Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Red Carpet: Arthur and the Minimoys

Here are some photos taken from the Red Carpet of Arthur and the Minimoy's Hong Kong premiere. Stars like Michelle Yeoh and Jaycee Chan were present to grace the event, in addition to having the director Luc Besson in attendance.

Why not check out the video clip taken of the event?

Photos / Videos: CK Yip

Press Conference: Genghis Khan - To the Ends of the Earth and Sea

[This was part of the FILMART Event]

The press room was abuzz with predominantly Japanese media teams, all eagerly anticipating the start of the conference for the movie on the Mongolian conqueror, Genghis Khan - To the Ends of the Earth and Sea. Made with a 3 billion Yen budget and shot over four months on location in Mongolia, Genghis Khan stars Japanese idol Takashi Sorimachi and Korean actress Ara, in a Japan-Mongolia co-production to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the founding of Mongol.

Accompanied by producers Haruki Kadokawa and Ryuhei Chiba, the conference began with the screening of the movie trailer, and photo opportunities for the dozens of photographers present, their flashes dazzling the ballroom, to the constant sounds of beating drums, no doubt a rousing tune used in the movie's soundtrack.

The producers were given a headstart in the fielding of questions on the underlying theme and message of the movie, which Ryuhei Chiba explained was one of brotherhood and family, given that Genghis Khan was also known as a family man, besides all conquering warrior.

Most of the questions were for the star Takashi Sorimachi, who hadn't been in Hong Kong for a long time, and was hoping to catch up with Andy Lau, with whom he co-starred in Full Time Killer back in 2001. He shared that he was doing a television series when he first heard of this movie project, and he agreed to do it when he was asked if he was willing to try the role. To prepare for it, he read many books on Genghis Khan, and being on the set helped him to crystallise his thoughts for the role. There were some mindset shifts required as the era was very different, especially on relationship issues like polygamy, and when hate amongst men equates to war. He revealed that the harsh weather and environment in Mongolia made shooting tough - he actually lugged cases of Japanese food to bring over!

Naturally, in such harsh environments, a question was posed as to how the stars managed to maintain their good complexion. Takashi Sorimachi was gleefully surprised that the question was posed to him, instead of his beautiful co-star Ara, as he did not take any special precautions nor special care, though he mentioned that the weather was dry, and it was easy to catch a cold. Ara too did not do anything in particular besides her usual routine of using facial masks and to wash and cleanse her face carefully.

The stars were asked their favourite and memorable scenes in the movie, and it was unanimous that the blue skies and vast grasslands of Mongolia were favourites. In addition, Ara liked the realistic battle scenes, as well as those in the film which exhibited strong human drama.

To wrap things up in the short conference, the stars were asked for their impression of Hong Kong. Ara shared that this was the first time she was in Hong Kong and had heard about the great food and scenery, but had not much time to prepare for the trip because of her busy schedule. Takashi Sorimachi too agreed that the food gourmet is great, and has no problems with the local cuisine.

Yet another addition to epic movies on historical characters, Genghis Khan - To the Ends of the Earth and Sea has been picked up for distribution in over 60 countries, let's hope that Singapore is one of them!

Here's a video with excerpts from the press conference. Enjoy!

Text: Stefan
Photos / Videos: CK Yip / Stefan

Press Conference: Invisible Target aka Tripod

[This was part of the FILMART Event]

Come mid-July this year, renowned Hong Kong action movie director Benny Chan will have his new movie released. Titled Invisible Target (aka Tripod), starring an exciting cast of Jaycee Chan, Elanne Kong, Nicholas Tse, Wu Jing, Shawn Yue and Andy On, we were treated to an exclusive 4 minute cut of a work still in production. Everyone save for Shawn and Andy were present for today's Press Conference.

The following will contain mild spoilers, so for those who wish not to know anything much about the movie, you're advised to just admire the pictures, and skip all the text. Otherwise, read on...

Spoiler Alert
The 4 minute trailer of sorts started off with quiet contemplation, introducing us to the main cast, filled with voiceovers about their characters. Soon enough, all hell broke loose, and the action begins. They are hard hitting street fights amongst cast members, and co-operative fights against others, some with fancy stunts and wire work (which seemed quite obvious). What probably caught my attention, were action stunt sequences involving leaps and double decker buses. As always, there are moments of comedy, and there was one particular scene shown with three bare bodied actors giving each other a rubdown on their bruises.

Director Benny Chan is no stranger to Hong Kong action movies, having helmed a fair share of recent titles like Rob-B-Hood, Divergence and New Police Story. He was proud to share that Invisible Target will be a different sort of action thriller, one which is youthful, energetic and full of power, and that the cast, from what we saw in the action and fight sequences, did their own stunts. What we've seen from the clips was a result of 4 months of shooting, and it was specially edited for the conference.

Benny also assured that this was different from his other action movies, as those in the past usually contained gun battle and explosions, whereas this one relied more on the muscle strength and fisticuffs.

The character that Jaycee Chan plays in the movie is a cop who goes strictly by the book. And to prepare for the role, he felt that he had to beef up his upper body strength in order to look comparable to his peers in the movie. Wu Jing plays a rebel with his own set of philosophical values, and revealed that he had a hard time fighting with Jaycee, Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue.

The only notable female cast in the movie, Elanne Kong also plays a cop, but one who is assisting the team from behind the scenes. Her character is the girlfriend of Shawn Yue's, and she was clearly excited about being in a Benny Chan film, and having felt no pressure despite being in a big movie. She shared that one of her memorable scenes so far, was a crying scene, in which she found difficult, but thanks to coaxing from the director, she was able to do so.

Nicholas Tse introduced his role as a cop with a personal vendetta, joining the force in order to fulfil his vengeful desire, rather than to serve public order. This movie is currently his most memorable action movie to date, especially the stunt involving the bus. He added that he hoped Invisible Target adds a new dimension to Hong Kong action movies, and laments the day should this genre cease to churn out quality works.

During the conference, it was fairly obvious on the excellent camaraderie amongst the cast, especially between Nicholas and Wu Jing, as they traded barbs and "war stories" about how hard hitting the action thriller is, and how they traded real, but controlled, blows at each other in order to present the best possible shot for the scene. As their mantra goes, it's better to hit or be hit once, than to have a retake and be hit 10 times. Despite some of the stunts that we've seen in the clip look fairly dangerous, they assured that they were indeed safe to do so.

Nicholas, in answer to a query, revealed that he was indeed honoured to have been able to spar with Wu Jing (a real martial arts champion) in the movies, and exchange tips and pointers with him, given his growing interest in martial arts, and martial arts movies (like Dragon Tiger Gate). The chemistry between the two was undeniable, and Wu Jing did feel a bit of pressure in getting things right, and gushed about the realistic action fight sequences in the movie, as compared to the more fantastical / poseur like fights that audiences have grown accustomed to.

The conference wrapped with an announcement that Invisible Target will be making its Pan-Asian district premiere come mid July this year. This goes into my books as a definite must watch, together with a certain Donnie Yen production, which from the trailer we saw, just blew us away. We hope to be able to bring you some scoop on that soon!

Here's the video of the press conference (approx 15min), including a snippet of the 4 minute clip!

Text: Stefan
Photos: Lokman / CK Yip
Videos: CK Yip

And You Thought It Was Easy? II

No, we're not idling and surfing p0rn. It's hitting the Media Centre to bring you the latest there is on offer, be it a press conference, red carpet event, or a simple behind the scenes look at the insane rush from location to location.

Speaking of which, it's probably a good idea to show you the madcap yet fun time we're having here. After all, all work and no play makes us all dull boys.

Press Conference: Arthur and the Minimoys

French director Luc Besson was in town as one of the special guests of this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival, and today is a day set aside for a press conference, as well as the Hong Kong gala premiere of his movie, Arthur and the Minimoys. was at hand this morning during the press conference.

Luc shared that the beginnings of Arthur and the Minimoys was during the time when he was making The 5th Element, where designer Patrice Garcia came up to him with a drawing of Arthur, which opened doors instantly in his mind. Luc had been making "violent" movies like Nikita and Leon, and this movie allowed him an avenue to talk about themes like racism to children. He was able to write for weeks to get the ideas out of his mind.

Every night at 8pm he would become sad and pessimistic with the cynicism in the news, and it made him think about responsibility as a parent, as well as a signal to go back to things about nature (he mentioned he read that when asked to draw a fish, 60% of the schoolchildren would draw a rectangle - fillet in a frying pan), friendship and love. He considered Arthur and the Minimoys as vitamins for kids, and had seen it a few times with children, and each time was amazed by their faces and reactions as they stayed glued to the screen.

Luc was livening up the conference with plenty of anecdotes, one of which recounted his friend telling him that his children now avoid stepping into the garden, in case they stepped on a Minimoy. The word Minimoy, he revealed, came about with the prefix "Mini", and then randomly trying to find a suitable suffix, which he finally settled on "moy" as it sounded nice.

He also talked a bit about his production company Europa, in response to a question about new directors, and revealed that in 6 years the company had produced 65 films, and an average about 3 to 5 films per year made by 1st time directors. He finds it charming to be able to help someone do his first film. He has good people now in the company to take care of the business aspect, and has more time now as compared to 20 years ago, to focus on creative work. Luc had later reminisced about the early days where he can only shoot films from 1 to 7pm, with the time before 1pm used to source for money to get lunch for his crew. The early days had given him a sense of cost and to respect money, like when he had enough film for 2 takes per shot, and had two camera lenses to work with, that now, he only uses things like cranes strictly based on necessity.

Luc had a lot of affection and respect for Asian cinema, and this was obvious throughout the conference, as well as his collaborations in films with the likes of Jet Li and Shu Qi. He stated that Asian cinema is vivid and powerful in the world today, was impressed by the video montage done for the Asian Film Awards, which showcased plenty of invention and ideas. Likening the film festival circuit to a tennis circuit, he was happy to be here, and noted that it was important to come every year.

When asked if Hollywood was still a strong cultural force to be reckoned with, Luc mentioned that as artists, there's a need to have the senses open, and like food, the best is with diversity. He thought that Hollywood had changed in the last 10 years, with the last 5 being more business oriented, with more lawyers, bankers and agents on the scene. So little by little, Hollywood films are becoming poorer every year. He thought that a lot of interesting cinema is in Asia, a little in Europe, and the US indie scene becoming stronger now.

Luc was also of the opinion that every cultural exchange is good, so long as you stay honest, when queried about the trend of cross-cultural film making, and with remakes. He shared that last night during the Asian Film Awards, there was plenty of jibes about the Departed being a remake of Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs, and reminded that Hong Kong too had its fair share of "Nikita" remakes - He recounted that in Cannes, there was a film seller from Hong Kong who was going around trying to sell an exact shot for shot film of Nikita, to much laughter amongst the press members.

But he was happy with the recent announcement that there will be a law to protect Intellectual Property, because Asian cinema in Europe is well protected and taken good care of.

Since Nikita was brought up, there was no stopping questions being fielded about his early filmmaking days. He returned the volley to a question asking him to rank his top 5 films of his career, with a rhetorical question on how could anyone have kids, and rank them. He has made 10 movies, and he loved them all, that film is like taking a polaroid of yourself at that time. However, technically speaking, he was more comfortable and proud of his work the last year, and had seen his ability to shorten the duration of translating ideas and the final product.

Luc went into technical details, like his shooting of Nikita in chronological order, only to find that he had to stop for 2 weeks to rewrite the script and ending, and like a cat that landed on its feet, he was glad that despite the story being different from the original he had in mind, audiences liked it. But no, there will not be a sequel to Nikita as there are already so many Nikitas around the world, and the world doesn't need one more.

Asked about how different it was to shoot live action and animation, Luc said that a third of Arthur and the Minimoys was live action, and for the animation, he had to shoot references with actors for the animators. So it was an 8 months shoot with almost 3000 shots, and it helped a lot to get the emotions of the animations right. Actual Minimoy sets were built too, and the challenge was to merge all the different aspects together, and praised his team on the delivery - it was easier to make a pure 3D film than to make a hybrid one like Arthur.

And you can see very clearly that Luc Besson is a proud parent of his latest baby.

You can view some snippets of the conference from the video below:

Arthur and the Minimoys makes its premiere in Hong Kong this evening, and it'll be opening soon in Singapore. Watch for our review of the movie!

Text: Stefan
Photos: Lokman
Videos: CK Yip