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Asia-AICN: Blue Blood Human; Utena; Cross Fire; Spirit of Wonder; Fulltime Hitman; Duty; Boogiepop; Shaolin Soccer

Father Geek here with Darius25's Asia-AICN Thursday column. Lots of info today as industries around the globe kick back into gear after the holidays. There's alot to read below including a list of the top films from India to keep your eyes open for next year, so ol' Father Geek will get out of the way and let Darius' crew take it from here...

Asia-AICN

Hey folks, hope you've all been well since the last column. We have a packed column for you this week, including some info on Vidhu Vinod Chopra's upcoming films, Andy Lau's next films and the next Godzilla movie. Now here's the latest from Asia.

INDIA

- Producer/director Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Mission Kashmir) has provided some info on his next two projects. The first film, titled Din, Raat Aur Subah (Day, Night and Morning), will be directed by Ram Madhwani. The thriller focuses on a couple during a 24 hour period. The couple meet in the day and the woman is murdered during the night. The mornings sets the stage for a "chilling climax". The casting of the film has yet to be determined. The second film will be titled Shatranj (Chess), which will be directed by Chopra himself. Additional info on this film has yet to be disclosed.

- The principal photography of director duo Abbas-Mustan's Ajnabi (Stranger) is nearly complete as just the climax remains to be filmed. The final scene, involving the main cast of Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Kareena Kapoor and Bipasha Basu, will be filmed shortly onboard an Indian-owned luxury cruise-liner named Ocean Majesty. After this scene, the film will proceed to the post-production stage and will be released in theatres sometime in April.

- Abbas-Mustan's current film, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (Hush Hush), is still in troubled waters. The film's financier, Bharat Shah, has now been arrested as well for having ties to the notorious gangster Chotta Shakeel. Shah, an extremely rich jeweler, finances the majority of films in Bollywood. The police are still holding the reels of Chori Chori Chupke Chupke in their custody and a release isn't planned in the near future. The production of other films are being affected by Shah's arrest, primarily Rajkumar Santoshi's Lajja (Ashamed) and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas.

- Actors Sanjay Dutt and Anil Kapoor are rumoured to be the leads for director Saawan Kumar Tak's Aur Kitne Pakistan ? (How Many More Pakistans ?). The roles were turned down by Hrithik Roshan and Abishek Bachchan, and the Deol brothers - Sunny and Bobby.

- There was no release last week which is surprising as some of the biggest Indian blockbusters are released in January. My guess is that the studios are expecting too much from last week's Raju Chacha (Uncle Raju), which is not doing that well despite having many VFX and being India's most expensive film. Anyway, here's a list of some of the films you should expect from Bollywood in 2001 (in no particular order):

01.) Kabhi Khushi, Kabhie Gham (Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad) - Karan Johar's highly anticipated follow up to 1998's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something's Happening). The film features the pairing of Bollywood's most popular actors, Shahrukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan, with Amitabh Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Kajol, Jaya Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee in the sidelines. The film is due to be released on December 14, 2001.

02.) Lajja (Ashamed) - Director Rajkumar Santoshi has assembled a cast of the biggest female stars in India (particularly Manisha Koirala, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, Sonali Bendre, Tabu, and Rekha) to tell this anthology of different episodes linked together by Manisha Koirala.

03.) Devdas - Sanjay Leela Bhansali's highly anticipated remake of the Indian book, with Shahrukh Khan as the tragic Devdas and Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai as his two muses.

04.) Yaadein (Memories) - Director Subhash Ghai is expected to have another hit on his hands with this film, after the success of Taal (Beat) and Pardes (Foreign Land). The film stars Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor and Jackie Shroff. Look for it to be released in August.

05.) Ek Rishta - A Tale of Love (One Relationship - A Tale of Love) - Akshay Kumar reunites with Jaanwar (Animal) director Suneel Darshan. The action hero is still determined to improve his acting skills, this time starring opposite the legendary Amitabh Bachchan.

06.) Khiladi Vs. Khiladi (Player vs. Player) - Nothing is known about this film except for that Akshay Kumar is back in yet another "Khiladi" film, this time possibly against another major action star. Personally I love all of the "Khiladi" films so I can't wait to watch this one.

07.) Farz (Duty) - Director Raj Kanwar promises that the action sequences are definitely better than your average cop film. Farz stars Sunny Deol as a gung-ho ACP (Assistant Commissioner of Police) trying to bring down gangster Jackie Shroff's cartel. This film was originally expected to release in November, but heavy competition from Mohabbatein (Love Affairs) and Mission Kashmir has pushed it back to sometime this month. Expect it in theatres very shortly (quite possibly tomorrow, but no guarantees).

08.) Lagaan (Tax) - Actor Aamir Khan's much-delayed film has him as a villager taking on the British army in the late 1800s during the British Raj. This is not an epic war film, but Khan's perfectionist style of film-making guarantees some decent entertainment.

09.) Ashoka the Great - Director Santosh Sivan (The Terrorist)'s magnum opus about India's greatest (and most brutal) king played by none other than Shahrukh Khan. Expect this to be a massive hit in India and overseas.

10.) Kaante (Thorns) - Director Sanjay Gupta's gritty remake of "Reservoir Dogs" with Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Akshaye Khanna, and Aditya Pancholi. Expect tonnes of two-fisted gunfights and plenty of highly-stylized John Woo-ish action sequences.

China / HK

The following was reported by "AccSpy":

- Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat landed on the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week. (This is the first time ever Asian actors to be on EW's cover.) The magazine predicted that CTHD would receive nominations for both Best Picture and Best Director. Also AICN's founder Harry Knowles covered the inside front cover and page #1.

- At a recent press conference., Chow Yun Fat revealed that he will be coming to North America in Feburary for the second round of promotion for CTHD; with the film's recent mainstream success and the rising fame of the actors, Chow is sure to draw more attention to the film.

- Here's two fresh stills from Stephen Chow's "Shaolin Soccer (lit.title)", one of the must-see HK movies in 2001.

Chow with his long-term on-screen perfect match, Ng Man Tat (left): Click Right Here

Chow with co-director, Lee Lik Chi (left) and newcomer Li Wei (middle), who is hoping to be the next Cecilia Cheung: Click Here

- With the recent success of "A Fighter's Blue" and "China Strike Force", the trend of Japanese actors invading HK cinema will continue in 2001. The latest project involving a HK leading man and Japanese female lead is Leon Lai's new film, "The Eternal Love Quest (lit. title)", in which Lai will pair up with Japanese actress Asaka Seto. The actress was recently in HK to attend the project's press conference. Seto is excited to be in a HK film and expressed interest in working with Leslie Cheung. Oh hell, say what you want gal, Leon Lai won't mind.

- After more than two years of delays, director Andrew Lau ("The Stormriders" and "A Man called Hero") and actors Andy Lau, Rosemund Kwan (with the fame of her "Auntie Thirteen" role in Jet Li's "Once upon a Time in China" series), Hsu Chi and Roy Cheung ("The Mission") are back on the production of "Blue Blood Human (lit. title)", a sci-fi adaptation from a chapter of the HK famous sci-fi novels "The Series of Wisely". Andy Lau will play the narrative role "Wisely"(which was once played by Sam Hui and Chow Yun Fat in 80's) and Rosemund Kwan will play the title role of this chapter - "Blue Blood Man". (However in the novel, this character who came from Mars and is waiting for a chance to go home, is a guy. But once the irresistible Rosemund Kwan stepped in, who cares?) This movie was once started right after "The Stormriders" was finished, but the production was closed months later causing rumors of script problems.

- After finishing "Blue Blood Human", Andy Lau and his Teamwork Productions will start the long-delayed project "Full-time Hitman", which is now renamed as "You & I" (I think the original title is much cooler). The action thriller will be directed by Johnnie To (the most popular director in HK with the action flicks "Running Out of Time" and "The Mission"). Andy Lau will play "Toad", a highly professional assassin who intends to quit his job, while Japanese actor Takashi Sorimachi (see the Trend!?) plays another assassin "O", a ex-Olympic shooting competitor who like to copy the killing method from the movies and dream of challenging "Toad". A little fact: Nicholas Tse was once considered to play "O". Here's a pic of Andy Lau and Takashi Sorimachi, who were captured by the HK reporters when Takashi came to HK and discussed the project with Lau: Just Click Here

- After "Gen-X Cops", Nicolas Tse and Stephen Fung will team up again for a film, though not on the screen. The duo will co-direct 1/3 of an indie flick called "Love Revolution (lit. title)", an anthology of three films which features the directorial debuts of four different cultural icons in HK. Tse and Fung's chapter is called "Gun Fever", while a 20 year-old female radio DJ, nicknamed "Gcgoobi", is responsible for "Oh My God". Photographer Wing Shya will direct the last film, "Kidnap". "Love Revolution" is produced by "Gordon Chan"("Beast Cops", "2000 A.D.") and will be presented by EEG Studio.

- HK movies took over the box office beautifully during the past Christmas. "China Strike Force" and Andy Lau's "A Fighter's Blue" both scored an identical $15 million HKD in 13 days, but the true winner here is "A Fighter's Blue", which the critics all agreed is the best film among the five local releases and Andy Lau finally gave a much more award-worthy performance than his award-winning "Running out of Time". The romantic fantasy "Lavender" came third with estimated $12 million HKD in during the 13 days period, while "Gen-Y Cops" suffered a large decline and ended up finishing fourth with an estimated $11 million HKD in 20 days. "Unbreakable" led the Hollywood market with an estimated $8 million HKD grossing in 13 day while "The Grinch" didn't impress the HK audience as much as it did in North America, only grossing an estimated $7 million HKD in 13 days. Ekin Cheng and Louis Koo's "For Bad Boys Only" suffered from strong competition and only collected $7 million HKD in 19 days (it's fairly deserved, this movie is BAD!). "Dancer in the Dark" was THE art-house favourite during Christmas, still grossing strong in the specialty circuit.

- And how about the past week? "A Fighter's Blue" benefited from a strong word-of-mouth and ranked no.1 at the HKBO while the controversial Japanese flick "Battle Royale", about a bunch of teenagers who must kill off each other in order to survive, debuted at no.2. "China Strike Force" fell to no.3. A couple of B movies, "Red Planet" and "The Watcher", entered at no.4 and no.5 respectively. In addition, CTHD was re-released in HK and landed at no.8.

JAPAN

The following was reported by "Pigmon":

- Big scoop here - Shosuke Kaneko, the director of 3 Gamera films, has accepted the offer to direct the next Godzilla film! This will be very dark Godzilla and will be made for an adult audience. So there will be no Anguirus... Shousuke Kaneko's last film, "Cross Fire", is already released on video, so go check it out at the nearest Oriental/Japanese store in your town!

- Toho studios has applied for Godzilla to be the longest film series based on one character for the Guinness Book of World Records.

- It has been a big rumor in the Japanese VFX community that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is behind schedule. The 45+ composite teams can't finish up all the shots so they are now looking for extra CG houses in Australia to finish them up in time for the film's summer release.

- This one's for laughs. World famous magician Tenko Hikita has officially got engaged with Jean Claude Van Damme!! They are involved in a relationship for 5 years and Hikita has so far received an ocean-cruiser, a Rolls Royce and a house from Van Damme (Where'd he get the money ? Certainly not from films - D25). There will be two wedding ceremonies taking place, one in US and another in Japan. Their honeymoon will be a space trip, possibly the same one as Madonna and Guy Ritchie's. Van Damme in Space is a little too much for all of us J

- I just saw "Natu - The Legend of the Dancing Ninja" and found it to be truly entertaining. Directed by Kazuki Oomori ("Godzilla vs. Biolante"), the film was the first Japanese film to be shot in India, and is a fun hybrid of Indian and Japanese films. Nanbara, a leading Japanese comedian/actor plays an adopted Ninja in India who believes himself to be Indian. Once he finds out his identity, he enters a secret Ninja school. After learning the Ninja skills, he defeats the bad guys and gets his dream girl. The story is so simple yet fun. I have to give credit to the hilarious dancing sequences especially the one with Japanese Samurais and Geishas dancing in a Japanese village (only this sequence was shot in Japan). The producers are searching for an Indian distributor to show it in India this year.

ANIME

From Scott Green

Boogiepop Phantom Acquired

Right Stuf has confirmed to Anime on DVD that they had acquired the rights to Boogiepop Phantom (also known as Boogiepop Phantom, Boogiepop Wa Warawanai ), and added a very tentative timeframe of a July release. The show was part of the recent movement to air experimental anime series on late night TV in Japan. Other shows that used this format include the popular technology pschyco thriller Serial Experiments Lain, Black Heaven, the story of a hard rocket guitarist who falls into a middle class life for years, only to tapped to become the savior to an alien race, and Vampire Princess Miyu, a chilling episodic horror series. (Lain, and Black Heaven are being released domestically by Pioneer, but though AnimEigo released the Vampire Princess Miyu OAV in the US, there are currently no known plans to release the television series. Boogiepop is directed by Watanabe Takash, best known for working on Slayers, and based on an award-winni! ng series of horror, young adult novels by Ueno Kouhei . The horror story builds over the series 12 episodes, but is sometimes criticized for being difficult to follow.

With regards to Right Stuf' release of the highly anticipated KareKano, they've also given us a very tentative date of September. According to Anime on DVD is one of those "drive you mad" kind of titles, much like ADV's upcoming comedy series Excel Saga, so the length of time its taking is not surprising to some. (Episode 16 of Excel Saga described by famed anime fan/resource Hitoshi Doi as the funniest anime episode ever.) KareKano is the shorted titled of Kareshi Kanojo No Jijou, Kare Kano His and Her Circumstances, a shoujo (girl's) series by Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Anno Hideaki. The series is about a middle school girl who while in school is perfect, neat, helpful, kind, intelligent, but at home reveals herself to be slovenly and lazy. Her pattern get interrupted when she meets a boy in school who appears even more perfect than she is.

Utena Directory Us Bound

In a soon to be post interview with Anime News Service and Akadot.com Kunihiko Ikuhara director of Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena) and Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon indicated that after concluding the Schell Bullet project with Five Star Stories Creator Mamoru Nagano he has no current or short-term future animation projects on the table at this time. He will soon the western United States where he will live for an extended period, broadening his English.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a surreal take on the magic girl and high school drama genres of anime. The titular character, Tenjou Utena is an orphan who has decided to become a prince. After arriving at Ohtori Academy's in a boy's uniform she becomes involved with the school council, a group of complex and fractured individuals who duel for possession of an exotic looking girl known as the Rose Bride. The series is often noted for its unique characters, and settings, the odd chanting music during the dueling scenes, and the shadow play interludes.

New Anime on Cartoon Network

A Kidscreen article here reveals that Cartoon Network will be airing The Big O and Candidate for Goddess (Megami Kouhosei in Japanese, now called Pilot Candidate). The Big O is a 13 episode series commonly described as Batman: The Animated Series meets Giant Robo with retro looking mecha, a hero who is part Bruce Wayne, part James Bond, and arc deco looking backgrounds. Candidate For Pilot is a 12 episode, boy must pilot mech to protect people from invading monsters series in the Evangelion ilk. Its is known for its use of CGI mecha with 2d cel animation for the characters and backgrounds. The biggest criticism of the series is that it was based on a manga in progress, so the ending is problematic. Bandai will be releasing both titles on home video.

Spirit of Wonder and Urusei Yatsura Get Wide Releases

The DVD versions of Spirit of Wonder and Urusei Yatsura will be seeing releases through sources other than the AnimEigo web page. Spirit of Wonder is currently available though traditional outlets, and the first four episode volume of Urusei Yatsura will be released February 27th. Urusei Yatsura is a romantic comedy by famed manga creator Rumiko Takahashi, who is best known for Ranma ½. Urusei Yatsura's female lead, the tiger stripped bikini clad, green haired, horned Lum is the closest thing to an icon for all anime.

Captain Tylor on DVD

After some production delays Right Stuf International is ready to release its series Irresponsible Captain Tylor television series on DVD. Tylor is a science fiction comedy about a slacker with zen like calm, and trust in circumstance in a large, fluffy jacket who enters the military as humanity is on the brink of war with an alien race. After wandering into and defusing a hostage situation he is given command of the rundown starship Soyokaze with its crew of misfits, include a drunkard medic, Buddhist priest navigator, uptight first mate, and just shy of criminal space marines (the nastiest of which pilots a pink mech). Many consider the series mildly entertaining, but it has garnered a cult following of hard-core fans. A follow-up from TRSI indicates that the Tylor OVA's will be released across three discs as opposed to the 5 VHS tapes it took.

Upcoming Titles From ADVs

ADV has updated their site with a typical new year's greeting. The titles it specific mention probably indicate what they are focusing on. "Continually pushing the proverbial anime envelope, we're releasing Orphen, Shin Getter Robo, soon-to-be-classic Spriggan The Movie; the list goes on and on." Spriggan is an action movie that ADV is hoping to release in a wide scale theatrical run. Shin (New) Getter Robo is a retro giant robot series.

AD Vision Discontinues Some Popular Titles

Anime Nation has reported that they received a surprise announcement, AD Vision has that several of popular licenses are now out of production. Battle Angel on subtitled and dubbed VHS and the Battle Angel DVD, all three Dirty Pair Flash series on subtitled and dubbed VHS, all subtitled Golden Boy and the individual dubbed VHS versions, all subtitled Gunsmith Cats and the individual dubbed versions, all individual episodes of Magical Twilight and Dragon Pink, the dub of F3, and all versions of the adult title Guy have been officially discontinued and are no longer available. AD Vision has not informed us of whether this change will be permanent or if titles like the Battle Angel DVD are merely on temporary hiatus. It`s very likely that Golden Boy, Gunsmith Cats and more Dirty Pair Flash will be released on DVD sometime in the future. There is no word on whether Battle Angel will become available again in the future in any format, through AD Vision or some other distributor. It may be that ADV's rights to the series have expired.

Anime Nation states "our service rep at ADV didn't know what we were talking about when we called up ADV yesterday to inquire about it, but we've already received shipments from ADV that have Battle Angel crossed off the purchase order/invoice and the message 'ADV no longer distributes Battle Angel.'"

25 Episodes of Outlaw Star On Cartoon Network

Anime News Network has confirmed with Sean Akins of Cartoon Network that 25 episodes of Outlaw Star will be airing on Toonami.

According to Mr. Akins the only episode being removed from the lineup will be episode 23, 'Hot Springs Planet Tenrei'. "This episode does nothing to further the story and is nothing more than an excuse to get the characters naked," stated Mr. Akins, "It really isn't appropriate for national television."

Beyond the 1 episode that has been cut Mr. Akins assured us that Cartoon Network has "done the bare minimum possible [regarding editing] in order to get this show on the air." Of course, some minor editing was unavoidable, "We put some clothes on the girls and removed some cuss words".

Anime in UK

Fox Kids UK will be airing Escaflowne at 8:55PM everyday from Monday 8th January 2001. Gundam Wing begins airing on Cartoon Network (UK) on January 15th, both at 5:30pm and 9:30pm.

Spanish Language Anime

Saber Marionette has been brodacast on Direct To Home (DTH) system DirecTV channel named Locomotion about six months. The magic girl genre series St. Tail has been airing on TV Azteca since November 20th, but according to reports, the dubbinf, done by an LA studio is pretty bad. The Rayearth OAV has been broadcast twice, and Escaflowne has aired twice, uncut and with a faithful Japanese to Spanish translation.

The Cartoon Network for Spanish language America will be airing , Card Captor Sakura (named Sakura Card Captors), in a uncut, unedited, original Japanese version directly translated to Spanish, distinct from the Nelvana version. January 6th Fox Kids (for American Spanish speaking countries) premieres "Flint, el Detective del Tiempo" (Flint, the time detective) in a non official "anime invasion" special with Monster Rancher, Digimon and Super Cerdita (The Saban's version for Tonde Boorin). Also Fox Kids announced Dinozaurs for later in this year. Thanks very much to César De la luz for pointing these items out.

Next Chapter in Battle Angel Movie

Eyebrows where raised when Fox registered the battleangelalita.com domain. More took note when it was rumored by reliable sources that James Cameron, who has worked with Fox in the past was interesting in developing a Battle Angel Alita movies, based on the manga by Yukito Kishiro. Now it looks like Fox has registered a second domain, battleangelmovie.com

Darius 25 back to say goodbye. Remember, if you have information regarding any film industry in Asia, please contact our Asia-AICN offices . See you all next week.

- Darius25

Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 10, 2001, 11:06 p.m. CST

    Speaking of anime...

    by IAmLegolas

    anyone know when the hell they will release "My Neighbor, Totoro" on DVD?

  • Jan. 11, 2001, 1:13 p.m. CST

    another anime for dvd

    by minh

    Hey, while we're at it, how about Kikki's Delivery Service on DVD? That would be sweeeto. (=

  • Jan. 11, 2001, 4:05 p.m. CST

    Ghibli DVDs

    by Tokyo Joe

    In Japan Studio Ghibli movies are currently being released on DVD at about one per month. So far "Tonari no Yamada-kun" and "Grave of the Fireflies" have been released, both with English subtitles, as well as "Panda Kopanda". "Castle of Cagliostro"is coming next month (this month??). Apparently the last release will be "Mononoke Hime", so Totoro and Kiki should be out sometime in the next 10 months. Of course you need a region 2 player to watch them (UK players run Japanese DVDs just fine usually). Then you have to work out a cheap way of exporting them from Japan. In fact 90% of readers will find this post completely useless won't they? Don't know why I bother somtimes...

  • Jan. 11, 2001, 4:12 p.m. CST

    LOTR in Japan

    by Tokyo Joe

    So, if anyone's still reading, when's the LOTR trailer out in Japan, and what movie will I have to fork out nearly $20 in order to see it? It better be something good.

  • Jan. 11, 2001, 5:27 p.m. CST

    Woo-hoo! More Wisely movies!

    by twindaggerturkey

    I loved The Seventh Curse. I don't know how good it was, but it sure was something. A big, classy Andrew Lau production won't have the same charm, though, I bet. Stephen Chow needs to eat more.

  • Jan. 11, 2001, 7:03 p.m. CST

    Lupin III

    by Tokyo Joe

    Of course, it seems Cagliostro is already out on DVD for region 1. Does anyone know if there's a difference between the newly released Grave of the Fireflies DVD in Japan (which claims it's been remastered) and the region 0 version which has been out for ages?? Besides the lack of irritating English voice track of course...

  • Jan. 12, 2001, 1:50 a.m. CST

    ...sniff sniff... I smell goodies!!!

    by Zone Zero

    1> What the hell?!? Cartoon Network does toss out episodes?!? Wow. Must have been a bad episode. I expect the digital altering and re-dubbing... 2> Fox+Cameron+Alita=DAMN GOOD MOVIE!, 3> Godzilla rules, but GAMERA can kick his arse! Gamera vs. Godzilla PLEASE!!! 4> Now a moment of silent laughter for DP Flash for being discontinued...