4 items from 2008
HONG KONG -- A comic trio formed by a poor workman, his son and his alien pet drive the story of CJ7, a hyperactive, wishful-thinking special effects fantasy suitable for family outings. It is the long-awaited brainchild of Stephen Chow, the comedian-writer-director who pioneered the unique Hong Kong genre of mo lei tau (nonsensical) comedy in the early 1990s.
Despite Chow's self-professed desire to salute E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and oblique borrowings from Japanese anime Doraemon, the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers springs foremost to mind as Chow's one-of-a-kind magnetic screen persona seems to have been abducted by aliens, who replaced him with a pod spouting moral platitudes and CGI-enhanced emotions.
A joint effort by Chow's Star Overseas and Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, "CJ7" has worldwide release ambitions; it bows stateside Friday. Even with Chow's trademark smart-ass Cantonese neologisms and Hong Kong's ineffable local color filtered out while proficiently rendered visual effects stand in for gags, Chow's strong Asian fan base is still flocking to the theaters. Convincing a North American audience more familiar with Jackie Chan and Jet Li and more likely to prefer Chow's more exotic and action-packed Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle won't be so easy, though.
This is Chow's first directorial work shot entirely in China, but geographic and cultural character look fuzzy. He plays Ti, a construction laborer who pays through the nose to send his only son Dicky (Xu Jiao) to an elite school. Dicky's street urchin looks make him a target for bullying. Only his teacher, Miss Yuen (Kitty Zhang), shows some kindness.
Dicky wants his classmate's cyber toy CJ1, but the impoverished Chow finds him a scrap-yard substitute that he names CJ7. The florescent green blob morphs into a creature with a fluffy mane and a bouncy, squishy torso. Dicky dreams of impressing his classmates with alien high-tech gizmos but ends up thoroughly humiliated. However, when an accident happens, CJ7 reveals its hidden powers.
The first half-hour depicts father-son relations with a mischievous charm reminiscent of Chow's early films. Xu, a girl who impersonates the boy Dicky, is the one who holds the film together. A natural in front of the camera, she has a wealth of facial expressions even in solo scenes with a computer-generated figure. Zhang, who wears a cheongsam tight enough to moonlight in a hostess bar, never stirs as a love interest.
"CJ7" revels in a cartoon-like depiction of abject poverty with a priceless scene where cockroach swatting is an alternative to PlayStation. However, such social issues as education, employment and inequality of wealth are glossed over by slogan-like mottos of being poor but virtuous. The storybook ending is artificial and offers no antidote to Ti and Dicky's problems.
Sony Pictures Classics
Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia/the Star Overseas/China Film Group
Director: Stephen Chow
Producers: Stephen Chow, Chui Po-chu, Han Sanping
Director of photography: Poon Hang-sang
Production designer: Oliver Wong
Music: Raymond Wong
Co-producers Vincent Kok, Connie Wong
Costume designer: Dora Ng
Editor: Angie Lam
Ti: Stephen Chow
Dicky: Xu Jiao
Miss Yuen: Kitty Zhang
Mr. Cao: Lee Shing-cheung
Building Site Foreman: Lam Tze-chung
Running time -- 88 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
HONG KONG -- New Stephen Chow comedy "CJ7", which cleaned up at the local boxoffice during the Chinese New Year holiday period, is providing the inspiration for the world's first film-inspired, motion-sensing mobile phone game, Sony Pictures Television International and Sony Ericsson said Tuesday.
"The high penetration rate of mobile phones in Asia presents us with a growing market for our branded movie and TV-based mobile content," said Rosemary Tan, SPTI's director of mobile entertainment Asia. "The CJ7 mobile pack is a vivid example of our dedicated effort in developing cutting edge mobile content,"
The plot of "CJ7" revolves around a struggling man who discovers the titular alien in a garbage dump one night and presents it to his son as a toy. In the mobile game, users must care for and look after the daily needs of CJ7.
The "E.T".-inspired CJ7 is the first CGI character in a Chinese-language film. It was created by Hong Kong's Menfond Electronic Art, whose portfolio includes "Initial D", "A Chinese Tall Story" and "Fearless".
Rather than use the keypad to control the action of the game, the user need only shake their mobile telephone. »
The overseas circuit took a Gallic turn during the weekend as France's Asterix at the Olympic Games opened across Europe atop of the international boxoffice heap, grossing an estimated $25 million from about 6,000 screens in nine territories.
Backed by an unprecedented $5.8 million marketing campaign in France, Pathe Distribution's release of the third installment in the hugely popular Asterix series took a 47% boxoffice share of its home market and performed strongly in Germany and Austria as well. The France take alone came to an estimated $17 million from 1,078 screens in the opening five days.
In Germany, the take was an estimated $3 million from about 500 situations. In Austria, the weekend estimate came to $675,000 from 75 sites, including $38,000 from previews. However, in the U.K., the latest Asterix fared poorly, ranking 61st in the market with $4,000 from just three playdates. (Complete returns from Russia, Belgium, Greece, Switzerland and Poland were not available on Sunday.)
At a production budget of $113 million, Asterix at the Olympic Games is the most expensive French movie ever made. Like its two predecessors -- "Asterix and Obelix Versus Caesar" and "Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra" -- it is a live-action adaptation of a comic strip about a band of roistering Gauls who refuse to bend to Roman invaders. The cast includes Gerard Depardieu, Alain Delon and Clovis Cornillac. Openings in Italy, Holland and Spain loom this week.
The weekend also accommodated a mix of newcomers including Sony's Cheung Gong 7 Hou (CJ7), from Hong Kong director Stephen Chow, which debuted in time for Lunar New Year in Hong Kong, Taiwan and in Australia. »
HONG KONG -- Actor-director Stephen Chow's CJ7 will showcase locally produced state-of-the-art digital effects "up to international standards that will withstand comparison," Chow said at a press conference Monday.
"CJ7" marked the first time a Chinese production features an entirely digitally produced creature. While the effects-laden comedy has a reported cost of HK$156 million (US$20 million), Chow was reluctant to name the exact figure, only calling the film "the most expensive in my career."
Most of the budget was spent on digital animation and special effects, created by the Hong Kong visual effects house Menfond Electronic Art, whose credits include The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D.
Always elusive, Chow also deflected the inquiries about projected boxoffice take with jokes, saying he expected the film to earn "as much as possible."
A sci-fi comedy about how the sudden arrival of a strange new pet shakes the lives of a poor laborer father and his young son, "CJ7" is the second collaboration between Chow's Star Overseas and Sony Pictures Entertainment since Kung Fu Hustle. China Film Group was also behind both films. »
4 items from 2008
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