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A New (old) kind of hero

I love the Independent Film Channel. I don’t know why I receive it, but I happen to have it, and it’s a great source for uncut independent films. They’ve been running a series called the Grindhouse every Friday night, showing pretty much trash movies by art standards. This is where I saw Sonny Chiba in Karate Bearfighter and Karate Bullfighter (in that order, even though the story’s in reverse order) last month, and it’s also where I saw Killing Machine (real title: Shorinji Kenpo, or the Shaolin Fist) last night. I’m now convinced that Sonny Chiba was probably Japan’s best hero, even better than Ultraman and Kamen Rider combined.

The movie opens during the Sino-Japanese war, where a bunch of Chinese solders with a commander that doesn’t really speak Chinese (he’s just pretending) were about to attack a bunch of troops. But a man wearing one of those Chinese sombrero pops out, and it’s Sonny Chiba as an undercover Japanese secret agent. He’s like James Bond, except he first uses Shaolin kung-fu to wipe out half the troops, THEN he uses the machine gun. Man, I would want an opening like that in any movie (not the killing Chinese people part, but the Shaolin kung-fu part).

He then retreats to his base, where he’s told by his superiors that Japan has surrendered and that it’s no use fighting. So he takes said machine gun and wipes out his superiors. “Japan may have lost, but I haven’t!” he says. What a bad ass. Being the bad ass Sonny Chiba is, he would fight for justice everywhere - on the train, where he stops a fight by twisting a dude’s arm and says, “There are 80,000,000 Japanese and 800,000 Koreans. You can’t swim back to Korea, so if you want to live here, be friends.” At the black market, where he fights black marketeers because he told the kids it’s OK to steal from them, and he gets into a fight with the cops and American soldiers (over what, I don’t know, I lost my attention for about 3 minutes, and Chiba the man just didn’t wait to get some ass-kicking done).

Of course, you also get to learn about behaviors when around Sonny Chiba. First, you don’t wanna be interrupting his udon eating, or he’ll look at you as he slurps up that last string. Second, you don’t want to rape the neighborhood udon shop’s owner’s daughter, because he’ll come beat you down with Shaolin kungfu, then castrate you (I am seriously not kidding about this). And you don’t wanna go over to his dojo and start something, because even though he says not to start fight with other schools, he will kick your ass anyway.

All in all, Killing Machine isn’t actually all that entertaining when compared with the Karate series (I mean, the word “good” wouldn’t be used to describe any of these movies), but it does have some entertaining fun here and there. It’s even surprising even-handed for a testosterone-pumped movie about Japan (Chiba may kill Chinese soldiers, but he respects Chinese martial arts and I would presume its people).

- March has been known to be an off-peak month in South Korea (unlike Hong Kong, where people actually get Easter holiday), and that means it’s time for a foreign invasion!

- This weekend, Japan finally sees the opening of two Hollywood blockbusters Night at the Museum and Academy Award winner Happy Feet. Last weekend, they had a preview duel with advanced showings, and on an unknown number of screens, Night at the Museum wins it with 169 million yen, while Happy Feet brought in 72 million yen. This should be a pretty clear indicator who’s gonna win.

Source: Eiga Consultant.

- The Filmbrain blog has its own review of a film I reviewed last month, the subtle Ad Lib Night.

- There’s a rather amusing trailer for a new film starring John Malkovich named Color Me Kubrick, a kind of true story about a man who looks and acts absolutely like Stanley Kubrick, but somehow pretended to be him anyway.

- After watching The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, I wished Justin Lin was given better scripts to do, because I think he means well, but he just keeps getting stuck with crappy scripts. So after two ventures into Hollywood, he’s doing his own thing (in just 8 months after Tokyo Drift, no less) with his latest Finishing the Game, a spoof on the search for a replacement of Bruce Lee after he died while making Game of Death, and it just premiered at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival. Did anyone catch it?

- Two pieces of news to translate from my new Chinese news source Ming Pao:

1) Hong Kong International Film Festival run into a snag regarding missing tickets for its opening night film I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK, among other shows. excerpt of Chinese report as follows:

網上訂票安排方面,協會收到約30名市民投訴,表示收不到協會發出的訂票確認電郵,經調查後發現,協會如常發出電郵

Regarding online ticketing, the association received about 30 complaints saying that they did not receive their confirmation e-mail for their reservations. After an investigation, the association will sent out these e-mails accordingly.

Apparently, there’s also a case of someone continuously complaining that he/she never got the confirmation email for said opening night, but turns out the confirmation numbers were faked, and this person might get charged for fraud.

Also, the official website has put up an official apology about the failures of the new online ticketing system. This is what happens when you rely on the internet. Then again, this blog is on the internet, so maybe I shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds me.

2) Using the Wong Jing crapfest The Lady Iron Chef, Ming Pao also claims that a bad box office gross doesn’t always spell the end of a movie.
Excerpt as follows:

目前有不少電影是不需過分依靠票房賺錢的。所以電影雖然仍陷低潮,但仍有不少像《美女食神》的製作出現。

這類電影,有一條賺錢方法,主要是把錄像、電視、賣埠的版權收入加起來,以這成本來製作,拍好後只要在戲院上上畫就可以。

為什麼一定要在戲院上畫?因為不上畫的戲,會被視為次一等的電影,錄像、電視等版權價錢,也會少一截。

電影上畫時做過宣傳,會多些人知道有這部戲,價錢與未上過畫的當然有分別。

單看票房,可能奇怪某些電視投資者為何還會開拍某類電影,但有噱頭或熟口熟面的題材,只要有好幾個有人認識的明星來做,還是可以賣得一定的價錢。票房不高的電影,未必無錢賺。

Currently there are quite a few films that doesn’t desperately need box office gross to make money. That’s why even though the industry is in a recession, there’s still many productions similar to The Lady Iron Chef coming out.

The way these types of movies make money is through adding up video, television, and overseas distribution deals. These type of productions only need to be on the screens for a little while.

Why do they need to be on the big screen? Because a film that does not go to theatres is regarded as an inferior film, and all those potential money from selling broadcast or distribution rights will suffer a loss.

A film that played on the big screen and was promoted would attract attention would surely fetch a higher price than films that didn’t.

Looking at the box office, maybe it would be strange for these television networks to still be financing movies. But as long as there’s buzz or a familiar topic, just find a couple of known actors, the film can still sell abroad. A film with a low box office gross can still make money.

It’s not a lot of news today, I’m saving the rest for tomorrow. Some Japan Times reviews, the best of the week, of course a song of the day, and maybe some American box office estimates.

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