How John Woo reinvented action movies
Director John Woo, who turned 74 on May 1, should be considered the godfather of the modern action movie. Mixing spectacular set pieces with sentiment, he started tropes now synonymous with the genre. These include slow-motion fight scenes, Mexican stand-offs and characters firing multiple guns at the same time. The repeated use of doves, however, is a style all his own. Born in Guangzhou in 1946, the director of films such as A Better Tomorrow (1986), The Killer (1989) and Hard Boiled (1992) grew up in Hong Kong after his family fled persecution under Mao Zedong.  “As a kid, I always felt like I lived in hell – the slums of Hong Kong were horrible,” he told Venice Magazine. “I always had t
Avengers can’t save China’s box office from Beijing’s tightening grip
Tougher regulations and a lackluster performance by imported films saw China’s box office revenues grow last year at the slowest rate in over a decade, according to official data. The world’s fastest-growing film market generated box office revenues of $9.2 billion in 2019, up 5.4% from a year earlier. But it was the second consecutive year that China’s box office growth slowed. Revenue from Chinese films expanded by 8.7% in 2019. Revenue from overseas produced films, however, rose only by 0.1%.  Of the overseas produced films, only Avengers: Endgame and Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw appeared on China’s top 10 list for 2019. Hollywood blockbusters now contribute only around a th
‘The Matrix’ can thank this man for its iconic fight scenes
Hong Kong martial arts director Yuen Woo-ping’s action scenes are the defining feature of The Matrix trilogy, yet Yuen himself never sought to work in Hollywood. When the films’ sibling directors, the Wachowskis, were preparing the first in the trilogy, a producer for the film had to track Yuen down in Hong Kong and convince him to go to Los Angeles to discuss choreographing the martial arts scenes in The Matrix. “I’d already been asked to work in Hollywood a couple of times, and I’d said no. I didn’t feel that my English was good enough to work there,” Yuen said. “What happened then was that one of the producers of The Matrix contacted Shaw Brothers [a Hong Kong production company] to find
Simu Liu is ‘changing the world’ as Marvel's first Asian superhero
This hotel room in West Hollywood, dimly lit with the curtains drawn, shows no signs of film-star excess. No half-full bottles of flat champagne, no overflowing ashtrays. No powder-flecked mirrors on the countertops. No cracks in the plasma television.  Just some fresh clothes folded neatly over a chair and, on the table in front of us, a Nintendo Switch and a big bag of sour candies. And anyway, its occupant isn’t exactly a film star. At least not yet. Thirty-year-old Simu Liu clears off a spot on the couch and apologizes for the mess.  This room – what a TripAdvisor review might deem “perfectly adequate” – has been his home for the past few months. The only clues Liu has spent that time in
Michelle Yeoh hopes Crazy Rich Asians isn’t a one-hit wonder
Things are changing fast in Hollywood for Asian actors, and it’s about time, says Michelle Yeoh. The Malaysian-born actress, who made her name as a Hong Kong action heroine in the mid-1980s, stepped back into the international spotlight with her performance in Crazy Rich Asians, the hit romantic movie she credits for Asian performers’ increased opportunities in American film and television. “It’s been a long time coming, so let’s not make it a one-hit wonder,” Yeoh says in New York ahead of the release of her latest film, Last Christmas, a light romance inspired by the Wham! hit of the same name. “There have been changes in Hollywood, and you can definitely see more Asian faces on the screen
‘Abominable’: The hidden cost of playing by China’s rules
One after another, international brands from the NBA to Dior have had to apologize for offending Chinese sensitivities. But one country’s political correctness can be another’s taboo, as the fallout from the animated film Abominable has shown. The DreamWorks co-production featuring a yeti in the Himalayas has found itself at the center of a geopolitical dispute over the vast waters of the South China Sea. Several Southeast Asian countries with competing claims with Beijing in the resource-rich waterway have pulled the film from cinemas. For companies looking to do business in the world’s second-biggest economy, this highlights the political liability of carrying the Chinese government’s off
A few pixels on a Chinese map sank ‘Abominable’ in Vietnam
An animated family film about a fluffy white yeti has been caught up in an international territorial dispute. The movie, Abominable, has been reportedly pulled from cinemas in Vietnam because of a brief scene featuring a map showing China’s disputed claims in the vast and resource-rich South China Sea.  The map offended the Vietnamese government for including the so-called “nine-dash line,” which is used by Beijing to illustrate its claims in the contested waters, Reuters reported on Monday.  Abominable, a co-production between DreamWorks Animation and Shanghai-based Pearl Studio, depicts how a Chinese girl and her friends help a yeti return to its home on Mount Everest.  The controversial
Chinese filmgoers unhappy with Disney’s Ariel casting
Chinese fans may love NBA players and African-American entertainers, but they’re upset with Disney’s decision to cast Halle Bailey to play Ariel in the live-action movie adaption of The Little Mermaid. Disney announced the casting of 19-year-old Bailey, who is black, this week. While the casting was largely praised on Western social media, it triggered a wave of disappointment and anger on the Chinese internet.  “I don’t discriminate against black people, but the Little Mermaid is just not black in my memory,” said one of the most liked comments on the Twitter-like Weibo. “Is this mermaid from the Somali Sea?” another Weibo user said. “Don’t ruin my childhood, you big-head fish!” Internet u
Avengers: Endgame smashes Chinese presales record
For millions of filmgoers in China, the ending couldn’t come soon enough. A week before Avengers: Endgame hits theaters around the world, the film has broken the record for pre-release ticket sales in China. Cinemas across China have sold more than 600 million yuan ($90 million) worth of tickets by Tuesday, according to the Chinese ticketing company Maoyan, breaking the record set by The Fate of Furious 8. About one-fifth of the money went to midnight premieres on April 24, two days ahead of the film’s North America release. For the superheroes in the universe created by Marvel Studios, Endgame is where they, in the words of the Iron Man, “pull off one last one.” But for Marvel Studios, Endg
Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding on not being Asian enough
When Crazy Rich Asians premiered and became a worldwide smash hit, it wasn't just a moment for the Asian community to bask in the spotlight. It was also the moment that the little-known male lead of the film, Henry Golding, became a star. The only acting experience Golding had before his casting was a role in a Subway commercial, in which he and his real-life wife Liv Lo picked out each other’s dream footlong sandwiches. Meanwhile, his co-stars Michelle Yeoh and Constance Wu had been acting for decades. But by the night of the premiere, he was not a complete unknown anymore. The casting net for the character of Nick Young, the Singaporean, Oxford University-educated, stupendously wealthy hun