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Archive for January, 2011

The Golden Rock - 2010 Top 11 Non-HK Movies Edition

It’s the time of year when everyone’s making top ten lists, and it’s no exception for myself. I’ve compiled a top twelve list for my Facebook that covers pretty much everything I’ve seen. Now, it’s time to get into why I chose 11 of those films, plus 10 (out of the 40 I chose) special mention films. I intentionally didn’t include Hong Kong films to save them for the 2010 LoveHKFilms Awards. I will post my ten picks then.

They don’t really mean anything, other than the fact that these are the films I liked from 2010 (Yes, I do like movies once in a while). You may like them, and you may not; that’s how opinions work:

Special Mentions (in no order):

Secret Reunion (Korea), Fantastic Mr. Fox (USA), Up in the Air (USA), Dabaang (India), A Serious Man (USA), Ghost Writer (France/Germany/UK), Udaan (India), Sawako Decides (Japan), Last Train Home (China/UK/Canada), Golden Slumbers (Japan). 

11. Villain (Japan, Director: Lee Sang-Il)

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A prestige movie that actually earns respect rather than assumes it, this emotionally intense drama about a murderer on the run with his lover works better as a film about the chain reaction of a crime than a road movie. With six of its leads getting recognized at the Japan Academy Prize, it also has one of the best casts of the year.

10. 3 Idiots (India, Rajkumar Hirani)

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Watching it with a full house in Hong Kong’s Cultural Center taught me what a true crowdpleasing film is. Packing plenty of laughter, romance, and melodrama in its 170-minute running time, 3 IDIOTS is an emotional roller coaster that had the audience reacting with its every move. Aamir Khan, at 44 years old, managed to pull off playing a 20-year-old engineering student with star charisma. This, ladies and gentleman, is what a star vehicle is all about.

9. Dear Doctor (Japan, Director: Miwa Nishikawa)

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A drama about a small town who has been conned by a hustler pretending to be the town doctor, Miwa Nishikawa’s DEAR DOCTOR is quietly powerful in making its impact. Tsurube Shofukutei plays a twisted version of his comedian persona with his brilliant portrayal of the con man. You may not remember how the entire movie goes, but it’s full of little moments that will stick with you long after your viewing.

8. Toy Story 3 (USA, Director: Lee Unkrich)

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Having literally grew up with the franchise, I was deeply touched to see this trilogy come to an end the way it did. This comes after a potentially traumatic scene showing all the characters looking at death in the eyes. I don’t remember much of the first two-thirds (I do remember they were enjoyable), but I may never forget those two scenes in the final 15 minutes of the film.

7. Let the Bullets Fly (China, Director: Jiang Wen)

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I’ve gushed plenty about this film, so here’s a shorter version of it: Wickedly funny, brilliantly written, and hugely entertaining, LET THE BULLETS FLY may be the most entertaining Chinese blockbuster I’ve seen in recent years. Jiang Wen found his balance between art and commerce with this Chinese Western film where witty bantering fly far faster than bullets. Chow Yun Fat not speaking a word of Cantonese doesn’t even matter to me this time.

6. Poetry (South Korea, Director: Lee Chang-Dong)

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Lee Chang-Dong is great at two things: Telling emotionally powerful stories without going into melodramatic hysterics, and getting incredible performances out of actresses. He does both almost effortlessly with POETRY, a long journey about finding redemption through the art of words.

5. The Social Network (USA, Director: David Fincher)

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Very few people writes witty banters like Aaron Sorkin does. No one in real life ever talks like his characters, but everyone should want to speak as eloquently as they do. With director David Fincher, the two has created a film that taps into the mindset of the internet generation  so well that movie critics have to get on the bandwagon to feel they’re hip. Beyond the talk about programming and facebook, THE SOCIAL NETWORK is also a damn good film about a friendship gone sour over fame and fortune. Who cares if it’s all real or not?

4. Inception (USA, Director: Christopher Nolan)

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A smart gimmick, big-budget spectacle, and an involving heist story make this another high in director Christopher Nolan’s action blockbuster. The spectacle looks great, the film consistently entertains, and the cast is uniformly good. All the money in the world (or Hollywood) can’t replace a good idea and a great script, and that’s why INCEPTION is the best big-budget blockbuster of the year.

3. Apart Together (China, Director Wang Quan’an) 

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No political undertones in director Wang Quan’an’s drama about a former Nationalist soldier returning to Shanghai to see his former lover and decides to take her back to Taiwan with him. The drama could’ve been a crushing bore with dreary views of Shanghai and contemplative storytelling, but APART TOGETHER is actually a surprisingly comedic romantic triangle that’s far better than those Patrick Kong “everybody cheats on everybody” youth romances.

2. The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina, Director: Juan Jose Campanella)

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This involving police procedural drama doesn’t bring anything new to the genre (except for the amazing 5-minute chase sequence in the middle), but it does what it does so well that it doesn’t matter. The unrequited romance is touching, the crime story (more like a howcatchhim than a whodunit) brings plenty of tension, and the buddy police procedural reaches surprisingly powerful heights. This is how you take a crime film to award-winning heights.

1. Confessions (Japan, Nakashima Tetsuya)

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While AKUNIN is an out-and-out an award bait film, no one expected a film by a director who turns tragedy into bubble-gum pop made of explosions of color to become the film representing Japan at this year’s Academy Awards. Nakashima Tetsuya’s 109-minute-long music video makes up for the absence of color with an incredibly measured performance by Matsu Takako, a stunning soundtrack of existing material, and a wicked revenge story. I saw this film for the first time on an airplane, and its power still managed to infect me. This is the role model all MTV-style filmmaker should aspire to. I’m looking at you, Hong Kong filmmakers.

The Golden Rock - January 5, 2011 Edition

- Today on the front of Oriental Daily’s entertainment page is a story about two filmmakers trying to get the Hegemon-King of Western Chu story made at the same time. On one hand is CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH director Lu Chuan’s version, starring Daniel Wu, Liu Ye, and Chang Chen. The word of Apple Daily is that Lu quit/was removed from the project after he disagreed with his production company about the film. Lu then found other investors and resurrected the project, leaving his previous production company very mad.

So, Lu’s first production company then hired director Daniel Lee (of DRAGON SQUAD and THREE KINGDOMS), got a cast that’s rumored of Louis Koo, Fan Bing Bing, Huang Xiaoming, and Andy Lau. Lee said in an interview that the film hasn’t confirmed its cast yet, but will be ready to shoot in March.

I know Daniel Lee has the bigger cast and all, but my money’s still on Lu Chuan.

Story from Apple Daily, in Chinese, for access from Hong Kong only.  Also take Apple Daily news with a grain of salt.

- Hollywood studio Warner Bros. is finding a new way to penetrate the Chinese market - internet video on demand. The studio signed a deal with video site Youku to let Chinese users watch the film for a few yuan. Compared to the already low price of a DVD, there’s no excuse for Chinese netizens to illegally download the movie other than….well, who knows?

- More in video-on-demand news, FUNimation in the United States has signed a video-on-demand deal with Asia Media Rights, who has been active in buying Asian films for such type of distribution model. FUNimation holds films such as EVANGELION 2.0 and SUMMER WARS.

- Korean pop has officially invaded Japanese music with popular girls group Girls’ Generation winning Best New Artist at the Japan Gold Disc Award.

- Derek Elley at Filmbiz Asia reviews the hit Chinese comedy JUST CALL ME NOBODY and COLOR ME LOVE, the latest film from BLOOD BROTHERS director Alexi Tan.

The Golden Rock - January 4th, 2010 Edition

As I keep trying to plug the hole that lets the spam come in, there will still be no comments. You can @ me on Twitter and that’ll be a comment. Will be glad to retweet or paste back here on the blog.

- My report on 2010 Chinese box office. There hasn’t been a comprehensive report with these numbers yet, so I crunched the numbers myself based on SARFT’s and entgroup.cn’s numbers. Feel free to refer to them, as they should be pretty close to the official numbers.

A little update: As of January 3rd, LET THE BULLETS FLY has surpassed INCEPTION to become the third highest-grossing film ever released in China with 530 million yuan in the bank.

- Chinese-Korean director Zhang Lu (of DESERT DREAM and IRI) will be getting a retrospective of his work at the Korean Film Archive in March. The venue will also be giving blankets and pillows for those who want to sleep through them.

- The full program hasn’t been announced yet, but the Berlinale has already announced roughly half the films in its Panorama section, and it includes three Korean movies! I can’t wait for them to announce the Generation K-Plus selections to see which Hong Kong movie 14-year-olds will be honoring this year.

- Speaking of being honored, the Korean Times gives an introduction/review to this weekend’s no. 1 Korean film THE LAST GODFATHER. It sounds like the comments section of the trailer is funnier than the movie itself. A sampling:

“As you said, this movie might be a crap movie.

But keep in mind that Younggu (acted by Shim Hyung-rae) is the Korean national comedy character like Mr. Bean in England. So if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it. But don’t say bad words that can provoke Korea and Koreans.”

Replace “Korea” and “Koreans” with “China” and “Chinese”, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Short entry today. They’ll get longer as I get my groove back.

The Golden Rock - January 3rd, 2011 Edition

Yes, another year, another New Year’s resolution to keep up the blog. However, I’m taking several measures to make sure my blogging work can run a little more smoothly.

First, all number crunching will be left to my Twitter. Without much time to spend writing an entry everyday, leaving the number crunching out of the entry ensures that I wouldn’t have to stop and do all those calculating. However, I can access my Twitter a lot more often than my blog, so it makes sense for me to do number reporting whenever I can get to the numbers. That hopefully means I will report even more numbers than I already do on Twitter, since right now it’s only covering Hong Kong and Chinese numbers. Do note that I will keep covering any big news regarding box office here.

Second, I have over 40,000 comments sitting there waiting for me to likely mark them as spam. I am literally getting a new spam comment every minute, and I simply cannot check in every hour to get rid of them. So until I can get rid of all of those comments to a size I can work with, I have to close the comments section. I will, however, take any comment on my twitter instead.

And now, on with the news!

- China’s box office grew by an astonishing 61% in 2010, making it now the third largest film market in the world. China expects itself to surpass Japan - 2nd in terms of gross - by 2015. With Japanese gross partly due to high ticket prices, I wouldn’t be surprised if China has already passed Japan in terms of attendance.

- The Kouhaku Uta Gassen, one of Japan’s highest-rated television shows and a cultural institution, scored OK ratings for its 2010 edition.

- Speaking of box office, Hollywood Reporter recaps this year in Bollywood, with some low-budget films scoring surprisingly high grosses.

- Derek Elley of Film Business Asia has one of the first official English-language reviews of LET THE BULLETS FLY. I agree with the assessment.

- Once dubbed the “Golden Manager”, Paco Wong officially leaves Gold Typhoon (previously Gold Label) to pursue other businesses, as well as continuing to develop movies.

Why is this important? Paco Wong resurrected the likes of Leo Ku, helped lift Miriam Yeung to become one of the biggest stars of Hong Kong, and nurtured Stephy Tang to be a star. He nurtured so many award-winning pop stars at one point that every other pop star started their thank-you speech with “thank you, Paco.” Under his reign as artist management, Gold Label became one of Hong Kong’s biggest record labels and eventually churned out successful local films like DRAGON LOADED and the Patrick Kong romance films. They weren’t necessarily good movies, but Gold Label made local films for a local audience, and that makes Paco Wong an important man already.

When Gold Label became Gold Typhoon, managerial restructuring put Paco into executive position and away from artist management. After losing Miriam Yeung and Leo Ku, it became downhill for Gold Typhoon and Paco. The last film Gold Typhoon produced under Paco was LOVE CONNECTED in 2009.

- Was going to report some box office speculation news for China, but it’ll wait until more solid numbers come in from cinema.com.cn

Starting off slow for now, but will slowly get into the groove.

 
 
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