Saturday, February 17th, 2007
Not gonna have much of a new years spirit here, since we do things very serious here (ha ha!). Let’s do a bit of everything today:
- Curtis Hanson is a filmmaker I’ve come to admire after L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile (I liked The River Wild too, but it’s no masterpiece). I’ve been looking forward to his latest, Lucky You, since it was scheduled for release last fall…except it never came out. It has a very solid cast - Eric Bana and Robert Duvall (the less said about Drew Barrymore, the better), and it’s co-written by the brilliant Eric Roth, who wrote The Insider and Munich (in this case, the less said about The Postman, the better). Cashing in on the fading popularity of Texas Hold ‘em poker, the film is finally going to open on May 4th (perhaps long enough that people can forget In Her Shoes, which I haven’t seen). The good news is that it’ll be opening the 2007 summer season. The bad news is that it’s going against Spiderman 3, which means Lucky You seems to be aiming for the “chick flick” market rather than the male poker-playing crowd.
- Twitch also brings us two trailers (one trailer, one teaser, actually): One for Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “Red Balloon” (Ballon Rouge), and a teaser for Takeshi Miike’s film version of the Japanese game “Ryu ga Gotoku” (better known in the states as Yakuza).
- Saw two films that seem to be worthy of comparison: Japan’s “The Sinking of Japan” and Korea’s mega-blockbuster “The Host.” Both films take formulas that Hollywood has mastered over the years and puts an Asian twists to them. However, the difference is astronomical.
“The Sinking of Japan” is about exactly what its title suggests: Japan sinks. Explained by a flurry of pseudo-science and a bunch of experiments (explained by on-screen text - giving a whole new meaning to visual storytelling), it basically blends docudrama and spectacle into possibly the most somber disaster pic since The Day After Tomorrow (which probably inspired this remake). With an unconvincing romance as the central plot, the film really takes off when things get destroyed - the special effects are awe-inspiring, with no one safe and everyone buying the farm, even though it’s done with such seriousness that unintentional humor breaks through far too often (the afro-wearing scientist, upon finding out that Japan has less time than expected, punches his computer monitor…which would not be good if that was the only evidence he has). Even though it does follow a certain Hollywood formula (the fate of Japan really does fall onto only one man’s hands), it doesn’t pretend to have any meaning beyond the island - scenes where politicians realize the rest of the world has abandoned Japan once it finds out the land and the economy are sinking fast is a sobering reminder of Japan’s role in the world. It makes for a fairly depressing time at the movies, especially when watching it in Japan, where frequent earthquakes are a part of daily life.
“The Host,” on the other hand, takes the same risk at genre conventions. But thanks to genuine characterizations and the sure-handed direction by Bong Joon-Ho, The Host is a thrilling good time. The humor, often black, is intentional and it even works. Unlike most Asian Hollywood clones, it even integrates some very Korean humor (I actually had to go to imdb to see explanations of a few jokes) so that it adds an extra layer for local audiences. I don’t have much else to say except to end with a wholehearted recommendation for it.
- Last night I saw the awesome Sonny Chiba in Karate Bear Fighter on IFC. Besides the obvious title (yes, Sonny Chiba does fight a bear barehanded, although it’s more like a guy in a bear suit most of the time), he also pulls a “Drunken Master” Jackie Chan by popping open a barrel of sake and drinks straight from the gaping hole as it pours out, and seeks guidance from a master whose trick is pushing a stick against Sonny Chiba’s eye….and by that, I mean the camera. It’s 85 minutes of karate awesomeness, and you should definitely seek out for it.
- Poor Mika Nakashima. After the success of her third album Music (not to mention Nana), she decided to try new things musically by doing the gospel thing with singles Cry No More and All Hands Together - and both were met with poor sales. So now with a hit drama to do a theme for, she’s back to her old ballad roots with the new single “Mienai Hoshi” (Invisible Stars). And what a coincidence that is just happens to sound like her first hit single Will.
Unless there’s any big news, I should be taking a break tomorrow. Will be back Monday with all kinds of useless Asian cinema and entertainment news.