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Archive for October, 2008

The Golden Rock - October 26th, 2008 Edition

Four more films to go at the HKAFF - Today is Claustrophobia and The Window is Yours, another PIA Film Festival film after yesterday’s Mime Mime and the PIA Film Festival talk.

- It’s looking to be a more active weekend at the Hong Kong box office this weekend. Tropic Thunder opened on top on Thursday with HK$531,000 from 31 screens. However, it’s not going to top the weekend box office, as the Hong Kong Film blog reports that High School Musical 3, which didn’t open until Friday here, opened with HK$1.15 million and will lead theweekend box office by a very large margin.

Even though a total of six films opened this weekend, only one other film got on the top 10 on Thursday, and that’s the film version of the TV drama Kurosagi. From just 3 screens, the swindler drama made HK$32,000 and will do relatively well for it’s limited number of screens. On the other hand, both Jacob Cheung’s Ticket and the Korean film A Man Who Was Superman opened on five screens, while Wushu - The Young Generation opened on 14 screens. None of them made more than HK$30,000 to get on Thursday’s top 10. I don’t expect to see them on Monday, either.

-The Japanese film Departures, which won the top prize at the Montreal World Film Festival and will represent Japan at the Academy Awards, has become a surprise hit for distributor Shochiku. It has now recorded more than 2 million admissions and made nearly 2.5 billion yen with no signs of dropping out of the top 10 soon.

Box Office Mojo has caught up with the Japan box office numbers, so it’s a good time to look at how other films are doing. Departures lost only 31% of its past weekend’s gross in its 6th week, and it’s the smallest drop in the top 10. The biggest drop goes to Wanted, which lost 55% in its 5th week. Even though Suspect X was on top for the 3rd weekend in a row, it lost nearly 40% of business, although this is fairly normal after a holiday weekend. Also worth noticing is that the box office has gotten so quiet that 3rd place film P.S. I Love You’s gross is 215% of the 4th place Departures. Also very depressing is the second weekend of Warner Bros.’ Get Smart, which saw a two-thirds drop in its second weekend and out of the top 10. Ouch.

- The Tokyo Film Festival Market has wrapped up on Friday, and while things didn’t match the excitement of opening day, organizers (at leasy Variety) were very happy, especially since so may buyers decided to skip the Asian Film Market in Pusan.

Meanwhile, Friend of Golden Rock Jason Gray was in the middle of it all, and posts the second part of his report on his blog.

Also, The Golden Rock will be offering a more personal perspective on the world of film market pitching hopefully next week. No worries, I’m not the one doing the pitching.

- The Pang Brothers have directed and produced 8 released movies under Universe since for 4 years. Now expect 10 more years and at least 2 confirmed films.

- China’s Huayi Brothers has announced a set of four films by major directors - Tsui Hark, Feng Xiaogang, Jack Neo, and Chen Kuo-Fu. Not sure if I’m excited about any of them, though.

- Earlier I reported that Red Cliff female lead Lin Chi-Ling signed on to be in Beverly Hills Ninja 2, which is set to be shot in Korea. However, Lin has now dropped out of the film, which now makes David Hasselhoff the biggest star on the film. As cool as the Hoff is, I’m not surprised if the Korean investors are now reconsidering the whole thing. Or they can always cast Vicky Zhao, the other Red Cliff female star.

- It’s reviews time! This week, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling reviews 90-year old veteran art director Takeo Kimura’s first film Yume no Mani Mani, which is playing at this Tokyo theater. Is that Asano in the trailer?  Variety’s Derek Elley looks at two Korean films - the hit period film The Divine Weapon and Choi Ho’s 70s music film Go Go 70s.

- Kind of like a review is this week’s Teleview column on the Daily Yomiuri, which looks at the Kyoka Suzuki-led drama Scandal.

- If you’re a Spongebob fan in China, start rejoicing: CCTV is bringing back 30 episodes of the popular American animated series after its last airing in December 2007.

- It’s a good weekend for Japanese trailers: Nippon Cinema brings us the trailers for the Takeshi Kaneshiro-starring action film K-20 and the latest “animal doing human jobs” film Neko Ramen Taisho, about a cat that becomes a ramen chef. Brilliant!

- The Asia Pacific Screen Awards, to be given out in Australia next month, has picked its competition jury.

- Japanese-American pop singer melody. has suddenly announced her retirement as a music artist, deciding that she will follow her dream to become a clothes designer. Her last high-profile job was the host of NHK’s English-language, oversea-aimed music show J-Melo, which presents Japanese pop music videos every week.

The Golden Rock - October 21st, 2008 Edition

A quick update because of a lack of time:

- First, here are how the opening films are doing at the Hong Kong box office after 5 days in theaters:

Mirrors - HK$1.97 million - 31 screens
The Vampire Who Admires Me - HK$1 million - 27 screens
Awake  - HK$420,000 - 10 screens (opened on 13 screens)
Accuracy of Death - HK$170,000 - 3 screens.

As for the others, Body of Lies is now at HK$4.94 million after 11 days, Butterfly Lovers is behind with HK$4.87 million after 11 days, Painted Skin is still under the HK$10 million mark with HK$9.87 million after 20 days, Connected has passed the HK$13 million mark with HK$13.06 million after 26 days, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona is doing well (by Woody Allen standards) with HK$1.89 million after 11 days, and Mamma Mia is still going with HK$11.87 million after 40 days.

- At the Japanese box office attendance chart, Suspect X (the film spin-off of TV drama Galileo) gets its third weekend at the number one spot. Hollywood films Eagle Eye and P.S. I Love You open at 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. Departures continues its strong run at 4th place, and Ponyo jumps back up to 8th place.

-The fall 2008 drama season in Japan is coming to a great start for some of the major networks. Fuji has great premiere ratings for Celeb to Binbou Taro (17.6% rating) and The Glorious Team Bastista (15.2% for their troubled Tuesday 10pm spot is pretty good), while Kaze no Garden holds on to a respectable 18.0 rating in its second week. TBS has the highest-rated drama premiere with Ryusei no Kizuna (21.2% rating), with its Sunday night drama Scandal premiering with a promising 16.9 rating. On the other hand, NTV’s highest-rated drama is currently Scrap Teacher, with only a 12+ rating so far for both episodes.

Still, TBS and Fuji have their share of disappointments: the expensive terrorist drama Bloody Monday (co-produced with film distributor Toho) is still at 11.4% rating after two weeks, while Fuji’s Saturday 11pm drama Room of King has fallen to single-digit ratings for its second week in a row. More next week, when the rest of the private network dramas premiere.

All drama sypnoses are at Tokyograph.

- The Tokyo International Film Festival is off to a strange start this year: First, guests at opening film Red Cliff were walking out because only one of the two screens had an Englush-subtitled print. Then competition jury chairman Jon Voight raised his hands towards the ceiling while thanking Akira Kurosawa in Japanese during his opening remarks. Maybe it’s the green carpet.

- Meanwhile, at the Contents market, American producers came together to talk about the challenges of remaking Asian films for the western market.

- Japanese electronic pop group Perfume, featuring three almost overly spunky girls, is certainly having their biggest year ever: they have now sold more DVDs than pop divas such as Koda Kumi and Namie Amuro. I think it’s the voice and their excellent lip-syncing.

-Hong Kong film producer Universe is looking at another year of loss as video sales drop 30% and theatrical takings dropped by 12%, mainly due to the lack of a true hit film. If I remember correctly, their only releases this year so far are See You in Youtube (which was a surprise moderate hit) and Sparrow, neither of which got even past the HK$7 million mark. Of course, they blame internet piracy instead.

- The role of internet libel in the recent string of celebrity suicides in South Korea have sparked talks of imposing restrictions on free speech on the internet. Of course, there are theories that suggest it’s the government’s way of suppressing dissent.

- It’s reviews time! Derek Elley looks at two Mainland Chinese films this time - first the Chinese Academy Awards representative Dream Weavers - Beijing 2008, then the so-bad-it’s-hilarious Kung Fu Hip Hop. I’m surprised he didn’t mention the horrendous subtitles.

- Lastly, Hong Kong actress Gigi Lai, who may be best known to foreign viewers for her role in the Young and Dangerous movies, has announced that she will retire to take care of her ailing younger brother’s business. Of course, Hong Kong viewers will continue to see her on the small screen until February as one of the three female leads on the new 82-episode TVB drama The Gem of Life. Yes, that’s 82.

The Golden Rock At the HKAFF - Part 2

The second week of the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival for me was 6 films spread out over 5 nights. Within the last 8 days, I have seen 12 movies in theaters, 10 of those as part of the HKAFF. I may declare for bankruptcy when this is all said and done.

Anyway, here’s everything I’ve seen since my last entry:

Parking (dir. Chung Mong Hong. Taiwan, 2008)

The synosis of the film suggests that this might be Taiwan’s answer to After Hours, but that’s only the basic structure of the film. Part film noir, part urban fable, this strange comedy-drama is surprisingly packed with emotions, as well as some beautiful shots. However, the film suffers from an uneven pace due to its digressions into the backstories of the various side characters. Overall, it’s a promising debut for director Ching Mong Hong, and some of the visuals are bound to stay in your mind for days.

True Women For Sale (dir. Herman Yau. Hong Kong, 2008)

Herman Yau’s latest film has a Chinese title that translates to “I Don’t Sell My Body, I Sell My Uterus”. It may sound like the wrong title for a film about prostitution, but it’ll make perfect sense when you realize that the film’s second major storyline is about a pregnant Mainland woman trying to fight for residency in Hong Kong. Compared to Whispers and Moans, True Women For Sale is a significantly lighter look at its subject matters, and some spots are actually quite funny (though some recurring jokes fall flat the whole way through). The cast is uniformly strong (Prudence Lau is excellent, and Anthony Wong is as likable as ever), but some of the forced dialogue delivery heard in Whispers and Moans is back, but at least done with less preachy speeches. Overall, one of the finer truly local efforts of the year, and has a very good chance to perform better than Whispers and Moans at the Hong Kong box office.

img_0456-edited.JPG

Director Herman Yau (right) and Race Wong (left) at the Q&A for True Women For Sale

ASYL: Park and Love Hotel (dir. Izuru Kumazaka. Japan, 2007)

My first of several Pia Film Festival films this year at the HKAFF is an episodic drama about four lonely women in Tokyo who find refuge at a community park built on top of a love hotel. It’s one of those quiet, Japanese indie-style films with a slow pace, long takes, and a lot of quirkiness. But the portrayal of its characters (especially Lily as central character Tsuyako) and its down-to-earth approach make it worth watching. Not the strongest Pia Film Festival film I’ve seen, but it’s worth the attention.

Yoshino’s Barber Shop (dir. Naoko Ogigami. Japan, 2003)

Seagull Diner and Glasses director Naoko Ogigami’s debut is a cute look at a small town where all the boys have the same hairstyle to keep with a strange local custom, until the new kid from Tokyo comes to town and changes everything with his hip, Kimura Takuya-like hair. Ogigami shows her talent for dry quirky humor, depiction of places far from urban Tokyo, and her love of actress Masako Motai in this unlikely pick for a Pia Film Festival Scholarship film. Of course, being a film festival film, the story suggests some kind of social allegory, but it’s never heavy-handed and highly enjoyable the whole way through. I still never want to have the Yoshino hairstyle, though.

Cape No.7 (dir. Wei Te-Sheng. Taiwan, 2008)

It’s easy to see why this comedy-drama became the BIGGEST FILM EVER in Taiwan and why it was such a crowdpleaser at the screening I attended. Made with a commercial spirit on an indie budget (the director reportedly paid NT$30 million of the total NT$50 million budget from his own pocket), this is blatantly commercial filmmaking that packs in all the effective elements: The charming locals that make a group of underdog misfits, the handsome bad boy, the exotic Japanese love interest, and even an unrequited love story. It has some extremely notable flaws (funny how both romances in a romance film don’t really work), but it’s such a likable flick that you’re likely to be able to overlook it all and just take it all in. As it has been already, expect this to be a festival darling for the next year. Not required to be immersed in Taiwanese culture to appreciate it, but apparently you would love it even more if you are.

After School (dir. Kenji Uchida. Japan, 2007)

Kenji Uchida’s follow-up to Stranger of Mine is more of the same stuff, with a plot that takes you through twists and turns for the first half, only to spend the second half revealing how clever Uchida is by showing what really happened. Nevertheless, it’s still a smart, low-key mystery that is clever and great to watch with an unaware audience. As Mark Schilling pointed out in his review, the characters this time are even more like Uchida’s pawns, moving around to faciltate the plot or in manipulating the perception of reality in the plot. But it also does have genuine emotions, as he leaves the most poignant reveal to be one about the characters instead of the mystery. Uchida has now become one of my favorite up-and-coming young directors from Japan.

P.S.: Stick around for the end of the credits for a small reveal that’s also the mystery’s most important.

And here’s a ranking of the films seen at the festival so far:

1. Tokyo Sonata
2. After School
3. Crows Zero
4. Parking
5. Cape No. 7
6. Yoshino’s Barber Shop
7. AYSL: Park and Love Hotel
8. True Women For Sale
9. Accuracy of Death
10. Happiness

It’s pretty amazing that I haven’t been disappointed with any of the offerings so far, but this is how I would rank them if I had to.

That’s it for part 2 of the HKAFF report. The next report should be for the final set of films, including Tokyo!, Ivy Ho’s Claustrophobia, and Mamoru Oshii’s Sky Crawlers.

The Golden Rock - October 19th, 2008 Edition

A quick entry before going off for another film at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival (tonight it’s Kenji Uchida’s After School).

- Judging from Thursday opening day box office numbers in Hong Kong, it’s looking to be a rather quiet weekend when the numbers come out tomorrow. Mirrors, the Hollywood remake of the Korean film Into the Mirror, opened on top with HK$275,000 from 31 screens. The new Wong Jing-produced horror film The Vampire Who Admires Me managed to make HK$202,000 from 27 screens, but it would be a miracle if it even makes it to HK$2 million. The Hollywood thriller Awake made HK$49,000 from 13 screens, and Accuracy of Death made an OK HK$25,000 from just 3 screens. More tomorrow with the weekend numbers.

-Gordon Chan’s Painted Skin has now passed the 200 million yuan mark at the Chinese box office, placing it along the ranks of The Warlords and Red Cliff, except it’s not as good.

- Just before the temporary relaxed regulations for foreign journalists in China during the Olympics was due to expire, the Chinese authorities decided to extend those regulations. However, nothing has changed for domestic journalist, and Chinese nationals are still not allowed to be full-time correspondants for foreign networks.

- First Cuts, the project created by Andy Lau’s Focus Group to find young talents, has announced the first four filmmakers for the second stage of the project, which will now set its sights mainly in the Mainland Chinese market. The first project’s biggest success was Crazy Stone, by Mainland Chinese director Ning Hao. The first project also featured films from Malaysia and Lam Chi-Chung’s I’ll Call You. Too bad Lam followed it with The Luckiest Man.

- The Tokyo Drama Award, part of the International Drama Festival during the Japan CoFesta, has given out its first prizes. The grand prize went to two dramas - drama special Ten to Sen and made-for-cable drama Pandora. Believe it or not, Last Friends, which deals with domestic violence, gender identity crisis, and even incest, won Kids and Youth category.

- Speaking of CoFesta, the event’s major event - The Tokyo International Film Festival  - is underway with John Woo’s Red Cliff as the opening film. Japan’s Daily Yomiuri has a feature on the festival this weekend.

- And speaking of Japanese dramas, The Daily Yomiuri’s Televiews column for this week looks at this season’s newest dramas, all of which are potential contenders for next year’s Tokyo Drama Awards.

- With the Korean film industry experiencing a downturn this year, companies are seeing the chance in filling the screens with films that have been sitting on their shelves instead of investing in new productions.

- This week, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling reviews the indie horror film Peeping Tom (Makiguri no Ana).

- Lastly, Variety finally mentions that Korean pop star BoA is venturing into the American music market.

The Golden Rock - October 14th, 2008 Edition

- The Japanese cinema attendance figure for Saturday and Sunday is finally out after the holiday weekend. Suspect X, the film version of the hit drama Galileo, retains its number 1 spot, and the Masked Rider movie also retains its number 2 spot. The surprise this weekend is the boost for Departures from 5th place to 3rd place. It may be because of the news of actor Toru Minegishi’s death, or it may be due to really good word-of-mouth (as shown by its small 17.6% drop in the second weekend). Lastly, only one opening film made the top 10, and that’s Get Smart at 10th place.

- In Korea, Eagle Eye debuts at 1st place, while aspiring blockbuster Modern Boy drops to 3rd place. Kim Ki Duk finally sees another one of his film land on the top 10, as Dreams open at 6th place after opening on over 100 screens.

More from Korea Pop Wars.

- South Korean gangster drama Fate opened last weekend in Japan, but the Korean wave has been fading away for a long time in Japan. From 94 screens, the film only made 23.87 million yen, which is only 37% of the opening for Running Wild.

- Twitch has the link to a trailer for the game Ni No Kuni, whose animated sequence are done by Studio Ghibli and even features a score by Joe Hisaishi.

- Another work that was unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show this year is the Japan-produced full-length CG-animated Resident Evil film, which will be released this weekend in Japanese theaters.

- Park Chan Wook has reportedly finished shooting his latest vampire film Thirst, which has been rumored to feature Song Kang Ho in some explcit sex scenes. Park also said that this is the best film he’s ever done, which means it better be pretty damn good.

- Looks like Japanese TV network TBS is about to stir some controversy with its upcoming drama special, which has casted Takeshi Kitano as Hideki Tojo, who was prime minister during World War II and was executed as one of the major war criminals after the war.

The Golden Rock - October 13th, 2008 Edition

- As I predicted, Jingle Ma’s Butterfly Lovers came back from behind over the weekend to beat Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies at the Hong Kong box office. On Sunday, the idols period flick made HK$761,079 from 36 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2.67 million. Meanwhile, Body of Lies made HK$734,000 from 35 screens on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2.6 million. While Body of Lies has one less screen and runs 20 minutes longer, it also attracts the higher-priced adult tickets, while Butterfly Lovers attracted the lower-priced student tickets, so there’s essentially no handicap for either film.

As for other openers, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona did pretty well on its relatively limited release (although this is pretty wide for Woody Allen). It made HK$261,000 from 16 screens on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$890,000, which is reportedly better than Match Point already. The Hollywood rom-com My Best Friend’s Girl did slightly better during the weekend, making HK$110,000 from just 13 screens, but it still only made HK$280,000 after 4 days.

Painted Skin lost almost half of its audience over the weekend, making HK$517,000 from 30 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total (it says 19, but it’s really 11) of HK$8.28 million (minus the possibly bogus HK$350,000 gross from its “one-week run”). Connected is proving relatively long legs, making HK$382,000 from 34 screens on Sunday. After 18 days, Benny Chan’s action thriller has made HK$11.91 million. The Duchess also hangs on during its second weekend in limited release, making HK$67,000 from 6 screens for a 12-day total of HK$1.36 million. 20th Century Boys has passed the HK$6 million mark after 18 days after making HK$87,000 from 14 screens. Lastly, Mamma Mia is now at 11.56 million after 32 days, and Eagle Eye is at HK$6.14 million after 18 days.

-It’s a public holiday in Japan today, so all we have today is last week’s drama ratings. The Fall 2008 season has started, and as reported last week, Kaze no Garden is leading the pack with a 20.1% rating for its premiere episode. Yume wo Kanaeru Zou takes a big drop for its second episode, losing nearly 43% of its audience for a 4.1% rating in its second week. OL Nippon, from the writer of the successful Haken no Hinkaku, flops in its first episode with just a 8.3% rating. Fuji’s Saturday night 11pm drama fails to outdo last season’s 33-Minute Detective, but outdoes Hachi One Diver’s premiere with a 10.4% rating.

All drama synoses can be found on Tokyograph.

- Mamoru Oshii’s Sky Crawlers won big at the Sitges Film Festival, picking up 3 prizes, including the Best Motion Picture Award from the youth jury.

Also, the Korean thriller The Chaser picked up Orient Express~Casa Asia award for Best Picture, and Kim Jee-Woon’s The Good, the Bad and The Weird picked up two awards in the main competition section.

- Jason Gray reports that the new Japanese food film Flavor of Happiness has been acquired by a French distributor that will be opening it on 40 screens. That’s more than double the screens the film got for its opening weekend in Japan.

Mark Schilling of the Japan Times gave a rave for the film last week.

- Twitch has a trailer for the Mamoru Oshii-led anthology Kill~Kiru, which is essentially four action finales for four films that don’t really exist. It look like a maybe-maybe not. We’ll know how it is after it premieres at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

I found out during a random look yesterday at the Now TV movie trailer channel that there’s a trailer out for the Wong Jing-produced cheapie flick The Vampire Who Admires Me. Here it is in all its Youtube glory.

-The comedian management agency Yoshimoto Kogyo last year announced that its large cast of comedians will be directing 100 short films. Now the agency plans to start the Okinawa International Movie Festival next March, and those 100 films will be part of the program.

- Korea Pop War’s Mark Russell has seen Kim Ki Duk’s latest Dream, starring Jo Odagiri and Lee Na Young, and he posts his thoughts on the film and Kim Ki Duk in general.

- Salon Films, hot off the success of their first film Painted Skin at the Chinese box office, is now set to make nine more films. Four of the films, all English-language films, will be made with the recently established multinational Asian film fund and will be shot in China. One of the other five films will be a sequel to Eat Drink Man Woman, which doesn’t seem to have Ang Lee’s name attached…yet?

- Veteran Japanese actor Toru Minegishi, who last appeared in the acclaimed film Departures and I probably last saw him in TV drama Karei Naru Ichizoku, passed away from cancer on Saturday. He was 65.

The Golden Rock at the HKAFF - Part 1

This past weekend, this blogger spent roughly 8 hours at the movies because it’s time for the yearly Hong Kong Asian Film Festival. All the politics aside, this year’s picks were solid enough that I bought tickets to 14 films. Unfortunately, I found out that three of the four movies I saw over the weekend already have Hong Kong distributors. One even comes out this week.

Anyway, here are some brief reviews of the films I saw, sans those that I plan to write longer reviews for:

Tokyo Sonata (dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Japan, 2008): I don’t really watch much horror films, which means I’ve sorely missed out on the most popular K. Kurosawa films over the years. But I fairly enjoyed Bright Future, and have been looking forward to his take of the family drama, especially after its win at Cannes. I’m happy to say that despite a dragged-out third act, it definitely didn’t disappoint. Heartbreaking but darkly comedic, this is the work of a master. A longer review possibly to come.

Accuracy of Death (dir. Masaya Kakei. Japan, 2008): This sentimental look at death and destiny would’ve been a drag to sit through without a surprisingly charming performance from Takeshi Kaneshiro and co-writer/director Masaya Kakei’s sense of humor throughout. An episodic look at how a Grim Reaper finds life through three different cases, the fantasy drama is obviously going for a very sentimental approach (I still shudder at the Japanese English title: Sweet Rain) at a grim subject. The plot twists and how these three stories end up connecting are foreshadowed about two miles away, but they get the emotional effect they’re going for. I just wanted more. I’m not sure of what, but I just wished there was more.

Crows Zero (dir. Takeshi Miike. Japan, 2007): It’s weird to see Accuracy of Death has a higher body count then this film. Takeshi Miike is another Japanese director I’ve missed out on over the years. Crows Zero marks the third complete Miike film I’ve seen (after Ichi the Killer and City of Lost Souls), and it’s by far the best and the most entertaining of the bunch. The 2-hour+ film starts off furiously and keeps the blood pumping most of the time. Miike knows how to do the tough guy thing, and does it well.  But the romantic thing with the R&B-singing is a little too awkward for a film where overgrown high school boys beat up each other in the rain. Nevertheless, it’s great fun to watch in a packed house, and it shows how good Miike can be with a budget. Bring on Crows Zero II.

Happiness (dir: Hur Jin HoKorea, 2007): Hur’s Christmas in August is an all-time favorite and one of my first exposures to Korean films. Its follow-up One Fine Spring Day remains one of my favorite depiction of a relationship. So imagine the expectations I had for his first film since April Snow, which I never finished watching for some inexplicable reason. The sights are pretty, but Hur’s attention to detail and his central relationship are not as poignant this time around, instead going for a more melodramatic approach. Still, it’s interesting to see him turning the gender bias of One Fine Spring Day completely around, putting the man at fault. By the way, the film is loooooooong, even by Hur Jin Ho standard. Perhaps a longer review eventually.

This week is 6 more movies spread out over 5 days, including Parking and Cape No. 7 from Taiwan, Herman Yau’s True Women For Sale, and Kenji Uchida’s After School on Sunday. It’s looking to be one of the best movie-going weeks all year. Unless all the movies suck, then it’ll be one of the worst.

Catch you on the other side.

The Golden Rock - October 10th, 2008 Edition

- It’s looking like it’ll be a quiet weekend at the Hong Kong box office. Especially disappointing is the opening day for Jingle Ma’s Butterfly Lovers, which opened on 36 screens with a HK$389,280 take. But it’s only at second place, because Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies not only opened on less screens (33) with less showings (it runs 20 minutes longer), but it also made HK$389,419, beating it by HK$139, which is roughly two tickets. Talking about a close one.

Butterfly Lovers does have two things going for it: 1) It appeals more to younger audiences, which means it probably sold more student tickets at a lower price. 2) The young idol chasers will likely flock to this over the weekend when they’re out of school. So I expect this to get a bigger boost over the weekend than Body of Lies.

As for the other opening films, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona opened on 16 screens and made just under HK$106,000, and the Hollywood comedy My Best Friend’s Girl opened on 12 screens for just a take of HK$28,000. More on Monday with the weekend numbers.

- Box office gross for this year’s week-long National Day holiday in China is up 220%(!) from the same period last year. This year, it’s thanks to the RMB100 million+ 7-day take of Painted Skin (which has now made RMB 170 million in total), the RMB 21.6 million take for Connected during the same period), as well as Journey to the Center of the Earth’s RMB 21 million take.

- The new Japanese drama Kaze no Garden, which features actor Ken Ogata in his last role before passing away last week, scored a tremendous 20.1% premiere this past week.

- Tokyograph has unveiled its comprehensive guide to the Fall 2008 season Japanese dramas, and there are quite a few interesting ones this season. Fall seasons tend to do much better than the summer seasons, so hopefully ratings report will be more interesting to do this time around.

- Even though Warner Bros. has not done very well recently in Japan with either its Hollywood productions (The Dark Knight, Speed Racer, Nights in Rodanthe) nor its Japan productions (Sky Crawlers, Sushi Ouji, Sweet Rain), it still plans to boost local productions in the country.

- One of WB Japan’s upcoming releases is Ichi, director Fumihiko Sori’s take on the Zatoichi legend using a female lead, and Twitch has an advance review of it.

- Believe it or not, there’s actually been odds on Japanese author Haruki Murakami winning the Nobel Literature Prize since 2006, even though he’s missed out on it for 3 years running now.

- I’ll be watching three movies at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival tomorrow, and I’ll be offering short thoughts for at least two of the films. In its 5th edition, the HKAFF has become Hong Kong’s second biggest film festival. However, this year is also looking to be the most controversial year ever.

Still, it should be all about the movies. That’s what I care about, and that’s where I’ll be tomorrow. See you all on Sunday.

The Golden Rock - October 8th, 2008 Edition

- While Suspect X, the film adapatation of hit TV drama Galileo, did open pretty big in Japan this past weekend, it actually didn’t do as well as Toho and Fuji TV had probably hoped. On 410 screens, the detective-pseudo-science mystery made 544 million yen, which was enough to put it at first place. However, the opening is just 54% of the openings for Hero and Boys Over Flowers, which means it’s looking to do about half of what those films did, making it a slight disappointment, despite still being a major hit.

Mr. Texas also breaks down who went to see the movie. With the appeal of star Masaharu Fukuyama, it’s no surprise that females made up 65% of the audience. Also, 19.7% of the audience named him as the main reason of going to see the film (while 27.2% went because they were fans of the drama). However, unlike Boys Over Flowers, whose audience mostly comprised of females under 20 years old, Suspect X’s biggest demographic are working adults, which made up 43% of the audience. Does this mean films that skew slightly older wouldn’t make as much money? Does that mean that it might have a longer run because that demographic wouldn’t necessarily rush out to the see the film on opening weekend?

- It’s Japanese Oricon charts time! Yet another compilation takes the top spot of the album charts. This time it’s Mariya Takeuchi’s 3-CD compilation, which makes her the artist with the longest career at the time of a #1 album. On the single charts, boy band NEWS debuts at number 1 with their latest, while the new Kou Shibasaki/Masaharu Fukuyama collaboration (for the Galileo film) only managed a 5th place debut.

More at Tokyograph

- As Pusan wraps up, it’s time to link to some final pieces of news from the festival. The Pusan Promotion Plan has handed out its prizes, giving the top prize to Malaysian film Forget-me-not, while Secret Sunshine director Lee Chang Dong won about $17,000 worth of negative stock for his latest film.

The Asian Film Market in Pusan looked quiet and didn’t do much business, but people were staying busy for other reasons during the market, which was enough to qualify the festival as a success.

However, Variety has a different story, with buyers complaining that the market is geared towards Korean buyers, and the Korean film industry is in such a bad shape that most people just window shopped rather than making deals.

One deal did happen: An American production company brought up the remake rights to the Korean film Driving With My Wife’s Lover, which has been earning favorable reviews all around.

Lastly, here is a roundup of reviews that played at Pusan from Screen Daily’s critics.

OK, bring on the Tokyo CoFesta!

- Despite Screen Daily reporting Korean distributors’ reluctance to release Japanese films in Korea due to Boy Over Flowers and 20th Century Boys‘ lackluster performances, yet another Japanese film will be opening in Korea. And Hong Kong as well. To be fair, Tokyo Girl isn’t exactly a major blockbuster, which means the rights probably didn’t cost all that much.

- Japanese award-winning actor Ken Watanabe is going back to his small-screen roots, playing the lead in an upcoming TV drama special (essentially a TV movie) as a real-life police detective that became the model of many police procedural dramas.

- Despite being in the midst of political turmoil, as well being on the heels of a relatively successful world-class film festival, Bangkok is ready to unleash yet another film festival come October 24th.

In other film festival news, the Tokyo Filmex has unveiled the lineup for this year’s edition, while Jason Gray reminds you that all the films will be subtitled in English!

- Alexi Tan, who’s probably still reeling from the overall response to his debut film Blood Brothers, has come back, but only for clothing company Diesel and their latest line of jeans. Twitch has the trailer to the short film, which will go public on the 12th. Todd Brown sees possible greatness, I see much much less.

- Korean pop singer Son Dam Bi is going to Hollywood with the dance film Hype, and I already bet she either won’t have any lines or will play some white guy’s love interest. But that’s just me all bitter-talking.

- Japanese actor Ken Ogata passed away on Sunday. He was a veteran on stage, TV, and films, and he has been acting for 50 years. His last role was on the upcoming TV drama Kaze no Garden. He was 71.

The Golden Rock - October 6th, 2008 Edition

Sorry about that little extended break. It’s been kind of a crazy half-week.

- Who didn’t expect Painted Skin (with DONNNNNIIIIEEEE!) to be on the top of the Hong Kong box office anyway? From 37 screens, the fantasy-martial arts hybrid romance made HK$1.03 million from 37 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$4.09 million. HOWEVER, and I didn’t report this for the opening day report because…..well, I fell asleep while writing, HK$350,000 of that money was supposedly from those advance screenings that no one could buy ticket to and no one was staffing at.

Connected had a strong second weekend, making HK$751,000 from 40 screens for a 11-day total of HK$8.83 million. With another public holiday in Hong Kong this week, it’s pretty reasonable to predict that this film will go over the HK$10 milliom mark. The British film The Duchess had a very strong weekend on limited release. On only 7 screens, the historical drama made HK$140,000 on Sunday for a 5-day total of HK$810,000, including preview showings last weekend. On the other hand, the Storm Riders: Clash of Evils flopped badly over the weekend, making just HK$66,000 from 26 screens on Sunday for a 5-day weekend total of HK$400,000. In fact, it’s done so bad that some theaters on the Newport Circuit decided to bring back Forbidden Legend: Sex and Chopsticks for one showing a day, even though Storm Riders was supposed to replace it on the Newport Circuit.

Speaking of Sex and Chopsticks, it’s still playing on 13 screens as of Sunday, when it made HK$33,000. After 17 days, the cat-III softcore porn has made HK$2.9 million. In relative terms, this is a success for the people involved. Eagle Eye isn’t quite performing in HK as well as it is in America, making just HK$422,000 from 39 screens for a 11-day take of HK$5.07 million. However, it has surpassed 20th Century Boys, which took an even bigger dip in its second weekend with just HK$326,000 from 32 screens on Sunday for a 11-day take of HK$5.06 million. It’ll end up just matching Hero’s take late last year instead of matching Death Note’s sensational HK$10 million+ takes, which must be a slight disappointment for the distributor.

Mamma Mia has proven itself to be a long-run hit, making another HK$273,000 from 23 screens on Sunday. It now has a 25-day total of HK$10.76 million. Journey to the Center of the Earth is still in the top 10 as well, making HK$58,000 from 6 screens and has now made HK$34.71 million after 53 days.

-In Japan, Suspect X (The film version of the hit TV drama Galileo) opened on top of the Japanese attendance ranking and is expected to earn as much as this year’s hit TV adaptation Hana Yori Dango, if not to the heights of last year’s Hero. Surprisingly, last week’s winner Iron Man dropped all the way to 6th place in its second week, which may make this the second Hollywood superhero flick to underperform at the Japanese box office after The Dark Knight.

- Meanwhile, the Galileo TV special also did very well in the ratings this past weekend, scoring a 20.8% rating. On the other hand, the Rookies‘ special didn’t do nearly as well, with just a 10.0% rating on the same night.

Source: Dramanews.net

- It’s trailers time! From Twitch is the trailer for The Uninvited, the Hollywood remake of the Korean horror film A Tale of Two Sisters. The latter was beautifully shot, well-acted, and all in all a rare elegant horror flick that stood out from the down-and-dirty gore crap. The former doesn’t seem to carry any of that. Also, they have a link to the first teaser for Hollywood’s take on Dragonball, which just hurts to watch.

On the Hong Kong films front, The website for Dante Lam’s latest Beast Stalker, starring Nicholas Tse and Nick Cheung, has opened and it features the film’s trailer. It might be a nice little crime thriller…or it might be another Heat Team. At least it looks decent. Also, the trailer for Tsui Hark’s Not All Women Are Bad has hit the net. This, on the other hand, doesn’t look close to decent. Then again, I might’ve been wrong before.

Lastly, Nippon Cinema has the trailer to the parody film Homeless ga Chugakusei, which is a take on the upcoming film adaptation of the autobiographical novel The Homeless Chugakusei. It reportedly features a real homeless man.

- Tsui Hark, who’s giving a master class at the Pusan Film Festival, reportedly says that he accepts the burden of censorship from everywhere, saying that it’s something that has to be done to “get better result”.  Blah.

Meanwhile, the Variety Pusan blog has the first part of everything he said in the class.

- Kaiju Shakedown looks at what celebrities around the world are up to, including Zhang Ziyi’s latest film and Charlie Yeung reminiscing about Leslie Cheung.

- For all you fans out there waiting for the next Evangelion film, wait longer: The latest film is now set to be released in Japan some time in early Summer 2009.

- Variety looks at the numerous film funds out there for Asian filmmakers, including the Weinstein Asian Film Fund, the RGM fund, and even the latest multi-national Irresistable Films Fund for new filmmakers…….except the company retains final cut, “for the filmmakers’ own good,” of course.

- Despite their upcoming indefinite hiatus, Japanese band Southern All Stars is still as prolific as ever: Two of the band members will appear in the 33-part short drama that are based on their songs.

- Major Japanese TV network TBS is suing North American network ABC because its game show Wipeout features an obstacle course that resembles far too much to TBS’ hit shows “Takeshi’s Castle” and “Sasuke”, as well as other hit obstacle game shows from the 90s that have seen a second life as dubbed shows on American cable networks.

 
 
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