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Archive for the ‘DVD’ Category

The Golden Rock - June 28th, 2007 Edition

- Michael Bay’s Transformers have started its rampage around the world in South Korea, where it has seen the best advanced ticket sales so far this year. People seem to love it too. One dubious section in the report regarding the spokesperson of distributor CJ Entertainment:

“‘Movies that do well in South Korea tend to do well in other parts of Asia,’ Kim said, attributing the trend in part to the growing popularity of South Korean movies, TV dramas and music across the region.

‘A movie’s popularity in Asia seems to be affected by its popularity in South Korea,’ she said. ‘In that sense, South Korea has emerged as an important movie market in Asia in recent years.’”

Right, that’s why someone wrote this article. And that’s why Japan has been hosting huge Hollywood world premieres all summer, including the Harry Potter premiere just yesterday.

Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter just put up their review today (I don’t know why Variety had their review up so early when there’s an embargo on it until today/tomorrow Asia time), and critic Kirk Honeycutt says right out that it’s an extravaganza rather than overwrought excess. I might actually pay to see a Michael Bay movie….well, matinee price, at the most. I only paid US$4 to see The Island.

For more Hollywood news, we’ll be looking at the opening for Die Hard 4 in North America and Asia tomorrow.

- Lovehkfilm updates with a review of Hong Kong’s first summer hit Simply Actors (which, pardon my pun, simply doesn’t sound that good. It also sound like Chan Hing-Ka’s overloaded hit-or-miss comedic trend continues). There’s also a review for Waiting in the Dark, by Daisuke Tengan (the son/screenwriter for legendary director Shohei Imamura) and starring Taiwanese actor Wilson Chen. There’s also a review for the Korean film A Day for an Affair written by yours truly, and I can confess here that yes, I totally mean that it’s watchable.

- As Lovehkfilm reported, Barbara Wong’s Wonder Women has been chosen as the “official handover anniversary film. It opens next week, and a trailer is on the website. It doesn’t really show much, and it’s not subtitled.

- Keita Motohashi’s Tobo Kusotawake, about two misfits who go off on an aimless adventure, is going to the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in Korea. There’s not even an official website for the film yet, but you can read the director’s blog, who reports the film will open in limited release in October.

- I don’t know what the Macao Studio City will be like, but at least I know it’ll have a Playboy Mansion. That means more places for girls like her to go to (don’t worry, link is work-safe…unless you’re an animals rights activist).

- The only Bollywood film I’ve ever seen is Lagaan, the 4-hour epic about Indian farmers playing crickets to beat their oppressive English landlord, and it’s better than it sounds. Anyway, it’s finally coming in a super-duper special edition DVD, and if you have a few hours to spare, I highly recommend it.

- I always complain about how Japanese entertainment producers are so protective about their work and always work too slow to distribute them. Turns out a government advisory panel agrees with me and wants some of those protective rights pulled for easier distribution of content. I would like to think that what I write here makes a difference, but I know it doesn’t. At least someone finally came out and did something.

- But which government isn’t letting uncut movies in? The Chinese! A blogger writes about a possible reason why some Chinese people end up buying pirated works - to see how Chow Yun-Fat vilifies Chinese people. Note that the link is a translation of the original Chinese entry from last week.

- I think it’s been pretty widely reported that Martin Scorsese is working on adapting the Japanese novel Silence, about the persecution of Catholics in 16th century Japan. Apparently, it’s actually a “remake” of the 1971 film by Masahiro Shinoda, and now the Shinoda film is finally coming to the States soon.

- Jason Gray has more about Shaolin Shojo, the Stephen Chow-approved Japanese spin-off of Shaolin Soccer that will move the action to Lacrosse and have a better-looking protagonist.

- Twitch has some more reviews from the New York Asian Film Festival, including the director’s cut of After This, Our Exile.

The Golden Rock - June 26th, 2007 Edition

- The Japanese box office numbers just came out on Box Office Mojo, except they didn’t provide the exchange rate they used this week, so we’ll just simply have to trust their number. Anyway, Pirates of the Caribbean drops another moderate 23% for a current total of roughly 8.36 billion yen already (and this monster is still making more than 500 million yen a weekend!) , so it should go well past the 10 billion mark Sony couldn’t get Spiderman 3 to hit. More amazingly, the comedy Maiko Haaaan!!! drops only 3.1% from last weekend’s gross to make roughly 738 million yen already and should go past the 1 billion mark pretty easily as well.

Other than Spiderman 3’s slow but consistent drop (only 25% this week, but a weak per-screen average means its pulse is quickly growing weak) and the small 20% drop for Sono Toki Kare Ni Yoroshiku, everything else on the top 10 are dropping at the usual 30-40% rate. Furthermore, this weekend’s double whammy of Shrek 3 and Die Hard 4.0 should give the box office a knock on its ass.

There’s an interesting addition this week on the chart worth mentioning that didn’t show up last week . The dark comedy-suspense-one-set film Kusaragi opened on the weekend on the 15th on only 28 screens and still managed to make 20.4 million yen. While that’s only 49% of the opening for star Oguri Shun’s last film Ghost Train. To be fair, Kusaragi opened only on 30% of the screens Ghost Train opened with, so this opening of 729,000 yen per-screen is pretty impressive. As for its second week, it seemed to have played even stronger with a roughly 839,000 yen per-screen average for 30 screens. I have to admit, a film about 6 guys coming together to mourn the death of their D-grade youth idol does sound pretty interesting, even if it’s from the writer of a commercial heart tugger like Always - Sunset on Third Street.

One movie that did open this past weekend but didn’t show up is Yuko Takeuchi’s return to the big screen with Side Car Ni Inu(more info from Hoga News). What’s the big deal, you might ask? The big deal is (and I’m afraid this involves a bit of geinou gossip) that this is Takeuchi’s first film role since her rather ugly divorce with Kabuki bad boy Shidou Nakamura (which got set off when he got caught drunk-driving with another woman in the car). To add irony into this, she actually plays the mistress of a married man who moves in to the family home one 80s summer.

Anyway, the film actually seems like a lot more innocent than it sounds, and it just opened in a limited release. I look forward to Eiga Consultant’s analysis of it (with a star like Takeuchi, it’s bound to come sooner or later), though some theaters seem to be reporting that it’s not bringing in a lot of audiences. Meanwhile, check out the official site for a trailer (click on 予告編)

- In Korea, the win by horror film Black House in nationwide attendance marks the first time a Korean film has taken the top spot at the box office in eight weeks.

- The hit drama of the Spring season Proposal Daisakusen (Operation Love) wrapped up its run Monday night Japan time, and it managed to score a season-high 20.9 rating (roughly 13.56 million viewers), effectively saving the season from total embarrassment. It’s also by far the winner of the season with a season average of 17.3 (roughly 11.23 million).

- Nielsen EDI, a firm that tracks box office and TV ratings, is expanding their box office tracking service to South Korea and Japan. Too bad a little blog like mine won’t benefit from it.

- The Tribeca Festival, started after the 2001 World Trade Center attack to revive New York, is bringing a mini-version to Beijing?! So, will it be more overpriced movie tickets and glamourous superstars, or will there actually be quality movies shown there?

- Yoji Yamada’s Love and Honor was released on DVD with English subtitles earlier this month in Japan. Now the people who didn’t want to shell out 3000 yen for it can get the Hong Kong edition in a few days.

- The Bangkok International Film Festival was forced to drop the Cannes jury award winner Persepolis as its opening film after the Iranian government called to complain. The animated film is directed by Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian living in France, and the film is an autobiographical work based on her childhood in Tehran. Another ugly example of politics unreasonably intervening in art.

- As I was browsing around the Tokyo movie theater websites, I found the new films by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, who made Trick the Movie, Memories of Tomorrow, AND Sairen in 2006. This year he’s off making three more with the already-released Taitei No Ken, Hotai Club (with Yuya Yagira), and Jigyaku no Uta (starring Hiroshi Abe and Miki Nakatani). Click on トレーラ to see the trailers in their respective official sites.

Anyway, this goes to show that Japanese directors work surprisingly hard, mostly regardless of the reaction to their work. Tsutsumi is not the only one that has made three films in a year: Isshin Inudou saw three films released in 2005, Takeshi Miike often see 3-4 releases each year, and Isao Yukisada even follows up the biggest blockbuster of the year in summer 2004 with a huge historical blockbuster in time for New Years 2005. Of course, the film industry has to be healthy enough to enable these filmmakers to make so many films, which would explain why people are so impressed that Johnnie To can work on so many films at once.

- This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, and Vancouver, which has been named mini-Hong Kong by some, is holding a small film series as a part of the Vancouver International Film Festival to celebrate it. For some reason, they managed to pick both the Election films by Johnnie To to be part of the screening. Considering those films are known to be allegories for the relationship between mainland China and Hong Kong, it’s like showing Wag the Dog to celebrate Independence Day in the United States.

- In Hong Kong, one pop culture way to celebrate the handover anniversary is getting a bunch of pop stars together and sing a song! “Have You After All” features Andy Lau, Alan Tam, Hacken Lee, Eason Chan, Joey Yong, Leo Ku and even some Chinese opera singers pretty much praising how great Hong Kong has been in the last ten years. Especially cringe-inducing in its ass-kissing is the line about “Lion Rock connecting with the Great Wall/It can be felt in the veins” and the random Mandarin lines towards the end.

Then some Hong Kong netizens come along and make a spoof of the song (a version with English lyrics here), not only writing satirical lyrics to lampoon the Hong Kong government with a pro-democracy slant, but also finding buddies to imitate the singers in the original song (especially spot-on are the Alan Tam and Chinese opera singer impressions). The best part is that the spoof got 10 times more viewers than the original song on Youtube.

It has become such a pop culture phenomenon that a RTHK program (RTHK is the government-run radio station with television production as well) would use the spoof as a way to mock the government (At one point, the host says everyone should get a “Don’t Speak Taboo face mask” and a “Don’t Hear Taboo ear plug”) and the Chief Executive. Of course, there’s also the anti-democracy spoof of the spoof, which just goes to show how much freedom of speech people still have in Hong Kong.

(Thanks to EastSouthWestNorth for the idea)

- Lastly, Christina Aguilera says that she has been reading scripts to find the right role for her acting debut. I hope she never finds that script.

The Golden Rock - June 23rd, 2007 Edition

- Hate to say it, South Korea, but your Korean Wave in Japan has pretty much ended, no matter how much you might deny it.

- Then again, looks like Rain (the Korean superstar, not the Beatles Cover Band from Nevada) will just continue invading North America after the lawsuit against his use of the name was dropped by a judge. Dance on, Rain. Dance on.

- This year’s buzz words in the movie industry seem to be threequels and international co-production. A bunch of producers, government film officials, fund managers, and lawyers put together a panel at the Shanghai Film Festival to pretty much preach about the importance of international co-productions. Just no more big martial arts epics, please.

- It didn’t happen at the festival, but Singaporean media agencies signed a co-production agreement with Japanese media producers, officially marking yet another Panasian co-production deals. zzzzzzzz………..

- Me: “Hey, Japan Times!”
Japan Times: “Hey, Golden Rock!”
Me: “What reviews do you have for us this weekend?”
Japan Times: “We have a review of the Cannes Grand Prix winner The Mourning Forest, which is playing only in one theater in Tokyo right now.”
Me: “Thanks, Japan Times!”

- Twitch has more on Love My Life, which seems to be the Japanese version of the lesbian film Spider Lilies. No, I don’t think it’s a remake, I just like to group all my lesbian films together.

- Earlier this week I wrote about the May-December romance Last Love flopping at Japanese box office. Daily Yomiuri tells you what’s so special about the film and its aging star.

- The website for the John Woo-produced gangster film Blood Brothers has a second trailer up, and Twitch is oh so bloody excited about it! It does look nice, but I could hardly get myself all that excited about anything other than Sun Honglei’s role as the villain.

- This is in no way confirmed, but Amazon seems to be listing a DVD called Kill Bill - The Whole Bloody Affair on their site for release on November 6th, If this holds up, this might be the singular uncut version of Kill Bill that Quentin Tarantino said he was putting together for DVD a long time ago. I still won’t be selling my Japanese DVD of Kill Bill 1 though, especially if Tarantino doesn’t restore the fight scene with color.

- American distributor ADV has picked up the well-received Japanese animated film 5cms per second. Now you downloaders have no excuse to download it anymore; they’re even going to give it a theatrical run, for crying out loud.

- The Chinese state-run broadcasting authority stopped two television stations from playing any commercials after they continued to run banned ads for some shady weight loss products despite being warned. I can’t argue whether it’s right for them to do it or not because I hate both the broadcasting authority and medical informercials, but the authorities certainly did their jobs by warning against bribing censors. Those censors could at least do what they were bribed to do, for crying out loud.

That’s it today, or I’ll run out of news by tomorrow.

The Golden Rock - June 22nd, 2007 Edition

Just checked out Steven Soderbergh’s latest attempt to emulate the good old days, better known as Ocean’s Thirteen. This second sequel to the original (itself a remake) takes the series back to its American stylistic roots after he veered into French New Wave territory with the last film. I always have fun watching Soderbergh’s mainstream (note mainstream) works because he would so blatantly recall a classic cinematic style as homage that it’s always a film student’s joy watching them (French New Wave? Check. 40s Warner Bros. black and white? Check. 60s Rat Pack romp? Check). This time, it’s the breezy 50s color comedies mixed with the best of 70s commercial filmmaking.

I honestly don’t remember enjoying Ocean’s Eleven much (I remember kind of liking it while watching it, but never really seeing a reason to go back to it ever), and I might’ve been the only person who had a load of fun with Ocean’s Twelve (exactly because of the tongue-in-cheek European film style, though the breakdancing thing was a bit much). With that said, I had a blast again with Ocean’s Thirteen, though this time they really up the disbelief ante. I can buy that the plan ends up going completely different than the plan they had spend the first two acts discussing, I can buy they can manage all that gadgetry, but I had a bit of trouble buying the earthquake bit. But who cares about logic when Soderbergh is upping the visual flair again with his “I so miss the 70s” camerawork and the oozing star chemistry throughout? It’s Al Pacino! It’s Brad Pitt! It’s George Clooney! It’s Matt Damon…..seducing Ellen Barkin! I don’t think I have to mention anymore. Unlike Pirates of the Caribbean (the only other huge third-movie I’ve seen this year), this series knows what breezy Hollywood entertainment ought to be, and it ends up delivering more by being less serious.

- It’s time for those Thursday Hong Kong opening day numbers. Today, we have three movies breaking into the market - Milkyway Production’s Eye in the Sky, directed by screenwriter Yau Nai-Hoi, David Fincher’s Zodiac, and the surprise American hit comedy Wild Hogs. Eye in the Sky didn’t do very well during 5 nights of previews this past weekend, and only made HK$230,000 on 28 screens on its official first day. Up to now, Eye in the Sky has made HK$570,000. As an adult-oriented and male-oriented thriller, business might pick up during the weekend, but I don’t see this making more than HK$2 million. Meanwhile, Zodiac picks up only HK$110,000 on 11 screens, even with its inflated ticket price (140 minutes and more=inflated ticket price), and Wild Hogs breaks down on arrival with only HK$40,000 on 7 screens.

Meanwhile, Fantasy Four is looking to lead the weekend again with HK$590,000 on 50 screens on Thursday, bringing its 8-day total to HK$12.37 million (theaterowners happy, HK film producers not so happy). The summer’s first HK film hit Simply Actors, starring Jim Chim and Charlene Choi, expands by two screens and makes HK$450,000 on 31 screens for a 3-day total of HK$2.2 million. It won’t hit the $1 million mark on daily box office this weekend, but I expect it to hit the $5 million mark after Sunday. Theaterowners are already giving up on Mr. Cinema and Kidnap, as they are still on 20-something screens, but only playing one to three shows a day. On Thursday, they made HK$150,000 and HK$50,000 for totals of HK$2.06 million and HK$1.73 million, respectively. Oh, and Norbit made another HK$30,000 on 9 screens for a 15-day total of HK$2.34 million.


- Why did I mention Norbit? Because Eiga Consultant reports that it just went straight-to-DVD in Japan! Eddie Murphy comedies have always done badly in Japan, with 4 of his last 6 films (the other 2 being The Haunted Mansion and Dreamgirls) making less than 300 million yen (that’s less than US$3 million). Its title in Japanese? Mad Fat Wife (Maddo Fatto Wifu). No kidding.

- Technically, the Daily Yomiuri just scored the first official major review of Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0 in Japan, a title I like a lot more) since it’s the first place in the world to show it. Reviewer Julian Satterthwaite says that it’s highly entertaining, but also grows increasingly ridiculous as it rolls along. It actually officially opens next Saturday, but has a full day of previews today in a ton of theaters.

If you can’t wait until next week to go watch it (and there are less of you out there than I think, as it’s not tracking very spectacularly in the United States, probably due to its PG-13 rating. Explanation: the first three films have been rated-R, suggesting the 4th film has been watered down in violence and foul language), Twitch has a link to 8 minutes of it.

- Variety, on the other hand, has one of the first reviews of Michael Bay’s Transformers. Big bad robots, lots of explosions, and unnecessary human subplots. Sounds like a blockbuster sci-fi movie to me.

- The entertainment industry doesn’t just like to bully people in America for piracy, they like to bully the rest of the world too. A court in China has ruled for a U.S. industry group in a lawsuit, ordering a Chinese firm to pay 4 major U.S. studios for copyright violation. Looks like it’ll be a long time before Hollywood knows what “if you can’t beat them, join them” means, especially that they know this ruling doesn’t really do much to stop things.

- David Strathairn, a great character actor who’s done some great work (especially in George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck), has just been casted in the Hollywood remake of the Korean horror film A Tale of Two Sisters. I’m slightly looking more forward to it now. It starts shooting next month.

- Looks like Erika Sawajiri is heading to a recording career after all, as I just found her first music video under the name “Erika” on Youtube today. With that weak vocal and generic melody, it’s not really Song of the Day material (then again, you can argue against a ton of choice I’ve made…).

- The silly box office battle between Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is coming to an end, as a definite winner is pretty much set.

- Andrew Lau has hooked up with the Weinsteins to produce three films under his new production company. Lau and Weinstein - now that’s a formula for crappy commercial films. Honestly, I can’t ever get excited about neither Lau or Weinstein’s Asian stuff, so just go to the link to read more.

The Golden Rock - June 19th, 2007 Edition

We’re surprisingly busy here for the rest of the week, but we gotta get through all this news anyway, so let’s do it quickly:

- Japanese box office numbers are out at a much higher exchange rate than last week (US$1=123.495 yen this week vs 121.775 yen last week), which means they seem to be earning less in American dollars in addition to the drop. I really wish they’d just stick to a consistent rate to show the true week-to-week drop each week.

Anyway, except for Pirates of the Caribbean and Apocalypto (which saw a screen increase), looks like almost all the films took a pretty big hit, with 300 leading the way by losing 56% of its audience. That almost never happens in the top 10 in Japan.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Maiko Haaaan!!! opened pretty big at second place with 230 million yen. However, Eiga Consultant gets it straight and points out that it actually only opened at 76% of writer Kenkuro Kudo’s last film Kisarazu Cat’s Eye World Series (which ended up with an 1.8 billion yen total) and 80% of Kou Shibasaki’s last comedy Star Reformer (2 billion yen total). Mr. Texas also points out that this year seems to lack the huge hits such as Umizaru 2, Suite Dreams, and even Star Reformer. In fact, the highest-grossing Japanese film this year, Dororo, only grossed less than half of Umizaru’s final gross. Is the Hoga resurrection that short-lived?

Meanwhile, the May-September romance Last Love, starring Masakazu Tamura and Misaki Ito, opened pretty weakly at 8th place with only 45 million yen. That’s only 29% of Love Never to End, another drama that aimed at an older crowd, though the latter film did have the sex scenes to bring in more of the older crowd.

- Jason Gray got it first, as he reported that Tsukamoto Shinya’s Nightmare Detective is headed for a sequel less than half a year after the first film was released. Less than a day later, Ryuganji has plenty of expanded information about what the sequel will be like. According to the website, the DVD of the first film will be out this weekend. Did anyone know how well this film did? I don’t even remember it ever hitting the top 10.

This was a clothing store in Harajuku that happened to also be promoting the film at its storefront, January 2007.

- The Melody Awards was handed out in Taiwan recently. Nicky Lee and Jolin Tsai, both pop stars that I don’t particular care for, picked up best male and female awards, respectively. And David Tao, who delivered a fairly underwhelming album last year, still managed to pick up an award for best duet.

- There are some creative ways to meet your favorite celebrity, this is not one of them.

- Under “most surprising news” today, a sequel to the mega Korean blockbuster The Host is now in pre-production. I know monster flicks are prone to sequels, but there’s almost no way this is going to top the original.

- A Chinese documentary about a school class election picked up the top feature award at the AFI/Discovery Channel Docufest. Good for them.

- The website for Feng Xiaogeng’s latest film The Assembly, which seems to be next year’s big Chinese New Year film in China, just uploaded a trailer. It looks technically accomplished, but it still seems pretty derivative to me.

- Twitch also has a trailer for the Korean film May 18th, about the Kwangju uprising. It looks pretty intense, considering its director made Mokpo, Gangster’s Paradise. But there’s something about that overdramatic music towards the end…

- With the latest chapter of the China-vs-Japan-history saga taking a turn for the worse, it’s good to see some people still acting pretty sane. Toho/UniJapan and China film are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for cinematic cooperation. What does that mean? It means China and Japan are now one step closer to collaboration on film, strengthening the role of Asian films around the world, politics be damned.

- Unlike Hong Kong, Shanghai’s ongoing film market is currently still only seen as a work-in-progress.

- After teaching Hong Kong a lesson, Hollywood went up to Shanghai and taught the Chinese film industry how to emulate Hollywood too.

- The Dragon Dynasty two-disc DVD for John Woo’s Hard Boiled is up for pre-order. I’m very happy with my Mei-Ah remastered DVD (which I guess isn’t the best in the market), so unless it has some mind-blowing feature, I’m skipping it. Still, if you haven’t seen this amazing action flick, this is probably the chance to see it.

- Lastly, looks like they’re trying to really give the newly reset James Bond franchise some class by signing up Monster’s Ball director Marc Forster to direct the next film. The last time they tried that with Michael Apted ended up with The World is Not Enough. Might not be such a good idea.

The Golden Rock - June 10th, 2007 Edition

- Two NHK mini-dramas were recently announced, but the reason we care here is because one of them is a milestone of sorts. The six-episode drama Shanghai Typhoon will be the first NHK drama to have a non-Japanese lead with Taiwanese star Peter Ho. Apparently, he will plays a Chinese exchange student in Japan that will be a romantic interest for the female lead, played by Tae Kimura. According to Ming Pao, it’ll play at the very time slot that the hit Korean drama Winter Sonata played in 3 years ago, and Ho said like Winter Sonata star Bae Yong-Joon brought on the Korean Wave, he hopes to bring in the Chinese Wave. I doubt it, but go for it, Peter.

- The winners of the 44th Grand Bell Awards have been announced (didn’t I just write about the nominees last week?). Family Ties picked up best picture, while The Host still managed to grab best director. My favorite win of the whole award, though, is Ryu Deok-Hwan’s best newcomer award for Like a Virgin. It’s most definitely well-deserved!

- Lovehkfilm has a couple of new reviews, including one for the Hong Kong romantic comedy Single Blog, the “where the hell did that come from” Chinese film Sweet Revenge, and the delightful Japanese girl power music film Linda Linda Linda.

- Speaking of Linda Linda Linda, the songs the girls cover are by the Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts. Two of its members - vocalist Hiroto Komoto and guitarist Masatoshi Mashima - actually went on to form The High-Lows, and since last year, they have been playing as the Cro-Magnons. So even though the Blue Hearts have been broken up for 12 years now, their spirit is still very much alive. Anyway, the Cro-Magnons will be doing their first movie theme for the film Waruboro, though it’s not clear if The High-Low or The Blue Hearts have done any movie themes before.

- Twitch offers us another review of the over-the-top Singaporean horror comedy Men in White, and the conclusion is pretty much the same as last time.

- The Fujimoto prize, which recognizes producers and directors, was recently given in Japan. TBS has now officially shown their strength over Fuji Television as its producers picked up an award for their ten films last year, including the hit films Tears For You and The Sinking of Japan.

- The restructuring Bangkok International Film Festival has announced a preliminary lineup for its competition, which includes the Chinese film Lost in Beijing and two Thai films as well, one of which is Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s latest Ploy.

- The region 1 DVD of Hot Fuzz is coming July 31st!

- It’s getting more and more dangerous to be an otaku these days in Japan, as crimes in Akihabara has gone on the rise after extensive construction to change the face of the electronic town has brought out more otakus than ever. Of course, it seems like another concern would be whether these otakus would do their part to stop crime (that’s two links there at the end).

- The latest trailer for Ping Pong director Fumihiko Sori’s Vexville is up, and it still looks very technically impressive. I might even be tempted into checking this one out.

- As random as it sounds, Korea Pop Wars has some random notes, including the poor start for the hyped historical epic Hwang Jin-Yi. We’ll find out more about Hwang’s weekend in the next few days.

- Jason Gray reports that Japanese director Sabu’s (whose Dead Run I sort of liked) first foreign language film Arrested Memories, which Gray did the English translation for, has been green-lit.

The Golden Rock - June 2nd, 2007 Edition

- Youtube/Google and record company EMI have struck a deal to place video contents on Youtube legally. Artists under the EMI label include Coldplay and David Bowie (wait, does David Bowie even make music anymore?). Universal music also has a similar deal in place with Youtube. Too bad only North American music labels have deals so far, everything else is just getting their copyrights violated.

- Meanwhile, Asian music is seeing a huge market at making their products available for mobile users, and for a very good reason. In fact, a survey says most people expect music to only be available digitally in the next few years….as long as these music will be provided in uncompressed 1400k wav files (OK, I added that last part myself).

- This weekend, two films by two major comedians in Japan opened. First, there’s Takeshi Kitano’s latest “Kantoku Banzai” (”Long Live the Director!”), which is supposed to be quite strange and alienating like Takeshis’. There’s also “Dai Nipponjin,” the directorial debut of famous comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto (he’s the bald guy that does those batsu games). There were rumors that the films are opening on the same day to allow some cross-promotion, since the two comedians seem to cross paths on TV quite often. I can’t seem to find any articles about it (though I remember I read something about that), but if you need any proof that there’s any of that happening, just look at the following clip of Hitoshi Matsumoto on the comedy show “Waratte Itomo,” where he not only talks about his Cannes experience, but also have a crew member hang posters of his own film AND Kantoku Banzai in the back. Damn it, I want both of those posters.

I also predicted that there might be some kind of box office battle this weekend between these two films. I was wrong, they’re both fairly small releases (maybe just under 100 screens?), so Pirates will probably win the weekend again.

- I wrote about the so-so box office of last weekend’s opener Shaberedomo Shaberedomo before. Turns out it’s not doing quite well. The film, a drama about Japanese stand-up comedy (except they sit down, which….I guess makes it sit-down comedy in Japan terms), stars Johnny’s Entertainment-managed group Tokio member Taichi Kokubun and is actually doing worse than films featuring other Johnny’s talents. For instance, compared to those films that opened on less than 250 screens, Shaberedomo’s 39.7 million yen opening is only 66% of Sakurai Sho’s Honey and Clover’s opening, though it did open 143% of the opening for “Nezu no Ban” (A Hardest Night), another film about Japanese comedians. In addition, its “main theater” in Ginza reported full houses all weekend. Perhaps word-of-mouth (partly from positive reviews) will give it legs at the box office.

- Japan Times also rips the ridiculous Hollywood blockbuster 300 a new one this weekend.

- I know Ryu Seung-Wan (City of Violence, Arahan, Crying Fist) is a favorite among Asian action film fans out there. After exploring contemporary films, now he’s kind of moving on to period films….except said period film will have zombies in it too.

- Joost is supposed to be the high-quality alternative to Youtube, plus legal content. I have it, but it doesn’t have much to keep me tuned in. This isn’t going to help me keep tuning in, but I think this might encourage some other people to try it. However, Joost is currently invitation-only. Still, just google “Joost invite” and you can find one easily.

- People in the UK are now lucky enough to pre-order the excellent German film The Lives on Others on DVD. I know it’s not Asian, but I like the movie.

- A few weeks ago I put up the link to a teaser for Takeshi Miike’s high school brawl film Crows Zero. Apparently, the film won’t be an all-out boys fest; it will now have approximately one female character in it. Jeez, now I’m just making the movie sound like a prison sentence with periodical conjugal visits.

- Korea Pop Wars has an amusing story about how a win in the art world is overshadowing big bad Hollywood advertising. That’s right, Shrek, you just got your big promotional plan beat down by the French.

- Canada, sit tight. You guys are getting the Election movies in theaters starting yesterday! Just don’t bring a video camera to the theater anymore. Too bad I’ll be missing the August 17th opening of Exiled on the big screen in the United States (I’ll be in Hong Kong already by then).

- Speaking of which, forget about uploading TV shows; don’t even think of trying to spread them, especially episodes of 24.

- Lastly, there are more information about Tsui Hark’s latest film Missing, which somehow has something to do with a sunken wedding ring and an underwater city.

That’s it for today, we’ll wrap up the weekend tomorrow.

Differing opinions

As the Cannes Film Festival gets its gears rolling, the fallout from the chilly reception of opening film My Blueberry Nights continues.

Well, perhaps not so much fallout. I’ll leave to the Hollywood Reporter to talk about that.

Premieres of works by major Asian directors continue, as the Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To collaboration “serial film” Triangle and Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Flight of the Red Balloon both received their premieres out of competition, with reviews coming in already.

Variety kind of likes Triangle, noting that “Lam and To come off most successfully, while Tsui’s material seems unnecessarily complex and fussy.” Sounds like typical Tsui Hark stuff to me.

Hollywood Reporter pretty much hated it, calling it “an inedible mess where ingredients war with one another and no one has paid any attention to the poor fellow who must consume the meal.”

As for Hou’s “Flight of the Red Balloon,” I swear that I saw a Hollywood Reporter pan on it earlier in the morning that’s no longer on the site. On the other hand, Variety sees it as business as usual for Hou, whose penchant for medium long takes has divided audiences for years.

- With Lee Chang-Dong’s latest Secret Sunshine in competition at Cannes, the Korean Film Council has published an English book on the director, which is free for download on their website.

On to other news:

- The Korean film wave is slowly on its death rattle in Japan, so now they’re trying to incorporate Japanese elements. Such is the cast with the film “Virgin Snow,” which stars Korean actor Lee Jun-Gi and Japanese actress Aoi Miyazaki. According to Eiga Consultant, the film opened with 30.2 million yen, which is good enough for a 9th place at the rankings. That’s only 26% of Miyazaki’s previous film “Tada Kimi Wo Aishitteru” and 95% of The King and the Clown’s opening in Japan. However, Box Office Mojo’s ranking shows that it opened on 9 screens….with only $25,352, which is only 3.04 million yen. Did the Mojo leave a zero out, or did Eiga Consultant added a zero in? I myself trust the rankings from Japan.

- Variety finally catches on with how Japan uses classy ads to attract audiences into small arthouse films. The key: appeal to young hip Tokyo girls.

It’s that kind of thinking that managed to create such a kick-ass poster for Election, although I doubt that it’ll appeal to any girls. That’s my carpet in the background, by the way.

- I don’t usually try to plug Yesasia directly, though they’re great enough to actually put up what I write. This is really more of a plug for the Sakuran DVD, which is coming out on August 3rd with English subtitles.

- Under “shitty movie wannabe” today, we finally have the trailer for Jet Li’s latest “War,” originally named “Rogue.” As much as I like Jason Statham AND Jet Li together again after “The One” (Oy vey….), I agree with Twitch: it looks pretty shitty.

- I still haven’t seen Dennis Law’s Fatal Contact yet, thanks to the traumatic experiences that were Marriage with a Fool and Love @ First Note. Anyway, the Weinsteins have just bought the North American rights to it, and since the title is so derivative already, I don’t think they even have to rename it.

- Remember a few months ago when everyone expected the worst when Edison Chen was meeting with Stephen Chow on a collaboration project? Turns out that project is actually Stephen Fung’s latest film about dancing. Edison Chen is starring, in a role where he can probably just play the spoiled hip-hop boy he is in real life, and Chow is probably producing. Just read the original Chinese report that mentions it.

- I was going to write a review of Matsuo Suzuki’s Otakus in Love (Koi No Mon) a few years ago, but I found it so crazy and overloaded with excess silliness that I didn’t know how to quite approach it. It was simply too much of what it had for its own good. Anyway, Suzuki’s latest Welcome to the Quiet Room (which seems to be based on his own novel) has a teaser on its website.

- Sony may be (barely) making big bucks with Spiderman 3, but its Playstation 3 is sinking the company fast. Because of the Playstation 3 (which I still believe is being released way too ahead of its time), Sony is now operating at a US$573 million loss. I’ll buy one eventually, I’m sure, but I just don’t see it happening this decade.

- Breathe slowly. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino had just signed on to a film where they’ll spend 90-95% of their screen time together. I don’t even care if the movie’s going to be crappy, or that the two have been making crappy movies (De Niro WAY moreso than Pacino), it’s finally happening, baby.

- Chen Kaige is going back to the well that brought him international fame. Somewhat reminiscent of Farewell My Concubine, Chen’s latest film is the biopic Mei Lan-fang, about the famous Peking Opera singer of the same name. Good news: The film will cost half of what The Promise cost. Bad news: Leon Lai is in the starring role.

- China is beginning to soften their stance against bloggers, stopping their campaign for mandatory registration of real names for all Chinese bloggers. Instead, they’ll just “encourage” blogging companies to do so. Blogger doesn’t have my real name, does it…..?

Nippon Friday

Before I get into the Japan news, let’s get into some Hong Kong box office business first -

- A total of five films opened in Hong Kong on Thursday opening day, and that would naturally take away quite a few screens from Spiderman 3. Losing about 40 screens, Spidey still made HK$1.12 million on 81 screens for a 10-day total of HK$34.71 million. Expect another fairly big weekend (maybe 2-3 million per day?) and smooth sailing for the $50 million record mark until those pirates come along.

The biggest opening this week is the sequel 28 Weeks Later. On 27 screens, the zombie horror film made $300,000, and may do OK for the weekend with about HK$500,000 per day. The Japanese blockbuster Umizaru: Limit of Love (which made an astonishing US$60 million-plus box office take last year, despite the ratings for the drama and the original film’s gross not all that spectacular.), which is playing in Hong Kong right after the end of the drama’s run on TV, made only HK$120,000 on 14 screens. Expect TV fans either having already downloaded this or just waiting to catch this on home video instead. Fracture also opened on 15 screens with only $100,000 on opening day, Priceless, starring Audrey Tautou and just opened last month here in the United States, made HK$60,000 on 7 screens, and the Singaporean blockbuster “Just Follow the Law” crashes and burn with just HK$10,000 on 7 screens.

Lastly, Herman Yau’s Gong Tau, which has a strange release date of Tuesday the 15th (I think it might be a Chinese thing), did OK with its advance midnight shows. On 15 screens, it made only HK$50,000, which is decent, considering it’s only one show on a weeknight. There will be more midnight shows through the weekend, which might help earn some buzz that it desperately needs.

- A Japanese streaming video site has the teaser for Hitoshi Matsumoto’s “Dai Nipponjin,” which just joined the Director’s Fortnight lineup at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s OK, I have no idea what the hell was going on in that teaser either.

- The previously-mentioned “King of Foreign Otaku” contest was on TV in Japan two nights ago, and Japan Probe has a report on it with short clips (the link he provides to the contest on Youtube is already gone. Well-played, TV Tokyo). And the winner is from Hong Kong! Represent!

Wait. Upon closer inspection, the guy’s name is Cheng Ga Fai….isn’t that the former radio host who specializes in Japanese pop culture?! I actually have one of his Tokyo guidebooks. Crazy…

- Kiroi Namida, starring boy band Arashi, opened April 14th at just one theater in Tokyo. After its expansion on April 28th to 31 screens nationwide (considering this is starring a fairly popular pop group, why not open it wider?). Eiga Consultant reports that it has since recorded over 107,000 viewers after 4 weeks (that’s a good thing), and that it’s pretty much attracting everyone from their 20s to their 60s (thanks to Arashi, director Isshin Inudou, and the writers of both the screenplay and the original novel.). The trailer actually looks pretty good, proving that boy bands in Japan don’t necessarily always make bad movies.

- Sakuran is coming to DVD on August 3rd, and this time, it has English subtitles! As much as I am looking forward to this one, too bad I won’t be able to afford it.

- This took a while. The Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization in Japan (did anyone actually know this existed?) formed a new Broadcasting Ethics Verification Committee that will investigate false information on factual TV programs. Call me a cynic, but I predict bureaucracy and politics to get in the way of getting any actual work done on this committee.

- Do they really need to do this? The head of the Motion Pictures Association John G. Malcolm is going all the way to Japan to encourage crackdowns on piracy and to congratulate Osaka police for taking down groups that produce and sell pirated films in the region. Of course, what Malcolm doesn’t know is that he’s thanking the worst police force in the country.

- With at least four Chinese films and one Japanese documentary being made about the Nanjing Massacre, a Japanese government official is saying to make sure the facts are “not distorted.” What part does he not want distorted, he didn’t specify, but I have a feeling it might the part that has something to do with Japanese soldiers killing Chinese people.

That’s it for today. More tomorrow, including Japan Times reviews.

Everybody’s a critic

I usually start with Japan box office on Tuesdays, but since Box Office Mojo was quick in getting the rankings up yesterday, and I honestly don’t want to write about how huge Spiderman 3 is anymore. So, I’ll start with a bit of self-promotion today.

The 5 reviews I wrote for Yesasia are now up, and they’re as follows:

Stephanie Sun - Against the Light
Mika Nakashima - Yes
The Legend of Eight Samurais
Sugar and Spice ~ Fumi Zekka
Hula Girl

- Speaking of reviews, I forgot to mention Japan Times’ reviews for last weekend. There wasn’t really anything notable, except the Japanese film Ahiru to Kamo No Coin Locker, which is getting a limited release in Sendai and Miyagi this weekend.

- Under more reviews, Lovehkfilm also has a review for the Francis Ng/Marco Mak-directed Hong Kong flop Dancing Lion, which collapsed under the weight of Love is Not All Around (shudder) and Spiderman 3 (shit, I mentioned it again).

- We’re not done with reviews yet - Twitch also has an advanced review of 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to Danny Boyle’s 28 Weeks Later, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

- The controversial Summer Palace by Suzhou River’s Lou Ye, which was banned by the Chinese government, just picked up the Golden Durian award at the Barcelona Asian Film Festival. Er..I hope they know that a Durian may be the foulest-smelling fruit in existence (it’s also very delicious, but it stinks very much). Hey, next year, they’re focusing on Hong Kong films. Good for them.

- That was fast. According to Green Cine, some bloggers and columnists alike are already starting to compile best of 2007 lists when we’re not even halfway through the year yet. That London Times list is just unnecessary, in my opinion.

- Twitch has a full trailer for the new Singapore comedy “Men In White,” which looks like it tried a little too hard to be funny. The concept seems interesting though - five ghosts that can’t seem to scare anybody.

- Casual Hong Kong film buffs and some fans like me may be lamenting the Mainland Chinese influence into Hong Kong films, including increasing usage of Mandarin, but what some don’t know is that Hong Kong films were once only in Mandarin. I didn’t read through the entire thing, but here’s a detailed review of 1950s Hong Kong Mandarin cinema.

- On the other hand, digital cinema now has such a huge presence in world cinema that Seoul is launching a digital media-only Asian film festival in July. This might be interesting in the long run.

- The first Finnish martial arts period film Jade Warriors is coming to DVD with English subtitles. I myself am not really interested in this, but I’m sure a lot of you out there dig it. Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen