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Archive for January, 2008

The Golden Rock - January 9th, 2008 Edition

- The year’s first Oricon charts see the “Kohaku effect,” as songs there were feature in the annual musical showcase tend to enjoy a boost in sales afterwards. Only one of the top 3 singles is actually new, and the other two were favorites of this year’s show (I know, because my mother called all the way from America during my trip to ask me to pick up the Masato Sugimoto single). Even Kobukuro’s Tsubomi, which was released in March last year, saw it being boosted back up to the top 20.

The other big news of the charts is Ayumi Hamasaki’s latest album making only a second place debut behind Kobukuro’s album, though the 20,000-copy loss may be because the album was released on New Year’s day.

Report by Tokyograph

- Lust, Caution has been placed in Top Ten Hall of Shame by America’s Women Film Critics Circle. Specifically, it’s there because of its depiction of: “Adam and Eve in Old Shanghai. Female-assisted destruction of a nation while falling in love with torturer/rapist.” At least now Ang Lee can’t complain that it didn’t win anything in America.

See the rest of the winners/losers here.

Source: Apple Daily

- A random search on Youtube have led me to the final trailer for Stephen Chow’s CJ7. While the voiceover is in English, the dialogue are all Cantonese. For some reason, I’m not quite excited about this one. Maybe it’s the over-reliance on special effects, though Kung-Fu Hustle suffered from that as well.

While the January 31st release date is still set in several regions, its release date in North America has apparently been pushed back to March 7th, after it was supposed to be the first place to open it. Be happy, guys, it’s still only two months behind.

-  Continuing with reports about China’s crackdown on everything dirty (except the streets and the air), authorities reportedly confiscated 149 million magazines, discs, and other publications that were deemed pornographic.

- The Associated Press’ Min Lee gives a review for Wong Kar-Wai’s English-language debut My Blueberry Nights. I saw it today, it was OK. That’s about it.

- Manami Konishi, who I last saw in Udon, will make her singing debut with the ending theme for her latest film, Sweet Rain: Shinigami No Seido, co-starring Takeshi Kaneshiro as the God of Death (Seems like Warner Bros. Japan has found their niche!). You can hear the song in the trailer.

- Someone who attended one of the early screenings for Lawrence Lau’s new film Besieged City (his first since My Name Is Fame) submitted a review to Kaiju Shakedown. The review starts off promising (the writer gave it a standing ovation at the screening), but then ultimately decides that he/she doesn’t really like it. Ouch.

- Affected by continuing lowering record sales (yet another 17% decline this year), Hong Kong’s IFPI has decided to once again lower the standards for a gold and platinum album. What? You mean My Cup of T didn’t sell well enough to be a gold album?!

- This year’s Rotterdam Film Festival’s competition section has a fairly strong Asian presence this year, as six of the 14 competing films hail from Asia.

- With the general population continuing to grow older, Japanese television networks are slowly making their programming appeal more to an older audience while also cutting down on kids programming. Next year at Kohaku: More enka, less Johnny’s groups!

- Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul might have been bullied around by the Thai government last year for his film Syndromes and a Century, but no government censorship is going to keep a man down, as he has produced a short video on Youtube called Prosperity for 2008.

- Korean producers are trying to pressure the government to impose harsher penalties for piracy. Right now, the fines for intellectual property violations are apparently too low to have a lasting effect for violators, who provide illegal downloads on various internet sites.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 1/8/2008

- The Japanese box office numbers have come out, though there’s no percentages because there were no numbers from last week. Worth noticing is that no film on the top 10 has a significantly good per-screen average because they are all holdover films. The first major releases of the year are coming this weekend (including Giniro No Season, the new film from Eichiro Hasumi, who last directed the surprise megahit Umizaru: Limit of Love), so things should be more interesting then.

Yesterday, I noted the bouncing back of period flick Chacha. Eiga Consultant has more details on its disastrous opening weekend: On 274 screens, Chacha made only 44 million yen on its opening weekend, which is only 18% of previous year’s O-Oku, which opened around the same time. Some possible explanations for such a disappointing opening (though it’s hanging around long enough to enter the top 10) are: 1) No TV station produces it, 2) The star is not well-known enough, or 3) The production time seems too short, which suggests not enough impressive production values. But period flicks attract older audiences, and they ended up showing up during the New Year’s holiday instead of before it.

- In Korea, the year’s first Korean release manage to make a number 1 debut with over 300,000 audiences, while the holdover Christmas films are still hanging on. It’s damn near inexplicable to see August Rush with over 2 million viewers and counting. The full chart at Korea Pop Wars.

The Golden Rock - January 7th, 2008 Edition

- Oh, look, there’s a new post on the spin-off.

-  On my Japan trip report, I lamented missing the Nodame Cantabile special on TV, which was shown on the 4th and the 5th over two nights. The first night’s rating of 18.9% kept to the series’ average of 18.8%, and part 2 managed to hit 21%, which is lower than the finale, but would still qualify as the series’ second-highest episode.

- In related ratings news, the yearly Japanese New Year’s eve musical extravaganza Kohaku has seen its ratings slip year after year, and it continued to stay relatively low this year with an average rating of 36.15%, which is the second-lowest rated Kohaku on record. Just as the report writes, since NHK is a public broadcaster, ratings are simply a matter of pride, and as long as it continues to beat the competition (it seems to be the  highest-rated non-sports TV program of the year), it’ll stick around for a while.

Or they should just have Smap perform half the damn show.

- Last thing about Japanese TV ratings, I promise: Fuji Television reigns supreme again as the highest-rated network for the 4th year in a row, scoring the highest-rated program of the year with the figure skating championships. They also got the highest-rated drama of the year with the first episode of Galileo.

- Anyone who thinks China is slowly becoming progressive with their films because The Matrimony, The Warlords, or Assembly got made is bullshitting. No progressive country would ban local filmmakers for two years at a time.  And no progressive country would certainly play the morality police by starting a 3-month campaign to crack down on “vulgar” products.

- Then again, I would appreciate the Japanese government cracking down on crappy adaptations of classic Japanese cartoons.

-  Korea Pop Wars’ Mark Russell takes a look at the Korean horror film Hansel and Gratel, which promises a lot, but delivers seemingly very little.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 1/7/2008

- Hong Kong had a real busy weekend at the box office, with the leftover Christmas films competing with five opening films on Sunday, only two of which opened on more than 20 screens. Last weekend’s winner Alien Vs. Predator 2 wins this weekend again, making HK$460,001 from 40 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total of HK$12.83 million. Among the opening films, Ridley Scott’s American Gangster came out on top, making HK$1.49 million over 4 days from 25 screens (that’s a typo on now.com). The other wide release, the Hong Kong horror film Yes, I See Dead People (a major contender for “Worst Title of the Year” already.), opened on Friday instead of the usual Thursday on 26 screens and has since only made HK$510,000 over 3 days.

Wong Kar-Wai’s English-language debut My Blueberry Nights opened on only 14 screens, but made a not-bad HK$268,445 for a 4-day total of HK$1.02 million. All the WKW fans probably will finish showing up this coming weekend, and will wrap things up at around 3-4 million. The Korean-American co-production August Rush opened on 12 screens and did not too bad with HK$133,491 on Sunday for a HK$490,000 total. Lastly, Feng Xiaogang’s The Assembly opened on only 11 screens in Hong Kong. With only HK$430,000 in the bank, it’s not likely to match its performance in Mainland China, where it will somewhat surprisingly gross more than Peter Chan’s The Warlords.

Speaking of The Warlords, it’s still hanging in there by making HK$356,662 from 33 screens for a 25-day total of HK$25.38 million, making it the official winner of the 2007 Christmas season…..unless Alien VS. Predator decides to catch up. National Treasure: Book of Secrets sees a strong third weekend with HK$408,600 from 31 screens, putting HK$15.72 million in the bank after 18 days. Another film with a solid 18-day take is the North American flop The Golden Compass with HK$13.94 million total after a Sunday gross of HK$244,267 from 30 screens.

Sadly, the only Cantonese film of the Christmas market, Pang Ho-Cheung’s Trivial Matters, dropped out of the top 10 with less than a HK$3 million gross total.

- As for Japanese box office attendance rankings, I Am Legend takes the top spot for the 4th time at the end of the New Years holiday. The surprise is the surge by the puppy film A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies, which climbed back to 2nd place after dropping to 4th last weekend. Two other films that surprisingly climbed back up are Tsubaki Sanjuro (9th this week from 11th last week) and the Japanese period film Chacha (from a disastrous 12th place opening to 15th, then back to 10th this week). More as the numbers come in.

- South Korean film’s box office gross has dipped for the first time in ten years, as it suffered a 5.5% drop from last year. Whatever goes up has to go down. Hopefully the drop will stabilize and indicate a steady production level for Korean film to be successful enough without overcrowding the market.

The Golden Rock State of the Blog, and Some More Random Things About Japan

A little over a year ago, I started a small blog on Blogger as a random news blog, highlighting random going-ons of Asian films and box office numbers. Eventually, the daily posts, which used to only share news that share a common theme, got longer and longer. Then it simply became what is now The Golden Rock: An (almost) daily news aggregation blog really inspired by the old daily news post by Japan Probe.

Slowly, the blog began getting attention from those who cover the same field such as Jason Gray, Don Brown (of Ryuganji), Kaiju Shakedown’s Grady Hendrix, and of course, my boss at lovehkfilm, who has been a great enough supporter to make this blog legit by bringing it on board this site. For this past year’s support, I thank all these people, plus my average of 100 daily readers and those who have commented, sincerely from the bottom of my heart.

And so I ask myself, what are my goals for this upcoming year?

- Continue developing the right format for the blog, which is an ongoing process.
- Try and stay grammatically correct in every entry. That’s reaching a little bit.
- Update the spin-off more often. That might not happen until I’m out of school.
- More picture posts. People like pictures.
- Write entries more efficiently. Aggregating news means I would waste time looking at other sites while I’m writing.
- Now that there’s no more podcast (no time), bring back the Best of the Week entries.

And of course, I’ll think of some more as the year goes by. As they say in Japan: 今年もよろしくお願いします! (if someone can translate that in English, that’d be great).

And now, more random discoveries in Japan that I forgot to cover last time:

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Don’t mistaken this as an actual sequel for Bae Yong-Joon’s (or Yong-sama) classic drama Winter Sonata. It’s actually an ad for a new pachinko machine (the steel marble game). I guess to attract more housewives to pachinko parlor?

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A picture of the blogger with his own blog. No, seriously, I got it at a temple on New Years day and just don’t feel like eating it.

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And then there’s the biggest discovery of the trip: The ass-biting bug (this is a PG-13 blog, so forget the kid-friendly names). I first discovered this catchy and addictive tune at a display in the “practical life store” Tokyu Hands, where this song was playing on loop:

It has no real melody, it has a bug that bites people’s asses, and he even goes under the waterfall training seen in The Storm Riders.

So of course I had to buy one for myself.

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Because really, how can you not like a bug that bites asses to bring people closer together? Thank you, NHK.

Just in case you haven’t had enough, here’s a live version:

The Golden Rock Top 10 Hong Kong Singles of 2007

Like most “top 10″ lists, this list has its own bias. Since there is no real single market in Hong Kong music, I base my definition of qualified singles as songs that made it to the weekly 903 Top 20 chart from Hong Kong’s Commercial Radio 2 (Hong Kong’s most listened-to station) during the year 2007. This means songs from albums released in 2006 may get excluded because it was plugged in 2007 (Sorry, Juno Mak and Chapel of Dawn). I also only pick songs from Hong Kong-based artists, which means Mandarin artists such as Khalil Fong would be included since he’s based in a Hong Kong record company. Of course, I don’t expect everyone to agree with this list, either, as this is simply a matter of showing whatever is popular out there that also happens to agree with personal taste.

(In no particular order)

1. Denise “HOCC” Ho - Grain (木紋)

Though it’s written like your typical Karaoke-friendly ballad by Hong Kong pop’s Dad of the Year Louis Cheung, there’s something about Ho’s delivery and Carl Wong’s arrangement that makes this song stand up above the rest. And then there’s that minute-and-a-half prolonged outro, which is sadly not included in the MTV below.

2 - Khalil Fong/Fiona Sit - Foursome (四人遊)

A soulful ballad that works despite Fiona’s subpar Mandarin, this R&B Duet was the first standout track of 2007 and was one of the prime reasons I bought Fong’s album. The best part is that this isn’t even the best track of the album, but it’s probably the best Hong Kong pop duet of 2007.

3 - Zarahn - Strange Christmas City Night (怪誕城之夜)

In the liner notes, it was made clear that this song is a tribute to Tim Burton, with lyricist Wyman Wong sprinkling various references to his movies throughout. Even the song’s Chinese title is the Chinese title for A Nightmare Before Christmas. But forget the lyrics, this is what Hong Kong progressive rock ought to be.

4 - Hins Cheung - Lost in Omotesando (迷失表參道)

I know the big hit from the album is Ardently Love, but I think this hypnotic alternative genre-defying track is the best song of the album. Thanks, Hins, for not singing like you’re trying too hard on this song.

5 - Kelvin Kwan - What Am I To You? (你當我什麼)

I paid no attention to this 2006 newcomer until this super Karaoke-friendly ballad, which show that this guy might have some talent. Then again, it was really the melody (apparently written by a buddy of his) that captured me more than his singing. At least he can pull it off live.

6 - Fama - Feng Sheng Shui Qi (風生水起)

Cantonese rap with pop flavor and Chinese superstition thrown in, the silly hit rap-pop from the DJ Tommy-produced duo has an insanely addictive chorus. Even a contrived appearance by real Feng Shui expert Mak Ling Ling couldn’t sink this song.

7 - Miriam Yeung - All About Love

It’s the least Karaoke-friendly ballad by Hong Kong’s laugh queen, and it beats all the plugged songs from her previous album. All About Love sounds more like it could be by some European female-led pop group than a Hong Kong pop singer. That would be a compliment. Sadly, this live version isn’t the best way to show that.

8 - Juno Mak - Borrow a Light (借火)

Sorry, the duet track on Chapel of Dawn wasn’t as good as his first plug from his upcoming album. Vicky Fung, who wrote Poor U on Chapel of Dawn, returns for this Karaoke ballad about a romance that almost happened simply from borrowing a light for a cigarette. I don’t care whether Juno can sing this live, but I do care about the respiratory systems of those who attempt the verses at Karaoke.

I don’t have videos for these songs, but they deserve to be on the top 10 anyway:

9 - Kay Tse - The First Day (第一天)

Hong Kong pop’s Mom of the Year last single before giving birth to her first child is a light guitar-driven affair that brightens up the day of any hopeless romantic. Maybe the extra syrupy-sweetness comes from the fact that she was a newlywed at the time.

10 - Chan Fai Young/Lee Heung Kam/Shirley Kwan - 3000 Years Later (Remix) (三千年後)

A strange collaboration results in one of alternative Cantopop’s most haunting and beautiful singles of the year. The bittersweet monologue by Lee, the near-operatic chorus by Kwan, and Chan’s arrangement all come together nicely here. Too bad you need to understand Cantonese to truly appreciate it, especially that heartbreaking final line.

Well, I guess this is a video for it:

Add oil in 2008, Cantopop!

Za Golden Roc-ku in Ja-Pan - A Report

With a bit of cash, a suitcase weighed 15 kg, my passport, and a tired body, this blogger took a 2-week vacation to Japan. The trip is mainly for personal reasons (see the girlfriend, be a tour guide for family members), but this blog did not stray far away in my mind. Then again, even Variety Asia took a vacation, and a lot of box office updating sites did as well, so there wasn’t going to be much to report anyway.

Anyway, here are some observations to current Japanese pop culture:

Celebrities selling stupid things:

Celebrities spokesmanship is huge in Asia, and I usually don’t mind that (The Tommy Lee Jones coffee commercial is one of my favorite set of commercials in recent years. However, there are some things that I wonder really needs to be sold by certain celebrities:

Of course, everyone knows about Cameron Diaz and the cell phone service provider Softbank (which is not a bank, contrary to certain beliefs).

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But there’s also Kiyoshi Hikawa (I call him the Bae Yong-Joon of enka) selling what seems to be life insurance.

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The one that takes the cake, though, has to be the Japanese Horse Racing Association. Not only did I see that these guys got Yu Aoi and Yo Oizumi selling horse racing to the train-riding public:

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They even dragged Yuji Oda into this mess:

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“If Tsubaki Sanjuro didn’t flop, I wouldn’t have had to do this!”

What can I say? I spent a lot of time on the train.

I also got to go one movie in Japan, but sadly it was National Treasure: Book of Secrets. I know I could’ve spent 1500 yen on a better movie, but then I wouldn’t have been able to do it at a theater with this view:

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I did manage to go to a lot of theaters and grab different chirashi (small Japanese movie poster that can be picked up for free) - about 10-20 at a time. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

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A lot of these are self-explanatory. I almost went to see The Rebirth because I knew it had almost no dialogue. I especially like the poster for Fine, Totally Fine, and of course, Persepolis.

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From top to bottom: American Gangster, Sweeney Todd, and No Country for Old Men

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The two L Spinoff movie posters and Lust, Caution. Both versions are not that great in my opinion, though.

In terms of purchases, I spent about 5000 yen at my favorite second-hand CD shop in Shibuya on these (and this is after giving up two CDs I really wanted):

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I bought Zazen Boys because I really like their song Kimochi (even better with Shiina Ringo), so I figure I would check it out:

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Honestly, I know it won’t be that good.

The Casshern soundtrack is something I always liked after I rented it during my time in Japan. With it being a double CD (one with a lot of the songs in the movie, and the other with the instrumentals):

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The Music Menu is a mix of old jazz tracks that was a risk because I had no idea how it would turn out. But the several tracks I’ve heard so far is quite good.

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I also broke down and bought Sakuran on DVD, but I’m too lazy to take out the memory card and take a picture of it now.

All in all, I’d say it was a good trip because I managed to avoid movies. I’ve been burnt out, and was somewhat glad to be away from it all for 2 weeks. Of course, the length of the post means I wasn’t that far away from them after all.

My biggest regret? I’m missing this on Japanese TV.

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At least neither of them are selling horse racing.

A Golden Rock Announcement - 1/3/2008

First, a belated Happy New Year to everyone. I just returned from a vacation in Japan, and will need a few days to absorb all the news I missed. Expect news postings to resume this weekend, and possibly a few new posts in the spin-off.

Until then, stay hangin’!

 
 
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