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Archive for December, 2007

Back on TV, or Another Sign of the Apocalypse

In a likely horrific development to some, LoveHKFilm.com will be on television again.

kozo_2.jpg
“Shoot my good side.”

Only a few longtime readers may remember, but a few years ago, I managed a mini guest gig on The Screen Savers, an entertainment program on the G4 network that pushes geek culture to the world at large. My experience consisted of sitting in a make-up chair and running through the questions, which had to do with such movies as Kung Fu Hustle, Casshern, and 2046. After that, I went to the studio and answered those questions, LIVE on camera. Luckily there was no flop sweat involved, but I think I shaved at least two years off my life due to the stress.

As evidence for the above, you can find an archived interview stored here. I do have a video clip of the segment, but I have not yet figured out that new-fangled YouTube thing yet. So, it won’t be posted here anytime soon.

The same thing may or may not occur with my next TV appearance, which is scheduled to occur sometime in early January. I was recently contacted to appear in a segment of Attack of the Show, the followup program to The Screen Savers, only this time they’re in Hong Kong (where I am), and there was no make-up chair or live broadcast. On the downside, there was also no rehearsal so I had to pretty much make up my answers on the fly, which is not easy for a usually camera-shy individual like me.

More photos from the Hong Kong shoot:

“Attack of the Show” host Zach Selwyn and Kozo
“Attack of the Show” host Zach Selwyn and the guy who runs this website

Guest appearance by time-travelling John Woo
A young John Woo (far right) makes a guest appearance.

The most important part of this development: that this happened on Sunday, December 16th, three days after the opening of The Warlords, and practically the only free day I had until the following weekend. I was only notified of this appearance on the previous Thursday, so that means that the day I had earmarked to write a Warlords review had just been booked. As a result, I wasn’t able to write Warlords until the following week, though there are other reasons, which you can read about in this rambling post.

Fortunately or not, this TV appearance is not the precursor to even more media attention, or the crowning of LoveHKFilm.com as some sort of major information source like a bunch of other sites. We’ve been online only five years, and are only featured in out-of-context blurbs on Australian DVDs (Reportedly, they managed to get a recommendation out of our Confession of Pain review. God bless them.). We haven’t even interviewed Bey Logan - which is, as everyone knows, the most important thing any Hong Kong Cinema site must do to gain entry into the online fraternity. All we do is watch movies and dish about them. Frequently people disagree. Sometimes they get upset. It’s the way of the world.

So, I am not convinced that this site has somehow arrived. What would convince me? If LoveHKFilm.com had its own Wikipedia entry, then I would believe we’ve made it. Until then, I’m just glad that we’re the 22,081st most-visited website in the world. In Australia, we’re the 4762nd most visited site - probably because of those Confession of Pain DVDs. Thanks a lot, Hopscotch Films!

Signing the release form
Kozo signing an autograph…we mean, the release form.

UPDATE: In case people actually do want to see the Webmaster make a fool of himself on television, Attack of the Show airs on the G4 network in the United States, and G4/Tech TV in Canada. However, I’m really not sure when it’s airing. And who knows, I might be cut for more time with Bey Logan.

Your Daily Sign of the Apocalypse

An abundance of text would only distract from the following sight:

Michael Wong sings
Going platinum!

That’s right: Michael Wong sings. Actually, Wong has had his own band for awhile, but never before has he been allowed to bring his work to a wider, international audience. Joining Michael on a couple of tracks are Kelly Chen and Kenny Bee. One shudders to think of the possibilities.

Buy or rubberneck here.

I’m off to buy a lottery ticket because this is the same day we learned that Chow Yun-Fat has been cast in the Dragonball Movie and Lee Byung-Hun is rumored to play Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe Movie. I may also jump off of IFC tonight to see if I have the power to fly like that guy on Heroes. My other option is simply to stay in bed for a week.

Michael Wong in City Hunter (1993)
Buy my album!

UPDATED with YouTube Link!

BTW, my computer currently has no sound, so I still don’t know what this sounds like. However, watching him boogie during the rehearsals gives me the willies. If you check this out you may want to hide your kids first.

Navel-gazing, or Why I haven’t written a review of The Warlords.

Now would be a good time to invoke the title of this blog.

After being incredibly focused on updating the LoveHKFilm.com website and implementing the site blogs through October and early November, the well of energy I so miraculously possessed has finally dried up. Last week it was hell for me to get reviews of Mad Detective and In Love with the Dead finished, not to mention take care of all the smaller stuff that has to be done with a website this size. Despite the number of contributors listed on the About Site page, I’m the only one around to tidy up and take out the trash. As a result, the energy simply to make dinner just isn’t there.

Here’s a photo just to break things up:

148 Connaught Rd.
Kozo standing outside 148 Connaught Rd. in Sheung Wan,
waiting for Anthony Wong to be thrown off the building.
It could still happen.

Recently, I saw the much ballyhooed film The Warlords, but I’ve held off on writing about it because A) I’m tired, and B) a number of sites already have. Normally I would make it some point of pride to see a new Hong Kong movie (or Chinese-Hong Kong-Aiming for the West movie) and get a review up ASAP. I used to feel that way about this website, even when I lived in the United States and saw DVDs. Getting new DVDs and dumping reviews on this website was like an obsession back then. You could say it was like collecting action figures; you have to get them all, and if you miss one, you feel like a complete chump. This is the sad story of my thirties.

No need anymore. One of the things that has occured in the 5 years since I’ve started this site is the virtual explosion of people willing and wanting to cover all the “hot Azn flix”. Sure, they won’t go out of their way to see, oh, Sweet Revenge or A Mob Story, but people out there are really working. Before, reviews of the very latest Hong Kong movies were not easy to come by, but now there are plenty of places and media outlets to find what you need.

Let’s take a look: currently, Twitch has two reviews up for The Warlords. BC Magazine has become very up-to-date with their Hong Kong films since hiring Yvonne Teh of Hong Kong - View From the Brooklyn Bridge, and VarietyAsiaOnline is getting a bit faster too with their Asian film coverage. There are also numerous aggregators, including the KFCCinema forums, and The Golden Rock. Plus there are the blogs, which are too numerous to mention. Basically, you have a world of Asian Cinema opinions in front of you; this site is now only one of them.

So hey, you don’t have to come here anymore. The door is behind you.

The Warlords
Still no review for this movie, but that’s okay!

Not that I’m asking you to not visit LoveHKFilm.com. In truth, I’m glad that people visit the site, because if they didn’t I wouldn’t have gotten attention from YesAsia.com, moved to Hong Kong, or been in the position to review Naraka 19 before anyone else. I’m grateful for the people who visit.

Hell, I’m even grateful for the people who just drive by. Those people arrive here via Google and then promptly leave because they find out A) I don’t have naked pictures, B) I don’t host downloads, and C) I dislike all their favorite movies. Even though those aren’t quality visits, they inflate my statistics, such that people think this site is a Grade-A Asian Cinema hotspot. Joke’s on them: we all know that the real action is happening at Twitch, or numerous sites I won’t mention because they host downloads. We’re an online stuffed shirt by comparison.

But I shouldn’t complain, because I am where I am because of the traffic. So thanks a bunch.

Stephen Chow thanks you
Stephen Chow humbly thanks you for your patronage

Still, despite all the good that comes to me from this website, I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering why I forsake a regular life to maintain it. I recently got a PSP, but have found no time to play it, even though it was designed for people with less time to play games. Likewise, I still haven’t read the three novels I bought this year, and my box set of 24: Season 4 has gone unwatched. By the way, they’re up to Season 6 now, so I’m fully three years behind on the Jack Bauer Power Hour. I figure I should catch up by 2015.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be wasting this precious webspace getting self-reflective, but unfortunately, I’m the type of person that’s given to lots of navel-gazing - though I’ve never called it that. I prefer to call it “self-indulgent time wasting”. In fact, I didn’t really know the meaning of navel-gazing until a couple of months ago when someone told me what it was. Before that, when the word “navel-gazing” was invoked, I would think of something like this:

Lee Hyo-Lee
The magic of Google Image Search

The above proves a couple of things: A) Korea knows what they’re doing, and B) I sometimes assign the wrong meaning to a given English word - something that I shouldn’t do because I’m supposed to be a professional writer/editor. Actually, until fairly recently I was confusing the word “atypical” for “typical” and using it totally incorrectly. That admission just cost me a raise.

But yes, I’m given to fixating on a ton of different things - which can be both good and bad. It’s good because five years of fixation on LoveHKFilm.com has resulted in, well, LoveHKFilm.com. It’s bad because it’s self-indulgent, wastes time, and mines an insecurity that we would all be better without.

It’s also the reason that I haven’t written a review for The Warlords. I should actually be grateful right now because this Christmas season is largely poor for Hong Kong movies. We pretty much only have two, Warlords and Pang Ho-Cheung’s Trivial Matters, meaning I can use the time to catch up on other things, like Summer’s Tail and Who’s Next, both of which were just released on DVD.

However, instead of using the break to catch up and write new reviews, I’m spending it thinking about, as usual, what the hell it is that I’m doing. My new topic is what to do with this blog. Honestly, I have no clue what to write here, as people can get pretty much everything they want from other places. News aggregation, industry commentary, rumors and hype - this stuff can be had at numerous sites, forums and blogs, some housed on this site, and some not. Better opinions (or sometimes more forceful yelling) can be had elsewhere. Damn You, Kozo! can do something else.

Unfortunately, that “something else” is still a total mystery to me. I could update people on my life, but my non-LoveHKFilm life is not worth relating, as it’s full of uninteresting crap regarding office politics, hirings and firings, and the occasional story about how I fell asleep on the bus and was late to work. This happens on occasion, and though the nap is nice, it’s bad for my attendance. It also sets a bad example for the people I manage.

My LoveHKFilm life isn’t necessarily more interesting, and talking about it threatens hubris or self-promotion - not that I don’t engage in that from time to time because I do. I think everyone who runs a website does, which is both understandable and a little disturbing. I would cite examples but then I’d be picking on others, and God knows, we never do that around here.

One thing I could possibly do at this blog is dish on the HK Entertainment circle, but Sanney is much better at talking HK Entertainment-related stories, and he also has the knowledge to back up his incredibly informative discussions on retired actresses or HK Entertainment-related minutiae. My version of an HK Entertainment-related story is talking about how I happened on the set of a film in Tai Kok Tsui and saw Shawn Yue. Liu Kai-Chi and Teddy Robin were also there, and they crashed a car into a wall while a stuntman rolled over the hood. I’m assuming it’s the new film from the director of The Pye-Dog, but I can’t be sure. Sometimes, not being able to read Chinese can really suck.

Yeah, so I saw Shawn Yue. I took no pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for it. This was his reaction:

You should see the other guy
“You’re next, Kozo.”

Mr. “one time I got in trouble for wearing a Nazi uniform in a photo shoot” is pretty much the only celebrity I’ve seen recently, and he was just sitting in a van. Celebrities are actually a dime-a-dozen over here, and I’ve never publicly talked about who I’ve seen or when. I really should, because I’m more of a Hong Kong film fan than an actual critic. In case nobody knows, I still pay to see the majority of the films I see, and don’t get studio comps or press passes. I’m also more of a rambler than a writer, but I pretend to be that too. At least I try.

Anyway, here’s a partial count of my celebrity-stalking. Not counting people I’ve seen on a stage or podium, I’ve now seen Andy Lau, Charlene Choi, Wong Jing, Anthony Wong and Lau Ching-Wan (both in Starbucks), and also Francis Ng. I also saw Michael Tong in a noodle joint, but I’m betting that nobody cares. As usual, I have no photos of these events because my camera recently broke. I should buy a new one, but I’m wasting my time navel-gazing instead.

Admit it, this was your wallpaper
Another navel for you. Giordano just paid us off.

I did, however, find time to buy a new computer, meaning hopefully no more truncated updates when my current laptop overheats at 1:00 am. Now you know: sometimes the site updates get delayed because my computer overheats in Hong Kong’s humid climate. Configuring the computer will probably take a lot of extra time though, which means even more time I don’t use to write reviews, or pursue fun personal hobbies like video games, reading, or maybe some exercise. I also don’t have time to answer my site emails. Speaking of which, if you sent me an email in the last 2 months, I didn’t answer it and I apologize profusely. I may get around to it one day, but if so, you’ll probably have forgotten that you ever emailed me.

Also, I still haven’t found a moment to start that English-subtitled Huo Yuan Jia drama that I picked up.

“Must…keep…balance….”
Ekin Cheng fell down right after this photo was taken.

So maybe starting this blog wasn’t such a hot idea. Admittedly, I did it not because I had a plan for it. I basically built this thing because I thought it might be interesting to see what would happen if I did have a blog. Would I find it more interesting than the regular LoveHKFilm.com site? Or would I grow tired of it, concentrate on the site, and just let it lay dormant, like so many blogs that came before? Or would I use it as just an impromptu version of Life with Kozo? To my disappointment, that’s what seems to be happening.

So we’re at a stalemate here. Awesome! Words, words, and more words later and I still don’t know what to do with this blog. If I can ever figure out where I’m going with this thing, I’ll let you know. That is, if you haven’t tuned out already. In the meantime, I hope it doesn’t drag this website down any further than it already has. Now I’m off to write that Warlords review. If you’re lucky, you’ll see it by next week.

One more navel for good measure:

Not all navels are sexy
Mmm…navels.

Kozo’s Shopping Cart of Crap: This time, I actually talk about DVDs

After I flubbed my last blog entry and decided to omit the entire point of it - that is, what DVDs I actually bought while in San Francisco - I figured I should get to this one pretty damn soon. So, there won’t be the usual 7-12 day gap between blog posts. Don’t get used to it.

Also, Anthony Wong will be around to make sure I don’t write too much:

Blog Cop Anthony Wong
“Keep it short, kid!”

It’s actually been a pretty big buying time for me, since I just returned to HK and dropped a bunch of cash on a whole slew of stuff at YesAsia.com, including The Detective, The Sun Also Rises, and Exodus. I also picked up Blood Brothers, which I pretty much panned back in October. Even though it’s a bad film, it features Chang Chen shooting people, so how could I not pick up a copy?

At the same time, I got a bunch of old school stuff including the Joy Sales DVD of When Taekwondo Strikes. A Joy Sales catalog DVD release is like a Bigfoot sighting; the event is so rare that you have to do a double take to make sure that it happened. I like to celebrate these rare opportunities by actually buying the DVD. I also dropped some cash on the Ekin Cheng-Jordan Chan Huo Yuan Jia drama, complete with English subtitles and a bald Ekin Cheng. Both of those events are also rare, so it has to be purchased.

Sadly, this cover of Ekin Cheng doing his Donnie Yen impression is not on the version I’m buying:

Ekin Cheng as Donnie Yen in Huo Yuan Jia
Hawt!

Rounding out my YesAsia.com purchase are a couple of Shaw Brothers films, The 14 Amazons and The Legendary Weapons of China. I’m buying both because Shaw Brothers films are now issued in famously dinky print runs, meaning they could go out of press at any given minute. The other day I wanted to buy Masked Avengers, but I waited an hour and then it went out of stock.

Hold on.

Okay, a minute has passed. Another three titles just became unavailable. In another minute, that number will grow to six. Hurry! You’re missing out!

That DVD is mine!
These bears are fighting over the last copy of Sex for Sale.

Out of press Shaw Brothers is a big issue for me here in HK, because even though this is supposed to be some sort of DVD mecca, many key - and not so key - titles are now impossible to find. For a good two months I had a copy of The Sentimental Swordsman on order, but eventually, the proprietor of the Mongkok store had to return my 50 HK dollars and shrug his shoulders. Nowadays, if I’m interested in a  Shaw Brothers title even on the future off-chance that I’ll want to see it someday, I should probably pick it up. Time waits for no man, and in the case of Shaw Brothers DVDs, it’s got the pedal to the metal and drifting around corners to get away from us as quickly as possible.

The solution to this problem: visit San Francisco!

Yep, it’s Chinatown
This is exactly how it looked when I was there.

Despite inflated prices and an abundance of dust, San Francisco shops seem to be the place to find out of press titles. Case in point: The Sentimental Swordsman, which I found buried in a stack somewhere. Two months on back order in a Mongkok shop and the title turns up all dusty in San Francisco. A couple of other Shaw Brothers titles that turned up were the original Gong Tau, titled Black Magic in English, and The Chinatown Kid, which is a cut, incomplete version of the film but is out of press nonetheless.

NOTE: both those titles will probably be released stateside one day via either Image Entertainment or Dragon Dynasty, but I’m not sure which company has either. At the very least I now have backup copies in case either company has cold feet and gets out of the R1 DVD biz.

The above isn’t really crap though. Luckily, I found stuff in Chinatown that surely qualifies as crap, namely the Andy Lau-Rosamund Kwan stinker Thanks For Your Love, which was directed by the guy who also brought us All About Love. I’m not even sure why I bought it, except for the fact that I know I can’t find it anymore in Hong Kong. That, and I vaguely recall that it has the same plot as the Steve Martin-Goldie Hawn movie Housesitter.

The gem of the trip may have been the totally Out of Press (OOP) Blade of Fury, which is so far out of circulation that the company who made it (Thakral) doesn’t seem to be involved in HK DVD distribution anymore. Oddly, the YesAsia.com product page claims it has no English subtitles, which is totally untrue.

I also picked up the completely OOP film Black Rose II, from director Jeff Lau and starring Sandra Ng and Eric Kot, and the similarly hard to find Ghost Lantern, an amusing modern variation on A Chinese Ghost Story starring Chingmy Yau and the other Tony Leung.

Ghost Lantern is also notable for yet another bad guy performance from Roy Cheung, who probably deserves his own blog entry one day talking about actors who become legends through egregious typecasting. It’s also a film that will likely never get reprinted in any form because it’s just run-of-the-mill junk that has zero cinema importance. One of the saddest things right now about being a Hong Kong Cinema fan is knowing that there are some films that will never, ever be available again, and may only be seen one day via late night Hong Kong cable. It’s almost enough to make a person buy a DVD recorder and scan TV listings around the clock. I would do that, but I have enough on my plate.

In lieu of that, a crappy non-anamorphic DVD of Ghost Lantern will have to do just fine. Future generations, however, may be deprived of movies like Ghost Lantern, Blade of Fury, or other good movies that will never be considered important enough for remasters or rereleases.

Sadly, this child may never be able to see Thanks For Your Love.

Baby Matthew lives
“Andy Lau scares me.”

By the way, I think the Verbosity Police are knocking on my door.

Kozo’s Shopping Cart of Crap

This is a special edition of Kozo’s Shopping Cart of Crap, because this one takes place in a foreign country. Sort of. Let’s explain.

In case you’ve never heard of the fabulous history of LoveHKFilm.com, here’s the short version. Once upon a time, I lived in the amazing United States of America, a place I opted to leave when 1) I was offered a job at YesAsia.com in Hong Kong, and 2) George Bush was reelected President of the United States. That second reason had less to do with Dubya’s presidency - which Fox News tells me has been a kick-ass seven years - and more about getting perspective. Basically, I wanted to know what it felt like to look at the United States from the outside. Would I appreciate the country more? Would I appreciate it less? Would I tear up my NRA membership card and go green? And would I swear off McDonald’s, lose that fry fat, and become completely unrecognizable to my relatives?

Flash-forward to three years later and the answers to the above are either unknown or confidential, though I will gladly answer the last one. I now visit McDonald’s maybe twice a month, I did lose some of the fry fat, and I now look somewhat different. In fact, the flight attendant who accepted my boarding pass looked at me, then looked at my passport picture, then looked back at me and said, “Wow Mr. Chen, you’ve lost a lot of weight.”

The moral: moving to another country can help you lose weight. Please pay me HK$888 for the tip, and sorry I couldn’t hire Myolie Wu to push my slimming advice. Here’s a photo of her anyway:

I’m thin now
Losing weight will turn you into an Angel

But this has nothing to do with America or Hong Kong film, so I’ll fix that right now by segueing into the Kozo’s Shopping Cart of Crap feature. Normally I’d use this opportunity to hawk DVDs at YesAsia.com because nobody else online does. Okay, that’s not true, but LoveHKFilm.com seldom pushes products, and actually telling people when DVDs get released can be useful. Also, YesAsia.com’s marketing department has suggested that I do it, and to be honest, it’s not such a bad idea because it can help people navigate YesAsia.com’s ten million products and sixty different product lines to identify what might interest them.

But that’s another problem, because I have no idea what interests the people who read this site. Besides, running this site according to the interests of others has never been my strong point. If that were the case, I would probably have made the common decision of watching only movies with Donnie Yen and Stephen Chow, or simply dropping Hong Kong and going with Korea because it’s more “in” with the kids. Basically, I watch what nobody cares about, and I do a damn good job of keeping up with it. Do I do a good job of writing about it? That’s all in the eye of the beholder, but some leet dudes have made it known that they don’t approve of me or my writing style. My response to these people is that I will gladly refund their LoveHKFilm.com membership fee.

But anyway, plugging hot products is not my thing, so I’ve decided to use Kozo’s Shopping Cart of Crap to talk about what I really, truly buy, thereby revealing to people that 1) I do spend money on entertainment products; 2) I don’t download like 60% of the people who drop by this site; 3) I will frequently buy what I review after seeing it in the theater, essentially double-dipping; and 4) I buy what I’ve panned before, or stuff that nobody really cares about. Yep, I admit that I buy crap - and, as anyone who’s taken a 12-step program knows, admitting that you have a problem is the first step towards recovery. If only I could do the same for my fixation with running this website.

So Kozo’s Shopping Cart of Crap is about what products I actually buy, and this Special Edition exists because unlike my usual Hong Kong (or YesAsia.com) based buying patterns, I did my shopping in Chinatown, San Francisco. Also, the United States is now a foreign country to me because I now live in Hong Kong, hence the incredible digression where I rambled on and on about the history of this site and how I ended up in Hong Kong. There, it all ties together now - not that this explanation necessarily improves the quality of the writing.

Phew…that’s a massive intro. So massive in fact that I’ll curtail this right now and actually talk about what I bought later. Besides, the Verbosity Police are not happy.

Blog Cop Anthony Wong
“Keep those blog entries short, kids!”

 
 
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