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Archive for January, 2008

The Golden Rock - January 19th, 2008 Edition

- Taiwanese music charts time! This week, 7 new albums entered the top 20, pushing out quite a few albums. Amazingly, Aska Yang’s new album debuts on top with nearly 23% of total sales, followed by Wang Yue Xin taking up 6.79% of sales, and Rene Liu’s latest follows him closely at third place with 5.22%. Meanwhile, last week’s leaders Fahrenheit and Ayumi Hamasaki see huge drops to 11th place (with 1.21% of sales) and 8th place (with 1.37% of sales), respectively.

- How many movies can Kenichi Matsuyama fit in in a year? He has a supporting role in Tsubaki Sanjuro, he has the titular role in the upcoming Death Note spinoff movie L - Change the World, and Japan Times’ Mark Schilling reviews yet another film he’s in this week - Don’t Laugh at My Romance (or Hito No Sex o Warau Na), where he plays a college student in love with a woman double his age.

- Kaiju Shakedown has a link to the Zhang Yuan arrest video. To those who haven’t kept up: Chinese 6th generation director Zhang Yuan was not only arrested in his home for using drugs, his arrest was also captured on camera by a CCTV crew, and used as a story to warn people that China is taking a zero tolerance policy towards drugs ahead of the Olympics. Of course, only with a camera crew would cops start moralizing to people they arrest about using drugs.

- Courtesy of the great EastSouthWestNorth is a blog post that translates and adds to another post about the way Americans and Chinese look at Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution.

- The fall 2007 Edition Nikkan Sports Drama Grand Prix has announced its results, with Yukan Club winning 4 out of 5 awards, despite a less-than-stellar 12.6 average rating. The seasonal awards will culminate into the yearly awards, which will be in a few months. Yes, it’s award-winning, but is a drama about rich spoiled 20-somethings really worth watching?

- The blackout of foreign films in China is just about ready to end (If you don’t count the limited release of The Pursuit of Happyness), with the British film Atonement to open on February 22nd. However, the film has reportedly been edited to make it suitable for all audiences in China. What did they take out, the war?

- Twitch has a review of Feng Xiaogang’s hit film The Assembly.

The Golden Rock - January 18th, 2008 Edition

- First, a short box office report from Thursday opening day in Hong Kong, just to see how things will be over the weekend:

The J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield attracted a ton of audience based on its mysterious commercial. The handheld-camera-monster-flick made HK$863,000 from 36 screens and should be close to the HK$5 million mark by the end of the weekend. Surprisingly, the teen flick See You In Youtube, produced by Oxide Pang and directed by a new director plus 6 film students (Some say it’s Oxide Pang and the other 6, who cares? A student film is a student film is a student film), managed to make HK$408,194 (sorry to say 30 of those dollars are mine) from 28 screens. At third is the Hollywood romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which made just HK$227,000 from 26 screens.

Wait, there’s 3 more opening films to go: The Japanese cartoon Atashin’ichi The Movie made HK$125,000 from 27 screens, but should see its business pick up considerably over the weekend. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (which was torn apart by critics in the West, but heard good reviews around Hong Kong) made HK$78,000 from 12 screens. Lastly, Gavin Hood’s Rendition made only HK$54,000 from 16 screens. Then again, who expects a movie about torture to do well?

- The numbers for the Japanese snow sports movie Giniro No Season came out. However, Box Office Mojo got them wrong by reporting that it opened on 66 screens, when it really opened on 266 screens. As a result, the per-screen average is still a solid US$6,570, or 715,500 yen.

- The nominees for the 2nd Asian Film Awards have been announced, and it’s the Chinese-speaking films’ world, as Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution is tied with Peter Chan’s The Warlords with 6 nominations each. Rounding out the best picture nominees are the Iranian film Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame, Japan’s I Just Didn’t Do It, South Korea’s Secret Sunshine, and China’s The Sun Also Rises. I was really happy that not only did Sakuran get recognized for its art direction, but also for the score by Shiina Ringo.

Also, the awards are being held with a larger budget than last year. Why, you ask? Because there’s no writers strike in Asia, guys! They’re just lucky to get paid!

Complete list of nominees.

- Speaking of I Just Didn’t Do It, it just picked up two major awards at the Mainichi Film Awards - Best Film and Best Director (English-subtitled DVD, where art thou??!!) . However, there are some puzzling choices in there: Talk Talk Talk for Best Actor AND Best Sound?! Actor, maybe, but the movie’s DVD didn’t even have a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack!

- Despite a slow first half in 2007, Toho ended up having their most successful year ever, thanks to Always 2, Hero, A Tale of Mari and Her Three Puppies. Hell, even Tsubaki Sanjuro ended up working out.

- Andy Lau rules. He might not have been able to pay people’s salary in pizzas and online game strategies (that would be the Korean pop star that did it), but he did jump off the stage during a concert to rescue a fan getting jumped by security guards for jumping past the fence. Why? Because he’s Andy-freaking-Lau.

- Next to this here blog getting linked for the Storm Riders story (in this entry, y’all), Kaiju Shakedown also has bits of other news for you. I hope those so-called Dragonball set pictures aren’t real.

The Golden Rock - January 16th, 2008 Edition

- First, a short report on the Japanese box office numbers:

Looks like Earth’s opening was actually pretty huge. From 275 screens, the nature documentary made 349 million yen, and will definitely have no trouble hitting the 1 billion yen mark. This being a holiday weekend, no film on the top 10 except Tamagotchi took a real huge drop.  The third place opener Giniro no Season probably did not report its numbers, which threw off the top 10 a little bit, and the pseudo-Western drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford opens outside the top 10 with 23.7 million yen from 69 screens.

By the way, Tsubaki Sanjuro finally made 1.05 billion yen after 7 weekends. I knew you could do it, Oda-san!

It’s all because of the horses!

- Time for this week’s Oricon charts. On the singles side, the pop group AAA got their first number 1 single, though it only sold 25,000 copies, narrowing beating this year’s Kohaku favorite Sugimoto Masato.  On the album side, even a full week couldn’t lift Ayumi Hamasaki’s latest album back up to the top spot, letting Kobukuro maintain their number 1 for another week.

More from Tokyograph.

- Two pieces of news from Hong Kong newspapers, one with a link, and one without:

The Pang Brothers-directed Storm Riders sequel is now set to shoot next month not only with original stars Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok (so THAT’S why the Pangs have been casting them lately!), but also with Twin’s Charlene Choi and Nicholas Tse signed up for supporting roles. The team will go to the Cannes market in May.
(From Oriental Daily)

Screenwriter Ivy Ho is working on her directorial debut, starring Ekin Cheng and Karena Lam.
(From Apple Daily)

- Between making his new vampire flick and his big-budget collaboration with The Host director Bong Joon-Ho, Park Chan-Wook will be producing a screwball comedy named Scarlett Blush.

- Poor Korean anchorwoman Moon Ji-ae has lost her spot as anchor on the news after coming under heavy criticism for cracking up at the end of a newscast. The problem is that it followed an update on the day’s headline, about 40 people being killed in a warehouse fire.

- Lust, Caution has lost its chances at winning a best foreign film Oscar. Then again, it has plenty of company, as heavy favorites such as Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, and Persepolis all did not make the final 9-film short list.  On the other hand, Kazakhstan’s Mongol, starring Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, did end up on the shortlist.

The Golden Rock - January 15th, 2008 Edition

- The first week of the Winter 2008 season has gone by for Japanese dramas and the ratings are in. The Negotiator leads the way with its premiere episode hitting a 16.7 rating. The only other drama that beat that this past week was the long-running detective drama Aibou. The Misaki Ito-starring drama Edison No Haha premiered with just 11.0% rating; The Kenkuro Kudo-penned drama Mirai Koushi Meguru, starring Kyoko Fukada, started even weaker with just a 9.0 rating. However, an excuse for that is that it played at 11:15 Friday night, a time slot that usually see 12% as successful.

The boxing drama One-Point Gospel, starring one of the Kat-tun boys, premiered with a 13.0 rating; the first drama adaptation of the popular comic Honey and Clover also premiered with a relatively weak 12.9 rating (though it’s trying to attract audiences with the popularity of the comic rather than the cast); and the time limit-based drama Ashita no Kita Yoshio also only scored a 12.7 rating.

As Tokyograph reported, the Monday 9pm Fuji drama Bara No Nai Hanaya did open strong with a 22.4% rating, but that was last night, so we’ll talk about it next week.

All Winter 2008 drama information here.

- According to the Hong Kong Film Blog, a new Donnie Yen film is in the works. The name? Hong Kong Vice. Yen will play a mentor to a female detective. Not sure if this is indeed an approved remake of Miami Vice, or whether they just ripped off the name for someone cheap and quick.

- Variety’s Derek Elley has a fairly positive review for Peter Chan’s The Warlords.

- There’s a rumor out there in the Chinese press about John Woo getting ready to move on to his next project: A historical epic about Mao Tze-Tung’s rise to power and Chiang Kai-Shek’s move to Taiwan. With the sensitive political environment, I doubt China is going to let him pull this off.

- After Stephen Chow boasted about his intentions to make audiences cry when watching his latest film CJ7 because it’s “heartwarming,” now he’s boasting that the special effects by Menford will be up to international standards. In case you don’t know, Menford also did the special effects for The Legend of Zu and A Chinese Tall Story. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 1/15/2008

- The Japanese attendance report have come in, and Earth, the feature film version of the BBC documentary Planet Earth, managed to top the box office. I don’t know if it was the stunning imagery or Ken Watanabe’s narration, but Eiga Consultant seemed to have predicted that it would win this weekend, leaving me as the only person that’s surprised that a documentary can top the box office. Meanwhile, the sports film Giniro No Season (or Season of Snow) opens at third place. More when the numbers come in.

- Korea Pop Wars have decided to go with original Korean won figures for its box office report, so now we can use multiple sources for the Korean box office report - one with the original won figure, and one with admissions statistics (which I still think is relevant). This week: only 3 movies in the top 10 are Korean, but two of them took not only the top 2 spots, but also have fairly impressive opening weekends.

Korea Pop War figures

Twitch attendance figures 

- Before Peter Chan Ho-Sun’s The Warlords opened, Chan declared that if Feng Xiaogang’s The Assembly would make 2 billion yuan in China, The Warlords would make 2.5 billion yuan. Guess what? The latest Chinese box office figures show that The Assembly has surpassed The Warlords in total box office figures with no signs of slowing down. Note that The Assembly also costs considerably less to make.

The Golden Rock - January 14th, 2008 Edition

It was a public holiday in Japan on Monday, so that means no box office reports and no TV drama ratings either. I’ll wait until tomorrow.

- Hong Kong box office was generally weak this past weekend (at least on Sunday). The top 10 films’ box office gross ranged from HK$116,000 to only HK$256,000. On top finally is Ridley Scott’s American Gangster, which made only HK$256,000 from 25 screens for an 11-day total of HK$2.8 million. However, if not for the HK$10 increase per ticket (due to running time), it would’ve lost out to National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which made HK$247,000 from 32 screens for a 25-total of HK$17.08 million.

As for opening films, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium actually came out on top with HK$231,000 from just 11 screens for a 4-day total of HK$720,000. Meanwhile, Thursday’s winner The Deaths of Ian Stone fell all the way to 8th place with HK$166,000 from 12 screens (this is actually slightly higher than its opening day gross) for a HK$690,000 4-day total. Johnnie To’s Linger remains dead on arrival with only HK$167,000 from 22 screens with just HK$620,000 after 4 days. It may not even reach the HK$2 million mark when it’s all over.

In holdovers. Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights did end up passing the HK$2 million mark, making HK$201,000 from 14 screens on Sunday. After its second weekend, the road drama has made HK$2.13 million.


-  The Philippine non-profit organization The Cinemalaya Foundation has picked the ten projects for a grant from the organization to help complete in time to compete at its film festival in July. The films apparently have to articulate Philippine culture, made on digital technology, and filmmakers have to have done less than 3 films.

- In case you wanted it, an English-subtitled trailer is out for Stephen Chow’s latest CJ7. The bad news? It’s dubbed in Mandarin. This is starting to bring back memories of The Magic Gourd, which is probably a bad thing.

- At least Chow tells you that this movie is going to be pushing for tears, which wouldn’t be my own definitely of “heartwarming”. But hey, he’s the one making millions of dollars, and I’m the one paying US$8,000 a year for film school, so what do I know?

But I am a critic, and I’m looking forward to CJ7 less and less now.

-  With the Chinese total box office growing by 20% in 2007, I can bet more Hong Kong filmmakers will turn to pleasing Mainland Chinese audiences to make the big bucks. However, will this lead to more artistically successful filmmakers staying in Hong Kong? In other words, will Hong Kong cinema go in the way of Taiwanese cinema?

- There’s a trailer for the new Korean comedy Radio Days, and it looks like it might be good. I emphasize “might” because dramatic elements in Korean comedies are always a bit of a wild card.

- According to Kaiju Shakedown, My Name is Fame director Lawrence Lau is making a film based on the alleged assassination attempt on Taiwanese president Chen Sui-Bian starring Simon Yam and Gordon Lam. Which conspiracy theory will it follow?

The Golden Rock - January 13th, 2008 Edition

- An interesting discovery today that borders on lame. A Hong Kong cram school commercial that parodies the CJ7 teaser with a guy walking around a dump looking for A’s. Isn’t it a little too early to be parodying it already?

- The Daily Yomiuri’s weekly Televiews column takes a look back at this year’s Kohaku and other lame Japanese New Year’s  Eve programming, many of which I missed because i was watching Kohaku like any Japanese person ought to.

- Singapore and Malaysia’s first gangster flick is coming out this Lunar New Year. Too bad it looks like successful commercial director Jack Neo’s seemingly lame telling of the My Wife is a Gangster formula. This may just be worse than Kung-Fu Dunk for Singapore’s Lunar New Year market. I shudder at that thought.

- Another Asian film is heading to Berlin. This time it’s Shin Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden, the omnibus film co-directed by Momoru Oshii along with five other directors. I didn’t even know it opened in Japan already.

- It’s hard to believe, but 50 Chinese websites have apparently “voluntarily” stopped providing illegal downloads of movies in a crackdown by authorities to stop piracy in China.

- Twitch’s Stefan has a review for Johnnie To’s Linger, which follows my general feelings towards the film. However, The Taipei Times seems to like it quite a bit. Does the Mandarin version make that much of a difference?

- The picture link below is of the latest Japanese pop duo to hit the pop world:

sisters.jpg (not work-safe)

The Golden Rock - January 12th, 2008 Edition

- This week, a new music chart to cover: The Taiwan G-Music chart, which makes up the retail sales of three retail chains in Taiwan. It’s updated every Friday night, so I’ll be covering them in the weekend entries.

This week, three debuts lead the charts: The new album from Taiwanese boy band Fahrenheit gets 10% of total sales, Japanese diva Ayumi Hamasaki’s latest takes up 6.7%, and another boy band 5566’s latest album takes up 4.4% of total sales. Last week’s winner, TV-made boy band Lollipop (yes, I do have Channel V at home), drops down to 4th place this week with only 4% of total sales. Hong Kong-based Mandarin artist Khalil Fong’s first album in Taiwan actually went up one spot this week from a quiet 16th place debut last week, making up 0.92% of total sales (up from 0.84 % last week).

- The Hong Kong press is reporting today that Lust, Caution will not be going uncut in Japan. With strict laws about showing the pubic regions, Ang Lee’s erotic drama will go still out with an R-18 rating (no one under 18 admitted), despite suffering 6 cuts that include the now-infamous shot of Tony Leung and shots where pubic hair can be seen. While they don’t really kill the impact of the film (I suspect some shots will simply cut before it reaches the offending regions), it’s sad when any film cannot be shown in their entirety.

Source: Oriental Daily (no link), Apple Daily (who inexplicably link it with a story about the WGA awards. Maybe they ran out of space in the paper)

- Speaking of censorship, Lost in Beijing director Lu Yi talks about her film being banned after already suffering multiple cuts and a theatrical release.

- Japan Times’ Mark Schilling reviews Giniro No Season, the new film from the director of Umizaru: Limit of Love that probably won’t repeat the latter’s success.

-  In box office news, I want to correct my earlier report that Trivial Matters only made HK$2.37 million. A friend corrected me that it had made HK$3.33 million when it dropped out of the top 10. Also, some theaters previously showing the horror flop Yes, I Can See Dead People are now taking it off screens and replacing it back with more showings of Pang’s omnibus comedy. Hell, I didn’t even expect it to be playing after two weeks, which makes me happy that it’s enjoying good enough word-of-mouth to have such legs after the crowded Christmas market.

The Golden Rock - January 11th, 2008 Edition

Because of the lack of news for the weekend, I’m padding this entry with a Hong Kong box office report as well.

- It was a fairly weak Thursday opening day at the Hong Kong box office, as all the top 10 films’ gross range from HK$63,000 to HK$124,000. It’s so weak that an European horror film, The Deaths of Ian Stone, managed to take the top spot screening on 12 screens. Meanwhile, Johnnie To’s somber romantic-supernatural-drama Linger (whose Mandarin version seems to be completely missing from Hong Kong theatres, despite it being the version Johnnie To prefers) opened on 22 screens and made only HK$112,706. I don’t see it getting past HK$2 million. Lastly, the Hollywood family film Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium has the second-best per-screen average, making HK$90,000 from 10 screens.

More about the weekend next Monday or Tuesday in the Box Office report.


-  Speaking of Johnnie To, actor Simon Yam is reportedly ecstatic about Sparrow heading to Berlin and competing for best actor, as he should be. What you should note is what he says about the movie:


“Of course I’m happy. This film is very different from To’s earlier movies, it’s a relaxing human comedy, and I’ve never done that kind of character.”

1) Linger was supposed to be very different from To’s earlier movies. It was bad.

2) What character hasn’t Simon Yam played?

Original Chinese report here.

- Someone first passed this story to me in a email, but Screen Daily has a subscription system, so I’m relying on Variety Asia. Hong Kong box office has risen overall, though it has again fallen for Chinese films. This reports also says that there are now 192 screens for 42 theaters in Hong Kong. So now you know what a big deal it was when Spiderman 3 took 100 screens.

- Zhang Yuan is one of the few Mainland Chinese directors whose work I watch out for. Though I’ve only seen one of his films (Seventeen Years), I’ve been intrigued at a lot of his other films. That’s why it was a bit of a shocker to not only read about his supposed drug arrest, but to read that it was broadcast on national television in China. However, I smell a staged arrest to serve as an example here…

- The new Japanese film Kids, which features a really strange mustache on the usually clean Hiroshi Tamaki (see the trailer), will have a day-and-date release in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, presumably to capture the Lunar New Year box office. However, no promotion is yet underway here in Hong Kong.

- Jason Gray has a more complete list of the Kinema Junpo awards, including the individual acting and directing awards.

The Golden Rock - January 10th, 2008 Edition

A fairly short entry today, since this blogger is still recovering from the trauma that was Johnnie To’s Linger.

- Though To’s latest Linger is not likely to see any festival play, another seemingly finished film of his (I say seemingly because he’s been shooting the damn thing for years), Sparrow, will be heading to the competition section of the Berlin Film Festival. Another Asian film heading there is Yoji Yamada’s latest Kabei. The festival will run from February 7th to the 17th, and this blog will of course follow any news from the festival.

-  Apparently there are at least a million people who aren’t creeped out by Japanese singer/songwriter Hideaki Tokunaga’s covers of pop songs by female artists: his latest cover album has now sold more than 1 million copies.

- Variety’s Derek Elley reviews the twisty Korean thriller 7 Days, starring Lost’s Kim Yun-Jin.

- Japanese film magazine Kimema Junpo has announced their list of the top 10 films of 2007. To no one’s surprise, films like Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai (”I Just Didn’t Do It) and Sad Vacation are on the list, but one inclusion that did surprise me is the quiet comedy-drama Shaberedomo Shaberedomo, which I reviewed here. I thought Sakuran is a more accomplished film (Despite its weakness in storytelling), but I guess they’re a conservative bunch.

It was also good to see Zodiac and Babel on the foreign films list as well.

-  Strong sales for both the Nintendo DS and the Wii (thanks to the Wii Fit) has helped sent video game sales to a record high in 2007. The way this keeps going, I might have to buy a DS myself. Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen