- Also playing at the same theater is the haunting documentary The Bridge, which examines why people commit suicide through the examination of several people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve seen parts of the film when it played on the Independent Film Channel, and anyone looking for shocking footage of people jumping (the crew shot the sides of the bridge for an entire year) will be disappointed because it’s really more about the effects of depression through interviews with friends and family. Anyway, Japan Times has a review of it, as well as an interview with filmmaker Eric Steel.
- Legendary Hong Kong comic actor Michael Hui, who made a comeback of sorts with Joe Ma’s Three of a Kind (would his cameo in Fantasia count as the start of his comeback?) is making his first film since 1992’s The Magic Touch this October. He openly praised Miriam Yeung, Louis Koo, and Lau Ching-Wan for their comedic skills, though he has not expressed any wish to cast them. As long as it’s better than the immensely disappointing Three of a Kind, I’ll show up.
- The first Hong Kong film to be in the HD-format war (HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray) is……[drum rolls]Infernal Affairs, and it’s coming on Blu-Ray. I’m sure the film will look nice, but I remember through my subsequent visits on DVD that aurally it’s just really unnecessarily loud.
- Kim Ji-Woon’s Western The Good, the Bad and The Weird ran into a bit of trouble when distributor/investor Showbox (The Host) dropped out. Good thing CJ Entertainment has now taken over for the US$11 million film. Strange, I thought Showbox made a ton of money last year on The Host, so why would they have particular trouble investing in this movie?
- Man, those Japanese really know how to sell a movie. Their website for the disappointing Confession of Pain is up, and the url is www.drywhisky.com (trust me, you’ll get it when you see the movie). Hell, they even make the trailer look better than the Hong Kong one by incorporating actual music from the film….well, except for that ridiculous theme song by Ayumi Hamasaki. But the movie is partly funded by Avex (Hamasaki’s record company), so whatever. Man, that trailer actually make me want to see the movie.
- Oh, no, China doesn’t want porn on its internet!!!! No “unpatriotic words,” no foreign news source, and now no porn? Soon they’re going to be able to make a list of what they DO allow on the internet.
I was messing around with Audacity to plan for this weekend’s podcast, and I’ve already started planning it. Looks like I might put in some music after all. Anyway, review first:
Saw the latest Die Hard movie today in a 65-75% full house. I love the Die Hard franchise, though my love extends to only the first and the third movies. This time, Len “I can’t even make a cool comic idea entertaining” Wiseman takes the helm and actually directs the action quite capably. I’m very appreciative that he actually bothered to make most of the action look real (even the flipping car in the tunnel that you see in the trailer is actually real), although they’re over-the-top to an extreme. Also appreciative to see a few Asian-American actors, though I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with Maggie Q being THE character that can fight well with the generic Asian name.
After a while, I realize just how bored Wiseman was when he filmed all those dialogue scenes. He was probably so bored that in one scene, he just picked up the camera and just moved it a lot in close-ups to make it look “dynamic.” That, plus the unusual instances of obvious ADR (dubbing in post-production), just says how much the crew was into making the non-action stuff, which is not very. The violence, which people were worried about because of the PG-13 rating, actually isn’t all that watered down - the death count is still pretty high and there are a couple of groaners, even though they are mostly bloodless (no, Bruce Willis with a couple of wound doesn’t count as lots of blood. Him walking through a bathroom filled with broken glass on the floor, THAT’S bloody). If anything, it just shows the failure of the PG-13 rating since the Die Hard franchise was never made for kids in the first place, and the violence here is still R-worthy, with or without blood. Plus, the way they toned down his signature line (motherf*cker=instant R-rating!) just feels forced.
I think watching this just ended up proving how great of an action director John McTiernan was, because the third Die Hard film was genuinely funnier, more exciting, better shot, and even smarter than Live Free or Die Hard. Hell, I’ll even forgive him for Basic….though not Rollerball. And I liked The Last Action Hero, sue me. Live Free or Die Hard may be a ton of fun, but Die Hard it ain’t. Well, at least Japan Times loved it, even if it gets a couple of plot details wrong.
In North America, it goes up against the new Disney/Pixar flick Ratatouille this weekend, but it did do fairly well on its opening day, making US$9 million. Since the action flick is appealing to older male, and the Pixar flick is appealing to families, I think they’ll both end up doing well, especially since they are both going to have pretty good word-of-mouth.
Die Hard is having an entire weekend of sneak previews in Hong Kong until it officially opens on July 4th to take advantage of the holiday weekend. However, it only made HK$480,000 on 34 screens, which is a solid but unspectacular opening day. Nevertheless, looking at the Broadway website, the online booking is picking up for the weekend, so it might end up doing pretty well.
No one released the numbers for the sneak previews last weekend in Japan, so I expect this weekend’s numbers to be inflated a little bit since the preview numbers will probably be counted into the opening weekend total as well.
- Judging by the Thursday opening day numbers, this weekend looks to be fairly busy at the Hong Kong box office. In addition to the Die Hard previews, Shrek 3 and the Milkyway comedy Hooked On You are also out to take advantage of the long holiday weekend. Shrek 3 managed to get a very healthy HK$1.29 million gross on 49 screens, though I’m not sure how the screens are split between the Cantonese and English versions. Hooked On You also managed a healthy take of HK$580,000 on 32 screens, which should ensure a solid weekend take. Limited release 2 Days in Paris by Julie Delpy made HK$50,000 on a limited 4-screen release and should pick up the hip 20-40 arthouse audience this weekend.
On the other hand, there’s no telling how holdovers from last weekend will do. Simply Actors made another HK$310,000 on 29 screens for HK$6.47 million after 10 days and should maintain an over-HK$10,000 per-screen average this weekend. However, Eye in the Sky made only HK$120,000 on 27 screens for the current 8-day total of HK$2.86 million. Hopefully, it’ll do solid business over the weekend again to lift it over HK$4 million. But even then, Eye in the Sky remains a commercial failure, any way you look at it.
- Miyu Nagase, the lead vocalist of the Japanese pop band ZONE, is branching off on her own years after the popular band disbanded in 2005, now that she’s done with compulsory education. Guess how’s she launching her solo debut? By starting a blog.
- Ryuganji introduces this year’s Pia Film Festival, which is a pretty damn important festival since some of Japan’s best young filmmakers got their first breaks there. At least their Robert Altman retrospective is in English, though I’m sure the overlapping dialogue in his films make them hard to understand too.
- Michael Bay’s Transformers have started its rampage around the world in South Korea, where it has seen the best advanced ticket sales so far this year. People seem to love it too. One dubious section in the report regarding the spokesperson of distributor CJ Entertainment:
“‘Movies that do well in South Korea tend to do well in other parts of Asia,’ Kim said, attributing the trend in part to the growing popularity of South Korean movies, TV dramas and music across the region.
‘A movie’s popularity in Asia seems to be affected by its popularity in South Korea,’ she said. ‘In that sense, South Korea has emerged as an important movie market in Asia in recent years.’”
Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter just put up their review today (I don’t know why Variety had their review up so early when there’s an embargo on it until today/tomorrow Asia time), and critic Kirk Honeycutt says right out that it’s an extravaganza rather than overwrought excess. I might actually pay to see a Michael Bay movie….well, matinee price, at the most. I only paid US$4 to see The Island.
For more Hollywood news, we’ll be looking at the opening for Die Hard 4 in North America and Asia tomorrow.
- As Lovehkfilm reported, Barbara Wong’s Wonder Women has been chosen as the “official handover anniversary film. It opens next week, and a trailer is on the website. It doesn’t really show much, and it’s not subtitled.
- Keita Motohashi’s Tobo Kusotawake, about two misfits who go off on an aimless adventure, is going to the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in Korea. There’s not even an official website for the film yet, but you can read the director’s blog, who reports the film will open in limited release in October.
- The only Bollywood film I’ve ever seen is Lagaan, the 4-hour epic about Indian farmers playing crickets to beat their oppressive English landlord, and it’s better than it sounds. Anyway, it’s finally coming in a super-duper special edition DVD, and if you have a few hours to spare, I highly recommend it.
- I always complain about how Japanese entertainment producers are so protective about their work and always work too slow to distribute them. Turns out a government advisory panel agrees with me and wants some of those protective rights pulled for easier distribution of content. I would like to think that what I write here makes a difference, but I know it doesn’t. At least someone finally came out and did something.
- But which government isn’t letting uncut movies in? The Chinese! A blogger writes about a possible reason why some Chinese people end up buying pirated works - to see how Chow Yun-Fat vilifies Chinese people. Note that the link is a translation of the original Chinese entry from last week.
Let’s continue that summer mood today with the SMAP boys. They don’t sing all that well, but at least they’re (pretending to) having fun! It was never on an album, but it is a single. From the Japanese boy band SMAP, it’s “Bang Bang Bakansu!“
Saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Shane Black, the writer of the first Lethal Weapon film and considered the pioneer of the buddy action genre. Instead of the usual violent action flicks he has written, Black offers up a self-conscious noir comedy directed with great pacing and plenty of quotable lines (the memorable quotes section brings back a lot of good laughs). What I liked best, though, was its constant subversion of cliches. I don’t want to reveal too much, it’s just a bloody good time at the movies. In fact, the only reason this didn’t do any better at the box office is because it was sold as an art film when it’s not. Trust me, it’s not. Check it out, you won’t regret it.
- The Japanese record sales were fairly weak this past week. On the albums chart, Crystal Kay scores her first number 1 debut album (though I think her compilation album from 2004 debuted at number 1) with her latest All Yours, selling 51,000 copies. Zard’s Golden Best compilation spends another week at number after selling another 38,000 copies, and Kick the Can Crew member MCU’s second album debuts way low at 15th place, selling just over 10,000 copies. I think it’s time for Kick the Can Crew to get back together now. Thing should pick up next week as Namie Amuro’s new album has already sold over 40,000 copies on the first day.
The singles chart is even weaker, with the number 1 single by Gackt selling only 43,000 copies. Another Kick the Can Crew member Kreva (Kureba=Clever, get it? ha ha) gets better results by selling 19,000 copies of his latest single for a 4th place debut. Last week’s number single by YUI drops to 3rd place, and it’s just kind of quiet everywhere else. Next week’s chart should be a battle between popular rap group Ketsumeishi and Koda Kumi, whose singles took second and first place on the first day of sale, respectively.
- As expected, Eiga Consultant has looked at the weekend performance of the Yuko Takeuchi Side Car Ni Inu (is this is a wordplay? It sounds like it’s supposed to be Side Car Ni Iru), and in two Tokyo theaters, it made 4.13 million yen with an attendance of 2544 people over two days. With a total of 20 shows for the two-day weekend (5 shows a day per theater), that’s only 127 people per show on two screens that hold at least 200 people, but I suppose a 2.07 million yen per-screen average is damn good.
- Variety Asia has a random box office report for this past weekend in Hong Kong (probably because of the presence of all those Hong Kong films). The only reason I mention it is that it actually introduces the early summer hit Simply Actors (a film starring Jim Chim make more than HK$5 million is a hit in my book).
By the way, I have the DVD for that. Don’t laugh, you try hearing it all year and not think it’s awesome.
- Jet Li and Jackie Chan has come out to ask people to stop trying to ask them which one do they think is better, with Li saying that it’s like coffee and tea. Well, I like tea better, so which one are you, Jet Li?
- The Toronto International Film Festival, often regarded as probably the most internationally renowned film festival in North America, has just announced their preliminary lineup for this year. Representing Asia are Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest, Lee Chang-Dong’s Secret Sunshine, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Flight of the Red Balloon, and Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Ploy. Obviously missing are mainstream Asian crowdpleasers such as Exiled, The Host, and Hula Girl from last year. Then again, it’s still early, so who knows?
Meanwhile, the festival’s big honchos have decided to make a conscious effort to not grab attention by showing off the words “world premiere” or “North American premiere” by not inviting the films based on such labels. In fact, they won’t even show off that the screening of the Elizabeth sequel really is a world premiere.
In related news, Ming Pao reported yesterday that Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution will be premiering in Venice and will be released in Hong Kong late September.
- Ryuganji reports that Ogigami Naoko, the director of Kamome Diner, which became a long-running independent hit in Japan, is back with a new film. Megane actually appeared as a short film on the Kamome Diner DVD, and is now given the feature film treatment. Go to Ryuganji for more info. By the way, that teaser on the website doesn’t show anything.
- The slew of Nanking Massacre films is starting in July with the documentary Nanking. Apparently, the trick to get script approval in China is to be China-centric without pissing off Japan. The strangest entry is Stanley Tong’s $40 million film about the massacre, which got script approval and even has Japanese money invested.
- The Japanese box office numbers just came out on Box Office Mojo, except they didn’t provide the exchange rate they used this week, so we’ll just simply have to trust their number. Anyway, Pirates of the Caribbean drops another moderate 23% for a current total of roughly 8.36 billion yen already (and this monster is still making more than 500 million yen a weekend!) , so it should go well past the 10 billion mark Sony couldn’t get Spiderman 3 to hit. More amazingly, the comedy Maiko Haaaan!!! drops only 3.1% from last weekend’s gross to make roughly 738 million yen already and should go past the 1 billion mark pretty easily as well.
Other than Spiderman 3’s slow but consistent drop (only 25% this week, but a weak per-screen average means its pulse is quickly growing weak) and the small 20% drop for Sono Toki Kare Ni Yoroshiku, everything else on the top 10 are dropping at the usual 30-40% rate. Furthermore, this weekend’s double whammy of Shrek 3 and Die Hard 4.0 should give the box office a knock on its ass.
There’s an interesting addition this week on the chart worth mentioning that didn’t show up last week . The dark comedy-suspense-one-set film Kusaragi opened on the weekend on the 15th on only 28 screens and still managed to make 20.4 million yen. While that’s only 49% of the opening for star Oguri Shun’s last film Ghost Train. To be fair, Kusaragi opened only on 30% of the screens Ghost Train opened with, so this opening of 729,000 yen per-screen is pretty impressive. As for its second week, it seemed to have played even stronger with a roughly 839,000 yen per-screen average for 30 screens. I have to admit, a film about 6 guys coming together to mourn the death of their D-grade youth idol does sound pretty interesting, even if it’s from the writer of a commercial heart tugger like Always - Sunset on Third Street.
One movie that did open this past weekend but didn’t show up is Yuko Takeuchi’s return to the big screen with Side Car Ni Inu(more info from Hoga News). What’s the big deal, you might ask? The big deal is (and I’m afraid this involves a bit of geinou gossip) that this is Takeuchi’s first film role since her rather ugly divorce with Kabuki bad boy Shidou Nakamura (which got set off when he got caught drunk-driving with another woman in the car). To add irony into this, she actually plays the mistress of a married man who moves in to the family home one 80s summer.
Anyway, the film actually seems like a lot more innocent than it sounds, and it just opened in a limited release. I look forward to Eiga Consultant’s analysis of it (with a star like Takeuchi, it’s bound to come sooner or later), though some theaters seem to be reporting that it’s not bringing in a lot of audiences. Meanwhile, check out the official site for a trailer (click on 予告編)
- The hit drama of the Spring season Proposal Daisakusen (Operation Love) wrapped up its run Monday night Japan time, and it managed to score a season-high 20.9 rating (roughly 13.56 million viewers), effectively saving the season from total embarrassment. It’s also by far the winner of the season with a season average of 17.3 (roughly 11.23 million).
- The Tribeca Festival, started after the 2001 World Trade Center attack to revive New York, is bringing a mini-version to Beijing?! So, will it be more overpriced movie tickets and glamourous superstars, or will there actually be quality movies shown there?
- Yoji Yamada’s Love and Honor was released on DVD with English subtitles earlier this month in Japan. Now the people who didn’t want to shell out 3000 yen for it can get the Hong Kong edition in a few days.
- The Bangkok International Film Festival was forced to drop the Cannes jury award winner Persepolis as its opening film after the Iranian government called to complain. The animated film is directed by Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian living in France, and the film is an autobiographical work based on her childhood in Tehran. Another ugly example of politics unreasonably intervening in art.
- As I was browsing around the Tokyo movie theater websites, I found the new films by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, who made Trick the Movie, Memories of Tomorrow, AND Sairen in 2006. This year he’s off making three more with the already-released Taitei No Ken, Hotai Club (with Yuya Yagira), and Jigyaku no Uta (starring Hiroshi Abe and Miki Nakatani). Click on トレーラ to see the trailers in their respective official sites.
Anyway, this goes to show that Japanese directors work surprisingly hard, mostly regardless of the reaction to their work. Tsutsumi is not the only one that has made three films in a year: Isshin Inudou saw three films released in 2005, Takeshi Miike often see 3-4 releases each year, and Isao Yukisada even follows up the biggest blockbuster of the year in summer 2004 with a huge historical blockbuster in time for New Years 2005. Of course, the film industry has to be healthy enough to enable these filmmakers to make so many films, which would explain why people are so impressed that Johnnie To can work on so many films at once.
- This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, and Vancouver, which has been named mini-Hong Kong by some, is holding a small film series as a part of the Vancouver International Film Festival to celebrate it. For some reason, they managed to pick both the Election films by Johnnie To to be part of the screening. Considering those films are known to be allegories for the relationship between mainland China and Hong Kong, it’s like showing Wag the Dog to celebrate Independence Day in the United States.
- In Hong Kong, one pop culture way to celebrate the handover anniversary is getting a bunch of pop stars together and sing a song! “Have You After All” features Andy Lau, Alan Tam, Hacken Lee, Eason Chan, Joey Yong, Leo Ku and even some Chinese opera singers pretty much praising how great Hong Kong has been in the last ten years. Especially cringe-inducing in its ass-kissing is the line about “Lion Rock connecting with the Great Wall/It can be felt in the veins” and the random Mandarin lines towards the end.
Then some Hong Kong netizens come along and make a spoof of the song (a version with English lyrics here), not only writing satirical lyrics to lampoon the Hong Kong government with a pro-democracy slant, but also finding buddies to imitate the singers in the original song (especially spot-on are the Alan Tam and Chinese opera singer impressions). The best part is that the spoof got 10 times more viewers than the original song on Youtube.
It has become such a pop culture phenomenon that a RTHK program (RTHK is the government-run radio station with television production as well) would use the spoof as a way to mock the government (At one point, the host says everyone should get a “Don’t Speak Taboo face mask” and a “Don’t Hear Taboo ear plug”) and the Chief Executive. Of course, there’s also the anti-democracy spoof of the spoof, which just goes to show how much freedom of speech people still have in Hong Kong.
Today’s song, if i remember correctly, is the first solo single by Paul Wong during my high school days (obviously, I’m not that old). The album Yellow Paul Wong is out of print now, but you can find today’s song in the Beyond the Ultimate Story Compilation. It’s “Incomparable.”