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Archive for May, 2009

The Golden Rock - May 13th, 2009 Edition

That’s right, it’s a news post!

- Let’s first look at Hong Kong box office for the past week, courtesy of the Hong Kong Filmart site. The biggest surprise may be the opening for Lu Chuan’s Nanking Massacre film The City of Life and Death. On a limited 15-screen release, it managed to make HK$1.24 million over 4 days. This is easily the best-performing Mainland Chinese film in a long time, though the excellent production value and sensational subject probably helped it plenty.  I expect at least a HK$3 million take.

The next best performing debut film is Disney’s Chinese film The Trail of the Panda, which opened on 27 screens and only recorded a 4-day take of HK$725,000. I guess we don’t care as much about pandas as Americans care about 3D animated dogs. Meanwhile, Wolverine stayed on the top for its second week and has since made HK$12.5 million. However, it’s losing steam quickly, especially with Angels and Demons opening this week, which means it should top out under HK$15 million. 17 Again takes second place with a solid HK$5.8 million take and a very slow descent, which means it may end up with about HK$8 million. Not bad for a Zac Efron movie in Hong Kong.

Wong Jing’s I Corrupt All Cops (self-whoring time: My LHKF review) lost a modest 53% during its second week in business with HK$4.6 million after 11 days, and likely to do close to HK$6 million. The Japanese comedy Handsome Suits, which is only being shown with a Cantonese dubbed version (2 shows of the Japanese version at one theater barely counts), has made HK$3.5 million, and the church-backed film Team of Miracle: We Will Rock You is miraclously still in theaters (probably with showings paid by churches) with HK$2.1 million after 37 days.

- However, Disney is probably more optimistic about the performance of Trail of the Panda in China, where the film opened the weekend before the first anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake. The film was near the end of its shoot in Sichuan when the earthquake happened. A film cashing in on a real-life disaster? What is this, Hollywood?

- In Korean box office, the comedy My Girlfriend is An Agent continues to dominate, even with Star Trek opening this past weekend. Meanwhile, Park Chan-Wook’s Thirst has already found 1.7 million admissions, which is a great rebound for Park from the box office disappointment that was I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK. Also, with Daniel Hanney in a supporting role, I’m surprised Wolverine hasn’t done better than only 1.1 million admissions after two weeks.

More from Korea Pop Wars.

- Speaking of Thirst, which will be competing at the just-opened Cannes Film Festival,’s Darcy Paquet has written a review for Screen Daily. Also, Hollywood Reporter has an interview with director Park Chan-Wook.

- In Japan, the tearjerker April Bride, starring Eita and directed by Vibrator director Ryuichi Hiroki, hit the top spot with 412 million yen from a modest 310 screens. The popular animated Conan film has dropped below Red Cliff II, which is holding on to its seocnd place standing. Kazuaki “Casshern” Kiriya’s Goemon drops to 4th place in its second weekend, but has already made 900 million yen after 10 days. It’s almost certain that it’ll do better than Casshern at this point. After 30 days, Crows Zero II has made more than 2.6 billion yen and has surpass the take of the first installment. I haven’t seen the film, but who’s betting that there really won’t be a third film?

Outside the top 10, Peter Chan’s Warlords opened at 12th place, and the Pang Brother’s Hollywood remake of Bangkok Dangerous opened only at 13th place. I guess it wasn’t as well-liked as these pachinko ads.

Sources: The Japanese box office blog, Screen Daily

-  The Hong Kong and Chinese governments has added new amendments to the 2003 CEPA agreement, which was responsible for allowing China-Hong Kong co-productions and is responsible for today’s HK cinema climate. The new amendment includes one that allows Hong Kong film distributor to directly release home video versions of approved co-production films. But what difference does it make when everyone downloads in China anyway?

-  Under “how the world sucking affects the film world” news today, the second annual Phuket Film Festival in Thailand has been cancelled because of the political turmoil and the logistic nightmare the ASEAN meeting was supposed to cause the region.

Meanwhile, Japan film distributor/producer Wide Policy, who last distributed Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution in Japan, has filed for bankruptcy.

Also, Japan’s Usen is planning to sell major film distributor Gaga Communications. Gaga has been troubled since it announced to stop acqusitions and productions last year, though it still distributes films with and for other companies.

- On the other hand, under “the world sucking has nothing to do with making films” news today, Takashi Miike, coming off the successes of Yatterman and Crows Zero II, will be remaking the 1963 film Thirteen Assassins with Jeremy “Last Emperor” Thomas on board as producer.

Korea’s Sidus has signed on as a co-producer for the remake of the classic Hong Kong martial arts film The One-Armed Swordsman with Hong Kong’s Celestial Pictures, to be directed by the director of Musa: The Warrior. No word on who will be starring, though.

Hong Kong’s Edko, who will next be releasing Blood: The Last Vampire, has signed a 3-film co-financing deal with America’s Focus Features. The three films will include Yuen Wo-Ping’s latest film, starring Michelle Yeoh, Jay Chou, and David Carradine.

Peter Chan Ho-Sun’s next film will be for his new production company Cinema Popular, and is now being touted as the first superhero film from China. Also in Cinema Popular’s slate is a serial killer movie set in Hong Kong, which I wonder how it’ll get into China.

And Singapore is telling the world that they have plenty of money to make films - about 17-20, to be exact.

- Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle will be the head of the jury at this year’s Shanghai Film Festival, happening mid-June.

- Twitch has a teaser for the big-budget Korean disaster film Haeundae, which has been getting quite a bit of attention at the recent film markets.  It looks like Deep Impact meets Poseidon. That’s not a compliment.

- Korean star Lee Byung-Hun will come off his role in the highly-anticipated TV drama Iris with…….Iris: The Movie.

- Lastly, Star Trek director JJ Abrams claims during his promotional appearance in Japan that he’s a fan of the idol group AKB48. Not sure how that’s relevant to this blog, I just find it funny.

Not sure when the next news post will be, but that’s it for now.

The Golden Rock at the HKIFF, Part III

About 3 weeks ago, I finished sitting through the rest of the 25 films I watched at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. These reviews are not comprehensive, because I only mention the Asian stuff, so don’t panic if they don’t add up to 25:

Rough Cut (2008, South Korea. Dir. Jang Hun) - The basic concept of this Korean comedy-drama is packed with ass-kicking potential - star actor hires gangster so he can get into real fights in his latest movie, except the ass-kicking became more than he could take. However, the script - written by Kim Ki-Duk - is often sidetracked by digression and is essentially off the rails by the third act. Tolerable, but could’ve been better. Maybe I was just tired that night.

Torso (2009, Japan. Dir: Yamazaki Yutaka) - The directorial debut from Hirokazu Kore-eda’s cinematographer is a quiet study of the life of a lonely Tokyo woman and her prosthetic torso that she sleeps with from time to time. The surprise of this film comes from the focus on the woman’s dysfunctional relationship with her half-sister, played out to subtle emotional effect. Shot in the same handheld realism style of a Kore-eda film, the script may be a little too close to real-life to generate any memorable emotional impact, but it does reward more than it punishes with its leisurely pacing.

Citizen King (2008, Hong Kong. Dir: Ching Long, Johnson Lee) - Kozo already reviewed this film when he saw it at the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival, and count me in as one of those who was greatly surprised and impressed by actor/impersonation-extraordinaire Johnson Lee’s directorial debut. Entertaining, funny, biting, and even affecting at spots, this is a rare Hong Kong indie film that actually embraces its indie trappings without being restricted in it. If I had seen this last year, it would’ve ended up on my top 10 HK film list.

Dying in a Hospital (1993, Japan. Dir: Jun Ichikawa) - This rarely-seen film from the recently deceased director is so hard to get ahold of overseas that the subtitles had to be projected under the screen. Even thougha good portion of te subtitles were not displayed properly, these 5 straightforward and heartbreaking tales of people dying in a hospital is a life-affirming gem that got quite a few people crying - including a middle-age foreigner - by the time the lights came back on. Ichikawa employed a Hou Hsiao-Hsien-wide shot style for the stories, but he always make sure different things are happening in the frame, and that all of them are worth focusing on. A great film that should’ve been the masterpiece that put Ichikawa on the map, despite its overly straightforward title.

KJ (2009, Hong Kong. Dir. Cheung King-Wai) - This documentary from the screenwriter of Ann Hui’s latest film hits a homerun when it comes to its titular character, a 17-year old music prodigy that has the attitude of an worn-out veteran with too much ideals. Aside from a clear structure that keeps the film worth following, Cheung successful captures the essence of his subject wonderfully, comparing his attitude at 12 years old and 17 years old. The result is not just the study of an arrogant musical prodigy, but the portrait of all the pains and pressure that torture him underneath.

There will be a full review, as well as an interview with a director coming soon.

Achilles and the Tortoise (2008, Japan. Dir: Takeshi Kitano) - Kitano’s third film in his self-reflexive trilogy is an entertaining look at an artist who collapses while trying to balance commercialism and individualism. Even though the third act goes a little too far in its antics, this is definitely the most enjoyable and the most accessible film out of the three, even though it’s by no means a masterpeice due to its simplistic characters and ideals.

I spent the last two days of the festival with an American and two French films, so I won’t write about them here. With that, another soul-draining year at the Hong Kong International Film Festival is over, and I’ll finally be able to blog regularly starting mid-May until who-knows-when. Even though there were a few underwhelming films, this year’s selection has been fairly solid, and I certainly don’t regret going to almost all of them. Hopefully, I can stay awake for more of them. Maybe they’ll have a cure for whatever I got by the next film festival. Copyright © 2002-2019 Ross Chen