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Archive for March, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/16/07

Today’s song of the day can only be found on Youtube. That’s because I bought a second-hand copy of the album that had the original, but the version on the album sounded nothing like the initial version I heard (good thing it was only 462 yen). So today’s song of the day is the version I like best of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Bibo no Aozora (The Beautiful Blue Sky).

Why? Because it’s the most minimal-arranged version of this song, and yet it’s the most powerful. I’m literally still haunted by this song since I heard it last summer and it prompted me to buy two different CDs for it (the aforementioned Ryuichi Sakamoto CD, which took me to 4 different record shops in Tokyo before I found it in Shimo-Kitazawa, and the Babel soundtrack). But this is still the best version out there.

Here’s what the album version sounds like (I do believe this is the original version, yikes):

And this is the version from the Babel soundtrack (POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT, this IS, after all, the final scene of the movie):

Two hits, and everything else are flops

-Let’s start with those Thursday opening day numbers from Hong Kong. Following suit from America’s surprise success, 300 opened huge on Thursday with a HK$1 million from 33 screens. This will probably be one of Warner Bros’ biggest opening weekends in the region when it’s all said and done.

Too bad the same can’t be said for anything else opening, even Japanese blockbuster Dororo, which was so heavily promoted that even the rumored romancing stars showed up to Hong Kong for the premiere, opened only with HK$60,000 on 18 screens. Maybe business will pick up by the weekend, but I believe the fork is almost stuck into it already. Even cheap Hong Kong horror flick The Haunted School (produced by shitmaster Andrew Lau), which opened with HK$50,000 on 14 screens, got a higher per-screen average!

Some of the better (and I only mean that in a relative sense) openings include Hannibal Rising, which made HK$200,000 on 21 screens (look for it to get past the HK$10,000 per-screen this weekend), and Pan’s Labyrinth (which I think they should’ve opened before the Oscars) got HK$60,000 on 4 screens for the best per-screen in limited release right now. Last week’s champ Ghost Rider looks to suffer a heavy drop with only HK$ 190,000 on 34 screens.

- Speaking of hits, looks like after a string of failed foreign runs, The Host has finally become a hit in China, where it topped the box office in its opening weekend and praised by critics (it was praised by critics in the States too, so what’s with that crappy opening weekend?). Meanwhile, Variety Asia has a more solid report on its financing process and just how big of a hit it really is (for an Asian film to have a net profit of double its production cost is pretty damn amazing).

- I found a funny Youtube clip last night of a commercial featuring Kimura Takuya and Babel star Rinko Kikuchi (whose nude scenes were deemed too “sexually explicit” and cut by the Chinese censors, deeming that entire section pointless. Yay for destroying films.). Basically, the screen looks so nice that the moon on the screen was enough to turn KimuTaku into a werewolf.

- What happens when you can’t make a sequel to your hit film because your talents won’t commit? Animate them! The hit fantasy film Storm Riders is getting the sequel treatment through the magic of 2D and 3D animation. Directed by Dante Lam (who co-directed the masterpiece Beast Cops but also responsible for the huge pile of shit called The Twins Effect), it will presumably follow the natural progression of the story as set by creator Ma Wing Shing. It’ll open in 2008 (which is probably the trailer is pretty crappy so far), and there were so many mistakes in that trailer with the English narration that I don’t even have time to go into it. I just hope the final product isn’t as boring.

- Speaking of trailers, Twitch also introduces the trailer for Lovedeath, the latest by Ryuhei Kitamura (Azumi, Versus). The trailer isn’t promising more than style over substance (what is up with that stupid two-gun twirl? And what’s up with that horribly written exchange at the end where the woman offers sex? It feels like it’s written by a third-year student of Japanese), which is pretty much what I’ve expected from Kitamura after the tolerable but overlong Azumi and the style-for-style’s sake hit-and-miss Versus.

- Variety Asia, in their continuing coverage of the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo (the more I read it, the more I want to go), has posted a preview of the first ever Asian Film Awards. But why it is on a Tuesday, I have NO idea.

- Like many Hollywood actors, Oldboy’s Choi Min Sik is heading to the stage for the play The Pillowman after announcing that he would not be appearing in any more films (nooooooo!) until South Korea restores its screen quota. Sounds like it should be another intense performance.

- There are two new members to the pop collective (it’s a better name than record-company-built cute young girls pop group) Morning Musume, and they’re Chinese (dun-dun-dun!). One of them actually auditioned to be on one of those pop idols show in China, and Japan Probe has the clip. Well, we can forget about her being the one with singing skills (the judge at the end, by the way, says that she sings like a child. No kidding).

- Lastly, Variety has posted a review of The Godfather (yes, that Godfather). Of course, a review now would use words like “masterpiece” “and “classic” (which I agree with), and not words like “overlong” and “confusing.” That’s because this review was written in 1972 when the film first came out. I wonder if that critic ever changed his mind about it eventually.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/15/07

Today’s song comes from Japan’s Spinna B-ill, a Japanese reggae artist (I’m most definitely not shitting you), and his collaboration with Simply Red’s Kenji Jammer. The album is Stay Longer (it’s not on Yesasia, I found a new copy at my favorite record store in Tokyo), and the song is “Nan Do Mo” (or Over and Over)

Why? Because the rest of the album is a cross between rock and reggae that’s similarly awesome, but this is the first track I listened to (I found it on Youtube first), and it was the reason I bought the album. Did you expect this from a reggae artist? I didn’t think so.

Here’s another video of da Spinna man doing his raggae thing.

Split

Just came back from a showing of The Host. Even though I already have the HK DVD, I wanted to pop in my 7 bucks to Magnolia for having the balls to bring the film over here and distributing it. However, I have a huge huge gripe: I’m not sure if it was a bad print (which can’t be because the film was made last year), a bad theater, or a combination of both, but the audio was absolutely horrible in the theater. The trailers were played at a good volume, but when the movie started, the volume was toned down by notches, and the sound field was reversed (what happens on the left sounds like it’s from the right, and vice versa). And I’m guessing they couldn’t turn up the volume anyway because whenever the movie gets loud, the audio cracks like a kung-fu movie from the 80s. I got better audio from my headphones on DVD than from the big screen, and that’s sad, because a horror movie like The Host deserves much better.

Props to Magnolia for giving away posters at the theater lobby, though.


Saw Hans Canosa’s Conversations with Other Women on DVD. It’s essentially a talky two-character drama about how two old flames reunite at a wedding, talk about old times, have sex, and regret, regret, regret. What’s so special about that, you say? The entire movie is done on split screen; so instead of cutting to different angles to capture emotions, the two screens show both actors at the same time, allowing them to be in the moment. It also allows little stylistic touches, like going to flashbacks or scenes the characters imagine on one screen while showing the current happening on the other. It’s a gimmick that sometimes seems too stylish for style’s sake, and most of the time it works.

Naturally, the performances are great, especially when the camera is literally on these two the entire time, and the script, while not groundbreaking, is fluid and clever enough to sustain all 85 minutes without being boring (but that’s only because I like talky scripts). However, it has that bit of contrivance where the characters hide a little too much for the big reveal towards the end, so the structure of the dialogue itself just doesn’t seem quite convincing at points. But overall it’s an interesting film worth checking out.

- Utada Hikaru’s Flavor of Life single tops the Oricon chart for the second week in a row with about 140k sold. It’s now the 14th best-selling Utada Hikaru single ever, and poised to climb further up in the coming weeks. On the album side, Exile’s latest album (don’t let the cover art fool you, they are definitely not that hardcore. They sing mostly ballads, for crying out loud!) sold 300k for first place, Ayumi Hamasaki’s duel best-of albums take 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Interesting thing is that every album from 4th place all the way down to 12th place are all new albums. Next week should also be interesting as Mr. Children, Koda Kumi, and Mika Nakashima threw in their new albums into the mix, and Mr. Children is currently winning by a mile.

- the Death Note DVD set i talked about yesterday made the top spot on its first day of release in Japan, although there are no numbers to go with that figure as to how much of those shipped were sold.

- Speaking of DVD, Derek Yee’s Protege is finally coming to DVD on April 4th, courtesy of Deltamac. No technical specs yet, but probably the usual Dolby Digital/DTS treatment, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Derek Yee-Peter Chan commentary.

- The Hong Kong Entertainment Expo is just about to get started, and the major event is Filmart, where international distributors take their films and hopefully sell it for international distribution. Even though it’s next week, Variety Asia’s already got two reports: Five films that could make a splash (including Kim Jee Woon’s latest, which I absolutely can’t wait to see), and Filmart’s new status as an important pre-Cannes film market.

- Sammi Cheng is back in the spotlight starting in May with 4 concerts in Hong Kong. Apparently fans are so hungry for tickets that 12,000 early bird tickets offered to a certain credit card’s users were wiped out within a day. Kozo, you buy your ticket yet?

The original Chinese news source is here.

- A blog on all things Japan uncovered an interesting Japanese independent film that is nationalist, but not in that right-wing way. Sounds interesting on paper, but it looks a bit boring.

- Lastly, Twitch has new behind-the-scenes footage for the latest Wilson Yip-Donnie Yen (SPL, Dragon Tiger Gate) collaboration Flash Point (it’s a better title than Killzone), starring Donnie Yen and Louis Koo. Looks good so far, now let’s just make it be better than Dragon Tiger Gate, yeah?

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/14/07

Today’s Song of the Day is from Jonathan Lee, better known as famed musician and Sandy Lee’s ex-husband. Also victim of a Jackie Chan public drunken rampage. Anyway, the song is “Loneliness is Hard to Bear.”

Why? Because it’s a depressing subject done in a light and breezy fashion rarely seen in Chinese pop. Lee approaches the whole subject with a “meh, what can you do?” attitude that carries a bit of that gruff machismo that’s also a bit of fun.

Jonathan Lee’s original version:

Good thing about this song is that different performers all bring different interpretations of it to the table. Chet Lam did his accoustic version at a small live show (he changed the lyrics where Lee sings “30 [years old]is coming soon” to “30 just arrived.” Cute.).

And Harlem Yu did his American idol audition version on his show.

Chasing the obsession, or obsessed with the chase?

“More people die on the East Bay commute than this idiot’s ever killed…”

Just came back from watching Zodiac, the latest from director David Fincher about the unsolved Zodiac serial murder case in the 1970s. I once said that if it was anything like the Korean film Memories of Murder, I’d be extremely happy. Well, I can say that it’s both like and not like Memories of Murder, but I’m extremely happy anyway, because it’s the first masterpiece of 2007.

Like Memories of Murder, Zodiac is about a real-life unsolved murder case from decades past. Specifically, a chain of murders occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 60s and early 70s. He sent a bunch of letters to different newspapers in towns where these murders took place, taunting the police and threatening to kill school children. Fincher was a child living in Marin County at the time (fairly close to where one of the murders took place), so he probably captured the period fairly well. Having lived in SF for only 14 years, I wouldn’t know much about it back then, but I even recognized some of the locations, including a glaring mistake where a scene that was supposed to be in neighboring Daly City was shot in the Sunset District. How do I know this? The local Chinese supermarket, which has only been around in the last 10 years, is placed prominently in the background. Its name? Sunset Super.

Anyway, Zodiac follows two different paths in the investigation: the police, led by Dave Toschi (brilliantly played by Mark Ruffalo), and the San Francisco Chronicle, with reporter Paul Avery and cartoonist Robert Graysmith (whose books are the source of the film). While one may expect their paths to cross and they collaborate just like a Hollywood buddy film, they rarely do and only does so when Avery becomes a distraction. The film, at 158 minutes, is a meticulous look at existing files regarding the case. Graysmith is the natural protagonist not only because he was the only person that remained obsessed until he wrote a damn book about it, but also because it’s obvious that Fincher and writer James Vanderbilt were both equally obsessed with the subject as well. It may not be as sensational or have the emotional resonance of Memories of Murder (this is where they differ), but Fincher makes up the lack of emotions with tons and tons of details. Critics have compared watching Zodiac as reading case files for 2 and a half hours. I’d say that’s half-true - reading files for 2 and a half hours is boring, and Zodiac is certainly not boring. It’s an involving look at obsession, how man can continuously gnaw at something as long as they cannot make it go away. It’s Fincher’s most mature work to date, and it’s a masterpiece. If you think you can’t sit through the 2 and a half hours in a theatre (and you will feel those 2 and a half hours, no doubt), you owe it to yourself to at least check it out on home video.

A friend said that he felt Fincher didn’t know whether Zodiac should be a thriller or a procedural because they stopped showing the murders halfway through - that’s because the Zodiac killer has only confirmed to have committed 4 murders, and three of them were shown onscreen, while quite a few of the other murders that were not shown were simply speculations.

And now, more news:

- The Death Note films are finally finding their home video release this week (rental versions have been out in Japan for the first film, though, which allowed the HK version to be released as well), and Warner Bros is shipping 500,000 copies of the two-film set on the release date. It’s not a huge launch, considering that it’s the second highest-grossing film market in the world. But since they are charging over 60 bucks for each set, and that this is the highest shipment for a domestic Japanese release in 2006, maybe it is a pretty big deal after all.

One note to correct in that story - Death Note part 1 was shown on TV in a director’s cut (which, according to an imdb poster - so take it with a grain of salt - it took out footage rather than added) before part 2’s release (it even scored an excellent 24.5 rating), part 2 was never shown on TV - NTV has no reason to since it would just take away from the video sales.

- Twitch mentions today about Rinko Kikuchi’s first Japanese film after her encounter with the Oscars in Babel. But give credit where credit is due - Ryuganji actually picked up this story a few days ago first. Judging from the description and the trailer, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly appealing film, so watch at your own risk.

- Speaking of watch it at your own risk, Palm Picture has a red-band trailer for their latest acquisition - The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai. Twitch has picked up the trailer, and it’s weird as hell, just like the plot sypnosis. Do I dare go watch this?

- Anyone who has more faith in their reading Japanese than their listening can go watch Sakuran with Japanese subtitles all day this Saturday and Sunday at this theater in Tokyo. I might’ve gone, but I would have to live in Tokyo first.

- Looks like the Academy Award isn’t much of a commercial factor when the film arrives in Japan. Last year’s winning film for best actor, Capote, opened on 4 screens and eventually made 100 million yen (117 yen=$1, at least for today). Eiga Consultant analyzes the 12.1 million yen opening of this year’s winner, The Last King of Scotland, and while it did open with 200% of Capote’s opening weekend, it also opened on 12 times the screen Capote opened at, so the per-screen average is actually only 16.7% of Capote’s.

- Apparently, seeing South Korean entertainment’s boom in the last decade, Variety Asia thinks that the rest of Asia would like to do that. While I do see the point of the Singapore part, Hong Kong already has a full-grown entertainment industry that, while absorbing some of South Korea into its mainstream, is much in need of a revival more than a boom, and maybe that’s what this new government grant is for.

- The new 3D animation trend is so huge that even Hong Kong is joining in on the fun, and the person doing it is none other than Brian Tse, who carved out Hong Kong’s most famous contemporary animated franchise with McDull. According to Twitch, he’s developing a 3D animated feature about a duck liver sausage that finds out he’s a piece of poop. No kidding. At least the duck liver sausage idea is pure original HK humor.

- With increasingly successful Chinese films being funded from foreign funding, the Film Bureau realizes that they should modernize their existing government funding system. Insteading of finding government subsidies or a rich financier, an official at the Film Bureau says, “We now urgently need film producers who are politically sensitive, aesthetically sophisticated and have a flair for marketing.” Politically sensitive means communist, right?

- I mentioned about those Southern boys trying to do awesomely bad Japanese rap a while ago on this blog, and that they were putting a show in a Shibuya club. Well, their gigs already happened, and Japan Probe is awesome enough to provide a video of those Kokujin Tensai (literally means Black Person Genius, or a grammatically correct title of Black Genius). I searched on Youtube, and trust me, this is the best quality one can find of that show. Believe me, I don’t think the Japanese people who are there are laughing with them. They’re probably laughing at them. I know I would, and I’m not even Japanese!

Song of the day coming up after this entry.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/13/07

A new feature on the blog is the random Golden Rock Song of the Day. Since it’ll be narrowed to what what I like being on Youtube or Google video or Dailymotion, it’s not gonna be completely representative of my music taste. At least it’ll be close.

Today: Garbage’s The World is Not Enough.

Why? Because it’s the best Bond theme out of all the Bond movies in the last decade, because it has that seductive edge laced with danger (unlike the movie itself, which was laced with Denise Richards’ breast and shitty screenwriting), and because I’m a fan of Garbage.

Film’s a business

Today comes with even less news (or maybe less interesting news) and less surprises, so try and hang in there.

- Those continuously changing Japanese box office numbers are out, courtesy of Box Office Mojo. This week’s box office is at an exchange rate of 118.384 yen per dollar, so the box office earned less money overall. The big winner is the latest Doraemon movie, which took it a huge 560 million yen. According to Eiga Consultant, that’s 130% of the last Doraemon film’s opening weekend, and 111% of the last Pokemon movie (yes, Pokemon actually still attract audiences). Considering a lot of the ticket sales are from cheaper-than-usual kids tickets, the attendance is pretty amazing. The final take may even be 4 billion yen, which means Doraemon is going to be a viable franchise for a long time to come, and it will still make me feel really young because Doraemon is my childhood idol.

The Genghis Khan movie earned 154 million yen this week, signaling a 22% drop from last week’s 198 million yen take. The rest of last week’s openers all dropped 20-something percent from their opening week, except for Ghost Rider, which dropped nearly 40% from last week, and won’t be repeating America’s surprise performance.

- Sales of Japanese home video have been sliding, as Japanese animation (which takes up the biggest piece of the pie with 24.5% of sales….why am I not surprised by this?) drops by 14.5 %, foreign films (which takes up 20% of sales) drop by some 40% this past year, while Jpanese films performs better with a 5.8% gain and a 9.8% share of total sales. Sales overall has fallen by 10%, although a Japan Video Association Manager has said that they can definitely recover from a 10% drop.

Actually, one interesting portion is that sales of television dramas have risen. Perhaps with a long-term trend, this would encourage television stations to begin to branch out to international market, as the Korean drama has over the last few years.

- Or they can learn from America, who is seeing a decline of theatrical window in the past year. Basically, theaterowners are worrying that the window between theatrical exhibition and home video release is getting smaller and smaller (this year, the average shortened by 10 days), making this an even bigger problem than piracy. Even though films do make a bulk of their money from theatrical exhibition, the home video market is still a very very viable way of making money, and the studios have no idea whom to please these days.

Hong Kong adapted this shortening of theatrical window years ago to combat piracy, only to find the emergence of bittorrent to actually take a huge chunk of money away from home video sales. Of course, the distributors got smart and decided to amp up the technical specs to appeal to home theater fanatics, but it seems like now studios are asserting more pressure to release region-coded DVDs for Hong Kong films in order to protect oversea distribution deals. This doesn’t help the home video market, since a huge amount of these downloaders are actually overseas Chinese who have no idea what region codes are, and just flat out get pissed off when they can’t play the DVDs they buy. So sales are down, more people download, and only the film studio wins because they can squeeze more money out of those rich overseas company.

And does that have anything to do with theatrical window? Not really, I was just digressing.

- And who was the first filmmaker in Hong Kong to push the shortening of theatrical window? That would be Wong Jing, Hong Kong’s answer to cheap, fast comedy entertainment-making. His ability to quickly take whatever is popular in Hong Kong at the moment and milk as much cash out of audiences has allowed him to survive in Hong Kong for over 20 years, and his idea of releasing theatrical releases into the video market as quick as he could (The news of this tactic was first broken when customs seized those early releases, mistaking them for bootlegs) has given him the idea of making shitty comedies with TVB stars (why? Just pay them slightly higher than TVB salary, which is pretty much shit anyway, and they’ll do anything) and throw them into video stores after short theatrical runs.

Lovehkfilm’s Kozo has a review of his latest concoction The Lady Iron Chef, a rip-off of the TVB cooking contest Beautiful Cooking, which they ripped off from Japan’s Ai No Apron by adding crappy musical performance and canned laughter.

- If you read my profile on the right, you’d know that my main interest is the new “Panasian” films and their effect on national cinema. In light of the upcoming Hong Kong entertainment expo, Variety Asia’s Patrick Frater has turned in a report on the new Asian style of film finance. Very very informative if you’re into that kind of stuff like I am.

- And it looks like the expanded scale of the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo this year has attracted the attention of Hollywood Reporter, who chimes in with this report.

- Of course, their competitor Variety also has this report on this year’s Asian Film Awards and its plan to honor veteran actress Josephine Siao Fong Fong and film theorist David Bordwell for their contributions to Asian cinema (although for Ms. Siao, it’s more Hong Kong than Asia).

- Speaking of film festivals, Twitch has a preview of the upcoming San Francisco Asian American film festival, which I probably won’t be going because the films I want to see aren’t at ideal times, and at the ideal times, there aren’t any films I’m interested in. Nevertheless, it looks to be a fairly interesting festival, and I regret not being to able to attend it this year. Then again, there’s always the higher-profile San Francisco Film Festival later this year.

- Variety Asia also has more about the Wong Kar Wai/Stanley Kwan lesbian film collaboration, but they’re not even sure what Wong Kar Wai is doing with it.

- Lastly, Variety also has its first review of Judd Apatow’s latest Knocked Up, and critic Joe Leydon seems to have enjoyed it immensely. And I don’t blame him, it does look hilarious, and I can’t wait for a sweet comedy like this opening amidst the hyped-up and amped-up sequels this summer.

The suitable-for-all-audience trailer is here

The red-band-contains-strong-language-but-far-funnier-trailer is here too.

Death Note review

I’m not a fan of Japanese comics or anime in general. No offense against them, I’ve got my hands full with movies and music enough that I don’t have time to follow them. So I’m simply judging Death Note as a movie, not by its source material. Maybe that makes me unqualified to review it, maybe it makes me more qualify to review it, who knows? You tell me.

Death Note has a simple premise with a complex set of rules - If your real name is in the book, you die. But of course, creator Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Oba made sure there weren’t any plothole in that, so the notebook comes with a ton of rules, which you will find out when disillusioned law student Light picks up the notebook and starts playing the Grim Reaper with criminals. Having gotten a little overzealous, his killing attracted the attention of law agencies all over the world, including the FBI (or as Da Ali G would say “FB…aiiiiitte”) and genius detective L. And that’s about all that happens.

Unlike recent comic book films, Death Note isn’t purely an origin movie. In fact, the origin is simply done in a flashback, and we’re thrust right into the action with a chain of death note-induced murders. That in itself should tell you that this one’s for the fans. Of course, the blanks are filled in before the end of the first act: Light’s own father being the head of the investigation team (and also the chairman of the culinary academy Chairman Koga!), and the existence of Shiori, Light’s girlfriend. Meanwhile, everyone talks about “Kira” (or Killer in Katakana) because he’s like, so awesome, in a way that you wish the youth would talk about politics. But when a kid with a god complex is killing people, politics just have to be swept aside for important issues, like ethics, morals, and keeping that hair well-waxed all the time.

Director Shusuke Kaneko directs the entire thing by the books, with a few cgi-assisted visual flairs here and there. Considering that he directed two Godzilla and three Gamera films, I didn’t really expect much, especially at creating any sense of tension. There ought to have been a feeling of dread permeating throughout the film, but the episodic structure of the film (probably because they’re trying to cramp all the volumes in roughly 4 and a half hours of screen time) really killed the tension. There are strokes of smart screenwriting here and there, but I wonder if they are the work of screenwriter Tetsuya Oishi or the works of the original creators. The acting is also hit-or-miss with Tetsuya Fujiwara attempting to be all cool and evil as Light, but just achieving blank-faced and kind of evil. For a big-budget high-profile comic adaptation by Warner Bros. (whose Batman Begins should be the model of starting any adaptation franchise), they could’ve found more talented people on this thing.

I’ll still watch part 2 just to see how the whole thing wraps up, since they teased a little too much about the match-up between Light and L, and the idea of the Death Note itself is quite cool, but as far as Death Note the film goes, it’s passable commercial filmmaking. Barely passable commercial filmmaking.

Another look at the film by Kozo at Lovehkfilm (he actually has read the comic and knows a thing or two) is here.

While I’m at it, why not give some news.

- Hollywood Reporter has a report on Peter Chan Ho-Sun’s Warlords, starring Jet Li, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Andy Lau (who apparently sports an Osama Bin Laden beard). My favorite part is Chan’s honest attitude about working with censors and why Chinese cinema seem to always be so positive all the damn time.

- TVB has a new drama named War and Destiny. I’m not a fan of TVB dramas, but this one is interesting because it takes place in 1937 Nanking (or as the advertisement say, “during the ‘Resisting Japanese War.’”). I guess it won’t be sold to Japan then. But from that making-of I posted, it seems more like melodramatic love stories more than historical epic, eh?

Oh, and here’s a clip involving the invasion of a group of Japanese soldiers, one of whom looks like a guy I saw in Mongkok wearing leather pants and a chain speaking bad Japanese. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll watch this.

A Case of the Monday part 2

Some surprises out there, but still a slow news day. Of course, it’ll still take me forever to write.

- Hong Kong Sunday numbers are surprisingly even. Over the years I’ve been tracking the box office, it’s not very often that I see the top 10 all in at least those 6 figures, but it seems like there was enough diversity in the box office to warrant a healthy take for everyone.

As expected, Ghost Rider takes in an average $990,000 on Sunday for a HK$3.47 million total after 4 days for the number 1 spot. The filmgoing bourgeois showed up for the second weekend of The Queen, commanding HK$350,000 on 14 screens in a far second. It now has a HK$3.27 million total after 11 days. The Lady Iron Chef gain quite a bit from its spectacular failure on Thursday (although it might’ve been just previews) with a HK$280,000 on 26 screens, which is around the amount the last Wong Jing produced film, the spectacularly dumb stinker Kung Fu Mahjong 3, did. With HK$770,000 as its 4-day total, don’t expect it to go far past HK$3 million.

Super-duper blockbuster 300 had its preview showings over the weekend (2 shows a night), and it earned HK$190,000 on 31 screens for a HK$640,000 total after 6 shows. Its official opening comes this weekend, and by the hype from its success in America and perhaps good word-of-mouth, 300 could go far. Japanese blockbuster tearjerker Tears For You earns a better-than-Midnight-Sun gross of HK$110,000 on 9 screens for a HK$420,000 total and probably won’t make it to the $1 million mark. Dreamgirls and Letters From Iwo Jima holds on to their limited release success with HK$140,000 on 10 screens and HK$120,000 on 5 screens, respectively.

- The South Korean box office is also out, and after the boost February gave to local films, March seems to signal a bit of a slowdown. Anyway, Korea Pop Wars have their usual analysis.

- Japanese movie rankings are out as well, and personal favorite (I seem to report on those a lot, don’t I?) and my childhood idol that is not named Aaron Kwok Doraemon’s new movie is in first place. Heartwarming baseball film Battery debuts in second with a strong 185 million yen opening (analysis by Hoga News), as the Genghis Khan movie falls to third (but with a gross that’s probably fairly close to its disappointing debut.). Other than that, until I see those percentage changes, it wasn’t a very exciting weekend in Japan.

- More exciting is those Japanese drama ratings, as the ultra-expensive Karei Naru Ichizoku surges for its second-to-last episode with a 24.9 rating, its highest since the premiere (which makes me wonder why do so many extra people tune in to the end of serial drama, when they hadn’t been keeping up). Those popular flowery boys aren’t weak either, but their ratings dropped just a bit for a 21.9 rating. Nakama Yukie’s drama ended with a whimper this week after 9 episodes with a 11.7 rating (although I’m not sure whether it was cut short, or it was just meant to be this short) and an overall 12.7 rating. I think she’s due for another installment of Gokusen for a popularity boost. Lastly, Haken No Hinkaku goes into home stretch with a consistent 19.9 rating this week (same as last week). As mentioned yesterday, the three major dramas are wrapping up this week. Turns out Haken No Hinkaku may be wrapping up next week instead. Either way, it’ll be huge, huge, I tell you!

- Variety Asia has a profile on Toho’s life achievement award-receiving chairman Matsuoka by Mark Schilling (Critic for the Japan Times). Despite being the chairman of Japan’s biggest studio, he still maintains that Hollywood should be dominating the market with a 60% share in Japan. “That way, everybody wins.” Right.

- I’m a fan of Haruki Murakami. Honestly, he’s the only author I consistently read (that is, if I ever decide to read). I haven’t bought his latest short story anthology “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” yet because I’m waiting for the paperback, but now the translation for his latest After Dark is finally arriving. I still have quite a few books to catch up, so maybe I’ll be reading this in 5 years or so.

- Connecting from Lovehkfilm’s Sanjuro’s blog, the big honcho at Lovehkfilm also put up his review of The Pang Brothers’ The Messengers.

- Miss R over at Sardonic Smile has a cool profile of Hong Kong’s hippest MTV director Susie Au, whose latest film MingMing will debut at the Hong Kong International Film Festival this year.

- Variety Asia also has a report on how last year’s Thailand military coup has affected the TV market. Despite reports about how the coup didn’t affect Thailand much (since apparently they get quite a few of these over the years), it sounds more serious than it looks.

- Asian Cinema - While On the Road has a review of the book “Asia Shock,” which I agree I would not read just based on the title alone (I, too, hate the stereotype that Asian films represent some type of carnal or violent extreme). But it seems like the book does pick some good mainstream titles. No, Ichi the Killer is NOT a mainstream film anywhere in the world.

- Variety also has reviews for Shu Qi’s big Korean debut “My Wife is a Gangster 3″ (I wisely stopped watching at 2) and a disappointingly short review for the Japanese horror flick “The Slit-Mouth Woman.” They also have a review for Confession of Pain, but it’s full of spoilers, so forget that.

 
 
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