December 25, 2006

Curse Of The Golden Flower Makes It To Time Magazine's 10 Best Films Of 2006

The Chinese hit movie Curse Of The Golden Flower has made it into Time Magazine's 10 Best Films of 2006 sharing the honour with prestigious films like Borat and Letters from Iwo Jima. It is the only Asian film to have made it to this prestigious list.

However, reviews for the movie have been mixed. The movie only managed to obtain a 57% rating in the Rotten Tomatoes critic ratings. This is very much lower than other recent Zhang Yimou movies with similar themes like House of Flying Daggers (88%) and Hero (94%). Chinese netizens were also not too impressed with the film, they have dubbed the movie "The Curse Of The Golden Corset" due to lead actress Gong Li's tight revealing costumes that showed off her ample curves to superb effect :-P

The harsh reviews did not seem to have any adverse effect on the movie's box office though... Golden Flower broke the opening week box office record previously set by super blockbuster Titanic in China. Till date, its box-office takings in China alone have exceeded the $200 million renminbi (approximately US$13 million) mark and the movie also performed above expectations in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I have not watched the movie yet.. will post my thoughts on the movie here once I have watched it. Check out my earlier post for more interesting info on this hotly debated film of the moment.

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November 25, 2006

Golden Horse & Asia-Pacific Film Festival Awards

Two major film award ceremonies for Asian films have just been held over the last 2 days in Taipei, Taiwan - and the .

Hong Kong films again reigned at the , which some regard as the Chinese language equivalent of the Oscars - (父子) from Hong Kong took home the Best Picture award. The movie's lead actor, Aaron Kwok, won the Best Actor award the 2nd time in a row for his portrayal of an abusive single parent. Nine-year old Goum Ian Iskandar, who played Aaron's son in the film became the youngest winner of a Golden Horse Best Supporting Actor Award.

The hugely popular muscial (also from Hong Kong) won 4 awards - Best Director (Peter Chan), Best Actress (Zhou Xun), Best Cinematography and Best Original Film Song.

The mainland Chinese film (a personal favorite of mine) won the Best Original Screenplay award.

Check out the videos of the ceremony here (videos are in Mandarin):
Best Picture (presented by John Woo and Takeshi Kanshiro):
Best Actor (presented by Chang Chen [who was nominated for Best Actor but unfortunately the film he was nominated for The Go Master was withdrawn at the last minute] & Karen Mok):
Best Actress (presented by Aaron Kwok and Charlie Young):

Over at the , South Korean films reigned supreme, winning 6 awards in total. However, the Best Feature Film award went to Iranian film The Unwanted Woman, which also won the Best Director (Tahimeh Milani) and Best Screenplay awards.

15-year old South Korean actor Lee Jae-eung won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of a teenager's growing up pains in Bravo, My Life. Son Ye-jin took home the Best Actress award for her role in (which also starred South Korean mega hunk Bae Yong-jun). And South Korean box-office champ clinched 3 awards as well for Best Supporting Actor (Byun Hee-bong), Best Sound Effects and Best Editing.

Congragulations to all the winners :-)

[Compiled from news articles:,,]

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November 9, 2006

My Thoughts On Made-In-Japan Horror Movies

The release of The Grudge 2 recently made me realise what an impact Japanese horror movies have made on the horror movie genre this last decade or so.

When Ringu was released in 1998, the horror movie industry was facing a slump. Many of the best films in this genre like The Exorcist, The Shining and Salem's Lot were made in the 60s to 80s. In the 90s, scary movies were either slasher flicks or comedy cum horror type films. Although some of these movies were pretty shocking and could still generate a good fright, they lacked the dark, foreboding and dread inducing "I could hardly breathe" atmosphere that were so prevalent in the older horror movies. Instead, many predicted that the ability to make such terrifying horror movies were a thing of the past.

But when The Ring exploded on the big screen in and rung up the box-office cash registers in 1998, everyone started to look at this genre with new interest... and started to incorporate many of the elements that made the movie so successful in their own movies. I am sure you recognise the long-haired, white-gowned female otherworldly being with the creepy and jerky body movements in many recent horror movies. She has made many cameo appearances in slightly different guises in films like The Sixth Sense, South Korea's Wishing Stairs, Singapore's The Eye and of course Japan's own Ju-on and Dark Water.

Actually I feel that the Japanese approach to horror movies is very different from Hollywood. There is usually very little special effects if you compare it with horror films from Hollywood but there is always a sense that something mysterious and terrifying is lurking beneath the surface. The atmosphere is almost always very still and quiet, with a minimum of dialogue which makes the horror, when it comes, even more shocking and unexpected.

When I first watched The Ring at the cinema, I had such a shock from the infamous TV scene that I left the cinema shivering with fright. And I was actually worried that something will happen to me on the seventh day :-P Some people even shifted their TV sets out of their bedroom after watching the film... haha...

However, with more and more directors churning out Ringu style horror movies like a production line, I feel that the quality of horror movies these days have really fallen tremendously. For me, even Hollywood remakes of movies like The Ring and Ju-on really cannot compare to the original versions. I guess movie goers are tired of seeing the same techniques being used again and again... Could a horror movie slump be on the horizon again?

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October 31, 2006

Princess Hours - Goong

In Association With YesAsia.comAfter watching the very popular Korean drama Princess Hours (Goong), I can't help but think that this drama series was created for maximum viewer ratings because it caters to both viewers who like historical drama serials like Dae Jang Geum (with its palace intrigues) and viewers who are into trendy modern comedies like My Girl or My Lovely Samsoon (complete with a spunky and cute heroine in tow).

Princess Hours, which recreates a fictional modern Korean monarchy has some of the most beautiful costumes and elaborately built sets that I have seen in an Asian drama series. It is one of the most expensive Korean drama serials ever produced, the production cost for each episode is 230 million won (about US$245,000)!

The gamble paid off handsomely for the producers as Goong performed very well, garnering almost 30% in viewer ratings when it was shown in South Korea at the beginning of this year. It was so popular that a sequel of sorts Goong 2 (Prince Hours) is currently being made but unfortunately none of the 4 major characters in Goong will be appearing in the sequel.

Although Princess Hours was based on a South Korean comic book series, to a certain extent the story reminded me of another extremely popular Chinese drama serial that was shown a couple of years ago - Princess Returning Pearl or Huan Zhu Ge Ge. The character of Shin Chae-gyung (played by Yoon Eun-hye) resembled very closely the personality of Xiao Yan-zi (played by Zhao Wei). Both characters were lively and mischievious teenagers who entered the repressed and dreary royal palace by a twist of fate but somehow not only survived the experience but even brought a breath of fresh air into the stifling environment in the palace.

In Association With It also made major stars out of the 4 fresh-faced youths who played the main characters in the drama: Yoon Eun-hye (Shin Chae-gyung), Joo Ji-hoon (Crown Prince Lee Shin), Song Ji Hyo (Min Hyo-rin) and Kim Jeong-hoon (Prince Lee Yul). Even Prince Lee Shin's best friend "Alfred" the teddy bear (see picture) has become a hit :0)

This is definitely a drama that is well worth watching.... Although the storyline is a bit too fairy-tale like and unrealistic, the effort that was put into creating the show is nothing short of spectacular and the chemistry between the 4 lead actors is also a major attraction!

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October 13, 2006

Curse Of The Golden Flower Is Really Made Of Gold

The new Zhang Yi Mou movie which stars Chow Yun-Fatt and Gong Li is proving to be as expensive as gold...

With a budget of US$45 million - equivalent to about 2430 kg (5350 pounds) of gold - it is the most expensive movie ever made in the history of Chinese cinema.

Even the actors' costumes are as heavy as "gold", the "dragon suits" of the Emporer (Chow Yun-Fatt) and Empress (Gong Li) are about 36kilograms or 79 pounds respectively. However, they still don't have it so bad... because the Prince's (pop-star Jay Chou) costume armor is over 100 pounds (46kg), about the weight of a very slim lady :-P I wonder how anyone can move with that kind of weight on their body, much less go into battle ....

However, although the movie seems to be made of gold, it still remains to be seen if the box office will also turn out to be a golden feast although it looks likely as the other much talked about and similarly lavish Chinese period movie, The Banquet, starring Zhang Ziyi, had a sparkling run at the Chinese box-office.

Curse Of The Golden Flower will be released worldwide around Christmas.

[Information derived from,]

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October 3, 2006

Heroines In Modern Korean TV Dramas

Endless Love ImageHave you noticed the change in the personalities of the lead female characters in modern Korean TV dramas in the last few years?

When the Korean Wave first exploded from 2001 to 2003, the heroines in the most popular dramas during that period were usually sweet and gentle girl-next-door types that somehow had extremely tragic destinies. However, they still maintained their sweet smiles and stoic optimisim even in the most difficult circumstances, which of course made the situation look even more tragic in the audience's eye. Classic examples include Eun-Suh (played by Song Hye-Gyo) from , Yun-Hee (Kim Hyun-Ju) from and Han Jung-Suh (Choi Ji-Woo) from . If you want to enjoy a good cry, try watching these dramas, especially Autumn :-P

My Lovely Sam Soon ImageBut since about one or two years ago, the producers must have realised that audiences were getting tired of the unrelenting tragedy in their dramas, possibly signalled by falling ratings in similar dramas and decided to make more light hearted dramas. In came the comical, down-to-earth but klutzy heroines such as Kim Sam-Soon (Kim Sun-A) from , Yoo-rin (Lee Da-Hae) from and Ji-Eun (Song Hye-Gyo again) from . Besides the usual comedic but sometimes touching romantic entanglements with the male lead characters, these modern misses mostly do not have painful pasts or tragic destinies like their sisters in earlier dramas. They are more like Asian versions of Ally McBeal and Bridget Jones... and immediately struck a chord with young Asian women who identified with the characters' struggles and problems.

The success of these light-hearted dramas in terms of ratings showed that perhaps this is the road to TV drama land success for Korean drama serials at the moment. However, who knows, there may come a time in the near future when weepy dramas launch a comeback with a new vengence haha....

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September 15, 2006

South Korean Blockbuster The Host

Just watched the South Korean blockbuster The Host (Goemul),- the movie that is currently the highest grossing movie in South Korea of all time with 12.3 million tickets sold in South Korea alone.

Its a really exciting film that brings to mind other monster movies like Jaws and Godzilla, especially in the opening scences when we see the beachgoers running frantically away from the horrific river monster that suddenly appears on the banks of the Han River.

But The Host is not a normal Hollywood style monster movie, as the movie progresses, you realise that the director (Bong Joon-ho) is not trying to convey a simple story of how an ordinary family overcome tremendous odds to rescue a little girl captured by the monster... in fact the movie is a satire on the selfishness of ordinary people and the inefficiencies and gross corruption of the authorities during emergency situations. Besides the captured girl's immediate family, everyone else in the movie behaved in a most deplorable manner...

Telling examples include the scenes when bystanders (or reporters?) start snapping pictures of the family grieving for the little girl at the mass funeral or the scences when the ex-classmates of the uncle of the little girl try to capture him to collect the bounty that the authorities have placed on the family.

But, the human-like fobiles of the family's heroic attempts to save the girl brings a tear to my eyes... and provide an added dose of realism to the film, as the protagonists do not suddenly turn into superheroes when faced with danger... unlike Hollywood movies of the same ilk.

However, some parts of the movie were not explained at all, like why in the world is the mutant monster bringing human beings to its sewer lair? Why doesn't it just gobble them up? Is it in fact lonely for company or it is a one-monster cleaning crew trying to clean the river of the pollutants in the river, of which humans are a part?

Check out the great trailer from Youtube:

[Picture from]

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September 10, 2006

Chinese Film Still Life Wins Golden Lion!

Still Life - a low-budget surprise last minute entry in the 63rd Venice Film Festival by Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke has won the coveted Golden Lion Award, astonishing critics and journalists everywhere.

The Chinese title of the movie - San Xia Hao Ren (三峡好人) means the the good people of the Three Gorges and the movie, as the title describes, is about the plight of villages and townsfolk affected by the Three Gorges Dam Project.
Still Life is the second mainland Chinese movie to win the Golden Lion after Zhang Yimou's Not One Less in 1999.

Tsai Ming-Liang's Black-eyed did not win any awards but did garner the longest applause at the film festival (7 minutes) :-)

September 4, 2006

Curse of The Golden Flower

Curse of the Golden Flower looks like its going to be a hit when it has its worldwide release in Chirstmas this year :-) This Zhang Yimou movie stars Chow Yun-Fatt, Gong Li, Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou and Liu Ye.

Check out the trailer from Youtube:

Another (longer) version of the trailer can be found on the Official Site.

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September 3, 2006

Battle of the Red Cliff All Set for 2009 Oscars

The highly anticipated historical movie Battle of the Red Cliff (赤壁) will begin principal shooting next March and its planned world-wide release will be just 3 weeks before the Beijing Olympics in 2008! The Chinese mainland regards this movie as the most important Chinese film during the next 3 years and an Oscar contender for 2009!

The confirmed cast include Chow Yun-Fatt as Sun Yu, Lin Chi-Ling as Xiao Qiao and Tony Leung as Zhuge Liang. And it will be directed by John Woo.

Wow, this movie is set to become an epic! I am pretty sure the producers and the Chinese authorities will be putting in much resources to ensure its success so it should really be a visual feast when its shown :-)

More info about the movie can be found in my earlier post here.

[Info from news article]

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August 27, 2006

A Movie With No Dialogue At All - Black Eyed

Taiwanese art-house director Tsai Ming-Liang's new movie Black Eyed will not have any dialogue at all! And it will have an even more daring scene than the last scene in his most recent film, the highly controversial .

Black Eyed will be one of the two Chinese movies vying for the Golden Lion Award at the 63rd Venice Film Festival starting on August 30 together with Hong Kong triad movie Exiled. Mainland Chinese movie The Banquet (Ye Yan) will also be screened at the film festival.

Black Eyed which was shot on location in Malaysia will star Lee Kang-Sheng who acted in practically all his previous productions and Chen Shiang-chyi who also starred in quite a number of his movies.

Actually, having seen a few of Tsai Ming Liang's movies like , and , I think to watch his movies, you really have to be very patient and just sit through the experience with no preconceived ideas of what a movie should be. There is usually very little dialogue and some of the scenes are honestly far out, for example the abrupt song and dance routines in Wayward Cloud which I really do not know serve what purpose besides generating a few laughs :-P But if you sit through it, you will come out of the experience with the images hanging in your mind... Perhaps its because his movies are so natural and still that its like you are watching someone real (ok, a strange and possibly disturbed someone) with a hidden camera and marvelling at their antics. And you may also recognise some uncomfortable truths in what the films are conveying.

Its really not for everyone, but I think its good to try to watch his movies at least once to get a totally different experience from the usual slam-bam dialogue filled films :-)

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August 20, 2006

Best Couples in Korean TV Dramas

Anyone who has watched Korean TV drama serials will know that the two crucial elements that define K-dramas are their romantic storylines and the chemistry between the romantic leads. These two elements are so important that they will literally make or break the drama series.

For me there were a few screen couples in Korean dramas that had so much onscreen chemistry that they became synonomous as a couple in many people's minds when they think of Korean dramas even though more often than not they were not really couples in real life.

  1. Bae Yong-Jun and Choi Ji-Woo () - who can forget the pure and tender love between the two lead characters in this drama that somehow reflected the pristine yet melancholic beauty of winter? This is THE drama that defined what is Korean drama for many people.
  2. Lee Young-Ae and Ji Jin-Hee () - For all the obstacles that Janggeum faced, thank god that she had the ever trustworthy Min Jong-Ho besides her. She was the perfect lady - intelligent, kind and fair of face and he was the perfect gentleman - open minded, supportive and brave. Together, they shared such a beautiful love that one can only hope for in real life.
  3. Lee Dong-Gun and Han Ji-Hye () - The chemistry between them is truly sizzling in this sweet romantic comedy. Watching Lee and Han act as a couple with all their unique quirks and eccentrities is so realistic and entertaining that you can't help but wish they were really a couple. And they are ;-) In fact, this is one screen couple that is reportedly a couple in real life too :-)
  4. Park Shin-Yang and Kim Jung-Eun () - The two shared a connection that made the cliched romance between a rich president of an automobile conglomorate and a poor student totally natural and just right despite their different backgrounds in the drama.
  5. Rain and Song Hye-Gyo () - This was the drama that showcased the comedic talents of Rain and Song Hye-Gyo (who was repeatedly typecasted in tragic heroine roles before this drama series). Strangely, the more the two engaged in hilarious "fights" and quarrels throughout the show, the more compatible they seem with each other. It was even rumoured that they became a couple after the show but both have vehemently denied the allegation :-P

Of cource there were many others that were equally notable, like Kwon Sang-Woo and Choi Ji-Woo in Stairway to Heaven and Kim Rae-Won and Kim Tae-Hee in Love Story in Harvard among others but for me the above couplings were the ones that truly made a deep impression :-)

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August 15, 2006

The Incredible Crazy Stone !

Too many times in recent months, after falling for all the marketing hype and finally watching a "hit" movie in the cinema, the only feeling that I have after I come out of the theatre is one of regret, i.e. regret that I have actually spent hard earned cash to buy a ticket and valuable time to watch something that I would not even watch on TV. But the Chinese movie Crazy Stone (疯狂石头) is definitely not one of these movies. In fact, I can safely say it is the best movie that I have seen this year.

Set in the Chinese city of Chongqing, the movie is about how a motley group of thieves, including a "professional" thief from Hong Kong try to get their hands on a precious emerald pendant that is being guarded by an ex-cop with a urinary tract problem (interesting huh?). What ensues is a highly complex madcap adventure where the thieves try to steal the "stone" by all sorts of crazy unimaginable ways but are somehow foiled at every turn by the ex-cop and his bumbling colleagues (sometimes most unwittingly)... but really the movie must be watched to fully appreciate the beauty of the storyline :-P

This relatively low-budget movie with no famous stars defied all expectations and has become the highest grossing local film in China this year. The movie uses plenty of close-up shots and fast camera angles to create a hyper kinetic feel (think Brazilian movie City of God) and unexpected surprises are a dime a dozen. Another technique the director (28-year old Ning Hao) frequently employed is to show chronological events out of normal order. For example, in one particular scene, we see a canoodling couple being disturbed by a motorcyclist slamming into their car door. But in the next scene, we see that motorcyclist racing down the road before he hit the car ! For me, what attracts and sustains my interest, besides the rollercoaster-like storyline, are the characters which are unbelievable cunning yet at the same time, extremely human...

That is not to say that the movie is without flaws, some parts are just too coincidental to be believable but all in all this really is a fun movie and highly entertaining to boot :-) Watch it if you can!

[Picture from:]

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11th Golden Bauhinia Awards

At the 11th held on 13th August, Peter Chan's has emerged the big winner with 7 awards including Best Director, Best Actress (Zhou Xun), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Original Music Score and Best Original Song. As expected, Johnny Toh's superb triad movie took home the Best Picture prize and lead actor Simon Yam was named Best Actor. Anthony Wong won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in the exciting Jay Chou racing movie and Teresa Mo nabbed the Best Supporting Actress for 2 Young.

Check out the detailed award results here :-)

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August 11, 2006

The 45-second Japanese Dorama Serial

Heard of a drama serial that lasts just 45 seconds per episode? Yes, there is no typo, it's not 45 minutes, it really is 45 seconds. And it will star popular Japanese actor Toshiaki Karasawa who played the ambitious Dr Zaizen in and Japanese actress Ryou.

The 45-second drama series August Rainbow (direct translation) which starts broadcasting in Japan today, is an experiment by Japanese TV station TBS to see if a drama that is as short and sharp as a commercial can address the problem of perpetually low ratings in Japanese dramas recently.

The story of August Rainbow, set in the year 2045, takes place in a world that is suffering from the severe after-effects of global warming, i.e. the whole planet has become a desert so much so that even the beautiful multi-colored rainbow that we have now has become black :-P The dorama, which is part of the Green Film Project, hopes to serve as a warning of what could happen if mankind does not change its current ways and global warming spirals out of control.

Well, although I really applaud what the producers of the drama are trying to achieve, I can imagine the difficulties in trying to follow such a short drama, hey I could miss one important episode if I just happen to switch on the telly just 45 seconds later :-P And since the whole series is 10 episodes long, it will just take around 7+ minutes to finish it :-P

Sigh, no wonder I find time getting faster and faster as the years go by haha.

[Compiled from news articles:,]

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Question From John Woo

Yahoo! Answers is now accepting answers to a question from the famous director John Woo ! The question from the man himself is: Our fascination with comic superheroes is time-tested. Why do we continue to relate to them?

Check it out here and give your answer, your valuable input might have a big influence on his next movie :-)

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August 8, 2006

Help Make Blogs More Visible

There are by some estimates more than 3 million weblogs. But most of them get no visibility in search engines. Only a few "A-List" blogs get into the top search engine results for a given topic, while the majority of blogs just don't get noticed. But this posting could solve that. Let's help the smaller blogs get more visibility!

This posting is GoMeme 4.0. So far we have tried 3 earlier variations. Our first test, GoMeme 1.0, spread to nearly 740 blogs in 2.5 days. This new version 4.0 is shorter, simpler, and fits more easily into your blog.

Why are we doing this? We want to help thousands of blogs get more visibility. How does it work? Just follow the instructions below to re-post this meme in your blog and add your URL to the end of the Path List below. As the meme spreads onwards from your blog, so will your URL. Your blog will be part of the pat for everyone downstream from you. That way they can see where they got this message from. Everyone in the Path List below benefits in a similar way as this meme spreads. Try it!

Instructions: Just copy this entire post and paste it into your blog. Then add your URL to the end of the path list below, and pass it on! (Make sure you add your URLs as live links or HTML code to the Path List below.)

Path List
1. Minding the Planet
2. East Asian Movie and Drama Blog
3. (your URL goes here! But first, please copy this line and move it down to the next line for the next person).

(NOTE: Be sure you paste live links for the Path List or use HTML code.)

August 6, 2006

Best Jet Li Movie Of All Time

I think the most memorable Jet Li movie of all time is not his recent work Fearless or Hollywood movies like Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 The Grave but the first Once Upon A Time In China where he brought to life legendary hero Wong Fei Hung (left picture).

Before Jet Li, when one thinks of this famous martial arts master, the image that comes to mind is Kwan Tak Hing's Wong Fei Hung (picture below right).

However when Tsui Hark made Once Upon A Time in China in 1991, the audience were so pleasantly surprised by Jet Li's balletic kungfu moves under the brilliant direction and cinematography of Tsui Hark that from then on he became Wong Fei Hung!

Actually, if you compare Jet Li and his other contemporaries in the Chinese action movie industry like Jackie Chan, you will realise that Jet Li's moves are more fluid and graceful whereas Jackie Chan's seem more fast paced and dramatic. However there is no denying that Li's kungfu looks and most probably is just as powerful as Jackie Chan's :-P

Once Upon A Time In China wasn't the first Jet Li movie I watched, in fact I had the good fortune of watching his very first movie The Shaolin Temple which was released in 1979/80. However, being his first movie, I felt his acting then was not very polished although his kungfu moves were just as good. But in Once Upon A Time in China, you can see that his acting had matured a great deal. This is most obvious in the way he essayed the shy romance between Wong Fei Hung and his Thirteenth Aunt (Rosamund Kwan) which was so sweet and delicate that it will put a smile on your face :-)

Once Upon A Time was so popular that three sequels were made. They are all all well worth watching if only just to watch Jet Li execute his spectacular moves!

[Pictures from YesAsia and]

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August 4, 2006

The Changing Faces of Anime Characters

Have you noticed the changes in how anime characters are drawn since the art form started in the 1950s in Japan? In the early days, the characters were round and cute and had a strong Disney influence. They were also simpler in shape and not all that humanly realistic. For example, observe how Astroboy and Doraemon were drawn.

In the 70s and 80s, slim delicate characters with extremely large starry eyes became the norm. Even male characters had really beautiful large eyes and slim frames so much so that sometimes you can't tell whether they are male or female until you hear them talk :-P

In the late 90s, realistic character drawings became more common due to the influence of "realistic" anime like Ghost in the Shell, i.e. eyes became smaller and body shapes became more realistic (but male characters were generally still more androgynous than manly). Only Anime made with younger children in mind bucked this trend and still followed the earlier "cuter" styles.

Recently, it seems that cute characters are making a comeback in anime... But with more stylised exagerrated body shapes that are used as a tool to highlight the character's personality. A greater variety of body and facial forms also seem to be the norm, for example, in the anime Desert Punk, it can be seen that different drawing styles were applied for the different characters, the most obvious example being the huge difference between Kosuna and Sunaboozu :-P

However, it seems that even with the greater prolification of anime now, none have managed to reach the popularity of early animes like Astroboy, Doraemon and Kimba... Perhaps time to go back to simple designs?

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August 2, 2006

Dae Jang Geum (Jewel In The Palace) Animated Series

The hit Korean drama series Jewel In The Palace now has an animated version - Jang Geum's Dream. It follows closely the story of Dae Jang Geum in the original drama series but adds a new character in the form of Jang Soo-Ro, another rival for Min Jung-Ho's affections besides Choi Geum-Young.

This animated series which was a joint production between the Korean MBC TV station and the Japanese NHK station, will be made part by part, with the first part lasting 26 episodes. This part will be about Jang Geum's childhood and early youth with a large part on the difficulties she faced trying to enter the palace.

The second section is in preproduction now and will be about how Jang Geum becomes a great cook in the palace while at the same time overcoming the intrigues and deception that threaten her.

The broadcast rights for the first 26 episodes was purchased by TV stations from 17 countries! And already many television stations have expressed interest in buying the second part although it is still in preproduction.

I love the Dae Jang Geum drama series and I think this animated series should be interesting :-) And btw doesn't the cartoon Jang Geum look SOOOO cute?

[News from]


August 1, 2006

Latest Zhang Ziyi Movie - The Banquet

Another big budget historical Chinese movie in the vein of Hero and House of Flying Daggers will be premiering in September 2006. And its The Banquet (YeYan) !!

It stars Zhang Ziyi (Sayuri in Memoirs of a Geisha), Ge You, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun(who starred as Huang Rong in the Chinese mainland version of Legend of Condor Heroes) and Huang Xiaoming (Yang Guo in the recent Return of the Condor Heroes) and directed by Feng Xiaogang who also directed the Andy Lau vehicle A World Without Thieves.

The story is a loose adaptation of the Shakespearen play Hamlet and is about how the the main protagonists which include the Emperor (Ge You), Empress (Zhang Ziyi), Crown Prince (Daniel Wu), The Minister (Ma JingWu) and The Minister's Son (Huang Xiao Ming) (hey almost everyone :-P), try to rid themselves of their enemies at a lavish royal banquet.

I am not sure how good the movie is but it will be competing in the 63rd Annual Venice Film Festival so it should be pretty good :-) The final edited full-length movie will be premiering on September 3 in Venice and will be about 2 hours and 10 minutes long.

Check out the trailer here and the gorgeous movie posters here (Both Chinese sites at
Check out the cool Official Site too (you need to have a fast internet connection though cos the site is really Flash heavy)!

The lavish costumes look great in the posters and pictures. Will need to see if the film can live up to the public's high expectations in about a month's time ;-)

[Picture from]


July 28, 2006

Takuya Kimura Doramas

Mention Japanese trendy dramas or doramas and I am sure the name that comes to mind is Takuya Kimura (木村拓哉). A quick check on this Japanese site that lists the 20 highest rated drama serials in Japan since 1977 and you will be amazed that Kimura is the star of 4 of these top 20 highest rated dramas. And what is even more impressive is that since the turn of this century only the doramas that he starred in managed to squeeze into this top 20 list. Based on this fact alone, it would seem that many viewers in Japan (and I am sure the rest of Asia too) tuned in just for him only.

You may wonder what are the factors that made him and his doramas so incredibly popular? I think that its a combination of his boyish yet charismatic good looks, a slightly rebellious attitude that many young women find attractive, natural acting and plain good luck to be involved in some of the best doramas of all time.

Actually personally, I find that he is not the best looking star among his peers, for example I consider Yutaka Takenouchi to be better looking but somehow only Kimura has that charisma that makes one want to see more of him on the screen in almost all the dramas that I have seen him in.

Some details about Kimutaku as he is known to his fans:

  • Birthdate: Nov 13 1972
  • Star Sign: Scorpio
  • Chinese Astrology Sign: Rat
  • Height: 176cm
  • Weight: 57kg
  • Blood Group: O
  • Marital Status: married to Shizuka Kudo and father to two daughters
  • Member of popular pop group SMAP.
Some of his most popular dramas that are included in the Top 20 list mentioned above are:

(1996) - this 11 episode drama is arguably the best trendy drama of all time and made stars out of Kimura, Tomoko Yamaguchi, Takako Matsu, Takenouchi Yutaka and Ryoko Hirusue. The combination of a refreshing theme - romance between an older woman and a younger man - especially during the 1990s, great script, superb music and the sizzling chemistry between him and lead actress Tomoko Yamaguchi made this a drama to remember.

(2000) - this tear-jerker is the second highest rated drama in the Top 20 list and tells the star-crosssed romance between an ambitious hair stylist in a trendy salon played by Kimura and a fiesty handicapped librarian played by Takako Tokiwa. Hint: remember to have a box of tissues handy when watching the last few episodes :-P

Hero (2001) - a "police and thief" type drama serial where Kimura plays an unconventional public prosecutor that sees him pitted against his strait-laced and serious partner played by Takako Matsu. The understated romantic attraction between the two characters is what made this drama such a joy to watch. However anyone who is expecting a standard dorama storyline will be disappointed as this is more of a detective drama where the two lead characters use their logic and ingenuity to solve various crimes each episode.

Good Luck (2003) - Kimura is at his most spiffy looking as a dashing pilot with the All Nippon Airlines (ANA). The hyper-realistic sets of the airplane's cockpit and passenger areas will make you feel like they are really filming in an actual aircraft. One of the highlights of the show was when the aircraft encountered a storm and faced a blackout, really nerve gripping stuff.

[Photo from]


July 24, 2006

Kung Fu Sects in Costume Dramas!

I just love ancient costume dramas and their fantastic martial arts :-) Anyone who has read or watched 'Wuxia' or martial arts dramas will know that the story is basically about the hero getting more and more powerful martial arts as time goes by (and under the most unusual circumstances) before finally defeating the chief villian of the tale.

Besides the more or less common theme, another thing that runs through almost all the martial arts stories are the kung fu sects which I think are based on actual martial arts sects in China. The main ones are the following:

  1. Shaolin - no further explanation needed, they are world famous :-) In the martial arts world they are considered the source of all subsequent martial arts sects.
  2. Wudang - started by Zhang San Feng who was formerly from Shaolin. Most famous for TaijiQuan, the gentle art form which is practised by millions even now in parks and schools all across Asia.
  3. Ermei - the most famous all-female martial arts sect, the members are supposed to be "Tao Gu" or Taoist nuns but they are usually portrayed as being a group of pretty gals with nice costumes.
  4. Beggar Sect - the members are all highly skilled beggars, and perhaps the one with the most members cos practically every beggar in the drama and novels are from the beggar sect :-P Most famous fictional kungfu: 'The Subduing Dragon 18 Palms' which is reportedly so powerful that it can defeat eighteen dragons... And within the Beggar Sect, it is further subdivided into the Clean Beggar Division and the Dirty Beggar Division (apparently the clean ones just can't stand the dirty ones haha)

And besides the above big 4 you have a whole bunch of smaller sects, e.g. Quanzhen - the sect of Taoist monks, Kunlun, Ming sect and a whole lot more.

The thing to note that practically everyone in Wulin or the martial arts universe has only one ambition and that is to be Wu Lin Meng Zhu or the Top Martial Arts Exponent in the whole martial arts universe. Everything else is secondary. They would usually have competitions something like our modern Olympics almost every few years to see who would be the top kungfu expert.

Also, mundane matters usually do not bother people in Wulin, they usually have no cash problems and do not need to work... presumably they are either already very rich or they just steal from the rich what they need for daily expenses...

If the Kungfu world interests you I can find no better drama serial to introduce you to this wonderful genre than especially the 1983 version starring Felix Wong , Barbara Yong and Miu Kiu Wai. There were other subsequent remakes but I still think the 1980s one is the one that best captured the essence of Louis Cha's wonderful novel. You will fall in love with characters like the slow but upright Guo Jing and his highly intelligent partner Huang Rong besides a host of other really interesting characters.

For your info, 'Legend of the Condor Heroes' is the start of a trilogy that includes and . They are highly recommended too :-) You can find all the above kungfu sects and more portrayed in loving detail in these drama serials.


July 21, 2006

Cast of 'Lust, Caution' Confirmed!

The main cast of the new Ang Lee spy thriller 'Lust, Caution' has been confirmed finally by the director himself and they are - Tony Leung Chiu Wai as main character 'Mr Yi', newcomer Tang Wei (picture) as heroine 'Wang Jia Zhi' and as 'Kuang Yu Min'.

The fllm is based on a popular 26-page short story by Eileen Chang and is about a plot to assasinate a powerful intelligence official during the Japanese occupation in China during World War II.

Filming will start in September and will mostly take place in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia although the locations are still not confirmed.

Finally the cast is confirmed and aside from Tang, no big surprises so far from the initial rumours.

Btw, here are some basic data about newcomer Tang Wei that was found from Chinese news reports:

Birthday: Oct 7 1979
Blood Group: A
Star Sign: Libra
Height: 172cm
Weight: 52kg
Current student of Beijing Film Academy (not sure whats the oficial English name, just did a direct translation from Chinese)
A participant of Miss World China in 2004.

More pictures of from Chinese Search Engine

[Pictures and news compiled from:,]


July 18, 2006

More hints that Wang Leehom will be in 'Lust, Caution'

Popular singer-actor confirmed that he auditioned for the role of the second male lead in Ang Lee's new movie 'Lust, Caution' just last month according to Chinese news reports.

Although he did not say whether he has been offered the role, it seems that his chance of landing the role seems quite high. According to the report, Wang and Ang Lee know each other pretty well and he was even invited by Lee to watch an early version of 'Brokeback Mountain'. He may be involved in the sountrack of the new movie as well.

I love Wang Leehom's music cos he manages to bring in many Western pop influences into Chinese pop music that is really original. I like his singing voice too. In this sense I feel his music is a bit similar to David Tao's (another really popular Chinese-American singer in the Chinese pop universe) but you should really check out Wang Leehom's musical works for yourself :-)

However as an actor, I am not too sure cos I have not seen that many of his movies... But under Ang Lee's masterful directing I am positive he will perform above everyone's expectations ;-)

[News report from:]

July 16, 2006

Battle of the Red Cliff - John Woo's Newest Movie

There has been much interest on the new John Woo movie - Battle of Red Cliff (赤壁之战) not only because its a John Woo movie but also because it is a big budget historical epic movie that is so rare these days in Chinese moviedom.

Based on the famous 'as depicted in the Chinese historical novel , the story is set during the turbulent years of the Three Kingdoms (AD 190 - AD 280) in Chinese history. The main protagonists are Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Zhou Yu, Sun Quan and the very intelligent Zhuge Liang. Of course what is a great historical epic without great beauties to spice things up :-P and in the 'Battle of Red Cliff' it comes in the form of Da Qiao and Xiao Qiao.

The unconfirmed cast is a who's who of top names in the Chinese entertainment industry: Chow Yun Fatt as Zhou Yu, Tony Leung Chiu Wai as master strategist Zhuge Liang, Zhang Zhen as Sun Quan and Taiwan's Number 1 beauty Lin Chi Ling (picture above) as Xiao Qiao. The rest of the cast have not been named as yet although Ken Watanabe was rumored to play Cao Cao and Andy Lau was rumored to play Zhou Yu previously.

However none of the cast have been confirmed as yet, although the movie is set to begin filming in March 2007.

Lets keep our eyes peeled on this much hyped John Woo movie ;-) Hopefully it will set off a trend of filming more historical movies cos there really is too many fantastic stories from Chinese histories and legends that have yet to be immortalised on film.

Btw, if you are interested in watching older John Woo movies to have a feel of his filmmaking style, click :-)

[Picture from]

July 14, 2006

Losing one's memory

Suffering from amnesia is one of the most common plot devices used in movies and drama serials all over the world. And it is highly effective as frequently movies or drama serials that employ this plot device manage to get sky high box office or viewership ratings.

Based on JUST the Asian TV drama serials that I have watched before, I have already seen the amnesia storyline being used in the following serials:

  1. Hoshi no Kinka (Heaven's Coins) - a 90s Japanese drama serial starring Noriko Sakai and Yutaka Takenuchi where the hero forgets the love of his life, a deaf nurse (played by Noriko Sakai) after an accident in Tokyo.
  2. Winter Sonata - the ultra famous Korean drama that defined the Korean Wave starring the bespectacled Bae Yong-Joon and Choi Ji-Woo where the hero (played by Bae Yong Joon) forgets the love of his life, his high school sweetheart (Choi Ji-Woo) after a car accident.
  3. Stairway to Heaven - another Korean drama starring Choi Ji-Woo who this time is the one who loses her memory of her childhood sweetheart (Kwon Sang-Woo)after being knocked down by her evil step-sister.
  4. Meteor Garden 2 - Taiwanese idol drama starring Jerry Yen and Barbie Hsu (Big S) where Dao MingSi (Jerry Yen) the rich and bad-tempered hero loses his memory after an accident, forgets about the love of his life (played by Big S), gains a new identity as a nice but poor chap and falls in love with the girl who takes him in after he loses his memory.
  5. Prince Who Turns Into a Frog - Taiwanese idol drama starring Ming Dao where the obnoxious heir of a hotel chain (Ming Dao) forgets who he is after a botched kidnapping attempt, gains a new identity as a nice but poor chap and falls in love with the delivery girl who takes him in after he loses his memory.
  6. Save the Last Dance For Me - Korean drama starring Eugene and Ji Seung where the only heir of a large conglomorate (played by Ji Seung) loses his memory after a robbery attempt, gains a new identity as a nice but poor chap and falls in love with the simple country girl (Eugene) who takes him in.

As you can see, the plots are really similar especially 5 and 6... In all cases, the amnesiac protagonists always have someone they are together with before losing their memory but end up liking someone else after losing their memory. This conveniently leads to an interesting love triangle as the viewer will be really curious to know whether the amnesiac will go back to his old love or stay with the new love once he recovers his memory. The drama generated thus provides much anticipation for the viewers which of course leads to high ratings which leads to more advertising revenue which leads to very happy producers and TV stations!

But the thing I don't understand is how is it that a person can forget who he is but can still remember every other thing that he knows i.e. business savvy, medical know-how, language skills etc. Is there some other part of the brain that stores all these other info? Wouldn't there be some form of brain damage to these other parts of the brain? And how is it that a person involved with such a serious auto-accident has no injury to any other part of the body besides the head? And with no scar to show for it as well! Isn't it strange???

However, even stranger is the fact that audiences (yours truly included) still love these dramas even though they have watched similar storylines umpteen times :-P This shows that the amnesia plotlines work very well so... be prepared to see much more of the same in the future !

July 11, 2006

Update on female lead in Lee Ang's new movie!

According to news sources from the Chinese mainland, the female lead in Lee Ang's new movie 'Lust, Caution' is not Liu Yifei as previously speculated but newcomer Beijing native Tang Wei who is 27 this year. Also, the male leads are said to be Tony Leung Chiu Wai and popular actor-singer Wang Leehom.

Liu has apparently turned down the role because she felt that the her personality did not suit the role and that there were a few suggestive scenes that she could not accept.

However, there has been no confirmation from Ang Lee so far ... which means there may still be changes to the casting :-P

[Compiled from the following Chinese news sites:]

July 10, 2006

Comment on Box Office Records of Asian Movies

Asian films can seldom compete against Hollywood blockbusters in the box office rankings. And it is not surprising at all as hardly any Asian filmmaker is able to beat Hollywood movies on budget, special FX, and marketing savvy.

For example, according to the all time top grossing movies in international box office takings as provided by the site, no Asian film made it to the top 100 movies except Japanese anime 'Howl's Moving Castle' at number 84:

All-time International Box Office Records

However, this may change in the future as Asian film makers are now more savvy in their marketing efforts and use more special effects, although I still feel that it is below Hollywood standards. And sometimes in their haste to use more special effects, they overload on the fx and forget that a good powerful storyline is even more important - a case in point is the Chinese movie 'The Promise' starring South Korean star Jang Dong Gun and Hong Kong star Cecilia Cheung, although the scene with Cecilia Cheung flying like a kite whilst being clad in feathers really made an impression on me...

Hopefully one day more Asian movies will be represented within the top 100 movies in the all time international box office records ;-)

July 8, 2006

1980s Hong Kong Drama Series

To someone like me who grew up on a staple of Hong Kong TVB and ATV drama serials throughout the late 70s and 80s, drama serials from that period will always be THE quintessential Chinese drama serial - btw, Chinese drama serials, unlike soap operas or drama series in the States, are mostly only about 20 to 50 episodes long and usually have a clearly defined beginning and end. Although if the drama is very popular, they may make a sequel with a new story that is also about the same number of episodes - Somehow Chinese TV dramas from later periods do not have the same impact on me as those from that period although there were some that were very good as well.

It could be that the actors and actresses from that golden period of the Hong Kong TV industry were extremely charismatic and talented. Some of these actors, including Chow Yun Fatt, Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu Wai, subsequently ventured into movies with phenominal success that until now have not been surpassed by their successors. It also helped that drama serials from that period usually had such unique themes and strong storylines that subsequent movies and drama serials frequently copied from them.

Some of the dramas that made an impact on me include The Bund (a gangland drama set in Shanghai in the 1920s that starred Chow Yun Fatt), Looking Back In Anger, Duke of Mount Deer (with Andy Lau and Tony Leung) and The Condor Heroes among others. These drama serials were so good that I will definitely watch them a second or third time if given a chance :-) Btw, if you are interested in finding out more info on these drama serials, reviews can be found on

July 7, 2006

Female Lead in Lee Ang's New Movie (possibly)

Read in the papers today that Liu Yi Fei may be the next Chinese mainland actress after Zhang Ziyi to hit it big internationally as it was reported that she may be the female lead for Ang Lee's new movie 'Lust, Caution'.

Taiwanese actress host Big S (Xu Xidi) was also earlier reported as a possible candidate for the role although Liu seems to be the one to have hit the jackpot ;-)

I think Liu Yi Fei is a really beautiful actress and her acting has improved by leaps and bounds especially in her role as 'Xiao Long Nu' aka 'Little Dragon Girl' in 'Return of the Condor Heroes' (left picture) although I felt that she was a little wooden in her earlier roles especially in 'Demi Gods and Semi Devils' which was her first period drama role. She is also very young as she was born in Aug 25, 1987 which makes her only 18 this year so she definitelyhas lots of time to develop her career as an actress :-)

But all is not confirmed until the movie starts filming in fall... Will keep you updated once there are any new updates on the casting ;-)

July 6, 2006

Japanese Drama Series vs Korean Drama Series

Its seems that Korean drama series have become more and more popular over these last few years. Japanese drama series on the other hand do not seem be doing as well. In Singapore for example, Korean drama series have become a prime time staple on free to air channels but there are hardly any Japanese drama serials during the same time belt... The last one that was shown during prime time was 'The Great White Tower' (which is a very good drama by the way). Korean drama serials and movies are so popular that there is a term for it: Hallyu or Korean Wave...

This is in contrast to the 90s when Japanese trendy drama series like Love Generation and Long Vacation were all the rage in East Asia and South East Asia. Perhaps Korean dramas with their more straightforward and dramatic storylines are more accessible to audiences than popular Japanese drama serials which are more subtle and complex - compare 'The Great White Tower' with 'Winter Sonata' or 'An Autumn's Tale'...

There is no telling how long the Korean Wave will last but I am defintely enjoying riding the wave while it lasts :-) I am sure Japanese trendy drama serials will make a resurgence in Asia one day although nobody knows when that will be...

Favorite Movies

As I was filling in the My Favorite Movies section in the Blogger profile, I realised that it is difficult for me to select a favorite movie cos there are just so many types of movie that I like... But the most important element that makes me like a movie is that it must hit me emotionally right at the center of my being... i.e. the movie must be able to make me laugh out loud or cry uncontrollably :-P Once it is able to do this, I think the movie will have succeeded... Of course plot and acting are very important as well but if it does not hit your emotional core it can't be considered a 'great' film for me.

Some films that have left an impression on me are Hotaru no haka (Tombstone for Fireflies), My Neighbour Totoro, JuDou, The Ring (Creepy!), City of God, King Kong and A.I. These movies may not be blockbusters and are not perfect but I consider them fantastic movies cos they can touch me emotionally.

First Post!

This is my first blogging attempt :P Although I know I am really late in the game... But better late than never!

Hope to provide news, reviews and opinions on the asian movie and drama scene which is an area that I am really interested in.