONFESSION OF PAIN PICS

K_confession_of_pain_1 The Tony Leung/Takeshi Kaneshiro cop film, CONFESSION OF PAIN, has some good looking set photos hit the internet this morning. Check out those studs rocking that beige, pleather jacket in Central. You can see more photos over here, including pics of Tony looking all casual and relaxed with Takeshi, like they're in some kind of fabulous wristwatch ad together.

(Thanks to MonkeyPeaches)

August 10, 2006 at 10:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 09, 2006

FORTISSIMO PICKS UP HULA GIRLS

K_hulawebArthouse sales agent extraordinaire, Fortissimo Films, has picked up the world rights to HULA GIRLS. This is the new film from, surprisingly, Lee Sang-Il (SCRAP HEAVEN). Shot in Japan, produced by Cine Qua Non, and starring Yasuko Matsuyuki and Etsushi Toyokawa (IT'S ONLY TALK) it's based on the true story of a rundown coal mining village in 1965 that decides to build a Hawaiian Village tourist attraction in order to save its stagnant economy. No one knows how to hula, however, and so a dance instructor from Tokyo is brought in to teach the girls how to hula.

K_hulaweb2Set at the height of the Hawaiian/Polynesian craze that swept the world in the 60's and gave us Trade Vic's and Don Ho, this is a feel-good film from Fortissimo, a company better known for its arthouse flicks like LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE and 2046. But they must be doing something right because the flick just got invited to Toronto to make its world premiere.

Also, if anyone was wondering what happened to Kore-eda's HANA - it's making its international premiere at Toronto, too.

(And check out those HULA GIRL stills. I can hear the ukelele.)

August 9, 2006 at 10:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

GI JOE? MEET DOG BITE DOG

K_dogbitedog_figuresAccording to a sharp-eyed reader, DOG BITE DOG advertising is blanketing Hong Kong. There are some gorgeous posters out there that we haven't seen yet, including this one, and giant billboards like this one. But the absolutely coolest thing I've seen are these DOG BITE DOG action figures. Little Sam sent these in and they're made by HOW2WORK. While the Sam Lee figure looks like he's getting eaten by his jacket, the Edison Chen figure looks eerily accurate. Almost as if they shrunk Edison down and made him stand very, very still...

(All photos courtesy of Little Sam)

August 9, 2006 at 10:12 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 08, 2006

THROUGH THE MOEBIUS STRIP

K_moebiusThe clunky-looking Mainland Chinese computer animated film, THROUGH THE MOEBIUS STRIP, looks  like a giant plate of runny scrambled eggs but that doesn't mean no one wants to watch it. The film opened this past weekend in China and did about 2 million yuan at the box office. This ain't bad (about US$125,500) and certainly it's not the flop that it was accidentally reported as when the numbers from one Shanghai cinema were picked up as the numbers for its total gross across China. But right now CRAZY STONE and DRAGON TIGER GATE are still picking up steam, and the DVD of THROUGH THE MOEBIUS STRIP is going to be released soon to scoop the pirates so the film probably won't even come close to making back its 130 million yuan budget in China. The producers are hoping it'll make money on the international market but that's pretty unlikely. MOEBIUS STRIP has made the rounds of the markets and festivals and no one's biting, probably because it's ugly as sin.

Nevertheless, at least it got finished. I had doubts this one would ever see the light of day.

(Thanks to Monkeypeaches)

August 8, 2006 at 10:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

ROMERO AND SUZUKI: TOGETHER AGAIN

It's spreading across the internet like mold: George Romero's next picture will be an adaptation of Koji Suzuki's SOLITARY ISLE. Suzuki is the author of THE RING and DARK WATER and SOLITARY ISLE (KOTO) is about a guy who goes on an expedition to a haunted island. He's also personally haunted by memories of a young girl he did wrong in the past. It's part of the anthology that includes DARK WATER.

Kadokawa and Hyde Pictures (which has a first-look deal at Fox) will produce and share the burden 50/50. The budget will probably be under US$25 million.

August 8, 2006 at 10:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 07, 2006

SILK IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS

K_silkThe official website for SILK, the Taiwanese horror movie, is open for business. On the site is a poor quality copy of the promo reel that screened at Cannes in the market and you can view the whole site in English or Chinese.

I've never been quite sure why big movies love having official websites that are hard to navigate and full of a million useless bells and whistles, but if you dig around on the SILK site long enough you can find trailers and good looking artwork.

SILK is set to play Pusan and the Tokyo International Film Festival, and there's an interesting note in a Chinese-language movie magazine. SILK (and THE HOST, for that matter) both had negative comments made about their special effects when they were at Cannes. A big deal was made about the fact that THE HOST hadn't had time to finish its effects, and the same is true about SILK which is only now putting the final polish on its CGI. The lesson? Don't take your film to Cannes until it's 100% ready.

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

August 7, 2006 at 10:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2006

MORE EXILED STILLS

Media Asia is celebrating Johnnie To's EXILED going to the Venice Film Festival by posting more stills from the movie on their website as well as a synopsis which reads:

K_exiled2_1"The time is 1998. The setting is Macau. Every living soul jumps at every chance to make quick money before the Portuguese colony ushers in a new era under the Chinese rule. For the jaded hit men, they wonder where this journey will end. Against this background of fin-de-siècle malaise come two hit men from Hong Kong sent to take out a renegade member trying to turn over a new leaf with his wife and newborn baby. They soon find themselves in the throes of a dilemma when two of their former associates also show up, intent on thwarting them at every cost."

They also talked to Josie Ho, who appears in the movie, and she says: "This is my first time working with director To. He's not as frightening as I expected!"

You can check out more of the stills here.

August 6, 2006 at 03:25 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

COFFEE WITHOUT BORDERS

Sip your morning coffee and ponder this: if Jackie Chan has his way you could be buying your cup of joe at Jackie Chan's Java Coffee before too long. With a gang of Filipino investors, Jackie's opening a coffee shop in Manila that he wants to grow into a chain of coffee shops.

"Coffee is also a language in itself. When you watch my movies, you think of Jackie Chan. When you drink coffee, I hope you will also think Jackie Chan."

I already do that, but I think I know what he means.

Then he flew off to Paris to start shooting RUSH HOUR 3.

August 6, 2006 at 03:18 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 04, 2006

NO DONNIE IN SPL 2

A sharp-eyed reader (I love these guys) has sent in a translated article from Apple Daily saying that while there have been rumors that Donnie Yen will star in SHA PO LANG 2 (or is that KILLZONE 2?) directed by Wilson Yip, none of these facts are, in fact, true.

There will be a sequel to the joint-locking, cartilage-crunching SHA PO LANG but it won't star Donnie and it won't be directed by Wilson Yip. It'll star Simon Yam, Sammo Hung, and Wu Jing. This makes more sense, if you've seen the movie.

Donnie Yen will star in the new Wilson Yip movie with Louis Koo, but it won't be SHA PO LANG 2.

August 4, 2006 at 01:07 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (14)

PROTEGE NEWS

Protege_web There's some more info about Derek Yee and Peter Chan's US$4.6 million drug film, PROTEGE, in this Screendaily article. It's mostly about the production companies involved and how this represents the first film for Artforce, a new production company that Yee and Chan have started. But the most interesting thing in there is that the cast includes: Andy Lau, as a druglord; Daniel Wu, as his protege; Louis Koo, as a junkie; and Anita Yuen.

Anita Yuen!?! There was a time in the mid-late 90's when she could do no wrong, raking in the cash Miriam Yeung style as she bounced from comedy to romance. But suddenly she seemed to disappear at the height of her fame, vanishing into the land of television. This is the first big film with her in a big role since 1998's underrated TIL DEATH DO US PART, although she has popped up here and there since in minor movies (like in - ugh - KUNG FU GIRLS in 2003; and LOVE TRILOGY in 2004).

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

August 4, 2006 at 11:58 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

KILLZONE DVD FINAL SPECIAL FEATURES

There's been a lot of backing and forthing over the special features on the Weinstein Company's SHA PO LANG DVD, KILLZONE. First there were special features, then they seemed to be getting pulled back. Now, Brian White, formerly of Hong Kong Legends, and currently the head of post production at TWC and the gentleman who actually puts these DVDs together, has gotten in touch and given us the lowdown on what's definitely going to be on the KILLZONE disc and why these changes have been made. I'm turning the rest of this post over to Brian:

16:9 Anamorphic version enhanced for widescreen TVs (With no alterations or cuts)
Dual Language Format (Cantonese with re-mastered English Subtitles and English Dubbed)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio tracks (Cantonese & English)
DTS Audio track (Cantonese)
A feature-length audio commentary with Hong Kong Cinema Expert, Bey Logan

Born to be Bad: an exclusive featurette with incomparable martial arts legend, Sammo Hung
First amongst Equals: an exclusive featurette with legendary leading man and action-director, Donnie Yen
Echoes of Darkness: an exclusive featurette with prolific co-star, Simon Yam
A Dragon Rising: an exclusive featurette with explosive lead-villain, Jacky Wu
A Man Apart: an exclusive featurette with visionary director, Wilson Yip
Anatomy of a scene featurette: Alleycats (With optional commentary by action director, Donnie Yen, and Bey Logan)
Anatomy of a scene featurette: Challenge of the Masters (With optional commentary by action director, Donnie Yen, and Bey Logan)
Kill Zone: A 'making of' documentary
Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer
US Promotional Trailer
4 x Hong Kong TV Spots
Fully animated interactive menus

I would also like to pick up on a few concerns that your readers may have concerning the specification change:

1. Audio Commentary: We are naturally disappointed that Donnie's schedule did not allow him to engage in the recording of the feature-commentary, but he has been incredibly supportive of this project and has provided one hour of audio commentary for the two 'Anatomy of a Scene' featurettes, as well as a great 'to camera' interview, which is the backbone of the 40 minute 'First Amongst Equals' featurette.

2. Never Before Seen Footage: Far from being cancelled, the "Never Before Seen Footage" content has now been dramatically expanded. Each of the featurettes on the DVD showcases a significant amount of previously unseen 'behind-the-scenes footage', including rehearsal footage for a Donnie Yen fight sequence that was cut from the final print of the movie. The two 'Anatomy of a Scene' featurettes are composed entirely of Grade A behind-the-scenes footage:
Alleycats features Donnie Yen fighting Jacky Wu in the alleyway sequence and Challenge of the Masters showcases his climactic battle with Sammo Hung. If you want to get an insight into just how amazing and talented these guys really are, you need to check this out!

3. Breaking News / Hong Kong Press Conference footage: I had to make a decision to pull this off the disc to make room for all the new exclusive behind-the-scenes footage we recently uncovered. I am convinced the fans will find the replacement content much more compelling, as a good proportion is action-based, and gives a fascinating insight into how the fight sequences were created for this movie.

4. Martial Arts Demonstration By Jacky Wu: This has not been cancelled; the footage has been incorporated into Jacky's A Dragon rising featurette instead.

5. Anatomy Of A Scene Featurettes:  both featurettes definitively include an optional commentary by Bey Logan and Donnie Yen in the finalized specification.

Here's the finalized cover art for the disc as well.

Killzone_web

August 4, 2006 at 10:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

MORE FROM JOHNNIE TO

Yau Na-hoi, the long-time writer for Milkyway, is making his directorial debut with EYE IN THE SKY, a surveillance flick starring Tony Leung Kar-fai and Simon Yam, produced by Johnnie To. A trailer surfaced a while back, but disappeared. Now it's back, and although it's more of a teaser it does have some slick imagery and a very Michael Mann circa HEAT feel to it.

Also, the plot synopsis is up and looks bone simple: Simon Yam and crew are tracking down a thief (Tony Leung). But that's actually encouraging. It looks like a barebones playground for Yau to strut his stuff and based on the visuals in the teaser, his stuff might be pretty fine indeed.

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

August 4, 2006 at 10:19 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 03, 2006

TSUI HARK WRAPS IRON TRIANGLE

A sharp-eyed reader writes in to let us know that Tsui Hark has wrapped his section of IRON TRIANGLE and is sitting around twiddling his thumbs and waiting for Ringo Lam to start shooting his piece. The bad news is that it looks like the international title will be JIGSAW rather than the catchier IRON TRIANGLE.

This piece in The Hindu makes a couple of interesting points:

- the plot is described as being about "...a women fearful of her husband's violent tendencies."

- the actors don't know what's going on. Kelly Lin says, "
Lam [Ka-tung] should be a police officer, I'm guessing," and Lam says the actors are having to riddle out the story and their characters from minimal information.

- Tsui Hark wears velcro shoes.

August 3, 2006 at 02:35 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 02, 2006

THE DVD RUN DOWN

A bunch of discs are hitting store shelves over the next few months, and we ain't just talking about KILL ZONE.

Tartan is releasing the Thai horror movie GHOST OF MAE NAK on October 10, as well as the stylish Korean psycho flick RED SHOES on October 24. RED SHOES is a good looking movie that suffers from an unoriginal story, but it has some great scenes of horrific demises as well as a good eye for turning normal architecture into freakish paranoia-tecture. GHOST OF MAE NAK is pretty negligible but it does feature one of the most insane, realistic and amazing death scenes I've ever had the misfortune to witness in a movie in quite some time. I got the feeling that a special effects house came up with this graphic demise and then the production company built the whole movie around it.

More excitingly, on September 26, Mondo Macabro will release the BOLLYWOOD HORROR COLLECTION - VOLUME 1, a two-disc set featuring two classic flicks from the kings of Bollywood terror, the Ramsay Brothers. There's PURANA MANDIR (1984) which was the Ramsay's first big hit and the movie that made horror a staple of 80's Indian cinema and BANDH DARWAZA (1990) the final splutter of greatness as the terror trend died out, beaten to death by the very family who created it.

The Ramsay Brothers were masters of cheese and vendors of corn, and their movies look like relics from a lost planet where the uncomfortable transitional period between the 70's and the 80's never died. But their movies are some of the hardest-to-find Bollywood flicks for folks like me who need English subtitles, so these releases are of major importance for hardcore fans. Here's what Omar has to say about the two movies over on The HotSpot:

PURANA MANDIR:  "Looking back it seems a tad bewildering as to why the film became such a rage becoming the first Bollywood film to have sequels and spin-offs and indeed it was the film that spawned Bollywood's first home grown monster in the form of Saamri...Purana Mandir has all the trademark ingredients of a typical Ramsay horror potboiler…the flesh exposure, the cheap double entendres, the floating mists, the blue and red tinted lighting, the overwrought performances, the hairy monster, the old dark house…yet it remains one of their few moments of glory...The films real stars are the fine, energetic camerawork, the background score and not least of all, the wonderful Ajay Agarwal who tackles the role of Saamri monster with such admirable relish - and is far and away the most frightening of Bollywood's largely laughable screen monsters."

BANDH DARWAZA: "Though the story isn't exactly original this film is one of the Ramsay's most effective efforts due to a number of reasons. Firstly and perhaps most importantly they have discovered in actor Ajay Agarwal a most amazing horror discovery...it doesn't veer off the track into tedious stretches of comedy and though Jagdeep is in the cast, his antics are kept to a bare minimum. Likewise there are "only" four songs which is way below the average for a regular Bollywood production...Bandh Darwaza is an unsung classic from the vaults of Ramsay's horror which comtain mostly the most tedious drivel imaginable. This film is the Ramsay's in top form; it moves along at a rollicking pace, the characterization is reasonably good, and the acting bearable for horror genre with old timers Aruna Irani, Raza Murad and Vijayendra turning in strong performances...one of the strongest and most effective horror films to emerge from Bollywood in many a year."

The set will retail for $24.95, which is a bargain for six hours of fun plus musical numbers.

BOLLYWOOD HORROR COLLECTION - VOLUME 1

 

August 2, 2006 at 01:47 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

YAU & TO SHARE A CAST

This year's Venice Film Festival will feature the premiere of Johnnie To's EXILED, a spiritual successor to THE MISSION and a film that sports an exceptionally fine cast led by Francis Ng, Anthony Wong and Nick Cheung who seems newly revitalized over the past year.

Thanks to Alex who just sent in the poster for the new Herman Yau (UNTOLD STORY, EBOLA SYNDROME) movie, ON THE EDGE, which sports a cast led by Francis Ng, Anthony Wong and Nick Cheung. Check out that autumnal palette and look at Nick! He's looking tough and uncompromising while sporting a massive pair of aviator shades. Now that's acting.

ON THE EDGE

August 2, 2006 at 12:30 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

CHARLIE YEUNG GOES HOLLYWOOD

Charlie Yeung Hong Kong newspapers (and Monkeypeaches) are reporting that the Pang Brothers have announced the cast of their Hollywood BANGKOK DANGEROUS remake. Nic Cage will play the hitman and Charlie Yeung will play his love interest. I'm not a big fan of BANGKOK DANGEROUS in the first place, but it was an accomplished movie that put the Pangs on the map no matter what I think and this remake already has "dodgy" written all over it.

The original was about a deaf-mute hitman working in Bangkok (which is dangerous) and falling for a local gal. In the remake, Nic Cage will play a hitman who travels to Bangkok (still dangerous) to pull off a couple of hits and while there he falls in love with a local gal played by Charlie Yeung, who will be a deaf-mute. In case you're worried that Charlie Yeung looks about as Thai as I do, don't sweat it. She's learning traditional Thai dance and sign language in order to bring realness.

There's still some debate over whether the movie is going to be called TIME TO KILL or BANGKOK DANGEROUS, but since TIME TO KILL is already the name of a movie with Sandra Bullock in it (isn't she sort of the Western equivalent of Charlie Yeung?) my guess is that it'll still be named BANGKOK DANGEROUS and that the soundtrack will feature "One Night in Bangkok" over the end credits.

Shooting is supposed to begin this month.

August 2, 2006 at 11:19 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

August 01, 2006

HKIFF SUMMER POPS

Yesterday there was a cryptic mention that the Hong Kong International Film Festival was doing fine while other fests were facing tough times. What I forgot to put in that post was that the HKIFF is holding a Summer Pops series that's showing new films from around the world that will be old news by the time their regular festival dates roll around in the Spring of 2007. What's on?

DEATH NOTE
MEMORIES OF MATSUKO
THE HOST
CRAZY STONE
ART OF THE DEVIL 2
LINDA LINDA LINDA
DORM
and more...

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

August 1, 2006 at 01:37 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

IS THAT HAPPY FOR YOU?

AzumiThree years later, Ryuhei Kitamura's AZUMI has hit American shores and the director himself is interviewed by Ed Douglas over on ComingSoon.net. He's a straight shooter and here he is talking about taking on GODZILLA: FINAL WARS:

"So I met producer Mr. Tomiyama, he's been making Godzilla movies for the last 15 years, and I told him that I loved Godzilla back in the '70s, but after the '80s, I didn't like it and I don't go and watch anymore. "Only Godzilla freaks [went to see them], so I have to be very honest with you, because I don't want to get into trouble after I start making the movie with you. I don't like the Godzilla movies for the last 15 years. I think there's something missing because back in the '70s, Godzilla had more power, more crazy things." Godzilla had lots of fun in it, very stupid things and funny things. Recently, they lost that kind of spirit. That's what I told him, so why do you want me to do it? And this producer said, "I want something new for the last Godzilla. I know that I've been making mistakes." So I said, "Okay, if you ask me to do it, I will do the upgrade version of '70s Godzilla, that's what I'm going to do. Is that happy for you?" and he said yes."

And he did.

Read more here.

August 1, 2006 at 11:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

Host_boxoffice_web

They're making all kinds of money over there in Asia this past weekend. In Korea, THE HOST opened up and broke pretty much every box office record in the industry. Budgeted at only US$11 million it earned US$17.2 million on its opening weekend (take that, SUPERMAN RETURNS!), and looks like it's going to set the standards for massive Korea flicks from here on out (it beat the one-day ticket sales record previously held by TAE GUK GI, surpassing it by 200,000 tickets).

(And if you're in New Zealand, don't miss THE HOST which is currently touring the country as part of the New Zealand Film Festivals. Its remaining screening times are:
Wellington / Thursday  03-Aug-06 / 10:45 PM / EMBASSY
Dunedin Sunday 13-Aug-06 / 8:30 PM  / REGENT
Christchurch / Friday 18-Aug-06 / 3:30 PM / RIALTO            
Christchurch/  Sunday 20-Aug-06 / 8:15 PM / RIALTO)

DRAGON TIGER GATE earned mostly negative reviews in Hong Kong (action = great; everything else = not so great; read free verse poetry reviews of DTG) but it earned HK$5.4 million (about US$692,308) and picked up about US$3 million across Asia. And it's doing well enough that Donnie Yen is talking about a DTG sequel for next summer.

In Japan, the big battling movies were TALES OF EARTHSEA from Studio Ghibli and BRAVE STORY from Fuji TV, both animated fantasy pics aimed at kids. EARTHSEA opened to US$7.2 million, which made it number one for the weekend (beating out PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN 2's second weekend in theaters where it made only US$6 million). I don't have figures for BRAVE STORY yet, but according to Mark Schilling it's the better of the two movies. He says that EARTHSEA is "...
like a tribute band playing a new number 'in the style' of some departed great -- and delivering everything but the greatness." while BRAVE STORY is "...fast-paced, visually arresting, narratively twisty entertainment...".

Poor Goro. He's making a lot of money, but is it really all about the money?

August 1, 2006 at 09:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 31, 2006

NEW SILK TRAILER

Su Chao-pin's SILK There's another trailer up online for Su Chao-pin's SILK, the horror movie from the writer of Taiwan's hit horror flick DOUBLE VISION.

Ignore the horrifying Mr. Movie Mouth voiceover and soak up the trippy visuals instead.

Although SILK was largely ignored at Cannes this year, don't forget that, as the sharp-eyed reader who sent in the trailer link pointed out, so did ELECTION and DOUBLE VISION (and CITY OF VIOLENCE for that matter). All is not lost. There could still be a good movie in there somewhere.

July 31, 2006 at 01:49 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

WHY DID THE DEPARTED DEPART TORONTO?

Hollywood Elsewhere is reporting that Warner Brothers chose to turn down an invite to screen THE DEPARTED at the Toronto International Film Festival. With an October release date and Scorsese's name attached it would look like going to Toronto would be a no-brainer but for some reason the flick won't go to our neighbors to the north. Is the studio worried? Do they think their product is no good? Or are they planning a different marketing strategy, one that doesn't involve industry buzz, festival acclaim and good word of mouth?

Watching the lard-fisted trailer (did someone randomly drop in those music tracks after it was cut?), this INFERNAL AFFAIRS remake looks like a decent action/cop movie but no patch on the original.

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

July 31, 2006 at 12:23 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (15)

YUBARI DIES, LOCARNO IN TROUBLE, HKIFF THRIVING

It's been a lousy couple of years for film festivals with budget cuts, administrative setbacks and a host of tiny monsters making life miserable. Tokyo's Fantastic Film Festival died a dog's death recently and now Yubari is gone and Locarno ain't feeling too good.

The Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival has been running since 1990, showing great heaps of horror and sci fi from Japan and elsewhere and while it was a b-list festival it was definitely much loved and a real destination for a lot of people. But the local government is basically bankrupt and so they had to make new priorities and a fantastic film festival wasn't one of them. They provided well over half the money for the fest each year and without it... well, goodbye, Yubari.

Now Marco Solari, the president of the Locarno International Film Festival, is getting down in the dumps about his festival's future:

"For the first time I have real budgetary worries...I pose the question to everyone, to the politicians, business and culture: Do you want this festival? It is not a question that they should give us a present. The prerequisites for a good festival which can hold its own internationally are there. But this festival must be financed."

There are a million little things going wrong at Locarno this year: a hotel they relied on has been turned into luxury condos, they have to house guests in a nearby town, operating costs are up, too many people accepted invites to this year's festival, Swatch withdrew as a sponsor and they are facing their 60th anniversary Jubilee celebration next year. The festival cost US$7.9 million this year and without financing it will have to cut back and restructure next year, which Solari fears will take it out of the running as a major European festival.

Locarno festival

July 31, 2006 at 11:37 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

VENICE FILM FEST UPDATES

Veniceupdate1_web A sharp-eyed reader sends in a few Venice Film Festival updates today:

- EXILED is not finished. Johnnie To's latest film was selected for Venice based on one hour of footage he submitted to the selection committee. Media Asia says he's still hard at work wrapping post production on the film up.

- Jackie Chan will be one of the award presenters in Venice. Sadly, the baby from ROB-B-HOOD will not attend the festival, citing previous engagements.

Veniceupdate2_web - Michi, over on HogaCentral, provides some more details about Otomo's live action MUSHISHI. Apparently it's already been shot (three months of shooting starting in August 2005) and is in postproduction. There was no fanfare around the shoot, but it's gaining attention after being selected for Venice, and is scheduled to be released in Spring 2007. The writer of the original manga has seen the film and says, "It struck me with a fresh surprise to see this new world, in which Director Otomo depicts the people of this fictitious profession."

- the English title of Tsai Ming-liang's movie is I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE. It's his Mozart-inspired entry in New Crowned Hope, the Mozart festival Vienna is hosting in 2006 that's being created by Peter Sellars. Also part of Venice and of New Crowned Hope is Apichatpong Weerasethakul's new film SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY. Both movies are repped by Fortissimo.

July 31, 2006 at 09:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

UDON WRAPS AND GETS RELEASE DATE

That was fast. Michi at HogaCentral reports that the Fuji TV food comedy, UDON, wrapped on July 27 and will be released in Japan on August 26, 2006.

July 31, 2006 at 09:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

HOW SPECIAL IS KILL ZONE?

Wilson Yip's SHA PO LANG aka KILL ZONEWhen the Weinstein Company announced that their first Dragon Dynasty disc would be SHA PO LANG there was good news and bad news. The bad news was that it had been retitled KILL ZONE and sported some incredibly korny kung fu kover art. But the good news was that it was going to be a two-disc set which would include a veritable treasure trove of special features including:

- Commentary with Donnie Yen and Hong Kong Expert Bey Logan
- Born to be Bad: Interview with Martial Arts Legend Sammo Hung
- First Amongst Equals: Featurette with Star and Action Director Donnie Yen
- Echoes of Darkness: Interview with co-star Simon Yam
- A Dragon Rising: Interview with SPL villain Jackie Wu
- A Man Apart: Interview with Director Wilson Yip
- Never Seen Before Footage
- SPL Making Of Documentary
- Breaking News: Footage from Hong Kong Press Conference for launch of SPL
- Trailer Gallery
- Master in Motion: Martial Arts demonstration by Wu Shu impressario Jacki Wu

Despite calling Wu Jing an "impresario" that's a pretty impressive list. But now Screaming Mimi has sent in an email she received from HKflix and here it is:

Valued Customers-
Thanks for your pre-order of the new "SPL" ("Killzone") DVD at HKFlix.com! We are writing to inform you of some changes that have been made to this DVD since you made your purchase. We were notified of these changes today by the manufacturer:

1. The main audio commentary track may or may not include Donnie Yen.
But it will still feature Bey Logan as previously advertised.

2. The "Never Seen Before Footage" feature has been cancelled.

3. The "Breaking News: Footage from Hong Kong Press Conference" feature has been cancelled.

4. The "Martial Arts Demonstration By Jackie Wu" feature has been cancelled.

5. The following two new "Anatomy Of A Scene" Featurettes have been
added:
a) "Alleycats" (With optional commentary by action director, Donnie Yen, and Bey Logan)
b) "Challenge of the Masters"

Both featurettes are supposed to have optional audio commentary by Donnie Yen AND Bey Logan, but this is subject to change.

The artwork will also be changed, and will be updated on our site within the next few days. All the other features previously advertised are still correct."

I'm sure everyone is breathing a sigh of relief that they're still getting the Bey Logan commentary.

July 31, 2006 at 08:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)

July 28, 2006

DON VS. DON

Amitabh Bachchan's 1978 DON

The next big Shah Rukh Khan movie will be DON, a remake of the funkalicious 1978 Amitabh Bachchan movie, DON. If you haven't seen the original DON please do yourself a favor and go out and buy a copy post haste. There's an easy-to-find all-region, English-subtitled DVD and while the middle hour gets a little baggy and saggy (too many tightrope walkers) the opening hour and the finale are all wall-to-wall shag carpets, liquid eyeliner deployed by the gallon, and a gangster so cruel he kills a man because he hates his shoes. And the credits sequence is, quite possibly, the biggest slab of waka-waka 70's joycore this side of DISCO DANCER. So who has the cooler poster? The Shah Rukh Khan DON? Or the Amitabh Bachchan DON?

(And go check out a million other poster designs for the 1978 DON over on the Hot Spot)

Shah Rukh Khan's DON remake

July 28, 2006 at 04:15 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (72)

MANI RATNAM'S NEXT MOVIE

If you don't know who Mani Ratnam is then you've been slacking. Bollywood's most political director he's made amazing musicals about the communal riots, suicide bombers, political kidnappings, and the Tamil Tigers. I can't tell you how many Westerners have gotten into Bollywood because they saw his exquisite, take-no-prisoners, scorched earth musical DIL SE, about a guy who falls (kinda obsessively) in love with a female suicide bomber.

His next film is GURU, set for a November 2006 release. Starring Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, with music by the inimitable A.R. Rahman and lyrics by Gulzar (the lyrics king). It's been shooting in Turkey and is now settled back in India and no one is quite sure what the story is. They're pretty sure there's some 1960's component to it, but people are saying it's either a look at the entire life of a young couple, or that Abhishek plays a soldier in the 1857 Mutiny, or that it's the life story of textile baron Dhirubhai Ambani. See, confusion reigns. But have faith in Mani. If anyone can deliver, it's him.

July 28, 2006 at 01:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 27, 2006

MUSHISHI CASTING NEWS

A sharp-eyed reader just sent in an update on a story that appeared here a while back. Japan's legendary animator, Katsuhiro Otomo was slated to direct a live action feature version of MUSHISHI a metaphysical horror anime about a guy in turn-of-the-century Japan who can see anti-human, invisible organisms called Mushishi. Not much has been heard since, but now the cast is being announced and so far we've got Jo Odagiri in the lead role, with Esumi Makiko (PISTOL OPERA) and Yu Aoi (HANA & ALICE, MEMORIES OF MATSUKO) also starring.

July 27, 2006 at 02:04 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

SIR RUN RUN SHAW IN HOSPITAL

Sir Run Run Shaw Sir Run Run Shaw - the big cheese of the Shaw Brothers - is in the hospital.

The papers say he's doing fine and will get better.

Sources close to the family say that that's not the case and that things don't look good.

July 27, 2006 at 12:38 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

24 STARLETTE IN MY SASSY GIRL?

Elisha Cuthbert, the Canadian who plays Kim Bauer on 24 and who co-starred with Paris Hilton in HOUSE OF WAX, is in "final talks" to take the Jeon Ji-Hyun role in the remake of MY SASSY GIRL. The movie's logline appears in Variety as:

"Cuthbert would play a reckless, brazen girl who turns the life of a small-town guy from the Midwest upside down. Production is scheduled to start Oct. 16 in Gotham."

Oy vey. MY SASSY GIRL seemed to be such a product of Korean movies and culture, and such a delicate mix of melodrama and knockabout comedy, that I have a hard time imagining the things that made it work translating to this remake, but you never know. I promise not to judge it until at least November.

July 27, 2006 at 11:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

VENICE ANNOUNCES LINE-UP

Venice's Golden Lion It's in Italian, and I don't speak Italian, but here's the Asian line-up of this year's Venice Film Festival and the whole festival is a doozy:

In Competition
PAPRIKA - Satoishi Kon's new animated film
MUSHISHI - this is weird. Here's Katsuhiro Otomo's live action movie that only just announced its cast. Is it further along than we've been informed?
EXILED - directed by Johnnie To.
HEI YANQUAN - Tsai Ming-liang's latest movie
SANG SATTAWAT - the latest from Apichatopong Weerasethakul.

Out of Competition
THE BANQUET - we all know what this is. Zhang Ziyi. Yuen Wo-ping.
TALES OF EARTHSEA - the Studio Ghibli film.

Out of Competition Midnight
ROB B HOOD - Jackie Chan's latest is in Venice. Apparently the confusion was over whether it was going to be the opening film or not. Not whether it was going to be there at all.
SAKEBI - a new movie from Kiyoshi Kurosawa starring Koji Yakusho and Jo Odagiri.
JAKPAE - a new flick from action ace Ryu Seung-Wan.

Horizons
KOOROGI - a new Shinji Aoyama flick.
TAIYANG YU - a film from Ho Yu-hang
MABEI SHANG DE FATING -  Liu Je's new flick
OPERA JAWA - from Indonesia's Garin Nugroho. I don't think it's an opera about jawas. Star Wars fans: stand down.

Horizons Documentary
DONG - Jia Zhangke doing a documentary?

TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN - Mamoru Oshi's FAST FOOD GRIFTERS

And Park Chan-Wook's on the jury. Anyone wanna send me to Venice?

Also, anyone who knows more about these titles, feel free to chime in. It looks like Gu Changwei didn't finish his movie in time to be included, unfortunately.

(Thanks to everyone who sent in info)

July 27, 2006 at 10:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (12)

JUNG DOO-HONG IN NYC

Jung Doo-Hong Hong Kong has Yuen Wo-ping. Thailand has Panna Ritthikrai. And Korea has Jung Doo-Hong, who founded the Seoul Action School and has provided the action choreography for the best of the best movies. He appeared onscreen with Ryu Seung-Wan in CITY OF VIOLENCE and now he's coming to NYC to make LJ Films' first English-language movie, COMEBACK. LJ says that Korea's level of production now outstrips the Korean market and that the US B-movie market may actually be more lucrative than the entire Korean market put together. So they've set up an office in the US and are putting up around $3 million to shoot COMEBACK.

Jason Yee will star, and the movie sees him play a cop who's going after gangs in Chinatown and who gets framed for something or other and has to go to Korea to beat some people up and clear his name. I go to Chinatown a lot and the only crime I see is spitting in public and overpriced souvenirs being fobbed off on tourists, but then again it's quite possible I missed something.

It's set for completion in 2007 and the first draft of the script has been finished. I wonder if the Weinstein Company will be involved? They seem to have a taste for Asian action movies and a love of bargains so this could be right up their alley.

July 27, 2006 at 10:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 26, 2006

THE NAME GAME CONTINUES

Roger Horta sends in this photographic evidence that SPL will continue to change names the way I change my socks, which I do only when traveling to a foreign country. In Spain, the SHA PO LANG DVD bears the name DUELO DE DRAGONES which in English, surprisingly, does not mean "Where is the place to wait for the bus?" but "Dragons Duel".

DUELO DE DRAGONES aka SHA PO LANG

July 26, 2006 at 01:18 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

THE UNSTOPPABLE MARCH OF TIME

Kim Ki-Duk's TIME

What Korean movie has been sold to more countries than Bong Joon-Ho's THE HOST? Kim Ki-Duk's TIME, of course. At Cannes it sold to 15 territories, and then after appearing at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival it sold to 9 more for a total of 24 territories, which is more than Bong's film. Of course, THE HOST has been sold to North America and TIME hasn't, which seems to be par for the course now as Kim's SAMARITAN GIRL and THE BOW didn't sell to North America either.

Now TIME is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival which means it'll sell to even more territories. Not bad for a flick that cost $1 million to make and which, to my knowledge, doesn't even have a Korean release date in its future.

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

July 26, 2006 at 10:41 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

JACKIE DRUNK IN 3-D

Jonathan Lee and Drunk Jackie Chan

Poor Jackie. If blogs like this one would only leave him alone his drunken grandstanding at Jonathan Lee's concert would quickly fade into obscurity and he could get on with his life. Unfortunately, people like me keep doing things like posting links to an English-subtitled video of Chan's entire "I'm so drunk" song and dance cycle. I like to justify my actions by saying that I'm doing it for Jones.

(But I'm not the only one at fault. Blame Al. He sent the link. He started it.)

July 26, 2006 at 08:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

THE HOST IN TORONTO

The Toronto International Film Festival has just announced its Midnight Madness line-up which is heavy on the horror and light on the Asia. But the crown jewel is the North American premiere of Bong Joon-Ho's THE HOST. It's a year in Toronto that's easy on the Asia so this easily qualifies as the best Asian film at Toronto 2006.

July 26, 2006 at 07:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2006

IRON TRIANGLE PICS

IRON TRIANGLE Tsui Hark's been hard at work shooting IRON TRIANGLE and photos from the set are starting to pop up online. Simon Yam, Sun Honglei and Louis Koo look wet and dirty. Simon Yam tells a bad joke, Sun Honglei tries to find him a chair, Louis Koo says "I don't know this guy."

You can read more about filming over on Louis Koo's blog. Between taking care of some drama with his Singapore fan club (and going "to Singapore for propaganda"), staying out of the heat (no sun bathing!) and resolving some "technical problems about acting" he's been in a food stall with Simon Yam shooting IRON TRIANGLE.

(Check Monkeypeaches for more stills)

July 25, 2006 at 01:14 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

MORE KUROSAWA REMAKES

In all the angst over the whole "Weinstein brothers remake SEVEN SAMURAI with Donnie Yen and Zhang Ziyi" story, which jumped off the internet and into real life, another Akira Kurosawa remake slipped under the fence. Kadokawa is planning a SANJURO remake starring BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN's Yuji Oda in the Toshiro Mifune role. The cast of SANJURO is currently learning how to hack and slash and shooting is expected to start in September for a 2007 release. Morita Yoshimitsu (THE MAMIYA BROTHERS) will direct.

And Kadokawa also has the remake rights for YOJIMBO.

(Thanks to Ryuganji)

July 25, 2006 at 12:06 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

WHO'S MAKING MONEY?

TOHO - the Japanese studio has 10 films in 2006 that have broken the 1 billion yen barrier (about US$8.5 million) which is the "blockbuster" mark for a Japanese film. These include MEMORIES OF MATSUKO, UMIZARU 2, DORAEMON, CRAYON SHINCHAN, STORMY NIGHT, SUITE DREAMS (aka HOTEL ECSTASY), TRICK 2, STAR REFORMERS, and CHEKERATCHO.

THE HOST - advance tickets were on sale for the July 27th opening of Bong Joon-Ho's monster movie, THE HOST, and they sold out in 30 minutes. That's all the advance tickets. On about 100 screens. Totally gone in 30 minutes.

METROSEXUAL - the Thai comedy from Yongyoot Thongkongtoon of IRON LADIES opened to a decent 5 million baht (about US$131,000) on its opening day last Thursday. Distributor GTH has its fingers crossed that it'll make back its US$1.2 million budget theatrically since they need a hit right now after their Laotian soccer movie, LUCKY LOSERS, was protested by the Laotian government and they now need to either scrap it or remake it. You can read a review of METROSEXUAL here.

JAPAN SINKS - the remake of the 1970's disaster movie, THE SINKING OF JAPAN, opened to almost 1 billion yen on its first weekend (actually 981 million yen) and it looks set to hit the 8-10 billion yen mark during its run. This is despite some pretty lackluster reviews.

July 25, 2006 at 10:09 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 24, 2006

THE SEVEN SWORDS OF KFC

KFC uses 'Seven Swords' in Chinese promos

The delicious seven herbs and spices in the Colonel's secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken are loved by everyone, around the world, without exception. But now, some Chinese people who are concerned about their "culture" and their "traditions" are kicking up a stink! How dare they! But before the Colonel puts the royal smackdown on these dissidents, let's hear their side of the story.

In the interests of serving China some real food rather than the ridiculous diet of "rice", "vegetables" and "meat that is not chicken", KFC introduced the delectable cumin seed BBQ chicken burger. And to do so, they used a "Seven Swords of Mt. Tian" based on the character designs from Tsui Hark's recent not-so-hit movie, SEVEN SWORDS. Using the catchphrase "When the Master comes down the mountain, something important must be happening under the heavens," KFC portrayed an ascetic, vegetarian, Taoist monk who feeds the cumin seed BBQ chicken burger to some swordsmen, one of whom is also a vegetarian. KFC also has an online game based around the same theme, declaring, "The seven swords are ready to come down Tianshan to stop the chaos.  While the six swords are ready to go, the youngest swordsman did not want to go.  What will make him come down the mountain?" I bet it's a delicious cumin seed BBQ chicken burger!

The ad caused a mini-outcry in China. Even the Chinese Taoist Association doesn't like the ad (declaring it "rubbish") and KFC has adopted a wall of silence, responding to all queries with, "Cumin seed BBQ chicken burger was a limited period promotional item.  The promotion period is over, including the relevant television advertisements.  Thank you for your attention."

All I can say is: why don't we all just simmer down and enjoy a yummy cumin seed BBQ chicken burger?

(Thanks to EastSouthWestNorth)

July 24, 2006 at 04:58 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

VENICE UPDATE

The Venice line-up slowly emerges, like an elephant approaching us across a foggy marsh.

Taiwan's DO OVER by Cheng Yu-chieh has been invited to Critic's Week (I don't know anything except it's described as "an ensemble drama"). Gu Changwei's film is in a rush to get finished in time for Venice. According to his assistant, Gu is racing to finish it in time and he wouldn't be racing if he didn't think he stood a chance.

Jackie Chan's ROB-B-HOOD was invited to screen out of competition. But Jackie turned down the invitation. Apparently he'd rather stay home and play with the new Jones. I miss the old Jones but Jackie has already forgotten about Jones. Jones' Clubhouse, the number one site for Jones news, seems to be closed. Jones has only been missing for a week. He could still come back!

July 24, 2006 at 01:40 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

THE NAME GAME

Wilson Yip's SHA PO LANG aka KILL ZONEIn 2005, Tony Jaa (whose real name is Panom Yeerum) made a movie called TOM YUM GOONG. It's now playing all over the world, but everywhere it goes it seems to get a different name. In the US it's going to be called (Tony Jaa is) THE PROTECTOR. In Europe I've seen it under the name HONOR OF THE DRAGON. And now, in the UK, it's being called WARRIOR KING.

Sort of like the way Wilson Yip's SHA PO LANG was called SPL or SHA PO LANG pretty much everywhere until it arrived in America and at immigration had to change its name to KILL ZONE.

And speaking of Wilson Yip, his DRAGON TIGER GATE is set to open this weekend in Hong Kong, and reviews are already starting to show up online. SHA PO LANG did exceedingly well for a Category III movie and with its big budget, more family friendly rating, and two major stars in the lead (Nic Tse and Shawn Yue) it looks like it might make a big sack of cash at the box office. Hell, it's already in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world's largest punching bag. The sky's the limit now!

July 24, 2006 at 12:28 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (15)

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER FOR KWANZA?

A sharp-eyed reader reports that CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER is showing up with a December 22, 2006 release date over on Box Office Mojo? Is it real? Could Santa be bringing us all a new Zhang Yimou movie for Kwanza this year?

July 24, 2006 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOHNNIE TO OPENS RESTAURANT

Johnnie To's restaurantDo you like red wine? Do you like cigars? Are you someone who finds manly men awash in red wine and sucking on cigars attractive? Then Johnnie To's got a place for you! Hong Kong's number one working director has just opened a restaurant in the little city that never sleeps, specializing in cigars and red wine. And look, there's Lam Suet (and is that Francis Ng?) drinking red wine and probably about to enjoy a cigar. You can see more pictures (including Lau Ching-wan not enjoying red wine) over here.

(Thanks to the sharp-eyed reader who put down his cigar long enough to send this in)

July 24, 2006 at 11:25 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 21, 2006

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY

"They don't like the feel of cold hard steel on their butts," says a Japanese teacher, explaining why many of his students won't use his school's unheated toilet seats. But the greater problem is that "most of these boys simply have no idea how men are supposed to dispose of their bodily wastes," he says, lamenting that too much pampering is raising a generation of men who can't use a urinal, don't flush, and will only "go" on a fancy toilet.

Someone who does like the feel of cold hard steel on his butt is this cab driver, caught on video beating the tar out of a passenger who upchucked in the back of his cab. The passenger retaliates by hugging the cab driver tightly and pulling down his pants.

You'll feel like upchucking when you hear the new plans of Bruce Lee's family to drag a little more cash out of Lee's death. Brother, Robert Lee, says he and his sibs plan to release a book this November and then a movie showing people the "real" Bruce Lee. Stephen Shin will direct and Robert, Peter, Agnes and Phoebe Lee will all participate. Didn't Betty Ting-pei do this already?

Andy Lau squeezes Miriam Yeung's breast The big question is whether the Li'l Lees will squeeze money out of Bruce's corpse as hard as Andy Lau is squeezing Miriam Yeung's right breast in this photo? And how unhappy do Miriam's breasts make Andy? Look at his face - this is a man doing what a man must do. In an attempt to keep Andy happy and comfortable, Joey Yung reveals that she's lost weight recently and is now an A-cup.

Joey's cup-size isn't the only thing lost in Hong Kong, it turns out that Jackie actually did lose Jones, his dog, right before he got drunk and embarrassed himself at Jonathan Lee's concert. Maybe Jones had the good sense to run away in order to avoid having his ears stretched, but I think what really happened is that Jackie got rid of Jones and replaced him with this younger and softer Jones. Damn you, Jackie. Damn you all to hell.

July 21, 2006 at 01:25 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

July 20, 2006

WHO DOESN'T LIKE MARK CHENG?

Mark ChengMark Cheng, a familiar face from 90's Hong Kong movies, is the rugged leading man who was always just a little too weird to become a movie star. Instead he wound up playing a series of colorful and intense bad guys and romantic rivals, culminating in his hilariously cool as ice role in ELECTION 2 as a super-efficient triad enforcer with a running meter in his head.

Now it turns out that he's in THE ROGUE, the new movie from Jet Li. Mark's busy opening his restaurants (called "Flame") in Malaysia but he took some time out to reveal that he was in Canada getting kicked in the face for THE ROGUE and that it'll come out in 2007. This info isn't even in IMDB yet!

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

July 20, 2006 at 07:40 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 19, 2006

GAIJIN ATTACK TEAM!

In the middle of a blah review of the new Japanese disaster remake, THE SINKING OF JAPAN (which gives the film two yawns out of four), there suddenly pops up some offensive fun facts from EVERYONE OTHER THAN JAPAN SINKS, the parody film made by Minoru Kawasaki (CALAMARI WRESTLER and BEETLE, THE HORN KING). Apparently when the foreign leaders all come to Japan they're bummed out and hang around in bars drinking, the big movie stars can't get work and there's something called the GAT (Gaijin Attack Team) that shows them what's what. As the reviewer says:

"It's most likely that foreigners will be outraged at this terrible film. It's amazing that it was even made. But as absurd as the film may be, it's uncanny. It certainly lingered with me longer than its counterpart, "Nihon Chinbotsu."

July 19, 2006 at 11:34 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

VENICE RUMORS A-PLENTY

Everyone's trying to game the Venice Film Festival's line-up and a sharp-eyed reader is translating and sending in the news that's making it into the Chinese language press.

- Ann Hui has submitted her Chow Yun-fat film, THE AUNT'S POSTMODERN LIFE to the selection committee.

- Gu Changwei (PEACOCK) seems to think his latest movie won't be ready in time for submission

- Johnnie To is in a position to submit both EXILED and THE SPARROW (his pickpocket flick) to Venice, but although Screendaily reports that both movies are wrapped, the Chinese press says both are still shooting. This is pretty typical of To: he shoots so many movies at the same time that it's difficult to know if one if done yet or not.

July 19, 2006 at 10:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 18, 2006

DOG BITE DOG'S REAL POSTER

Thank goodness Little Sam likes to take walks around Hong Kong. While trotting around the city a few days ago he chanced upon this alternate - and much better - poster for DOG BITE DOG and snapped a shot of it that he's allowed me to put up online. Thanks, Little Sam. This is one of the best movie posters I've seen in a while.

DOG BITE DOG poster

July 18, 2006 at 11:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

STEPHEN CHOW GETS A DATE

Stephen Chow, who makes movies far too slowly for my taste, has announced that KUNG FU HUSTLE 2 is on hold (thank goodness) while he goes into production on A HOPE, his sci-fi movie. The flick is set to start shooting in August in China's Ningbo and Chow has revealed the plot. He'll play an astronaut who lands on another planet and, with the help of a robot, he develops a father-son relationship with a young alien. This could be horrible, and it certainly gives me the heebie jeebies just hearing about it, but Chow has forged gold out of lesser concepts than this (although you still can't convince me that 60 MILLION DOLLAR MAN was good) so he earns the benefit of my doubt.

July 18, 2006 at 08:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (9)

July 17, 2006

CHINA FOR CHINESE MOVIES

The biggest story about the Chinese film industry story in the recent issue of Variety is the fact that it's a big story. Taking up the cover of the magazine, the article (attributed to "Variety Staff") talks about recent 15-car Hollywood pile-ups on the road to China. Citing the yanking of the DA VINCI CODE at the height of its run, the delay of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: 3 and the fact that it's unknown whether PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2 will hit Chinese screens, the Variety Staff goes on to wonder if China is intentionally trying to undermine Hollywood movies playing in China in order to increase the box office of Chinese film.

Duh.

I think most Chinese film industry watchers feel that China is for Chinese films first and foremost, and that SARFT (State Administration of Film, Television and Radio) is interested in pushing Chinese films before anything else. The article's key paragraph:

"While most individual instances of release difficulties for foreign movies can be attributed to plausible explanations, taken together the list of complaints looks to some like the manifestation of a policy to suppress Hollywood's B.O. in China."

Things have reached the point where the Motion Picture Association - always eager to try anything that'll help crack the Chinese market and that annoying "20 foreign films per year" cap - has commisioned an internal report to examine what's been going on. And while I don't think there's any god-given right to have your movie industry be an open market, China is a member of the WTO and as such they could face a suit regarding "restraint of trade" which could possibly be devastating and force China to either have their markets forced open on someone else's time table, or they would have to withdraw from the WTO.

But, again, there's not a huge story here - I'm sure the MPAA commissions internal studies like most of us have hot dinners. But the fact that Variety is putting this on the cover means that something around this story has probably been changing recently and while there may not be one specific news item to peg the story to, things are heating up. Developments are almost certain.

July 17, 2006 at 01:52 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRON TRIANGLE

There's a name for the much-rumored three-director Hong Kong film coming out later this year: IRON TRIANGLE. Monkeypeaches is reporting the plot of this US$5 million film directed by Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To. With Louis Koo and Simon Yam set to participate, each director will take a 30 minute chunk of the film and try to flummox the guy coming after them.

Tsui Hark will take the beginning, which is about a bunch of guys kvetching about money troubles and getting approached by a mysterious stranger who gives them a treasure map. Ringo Lam will take the middle, and Johnnie To will take the end. They're starting to shoot by the end of July and they'll combine the footage later and it's no accident as to who's taking what part. Apparently each director is working to their acknowledged strength: Hong Kong film biz folks think that Tsui Hark kicks off in style, while Ringo Lam is great at amping up the plot twists and drama and that Johnnie To is always a good finisher.

Sun Honglei (the General in SEVEN SWORDS) and Kelly Lin are also set to star.

July 17, 2006 at 12:36 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

NAKAMURA SHIDO ARRESTED

Nakamura Shido Anyone who saw PING PONG will remember Nakamura Shido, who plays Dragon the bald-headed ping pong technician able to grind opponents into carbon dust with little to no effort. Shido pops up frequently in Japanese film - and he's in the upcoming Jet Li movie, FEARLESS - but he's most famous as a kabuki actor, a trendy young guy whose image brought a gust of hip to what's generally considered a musty artform.

Now he's too hip to handle after being arrested for running a red light and driving under the influence. He also had a pretty young woman in the car with him - despite being married - but he claims that they're "just friends."

Shido has already held his mandatory "I'm so sorry" press conference and things could go either way: depending on what happens next they'll either keep on hounding him, or the cameras will pack up and go home. Whatever happens, he's already been hit in the pocket book, having had to step down from the NHK series, HAGETAKA, which is set to hit the airwaves in September.

July 17, 2006 at 11:29 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

GET BETTER, RICHARD

Imawano Kiyoshiro Japanese hard rocker, Imawano Kiyoshiro, was admitted to the hospital over the weekend with cancer of the larynx.

Kiyoshiro is best known as "Richard" the all-singing, all-dancing black sheep from the House of Windsor in Takashi Miike's HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, and he also appeared last year in Miike's GREAT YOKAI WAR.

His distinctive croak has the ability to peel itself off a soundtrack and attach itself to your ears and once you've heard it you'll never forget it and can spot it within two seconds flat.

Here's hoping he'll be up and singing again in no time.

July 17, 2006 at 10:01 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 14, 2006

FEARLESS RELEASE DATE

It looks like we were wrong yesterday about FEARLESS coming out on August 4. Although the FEARLESS website says that Jet Li's latest flick will be released on 8/4, the film's publicist says it's being released on September 22nd, and there's another official website (an even more official official website) that lists the release as Sept. 22. Which now puts it in the position of coming after The Weinstein Company's release of THE PROTECTOR (aka TOM YUM GOONG).

July 14, 2006 at 03:01 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

DOG BITE DOG NEWS

official DOG BITE DOG poster Good news for folks who wanted to see DOG BITE DOG but were a little worried that the production company, Sameway, might not have the clout to get it into the more popular theaters.

A sharp-eyed reader sends in the link to the official site and it says that Golden Harvest is releasing DOG BITE DOG and if anyone has the clout to get it into the best theaters it's Golden Harvest. They've got distribution muscle to spare.

And look, there's the official DOG BITE DOG poster, too.

July 14, 2006 at 01:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 13, 2006

TONY JAA DON'T NEED CONTRACTIONS

Rogue Pictures has scheduled their now-annual Jet Li release, FEARLESS, for August 4 and they've re-titled it: JET LI'S FEARLESS. Which is either a contraction or a possessive, I'm not sure which.

Now the Weinstein Company is unleashing TOM YUM GOONG in US theaters on August 25th (this is the shortened, international version) which is awful soon to do a big press push, but nicely scheduled to take advantage of any coattails FEARLESS generates. Not to be outdone, it looks like the title/tagline they're working with is TONY JAA IS THE PROTECTOR.

July 13, 2006 at 04:18 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

WISIT SASANATIENG GETS A DATE

It's not much to go on, but Wisit Sasanatieng (TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER, CITIZEN DOG) has so many projects up in the air right now that I'm grabbing onto any solid ground I can find. A while back it was announced that he has a new movie coming from Five Star Entertainment which was a horror flick being written by one of the writers of ART OF THE DEVIL 2. Five Star was rattling the cup for cash in Cannes and now their website has a new clue about the movie:

THE UNSEEABLE: October 2006

Yay.

Wisit Sasanatieng's THE UNSEEABLE

July 13, 2006 at 02:10 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

JACKIE DRUNK: JONES LOST

Drunk Jackie Chan Ming Pao is reporting that Jackie Chan, drunk as a skunk, climbed onto the stage in the middle of a Jonathan Lee concert and demanded that Lee sing a duet with him. Jackie had been a guest performer at the Sunday night show, but no one had told him that this was now the Monday night show. And no one let him know that there actually was a musical director, either, because Chan tried to conduct the band himself leading to a long, painful interval while he stopped and restarted the music several times.

The audience, who were there for Lee (an extremely popular Taiwanese singer/songwriter), passed the time by heckling Jackie who took offense and began to insult them from onstage. Jackie then helpfully explained that he was drunk.

Several local papers have published accounts of the incident, and here's a rough version of what happened in all its cringe-worthy detail.

Jonathan Lee and Drunk Jackie Chan Towards the end of the show, Jackie climbed onstage and graciously informed the audience of his condition. "I rarely show up at this kind of occasion drunk, but tonight I'm really drunk." Then he started things off on the right foot by telling the audience, "Diu lei lo mei," which means, roughly, "F--- your mother." "Oh, damn," he said. "I just swore."

Jackie went on to say that he had just been out drinking with 20 Japanese friends. "What did I say? I can't quite remember. Damn, I'm really drunk...I have to apologize." He bowed to the audience. "I apologize to everybody. I shouldn't be onstage drunk. But I know that if I made a fool of myself you guys will be happy, so I'd rather make a fool of myself."

Things seemed to be back on track - Jackie's drunk but sorry, he knows what people want to see - and he sung two songs. But he still wouldn't get off the stage. He tried to sing a third song. Some audience members began to shout, "Go home," "Shut up," and "Very irritating." Jackie ignored them, but he couldn't take it when Jonathan Lee looked at his watch. "Why are you looking at the watch? I'll pay [for the fines] if the show runs over. Why do you look at your watch all the time?"

The band began to play. Wrong.

"Shut up!" Jackie shouted. "You play music only when I tell you to! Now we sing 'True Heart Hero' [Chun Sum Ying Hung]"

Jackie tried to act like a conductor but the keyboardist started playing.

"How arrogant! I haven't even started to count one, two, three! Where do you come from?"

He began to sing but the audience started booing. Jackie finished the song and apologized again. "We thank Jonathan for coming to MY concert. I've disturbed your show. Thanks to Jonathan for letting me come on to the stage. There was a crazy man out here."

Journalists jumped Jackie on his way out of the venue. "I'm really ashamed of myself," he said. "I'm so sorry." Although the next day, Jackie denied he was drunk the previous night. Tell that to Jonathan Lee, who wound up having to pay HK$40,000 in overtime charges to the venue. Or Jackie's oft-criticized son, Jaycee Fong, who said he was embarrassed. "I hope this will not happen again," Jaycee cringed. And tell that to the Hong Kong Tourism Board who made Jackie their ambassador years ago and spent all of the next few days trying to get in touch with Jackie's management to discuss the incident.

According to some fans, this isn't the first time Jackie has revealed his inner stage-hog. During a Dandelion concert some folks say he also jumped onstage, also apparently under the influence. But there is an explanation. There's word floating around that over last weekend Jackie lost his dog. Oh dear god no. Not Jones.

(Thanks to Jennifer for ringing the "Celebrity Misbehavior" alarm)

July 13, 2006 at 09:36 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)

July 11, 2006

AND THEY CALLED HIM AN ARTFILM DIRECTOR

Ning Hao, director of MONGOLIAN PING PONG, has apparently woken up from his artistic nap for his black comedy, CRAZY STONE. He said he wanted to invent a new style of Chinese comedy and he's succeeded: the movie has been the number one Chinese movie of the first half of 2006, and in its second week it actually increased its business by 100% rather than falling off by 50% as is common.

Most impressively, the movie hasn't been pirated. No copies are available on the streets and none are available for download. Are Chinese pirates getting patriotic? Is it even true?

July 11, 2006 at 01:00 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

THE POWER OF YONSAMA

Korean actor, Bae Young-Jun, (aka Yonsama) is so popular in Japan that middle-aged housewives beat each other to death just to get a whiff of his sweat. But now his popularity becomes...more popular? Korean film, APRIL SNOW, by Hur Jin-Ho and starring Yonsama, made so much money when it was released in Japan that they had to open a second mint. Now, the Director's Cut of APRIL SNOW is set to come out on September 9 and advance tickets have just gone on sale (July 7 was T-day).

The crowds were so large that the ticket sellers just gave up and opened two hours early. The sales were in the 9,000 ticket range. This set the record for largest first day sale for advanced tickets ever for any movie in Japan. Tours were arranged for people who wanted to come in from out of town and buy advanced ticekts. Five housewives were so excited that they set their hair on fire and ran through downtown Osaka screaming, "Yonsama! We greatly respect your acting!" Rumors fly that the moon is carving itself into a giant statue of Yonsama's head.

But the real loser in all of this is a dejected Jay Chandrasekhar who wonders why this kind of hoopla didn't greet the premiere of his Unrated Director's Cut of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD. Sometimes, life just isn't fair.

July 11, 2006 at 11:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

DEMASHITAA! POWERPUFF GIRLS Z!

DEMASHITAA! POWERPUFF GIRLS Z Powerpuff Girls! Taken from American TV and excitingly reverse engineered by shifty Japanese scientists in top anime lab! They were supercute but now...it is kind of sexy. Before: their legs were lumpy psuedopods. After: shapely young woman's legs. This is exciting! This is disturbing! Disturbing and exciting? No! It is DEMASHITAA! POWERPUFF GIRLS Z, the latest incarnation of the Powerpuff Girls...now in 3-D anime and on Japanese TV. Look at this trailer! There is Mojo Jojo...but he looks like real monkey.

Sigh. I love this world.

(Thank you Jennifer Young. You bring the news!)

July 11, 2006 at 10:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 10, 2006

CONFESSION/WOUNDED PLOT REVEALED

The confusingly-titled new movie from the INFERNAL AFFAIRS team, starring Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro, revealed its confusing plot in yesterday's press conference and, less confusingly, they revealed that Shu Qi and Chapman To have joined the cast. Monkeypeaches posted the plot description and I'm going to reprint it here so you can get all the convolutions, but go to good ol' Monkeypeaches for photos and more info on the film:

          "Leung Chiu-Wai plays a senior police officer Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro plays an alcoholic private detective Yau, who was once a cop working under Lau's supervision. Have been maintaining a mentor / protege relationship for many years, Lau and Yau are both involved in the investigation of a murder of an entire family, which is somehow connected to the past of Lau and Yau. Xu Jinglei plays Lau's new wife, who is unwillingly used by her husband for some plot and Shu Qi plays a woman having some unusual relationship with Yau."

July 10, 2006 at 04:50 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

NINTENDO SAYS BUSH IS DUMB - KOIZUMI ROCKS OUT!

Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi does Elvis

Did anyone not see this picture of Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi - he of the five fingered shuffle and the deep love of Elvis - visiting Graceland with President Bush and a couple of Presley spawn? Bush says he took Koizumi to Graceland to thank him for his unwavering support of the US. Koizumi says he went to Graceland to rock out - look at him go!

And, apparently, he even sang a few lines from the King, starting with "Wise men say/Only fools rush in..." a coded message? Subtle commentary on American foreign policy? And did he mean to exclude the rest of the line "But I can't help/Falling in love with you." ? Is Koizumi trying to say that the invasion of Iraq was because Bush is in love with Saddam Hussein and wanted him all for himself? Is the Iraq War really an affair of the heart?

We'll never really know for sure, but one thing we do know is that when Bush turned 60, Nintendo was there with its claws out. Their gift for the President of the United States? A Nintendo DS Lite and a copy of Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. They suggest the President use it on Air Force One to train his brain.

(Thanks to the Mutant Frog Travelogue)

July 10, 2006 at 11:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER COMING TO AMERICA?

Eddie Murphy in Coming to AmericaA sharp-eyed reader sends in this link to Sina.com, China's massive internet portal (like Yahoo! only in Chinese) which carries a quote from the producer of Zhang Yimou's CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. Said producer, Zhang Weiping, says CURSE will be released in the US in December - as if Santa brought it.

Sony Pictures Classic has picked up the rights to the movie and so they seem like the best bet to release the flick in North America although they may license it to some smaller label when the time comes. It'll be interesting to see the treatment it gets after Sony's experience with HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS - will they still do a huge roll-out? Will it be in the New York Film Festival?

Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to seeing Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li on the big screen again. ANNA AND THE KING and MIAMI VICE just aren't enough for me.

July 10, 2006 at 10:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

TOKYO FANTA FEST CLOSES DOORS

Variety is reporting that the Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival (aka Tokyo Fanta) is shutting down. While the festival's director states that this is "temporary" and that the fest is merely "reassessing its purposes and goals" this is the first time this has happened in its 21 year history. Devoted to horror, fantasy and action films the festival offers around 20 features each year as well as shorts.

In today's celebrity and sale driven film festival climate fests like Tokyo Fanta have a limited place. Audiences may love them, directors and production companies may like them a lot, but sponsors stay away. They want red carpets and Naomi Watts with their big logo in the background, not a packed house screening FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT. It's a tough world out there, and I've got sympathy for anyone running a festival like this and having to make some hard decisions.

July 10, 2006 at 10:02 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 07, 2006

CJ GOES ACTION HAPPY

Korean action Following on the lowkey success of CITY OF VIOLENCE (and, possibly, the HD success MY SCARY GIRL) in Korea, CJ Entertainment has announced that they've partnered with Nabi Pictures and the Seoul Action School to produce a series of low budget, HD action pics. Budgeted at about US$1 million each, there will be 5 in production or development by the end of this year and they will all be directed by young directors, including one helmed by Korea's greatest action choreographer (and the star of CITY OF VIOLENCE) Jeong Du-Hong.

Having a low budget, genre-driven side of the industry is something that has served the American film biz and the Japanese film biz exceedingly well. Let's hope Korea can manufacture something from whole cloth that's just as exciting as what Roger Corman did back in the day, or as Japan's V-cinema did in the 90's and their exploitation cinema did in the 60's and 70's.

July 7, 2006 at 01:49 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

MORE HOST NEWS

Bong Joon-Ho had his Korean press screening of THE HOST around the Fourth of July and posts continue to spray out like spittle and hit the internet with a sizzle. You can read some insta-reactions over on Korean Film.org's discussion board and you can read a longer, less specific, sort of vague article about the experience on Scribblings of the Metropolitan.

Some fun facts: 1500 monster designs were rejected before director Bong settled on the current one. And Paul Lazar (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, LORENZO'S OIL) has a small role in the movie.

You'll also see raves tossed around for Bong's first movie, BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE (sometimes called FLANDER'S DOG). I strongly recommend that anyone with any interest in Bong's work check it out. You can read a longer review here or buy a copy here.

July 7, 2006 at 12:58 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

ZHANG ZIYI NOT NAKED AGAIN

Feng Xiaogang's martial arts HAMLET adaptation, THE BANQUET, looks set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival (out of competition) and is one of the most anticipated movies of the year.

Thank god the Chinese press is covering what really matters: the lonely crusade by Zhang's body double to get her name on the film. Shao Xiaoshan says that she was one of three Zhang Ziyi stand-ins and that her job was to do Zhang's nude scenes. She's miffed that she has received no credit in the movie and, further, that her work is going unnoticed. Speaking on her blog:

"I gave my body to the audience. I don't care whether my name is on the credits but I just want to tell the public that I did the nude scenes."

The Chongqing Evening News said that someone from the Huayi Brothers production company called Shao and threatened her after her statement went public and told her she had to tell people she wasn't Zhang's body double. But the chairman of the Huayi Brothers denies the phone call and says that Shao is promoting herself on the back of the movie and how could she know she's not in the credits anyways since the movie hasn't been shown to the public?

The story is developing.

July 7, 2006 at 12:28 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

TIFF SNEAK PEAK

Toronto International Film Festival programming is slipping out all over as different companies announce their participation before the festival makes its official press statement.

The first film to go under the wire as a selection: Takashi Miike's BIG BANG LOVE, JUVENILE A.

Thanks, Shochiku!

July 7, 2006 at 10:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

DOG BITE DOG RELEASE DATE

Soi Cheang's DOG BITE DOG

Soi Cheang's DOG BITE DOG has been given a release date - 8/17/06 - and a rating - Category III - in Hong Kong. It's going to be about 109 minutes long. The cast will include Edison Chen, Sam Lee and Lam Suet.

And look for a Soi Cheang interview on this site early next week.

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

July 7, 2006 at 09:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 06, 2006

IS IT NEWS OR IS IT RUMOR?

News? Rumor? Both? Does it matter anymore? So someone is saying that the SPY HUNTER and HE-MAN projects, which once had John Woo attached, are dead as disco. But then other folks are coming along and saying "Not so!" and that John Woo is merely no longer attached but that doesn't mean the projects are dead, just less marketable.

And check out what happened to that Zhang Ziyi/SEVEN SAMURAI remake tidbit from a while back. It recently popped up in last week's Entertainment Weekly. Either it's true, or this is the internet's reality and we all just live in it.

July 6, 2006 at 01:12 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

LAU CHING-WAN, SIMON YAM, JOHNNIE TO NEWS

Simon Yam Simon Yam was supposedly taking a role in Olivier Assayas' new movie, BOARDING GATE, but he has just turned it down. Assayas had thought he could shoot BG in Hong Kong so Yam could work on two movies at once, but he couldn't find the right kind of river in the HKSAR and so he'll have to shoot elsewhere and Yam said "bye bye" to the project.

What could keep Yam out of Western arthouses? A role in the JIGSAW project, the three-part film directed by Johnnie To, Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark which looks like it's set to roll into production soon.

And he's not the only one eager to work with To. Lau Ching-wan has started coughing up the info about his new Johnnie To movie, which is supposedly his first serious movie with Milkyway in a long time. He says that he'll have some kind of mental illness in the movie, and he'll have a "normal" and a "fat" look in the film, but less like Andy Lau in LOVE ON A DIET and more like Tom Hanks in CASTAWAY.

And, finally, you can head over here to see pics from the ELECTION 2 premiere at Cannes. Look at all them penguin suits!

(Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for the translations and info)

July 6, 2006 at 11:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

MORE CHINESE HORROR

Li Shaohong, who directed the absolutely stunning BAOBER IN LOVE, has just wrapped production on her horror/suspense flick, THE DOOR.

Starring Chen Kun the film was shot in Chongqing, and judging by the poster it's going to be as visually striking as BAOBER.

Li plans to work with a Hong Kong composer on the score, and this is her first feature film in 3 years (since BAOBER, in fact). Based on the web novel, DIVERGENCE, the script was written by Simon Sun, a USC grad, but I can't find much about the plot anywhere.

Li Shaohong's THE DOOR

July 6, 2006 at 08:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER PICTURES

Publicity pics for Zhang Yimou's CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER are hitting the web, and you can see all of these courtesy of MonkeyPeaches. Check out the cast member asleep in the picture in the upper left-hand corner, and I really like the pic immediately below it where Chow Yun-fat is wearing his Big Pimpin' face while Gong Li seems annoyed over having dropped some candy down the front of her dress.

Zhang Yimou's CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER

July 6, 2006 at 08:26 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)

July 05, 2006

STRAIGHT TO DVD NEWS

A sharp-eyed reader sends in this double whammy for SHA PO LANG. Not only does it look like it's going straight to DVD in the US via the Weinstein's Dragon Dynasty label (street date, Sept 12) but it also looks like it's going straight-to-DVD in France as well, courtesy of Pathe's Angel Star Asian DVD line. I think the street date is October. France is probably one of the most important territories for foreign films and since it's going straight-to-DVD there it will probably go straight-to-DVD everywhere.

So, the SHA PO LANG story? Goes to Toronto, everyone gets excited, gets picked up by Weinsteins, gets invited to about a million film festivals, turns down every invitation, and goes straight-to-DVD. That's showbiz!

Also, it looks like Image has picked up the rights to the Pang Brothers' RE-CYCLE, DIARY and FOREST OF DEATH, which means that despite their good box office back in Hong Kong (RE-CYCLE looks to have taken in about HK$4 million over its opening weekend), these flicks will go straight-to-DVD in the US.

SHA PO LANG

July 5, 2006 at 12:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

COREY YUEN BECOMES ANDY SIDARIS

Corey Yuen's latest movie, DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE, has its official site up, complete with a trailer (and more trailers are here) and judging by what I've seen this movie looks bad enough to be good.

- Devon Aoki (daughter of Rocky Aoki, who brought Benihana's to the world) in the cast

- Eric Roberts and Robin Shou in the cast

- five girls with samurai swords (the Asian, the Cowgirl, the ninja, the All-American girl, and the Cameron Diaz)

- a fight on a yacht

- a bra kung fu scene

- scenes set in the Build-Your-Own-Asian-Movie funpak: bamboo forest, ancient temple, wide staircase lined with fluttering banners.

Has Corey Yuen turned into Andy Sidaris? And, more importantly, can he turn back?

July 5, 2006 at 11:50 AM in News, Trailers | Permalink | Comments (3)

TONY LEUNG & TAKESHI KANESHIRO

Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro are starring together in CONFESSION OF PAIN the new film from the INFERNAL AFFAIRS/INITIAL D duo of Alan Mak and Andrew Lau. Set in Hong Kong, the movie has two conflicting plots and three conflicting titles. Media Asia says that Tony Leung and the two directors are working on a movie called BEHIND THE SIN about a guy who helps a friend investigate his father-in-law's death, while Andrew Lau said he was working on a movie called THE WOUNDED CITY with Leung Chiu-wai playing a bad cop working with a drug lord and Takeshi Kaneshiro playing a good cop out to bust him. Monkeypeaches speculates that they are in fact the same movie.

And that there's a poster for CONFESSION OF PAIN, another title for the Leung/Kaneshiro film which, interestingly enough, isn't showing the Hong Kong skyline even though the flick is supposedly set there. Lazy artwork, or a clue?

CONFESSION OF PAIN poster

July 5, 2006 at 10:42 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

BACK IN BUSINESS

I'm back and Kaiju Shakedown is back in business with daily posts about totally irrelevant things that actually don't matter in the great scheme of things but seem awfully important at the time.

July 5, 2006 at 10:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 27, 2006

GONE FISHING

Kaiju Shakedown won't see any more posts from me this week as I'm swamped with wrapping up the New York Asian Film Festival and another project.

However, expect normal daily posting to resume on Monday, July 3. With half the fat, but twice the protein.

June 27, 2006 at 12:54 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

IT'S NEVER EASY IN INDIA

You'd think that the release of Hrithik's family film, KRRISH, where he plays a superhero, would be a feelgood, funtime for audiences across India. Not so, especially for poor tea stall owner, Jagannath, who now has a case of suicide lodged against him. During a showing of KRRISH he climbed up to the balcony and jumped, apparently in an attempt to imitate Hrithik's flying in the movie. Big difference: he's not Hrithik. He couldn't fly. He plunged 30 feet into the stalls. He's currently in stable condition.

Then the right-wing BJP and the Youth Congress are trying to disrupt screenings in Madhya and want to close the movie down. They claim that a gangster, Chhota Shakeel, has threatened the ex-secretary of Priyanka Chopra (the movie's female lead) who says that he's owed 10% of everything she makes in perpetuity. The protesters want Priyanka's alleged underworld ties exposed and they want the secretary to be paid. 100 activists were arrested as they burnt posters of Priyanka outside cinemas.

June 27, 2006 at 11:46 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER PICKED UP

Sony Pictures Classics has picked up the US and Latin American rights to Zhang Yimou's CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER (aka CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOUR). This is no big surprise, but a sharp-eyed reader points to the official press release which is a lot of fun to read if you like corporate hot air.

June 27, 2006 at 11:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (8)

June 23, 2006

WHERE DID SILK GO?

new French poster for ELECTION 2So back around Cannes-time, ELECTION 2 and SILK were picked up by French distributor ARP Selection.

But now a sharp-eyed reader cruising the ARP Selection site points out that not only has SILK been removed from their theatrical release schedule but it's also vanished from their catalogue page. Have they dropped SILK? What happened?

(And check out that new French poster for ELECTION 2)

June 23, 2006 at 10:49 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

SIMON YAM AND KELLY LIN GO TO FRANCE

A sharp-eyed reader just pointed me towards news of Olivier Assayas' trip to Hong Kong to ask Andy Lau to star in his new movie. Andy turned down the French director, probably worried that they might end up married, and then getting divorced, like Assayas' previous Hong Kong muse/wife/collaborator, Maggie Cheung. Simon Yam and Kelly Lin felt no such hesitation however. Both actors have signed on for Assayas' new film, after starring in Johnnie To's THE SPARROW together, and Kelly inspirationally says that she'll give it her best effort. Go, Kelly!

(Source for Chinese readers)

June 23, 2006 at 09:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 21, 2006

NEW FILM FROM JOHNNIE TO

It looks like Johnnie To isn't just Milkyway's director anymore. Meridian Pictures (which was a producer for SEVEN SWORDS) has signed a deal that will see JT direct 3-4 big budget movies for them over the next six years.

First up: BUTTERFLY FLIES.

Starring Li Bing-bing (who was just cast) and Vic Chow, and written by Ivy Ho, the movie is about a girl who has a fight with her boyfriend right before he dies in an accident. She gets depressed, and then she meets his ghost. To will have to come up with a complete shooting script before production begins since the movie needs to be approved by China as it's a Mainland/HK co-production.

(More info for Chinese speakers)

June 21, 2006 at 10:55 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

A CULT IS BORN

FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT Last night's screening of FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT was the start of a new religion. This movie, from the director and stars of THE TASTE OF TEA, which won the New York Asian Film Festival's Audience Award last year, is like getting blasted with the cinematic equivalent of hard radiation that mutates you into a brave new lifeform. It's a strange, weird, funny, oddly touching film but I really wasn't prepared for the reaction.

The sold-out house was laughing, cheering, and they burst into applause after a particularly good dance number in the middle of the movie. Far from being exhausted by its long running time, most of them stayed rooted to their seats all the way through the end credits. And when they came out of the theater their eyes were shining, their hair was aflame and their feet hardly touched the earth.

I stuck my head into the theater for the first few minutes to check out the print and wound up standing in the back on one foot (my other foot has broken toes) for the entire film and I didn't feel the pain until hours later when my movie high wore off.

There's one more screening of FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT on Saturday, June 24 at 8:30pm and you can buy your ticket here for this trip into transdimensional space.

June 21, 2006 at 09:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (16)

June 20, 2006

ANG LEE LUVS TONY LEUNG

Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" movie, based on a work by Eileen Chang the famed Chinese novelist, moves quietly ahead with Lee letting slip that he's approached Tony Leung Chiu-wai to play a role in the movie. However, Little Tony won't confirm until a female lead has been selected and Ang is still rooting around for one.

The movie is set to start shooting in the fall.

June 20, 2006 at 12:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

DODGY CHINESE PIRACY NUMBERS

A new MPA study on piracy has been releasedYet another MPA study on piracy has been released, this one a two year study and I have a lot of questions. The first is, what the heck does this mean:

"The study was conducted over 18 months in 22 countries. It is based on consumer demand as opposed to previous assessments which were calculated by calculating losses based on DVD seizures."

So how do you base a study on consumer demand? The study gives no clues as to its methodology, we just have to take it on faith.

It's interesting that the MPA will continue to fight piracy in China when according to their own study it's nothing compared to other countries. Although piracy accounts for 97% of the Chinese market (based on consumer demand?) China caused only $565 million in losses to MPA members. Let's look at the losses caused by other countries:

US - $2.5 billion
UK - $787 million
France - $604 million
Mexico - $954 million

They do say that China caused $2.1 billion in losses to non-MPA members, but I'm not sure how they get this number. They also go on to show that the most revenues are lost to piracy in Mexico, the UK, France, Russia and Spain, with China coming in sixth.

But, as we all know, these numbers regarding China are completely bogus anyways. Because most MPAA member movies can't be sold in China so they have no loss. China only allows 20 foreign films to be imported each year, and usually 14 - 16 of these are from MPAA members. So what the MPA is talking about in this report isn't "profits lost to pirates in China" but "profits lost to closed markets in China".

My question is, why are news sites reporting these numbers and not looking beyond the press release to what they really say?

June 20, 2006 at 11:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

TOHO KICKS BUTT, TAKES NAMES

Toho was responsible for 9 of the top 10 Japanese films of 2005Toho was responsible for 9 of the top 10 Japanese films of 2005, and this year they're really driving their point home. So far they've made $227 million at the box office, more than every single foreign distributor combined (which comes to a paltry $220 million). Toho has so far released:

UMIZARU 2 - $65 million (and still going)

SUITE DREAMS (aka HOTEL ECSTASY) - $52 million
YAMATO - $43 million
DORAEMON - $27 million
DETECTIVE CONAN - $26 million
STAR REFORMERS - $17 million
CRAYON SHINCHAN - $13 million


And still to come just this summer alone are the latest POKEMON movie, THE SINKING OF JAPAN, the third ONE MISSED CALL film, and Ghibli's TALES FROM EARTHSEA.

Folks are predicting that this year might be the first time since 1985 that Japanese films will hit a 50% market share.

June 20, 2006 at 10:02 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

JET LI + YUEN WO-PING 4 EVAH

Jet Li and Yuen Wo-pingJet Li says he's not doing any more wu shu movies, but Yuen Wo-ping just gives that notion a hearty laugh.

He's in China right now, probably bored out of his skull since he hasn't done any Hollywood work since UNLEASHED, and he's announced that he's going to make a movie called CHANG CHENG (GREAT WALL) which is, not surprisingly, about the Great Wall of China. But, rather than focusing on the 3,948 mile long wall coming to life and fighting other national landmarks like the Colossus of Rhodes, the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty, the movie will instead focus on fighting the Huns. Eventually the Chinese had to stop fighting the nomadic Hun horsemen and just built a big wall to keep them out, but since Yuen Wo-ping is asking Jet Li to play the lead, and since Jet Li is known more for his fighting than for his bricklaying, this flick will probably concern itself more with the "fighting the Hun" parts rather than the "building the wall to keep out the Hun" parts.

Yuen says he's pretty confident that Jet Li will take the role since it's an action movie and not a wu shu movie. Currently he's in Beijing rounding up backers for the film.

CriEnglish boils it all down to the level of a WWE event with the headline:

"Director Yuen Wo-ping: Jet Li will eat his words"!!!!

June 20, 2006 at 09:39 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 19, 2006

MY SASSY GIRL? MY SCARY GIRL

What Korean movie shot on HD beat out ICE AGE 2 and sold $16 million worth of tickets? It's MY SCARY GIRL, a black Korean comedy about a guy who's never dated in his life. He finally musters up the courage to ask an art student out on a date, they fall in love, and it turns out that she may be a murdering psychopath. This and DAESPO NAUGHTY GIRLS (a Bollywood-style musical sex comedy set in a Korean high school and directed by E J-Young, of UNTOLD SCANDAL) are the two movies from Korean I'm most anticipating right now.

June 19, 2006 at 10:28 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

NYAFF WEEKEND REPORT

The New York Asian Film Festival goggle girlsThe New York Asian Film Festival kicked off over the weekend and things have been a little touch and go. Some prints didn't show up for their first screening, causing high levels of stress and agitation (they're here now, thank goodness), the Anthology air conditioning system was broken on Friday night, although it was repaired by showtime on Saturday, and the gorgeous new print of EK HASINA THI we screened on Sunday comes complete with an ad for a canker sore cream called Smyle at the front that looks like something out of a VD scare film from the 1950's. It's worth a special trip to the Anthology just to see it.

The sell-outs this weekend were A BITTERSWEET LIFE, THE GREAT YOKAI WAR (which was enthusiastically received by riff raff and film intellectuals alike) and SHINOBI - with a nearly-sold out crowd for CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL. So far so good. Maybe we'll make our money back this year! The bummer of the weekend was the small house for ART OF THE DEVIL 2. Only about 50 or 60 people showed up but the movie went over so well that we were all dying for it to screen in a sold-out house. The screams and groans and gasps of disbelief in the final 40 minutes were fun, but more people = more fun. This is the kind of movie that gives maximum pleasure in a theater, but will make you feel dirty if you watch it alone at home. The next (and last!) screening of AOTD2 is 8:45 tonight (Monday, June 19) at the Anthology so come on down and see baby alligators hatch out of some poor guy's back.

The press coverage has been great so far with the Village Voice singling out PEACOCK and IT'S ONLY TALK; Manohla Dargis at the New York Times singling out DUELIST and CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL; Time Out New York singling out IT'S ONLY TALK and LINDA, LINDA, LINDA and Indiewire singling out SKI JUMPING PAIRS, LINDA LINDA LINDA and A BITTERSWEET LIFE. And Vincent Musetto at the New York Post, bless him, has singled out OH! MY ZOMBIE MERMAID.

And don't miss HogaCentral's report on the wildly successful ALWAYS screening at the Japan Society.

Plus, even more coverage of the festival with a bunch of smart folks picking their faves and trashing some films while praising others. You can enter the fray at Cinephiliac, the Brooklyn Rail, Filmbrain, and The Reeler.

June 19, 2006 at 09:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 16, 2006

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY!

Prime Minister Koizumi spends meetings talking about blowing up condoms like balloonsWell, not so much fun for the Nagano hotel employee who was killed by a bear while picking wild greens for the hotel's kitchen. But the rest of Japan is in a jovial mood, and no one is more jovial than Prime Minister Koizumi who spends meetings talking about blowing up condoms like balloons, talking about the Russian Prime Minister's wife and how not having sex has made Koizumi a powerful PM, and telling members of the Diet that he likes to spank the monkey on a regular basis.

Perhaps it was in this spirit of fun that one fellow popped by the offices of Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt, asked if Mahesh was in, got told no, went outside and fired a few shots in the air before zipping away on his motorcycle. This could have been an extortion attempt, or it could be a really stupid hitman sending a really poor message after Bhatt's legal clash with a suspected mafia gangboss earlier this year who sued Bhatt over basing his movie GANGSTER on his life. The case wound up being dropped.

And Danwei may have solved the mystery of why THE DA VINCI CODE was yanked from Chinese theaters where it was happily steaming along to being the number one foreign movie of all time. Could it be that it was pulled to make way for the Chinese version of the DA VINCI CODE...THE TANG BOHU CODE???!??!?

June 16, 2006 at 01:57 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 14, 2006

KORE-EDA OPERA IN

Japanese director, Kore-eda, just had his film, AFTER LIFE, remade...as an opera. The one act opera, which incorporates lots of video sequences, had its libretto written by Kore-eda himself and it's premiering at the Holland Festival. The writer is Michael van der Aa.

(Thanks to the Kinema Japan mailing list)

Afterlife_web

June 14, 2006 at 09:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

TWO REMAKES

It's old news at this point, but I think we've all felt that stomach cramp over the news of the BATTLE ROYALE remake. The producing team is Neal Moritz of THE FAST AND FURIOUS franchise and Roy Lee of THE RING. The thing that bugs me is that the original won't be seen (thanks to some fast-talking acquisitions folks back in 2001) but we'll get a remake claiming to be the real thing. This will be the second Asian remake for Neal Moritz after his INITIAL D-lite copy FAST AND FURIOUS 3: TOKYO DRIFT.

And then there's the news that the Pang Brothers' BANGKOK DANGEROUS, the movie that put them on the international map, will be remade by the Pang Brothers with ol' Ghost Rider himself in the lead role, Nic Cage.

At least Neal Moritz and Roy Lee have better source material.

(Thanks to Al and a sharp-eyed reader for these tips)

June 14, 2006 at 09:04 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6)

KOJI YAKUSHO GOES TO INDIA

Koji Yakusho may be in an Indian martial arts called THE 19TH STEPKoji Yakusho may be in an Indian martial arts/Buddhism film called THE 19TH STEP which will showcase the Kerala martial art, Kalaripayuttu. Directed by Bharatbala it will tell the story of a Japanese samurai in the twilight years of the samurai in the 19th century who accidentally kills a monk and, out of penance, retraces the steps of the Buddha and winds up in India learning Kalaripayuttu from Mohanlal (COMPANY). Bharatbala was at Cannes and saw Yakusho in BABEL and claimed that he was going to offer him the role.

(Thanks to Niraj for the tip)

June 14, 2006 at 08:32 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 13, 2006

JOHN WOO COMICS

SEVEN BROTHERSIt's been news for a while that John Woo is somehow involved with Virgin's comic book line that will publish partially in India but what exactly he's going to do hasn't been announced. Now it has.

A teaser for his book, called SEVEN BROTHERS, appeared today in Rich Johnston's column Lying in the Gutters.

All that's known so far is that the bloodthirsty and talented Garth Ennis will be involved as well. Ennis is best known for his comic book, PREACHER.

June 13, 2006 at 10:30 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

FART THE GREEN PLANET

Save the Green PlanetI don't like the f-word. I have never said it in my life, or have tried not to, mostly because I am deeply uncomfortable with my body and its processes. But now a cruel rumor that I had hoped was not true has come to pass and I must accept that this word will not only appear on this blog numerous times, but I may even wind up watching the movie in question. To those gentle souls who are too sensitive for this kind of thing I bid you a fond farewell, my lace hankey wafting in the breeze.

*Sigh*

I am a big fan of Jang Joon-Hwan's SAVE THE GREEN PLANET and even did publicity work on it when it came to the US, courtesy of Koch Lorber. It's an amazing movie and I will always love it, no matter what happens. I had heard rumors that the superhero movie Director Jang was locked in a hotel room re-writing involved the f-word but now a poster in the comments section of this site has not only confirmed this info, but started a blog about Director Jang's new film.

Director Jang's new film called FARTMAN.

In the spirit of Howard Stern, the guy's superpower is super-flatulence.

I...I have to stop typing now.

June 13, 2006 at 10:00 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (7)

PARIS HILTON IS NO MOTHER THERESA

Rajeev Nath considered casting Paris Hilton for the role of Mother TheresaMalayalam director, Rajeev Nath, briefly brought the world to a halt in February when he announced he was considering casting Paris Hilton for the role of Mother Theresa in his biopic of the old gal. But over on NaachGaana they've posted an interview from him in which he backpedals so hard that if you put your tongue on the computer screen you'll receive a mild electric shock.

"One day I saw a photo of a lady in the India Express and found a similarity in her innocent face and that of Mother. I didn't know who she was. I had no idea who Paris Hilton was at the time."

Paris Hilton: the face of innocence. Note the double denial.

"I called a journalist friend and mentioned that she would be ideal as Mother Theresa. Somehow, the news spread."

Mother TheresaFunny how that happens when you call a journalist.

"It reached such a stage that Hilton's secretary called to ask me what it was all about. It is only after I went to America that I realized who she was. I would like to have an Eastern European play the role."

Sometimes a segue is worth a thousand words. He realizes who Paris Hilton is, and in one brief segue he has rejected all American and British actresses as harlots and has handed off the role to a Bulgarian in a vain attempt to escape the Hilton taint.

In other news, the interview also mentions the possible participation of Kamal Hassan (ABHAY) and Mohanlal (COMPANY) and raises the conspiracy theory that a power failure killed Mother T.

June 13, 2006 at 09:31 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 12, 2006

WOMAN ALMOST KILLS SELF OVER BUS UNCLE!!!

a woman has attempted suicide because of Bus UncleWell, that was unexpected. According to the invaluable EastSouthWestNorth, a woman has attempted suicide because of Bus Uncle.

Elaine Lee is the daughter of Shaw Brothers starlette Lin Chen-chi (from Tsui Hark's  DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS - FIRST KIND, Chang Cheh's HEAVEN & HELL and CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD) and Lin Chen-chi owns the restaurant chain, Steak Expert, where Elaine works.

Elaine was mad at her dad for hiring Bus Uncle to work at Steak Expert since several of her friends said they would stop coming. She commented about Bus Uncle, "If I were there, I would have told him to 'shut the f*** up.'" But now he was in Steak Expert.

She told her husband that Bus Uncle must be fired but he didn't understand how it was a bad thing to have BU in the house. So she did the only thing she could do. She locked herself in her room, overdosed, called a fellow Steak Expert employee to tell them what she'd done, and the Fire Department was summoned. They broke down the door and she had her stomach pumped.

At the hospital she reportedly said, "I've got pressure."

Bus Uncle resigned his position, continuing his lifelong string of bad luck.

June 12, 2006 at 02:09 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

TAKASHI MIIKE DIRECTING DAIMAJIN REMAKE?

Takashi Miike to remake Daiei's DAIMAJIN series?This news has been floating around the message boards for a little bit, and I'm not sure how credible it is, but that's never stopped me before. According to this post by Robert St. John and James Ballard, Kadokawa has listed Takashi Miike in its upcoming movies line-up as the director of a remake of Daiei's DAIMAJIN series. It's scheduled for a 2008 release, and sports the catchy description:

“When a girl offers a prayer, a legendary giant deity awakes! From an old tomb is excavated a clay image of a soldier. Who made it, and why? The never before seen secret of the birth of Daimajin will be revealed here!”

No further info is available at this time. Except, of course, for the fact that Daimajin is a 30 foot tall, stone samurai who squishes puny, soft humans beneath his stony foot and he rocks.

June 12, 2006 at 01:25 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NING HAO'S LATEST FILM

Ning Hao gets the Fruit Chan treatment, with superstar Andy Lau supporting his latest movie to the tune of HK$12.5 million. Well, it's slightly different in the sense that Ning Hao's recent film is supported by the "Asian New Director" film project that Andy Lau supports. Not sure how much of that money went directly to his film.

I'm not a big Ning Hao fan, he did MONGOLIAN PING PONG which I didn't really like. However, this movie, THIEF AMONG THIEVES, is a black comedy about a jade jewel in Chongqing and it sounds like it might actually be funny. Currently the movie's distributor is seeking SARFT approval and if they receive it the movie will premiere in Shanghai on June 19.

June 12, 2006 at 12:55 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IT'S ONLY TALK DEBUTS IN JAPAN

IT'S ONLY TALK, the movie that reunites the director and star of VIBRATORIT'S ONLY TALK, the movie that reunites the director and star of VIBRATOR, opened in Japan yesterday and Shinobu Terajima and Etsushi Toyokawa appeared onstage together to make nice noises about the film. When VIBRATOR played in NYC back in 2004 it was called the best movie of the year by both the Village Voice and Time Out New York.

In the US, IT'S ONLY TALK will premiere on June 24 as part of the New York Asian Film Festival.

You can buy tickets to the Saturday, June 24 @ 5:30pm show here or buy tickets to the Wednesday, June 28 @ 8:30pm show here.

June 12, 2006 at 11:50 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

OLD NEWS FROM FORTISSIMO

This news has a little dust on it, but it's still fascinating and informative and so I'm bringing it to you. Fortissimo Films, the art film distributor/sales agent, is not only opening a New York office but they've signed up with Wong Kar-wai.

There're lots of films controlled by WKW's Jet Tone production company and Fortissimo will help him do something with them. Even as I type, WKW is shooting supplemental footage that will be used on special edition DVDs and in retrospectives of his films.

The list of films already being talked about are:

CHUNGKING EXPRESS
FALLEN ANGELS
HAPPY TOGETHER
EAGLE SHOOTING HEROES - by Jeff Lau
A CHINESE ODYSSEY - by Jeff Lau
FIRST LOVE - by Eric Kot
and BUENOS AIRES ZERO DEGREES

Does this mean that the world finally see a good release of ASHES OF TIME?

June 12, 2006 at 10:45 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

KUROSAWA DRINKS SUNTORY

Akira Kurosawa filmed some ads for Suntory Reserve whiskeyDuring the filming of KAGEMUSHA, Akira Kurosawa filmed some ads for Suntory Reserve whiskey and now, thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can watch them. See Kurosawa toast Francis Ford Coppola with a frosty glass of Suntory Reserve. And, in my favorite ads (the last two), see Kurosawa hit the bar with a bunch of empty samurai helmets.

(Thanks to Matt for spreading the Suntory magic)

June 12, 2006 at 10:21 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NICE MEETING

A sharp-eyed reader writes in to let us know that after ELECTION 2 screened in Cannes, Johnie To, Simon Yam and Louis Koo went to Paris to meet up with Alain Delon. And here's a photo of To and Delon to prove it.

To_delon_web_1

June 12, 2006 at 01:56 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 09, 2006

THAT NY ASIAN FILM FEST SURE IS NICE!

The New York Asian Film Festival kicks off next weekThe New York Asian Film Festival kicks off next week (June 16 - July 1) and we've added a truckload of events and special guests (see below). Also, we're giving away free tickets to the opening film, GANGSTER, the Malay action movie that was the big hit of 2005 - and the director will be there to introduce it (see even further below). And on top of all that, advance tickets are now on sale.

This year's ticket price is $9 at the box office and $9 online (plus a $1 service charge per ticket). So even if you buy your tickets online you're paying $10/each which is about 75 cents less than you'd pay in most NYC multiplexes - and it goes for a good cause (see even further than further below).

No one wants to hear us poor-mouth, but I just want to let anyone thinking of attending to know: Subway Cinema is five guys and a handful of very dedicated volunteers. We don't get salaries, we have no money, and we do the festival out of love. Although we have some sponsorship this year it only covers the cost of printing the program books. We need to make back our expenses on ticket sales and, in the past, we've always broken even. If you're thinking of supporting us this year, I encourage you to buy advance tickets. If you like what we do and can't make it to NYC, buy an advance ticket for a show at the Anthology Film Archives and it'll be like a $10 contribution to Subway and the New York Asian Film Festival (and don't worry about filling the theater - we'll resell the seat at showtime if someone wants to buy it and it's still empty). This is the time of year we get nervous (when the $7,000 shipping bills start coming in) and we really appreciate your support.

Now, on to the fun part!

Sunday, June 11 @ 7pm the Subway Cinema crew will close the Brooklyn International Film Festival with a screening of PEACOCK at the Brooklyn Museum. Giveaways! Funny outfits! Puppets! And a movie! (BUY TICKETS)

Wednesday, June 14 @ 7:30pm Subway Cinema and the Japan Society will present a special screening of ALWAYS – SUNSET ON THIRD STREET the Japanese movie that swept Japan’s Academy Awards, winning 13 of 14 categories. The screening will take place at the Japan Society and the movie’s director, Takashi Yamazaki, will introduce the film. (BUY TICKETS)

The New York Asian Film Festival goggle girlsFriday, June 16 @ 6:30pm the New York Asian Film Festival will open with a screening of Malaysia’s box office hit of 2005, GANGSTER. Why on earth did a country that won’t even allow DAREDEVIL  to be screened (because “devil” is in the title) make a grotty, bloody crime flick the number one movie of 2005? You can ask Director Bade Haji Azmi who will introduce the screening. (BUY TICKETS)

Thursday, June 22 @ 6:30pm the NYAFF will host the US premiere of Bollywood’s superhero spectacular, KRRISH, at the ImaginAsian Theater. This film has a huge budget, lavish song and dance numbers, and action choreography by the legendary Hong Kong action director, Ching Siu-tung (HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS). (BUY TICKETS)

Thursday, June 29 @ 8:30pm the NYAFF will host the International Premiere of Japan’s UMIZARU 2: TEST OF TRUST with director Eiichiro Hasumi, and stars Hideaki Ito and Ryuta Sato in attendance. UMIZARU 2 is the number one movie in Japan this year, and is still playing in Japanese theaters, on its way to being one of the top-grossing Japanese movies of all time. (BUY TICKETS)

Friday, June 30 @ 8:00pm we'll be hosting the World Premiere of Ram Gopal Varma's latest film, SHIVA. What more is there to say? Be the first to see his police corruption epic. (BUY TICKETS)

WANT TO WIN TICKETS?
Send an email to pandashine at yahoo.com with the answer to this question: What Malaysian actor plays the three lead roles in GANGSTER? You can find the answer somewhere on the festival website.

ADVANCE TICKETS
Advance ticket sales to both venues (the Anthology Film Archives and the ImaginAsian) will be handled through the ImaginAsian website. Just be sure you know at which venue your screening will be held and start clicking and buying. Last year we sold out over half our shows, and the year before we sold out two-thirds of them. So get tickets while you can!

And check out those funky graphics for the New York Asian Film Festival. Those are t-shirts designed by Steak Mtn. for the festival, and the goggle girl shirt will be on sale for $15 at the fest. Or, if you want to buy one through the mail, email me at grady at subwaycinema.com

June 9, 2006 at 12:32 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

DA VINCI CODE ISN'T NICE ENOUGH FOR CHINA

After a stellar run at the Chinese box office, THE DA VINCI CODE was yanked from screens by SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film and Television). This is the first time a foreign film has been approved by SARFT and then yanked after its release.

The given reason, according to an inside source, is "...in order to protect the market for locally made films and give them more screen time..." but there's speculation that it could have something to do with China trying to patch up its relationship with the Vatican after the recent fights over the appointment of bishops, or it could be that it's doing too well (it's about 24 hours away from being the number 2 foreign movie of all time), or it could be that SARFT wants to clear the decks before the summer blackout period on foreign movies.

June 9, 2006 at 11:44 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

ISN'T ZHAO WEN-ZHOU NICE?

Zhao Wen-zhou

I've always had a soft spot for Zhao Wen-zhou. From THE CHINESE FEAST to THE BLADE to BODY WEAPON he's always brought a quiet, charming intensity to his roles and I've never really understood why he didn't get bigger (possibly because he used to injure people on the set in action scenes at the start of his career).

He's been doing just fine on TV, however, and the Wu Jing fansite has a translation of an article about his new TVB series, TAI CHI, which is a period series that will focus on real tai chi combat, favoring authenticity instead of flashy moves.

There's also some news that Zhao Wen-zhou is in talks with foreign film companies for overseas work on larger productions.

You can read an interview with Zhao and marvel at what a nice guy he is.

June 9, 2006 at 11:20 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NICE ONE, ANTHONY!

Anthony Kaufman has a blog (jeezis! who doesn't, these days?) where he's repeating the rumor about the Weinstein Company's remake of THE SEVEN SAMURAI. In his post he does a nice job of summing up the problem with foreign film in America:

"The Weinsteins' have been on an Asian film buying binge lately, with the creation of their Asian label Dragon Dynasty, buying a large library of Chinese-language genre pictures and the acquisition of Korean actioner The City Of Violence and others. If this is what the Weinsteins mean when they say they have a love for foreign cinema, I have my major doubts, as it's all genre, action, and thrillers fit for the Weinsteins fan-boy audience -- not the adult art-house crowd."

Excellent! Thank you, Anthony. Because if we could just destroy the so-called "adult art-house crowd" maybe foreign film in America would live again. Seriously, I think it's Miramax's arthouse movies, catering to an elitist audience, that have painted foreign films as toxic to anyone looking for entertainment. There's a place for everything, but the 90's saw a rash of Merchant Ivory films followed by an outbreak of Miramax films like CHOCOLAT that cemented the formula of "foreign = art" in everyone's minds.

Sure, distributors like Tartan may be beating a dead "Asian extreme" horse, but if no one will bring over Asian comedies and romances then at least we've got a steady diet of Asian action and horror movies that will be exposed to sensitive children, along with their regular intake of anime and manga, letting them know that subtitles can be fun.

And let's face it, at the end of the day movies are entertainment. Being entertained can be a profound and movie experience, but it also needs to be a fun one, whatever your definition of fun may be.

June 9, 2006 at 10:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

ELECTION IN THE UK - NOT SO NICE

I thought this would be a nicer post, but maybe you can pretend today is opposite day so when someone writes, "ELECTION is a confused, muddled mess," what they really mean is, "ELECTION is great!"

ELECTION has opened in seven theaters in the UK and Richard writes in that the reviews are, well read them for yourself:

David Mattin at the BBC says it has a "confusing, disjointed narrative...under-developed characters and slipshod storytelling...ELECTION can't get the basics right."

The Telegraph's Tim Robey writes that, "The endless Triad board meetings would be confusing enough without the dismal cinematography, which makes it impossible to see people's faces for entire scenes."

3 out of 5 stars at The Times from Wendy Ide who demonstrates her artful knowledge with, "To, not the most artful of directors, slams on the brakes at the 75 minute mark for a clumsy 'Triad History 101' segment...the action never exactly thunders along in this predominantly static, overly talky take on the Hong Kong crime genre...ELECTION looks positively lacklustre next to, say, the stylish gangster v. cop treachery of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy. It also lacks the visual impact that attracts audiences to the best of Hong Kong crime movies." She also demonstrates her ability to write colorfully when she claims that the movie "
takes place in underlit noodle shacks accompanied by a death- rattle of mah jong tiles." I can only remember one mah jong scene in the film (at the beginning) and I don't recall a single noodle shack. Then she goes totally out to lunch with this closing paragraph:

"I’m yet to be persuaded that what cinema audiences need when we’re about to be bombarded with football day and night is even more soccer. But several distributors over the past few weeks seem to believe that our appetite for the beautiful game will not be sated until we have seen what independent cinema has to say on the subject."

Seriously, that's her closing paragraph in her ELECTION review. No links, no "click here for more", nothing. Trust The Times to have to work football into everything.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw seems baffled, "there is a strange lack of life in the story itself, a baffling absence of dramatic charge in any of the principals and no urgent sense of what is at stake between them...We are plunged into this dispute, but with insufficient time to get to know any of these players, they never fully come to life."

Empire Magazine, surprisingly, awards it 3 stars (and gives POSEIDON 4) and says it's a "cert for a Mafia-set Hollywood remake." Something I can't imagine happening unless the Mafia decides to become fashionably Chinese and fight over things like Dragon Head Batons because they think that will make them seem more equal opportunity and inviting to Asian-Americans.

Time Out can't even get too excited about it, claiming that ELECTION "suffers from problems of tone and identification..." although they have decided that the dark lighting is style and not an issue of China not having enough light bulbs, "boosted by strong performances, To's directorial lightfootedness and the widescreen cinematography of Siu-Keung Cheng."

Leave it to Stephen Teo to write a positive review for Sight & Sound and then Channel 4 who call it "an unconventional, effective and powerful drama."

I think someone should write a letter to Johnnie To that he needs to learn how to make a movie as good as a white person before he tries to crack our sophisticated Western markets again.

(Thanks to Richard Taylor who has totally ruined/made my day with this)

June 9, 2006 at 10:35 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 08, 2006

NICE NICE FOR SUMMER PALACE

Palm Pictures is in "final negotiations" for the US rights to Lou Ye's SUMMER PALACE. Palm are the distributors of Lou's previous movie, PURPLE BUTTERFLY, so this makes sense. It's also been picked up in Japan, Korea, Switzerland and Mexico among 13 other territories.

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

June 8, 2006 at 09:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NOT SO NICE NEWS FOR THE DEPARTED

THE DEPARTED, Martin Scorsese's remake of INFERNAL AFFAIRS, has been holding test screenings, and the folks over at Ain't It Cool are chiming in as they sneak in and take notes.

This guy's not impressed at all, but be careful: spoilers of the last scene from the movie abound. However, the fate of Matt Damon/Andy Lau's character is so ludicrously over the top that it's worth ruining the ending for.

This guy likes it a little bit better but he still describes it as "a glorious sloppy mess."

But the nice thing is that these are very early screenings and Scorsese can still cut it into something more impressive. He's got 4 whole months.

June 8, 2006 at 08:43 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 07, 2006

NICE NICE BUS UNCLE

Bus UncleJust when you were tired of all celebrities and wished they'd be shipped to a desert island en masse and we could start over with a blank slate, here comes Bus Uncle.

On April 29, on the upper deck of Kowloon bus 68x, a young man was sitting behind a middle-aged man whom the world would soon come to know as...Bus Uncle. The man known as Bus Uncle was talking very loudly on his cell phone and the young guy (who would later step forward and reveal his name as Alvin) asked him to simmer down. Instead of simmering in a downwards direction, Bus Uncle stood up, turned around and launched into an obscenity-filled tirade against Alvin that lasted for five full minutes. That's a long time to talk, and if you don't believe me you should try it.

The entire episode was captured on a camera/video phone by a passenger named John and was posted to YouTube. By May 19, 1.2 million people had watched the clip. Chinese subtitles were added. By May 27 there was an estimate that 5.7 million people had watched the clip. Bus Uncle became famous. The media entered into a bidding war over other clips from John's phone. The bus driver revealed that Bus Uncle was a problem passenger. The South China Morning Post alone wrote 4 articles about Bus Uncle. Shirts, mugs, doggie shirts and boxer shorts with Bus Uncle's key phrases (like "I've got pressure!") were sold. Posters from the Anthony Wong movie TAXI HUNTER were Photoshopped into Bus Uncle posters.

Bus Uncle dog shirts Next Magazine tracked down Bus Uncle for a front page interview. In the interview it was revealed that Bus Uncle was Roger Chan, Bus Uncle's ringtone was the Twins song "Lose Face" and that he was on the phone with the Hong Kong Samaritans Line talking about killing himself when Alvin interrupted his call that fateful April 29th day. He also revealed that he ran for Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 1997, 2002 and 2005.

Finally, Bus Uncle was taken out to Shenzhen by some Hong Kong reporters with whom he got drunk and was photographed cavorting with prostitutes. Bus Uncle claims he didn't pay for their services and that it was all fairly innocent. In a related interview, Bus Uncle also claims to have made love to over 1,000 women and that he uses his tongue half the time so that "before the train even enters the tunnel, she has already capsized in Tolo Harbour."

You can read a detailed account of Bus Uncle's rise to fame, you can read Bus Uncle's tale of his tragic life (including pictures of his fruit plate which is his one great talent), and you can read about Bus Uncle and the Shenzhen hookers.

The next time you're in Hong Kong and you hear the catchphrases "I've got pressure and you've got pressure.  So why are you challenging me?" or "Not solved! Not solved!" you can smile and think: "Bus Uncle."

(Thanks to EastSouthWestNorth for their translating and reporting)

June 7, 2006 at 10:17 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

NICE NICE THAI ELEPHANTS

Pixar's CARS made me very sad because it was very boring and it's dedicated to George Ranft, the guy who did the voice of Heimlich the Caterpillar in A BUG'S LIFE and is a story editor at Pixar. I thought, "It must stink to have the worst movie to come out of Pixar serve as your memorial for all eternity." Then I realized that Tim Burton's THE CORPSE BRIDE was also dedicated to George and that made me feel a lot better, because in 50 years people will remember THE CORPSE BRIDE and no one will remember CARS.

I also felt better because there's another computer animated movie out there that's doing very well and is supposed to be very, very nice. It's KHAN KLUAY, from Thailand, a movie about pretty pink and blue elephants. The director is Kompin Kemgunerd who worked on a bunch of animated films in the US like TARZAN and THE ICE AGE and apparently it's a pretty decent flick. What's even nicer is that while it cost over US$3 million to make it grossed over half a million US in its first 3 days and is well on its way to making its money back at the Thai box office alone.

But the nicest thing about KHAN KLUAY is that on June 8, 100 elephants and their mahouts are being invited to a special, outdoor, elephants-only screening of the movie in Ayutthaya province and I'm sure there'll be free peanuts as well.

(Read more at Wisekwai and ThaiCinema.org)

KHAN KLUAY

June 7, 2006 at 09:47 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

NICE NICE

There's a depressing sense of cynicism and gloom hanging over the internet these days. I'd say it's just me, but I hear it from other people as well. Everything seems branded, and corporate, and mass-marketed, and money-hungry, and mean, and nasty, and unfair, and horrible. But Kaiju Shakedown wants to be a little ray of sunshine in your day. We want to be a tiny birdcage in your heart full of bright yellow, chirping canaries. We strive to lift you out of that mud puddle you found yourself face-down in, and we want to hand you a warm towel, dust off your windbreaker, and send you on your way with a nice hot cup of tea.

So today, and maybe for the rest of the week, Kaiju Shakedown is Nice Nice Land. We will only talk about nice things. We will only think nice thoughts. You and I will journey into a magical land of happy cry pretty where everything is free, and all the trees know all the words from all your favorite songs. How nice is it to be nice nice? Very nice.

June 7, 2006 at 09:27 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 06, 2006

ZHANG ZIYI: FACT OR FICTION?

Zhang ZiyiThe two-fisted story of Zhang Ziyi signing a 3-film deal with The Weinstein Company and TWC being involved in a remake of SEVEN SAMURAI (one of Zhang's 3 films) popped up on the internet, was widely reposted, and then debunked. Now it's been picked up by Variety and ScreenDaily and who knows if this is a sign that it's true, or a sign that an internet rumor is worming its way into the real world.

Both ScreenDaily and Variety agree that the deal isn't final yet, but that it's in talks and not just talks but "final talks" (Variety) and they are "close to three-picture deal" (ScreenDaily). Both rags agree that the MULAN picture that's supposed to be part of the deal is the one from Meridian Pictures, a new company run by David Dong, a Chinese multimillionaire with an unfortunate name. It's being written by CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON's and BATTLE OF RED CLIFF's Wang Hui-ling. According to Variety the budget is $20 million, but that can't be right if TWC and Zhang Ziyi get involved.

The most interesting factoid comes from ScreenDaily which says that these movies won't be part of TWC's "Dragon Dynasty" label. Of course not, these movies have a "real" star in them. Which says to me that Dragon Dynasty is going to be the straight-to-video ghetto for TWC's library and the prestige pictures that get a release and a marketing budget will be Weinstein Company movies.

June 6, 2006 at 01:56 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

WHAT'S COMING TO A SCREEN NEAR YOU

The feeding frenzy that is the Cannes marketplace is over, but the film sales continue. Here's a guide to who bought what - unfortunately we'll never be able to explain why some of these titles were bought.

ELECTION 2 was picked up by Tartan USA for the US, Optimum for the UK, Hopscotch for Australia, EMS for Germany, Remstar for Canada, and it was also sold to Spain, Brazil, Poland, Greece, Romania, Israel, the former Yugoslavia and Portugal.

Toei had its biggest year yet at Cannes (US$650,000) with YO YO GIRL COP (the SUKEBAN DEKA movie) sold to Celestial in Hong Kong and Rapid Eye in Germany. MEMORIES OF TOMORROW was sold to Hong Kong and China, and YAMATO was sold to Korea and Scandinavia.

CITY OF VIOLENCE, as we all already know, was picked up by the Weinstein Company in the US while it sold to about 20 territories worldwide.

(Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for the pointers)

June 6, 2006 at 01:54 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 05, 2006

SIGN A PETITION TO SEE KIM KI-DUK'S TIME

Time Kim Ki-Duk...is there a name that elicits more drama in Korean movies? He's deeply loathed on a lot of the film festival circuit, and Korean critics (and many Western ones as well) dismiss his movies out of hand. But he's also the most successful Korean director overseas, having won more awards and raked in more money at the box office than any other Korean director except maybe Park Chan-Wook.

Kim chalks up his rough treatment at the hands of the Korean press as class contempt. He didn't rise up through the film hierarchy the accepted way, he comes from a lower class background than a lot of other film industry people, and his movies are fixated on the lives of marginal or blue collar characters. I tend to believe that this is definitely part of the problem. The Korean press seems to go after him like they've got a vendetta: some film magazines have called him "a psychopath" and other critics have claimed that his mother didn't love him enough. As far as I know, no other Korean director gets treated this way and it's pretty shameful no matter how you feel about Kim.

As a response to this (and possibly as a savvy box office movie) Kim has said he won't release any more of his movies in Korea and the first one to not be released is TIME. But over at KoreanFilm.org they've linked to an online petition asking for someone to release TIME in South Korea. Sign it or not, but you've got to hand it to Kim for keeping things interesting.

June 5, 2006 at 04:01 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ZHANG ZIYI AND TWC

The rumors continue to float around about the Donnie Yen/Weinstein Company/SEVEN SAMURAI remake, but they seem to mostly be a lot of talk. However, over the weekend, Sina.com, one of China's major internet portals and a source of entertainment gossip, reports that Zhang Ziyi signed a three-film contract with The Weinstein Company at Cannes this year. They report that two of the films are MULAN, and SEVEN SAMURAI.

Sina.com has often nabbed stories before English-language press outlets pick them up, and by the time the trade magazines in the US get a story Sina.com has sometimes been done with it for weeks. But they've also reported stories that don't exist or are based on the flimsiest of rumors.

So which is it? Any Chinese readers are invited to chime in and let us know: does Sina.com have facts the rest of us don't?

June 5, 2006 at 04:00 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

LESS YOUNG PEOPLE SPEND MORE MONEY TO SEE MATSUKO

Memories of Matsuko MEMORIES OF MATSUKO, the depressive song and dance film from Tetsuya Nakashima (KAMIKAZE GIRLS) which has been described as "a shojo manga CITIZEN KANE," held the fourth place spot at the Japanese box office this past weekend, beaten by Ken Watanabe's low budget Alzheimer's drama, MEMORIES OF TOMORROW. But that's only when you look at attendance figures. Since MEMORIES OF TOMORROW is aimed at the over-50 crowd, many of the tickets it sells are at the senior citizen rate and so MEMORIES OF MATSUKO actually made more money.

But it's the people that matter, man, not their money. And so MEMORIES OF TOMORROW is in third, and MEMORIES OF MATSUKO is in fourth.

(Read the Japan Times review of MEMORIES OF MATSUKO)

June 5, 2006 at 03:56 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 02, 2006

CENTRAL PARK MEDIA BLOODIED AND BRUISED

Rumors have been circulating for a few days now about what's going on at Central Park Media. Although things might get better and might get worse, at this point what's 100% certain is that a number of very nice people over there have lost their jobs, including their Marketing Manager, which is not a good sign.

CPM attributes the layoffs to Musicland's bankruptcy filing and says in a press release, "...we are facing tightening sales conditions and are currently focusing on a cost cutting program which will structure the company for future growth without our largest customer."

Central Park Media is a 16-year-old anime and manga distributor in the US that also releases a number of live action films through its Asian Pulp Cinema line. Their latest release was the CGI kaiju eiga, NEGADON.

June 2, 2006 at 10:25 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 31, 2006

RGV SHELVES SRK

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

FAYE WONG HAS A GIRL

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 & HIDEAKI ITO ARE EVERYWHERE

UMIZARU 2: TEST OF TRUST

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

GEORGE CLOONEY = TAKASHI SHIMURA?

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

CHRIS TUCKER = SANJAY DUTT?

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 GETS US DISTRIBUTOR

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

SHOHEI IMAMURA: RIP

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

LITTLE NUGGETS

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 ON DVD!!!

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 VIDEO SCHEDULE

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

HOW'D IT GO AT CANNES PT. 2

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

HOW'D IT GO AT CANNES?

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

MEMORIES OF MATSUKO GETS RELEASED

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

SILK GETS PANNED (BUT THAT'S OKAY)

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

THE HOST VISITS AMERICA

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 GETS A DATE AND SOME WORDS

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

OOPS - I DID IT AGAIN

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

FUJI TV UDON BOOTH EXISTS

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 FINAL BOX OFFICE

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

KOREA GETTING THE LAST LAUGH

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

CITY OF VIOLENCE FOR SALE

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

May 22, 2006

THE BANQUET TRAILER

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

SUMMER PALACE A "SENSITIVE SUBJECT"?

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 IN CANNES

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)

WEINSTEINS BUY...HUH?

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.

SKINNY TIGER, FATTY DRAGON - um. Okay.

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

BEST. MOVIE. EVER.

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

LINKS A MILLION

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

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN SOMETHING OR OTHER

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.

CITY OF GOLDEN ARMOR

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

NEW WKW AND TONY JAA PROJECTS

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


ONG BAK 2

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

May 18, 2006

MALAYSIAN MOMENT

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

THE HIDDEN BLADE SETS RELEASE

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

ELECTION 2 BROCHURES BURNED

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

YOUR SUMMER PALACE UPDATE

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 PROMISE TRASHES CHINA

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

OMKARA SITE UP

Omkara

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

LEE MYUNG-SE MAKES M

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

AKIRA KUROSAWA FILM SCHOOL CLOSES BEFORE IT OPENS

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

SUMMER PALACE AT CANNES

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.

CANNES REALITY
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.

CHINA REALITY
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

WHERE'S WISIT?

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

May 16, 2006

BRETT RATNER'S ASIAN ORGY

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

SEVEN SWORDS PICKED UP BY TWC

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

THAI DOG

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 FESTIVALS ARE COMING!

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

STORY OF A DISCHARGED PRISONER REMAKE

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

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE

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

WHITEY GOES TO BOLLYWOOD

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

THAIS TRY TO SOOTHE CAMBODIA

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

THE NAME GAME

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

CANNES GETS LOU YE IN HOT WATER

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 GOING TO CANNES ANYWAY

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

*Sigh* YET ANOTHER BIG BUDGET CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS EPIC

...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 RULE JAPAN

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

REAL VS. FAKE CENSORSHIP

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)

ELECTION 2 UPDATE

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

DEREK YEE'S PROTEGE NEWS

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

MORE YURERU INFO

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

May 08, 2006

THAI FILM FOLK SPEND BUCKETS OF CASH

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

DEREK YEE'S DRUG MOVIE

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

MY SASSY GIRL GETS NEW DIRECTOR

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

THE PROMISE BOMBS

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 TURNOVER

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 DIRECTING ONG BAK 2

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

14 AMAZONS GOES TO CANNES

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

ELECTION 2 BOX OFFICE

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

RGV GEARING UP BOXING FILM

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 PROMISE WAR OF WORDS CONTINUES

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

CHINA STICKS IT TO M:I:3

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

DIRECTOR'S FORTNIGHT LINE-UP

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

ELECTION 2 OPENING WEEKEND

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

TAIWANESE STUDIO SAVED

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 WANTS YOUR MONEY

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

May 01, 2006

TSUI HARK/JOHNNIE TO/RINGO LAM PROJECT

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 DIVA ARTFILM CATFIGHT WEEKEND SPUTTERS

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 TAKES TSAI MING-LIANG

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 TAKES SINGAPORE AWARD

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

MILKYWAY UPDATES

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 AND ELECTION 2 FRENCH POSTERS

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

THE PROMISE RUINS EVERYONE'S GOOD TIME

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

April 28, 2006

NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL LINE-UP 2006

NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL
June 16 – July 1, 2006
at the Anthology Film Archives and the ImaginAsian Theater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funkyforest

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

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

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

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

THE GREAT YOKAI WAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACCHIGI (WE SHALL OVERCOME SOMEDAY)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO SINGING. NO DANCING. NO MERCY: THE FILMS OF RAM GOPAL VARMA
Rejecting the formulaic musical romances of Bollywood for a slew of sleek, stylish horror and crime films, Ram Gopal Varma is India’s superstar director. Self-taught (he was a former video store owner), RGV burst onto the scene with his brutal college gangland movie, SHIVA, and after getting the musicals out of his system he began making intense crime dramas loosely based on real-life cops and criminals drawn from Mumbai’s seething underworld. These days he runs The Factory, where dozens of directors turn out movies that he produces and where he keeps his own productions under tight control. Unknown in the West, RGV is a brand name around the world and we’re proud to introduce his work to a New York audience, like a bullet to the head.

AB TAK CHHAPPANAB TAK CHHAPPAN - (2004, India)
In Mumbai there are encounters – incidents between police and thieves where the bad guys wind up mysteriously dead and no witnesses can be found to say the cop pulled the trigger – and there are also encounter specialists: cops who work as hitmen for the department, rubbing out criminals who are too hard to round up. Produced by RGV, AB TAK CHHAPPAN, is the story of an encounter specialist whose days may be swiftly drawing to a close. Ruthlessly realistic, this is a movie where the gunfights take ten seconds, the good guys are murderers, and the only rich people are crooks. Nana Patekar, one of India’s greatest actors, anchors the film with the performance of a lifetime as the doomed encounter specialist, using his charisma to draw in bad guys and the audience alike until the entire world revolves around his corrupt, evil, big-hearted, larger-than-life dispenser of street corner justice.

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

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

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

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

THAILAND GHOST FILM SPARKS OUTRAGE

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

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

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

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

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

JACKIE CHAN VS. HAYAO MIYAZAKI

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

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

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

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

TYPHOON HITS AMERICA

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

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

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

ELECTION 2 BOX OFFICE

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

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

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

CANNES TO-DO

The Host poster

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

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

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

April 27, 2006

NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL LINE-UP IS COMING

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS VS. KONG

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

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

CHINA STAR CLOSING ITS DOORS?

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

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

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

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

TWC CONTINUES GLOBAL DOMINATION

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

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

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

SPOILERS FOR THE DEPARTED

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

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

Whoops.

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

April 25, 2006

SPARKLING RED STAR: PAN DONGZI COMPETING IN SINGING CONTEST

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

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

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

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

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

HONG KONG DISNEY SWIRLING AROUND THE DRAIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIGHT BANQUET WEBSITE UP

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

poster for Zhang Ziyi/Hamlet project, NIGHT BANQUET

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

WHAT'S IN SHOCHIKU'S MARKET?

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

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

ELECTION 2: NOW WITH...CANNIBALISM?!?

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

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

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

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

DO THE CANNES SHUFFLE

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

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

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

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

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

JOHNNIE TO SEZ: BRING IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 24, 2006

KOJI YAKUSHO IN CANNES

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

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

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

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

POSTMASTER ULTRAMAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yay, Ultraman Mebius! You bring energy and power!

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

SHADY MALAYSIAN TICKET TRICKS

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

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

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

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

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

STEPHEN FUNG ON LETTERMAN

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

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

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

April 20, 2006

"PERSONAL REASONS"

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

Personal reasons.

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

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

FILM FESTIVALS: LIKE A BIG HUG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES LINE-UP ANNOUNCED

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

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

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

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

April 18, 2006

LADY VENGEANCE SITE UP

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

LADY VENGEANCE

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

INHERITANCE SET VISIT

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

There's also an official website.

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

THREE DIVA ARTFILM CATFIGHT WEEKEND

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

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

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

THREE TIMES TRAILER! Shu Qi rides a boat!

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

(My money is on Lee Young-Ae)

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

April 17, 2006

WHY I LOVE THE TWINS

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

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

Yay, Twins!

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

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

ZHANG AND GONG NEWS

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

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

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

I CAN SING; YOU DO KUNG FU; LET'S PUT ON A SHOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIIKE, ASANO, WHITAKER

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

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

April 14, 2006

PRAY DVD GIVEAWAY

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

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

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

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

SOMEONE MAKE THIS KID A STAR

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

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

April 13, 2006

GOSPERATS: JAPAN'S BEST BLACKFACE BAND

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Cue laughter. Applause.)

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

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

RAJ KUMAR PASSES AWAY; SMALL RIOT ENSUES

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

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

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

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

CAN WHITEY REPORT ON CHINA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 12, 2006

DADDY DEAREST: HAYAO/GORO INTEVIEW UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

SALMAN KHAN: GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL, DO NOT PASS GO

Salman Khan, Bollywood MegaStar goes to jail

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

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

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

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

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

ELECTION 2 RELEASED IN CHINA

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

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

the Election 2 bootleg

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

RUMOR ALERT: ZHANG ZIYI A JUDGE AT CANNES?

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

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

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

BREAKING NEWS RUSSIAN REMAKE

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

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

SHIN SANG-OK DIES

Korean director Shin Sang-Ok

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

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

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

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

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

April 11, 2006

MAGGIE Q: THE NEW DANNY LEE

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

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

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

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

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

WEINSTEINS BUY DRAGON TIGER GATE

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

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

KAIJU SHAKEDOWN CLOSES

EDISON CHEN!!

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

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

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

April 10, 2006

HKFA WEEK

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

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

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

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

WHY HONG KONG CAN'T COMPETE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 09, 2006

VINCENT KOK'S MOTHER DIES

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

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

April 08, 2006

HONG KONG FILM AWARDS

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

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

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

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

ASIAN LADIES COMING TO AMERICAN THEATERS

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

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

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

AISH IN "BIG" HOLLYWOOD MOVIE

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

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

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

DOG BITE DOG STILLS

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

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

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

April 07, 2006

HKFA WEEK

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

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

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

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

THREE TIMES NOT COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU?

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

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

WHY DOES APPLE DAILY HATE JOHNNIE TO?

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

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

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

BIG FESTS ANNOUNCE THEIR TITLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 06, 2006

RGV TO REMAKE LOLITA?

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

(Thanks to NaachGaana for the heads up)

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

April 05, 2006

IF YOU JUST TUNED IN...

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

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

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

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

SIMON YAM FASHION UPDATE

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

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

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

April 04, 2006

HKFA WEEK

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

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

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

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

HONG KONG MARTIAL ARTS AWARDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BKIFF LOSES DIRECTOR

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

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

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

April 03, 2006

MYSTERIOUS SET PHOTOS

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

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

the set of some new Hong Kong movie

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

March 31, 2006

DIRTY, DIRTY FILM FESTIVALS

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

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

KEKEXILI US TRAILER

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

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

CHEN KAIGE COMING TO AMERICA

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

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

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

FRIDAY IS FUN-DAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 30, 2006

WHAT IS IT?

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

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

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

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

March 29, 2006

COMING TO AMERICA: PART 2

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

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

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

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

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

SILMIDO WRAPPING UP

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

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

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

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

EVELYN NG GOES TO HONG KONG

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHITHER THE NEW BOLLYWOOD?

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

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

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

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

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

March 28, 2006

MANISHA KOIRALA MURDER CASE?

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

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

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

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

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

EDISON CHEN IN GRUDGE 2

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

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

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

March 28, 2006 at 11:59 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

COMING TO AMERICA

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

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

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

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

March 27, 2006

GET TONY JAA A MANAGER, STAT!

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

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

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

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

March 24, 2006

SYMPATHY FOR THE CENSOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 23, 2006

YOUR DAILY KAIJU GOODNESS

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

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

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

Ultraman

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

FORTUNE STAR DVD UPDATE

Fortune Star video library

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

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

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

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

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

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

The zonked out Yuen Clan classic, TAOISM DRUNKARD!

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

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

Ringo Lam's SCHOOL ON FIRE!

So get voting!

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

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

MONGOLIAN PING PONG COMING TO AMERICA

MONGOLIAN PING PONG

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

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

APRIL 21 - 27: NEW YORK, IMAGINASIAN
APRIL 21 - 27: ASHLAND, VARSITY THEATRE
MAY 26 - JUNE 1: SAN FRANCISCO, BALBOA THEATER
JUNE 1 - 4: DENVER, DENVER FILM SOCIETY
JUNE 2: SAN RAFAEL, RAFAEL FILM CENTER
JUNE 23 - 29: CAMBRIDGE, KENDALL SQUARE CINEMA
JULY 7 - 9: