Monday, September 18, 2006


Hey all,

Happy Labor Day weekend! This installment is surely going to provoke a torrent of "Out of the Office" responses, so I'll try to keep this short. This week's SFGate column is about martial arts cinema, why it's in its direst straits in a decade, and how a humble and unexpected hero will save it, using his own unique and unprecedented techniques. Sounds like the plot of a kung fu film, huh? Indeed.

ASIAN POP - A Hero Gets The Call
With the heavyweights beginning to fade, it's time for a new contender to step into the ring. Jeff Yang explains why THE PROTECTOR's Tony Jaa is preserving martial arts cinema for a new generation.

The question some might ask is, why's martial arts cinema worth saving at all? Genres come and go; the Western, for instance, has essentially passed on from relevance, despite latter-day attempts at revival, from THE UNFORGIVEN to DEADWOOD. My argument is that there's something quintessentially important about martial arts films as metaphor. Firstly, martial arts cinema brings the art of war back down to the level of man-on-man and hand-to-hand, in all of its grim reality; sure, the fighting is fleshed out with acrobatics and cast as entertainment, but it's still one on one, flesh to flesh, and in a world of pushbutton genocide, it's good to be reminded that there are real consequences to combat.

More importantly, however, martial arts films show incredibly talented athletes pushing the limits of the human form--demonstrating the awesome abilities that we're capable of, with enough training, discipline, and will. They highlight the superhuman within the human--hopefully, inspiring us to be better. Or even, to be the best.

Those of you who saw Tony Jaa's starring debut in ONG BAK know he's a true prodigy, a physical specimen of frightening speed, power, and agility whose finest moments evoke and even challenge the greatest highlights of the icons he calls his spiritual masters: Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. His sophomore film, THE PROTECTOR, is being released by The Weinstein Co. on September 8; while it won't win awards for acting, dialogue, or narrative coherence, it's wallpapered with sensational action sequences--some of which defy description. Check it out.

In a very different genre, September 8 is also the New York premiere of RED DOORS, Georgia Lee's acclaimed freshman outing. It's a family comedy/drama that evokes a little EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN and a little SAVING FACE, but manages to carve out a unique space all of its own, drawing accolades like "charming" from Entertainment Weekly and "heartwarming...unique, and universal" from the New York Times.

Plus, if you act fast, you still have the chance to win a date with RED DOORS producer/actress (and noted hottie) Mia Riverton to the movie's premiere--today until 11:59 pm, purchase tickets online at the RED DOORS website: or at the Angelika Film Center or ImaginAsian Theater New York; email your ticket purchase confirmation code to: with "Date Mia" in the subject line; pick out an outfit and cross your fingers. Given the storyline of the film (and Mia's part in it), one must assume that both boys and girls can play--so if you're feeling up to it, check out Ms. Riverton's pics at and get your RED on...

Speaking of doors opening, boxer Dee Hamaguchi (from my column Warrior Women) sent me more info about her September 21 title bout: She'll be challenging minimumweight champion Hollie Dunaway for the WIBA title, at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, MO. If you happen to be in St. Louis, pop on over and see her go up against a 15-4 boxer who's successfully defended her title twice already. Scary stuff--but underdog or not, we have faith that the Dee Train will punch Dunaway a one-way ticket to the mat...

Also, Angelenos: Comedian Steve Byrne and his Seoul brothers, the Kims of Comedy will be headlining a benefit for the Asian American Drug Abuse Program on Saturday, September 9th in Little Tokyo, LA. (visit for ticket information.) Says Byrne: "The show is special, not only for the fact that its for a wonderful cause, but because its the first time The Kims of Comedy will be performing in Los Angeles together! You can see Bobby Lee of Mad TV, Dr. Ken of NBC's The Office and HBO's Entourage and Kevin Shea from Jimmy Kimmel and The Late Late Show and yours truly all in one night!" Byrne's Comedy Central Presents showcase is also airing the following Wednesday, September 13, at 5 pm EST. That's two chances to feel the Byrne...

And you haven't laughed your ass off by then, you can chuckle away any buttock you have remaining by snagging tix to the hilarious stage satire SIDES: THE FEAR IS REAL--fresh from its acclaimed, sold-out run in the Apple, and launching its Los Angeles invasion from a beachhead at East West Players' David Henry Hwang Theater, September 20 thru October 1, with previews September 15 and 16 (East West Players at 213-625-7000 or visit Sekiya Billman, Cindy Cheung, Paul H. Juh, Peter Kim, Hoon Lee, and Rodney To unite their individual parodic powers to create a giant fighting robot of unlimited comic destruction--don't miss it! By all that's holy and sacred, don't miss it!

Okay, time to sign off and extract whatever pathetic shreds of R&R I can from this lazy Monday.


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