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Archive for November, 2007

The Golden Rock - November 30th, 2007 Edition

- Because it’s only one place’s box office, we’ll put the box office entry in here too. Thursday opening day numbers are out for Hong Kong, and Johnnie To/Wai Ka Fai’s latest Mad Detective came storming out of the gate. Despite the category III restrictive rating (only for one scene that’s pretty borderline II-B anyway), the mystery drama made nearly HK$650,000 from 35 screens. With its targeted adult audience, it should make about HK$3 million by the end of the weekend, which means it’ll end up doing much better than recent Milkyway movies such as Exiled and Eye In the Sky. It’ll probably even do better than Triangle.

In Love With the Dead, the latest from Danny Pang (of the Pang Brothers) made only HK$330,000 from 32 screens after making HK$450,000 in sneaks last weekend. Perhaps the young will come out and see Stephy tear out her hair this weekend and bump up the figures. Hollywood horror film 30 Days of Night opened on 24 screen for a take of HK$200,000. Andrew Lau’s Hollywood debut The Flock did much worse, making only HK$62,000 from 18 screens, and the Korean-Japanese co-production romance Virgin Snow made only HK$55,000 from 12 screens.

-  Despite protests from major Thai filmmakers, The Thai Parliament has passed the Thai film law, which gives way too much power for the government to ban films. At least they can always make movies in China. Oh, wait…….

-It’s trailers time! Twitch again provides all three trailers today: one for the Korean body-switching thriller The Devil’s Game, one for the fairy tale-gone-nightmarish Korean horror film Hansel and Gretel, and one for Tak Sakaguchi’s directorial debut Be a Man! Samurai School.

- It’s Awards time too!  Tang Wei will pick up the Asian Female Star of the year award at the Cineasia convention in macau.

Meanwhile, the Japan newspaper Sports Hochi also gave out their yearly film awards, with Masayuki Suo’s I just Didn’t Do It picking up best film and best actor. Meanwhile, Shiro Ito picked up a surprisingly best supporting actor award for Shaberedomo Shaberedomo and Maiko Haaaan!!!!, and I mean surprising as in his performances in those weren’t particularly award-worthy. Another small surprise is Nobuhiro Yamashita picking up best director for his two films this year: The Matsugane Potshot Affair and Tennen Kokekko.

Lastly, the Japan Record Award winners were announced. The sad part I only know three of those songs, and only two of those are worthy winners in my mind.

- Johnnie To’s Linger stars Mandarin-speaking actors Vic Zhou and Li Bing-Bing, which means that the movie will obviously be in Mandarin. However, according to Grady Hendrix, the movie will be shown in Hong Kong in Mandarin instead of Cantonese, despite the fact that it’s already been dubbed in Cantonese. By the way, Grady, Heidi is the operator in the studio.

The Golden Rock - November 27th, 2007 Edition

- Takeshi Kitano appears on Japanese TV in variety shows often enough already, but audiences still can’t get enough of him: His latest acting role in a made-for-TV miniseries scored an average of 23.75 rating over Saturday and Sunday nights. That’s an even higher average rating than the highest-rated drama this season, and it was on the weekend.

- This isn’t a political blog, and this news isn’t meant to be political, but am I right in saying that a documentary that asserts the Japanese WWII war criminals are the equivalent of the seven samurais is probably a little absurd?

- It’s trailers time! Both courtesy of Twitch today- First, the English-subtitled trailer for the Thai action-fantasy film Siyama (yes, there’s supposed to be time traveling elements in the film that is completely ignored in the trailer). Then, the non-subtitled trailer for the gross-out Korean sex comedy Sex is Zero 2. You can already tell it’ll be grosser than the first film, which doesn’t necessarily make me want to watch it.

- Courtesy of Kaiju Shakedown are 5 clips from Pang Ho-Cheung’s latest film(s) Trivial Matters. With bong-smoking, swearing, and talk about oral sex, I’d be surprised if they can get away with a II-B this time.

- I’m starting to hate my vacation dates: Not only will I be missing Trivial Matters (unless it’s such a big hit and it plays through New Years), I’ll also be leaving Japan the day before the Nodame Cantabile special is scheduled to air on Japanese TV. D’oh!

- At least I’ll be back on time to see the new digital broadcast by Hong Kong free TV stations. Of course, I’ll have to first sink some money for a digital decoder or buy a HDTV. Which means I’ll probably be missing out anyway.

- Under “they mean really well” news today, the Beijing Film Academy produced a documentary about the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, and even took it to the American Film Market. However, despite some interest, it couldn’t find any buyers and it won’t even premiere in its homeland until March.

Meanwhile, Thai filmmakers are making their final protest calling for modification to the new Thai Film and Video Act, which could bring further censorship into the film system, despite the addition of a ratings system.

- Remember Lost in Beijing, the much-edited Chinese film that was forced to remove multiple scenes (including shots of dirty Beijing streets) before it cleared the censor board? The uncensored version was shown on Hong Kong screens (with a category III rating, which meant “no one under 18 allowed), and the censored version will finally be shown on Chinese screens with a wide release this week. Apparently, the critical nature of Chinese society remains in the film.

The European Union is getting more and more impatient with China over piracy, to the point that they’re threatening to go the principal’s office World Trade Organization about it.

- Huge Chinese blockbusters are not even going to premiere at the People’s Auditorium anymore: Now they’re going premiere in Olympic-sized venues!

- The Chinese father-and-son drama The Red Awn picked up the top prize at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 11/27/07

- Finally have the Sunday box office numbers from Hong Kong. The Ben Stiller Hollywood comedy The Heartbreak Kid did better than I expected, making HK$600,000 from 25 screens on Sunday, considering that advertising for the film didn’t really start until about 2 weeks ago. It has a 4-day total of HK$1.91 million. Beowulf manages to hang on to second place with HK$530,000 from 39 screens for a 11-day total of HK$6.5 million, which is OK but not spectacular. It also bumped The Kingdom down to third place with HK$390,000 from 27 screens for a HK$1.38 million 4-day total.

As expected, Tokyo Tower managed a rebound during the weekend and made HK$280,000 from 12 screens for a 11-day total of HK$2.37 million, while Bullet and Brain is nearly gone with just HK$91,000 from 20 remaining screens for a 11-day HK$2.37 million total. Even worse is The Pye-Dog, which made only close to HK$50,000 (this is rounded up already) from 19 screens for just HK$1.13 million after 11 days. And you can forget about Aubrey Lam’s Anna and Anna, which made only HK$20,000 (again, it’s been rounded up) from 5 screens for a 4-day total of……ta-da! HK$70,000.

- The Japanese box office numbers have also come in, and it shows that Always 2 took the top spot by making 2% more money than the previous week. For a film in the 4th week to do so is pretty amazing, even if it was a holiday weekend. Meanwhile, Koizora is still doing fairly well, losing less than 18% of business and moved past the 2.5 billion yen mark already. Midnight Eagle’s 185 million yen opening isn’t particularly bad, but definitely disappointing considering the expectations put on it. Even that per-screen average tells you that people just weren’t very interested in it. Next week will determine whether it’ll pass the 1 billion yen mark.

Looks like the screen count has been corrected for Zo No Senaka, so it actually lost a few more screens for this past weekend.

BONUS: Taiwanese box office:

- This is not really to show which movie is selling at number 1 or number 2 (It’s Beowulf and The Heartbreak Kid, by the way), but rather to see how Taiwanese films are doing on their home turf. 1) The youth drama Summer’s Tail had a limited release in Hong Kong and did fairly badly. It seems to be happening in Taiwan as well, where it lost 88% of its business and half of its screens in the second weekend. 2) The Most Distant Course, starring Guey Lun-Mei, opened at a moderate 7th place 4 weeks ago, but has since made only NT$2.9 million.

The Golden Rock - November 26th, 2007 Edition

 - It’s Japanese drama ratings time! A total of 12 dramas hit their season-low ratings. They include Joshi Deka (season-high:  13.4, season-low: 7.8), Iryu 2 (season-high: 21.0, season-low: 14.1), Uta Hime (season-high: 9.8, season-low: 6.7), Dream Again (season-high: 12.9, season-low: 8.4), Hatachi No Koibito (season-high: 13.0, season-low: 6.4), and Abarenbo Mama (season-high: 15.3, season-low: 11.1).

On the other hand, Fuji dramas Galileo and SP remain fairly strong, and NTV’s Hataraki Man saw a pretty big rebound from last week’s 10.1 to this week’s 12.7. Still, things are pretty bleak overall.

All drama information can be found at Tokyograph 

-  It’s OK, Don, you did get this news first. Bayside Shakedown producer Chihiro Kameyama, who seems to be the only hitmaker for Fuji TV these days, will be teaming up with Bayside Shakedown screenwriter Ryoichi Kimizuka for a new police drama that does not have anything to do with the Bayside Shakedown series (contrary to the image on the main Variety Asia website). Dare Mo Mamotte Kurenai will star Japan’s favorite 14 year-old (fictional) mother Mirai Shida as the sister of a suspected murderer who is being protected by the cop who is also gathering evidence against her brother.

Kimizuka will be directing, his second film after the Bayside Shakedown spinoff The Suspect.

- In more Japanese drama-related news, Korean heartthrob Kwon Sang-Woo announced that he will be acting in a Japanese drama for Fuji TV that he would like to call a “Korean version of Notting Hill.” Blah.

- Peter Chan’s The Warlords is one of the biggest investments ever in the history of Chinese cinema. Turns out nearly half the damn budget went to the cast, including US$13 million for Jet Li.

- FilMeX wrapped up in Japan, and Hong Kong’s Milkyway is walking away as the big winner, with Yau Nai-Hoi’s Eye in the Sky winning the Special Jury prize and Johnnie To’s Exiled winning the audience award.

- Gong Li has taken up the lead for the Hollywood film Shanghai along with John Cusack. She’ll play some mysterious woman involved with the underworld, or something like that.

Anyway, the film will be directed by 1408’s Mikael Hafstrom and is expected to be released in 2009.

- Nothing to do with Asian entertainment, but I just thought it was kind of cool. Here’s a clip of newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd speaking Mandarin in a television interview with a Chinese TV station during his campaign. Rudd was a diplomat in China and started studying Mandarin when he was in college in the 70s.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 11/26/07

- Now.com.hk is a little late in their report of the Sunday numbers in Hong Kong, but Thursday numbers show that the Hollywood comedy The Heartbreak Kid and the Hollywood action flick The Kingdom will be duking it out for the top spot this weekend. Unless the Japanese tearjerker Tokyo Tower (which I saw today and liked) pulls off another rebound for the weekend, Beowulf will probably hold at third place, despite suffering a fairly big drop. One thing that’s for sure is that Aubrey Lam’s Anna & Anna is a bona-fide flop with only HK$12,000 from 5 screens on opening day.

- In Japanese attendance figures, Always 2 finally takes the top spot 4 weeks after its opening, exchanging spots with teen romance Koizora. Meanwhile, Resident Evil 3 stays at 3rd place. The big news is Midnight Eagle’s opening at only 5th place. Originally expected to be THE next Japanese blockbuster with day-and-date release in America, a 5th place place opening is damn near embarrassing for Shochiku and Universal. More when the actual numbers are released.

- In South Korea box office, Seven Days actually saw an increase in audience to climb up to the number 1 spot, and Lust, Caution becomes a 1 million admissions-plus hit thanks to female audiences. All that and more from Korea Pop Wars.

The Golden Rock Song of the Week - 11/25/07

My interest in this week’s song was re-ignited when I found out the theme song for the animated film Byosoku 5 Centimeters per Second (also known as A Chain of Short Stories About Their Distance) happens to be this song. Since it came out 10 years ago, there was no way that it was chosen as some type of promotional tie-in. Then I found the MTV specifically created for the film by director Makoto Shinkai, and I fell in love with this song all over again. It can be found on the compilation album Blue Period, and it’s even on a single re-released specifically for the film. However, I cannot seem to find the Ronald Cheng cover anywhere on Youtube. It’s Masayoshi Yamazaki’s “One More Time One More Chance”.

Here’s the video created specifically for Byosoku 5 Centimeters Per Second. It made me bought the DVD without having seen the film.

Here’s the original MTV

The Golden Rock - November 25th, 2007 Edition

 - I’ve been meaning to post this for a while: Hong Kong distributor Golden Scene uploaded the trailer for Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung’s latest Trivial Matters on Youtube. The trailer is unsubtitled, but I can tell you it includes references to ejaculation, Isabella Leung and Gillian Chung pretending they can sing like pop stars (kinda like real life), it has Shawn Yue smoking a bong, and Edison Chan pretending to speak like a rapper. In other words, it’s not really safe for work.

Just in case you need reminding, Trivial Matters is a film adaptation of 7 short stories all originally written by Pang himself. He also directed all 7 films.

- It’s reviews time! Variety has a review of Samson Chiu’s Mr. Cinema, one of the three Hong Kong handover commemoration film from this past summer.

- In case you haven’t watched any of Akira Kurosawa’s classic films, some of them are now public domain and can be downloaded legally for free. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I have not seen Ikiru, Stray Dog, and Sugata Sanshiro.

- Han Jae Rim’s The Show Must Go On picked up the best film award at the Blue Dragon Awards. The film’s star Song Kang-Ho also picked up a best actor for playing the role of a gangster who has to balance family and his work in crime. Meanwhile, Jeon Do-Yeon picked up another best actress win for Secret Sunshine, Hur Jin-Ho picked up best director for his latest film Happiness (I can’t wait to see this), Kim Han-Min picked up best director and best screenplay for Paradise Murdered, and *gasp* Daniel Hanney picked up a best new actor award for the melodrama My Father. I guess they mean that he didn’t really act in Seducing Mr. Perfect.

Full winners list here

- Under “Pakistan sure knows how to send out conflicting signals” news today, the government has pressured the authorities in Dubai to shut down two Pakistani television news channels with no planned dates to bring them back on the air. Meanwhile, the Pakistani censor board has cleared an Indian film that will become the first Indian film to open in Pakistani theaters since the countries banned each other’s movies simply because of some financing loopholes. Yay for international co-productions!

- The Daily Yomiuri has a feature on Japanese genre director Ryuhei Kitamura’s decision to go to Hollywood. I thought it was a typo when it says his last Japanese film Lovedeath runs at three hours. Turns out it’s 160 minutes long. It doesn’t look like it deserves 160 minutes.

- The Daily Yomiuri also has a column about NHK’s efforts to boost ratings for its yearly Kohaku Variety show, including making it more concentrated on the strength of music. Wait, wasn’t the show supposed to be about the music in the first place?

In order to get to that, they have invited Akihabara-friendly idols AKB48, Shoko Nakagawa, and Leah Dizon to perform in this year’s show. Somehow I think this music strength thing is going to be a gradual change.

- Again from the Daily Yomiuri is a feature on the current state of Otaku-ism in Japan and its influence in America.

- If you’re in the area of Rotterdam around the end of January, you can get your Asian film fix at the Rotterdam Film Festival, where several Asian films are competing.

-  And if you were asking repeatedly when will someone make an inspirational movie about the game of darts, your prayers have been answered.

- Which country is affecting the growth digital TV broadcast signals? Not America. Not Japan. Not even South Korea. It’s China.

The Golden Rock - November 24th, 2007 Edition

- It’s reviews time! This week we see why reading film criticism is like watching Rashomon - first a glowing review of the Japanese aspiring blockbuster Midnight Eagle from The Daily Yomiuri’s Ikuko Kitagawa, then a pan from Japan Times’ Mark Schilling. Who should we believe?

- The Daily Yomiuri is so enthusiastic about Midnight Eagle that they even have a feature on the actor who plays the Prime Minister in the film. No, he’s not the star, but he talks like one.

- If you’re in New York, Midnight Eagle is playing as a day-and-date release at the Imaginasian theatre in New York City.  Of course, if you’re not, then it doesn’t really mean anything to you.

- The first teaser for Stephen Chow’s CJ 7 is indeed out and a Chinese-subtitled version is all over Youtube. Thanks to Lovehkfilm’s Sanjuro, now I can actually link a version with English subtitles instead. By the way, the first time is mis-translated: it should say “stop yelling or I’ll throw you out to the streets.”

- Oh, no, it’s sex! Chinese doctors are so afraid of the impact of Lust, Caution - now on track to be the highest-grossing Chinese film of the year in China - that they have to warn people to not imitate the sex scenes from the uncensored version. If you get hurt doing them, they’ll probably arrest you for piracy.

- Under “piracy is bad, mmkay?” news today, The Korean Film Council will be launching a new anti-piracy campaign in South Korea, where box office gross is one of the highest in the world without the DVD sales to reflect it. Meanwhile, European businesses are putting the pressure on European Union officials to make China do something about their piracy problem. Lastly, five Hollywood studios have come together to sue a Chinese online service and an internet cafe in Shanghai for providing illegal downloads of films.

Quite frankly, short of shooting ballistic missiles at random Chinese vendors, Chinese pirates are harder to take down than Al Qaeda insurgents. But good tries, everyone.

Later today: Maybe a post in the spin-off.

The Golden Rock - November 21st, 2007 Edition

- This week on the Oricon charts - the new badly named Johnny’s boy band Hey! Say! Jump! debuts at number 1 with their very first single, which is also similarly badly named (A pop boy band singing a song named “Ultra Music Power” is like Tom Cruise talking about psychology - neither has any business to talk/sing about it). Meanwhile, KinKi Kids’ latest album debuts at number 1 for a Johnny’s two-fer on the Oricon. Also, voice actress Nana Mizuki scores the highest debut album for a voice actress.

More details at Tokyograph

- Despite the military crackdown and the tortures, the Korean embassy in the capital city of Myanmar is still planning to hold a Korean film festival in the city featuring films such as Taeguki, Welcome to Dongmakgol, and The Host. Yes, movies about miltary occupations or such undertones will surely get the people in the mood to forget their current situation.

- I reported on Monday that Saw 4’s opening weekend gross in Japan is about on par with the rest of the series. Specifically, Eiga Consultant reports that on par means it’s at 92% of the previous film’s opening. However, they also pointed out that this is the first time opening on additional screens led to a decrease in opening gross.

- Variety Asia has a feature on the power of the Oscars on the Chinese audience.

This year, China’s official submission is The Knot, but I’m sure the people know that Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution has the most chance of getting into the race, with some American magazines naming star Tang Wei as a front-runner to get a best actress nomination, if not at categories such as adapted screenplay, music, and cinematography.

dscn2085.JPG

- According to Twitch, the first teaser for Stephen Chow’s A Hope will be on several Yahoo Asia sites, though it may just be for a limited period of time. I’m hoping to catch it when I get home tomorrow night, but I’m really not expecting to see much in the teaser.

- What does a Japanese rock band have to do to be inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk? Sell 70 million copies of singles and albums combined, just like B’z did.

- With digital singles selling better than ever, even the Japanese diva herself Ayumi Hamasaki will be releasing her latest single in digital form only, even though she will shoot a MTV and a cover jacket. Her record company even said that its results may determine how they release her singles in the future.

- The Father of the Playstation Ken Kutaragi will be honored at the Interactive Achievement Awards, despite the fact that he had to resign from Sony due to the disappointing sales of Playstation 3.

- The Japanese group Fumido will be releasing a single next month that was actually ready to go a year ago - except they had to wait for a year for the MTV to be completed, because it’ll be made up of one year’s worth of pictures from a married couple’s life.

The Golden Rock - November 20th, 2007 Edition

- Jackie Chan is an unpredictable man - He bashes his own movies on his blog, justifying their existence and his appearance in them with the “I need the money” excuse. Next thing you know, he’s starting a production company with the director of one of those hack films. Why, Jackie, why do you do this to us?

- Under “TV dramas no one asked for” news today, China’s Huayi Brothers reportedly bought the rights to make a 30-episode adaptation of Ang Lee’s erotic espionage drama Lust, Caution after they realize even the censored version is making a ton of money. No other details have emerged so far.

- Speaking of Chinese TV cashing in, advertisers are bidding for spots up on CCTV 9 months early for the Olympics, including foreign advertisers such as KFC, Johnson & Johnson, and Red Bull.

- Hong Kong and Malaysian police, in what seems to be separate operations, raided and arrested pirated disc producers. Among the films confiscated in the Hong Kong bust? Lust, Caution, the movie with the ultra-high-security policy set in for Hong Kong cinemas.

It’s hard to believe, but I still see pirate vendors actually standing on sidewalks selling DVDs here in Hong Kong. Basically, they have a portable fold-out box with several guys standing around the vicinity as lookouts while they sell in front of high-volume areas.

- That Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung certainly works fast: After seeing his somewhat controversial-but-intentionally-underwhelming dark comedy Exodus released in September, his omnibus film Trivial Matters already has a release date of December 20th. By “his” omnibus film, I mean it’s a collection of 7 stories that Pang wrote himself and will be adapting to film all by himself. That’s 3 semesters’ worth of film school projects right there.

The “bad news” part of all this? I’m going on vacation ON December 20th for 2 weeks. That means I’ll be sadly missing it for sure.

- There’s no huge high-profile world premiere, but the first Kuala Lampur International Film Festival has 22 films from 18 countries, living up to their intention of “celebrating cultural diversity”.

- Sonny Chiba, who co-directed a film earlier in the year under his Japanese name Shinichi Chiba, has announced he will not only start directing movies under a different name from now on, he will also continue his acting career under yet another name.

 
 
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