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Archive for July, 2008

Review of The Dark Knight: Hong Kong Segment (2008)

In an amazing cosmic coincidence, three people asked me this question, one on the LoveHKFilm forums, one on the LoveHKFilm Facebook group, and one via e-mail. The idea was also mentioned in a previous blog comment, so what the hell - I’ll bite. Also, it now qualifies as an installment of Kozo’s Mailbag.

The question: What did I think of The Dark Knight?

There happen to be Hong Kong elements in Christopher Nolan’s insane blockbuster, so this blog entry actually qualifies as Asian film-related. In an effort to stay even more on topic, I’ll just review the Hong Kong portion of the film.

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

The Dark Knight
A scene cut from The Dark Knight: Hong Kong Segment.

The Skinny
Batman kicks ass in Hong Kong, and not much else. Christian Bale makes a fine Caped Crusader, but I wish the movie was longer than 10 minutes. Featuring a blurry Edison Chen.

The Review
The Dark Knight opens with businessman Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman a.k.a. God) landing on top of the Peninsula, after which he checks into security at IFC Two and unwittingly hands his mobile phone to - holy crap, it’s Edison Chen! Hopefully, Lucius deleted any incriminating photos off his phone, because Good Ol’ Ed has the worst luck handling digital technology.

Apparently, Ed has been hiding in IFC Two following Sexy Photos Gate, where he stays under the radar by pretending to be a security guard. He does such a good job of staying unnoticed that cinematographer Wally Pfister doesn’t even put him in focus. Ed: you’re a master of disguise.

Anyway, Batman (the ever-personable Christian Bale) shows up and takes a header off of IFC One to glide into IFC Two. I originally thought the Caped Crusader was taking a Hong Kong trip to extradite Edison, who’s wanted in at least twelve territories for ruining the Hong Kong Entertainment industry, but Batman drops the ball and instead apprehends some guy named Lau (Chin Han), who’s hanging out in IFC Two like all white-collar criminals in Hong Kong do.

Batman’s exact reasons for grabbing Lau are unknown, but Hong Kong looks mighty fine on the big screen, thanks to the huge electric bill they rang up by keeping all the lights on at night. Batman takes out a bunch of useless Asian gangsters and makes off with Lau, though the actual action is a little too murky to get excited about. Unfortunately, neither Danny Lee nor Michael Wong makes a cameo as a Hong Kong Cop Who Breaks All The RulesTM. Instead, the producers just hired some guy to play the main HK cop. At least he’s in focus.

My main gripe with The Dark Knight is that Batman did not complete his Hong Kong trip by dangling Edison Chen from the Bank of China building. Frankly, if anyone in Hong Kong needs to be brought to justice, it’s the people behind Gen-Y Cops. Hopefully in the third film, Batman hangs out in Hong Kong for an extended run to beat up Benny Chan, Stephen Fung, and the rest of the guys at Media Asia - especially the person who wrote the immortal line, “See you at the Jumbo.”

Some suggestions: Maggie Q shows up as Catwoman and Sam Lee replaces Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow. The film should also feature a 10 minute IMAX sequence in Los Angeles, where Batman will zip in on the Bat Jet Ski and kidnap Paul Rudd from The Coffee Bean in Santa Monica. Nic Tse must play Robin, and should be given a chance to fight Edison Chen on top of IFC One. I say no safety cables or stunt doubles. Winner takes all, i.e., the complete set of photos and Cecilia Cheung. If they recast the Joker, it can be Juno Mak, who should get some personal time with Edison to settle some scores. The gross will be less than The Dark Knight, but should pass CJ7’s HK gross handily. I’d see it. (Kozo 2008)

Mortal enemies
“Dude, we’re in the sequel!”

Notes
- In retrospect, maybe this wasn’t so funny. Frankly, not much on this site is. As evidence, you can randomly select any page.

- Perhaps I’ll return in a day or two to write about what I think of the rest of the film. I will hopefully have seen the film in IMAX - and if it happens it’ll be the third time I’ve gone. I’ll even talk more about Edison.

Kozo’s Mailbag: Who is Yotsuba?

LoveHKFilm.com reader Petra asked this question a couple of months ago after the first installment of Kozo & Yotsuba in Italy - which, by the way, has yet to see a second installment because I got too busy with work and lots of review writing. And when those things finally dried up, we had this monstrosity descend upon Hong Kong:

Kozo and Tony
Some random individual gawks at
Tony “Tiger Face” Leung from Red Cliff

Petra’s question was, “Who is Yotsuba?”

While not an Asian film-related question, it happens to be a very appropriate one, because I featured numerous pictures of Yotsuba in that earlier blog entry. Doing so was wrong of me, because I incorrectly assumed that anyone who dropped by this blog either A) knows who Yotsuba is, or B) won’t care one way or another. As this is Damn You, Kozo! and not something anyone would confuse with a quality blog, I figured I would be safe without the explanation.

Well, I was wrong. And even though a simple search can lead you to Yotsuba’s Wikipedia page, I thought I’d explain it here.

Yotsuba Banner
Yay, Yotsuba!

Yotsuba is the name of a mischievous little girl created by Kiyohiko Azuma, the manga creator and all-around genius who also created a fun little gag manga called Azumanga Daioh. Yotsuba stars in the manga Yotsubato!, which basically translates as “Yotsuba &!”, with the ampersand connecting his main character to any number of things, including firecrackers, presents, global warming, flowers, and other things that may pop up in everyday life.

What makes Yotsuba interesting and fun is simply her interaction with everyday things, and the surprising honesty, impetuousness, and rampant misunderstanding that a child may display when dealing with things like school projects, ice cream, strangers, the supermarket, next-door neighbors, and trips to the beach. Yotsuba also has a bizarre green hairdo that represents a four-leaf clover. In Japanese, “Yotusba” means four-leaf clover. There’s your language lesson for the day.

Yotsuba and Cats
Yotsuba and Cats

The manga’s motto is “Enjoy Everything”, which explains it far better than I ever could. Both Yotsuba and the stars of Azumanga Daioh have made appearances on LoveHKFilm.com before, namely as featured images on the old Life with Kozo pages. I dumped them there because I enjoy both immensely; both share the same whimsical and frequently unexpected sense of humor, and both are free of fan service, violence, or any of the extreme subjects sometimes associated with Japanese manga and animation.

Please remember, not everyone who likes Japanese animation is a pervert. I include myself in that category, though I have been referred to as a pervert on the Internet before. Fitting enough, it was a comment made on some Ekin Cheng forum somewhere.

The gun is sold separately:

Yotusba with weapon
“This is for all those Ekin fans! Die, Kozo!”

Anyway, Petra also asked where she can get her own Yotsuba action figure. A Yotsuba Revoltech Action Figure can be purchased from YesAsia.com or any number of online retailers, though there’s not that much Yotsuba schwag currently available. There is, however, a very nice calendar that combines photography with color illustrations of Yotsuba, placing Kiyohiko’s fictional mischief maker into a real-life context that perfectly summarizes her adventures and appeal.

Yotsuba Calendar
Unfortunately, it’s sold out

Yotsuba isn’t about wacky hijinks or over-the-top strangeness; it’s a simple manga that’s fun, familiar and even comforting, and there’s lots to enjoy in the character’s minor adventures. I said as much to Petra in my earlier email, and soon she got her own Yotsuba action figure, and even picked up a few issues of the manga.

She sent me a picture, too:

Yotsuba!
“I’m everywhere!”

This picture proves that this blog can make a small difference. At the very least, it’s probably done more than the actual LoveHKFilm website has recently. The next goal of Damn You, Kozo: persuading everyone that Hong Kong film is not dead. The first person I’ll try to convince is myself.

Anyway, I hope everyone who reads this becomes a fan of Yotsuba, too.

Yotsuba 2
“See you next time!”

2008 Midyear Evaluation

My job requires me to do midyear evaluations for my staff, an always pleasant experience that I look forward to with unbridled enthusiasm and delight. Really, I’m totally telling the truth.

Here’s a photo from one of my team meetings:

Babies
“It’s his fault.”

Anyway, as of July, I would consider these to be 2008’s Top 10 Hong Kong films. In no particular order:

Run Papa Run (the #1 choice, everything else is uncertain)
Sparrow
L For Love, L For Lies
Beseiged City
Hong Kong Bronx
Playboy Cops

Shamo
City Without Baseball
Yes, I Can See Dead People
The Moss

Wow, that’s a dismal list, isn’t it? Some of the stuff that made this cut was not very good, but I had a hard time leaving them off in place of other films. There was no way that Missing, Linger, Kung Fu Dunk, or Fatal Move was making this list. They’re all more likely to make the “Worst 10″ list, though naming that right now would be useless because not much more than 20 films have been released thus far in 2008. That low number makes this the worst output from the territory since way before I was born. And I was born a while ago.

This is usually where the expected “Hong Kong movies are really lousy” rant should occur, but I maintain that this is a numbers game that would be supported if Hong Kong produced more than 50 films a year. Back when Hong Kong made 300 or so movies per year, you could expect somewhere close to 60-100 good, or at least watchable films. Percentage-wise that’s not great, but apply that percentage to current times, and you get a little less than 20 good films per year - which is more or less accurate when applied to Hong Kong Cinema in 2005-2007. If my math is bad, I apologize.

There’s also a whole other discussion here about what’s hurting Hong Kong film - i.e., lack of local support, targeting China, undue hype from the Internet, etc. - but I’ll leave that for another day. That is, if I ever talk about it at all.

Some notes: Shamo and Beseiged City get included here because neither had wide theatrical release in 2007. Two films that would have made the cut are High Noon and The Way We Are, but both are thus far officially unreleased in cinemas so I’ll leave them out to see if they make the end-of-year cut. CJ7 misses the list not because it’s bad (it isn’t), but because the amount of disappointment that came with it is so disproportionally large that I couldn’t feel good about including it.

Also, I didn’t consider The Sparkle in the Dark because I haven’t seen it yet. I’m guessing it’s not going to be Top 10 material anyway.

Some quick performance evaluations:

  • Shawn Yue: A- (For making so many films, and turning in decent performances)
  • Patrick Kong: B (For continuing his streak of hit questionable-quality films)
  • Johnnie To: C+ (Sparrow and Linger cancel each other out; the “+” is complimentary)
  • Charlene Choi: A (She’s got a ton of projects lined up, plus she gets a sympathy bump)
  • Chow Yun-Fat: D (Where is he? If he does Red Circle, he could move up to “C” range.)
  • Sammi Cheng: B- (One upcoming film and numerous public appearances earns her some goodwill)
  • Louis Koo: A (Many movies, no stinkers. The guy’s on a roll.)
  • Stephen Chow: C- (CJ7 was okay, but Shaolin Girl hurts the Chow brand)
  • Jackie Chan: B- (Stretching in The Shinjuku Incident, but had less than 10 lines in Kung Fu Panda)
  • Gillian Chung: D (Cut from Mei Lan Fang, and The Fantastic Water Babes is still MIA)
  • Alex Fong Lik-Sun: B+ (Making strides)
  • Stephy Tang: B (Has shown some improvement, despite relative lack of talent)
  • Andy Lau: B+ (Still such a hard worker; now a Justice of the Peace in Hong Kong.)
  • Lawrence Lau: A- (He made two films! Neither is awesome, but it’s nice to see him)
  • Edison Chen: Incomplete (If Sniper and Jump get pushed to 2009, this becomes an F)
  • Jet Li: B (His projects are inconsistent, but everything is better than War)
  • Karena Lam: C- (Trying new things, but results have not been impressive)
  • Aaron Kwok: A (Agreeing to do Storm Warriors gets him an A)
  • Ekin Cheng: B+ (Storm Warriors gets him an A, but MIA film Rule Number One hurts him)
  • Kelly Chen: B (*cough*Empress and the Warriors*cough*, but she’s getting married. Congrats!)
  • Wong Jing: C (He passes with solid, average results)
  • Jay Chou: B (Because Kung Fu Dunk was not his fault)
  • Tony Leung Chiu-Wai: A (Hard to fault the guy for anything, really)
  • China: Incomplete (We’ll have to see how their approval board behaves post-Olympics)

If I remember, I’ll pass out final grades at the end of the year.

Here’s a photo for good measure:

Playing with the ball
In the middle of his freestyle rap,
Jay Chou was knocked unconscious by a flying basketball.

 
 
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