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Archive for the ‘Jackie Chan’ Category

News Links: April 23rd, 2009

It’s been twelve days since the last news links post so there’s a huge backlog of links.  I’m going to be attacking the pile by separating the links into two posts: one for the regular news and another for the Hong Kong Film Awards links.  We’ll do the regular news links in this post and save the HKFA one for later.  But first, some reader interaction on the topic of the day:

From the comments on the Jackie Chan “Chinese need to be controlled” post:

phatyou writes:  I’m not trying to condone or justify what Jackie said, but I think Jackie said what he said, not because he was trying to carry favour with the mainland (there was certainly some brown nosing going on, because he would never say the same thing in HK or Taiwan) but in some simplistic way he actually believes in it. Jackie grew up very poor, so poor that his parents had to send him out to the academy, and in the academy that was where he learnt his discipline and his principles, under the iron hand of master Yu Jim-Yuen. Fast forward 40 years, with the prosperity of HK and China coming in bloom, he probably views this generation as soft and spoiled, and yearns for the culture of his youth, where respect for your elders and authority reigns supreme, but minus the torture and the human rights abuses. Maybe I am overthinking it, but that’s the way I see it.

I don’t think our reactions are that far apart.  I still think the main motivation for saying what he said was to look like a cool guy in front of a Mainland audience.  However, I agree that his opinion was formed off the top of his head from just his own experiences.  I don’t think his opinion was based upon deep reflection of today’s society and meticulous analysis of Marx, Mao, Adam Smith and The Federalist Papers.  This is why I’m finding it hard to muster the disgust others are feeling for him.  He’s an actor, a guy who’s famous for amazing, often clownish, physical feats.  He’s not a political leader.  He’s not running for office.  He’s not responsible for creating public policy.  If you’re going to hate him, hate him for being a money-grubbing, pandering indiscreet dope.  Don’t hate him for comments that were clearly made without much thought or conviction.  Jackie Chan isn’t a “Communist oppressor” or a “fascist”.  He’s like an “environmentalist” who makes a big deal out of planting a few trees on Earth Day.  He’s not a greener-than-thou type who wants capitalist economies to die because they’re killing the polar bears.

phatyou continues: As for the nail in coffin for Jackie’s career?  The beginning of the end came when he decided not to do anymore action movies.  SHINJUKU INCIDENT was a bold attempt to remake himself, but in the end, he is who he is.  Jackie is not good enough of an actor to be seen as another character and not as Jackie!.   Maybe he should go into producing, be somebody like Eric Tsang and cherry pick projects and use his contacts in and outside the industry to get them made.

The beginning of the end started well before he decided to quit making action movies.  I think it started around the time of Dragon Seed.  I think that scandal confirmed to many what people had been whispering about Big Brother Jackie for many, many years.  He then exacerbated the situation by doing sequel after sequel in addition to movies like THE TUXEDO.  People started seeing him less and less as a “cool action star” and more and more as a “sellout who has few principles”.

phatyou asks: I haven’t been really paying attention, but how is his relationship weird with his son?  His overcriticalness towards him?  It seems like Jackie always slag Jaycee in the media.  From what I have read or seen on TV, I find Jaycee to be very well adjusted, down to earth guy.   He could’ve very well had gone down Edison’s or Juno’s route as a spoiled rich brat, but I don’t get that from him at all.  Seems like a nice and jovial guy.

I don’t know what his real relationship is with his son.  I was talking about the public perception of the relationship.  I don’t read six newspapers a day anymore so I don’t have my finger on the pulse of public opinion as much as I did in the past but I think people see Jackie Chan’s relationship with his son as “weird.”  Like you said, he constantly slags his son in public while most people in his position would be supportive of their kids.

Also, I think the prevailing public opinion is that Jaycee Chan’s down-to-earth demeanour is a testament to his mother Lin Feng-Jiao.  I don’t think anyone credits Jackie Chan for Jaycee Chan’s upbringing.

David Harris writes: For what it’s worth: Jackie Chan comments ‘taken out of context’

Sometimes, I wonder if PR people exist in Hong Kong.  “He was only talking about the entertainment industry” is just about as bad as “They’re fake!  They’re fake!  The photos are fakes!  We’re calling the cops!”.  The only thing worse would be if he released a video statement in which he mumbled that this whole incident was a “strange, strange ordeal.”  I don’t think anyone with two intact frontal lobes in their brains buys that he was only talking about the entertainment industry.  On top of looking stupid, he now looks spineless.

If I was his spin doctor, I’d have him do something similar to what President Obama did after Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s “… not God Bless America … God Damn America!” sermon leaked.  I’d have him hold a press conference where he didn’t take any questions but read a speech further explaining his comments.  The speech would include some of the ideas that phatyou mentioned in his comment:  the young generation is soft and spoiled, people don’t know the true value of a dollar, people are selfish and don’t value work ethic like they did in the past and so forth.

I’d spin “Chinese people need to be controlled” into “people have become lazy and entitled, they want the benefits of hard work but they don’t want to put in the sweat and tears … people all over the world, not just Chinese people need challenges and obstacles to struggle against” that’s what I meant by “people need to be controlled”.  I’d also have him play the whole “I didn’t go to school, I’ve been working my butt off since I was a child, I’m not an educated man so sometimes my words aren’t refined” card.

A speech like that wouldn’t mollify everyone but it would do a better job of damage control than “he was quoted out of context, he was only talking about the entertainment industry.”

In any case, Jackie Chan’s going to have to do something more than have a spokesperson react for him.  This can’t be dumped into the “Jackie being Jackie” file along with his drunken display at Jonathan Lee’s concert.  This can’t be swept under the rug like Dragon Seed.  There’s too much acrimony for it to just blow over.

One last piece of reader interaction:  To reader Joe, I finished this post before I read your comments.  I’m happy to answer your questions in a future post.  However, I’m not sure if people want to hear me yap about history, society and politics so it may be better if you shoot me an e-mail so that we can discuss your questions without boring everyone else.

JACKIE CHAN NEWS LINKS:

Jackie Chan Faces Film Boycott for Chaotic Taiwan Comments

Jackie Chan’s ‘freedom’ talk sparks debate

Jackie Chan trips up over “chaotic Taiwan” remarks

OPINION: East (Jackie Chan’s Remarks) versus West (Jackie Chan: Racist?)

Chan dropped from Deaflympics

MORE JACKIE CHAN NEWS LINKS:

More than 100 to perform at Jackie Chan’s Bird’s Nest concert

Dragon Seed, Eight Years Later: Elaine Ng plans for daughter to meet “father”

RELATED LINK: Fast Weekly story upon which above article was based

Singer Coming Back with New Album, and Jackie Chan

IN PRODUCTION:

Husband and wife directing team Mabel Cheung Yuen-Ting and Alex Law Kai-Yu (AN AUTUMN’S TALE, THE SOONG SISTERS, CITY OF GLASS) were on location Tuesday afternoon in the Central district shooting their new film 歲月神偷 (trans. OLDEN DAYS MASTER THIEF).   Set in the 1960s, the movie stars Simon Yam Tat-Wah and Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu with Ng playing a “’60s era housewife/Robin Hood”.

With the film, Law and Cheung hope to re-create the memories of their youth and inspire the people of today.   Law: “In Hong Kong during the 1960s, everybody was poor but everyone was filled with ambition and determination.   At the time, the economy wasn’t great but everyone still had opportunity.   All they needed was the willingness to work hard to pave a road to success for themselves.  Nowadays, Hong Kong people don’t have that spirit.  If they have any spirit at all it’s ‘negative spirit’.  Many people are depressed or live in denial.  I don’t think that’s healthy.  I think we need to look at the past, see how we did things back then and see if we can apply it to today.”

See, this is the kind of thing I would include in the speech if I was Jackie Chan’s spin doctor.  People would buy this more than they would buy “he was only talking about the entertainment industry”.

RELATED LINK:  Photos from the set courtesy Sina.com.

Carina Lau to play Empress in Tsui Hark’s new film

Chow Yun-Fat:  Kung Fu Confucius

Variety: THE MAD DETECTIVE and THE MISSION to be remade by Hollywood

Post-Olympics, director Zhang Yimou plans new film

Pan-Asian auteurs line up for Chengdu omnibus

New JOURNEY TO THE WEST TV series: Building an epic ‘Journey’ out West

Photos: Tang Wei and Andy On Chi-Kit work on Ivy Ho’s CROSSING HENNESSEY

Photos:  Fan Bingbing works on Peter Chan’s BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS

GENERAL NEWS:

Hong Kong film festival announces shorter run for 2010

Ang Lee’s Woodstock Film Up for Cannes Competition

Celebrity Watch: Items on Daniel Wu, Aaron Kwok, Jacky Cheung and Charlene Choi

Tse Family Drama: Little Lucas’ $2 million offer leads to parental dispute

More Tse Family Drama: Rumoured couple Andy On Chi-Kit and Jennifer Tse Ting-Ting, sister of Nic, deny relationship, share stage at publicity event for a watch company

Taipei Times Pop Stop: Nic Tse and Cecilia Cheung among other celebrity items

ABC gives Zhang Ziyi the creeps

Edison Chen receives threat mail again!

Joe Nieh: Miffty Zhang is “God Sister”

FEATURES:

Aaron Kwok: Aaron bags Guinness record for show stage

Fruitful decade for Raymond Lam

Bai Ling promotes CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE

Jim Chim Sui-Man (LoveHKFilm People Page): Chim fired up over battle of the sexes

Taiwanese star Dylan Kuo: Dylan Comes Clean

Mainland director Lu Chuan: Nanjing! City of Life or Death?, City of Life and Death, a Director’s Odyssey

MOVIE REVIEWS:

Channel News Asia reviews THE SNIPER

Hollywood Reporter review of GLAMOROUS YOUTH

Tapei Times review of the Taiwanese horror film INVITATION ONLY

PHOTO GALLERYS:

Stars attend Eric Tsang Chi-Wai’s 56th birthday party (April 13th)

Ellen Chan Nga-Lun shows up at midnight bearing gifts

Karen Mok Man-Wai in the Chinese edition of Marie Claire

More Karen Mok

Zhang Ziyi and Gillian Chung promote VEVA cellphones in Beijing on April 16th

Chung was on stage for only two minutes during which she talked about the phone’s functions and how happy she was to be its spokesperson

Zhang Ziyi at an event for Armani

Miriam Yeung at a publicity event for Lenscrafters

Athena Chu, Andy Hui, Simon Yam, others attend 7th Global Chinese University Student Film and TV Festival Awards

Opening lens ceremony for the new TVB series 蒲松齡 starring Steven Ma, Sunny Chan, Fala Chen and Linda Chung

Irene Wan Bik-Ha, Sonija Kwok Sin-Lei, Kathy Chow Man-Kei attend publicity event

Daniel Wu shoots a commercial

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang shoots video for Charmaine Fong’s song “Table For Two” Pace Wu’s ‘Fashion’ Show

Nick Cheung and Esther Kwan’s Wedding Pics

Promotional photos for Leo Koo’s new album STRINGS FOREVER

Promotional photos from Gigi Leung Wing-Kei’s latest album

“Nanking” Actress Gao Yuanyuan’s New Pics

Thoughts on Jackie Chan’s “Chinese need to be controlled” comments

From talking about beauties in the last post to a beastly situation in this one …

Jackie Chan stuck his foot in his mouth yet again this past Saturday when he told a Mainland audience that “… we Chinese need to be controlled.”  I’d get more worked up about Big Brother Jackie’s latest gaffe if I hadn’t been following his career for the last twenty years.  To me, this is yet another instance of Jackie Chan ham-handedly trying to curry favour with whatever market he’s currently interested in courting.

Even if you’ve only been following him since he broke out in the West, you’ve probably learned two things: his social grace comes nowhere close to matching his physical grace and he’s not exactly the type to devote much time to think about and reflection upon politics and society.   His allegiances and charitable interests are more about maximizing his earnings and expanding his market and profile than it is about principle or concern.   I don’t believe he thought too much about what he was saying or about the effect it would have on his image.   His remarks aren’t likely borne out of genuine political belief, it’s probably the result of the passionate pursuit of money, being out of touch with regular society and a lot of hubris.

Whether or not you take his comments seriously, this is probably the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Jackie Chan’s career — at least outside of the Mainland market.  People were already grumbling last year about how much he was in the tank for the Mainland government over the Beijing Olympics so this latest incident won’t help.  His box office performance in recent years has been declining and the prospects that it will improve have dimmed greatly with his ill-conceived remarks.  With this latest incident, Jackie Chan has definitely joined Tom Cruise on the list of celebrities who have let their off-screen personas kill their on-screen ones.

Back in 2001, I remember my sister asking me to go see VANILLA SKY with her.  It was getting killed by critics (it sits today at 39% on Rotten Tomatoes) yet I still went because I figured: “It’s a Tom Cruise movie, it can’t be that bad.”  Flash forward to Christmas 2009.  In the eight years since VANILLA SKY came out, Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch, slagged Brooke Shields and lectured Matt Lauer about psychology.  My sister is visiting me for Christmas and we’ve got nothing to do on a lazy late-December afternoon.  I suggested that we go see VALKYRIE.  “It’s about some guys planning to kill Hitler.  It should be decent.  The reviews ain’t bad (60% on Rotten Tomatoes).”

My sister shook her head, made a face and said: “Ugh, Tom Cruise.”

It’s not just my anecdotal evidence.  The numbers bear it out as well.  VANILLA SKY took in US$25 million on its opening weekend and finished with US$100.6 million overall.  VALKYRIE opened at US$21 million and ended up with US$83.07 million.  All that nonsense off the screen has damaged Tom Cruise’s box office power to the point where ads for his official website appear on this blog — this blog!

The same kind of thing is happening to Jackie Chan.  Back in the 1990s, Jackie Chan ruled the HK box office.  His movies were a staple during the lucrative Lunar New Year holiday season.  Some numbers:  RUMBLE IN THE BRONX made HK$56.9 million, POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE earned HK$57.5 million while a dud like MR. NICE GUY even managed to make HK$45.4 million.  Though he continues to draw an audience, he doesn’t pack them in like he once did.  Big Brother Jackie’s last three HK movies:  ROB-B-HOOD, NEW POLICE STORY and THE MYTH have earned HK$23.05 million, HK$21.1 million and HK$17.05 million respectively.  After two weeks in theatres, SHINJUKU INCIDENT is sitting at a respectable HK$10.6 million but it might have some trouble reaching the HK$20 million barrier.  Solid but not on the superstar level of his glory days.

When RUMBLE IN THE BRONX made it big here in the West, my Chinese friends beamed with pride when we talked about Jackie Chan.  I think we all felt proud that a local HK guy made it big on the international stage.  When I talk to them about Jackie Chan in the coming days and weeks, I’m certain that a few of my Chinese friends will have looks of disgust.  Add the baggage of this latest misstep to the baggage from scandals like Dragon Seed, his weird relationship with his son, past gaffes involving Taiwan and diminishing box office returns, I’m afraid that it’s more weight than Big Brother Jackie’s on-screen talent can bear.

News Links:

Variety: Jackie Chan says China control good

Chinese shouldn’t get more freedom, says Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan’s endorsement of Chinese censorship sparks anger

Wall Street Journal: Jackie Chan comments spark online backlash

Jackie Chan gets critical kick from Hong Kong and Taiwanese politicians

Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu Pandering

Taipei Times: DPP says Jackie Chan not welcome

Controversial star to retain role in Taipei Deaflympics: official

Opinion Links:

Taipei Times: Jackie Chan: Friend of repression

Is Jackie Chan against Chinese freedom?

Jackie Chan is a Fascist - Who Knew?

Jackie Chan does the Orientalist thing

Out With The Old

It’s time.

It’s definitely time.

It’s time to settle my affairs.

No, nothing bad is happening to me.  It’s just that 2008 ends today and I want to clean the slate and start the new year on a fresh footing.  With that, I’m responding to the comments that have accumulated over the past few months.  In 2009, I’m going to either start responding them to directly in the comments section or do these “mailbag” entries more frequently.

But first, a comment on TRANSPORTER 3 ..

I took in the movie a couple of weeks ago on a cheap night Tuesday because I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be worth paying full price.  Like its predecessors, TRANSPORTER 3 is a middling film that offers decent action sequences and mildly amusing comic relief.  If you liked the first two films, you’ll like the third one.  I only had two problems with the movie.  One will probably be a problem with a majority of viewers while the other is probably just idiosyncratic to me.

1. Leading Lady Natalya Rudakova

Natalya Rudakova in TRANSPORTER 3I’m a fan of the HK entertainment circle so I’ve been exposed to plenty of bad acting from babes – especially in TVB dramas where TVB trots out recent Miss Hong Kong contestants for roles.  However, Natalya Rudakov’s performance in TRANSPORTER 3 was particularly bad.  Maybe the script is to blame but her transformation from silent, sullen pouter to “take me, Transporter, I’m yours” was abrupt enough to jar the suspense of disbelief you have to have when watching a movie of TRANSPORTER 3’s ilk.

It just goes to show the outstanding job Shu Qi did with the “compelling hot babe” role in the first movie.  Shu Qi is a beauty with acting talent whereas, I’m sorry to say, Natalya Rudakov is just a beauty.  Who would have guessed this about Shu Qi after watching her ignominious debut in SEX AND ZEN II where she played a she-devil who rapes Loletta Lee Lai-Chun’s character?

Shu Qi and Jason Statham in TRANSPORTER

2. The physics of the bridge scene

It could be that Natalya Rudakova’s acting broke the suspension of disbelief I had going but it was hard for me to buy what was going on in the scene where the bad guys have The Transporter trapped in the middle of the bridge. If the bad guys on either end fire their machine guns at the same time, wouldn’t they, in effect, be shooting at each other? I know that I’m supposed to forget about the laws of physics when I’m watching an action movie but c’mon …

On to your comments …

About the comments from Swirling Sharks Fading Dragon:

I was surprised at the venom towards Jackie Chan in these comments.  Yes, Big Brother Jackie probably went a little too far with his “cheerleading” for the Beijing Olympics but Jackie Chan’s no fool, he knows where his bread is buttered.  Throughout his career, Jackie Chan has been more of a businessman than an artist so I saw his sucking up to the Mainland as just another calculated business move to keep his profile up in the lucrative Mainland market.  The reason he shills for the Mainland is the same reason he does the SHANGHAI KNIGHTS and the RUSH HOUR 3s.

As for glenn’s comment that Jackie Chan and Jet Li have already jumped the shark, I argue that they haven’t yet because I’m not at the point where I automatically roll my eyes whenever I read about the next Jackie Chan or Jet Li project.  I think they should be OK in the short term if they both continue to mix in an intriguing Asian project (like THE SHINJUKU INCIDENT or FEARLESS) alongside their empty money-making projects.

And yes, I’m a fan of the evil New England Patriots but I’m not a bandwagon Brady-Belichick fan.  I’ve been cheering for them since the 1985 season when Raymond Berry was their coach and they made it to the Super Bowl with the likes of Tony Eason, Steve Grogan, John Hannah, Irving Fryar and Mosi Tatupu.

About  the comments from On The Axis Of Global Film Financing:

On glenn’s comment that it was surreal to see Gillian Chung Yan-Tung shopping at Wal-Mart, I have to say it was more surreal to see Teresa Cheung, the former Mrs. Kenny Bee, listed as an executive producer for an Oliver Stone film.  After all the rumours and vitriol that surrounded her during her divorce from the Wynners star, it’d be like seeing Heather Mills, the former Mrs. Paul McCartney, get listed as an executive producer for Johnnie To Kei-Fung’s next film.

elbombz writes: “Speaking of going to movies for research, have you seen or are you going to see ASHES OF TIME REDUX?”

I’m a bit of a strict Catonian when it comes to Louis Cha and his novels so I was irked greatly by the way Wong Kar-Wai took great iconic characters from the Louis Cha cannon and turned them into pretentious objets d’art.  So no, I won’t be seeing ASHES OF TIME REDUX.  Don’t get me wrong, the film looked great but if you loved the novels, there’s no way you wouldn’t be bothered by the storytelling shenanigans that Wong perpetrates in the movie.

glenn writes: “I mentioned on my blog that I was waiting for you to post something on Gigi Lai’s retirement. Even though I’ve seen a lot of her films, I am hoping that you can put her career into context the way others can’t.”

Gigi LaiThe granddaughter of Lam Man-Wai, the Father of Hong Kong Cinema, I thought Gigi Lai Chi was destined for a Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk/Shu Qi like second career after her initial “It Girl” phase ran its course in the mid-1990s.  Alas, it was not to be as the HK entertainment circle is overrun with beautiful singer/actress types like Gigi Lai.  She did, however, find great success in the last five years of her career as a TVB fa daan (花旦; leading lady).  She was so popular, I think her retirement took many by surprise.

Speaking of Gigi Lai, this reminds me of the time the owner of our now defunct local video store tricked my friend Simon into renting some horrible movie (the title of which I can’t remember) by telling him that Gigi Lai reveals “two points” in it.  The guy who owned the store would say anything to rent out a movie.  I remember overhearing him tell another sap to go ahead and rent THE KUNG FU CULT MASTER because the sequel was a hit in Hong Kong and that the store would be getting it soon on video.

My favourite Gigi Lai film, by the way, isn’t one of her YOUNG AND DANGEROUS movies but FIST POWER with Vincent Zhao Wenchou.  It isn’t the best of movies but it’s highly entertaining.  If you like mindless action movies and you can get your hands on the DVD, you won’t be disappointed.

About the comments from Thoughts on SPARROW:

Mark writes: “I thought Sparrow was a wonderful film, easily one of To’s best. It’s not really worthwhile to nitpick the whereabouts of the passport during the final sequence because the film is about style.”

I liked SPARROW as well.  As I said in the post, I was smiling at the end of the film.  I was just trying to make the point that it might not be for regular, Joe The Plumber movie watchers — ones who view movies as entertainment rather than as art.  Not only would viewers like Joe The Plumber be perturbed by an Obama tax increase on those who make more than $250,000, they would probably be perturbed by things like the whereabouts of the passport.

m writes: As to your challenge to To, I wonder what actors you think would be suitable to portray you all.

I can’t speak for Kozo and The Golden Rock but I think I’d go with either Nick Cheung Ka-Fai or Chapman To Man-Chat. They are both normal looking guys who would suit me fine as I don’t have the piercing eyes and good looks of my cousin Tony or the height and bearing of my other cousin Tony. I think I’d lean more towards Chapman To than Nick Cheung because I feel like I share an affinity with him. Why? Well, we’ve both had our run-ins with Mainland prostitutes. His was documented in TRIVIAL MATTERS while mine occurred in the early-1990s when I was working as a corporate raider. I’d buy up large companies, break them up and sell them in smaller parts for profit — sort of like a chop shop but with companies instead of cars.

Chapman To and friend in TRIVIAL MATTERS
Chapman To and friend in TRIVIAL MATTERS.

I was on a week-long business trip in Hong Kong where I intended to buy up a shipping company.  I remember, like it was yesterday, that I had to quickly leave a business party at a mansion on The Peak so I went to get my girlfriend but she refused to leave because she was having a good time and didn’t enjoy feeling like she was always at my “beck and call”.  So, I left in a huff, taking my lawyer’s Lotus Esprit. Unfortunately, being an incompetent Westerner, I couldn’t handle the car’s standard transmission and ended up stopped by the side of the road because I couldn’t get the damned car in gear. It was then that this girl walked up to me and started asking me in Mainland-accented Cantonese if I wanted “a date”. I guess she thought I’d stopped because I was prowling for hookers. I explained to her that I wasn’t interested in a date and that I was merely having car trouble. She told me that she knew how to drive a standard so I let her drive me. This kicked off an idyllic one-week relationship as I decided to hire her — not for her sexual services but to be my “arm candy” at various business functions. What started out as purely a business transaction morphed into some sort of weird personal connection as we went shopping for clothes so she could look sharp while out with me attending business dinners and corporate polo matches. The week culminated with a quick trip to Sydney and its famous opera house for a performance of Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.

Given our vastly different backgrounds, the “fairy tale” never happened and we didn’t live “happily ever after”. Real life intruded as she was all “you’re treating me like a prostitute” while I was “I never treated you like a prostitute”. On the day I left Hong Kong, I almost told my limo driver to turn around and go to her flat but I spotted this noodle place and told him to stop so I could get a bowl of beef noodles instead.  Ah, what might have been …

About the comments from “Old Cake” Cantopop: Sam Hui Kwoon-Kit’s 《學生哥》(Brother Student):

To Jo and her question about the school schedule in the Northern Hemisphere, I can’t speak for everyone up here in the frigid North but, in Canada, school runs from September to December with a two week break for Christmas holidays.  Then, there’s usually a one-week mid-winter break sometime in February or March.  There’s also an one-week break for Easter before the school year concludes in June.

Thanks, by the way, to all the Aussies and Kiwis who dropped me an e-mail response about the school year in the Southern Hemisphere.

Speaking of Aussies, I’m going to borrow a bit of your slang and say that I hope 2009′ll be apples for all of us even though it seems like the economy is going to be all gloom and doom.

Happy New Year everyone!

Image credits: Europa Corp. (Natalya Rudakova), 20th Century Fox (TRANSPORTER still), M-Dream website (Gigi Lai), Not Brothers (TRIVIAL MATTERS still)

Swirling Sharks, Fading Dragon

If you’ve been following the Hong Kong entertainment circle with me ever since I put up my first website on Xoom way back in 1997, you’ll know that I enjoy tracking the ups and downs of sports just as much as I enjoy tracking the ins and outs of HK entertainment.  Both have the ability to take me on wild rides that offer the highest highs and the lowest lows.  Watching Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Zhou Yu (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) kick Cao Cao’s butt in RED CLIFF this summer gave me the same “hell yeah!” buzz I felt last December when I watched the New England Patriots achieve a perfect 16-0 regular season record.  Conversely, the deep disappointment I felt when the combined talents of Jet Li, Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Peter Chan Ho-Sun amounted to an Brandon Changunderwhelming result in THE WARLORDS mirrored the disappointment I felt when the Patriots failed to complete a perfect season by losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Another thing that intrigues about sports and HK entertainment is seeing how prospective talents succeed or fail.  Watching prospects go to brilliant careers, middling careers or just plain washing out is always interesting.  Seeing how the likes of Peyton Manning and Lewis Hamilton succeed while the likes of Ryan Leaf and Hector Camacho Jr. turn into busts is just as fascinating as tracking the chain of events that led Edison Chen Kwoon-Hei of Vancouver to idolhood and the chain of events that kept Brandon Chang Cheuk-Nam of Toronto (right; you may remember him from such films as THE TOUCH and SILVER HAWK) in relative obscurity.

I go into this long preamble because sports and the entertainment circle intersected for me again recently when I read that a “re-imagining” of THE KARATE KID is in the works.  Rumours about a remake involving Will Smith and his son Jaden had been swirling for more than a year but talk died down after Smith’s publicist issued a denial.  Now that the rumours have turned out to be true, I wonder if another part of the early talk — that Jackie Chan will be taking the “Mr. Miyagi” role — will also come to fruition.  As a longtime fan of Jackie Chan’s work, I hope that this portion of the rumour is false because, if he takes part in the project, I think his career will effectively “jump the shark”.  The idea of Jackie Chan doing a version of “Mr. Miyagi” makes me think of sad sights in sports like David Beckham going to America to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Michael Jordan putting on a Washington Wizards uniform,  Emmitt Smith signing with the Arizona Cardinals and Wayne Gretzky playing for the St. Louis Blues.  Though there may have been good arguments for all those moves, they each signalled to fans that these once dominant figures in their respective sports were no longer great.  If Jackie Chan pulls a “Mr. Miyagi”, fans who have been admiring his work since his DRUNKEN MASTER and SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW days will look back years from now and say to themselves that this is when Big Brother Jackie moved on to the “senior tour” portion of his career.

Jackie Chan

I bet some of you are now thinking: “What’s he talking about?  Jackie Chan’s career has already jumped the shark!”  True, legitimate arguments can be made that Jackie Chan is no longer great.  Instead of making memorable high energy action films like DRUNKEN MASTER II, he’s doing voice work for cartoon monkeys and churning out bland, forgettable work like RUSH HOUR 3 and THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.  Combined with some off screen stuff that have chipped away at his star power, his celebrity certainly doesn’t cast as large a shadow as it did during his heyday of the late-1980s/early-to-mid 1990s.

Nevertheless, there’s still some fire left in the aging dragon.  ROB-B-HOOD, his last “Hong Kong movie”, was a step up from a sub-par THE MYTH and the dreary NEW POLICE STORY.  The upcoming THE SHINJUKU INCIDENT shows some potential as Chan collaborates with the usually solid Derek Yee Tung-Sing (ONE NITE IN MONGKOK).  Despite mediocre reviews, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM still pulled in over US$20 million on its opening weekend so the “Jackie Chan brand” here in the West is still reliable.  As a result, he’s currently on location in New Mexico shooting a new Hollywood film THE SPY NEXT DOOR.

Why, then, would participating in a KARATE KID remake cause Jackie Chan’s career to jump the shark?  Because at this point in his career, Big Brother Jackie can’t afford to be associated with any box office bombs and a KARATE KID remake has huge potential to be a box office bomb.  Consider the following:

- Apart from rare instances like OCEAN’S ELEVEN in 2001, remakes are usually known for being either commercial or critical failures.  Take, for example, remakes like THE PINK PANTHER (2006), PLANET OF THE APES (2001), GET CARTER (2000), PSYCHO (1998) and ALFIE (2004).  Jackie Chan himself was involved in one as AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (2004) was largely panned by critics and bombed at the box office.

- The buzz surrounding the remake is overwhelmingly negative.  Go to any discussion board about the project and note that the majority of posts question the need for a remake of THE KARATE KID.  Also, note how many times the words “vanity project” pop up.

- The original movie succeeds because it had an unique chemistry and was able to delicately balance schmaltz and action.  Recreating that sort of “mojo” will be very difficult.

- On a film discussion board, one Jackie Chan fan expressed optimism that a remake has solid potential. The poster argues that Will Smith is the only bankable superstar left in Hollywood and that he consistently makes good business decisions. He also holds out hope that the reported Chinese investment in the remake will mean that Chinese martial arts should get a good spotlight and scenes showing the “Chinese Mr. Miyagi” teaching kung fu should look really cool — especially if the “Chinese Mr. Miyagi” turns out to be a serious character who uses “Pai Mei teaching techniques”.

Gordon Liu as Pai Mei in KILL BILL VOL. 2

Setting aside the question of Will Smith’s business acumen, while there is some validity to the argument that a re-imagining of THE KARATE KID with a serious tone might be cool (this type of re-imagining worked out great for remakes like BATMAN BEGINS and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), the star is going to be 10 year-old Jaden Smith so odds are the film is going to be more like SPY KIDS and less like KILL BILL 2.  Put it this way, it’s doubtful that the Cobra Kai-type bullies are going to be burying Jaden Smith alive forcing him to fight his way out using one-inch punch technique.

Chinese Fortune Telling SticksAdd all that up and you don’t need a tube full of Chinese fortune telling sticks to figure that this remake is more likely to be jeered than cheered.  Yes, the project may bring a big paycheque and yes, there may be some prestige in being associated with Will Smith but if THE KARATE KID remake bombs and THE SPY NEXT DOOR bombs then whispers that Jackie Chan has “lost it” and is “over the hill” will become a chorus.  Someone in Big Brother Jackie’s camp needs to point out the downside of being involved with the remake and urge him to stay far, far away from it.  Instead, his camp should urge him to go back to his roots and re-establish his core fan base by going ahead with a third ARMOUR OF GOD movie.  Like John Elway, Jackie Chan should cap a remarkable career by going out on top doing what he does best for the team that everyone associates him with instead of signing up to play out the string on some foreign team.

Image credits: Han Entertainment (Brandon Chang), Associated Press (Jackie Chan), Miramax (Gordon Liu/Pai Mei), Dragon Gate Shop (Fortune Telling Sticks)

Thoughts on THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM

Some thoughts on THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, but first, a couple of housekeeping notes:

Apologies for the gap in between posts, I overextended myself a little bit with the HKFA preview blog post series. Plus, I’m a lazy, lazy man.

Apologies also to the HKFA Prediction Contest entrants. I’m sorry that it’s taken almost as long to announce a winner as it has for Zimbabwe to announce the winner of its presidential election. Without further ado, the winner of the contest is:

Robert Mugabe of Harare, Zimbabwe

For his prize, Mr. Mugabe selected a TWINS EFFECT lanyard from the House Where Words Gather prize vault … Just kidding. The winner be announced in the next blog post.

… And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming …

THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM
Official Site: http://www.forbiddenkingdommovie.com/
Director: Rob Minkoff
Cast: Jackie Chan (Lu Yan/Old Hop), Jet Li (The Silent Monk/The Monkey King), Michael Angarano (Jason Tripitikas), Crystal Liu Yifei (Golden Sparrow), Collin Chou (The Jade Warlord), Li Bingbing (Ni Chang)

Synopsis (from the official site): A 21st Century American teenager takes a spellbinding, dangerous journey into martial arts legend in the new action/adventure epic FORBIDDEN KINGDOM. Shot on location in China, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM marks the historic first-ever onscreen pairing of martial arts superstars Jackie Chan (RUSH HOUR, DRUNKEN MASTER) and Jet Li (FEARLESS, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA), and features the awe-inspiring action choreography of Yuen Wo Ping (THE MATRIX, CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON). While hunting down bootleg kung-fu DVDs in a Chinatown pawnshop, Jason (played by Michael Angarano - “24″, “Will and Grace”, LORDS OF DOGTOWN, SEABISCUIT) makes an extraordinary discovery that sends him hurtling back in time to ancient China. There, Jason is charged with a monumental task: he must free the fabled warrior the Monkey King, who has been imprisoned by the evil Jade Warlord. Jason is joined in his quest by wise kung fu master Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) and a band of misfit warriors including Silent Monk (Jet Li). But only by learning the true precepts of kung fu can Jason hope to succeed - and find a way to get back home.

PRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS: I hate to admit this but beyond loyalty to my people and a slight fascination with Crystal Liu Yifei, there weren’t too many compelling reasons for me to plop down $11 to see THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM. Yes, it is the first major collaboration between Jackie Chan and Jet Li but the plot synopsis brought flashbacks of that awful THUNDERBIRDS movie from a few years back — where a cool idea was turned into a steaming pile of poo by corporate thinking concerned more with making a marketable commercial product than a good movie.

forgetting_sarah_marshall_poster.jpgIn fact, had I gone to the theatre on opening weekend, I probably would have seen FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL instead of THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM. FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL got a glowing review on AT THE MOVIES WITH EBERT & ROEPER and SUPERBAD was the most fun I had at the movies in 2007. However, snow and freezing rain kept me from the theatre and — in the days that passed — my interest in seeing FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL waned as tepid feedback emerged from opening weekend moviegoers. Moreover, I figured that going to THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM was something I could do with the Old Man (my Dad, not Bill Adama) that didn’t involve some form of dim sum.

AFTER THE MOVIE: When a movie combines bending of the space-time continuum with a “rat teaches the art of the ninja to four turtles” type premise, the only way you can measure it effectively is to ask: Is it enjoyable? Fortunately, for the cause of Chinese talent in Hollywood, the answer is mostly yes as Jackie Chan and Jet Li deliver likeable performances that generate enough affection and goodwill to overcome the clumsy plot, clunky dialogue and two cheesy modern-day segments that bookend the film.

Fans of Big Brother Jackie and Jet Li should come away satisfied but kung fu cinema aficionados may feel a twinge of disappointment as they leave the theatre. A kung fu film collaboration between Jackie Chan and Jet Li should have been better than THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM. It shouldn’t have been saddled with the goofy “teenager from Boston has to save ancient China from a despot” story. It’s sort of like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro finally agreeing to collaborate on a mafia film only to see them end up playing crime bosses who settle their differences after becoming friends while coaching their respective daughters through some Lamaze classes. THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM is well-produced, pleasant, mildly enjoyable entertainment but you can’t help but wonder what might have been.

MORE THOUGHTS (WARNING: contains minor spoilers): A film of THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM’s ilk doesn’t lend itself to penetrating analysis so I’ll simply share some of the things I liked about the film and some of the things I didn’t like about it. I liked:

jackie_jet_kingdom.jpg- The way Jackie Chan and Jet Li were billed equally. Kudos to the person who came up with the idea.

- The opening title sequence — which featured poster images of kung fu film icons like Bruce Lee, Gordon Liu, Chen Kuan-Tai, Lau Kar-Leung, Cheng Pei-Pei and the “Five Venoms” among others. Not only is it a nice tribute, I think it serves as a signal to kung fu film fans that the filmmakers recognize the rich heritage of kung fu cinema.

- The affable performances by Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Taking on the divergent dual roles of The Monkey King and The Silent Monk, Jet Li shows flashes of his HKFA Best Actor skills by being playfully puckish while as The Monkey King and stern but warm-hearted while as The Silent Monk. Jackie Chan, meanwhile, gives an energetic effort that brings back fond memories of his Lunar New Year film glory days and serves to highlight how lethargic his performance was in RUSH HOUR 3.

Things I didn’t like include:

William Zabka- The modern-day South Boston segments that bookend the film. Since I am a sap, the only thing I liked about it was the appearance of 21st Century Golden Sparrow. The rest of the modern-day stuff was painfully cheesy. The street gang — complete with horribly-done Southie accents — is so cliche, the guys in WEST SIDE STORY snapping their fingers and singing “when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way” end up having more “street cred”. To make matters worse, the gang leader (played by Morgan Benoit) is so over-the-top, it’s hard to take anything that happens seriously. I’m not sure if the fault lies with Mr. Benoit or with production. If I had to pick one, I’d go with the latter because even 1980s movie bully William Zabka in his prime would have looked bad in the cornball modern-day sequences.

- The way the film had Lu Yan do the basal exposition. Lu Yan, Jackie Chan’s character, is given the responsibility of explaining the situation in ancient China to Jason (the Boston teenager created to expand the marketable demographics) and, by extension, the audience. As is widely known from the DVD extras of past Jackie Chan films, Big Brother Jackie learns most of his lines phonetically so his delivery is shaky at best. Combined with the clunky “the naughty Monkey King thrice repelled the Jade Warlord” type dialogue, some audience members may have difficultly getting into an already far-fetched story.

MISCELLANEA:

- For the sake of my fellow ham sup lo, I feel obligated to say a few words about twenty-one year-old Crystal Liu Yifei. Known primarily to Chinese audiences as a TV actress, Liu spent part of her childhood in New York City before returning to China to study at the Bejing Film Academy in 2002. She burst onto the scene in 2003 with a captivating performance as Wong Yu-Yin (王語嫣) in HEAVEN DRAGON THE EIGHTH EPISODE (CCTV’s adaptation of Louis Cha’s DEMI-GODS AND SEMI-DEVILS). In 2006, she cemented her status as a rising star after she received much acclaim for taking on the Crystal Liu in THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOMrole of “Little Dragon Girl” (小龍女) in THE RETURN OF THE CONDOR HEROES (another CCTV adaptation of a Louis Cha novel). Both series received high ratings and allowed her to expand her career with opportunities in music and film.

Playing Golden Sparrow, Liu gives a solid performance in THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM but prospects for further opportunities in Hollywood appear doubtful. While it was the top earner in North America on its opening weekend, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM did not catch fire like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. In addition, there’s been very little buzz about Liu. When he reviewed THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM for AT THE MOVIES WITH EBERT AND ROEPER, Richard Roeper did not fawn over Liu or co-star Li Bingbing like he does normally with the likes of Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi. Instead, he referred to them generically by praising them for their “fabulous kung fu babe-ery”.

Liu, however, does have the ability to be a crossover talent. She has screen presence and she speaks English adequately (there’s even a slight hint of “Valley Girl” in her English). It will be interesting to see if Liu or Isabella Leong Lok-Si (who has a role in the upcoming THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR) make a dent in Hollywood. My guess is that neither will make a significant splash but it will be something to track over the next few years.

Crystal Liu in HEAVEN DRAGON THE EIGHTH EPISODETo those who’ve seen Liu in both HEAVEN DRAGON THE EIGHTH EPISODE and THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, is it my imagination or does Liu seem younger in THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM even though she is five years older? I remember being intrigued then horrified after watching Liu in the CCTV drama. Intrigued because she looked fabulous as Wong Yu-Yin then horrified when I learned she was only 15 when she shot the show. To this day, just making eye contact with her stills from HEAVEN DRAGON THE EIGHTH EPISODE makes me feel like a pedophile. Now that I’ve seen THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, I can reassure myself by rationalizing that her costuming in the TV drama made her look like she was in her early-20s. Isn’t that right? Please, somebody, agree with me. :-)

- Tired of getting hassled by bullies while on your way home from a DVD run to the local Chinatown video store? Avoid the perilous journey and shop online at YesAsia where you can get DVDs of titles from A-1 HEADLINES to ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN. They even offer free shipping to anywhere in the world! YesAsia — providing refuge to bullied film geeks since 1998. :-)

Image credits: Universal Pictures (FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL poster), The Weinstein Company (THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM poster, Crystal Liu), Columbia Pictures (William Zabka), CCTV (Crystal Liu)

 

 
 
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