Thursday, July 13, 2006

The new Mifune Toshiro is - Oda Yuji?! "Sanjuro" remake announced

Kurosawa Akira's 1962 classic "Sanjuro" (Tsubaki Sanjuro) is to be remade with "Bayside Shakedown" star Oda Yuji (38) taking over the role synonymous with Mifune Toshiro, with "Kazoku Game" and "The Mamiya Brothers" director Morita Yoshimitsu (56) at the helm and Kadokawa Haruki (64) producing.

This will be the first time that one of Kurosawa's films has been remade in Japan. According to distributor Toho, the Kadokawa Haruki Corporation bought the remake rights for "Yojimbo" and "Sanjuro" from Kurosawa Productions for 300 million yen in May last year. Director Morita put himself forward to direct the latter film, suggesting that the remake remain true to the original but with a more pronounced comic touch, and also recommended Oda for the lead role.

Shooting begins in mid-September, and the cast are currently undergoing training for the fight scenes. The film will open in Japan next year. (sources: Nikkan Sports & Sanspo & Sponichi)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Miike's yakuza pic wraps, Kimutaku in Fuji TV blockbuster

PS2 game "Ryu ga Gotoku 2" goes on sale today, and production on Miike Takashi's movie adaptation has wrapped. Although the game is restricted to ages 17 and up, the film targets all ages. It's scheduled for release in Japan on March 3rd next year, with South Korea following in summer and North America is also on the cards. Check out the source article for photos of Miike, Sega producer Nagoshi Toshihiro, star Kitamura Kazuki and other cast members at a reception party for the project. (source: +D Games)

Despite his long-held status as Japan's most popular male television actor, for the most part SMAP hearthrob Kimura Takuya (AKA Kimutaku) has been conspicuously absent from the silver screen. All that seems to be changing, with his current lead turn in Yamada Yoji's "Love and Honor" (Bushi no Ichibun), and now Fuji TV's film adaptation of their hit series "Hero." Pulling in an average rating of 30% when it screened in early 2001, the show starred Kimura as a former juvenile delinquent turned unconventional detective, and quickly became Fuji TV's highest rating drama series ever. Fuji's head of film production, mega producer Kameyama Chihiro, had originally considered making a film out of it 3 or 4 years ago, but when a one-off special aired in July this year registered a whopping 30.9% rating the Fuji bean counters began drooling for more. The script is still being written, and filming is scheduled to begin next March including a possible overseas location shoot. Suzuki Masayuki, director of fellow SMAP member Katori Shingo vehicle "Ninja Hattori-kun The Movie", takes the helm. Original cast members Matsu Takako, Otsuka Nene, Abe Hiroshi and Katsumura Masanobu are set to return, and big name guest stars are in the works. Expect something on the scale of the "Bayside Shakedown" films. A release is set for September 8th 2007.(sources: Sanspo,Sports Hochi)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Saraba, TIFF 2006: Good riddance?

The Kinejapan email discussion list has been rife with tales of backstage intrigue at the Tokyo International Film Festival, which lowered its curtain last Sunday for another year and perhaps the last time in its current incarnation. The Japanese government, or more specifically the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) via film promotion body Unijapan, wants to use it as a tentpole for a "contents" jamboree encompassing video games, anime, and other image-based media; a move that critics say could compromise TIFF's integrity as Japan's premiere film showcase. But anyone who has attended or even just browsed the programme in recent years must surely be aware that its credibility as an international cinema event has been in question for some time now, a fact that was only emphasised by the nature of this year's awards ceremony which by all accounts was marked by the kind of odd choices characteristic of its programming.

Not having seen any of the competition films myself, I can't offer any worthwhile comment on the quality or otherwise of the lineup, so I'll defer to the words of Miyazaki Yosuke in part one of the Asahi Shinbun's TIFF 2006 roundup.

At the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival which came to a close on the 29th, a most unlikely French comedy, "OSS 117 Cairo Nest of Spies", an abundantly parodic 'pure entertainment film', picked up the top award. One juror even went so far as to say that none of the International Competition selections made an impression. That disarray was continued on the administrative side.

With the announcement of "OSS"'s Grand Prix win at the award ceremony, a surprised stir spread through the crowd. The reason for this was that seven newspaper writers keeping a score chart had given the film an average of 2.4 out of a possible five points, ranking it the lowest out of the 15 films in competition.

The film is set in Cairo in the 1950s. A heavily pomaded, smartly besuited spy beds and dances extravagantly with a royal beauty. However, in actual fact he is somewhat less than suave. The secret base is a poultry farm, the hero slips free from his bindings despite being dunked in the sea, the backgrounds are obviously composites, and there's even a cheapo action sequence where chickens are thrown as weapons.

"Setting it in the present would have made it too much like a comic, so we set it in the 50s, and thoroughly lampooned old spy films", explained director Michel Hazanavicius after the film's screening on the 25th. On being awarded the Grand Prix, he was obviously thrown for a loop. "I'm amazed that a comedy film would be awarded the top prize. If a comedy was going to win, I thought it would have been 'Little Miss Sunshine'" (which won for Best Director, Best Actress, and the Audience Award).

Juror Garin Nugroho pointed out "That none of the 15 films stood out is problematic".

Regarding "OSS", juror Bill Mechanic offered his ironic appraisal. "While it's artistic, it's also enjoyable entertainment, without any bite." But does that qualify as originality?

"The choice of 'OSS' could perhaps have been a gesture of protest by the jurors at the low quality of the competition films", suggested one foreign journalist .

At the press conference after the awards ceremony, few questions were posed despite the awarding of the Grand Prix. Furthermore, the director himself requested that no questions be asked of him due to the hoarseness of his voice, turning the conference into a strange, somewhat defensive affair.

There were other unforeseen occurrences besides the nature of the films.

The only actor on the jury, Kudoh Youki, was absent from the award ceremony and press conference due to "a film shoot overseas", thus her views on the films and message to the audience went unheard. It seemed to be a sign of the festival's insubstantial status.

Elsewhere, the winner of the "Winds of Asia" section was the first film to simultaneously win the International Competition's Award for Best Artistic Contribution, and the director said he had only learned of the festival's system of 'straddling categories' the day before. Some jurors also had strong reservations about films selected by differing judges and criteria being made to compete on the same stage.

"We humbly accept the criticism. We want to keep deepen discussion from now on", said International Competition programme director Tanaka Chiseko.

Including the sudden switch of International Competition Jury President from Claude Lelouch to Jean-Pierre Jeunet immediately before the opening of the festival, the messiness of the festival's International Competition, its 'face', left a bad aftertaste. (source: Asahi Shinbun)