December 27, 2007

East Asian Film And TV News & Trends In 2007

It's almost the end of the year and time once again for reflections on what happened in this past year ;-P Wow time flies, it seems that it was only yesterday that I was celebrating the 2007 New Year. I think that this has been a pretty decent year for East Asian films and TV dramas on a whole. Here is a general recap of the news and trends that have caught my attention this year.

1. Chinese Movie Of The Year: Lust, Caution

This film was the most talked about Chinese movie in 2007. With Ang Lee's signature low-key approach, attention to detail, the engrossing storyline and great acting by Tony Leung and Tang Wei in some of the most daring erotic scenes ever seen in an Asian movie, it comes as no surprise that this film enjoyed fantastic box-office takings throughout Asia and won the Golden Lion and seven awards at this year's Golden Horse Awards.

2. Ancient Is Golden

Period movies and drama serials continue to be popular in Korean and Chinese dramas and films in 2007. Big-budget period movies with star-studded casts and state-of-the-art CGI like The Warlords performed very well at the box-office. The period drama boom was also seen in Korean drama serials with period dramas like Jumong and Taewangsasingi snaring the top positions in television ratings. This period boom looks set to continue in 2008 with the release of the most expensive Chinese film ever made - Red Cliff during the Beijing Olympics.

3. More Pan-Asian Co-productions

Co-productions between different Asian countries seem to have become the norm in 2007. From arthouse productions like director Kim Ki-duk's Breath starring Taiwanese actor Chang Chen to Japanese hits like Hero with Korean actor Lee Byung-hun in a cameo role to big-budget Chinese flicks like The Warlords and Red Cliff that are financed by investors throughout East Asia, filmmakers are cooperating in more ways than ever to expand a film's appeal to a wider pan-Asian audience.

4. Quest For New Themes

To counter the whimsical and fast-changing tastes of viewers, movie and drama makers must come up with new themes at an ever-increasing speed. This is especially apparent in the Korean TV drama market where it seems that viewers have become increasingly tired of the same romantic drama plot used countless times in the past. To maintain viewer interest, TV stations and production houses have had to come up with new themes for their dramas. This has resulted in the type and range of drama serials expanding considerably this year. From dramas about money lenders to police action thrillers to romantic comedies with "cross-dressing"themes, this aggressive search for new themes have already yielded gems like War Of Money, Time Between Dog And Wolf and First Shop Of Coffee Prince. It remains to be seen if this exploratory approach will continue into 2008...

5. International Recognition

East Asian films continue to perform well in international film awards in 2007. Lust, Caution took home the Golden Lion and Korean actress Jeon Do-yeon won the prestigious Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine, only the second time an Asian actress has won this award in the history of the Cannes Film Festival.


All-in-all, 2007 has been a good year for Asian films and dramas. Let's hope for an even better 2008 :-)

Have A Happy New Year!

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December 10, 2007

Lust, Caution Takes Home 7 Golden Horses

As expected, Lust, Caution is the big winner at this year's Golden Horse Awards held on December 8 in Taipei, Taiwan. The Ang Lee thriller won 7 awards including Best Film, Best Actor (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Best Director (Ang Lee) and Best Newcomer (Tang Wei) among others. Best Actress was also won by a Lust, Caution alumni - former Golden Horse Award winner Joan Chen for her portrayal in The Home Song Stories. The full results can be found at

http://www.goldenhorse.org.tw/gh_main/gh/gh-e-5.aspx

And here is a clip of a rather interesting moment that happened when Ang Lee and Sandra Ng (a Hong Kong actress well-known for her talent in comedy) were about to give out the Best Actor award, rather unexpectedly Sandra Ng tore the sealed envelope containing the results without opening the envelope (for comic effect perhaps?), shocking the normally sedate Ang Lee into a minor panic who then hurriedly tried to piece the torn pieces together, dropping the bits of paper in the process... hmmm... poor Ang Lee, he looked really distressed by Sandra's er playful act ;-P But I guess this was just a minor blip in an otherwise fantastic night for the cast and crew of Lust, Caution.




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December 6, 2007

Top 10 Highest Rated Korean Drama Serials In 2007

The 10 highest-rated drama series in South Korea for 2007 are out. Based on this news report, the top ten drama serials based on average television ratings for 2007 are:

Drama Serial
Average Ratings
Lead Actor/Actress
1. Jumong 47.3%Song Il Gook / Han Hye Jin
2. Soonjung/Pure In Heart 39.7% Goo Hye Sun / Lee Min Woo
3. Money's Warfare/War of Money 31%Park Shin Yang / Park Jin Hee
4. Like Land And Sky 29%Park Hye Jin / Han Hyo Joo
5. Taewangsasingi / Four Guardian GodsOf The King 28.8%Bae Yong Jun / Moon So Ri
6. Likeable Or Not 28.8%Kim Ji Seok / Han Ji Hye
7. Dae Jo Yeong 26.3%Choi Su Jong/Park Ye Jin
8. Blissful Women 25.2%Yoon Jung Hee / Kim Suk Hoon
9. My Man's Woman 24.5%Kim Hee-Ae / Kim Sang Jung
10.Coffee Prince/First Shop Of Coffee Prince24.2% Gong Yoo / Yoon Eun Hye


I have not seen all of these dramas but based on ratings alone, the dramas in this list should be the cream of the Korean drama serial crop of 2007. Do check them out if you have the time :-)

Source: http://tw.news.yahoo.com/article/url/d/a/071204/35/pbm0.html

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November 21, 2007

New! Trailer for Stephen Chow's Upcoming Film CJ7

Hot off the press! The trailer for Stephen Chow's much anticipated new film CJ7 (长江七号) has just been released on this Yahoo website 30 minutes ago:

http://tw.movie.yahoo.com/videoplayer.html?id=2457&type=movie

Seems to be a cool comedy + sci-fi pic... Very Stephen Chowish in style ;-)
Btw the actress who plays his son in the trailer (yes you read right - actress) is a 10-year old little girl called Xu Jiao...

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November 13, 2007

Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis? Sports In Drama Serials

Basketball anyone? Get ready for a sharp spike in interest in basketball in early 2008 when a movie and two drama serials on basketball starring the hottest stars in Taiwan are released late this year to early next year. The movie Kungfu Dunk (灌篮) stars multi-talented Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou as a basketball player who uses kung fu to play basketball (a basketball version of Shaolin Soccer?) and is scheduled for general release during Chinese New Year. The movie also stars Hong Kong singer/actress Charlene Choi from the popular group Twins and up-and-coming Taiwanese actor Chen Bolin. The two idol drama series are just as star-studded, Basketball Fire (籃球火) has a dream team comprising of three hot hunks: Jerry Yan, Wu Zun and Show Luo and is set to start shooting in December; Bullfight (鬥牛。要不要) has Mike He, Li Wei and S.H.E's Hebe and will be shown in Taiwan this month.

Why the sudden interest in basketball? Actually I am not sure... but fads come and go in East Asian dramas and movies, and the latest fad could be sports-themed dramas. If you are as old as I am (uh-hm) you may remember that a long long time ago (late 70's), sports themed dramas were all the rage in Japanese drama serials, the most popular of these dramas was arguably a volleyball drama called Moero Attack! (燃えろアタック) which starred Araki Yumiko as a volleyball player who must have been a kungfu expert like Jay's character in Kungfu Dunk as she can execute the most fantastic spikes whilst somersaulting in mid-air. Ah, loved that show... Another popular drama was the tennis series Court ni Kakeru Seishun, about two sisters' road to tennis victory, it's shot in an over-the-top style somewhat similar to Moero Attack.

And for some nostalgia, here is the theme song of Moero Attack from YouTube. Great song huh, can't find such catchy theme songs anymore these days ;-)




Source: http://hutdugaikarsui.blogspot.com/2007/03/japanese-drama-blast-from-past.html
http://www.incinemas.com.sg/incinemas/news/news_comments.asp?newspostid=399
http://tw.news.yahoo.com/article/url/d/a/071111/78/o161.html
http://www.settv.com.tw/metro/m114

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Golden Horse Awards Updates

Following my last post in October on the upcoming Golden Horse awards to be held on December 8, there have been even more changes in the lineup of nominated films. Besides Tuya's Wedding (nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress), the other mainland Chinese film Blind Mountain (nominated for Best Director) has also withdrawn from the competition. However, this does not mean that it will be easier for the remaining films to win in their respective categories as the Golden Horse organizers have decided to replace the withdrawn films with other contenders...

In the Best Picture category, Hong Kong cops and robbers thriller Eye In The Sky replaces Tuya's Wedding. In the Best Director category, The Sun Also Rises's Jiang Wen and Protege's Derek Yee replaces Blind Mountain's Li Yang. And Rene Liu who starred in Kidnap takes over Yu Nan's (from Tuya's Wedding) position in the Best Actress nominations.

So the final list of nominations for the major awards of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress are as follows:

Best Picture
What On Earth Have I Done Wrong?!
Getting Home
The Home Song Stories
Lust, Caution
Eye In The Sky

Best Director
Yau Nai Hoi (Eye in the Sky)
Ang Lee (Lust, Caution)
Jiang Wen (The Sun Also Rises)
Derek Yee (Protege)

Best Actor (no changes)
Gurmit Singh (Just Follow Law)
Zhao Ben Shan (Getting Home)
Aaron Kwok (The Detective)
Tony Leung Chiu Wei (Lust, Caution)

Best Actress
Joan Chen (The Home Song Stories)
LI Bing Bing (The Knot)
Tang Wei (Lust, Caution)
Rene Liu (Kidnap)


Source: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/11/13/arts/AS-A-E-MOV-China-Taiwan-Movie-Politics.php

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October 30, 2007

12 Nominations For Lust, Caution At The 2007 Golden Horse Awards

To me, Lust, Caution is the must watch Chinese movie of 2007. The extensive media coverage and the lively debates generated by the movie have been unprecedented, no Chinese film has generated this kind of buzz in a long long time, Lust, Caution is truly the Chinese-language movie event of the year. And I think the Golden Horse Awards panel thinks so too as the film has been nominated for a whopping 12 awards at this year's Golden Horse Awards to be held on December 8th in Taiwan including the major awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Actor (Tony Leung) and Best Actress (Tang Wei). Me thinks Lust, Caution is going to take more than a few of these golden horsies home this year ;-)

Besides Lust, Caution (色,戒), other nominees for Best Picture are:

  • What On Earth Have I Done Wrong (情非得已之生存之道) first feature film by Taiwanese director Doze Niu who also directed the Wu Bai and Barbie Hsu idol drama Say Yes Enterprise

  • Getting Home (落叶归根) a black comedy by Chinese Sixth Generation director Zhang Yang and starring Best Actor nominee Zhao Ben Shan and Hu Jun

  • The Home Song Stories (意) an Australian/Singaporean bilingual movie (in English & Chinese) by Tony Ayres and starring Best Actress nominee Joan Chen and Singapore based actor Qi Yu Wu.

And the other Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress nominees are:
Best Director: Yau Nai Hoi (Eye In The Sky), Li Yang (Blind Mountain)
Best Actor: Gurmit Singh (Just Follow Law), Zhao Ben Shan (Getting Home), Aaron Kwok (The Detective)
Best Actress: Joan Chen (The Home Song Stories), Li Bing Bing (The Knot).

A full list of the nominees can be found on the official Golden Horse Awards site:
http://www.goldenhorse.org.tw/gh_main/gh/gh-e-5.aspx.

And here are some screen shots of the nominated Best Picture films below:


Video: goldenhorse nomination films

Latest News: According to this news report, one of the original nominees, Tuya's Marriage (图雅的婚事) - Golden Bear winner at the 57th Berlin Film Festival, has announced its withdrawal from the Golden Horse Awards yesterday. So as of today, we are left with four competing films for Best Picture, and three nominees each for the Best Director and Best Actress awards...

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October 21, 2007

Three Versions Of The Great White Tower

Lately with all the news about the numerous nominations (8 in total!) for the popular Taiwanese TV drama The Hospital at the upcoming Golden Bell Awards in Taiwan - the television equivalent of the Golden Horse Awards, you may be wandering if this is actually a Taiwanese adaptation of the 2003 hit Japanese drama serial The Great White Tower (Shiroi Kyotou) as the two have the same Chinese or Kanji name - 白い巨塔/白色巨塔. But actually, although the two dramas have the same name, they are based on two different stories.

Shiroi Kyotou is based on a novel by Yamasaki Toyoko and depicts the conflicts and power struggles in a large hospital through the eyes of two equally brilliant but radically different doctors - the ruthlessly ambitious surgeon (Zaizen) and the upright and dedicated doctor (Satomi). The novel was a huge bestseller in Japan and was made into a movie in 1966, and drama serials in 1967, 1978, 1990 and in 2003. The 2003 version which starred Karasawa Toshiaki and Eguchi Yosuke was a ratings hit and won the Best Drama, Best Screenwriter and Best Director at the 40th Japanese Television Drama Academy Awards.



The Hospital is adapted from a novel by Taiwanese doctor cum author Hou Wen Yong. The main characters here are Su Yi Hua (played by Jerry Yan of F4 fame) - a somewhat naive and idealistic surgeon unwittingly caught between two rival factions vying for power and Chiu Qing Cheng (played by Leon Dai Li Ren) , a hard-headed and ambitious surgeon who is vying for power himself. It does sound a bit like Shiroi Kyotou doesn't it? But the characters and storyline in The Hospital are unique and totally different. Ng Man Tat, a regular in Stephen Chow's movies, Saya (who by the way shaved her head for her role as a cancer patient) and Fei Xiang also play important supporting roles.



And besides the Japanese and Taiwanese Great White Towers, there is also a South Korean version as well: Behind The White Tower. This Korean drama is adapted from Shiroi Kyoto and stars Kim Myeong-Min as Dr. Jang Jun-Hyuk (the Korean version of Dr. Zaizen) and Lee Seon-gyoon as Dr. Choi Do-Yeong (Dr. Satomi's alter-ego). As this is an adaptation of Shiroi Kyoto, the plot is essentially the same as the Japanese one.



Actually although I still like the Japanese version the most, I think that all three versions of The Great White Tower are very well made drama serials and worth watching. Check them out and good luck to The Hospital at the Golden Bell Awards!



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October 5, 2007

The Rise Of Period Dramas In Korea

While reading the latest news on Bae Yong Joon's epic period drama series Taewangsasingi or The Four Guardian Gods of the King (picture), I was struck by how good the TV ratings for period dramas in Korea were in general. Although these drama serials are not as well-known as comtemporary romantic drama serials such as Princess Hours or Coffee Prince in Asia, for the last couple of years, these ancient drama serials regularly trump the modern-day dramas in the ratings war in their home country.

For example, the highest rated drama serial in 2006 was the historical drama Jumong which achieved spectacular ratings of 51.9%* on its last episode when it was shown in South Korea in March this year. This is a phenominal result if you consider the fact that ratings for television drama serials in South Korea only average about 10 to 20%. In fact, any drama serial that achieves a rating of above 20% is considered a hit. Jumong's viewership rating is higher than all of the hit modern-day drama series in 2006 (the ratings of the much talked about and very popular romantic drama series Princess Hours peaked at only 28.3%**). And how can we forget 2003's mega-hit Daejanggeum (Jewel In The Palace), THE drama series that arguably popularised Korean cuisine across Asia and made its lead actress Lee Young-Ae an international star.

At the moment, this historical drama boom is showing no signs of waning at all, at least not in the near future. Currently, the two highest rated drama serials in Korea are, you guessed it, historical dramas - Dae Jo Yeong (大祚榮) and Yon-sama's Taewangsasingi (太王四神記), both shows achieved high ratings of about 30% in the last couple of weeks. These two drama serials are actually pretty similar, they are both about the life and times of powerful ancient kings in Korean history - Dae Jo Young (or King Go of Balhae) and King Gwanggaeto in Taewangsasingi. Other historical dramas that have garnered much interest recently include The King and I and Lee San, Wind of the Palace.
Check out this theme song video of Taewangsasingi on YouTube (me thinks Yonsama looks pretty handsome here hehheh) ;-)




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* Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumong_(TV_series)
** Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Hours
Picture from http://www.24framespersecond.net/
Other references: http://ent.sina.com.cn/v/j/2007-10-02/23351736996.shtml;
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117972019.html?categoryId=2522&cs=1

September 27, 2007

Characters In Costume On John Woo's Red Cliff

Photos of Taiwan's "Number One Beauty" Chiling Lin in costume as the major female lead character Xiao Qiao in John Woo's epic movie Red Cliff have been released recently and it seems that reactions to her "new look" in the film have generally been pretty good.

Here are the photos of Lin Chiling as Xiao Qiao: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-09/28/content_6807931.htm
My take: She exudes a classic beauty and looks really demure but still... I feel that she looks like she belongs in a Japanese Samurai-era movie instead of an ancient Chinese historical pic... Hey, but what do I know maybe that is exactly how Chinese women in that period should look like ;-P For a picture of how she looks like in modern day clothing and some background info on the movie, click here.

And here are some candid camera moments of the other actors in costume on the set of the movie:

http://ent.sina.com.cn/m/c/2007-08-08/12081668206.shtml
3rd picture from the top: Tony Leung - last seen in Lust, Caution, as General Zhou Yu (the pic only shows him with the hairpiece :-P wonder how he looks like in full costume...) and
4th picture: Hu Jun as Zhao Yun

http://ent.sina.com.cn/m/c/p/2007-08-08/12021668195.shtml
1st picture from the top: You Yong as Liu Bei,
2nd picture: Guan Yu, 3rd picture: Zhang Fei
(Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were major characters in the saga of the The Three Kingdoms but it seems that they may not play such a big role in John Woo's Red Cliff...?)

http://ent.sina.com.cn/m/c/2007-08-08/13191668321.shtml
A series of pictures of Vicky Zhao Wei as Sun Shang Xiang (clicking on each of the pics opens up a bigger image). Hmm, she looks pretty manly...

http://ent.sina.com.cn/m/c/2007-08-08/12121668209.shtml
Hou Yong as Lu Xiao (3rd and 4th picture from the top)
Interesting...

Filming for the move is still ongoing and the movie is set to be released in July 2008 ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

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September 21, 2007

A Behind The Scenes Look At The Making Of A Chinese Gongfu Drama Series

I found this interesting clip on the Chinese video site Tudou.com that shows a behind the scenes look at the making of the latest Jin Yong (Louis Cha) remake - Legend Of The Condor Heroes starring Hu Ge and Ariel Lin Yi Chen.

Although the 15-minute clip is in Chinese with no English subtitles, it is still a really interesting video clip that is worth watching as it shows how incredibly difficult it is to make a gongfu drama serial in China and the sacrifices that the actors have to go through while filming.

The first half shows mostly some scenes from the drama and the actors talking about their roles but the most interesting parts are in the second half of the video - there are scenes of the actors strapped to wire harnesses rehersing their gongfu sequences, having their wigs and shoes fall off while somersaulting in mid-air (quite funny actually ;-P), cycling like crazy to build up their physical stamina, and filming in scorching hot summer temperatures outdoor.

Wow... after watching this, I have even more respect for the actors who act in such dramas and the whole process of making a martial arts period drama...

The link to the video clip: here

Till next time :-)

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September 9, 2007

Lust, Caution Wins The Golden Lion!

This just in, Ang Lee's Lust, Caution has won the coveted Golden Lion for Best Film award at the 64th Venice Film Festival. This is the second time that Ang Lee has taken home the Golden Lion after Brokeback Mountain in 2005. Lust, Caution also won the Osella for Best Cinematography award.

Congratulations to Ang Lee!

It seems that films from East Asia are truly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the international film circuit, last year's winner - mainland Chinese movie Still Life directed by Jia Zhangke, was also made in East Asia...

For a full list of the winners, check out this site.

And check out the trailer for Lust, Caution from Youtube.



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August 31, 2007

Make A Date With Takuya's Kimura's Hero On September 8

The much anticipated Japanese movie Hero starring Takuya Kimura, Matsu Takako and South Korean heart-throb Lee Byung-hun will be released in Japan on September 8. Hero the dorama serial was pretty entertaining and had one of the highest ratings in Japan when it was shown a few years ago. I think the movie should be just as good if not even better so try to catch the movie if you happen to be in Japan during that time :-)

A super clear wide-screen version of the trailer (no English subtitles) can be found on the official website of the movie: http://www.hero-movie.net/index.html
Just select "Trailer" on the menu at the website.

And Takuya Kimura and Lee Byung-hun will be collaborating again in another major production, this time with Josh Hartnett in the US-French thriller I Come With The Rain. Hong Kong actor Shawn Yue will also have a role in the movie. Seems that more and more East Asian actors are participating in Hollywood movies (or more precisely international co-productions), for example, My Sassy Girl Jun Ji-Hyun and Japanese actress Koyuki in Blood: The Last Vampire and Korean superstar Rain (Jung Ji-hoon) in Speed Racer .

The time of the Made-On-Earth movie is almost here, I think... ;-)

Information from:
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117971132.html?categoryId=2663&cs=1;
http://yummycelebrities.com/;
http://www.tokyograph.com/news/id-1549

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August 16, 2007

South Korean Movie D-War Chews Up The Box-Office

D-War looks like it is going to be the new Korean movie phenomenon of 2007! It has grossed an incredible US$42 million in box office takings ever since its release in South Korea on August 1. Not only that, D-War's box office earnings over its first five days of release was almost $20 million, achieving a top 5 ranking on the list of top-grossing films worldwide over that same time frame.

Although D-War is a Korean movie (it is helmed by comedian turned director Sim Hyung-rae, has Korean financing and its special fx is all locally done), it is unlike other Korean movies as the story is largely set in downtown Los Angeles and stars an all American cast. The film is in essence a giant-monster-terrorising-big-city type of movie in the vain of Godzilla and King Kong but the monster this time round is a 500 year old giant serpent from a Korean legend that is on the verge of turning into a nasty dragon that can wreck even more havoc. And the all American hero and heroine are the reincarnations of the brave Korean warrior and the beautiful Korean maiden terrorised by the dragon 500 years ago... hmmm... the dragon and his old foes sure planned the time of their rebirths pretty accurately haha ;-)

I have not seen the film yet but based on what I have seen of the trailers, it does seem pretty exciting although the serpent/dragon does look a little B-grade movieish...

Here is the trailer from YouTube. Looking forward to watching the movie real soon :-)



Source: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/d_war/news/1663510/; http://www.varietyasiaonline.com/content/view/1885/53/;
http://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=2365&p=.htm;
http://www.moviehole.net/news/20070816_colins_review_d_war.html

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August 8, 2007

Flash Point and The Secret Do Well At The Box Office

Donnie Yen's exciting new action thriller Flash Point (导火线) and Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou's directorial debut Secret (不能說的秘密) have both done pretty well at the Chinese box office. Flash Point starring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Colin Chou and Fan BingBing grossed RMB 20 million (US$2.63 million) in its first six days of release. Jay Chou's Secret a romantic drama with a mysterious twist at the end, stars Jay Chou, up and coming Taiwanese actress Guei Lun-Mei and Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong, grossed US$2.44 million in its first week of release.

Check out the trailer for Flash Point inYouTube. Wow, the action is simply exhilerating .... a must watch! And do catch Secret as well for Jay Chou and Guei Lun-Mei's great performances in the film.




Source: http://ent.sina.com.cn/m/c/2007-08-09/15301670119.shtml; http://www.varietyasiaonline.com/content/view/1835/1/


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July 27, 2007

Ang Lee's Lust, Caution Goes To The Venice Film Festival

Ang Lee's much anticipated spy thriller Lust, Caution will be competing for the prestigious Golden Lion award at the 64th Venice Film Festival opening next month. The film which stars Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Wang Leehom and Joan Chen is set in Shanghai in the 1930s/40s and is about a group of patriotic students' attempt to assassinate a high-ranking intelligence official in China's Japan-backed World War II-era government.

Other Asian films in competion include Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises, Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django and Lee Kang Sheng's Help Me Eros.

Good Luck to all the directors in competition! And especially to Ang Lee, hope he takes home the Golden Lion a second time after the fantastic Brokeback Mountain :-)

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19980533/, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/film/news/e3i515bf6e54d29305d039d877f1e13140f
Picture from: http://www.joblo.com/index.php?id=16703

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July 26, 2007

Japan's Scariest Horror Movies

According to this survey (in Japanese) conducted by Oricon Research, the Japanese horror film or film series that is regarded as the scariest of all time by the Japanese people themselves is the Ringu series. This is followed by the One Missed Call series and the Ju-on series.

The Top 10 scariest Japanese movies based on the survey are:

1. Ringu Series (Rasen/Ringu/Ringu 2/Ringu 0)

2. One Missed Call Series (One Missed Call / One Missed Call 2)

3. Ju-on (The Grudge) Series (Ju-On 1 / Ju-On 2)

4. Dark Water

5. Scary True Stories: Ten Haunting Tales from the Japanese Underground Series

6. Gakko no Kaidan 学校の怪談 (Haunted School) series (Gakko no Kaidan 1 / 2 / 3 / 4)

7. Kansen (Infection)

8. Shikoku

9. Junji Inagawa (稲川淳二) series

10. Kuroi Ie (The Black House)

Actually, from this list, the popularity of horror films is clearly shown by the number of films that have been made into "series" with each series comprising of a few successful and not so successful sequels. In the above list, I think only Dark Water, Kansen, Shikoku and Kuroi Ie do not have sequels (yet).

I have not seen all the films in this list but to me, the scariest Japanese horror film is still the first Ringu movie, it not only set the standard for subsequent movies like Dark Water, One Missed Call and Ju-on, it also revived the Asian horror film genre and set the stage for Korean, Hong Kong and Thai horror movies to capture a big piece of the box-office pie in Asia and beyond.

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July 16, 2007

Goong's Yoon Eun-Hye Is A Man?

Cross-dressing themes have always been popular with scriptwriters in Asian movies and TV dramas. More precisely, themes where a woman dresses as a man and everyone thinks that she is a man even if "he" looks nothing like a man (that is besides the shirt and pants look and sporting a short sassy crop)... Somehow the other way around is not all that popular... I think that maybe it is because Asians traditionally prefer their heroes to be handsome, macho and the take-charge type, and a cross-dressing feminine guy does not really fit into this idealized image of a hero.

It could also be a side effect of the Mulan syndrome... As anyone who is familiar with Chinese culture or who has watched the Disney cartoon Mulanwill know, Mulan is a fillal daughter who dresses as a man and goes to war in place of her aging father. Her courage and fillial piety has made her a much admired heroine in Chinese legends. Many authors were very likely inspired by her life story and the cross-dressing female has since become a popular plot device in a large number of stories set in East Asia. Examples include Zhu YingTai in The Butterfly Lovers, Ruixi (or Ashiya Mizuki) in Hana Kimi and the countless heroines in Chinese swordsfighting novels who dress like men so that they could travel across the the treacherous "Jiang Hu" or ancient puglistic world with as little trouble as possible (think Ziyi Zhang's character in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

More recently even Korean dramas have jumped on the bandwagon, Yoon Eun Hye who starred as the lively Princess Chae Gyung in Princess Hours aka Goong cuts her hair short and ditches her gorgeous dresses in Princess for pants and shirts to play the "manly" part-time Taekwondo instructor and coffee shop assistant Go Eun Chan (picture) in First Shop Of Coffee Prince or Coffee Shop Prince. As with such stories, the hero of the tale Choi Han Kyul (played by Gong Yoo) does not recognise "him" as a her at the beginning. Despite being a lady-killer, he inadvertantly falls in love with Yoon's character and begins to doubt his sexual preferences. And you can be sure that the producers will milk this situation dry for laughs :-P

Actually I don't think Yoon Eun Hye looks like a man at all! Although she dresses like a guy and tries her darndest to behave like a guy, I simply cannot believe that anybody would mistake her for a guy because she is just so petite and has such delicate features... the most you could say is that she is a slightly macho looking tomboy but I definitely cannot think of her as a guy... Perhaps the producers could get someone who looks like Xena The Warrior Princessto play such roles in the future, at the very least she has the right size and she definitely looks like she can beat plenty of guys to a pulp :-P

Regardless, such themes do strike a chord with audiences and are usually very popular. Coffee Prince hit ratings of above 20%* within 2 weeks of its debut and looks set to rise even higher, a very good result by Korean drama standards.


June 23, 2007

Jackie and Jet join forces in the Forbidden Kingdom

The 2 supreme Kungfu masters of the Chinese movie world - Jackie Chan and Jet Lee have finally joined forces in their new movie - Forbidden Kingdom aka Kungfu Masters (功夫之王). Many have speculated on who is the true supreme master, some say its Jackie and some say its Jet... But my humble opinion is that since they have vastly different styles - Jackie's style is acrobatic and humorous and Jet is more consistent and serious in his craft, it will be hard to determine who is the better fighter. But still it will definitely be a box-office draw when these two kungfu masters come together in a film. The movie also stars up and coming Chinese actresses Liu Yifei (the very pretty Little Dragon Lady in Romance of The Condor Heroes) and Li Bingbing.

They recently came together in full costume for some promotional shots and here are the results:



hmmm... although this movie is very loosely based on the classic Chinese novel Journey To The West, from the way they are dressed, they seem to be making another adaptation of Louis Cha's swordfighting novel The Condor Heroes... Jackie's character must be from the Beggar Sect and Jet's character looks like a highly skilled exponent from the Shaolin Temple...

this should be interesting...



[Picture from http://www.asianpopcorn.com/default.asp?Display=737]

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War Of Money - hottest Korean drama serial now

War Of Money is currently the most popular Korean drama serial airing in South Korea now based on its TV ratings. Starring Park Shin-yang, who starred as the romantic bespectacled tycoon in Lovers in Paris, Park Jin-hee of Come Back Soon-Ae! fame, Shin Dong-wook and Kim Jung-hwa, War of Money is about how an ordinary (but still bespectacled) stock analyst played by Park Shin-yang runs into financial hard times and decides to learn to become a ruthless loan shark so that he can make lots and lot of moolah... hmmm... seems to me he should just trade in stocks instead since he is a stock analyst and Warren Buffet definitely makes more than the general loanshark haha ;-P

With society's general fixation with money, it's no wonder this drama serial has been hitting high ratings of over 30% ever since it started airing on 16 May, hitting a high of 35.5% on 21 June for its 12th episode. It also provides a welcome break from the humdrum romantic dramas and comedies that the South Korean TV stations have been producing these last few years.

Check out this entertaining MV of the main theme of the drama serial that I found on Youtube.




Information from:
http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2876416
http://chinese.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2007/06/22/20070622000035.html

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June 20, 2007

Direction Of Upcoming Asian Films?

According to this report by NY Times, stylised violent gangsta pics and horror movies are fast losing ground and the next in things in Asian cinema are saccherine sweet sentimental dramas, cute campy comedies and more realistic gangster movies ... The writer of this article based his conclusions on a sampling of the movies being presented at this year's New York Asian Film Festival which serves as a roadmap of sorts on the latest trends in Asian cinema.

Its an interesting article worth checking out :-)

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/movies/17kehr.html


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June 3, 2007

South Korean Actress Wins Cannes Best Actress Award

Congratulations to Jeon Do-yeon for winning the Best Actress award at this year's Cannes Film Festival for her role in the film Secret Sunshine by director Lee Chang-dong. In the film, Jeon Do-yeon plays a woman struggling to maintain her sanity after the death of her husband and son. She is only the second Asian actress to win this prestigious award after Maggie Cheung won it in 2004 for her role in director Olivier Assayas's Clean.

Here is the trailer for Secret Sunshine that I found on YouTube. Just from the trailer I can tell that Jeon gave a fantastically heart-rending performance in this film and richly deserved her Best Actress win.




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May 26, 2007

Made-In-East-Asia Movies And Drama Serials

It seems that the world is getting smaller everyday. With the Internet and increasing air travel, living internationally seems to be an ever increasing trend. It is the same in the world of movies and dramas, collaborative projects that span across multiple countries are becoming increasingly common especially co-productions between East Asian countries. Nevermind the language barrier, if the actors and actresses cannot communicate in each others languages just have them read the dialogue in their own native tongue and the dubbers will take care of the rest ;-P

Just look at the growing number of Korean actors in Japanese productions... A recent example is Korean hunk Lee Byung Hun starring in the much anticipated Japanese film Hero starring Takuya Kimura and Matsu Takako. This film is expected to be a hit as it is a movie remake of the highly-rated 2001 TV serial of the same name that also starred Takuya Kimura and Matsu Takako. Lee Byung Hun plays the role of a Korean investigator who assists Kimutaku's character - public prosecutor Kuryu Kohei with his investigations in South Korea.

In Association With YesAsia.com
Another example of a Korean star in a Japanese production is Mr. Winter Sonata himself Bae Yong-joon who recently acted in the Japanese version of the hit Korean drama series Hotelier (top left pic). The original Hotelier (left pic) was a star making vehicle for Bae Yong-jun in 2001 and it was his biggest hit before Winter Sonata came along in 2002. In the Japanese version, Yon-sama (as he is affectionately known in Japan) makes a guest appearance as Shin Dong Hyuk - a character with the same name as the one he played in the original Hotelier. Other cast members in the TV Asahi drama include Ueto Aya and Seichi Tanabe.


How about Korean actors in Chinese drama productions? These are almost a dime a dozen ever since the Korean Wave exploded in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South-East Asia. Ones I know of include Jang Nara in the Chinese television serial The Mischievous Princess 刁蛮公主(one of the first Korean actors to star in a Chinese production) in 2005, Jang Dong-gun in the big-budget Chinese movie The Promise in 2005. And just recently, Chae Rim (who btw is the Best Actress award nominee at the Shanghai Television Festival for her role in Dalja's Spring) in The Mischievous Princess 2, a sequel of sorts to the one that starred Jang Nara.

OK... Korean actors are making inroads into Japanese and Chinese productions but how about the other way around? Apparently this is also happening... Taiwanese actor Chang Chen stars in South Korean director Kim Ki-duk's latest film Breath, that was in competition at the Cannes film festival that just ended.

Remakes and adaptations of literary works from countries other than your own are also becoming more common. Japan's Fuji TV recently made a TV dorama on the Chinese literary classic Journey To The West / Saiyuki starring SMAP member Shingo Katori as Son Goku (Sun Wukong). And how about Hana-Kimi or Hanazakarino Kimitachie (花ざかりの君たちへ) ? This was originally a Japanese manga that was made into a hit Taiwanese TV serial starring Ella and Wu Zun. The sheer popularity of the Taiwanese TV adaptation of this and other Japanese mangas could have prompted the Japanese TV stations to realise they have not been effectively using all the gems (manga) that was theirs for the taking all along and they are now making their own version of this popular manga starring Maki Origita, Shun Oguri and Toma Ikuta.

So as the world is getting smaller, we could be seeing more and more Made-In-Asia movies in the coming years. How about a Made-on-Earth movie then? It could be "Coming Soon" too...

[Picture from http://www.asianpopcorn.com/default.asp?Display=574 and YesAsia.com]

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May 13, 2007

Very short trailer clip of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution

Sorry, haven't been posting as often as I should... I will post more interesting East Asian movie and drama posts very soon, promise :-)

But for now, check out the URL below for clips of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution in this promotional advertisement by Focus Features for their upcoming releases in the second half of 2007. You will need to wait some time for the mov file to load though. The screen shots of the movie are somewhere in the middle of the clip.

http://www.focusfeatures.com/clips/about_focus/spring07-480x260.mov

Enjoy the clip :-)

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April 30, 2007

Japanese Movie - Love And Honor

In Association with YesAsia.comAfter watching Love and Honor (Bushi no Ichibun), the final instalment of Yoji Yamada's samurai trilogy, I could not help but be extremely impressed with Yoji Yamada's attention to detail and his ability to create highly realistic depictions of life in Japan's samurai era.

Yet although the setting was realistic, while watching the movie, I could not help but feel that even if the whole movie (excluding the samurai fighting) was transported to a modern setting, the dialogue and storyline would not be out of place at all. This feeling was especially strong in some scenes early in the movie when samurai Shinnojo Mimura (played by Japanese pop idol Takuya Kimura) was teasing his wife Kayo (Rei Dan) and his elderly servant Tokuhei (played by Takashi Sasano) or when Shinnojo was complaining of his dead-end job to his wife. At such moments, Shinnojo could very well be a modern day newly-wed Japanese salaryman feeling very dissatisfied with his dead end job at a major corporation...

Takuya Kimura played the role of Shinnojo much better than I expected. He was particularly impressive in depicting Shinnojo's change in character and inner struggles after becoming blind. But I have to say that somehow I felt the role of Shinnojo was just too similar to the types of roles that Kimura has played numerous times before in TV doramas - that of the rebellious and playful young man who meets with a cruel twist of fate but somehow overcomes his insurmountable difficulties with sheer willpower and becomes a wise adult at the end. So much so that Shinnojo could just be Kimutaku in Long Vacation or Love Generation but with a much more cruel twist of fate - Shinnojo looses his eyesight whereas the others just had difficulties in their careers and relationship troubles.

Rei Dan was also impressive in her role as the Shinnojo's stoic wife Kayo. Besides somehow maintaing a quiet dignity even under the most difficult circumstances, I felt that she exuded a certain purity and luminosity that is quite rare in actresses today. (In fact, she actually reminded me of Tanaka Yuko, the actress who played Oshin...)

In the end, Yoji Yamada's attention to detail made all the difference between an excellent film and a so-so film. Minor details like the state of Shinnojo's house was not forgotten - at the beginning of the film when Shinnojo had a happy family, the house was bright and squeaky clean. At the end when Shinnojo was struggling with blindness and marital troubles, the house became dingy and old. A true reflection of our hero's inner struggles :-P

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