Saturday, July 01, 2006

INSTANT YANG v.24: BURNING RUBBER; THE MASHED AND THE FURIOUS; PLACES TO GO

Keepin' it kinda tight, because this installment of INSTANT YANG comes hot on the heels of last week's installment of INSTANT YANG--and for those of you who feel like that's a bit too much of a good thing, I apologize. Hell, I prefer two weeks' worth of recharge between these things myself--but summer schedules don't always accomodate. Sorry.

So, I spent the past weekend in way-too-sunny L.A., courtesy of Universal Pictures. The occasion? The unveiling of the most recent of their boyz-wit-carz series THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. I'll have to admit that I'm not much of a racing flick fan--probably due to survivor trauma from having to review DAYS OF THUNDER while still a young and budding cultural critic.

(For those of you who still retain your cinematic innocence, THUNDER featured Nicole Kidman as a "beautiful but brilliant" brain surgeon and Tom Cruise as smirky, hot-headed NASCAR driver named--wait for it--Cole Trickle. Oddly enough, the movie came out one year before the rookie debut of *real-world* NASCAR driver *Dick* Trickle, which has led my thetan-riddled brain to associate Cruise with the phrase "Dick Trickle" ever since.)

(Whoops, my bad--I was actually associating Tom Cruise with the phrase "Dick Trickle" long before DAYS OF THUNDER even came out. And now that I've used the terms "Tom Cruise" and "came out" in the same sentence--twice--I fully expect to be hearing from lawyers sometime between now and the next edition of this blog. Watch this space.)

Anyway, FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT is no DAYS OF THUNDER. For one thing, it doesn't suck ass. It's not Shakespeare, but then again, when was the last time Shakespeare really opened a movie? What it is is two hours of sleek, joyriding fun, with cars pulling tricks like motorized Michelle Kwans, and lots of shots of Japanese girls with 3:1 leg-to-torso ratios and miniskirts the approximate size of one of those Lance Armstrong "LIVE STRONG" bracelets. I have no complaints.

More about FATF: TD in this week's column:

ASIAN POP: SWITCHING GEARS
Thursday, June 8, 2006

Justin Lin broke onto Hollywood's radar with the blackly comic model-minority-gone-bad flick "Better Luck Tomorrow." On June 16, his latest film, "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," hits thousands of theaters across America. Lin talks with Jeff Yang about the art of the controlled slide, the reason why gongs are lame and his long, strange road from indie stardom to summer popcorn cinema

With Justin at the helm, you knew TOKYO DRIFT was going to have some fun subversive stuff going on, and you won't be disappointed. I laughed out loud when Sung Kang's character Han disses the film's protagonist Sean (Lucas Black) for hitting on an Aussie/Peruvian hottie (model Nathalie Keeley) who just happens to be the squeeze of their nemesis, Takashi the Drift King (Brian Tee): "Dude...why don't you just find yourself a nice Japanese girl, like all the other white guys do when they come over here?"

It's also replete with nifty Asian-pop easter eggs. The trailer's iconic "start the damn race already" sequence features two extremely foine Asian girls, whom I'll call "Ready" and "Setto," followed by a cool-looking Asian dude pointing at the camera and shouting "GO!"

"Ready" is none other than Kaila Yu, whom some of you may know from her fledgling music career, but more of you may know from her somewhat more established nekkid pinup model career. "Setto" is Aiko Tanaka, SOUL TRAIN dancer turned import scene queen, who's also been known to get nekkid given the right motivation, such the presence of a loaded camera. (Note: Neither is in fact nekkid in this movie, a fact that shows great restraint on the part of both Yu and Tanaka, not to mention Lin.)

As for the cool-looking Asian dude? He's played by Satoshi Tsumabuki, a red-hot Japanese actor whose star has risen steadily since his debut in the hilarious male-synchronized-swimming romp THE WATERBOYS. And, lest I forget, TOKYO DRIFT also features Sonny "THE STREET FIGHTER" Chiba as a badass shadowy yakuza overlord. It's a somewhat cliché role, but if you simply must have a badass shadowy yakuza overlord, all I ask is that you cast Sonny Chiba. Thank you.

Admittedly, as fun as TOKYO DRIFT is, I'm far more excited by Lin's next project: A spiritual sequel of sorts to his debut BLT, entitled FINISHING THE GAME. I say "spiritual sequel" because even though FTG brings back the whole crew from BLT, it's an entirely different kind of movie, a straight-up period comedy set in the Seventies. Still, it'll be good to see the guys back together in roles that put them square in the spotlight. Parry Shen played a character named "Shrimp Boy" (sort of the basic-cable equivalent of "Dick Trickle") on FX's THIEF; Roger Fan had a supporting role in Justin's previous film, ANNAPOLIS; in addition to appearing in TOKYO DRIFT, Jason Tobin had a bit part in last year's HK martial-arts comedy hit, HOUSE OF FURY. John Cho--is he even going to be in FINISHING THE GAME?--well, you know what John Cho's been up to.

And then there's Sung Kang. Sung has quietly emerged as one of the best Asian American actors you've never heard of, building on his breakout performance in BLT with his turn here as Han, the enigmatic mentor of Lucas Black's fish-out-of-water expat Sean Boswell. It's a role that's ironically similar to the one he plays in Michael Kang's THE MOTEL, which has its commercial opening on June 28 at New York's Film Forum (209 West Houston Street, 212.727.8110, http://www.filmforum.org). The similarities are uncanny enough, in fact, that someone Mike Kang has created a brilliant parody mashup of the two flicks called THE MOTEL AND THE FURIOUS, which you can check out here.

Dude...I kind of want to see this movie!

(Here's a mashup that I'd really like to see: A fusion of the trailers for Quentin Lee's DRIFT and Justin Lin's FATF: TOKYO DRIFT. It'd be like our own BROKEBACK TO THE FUTURE, yo. In case you didn't know, Quentin and Justin are pals and codirected the cool indie oddity SHOPPING FOR FANGS before Lin made BLT--and Lin's production company, Trailing Johnson Productions, produced Quentin's recent ETHAN MAO.)

Anyway, that's it for this week, Welcome to the summer. It's all beginning now, so get your motor running, head out on the highway...

Ready! Setto!

Go!

3 Comments:

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4:01 AM  
Blogger Benjaminjames said...

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12:31 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Hi Jeff. I was at your book writing workshop at the AAJA convention in Hawaii. And then I went home and saw I Am Jackie Chan on my mom's bookshelf. Oooh weird. Anyway, just wanted to say that it's awesome seeing such prominent Asian writers out there.

12:47 AM  

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