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Archive for January, 2007

Slow news day

- Official figures at the Japanese box office are out, with The Departed taking a 36%(!) tumble after a large screen expansion, despite its number of Oscar nominations. Even Marie Antoinette has now surpassed The Departed at the box office, holding on at 3rd place. As reported yesterday, Japanese film Dororo takes the top spot, and Pursuit of Happyness has a surprisingly high (at least to the Eiga Consultant) opening at second place. He attributes his shock to the fact that Will Smith has not done well in Japan when he play down-to-earth roles, considering that the opening is 393% of Hitch’s opening in Japan. Then again, romantic comedies rarely do well in Japan anyway.

Source: Box Office Mojo, Eiga Consultant.

- Jason Gray has put up a report on what is now officially the best year for Japanese films ever here.

- Two new works by me are up - my article on Japanese comic adaptations (a large thanks to Shelley at Yesasia for updating the 4-month article), and my review of the comic adaptation Honey and Clover.

A Case of the Monday (or I suppose MUUUNNDAY)

- Results are out for the first weekend for Dororo, and Eiga Consultant himself was quite excited, and for a good reason. The major blockbuster, co-produced by TBS and Universal Japan (among others), made 450 million Yen over the weekend, and is the first hit for Toho (the distributor) in a half year after a string of flops in Nana 2 and Murder of the Inugami Clan. English version of analysis can be found in Hoga Central here.

- Twitch reports that the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society has announced its nominees for the first ever Asian Film Awards, which is to run along with the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The official list of nominees at the official site is here. The report from Twitch is here.

Nice to see Exiled getting the love, but sadly only in the best film and best director categories (I thought the editing was top-notch, more later), and there’re even political choices like Curse of the Golden Flower’s best picture nomination. At least it’s not Rob-B-Hood.

- Saw Exiled over the weekend, and it simply rocks. Johnnie To channeling Sergio Leone is an exhilarating thing to watch.

Sorry, the fanboy in me just had to post some stills.

Hey, that song sounds like something I should be singing

- The new My Little Airport single “Graduation turns to Unemployment” is pricking my thin school-less jobless skin very hard. One of the verses goes like this:

I had 39 job interviews in 7 months/Finding a job is harder than finding a husband/I only want to stay at home today.

You can download it on their official site here. Click on the headphone icon (I suggest using some kind of download program like getright because it’s kind of an unstable server.)

- American Box Office estimates are out with Epic Movie on top (honestly, why?). Forget the top 3 films, they’re too depressing (Epic Movie, Smokin’ Aces (I expected more from Joe Carnahan after Narc), and Night at the Museum, in case anyone wanted to know). Pan’s Labyrinth is holding up well after the added screens, The Departed gets a surprisingly over-2000-per-screen-average after a rerelease thanks to its Oscar nominations, Letters From Iwo Jima (which more people should be watching) is up 29% after its added screens, Babel (which I still think is an incredible film) also holding up very well after its nominations were announced. Children of Men, unfortunately, dropped another 45% despite its 3 nominations and just being a generally great film. And yet, the top movie in America is a lame recreation of every other blockbuster that doesn’t even follow the type of parody its title suggests to do.

Looks like Curse of the Golden Flower figure in the states will stay around 6 million, falling even lower than House of Flying Daggers (11 million)and far below Hero (53 million).

Source: Box office Mojo

- Hong Kong box office for Sunday also out. As with last weekend, Blood Diamond and Happy Birthday take the top spots again, with Blood Diamond holding up really well, scoring HK$650,000 on 31 screens (not a spectacular Sunday gross, but really good for a second week film) with the over-140-minute-inflation-ticket-price for a HK$5.82 million total. Look for it to cross the HK$ 10 million line. Happy Birthday does HK$470,000 on 33 screens for HK$5.34 million so far, and it may hit up to 8 million. Not bad for a film with just Louis Koo and Rene Liu. Babel is making a comeback with HK$220,000 on 14 screens (none of which probably is playing more than 2 or 3 showings a day) for 2.93 million so far. As for the new releases, Perfume - The Story of a Murderer is in third place, slightly up from the Thursday gross with HK$340,000 on 21 screens for a HK$1.21 million total so far. It’ll be one of the higher grossing German films in recent years, but don’t expect it to pass the HK$4 million line. Midnight Sun is DOA with just 160,000 on 16 screens for 550,000 so far. Eternal Summer not as up as I thought with just 80,000 on 8 screens (as opposed to 70,000 on 8 screens on Thursday). Marie Antoinette, however, is holding up very well with 80,000 on just 4 screens. Its total is at 760,000 after 8 days. It’s not exactly a Japan-sized success, but it’s pretty damn good for a 4-theater release.


Nippon Saturday

- This weekend’s big release over in Japan is the manga adaptation Dororo. Long considered as the first major blockbuster of 2007, it’s adapted from legendary artist Osamu Tezuka, stars rumored romantic couple Shibasaki Kou and Satoshi Tsumabuki, and features the talent of Hero choreographer Ching Siu-Tung. A review (link thanks to Ryuganji) by the Daily Yomiuri is out and it’s here.

- Saw Blood and Bones last night (review by Twitch here), and it’s all true - Takeshi Kitano does play a bastard with almost no redeeming quality and there’s no Hollywood comeuppance here, he’s pretty much like that all the way up to the end. It’s an unflinching portrait of a monster who rules his Korean-Japanese neighborhood with an iron fist, and yet it’s compelling enough to hold my attention for all of its 144 minutes, but it’s compelling because it’s so unflinching. There’s no doubt that it’s not an easy movie to watch - “Beat” Takeshi literally spends his first scene raping his wife in front of their young daughter - but it’s a tragic journey worth watching. Considered yourself warned - it earns its category-III rating pretty early on.

Happy friday

Some trailers today:

- Two for Hong Kong New Waver Patrick Tam’s After This Our Exile, which has been winning awards all over Asia.

trailers courtesy of the Japanese “Trailer blog” here.

- US trailer for Hot Fuzz, the latest film from the Shaun of the Dead team of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Looks to be a sharp take on the buddy action/serial killer genre. Where else can you see a man drop kick an old lady?

trailer courtesy of Dave’s Trailer Page here.

- There’s also the latest teaser for the new Danny Boyle film “Sunshine,” starring Gillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, and Hiroyuki Sanada.

Link courtesy of Dark Horizon is here

- A German producer has come out and attack German film critics for bashing his two latest films - “Perfume - The Story of a Murderer” and “Mein Fuehrer: The Truly Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler” - despite being box office successes. Report from Twitch is here.

- Two recommendations - the brilliant Children of Men, which has some of the greatest long takes since Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, and the funky new album from Khalil Fong, which includes what is already one of my favorite songs for 2007 (”Foursome,” a duet with the not-so-Mandarin-proficient Fiona Sit).

Box office numbers and predictions

- In the Japanese box office this past weekend, the biggest Japanese film opening was “Shall We Dance” director Masayuki Suo’s first film in 11 years “Soredemo Boku wa yattenai” (Even then, I Still Didn’t Do It). It’s gotten some strong reviews , but it garnered only a 116 million yen opening on 203 screens for a 5th place opening. However, Hoga Central reports that it’s expected to hit that ever-important billion yen mark. We’ll see if the power of word of mouth will work as well as it has for Yoji Yamada’s “Bushi no Ichibun”

source: Box Office Mojo, Hoga Central.

- Meanwhile, Johnnie To’s Election is being released is one theatre in Japan, and Japan Times has a very positive review for it.

source: Japan Times.

- Thursday numbers are out for Hong Kong. Look for Blood Diamond and Happy Birthday to lead the pack again. The biggest performer of this week’s opening, and the widest release, is Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, which did HK$160,000 on 21 screens (with a 7619 per-screen average) for third place. The Japanese film “Taiyo no Uta” (or called Midnight Sun in Hong Kong) opened with only $90,000 on 16 screens, despite advertising around the city and radio play for the theme song. Taiwanese film “Eternal Summer” (nicknamed as the male version of “Blue Gate Crossing”) opened with a decent HK$70,000 on 8 screens (a decent 8750 per-screen), bringing its total to $HK100,000 (including the advance screenings this past weekend). It’ll do strong but limited numbers for the weekend, thanks to the category-III rating and the limited amount of theatres.


So the winner of the Hong Kong box office holiday battle is actually Casino Royale. However, this is only winner in dollar amount because it seems that any films longer than 140 minutes would mean an increase of HK$10 in admissions (Casino Royale runs a hefty 146 minutes, and Babel gets the same treatment since its running time is 142 minutes). If an average ticket price in Hong Kong is HK$50, this would mean the final gross have been inflated as much as 20%. If the actual attendance number is counted a la Korean box office figures, Curse of the Golden Flower may’ve won the final battle. We’ll never know.

Vacation Report

As you all know, I was on an extended vacation the past 4 weeks. In Japan, I couldn’t think of much filming locations to go to, and I only saw one film (Letters From Iwo Jima). But once I was in Hong Kong (which is my home more than a vacation spot, really), I went all out and watched 7 movies and saw some popular (and maybe not-so-popular) filming locations.

The video store from Fulltime Killer

The famous escalator in a lot of Hong Kong films

The restaurant that Wong Kar-wai filmed both In the Mood For Love and 2046 in. As you can see, the owners have decided to cash in with a 2046 set meal, which includes rib eye steak, a nice soup, among a lot of other stuff. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time nor the company to go. Maybe next time.

I also managed to catch:
Curse of the Golden Flower - a beautiful looking but fairly weak film from Zhang Yimou. A strong performance from Gong Li and elegant-looking set design keep things interesting enough, but a charisma-less Jay Chou and uninspired direction in the first half keeps the film from beign a true success.

Confession of Pain - the new slick blockbuster from the team of Alan Mak and Andrew Lau is again overdirected, flashy, and full of nice-looking stars. However, even great production values can’t save a misguided script that wants to both be a compelling mystery and, as Tim Youngs said, a depiction of how the perfect crime goes wrong. It has bright spots here and there, but an overall failure, nevertheless.

Paris Je T’aime - the omnibus of 18 short films by directors from around the globe is a lovely tribute to Paris, the city of lovers. Standouts include the surreal segment by the Coen Brothers, the hyper installment by Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer (starring Natalie Portman), the 4-minute long take segment by Children of Men’s Alfonso Cuaron, a bittersweet little segment by Election’s Alexander Payne, among many others. The only really bad one I can remember is Christopher Doyle’s, who ventures so deep into narcissism and artistic pretentiousness that it throws off the entire film for the duration of his segment. Other than that, a charming collection of short films that I would love to revisit. (A lot of these individual segments are actually on Youtube now, but I recommend watching this in theatres. It’ll be released in May in the states).

Flags of Our Fathers - An examination of the effect of battle after the war rather than about the battle itself (that’s more what Letters from Iwo Jima does), Flags feels like a minor effort from the master. The film itself works, but it loses focus along the way as it concentrate its screen time on the bond tour, making the battle itself an afterthought. Those who expect a true examination of the Iwo Jima battle is better off with Letters From Iwo Jima. It’s a good film, but you heard right - it’s not a great one.

Happy Birthday - Jingle Ma was never quite my cup of tea. His cinematography skills is nice (although i never liked his signature soft-lighting), but the man seems to have trouble with making a decent film. However, with the combined forces of Sylvia Chang and Teresa Tang (the original creator of the Sammi Cheng-Andy Lau film Needing You - she wrote the radio drama and the subsequent novel that I enjoy quite a bit) comes my favorite Jingle Ma film thus far. Starring Louis Koo and Rene Liu (who is in this because she wrote the original short story, but far too old for the role), Happy Birthday is a sometimes-affecting on-and-off romance that spans 10 years. It looks really pretty (even with that soft-lighting) and Rene Liu is quite good in her role (despite the aforementioned age problem), but it indulges in too many small details (a typical characteristic in Sylvia Chang’s films) to the point that the film gets a little too slow. Still a very good start to 2007 and much better than Men Suddenly in Black 2, the last producing effort from Eric Tsang.

Kung Fu Mahjong 3- Let’s pretend I didn’t watch this one.

Marie Antoinette - It looks beautiful, and the soundtrack is great, but it’s also a bit empty as Sofia Coppola relies on her visuals to compensate for a rather thin screenplay about the overindulgent queen of France. I wanted to like it, but I ended up being kind of bored most of the time.

I also bought a lot of DVDs, including Exiled, Blood and Bones (which is said to include a brilliant performance by Takeshi Kitano), Memories of Matsuko, some Japanese dramas, and the VCD for The World Except Japan Sinks. I honestly don’t know where to start.

Reversing Nanking?

When I was in Japan, I saw right-wing political groups with a van and a microphone standing in the middle of crowded areas making crazy right-wing nationalist statements. People tend to ignore it, or even mock it. Rightfully so, I’d say.

In that vein, a shocking report this morning came out. Apparently in response to the new documentary “Nanking,” based on the controversial Iris Chang book “The Rape of Nanking” and premiered recently at Sundance, Japanese filmmaker Satoru Mizushima has announced that he will make his own documentary to present his own version of “what really happened” in Nanking. The film, titled “The Truth about Nanking,” will be released in December for the anniversary of the massacre, where it’s been generally acknowledged that over 200,000 Chinese were killed in an invasion by the Japanese Imperial Army. The film has the support of several conservative house members and Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, who also wrote his own nationalist film to be released in May - “Ore wa Kimi no Tame ni Shi ni Iku” (”For You, I Go To My Death”).

Japan Times
Variety Asia
Daily Mainichi

Note that around that time, there will also be a film adaptation of “The Rape of Nanking,” co-produced by China released.

And we complain about right-wingers in America.

Back to normal

Back from a very long vacation to find a few shocking things happened in the Asian film world:

- The death of Grady Hendrix’s Kaiju Shakedown. This is probably one of favorite sites on the net, and major news outlet for this blog. Grady, I hope you’re on the way to bigger and better things as I type. Rest assured, though, the news reported on this website should not decrease by much, thanks for strong sites such as Twitch and the newly discovered Variety Asia. The link section will be duly corrected.

- The choices for This year’s Hong Kong Critics Society Awards seems rather strange, with a Mainland sweep of the acting awards, and some strange omissions of excellent films such as Isabella and My Name is Fame (for Confession of Pain and Wo Hu instead?)

- Marie Antoinette getting second place in the first weekend’s box office in Japan with the highest per-screen average for a wide release (The Departed may be the box office winner, but it’s in a limited 61-screen release). It’s also doing very well in limited release in Hong Kong, where I watched a 2:50 pm show on a tuesday afternoon in an almost-full house. As of Tuesday the 23rd, it’s earned HK$440,000 after 4 days of release on 4 screens.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow, some reviews of the 8 movies I saw on this trip, and some more number crunching.

The year’s first post

First of all, happy new year to everyone out there. I’m currently in Japan, and since I’m staying with my girlfriend’s family, and it’s new years in Japan, I don’t have much chance to write entries. Which is also why I won’t be elborating on much of the news today:

-Hong Kong holiday box office is dying down a little bit, and after the lead by Curse of the Golden Flowers, Confession of Pain is making a bit of a comeback. As of Tuesday’s numbers, Confession of Pain is leading with HK$560,000 on 41 screens versus CURSE’s HK$450,000 on 44 screens. The total, however, is still led by CURSE’s 17.25 million vs. CONFESSION 16.26 million. The overall winner of the holiday box office race is so far Casino Royale, still going strong on Tuesday with HK$530,000 on 34 screens and a HK$18.16 million total.

Of course, all of could, but not likely, change with the release of The Holiday, Deja Vu, and Nana 2. The two American films may impact the Casino Royale business, and since the first NANA only did moderate numbers when it opened in Hong Kong, it should simply place a small wedge between the current leaders.

-Went to a half-full English-subtitled showing of Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima. While it needed some editing towards the end, and a bit more historical context (maybe the American print would have this?), I thought it was a very powerful exploration into the futility of both war and the glorification of it. It asks question of what is honor at the time of war, and it is fairly diplomatic by not asking which side is more evil. Overall a good film with very strong acting, very strong directing, but albeit a slightly detaching film as well. I’m glad it’s doing well in Japan, but a little disappointed the numbers aren’t better in America. This deserves to be seen in a big screen and loud speakers. I will also try and catch Flags of Our Fathers in Hong Kong.

In conclusion, it’s not better than Babel, but it’s still one of the best films of the year. Copyright © 2002-2019 Ross Chen