Modern Culture, Unfiltered

Pangs’ Remake Dangerous

Posted by josh on November 7, 2007

The first film by the incomparable Pang Brothers was the gritty 1999 thriller Bangkok Dangerous. The film won an award at the Toronto International Film Festival and sent the Pangs on their way to bigger and better things including the horror hit The Eye.Recently, the Pangs decided to enter the re-make game by using the same storyline of the 1999 Dangerous to film a new version staring Nicholas Cage. I guess the Pangs figured that casting the balding, squinting Cage and putting him opposite a girl with more sex appeal than the one in the original film would be the way to Hollywood’s hearts and wallets.Here’s the trailer of the 1999 version of Bangkok Dangerous.Will the new film work? Honestly, the Pangs are long overdo to cash in on some of the success they have had in the past. Still, the original was so well done that it seems a shame. In the 1999 film, Pawalit Mongkolpisit played the lead character, a deaf hitman who starts to feel guilty for his past deeds. His chemistry with the Pang’s story and camera work was what made the film stand out. Can Danny and Oxide duplicate that chemistry with Cage. It seems unlikely, but I am pulling for them, or at least, pulling for a big box office showing that will open some doors in Hollywood.


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Going to Goa

Posted by josh on November 4, 2007

Above and Beyond, the new stars of electronic music, are heading to the place where their genre began. A huge beach bash is scheduled for December 28th in Goa, India. This from DJ magazine:

Above & Beyond will headline with a blazing four-hour DJ set and will also showcase some of the hottest acts from their Anjunabeats stable, including Finland’s Super 8 & DJ Tab, Dutch technoid king Stephen J. Kroos and Australia’s one-to-watch, Jaytech. The event will be televised by MTV India and broadcast on Above & Beyond’s worldwide syndicated radio show ‘Trance Around The World’.

Aside from a handful of Dutch superstars, the future of trance music seems to rest on Above and Beyond’s shoulders.  The group is relatively ne to the scene, beginning to enter the limelight in 2002.  Still with remixes of song by the likes of Madonna, members Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki seem confident in their sonic skills.Where will trance music go in the next decade?  Wherever Above and Beyond take it.

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Where’s Moby?

Posted by josh on October 31, 2007

Musician extraordinare Moby, one of the more likable celebs around today, has recently announced that he will release a new studio album (his 9th). The release is slated for early spring of next year. The album, called Last Night, is his first since the double disk set Hotel, which dropped in 2005.According to his web site, though, Moby has been busy. He has had numerous live appearances, and of course, there are the soundtracks. I haven’t counted, but I’m sure Moby has had more songs in movies than any other musician today, save Danny Elfman. Aside from the Jason Bourne movies, he has had literally hundreds of TV and movie tie ins.Live performances and plenty of soundtrack work. Is Moby’s career a blueprint for longevity in the music business? He certainly seems to have avoided any sort of slump, and he has a pretty loyal fan base. There may be no stopping him.

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A 3×5 Piece of Hong Kong’s Movie Heaven

Posted by josh on October 27, 2007

Here is some proof that the world is not completely digitalized:Hong Kong, a city of a mere 6 million, is home to one of Asia’s biggest entertainment industries. It’s movie and pop starts are recognized throughout East Asia, and known, if not by name, by face in the west.In a small shop in Hong Kong, a man named Hung Chiu Chung offers fans and curiosity seekers a tangible piece of Hong Kong’s glitz. A story in Hong Kong’s BC Magazine illuminates a bit of the shop’s history and the massive amount of photos Hung still has:

It is no exaggeration to say Hung owns tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of photographic negatives and prints of a multitude of entertainment personalities, including Cantopop Sky King and TVB actor-turned-movie-star Andy Lau, the shop’s undisputed top seller over the years.

Despite a decline in business recently, Hung regularily welcomes Hong Kong film aficionados into his shop and hopes that, though his customers are fewer, the rapport that he has with them will keep him in the collectables business.However, that is easier said than done. Hong Kong’s soap operas now run up against soaps from Japan, South Korea, and even mainland China. Though they are dubbed, the bigger budgeted imports are extremely popular. Great film directors like John Woo, and Tsui Hark have long since immigrated to Hollywood. The man who defined Hong Kong’s new wave, Wong Kar Wei, also seems poised to make the jump across the Pacific. When his American studio films, My Blueberry Nights and The Lady From Shanghai, come out next year, it will all but signal the end of Hong Kong’s TV and film glory days.But perhaps not the end of Hung Chiu Chung’s business. He is convinced that Hong Kong’s movie industry has reached people regionally and internationally, and that these people still want a tangible reminder of Hong Kong’s star power.

“Although very small, Hong Kong has produced a lot of famous films and people. That’s why I have customers from so many parts of the world.”

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Hitman’s Delight

Posted by josh on October 22, 2007

Here is my dilemma: I enjoy a good action/adventure yarn as much as the next person, but I have a hard time with most of the books out there. This is because a) the writer lacks the wordplay to keep me interested, or b) the story is as inauthentic as on of the TV show episodes where they substitute the Southern California desert for a battlefield in Iraq (do they think we won’t notice). I can count the authors of pop fiction that I like on one hand:Thumb: Elmore LeonardIndex finger: James Ellroy (sometimes). Other times, Alex Garland if he would ever get off his fat British ass and write another decent book like the Tesseract.Middle Finger (not meant to be derogotory): John BurdettRing Finger: John Le CarrePinky: Barry EislerEisler’s books are not spectacular, but they do have more than enough of both authenticity and craft. His hero, a violent but likable hitman named John Rain, lives his trade 24/7. Eisler includes details about such things as counter surveillance and judo techniques used to snap someone’s neck. Granted, I know nothing about either of those things, but I do know when an author got their information from wikipedia instead of from firsthand knowledge. Eisler had a career with the CIA, though I doubt there was overly much neck snapping involved. Whatever his experience, he is able to coolly describe the action and give the reader an uncommon sense of authenticity. I think this is because he is able to make the reader feel that they are inside Rain’s mind as he is going about his brutal business. It is actually kind of dark, with Rain more of a likable anti-hero than a good guy. These details are given a kind of human aspect because Eisler includes very human details in every scene. Rain notices things that everyone would notice; the taste of a coffee, the dreary feeling of a rainy day, the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night worrying about something. The small moments like this is when Eisler actually makes it seem like we are in Rain’s world, because, aside from the killing and spy-craft, he is no different from us.

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Dan Eldon

Posted by josh on October 19, 2007

port-front.jpgDan Eldon was the youngest photographer ever to work for Reuters.  He was not a naive newby trying to make it when he was stoned to death in Mogadishu in 1993.  He had spent a great deal of his teenage years traveling through the dark continent in a rusted Range Rover.Hia mother has published some of his graphic art work.  Dan apparently kept scrapbooks of his escapades.  The work is interesting, bizarre, and beautiful.  His visual accounts of his journeys in South Africa and Japan are the work of someone who is experiencing the world for the first time, while his sublime photos of war in Somalia reveal a cameraman who is familiar with the brutality and violence of the world.In some ways Eldon’s life was extraordinary.  He did things in 22 years that most people would never do.  Still, when looking at his scrapbook, its hard not to see yourself as a young person, coming to grips with the oddities, frustrations, and small joys.  Besides his brutal death, the thing I will remeber about Eldon is his account of traveling down the length of eastern Africa in his Land Rover.  He and his companions often avoided thieves and muggers by lodging in the safest places available: the local jail’s holding cells.It’s hard not to envious of Dan.  He had a level of self trust that seems alien to me.  He was as accomplished at 22 as most people are in their entire lives.  Every far-fetched scheme he came up with was successful.  His intuition seemed to guide him, and he seemed to know what made him happy.  His search for happiness and his intuition brought him back to Africa again and again.  Eventually, it got him killed.But he lived so, so much.

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Posted by josh on October 16, 2007

Radiohead has received a great amount of press for the release of their album, In Rainbows. For good reason, a downloaddable version of the album is available on the bands website. Fans are able to name their price for the album. (There is also a “collectors edition” version with bonus CDs availible for a whopping $80 US).

The band has gotten a lot of press for the name your price scheme. Whether this idea is a foreshadowing of things to come remains to be seen. Certainly, music will be the first of the entertainment industries to be forced to embrace so-called new media. The Ipod and Limewire will see to that.

There is no word yet on how much people are paying for In Rainbows. Thom Yorke and the boys have enjoyed so much (critical, popular, and, more than likely, financial) success that they probably aren’t losing sleep over the amount of money in their checking accounts.

Whether Radiohead has a new model for the music business remains to be seen. For now, they are just another wildly popular group of eccentric English musicians drawing attention to themselves.

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I Am Legend

Posted by josh on October 14, 2007

Richard Matheson’s book, I Am Legend, is not the vampire yarn it is often billed as. It is written with more skill than the average horror story. In fact, it is more of a story of survival than anything else.

Here’s to hoping that the film version of the book, set for release in mid-December, will not trade Matheson’s psychological thrills for a higher special effects scare factor. From the trailer, it seems like the celluloid Legend will stay true to the book.

This appears to be a good role for Will Smith. Since I was a teenager when he was doing sitcoms and releasing rap albums, I’ll always think of him as The Fresh Prince, but he has carried his stardom well. I almost trust that he wouldn’t have agreed to act in Legend if it wasn’t going to be a quality production of Matheson’s story. (Then I remember Bad Boys II, and I decide not to get my hopes up).

Still, it looks like it could be a big hit. Former music video director Francis Lawrence directs.

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Art Takes on Traffic

Posted by josh on October 11, 2007

Beijing has become a notorious city for its traffic and its pollution from the roadways. The video below is an interesting film by Beijing-based director Lois Xiang. Intersting mostly because of the fact that it raises the accusation that there is a traffic and pollution problem in Beijing. Government officials have been doing their best to cover it up ahead of the Olympics next year.

This type of film is a good example of the cultural journalism/art that is coming out of China. There is a burgeoning art scene, with whole neighborhoods becoming epicenters of cutting edge culture. Though the 2008 Olympics are meant to showcases China to the world, it will be artists and filmmakers from the younger generations who will bring the world the views and issues of China without her Olympic make-up.

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David Mamet Surprises Us Again

Posted by josh on October 9, 2007

David Mamet does what he wants. That much is obvious. The writer has moved his work from the stage and the indie house to TV and, yes, now to the world of mixed martial arts.

Mamet was the creator of the TV series The Unit. The show is now entering its second season and seems to be doing well. It boasts the occasional Mamet inspired high context dialogue, and an interesting “current events” kind of feel. (Still, I keep wondering when the Allstate guy had time to become sucha highly trained and finely tuned killing machine).

Back to Redbelt. According to the The Internet Movie Database, the movie’s cast will include comedian Tim Allen. What? Yes, I heard myself right, Tim Allen of Home Improvement fame.
Ok, so Redbelt promises to be one of the more interesting things to cross the silver screen next year. At least Mamet will be writing the script. It seems that Mamet is trying to become, What? More relevant? A kind of artist-cum-journalist trying to capture the gritty aspects of modern culture and out current world?

If anyone can produce a film about Ultimate Fighting and make it interesting to those of us who aren’t rednecks, Mamet can.

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