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Archive for February, 2007

All over the map

Update’s a little late today, but that’s ok.

- Updating late enough means I caught Hong Kong’s Thursday box office numbers. Sometimes I think I need to live in Hong Kong to understand release patterns. Case in point - the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore romcom Music and Lyrics have been on the top 10 since Valentine’s Day. Not very good results (actually the bottom spot among the new Lunar New Year films), but still respectable. But now it’s overtaken everything except Protege and Night at the Museum to take 3rd spot on its official opening day. It earned HK$450,000 on 31 screens for a HK$3.20 million total already.

As mentioned before, Night at the Museum and Protege continue to own the box office, taking in HK$2.18 million and $1.25 million respectively. Protege seems to be showing a bit of a slowdown, but business should pick up this weekend again, and at a total of 18.02 million so far, it’ll at least reach the 25 million mark, which would make it the Hong Kong film to beat for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, It’s a Wonderful Life closes in on the HK$6 million point with HK$410,000 on 33 screens on Thursday, and Twins Mission does HK$370,000 on 26 screens to get past the HK$4 million mark.

According to today’s Oriental Daily (no link because content changes daily)Gold Label’s head honcho Paco Wong is satisfied with It’s a Wonderful Life’s mediocre performance since it’s only Ronald Cheng’s directorial debut. Right, Paco, it has nothing to do with quality at all, I’m sure.

Source: mov3.com

- Speaking of Protege, Kozo at Lovehkfilm posted his long-awaited review, and simply said: it’s good. Not great, but pretty good.

- What I want to discuss more though, is his own Lovehkfilm 2006 awards. I didn’t come up with a top 10 for 2006 because 1) it was too late by the time I came back from vacation, and 2) As a film studies major trying to finish his degree in film studies, it’s tough to catch up on new films (although this is the first year in a long time that I’ve actually caught all 5 of the Academy Awards best picture nominee. More on that on Sunday).

Anyway, agreed on most of the top 10 (only mostly because I have yet to see My Wife is a Belly Dancer, and I’m only half way through After This Our Exile). Can’t agree on bottom 10 because I’ve only seen two of those (but no Love@First Note? Too charitable, I say). Most agreed on the special award to Gold Label (”For the dubious achievement of somehow making EEG look good”), and agreed on the best overacting award. Make your own judgments from there.

- Twitch has discovered a new database for those who just can’t seem to remember the faces of those HK actors that appear in every other movie. I say they need one for Korean films….

- I love the Hong Kong International Film Festival. They get all kinds of movies that I would not be able to catch here in the States (or in the case of my experience at the HKIFF, movies I couldn’t catch during my year in Japan). Too bad I live in San Francisco, not Hong Kong.

Anyway, this year’s lineup has been announced, and it seems like there are so many films that they can’t even fit in a closing film. I have a few personal picks myself - the opening films (Eye in the Sky and I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK), Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust, Sakuran, Woman on the Beach, Love and Honor, and almost everything in the Hong Kong Panorama section. They even have Berlin winner Tuya’s Marriage, and a Herman Yau tribute featuring the infamous Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome. I’m not saying I want to see those two, I’m just saying they should be very interesting screenings.

- It’s been floating around for a couple of days, but I didn’t want to report it because it’s such bad news. But now it’s been confirmed by auteur Rob Cohen (excuse while I vomit) that Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh will be in The Mummy 3. Jet Li will play a head mummy of the Terracotta Army. Excuse me while I go vomit some more.

- Personal favorite Shiina Ringo has a new album out that I posted an external review for a few days ago. Better news is that it debuted at number 1 on its first day of release. I’m gonna be ordering a copy of this myself when I dig up the 30 bucks needed to buy it, but rest assured, I’m gonna love it too.

- Oops, they did it again. Another Japanese TV station has admitted to presenting false data. Same old, same old.

- Top Japanese studio Toho’s chairman Isao Matsuoka will receive the lifetime achievement award at this year’s Showest convention. How about honoring him by putting more Japanese films on American screen?

Source: Variety Asia.

- If you haven’t checked out Japander, you really should. It features Hollywood star in all kinds of Japanese commercial ranging from awesome to strange to just plain mediocre. I mention this because Japan Zone has announced that Madonna will be advertising for some new apartment complexes set to open in 2009. Other stars mentioned in the report include Jean Reno, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Ken Watanabe. I myself saw one featuring Richard Gere in a subway station in Tokyo.

- Hoga Central just announced that the blockbuster Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea (just not as catchy as Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World or Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, or Norbit: From Unfunny to Plain Disgusting) has had its distribution rights sold to 60 countries, including Iraq (a film about a conqueror that wants to rule the world. hmm……). Of course, none of this is any indication that it’ll be any good.

- The Saturn Awards (Or Academy Awards for fantasy films) has recognized quite a few Asian films. For instance:

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

Apocalypto (Buena Vista)
The Curse of the Golden Flower (Sony Pictures Classics)
Fearless (Rogue / Focus)
The Host (Magnolia Pictures)
Letters From Iwo Jima (Warner Bros.)
Pan’s Labyrinth (Picturehouse)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUNGER ACTOR

Ko A-Sung (The Host) (Magnolia Pictures)
Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth (Picturehouse)
Jodelle Ferland (Tideland) (ThinkFilm)
Tristan Lake Leabu (Superman Returns) (Warner Bros.)
Mitchel Tate Musso (Monster House) (Sony)
Edward Speleers (Eragon) (20th Century Fox)

BEST COSTUME

Joan Bergin (The Prestige) (Buena Vista)
Yee Chung-Man (Curse of the Golden Flower) (Sony Classics)
Penny Rose (Pirates of the Caribbean:
Dead Man’s Chest) (Buena Vista)
Judianna Makovsky (X-Men: The Last Stand) (20th Century Fox)
Nic Ede (Flyboys) (MGM)
Sammy Sheldon (V For Vendetta) (Warner Bros.)

A complete list is here

- Twitch also reports today on the societal impact of recent Korean blockbuster 200-Pound Beauty.

- Lastly, Variety has posted its
review for David Fincher’s Zodiac. It’s sounding more and more like Memories of Murder, and that’s alright with me.

Whew, that was a lot of news. That should make up for the delay.

End of new year fun

With the new year holidays coming to an end in Hong Kong, it’s time to get back to the down and dirty. That’s right, it’s box office round up time:

- Tuesday numbers (or the third day of new year and the last day of the public holidays) indicate that Night at the Museum overwhelmingly wins the battle with a HK$2.94 million take on Tuesday from 45 screens for a HK$19.94 million total (even though it got a $2.5 million head start with previews). On the Hong Kong side, Protege trumps its competitors by a mile with a HK$2.07 million Tuesday take from 40 screens for a HK$14.94 million total. Note that in multiplexes, it’s playing on smaller screens (because Night at the Museum took the one large screen in these theaters), and with a really good word-of mouth, it’s gonna do pretty well in the long run.

As for the other Hong Kong films, Ronald Cheng’s “directorial debut” It’s a Wonderful Life (review by LovehkFilm here) scored HK$810,000 on Tuesday from 33 screens for a total of HK$4.71 million total after 7 days. It’s the obligatory “fun lunar new year movie,” so expect business to be brisk past this week, but it will finish under $10 million, which is nowhere near the success of Dragon Loaded 2003, but still better than last years’ Lunar New Year offering The Shopaholics.

Not doing so hot are those cute Twins, whose Twins Mission (website still not working!) found HK$640,000 on 26 screens for only a HK$3.24 million total after 6 days. However, looking at per-screen average, it’s actually doing better than the Gold Label gang, so who knows?

Family films Open Season and Charlotte’s Web did acceptable business on Tuesday (HK$530, 000 on 27 screens and HK$560,000 on 28 screens, respectively) and are tied at HK$2.38 million for totals. And in limited release, Borat continues to be huge with HK$60,000 on 2 screens, and a HK$1.06 million total.

(US$1=HK$7.8)
Source: mov3.com

- South Korea also had its new year holidays, and according to Variety Asia (specifically, the always-reliable Darcy Paquet), box office is actually down overall, while Mark Russell over at Korea Pop Wars report the drop is attributed to new years being on a Sunday. Anyway, Mark’s analysis is here.

- In Japan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has concluded that Japanese Variety shows need more fact-checking in a report about the investigation into the research process of such shows. Details from Variety Asia are here.

- On that note, the new years installment of TVB variety show Beautiful Cooking is up on Youtube (I’m not condoning piracy here, I’m just taking advantage of the free flow of information). Essentially, it’s a show where three females celebrities go on the show and test their cooking skills (or often, the lack thereof) for the male judges. Of course, it features the same old canned laughter and lame musical segments that only TVB can think of. Most amusing is Alex Fong Lik-Sun lip-syncing to the theme song to It’s a Wonderful Life, except he even lip-synced to Tony Leung Ka-Fai’s line.

Through further research on Youtube, I have found a long-running Japanese variety show called “Ai no Apron” (or the Apron of Love), and it’s basically where the cooking skills of female idols are tested for a male judge…wait a minute, that sounds like exactly what Beautiful Cooking is! This Wikipedia entry in Japanese shows that it at least goes back as far as 2005 (Beautiful cooking debuted in fall 2006)And here are those poor posters of Asian Fanatics Forum believing that TVB has come up with something original. Unless TVB’s got the rights to it, they better start preparing for a lawsuit.

This is why there should be free flow of information on the internet.

Note: looking up “Ai no Apron” or “愛のエプロン“( Japanese name) will not get you any result on youtube because of the copyright claims by Japan’s copyright people. Sorry.

- Back to more positive things, Twitch has a great interview with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (whose new film Sakebi is coming out soon in Japan). But the interview isn’t about his new film, but rather about Japan’s response to Clint Eastwood’s critically acclaimed Letters From Iwo Jima (which has finally made its way to the imdb top 250!). It’s very informative, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

- According to Hollywood Elsewhere, Shakespeare in Love has been voted by British voters as the most undeserving Oscar best picture winner. I partially agree, since it should’ve gone to Saving Private Ryan, easily. But what about Chicago? Crash? even Gladiator (which I really love, but even I gotta face the truth some time)? Hell, what about Forrest Gump? or Driving Miss Daisy?

The point is the Academy Awards often make wrong calls more often than right ones. It’s not the first, it won’t be the last. It took me a while, but I got over Crash winning….eventually.

- A congratulations to Yee Chung Man for his winning the Costume Designers Guild award for Curse of the Golden Flower. The multi-talented Yee is a director, production designer, art director, and of course, a costume designer who made the enjoyable And I Hate You So and Anna Magdalena, but has also worked on dozens of Hong Kong films.

Source: Variety Asia

- Thank heavens for RSS feeds. I just got the news that the Japanese blockbuster Dororo is now headed down the trilogy road. According to Ryuganji, 2 back-to-back sequels for Dororo has just been green-lit and is set for a 2009 release with a 6 billion yen budget (that’s US$50 million, very huge for a Japanese film). The original hasn’t even made that much yet!

- Oh, and the Resident Evil 3 trailer is up. Looks like Mad Max crosses The Mummy. blah.

Lastly, visits have been going way up, and I would like to thank Hoga Central, r@sardonicsmile.com, and my friend Jason for linking the site and bringing more visitors over. You guys rule.

Nippon Tuesday part 2

Let’s fly over to Japan first to see what’s going on out there:

- Japan weekend numbers are out, and as I mentioned last time, Dreamgirls debuted in second place with 200 million yen, which according to Eiga Consultant, is 72% of Chicago (also written by Bill Condon and made 3.5 billion yen) but 171% of the painful The Producers (which made 1 billion yen). Pending positive word of mouth, its total should come in around 2 billion yen, and be a solid little hit for Dreamworks/Paramount, even if they didn’t get those major Oscar nods.

Meanwhile, those pesky Dororo and Pursuit of Happyness are finally showing signs of waning, each dropping more than 30% after making tons of money. Surprisingly, last week’s newcomer Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust has some staying power, losing only 17% of its business, showing the second least decrease out of all the films in the top 10. The least decrease of the top 10 goes to the Japan-Korean co-production “26 Years Diary,” based on the true story of a Korean man who gave his life to save another on a train platform.

- Eiga Consultant also analyzes the performance of best foreign film nominee The Lives of Others (which is doing very good business in limited release in the States), currently showing in one theater in Tokyo. Its first three days, all holidays, brought in 3032 people, totaling a 4.49 million yen take (120 yen=1 dollar). While solid, it’s also only 94% of what Brokeback Mountain did in its first 3 days in that same theater, and unlike The Lives of Others, it didn’t open during a holiday weekend. Still, German films don’t exactly bring in as big a crowd as an English film would, which makes this start pretty good as it is.

- Now kind of to Hong Kong, where a Twitch columnist has posted her own review of the Fearless director’s cut, and she likes it a lot more than the theatrical cut. I haven’t seen it myself, but skimming through it, I agree it turns into a much different film - more of the ambitious epic that it aimed to be than the tremendously entertaining theatrical cut. I don’t know if it’s better yet, I’ll let you all know when I see it.

- Kind of halfway back to Hollywood, Hollywood Elsewhere has a link to an interview with The Departed screenwriter William Monahan, who also wrote the great Kingdom of Heaven, whose director’s cut is one of the greatest films that never got discovered. He answers questions about what he thinks about the original films, kind of hints about whether there’ll be a sequel, and why it won’t based on the original prequel/sequel combo. It’s a good interview, even when he’s not talking about Infernal Affairs or The Departed.

- I loved Children of Men. No doubt about it. And I love the brilliant cinematography even more. That’s why I’m so happy to see Variety reports that its cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has won the top feature film award at the American Society of Cinematographers award. Good for you, man. I’m pulling for him to win again at the Oscars this week.

- Lastly, Variety also posted its review of Hot Fuzz. Yeah, we know it’s gonna be good, we just like posting good news, is all.

Tomorrow, hopefully things are back up and running out in Hong Kong so we can get some box office numbers. It’s gonna be huge, just you see.

Trailer Monday

With the Lunar New Year holidays, there’s not much news coming out of Hong Kong, Korea, and China. But there are still some notable trailers released today:

- After Oxide Pang’s solo project Diary, it’s now Danny’s turn for his moment in the spotlight after the strange action flick Leave Me Alone with Forest of Death, starring Ekin Cheng and Shu Qi (a Young and Dangerous reunion!). The concept is based on the forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji that’s known for being a popular spot for people to hang themselves, especially after the economic bubble popped in the 1990s. Anyway, Twitch has a link to the new trailer, and….I don’t know.

Thanks to Twitch, I also found the Sina page for Kidnap, the new film by Law Chi-Leung, the sometimes talent director of Double Tap, Inner Senses and Koma. It stars Karena Lam (with a blond look seemingly inspired by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, another film about kidnapping. See here for reference.) and Rene Liu, and the not-quite-promising teaser is not showing much. Kidnap will be released in June, and the trailer is here.

And today came the trailer for one of the most anticipated films in my lifetime. That’s right, it’s the full-length trailer for The Simpsons Movie is out, and it’s awesome. As always, HD versions are available on Dave’s Trailer Page, and the film (honestly, even if it’s 90 minutes of random gags, I’d be very happy) will be released in the States on July 27th.

- At the box office, Japan has this weekend’s rankings out already, and Dororo takes first place again, while Dreamgirls debut in 2nd place. More when the actual numbers come out.

- On the rest of the world, Variety reports that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz scored US$11.6 million on its home turf in the UK this past weekend. Hopefully this will encourage Universal to push it further when the US release comes.

- Rounding up this Presidents Day is Japan drama ratings number. Kimura Takuya’s Karei Naru Ichizoku is back on top by rounding out the week with a 23.5 rating, while the Flower Boys continue at a 21.0 rating. More amazing is Haken No Hinkaku’s popularity. After showing its first decline in ratings last week, the comedy jumps up to its highest ratings yet again this week with a 20.7 rating. The average is now trailing very close behind those pesky Flower Boys. Even more amazing is the freefall Nakama Yukie’s drama this season, premiering with a 16.1, and now dropping to a new low with a 10.8 rating.

All the numbers are here (with drama titles in Japanese).

Update will come late or not at all tomorrow, so treasure this while you can.

Yo, dawg, I totally just lied

Happy new year to all my Asian brethren out there. I did promise a break, but it seems like there are quite a few news that I missed out on yesterday, so I’ll keep it short:

- Edison Chan, aside from being a rich pretty boy who, despite his aristocratic roots in Canada (note: not the birthplace of hip-hop), has promoted street culture by wearing and selling clothes that are probably too expensive to be worn on the streets, is now also a CEO!

That’s right, after constantly spelling out the word C-L-O-T in his musical appearance (at first I thought it was just to show his spelling abilities, but it’s actually his overpriced clothing store in Hong Kong), he has now started Clot Media Division., as in if you shelled out money to buy clothes at my store, you may have a blood clot in your brain.

Anyway, the report from the Daily Dumpling is here.

Better yet, why don’t we have our homeboy EDC himself tell you? I dare you find 5 grammatically correct English sentences in that entry. Yeah, son, ya best peep and represent.

- The Berlin Film Festival has come to an end. And a (seemingly Chinese censors-sanctioned) Chinese film takes the Golden Bear. That’s right, it’s not “Lost in Beijing,” it’s “Tuya’s Marriage,” a drama about a Mongolian women’s search for a new mate after her husband becomes disabled that scored the Golden Bear. The controversial, but critically acclaimed “Lost in Beijing,” on the other hand, did not score anything.

Meanwhile, Park Chan-wook finds his first overseas success for “I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK” by winning the Alfred Bauer Prize for innovative prize. According to a more detailed report by Twitch, Park asks her wife for forgiveness for being a director. “When I get home, I hope she will tell our friends, ‘My husband is a director but that’s OK,’” Park says in his acceptance speech.

That’s certainly more romantic that this touching statement.

Source: Variety

- A Shiina Ringo fan blog, who seems to know everything and anything about Shiina’s music, has released a review of Shiina’s latest album (also serves as a pseudo-soundtrack for Sakuran) Heisei Fuuzoku. It’s a positive review if you don’t listen to Shiina’s concerts, because the reviewer obsessively goes into how the arrangements for some songs are carried over from her previous concerts. Anyway, I look forward to the album when it comes out the 21st.

That’s it for today. Gong Hei Fat Choy to everyone out there in the blogosphere!

Gong Hei Fat Choy

Not gonna have much of a new years spirit here, since we do things very serious here (ha ha!). Let’s do a bit of everything today:

- Curtis Hanson is a filmmaker I’ve come to admire after L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile (I liked The River Wild too, but it’s no masterpiece). I’ve been looking forward to his latest, Lucky You, since it was scheduled for release last fall…except it never came out. It has a very solid cast - Eric Bana and Robert Duvall (the less said about Drew Barrymore, the better), and it’s co-written by the brilliant Eric Roth, who wrote The Insider and Munich (in this case, the less said about The Postman, the better). Cashing in on the fading popularity of Texas Hold ‘em poker, the film is finally going to open on May 4th (perhaps long enough that people can forget In Her Shoes, which I haven’t seen). The good news is that it’ll be opening the 2007 summer season. The bad news is that it’s going against Spiderman 3, which means Lucky You seems to be aiming for the “chick flick” market rather than the male poker-playing crowd.

Anyway, the third trailer is out, thanks to Dave’s Trailer Page (where you can find HD versions)
, and it still looks like a solid little flick.

- Twitch also brings us two trailers (one trailer, one teaser, actually): One for Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “Red Balloon” (Ballon Rouge), and a teaser for Takeshi Miike’s film version of the Japanese game “Ryu ga Gotoku” (better known in the states as Yakuza).

- Saw two films that seem to be worthy of comparison: Japan’s “The Sinking of Japan” and Korea’s mega-blockbuster “The Host.” Both films take formulas that Hollywood has mastered over the years and puts an Asian twists to them. However, the difference is astronomical.

“The Sinking of Japan” is about exactly what its title suggests: Japan sinks. Explained by a flurry of pseudo-science and a bunch of experiments (explained by on-screen text - giving a whole new meaning to visual storytelling), it basically blends docudrama and spectacle into possibly the most somber disaster pic since The Day After Tomorrow (which probably inspired this remake). With an unconvincing romance as the central plot, the film really takes off when things get destroyed - the special effects are awe-inspiring, with no one safe and everyone buying the farm, even though it’s done with such seriousness that unintentional humor breaks through far too often (the afro-wearing scientist, upon finding out that Japan has less time than expected, punches his computer monitor…which would not be good if that was the only evidence he has). Even though it does follow a certain Hollywood formula (the fate of Japan really does fall onto only one man’s hands), it doesn’t pretend to have any meaning beyond the island - scenes where politicians realize the rest of the world has abandoned Japan once it finds out the land and the economy are sinking fast is a sobering reminder of Japan’s role in the world. It makes for a fairly depressing time at the movies, especially when watching it in Japan, where frequent earthquakes are a part of daily life.

“The Host,” on the other hand, takes the same risk at genre conventions. But thanks to genuine characterizations and the sure-handed direction by Bong Joon-Ho, The Host is a thrilling good time. The humor, often black, is intentional and it even works. Unlike most Asian Hollywood clones, it even integrates some very Korean humor (I actually had to go to imdb to see explanations of a few jokes) so that it adds an extra layer for local audiences. I don’t have much else to say except to end with a wholehearted recommendation for it.

The American trailer for The Host is here (it opens in most of the country on March 9th).
The trailer for the spectacular, but depressing Sinking of Japan is here, courtesy of Twitch.

- Last night I saw the awesome Sonny Chiba in Karate Bear Fighter on IFC. Besides the obvious title (yes, Sonny Chiba does fight a bear barehanded, although it’s more like a guy in a bear suit most of the time), he also pulls a “Drunken Master” Jackie Chan by popping open a barrel of sake and drinks straight from the gaping hole as it pours out, and seeks guidance from a master whose trick is pushing a stick against Sonny Chiba’s eye….and by that, I mean the camera. It’s 85 minutes of karate awesomeness, and you should definitely seek out for it.

- Poor Mika Nakashima. After the success of her third album Music (not to mention Nana), she decided to try new things musically by doing the gospel thing with singles Cry No More and All Hands Together - and both were met with poor sales. So now with a hit drama to do a theme for, she’s back to her old ballad roots with the new single “Mienai Hoshi” (Invisible Stars). And what a coincidence that is just happens to sound like her first hit single Will.

Unless there’s any big news, I should be taking a break tomorrow. Will be back Monday with all kinds of useless Asian cinema and entertainment news.

Happy Happy Friday

The sun is out, the earth is warming up, let’s have some fun.

- First, trailer 2 for the highly-anticipated (at least among the male population of the country) self-masturbatory violent trash-fest Grindhouse. Hi-res version is here, but you can find the HD-versions at Dave’s Trailer Page.

I’ve been wanting to see Linda Linda Linda (essentially a rock version of Swing Girls, I presume) for a long time, but before it’s even going to be released on DVD here, the trailer for director Nobuhiro Yamashita’s new film is already out. I can’t read the title, but the trailer looks like a dark comedy set in the early 1990s about murder and some gold. Maybe a Japanese version of Fargo then? Trailer link, courtesy of the Japanese Trailer blog, is here (click on the first link).

- The Japanese Academy Awards results are out, and I was kind of right - Memories of Matsuko’s Tetsuya Nakashima did not get the best director’s award. Instead, it went to Hula Girl’s Lee Sang-Il. Apparently, since Hula Girls was not produced by the big three (Toho, Shochiku, and Toei), this is pointing to further diversity in the industry….even though Hula Girls’ fate was written in the wind when it was picked for Academy Award consideration last year.

Hoga Central analyzes the awards and has the winners list here.

- Follow-ups to two cases of the Japanese variety show scandals. TBS has apologized for a new case where they suggest Welfare Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa apologizing for the wrong comment! They made it seem like he was apologizing for suggesting that “healthy” families should have two children when he was apologizing for calling women “birth-giving machines.” Maybe TBS agrees with such sentiments…

Lest we not forget that TBS is already in trouble for the “misunderstanding” where they just brought some chimes to a rural school and did a report on how the school has used the chimes to help children study.

Then, Japan’s National Association of Commercial Broadcasters has suspended natto lovers Kansai Television’s membership for at least six months. What does it all mean?

“The suspension, which was unanimously approved by the board, means KTV will not be able to participate in org meetings and events, and its shows will not be eligible for NAB awards.”

but that means….what, exactly?

Both news courtesy of Variety Asia.

- Thursday numbers (and probably the last update for about a week or so thanks for Lunar New Year) are out for Hong Kong. Night at the Museum, as expected, ruled the theaters on 40 screens with HK$1.44 million for HK$6.10 million total already. Derek Yee’s Protege with a very solid 970,000 on 40 screens for a HK$4.19 million total. It should pass the 10 million mark by the end of the weekend, making it Yee’s highest grosser since One Night in Mongkok (which only did a very moderate just under 10 million in Hong Kong). Opening day for the other Hong Kong fares are not doing so well - the Twins’ homage (and I know I’m kind of pushing it there) to crappy 80s action films Twins Mission (whose website is impossible to find and it’s down) stole only HK$270,000 on 26 screens, while talented singer-songwriter turned class clown Ronald Cheng’s directorial debut It’s a Wonderful Life made only HK$220,000 on 33 screens on its second day, pointing to a not-too-bad 650,000 opening day. But the tremendous drop just got me thinking how many of these people don’t work for Gold Label? All the Western family movies are flopping with little signs of life until the weekend comes when the family may show up. We may just find out on Wednesday, after the public holidays are over.

Source: mov3.com

- Going over the China, it seems that the filmmakers behind the controversial Lost in Beijing has decided to screen the uncensored version for the public audience in Berlin, regardless of what the Chinese censors say. Ballsy move, indeed.

Source: Variety Asia

- I grew up watching movies by Hong Kong fallen giant Golden Harvest - I can still hum the jingle when the logo pops up. Even though they haven’t made any films for a while (I can claim that Vincent Kok brought it down, but that’d be mean), now they are coming back big time. Too bad, they seem like they’re going to be concentrating on the mainland market instead of making anymore real Hong Kong movies. Shame.

Source: Variety Asia

Speaking of Chinese new year, this blog may be taking a break on Sunday as well to observe Chinese new year, but unlike Hong Kong, I don’t push holidays back to weekdays, so rest assured (to you 22 people out there. yes, I check the visit stats), a day without me is all you can get.

Flying to Hollywood

It’s kind of a slow news day, so let’s talk about a bit of everything, including, yes, Hollywood.

- Aaron Eckhart, or sometimes the guy who plays the villain you love to hate, is joining the “Batman Begins” sequel “The Dark Knight,” playing Harvey Dent, or Two-Face (played by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever, if I’m not mistaken). This is following Heath Ledger’s casting as The Joker, and of course, Christian Bale will return as Batman himself. The kick-ass Christopher Nolan also returns as director/co-screenwriter.

Source: Variety

- Eiga Consultant is predicting the winners of the major awards at the Japan Academy Awards this Saturday. An analysis of it and an English translation by Hoga Central is here. Personally, I think this is pretty spot-on, even though I would’ve predicted Yoji Yamada’s “Love and Honor” as winner of best picture. But then again, since Hula Girls did get chosen as Japan’s representative for the Academy Awards, the committee isn’t about to piss off that other committee by choosing any other movie.

And looking at the past history of the awards, I think the committee is too conservative to hand a best director award to “Memories of Matsuko” director Tetsuya Nakashima. I think the bigger chance goes to, of course, Yoji Yamada, whose “Twilight Samurai” swept the awards while “The Hidden Blade” didn’t. The frequency of one single film being able to sweep the awards should say something about how conservative the committee can be.

The nominees list (in Japanese) is here.

- Reviews time:

Variety posted their first review of the highly-anticipated 300. Funnier, though, is how New York Post critic Lou Lumenick links to it here.

Lumenick also links a review of the critic-proof blockbuster Ghost Rider here.

- Remember when Korean films like “A Moment to Remember” and “April Snow” scored big in Japan? “April Snow” even made more money in Japan than in its native South Korea (arigato, Yon-sama). Well, that magic’s gone away, and it went away quickly. Now CJ Entertainment is just lucky to be able to sell Park Chan-Wook’s “I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK” to Japan. In fact, sales of Korean films to Japan has dropped by an astonishing 70%. That’s so sad that there’s no punchline to follow that up with.

Source: Variety Asia

- Finally, two humorous notes that has nothing to do with entertainment. Well, one of them kind of does.

People who’s read my review of Eason Chan’s album “What’s Going On…?” knows that I’m a huge fan of track 6 “Better Not to Meet.” Well, here’s a bittersweet version of it on youtube that laments the strengthening of the Chinese Renminbi against the Hong Kong dollar (it’s quite a serious issue in Hong Kong now. Back then, 100 Hong Kong dollars meant 140 renminbi. But now, it’s 100 Hong Kong dollar for roughly 99 renminbi.). It’s amusing and sad at the same time, really. (warning, in Chinese only)

Lastly, An anchorwoman in Hong Kong wrote a column about what true love to her means. Here is the translation. Here, however, is the original post in Chinese from a blog, where people criticize the columnist as a “typical Hong Kong woman” who expects men to give them everything. I think the best part of the post is the suggestion by the blogger, who says that if he encountered a girlfriend like that, he would follow up such “touching” words with “if my businesses fail and I would go bankrupt and crippled, would you give me back all those income that I’ve given you?”

True love? or selfishness?

Everyone’s feeling the love

While I’ll be staying at home with my DVD player tonight, many people out there are feeling the joy of Valentine’s Day:

- Hou Hsiao-Hsien is feeling the love because Film Distribution bought the rights to his new film The Red Balloon. Universe is feeling the love because someone bought the rights to Benny Chan’s still-filming “Invisible Target.” And the Pang Brothers continue the love they’re getting after the modest box office take of The Messengers by selling the rights to their new films “The Photo” and “Darling Lover”

Source: Variety Asia

- Production companies are loving Japan because distributors from there are not quite buying as many films this year, and they should be lucky to be able to tap into their market.

Source: Variety Asia

- Hong Kong is feeling the love because Korean superstar Rain is heading to Hong Kong again, this time for the screening of “I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK” because it will open the great Hong Kong International Film Festival in March.

Source: Variety Asia

- Chinese viewers are feeling the love because Access Hollywood is heading to Chinese screens, and it will probably be just as crappy and filled with trash gossips as the American version.

Source: Variety Asia

- Hong Kong audiences and Derek Yee are feeling the love because Protege opened to spectacular numbers on Tuesday night, scoring HK$950,000 on 45 screens. Remember that Protege only opened on Tuesday night, which means each theatre only played from 3 to maybe 5 shows at most that night. Look for its real test to come when everything else opens by tomorrow in Hong Kong.

Source: mov3.com

- The brother of a soldier who fought at Iwo Jima is feeling the love because a WWII veteran who picked up a box of letters 62 years ago has decided to return it after said sibling gave a long interview on Japanese television. Pardon me for being a cynic, but why wait 62 years? Maybe Clint Eastwood has something to do with it…

Source: recordonline.com

- and finally, DVD collectors like me are feeling the love because Hong Kong is seeing so many new releases these couple of days (ahead of Lunar New Year, I’m sure). Some of the major releases include:

Confession of Pain
Curse of the Golden Flower
After This, Our Exile (sadly, only the theatrical version)
Death Note (a cheap alternative to the uber-expensive Japanese set coming up)
Casino Royale
Jan Lam’s latest talk show (which I wish they use better production values for. Just because it’s someone talking doesn’t mean we don’t deserve serviceable video and audio quality, especially when you’re charging 27 bucks a pop)
There’s also a 2-disc special edition for James Yuen’s Heavenly Mission (which you won’t be able to find in Yesasia if you’re in the states because Tai Seng has the rights, sorry)

In the states, we also get Scorsese’s superior remake The Departed, and next week we see the masterpiece Babel. Feeling the love, indeed.

Nippon Tuesday

Lots of Japan news today:

- Japanese box office numbers are out, with Dororo and Pursuit of Happyness staying put at first place and second place, respectively. The big Japanese opening this weekend would be Ryoko Hirose’s Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust (or Bubble He Go! in Japanese), and it only mustered a 4th place opening with 140 million yen. According to Eiga Consultant, that’s only 49% of Shibasaki Kou and Yuji Oda’s “The Prefectural Star” (also currently flopping big time in Hong Kong so bad that it never appeared on the top 10 on mov3) and only 76% “Udon,” which grossed a total of 1.36 billion yen (121 yen=$1). Looks like it’ll struggle to the 1 billion yen mark, depending on word of mouth.

The other big Japanese opening “Tengoku wa Mattekureru” (Heaven Can Wait, Maybe) scored only a 9th place opening with 59 million yen.

As for other openings, Kevin Costner’s The Guardian (which has been advertised quite aggressively in Japan, at least when I was there) opened at 3rd with 178 million yen, which is quite auspicious, considering the domestic gross of only $55 million.

Source: Box Office Mojo

- Hoga Central reports that the Japanese Genghis Kahn film “Genghis Kahn: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea” will open on a record 425 screens come March 3rd. It’s also known to be one of the most expensive Japanese productions ever with a $30 million budget. Twitch has their own report, along with the strange looking trailer where Mongolians are now proficient in Japanese. Honestly, how do they write Japanese dialogue for a film that took place some thousands of years ago? Classical Japanese? As long as they don’t start suggesting that Genghis Kahn is actually Japanese, then I wouldn’t mind checking it out.

Source: Twitch, Hoga Central blog

- Twitch also reports that the official site for Takeshi Kitano’s new film “Kantoku, Banzai!” now has a teaser up. And it is what it is: a teaser.

- In Japanese drama ratings that not many people care about, Kimura Takuya’s family epic extravaganza “Karei Naru Ichizoku” found its lowest ratings with 21.3, closely followed by “Hana Yori Dango 2” (Or the sequel of the Japanese ’s own adaptation of the Meteor Garden series), with a 21.0 rating. This season’s surprise hit “Haken no Hinkaku,” which has seen rising ratings since its premiere (it’s a fairly rare case that a drama’s first episode ratings are its lowest) finally sees its first drop to a slightly below-average 18.6 rating. Looks like “Karei Naru Ichizoku” will have to find some way to pull in viewers or risk having to stand those “you lost to a group of boys with the word ‘flower’ in their name” jokes for a long time.

- In other parts of Asia, Twitch also has the first review for Derek Yee’s much anticipated Protege. And the good news is that it doesn’t sound much like Traffic. I’m really looking forward to it now.

- Johnnie To has also apparently signed a deal to make his English debut - a remake of the French film Le Cercle Rouge. Good news is the To is now asking legendary French star Alain Delon to be in the film (who is apparently quite interested), bad news is that it’ll be produced by the producer of Rush Hour Arthur Sarkissian. Judging from the plot of the French original, this seems like the perfect way for To to break into the West. Just don’t forget about Hong Kong!

Oh, John Woo is also making a film under this deal. After all the rumored projects he took up over the years, I don’t know what’s true and what’s not anymore.

Source: Variety Asia.

- In Korea, last week’s champ Voice of a Murderer drops about 50% this weekend, but still already has over 2 million viewers to become the top grossing film of the year so far. 200 Pound Beauty doesn’t count because it opened in December.

Source: Korea Pop Wars

- Finally, David Mamet has written a book about his experiences in Hollywood and advice for those who would like to enter that elite world. My favorite quote from the review on Yahoo News refers to film school: “One can study marching, the entry-level skill of the military, until one shines at it as has none other. This will not, however, make it more likely that one will be tapped to be the Secretary of the Army.” Mamet films are a bit of hit-and-miss for me, but you can’t deny that he’s a pretty damn good writer.

The review of the book is here.

 
 
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