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Archive for June, 2009

The Golden Rock - June 24th, 2009 Edition

- Boss Kozo has updated the Lovehkfilm main page with reviews. From the boss himself are reviews of the pancontinent Plastic City, the Chinese comedy Crazy Racer, and the Japanese film adaptation of animated series Yatterman.

From Sanjuro is the review for Korean film Tezza: The High Rollers, and yours truly looks at the Korean art film Iri.

So please support what we do and go read some reviews, ya?

- No official Hong Kong numbers yet. Will get back to it when I do.

-  In Japan, Transformers 2 rolled into theaters, but after the big hoopla (including the IMAX version on the three newest IMAX screens around the nation), it still opening in second place behind Rookies, and it even earned more than 10% less than its predecessor did in its opening weekend. Tsurukidake expanded into a wide opening and landed right at 4th place, with The Reader opening right behind it. More when the numbers come out.

Japan admission ranking.

……and in the hours I took a break from writing this entry, the numbers came out. Yes, Tranformers 2 may look like it had a bigger opening than its predecessor in American dollars, but look at the exchange rate:

Transformers: 5,299,278 x 118.104 yen= 625,865,929 yen

Transformer 2: 5,825,212 x 96.323 yen= 561,101,896 yen

That opening is only 89.6% of the first film. BUT, I just noticed that the screen count for the sequel is only half of the first film, and there doesn’t seem to be an expansion planned (although this might just be the distributor not reporting the multiple screens in multiplexes for a better per-screen average).

Then again, Japan has been an anomaly before for Hollywood blockbusters (The Dark Knight, though it did great critically), so it might not mean much for the performance of Transformers 2 around the world. There’s already talks of it breaking box office records here in Hong Kong.

With both Terminator 4 and Transformers 2 taking over theaters (By the way, have you seen this?), every holdover film on the top 10 (except for Rookies, of course) dropped over 40%. And the wide release strategy obviously didn’t work for The Reader.

- In Korea, the latest schoolgirl horror movie opens with only half the audience of last week’s champ Running Turtle, even though it’s still at 2nd place, Mother is grinding to a halt at 2.8 million admissions, and Shinjuku Incident could only get a 9th place opening.

More over at Korea Pop Wars

- And if you’re in Korea, going the movies will be an extra 1,000 won expensive. And this also supports why a film’s popularity needs to also include admissions, not simply monetary taking.

- And it’s the return of Japanese drama ratings! Aishiteru has a stellar 18.6% rating for its finale (even though it only averaged a 14.8% for the season), Boss is setting up for a possible 20% finale with a Takashi Sorimachi cameo that marks a Beach Boys reunion with Yutaka Takenouchi with second-to-last episode getting 17.4%, The Quiz Show wrapped up with 14.6 and a 12.1% season average, and the disastrous Monday 9pm Fuji drama Kankatsu continues its under-10% ratings run before its finale.

But the week’s disappointment goes to Takuya Kimura’s Mr. Brain, which falls under 20% for the second time in its run, despite the presence of guest Yukie Nakama. Usually, an 18% rating would be great for a season’s mid-season, but TBS has spent so much money on the actors and production that anything under 20% would certainly be something to be worried about.  Then again, it’s also easily Kimura’s worst drama in a while, so I don’t blame viewers for giving up.

- The Swedish-Danish film Original took the top prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival, while the Aaron Kwok starrer Empire of Silver healed at least some of the bad buzz it got in Berlin wit hthe jury award. There were other awards that you can read about at the link, but I’ll just spoil it for you now and say that Aaron Kwok did NOT win any acting awards this time.

- Meanwhile, Apple Daily reports that the 9th Chinese Media Film Awards was given out over the weekend. Ann Hui picked up both Best Film and Best Director with The Way We Are, while Chan Lai-Wun picked up Best Supporting Actress. However, Bau Hei-Jing was beaten by Zhou Xun for Equation of Love and Death, definitely a showier performance that commands acting awards, and deservedly so.

- The big announcement so far this week is certainly the announcement of John Woo’s latest film. It’ll be a martial arts film that’s also a co-directorial effort starring Michelle Yeoh. No other details, such as setting or other actors, have been announced yet.

- Also, Zhang Yimou started shooting his latest film this week after spending the last 2 years working on the Olympic ceremonies. This time, it’ll be a thriller-comedy that’s a remake of The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. I guess just to show the remake thing can go both ways.

- After being ordered to reform by the Japanese Financial Agency. film fund JDC Trust has officially been suspended from doing business for three months. The film fund has been in financial difficulty after their recent films have underperformed at the box office.

JDC is not the only film-related business in trouble in Japan - Usen is selling film distributor Gaga, and producer/distributor Wide Policy declared bankruptcy in May.

- After the Chinese government rolled out its internet filtering software (which reportedly even blocked pictures of Garfield spreaking his legs)and also criticized Google for bringing in foreign porn, America is hitting back and criticizing China for forcing the software on the Chinese people.

- Not really news: Stephen Daldry, the director of the Academy Award-winning film The Reader says he will think about editing his film for release in China, depending on the censorship that will be put on him. Then again, the nudity are all Western nudity, there’s no Chinese Japan conspirators, and it’s not on Google, so maybe it’ll be OK.

- In film festival news, Wai Ka-Fai’s latest film Written By starring Lau Ching-Wan opened the great New York Asian Film Festival with Wai Ka-Fai there to meet the audience. Twitch has a write-up of the film, and you can watch Wai Ka-Fai’s appearance on the Subway Cinema blog.

And before it opens on July 10th in Hong Kong, you can also watch the bombastic trailer. Look at how rewarding reading this blog can be!

Also, king of English-language Thai film news Wise Kwai reports that the acclaimed political documentary Citizen Juling, which has made the rounds at film festivals around the world, will get a limited release in Bangkok.

- Andy Lau’s indie film unit Focus Films is putting together a series of low-to-mid-budget action films, and the first film will be Pye Dog and Moss director Derek Kwok’s latest project Fists of Dignity. I think a better English title is in order.

And one of the ways to keep down costs is to hire student (i.e. cheap) screenwriters. I know because there was a recruiting flyer at my school.

- Christopher Nolan has begun shooting Inception, his follow-up to The Dark Knight, in Tokyo with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe. With a reported US$200 million price tag (I honestly can’t believe that), Tokyo is one of the six locations around the world it will shoot at.

Really, US$200 million?

- Last, and definitely not least, Jason Gray reports that Japanese director Yasuharu Hasebe, who started making films in the 60s and became a regular director on the hit detective series Aibou (Partners), died last week at the age of 77. Hasebe did make a return to feature films before his death with the Aibou spin-off film.

The story is all over the trades by now, but I credit Jason because he first broke the story (as far as my compiling process goes), even though Screen decided to not even put it on its website.

The Golden Rock - June 21st, 2009 Edition

Not a lot of news for the weekend, but here ya go:

- China tells google to stop exposing foreign porn to their country. Yes, from now on, only domestic, social harmony-promoting porn!

- Mark Schilling has a review of Yuichi Sato’s Shugo Tenshi for the Japan Times. Sato last made the acclaimed comedy Kirasagi, except it’s damn near impossible to get ahold of it with English subtitles. Time to make a trip to Shenzhen?

And yes, Schilling is right that the basic premise, despite the tagline about courage and hope in the trailer, is still kind of creepy.

- Another trailer this week caught my attention, thanks to Nippon Cinema. It’s the trailer for Nanyoku Ryorinin, based on two autobiographical novels about a chef at a Japanese research station in the South Pole. Looks like Naoko Ogigami’s The Seagull Diner in the South Pole? Then again, there’s that damn evil Masato Sakai smirk, even though he’s playing a nice guy.

- Twitch has a short one-minute clip from the set of Yuen Wo-Ping’s new film True Legend, starring Chiu Man-Cheuk, Michelle Yeoh, and Jay Chou and about the famous Beggar So. I can’t help but shake the thought that they got Chiu Man-Cheuk because they couldn’t get DONNNNIIIEEEEE.

FYI: Stephen Chow and director Gordon Chan have done a version of this story in 1992’s King of Beggars.

- This weekend’s Daily Yomiuri talks to Japanese music group Dragon Ash, who are releasing a compilation of their biggest hits, but don’t call them a pop group, though - they sound like they can kick my ass.

- More on Danny Boyle’s stint as Shanghai International Film Festival jury head: He calls Chinese film censorship “regrettable”. Is that really news?

- Also from the Shanghai International Film Festival is a review of Chinese film A Tale of Two Donkeys by Veriety’s Derek Elley. Sounds like an interesting flick, if the Cultural Revolution background can get past the censors.

- Daily Yomiuri TV columnist Wm. Penn laments this week on Teleview about the quality of Japanese news and reveals that the 4th installment of drama Emergency Room 24 Hours will be delayed.

- Lastly, the Youtube clip of the week in Hong Kong netizen world, but only Mandarin and Cantonese speakers need to apply: I present to you the reason why Louis Koo should keep doing ads in Hong Kong.

The Golden Rock - June 18th, 2009 Edition

And here comes another attempt at a news post.

- The Japanese box office numbers are out. Turns out Box Office Mojo didn’t include the officially announced version of the Terminator 4 opening numbers. Instead, Rookie’s amazing third week take of roughly 815 million yen kept it in first place and bumped Terminator to 2nd place instead. Eiga Consultant also reports that Terminator’s opening weekend is only 53% of Terminator 3’s opening in Japan. However, there’s also the 400 million yen it made with sneak previews, which begs the question whether this Terminator’s opening would’ve been stronger had there been no sneak previews the week before?

Also worth noting is the amazing limited opening of Tsurugidake, the mountain climbing film that marks the directorial debut of veteran cinematographer Daisaku Kimura. On three screens in the Toyama area, the film attracted 14,275 people for a total of 15.25 million yen take. That’s a per-screen average of 5.08 million yen, which is almost unheard of anywhere in the world.

- Under “Japanese music news” today, Girl Next Door’s latest single hits first place, while GReeeeN’s third album finds the biggest album debut of the year on the charts, and they managed to do so without any public appearance whatsoever.

More over at Tokyograph

Even though Exile is now the best-selling Japanese pop unit in the first half year for the second year in a row, Mr. Children and Arashi actually have the best-selling album and single, respectively.

- The projects market at the Shanghai International Film Festival has wrapped up, with a Chinese and a Korean project taking the two top prizes.

- Japanese lawmakers have taken another step to stop illegal downloading by revising copyright laws to make downloading pirated material a punishable crime starting January 1st. So downloaders in Japan - it’s time to download to your heart’s content for the rest of the year….then not encounter any type of punishment at all for breaking the law.

- Untold Scandal director E J-Yong has put together a large female ensemble cast for his latest film, about six actresses who meet at a photo shoot. The actresses will be acting under their real names, though maybe not as themselves.

- After helping NHK to a ratings victory with the period drama Atsuhime, writer Kumiko Tabuchi will be writing the public broadcaster’s 2011 yearly period drama. Like Atsuhime, its central character will be female, but no casting decision will be made until next year.

-Last year, it was the Olympics. This year, with the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, there are not a lot of Chinese films coming out in the summer. Guess who’s there to fill the void? American alien robots and pretty boy vampires.

- Speaking of Westerners in Hollywood, Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle is in Shanghai as the head of the Shanghai International Film Festival jury, which he admits he’s doing as a sign of appreciation to China for allowing Slumdog to be released in the country.

- Also in film festival news: Just as the Japanese tearjerker April Bride was confirmed to play at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, the festival has also announced that it will open with M.W., the adaptation of the Osamu Tezuka comic.

- After SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi was pulled as the spokesman for the government’s digital broadcast conversion campaign, fellow member Shingo Katori will be appearing on police promotional posters, thanks to his latest drama leading role.

- Twitch has a full-length trailer for the big-budget Korean disaster film Haeundae, and it just looks like a Michael Bay film with the trailer emphasizing all the comedic bits. But is it really looking like a comedy? Not really.

- Lastly, Variety’s Justin Chang has a review for the documentary Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, about the role of insects in Japanese culture.

The Golden Rock - June 16th, 2009 Edition

And now, another attempt to salvage this blog - another news entry.

- First, let’s look at the Hong Kong weekly box office numbers. Star Trek finally took first place after losing to Terminator over its opening weekend, thanks to what I assume is very good word-of-mouth and a lack of a similarly high-profile film opening. After making HK$3.53 million over the first four days, the sci-fi franchise reboot made another HK$3.62 million in its first full week, comfortably beating Terminator 4, which has made HK$16.4 million after 18 days. Star Trek, on the other hand, has made HK$7.16 after 11. With Transformers not hitting the screen for another week, Star Trek should comfortably break the HK$10 million mark.

Targeting the female adult demographic, Coco Before Chanel did fairly well in its modest 18-screen release. Over four days, the French film made HK$1.9 million, which is very good coming from just 18 screens. Even Julia Roberts and Clive Owen’s Duplicity couldn’t touch it, despite being on 24 screens. The Tony Gilroy heist comedy made just HK$1.56 million over its first 4 days.

But at least Duplicity’s weak weekeend is nowhere near the disastrous proportion of the opening for Yu Lik-Wai’s Plastic City. Despite heavy promotion by investor/distributor Sundream Picture, the Panasian crime film made only HK$236,000 from 18 screens over 4 days. And they didn’t even show the artsy fartsy stuff in the trailers!

Also extremely weak is the opening for the Japanese disaster film 252 Signal of Life. Opening on 23 screens with no English subtitles (an exception rather than the rule here in Hong Kong), it only made HK$895,000 over its first 4 days.

- At the Japanese box office, clever accounting helped put Terminator 4 at the top spot with 1.02 billion yen. Instead of reporting that it made 592 million yen over its first two days (which is not a bad number at all, mind you), it also added the 429 million yen it made from sneak preview screenings last week. Of course, it bumped off two-week champ Rookies the Movie, which has now surpassed 4 million admissions andnow heading for the 5 billion yen mark.

Meanwhile, the World War II submarine flick Battle Under Orion opened at 4th place as the only other opener in the top 10, and Darren Aronofsy’s The Wrestler opened 37 screens for an OK 19,846,300 yen take. The film also coincidentally opened the same weekend that Japanese wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa tragically died on the wrestling ring. Thankfully, the Nikkatsu doesn’t seem to be cashing in on it….yet.

Sources: Box Office Japan, Box Office Gross Blog (in Japanese)

- In Korea, the crime thriller Running Turtle tops the box office as Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother falls to 4th place in its 3rd weekend. With 2.6 admissions, it seems like a good number, but it’s certainly somewhat disappointing considering Bong’s track record. Blood also deservedly flops at 7th place.

More at Korea Pop Wars

- Speaking of Blood: The Last Vampire, the Hollywood trades have chimed in with reviews: one from Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee and one from Variety’s Peter Debruge.

- China’s Huayi Brothers Studio, which must be swimming in money after the success of If You’re The One, has signed a deal with Imax to co-produce three movies. The first of them will be Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock. Not sure if these films will get to shoot with the Imax cameras, or if this will only include the remastering process.

- Also in Korea, Michael Bay has made a public apology to the Korean public, but not for making movies.

- At the Shanghai Film Festival, America’s MPAA Chairman speaks like a broken record and tries to convince China to open up its film market to foreign films. By foreign films, I’m pretty sure he means American films.

- Also, at the Shanghai Film Festival, the chairman of a major conglomerate expressed that he expects almost impossible returns on producing Chinese films and unveils plans to have brain-reading machines that will surely help them find the ultimate formula for commercially successful films. Scary.

- Twitch offers two Hong Kong trailers. One that I care about is the trailer for Alan Mak/Felix Chong’s Overheard, starring Louis Koo, Lau Ching-Wan, and Daniel Wu. It looks slick and I hope it’ll be better than the trailer suggests.

One that I don’t so much is the trailer for Andy Chow’s Murderer, the first film under the Edko-Focus Features deal starring Aaron Kwok, because the trailer’s been around for a while already. The thing more noteworthy is Todd Brown’s mentioning that Aaron Kwok seldom makes a bad movie. I would like to call the survivors of Heat Team, Para Para Sakura, China Strike Force, and 2000 A.D. to the stand, please.

- Under “seemingly only in Japan” news today, a TV producer decides to bring three female screenwriters together for a pop trio after realizing that they can sing. If it helps in it making sense at all, one of the three is an actress and a former idol as well.

- The producers of the final 20th Century Boys film is using secretcy as such a promotional tool that they promise only about ten people (which may not even include the actors themselves) will know what happens in the final ten minutes before its opening on August 29th. Not that it’ll help the entire world knowing about it by August 30th, though.

- The hit Japanese romantic tearjerker April Bride will be going to the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival next month. Ironically, there’s nothing fantastic about the film - it’s based on a well-publicized true story.

 
 
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