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Archive for December, 2006

Some reviews, notes, and a temporary farewell

Several things:

- I struggled for a bit, and since I won’t have time to write any real reviews for a while, I might as well link to my freelance reviews here. So here are this months’ reviews:

Lump of Sugar (South Korea)

Eason Chan - What’s Going On…? (Hong Kong music)

Ivana Wong - Picturesque (Hong Kong music)

Note: I actually ended my Ivana Wong review with the word “boring,” but the truth is “underwhelming” is a better word to describe a boring album that I liked, since “boring” would imply that I didn’t like it.

- The opening numbers for the last Japanese cinema hope at the box office Ooku is in, and it’s definitely not a TBS-sized disaster. In fact, it made 240 million yen, a 111% of Nakama Yukie’s “Shinobi.” While it’s by no means a great feat, it’s a pretty good number considering it’s an adaptation of a drama about internal bickering among Japanese royalty women.

- I’ll be on vacation starting tomorrow, off in Japan and Hong Kong until January 11th. Hopefully, it’ll mean good food, good shopping, and of course, lots of good movies. I will continue to try and report on the latest news (which is looking more possible while I’m in Japan more than while I’m in Hong Kong.).

Until the weekend Hong Kong numbers come in, Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Confessions of Pain remake news

Many people through Martin Scorsese’s The Departed would’ve featured Brad Pitt because the rights were bought by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B. According to today’s Oriental Daily in Hong Kong, Plan B may be interested to repeat its success by buying the remake rights to Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Confession of Pain.

The question is why? Confession of Pain is part of the murder mystery genre that Hollywood has done over the years. Then again, I haven’t seen it yet, so maybe that’s why I haven’t seen one reason why anyone should buy remake rights for a story Hollywood has probably done before.

Edit: Just realizing that the page will be gone to make way for tomorrow’s newspaper, I’ll post the original Chinese text that mentions the news here:

畢 彼 特 前 年 買 下 《 無 間 道 》 版 權 拍 成 電 影 《 無 間 道 風 雲 》 , 此 片 最 近 更 威 盡 美 國 的 「 星 獎 」 , 據 知 , 畢 彼 特 食 髓 知 味 , 對 劉 偉 強 新 作 《 傷 城 》 亦 感 興 趣 , 記 者 就 傳 聞 向 電 影 公 司 求 證 , 發 言 人 承 認 確 有 荷 里 活 片 商 斟 洽 《 傷 城 》 版 權 , 但 就 未 肯 透 露 詳 情 !

And a rough, non-professional translaton by me here:

Limited releases everywhere

I usually talk about wide releases, so I figure it’s time we recognize some films in limited release around the world.

Olivier Marchal’s 36 Quai des Orfevres, which I saw in Hong Kong in March 2005 (and was quick to be compared to Infernal Affairs), is currently in fairly successful limited run in Tokyo. Playing in one theater, it found an audience of 1200 over its two-day opening weekend, earning 1,700,000 yen. If that doesn’t sound very impressive by pure numbers, look at the theater - one-screen, 150-seat theater, showing the film 4 times a day. 1200 people, divided by 8 shows (over two days), and that an average of 150 people per showing. Personally, I think the film had a very good script supported by strong performances, but bogged down by a lack of fluid pacing and distracting music cues. Still, it’s great to see any film score such a strong opening weekend.

(source: Eiga Consultant)

Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima and Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower also faced off in limited release this past weekend in America. Since CURSE was on 60 screens and LETTERS was only on 5, the only way to declare a winner is to look at per-screen average. While the estimates show a LETTERS win with a US$15, 300 per-screen average (and CURSE getting only 8,150), both films can be considered disappointments. LETTERS is nowhere near some of the biggest limited opening weekends for foreign films - Motorcycle Diaries had a 53, 273 per-screen, and even House of Flying Daggers had a 26498 per-screen in 15 theaters. Maybe as the awards continue to roll in for LETTERS, its performance will get better. I would’ve seen it on Wednesday, but I didn’t even know it had come out in San Francisco because I haven’t seen one ad for it.

(source: Box Office Mojo)

New trailers!

It’s been a real exciting week in the trailer world - First we got the first real live-action Transformers trailer (which looks like another Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor without any of the seriousness or romance….well, one can only hope), then we got Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 13 teaser (hey, I actually dug Ocean’s Twelve, believe it or not), we also have Tarantino/Rodriguez’s Grindhouse teaser, which is looking like the best guilty pleasure of 2007 (and by that I mean it’s not gonna be any good by any artistic measure, just good ol’s trashy fun.). Finally, we have the teaser for Black Snake Moan, from Craig Brewer, the director of Hustle and Flow, starring Samuel L. “enough of these muthaf*cking snakes on this muthaf*cking plane” Jackson and Christina “Addams Family” Ricci. Looks like a lot of fun.

I also just found the trailer for the new film by Peter Berg (actor, director of “Friday Night Lights“), The Kingdom. Looks like Munich for the “war on terrorism” age.

Poor Park

Poor Park Chan-Wook. Here’s a man who makes movies that have been both artistically and commercially successful (although I have no idea why a movie like Oldboy would be commercially successful anywhere.), but when he tries to get out of the box and do a romantic comedy like I’m a Cyborg, But It’s OK, they pull the plug on him after two weeks. Not only that, it’s getting pulled for a crappier martial arts adventure. Talk about getting no respect.

(source: Twitch)

Confessions of Pain reviews

Despite the presence of Hong Kong’s most overworking director (and by that I mean overediting, overwriting) Andrew Lau, I was looking forward to Confessions of Pain - two actors facing off in solving a complicated murder mystery. It’s a typical Hollywood buddy movie, except both characters are the straight-faced leading men, so everything is played more serious than ever. Nevertheless, with the Infernal Affairs team, I’m looking for at least something well-written and probably horribly directed. But at least it’d be well-written.

The reviews are out, and it’s not looking well. While I’m personally waiting for Lovehkfilm’s Kozo to weight in on it, the first “official” review is from Malaysia’s Cinema Online. The reviewer finds the movie servicable, but it “never quite finds its pulse.” However, I’d take film reviews of films with possibly controversial aspects from Malaysia with a grain of salt, because from what I understand, the censors would take out possibly objectionable content (something as innocent as a makeout scene). Correct me if I’m wrong.

On the other hand, the not-so-wise user comment section of are also quite mixed. Some are disappointed because they went in expecting another Infernal Affairs, some like it because of the script, and some hate the script, saying it feels like something from a TVB drama. Having grown up watching TVB dramas, I would say that is a pretty bad thing to call a film.

Hopefully, if the box office numbers hold up, I should be watching it in about 3 weeks or so, and then I can hate on it like everyone else.

I learnt the truth At 17

- As I hinted in my last entry, I will be on vacation starting next week. I’ll be in Japan from 12/26 through the new year to 1/11, and then Hong Kong from 1/11-1/24 (life of a new college graduate - travel). I tried to find a concert to go to in Japan, to no avail. It seems like the concerts I want to go to are all desperately out of reach. Luckily, I scored some tickets, thanks to the good folks at HK’s URBTIX, to the Denise Ho (AKA HOCC) concert on 1/20. Then, of course, I found just now that AT17 is holding a concert on from 1/3-1/5 in Hong Kong. Disappointment is me.

Oh, well, I’ll just buy this to make up for it.

Opening numbers, closing numbers, and some weekend numbers.

- The Thursday opening day box office numbers are in, and it’s no contest - Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower is in first with HK$1.07 million on 43 screens (That’s a HK$24,883 per-screen), Confessions of Pain in a far second with HK$830,000 on 45 screens (a HK$18444 per-screen), Casino Royale at third with HK$700,000 on 36 screens (a HK$19444 per-screen), Happy Feet at fourth with HK$460,000 on 34 screens (HK$13,529 per-screen - don’t let this one fool you, though. Those numbers will pick up by the weekend), and Eragon with a measly 160,000 on 31 screens.

Except for Casino Royale and Happy Feet possibly switching places by the end of the weekend, the top 4 films should continue to do very strong numbers over the 3-day weekend.


- The official numbers from the Japanese box office also came in. Looks like NANA2 may still have a chance at hitting the all-important 10 billion yen mark after dropping only 20%, but it’s not going to be that 6th big Japanese film like everyone had predicted. Letters From Iwo Jima will probably stay strong through the new year with only a 26.5% drop in its second weekend. Hopefully, it’ll be strong enough so I can catch an English-subtitled version next week when I travel to Japan.

(source: Box Office Mojo)

- And the controversal Japanese drama of the season, 14 Sai no Haha (or 14-year old Mother), broadcasted its last episode to its highest ratings yet - 22.4%., and a final average of 18.4%, much much stronger than the drama from the same timeslot the previous season. I think most of the ratings came from the thematic controversy, since the show itself is tame with its subject matter, turning its wagging finger on rich moms and nosy neighbors. This season’s strongest drama, Clinic of Dr. Koto 2006, wrapped up last night in Japan time, and ratings should be in any time now.


And so it begins…

And here comes another new blog on Asian cinema that the internet doesn’t need. Let’s just dive right into it, shall we?

- The big Christmas movies are opening this weekend in Hong Kong. On the Chinese corner is Zhang Yimou-Chow Yun-Fat-Gong Li-and-her-cleavage-and-overrated Jay Chou’s Curse of the Golden Flower vs. Andrew Lau-Alan-Mak-Tony Leung Chiu-Wai-Takeshi Kaneshiro’s murder mystery Confessions of Pain. This one is hard to call - both films should attract teenage girl-worthy audiences (thanks to the films’ respective idol power), but Golden Flower will also be attracting the over-40 crowd (thanks to Chow Yun-Fat AND Gong Li), while Confessions will be bringing in the all-important 25-40 crowd (thanks to the Infernal Affairs team’s presence).

On the half-American/half-Hong Kong side, we have Penguin-dancing Happy Feet, with the Hong Kong voice talents of Justin Lo, Stephy Tang, and Vincent Kok. It certainly doesn’t match up to the English version’s talent roster of Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, and Robin Williams, but look for the family and teenage girl crowd to flock to this one.

Kind of continuing, maybe opening once and for all, we have the new James Bond flick Casino Royale. It had a pretty strong preview week, playing in less theaters than Eragon (thus a lower gross), but it maintained a higher per-screen average as of Tuesday’s gross is concerned (CASINO’s HK$10,000 on 33 screens vs. ERAGON’s HK$7600 on 50 screens. US$1=HK$7.78). With a full-on opening, it should have a fairly strong weekend.

We also have the second weekend of Eragon, which may take away some of the family-friendly business away, but Happy Feet will probably come in and make Eragon’s second weekend pretty miserable. Again, Thursday’s gross will be the biggest indicator.

In limited release, there is no new limited release this weekend. Hence, Paris je t’aime, which already had two strong weekends playing on 3 screens, should hang in there with only 2 screens/3 showings a day. Little Miss Sunshine dwindles down to two screens with two showings a day, it may still have a fighting chance at the top ten come Sunday, but it looks like it’s going to be between Confessions of Pain, Curse of the Golden Flower, Happy Feet, Casino Royale, and Eragon.

The Nativity Story is still playing on quite a few screens, and Christmas is coming up. But honestly, who am I kidding? It’ll be pretty much gone this weekend.


- In DVD news, Johnnie To’s box-office disappointment and critically acclaimed Exiled is out, and there’s no doubt that come March, Johnnie To will be holding a Hong Kong Film Award. The only question is for which film - Election 2 or Exiled?

- In Japan, TBS-Toho has been dealt with a double blow after NANA2 flopped last weekend. This weekend, the legendary Kon Ichikawa’s remake of his own film Murder of the Inugami Clan also flopped, grossing only 130 million yen over the weekend (US$1=118 yen). Looks like Japanese’s film only hope left at the holiday box office (I’m not counting Letters from Iwo Jima because of its Hollywood connections) is Fuji’s TV-drama adaptation Ooku, starring Nakama Yukie. Look for the usual anime film versions and Letters from Iwo Jima to rule again.
(sources: Eiga Consultant, MovieWalker) Copyright © 2002-2019 Ross Chen