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Archive for the ‘animation’ Category

The Golden Rock - July 7, 2011 Edition

 

- This is an issue that’s been discussed since last year, but it’s still worth throwing it out because it’s an ongoing problem with no solution in sight.

 

Recently, a photo of an alleged list of actors’ pay on PAINTED SKIN 2 was posted on Sina Weibo by a netizen. The list showed that the highest-paid actor of the film is being paid only RMB4 million to be in the film, and award-winning actress Kara Hui is being paid only RMB 300,000 for her role. Hui immediately denied the list on Weibo, because, well…she’s not even in the film. However, one of the producers weibo-ed that the list is about right.

 

Whether the list is true or not, this is a good time to bring up what’s happening in China right now regarding actors’ pay and how it affects Hong Kong cinema. According to a report in Apple Daily last year, Chow Yun Fat is currently the top earner in Chinese cinema now, making RMB 40 million per film. Andy Lau and Donnie Yen are not far behind, with roughly RMB 25 million each. However, Mainland actors continue to get the shaft, with even names like Ge You, Aloys Chen, and Zhou Xun getting less than RMB 5 million for each film.

 

How does this affect Hong Kong cinema, you ask? With Hong Kong stars getting these outrageous pay, it’s now hard for Hong Kong producers to be able to afford films with bankable star. This may explain the attempt to nurture films with mainly young talent (not that it’s working. Is there even a new Andy Lau out there?), and this is the most likely reason that Chow Yun Fat hasn’t been in a Cantonese film in 16 years. Salary issues was rumored to be the reason he dropped out of John Woo’s RED CLIFF.

 

Meanwhile, the Chinese film industry is also realizing that revenue isn’t growing quick enough to cover costs. While Chinese blockbusters are making big bucks, they’re not making enough to cover ballooning budgets, especially if talents are taking up 1/3 of each films budget. THE LOST BLADESMAN made RMB160 million at the Chinese box office, which is no small feat. However, its budget was a reported RMB 80 million, which means it would need to have made at least RMB 200 million at the box office just to break even.

 

If the film industry shifts to a point where China can finally produce its own box office-guaranteed stars, producers will either get wise and use strictly China stars (bad for HK stars), or they will have to spend even more on talent (bad for everyone except the stars). Chinese cinema can only grow bigger with bigger productions, but it’s getting to a point where domestic gross is not enough to cover the budget any more. Foreign sales are also drying up, as foreign audiences are getting tired of big Chinese period flicks.

 

Will Chow Yun Fat, Donnie, and Andy Lau keep sucking up their 20-40 million per film, or will they soon have to compromise? Unless the Chinese film industry start controlling the number of productions, their inflating budgets, and the enormous amount of money they pay to Hong Kong talents, Chinese cinema is undoubtedly heading towards a bubble. And when that bubble pops, everyone’s going down.

 

- Hong Kong MPA released the box office figures for the first half of 2011. As we all know already, SEX AND ZEN: EXTREME ECSTASY, fueled by curiosity by both Hong Kongers and visiting Mainland Chinese tourists, managed to beat the general negative word-of-mouth (bonus: popular video of Chapman To reading a scathing netizen review - translation could be better, though) and became the highest-grossing Hong Kong film in years (which is amusing for a society that’s been progressing backwards in terms of morals). According to the report, 24 Hong Kong films were released, which would be about on pace with the past few years.

 

SEX AND ZEN was essentially the AVATAR-like outlier, with local films in general grossing lower than last year’s films. With the rest of the year looking fairly devoid of big box office performers (it’s WU XIA in August, then OVERHEARD 2, then not much until December), expect SEX AND ZEN to keep its top spot for the rest of the year.

 

- While we’re at it, Film Business Asia looked at Korean box office in the first half of the year. After its bubble popped a few years ago, it seems like the South Korean film industry is stabilizing, as admissions in the first six months of 2011 is only down 2.1% (remember last year cinemas had AVATAR). Better yet, Korean films are currently taking a higher market share in the first half year than the same period last year, as three of the five top-grossing films are Korean.

 

- Before you say say REST ON YOUR SHOULDER, another feud has brewed up in Chinese cinema. A few days ago, I tweeted a link to the peculiar poster for director Jiang Cheng’s TO LOVE OR NOT. The poster showed stars Alex Fong Chung-Sun and Li Shaoran making out passionately in a bathtub, and that has sparked a lot of feedback about what the film will be like.

 

20110705071751203.jpg

 

And then Li Shaoran fought back.

 

The star apparently now denies that she ever did the scene depicted in the poster. She insists that the “woman” spitting water is a male double wearing a wig, and then her part in the scene was only one shot that did not involve kissing. She is now refusing to do any further promotional activities for the film.

 

Director Jiang Cheng then fought back, saying that only one shot in the sequence (the one of the two falling into the tub) was done by body doubles, and that everything else was done by the actors. Of course, now the feud is turning into a he said, she said, with Li spilling everything she was dissatisfied about Jiang, and Jiang Li of essentially being a difficult actress to work with. Both sides have even used Alex Fong as their weapon against the other. Meanwhile, sources confirm that the stills are taken directly from the final cut rather than stills taken on set.

 

On the surface, this is close to gossip, but if we peel that back, we can speculate what is going on here. 1) There’s a real feud between Li and Jiang, with one actress embarrassed for being talked into doing a scene she now regrets doing. 2) It’s a week away from the film’s release. You don’t have real bankable stars. Any news is good news. 3) Something else. I won’t taking any of these three positions, but the Chinese film industry isn’t exactly the most transparent one, and it’s likely impossible to ever really know what is going on here.

 

Anyway, if you can read Chinese, read all about it here.

 

- Upcoming Chinese animated film LEGEND OF A RABBIT has the netizens talking, but in a bad way. Apparently, the character designs all look a little too close to KUNG FU PANDA for comfort. Director Sun Lijun is strongly denying that his work is being influenced by KUNG FU PANDA in any way.

 

Some of his defenses:

 

“Netizens say that LEGEND OF A RABBIT is the copycat version of KUNG FU PANDA, then why doesn’t Dreamworks sue us over copyright?! LEGEND OF A RABBIT has been sold to 62 countries. Overseas buyers are not stupid. You think they haven’t seen KUNG FU PANDA?!”

 

“The characters in LEGEND OF A RABBIT are very different from KUNG FU PANDA’s. Why don’t they say that KUNG FU PANDA took influences from Chinese kung fu?”

 

[when asked why has hasn’t seen KUNG FU PANDA 2] “Not interested. No second film is better than the first film”

 

Obviously, Sun hasn’t seen THE GODFATHER PART II.

 

See the trailer for LEGEND OF A RABBIT here and decide for yourself.

 

- After AFTERSHOCK and BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL, it’s now time for Korea to have their first film converted into the digital IMAX format. Korea still has something to be proud of, though – it’ll be the first non-English-language film to be converted into IMAX 3D. Korea currently has ten IMAX screens that can show the film, and CJ Entertainment operates all ten of them. It’s a no-brainer.

 

Check out the teaser for the monster film here.

 

Next time: Spike some Beach. A double feature across the border. And whatever else comes my way.

 

The Golden Rock - July 28th, 2009 Edition

- Still on 105 screens, Harry Potter continues to rule the Hong Kong box office. However, it also suffered a huge drop in its second week, which means it may not end up going much further from the current HK$37.5 million take, especially with Disney/Pixar’s Up opening this weekend.  Meanwhile, Public Enemies beat out the other opening films by a large margin, making HK$3.64 million over its first 4 days from 35 screens (note that it had a ticket price inflation for length), while Taken (which appeals the same group of audience, sans female Johnny Depp fans) made just HK$1.86 million from 34 screens over 4 days, despite the heavy publicity effort.

With those two films, Murderer suffered a loss of screens and audience, but it has also grossed HK$11.2 million and will likely do better than The Detective and After This, Our Exile combined. Sad, but true. Written By looks like it will stop with about HK$4 million, which is decent for a borderline arthouse flick like this. However, the Hong Kong Film blog has been reporting strange grosses at Newport Theater chain theaters, though I always take their box office reports with a grain of salt because of a lack of source reported.

KJ continues to sell out showing, and has now made it to the top 10, making a total of HK$134,776 with just 1-2 shows a day on 2 screens, with more shows just added. It’s quite amazing. Also impressive in its limited release, the French film Paris 36 has made HK$119,686 on just one screen after 11 days on just one screen.

- In China, Alan Mak/Felix Chong’s Overheard and the new McDull movie both opened this past weekend. While both lost to Harry Potter, Overheard managed an impressive 35.3 million RMB (in perspective, Forever Enthralled opened with 42.2 million RMB, and Painted Skin opened with 40 million RMB, though both opened just before holiday periods), and McDull opened with 33 million RMB, which breaks the record set by Chinese animated film Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf for the opening of an animated film. Supposedly.

News from Sina News.

Meanwhile, even though the Chinese comedy One Night in Supermarket made only about 8 million RMB in its first week, it’s been packing shows in certain areas, prompting theater owners to call it the next Crazy Stone. Areas like the Southern region of Guangdong, where comedies from the north like this one don’t do too well, is even starting to add shows.

- In Japan, no newcomer really challenged the existing films, so everything stays the same, except Ice Age 3 flops with a debut at 10th place on the admission ranking chart. At least it replaced Transformers 2. Now we know at least two things about the Japanese market: They don’t buy into the 3D thing, and they don’t buy into Americans messing with their franchises. Wait, does anyone know how the Hollywood take on Godzilla did in Japan?

And since I said I don’t do box office reports that don’t quote sources, I will refrain from looking at blogs that report numbers without sources. Not even Japanese ones.With eight of the top ten local hits, naturally Toho is the highest-grossing distributor of Japan, especially when their hits are more moderately-budgeted films like Rookies and April Bride, even though they also have the mega-budget 20th Century Boys to take care of.

Nevertheless, the real news is that box office earnings in Japan is up 17.6% this year over the same period last year.

- No South Korean numbers out yet, but there’s already reports of disaster film Haeundae scoring a huge opening over its first 5 days with 1.57 million admissions, knocking Harry Potter off the top spot.

-In Summer 2009 Japanese drama ratings, I already mentioned last week that Buzzer Beat didn’t fall as badly as Kankatsu! in its second week. Kareinaru Spy now has the biggest drop of the season anyway, dropping to an 8.3% rating after the 15.6% it got for its premiere. On the other hand, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi’s Ninkyo Helper managed to bounce back a bit with a 14% for its third episode.  It’s now the highest-rated drama this season so far.

Believe or not, the second highest-rated series so far this season is the 9th season of the “Wednesday Mystery” drama Kasouken no Onna, with a current season average of 15%. However, its ratings have been slipping, but if it keeps up, it will be its highest-rated season, and if Ninkyo Helper slips again, it may even be the first season to top the season average.

- As I mentioned in the Twitter, Hong Kong arthouse theater the Cine-art House, which was known for being one of HK’s only arthouse and the patience for showing limited releases for hundreds of days at a time (it still holds the record for longest period of release with the Japanese film The Yen Family, which played for 524 days.), will be officially reopened this week in the residential neighborhood of Kowloon Bay, even though it’s been operating as Cine-Art for the last two months (I saw Largo Winch there a few weeks ago). The lease is six years long, and the owner is looking to recoup its cost within 3-4 years.

Playing a mix of foreign arthouse films and commercial films, it will also be doing morning shows of older films and a Chinese film retrospective in September. After all, the Cine-Art house is own by patriotic company Sil-Metropole, who recently closed down Kwun Tong’s Silver Theater, only two subway stations away from the current Cine-Art House location.

- After Twitch wrote about a rumor involving Hong Kong director Andrew Lau taking over directorial duties on the film Bodyguards and Assassins after Teddy Chen quit/fired over disagreements with producer Peter Chan, it’s now confirmed that Lau has indeed joined the production. No details, though, about the extent of Lau’s participation or whether Teddy Chen really did return to the set, as Twitch also reported.

- The Network of Asian Fantastic Films, the projects market of the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, just wrapped up its second edition, with plenty of praise from its guests. Four films, two of them Korean or partly Korean, won post-production support awards.

- With almost all Chinese films pulled out of the Melbourne Film Festival over the documentary about exiled Uighur leader Rebiyah Kadeer and its website hacked by presumably Chinese hackers, the festival is now considering going the Venice Film Festival route of making potentially controversial China-related films surprise films in its future editions.

Food for thought: Does anyone else think that these producers pulled their films out of government pressure/need to appease government position to keep their careers? Just a question, not an opinion.

- Even though the second Umizaru film was advertised as the last one yet, Fuji understandably changed their minds after it became the highest-grossing local film of the year, and the third film, featuring essentially the same damn story as the second film, will be coming in 2010. For people who called their sequel Limit of Love, they certainly don’t know what “Limit of Franchise” means.

-Hong Kong director Lee Kung-Lok, perhaps best known for My Mother is a Belly Dancer and co-directing Fu Bo with Wong Ching-Po, will be directing the romantic comedy Let’s Fall in Love in Beijing, and Hong Kong’s Sundream has now joined the list of investors, which also include China’s Polybona and Korea’s IHQ.

- Netizens in Hong Kong has discovered similarities between the new commercial for electronics retailer Broadway featuring Joey Yung and a commercial for Microsoft portable music player Zune. I can’t even get myself to be surprised about these things anymore.

Does anyone know which agency did the ad? I’m very very curious.

-It’s reviews time! Variety’s Ronnie Scheib has a review of the Shunji Iwai-produced effort Halfway, directed by TV writer Eriko Kitagawa, and Japan Times’ Mark Schilling took a look at Fuji TV’s Amalfi last week.

- Two departures to report in this entry:Malaysian director Yasmin Ahmad passed away over the weekend after suffering a stroke. At least two blogs on my rss reader has written about her passing, and they can write more and more eloquently than I ever can:

Blog of Tokyo-based filmmaker Edmund Yeo.

Blog of YTSL - Hong Kong-based writer.

Actor Tetsuo Yamada, who was in Departures as a tough-talking widower, has passed away from cancer. His last film appearance will be in the upcoming epic The Sun That Doesn’t Set. He was 53 years old.

The Golden Rock - July 22nd, 2009 Edition

- As always, we’ll start with some number crunching. This time, it’s the Japanese Summer 2009 drama ratings. The Fuji Monday night 9pm drama Buzzer Beat premiered with a dismal 15.5% rating, which is reportedly the second-worst premiere rating ever for that time slot. Even last season’s disaster Kankatsu! premiered with a 16.3% rating. Nevertheless, it didn’t lose too much audience in its second week, and its season average is already better than Kankatsu! over the same period.

Not so good news for SMAP’s Tsuyoshi Kusanagi’s drama Ninkyo Helper, which dropped to a 13.8% rating for its second week after the excellent 17.5% premiere rating.  Will this be the second consecutive season with a SMAP flop?

Kareinaru Spy, the new drama from Bayside Shakedown creator Ryoichi Kimizuka starring Tokio front man Tomoya Nagase and Kyoko Fukuda, premiered with an OK 15.6% rating. However, not sure if its tongue-in-cheek style will keep the audiences around. Meanwhile, Call Center no Koibito dropped to a depressing 5.6% in its third week, while Kanryotachi no Natsu rose slightly back up with a 10.6% rating.

Also playing on Tuesday nights are the “special episodes” of Emergency Room 24 Hours while leading man Yosuke Eguchi recovers from his motorcycle accident injuries. The first episode last week got a 13.1% rating, and this week’s episode got a 15% rating. With the anticipation from the delay, this might beat out everything else to become this summer’s ratings champion. Why didn’t Fuji put it into the Monday 9pm slot, like it did with series 3 back in 2005?

In other drama news, hit detective drama Aibou will be coming back for an 8th season, despite the departure of co-leading man Yasufumi Terawaki during the 7th season. Then again, with the 7th season getting its best ratings ever, it’s a no-brainer for TV Asahi.

- And more ratings news coming out of Hong Kong. The two major free-to-air channels launched their new talent shows - The Voice for TVB and HK Edition of Taiwanese hit A Million Stars on ATV - on the same night, and while the 26 points rating for TVB is disappointing consider how well the Sandra Ng talk show did before in that time slot, ATV is ecstatic about its 8 points rating, because it’s double the viewers they usually get for that slot.

Meanwhile, The Voice is also coming under criticism by viewers for plagiarizing A Million Stars, but that’s just gossip, so I won’t go any further.

- As for the Japanese Oricon music charts, the ridiculously-named Johnny’s group NYC Boys/Yuma Nakayama (I’m pretty sure none of them are from New York City) scored their first #1 single. They also broke the record for the youngest group with a #1 single, since the average age of the group is 14.6 years old. Meanwhile, the group Tegomass saw their debut album go #1.

More at Tokyograph

-  No numbers yet, but a box office blog from Japan reports that Harry Potter has already made 2.2 billion yen (roughly US$22 million) over the Wednesday-Monday period from 860 (!) screens, Pokemon made over 672 million yen over its first two days on 366 screens, and Fuji TV’s Amalfi made a respectable 377 million yen from 357 screens over its first two days.

- Turning Point, the spin-off/prequel from the TVB drama E.U. directed by Herman Yau that marks the first collaboration between the TV conglomerate and Shaw Brothers, now has a trailer on the official site.  You’ll need Quicktime to watch it.

I didn’t watch the drama, but what I know is that the film is based on the character Laughing, played by Young and Dangerous veteran Michael Tse, a gang member who is revealed to be an undercover cop. His character, only a supporting one, was so popular that the facebook group named after the character soared to 150,000 members after his character’s death on the show.

The film opens on August 13th, and I guess I’ll still go watch it.

Note: An informant from inside TVB told me that when the poster design guys were designing the poster for the film, they had the Infernal Affairs poster opened on the computer for “reference”. Go figure.

- Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Film blog reports that Herman Yau is already working on a new film, which may be a dark comedy based on its Chinese name, a wordplay off the Chinese title of the horror series Final Destination. The cast includes pop stars Kay Tse, Stephanie Chang, Fama, Andy Hui, and even MC Jin.

-  It’s film festival news time! In addition to Japanese actor/director Hitoshi Matsumoto’s latest film premiering there, Thai films like Ong Bak 2 (part of the the Midnight program) and a short film as a part of an omnibus will also be featured at the festival.

Jason Gray writes about the stuff he’s seen at the just-ended Skip City Film Festival and the just-opened Pia Film Festival.

The three Chinese films that were supposed to be at the Melbourne Film Festival have all pulled out - producer Chow Keung pulled Jia Zhangke’s short film Cry Me a River and his wife’s film Perfect Life from the festival in objection to the presence of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer and the festival’s decision to premiere the documentary 10 Conditions of Love, about Kadeer, despite demands from the Chinese consular to pull it. Also, the documentary Petition was also withdrawn, possibly to not add fuel to the fire.

Lou Ye’s Cannes competition film Spring Fever will be opening the Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

-It’s trailers time! Twitch has the first, over-cgi-ed trailer of the espionage film The Message, which will opened in time for the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Communist China along with the super-duper Chinese superstar extravaganza where almost every actor got paid nothing for acting in order to secure their career in China as their patriotic duty and joke about having only single-digit amount of lines.

Nippon Cinema has the trailer to the third and final installment of the 20th Century Boys trilogy. But if you haven’t seen the first two films, I suggest you not watch this trailer.

Twitch also has new footage of Imagi Studio’s Astro Boy that was shown on a Japanese morning news show. However, the host failed to mention that even though it was financed by an American studio, Imagi Studios is based in Hong Kong.

- WiseKwai has more information about the just-announced sequel to the horror omnibus 4Bia, which will offer five short films instead of four.

-Under “what’s next for that director?” news today, Japanese director Mamoru Oshii will be taking his short films Assault Girls, which he put in two omnibus films, and giving them the feature-length treatment. The Assault Girls in both short films, including Rinko Kikuchi, will return for the feature film.

-I’m confused now: Singaporean production company Boku films will be footing part of the bill for the Korean sequel of the monster hit The Host, even though there’s no director. On the other hand, Crazy Stone director Ning Hao is working on the Chinese sequel, which the producers don’t want to call Host 2. Why does The Host need two sequels? You don’t have to answer me, I just remembered how much money it made.

- The Hollywood Reporter has a review of the Korean girls high school horror film A Blood Pledge by Maggie Lee.

The Golden Rock - July 6th, 2009 Edition

Back after a week-long break.

Also added new Twitter feed. You can see it on your right.

- No official Hong Kong numbers yet, but like America, expect it to be a fight between Transformers and Ice Age 3

- In Japanese attendance figures, the comic adaptation MW debuts at a disappointing 6th place and Anpanman debuts at 7th place, while everything above that stays the same. More when the numbers are out.

- In Spring 2009 Japanese drama ratings, the Monday 9pm Fuji disaster Kankatsu wraps up with a 10.5% rating for a season average of 10.5%. Mr. Brain’s second-to-last episode dips back down to 18.3%, keeping it under 20% for the third week in a row. It’ll need a 20+% rating for its final episode to keep its average above 20%. Either way, it’ll be the highest rated show of the season, even though it kinda cheated with only 8 episodes.

For the Summer 2009 dramas, which seems to be getting an early start, Kanryotachi no Natsu (looks like a rehash of Kareinaru Ichizoku without the big cast and big budget) premiered with a 14.5% rating. Call Center no Koibito, the first starring role for Kotaro “son of Junichiro” Koizumi, premiered to just a 9.3% rating. Will be able to know which ones to focus on when I see the synopses for them all.

- As expected, Chinese box office continues to grow exponentially, with box office gross from the first half year up 45% from the same period last year.

- In South Korea, thanks to local hits My Girlfriend is an Agent, Mother, and Old Partner, local box office has shot up compared to this same time last year, when the industry was in the middle of a slump.

- The great New York Asian Film Festival has wrapped up with the jury announcing its winners. Japan picks up five awards, and I can say the awards are well-deserved, at least for the ones I’ve seen.

-  Under “Japanese casting news” today, the prolific Kenichi Matsuyama will be in another comic-adapted film, and this one will reunite him with his Death Note co-star Tatsuya Fuijiwara. Kaiji will be released in October.

Actress Nao Matsushita will be the lead for the next NHK morning drama, about the wife of Gegege no Kitaro creator Shigeru Mizuki. It won’t be on TV until next March.

- It’s trailers time! First off is the first-ever trailer for China’s biggest film ever ever ever! It’s the PRC 60th anniversary film, translated title as “The Great Cause of Our Great Country’s Foundation”. Featuring 170 actors, there’s a prominent actor/director in probably every single shot of this trailer that features a human being. Except Leon Lai -  everyone knows he’s a robot. How many stars can you spot?

Just as bizarre from Japan is the trailer for Tajomaru, which takes the bandit character from the Akutagawa short story In a Grove (which Kurosawa’s Rashomon is based on. Toshiro Mifune played Tajomaru in that film), give him the pretty boy face of Shun Oguri, and give him a totally created background story. Personally, I think it’ll be another Ichi for Warner Bros. Japan. In other words, a flop.

- The Chinese film censorship body SARFT has a new vice-director, and it’s a surprise pick because he was kind of a nobody. However, not much is expected to change since he’s already within the system in the first place.

- Another Japanese production house is in trouble. This time it’s animation house Gonzo, whose stocks have been delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange after they found their debt exceeded their revenue.

- Twitch reviews the entire box set of the Jeonju Digital Project films, and this is just part 1.

- J.J. Abrams, watch out - AKB48 may be going to perform in New York after they made their overseas debut in Paris.

- Thousands attended the memorial service for the 22nd anniversary of actor Yujiro Ishihara’s death in Tokyo over the weekend.

- The Hollywood Reporter’s international news reporter/editor Steve Brennan passed away. He was 57.

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 - December 30th, 2008 Edition

This blogger would like to apologize for missing two weeks of blogging. Being a student means times like these take away precious time to blog.

Then the blogger would like to thank everyone for letting this blog survive past the two year-mark now. My 2009 resolution: Try not to take so many breaks.

And now, a little bit of news:

- Lovehkfilm wraps up our 2008 with two reviews - Kozo’s review for the Chinese film Deadly Delicious, and my review for Wilson Yip’s Ip Man.

-  The dust has settled after the crowded and chaotic Christmas weekend at the Hong Kong box office. Wilson Yip’s Ip Man takes the second weekend with HK$1.23 million from 39 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total of HK$14.02 million. It’ll likely break past the HK$20 million mark and become the Christmas champion, despite the upcoming opening of Lady Cop and Papa Crook, Ong Bak 2, and Forever Enthralled.

Not too far behind is the animated film Madagascar 2, with HK$1.16 million from 41 screens for a 10-day total of HK$12.52 million. These two should surpass current holiday season box office leader The Day The Earth Stood Still, which is quickly losing business with a 18-day total of HK$18.27 million.

Leading among the Christmas openers is Suspect X (The Galileo movie version), which made HK$917,000 from 34 screens for an impressive 5-day total of HK$6.29 million. With a large audience here for the drama and Panasia releasing it before the pirates can upload it online, it should break the HK$10 million mark for another Japanese film success for the distributor. Behind it is Disney’s Bedtime Stories, which made HK$809,000 from 39 screens for a 4-day total of HK$4.44 million. At least it’s doing better than the average Adam Sandler movie.

The other two Christmas openers didn’t do nearly as well. The Tale of Desperaux made only HK$448,000 from 35 screens for a 4-day total of just HK$2.04 million, despite having TVB “it” boy Wong Cho-Lam as the voice of the protagonist. Lastly, Feng Xiaogang’s If You’re the One will definitely not do Mainland China-level business, with just HK$51,000 from 8 screens for a 4-day total of $260,000.

- In Korea, Scandal Makers continue to top the box office, with over 3.8 million admissions and counting. Meanwhile, Ponyo isn’t doing so great.

More over at Korea Pop Wars.

- Minomonta, the Japanese TV host who recently broke the Guinness World Record for having the most hours on TV in a week, will quit one of the two shows he hosts daily for a real gracious reason. I wonder why he really quit.

- Here’s one proof of why Ip Man had to cater to the Chinese audience: Head honcho/producer Raymond Wong Bak-Ming just sold 8.5% of Mandarin Film shares to two Mainland Chinese investors.

- Some may not know that Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon had a source material of the same name, but its groundbreaking structure was actually from another short story named In a Grove. Now, another film will be borrowing from In a Grove, though they’re only borrowing one of the major characters.

- Under “film financing” news today, Hong Kong’s Mei Ah is still losing money. But thanks to Red Cliff, they’re losing less this year. Yay.

On the other hand, the Hong Kong-based animation studio Imagi is in so much financial trouble that their auditor isn’t even sure if the studio will have the money to complete the three films they have set up.

- Fuji Television continues its streak of having the highest ratings in three major timeslots out of all Japanese nationwide TV networks.

- Under “who’s directing what next” news today, three Asian directors - Fruit Chan, Hur Jin-ho, and musician Cui Jian - will be making an omnibus film about the earthquake-stricken region of Chengdu. It shall be ethically inspiring.

Meanwhile, legendary director Yoji Yamada will be making Otouto - Younger Brother, which will be his first contemporary film in a while. With his last film being “Kabei - Our Mother”, I wonder if Yamada is making another trilogy.

- For the first time in its history, the China Film Academy has allowed in Hong Kong industry professionals for memberships. Hong Kong professionals that have gotten in include Jackie Chan, Peter Chan, and Andy Lau.

There’s really not much news around this time of year. However, expect a special feature just before the year ends.

The Golden Rock - December 15th, 2008 Edition

- The Day the Earth Stood Still scored one of the biggest opening weekends this year at the Hong Kong box office. On Sunday, the sci-fi drama made HK$2.62 million from 86 screens (That’s a 10 screen increase from opening day) for a 4-day weekend total of HK$10.57 million. It should have no problem crossing the HK$20 million mark, unless Ip Man puts a dent in it next weekend along with that poor word-of-mouth.

Only one other film on the top 10 broke the HK$10,000 per-screen average on Sunday. From 3 screens, the Japanese film Ikigami made HK$37,000 on Sunday for a 11-day gross of HK$450,000. Meanwhile, the opening films didn’t get much of a boost over the weekend. Romantic comedy Four Christmases made only HK$231,000 from 26 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$820,000. Tsui Hark’s All About Women did only slightly better from its disasterous opening day, making HK$109,000 from 18 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$410,000.

The Golden Horse Awards last weekend didn’t help its award winners here in Hong Kong. Cape No. 7 continues its gradual decline with HK$125,000 from 23 screens on Sunday with HK$7.28 million after 25 days. Herman Yau’s True Women for Sale (whose star Prudence Lau took Best Actress at the awards)also lost about 50% of its audience with just HK$22,000 from 5 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total of HK$440,000.

As for other films, Dante Lam’s The Beast Stalker is now at HK$7.5 million after 18 days, making the HK$10 million mark extremely unlikely now. Wu Jing’s Legendary Assassin is at HK$2.08 million after 11 days. Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect, another Gold Label film, is at HK$3.1 million after 18 days (the 24 days included the weekend previews), and What Just Happened is at HK$620,000 after 11 days.

- On the Japanese box office attendence chart, Wall-E retains its number 1 spot while two other animated films enter at 2nd and 3rd place. However, since they are animated films that would attract a large kids audience, their places on the box office gross chart may end up lower. More when the numbers come out.

-The comic-turned-TV drama-turned film Mr. Tadano’s Secret Mission dropped to 7th place in the second week. However, that didn’t stop TV Asahi from bringing back for its 4th season. They’ll even move it from the late night 11pm slot to 9pm, even though it means they’ll have to cut down on the sex.

- No Japanese TV drama ratings yet, but the Mainichi News reports that the NHK period drama Atsuhime scored a 28.7% rating for its final episode for an average of 24.5%, the highest for NHK in the last decade.

- Even though Korean superstar Rain didn’t make much of an impression with Speed Racer, this stunt reel found on Twitch proves that he’s ready for his starring role in Ninja Assassin. Girls, you may scream……………….now.

- Also, the website for Vincent Kok’s Lunar New Year comedy All’s Well’s End Well 2009 has uploaded a half making-of, half teaser. It mainly consists of a lot of people laughing and making funny faces.

- Twitch also has a teaser for the aniamted film Miyamoto Musashi, written by Mamoru Oshii and produced by his production company.

- Korean actress Bae Seul-ki will be in a major role for the Hollywood production Finale, playing a cold-blooded killer who takes on the Italian mafia.

-The Golden Rock’s favorite enka singer Jero has revealed that his second single was written by pop singer Yo Hitoto, who starred in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Cafe Lumiere.

- Japanese box office champ Toho has announced its 2009 lineup, which includes the new film by Isshin Inudo (more details from Ryuganji) and Kankuro Kudo’s latest.

- Actor Park Shin-yang has been banned from any television drama made by any member of Corea Drama Production Assosication because he asked for too much money for appearing in extra episodes of the drama he was working on and sued when he didn’t get paid.

- Twitch has an interview with Tokyo Sonata director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, but be warned that there are some spoilers for the movie in it.

- Thai actor/comedian Sayan Doksadao has passed away. He was one of the world’s few actors working with Down syndrome.

The Golden Rock - December 1st, 2008 Edition

Goodbye, November. Hello, December. See you soon, 2nd anniversary.

- Four of the five opening movies in Hong Kong got on the top 10 on opening day last Thursday, but only three remained on the Sunday box office chart. Beast Stalker remained on top with an impressive HK$844,000 from 37 screens on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2.91 million. This is 80% of Connected’s 4-day opening number (both are from Emperor Motion Pictures), and it ended up making over HK$13 million. If the word-of-mouth is similarly positive, it may end up passing the HK$10 million mark.

Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect didn’t quite get the youth boost it needed on Sunday, making just HK$340,400 from 34 screens for a 4-day total of HK$1.49 million. It’s an improvement over Kong’s horror film Forgive and Forget, but I doubt this will pass the HK$3 million mark as theaters quickly move to reduce the number of showings by Thursday. Lastly, Hong Kong audience show that they don’t really care movies paralleling Taiwanese current events, as Lawrence Lau’s Ballistic made only HK$64,800 from 18 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$270,000.

Cape No. 7 is showing some potential for long-term success, as its take of HK$490,600 from 25 screens on Sunday is 83% of last Sunday’s take. After 11 days, the Taiwanese music-themed romance has made HK$4.55 million. At this speed, the HK$7 million mark is a likely possibility. Meanwhile, Beverly Hills Chihuahua is now at only HK$2.44 million after 11 days, Quantum of Solace is at HK$18.38 million after 25 days. While it won’t do the HK$20+million that Casino Royale did two years ago (it’s hard to believe that the blog started out tracking its Hong Kong box office), it’s also worth noting that Casino Royale had a ticket price inflation due to its length.

Moving down the chart, The Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading now has HK$2.68 million after 18 days. Champions has passed the HK$5 million mark on Sunday with HK$80,000 from 27 screens. After 18 days, it has made HK$5.06 million. The church-endorsed Bella is showing legs, with another HK$78,000 from 8 screens for HK$1.41 million after 18 days. Lastly, Detroit Metal City remains on the top 10 with HK$10.51 million after 32 days.

- It was a slow week at the Japanese box office, at least attendance-wise. Red Cliff takes the 5th week at the top, while I’d Rather be a Shellfish remains at 2nd place, and Happy Flight remains at 3rd. The best-performing debut goes to Death Race at 5th, while Saw V could only muster a 7th place opening. More when the numbers come out.

- The ratings for the Fall 2008 Japanese drama season continues to be very disappointing. The ratings for Aibou Season 7 - the highest of the season so far - is going through bigger ups and downs than the stock market. After a series-high 20.7% two weeks ago, it dips to a 15.7 this week. Just when Ryusei no Kizuna seems to have found a loyal group of audience, it saw its season low of 14.5% this week in its 3rd straight week of declining ratings. The same happened to the terrorism thriller Bloody Monday, which saw steady ratings since its premiere until it dropped to a 10.1% for this week’s episode.

Some dramas are beginning to see their ratings pick up slightly: Scandal saw a boost to a 12.3% rating after a mere 10.4% in the previous week. Gira Gira saw a similar boost, going up to a 10.2% after seeing a season-low 7.2% in the previous week. As it reaches its final weeks, Kaze no Garden’s 8th episode also saw a boost to 14.1% rating.

The season’s biggest disappointment, next to Ryusei no Kizuna’s fall from grace, has to be the struggling ratings for Fuji’s Monday night 9pm drama Innocent Love. whose current season average of 13.2% is the lowest since Boku Dake no Madonna in Summer 2003. This week, it saw a boost up to 12.6% after two straight weeks of season-low 11.7%.

- Under “The economy went shitty, and all I got was this stupid t-shirt” news today, Hong Kong’s TVB is cutting 212 staffs, or 7% of their workforce, because they anticipate a sharp drop in profits. Note that said drop hasn’t officially happened yet, they just anticipated it.

Meanwhile, Japanese animation house GDH, who made the award-winning Summer Days with Coo, is cutting 20% of its workforce through early retirements.

- DJ Ozma, who pissed Japan off at the 2006 Kohaku Uta Gassen with this performance, is retiring from show biz after his third album. Of course, he’s not going away entirely: Ozma is just one of the roles the ex-Kishidan leader plays. He’s playing one of the three members of Yazima Biyoushitsu. It’s borderline offensive if that damn song isn’t so catchy.

- The Indian government has called in broadcasters to investigate whether the news media helped the terrorists by giving them the police’s tactical strategies with their wall-to-wall coverage.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter looks at the effect of the tragedy on the worldwide entertainment industry at a time when India is trying to expand to the world with various production deals.

One of the biggest effects already felt is the cancellation of Live Earth India, which was set to take place this Sunday in Mumbai.

- The Tokyo Filmex just wrapped up over the weekend, with the Isreali-German-France co-produced animated film Waltz with Bashir taking home the grand prize.

The film attracting the most attention at the Tokyo Filmex this year must be Sion Sono’s 4-hour romance epic Love Exposure. It ended up taking home the Agnes B Audience Prize. Jason Gray gives a quasi-review, and Edmond Yeo gives it a very strong praise. Now I hope the Hong Kong International Film Festival is daring enough to take it on.

- Kyoko Koizumi picks up another acting prize for Tokyo Sonata at this year’s Fumiko Yamaji Film Awards, which only gives out female acting awards in addition to the film awards. In addition to Koizumi’s Best Actress win, Haruka Ayase also picked up the Best Newcomer Award for her three theatrical releases this year - Cyborg She, Ichi, and Happy Flight.

- The Japanese talent agency Yoshimoto Kogyo, which manages some of Japan’s top comic talents, is partnering with a Chinese theater group to give comedy stage shows in China.

- Holy crap, the other five guys in Exile finally has something to do other than dance in the background while the other two sing.

- Twitch has a full trailer for Chan Kaige’s Forever Entralled, which will be released in a few weeks in China and on January 1st in Hong Kong.

- The TBS-produced Japanese medical mystery The Glorious Team Batista has a decent run in cinemas earlier in the year. This season, Fuji took the same source material and turned it into a TV drama, which is doing OK in the ratings. Now TBS is taking back the spotlight by announcing a sequel for the film version with the original cast returning. It will be released in March 2009. Kozo reviewed the first film here.

- An interesting off-topic find: In a survey of about 400 people - with 47.8% of the participant in their 30s - the cinema is the top spot for a first date. It also reveals that nearly 97% of Japanese moviegoers never had their phones go off in the movie theater. This number would surely be much much lower here in Hong Kong.

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.

 
 
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