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The blog that never ends


Today’s entry title refers to the Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts, who has a huge presence in the film I saw last night. Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Linda Linda Linda doesn’t play out like a crowdpleaser - it doesn’t have the dramatic flair of the usual high school girls films, nor is it outrageously hilarious like Shinobu Yaguchi’s Swing Girls - and yet, it’s so easy to get excited about it. The basic plot is fairly formulaic, with 4 girls overcoming obstacles to play in the big school fair, but its approach is so subdued and natural that I was surprised that I could muster up such enthusiasm for a film that intentionally doesn’t have much of a climax. The girls work hard, they bond, some kind of screw-up happens (which actually was such a natural thing to happen that I’m surprised I didn’t think of it), and they still play in the big show. There’s no time for big dramatic moments, and that helps to capture an authentic sense of reality rarely seen in American teen films without appearing artistically pretentious. And best of all: The movie has no montages.

Naturally, the standout is Korean actress Bae Doona playing Korean exchange student/lead vocalist that was randomly recruited. Speaking very little Japanese, Bae captures the simple charm in her character, an outcast that finds real friends through pure coincidence. Scenes involving her interacting with unsuspecting characters, including a crush that managed to learn a bit of Korean for his confession to her, are often the funniest scenes in the film. Too bad the subtitles couldn’t capture when Bae is actually speaking Japanese or Korean when it was crucial to getting the joke of said confession scene.

Anyway, it’s a different creature from Swing Girls, but it’s great just the same. It’s not the most entertaining, but Linda Linda Linda is simply one of the better teen films from Asia in recent years, period. And even though I’m about 12 years late, I’ve just become a Blue Hearts fan. I’m gonna have to check out the lead singer’s latest works too.

- The story this weekend at the box office is again Spiderman 3. But unlike last weekend’s “holy shit!” reactions, this week is about disappointment.

At the Hong Kong Sunday box office, Spiderman 3 still scored an impressive HK$2.86 million on 88 screens, bringing its 13-day total to HK$42.8 million, smashing Night at the Museum’s record as the highest-grosser this year so far. AND it still has the upcoming weekend to dominate before those pirates come and sweep the box office away.

In Japan, it still made 593 million yen this past weekend, with a 51% drop (which is perfectly natural since last week was part of a major public holiday period. If you look closely, just about every remaining film on the top 6 dropped over 50%) for a 13-day total of over 4.3 billion yen. This already way surpassed the track record of the previous film in Japan.

On the other hand, North America actually saw quite a huge drop on the gross, even though it still made a very large US$58 million, because it suffered a 61% drop from last weekend. In comparison, Pirates of the Caribbean only saw a 54% drop in its second weekend after its record-breaking opening.

And in worldwide box office overall, it took an even bigger tumble, losing 63.5% of its business, despite still making $85 million total. It’s not good, but how can anyone ever call a film that’s made over US$600 million a commercial failure?

- That was fast. While Kiroi Namida is putting people in small theaters, Isshin Inudou also has a more commercial film just opening in theaters. Bizan, starring Nansko Natsushima, opened in 291 screens this past weekend, making 135 million yen for a 4th place opening, right behind “For Those We Love,” which made an unspectacular 178 million yen. But that’s another story.

Anyway, according to Eiga Consultant, Bizan’s opening is 104% of the opening for Natsushima’s previous film Inugamike no Ichizoku and 125% of Gege, the previous adaptation of the author’s work. However, for the past 3 years, Toho opened huge hits Umizaru: Limit of Love, Negotiator(The Bayside Shakwdown spinoff), and Crying Out for Love in the Center of the World around this period, so that makes Bizan’s opening a bit of a disappointment.

- Another pretty big news today surrounds John Woo’s Battle of Red Cliff yet again. According to Oriental Daily, and now pretty much around several Asian Entertainment news site, Chow Yun-Fat, who suddenly dropped out due to reasons that had people screaming “prima donna,” has rejoined the cast, but only in a cameo role that will have scenes opposite Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s character. This, ladies and gentlemen, is called an act public relations damage control.

- In Hollywood, there are also rumors flying around that Korean pop star Rain is joining the cast of the Wachowski Brother’s Speed Racer. After the free publicity Stephen Colbert gave him last week on the Colbert Report, I wouldn’t be surprised.

- Herman Yau may just be the low-budget genre version of Johnnie To. Aside from Gong Tau opening this Thursday, he also have 2 more movies coming up - Whispers and Moans, which was shown at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and was just reviewed by Kozo of Lovehkfilm, and Mob Story, which I’m sorry to say looks kind of bad. Twitch has links to all three trailers.

- Instead of more real news, Variety Asia posted reports on Asia’s current three biggest film regions - Japan, which is seeing independent distributors growing, China, where small distributors are beginning to take on the state-run China Films, and South Korea, where indie films are sadly getting bruised by the big bad Hollywood blockbusters.

- Malaysian native Tsai Ming-Liang is back in Malaysia with his latest film I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, but it ran into trouble with its censors. Tsai managed to make a compromise, making five cuts from the film himself, though the film will only be screened in one theater for two weeks. Good thing Tsai is also very good at selling his movie.

But Tsai isn’t going to take this lying down. He believes that now I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone will play in Malaysia in its truncated version, it’ll open up talks about censorship. He argues that wouldn’t have happened if the film had simply gotten banned. The Twitch link above has links to the two reports in the local press.

- Somewhere out there, Asian film fans are about to pull their hairs out because Jeffrey Wells doesn’t realize what he’s missing out on just because he can’t stay up for an extra couple of hours. Hell, I would’ve caught a 3 am screening if it meant being able to watch the world premiere of Triangle.

- A film that I’ve grown to look forward to is Hong Kong director/UFO staple Samson Chiu’s latest film Call Me Left, which chronicles the journey of a middle-aged man through the ten post-handover years of Hong Kong. It looks like a male version of Golden Chicken without the sex, but with parodies of Communist propaganda.

- Lastly, Twitch looks ahead to the summer months in Singaporean cinema, including the latest from I Not Stupid director Jack Neo.

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