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Archive for May, 2007

In. Over. Head.

The Cannes Film Festival rolls on, as Twitch now officially has reviews to the more interesting films at the festival. At least interesting to this blog.

They now have probably the first English review to Hitoshi Matsumoto’s “Dai Nipponjin,” which sounds hilarious, and also the first English review to the animated film “Vexville” by Ping Pong director Fumihiko Sori, which sounds interesting, even though I’m not a big fan of animation.

Variety, on the other hand, reviews the omnibus “To Each His Own Cinema,” comprised of 33 3-minute films by directors who have gained recognition at Cannes over the years, including Wong Kai-Wai, Tsai Ming-Liang, Takeshi Kitano, Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, and Hou Hsaio-Hsien. Out of all the films by Asian filmmakers, the review only mentions two - Zhang Yimou and Takeshi Kitano - at short lengths.

Chinese director Li Yang’s Blind Mountain was also shown in competition after Chinese censors forced Yang to make 20 cuts just to let it be allowed to travel overseas. Hollywood Reporter likes it, calling it a moving drama that retains enormous social impact, despite the cuts. Meanwhile, Variety didn’t like it, undermining the film as one that is low on drama and originality and high on deja vu.

There are also a few Japanese films that already opened in Japan, but saw its premiere in Cannes and their first reviews from Variety. One is For Those We Love, the controversial war drama that have been criticized as glorifying war before it even opened. The other is I Just Didn’t Do it by Shall We Dance director Masayuki Suo, about a man accused of molesting a young girl on the train and is forced to go through the tedious Japanese legal system.

- For Those We Love is so controversial that it’s even a target in the new Japanese film Pacchigi - Love and Peace, where one of its characters, a Japanese national of Korean heritage, becomes an actress who sees her big chance through a role in a nationalist film about kamikazes. Love and Peace, considered an independent film because it’s not distributed by “the big three,” opened on Saturday on 184 screens (as opposed to the original, which opened on 100 and expanded to 300 eventually), and the distributor is already expecting the film to make the 1 billion yen mark (considered the mark of success in Japanese box office).

- Shanghai, surely still not very happy that Disney chose Hong Kong over them (or seeing how it turned out, maybe they got over it already), will get their consolation by getting an MGM Studio World….except it’s not a theme park, but rather an indoor complex with all types of entertainment, ranging from a cinema to a nightclub. Well, I would rather get one of those than Disneyland, but that’s just me.

- Hong Kong seems like a perfectly free society…until they start enforcing laws you didn’t even know exists. A 14-year-old blogger was recently arrested because he blogs about his life in the triads. In Hong Kong, it’s illegal to even profess or claim to assist in “the management of a triad society.” Looks like Ekin Cheng has a long jail sentence ahead of him, then.

- Under “bad taste but nice try” today, the Japan censorship board has rejected the Japanese title for the mockumentary Death of a President, which supposed a world in which George W. Bush is assassinated. The rejected title? “The Assassination of Bush.” That automatically takes away any chance of me making a movie named “The Assassination of Lincoln,” then.

- Wow, what took so long? The Japanese government has finally decided to offer multiple incentives, including the allowing film to be limited-liability partnership and offering grants to multi-national co-productions, to help the film industry. Hong Kong government can offer $38.5 million, and Japan can only offer 16? Hmm….

- Jackie Chan and Jet Li are currently filming The Forbidden Kingdom, another attempt to bastardize the Journey to the West story to Western audiences. Jackie recently posted on his blog about his fight scene with Jet Li, which sounds good and all, but the movie still sounds crappy to me.

- After Paris Je T’aime (which is in American theaters now, and I highly recommend it), its producers has gotten quite a lineup for its follow up New York Je T’aime, including Oldboy’s Park Chan-Wook, Mira Nair, Zach Braff, and Allen and Albert Hughes. Sounds good to me.

- Remember Happy Male Voice, the revamped version of the talent show Super Girl in China? Apparently, people are quitting due all kinds of dark music industry stuff.

- It’s been a long time since a Gordon Chan movie made me excited (sadly, the last one was A.D. 2000, which was not worth the excitement). And this one continues the streak.

Instead of The Song of the Day today, it’ll be a special feature on the current Hong Kong hoopla about the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/19/07

Today’s song of the day isn’t the typical pop crap that I named Songs of the Day (Don’t worry, there’s still pop crap in this entry). Today we’re going classical with Chopin, which means you can find today’s track on any compilation of Chopin’s works. It’s short, and it’s mighty depressing. It’s Chopin’s Prelude op. 28 No.20.

There’s obviously no regular music video for it on Youtube, so here’s a really talented kid playing it instead:

I was going to post Barry Manilow’s Could It Be Magic, but I can’t find a video of it anywhere. So I’ll just show you one way you can ruin a masterpiece. I can’t believe Robbie Williams took part in this. It’s Take That’s cover of Could It Be Magic:

The big 200 - Just another entry

Considering that I post twice a day, it wasn’t long before I hit another 100 entries. Not much has changed since back in the middle of March - readership continues to be steady, although I’d like to see it go even higher. But it’s only been a month and a half, so can’t really ask for much.

Tell you what, if my average readership gets up to 200 by the time of the 300th entry (which I guess is about 4 to 5 months from now), I’ll give out one of those cool posters I got in Japan (I have a lot of Spiderman 3 and Star Wars Episode 3 ones to give away anyway).

Still not much new major Asian film news at Cannes. Looks like Dai Nipponjin is screening tonight, while Wilson Yip’s Flashpoint and Benny Chan’s Invisible Targets are screening 30-minute reels, and the Japanese animated film Vexville also get screening for possible buyers. On the other hand, it looks like Soi Cheang’s Shamo has already saw its premiere (again, for buyers), and Twitch’s Todd has a review. It doesn’t sound too promising, but I’m watching it for the aesthetics anyway, so I still look forward to it.

Meanwhile, The Coen Brothers’ (who hasn’t really done anything that great, in my opinion, since The Big Lebowski, and that was good just because it’s so quotable) latest No Country for Old Man is getting rave reviews from pretty much everyone. Variety calls it one of the Coens’ best films. Jeffrey Wells says it’s an obviously brilliant action thriller. Of course, leave it to Hollywood Reporter to be sour grapes and pan its ending, to the point that it’ll affect the box office.

Michael Moore (whose films I like on a pure filmmaking point of view. I’m a liberal, but even I don’t agree with some of his methods, however hilarious they can be. And whoever calls him Anti-American doesn’t know how to be an American in the first place.) showed his latest documentary Sicko, an attack on the American healthcare system. Obviously, it’s controversial, especially for painting a glamorized portrait of the British and French healthcare system and the sequence where he takes 9/11 workers to Cuba for treatments. Still, Variety says it’s an entertaining and affecting dissection of the American healthcare industry. Hollywood Reporter thinks it still has the usual Moore oversimplification and stunts, but likes it anyway. Hell, even Jeffrey Wells said he came out teary-eyed.

There’s also Boarding Gate, by Maggie Cheung’s ex-husband Olivier Assayas, and it’s a pseudo-Asian film because it was partly film in Hong Kong and also feature Carl Ng and Kelly Lin. Reviews are fairly negative, though, with Variety calling it limp and sleazy.

- A few weeks ago, I linked to the Japan Times review of Ahiri to Kamo no Coin Locker, which is currently playing only in Miyagi Prefecture (whose capital is Sendai) because that’s where the author of the original work is from. And it seems to be doing quite well. According to Eiga Consultant, on its opening day on May 12th, the film attracted 5061 people, or 6.76 million yen on 10 screens. Considering they’re probably mostly small arthouse screens, that’s a pretty good per-screen average. However, its ultimate test will come when it expands into Tokyo on June 23rd. Still, hopefully this opening will attract small films to open in smaller cities first, which just doesn’t happen in America.

- Speaking of Japan Times, this weekend we have a review for the sequel Pacchigi - Love and Peace, along with an interview with the film’s director, who was recently called a “dickhead” for attacking the war drama “For Those We Love” for potentially brainwashing Japan teens into war lovers. They also reviewed Feng Xiaogang’s critically mauled blockbuster The Banquet, which they actually liked quite a bit. There’s also a feature on Wong Kar Wai’s choice to cast singer Norah Jones in his film My Blueberry Nights, and an interview with Jones herself.

- Japan Probe has an interview with Christian Storm, a regular in Takeshi Miike’s films who also work as his subtitler and the translation supervisor for the Japanese version of South Park.

- Chinese director Lou Ye may be banned from making films in China for 5 years, but he decided to find ways around that by shooting his next film in the Middle East, specifically Palestine territory. That must still be safer than protecting artistic integrity in Mainland China.

- Twitch reports that the website for Peter Chan Ho-Sun’s Warlords is up, and it contains the teaser that was leaked online earlier. At least now you can watch it legally.

- What is it about Andy Lau that attract so much attention? Apparently, there’s yet another obsessive fan doing something stupid trying to get the superstar’s attention.

- A while ago I mentioned about the Seoul government offering incentives to foreign films that choose to shoot there. Now a group of producers are getting together to try and help foreign productions coordinate and scout locations, among other jobs.

That’s it for now. See you in another 100 posts.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/18/07

I was originally going to continue the My Blueberry Nights streak with something that has something to do with the movie, but i heard a cover of this song by Chet Lam while writing the previous entry, and just can’t help but choose to post this today. Originally on the Vision Quest soundtrack, then on The Immaculate Collection, it’s Madonna’s “Crazy For You.” I honestly have no idea why, this is one of those classic pop songs that is hard not to like.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/17/07

Today’s song of the day is the second song from Khalil Fong’s album This Love. The title and its lyrics are based on Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood For Love (see a recurring theme going on here?), though that doesn’t make the song better or worse. The star of the song is really Khalil Fong anyway. It’s “Su Li Zhen.”

Differing opinions

As the Cannes Film Festival gets its gears rolling, the fallout from the chilly reception of opening film My Blueberry Nights continues.

Well, perhaps not so much fallout. I’ll leave to the Hollywood Reporter to talk about that.

Premieres of works by major Asian directors continue, as the Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To collaboration “serial film” Triangle and Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Flight of the Red Balloon both received their premieres out of competition, with reviews coming in already.

Variety kind of likes Triangle, noting that “Lam and To come off most successfully, while Tsui’s material seems unnecessarily complex and fussy.” Sounds like typical Tsui Hark stuff to me.

Hollywood Reporter pretty much hated it, calling it “an inedible mess where ingredients war with one another and no one has paid any attention to the poor fellow who must consume the meal.”

As for Hou’s “Flight of the Red Balloon,” I swear that I saw a Hollywood Reporter pan on it earlier in the morning that’s no longer on the site. On the other hand, Variety sees it as business as usual for Hou, whose penchant for medium long takes has divided audiences for years.

- With Lee Chang-Dong’s latest Secret Sunshine in competition at Cannes, the Korean Film Council has published an English book on the director, which is free for download on their website.

On to other news:

- The Korean film wave is slowly on its death rattle in Japan, so now they’re trying to incorporate Japanese elements. Such is the cast with the film “Virgin Snow,” which stars Korean actor Lee Jun-Gi and Japanese actress Aoi Miyazaki. According to Eiga Consultant, the film opened with 30.2 million yen, which is good enough for a 9th place at the rankings. That’s only 26% of Miyazaki’s previous film “Tada Kimi Wo Aishitteru” and 95% of The King and the Clown’s opening in Japan. However, Box Office Mojo’s ranking shows that it opened on 9 screens….with only $25,352, which is only 3.04 million yen. Did the Mojo leave a zero out, or did Eiga Consultant added a zero in? I myself trust the rankings from Japan.

- Variety finally catches on with how Japan uses classy ads to attract audiences into small arthouse films. The key: appeal to young hip Tokyo girls.

It’s that kind of thinking that managed to create such a kick-ass poster for Election, although I doubt that it’ll appeal to any girls. That’s my carpet in the background, by the way.

- I don’t usually try to plug Yesasia directly, though they’re great enough to actually put up what I write. This is really more of a plug for the Sakuran DVD, which is coming out on August 3rd with English subtitles.

- Under “shitty movie wannabe” today, we finally have the trailer for Jet Li’s latest “War,” originally named “Rogue.” As much as I like Jason Statham AND Jet Li together again after “The One” (Oy vey….), I agree with Twitch: it looks pretty shitty.

- I still haven’t seen Dennis Law’s Fatal Contact yet, thanks to the traumatic experiences that were Marriage with a Fool and Love @ First Note. Anyway, the Weinsteins have just bought the North American rights to it, and since the title is so derivative already, I don’t think they even have to rename it.

- Remember a few months ago when everyone expected the worst when Edison Chen was meeting with Stephen Chow on a collaboration project? Turns out that project is actually Stephen Fung’s latest film about dancing. Edison Chen is starring, in a role where he can probably just play the spoiled hip-hop boy he is in real life, and Chow is probably producing. Just read the original Chinese report that mentions it.

- I was going to write a review of Matsuo Suzuki’s Otakus in Love (Koi No Mon) a few years ago, but I found it so crazy and overloaded with excess silliness that I didn’t know how to quite approach it. It was simply too much of what it had for its own good. Anyway, Suzuki’s latest Welcome to the Quiet Room (which seems to be based on his own novel) has a teaser on its website.

- Sony may be (barely) making big bucks with Spiderman 3, but its Playstation 3 is sinking the company fast. Because of the Playstation 3 (which I still believe is being released way too ahead of its time), Sony is now operating at a US$573 million loss. I’ll buy one eventually, I’m sure, but I just don’t see it happening this decade.

- Breathe slowly. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino had just signed on to a film where they’ll spend 90-95% of their screen time together. I don’t even care if the movie’s going to be crappy, or that the two have been making crappy movies (De Niro WAY moreso than Pacino), it’s finally happening, baby.

- Chen Kaige is going back to the well that brought him international fame. Somewhat reminiscent of Farewell My Concubine, Chen’s latest film is the biopic Mei Lan-fang, about the famous Peking Opera singer of the same name. Good news: The film will cost half of what The Promise cost. Bad news: Leon Lai is in the starring role.

- China is beginning to soften their stance against bloggers, stopping their campaign for mandatory registration of real names for all Chinese bloggers. Instead, they’ll just “encourage” blogging companies to do so. Blogger doesn’t have my real name, does it…..?

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/16/07

Today’s choice for Song of the Day just seems natural, considering what I spent most of the previous post on. It’s the song in the teaser for Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights. It needs very little introduction, and from the album “The Greatest,” it’s Cat Power’s “The Greatest.”

Here is the My Blueberry Nights teaser in Youtube format

Blueberries everywhere

As both a fan of Wong Kar-Wai and the writer of an Asian entertainment blog, it’s hard to avoid report extensively about the debut of My Blueberry Nights, Wong Kar Wai’s opening film at the Cannes Film Festival. But I realize today that it’s hard to report it as well because of the negative reviews rolling in. I mean, it’s no The Da Vinci Code or anything, but the word-of-mouth is actually somewhat similar to 2046 in 2004.

Before the reviews, there are quite a few features on the man, and he provides some interesting insights while remaining somewhat ambiguous at the same time:

Dialogue: Wong Kar-Wai

Wong Unveils “Blueberry Nights.”

Wong’s Schedule is Too Busy for “Lady” (This would be in reference to “The Lady From Shanghai,” which is supposed to star Nicole Kidman)

Wong Keeps His Favorite in Project House (About the talent agency branch of his Jet Tone Pictures)

Wong Kar Wai: Advertising Director? (Here is his latest ad starring Clive Owen.)

And now: The reviews:

Variety calls it a film whose “ambitions and accomplishments remain modest to the extreme”

The Hollywood Reporter kind of likes it, but says it’s unlikely to “move beyond the arthouses in North America.”

Cinematical thinks the film looks beautiful, but thinks the film is full of moments that “you would rather see than hear.” (That would a reference to Wong’s penchant for voiceover, similar to 2046).

The Independent thinks the characters’ emotional agony comes close to being “tiresome chick-flick naval-gazing,” but thinks the film “looks ravishing” and “has a great soundtrack.”

The Guardian gives it 2 stars out of 5 and thinks it’s full of “false notes.”

Jeffrey Wells says it’s so groan-inducing that he leaned forward a lot, often with his hands covering his face.

Well, like I said, at least it’s no The Da Vinci Code.

- In more WKW related news, Sony Pictures Classics has picked up the North American rights to “Ashes of Time Redux,” the complete reworking of Wong’s 1994 martial arts film that has long been considering his most controversial film. It also remains the only WKW film I have not seen. The film is expected to come out at the end of the year.

- From potentially good movies to potentially very crappy movie, Emperor Motion Picture (associated with the infamous EEG record company) has secured the international rights of “Kung Fu Dunk,” (That title is already screaming at me to stay away) formerly known as “Slam Dunk.” Starring Jay Chou and Charlene Choi of Twins, the film is directed Kevin Chu Yin-Ping, who also directed the masterpieces Shaolin Popey 1 & 2. Those films are considered gems in Europe.

- Takeshii Miike, in addition to his “Sukiyaki Western” film “Django,” also has the comic adaptation Crows Zero, which apparently features a lot of schoolboys fighting each other. Cool. Twitch has the link to the website, which includes a teaser trailer.

- After watching Hot Fuzz, I realized that it’s going to be hard to watch another big Hollywood action flick again. One of those films that Hot Fuzz targeted was Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves (his acting is apparently considered a gem in Europe too) and Patrick “Dirty Dancing” Swayze. That film saw Keanu Reeves playing an undercover agent who infiltrates a group of surfers/bank robbers. Now, 16 years later, the original writer of the film is working on a sequel. Why is it in this blog, you ask? Because Point Break 2 is going to be set in Southeast Asia, and is mostly financed by Asian firms.

- Oh, yeah, there are the Oricon ranking in Japan too. This week on the singles chart, the new single by B’z ruled the charts as expected, selling 152,000 copies. Even though this is the 39th consecutive number 1 single for the band, the bigger news this week in the singles chart is the debut of enka star Kiyoshi Hikawa’s two singles at second and third place. Apparently, Hikawa is the first solo male singer in 26 years to have two of the top three singles, and the first enka singer is 34 years…probably when enka was actually still considered as pop music. Next week, the Keisuke Kawata single, which was our Song of the Day on May 7th, is expected to get the number one spot since it debuted at number 1 yesterday.

On the album charts, Mr. Children’s B-side album debuts at number 1 with 281,000 copies sold, which is far weaker than the sales of their previous album “Home.” Of course, the difference is that “Home” was an album of new tracks, while B-side is just a compilation album of companion tracks on past singles. No other Japanese albums debuted on the top 10 this past week. Sad. What’s sadder is Linkin Park’s new album looks to be ruling the charts next week. Very sad.

- Japan, the Grindhouse movies by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodridguez are officially coming your way in the fall, although I have never heard of this BMS company.

- With the benchmark being set at 2 million viewers for a Korean film to have considered broken even (This is considering that Shiri was considered record-breaking back in 1999 when it crossed the 1 million viewer mark), Korean film productions are now looking to cut costs.

- The Asian Television Awards is now allowing Australian and New Zealand productions to be considered for awards. Last time I checked, Australia was its own continent, wasn’t it?

The Golden Rock song of the day - 5/15/07

Kind of in a loud mood lately, so today’s song of the day is no surprise. I remember living in the dorms when I heard this album, and pumping this song loud for the first time alone in the room on a Saturday afternoon. That was fun. Hearing it again on the radio again the other day reminded me how good this song is.

Anyway, from the album Elephant, it’s The White Stripes’ “Seven Nations Army.”

Not quite over yet

- In more My Blueberry Nights news, Lovehkfilm’s Sanjuro has a link to the trailer. Looks good to me, though I’m feeling Wong’s overuse of voiceover already.

- Looks like Chow Yun Fat might not be Battle of Red Cliff after all. Ming Pao reports that the role that Chow has supposedly been cast in actually went to another actor before Chow supposedly signed on. Additional excerpt as follows:

內地記者求證了製片方面的中影負責宣傳的翁先生,他說發哥目前正在美國,據他所知發哥臨走前確主動與《赤壁》劇組聯絡過,但該片有很多猛將角色會出現,所以若大家仍保持良好關係,未來發哥可能會客串其他角色也說不定。

Mainland reporters wanted to confirm with publicity’s Mr. Yong. He said that Chow is current in the States, and that Chow did contact the production before leaving. But since there are quite a few characters in the film, if relations continue to stay healthy, maybe Chow will take on other roles.

Original Chinese report

 
 
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