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Archive for May, 2008

The Golden Rock - May 31st, 2008 Edition

- It’s Taiwanese music charts time! Japanese boy band NEWS tops the chart with their latest album with 5.63% of total sales, while Vitas Lu’s debut album hits second place with 3.07% of total sales. The other debut album this week by Hsiao Hung Jen could only muster a 16th place debut with 0.69% of total sales. Also, Ai Otsuka’s latest single only debuted at 18th place, although it may be due to the fact that it’s a single. The only album on the chart that rose in the standings is the original soundtrack to the drama Honey and Clover. Lastly, the album that dropped the steepest is last week’s winner Jesse McCarthy, who dropped from first place to 9th place this week.

- With Mongol coming soon to American theaters, Variety has a piece on the foreign language film market in America and why the market is a bit depressing.

- It’s reviews time! First, Mark Schilling has reviews of up-and-coming director Yuya Ishii’s two films that are finally reaching the big screen. I’ll be reviewing Bare-Assed Japan for this site soon. Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee sends in a review of the Singaporean film My Magic.

- Who has the balls to go up against the Japanese box office giant that is Studio Ghibli this year? Believe it or not, it’s Pokemon.

- A veteran Hollywood producer is now onboard for the upcoming Korean robot blockbuster Robot Taekwon V. Please don’t let this be the next D-Wars.

The Golden Rock - May 29th/30th, 2008 Edition

A slow news day means a shorter entry today:

- The latest Narnia movie scored a fairly huge opening in Japan this weekend, easily beating out Aibou for that number 1 spot. However, Mr. Texas at Eiga Consultant points out that the Disney-produced sequel actually opened at only 70% of the first film’s opening. As expected, the audience were spread out fairly evenly between the subbed and dubbed versions, with the subbed version getting 53% of total audiences. While the film doesn’t have any big opponents until Indy shows up on June 21st, it’s more on par to do Golden Compass numbers rather than matching the 6.88 billion yen gross of the original.

- The 2,000 seat Koma Theater, which has attracted enka shows and international stage shows, will be closing down at the end of the year along with the theater next door.

-  Aibou was scheduled to end its run on June 6th, assuming that Toei needed to make room for Takeshi Miike’s God Puzzle, but now Toei is extending its time in theaters, which is natural since it’s still at 2nd place of the box office chart this past weekend.

- Speaking of God’s Puzzle, Twitch has the film’s latest trailer.

- After Bae Yong-Joon joined the cast of the animated version of Winter Sonata, now actress Choi Ji Woo from the live-action drama is also voicing her animated counterpart.

-  For some reason, China’s CCTV has stopped airing the NBA playoffs, though reasons that can be attributed to this is that peope are in no mood to watch the NBA after the earthquake and neither of the two Chinese players in the league are actually playing in the playoffs.

- A Twitch reader sent in a review for Shaolin Girl, and the news isn’t good. I’m catching this tonight, and I’m lowering my expectations already.

- Jason Gray checks out Tokyo! in Tokyo and writes about a famous Shibuya arthouse theater in the process.

- Japan Times has a lengthy report on this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

- The Golden Rock’s favorite Japanese enka singer Jero has been spending this Spring all over the Japanese spotlight as his single remains on the Oricon charts. Now the Washington Post finally found a chance to sit down with him.

That post in Japan Probe also include his latest TV ad for a canned coffee. It’s not that great.

The Golden Rock - May 28th, 2008 Edition

- It was a pretty crowded weekend at the top of the Japanese box office this past weekend. The Chronicles of Narnia opened on a Thursday, and made roughly 546 million yen on Saturday and Sunday for a 798 million yen 4-day take. By the per-screen average, it’s not a very spectacular opening, but family films have a long shelf life at the Japanese box office, so it’ll likely end up doing pretty well. However, Aibou, which only lost 8% of its business, actually had a better per-screen average on its 4th weekend, and has now passed the 3 billion yen mark.

Rambo’s opening was also pretty damn good, making 205 million yen from 304 screens and a per-screen average was fairly close to Narnia’s.  In fact, its opening was actually 153.1% of Rocky Balboa’s opening, which means it may be heading to the 1 billion yen mark if word-of-mouth is good. However, the best per-scren average went to Kenji Uchida’s After School, which at 6th place on the box office gross chart with a very good per-screen average of 968,772 yen.

You may be wondering why Yama No Anata is only at 9th place on the gross chart when it’s 6th place on the attendance chart? That’s because most theaters in Japan are charging only 1,000 per ticket, I guess to encourage admission. Meanwhile, as reported earlier, Charlie Wilson’s War suffered the biggest drop, losing 43.5% of business. Of course, that’s not as bad as 10,000 BC, which lost another 63% of business and won’t even make it to the 1 billion yen mark.

- It’s Japanese Oricon charts time! Hey! Say! Jump! scores another number 1 debut with their latest, while Hikaru Utada’s theme from Last Friends saw a number 2 debut (while her album is still on the top 10). Meanwhile, Superfly retains its number 1 spot despite a number of new albums debuting on the top 10. Check out the details at Tokyograph.

- Sharon Stone proves that saying something stupid in public can still get you in big trouble in China, where there’s now a planned boycott of her films. Talk about taking it personally.

- There are rumors going around that a 9-minute clip from Red Cliff is floating around on the web. Actually, if you check the comment section, there’s a link to a cam version.

- The release of a digital recorder that can record up to 10 programs simultaneously has been postpone indefinitely because of a continuing conflict between copyright holders and the manufacturers over the fee for rights.

-  It’s almost frustrating how little information is getting out there for the latest Studio Ghibli film. The voice cast for Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on a Cliff has finally been announced, a little less than 2 months before its theatrical release in Japan.

- Nippon Cinema introduces the teenage drama Ren, about a girl from the future trapped in modern-day Tokyo. But if you don’t know Japanese, it’ll just seem like another teenage romance drama to you.

- Jay Chou is reportedly working on directing and starring in a new film about magicians, and it will be co-starring Andy Lau. The two will play rival magicians who battle to be number one. The Apple Daily article reports that the film was originally about a young magician played by Chou being taught by Lau’s character, but Lau said that he had no interest in playing a teacher, so he suggested the film be about a rivalry instead. It’s currently in script stage, and will not be able to shoot until the end of the year because of Lau’s commitments to Andrew Lau and Johnnie To’s new films. Of course, Apple Daily adds that no official announcements have been made, and no one is commenting, so this may be stuck in the rumor mill for a while.

Apple Daily also adds that the film seems similar to Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, but no one has responded to such claims since no one will even confirm that the film is being made yet.

- The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Singaporean director Eric Khoo, who talks about shooting on a Singaporean budget and dealing with strict censors.

- Part of a weeklong feature, author Haruki Murakami talks to the Mainichi Daily News about his latest novel, which is poised to be even longer than The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, which took me 2 months to read because it was so damn long.

The Golden Rock - May 27th, 2008 Edition

- As expected, Indiana Jones also dominated at the Korean box office. In the opening weekend, Steven Spielberg’s adventure film already passed the 1 million admission mark. This ate into Chronicles of Narnia’s second week, and it has still not passed the 1 million admissions mark after two weekends. Of course, neither has Speed Racer after three weekends. Ouch.

More over at Korea Pop Wars.

- Katsuhito Ishii’s Yama No Anata opened at 6th place on the attendance charts with 520.9 million yen from 158 screens. That’s 102% of the opening for Hana (the Kore-eda film). According to Mr. Texas of Eiga Consultant, the male:female ratio of the audience was an overwhelming 26:74, with those in the 20s taking up 31.7% of the audience. Does this mean that female Smap fans are the one mainly showing up?

- Good for them: Kadokawa’s animation division will begin uploading their animation onto Youtube and allow legit posters to do so by putting ads on their pages on an ad revenue sharing system. This is how you embrace new media.

First found on Japan Probe

More details on Variety.

- On a related note, the Japanese government is planning to adopt a “fair use” system on copyrighted literary works, which allows people to use copyrighted materials for analyses, research, criticism, and media reporting. Currently, the law is so strict that posting a picture of an animated character in a public place on the web can be considered a violation.

- The planned Amazia multimedia trade show that would’ve conflicted with Singapore’s Asia Television Forum has now been canceled. How many trade shows can the market allow per year anyway?

- After Hong Kong filmmakers announced possible plans to make a film to raise money for the Sichuan earthquake relief efforts, Feng Xiaogang has announced his own plans to make a movie about an earthquake. However, his movie is a dramatic work on the Tangshan earthquake that’s not done to raise money for any charity. The film is now in the script stage and plans to start shooting next year.

- (via EastSouthWestNorth) A BBC reporter who had just covered the devastation left by the Sichuan earthquake writes about his coverage of the disaster and whether they took the right approach. At least they didn’t shove a camera into the injured’s faces and keep asking how they feel in order to squeeze out a few extra pennies from Hong Kongers’ pockets.

- The Japanese animated film Tokyo Marble Chocolate just picked up the Grand Prize at the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival.

a Hollywood studio is looking at buying the remake rights for the upcoming Japanese film Kansen Retto, about the outbreak of an unknown virus in Japan. Didn’t they already make this movie already?

The Golden Rock - May 26th, 2008 Edition

The trade papers took a break because it’s Memorial Day. As a result, it’ll be a somewhat short entry today.

- As expected, the Hong Kong box office was dominated by Indiana Jones over the weekend, and it ended up getting a very big boost over the weekend. On 101 (!) screens, the adventure film made HK$3.7 million on Sunday, and a 4-day total of HK$12.06 million. Definitely no underperforming here. Meanwhile, Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind actually did the second best in terms of per-screen average, making HK$137,000 from 11 screens on Sunday as the only other film to pass the HK$10,000 per screen mark. After 11 days, the film has made HK$1.48 million.

Iron Man is still in second place in its 4th weekend, making HK$243,000 from 32 screens for a 26-day total of HK$21.06 million. What Happens in Vegas is still doing OK with HK$231,000 from 30 screens for a 18-day total of HK$6.5 million, which is a little better than average for this type of films in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Speed Racer is now only on 8 screens, and made only HK$28,000 on Sunday for an 18-day total of HK$2.71 million.

The Japanese family film Tale of Mari and Three Puppies is still around with HK$95,000 from 23 screens for a 25-day total of HK$7.15 million, which is the best performing Japanese film in Hong Kong since Hero. That’s right, dogs are more appealing than Kimura Takuya here in Hong Kong.

- As expected, The Chronicles of Narnia took over as box office champ at the Japanese box office. The sequel finally bumped Aibou off the top spot down to 2nd place. Meanwhile, Rambo opened at 3rd place, Katsuhito Ishii’s Yama No Anata opens at6th place, and Kenji Uchida’s After School opens at 7th place. Poor Charlie Wilson’s War fell all the way from 3rd place last week to 8th place this week, which signals not-very-good word-of-mouth in Japan. More when the numbers are released.

- It’s Japanese drama ratings time! It was kind of a quiet week at the Japanese drama world this past week. CHANGE fell very slightly in the ratings to 23% for its second episode, while Gokusen’s season-low rating of 21.1% this week may give the Kimura Takuya drama a chance to catch up. Meanwhile, Zettai Kareshi and Puzzle both hit their season-low this week, falling to 12.4% and 8.9%, respectively. In fact, only one drama, the third season of Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Kagari, hit its season-high this week with 12.4%.

Last Friends continue to go back down to its original average numbers with a 16% rating for its 7th episode, Osen falls slightly down to 9%, 81 Diver takes a steep drop to 8.4% after its season-high rating the previous week, Muri Na Renai falls slightly again to a 6.6%, and Ryoteki Na Kanojo (My Sassy Girl)is also down slightly at 7.6%.

All drama sypnoses are at Tokyograph.

- Variety’s Derek Elley has a review of Singaporean director Eric Khoo’s latest My Magic, which was competing at the Cannes Film Festival.

- Jason Gray reports that The Mourning Forest director Naomi Kawase has officially announced her plans to create the Nara International Film Festival, which she hopes can join the ranks of the “big three” - Cannes, Berlin, and Venice.

-  Some Hong Kong netizens are complaining that the newposter for the new Incredible Hulk film is a rip-off of the poster for Johnnie To/Wai Ka-Fai’s Running on Karma. Judge for yourself.

- Japanese author Haruki Murakami talks about his side job as a translator of classic American novels to Japanese.

Golden Rock Podcast - Kenneth Bi Interview

Recently, I had the chance to speak to writer/director Kenneth Bi about his films and his view on the Hong Kong film industry. In the 27-minute interview, he talked about his background, his run-in with Singaporean censors, his view on the future of Hong Kong cinema, and even a bit on Quentin Tarantino. He’s an extremely informative person about the system and filmmaking because of his extended experience in the industry. In fact, he actually shared a lot of interesting stories from the Hong Kong film industry even in our private exchanges, so much that I wished that this was a regular feature instead of just a one-time interview.

You’ll notice that I didn’t ask much about The Drummer. The main reason for that is Kenneth already covers a lot of the process in his own blog, so spending a lot of time on The Drummer would just make things redundant.


Anyway, I’ll let the interview speak for itself. My special thanks to Candy Wong for taking tons of pictures along the way (that’ll be the clicking sound you hear throughout), and of course to Kenneth Bi for spending 27 minutes to talk to this small-time blogger.

I know this is not an iPod-supported format. Leave a comment or email me at TheGoldenRock AT gmail DOT com if you want the original WAV file, I’ll find some way to get it to you.

Part 1 (WMA, 9.45mb, 13:40)

Part 2 (WMA, 9.9mb, 14:22)

And my sincere apologies to Kenneth for making him take this picture:


Now that’s a good sport.

The Golden Rock - May 25th, 2008 Edition

- It’s Taiwanese music charts time! Energy member Milk Yeh’s debut album could only muster a 2nd place debut behind Jesse McCartney’s album with 2.9% of total sales. The slow sales gave Victor Wong and Kenji Wu a chance to climb back up on the chart. Coco Lee’s relevance in Chinese pop may’ve just been proven, as her latest compilation could only get a debut at 11th place with just 0.86% of total sales. Khalil Fong also made it back into the top 20 at 17th place with 0.7% of total sales.

- Congratulations to Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata, which picked up the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. NHK News is already all over this.

- It’s reviews time! First up is Derek Elley’s review for Kim Jee-Woon’s The Good, The Bad, and the Weird. I can’t wait to watch this now. Mark Schilling of Japan Times also has a review of a film I’m anticipating - Kenji Uchida’s After School, his follow-up to the smart A Stranger of Mine.

- The Daily Yomiuri’s Televiews column looks at the ratings for the some of the dramas this season, as well as a brief review for Kimura Takuya’s CHANGE.

- Instead of paying for that expensive making-of DVD for Aoi Miyazaki’s latest film, now you can just catch clips of them at theatres, one clip at a time until its release in February.

- According to a research on the media, the American cable news networks have been giving less coverage of the Asian disasters than viewers demand. However, I watch CNN International here in Hong Kong, and the amount coverage has actually been quite balanced, with news getting fairly equal time, other than the live shows from the American CNN, of course.

- After a drama and two hit movies on deep-sea divers, there will be a Japanese drama on doctors who rescue people on helicopters. With a slate of promising young actors (plus a boy band member), the drama is coming this summer.

- I forgot to include the several deals that Fortissimo was also able to get at Cannes, which includes oversea distribution for Tokyo Sonata and Ashes of Time Redux.

- Japan takes successful adaptation one step further. After the film and TV drama versions of Ima, Ai Ni Yukimasu (Be With You), the tearjerker fantasy novel is now coming back as an audio drama. The news also mentions that a Hollywood remake starring Jennifer Garner is in the works. Actually, I can see her in the Yuko Takeuchi role.

- Twitch has an English-subtitled trailer for Go Shibata’s acclaimed Late Bloomer, which has been picked up for North American release by the up-and-coming Tidepoint Pictures.

- Apparently, Zhang Ziyi is quite upset that a group of people in Cannes doesn’t know much about China earthquake, accusing them of not knowing what’s going on on Earth. In related news, Zhang Ziyi doesn’t know how to spell “hypocrisy”.

The Golden Rock - May 24th, 2008 Edition

- Watching TV today, I realize that the trailer for Johnnie To’s The Sparrow is up, and I found it on Youtube. Whoever edited it is a genius.

-Under “Cannes market deal” news today, Variety has a wrap-up of the various deals Cannes market. Meanwhile, Jason Gray also has a look at the deals being made for Japanese films at the market.

Also, director Wim Wenders have a Korean investor involved with his latest film, an adaptation of a novel by Ryu Murakami.

- The comic adaptation Maison Ikkoku is coming back for another live-action episode this summer.

- Amidst the current situation in China, it’s amazing that the media authority in the government still has time to get some censorin’ on.

- The Daily Yomiuri has a feature on the flash animated movie Eagle Talon II, currently playing in one Tokyo theater. Confession time and relax time in the middle of the movie? Sounds like a ton of fun.

- Actress Aoi Miyazaki just picked up the Galaxy Award for her starring role in the Taiga drama Atsuhime, currently playing to pretty damn good ratings on NHK.

The Golden Rock - May 22nd, 2008 Edition

- It’s reviews time! Hollywood Reporter finally updated their review page with the latest from Cannes. From reviewer Maggie Lee are reviews of the Korean thriller The Chaser, the omnibus film Tokyo!, Jia Zhangke’s 24 City, and the Korean horror The Guard Post. Meanwhile, Peter Brunette has a review of Wong Kar-Wai’s Ashes of Time Redux.

In addition, Twitch’s Todd Brown has a review of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata and for the Japanese wrestling comedy Gachi Boy (Wrestling with a Memory).

- While we’re on the subject of Tokyo!, an American distributor recently bought up the film at Cannes, but it may not be the best distributor out there.

- Ryuganji has the second part of a Japanese magazine interview with mega-producer Haruki Kadokawa. He makes more sense in this part.

- Japanese actress Saki Takaoka will star in the American film The Harimaya Bridge. She will play the girlfriend of a dead American man who helps his father retrace his life in Japan.

- The announcement came at the Avex party over at Cannes, where an extended trailer for John Woo’s Red Cliff was shown, as Avex is one of the film’s major investors.

- Japanese public broadcaster NHK has come up with a new way to irritate non-fee payers into paying: put a big bold warning across their screens. I had fee collectors come to my door when I was in Japan, but I’m pretty sure the text across the screen is more annoying.

- Ex-NHK Morning Drama Chiritotechin has apparently earned itself a spinoff with an 8pm time slot. You had no idea how much I had to resist using “Chiritotechin After Dark” to start this item off.

- Shipping of a popular Japanese comic and its DVDs had to be stopped after finding out that one of the scenes included arabic text that was taken out of the Quran.

- Mark Russell over at Korea Pop Wars writes about going to recent copyright-related forums and writes his own thoughts about why piracy may not always be the consumers’ fault.

The Golden Rock - May 21st, 2008 Edition

- The Japanese box office numbers are out. Aibou topped the chart for the third week in a row, losing only about 27% of business from last last week. The drama adaptation has now made nearly 2.7 billion yen with no signs of stopping. Meanwhile, Kurosawa remake The Last Princess dropped by nearly 40%, and has made just over 500 million yen so far. If word-of-mouth doesn’t pick up on this, it may be a disappointment for Toho. However, Toho still has the successful Conan film and Shaolin Girl (nearly 1.3 billion yen) to back them up.

On the other hand, The Mist lost only about 30% of last week’s business, and The Sand Chronicles is also hanging in there, losing only about 28%. The Bucket List also managed to stay at 2nd place not only because of Charlie Wilson’s War’s soft opening, but also because it lost only about 33% from its opening week.

Remember the percentage change is only a rough figure due to fluctuating currency from week to week.

- It’s Japanese Oricon charts time! This week, KAT-TUN sees their latest single debut at number 1, making it their 7th consecutive number 1 single, while Ayaka’s latest single could only debut at 6th place. On the albums chart, Superfly’s debut album debuts at number one, while actor Yutaka Mizutani’s self-cover album debuts at number 2. More at Tokyograph.

- The name My Sassy Girl just doesn’t mean much anymore: While the Japanese drama version is flopping on the ratings chart, the American remake is now sent directly to video without a theatrical release.

- The European Union is reporting that they are seizing less pirated entertainment than before, and such goods from China also fell by 20% (from a whopping 93% the year before). However, that could just mean that people are finding better ways to get them in or not getting caught.

- Variety reports that Hong Kong director Yui Lik-Wai’s Plastic City now has Hong Kong’s Sundream Pictures and Japan’s Bitter End on board, while Hong Kong’s Ming Pao adds that it stars Hong Kong’s Anthony Wong and Japan’s Jo Odagiri as father and son.

- Meanwhile, John Woo announced at Cannes that his next movie will be the Chinese epic 1949, chronicling events that occurred at the end of World War II and the Chinese civil war. While it’ll supposedly be a love story, the fact that Woo is trying to finish the film by the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC should tell you that it’s a China-approved love story.

- Also, a British film following the rise of Mao Zedong is in the making……with Vietnamese soldiers. This movie may not be China-approved.

- It’s reviews time! Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee chimes in on Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata, while Variety’s Leslie Felperin has a review of Possession, the Hollywood remake of the Korean film Addicted.

- While we’re on the topic of remakes, Dreamworks really went through the old inventory and manage to buy up the remake rights to the 2003 hit Japanese film Yomigaeri. By the way, the Dreamworks-produced A Tale of Two Sisters remake is now called The Uninvited - the name of another Korean horror movie.

- Apparently, the critical and commercial failure of that Genghis Khan movie really got to Haruki Kadokawa’s head….now I’ll go swing my wooden sword a few thousand times.

- Tartan USA, who brought Oldboy and the Election films to America, has sadly closed down.

- Koizora, based on the internet novel about the trials and tribulations of a young Japanese girl, is now going to TV after the film was one of the biggest theatrical hits last year. The director and the production crew from the film are returning, though the cast will not. Copyright © 2002-2019 Ross Chen