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Archive for the ‘China’ Category

The Golden Rock - July 5th News Edition

While Boss Kozo takes a much-needed/deserved break, I will work hard to try and fill that void with news and other content for this blog.

First of all, while East Screen/West Screen head man Paul Fox is off to vacation in Florida, he worked hard and uploaded the first of two short blu-ray episodes we recorded before he left.

- It’s box office time! We start off in Japan, where, as expected, BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 3 took the top spot in the audience admissions ranking. According to Oricon, the film made 972 million yen in its first two days from 477 screens, with 707,000 admissions. Toho is sure the film will break the 10 billion yen mark, and the question is now how close it will do to its predecessor, which still holds the record for the highest-grossing Japanese live-action film ever at roughly 17 billion yen.

Amazingly, Tetsuya Nakashima’s CONFESSIONS is still holding up at second place, beating the debut of Luc Besson’s THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADEL BLANC-SEC. Meanwhile, Shunya Ito’s 300 MILLION (or LOST CRIMES) mustered a 10th place debut. More when further analysis comes out.

- In South Korea, SHREK and KNIGHT AND DAY rule the charts, while third to fifth places are taken up by Korean films. The KOFIC chart here is missing the names, but they are: 3)  71-INTO THE FIRE, 4) MAN OF VENDETTA, and 5) THE SERVANT.

- As Ryan of the Hong Kong Film blog reports, SHREK FOREVER AFTER dominated the weekend box office in Hong Kong. Thanks to inflated 3D prices and the extra takings from the two IMAX screens, the film has already made HK$12 million after opening on July 1st. TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE opened big and remained strong, despite SHREK. After five days, it has made HK$8.34 million. With much of its target audience out of school, expect fairly strong showing during the week. This will give distributor Golden Scene (who also has a minor hit with BREAK UP CLUB already) something to celebrate about, as NEW MOON actually grossed less than the first film. ECLIPSE is almost certain to do better than NEW MOON, but the question is whether it’ll match or beat the HK$18 million gross of the first film.

Meanwhile, the competition didn’t help the performance of Derek Yee’s TRIPLE TAP, which made only HK$3.74 million over 4 days. Word-of-mouth will determine whether it’ll go past HK$10 million, and I don’t predict it will. Again, a more thorough analysis will come when hkfilmart.com or box office mojo updates its numbers.

- There are two news items today about Feng Xiaogang’s AFTERSHOCK: One on Film Business Asia about it in the context of its distribution, and one by the Associated Press (carried by the Hollywood Reporter) about the film itself.

Cynic mode: Feng has been pushing this film hard on how it has made the audience cried, and the cast has been doing the same about their own reaction to the film. These are part of contradicting message Feng has been putting out. At times, he throws out ridiculous box office predictions like 500 million RMB and how much he cares about how the film does at the box office. At other times, he talks about how the film isn’t an entertainment film, and how meaningful it is to have the families of the dead to be in the film. To me, I’m just hearing a director who’s flip-flopping to say what people wants to hear, and he’ll say whatever’s needed to sell the film. The most shameful (and perhaps unintentionally the smartest) of the publicity effort is when Feng and the cast continued to have its big trailer reveal publicity event on the same day of the Qinghai Earthquake.

This is, however sobering the film is, a commercial blockbuster, from its big-budget special effects to the gimmick of being converted to IMAX. Feng isn’t going to put his film in the format if he knows he doesn’t have something to offer for it. At the same time, he knows the pushing the big budget spectacle isn’t going to help his cause, considering what his film is about, hence the calculated effort to play both sides. Again, it’s smart on Feng’s part (and have been told that this isn’t the first time he’s used calculated publicity effort), but from my cynical point of view, it’s also quite shameless.

- Yoshimoto Kogyo, a huge talent agency in Japanese entertainment known for its arsenal of comedians (including actor/director Hitoshi Matsumoto) has formed a joint venture with the Shanghai Media Group to produce and distribute programs for China.

- Earlier in the day, I posted a link to a Chinese new report with the new trailer for the Benny Chan sci-fi action film CITY UNDER SIEGE. Thanks to wildcinema’s Twitter, you can now check out a Youtube version of it, or if you have Facebook, there’s even an English-subtitled version.

The Golden Rock - July 4th, 2010 Edition

The Golden Rock celebrates America’s independence with a bunch of news from Asia!

- The controversial documentary THE COVE opened yesterday in Japan. Japan Times reports that police security was on scene at the theaters, and Nikkan Sports reports that the Directors Guild of Japan has put out a statement firmly opposing any move by the protesters to prevent the film being shown. You can agree or disagree with the film’s agendas, but you can’t stop the open screening of any films in a society with free speech.

- Speaking of lack of free speech, the Chinese government news agency Xinhua is launching their own English-language 24-hour news channel to give “a Chinese perspective to global audiences”. Propaganda goes international!

- Korean hit war film 71: INTO THE FIRE is a hit in Korea, and now it’s heading to American cinemas.

- It’s reviews time! Japan Times’ Mark Schilling reviews director Shunya Ito’s LOST CRIME, and Film Business Asia’s Derek Elley reviews the Chinese desert comedy WELCOME TO SHAMATOWN.

- For those that didn’t like Derek Yee’s TRIPLE TAP, the co-writer/director explains that even he can’t believe that the film is his. “This is just a commercial film. I hope the audience can easily understand it”. Now it makes sense, except the problem with the film is that IT’S TOO FLAT.

- The Ryuganji blog translate excerpts from an upcoming book about Takeshi Kitano, and he has plenty to say about Japanese society.

- We here at Lovehkfilm loves the BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN franchise, and its third installment opened this past weekend in Japan, and star Yuji Oda has promised that if the film makes over 10 billion yen, he’ll work hard towards doing a 4th film.

- For those in Tokyo, rare color footage of early 1950s Japan shot by an American soldier will be screened in the Edo-Tokyo Museum in August.

- K-pop fans: Artists of the major talent agency SM Entertainment such as Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, and BoA will be going on a world tour. Oh, and TVXQ will be there, too……………………….just kidding, they’re not done suing yet.

- Last, but definitely not least, Korean actor Park Yong-Ha, known for his roles in WINTER SONATA and the film THE SCAM (which I reviewed) has passed away in an apparent suicide. The media has been covering which big stars are grieving for him, but I don’t think I need to join that party to say that the actor will certainly be missed.

The Golden Rock - September 18th, 2009 Edition

A short entry before the weekend:

- Super-duper Communist propaganda movie Founding of a Republic (with 170+ stars) is looking at a record opening day with a half-day gross of 14 million rmb. Possible reasons? It’s on a record number of screens, it has China’s best known stars, and free/discount coupons were passed out around the country, which the studio can easily report as a full-priced sdmission? Or everyone in China might just be that patriotic.

- The film festival in Kaohsiung is now reconsidering its decision to show 10 Conditions of Love, the documentary on exiled Uighur figure Rebiya Kadeer due to fears of angering China.

- Meanwhile, the Tokyo International Film Festival has possibly succumbed to public pressure, though this time, the pressure is forcing them to show a film instead of not showing it.

- In keeping with the festival news, the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival has announced its picks this year, which include two opening films being distributed by Edko (parent company of festival runner Broadway Cinematheque) and a Sion Sono retrospective. Time to get busy!

And that’s it for tonight. More over the weekend.

The Golden Rock - September 15th, 2009 Edition

- Lovehkfilm has updated with reviews from Boss Kozo. In this update, Kozo writes about the trashy, but entertaining Kung Fu Chef, the teen flop Trick or Cheat, Sion Sono’s epic masterpiece Love Exposure, and Miki Satoshi’s Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers.

- Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Symbol opened in Japan this past weekend on 242 screens (roughly the same amount of screens Dai Nipponjin opened on) and made 133 million yen, which is only 45.6% of Dai Nipponjin’s opening weekend. With an even more mysterious promotional campign than his first film, Matsumoto’s film doesn’t seem to be aiming for a large commercial audience anyway.

- In Korea, the Hindi-language film Black has become quite a hit, despite it being a four-year old film. After three weekends, it already has 700,000 admissions, and may get to the million mark in two weeks. I’ll keep keeping track of it.

- The Chinese TV/film authority SARFT has released new guidelines banning commercials for certain products and limiting the amount of ads during a program. No big deal for me, since such regulations is quite normal everywhere, especially for things like tobacco products.

I read a report that implies these regulations were made in time for the PRC’s 60th anniversary, but with these regulations not coming into effect until January, it doesn’t seem likely that this is the case.

- Korean female Park Chan-Ok, who worked under Hang Sang-Soo as his assistant director, finally sees her second film Peju coming out in theaters, despite the fact that it was announced 4 years ago.

- The Seoul International Drama Awards were given out last week, with the Grand Prize going to Chinese drama Memoirs in China. Dramas from Europe also took home multiple awards.

- It’s reviews time! Variety’s Derek Elley reviews the Venice closing film Chengdu, I Love You, which features a short film from Fruit Chan and one from Chinese rockster Cui Jian. Then Ronnie Schieb reviews the Montreal World Film Festival Best Director winner Villon’s Wife.

And lastly, Screen International’s Tim Grierson reviews the American cut of Ong Bak 2, and strangely doesn’t make mention of its open ending. Did they get a different version in the States?

- The American producers who were accused of bribing Thai government officials to run the Bangkok International Film Festival have been convicted for conspiracy and money laundering. They plan to appeal the ruling.

- And under “Film festivals in Japan” news, a 16-minute set of footage from James Cameron’s Avatar will be shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival. No word whether this is the same footage shown on “Avatar Day” around the world last month, despite the report writing that it will include unseen footage, though it runs roughly the same length.

Japanese film distributor Only Hearts has bought Mexico’s representative at the Academy Awards and it’ll be shown at the Latin Beats Festival in Tokyo this week.

The Golden Rock - September 14th, 2009 Edition

Whoa, it’s a news post! You have Tropical Storm Koppu to thank for that.

First off, the latest episode of East Screen/West Screen is up. This time, Paul and I talk about Trick or Cheat, Sophie’s Revenge, realistic romance movies, and Hong Kong’s representative at the Academy Awards.

- And as I predicted about Prince of Tears, the controversy has already started.  Just a day after we recorded the podcast, Taiwan’s Government Information Office has requested their NT$10 million subsidy back if it remains to be HK’s representative. Yonfan has also responded, saying that he would rather give back the money. He can probably afford it anyway.

- No HK box office figures yet, but South Korea’s film council already has the weekend stats up. The melodrama Ae-Ja takes the top spot in its opening weekend, as Take Off adds another 321,000 admissions (with 63,000 of those going to the new director’s cut.). Meanwhile, Haeundae has passed Silmido and is now aiming for Taegukgi with 11.18 million. The Case of Haewon Suicide opens in 3rd place with an OK 282,000 admissions.

-In Japan admission rankings, 20th Century Boys continues to hold the top spot, while Wolverine debuts at 2nd place. Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Symbol (which got its premiere in Toronto, not Venice. D’oh!) debuts at 5th place, and Tajomaru with Shun Oguri (somewhat based on the short story In a Grove, which inspired Rashomon) flops with a 7th place debut.

- Speaking of Symbol, Variety’s Russell Edwards has the first review of it after he saw it in Japan.

-Fans of Takeshi Kitano’s gangster films will be happy to know that his latest film, which is now in production, will be a return to the violent gangster genre that he departed from with three self-reflexive films.

- Though it’s yet to be officially reported, Haeundae now has a Canadian distribution deal. No word, however, on whether it’ll be the shorter cut that China and Hong Kong are getting.

- Continuing with the blog’s obsession with super-duper Communist celebration movie Founding of a Republic, a record 1,450 prints will be going out for its release this weekend.

- In a move that will confuse foreign viewers, Team Bastista no Eikou, whose characters have already been seen twice in feature films with a different cast, will be getting a one-off special episode (i.e. TV movie).

- Mark Schilling writes about the wave of 1950s nostalgia that’s been sweeping Japanese mainstream culture in recent years.

And not much else today on storm night. Hopefully this will be a daily thing again. See you all tomorrow.

This Post is Not Yet Harmonized

I’d be a liar if I say that my news blog here is as balanced as the news should be. Gathering the news is only one of the reasons why I started this blog, another reason being for me to share my opinion on the news I choose to share.

Yes, I don’t choose to report all the news I see, because some I don’t know well enough to cover, and some I just don’t care. For example, Johnnie To getting a retrospective at Pusan would be relevant for the blog. “Leng Mo” Chrssie Chau going out with her boyfriend or whether TVB star Kevin Cheng will be friends with his Flaming Hearts (trust me, it’s about firefighters) co-stars would not.

So accusing this blog of bias would not be a criticism, but a statement of fact. You can’t fight fact because it’s true.

Fact: Chinese censorship exists.

Fact: Hong Kong filmmakers self-censor or censor each other in order to fit their films for the Chinese market.

Case in point: Alan Mak and Felix Chong said, as quoted in Hong Kong Film Magazine (the new version of City Entertainment), that Overheard was only made after several of their ideas were rejected for not being able to pass Chinese censors. The only reason producer Derek Yee got Overheard made was because corruption is a popular genre in China. So popular that I’ve seen a whole shelf of TV drama DVDs in a Shenzhen legit DVD store under the genre label “Corruption”.

Fact: The Mainland Chinese version of Overheard has several extra scenes that show one character is clearly working with the ICAC. The Hong Kong version keeps the gray-ish morality and ends that way.

Fact: The directors of Lady Cop and Papa Crook had to edit their film three times, as well as do additional reshoots, with the Chinese censorship body finally accepting the fourth version. Even the final Mainland version is reported to have been further “harmonized” from the Hong Kong theatrical version.

Fact: Transformers 2 was “harmonized”

Fact: Lost in Beijing was “harmonized”, then was banned anyway.

Fact: Lust, Caution was “harminized” voluntarily, then was banned, along with its female star, who has now since immigrated to Hong Kong and finally found a follow-up role.

So can anyone really blame me for not being a fan of China’s State Administration of Film and Television? I guarantee you won’t be after you realize its ex-deputy director went off to make this movie:

 

lookjackie.jpg

Compared to this, Rush Hour 3 is an artistic achievement. 

With films like that driving China’s domestic film market (so bad that 74% of the 2450 voters on Chinese entertainment rating site Douban gave it a failing grade) and Transformers 2 becoming the most popular movie EVER there, I’d think an argument that a good co-production film is made in spite of China is a fair one.

Another “in spite of” argument? On Her Majesty Secret Service is lazy and unfunny, in spite being made for a Mainland Chinese audience.

Oh, I’m sorry, that’s a “because of” argument.

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 23rd, 2009 Edition

- Lovehkfilm has been updated with reviews, yay. Boss Kozo has reviews of Wai Ka-Fai’s Written By and Disney’s Trail of the Panda.  Sanjuro has a review of the Ring sequel Rasen. And from yours truly is a review of the Korean-Chinese art film Life Track.

- Japan numbers are out. The crowded market, which included three major wide releases, caused steep drops for all the holdover films. Aside from the 32% drop for Evangelion and the 37% for The Summit (which has now passed the 2 billion yen mark), everything else dropped over 40%, and this include last week’s champion Gokusen and 54% for Transformers II.

Meanwhile, Mr. Texas at the Eiga Consultant blog writes about the opening weekend of Amalfi. With 376 million yen from 357 screens, the opening is 130% of the opening for The Star Reformer, the last Yuji Oda film, and that made 2.08 billion yen. The audience are pretty even across all the age demographics, and the main reasons for audiences were Yuji Oda and the Italian location.

- The South Korean numbers are also out. Harry Potter owned the weekend, as expected, attracting about 1.5 million admissions. I wonder if it’ll have any chance to beat Transformers II, which now has just under 7 million admissions. The evil wild pig movie Chaw opens with about 600,000 admissions. And the tsunami movie Haeundae had preview screenings from 19 screens and managed to make it to 10th place.

- The World Trade Organization has ruled in favor of the US in a dispute between them and China over the Chinese government’s policy of forcing American goods to be sold through Chinese-owned companies. The Chinese has asked for an investigation in US policies against Chinese products.

- Meanwhile, in South Korea, despite brawls breaking out, the Parliament has passed a media reform bill that allows newspapers and large businesses to have ownership stakes in broadcasting stations.

- China continues its fighting fire with paper bag strategy by blocking two sites that reported on a corruption scandal in Namibia involving a Beijing-based company that used to be run by Hu Jintao’s son.

- Actor/Director/Asian thugs ass-kicker Clint Eastwood has won the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government for his contribution towards understanding between the U.S. and Japan.

- As expected, the Japanese drama Negotiator, starring Ryoko Yonekura, is going to the big screen with a 1 billion+ budget after the special 2-hour TV movie scored a 17.1% rating.

- Chinese  company Chengtian has completed its takeover of Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest, turning the company into Orange Sky Golden Harvest. It will produce films and open more theaters in China.

In Japan, Nikkatsu has acquired AMG Entertainment, which specializes in mostly foreign direct-to-video films.

- After Ryuhei Kitamura made his Hollywood debut with Midnight Meat Locker, he’s taking on his second American effort, the film adaptation of the comic character Magdalena.

- Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee has a review of the Japanese film MW.

- Futoshi Abe, the former guitarist of the Japanese band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, has died at 42 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 21st, 2009 Edition

- Taking over 120 screens (out of 190, according to this issue of Hong Kong Film Magazine), Harry Potter took in an amazing HK$23.2 million over its first 5 days at the Hong Kong box office. With one IMAX screen and a HK$10-inflated ticket price, did anyone not expect it to do this well? The good news is that it’s even doing better than Transformers II, because it’s obviously a superior movie.

On the other hand, Murderer didn’t get the historic 2nd week drop I was hoping for and made HK$4.2 million in its second week. With HK$9.4 million in the bank, don’t be surprised if it makes HK$15 million. In that case, I hope those audiences had a good laugh.

The only other thing close to competition against Harry Potter was the documentary KJ, and those nightly showings were sold out weeks ago. Night shows have been added again for a third time at a second theater - quite encouraging for a local documentary.

- And at the Japan box office, the great Harry Potter vs. Pokemon battle happened over the 3-day weekend, with Harry Potter winning soundly over those damn Pocket-sized monsters. Meanwhile, Amalfi, apparently Fuji TV’s most expensive film and now earning a complaint from the Japan Writer’s Guild because of a lack of writer credited for its screenplay (apparently director Nishitani and novelist Shimpo both denied credit because other people also participated in it. Via Ryuganji’s Twitter), debut at 3rd place.  The crowded market pushed a whole lot of films lower down the chart, including Transformers II now down at 9th place.

-  While the Japanese audience had the sense to watch a movie about a gangster high school teacher instead of Transformers, that kind of logic didn’t apply to the Chinese audience, who have decided to make Transformers II their highest-grossing film ever and turning their country into the highest-grossing territory in the world outside the USA.

- After winning the big prize at the Taipei  Film Festival last week, Leon Dai’s No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti won the Grand Prize this week at Japan’s Skip City. Now I regret missing it at the Hong Kong Film Festival.

- In addition to letting former deputy directors make crappy films with Jackie Chan cameos, China’s film agency SARFT is now banning local dialects from historical dramas, portrayals of government leaders, and kids’s shows because they don’t follow the standardize Mandarin policy the government is pushing. This could spell trouble for the super-duper Communist movie coming in September, considering the Communist party’s earlies leaders spoke in heavy local dialects. Then the SARFT can criticize them for not being historically accurate! What to do, what to do…..

- At the Jeonju Fantastic Film Festival, Hollywood execs have agreed on one thing: If you don’t watch our English-language movies, we’ll invade you by making movies in your own language. Juding by Park Chan-Wook’s Thirst, that’s a good thing. Judging by Murderer, that’s a terrible thing.

- And in Jeonju, producers also decided that 3D is the way to go for Asian films. I just briefly watched Andrew Lau’s The Park on TV today, and I’m inclined to disagree with that assessment.

- Koji Yakusho will be leading the ensemble cast in Takashi Miike’s remake of Thirteen Assassins, which has just started shooting.

- The Hong Kong government has decided to turn Bruce Lee’s former Hong Kong home - now a love hotel - into a museum and has launched a design competition for it.

- Before Hur Jin-Ho can even complete his latest film, Japanese distributor Amuse Soft has already snapped up the distribution rights for it. With the star of A Moment to Remember and the success of April Snow, will Hur Jin-Ho score another hit for the Korean wave in Japan?

- After Stephen Chow dropped out, Sony is still moving ahead with The Green Hornet by looking at Nicholas Cage to play the villain. Michel Gondry and Nicholas Cage as the villain? It’s so brilliant it doesn’t even need Stephen Chow!

 
 
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