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Archive for June, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 6/11/07

Today’s song was featured on the final episode of The Sopranos, which I did not watch (I only watch them on DVD). Instead, the most memorable use of this song for me was in the ending of the film Monster. Yes, I know people called Journey “the most generic band ever,” but it’s that lack of cultural context that makes this song work for me. From the 1981 album Escape, it’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

It’s the only video with the CD recording, so just try and ignore it and just listen to the music.

The Golden Rock - June 11th, 2007 Edition

Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long entry to read and an even longer entry for me to write:

- As expected, Ocean’s Thirteen led the pack on Sunday box office in Hong Kong. On 59 screens (still a fairly high number), Ocean’s Thirteen made HK$1.57 million for a current 4-day total of HK$5.41 million, which puts it just slightly ahead of Ocean’s Twelve, even though Twelve opened only 44 screens. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End slows down by just a bit with HK$1.02 million on 51 screens (a HK$20,000 per-screen average for a film in its third weekend is pretty good in my book) for a 18-day total of HK$38.33 million. It probably won’t hit Spiderman 3’s current gross of HK$54.94 million, but it’ll pass the HK$40 million mark pretty easily.

Meanwhile, Norbits makes a better-than-expected HK$360,000 on 16 screens to get a 4-day total of HK$1.18 million (I guess I was wrong about that), Japanese sports film Rough made only HK$30,000 on 7 screens for a very weak 4-day total of HK$140,000; and British film Cashback continues to be strong in limited release with another HK$60,000 on just 2 screens for an 11-day total of HK$510,000;

- In Japan, the attendance ranking shows Pirates taking the weekend again as 300 opens at second place and the Prestige opens at 5th. Dai Nipponjin also continues strong at 3rd place, as Kantoku Banzai has fallen off the top 10 already. Number crunching to come tomorrow.

On the other hand, Eiga Consultant reports that two limited releases have done quite well in Tokyo. Notes on a Scandal, starring Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench, opened in two theaters on June 2nd and saw 2006 admissions for a 2.78 million yen opening. With nine shows that day for two theaters combined, that’s an average of 223 people per showing, which would be impossible in one theater and a full house in the other (not sure if these theaters offer standing room, which some Tokyo theaters do). Apparently, good word-of-mouth is spreading as it expanded this weekend, though it seems like it didn’t make it into the top 10.

The other movie is Sydney Pollack’s documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry. At one theater in Shibuya, the opening day saw 1500 admissions for 2.32 million yen and full houses of mostly design freaks and art students. However, it seems like attendance has died down, as the theater recommends that getting there 10-30 minutes before the show is fine now.

- In South Korea, Shrek 3 came in and took care of business by opening with 1.6 million admissions since Wednesday, which is a pretty damn good opening by any count. Hwang Jin-Yi isn’t doing so well with just roughly 700,000 admissions since Wednesday. Pirates took another pretty big tumble with only 75,000 admissions in Seoul, although it might end up doing better than Spiderman 3, which only saw 600 admissions in Seoul this week. You can see the rest of the top 10 yourself.

Oh, and Mark Russell went and watched Michael Bay’s “Best Summer Movie You Haven’t Seen Yet” Transformers (By the way, MTV is owned by Viacom. Transformers home studio is Paramount. Also owned by Viacom. See the coincidence?) and he can’t say anything yet, except that he liked it.

- This past week in Japanese TV dramas (see here for all drama introductions), we see the audience favorite Kaette Kita Jikou Keisatsu wrapped up to its highest rating of 13.5, Proposal Daisakusen (or Operation Love) saw its biggest ratings hike from 14.6 in the past week to 19.1 for its 8th episode, nearing the season high of 19.3. It remains the season’s highest-rated drama with an average of 16.8, and will likely to keep its place unless some type of divine intervention comes in. Joudan Janai also continues its slow climb back to respectability with a 12.8 rating, while Sexy Voice and Robo finds another new low with a 6.4 rating as it nears its end within these two weeks. Liar Game, Bambino, and Hotelier also see rebounds this week, as the weakest spring season in years begin to come to a close.

- Erika Toda, currently starring in Liar Game, has been casted in Tea Fight, a Japanese-Taiwanese co-production scheduled to shoot late this year mostly in Taiwan. Not much details on the film (not even director), but I can imagine the film would include tea and/or fighting.

- Apparently Bollywood has so many movies that they needed six hours to pass out all of its awards. The youth film Rang de Basanti, which is seeing its shorter cut released soon, won ten of the 15 cetegories, including best film.

- My favorite Japanese band is probably Love Psychedelico, especially after I saw them in concert back in 2005. At the end of June, they’re finally getting their own “Bokura No Ongaku” special. Considering their 60s Hippie rock influence, I’m not at all surprised that they would invite Yoko Ono. I’m just surprised that she actually agreed.

- Hong Kong’s Big Media Group, which announced its opening during the Hong Kong International Film Festival back in March, has unveiled its initial slate of films. They include mid-budget films by Wilson Yip, Wong Ching-Po, Joe ma, Jingle Ma (no relations), anc Vincent Kok, among others. Their only big-budget production so far is “Another Better Tomorrow, which will not be a remake and is trying to cast both Hong Kong and Korean stars. Except for the whole “Another Better Tomorrow” thing, I really like that they’re trying to do mid-budget productions with new talents, boasting production values instead.

- Still, looks like America thinks it has a thing or two to teach Hong Kong. Actually, I would like to sit in one of these things.

- Twitch laments for Isao Yukisada’s career, although I still think his comparatively subdued handling of a melodrama like Crying Out For Love in the Center of the World is top-notch commercial filmmaking (OK, it’s a little long, but a lot of Japanese films are). Oh, they also have a link to the trailer of his latest film, which seems like a children’s melodrama about building something for space.

- Jason Gray offers his own take on the Matsumoto-vs-Kitano comedian battle after seeing both Kantoku Banzai and Dai Nipponjin. The latter still sounds like quite a film.

- Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter has finally chimed in with a review of Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest, calling it a slow-moving film that might have worked better as a 30-minute short.

- I’m only reporting this because I know some people that like the Japanese pop collective (it’s too large to just be called a group) AAA. One of its member, Yukari Goto, is leaving the group due to health reasons, and will leave the pop collective with “only” seven members.

- The Shanghai Television is getting underway today, followed by the film festival, and this is the first year that the Shanghai Television Festival is operating on its own, before the actual film festival commences. On the other hand, the film festival will run its first SIFF market, which should do fairly well with the increasing reputation of Chinese films today.

- This is a strange and even somewhat contrived way of marketing a film - Saiyuki, the Japanese bastardiz….re-imagination of the famous Chinese tale Journey to the West, is promoting its film version with a fake cast, including another SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and pop star Koda Kumi, on its poster.

- Ratings for Japanese animations is dropping overall due to a decreasing number of children, more extracurricular activities, more Wii playing (which is better exercise than watch cartoon anyway), and other reasons that seem to have nothing to do with quality.

- Since I already started following it, I might as well keep reporting it. Netizens in Hong Kong have found a new way to attack Hong Kong’s Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority - by complaining about a porn hyperlink seen on a government website.

- After proving to be a talented actress, Yu Aoi has a chance to prove her worth as a voice actress as the lead in a new high-budget animation special for Fuji Television.

- Twitch has the link to the full trailer for The Insects Unlisted in the Encyclopedia, Rinko Kikuchi’s first Japanese film after her Oscar-nominated performance in Babel. It looks weird.

- After winning the week at the Oricon singles chart last week, L’Arc~en~Ciel announces that they will release one single each month for five months starting August, as well as a new album and a concert DVD.

Best of Golden Rock - June 4th to June 10th, 2007

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from June 4th to June 10th, 2007:

- The recent blockbusters have been taking up so much screens in Korea (and pretty much everywhere else, come to think of it) that the Korean government is actually looking into whether studios are breaking monopoly laws. However, since these screen counts were reached by consensus between theaterowners and distributors (more demand=more screens=bigger cut), not much wrongdoing is likely to be found.

- After appearing in 6 films, starring in one TV drama (Taiyou no Uta, or the drama version of Midnight Sun, which was confirmed to be inspired by the Hong Kong film C’est la vie, Mon Cheri), and releasing a single under said drama character’s name, Erika Sawajiri may be headed for a singing career. Sony Music has introduced a new singer named Erika who happens to look like her, has the same birthday as her, and even has the same voice….except she was born in Paris, unlike Sawajiri. But, but, she’s not even much of a singer.

- Jim Carrey is getting to be more of an actor than just another funnyman - I loved his performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I guess taking on a thriller like The Number 23 sounded pretty good on paper. Now he’s taking on the dark comedy I Love You Philip Morris, as a real-life character who escaped prison four times after falling in love madly with his released-cell mate.

- The “HOCC vs Leo Ku” debacle has blown up just a little bit more when the two showed up for a concert put together by a radio station. And of course, the media is fanning the flame to sell more newspapers:

基仔甫坐下即說新歌《錢錢錢錢》的種類屬於Progressive Rock,與Queen的《Bohemian Rhapsody》屬同一種曲風,但兩首歌的旋律絕不一樣。

(in translation)Leo immediately said that his new song “Money Money Money Money” belongs in the category of Progressive Rock, the same style as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but the melodies are absolutely different.

OK, Mr. Ku, I’ll buy that your song doesn’t sound like Bohemian Rhapsody, but let’s make this clear - this song is Progressive Rock; your song is not.

Meanwhile, Paco Wong, the manager of all Gold Label artists, has this to say:

觀點角度不同,何韻詩發表的言論並無指名道姓,這是她的個人看法,如果她說的是雷頌德和古巨基的歌,那要多謝她幫手宣傳,不過請寫清楚名字。」基仔見狀不禁拍拍經理人膊頭,並打圓場說:「她沒說名字,不要對號入座。」

(in translation) “Perspectives are different. Denise Ho expressed her opinion without naming any names. That is her personal opinion; if she says that it’s Mark Lui and Leo Ku’s song, then thanks for helping with the promotion, but please clear up the names.” Then Leo pat his manager’s shoulder, trying to make peace saying, “she didn’t say any names, do not jump to conclusions.”

This is essentially a battle that the press started. HOCC didn’t even write that anyone copied any songs. Anyway, I won’t be translating the next line about Leo not smiling when they greeted each other since that’s just gossip. You can read the Chinese report to read about it.

- Twitch has the first trailer for the Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To collaborative experiment Triangle. I don’t care what the critics say, I still think it looks like a hell of a ride. Be sure to use Internet Explorer to watch the link.

- The first English review for Takeshi Kitano’s Kantoku Banzai (Glory to the Filmmaker) is out, and with a 3.4 stars out of 5…..I guess it’s good, right?

- Twitch has a link to two more fragmented trailers to Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights. In line with the episodic structure of the film, the first trailer, released just before Cannes, showed the Jude Law subplot, while the second trailer is about Rachel Weisz’s subplot, and the third trailer is on Natalie Portman’s. It still looks pretty, but I’m not so sure about Portman’s country accent myself. By the way, you have to click on the French yellow button under that poster of Wild Hogs to get to the trailers.

- After a bit of rescheduling and whatnot, the New York Asian Film Festival finally announces its lineup, and it’s looking real good (so good that I wish I can fly to New York for it).

Looking even better is Japan Society’s own film festival Japan Cuts, which has quite a lineup this year as well, some of which is part of the New York Asian Film Festival.

- I first picked it up here, which somewhat wrongly translated the article. John Cameron Mitchell’s controversial film Shortbus is finally making its way to Japan, but not without a few modifications. According to the director, he personally supervised the placing of mosiac at 100 different places for the Japanese theatrical release due to the watchdog Eirin, who is basically the MPAA of Japan. Still, it’s not exactly the kiss of death, because unlike America, about 100 films are rated R-18 each year, including American Beauty. In fact, this news might even attract more people to see Shortbus in its limited run. Then again, Eirin is kind of weird, because even a violent war film like Letters of Iwo Jima got away with a general rating, while Flags of Our Fathers was a PG-12.

- Ryuganji has a really interesting commentary on a Japan Times commentary about the state of Japanese films. One is bleak about the state of Japanese films, the other says “hey, it ain’t so bad out here.” Guess which is which.

- Professor Bordwell writes about the recent wave of omnibus films, especially the Cannese 60th Anniversary anthology film To Each His Own Cinema.

- Naomi Kawase (director of the Cannes Grand Prix-winning The Mourning Forest) announced at Cannes that her next film will be a romantic comedy. Now more details have emerged that it’ll be shot in Thailand with Japanese drama star Kyoko Hasegawa. According to Ryuganji, just because Kawase is using a major actress for the first time doesn’t mean she’s going to be any easier on Hasegawa. She also wants to be among the ranks of Akira Kuroasawa and Nagisa Oshima as the “Japan’s Kawase” by the next generation and that she’ll win the Palme d’Or next time, though The Daily Yomiuri adds that she said it with a smile, suggesting that she might have just been half joking. Because, you know, I half-joke about winning the Palme d’Or all the time.

- The trouble is over, as Midway has now rejoined the New York Asian Film Festival as a sponsor. However, they are no longer the main sponsor, as Dragon Dynasty has taken that spot while they were gone.

- China is suspending the issuing of internet cafe licenses as they do a thorough investigation to make sure the customers are behaving properly, as in they’re not playing violent games, looking up porn, or speaking ill of the nation. In other words, what Americans do on the internet most of the time.

- In a piece of more serious news, the erotic pages of major Hong Kong newspapers were sent to the Obscene Articles Tribunal recently for classification after some accused the TELA of having a double standard in the classification process, especially in the handling of the Chinese University of Hong Kong student newspaper case. Well, it seems like these erotic pages were classified as category I: Neither obscene nor indecent, which is baffling to me, since they are saying that kids are allowed to read erotic pages of mainstream newspapers without any warning printed on its pages.

Oh, I got it, they must’ve figured out that since Apple Daily, The Sun Daily, Oriental Daily have some of the least credibility among Hong Kong newspapers, no one would take them seriously anyway, right?

- After a week, there are finally more English reviews of Hitoshi Matsumoto’s deadpan superhero comedy Dai Nipponjin. Variety’s Russell Edwards (who also wrote a too-short review for the film version of Tokyo Tower) calls it tears-down-the-face funny and a genuine jaw-dropping oddity.

Mark Schilling of Japan Times reviewed both Dai Nipponjin and Takeshi Kitano’s Kantoku Banzai, and he declares a clear winner.

It seems like the Western reviewers are really loving Dai Nipponjin, but why is the Japanese audience ripping it to pieces? The most popular film review blog in the Japanese blogosphere gives the film only 915 yen out of a full score of 1800, and 38% of votes at Walkerplus are one star out of five. Perhaps that goes to show that general audience’s disdain for cult films aren’t all that different across cultures.

- The Korean film Failan, the story about a low-life gangster investigating the life of the wife he never met, was a hell of a heartbreaker. Finally someone seems to have appreciated it enough to pick it up for a remake, and the plot seems pretty faithful to the original, too. However, the revenge thing seems to indicated that it might even be more violent.

- The trailer for the New York Asian Film Festival is up (thanks to Asian Cinema - While on the Road for the link), and I think in my humble opinion that it’s quite awesome.

- Two NHK mini-dramas were recently announced, but the reason we care here is because one of them is a milestone of sorts. The six-episode drama Shanghai Typhoon will be the first NHK drama to have a non-Japanese lead with Taiwanese star Peter Ho. Apparently, he will plays a Chinese exchange student in Japan that will be a romantic interest for the female lead, played by Tae Kimura. According to Ming Pao, it’ll play at the very time slot that the hit Korean drama Winter Sonata played in 3 years ago, and Ho said like Winter Sonata star Bae Yong-Joon brought on the Korean Wave, he hopes to bring in the Chinese Wave. I doubt it, but go for it, Peter.

- The winners of the 44th Grand Bell Awards have been announced (didn’t I just write about the nominees last week?). Family Ties picked up best picture, while The Host still managed to grab best director. My favorite win of the whole award, though, is Ryu Deok-Hwan’s best newcomer award for Like a Virgin. It’s most definitely well-deserved!

- Jason Gray reports that Japanese director Sabu’s (whose Dead Run I sort of liked) first foreign language film Arrested Memories, which Gray did the English translation for, has been green-lit.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 6/10/07

Today’s choice is back to the old school, as I dig up a single from my mother’s favorite pop group Anzen Chitai (Safety Zone). From 1986, and available on probably every Anzen Chitai compilation, including this one, it’s “Sukisa” (I love you!…the sa is the exclamation mark).

There’s no MTV of it anywhere, so here’s this kick-ass live version instead.

The Golden Rock - June 10th, 2007 Edition

- Two NHK mini-dramas were recently announced, but the reason we care here is because one of them is a milestone of sorts. The six-episode drama Shanghai Typhoon will be the first NHK drama to have a non-Japanese lead with Taiwanese star Peter Ho. Apparently, he will plays a Chinese exchange student in Japan that will be a romantic interest for the female lead, played by Tae Kimura. According to Ming Pao, it’ll play at the very time slot that the hit Korean drama Winter Sonata played in 3 years ago, and Ho said like Winter Sonata star Bae Yong-Joon brought on the Korean Wave, he hopes to bring in the Chinese Wave. I doubt it, but go for it, Peter.

- The winners of the 44th Grand Bell Awards have been announced (didn’t I just write about the nominees last week?). Family Ties picked up best picture, while The Host still managed to grab best director. My favorite win of the whole award, though, is Ryu Deok-Hwan’s best newcomer award for Like a Virgin. It’s most definitely well-deserved!

- Lovehkfilm has a couple of new reviews, including one for the Hong Kong romantic comedy Single Blog, the “where the hell did that come from” Chinese film Sweet Revenge, and the delightful Japanese girl power music film Linda Linda Linda.

- Speaking of Linda Linda Linda, the songs the girls cover are by the Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts. Two of its members - vocalist Hiroto Komoto and guitarist Masatoshi Mashima - actually went on to form The High-Lows, and since last year, they have been playing as the Cro-Magnons. So even though the Blue Hearts have been broken up for 12 years now, their spirit is still very much alive. Anyway, the Cro-Magnons will be doing their first movie theme for the film Waruboro, though it’s not clear if The High-Low or The Blue Hearts have done any movie themes before.

- Twitch offers us another review of the over-the-top Singaporean horror comedy Men in White, and the conclusion is pretty much the same as last time.

- The Fujimoto prize, which recognizes producers and directors, was recently given in Japan. TBS has now officially shown their strength over Fuji Television as its producers picked up an award for their ten films last year, including the hit films Tears For You and The Sinking of Japan.

- The restructuring Bangkok International Film Festival has announced a preliminary lineup for its competition, which includes the Chinese film Lost in Beijing and two Thai films as well, one of which is Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s latest Ploy.

- The region 1 DVD of Hot Fuzz is coming July 31st!

- It’s getting more and more dangerous to be an otaku these days in Japan, as crimes in Akihabara has gone on the rise after extensive construction to change the face of the electronic town has brought out more otakus than ever. Of course, it seems like another concern would be whether these otakus would do their part to stop crime (that’s two links there at the end).

- The latest trailer for Ping Pong director Fumihiko Sori’s Vexville is up, and it still looks very technically impressive. I might even be tempted into checking this one out.

- As random as it sounds, Korea Pop Wars has some random notes, including the poor start for the hyped historical epic Hwang Jin-Yi. We’ll find out more about Hwang’s weekend in the next few days.

- Jason Gray reports that Japanese director Sabu’s (whose Dead Run I sort of liked) first foreign language film Arrested Memories, which Gray did the English translation for, has been green-lit.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 6/9/07

Today’s song needs a whole lot of explaining. In Chinese, the song’s name is 潛龍勿用, which literally translates to “Don’t Use the Hidden Dragon.” The phrase itself refers to a person’s hidden talent or power. Like a dragon hiding underground, a person shouldn’t show his/her hidden power when the time isn’t right just because of ambitions. Basically, it probably means, in more casual terms, not to be so eager to show your strength when the time isn’t right. The best explanation I’ve found (in Chinese) is here, so let me know if I got anything wrong.

In this song’s context (thanks to this explanation in Chinese), it can be said the song is written from the perspective of a very jealous man to his beautiful and unfaithful lover. The man is telling her that just because she’s beautiful doesn’t mean she has to share that beauty with the world (hidden strengths at the wrong time). It took me several years to understand it.

From Nicholas Tse’s album Jade Butterfly (which I still believe to be the peak of his musical career), it’s “Don’t Use the Hidden Dragon.”

The Golden Rock - June 9th, 2007 Edition

- After a week, there are finally more English reviews of Hitoshi Matsumoto’s deadpan superhero comedy Dai Nipponjin. Variety’s Russell Edwards (who also wrote a too-short review for the film version of Tokyo Tower) calls it tears-down-the-face funny and a genuine jaw-dropping oddity.

Mark Schilling of Japan Times reviewed both Dai Nipponjin and Takeshi Kitano’s Kantoku Banzai, and he declares a clear winner.

It seems like the Western reviewers are really loving Dai Nipponjin, but why is the Japanese audience ripping it to pieces? The most popular film review blog in the Japanese blogosphere gives the film only 915 yen out of a full score of 1800, and 38% of votes at Walkerplus are one star out of five. Perhaps that goes to show that general audience’s disdain for cult films aren’t all that different across cultures.

Japan Times also bashed David Fincher’s Zodiac and praised Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.

- The Global Film Initiative, a nonprofit distributor of foreign independent films, have announced their awards for six promising film projects from around the world. These funds will provide the filmmakers with a way of paying for their respective films’ post-production, which these independent projects surely need.

- After the United States government squealed to the World Trade Organization about rampant policy in China, the Chinese government is now officially cooperating with the USA by setting in tougher policies and increased raids by customs.

- Meanwhile, the leaders at the G-8 summit are also talking about ways to fight piracy, especially now China is the new whipping boy in the piracy problem. Still, I doubt they actually managed to reach any conclusion except that they need to fight it.

- Twitch has some new posters - one for Benny Chan’s Invisible Targets (which looks like they’re ready to push these pretty boys to get down and dirty with the violence) and one for Alexi Tan’s Blood Brothers.

- The Korean film Failan, the story about a low-life gangster investigating the life of the wife he never met, was a hell of a heartbreaker. Finally someone seems to have appreciated it enough to pick it up for a remake, and the plot seems pretty faithful to the original, too. However, the revenge thing seems to indicated that it might even be more violent.

- Seijun Suzuki’s frequent collaborator Takeo Kimura’s third film (which actually features Suzuki in a seemingly major role) has a first trailer. I haven’t seen any Suzuki film, so I don’t know if this resembles his style or not. But it does remind me of Hitler - A Film From Germany (which you can watch here free and completely legally). That’s not a good thing.

- The trailer for the New York Asian Film Festival is up (thanks to Asian Cinema - While on the Road for the link), and I think in my humble opinion that it’s quite awesome.

That’s it today. We’ll finish up the weekend roundup tomorrow.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 6/8/07

Today’s song of the day goes back to hip-hop, which I hadn’t chosen much throughout this blog (I guess Paul Wong and LMF are kind of hip-hop). If you can ignore the Kanye West “Go go go go go” rap in the chorus, its music is even smoother than the lyrics. From the album “Be,” it’s Common’s “Go.”

Sorry, I can only find the censored version on Youtube.

The Golden Rock - June 8th, 2007 Edition


I rarely watch a Japanese drama that I was really sorry to see end, but Kekkon Dekinai Otoko (He Who Can’t Marry) has become one of them. It’s a relaxing and charming little show that can best be described as the Japanese version of James L. Brooks’ As Good as It Gets. Hiroshi Abe stars as Shinsuke, a talented 40-year-old architect who thrives on living the good life in solitude - steak for one, followed by a glass of milk and some loud classical music in his unusually large Tokyo apartment. He’s committed to keeping that life of solitude by being generally unkind to everyone he runs across, even his own mother. However, when his all-meat diet causes him a trip to the hospital, Shinsuke finds his life slowly becoming a John Donne meditation. Will he stop being so mean and eccentric? When will the people around up get fed up? And in a society where unmarried 40-year-old man are not seen in a very good light, will he meet his match and finally get married like everyone else?

That’s about the gist of the drama, which plays out more like an American TV show with a mostly episodic structure rather than a serial one. Each episode deals with an aspect of Shinsuke’s lifestyle being questioned (the title of each episode is “So What if I______?!”, and they are often hilarious as they are insightful. The writer also managed to craft one of the most interesting protagonists in recent Japanese drama with Shinsuke, thanks to a great performance by a deadpan Hiroshi Abe. Yui Natsukawa is also great as Natsumi, Shinsuke’s new doctor that makes up the second half of the unlikely couple. Yes, traces of the great As Good as It Gets are apparent - the cute dog (and the dog is REALLY cute), the rude protagonist, and the apartment setting. Still, the whole thing plays much more to a younger urban crowd, as well as the middle age crowd; the Tokyo cityscapes are nicely captured, and if the whole thing doesn’t make you want to live in Tokyo, I don’t know what else can.

I watched this on a Chinese-subtitled DVD bought in Hong Kong by a family member. If I’m not mistaken, an English-subtitled version was shown on Hong Kong TVB Pearl a while back, and the (sadly) unsubtitled DVD from Japan will set you back a good 200 dollars (I really wish Fuji would release their dramas with subtitles like TBS has done in Hong Kong). Still, I encourage you to seek this one out - it’s really the best Japanese drama I’ve seen in the past year.

- Looking at Hong Kong’s Thursday opening day numbers, this weekend is shaping up to be a little more balanced than the month of May. The big opening this week is Steven Soderbergh’s big heist flick Ocean’s Thirteen. On 57 screens (Spiderman 3 opened to double that number in Hong Kong!), the star-studded film made HK$930,000 on its first day (If you put it at Pirate’s ticket price inflation of 30%, that’s about HK$1.2 million). With Pirates already fading away at the opening of its third weekend (HK$440,000 on 53 screens), Ocean’s should do fairly healthy, though unspectacular business over the weekend, probably making about HK$5 million at the end of Sunday, just about on par with Ocean’s Twelve’s opening 2 and a half years ago.

If anyone cares (I sure don’t), Eddie Murphy’s Norbit opened with HK$170,000 on 16 screens. It probably won’t even make HK$1 million by the end of the weekend. Good riddance. Japanese sports comic adaptation Rough (by Nana director Kentaro Otani) opens weak with only HK20,000 on 7 screens. British film Cashback stays strong with HK$30,000 on 2 screens at the start of its second weekend with an 8-day total of HK$360,000. And the only Hong Kong film in the top 10 is Single Blog, taking in just HK$80,000 on 18 screens with the 8-day total of HK$1.84 million.

- As reported on this blog before, Naomi Kawase (director of the Cannes Grand Prix-winning The Mourning Forest) announced at Cannes that her next film will be a romantic comedy. Now more details have emerged that it’ll be shot in Thailand with Japanese drama star Kyoko Hasegawa. According to Ryuganji, just because Kawase is using a major actress for the first time doesn’t mean she’s going to be any easier on Hasegawa. She also wants to be among the ranks of Akira Kuroasawa and Nagisa Oshima as the “Japan’s Kawase” by the next generation and that she’ll win the Palme d’Or next time, though The Daily Yomiuri adds that she said it with a smile, suggesting that she might have just been half joking. Because, you know, I half-joke about winning the Palme d’Or all the time.

- The trouble is over, as Midway has now rejoined the New York Asian Film Festival as a sponsor. However, they are no longer the main sponsor, as Dragon Dynasty has taken that spot while they were gone. Maybe someone can now afford to fly me to New York to cover this as an official assignment for The Golden Rock…

- If you’re in Japan this weekend with limited Japanese ability (being able to read katakana is just fine), then your movie choice this weekend ought to be Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. It’s a hell of a movie I wrote about back in April that’s damn well worth your time. Even the Daily Yomiuri gives it five stars.

- China is suspending the issuing of internet cafe licenses as they do a thorough investigation to make sure the customers are behaving properly, as in they’re not playing violent games, looking up porn, or speaking ill of the nation. In other words, what Americans do on the internet most of the time.

- Tartan has picked up the US rights for Kim Ki-Duk’s latest Breath, starring Cheng Chen. Meanwhile, Kim’s previous film Time will open in New York mid-July.

- In related Tartan news, they also picked up Park Chan-Wook’s I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK and prebought Kim Ji-Woon’s The Good, The Bad, and The Weird. Since Tartan originates from the UK, no word if this means that they’ll also be releasing these films through their USA divisions as well.

- BET is sending a weekly version of their countdown show “106&Park” to MTV Japan, further signaling the growing hip-hop culture there.

- In a piece of more serious news, the erotic pages of major Hong Kong newspapers were sent to the Obscene Articles Tribunal recently for classification after some accused the TELA of having a double standard in the classification process, especially in the handling of the Chinese University of Hong Kong student newspaper case. Well, it seems like these erotic pages were classified as category I: Neither obscene nor indecent, which is baffling to me, since they are saying that kids are allowed to read erotic pages of mainstream newspapers without any warning printed on its pages.

Oh, I got it, they must’ve figured out that since Apple Daily, The Sun Daily, Oriental Daily have some of the least credibility among Hong Kong newspapers, no one would take them seriously anyway, right?

More news tomorrow.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 6/7/07

In the previous entry, I posted a link to Japanese artist Ayaka’s first official singles release. Today’s song of the day is an unofficial release because it was originally done for a television show a year before it was officially released. I chose this over I Believe because I can kind of connect with the lyrics for this song (and that’s more than what I’m usually willing to tell). From her first album “First Message,” it’s Ayaka’s “Mikazuki

 
 
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