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Archive for February, 2009

The Golden Rock - February 21st, 2009 Edition

- Now.com finally updated their Thursday opening day numbers on time for me to make a prediction for this weekend at the Hong Kong box office. As expected, Patrick Kong’s Love Connected led the way, but with only HK$357,000 from 36 screens. That gross is higher than the HK$209,000 opening for Nobody’s Perfect. Either the teens will show up, or it will continue the downward spiral of Patrick Kong. Following close behind is My Bloody Valentine 3D, which managed to make HK$326,000 from 18 screens because of the inflated ticket price. Then again,it may end up winning the weekend exactly because of that.

Clint Eastwood’s Changeling opened on 5 screens with HK$48,000, while Milk also opened on 5 screens, but to just HK$37,000. As the Academy Awards approaches, these films should get a boost over the weekend, at least with per-screen averages.

By the way, Joe Ma and Leefire’s Give Love, which opened on at least 10 screens, didn’t even make it to the top 10, despite the presence of Gigi Leung. More on Monday when the full numbers are out.

-  As expected, Departures swept the Japan Academy Prize last night, winning 10 awards, including all the major awards EXCEPT for Best Actress, which went to All Around Us’s Kimura Tae. It’s well-deserved, but I feel a little sorry for Ryoko Hirosue at the same time.

Meanwhile, Ponyo won two awards - Best Animated Film, and Best Music. Paco and the Magical Book won Best Art Direction, and The Dark Knight won Best Foreign Film. The audience awards went to Suspect X for Best Picture and Kenichi Matsuyama for Best Actor.

- Departures is also nominated for Best Foreign Film at the upcoming Academy Awards this weekend. Of course, it’s no surprise that both Japan Times and the Daily Yomiuri have respective features on the film.

The Japan Times piece by Mark Schilling.

The Daily Yomiuri piece by Ikuko Kitagawa. 

- In Korea, John Cameron Michell’s sexually explicit film Shortbus will finally be shown in Korea with a restricted rating that will actually allow the film be shown in the country, thanks to a court decision.

- Scud, reportedly the creative driving force behind City Without Baseball, is continuing his obsession with male nudity with the so-called “extreme trilogy”. The first film of that trilogy is Permanant Residence, and here’s the trailer (NSFW for male nudity), with a bad cover of Truly, Madly, Deeply playing in the background. Now we know who was responsible for the bad Cantopop covers in City Without Baseball then.

That’s it for today. More on Sunday to wrap up the weekend.

The Golden Rock - February 19th, 2009 Edition

- Japan numbers are out on Box Office Mojo. Apparently, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button only lost 11.6% of previous week’s business to take the top spot away from 20th Century Boys. However, the latter isn’t stopping too quick, losing only 28.5% of previous week’s business at just past 2 billion yen. However, at this pace, it’s slightly behind part 1, which means it’s not likely to get past that 3.5 billion yen mark. Meanwhile, High School Musical lost a surprising 46.8% of business in its second weekend, making it a bona-fide disappointment for Disney.

Meanwhile, Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon opened in Japan this past weekend. From a limited release of 8 screens, the Daniel Lee film made 5.08 million yen over 2 days. It doesn’t sound very strong, but according to Mr. Texas of Eiga Consultant blog, its Tokyo screen attracted 1359 admissions (out of a possible 1608 for its 8 shows in a 201-seat auditorium) and made 1.66 million yen, with packed shows on Saturday opening day.

- In Korea, Benjamin Button took the top spot, as expected. Meanwhile, the movie that’s making the big news is the documentary Old Partner, about an injured farmer and his ox. Started as a small indie release, it has blown up to a 200+ screen release and more than 700,000 admissions already.

More from Korea Pop Wars.

- In Chinese box office, Transporter 3 is off to a very good start, making just over 30 million yuan on opening weekend. Look For a Star is now at 89 million, and will likely pass that 100 million yuan mark. Joe Ma’s Give Love, despite being distinctly a recepient of the new Hong Kong government film fund, opened in China first and made roughly 9.5 million yuan. Cape No. 7, which finally saw its China release for Valentine’s Day, could only muster a 5th place opening of about 9 million yuan. This may be because many of its target youth audience has already downloaded the film and have no reason to go the theaters for it.

- On the Japanese Oricon charts, KAT-TUN gets their 9th consecutive number 1 single on the singles chart, while Thelma Aoyama gets her first number 1 album with her latest compilation, although I don’t know someone with just one full-length album can already have a compilation album.

More from Tokyograph.

- Coming off the moderate success of See You in Youtube, the directorial team of Seven’s (which include producer Oxide Pang, Cub Chien, and six other young directors) are back together for a school-themed film with young stars such as G.E.M., William Chan, and Siu Fey. Yikes.

- In what is likely to be a better film by a better director, Ang Lee is the latest director in talks to direct the adaptation of The Life of Pi.  Directors involved before Lee includes M. Night Shyamalan and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

- In Thailand, the cabinet has passed the controversial film ratings system, and it’s set to be in place in May. It was meant to allow greater freedoms for filmmakers, but the sketchy wording of the system and the structure of the regulatory party have found more disapproval among Thai filmmakers instead.

- Variety’s Ronnie Scheib takes a look at Takashi Miike’s Yatterman after its screening at Berlin.

- Lastly, director Tsai Ming-Liang is in Taiwan rushing to complete his latest film Face in time for the Cannes Film Festival. But first, he will have to flood several city blocks of Taipei to get there.

The Golden Rock - February 17th, 2009 Edition

- We may just permanently go with the Hong Kong Filmart numbers for the Hong Kong box office. In the last week, Yes Man easily took the top spot in its first 4 days, making HK$4.2 million from 34 screens (including previews). HK$10 million is likely, but not sure if it’ll go much past that. Bryan Singer’s Valkerie couldn’t attract the Valentine’s Day crowd, making HK$2.8 million from 38 screens over 4 days. It’s not bad in terms of day-to-day average, but it’s not likely to get past the HK$7 million mark. It’s better than Lions for Lambs, but Tom Cruise has done far better before.

Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road did fairly well in its 14-screen psuedo-limited release, making HK$1.16 million over 4 days, though I wonder how it’ll do once all those other love movies hit Hong Kong theaters. One of those love movies, Patrick Kong’s Love Connected, did very well during its two days of preview showings over the weekend, making HK$926,000 from 37 screens. Could this be Patrick Kong’s return after two duds?

One romance that didn’t do so well is Ivy Ho’s Claustrophobia. From 12 screens, it made HK$574,000 over 4 days, with it making barely over HK$10,000 per screen each day.

-With the holiday weekend, there’s no Japan numbers up at Box Office Mojo yet, so we’ll have to do with the cinema attendence figure for now. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has ensured its long-run success by overtaking 20th Century Boys II for the top spot in its second weekend. Kankuro Kudo’s Shonen Merikensack had to do with a 3rd place opening with about 214 million yen.  It’s nowhere near the opening of the similar-themed Detroit Metal City, but it is 171% of the opening of another Aoi Miyazaki’s starrer Heavenly Forest. It is now aiming for a 1.5 billion yen take, which has to be somewhat underwhelming after Miyazaki’s very popular drama starring role in NHK’s Atsuhime.

Meanwhile, the Keanu Reeves starrer Street Kings (renamed Fake City in Japan) opened at 9th place, which is fair since it wasn’t a major release anyway.

- Feng Xiaogang, Chen Kaige, Ge You, and even Andy Lau has been recruited for a new film, except they will all be actors this time around. Why such a big cast, you ask? Because it’s the PRC’s 60th anniversary extravaganza!

- Speaking of nationalism, Peter Chan will be joining the director of said extravaganza film to form a production company with Polybona, also known as the “entertainment business arm of the Chinese army”. They plan to make 15 films in the next three years. I hope at least one of them will be Peter Chan’s.

- The insane 4-hour epic that is Sion Sono’s Love Exposure managed to win two awards at the Berlin Film Festival. I’m crossing my fingers that it’ll be at the Hong Kong International Film Festival this year.

- The controversial Japanese film Children in the Dark will finally have a screening in Bangkok when it screens at the Foreign Correspondant Club in Bangkok. The film, about child prostitution in Thailand, was pulled from the Bangkok International Film Festival last year after it was deemed inappropriate.

- Meanwhile, straight from Derek Yee’s mouth is why his new film The Shinjuku Incident won’t be in Chinese cinemas.

- Usually, only Japanese commercial television stations would bring their drama series to the big screen. But now, even NHK is joining the cinema trend, with a spin-off of their successful finance drama Vulture.

- In more TV-related news, Smap’s Masahiro Nakai (the one who always sings off-key) will be starring in his first Fuji TV Monday 9pm slot drama for the first time since 1998. The Fuji Monday 9pm slot is known as the strongest drama timeslot on Japanese TV, although its victory has not been consistent lately because of shows like Innocent Love (Voice is the current Winter 2009 leader, though). Even Monday 9pm staple Kimura Takuya’s Change lost out in average ratings to Gokusen.

-  Sad news: The house that apparently inspired Hayao Miyazaki when he did Totoro has burned down.And another piece of my childhood goes away.

The Golden Rock - February 15th, 2009 Edition

A small weekend update, since there wasn’t much news out there.

- Lovehkfilm just updated with some reviews and a little more. First, Kozo gives his takes on Ivy Ho’s directorial debut Claustrophobia and the DOONNNNIIIIEEEEE classic Mismatched Couples.Can you believe Yuen Wo-Ping directed that movie?

Sanjuro gives his take on the I Not Stupid sequel, aptly named I Not Stupid Too. Lastly, yours truly looks at Choi Ho’s Go Go 70s and the serial killer thriller Truck. Yes, there’s a truck in it.

Lastly, Kozo announced the final nominations for this year’s Lovehkfilm Awards. I’m definitely happier with it than the nominations for the Hong Kong Film Awards.

- Also, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling takes a look at Michael Arias’ Heaven’s Door and the indie film Lost Girl in a double review.

- It’s trailers time!  Both trailers are from Nippon Cinema today. First it’s the teaser for the Panasian production Last Blood, starring Gianna Jun (Jun Ji-Hyun) and Koyuki. Then it’s the teaser for Sobu’s latest Kanikosen.

- Under “music news” today, Yui Aragaki (who still isn’t much of a singer) will be collaborating with Studio Ghibli for her latest single, with a director from the studio doing the cover art and the music video.

Meanwhile, Ayumi Hamasaki will be releasing her next album on not only CD format, but on a 2GB USB flash drive as well.

- After giving up a Mainland China release due to the fallout from that phot scandal, Dante Lam’s Sniper finally has a few international distribution deals lined up.

- This week’s Televiews column on Daily Yomiuri suggests five ways Japanese terrestrial television stations can do to save themselves. I agree with some, but I don’t agree with the others, especially that idea about a Japanese Daily Show.

- Wong Kar Wai’s Jet Tone will be producing Cheng Hsiao-Tse’s follow-up to the teen romance Miao Miao in a series of projects by young Asian directors.

- Japan’s Film Preservation Society has recovered and remastered an old 1929 silent film, despitethe print having been cut down to 15 minutes for home viewing.

The Golden Rock - February 12th, 2009 Edition

- Again, I’m using the Hong Kong Filmart website numbers for this week’s Hong Kong box office. Thanks to excellent word-of-mouth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button took the top spot for the week, beating All’s Well Ends Well 2009 for a total of HK$19.6 million after 18 days. Meanwhile, Bride Wars led the newcomers, making HK$2.2 million from 33 days over the first 4 days. Will Smith’s Seven Pounds is all the way down at 9th place with just HK$1.72 million from just 19 screens after 4 days.

The rest of the numbers seem faulty (All’s Well Ends Well should be well past the HK$20 million mark now), so I’ll save the reporting for next week when better numbers come out.

-In Japanese box office, 20th Century Boys II managed to hold on to the top spot, despite losing 43.8% of business and Benjamin Button opening. Running 20 minutes longer (but on 53 more screens), Benjamin Button could only muster a 2nd place opening with a lower per-screen average than 20th Century Boys. According to Mr. Texas at Eiga Consultant, its opening was 110% of The Departed (another major Oscar nominee), which means it’ll make just under 2 billion yen. Then again, it may end up going to Hong Kong route and end up being a long-term hit. Weeks 2 and 3 will answer that.

In a relatively moderate release, High School Musical only scored a 5th place opening in terms of gross (it got bumped to 6th by Penguins in the Sky - Asahiyama Zoo on the attendence chart), it earned a respectable per-screen average.

- In Chinese box office, Look For A Star continues its reign at the top with 68 million yuan and counting, despite it not doing so well in Hong Kong.I’m surprised All’s Well Ends Well was the only film with an increase in gross, now with 31 million yuan and counting. And what the hell is Black Book doing there (unless it’s heavily censored)?

- In Taiwan box office, Foreign films continue to reign, with Yes Man and Seven Pounds taking the top spots. Red Cliff II still doing very well too, with 136 million New Taiwan Dollars in the bank. However, it’s also far from what part 1 had after its 4th weekend, which is the general pattern it’s following throughout Asia, except in China and Korea.

- In Korea, Red Cliff II has surpassed part 1, and still in second place this past weekend. The good news is that Korean films has taken 45.9% of total box office so far this year. Hopefully, that’s pointing towards an upward trend from the slump last year.

More at Korea Pop Wars

- The Hong Kong Film blog has posted the list of the nominess for the Hong Kong Film Awards. Red Cliff has 15 nominations, Ip Man and Painted Skin have 12 nominations,and even though The Way We Are only has 6 nominations, it was nominated in all themajor categories except Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Here are the major nominations:

BEST PICTURE

Red Cliff
Ip Man
Painted Skin
The Way We Are
CJ7

BEST DIRECTOR

Ann Hui - The Way We Are
Johnnie To - Sparrow
John Woo - Red Cliff
Wilson Yip - Ip Man
Benny Chan - Connected

BEST ACTOR

Louis Koo - Run, Papa Run
Simon Yam - Sparrow
Donnie Yen - Ip Man
Nick Cheung - Beast Stalker
Tony Leung - Red Cliff

BEST ACTRESS

Bau Hei-Jing - The Way We Are
Prudence Lau - True Women For Sale
Zhou Xun - Painted Skin
Karena Lam - Claustrophobia
Barbie Hsu - Connected

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Zhang Fenyi - Red Cliff
Stephen Chow - CJ7
Liu Kai-Chi - Beast Stalker
Lam Ka-Tung - Ip Man
Louis Fan - Ip Man

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Race Wong - True Women For Sale
Vicky Zhao - Red Cliff
Chan Lai-Wun - The Way We Are
Betty Sun Li - Painted Skin
Nora Miao - Run, Papa Run

BEST SCREENPLAY

Run, Papa Run
Claustrophobia
Painted Skin
Beast Stalker
The Way We Are

Some real atrocious choices (Painted Skin?! CJ7?! No Beast Stalker for Best Film?!), but I hope the voters will have some common sense left and let The Way We Are gets its day in the spotlight.

If anyone wonders how Claustrophobia got nominated, they had 5 night showings that were not opened to the public, but counted as having a week of release in 2008.

- Some Ip Man-related news today on Apple Daily: Wilson Yip and co. will start shooting the sequel this summer with a target release date of February 2010 (probably the next Lunar New Year slot), and Mandarin Films has already greenlit a second sequel as well. Right now, the filmmakers are looking for Jay Chou or Shaolin Soccer’s Chan Kwok-Kwan (aho already played Bruce Lee in the CCTV drama) to play Bruce Lee.

Meanwhile, Tony Leung said that Wong Kar-Wai plans to begin shooting his version of the Ip Man story in June, but he also says WKW may not even be done with shooting the film until the third Ip Man movie has been released, and that he expects that version to take a path that strays from Wilson Yip’s action film.

-  From Youtube is the trailer for Gegege no Kitaro and 10 Promises with My Dog director Katsuhide Motoki’s crazy looking Kamogawa Horumo (info from Nippon Cinema). It looks crazy, but I have little faith in Motoki’s work in general.

-  It’s reviews time! Both reviews are from Hollywood Reporter Asia today - one for Ivy Ho’s Claustrophobia from Peter Brunette, and by Neil Young is the review for Funahashi Atsushi’s Deep In the Valley, which was shown at the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival.

- It already went through the TELA’s rating system in December, and now Sex and Chopsticks II has a poster which reveals a release date of March in Hong Kong. See you at the Dynasty.

- In other release news, despite a generally weak European Film Market at Berlin, America’s Magnolia Pictures, who brought the cut version of Ong Bak 1 and the uncut version of Chocolate to the United States, has picked up the American rights to Ong Bak 2.

- Under “Japanese TV drama” news , the moderate hit drama Zettai Kareshi is coming back for a one-episode drama special this spring.

Meanwhile, actor Jo Odagiri is returning to TV after Jikou Keisatsu for a TBS drama next season, co-starring Masami Nagasawa as his sister.

Lastly, the weekly variety show Goro’s Bar, hosted by SMAP member Goro Inagaki, will be turned into a drama special that will feature Inagaki playing the owner of a bar instead of him pretending to be a pop star pretending to be the owner of a bar.

- Chen Kaige talks about making Forever Enthralled at the Berlin Film Festival, where the film is the only Chinese-language film in competition. He talks about the pressure of having opera star Mei Lanfang’s son as a consultant and how important liberty is. Surely, he’s only able to say that outside of China.

- Lastly, further proof why Naoto Takenaka is the most awesome actor working in Japan.

The Golden Rock - February 4th, 2009 Edition

Happy Lunar New Year to everyone. Best new year gift so far: Finding a link to this blog on Professor David Bordwell’s blog.

Sad, sad news coming out of Asia. Due to the worldwide economic downturn, Variety Asia, which this site uses as a major source for news, has been indefinitely suspended after its two top guys - Patrick Frater and Marcus Lim - has been let go. The same goes for Grady Hendrix’s Kaiju Shakedown blog, which served as a great influence on the development of this blog. Hope to see these guys on the internet soon.

- Still using the HK Filmart website numbers this week to see how films did over the entire Lunar New Year holiday week in Hong Kong. Leading the way for the week is All’s Well Ends Well 2009, which made HK$14.1 million over the week for a 10-day total of HK$18.3 million and should hit the HK$25 million mark before its run ends. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which has far less showings and an inflated ticket price, is in 2nd place with HK$9.9 million for a 11-day total of HK$13.9 million. With strong word-of-mouth, this should have no problem making the HK$20 million mark.

However, the Lunar New Year will likely go to Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea, which made HK$9 million over the week and has already made HK$21.4 million after 16 days. With this pace, it will current leader Red Cliff II, which made HK$6.4 million over the week and is currently at HK$21.7 million. There’s a chance that it will match the HK$25 million take of part 1, but with more competition this weekend, its chances are slim.

The underperformer of the holiday is Andrew Lau’s Look For a Star. From 35 screens, it made HK$7.3 million from 35 screens over the week and made HK$9.56 million after 9 days. It should hit the HK$15 million mark, but still somewhat disappointing for an Andy Lau starrer. However, the true loser of the holiday week is the Hollywood dog film Marley and Me, which made just HK$4.2 million over the week and HK$6 million after 11 days. This is somewhat surprising since dog films tend to do very well in Hong Kong.

- No Box Office Mojo numbers yet, so we only have the box office admission chart from Japan. As expected, the second chapter of 20th Century Boys opened on top. According to Mr. Texas of Eiga Consultant Blog, it made 620 million yen from 374 screens, which is 99.4% of the opening for chapter 1. Also, a trucated version of chapter 1 (with “new scenes”. I checked, they just filmed a new way to bookend the film and took out scenes. It ran only 114 minutes with commercial) scored a 18.6% rating on TV the night before its opening. With 80.6% of the weekend audience saying that they definitely want to watch the final chapter, NTV, Toho, and the rest of the investors should have no trouble getting their investment back.

Mamma Mia managed to open at 2nd place, which bumped Quantum of Solace and Pandemic all the way down to 3rd and 4th place, respectively.

With all the competition, the 2nd part of Che only managed a 6th place opening after part 1 opened on top 3 weeks ago. More when Box Office Mojo has the numbers.

- Red Cliff II leads for the second weekend in a row in a relatively quiet weekend in Korea. There’s no analysis this week by Mark Russell at Korea Pop War, but I’ll link you over there anyway for the figures.

- The Winter 2009 Japanese drama season continues to see weak ratings across the board, with no drama hitting the 20% rating so far (Aibou doesn’t count because it’s the middle of a 6-month season). However, Kiina may have a chance after losing only a small amount of audience for its second episode, and Mei-Chan no Shitsuji is keeping steady around the 14% mark.

Meanwhile, the Fuji Monday 9pm drama Voice drops further to 15.0% rating for its 3rd episode (we’ll look at this week’s ratings next week. That’s how we roll). Even though Triangle took that deep second episode dive, it’s been staying steady about the 11% mark as well. Arifureta Kiseki took a slight turn upwards with a 11.4% for its latest episode, but Love Shuffle took a dive to a 8.2% rating for its third episode, making it the flop of the season. The Kenichi Matsuyama-starrer Zeni Geba isn’t doing so well either, dropping to a 9% rating for its third episode. Another drama with potential is Rescue, which actually saw an increase in ratings for its second episode.

All Japanese drama sypnosis can be found on Tokyograph, but seriously, who still cares about Japanese dramas?

- KinKi Kids extends their world record of having the largest number of consecutive number 1 single with their latest, which topped the singles chart this week on the Japanese Oricon chart, of course.

Meanwhile, an original album finally takes the top spot this week on the albums chart. Thanks, Koda Kumi!

More over at Tokyograph.

- In Japan, overall 2008 box office dropped by 1.8%, with a 2-yen drop on average ticket price and a staggering 23.9% drop in foreign film box office.  On the other hand, local films’ box office take went up by 22.4%, so it’s all good.

- Box office was also all good in China, where the Lunar New Years holiday box office this year was up by 20% from the same period last year, partly helped by having ten new releases packing theaters. Surprisingly, Andrew Lau’s Look for a Star led the holiday box office along with Ning Hao’s Crazy Racer.

- It’s reviews time!  Variety’s Jay Weissberg looks at the Japanese indie film Non-Ko. It may not be an Asian film, but Push was filmed entirely in Hong Kong, which is enough for me to link to Robert Koehler’s review of it.

-Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda has already finished filming his follow-up to Still Walking. This time, the film stars Korean actress Bae Doona as a vinyl doll who comes to have human emotion. Sounds nothing like Still Walking at all.

- Even though Ivy Ho’s directorial debut Claustrophobia (saw it at the Asian Film Festival in Hong Kong and liked it) not opening in Hong Kong until next week, the renowned screenwriter is already getting to shoot her second film, with Jacky Cheung and Tang Wei attached as stars. This time, what I’ve heard is that it’ll be a more commercial effort than Claustrophobia, and it’ll be shot for a fairly low budget.

- Nippon Cinema has the second trailer for Donju, starring Tadanobu Asano and written by Kankuro Kudo.

 
 
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