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 http://japanmusic.altervista.org/Smap/profili.html]


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 Baidu.com.

[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: http://news.yam.com/udn/entertain/200607/20060718040264.html]

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 http://yummycelebrities.com/2005/09/18/lin-zhi-ling/]

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 www.boxofficemojo.com, 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 http://www.spcnet.tv.

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.