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Archive for July 3rd, 2008

The Golden Rock - July 3rd, 2008 Edition

Heading off to Tokyo one last time tomorrow, and heading back to Hong Kong on Sunday, so this will probably be the last entry until Monday.

- Japan’s Emobile has pulled their latest ad, which features their mascot, a monkey, at the podium of a crowded rally for change, which is meant to resemble the Barack Obama campaign. Of course, Americans believe that they’re the center of the world and think that the Japanese actually know about way to insult an African American, one of which is to compare them to monkeys. If Americans are that culturally sensitive, there wouldn’t Rush Hour movies, Kung Fu Panda, and I Survived a Japanese Game Show. Then again, if Japanese are that culturally sensitive, one of the comedians on a variety show wouldn’t have called Bobby Ologun “Jero” and “Billy” (as in Billy Blank).

- According to Apple Daily, Stephen Chow is teaming up with a Taiwanese film company to bring back Journey to the West (which he explored in the Chinese Odyssey films). According to the Hong Kong Film blog, Chow wanted to take the monk role, but was pressured by the financiers to take on the Monkey King role once more. The way the blog spins this story is that Chow is suffering from the critical bashing from CJ7 because he appeased the Mainland censors too much, and now needs to dig back out old material to please his audience and his financiers again. No word on whether he’ll be directing or just acting like he did with the previous films.

- Kaiju Shakedown clears up that the so-called Warlords DVD from yesterday’s post is not the Jet Li-Andy Lau-Peter Chan Warlords.

- Twitch has a 5-minute-plus promo clip from Mamoru Oshii’s Sky Crawlers.

They also have that 9-minute promo clip for John Woo’s Red Cliff that was shown at Cannes. The Oriental Daily asked stars what they thought of the film at the premiere, and they apparently all liked it. Then again, what with saying the trouble one can get in from saying the wrong thing and this being Oriental Daily, take it with a grain of salt.

- Yesterday I reported that Taiwan may lift their ban of Mainland performers, and now Chinese broadcasting organization Phoenix Broadcasting has applied again for landing rights on the island after Mainland media was banned from the island in 2005.

- Jason Gray points out that the official website for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata has been updated with a classy new trailer. The trailer is also on Youtube if you want a slightly larger version.

- Variety’s Derek Elley has a review of Help, which is being touted as China’s first all-out horror film.

See you all back from Hong Kong on Monday.

Hana Yori Dango is the worst Japanese movie of the year. So far.

And I didn’t even understand 40% of it. So don’t treat this as a serious review - just a blogger’s rant.

Of course, I have my biases about the flower boys in the first place: My first encounter with them was when they were used as an excuse to start a boy band in Taiwan for “Meteor Garden”, and since then, the so-called Flower 4 has never sat right with me. But with the Japanese counterpart hitting the big screen, making a ton of money, and a shoot that went all over the world, I expected some high-energy silly fun, even if it is about boys compared to flowers (Of course, the whole title is Japanese wordplay. “Boys” in Japanese share the same sound as the Japanese sweets “dango”.). So I went, like most of the other men in the screening, accompanied by a member of the opposite sex. Now I know what a Sex and the City screening must’ve been like.

The trailer, which show central couple Makino and Domyoji running around the world in an adventure, promises such energetic silly fun (exploding cars in Hong Kong? The two doing Castaway on an abandoned island?). The film itself starts off just fine, with the two about to get married when a very very expensive family heirloom is stolen. As a result, the two run off around the world to get the heirloom back, with a little (and I mean very little) help from the other flower boys. That’s it. Really.

However, the filmmakers somehow managed to make everything drag. Apart from the first 20 minutes, there’s no sense of fun at anywhere they go. Dialogue scenes are shot from a distance, as if they’re trying to show TBS and Toho shareholders where they spent their money on by showing as much of where they are as possible. The movie was shot on digital video, with no cinematic flair whatsoever so one can hardly find any difference between the actual movie and the flashbacks from the TV drama. With TV dramas shot like movies these days, you would figure that Hana Yori Dango Final would looks better on the big screen. You’d be wrong - I’ve seen Japanese dramas shot better than this so-called movie.

Of course, I don’t even deserve to review the film if I didn’t understand 40% of the dialogue. Actually, when I can tell a film is bad just by understanding 60% of it, doesn’t it make it worse? I didn’t understand 50% of Gururi no Koto (most of those scenes involve lots of dialogue), either. For all I know, it may be a total embarrassment once I find out what the rest of the movie is about, but the acting, the directorial technique, the editing all told me at that point that there’s something better beyond the written word for all 140 minutes. Hana Yori Dango didn’t have that.

The so-called script simply boils down to two people arguing all the time, especially Jun Matsumoto (whose perfect boy  band hair stays perfectly waxed even on an abandoned island) and his arrogant and loud bad boy voice screaming in every other scene. His surface tough-guy exterior becomes increasingly irritating along the way. On the other hand, Mao Inoue was fairly likable as the girl next door, but even her acting is relegated to simply reacting to events along the way, as oppose to actively doing anything. When she’s not being told something, then she’s just arguing with Domyoji, which  makes me wonder why these two are together in the first place if they talk like that to each other every day. Worst of all, of these adventures boil down to an anti-climatic “that’s it?” resolution that would make you hate rich people like the flower boys for the resource they use for their excessive luxury. Then again, you probably won’t, because they’re still rich and handsome.

Perhaps that’s why it’s such a favorite with the female audience. This is essentially porn for virgin schoolgirls and women who dream of being like protagonist Makino - your poor girl next door swept away by four rich handsome guys who lavish her with attention and luxury like champagne on private planes and pools in presidential suites. Men has the same type of latent fantasy, they’re called action movies.

Don’t mistaken me as a TV drama adaptation hater, either. As much as I don’t like the trend, I actually think drama adaptations can be quite well-done. At least Hero and Bayside Shakedown earn their 2-hour+ runtime with complicated cases that take multiple steps to untie the knots. Hana Yori Dango runs 131 minutes, which is way too long to pull off what the story turned out to be.

I suppose not having seen the drama, I must not be in the position to judge this film. Actually, the filmmakers do their best to let the uninitiated understand what’s going on, and a film should be able to stand on their own as a film instead of a 2-hour episode of a TV show. That’s why people criticized the second and third installments of Lord of the Rings as not real films, because they aren’t “complete” films with a beginning and an end. But at least those films are miles away better shot, better written, and better acted than Hana Yori Dango, which looks like it was shot for TV, and that’s where it belongs.

Still, girls will probably still flock to it for the same reason they would flock to a Daniel Henney movie - Jun Matsumoto appears topless in one scene. Wet. While saying “I love you” to a girl.

By the way, here’s the exact reason why the film did not deserve a 131-minute running time.

MAJOR ENDING SPOILERS:

The so-called family hairloom was a fake, and was a scheme concocted by Domyoji’s mother and father to test the couple’s love. Everyone was in on it, hence meaning that everything that appeared in the film is false and artificial. Just like the manufactured emotions and endless verbal expositions.

Consider yourself warned.

 
 
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