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Entries in Asian cinema (92)

Thursday
Sep082016

TIFF: "Apprentice," a Painful Executioner's Song

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

 Fine movies nearly always have a specific point of view, whether that's through a polished screenplay, unusually commanding performance, or auteurial voice. In the case of Apprentice, a new drama set almost entirely in a maximum security prison, that POV is subjective, even literal on occasion. We're experiencing the story through the eyes and feelings, however repressed, of a young Malay corrections officer named Aiman (Fir Rahman). Aiman has started a new position in the rehab unit of the prison before drifting, from what seems like instinctual curiousity, towards the jail's hangman Rahim (Wan Hanafi Su), who seems from a distance callous about his job, deploying gallows humor at lunch. Rahim takes a liking to the young oddly serious man and soon he's teaching him the literal ropes -- hanging being the method of execution in Singapore. Naturally it's more complicated that that as the hangman requests a transfer for the young man to become his apprentice and as we get closer to Aiman, we're forced to rethink our first impressions of him.

His interest in the executioner is less a curiousity than an inexorable pull from his own painful past... 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Sep052016

007/11 Links

Radar Daniel Craig offered $150 million to continue to play 007 twice more. That's rich but the James Bond franchise is worth billions
Billboard Barbra Streisand gets her eleventh #1 album with "Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway" further cementing her lead as the women with the most #1 albums (Madonna is a distant second). Her first #1 album was in 1964. Talk about staying power.
The Guardian Carrie Fisher on getting older and the new doc about her and her mother

Shadowplay isn't as taken with It Follows as most critics were
In Contention will Moonlight be another Oscar player for A24? I'm seeing this tomorrow. Can't wait.
Film Mixtape a lovely review of Little Men
Awards Daily five Oscar takeaways from Telluride Film Festival from Rooney Mara in Best Actress to Arrival's iffy prospects
AV Club Stanley Tucci not up for reprising his Devil Wears Prada role. Curious. That's exactly what he did in Burlesque.
Vulture knitwear as MVP of The Light Between Oceans 
Rachel Wagner surveys the rest of the animated films opening this year 

Finally
Congratulations to Taiwanese superstar Shu Qi who just married longtime rumored boyfriend actor/director Stephen Fung. You've seen Shu Qi in several movies no doubt (including recent critical darling The Assassin) but if Stephen Fung doesn't sound quite as familiar think back. The Hong Kong star was one half of the central romance in LGBT classic Bishonen (1998) as the jaded gigolo who falls for a beautiful young cop (played by Daniel Wu, currently starring on AMC's Into the Badlands). Shu Qi was also in that movie (if I recall correctly as Wu's unaware girlfriend?) so the pair go way back... though it should be noted that they have stated that their romance is only four years old. Fung recently directed and co-starred in the Tai Chi Hero movies.

Next up for the pair? Shu Qi's remake of My Best Friend's Wedding (in the Julia Roberts role of course) is making the rounds now and Stephen Fung's next directorial feature The Adventurers is in preproduction starring Andy Lau, Jean Reno, and you guessed it... Shu Qi

Monday
Aug152016

Link Up

REMINDER: tomorrow night we're doing the first episode of "The Get Down" (now streaming on Netflix) for Hit Me With Your Best Shot

The Best Picture Project advice for taking your toddler to the movie theater
Los Angeles Times report on a South Korean thriller called Train to Busan that's striking a deep chord with moviegoers there
In Contention Kris Tapley has a new podcast called "Playback" - interviews and the Oscar race
Comics Alliance Flash Season 3 News. I cooled a bit on The Flash with the interminable and convoluted plot of Season 2 but season 3 is sounding like great fun: a musical episode (which we were hoping for since so many of the cast members have musical theater backgrounds) and more Gorilla Grodd for starters

MTV Teo Bugbee celebrates the 10th anniversary of Step Up, the sexiest family-friendly dance movie of the decade
Tracking Board we get the movies we deserve (on the success of Suicide Squad despite everyone agreeing that it's not good)
Coming Soon Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water has assembled quite a stellar cast (including Oscar nominees Richard Jenkins & Sally Hawkins) and production has begun. It's  "an other-worldly story, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963."
Theater Mania Remember Lesley Headland's Bachelorette? It started as a play before it was a movie and now it's coming back to the stage in September (sadly it's the exact dates I'm in TIFF so I won't get to see this production).
/Film Some of the titular characters from Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Variety Birth of a Nation star Nate Parker responds to new reporting about a rape trial 17 years ago.
Variety Cirque du Soleil is making several changes to its Broadway show "Paramour" after opening night and reviews, which is quite rare. 
This is Not Porn Harrison Ford working out for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Coming Soon Patty Jenkins respondes to rumors that Wonder Woman, like other DC superhero productions before it is a mess in post. Calls them "entirely false" with a "transparent agenda"
Theater Mania Fyvush Finkel of Picket Fences and Fiddler on the Roof fame has died at 93 years of age 
Tracking Board more discussion of "genderless" acting awards. I maintain that this would be a disaster for actresses because sexist society (and Holllywood) values men so much more and that would only exarcebate the problem of women not getting their deserved kudos in film and television. This particular article seems to think the male acting categories have more range in roles which I think is flat-out crazy. The male acting categories are so much duller and generally only have a few types of genres honored. You get a wider spread with the actresses from all the same genres as men (bios, dramas, dramedies, epics) plus romances, comedies, musicals, etcetera. 

Olympic Fever
E!Online best reaction faces from the Olympics 
Slate on Kohei Uchimura, "the greatest gymnast of all time"
Slate on why Puerto Rico gets its own Olympic team
Towleroad The IOC has deemed the Daily Beast's awful homophobic article about gay Olympians using apps to hookup "unacceptable" (the article has since been removed from the Daily Beast's website but honestly people should be fired not just 'oh we're sorry') and the straight journalist behind it Nico Hines has been recalled from Rio. Still one has to wonder what damage he's already done given that he basically outed athletes from notoriously anti-gay countries whose lives could not be at stake 
Towleroad The Daily Mail has also been on the homophobic attack, labelling hugging between Olympic divers 'unmanly' 

Sunday
Aug072016

Box Office Special: When Films are Bigger Abroad...

What did you see this weekend?

Let's ignore Suicide Squad's big box office weekend (read Lynn's review here) as that story is overworked already given the months of hoopla on the internet and the expected fact of a very big weekend (that's what happens with much-hyped superhero films). Instead for the weekend box office column, let's talk about a situation that occurs each year in terms of different preferences in blockbusters around the globe. Those differences sometimes go a long way in explaining why some franchises never die (Hello, Ice Age) even long past their natural expiration dates. Though Finding Dory has easily topped the domestic charts in the US to become 2016's champ, it couldn't reach the global power of Captain America: Civil War (#1), Zootopia (#2) or The Jungle Book (#3) worldwide. Taste and success do vary across borders.

Stephen Chow's "The Mermaid" is the 7th biggest hit of 2016... but it did only $3 million in the US

After the jump let's look at the titles from 2016 with less than a third of their treasure chests coming from the US (currently the biggest film market though China will reportedly surpass us soon). What can we learn from this list?

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul142016

Link Night

EW first pick of Jude Law as the baddie in Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017).
Interview talks to Viggo Mortensen (audio interview)
The Playlist translates a controversial interview with Director John McTiernan in which he trashes Mad Max Fury Road and Captain America movies an discusses a potential upcoming project 
MTV Teo on how musicals got their groove back 
Variety Emmy breakdown by studio. HBO is still dominating the Emmys but not by the margins they use to.  
Playbill Live Musicals did well at the Emmys with Grease: Live and The Wiz Live! scoring big 

My New Plaid Pants new photos from Man Down starring Shia Labeouf & Jai Courtney 
EW TV's best comedies are... tearjerkers!
/Film the terribleness of Batman v Superman is not stopping excitement for Suicide Squad which is tracking for a spectacular August opening weekend
MNPP on the poster for Disorder (which is taking forever to hit movie theaters) 
Pajiba Ranking the men of Jane Austen by Swoon Factor from Sam Riley in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on up
Towleroad a gay version of The Bachelor is currently in production because making a mockery of commitment and true love shouldn't just be for straight people! 
New York Times interviews the new lead of Hamilton, Javier Muñoz
Pajiba recommends five crime thrillers from Korea including The Yellow Sea and Memories of Murder 

Revivals & Remakes
iTunes Trailers Howards End, one of the greatest films of the 1990s is coming back to theaters in a new restoration. It really should've won Best Picture, I tell ya.
EW Power Rangers release character posters. Very attractive cast which is useless since they have those face covering costumes
The Film Stage wonderful choice - Colin Farrell in talks for the male lead of The Beguiled remake
OMGBLOG John Waters Multiple Maniacs has been restored by the Criterion Collection, coming in August 
i09 China might not screen Ghostbusters but their name for it is wondrous 
Towleroad Paul Feig blames the studio for keeping Kate McKinnon's Ghostbusters character closeted. (SPOILER: But once you've seen the movie, you'll see that McKinnon comes through loud and proud and clear, anyway.)  

Saturday
Jun042016

When Tony Met Janet. And Other Stories...

Today in movie related history...

1907 Cracking Rosalind Russell is born. Stars in many classics including: His Girl Friday, Gypsy, and Auntie Mame and is nominated for 4 Best Actress Oscars. The only actresses that share her fate of 4 Best Actress nominations w/out a win: Greta Garbo, Marsha Mason, and Barbara Stanwyck. Of the four only Marsha Mason didn't receive an Honorary later on.
1913 Suffragette Emily Davison runs onto the track at the Epson Derby and is trampled by King George V's horse. It's a huge turning point in the court of public opinion and the suffragette movement. It was reenacted in last year's Suffragette.
1936 Bruce Dern is born and never stops acting thereafter. Also donates Laura Dern to the world for which he has our undying gratitude
1940 The last allied soldiers leave Dunkirk. Britain's PM vows that his forces will "never surrender". Christopher Nolan is currently filming a movie about Dunkirk called, you guessed it, Dunkirk
1942 The Battle of Midway begins in World War II. John Ford directed an Oscar winning documentary about it that you can watch for free online. If you're interested in the topic you should definitely read Mark Harris's book "Five Came Back" about famous Hollywood directors during the war. 

1951 Rising actors Janet Leigh (23) and Tony Curtis (26) are married. Much bigger stardom is thrown at them like so much rice via iconic films like Psycho, A Touch of Evil, and The Manchurian Candidate (Hers) and Some Like It Hot, Spartacus and The Defiant Ones (His) shortly thereafter. They break up in '62 but not before gifting us with Jamie Lee Curtis.
1952 70s TV star Parker Stevenson is born. Later becomes half of The Hardy Boys and marries Kirstie Alley who famously refers to his junk "giving me the big one" in her 1991 Emmy speech. This was long before the days when the internet made bulge-watching a national pasttime. (Music cue: "Class" from Chicago here, please. Whatever happened to it? It's all Kirstie Alley's fault!)
1964 Kōji Yamamura is born. Later nominated for an Oscar for the Animated Short Mount Head. It's worth your ten minutes, it's so trippy.
1975 Angelina Jolie emerges. The world is never the same.
1978 Deniz Gamze Ergüven is born in Turkey. She was Oscar nominated last season for her debut film Mustang, which made our top ten list.

They're here.

1982 Poltergeist and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan both open in theaters
1984 Bruce Springsteen releases his classic "Born in the USA" album the title track of which is used in many movies since. The first video "Dancin' in the Dark" introduces the world to soon to be household name actress Courtney Cox. 
1989 The Tiananmen Square protests come to a violent end in Beijing with hundreds of young protesters killed. Hollywood has ignored it despite their love of historical event movies and Chinese films usually ignore it too due to the topic being taboo with the government. But two sexually controversial movies released in the Aughts used it as part of the narrative: the gay drama Lan Yu (2001) which won four Golden Horse awards and, more prominently, the college student drama Summer Palace (2006) which was banned at home, and withdrawn from competition at Cannes. Both films are worth seeing.