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Archive for September, 2007

The Golden Rock - September 30th, 2007 Edition

- I guess I should start off and tell you that there’s a new review/observation post at the spin-off about Maiko Haaaan!!! and Beauty and the 7 Beasts. I can give you a preview and say that Beauty and the 7 Beasts is the worse HK mainstream movie I’ve seen this year…and I saw Contract Lover.

- It’s reviews time! Twitch has a review of India’s best foreign film Academy Award contender Eklavya, and Japan Times’ Mark Schilling has a review of the Japanese indie film Baum Kuchen, which is currently playing at one Tokyo theater for one show a night.

- Stephen Chow’s A Hope has finally locked a release date of January 31st, 2008, although I’m not sure if that opening date also applies to Hong Kong. As for the alien, Chow reportedly told Oriental Daily that the design is a homage to Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, not a rip-off. You can probably only use the word “homage” for films more than 20 years old.

- While Stephen Chow takes three years to make his follow-up to Kung Fu Hustle, Takashi Miike is already releasing his third theatrical release of the year. More information from Twitch and Ryuganji.

- Under “Korean actress casting” news today, Gianna Jun (the artist formerly known as Jeon “My Sassy Girl” Ji-Hyun) is done with her first non-Korean film Blood the Last Vampire and back in Korea for the mid-budget comedy drama The Guy Who Was Once Superman. Meanwhile, Cannes best actress winner Jeon Do-Yeon has already decided on her next film, A Fine Day by director Lee Yoon-Ki (who last made the quiet gem Ad-Lib Night.) Guess which one I’m looking forward to more.

- Satoshi Kon’s Paprika picked up the Theatrical Film Award at the 12th annual Animation Kobe Award.

- Also, Wayne Wang’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayer picked up the prizes for best film and best actor at the San Sebastian Film Festival. If you remember, Wang admitted that a Chinese investor pulled out of the film because the director refused to take out a line that was critical of the Chinese communist government.

- With it crashing and burning in Chinese theaters, the distributor for Jiang Wen’s The Sun Also Rises is trying hard to boost business for the weeklong public holiday period.

The Golden Rock - September 29th, 2007 Edition

Today is like the TV edition of the The Golden Rock:

- Variety Asia has a feature on the state of Asian TV - Japan wants you to know that they are actually exporting more than they seem to, Korea is hoping that people will keep watching their dramas even if they don’t watch their movies, Hong Kong’s legally-obligated-to-be-there TV network is hoping to find enough stuff to fill four new networks at the end of the year, and Chinese TV should be lucky that they can find something the government approves of.

- Speaking of TV, Japan national broadcaster NHK, which charges pretty much every Japanese household a mandatory fee, saw its latest business plans rejected by the government because they’re making too much money. Making too much money means they are charging too much.

- Courtesy of EastSouthWestNorth, Danwei raises a few points over the dubious banning of the Chinese crime reenactment show Red Question Mark, which feature reenactments of crimes committed by women. After running for 3 years, the show was banned because it was “vulgar.” That would be the reason to ban most of American TV.

- In India, possibly racially derogatory comments made by a radio host about the winner of the talent show Indian Idol led to an angry demonstration which injured 60 people and forced police to impose a curfew in the area. Man, Clay Aiken fans just aren’t as crazy as ought to be these days.

- On a personal note of interest, one of my favorite directors Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film There Will Be Blood was the surprise closing film of the Fantastic Fest, and the enthusiastic word-of-mouth are pouring in, first from the Hollywood Reporter, then from Twitch’s Peter Martin. I’m extremely excited to see this, but I know I probably won’t get to for a long long long time. Instead, I’ll probably go watch another Pang Brothers movie or something.

By the way, look for a new post or two at the spin-off this weekend.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 9/28/07

- I would’ve been surprised if you told me six months about that Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution will be the Chinese blockbuster of the year in Hong Kong, but Tony Leung’s scrotum seems to do wonders in certain circles. On Thursday opening day, which is misleading because no films “opened,” Lust, Caution made HK$1.16 million from 62 screens, which has got to be a record for a category III film. If the reports from Edko are correct, the film took an amazing HK$3.01 million on the Wednesday public holiday alone, and a pretty damn good 2.5 day-total of HK$4.88 million. But will it make the targeted HK$15-18 million by the end of the weekend?

What about the other holiday films, you ask? Oxide Pang’s The Detective officially opened on Thursday, but was in theaters for 2 days before that as “previews.” Minus the HK$220,000 from 28 screens on Thursday, the Aaron Kwok-starring thriller made roughly HK$900,000 over 2 days and a total of HK$1.18 million so far. It should have a pretty solid weekend, but I doubt it’ll go anywhere near HK$10 million.

Forget about Wong Jing’s Beauty and the Seven Beasts…no, really, forget about it, the movie is shit. Box office-wise, it’s doing better than The Nanny Diaries and Stardust, but it’s still pretty shitty. On 25 screens, the ensemble comedy made HK$180,000, and has earned a 2.5-day total of just HK$660,000. Honestly, who did they expect to pay to watch Eric Tsang and Nat Chan go up against each other again? Oh, wait, I paid….

The Golden Rock - September 28th, 2007 Edition

- First comes the news that any blogger who cares about Japanese films is blogging about - the reveal of the FilmEx lineup. First a general report from Variety Asia, then Ryuganji reveals the Japanese selections, and Jason Gray has a comprehensive report. As much as I liked Eye in the Sky (good execution for two-thirds, then a contrived ending), it probably doesn’t stand much of a chance. The festival will run from November 17th to the 25th.

- Apparently Seven Swords wasn’t enough for him. After Missing, which is supposed to have something to do with a ring underwater, Tsui Hark will be working on what is being called his “comeback film.” The 13 Regiments will apparently group 13 stars together - including Simon Yam, Donnie Yen, and Nicholas Tse - and have them going around the world to recover Chinese relics scattered during “the war.” When the hell was Tsui Hark ever gone? He still has Triangle coming out, and he’s already working on one film before going on to this one.

- In a continuing crackdown of the media following that ridiculous mandate regarding talent shows, the Chinese government has shut down 1,466 ads that may contain offensive materials such as scantily-dressed women or sexually suggestive language. They even censored ads for underwears. Everyone wears underwears, people. Even communists.

- One director trying to fight against that is Chinese-American director Wayne Wang. According to him, a Chinese investor pulled out because Wang refused to cut a line in his latest film A Thousand Year of Prayers that says “Communism is good. It just fell into the wrong hands.” Any film that criticizes the Chinese government is of course a no-no, so the investor was forced to back out, taking away half the film’s budget.

- Forbidden Kingdom, the film that both its superstars Jet Li and Jackie Chan are calling “not very good,” is done shooting and taking its post-production to South Korea.

- For those who has seen the Hong Kong action flick Invisible Target, do you remember the blonde guy who’s involved in two of the chase scenes in the first hour? I know, I don’t remember much about him either, but apparently he’s going to Hollywood. Are they really paying him “seven digits”? It’s probably in yen, right?

- After the moderate success of TMNT, Hong Kong-based Imagi Animation Studio will team up with the Weinstein Company and Warner Bros. again for two more projects, the Japanese comic adaptations Gatchaman and Astro Boy. This should put Hong Kong computer animation on the map. This means Centro better get on its ass and make something better than The Magic Gourd. Still…American studios producing an adaptation of Astro Boy just doesn’t sound very promising to me anyway.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 9/28/07

- the Tuesday numbers came out for Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution in Hong Kong, but I’ll leave the reporting to tomorrow when the Thursday numbers come out just to see how well it did on the holiday. Just for record, the Tuesday night showings earned HK$710,000 from 42 screens, which I’m almost sure may be a record for a category III film (at least for screen counts).

- In China, The Sun Always Rises may have opened at second place, but it only made US$598,023 from what is reported as a 600-screen release. That means each screen made less than US$1,000, and it comes with not very good word-of-mouth. However, that can’t really be helped, considering that an arthouse release would mean that the film would definitely not make back its US$10 million budget…not that it’ll do so at this point either.

Looking at the charts, it’s surprising that teen horror film Naraka 19 is actually close to making what Contract Lover did. Not that either of these films were very popular in Hong Kong anyway.

The Golden Rock - September 26th, 2007 Edition

- As we usually do on Wednesdays, let’s look at the Oricon charts. As expected, Ayumi Hamasaki’s latest topped the singles chart in its first week, selling just over 70,000 copies. However, that actually seems pretty spectacular when its closest competition, the latest from boy group Dong Bang Shin Ki, only had to sell 33,000 copies to get to second place. Looking further down, You Hitoto’s latest could only muster a 10th place debut after selling just over 12,800 copies of her latest. Expect the charts to be extremely quiet next week, with Ayumi Hamasaki winning the chart for a second week in a row.

Things were a little better on the albums chart, where Angela Aki’s second album topped the charts with 88,000 copies sold. Young enka star Kiyoshi Hikawa’s latest album is far behind at second place with almost 42,000 copies sold for his latest album. Leah Dizon’s debut album is already all the way to 24th place from 9th place last week, and expect things to be very quiet here as well next week when Angela Aki will probably lead the chart again.

- Hero, the Japanese drama whose film version is filling seats at movie theaters these days, remains a hit on TV. It’s not a new TV special, but a new cut of the TV special Fuji TV aired this past weekend. While it didn’t hit the original rating of 30.9 from last year, a 22% rating is still pretty damn good, considering how weak TV ratings have been overall these days.

- India decided to pick the commercial flop Eklavya: The Royal Guard to compete with films around the world for one of those final five spots in the Academy Award for best foreign film. Theoretically, it needs to be better than Laagan, the last Indian Oscar nominee in that category. Will a guy named Eklavya beat the 4-hour cricket drama?

- After actor Masahiko Tsugawa had a decent small hit with the comedy Nezu no Ban, he’s moving on to an adaptation of the historical novel Jirocho Sangokushi, which actually inspired 13 films between 1952 and 1965.

- Today is Japanese commercial day at The Golden Rock.

First, we present the latest Softbank ad featuring Brad Pitt. In case you don’t know, this series of ads for the mobile phone service provider feature a Hollywood star walking down a street talking on their cool Softbank phone (for example, here’s one with Cameron Diaz, who’s in at least 3 of these things). This ad is no different, except this one is directed by Wong Kar-Wai. According to Apple Daily, the shooting of the “long take” (the cutting point is the pole, in case you don’t notice) took 3 days and 200 extras.

Second, Japan Probe brings us an ad for a Nagano newspaper by animation Makoto Shinkai, who scored a minor hit with his latest 5 Centimeters per Second. The animation is quite stunning, considering the plot is damn near non-existent.

Lastly, Japan Probe also has all 10 commercials Hollywood actor Tommy Lee Jones starred in for a brand of Japanese coffee. They are very very funny stuff, especially number 6.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 9/26/07

The Japanese box office numbers came out, and as it is always the case with family films, Miss Potter got dropped one place from the admissions ranking when the numbers came out because family films attract more people that buy cheaper tickets. So Naoko Ogigami’s Megane got bumped up to 6th place, beating the British film by a mere 592,000 yen in ticket sales. But it did open on just 72 screens, and Eiga Consultant reports that the film is breaking records and selling out on its Tokyo screens, so its debut is actually quite impressive.

While it’s the second holiday weekend in a row, the gross for most films were actually quite significant, with every film in the top 10 losing at least 30% of their business from the previous weekend. Even Harry Potter’s hopes of reaching that 10 billion yen mark doesn’t look too good right now.

- It was a public holiday today in Hong Kong, so no way of knowing how the Tuesday night shows were for the competing films. We’ll know more on Friday night.

The Golden Rock - September 25th, 2007 Edition.

- The numbers for the Japanese weekend box office doesn’t come out until tomorrow, so we’ll just going a bit into audience admission rankings for now. For the third weekend in a row, the drama adaptation Hero starring Kimura Takuya lead the rankings, keeping newcomers
Fantastic Four and Arthur and the Invisibles at second and third place, respectively. Also, Naoko Ogigami’s Megane opened at 7th place, although I don’t know how many screens it opened on.

Despite opening at only 4th place the first weekend, turns out the family film Miss Potter is considered to be doing quite well in Japan, with it being the second-highest-grossing region in the world behind the UK.

- From the (in)famous Johnny’s Jimusho comes the newest disposable pop group Hey! Say! Jump! (Jump stands for Johnny’s Ultra Music Power. Glad they’re still about the music). As an expansion of Hey! Say! (Which debuted recently), there’s more of them than ever by making it 10 members.

- This is the closest they got to being right - Hong Kong has chosen Johnnie To’s modern western Exiled as Hong Kong’s representative for an Academy Award for foreign film.

- After the success of the Korean blockbuster D-War (7.8 million admissions in South Korea, and US$8.5 million and counting in North America as the most successful Korean film in North American box office ever), it’s inevitable that the filmmakers would do what every successful B-movie would do: the obligatory sequel!

- Did you know that it’s actually legal to download Japanese content from the internet for private use? Of course, it’s probably illegal to upload it, but it seems like the downloader carries no actualy legal responsibility. However, it might be too late to tell you this now, because the law is about to change.

- Under “your daily Lust, Caution news” today, Taiwan audiences apparently love Ang Lee’s 156-minute erotic thriller. It’s even expected to make more than Brokeback Mountain, which is Lee’s highest-grossing film in his native country. I should be taking the plunge this weekend.

- It’s trailers time! Both courtesy of Twitch. First, there’s yet another trailer for Kenta Fukasaku’s X-Cross, which finally locked down a release date of December 1st. Honestly, I don’t even think he had a say in releasing another trailer, but that’s just my opinion. Then there’s a trailer for Mamoru Oshii-produced omnibus film Shin Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden. However, it all just seems really silly when a woman in the trailer says with seriousness - “I would like to eat it once more.”

- There’s a silent fight going on between the Pang Brothers and Andrew Lau about who will make the it’s-taking-so-long-that-no-one-is-waiting-for-it-anymore sequel to the comic adaptation Storm Riders. With my hate for Andrew Lau, I would actually really like to see the Pangs take on something that’s not horror.

- Lastly, Kaiju Shakedown presents the alternate (read: not as good) ending to Wong Kar-Wai As Tears Go By. It’s worth watching just to see how Andy Lau can’t even eat an orange the right way.

The Golden Rock - September 24th, 2007 Edition

- It’s reviews time! Variety catches up with some Hong Kong film reviews from Toronto, including a disappointingly short review by Scott Foundas for Pang Ho Cheung’s Exodus (why the hell do they keep calling it The Exodus?), and a review by Robert Koehler for Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen’s Flash Point.

- Korean director Lee So-Yeon’s Uninvited might have been a commercial flop in South Korea, but that doesn’t mean he’s not talented. His latest screenplay Hwan Gung, about a man who believes himself to be a warrior sent to send a woman who thinks she is a mermaid back to the sea, won the Busan Screenwriting Competition, which gives him a grant of 20 million won (roughly US$20,000).

- Under “I just can’t get interested in this” news today, Taiwanese idol Wu Chun will be joining the cast of Jingle Ma’s Wu Xia Liang Zhu (or a martial arts version of the classic tale Butterfly Lovers). Twins’ Charlene Choi will be playing the other ill-fated lover, and Nicholas Tse is also in talks to join as another potential suitor for Charlene’s cross-dressing character who will probably fight while hooked on some wire.

Honestly, this sounds like it’ll be a pretty shitty movie already.

- From Variety Asia is a short profile of China Film Group head Han Sanping. He’s the one that said China needs more “ethically inspiring movies” and said any China-basher is “mentally challenged.” Actually, Quentin Tarantino is still saying dumber things (look at the second-to-the-last paragraph).

- From Twitch is a few small paragraphs devoted to the Japanese comedy Maiko Haaaan!!!, which I’ll be catching this Friday night.

- Before you in the West go watch it, Ang Lee would like to tell you that his latest film will probably disappoint you and whomever you go watch it with in your local American arthouse.

- EastSouthWestNorth writes about a set of commercials for a Hong Kong theme park not named Disneyland that are freaking some people out. True, the version with both ads on Youtube isn’t all that scary, but the original version of one of them is actually pretty freaky stuff.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 9/24/07

- From the city where puppy movies go far, I should’ve seen this coming. After making just HK$110,000 from 20 screens on Thursday, the Disney animal superhero film Underdog rebounded for a pretty damn good HK$400,000 from 20 screens at the Sunday Hong Kong box office. However, after 4 days, it’s only made a total of HK$1.01 million.

Even though it’s only at 3rd place, the vigilante drama The Brave One also saw a rebound, making HK$340,000 from 30 screens for a 4-day total of HK$1.2 million. The third and final opening film on the top 10 is Jiang Wen’s The Sun Also Rises. From 5 screens, the film made HK$50,000 at 8th place for a 4-day total of HK$160,000.

As for holdover films, 1408 is still going relatively strong, making HK$340,000 from 27 screens for a HK$4.13 million 11-day total. Pang Ho-Cheung’s Exodus is fading away slower than I thought (I thought it’d be way down on the top 10 by now), making HK$250,000 from 33 screens for an 11-day total of HK$3.27 million. A good example of a movie fading away is the B-action flick War/Rogue Assassin starring Jet Li. On 28 screens, it only made HK$170,000 for a 11-day total of HK$2.58 million. Expect this to make single digits mid-week.

This coming weekend is a holiday weekend for Hong Kong films, with Lust, Caution and Oxide Pang’s The Detective vying for the top spot. Lust is expected to win, despite being category III and running 159 minutes, but according to Ming Pao, who probably just sent an intern to look at the Broadway Cinema website, presales are only so-so for now. Still, I wonder if that’s a good indicator of how it’ll do this coming weekend. We won’t know until Friday.

HK$7.8=US$1

- South Korea saw a long holiday weekend, but Mark Russell’s Korea Pop Wars was cool enough to report on how the weekend box office is currently doing (apparently, most people have work off until Wednesday). Director Kwak Kyung-taek, who hasn’t had a real bona-fide success since his breakout hit Friend, sees his latest film Love take the top spot with so-so admissions. Meanwhile, as a sign of the resurgence of Korean films (or the gradual weakening of Hollywood films), 7 of the top 10 films are again Korean.

- On the other hand, Japan saw yet another public holiday on Monday (The autumn equinox?), so no box office rankings until tomorrow.

 
 
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