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Archive for June, 2007

The Golden Rock - June 21st, 2007 Edition

I’ve been experimenting with a new look for The Golden Rock, and it’s still not quite easy enough on the eye yet, so pardon the mess.

- The American Film Institute, in their holier-than-thou glory, updated their 100 best films list after they made their first list 10 years ago. Since then, a few films were added (The General! Shawshank Redemption!), which means that a few films dropped out as well. In a further attempt to undo any credibility I have built, I admit now that I have only seen 35 of those 100 films.

- David Fincher’s Zodiac opened in Japan this past weekend. While Fincher’s past films has mostly done well, this is his first film in Japan without any major bankable star, and the effect showed. Its opening of 80.85 million yen is only 26% of Panic Room, which grossed 2.5 billion yen in Japan. However, Zodiac’s opening is 141% of Jake Gyllenhaal’s previous film Jarhead. Other Fincher films have done fairly well in Japan - Seven made 2.65 billion yen, The Game made only 980 million yen, and Fight Club made 1.98 billion yen. Looks like Fincher isn’t as big as a commercial draw as studios might’ve believed.

- Korea Pop Wars has a small write-up of the Korean box office this past weekend. Ocean’s 13 barely dethroned Shrek 3 (though that’s a matter of screen counts - it only opened on 249 screens), while the blockbuster suffered pretty big drops. Two Japanese films (Kiroi Namida and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) made it to the top 10 too.

- One of those quickly falling blockbuster is the historical epic Hwang Jin-Yi. However, it has made back most of its budget in domestic box office, and Pony Canyon in Japan just bought it up, despite the weak market for Korean historical dramas.

- Apparently your good-old 2-dimensional movie experiences are no longer good enough, as 3-D screens are expanding worldwide. Even Hong Kong has a 4-D screen now, though they decided to put it at the airport for some odd reason.

- In addition to possible co-production opportunities with Japan, China Film has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Korea’s CJ Entertainment, which will lead to at least two co-productions. How huge are CJ Entertainment? I have CJ brand rice at home. No kidding.

- The Tokyo Project Gathering, a meeting that will hook up future productions with international co-production partners, is upping their goal for submissions (but they’re looking for more novel adaptations and remakes, ugh), so apply if you got a few million bucks to spare and a really good screenplay. I have neither, so I’ll just have to miss out on it.

- China has seen its revenues from films, radio, and TV go up 18% in 2006. Now they’ll just have to start letting artists do what they want.

- Business Week offers a possible way to fix the Chinese piracy situation: It’s the prices, stupid.

- Meanwhile, Sony CEO Howard Stringer is saying that Sony is learning from its past mistakes and is on its way to profitable growth. Too bad it’s coming too late for the Minidisc (which I still faithfully use, despite the hate-inspiring ATRAC format).

- a Hong Kong blogger writes how TVB can learn to embrace Youtube instead of treating like the friend of its enemies, aka illegal downloaders. Like I said, I wouldn’t mind watching advertisements for free access to programs that were originally broadcast for free in the first place.

- Yoshimoto Kyogo, one of Japan’s premier managing agencies for comedians, has established a project to get 100 (!!!!) of its comedians to direct their own short films. This just goes to show that anyone can make a movie. However, their quality is highly doubtful at this point.

- Twitch has more information about Sky Crawlers, the new film from Mamori Oshii that I wrote about yesterday with very little enthusiasm. I shall continue that today.

- I really really liked the Panasian omnibus film About Love, which put together somewhat intertwined stories with directors from Taiwan, China, and Japan. The director of the Chinese segment, Zhang Yibai, goes back to the Japanese-Chinese romance formula of his segment with his new film The Longest Night in Shanghai. Filmphilia has more information and link to a trailer.

- Kanye West (coughamericanrapsbiggesthackcough) filmed his latest MTV in Japan and even claimed to feature a real motorcycle gang. Of course, whoever was in charge of making that Japanese title screwed up (Instead of “Sutoronga,” which would read like “Stronger,” the title right now reads “Sutosoga” because the katakana for the sound “so” looks similar to the sound “n”). It doesn’t help that Kanye pretty much wrote the song like a nursery rhyme.

- New York Asian Film Festival starts tomorrow, and Asian Cinema - While on the Road is, of course, doing some self-promotion. Hell, even this counts as promotion.


The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/20/2007

This being my own blog and all, I should be able to indulge in some Karaoke-friendly HK pop every once in a while. At least today’s song is by the talented songwriter-sometimes-singer Pong Nan. From the album Singing in the Ring (Yay Hong Kong and their inexplicable English album titles), it’s Wilfred Lau’s Broken End.

And here is songwriter Pong Nan’s own rendition of it.

The Golden Rock - June 20th, 2007 Edition

- I had no idea that the public holiday in Hong Kong ended up being on Tuesday the 19th, not Monday the 18th. That would explain why Fantastic Four ended up making another HK$2.12 million on 60 screens Tuesday in Hong Kong, bringing a 6-day total of HK$11.14 million. Simply Actors, starring Jim Chim and Charlene Choi, is a hit with HK$970,000 on 29 screens on its first full day of screenings (it made an additional HK$250,000 the previous night). Mr. Cinema continues to do weakly with just HK$300,000 on 27 screens for a 6-day total of HK$1.7 million. It has now surpassed Kidnap, which made only HK$230,000 on 25 screens on Tuesday for a HK$1.56 million after 6 days plus previews. Milkyway’s Eye in the Sky has accumulated a total of HK$340,000 after 4 nights of preview screenings. It opens officially on Thursday. 4 Hong Kong movies on the top 10 - that’s a rare sight for sore eyes.

- Oricon released the rankings for music and DVDs sold in the first half of 2007. On the singles chart, Sen No Kaze Ni Natte is the number one top-seller with 916,000 copies sold. Released late last year, sales for the single rocketed after Masafumi Akikawa appeared on the year-end Kohaku Uta Gassen, and has been steady through the first six months of the year. In a far-off second is Utada Hikaru’s Flavor of Life, which in my opinion is easily Utada’s most mediocre single ever released (And I’m speaking as a fan who has shelled out 30+ dollars for her stuff since her first album); it has sold nearly 630,000 copies. Arashi’s Love So Sweet rounds out the top 3, selling nearly 421,000 copies. It’s official: Hana Yori Dango 2 ruled the music world.

In albums, Mr. Children not so surprisingly tops the chart, selling over 1.12 million copies of their album Home. I was a little surprised that Koda Kumi managed to sell 998,000 copies of her album Black Cherry, and Ayumi Hamasaki rounds out the top 3rd and 4th place with her compilation albums A BEST 2 WHITE and A BEST 2 BLACK. More surprising is the third best-selling non-compilation Japanese album would not show up until 7th place with YUI’s Can’t Buy My Love. Even Avril Lavigne managed to sell 656,000 copies of the album with that annoying Girlfriend song. Someone save J-pop.

In the DVD charts, the best selling DVD so far this year is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (which I’m sure was helped by the follow-up At World’s End), selling 430,000 copies. Second place is Hitoshi Matsumoto’s roundtable discussion DVD with 310,000 copies, and third place is the best-selling Japanese film so far this year, Umizaru 2: Limit of Love, with 267,000 copies. Even the huge pop culture event of last year, Death Note, has only sold 244,000 copies of its complete set since March. The reason why the sales seem bad is because Japan has a very active rental market due the gap between the price of a rental (400-500 yen) and the price of a DVD (2500-4000 yen for a single movie). With such a huge price difference, it’s understandable why people would rather rent than buy.

- In the weekly charts, Sen No Kaze Ni Natte is still selling strong in the singles chart. This week, it’s at 16th place, selling 7,300 copies as it inches slowly towards that million mark. Meanwhile, YUI rules the chart with the debut of her new single, selling just 79,000 copies. The Korean boy band Dong Bang Shin Ki (TVXQ) managed to sell 35,000 copies of their latest single for a second place debut. Dreams Come True’s latest disappoints slightly at third place, with only 31,000 copies sold of their latest single. Even a wedding didn’t help troublemaker DJ Ozma’s latest single, debuting at 14th place selling only 7,400 copies. Gackt’s Japanese theme for Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige is expected to win the charts next week, as shown in the daily rankings.

On the albums chart, Bon Jovi’s album hits a very surprising first place, selling 73,000 copies. ZARD’s Golden Best compilation continues to sell very well as it remains at second place with another 54,000 copies sold. There’s no real major Japanese album release this past week, so it all looks a bit quiet. Next week, Crystal Kay may earn her first number one album, if the daily rankings hold up.

- In Taiwan, three Hong Kong/Macau university students decided to show how ineffective news reporting is by creating fake news items and forwarding them to television stations. And those stations actually ended up running the stories without any verification. Someone’s in the big trouble, and it’s not the students.

- Sales are down this year at the Shanghai Television Festival, especially historical dramas. Good news is that over 40% of the stall holders were from outside Mainland China, which means it’s no longer just a place for the Chinese market. However, only 1.2% of the buyers were from Europe and the U.S..

Meanwhile, the German film March of Millions took the top TV Film Award at the Shanghai TV Festival. The strangest win in my mind was the best TV Series Award to Living, based on the same novel as Zhang Yimou’s To Live. To Live gets banned, but the drama version wins an award in China?

- Twitch has a longer trailer to new director Carl Zhang’s Lovers. It looks real pretty with the filters and all, but all it says is that the guy has some style. Let’s hope his directing and writing will back it up.

- Since Japan’s United International Pictures is packing up, Hollywood studio Paramount just flat out decided to do things themselves by distributing their own films in Japan.

- Reviews, reviews, reviews. Variety surprisingly already has a review of current Japanese blockbuster Maiko Haaaan!!! up already, while the Daily Yomiuri has a review of Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest. On the same note, Japan Times has a feature on the French translator who helped translate the scenario and the script to get French funding for The Mourning Forest, which makes the fact that he still hasn’t met the director somewhat strange.

- A government-appointed advisory panel in Singapore is urging the authorities to embrace the new media by finding new ways to take advantage of traditional forms of entertainment. Then there’s a bunch of vague official suggestions that look like English, but not really.

- Shanghai finally has their first full-fledged art house theater. Hong Kong had so many of them that they had to get rid of them one by one. OK, that’s not why they’re diminishing, but Hong Kong still has plenty of them.

- Andy Lau pisses off a CCTV program by refusing to appear on their human interest show. But then they piss off the people by complaining about it. This comment is my favorite: “If Andy Lau won’t come, you criticize him. What if Andy Lau criticizes you directly? Are you going to give him a physical beating?”

- Wilson Yip is making yet another Donnie Yen movie, but at least it’s not just another action movie. It’ll be a supernatural action movie. I thought China doesn’t like ghost and supernatural tales.

- Takeshi Kitano (Beat Takeshi is fine too) is returning to the TV drama world, except it’ll only be a two-part made-for-TV film.

- The Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (I think they mean Fantasy rather than boasting that the films will be fantastic) has announced its lineup, which includes Oxide Pang’s Diary, Yamashita Nobuhiro’s The Matsugane Potshot Affair, and a special program of films by Herman Yau.

- The international hit drama “Jewel in the Palace” (Dae Jang Geum) is going to the stage in Japan after it was successful adapted as a musical earlier this year in Korea. Performance will begin this December.

- The Daily Yomiuri has a feature on the Japanese documentary Election, which has seen very good word-of-mouth.

- Director Mamoru Oshii, best known for the animated film Ghost in the Shell, announced that his next film will be The Sky Crawlers, based on the novel by Hiroshi Mori. I haven’t seen any of his work, so I can’t really comment on this.

- Twitch has a set of reviews for the films playing at the upcoming New York Asian Film Festival in case you can’t decide what to watch. The festival starts this weekend.

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/19/2007

While Linkin Park took the opening chord of the Halloween theme and made this, Shiina Ringo’s Tokyo Jihen took the opening chord of the Twilight Zone theme and created something that has a sense of fun with an air unpredictability. From the band’s first album Kyoiku (Education), it’s “Sounan” (Accident).

The Golden Rock - June 19th, 2007 Edition

We’re surprisingly busy here for the rest of the week, but we gotta get through all this news anyway, so let’s do it quickly:

- Japanese box office numbers are out at a much higher exchange rate than last week (US$1=123.495 yen this week vs 121.775 yen last week), which means they seem to be earning less in American dollars in addition to the drop. I really wish they’d just stick to a consistent rate to show the true week-to-week drop each week.

Anyway, except for Pirates of the Caribbean and Apocalypto (which saw a screen increase), looks like almost all the films took a pretty big hit, with 300 leading the way by losing 56% of its audience. That almost never happens in the top 10 in Japan.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Maiko Haaaan!!! opened pretty big at second place with 230 million yen. However, Eiga Consultant gets it straight and points out that it actually only opened at 76% of writer Kenkuro Kudo’s last film Kisarazu Cat’s Eye World Series (which ended up with an 1.8 billion yen total) and 80% of Kou Shibasaki’s last comedy Star Reformer (2 billion yen total). Mr. Texas also points out that this year seems to lack the huge hits such as Umizaru 2, Suite Dreams, and even Star Reformer. In fact, the highest-grossing Japanese film this year, Dororo, only grossed less than half of Umizaru’s final gross. Is the Hoga resurrection that short-lived?

Meanwhile, the May-September romance Last Love, starring Masakazu Tamura and Misaki Ito, opened pretty weakly at 8th place with only 45 million yen. That’s only 29% of Love Never to End, another drama that aimed at an older crowd, though the latter film did have the sex scenes to bring in more of the older crowd.

- Jason Gray got it first, as he reported that Tsukamoto Shinya’s Nightmare Detective is headed for a sequel less than half a year after the first film was released. Less than a day later, Ryuganji has plenty of expanded information about what the sequel will be like. According to the website, the DVD of the first film will be out this weekend. Did anyone know how well this film did? I don’t even remember it ever hitting the top 10.

This was a clothing store in Harajuku that happened to also be promoting the film at its storefront, January 2007.

- The Melody Awards was handed out in Taiwan recently. Nicky Lee and Jolin Tsai, both pop stars that I don’t particular care for, picked up best male and female awards, respectively. And David Tao, who delivered a fairly underwhelming album last year, still managed to pick up an award for best duet.

- There are some creative ways to meet your favorite celebrity, this is not one of them.

- Under “most surprising news” today, a sequel to the mega Korean blockbuster The Host is now in pre-production. I know monster flicks are prone to sequels, but there’s almost no way this is going to top the original.

- A Chinese documentary about a school class election picked up the top feature award at the AFI/Discovery Channel Docufest. Good for them.

- The website for Feng Xiaogeng’s latest film The Assembly, which seems to be next year’s big Chinese New Year film in China, just uploaded a trailer. It looks technically accomplished, but it still seems pretty derivative to me.

- Twitch also has a trailer for the Korean film May 18th, about the Kwangju uprising. It looks pretty intense, considering its director made Mokpo, Gangster’s Paradise. But there’s something about that overdramatic music towards the end…

- With the latest chapter of the China-vs-Japan-history saga taking a turn for the worse, it’s good to see some people still acting pretty sane. Toho/UniJapan and China film are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for cinematic cooperation. What does that mean? It means China and Japan are now one step closer to collaboration on film, strengthening the role of Asian films around the world, politics be damned.

- Unlike Hong Kong, Shanghai’s ongoing film market is currently still only seen as a work-in-progress.

- After teaching Hong Kong a lesson, Hollywood went up to Shanghai and taught the Chinese film industry how to emulate Hollywood too.

- The Dragon Dynasty two-disc DVD for John Woo’s Hard Boiled is up for pre-order. I’m very happy with my Mei-Ah remastered DVD (which I guess isn’t the best in the market), so unless it has some mind-blowing feature, I’m skipping it. Still, if you haven’t seen this amazing action flick, this is probably the chance to see it.

- Lastly, looks like they’re trying to really give the newly reset James Bond franchise some class by signing up Monster’s Ball director Marc Forster to direct the next film. The last time they tried that with Michael Apted ended up with The World is Not Enough. Might not be such a good idea.

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/18/2007

Japan’s kids songs sometimes has a tendency to become huge pop culture hits. Last year’s Tarako advertisement song is kind of one of them (it features kids, after all), and today’s Song of the Day is another one. In 1999, I heard this on Hong Kong radio after it exploded in Japan, and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s “Dango San Kyoudai” (3 Dango Brothers)

A Dango is a popular type of Japanese sweets usually served on a stick.

The Golden Rock - June 18th, 2007 Edition

The Golden Rock is back for another month and a half of continuous blogging. Yes, I did miss compiling a ton of news everyday, as I still kept up on Variety Asia and Twitch from 70 miles away. Anyway, the weekend’s over now, so let’s do this thing.

- Hong Kong box office was pretty disappointing over the holiday weekend, at least for Hong Kong. The two Hong Kong openings - Mr. Cinema and Kidnap, both opened to very weak openings. On Sunday, Samson Chiu’s Mr. Cinema made only HK$350,000 on 27 screens for a 4-day total of HK$1.16 million, while Law Chi-Leung’s Kidnap made only HK$230,000 on 25 screens for a 4-day (plus previews the previous weekend) total of HK$1.16 million. Patrick Leung and Chan Hing-Ka’s Simply Actors, starring Jim Chim and Twins’ Charlene Choi, opens today in Hong Kong, and we’ll see how it does on Wednesday. Yau Nai-Hoi’s Milkyway production of Eye on the Sky didn’t do too well either, making only HK$80,000 on 26 screens of advanced preview showings, and HK$170,000 after two nights. Either way, Hong Kong cinema’s summer season isn’t having a very good start so far.

In other box office rankings, Fantastic Four naturally opens in first place, making HK$2.07 million on 62 screens (I don’t even remember the first film doing that well in Hong Kong) for a HK$7.71 million after 4 days, Ocean’s Thirteen hangs on with HK$630,000 on 38 screens for an11-day total of HK$9.3 million, and British film Cashback stays strong with HK$40,000 on 2 screens. There are no huge Hollywood openings this weekend (Wild Hogs and Zodiac), so maybe it’s time for Hong Kong films to bounce back. One can only hope.

- Meanwhile, Lovehkfilm updates with a few reviews - Law Chi-Leung’s Kidnap, Billy Chung’s straight-to-video Undercover, the Korean fantasy extravaganza The Restless, and the J-horror film Ghost Train (written by yours truly).

- The audience rankings for Japan is also up, as Pirates continues its rampage across Japan as the number one movie. Japanese comedy Maiko Haaaan!!! is a hit, debuting at second place; Zodiac opens weakly at 5th place, but not as weakly as the Japanese romance Last Love (more on its weekend performance tomorrow), and Apocalypto jumps up to 9th place in the first weekend of wide release. Numbers and analysis tomorrow.

- In Japanese drama rankings, the Japanese remake of the Korean drama Hotelier starring Aya Ueto wrapped up its lackluster run with only a 9.1 rating, which is just above the season average rating of 8.5, but below the highest rating of 11.1. Sexy Voice and Robo continues to limp at 6.5 (I’m guessing episode 7 will never be broadcasted), train nerd drama Tokkyu Tanaka 3 Go took a huge drop to a 6.8 from last week’s 9.7, Kodoku No Kake has dropped from the season-opening 11.2 to a sad sad 5.1, losing more than half of its initial audience (Even Sexy Voice and Robo managed to avoid that). Speaking of disappointments, Joudan Janai goes back down a little bit this week with a 12.0 rating.

The season, which has been pretty sad in terms of ratings, will wrap in the next two weeks. I think we all know that Operation Love will come out on top in two weeks (the big question is if it will break the 20.0 mark), but what about Banbino, Watashi Tachi No Kyokasho, both which have seen pretty stable ratings all season? How will audience favorite Liar Game wrap up after seeing a ratings decrease this week? Will Joudan Janai and Sexy Voice and Robo fight off their “disappointment” label by attracting more viewers next week? We shall know by next Monday.

Part 2 of today’s entry is about little controversies in recent Chinese medias.

- I’ve never been a fan of Jia Zhangke. In fact, I have a legit copy of Still Life sitting here, waiting to be watched. Recently, director Jia was asked to write an editorial about the word “perplexity,” and he chose to write about Xiao Wu’s banishment due to someone in the film industry denouncing it. Since then, it has stirred a controversy because the media found its suspect. I might not have liked Ziao Wu, but I am certainly sympathetic with the ridiculous treatment of the film.

- r@sardonicsmile warns that if you’re a celebrity in Hong Kong and you have a personal blog, you might want to watch what you even dare to hint at, because the Hong Kong media will jump on you like a shark looking for even the slightest hint of red. One thing: Is the Storm in a teacup reference to the old Commercial Radio Hong Kong talk show, or is it actually a pretty widely-used phrase?

- Doing my part to spread the word, a Hong Kong blogger realizes that one of his posts was recently plagiarized by a writer for Hong Kong pop culture magazine Milk. However, the editor was confronted, only to say that it was entirely coincidental that the feature happens to match the original entry 90% of the time (even the two glaring mistakes in the entry was carried over). I’m even ashamed now to admit that I do read Milk Magazine with some enjoyment, which makes the disappointment even greater.

Now to regular news:

- I’m only reporting this for rachael: Aoi Miyasaki, better known as the cute Nana in the first Nana movie, announced her surprise marriage this past weekend. Yeah, usually I wouldn’t report something like this, but anything to keep them readers happy.

- The Jackie Chan/Jet Li historical family film Forbidden Kingdom has delivered its progress report, and they might as well have not reported it if they just say something like “it’s going well.” Jackie Chan apparently did offer promising words about the Chan/Li fight, but I’m still being very very skeptical about this English production passed off as a Chinese film.

- The Shanghai International Film Festival has officially opened, but it opened fairly low-key with very little business being done and a lack of real Panasian stars.

Meanwhile, Geoff Gilmore, the head of the Sundance Film Festival, took the Shanghai festival as an opportunity to blast the International Federation of Film Producers Association for their ratings of film festivals around the world. Might not matter to you, but it does to me.

- Japan Times reviewed Miki Satoshi’s Insects Unlisted in the Encyclopedia, probably most notable outside Japan for being Kinko Kikuchi’s first film after her Oscar nomination for Babel.

And they also liked The Prestige very much too.

- Dai Nipponjin is hitting the festival circuits, and they’re the major ones. The most exciting one in Hong Kong because I’ll actually be there next year, but Toronto is pretty damn exciting too.

- Speaking of exciting, the teaser for P.T. Anderson’s There Will be Blood is up and running. It looks different than anything he’s done, but he’s one of my favorite filmmakers, so I’m looking forward to it big time.

- Noruhiro Koizumi, the director of Midnight Sun, is taking on Gachi Boy, the adaptation of a play about a professional wrestler with a memory problem. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be an inspiring sports story or a comedy yet.

- Also working on a new film is Jeff Lau. His new comedy The Fantastic Waterbabes will star Gillian Chung and Alex Fong (seems natural to have an ex-olympics swimmer turned pop star to be in a movie about swimming), and will be released in time for the Beijing Olympics. I like Jeff Lau, but I don’t like EEG and movies that cash in on current events. What to do, what to do…

- Twitch write about the new Korean film The Wonder Years, about a young girl who is so sure that her mom is a famous rock star that she goes out in search of her in Seoul…with a little help from her friends(That was a Wonder Years reference, by the way). Plot sounds interesting, but after Ice Bar, I am approaching Korean films about searching for biological parents with caution.

- Doesn’t really have anything to do with Asian entertainment, but Jean Reno has a new commercial in Japan, and it’s pretty awesome. Who knew that he’s such a cool romantic lead?

- There’s gonna be another Godzilla movie…….in 3D!

The Golden Rock song of the day - 6/13/07

Today’s Song of the Day is a delayed choice, since I already wrote about Kekkon Dekinai Otoko last week. You guessed it, from Every Little Thing’s album Crispy Park, it’s “Suimi”

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The Golden Rock is taking a extended weekend break as he goes out of town to see a few of his friends graduate. We might be back with a post on late Sunday (and I suspect my RSS reader will provide quite a bit to read), but we’ll be back on Monday for sure. Try and miss us a lot, now.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 6/12/07

I heard today’s song of the day while listening to a Hong Kong radio program at the gym. I honestly have no idea why I chose it, I just thought it’s kind of cute, despite it’s some guy trying to seduce a younger girl. From the soundtrack and the film The Sound of Music, it’s “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”

Since it’s kind of a joke song, I might as well present the creepiest version that exists.

…..OK, here’s the real version

The Golden Rock - June 12th, 2007 Edition

- The somewhat incomplete Japanese box office numbers are in. I say incomplete because either Kantoku Banzai has fallen below 15th place, or Office Kitano has flat out decided not to report its grosses anymore, and the opening weekend of 300 is not as spectacular as the numbers report. Box Office Mojo reports that 300 made about US$3.4 million, or 415 million yen. But the total indicates that it included the previous week’s previews into its total gross, which means that as Eiga Consultant reports, 300 made 330 million yen, or roughly US$2.71 million with a per-screen average of US$5,995. Of course, that still makes a very impressive opening, and it’s still 209% of Sin City’s opening, but it’s still overshadowed by Pirates of the Caribbean.

Unlike most of the world, Pirates is actually enjoying a very healthy long-term run, dropping just 20% from the previous week for another 941 million yen. After three weekends, Pirates has already made almost 6.2 billion yen, and will pass Spiderman 3’s gross mid-week. Still, Spidey 3 has already surpassed the previous movie’s gross, and as indicated by its slow 25-30% drop, it should end up making just a little more than the first film, too.

Everywhere else on the top 10 looks pretty stable, with only the Hollywood flick Shooter seeing a considerable drop. Even Dai Nipponjin survived its lackluster word-of-mouth, losing only about 28% of its business (Knocked Up lost more than that in its second weekend, and it’s an audience favorite). In a one-theater limited release, Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto made a promising 1.8 million yen. It’ll go on wide release this coming weekend. NOTE: It will not feature English subtitles.

- Speaking of Pirates of the Caribbean, the notorious Chinese censors have approved the third film to play in Chinese theaters. However, they banned the first two movies (which are kind of crucial to understand the third one, no?), and they cut out half of Chow Yun-Fat’s scenes. Now people are not only utterly confused, they even lost much of the their main reason for buying a ticket to watch it in theaters. Disney is wasting their money, this one is pretty likely to flop in China.

- In Thailand, director Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Ploy opened only modestly. However, its first weekend gross has already surpassed the total domestic gross of his last film, Invisible Waves. For a filmmaker associated with the words “arthouse cinema,” I would say that’s pretty good.

- I have honestly seen very few Japanese films that actually have original screenplays. Many of them are adapted from novels (so much that I took a whole class of Japanese films adapted from novels), comics, video games, or continuation of TV dramas. Then again, a bulk of Hollywood films is made the same way. However, Ryuganji points out that it’s getting a little out of hand these days in Japan.

- Elizabeth Banks has signed on to play the young stepmother role in the American remake of A Tale of Two Sisters. I liked her in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but like all American remakes of Asian films, I remain very very skeptical about this.

- China is getting ready to fight back at the United States after they filed two cases against China with the World Trade Organization. However, with the complaint, China is now less likely to open up its film market any quicker just to get on Hollywood’s nerves.

On the other hand, the EU is warning that it will “go to trade war” with China if they don’t improve cracking down on piracy. Who needs who more these days anyway? You try stopping a billion people from making pirated versions of your overpriced goods.

- Meanwhile, Hong Kong seems to have a thing or two to complain about Japan too. TV Asahi showed its made-for-TV biopic of Asian superstar Teresa Tang on June 2nd, which was shown simultaneously in Hong Kong as well. Since Tang did spend a huge chunk of her career in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong press would naturally put how the Japanese portray Hong Kong under a lot of scrutiny. As a result, Ming Pao had a field day pointing out how much the show screwed up:

1) The movie starts in 1973, when a Japanese talent manager discovered Tang in Hong Kong still under British colonial rule. Yet, the Hong Kong Special Administraive Region flag was seen at the location, instead of the colonial flag.
2) In the scenes that take place during the 80s, the Bank of China Tower (built in 1989) and the International Finance Center (built in 2003) were seen in the background from the Peak.
3) The Murray House was not restored in Stanley, where Tang lived, until 1998. However, it appeared in the film’s 80s scenes as well.

There are a bunch of other nitpicks in that report as well. While I can’t blame Ming Pao for nitpicking (”ha ha! Japanese TV crews suck just as much!”), TV Asahi just didn’t have the money to reproduce all these historical locations with cgi. Plus, it’s not like Hong Kong productions are very good at conveying foreign locations either.

- Disney has signed a deal with an Indian studio to produce several computer-animated features aimed for the region. No word on whether Disney will ever plan to release these films outside the region.

- Ryuganji also has news on upcoming and ongoing projects from Miki Satoshi, all of them starring Joe Odagiri. He also adds on another upcoming Odagiri project as well. It’s all a little complicated, you should go read it yourself, since Joe Odagiri may soon be the male version of Erika Sawajiri. These Japanese stars just never rest.

- Andy Lau really is the hardest working man in Chinese entertainment: When he’s done filming Daniel Lee’s historical epic this month, he’ll do a cameo for a Focus Films production that he’s investing in, then an album and concert tour. All by the end of the year.

- Considering that the film will be entirely in English, it’s so surprise that there’s an English website up for Takeshi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django. However, the trailer remains on the original website, so just go to Twitch instead of getting confused.

Jason Gray also reports that Quentin Tarantino showed up in Japan at the end of the shoot to film his cameo, which would explain why he was not in the trailer and why he showed up at the wrap-up ceremony.

- Do we really need an Asian version of Oprah? Apparently someone thought so.

- Lastly, Tokyograph left a comment yesterday with more about Tea Fight, starring Erika Toda. They had this to say:

“About “Tea Fight” - there actually is a director named, but I know nothing about Taiwanese or Chinese names. The Japanese form is ワン・イェミン, which seems to be something like Wang Ye-Ming, but the closest I could find is an actor. The article says the person was an assistant director for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” but none of the credits I could find (imdb or elsewhere) match the name.

Here’s what another article said about the story (roughly): “The father runs an old tea shop, and he closes shop after his wife dies from what he believes to be a ‘tea curse.’ Through the internet, the daughter finds out about a legendary tea and travels to Taiwan in search of it. The father then follows her, concerned that it may be a trap by Taiwanese tea-makers.” There’s also mention of Taiwanese mafia being involved in the story somehow.”

I can’t seem to find the name through various variations on that name either. But still, that’s more than helpful. Thanks! Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen