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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

The Golden Rock - January 22nd, 2008 Edition

- No Japanese box office numbers yet, but we now know that Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd made a killing (ha ha!) at the box office, making 398 million yen from 400 screens on its opening weekend. Warner Bros. expects the film to make about 3 billion yen, nearly matching the film’s box office gross in the US.

- Sadly, the horror-musical didn’t do nearly as well in South Korea, where it opened at third place with 1.84 billion won from 321 screens, way behind the two Korean films that topped the box office for the second weekend in a row.

- Tired of Japanese dramas adapted from comic books? Too bad, because you’re getting two more of them.

- You learn something new on the internet everyday: did you know that the American sitcom Growing Pains was such a huge hit in China that its star is still very popular there? Popular enough to have investors fund a movie that will be released nationwide where he plays a white Chinese-speaking ballet dancer who falls in love with a Chinese ballerina.

- Turns out Atonement will not be the first film released in China at the end of the Hollywood blackout. Instead, the family film The Water Horse will beat it to the punch by opening a week earlier on February 16th.

- Under “let’s make up a story out of tragedy for ratings” news today, Fuji Television will bring to the small screen a documentary drama about a heroic policeman who died while saving a woman who was trying to commit suicide at the train tracks.

- How the hell does Grady Hendrix find stuff like North Korean electronic keyboard-driven propaganda music?

- Kazumasa Oda beats yet another record, as his compilation album Jikou Best has now spent 300 consecutive weeks on the Oricon charts and counting.

- In yet another high profile competition titles at the Berlin Film Festival, Hong Sang-Soo’s latest Night and Day will be heading to the competition. It will also run 2 hours and 24 minutes, which is an eternity in Hang Sang-Soo pacing.

-  Kaiju Shakedown introduces you to another type of underground director in China: One that makes films about Christianity.

The Golden Rock - January 21st, 2008 Edition

- It’s Japanese drama ratings time! The first full week of the winter 2008 season is over, and the Shingo Katori-Yuko Takeuchi drama Bara No Nai Hanaya leads the pack with a 22.4% rating for its premiere episode. Not far behind is fellow Smap member Goro Inagaki and Koyuki’s starrer Sasaki Fusai No Jingi Naki Tatakai (Jason Gray writes about it here) with its premiere episode scoring a 17.3 rating last night. Binboman, starring Shun Oguri, also did pretty well in its first episode with a 16.5% rating.

Meanwhile, several dramas saw a rise in ratings after their premiere episode. Saito-san, which the Daily Yomiuri’s Teleview column wrote about last weekend, saw its second episode score a 17.4% rating, up from the 15.3% for its first episode. The Kenkuro Kudo-penned drama Mirai Koushi Meguru saw its second episode go up to a 10.6%, up from the 9.0% for its premiere episode.

However, other dramas took the usual fall. Last week’s big premiere The Negotiator dropped from the 16.7% for its first episode to a 13.8% for this past week, the boxing drama One-Pound Gospel dropped from 13.0% to 11.4%, and the manga adaptation Honey and Clover drops to 10% from its 12.9%-rated premiere.

All Winter 2008 drama information from Tokyograph

- The Hong Kong Film Critics Society has announced their 2007 awards, and they are not as nutty this year:

Best Picture: The Postmodern Life of My Aunt
Best Director: Ann Hui - The Postmodern Life of My Aunt
Best Screenplay: Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee - Mad Detective
Best Actor: Tony Leung Ka-Fai - Eye in the Sky
Best Actress: Siqin Gaowa - The Postmodern Life of My Aunt
Recommended films (only 8 this year, as opposed to 10): Eye in the Sky, The Warlords, Whispers and Moans, Hooked On You, Mad Detective, Triangle, Protege, The Detective.

No Pang Ho-Cheung (no, he wasn’t even in the finalists list)? No Exodus? No Invisible Target? No Trivial Matters? At least no Wong Jing.

(courtesy of Hong Kong Film Blog)

- While the news of Johnnie To’s Sparrow heading to Berlin is not news, his assistant said that the possible English-language remake of The Red Circle is currently on hold because of the writer’s strike in America.

- While the Chinese government is admitting that the battle against piracy is a struggle, it’s interesting to read that people are downloading Hong Kong and Taiwanese television series that are usualy banned there. This means the government may be battling piracy not just because of copyright infringement, but to also keep the lid on banned materials.

- The teaser for Ping Pong director Fumihiko Sori’s Ichi, a re-imagining of the Zatoichi tale, is on the website. They’ve done something like this before, it was called Azumi, and it wasn’t that good.

- Meanwhile, the legendary Sonny Chiba has announced his first film under his new name Rindo Wachinaga. Za Toichi (The Toichi) will be about a blind moneylender. Chiba may act in the film under his acting name (as in Sonny Chiba).

- I already found this out on imdb: Ken Watanabe has signed up for his first Hollywood studio role since Letters From Iwo Jima for the vampire film Cirque du Freak. Of course, it’s probably just another supporting role with not much to do.

- Under “what the hell were they thinking?” news, an NHK crew was filming a drama when they attached a fake license plate to a background car in order to give the illusion that they are in another prefecture. However, they managed to take a break without removing the plate, and the car drove off with the fake license plate.  Always be careful with cars you’re not allowed to put fake license plates on, people.

- Thailand’s now-defunct iTV was first conceived as a fair and balance news network free of government influence. Ironically, its editorial control have now been given to the Thai military-run government after it was forced into bankruptcy.

- Meanwhile, Thai Airways stewardess are complaining about a new soap opera about air hostess that depicts immoral sexual relationships amongst stewardess and pilots. I guess the show isn’t sponsored by any major airlines then.

-  Kaiju Shakedown covers all the musicals going to South Korean stages that are based on movies. In fact, 30% of all musical on South Korean stages will be based on movies.

The Golden Rock - January 20th, 2008 Edition

Time to wrap the weekend up:

- Newly elected South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak is planning to not only deregulate the Korean broadcasting industry, but also disband the Ministry of Information and Communication. All of this in an effort to bring Korean telecommunication and broadcasting technology back up to standards.

- Meanwhile, Japan public broadcasting network NHK is seeing its revenue from “mandatory” license fees go up after the network saw one million households refusing to pay their fees after several scandals at the network. However, the management committee still refuses to reduce the license fee, despite several discount schemes being enacted later in the year.

- Three more Asian films are going to the Berlin International Film Festival, though only to the Panorama section. They include Kim Ki-Duk’s latest and the homosexual coming-of-age film Hatsu-Koi (which was a pain in the ass to find any information on it).

- This week’s Televiews column on the Daily Yomiuri covers the manga adaptation genre so prevalent in Japanese dramas, and manages to find a good one in the new drama Saito-san.

- Currently 16% of the Chinese population has internet access (the current average is 19%). However, 16% of over a billion people is 210 million, which is only 5 million behind the United States. However, such massive growth also means massive problems such as the censorship of cyberspace and widespread copyright violation.

- Of course, China has other problems, including interviewees who can’t seem to answer questions on their own.

- The classic Japanese animated series Gegege No Kitaro turns 40 this weekend, and one Japanese network is celebrating with a new installment of the series on Thursday nights at 12:45 am, which changes the characters a bit from the Kitaro you know and love. I still didn’t like the movie, though.

- Congratulations to singer Mieko Kawakami for winning Akutagawa Prize, one of the most important literary awards in Japan.


The Golden Rock - January 13th, 2008 Edition

- An interesting discovery today that borders on lame. A Hong Kong cram school commercial that parodies the CJ7 teaser with a guy walking around a dump looking for A’s. Isn’t it a little too early to be parodying it already?

- The Daily Yomiuri’s weekly Televiews column takes a look back at this year’s Kohaku and other lame Japanese New Year’s  Eve programming, many of which I missed because i was watching Kohaku like any Japanese person ought to.

- Singapore and Malaysia’s first gangster flick is coming out this Lunar New Year. Too bad it looks like successful commercial director Jack Neo’s seemingly lame telling of the My Wife is a Gangster formula. This may just be worse than Kung-Fu Dunk for Singapore’s Lunar New Year market. I shudder at that thought.

- Another Asian film is heading to Berlin. This time it’s Shin Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden, the omnibus film co-directed by Momoru Oshii along with five other directors. I didn’t even know it opened in Japan already.

- It’s hard to believe, but 50 Chinese websites have apparently “voluntarily” stopped providing illegal downloads of movies in a crackdown by authorities to stop piracy in China.

- Twitch’s Stefan has a review for Johnnie To’s Linger, which follows my general feelings towards the film. However, The Taipei Times seems to like it quite a bit. Does the Mandarin version make that much of a difference?

- The picture link below is of the latest Japanese pop duo to hit the pop world:

sisters.jpg (not work-safe)

The Golden Rock - January 11th, 2008 Edition

Because of the lack of news for the weekend, I’m padding this entry with a Hong Kong box office report as well.

- It was a fairly weak Thursday opening day at the Hong Kong box office, as all the top 10 films’ gross range from HK$63,000 to HK$124,000. It’s so weak that an European horror film, The Deaths of Ian Stone, managed to take the top spot screening on 12 screens. Meanwhile, Johnnie To’s somber romantic-supernatural-drama Linger (whose Mandarin version seems to be completely missing from Hong Kong theatres, despite it being the version Johnnie To prefers) opened on 22 screens and made only HK$112,706. I don’t see it getting past HK$2 million. Lastly, the Hollywood family film Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium has the second-best per-screen average, making HK$90,000 from 10 screens.

More about the weekend next Monday or Tuesday in the Box Office report.


-  Speaking of Johnnie To, actor Simon Yam is reportedly ecstatic about Sparrow heading to Berlin and competing for best actor, as he should be. What you should note is what he says about the movie:


“Of course I’m happy. This film is very different from To’s earlier movies, it’s a relaxing human comedy, and I’ve never done that kind of character.”

1) Linger was supposed to be very different from To’s earlier movies. It was bad.

2) What character hasn’t Simon Yam played?

Original Chinese report here.

- Someone first passed this story to me in a email, but Screen Daily has a subscription system, so I’m relying on Variety Asia. Hong Kong box office has risen overall, though it has again fallen for Chinese films. This reports also says that there are now 192 screens for 42 theaters in Hong Kong. So now you know what a big deal it was when Spiderman 3 took 100 screens.

- Zhang Yuan is one of the few Mainland Chinese directors whose work I watch out for. Though I’ve only seen one of his films (Seventeen Years), I’ve been intrigued at a lot of his other films. That’s why it was a bit of a shocker to not only read about his supposed drug arrest, but to read that it was broadcast on national television in China. However, I smell a staged arrest to serve as an example here…

- The new Japanese film Kids, which features a really strange mustache on the usually clean Hiroshi Tamaki (see the trailer), will have a day-and-date release in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, presumably to capture the Lunar New Year box office. However, no promotion is yet underway here in Hong Kong.

- Jason Gray has a more complete list of the Kinema Junpo awards, including the individual acting and directing awards.

The Golden Rock - January 10th, 2008 Edition

A fairly short entry today, since this blogger is still recovering from the trauma that was Johnnie To’s Linger.

- Though To’s latest Linger is not likely to see any festival play, another seemingly finished film of his (I say seemingly because he’s been shooting the damn thing for years), Sparrow, will be heading to the competition section of the Berlin Film Festival. Another Asian film heading there is Yoji Yamada’s latest Kabei. The festival will run from February 7th to the 17th, and this blog will of course follow any news from the festival.

-  Apparently there are at least a million people who aren’t creeped out by Japanese singer/songwriter Hideaki Tokunaga’s covers of pop songs by female artists: his latest cover album has now sold more than 1 million copies.

- Variety’s Derek Elley reviews the twisty Korean thriller 7 Days, starring Lost’s Kim Yun-Jin.

- Japanese film magazine Kimema Junpo has announced their list of the top 10 films of 2007. To no one’s surprise, films like Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai (”I Just Didn’t Do It) and Sad Vacation are on the list, but one inclusion that did surprise me is the quiet comedy-drama Shaberedomo Shaberedomo, which I reviewed here. I thought Sakuran is a more accomplished film (Despite its weakness in storytelling), but I guess they’re a conservative bunch.

It was also good to see Zodiac and Babel on the foreign films list as well.

-  Strong sales for both the Nintendo DS and the Wii (thanks to the Wii Fit) has helped sent video game sales to a record high in 2007. The way this keeps going, I might have to buy a DS myself.

The Golden Rock - November 27th, 2007 Edition

- Takeshi Kitano appears on Japanese TV in variety shows often enough already, but audiences still can’t get enough of him: His latest acting role in a made-for-TV miniseries scored an average of 23.75 rating over Saturday and Sunday nights. That’s an even higher average rating than the highest-rated drama this season, and it was on the weekend.

- This isn’t a political blog, and this news isn’t meant to be political, but am I right in saying that a documentary that asserts the Japanese WWII war criminals are the equivalent of the seven samurais is probably a little absurd?

- It’s trailers time! Both courtesy of Twitch today- First, the English-subtitled trailer for the Thai action-fantasy film Siyama (yes, there’s supposed to be time traveling elements in the film that is completely ignored in the trailer). Then, the non-subtitled trailer for the gross-out Korean sex comedy Sex is Zero 2. You can already tell it’ll be grosser than the first film, which doesn’t necessarily make me want to watch it.

- Courtesy of Kaiju Shakedown are 5 clips from Pang Ho-Cheung’s latest film(s) Trivial Matters. With bong-smoking, swearing, and talk about oral sex, I’d be surprised if they can get away with a II-B this time.

- I’m starting to hate my vacation dates: Not only will I be missing Trivial Matters (unless it’s such a big hit and it plays through New Years), I’ll also be leaving Japan the day before the Nodame Cantabile special is scheduled to air on Japanese TV. D’oh!

- At least I’ll be back on time to see the new digital broadcast by Hong Kong free TV stations. Of course, I’ll have to first sink some money for a digital decoder or buy a HDTV. Which means I’ll probably be missing out anyway.

- Under “they mean really well” news today, the Beijing Film Academy produced a documentary about the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, and even took it to the American Film Market. However, despite some interest, it couldn’t find any buyers and it won’t even premiere in its homeland until March.

Meanwhile, Thai filmmakers are making their final protest calling for modification to the new Thai Film and Video Act, which could bring further censorship into the film system, despite the addition of a ratings system.

- Remember Lost in Beijing, the much-edited Chinese film that was forced to remove multiple scenes (including shots of dirty Beijing streets) before it cleared the censor board? The uncensored version was shown on Hong Kong screens (with a category III rating, which meant “no one under 18 allowed), and the censored version will finally be shown on Chinese screens with a wide release this week. Apparently, the critical nature of Chinese society remains in the film.

The European Union is getting more and more impatient with China over piracy, to the point that they’re threatening to go the principal’s office World Trade Organization about it.

- Huge Chinese blockbusters are not even going to premiere at the People’s Auditorium anymore: Now they’re going premiere in Olympic-sized venues!

- The Chinese father-and-son drama The Red Awn picked up the top prize at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece.

The Golden Rock - November 25th, 2007 Edition

 - I’ve been meaning to post this for a while: Hong Kong distributor Golden Scene uploaded the trailer for Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung’s latest Trivial Matters on Youtube. The trailer is unsubtitled, but I can tell you it includes references to ejaculation, Isabella Leung and Gillian Chung pretending they can sing like pop stars (kinda like real life), it has Shawn Yue smoking a bong, and Edison Chan pretending to speak like a rapper. In other words, it’s not really safe for work.

Just in case you need reminding, Trivial Matters is a film adaptation of 7 short stories all originally written by Pang himself. He also directed all 7 films.

- It’s reviews time! Variety has a review of Samson Chiu’s Mr. Cinema, one of the three Hong Kong handover commemoration film from this past summer.

- In case you haven’t watched any of Akira Kurosawa’s classic films, some of them are now public domain and can be downloaded legally for free. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I have not seen Ikiru, Stray Dog, and Sugata Sanshiro.

- Han Jae Rim’s The Show Must Go On picked up the best film award at the Blue Dragon Awards. The film’s star Song Kang-Ho also picked up a best actor for playing the role of a gangster who has to balance family and his work in crime. Meanwhile, Jeon Do-Yeon picked up another best actress win for Secret Sunshine, Hur Jin-Ho picked up best director for his latest film Happiness (I can’t wait to see this), Kim Han-Min picked up best director and best screenplay for Paradise Murdered, and *gasp* Daniel Hanney picked up a best new actor award for the melodrama My Father. I guess they mean that he didn’t really act in Seducing Mr. Perfect.

Full winners list here

- Under “Pakistan sure knows how to send out conflicting signals” news today, the government has pressured the authorities in Dubai to shut down two Pakistani television news channels with no planned dates to bring them back on the air. Meanwhile, the Pakistani censor board has cleared an Indian film that will become the first Indian film to open in Pakistani theaters since the countries banned each other’s movies simply because of some financing loopholes. Yay for international co-productions!

- The Daily Yomiuri has a feature on Japanese genre director Ryuhei Kitamura’s decision to go to Hollywood. I thought it was a typo when it says his last Japanese film Lovedeath runs at three hours. Turns out it’s 160 minutes long. It doesn’t look like it deserves 160 minutes.

- The Daily Yomiuri also has a column about NHK’s efforts to boost ratings for its yearly Kohaku Variety show, including making it more concentrated on the strength of music. Wait, wasn’t the show supposed to be about the music in the first place?

In order to get to that, they have invited Akihabara-friendly idols AKB48, Shoko Nakagawa, and Leah Dizon to perform in this year’s show. Somehow I think this music strength thing is going to be a gradual change.

- Again from the Daily Yomiuri is a feature on the current state of Otaku-ism in Japan and its influence in America.

- If you’re in the area of Rotterdam around the end of January, you can get your Asian film fix at the Rotterdam Film Festival, where several Asian films are competing.

-  And if you were asking repeatedly when will someone make an inspirational movie about the game of darts, your prayers have been answered.

- Which country is affecting the growth digital TV broadcast signals? Not America. Not Japan. Not even South Korea. It’s China.

The Golden Rock - October 28th, 2007 Edition

With The Hong Kong Film blog wondering whether Hong Kong box office source has closed down for good, this blogger has found a new box office source in Starting tomorrow, the Hong Kong box office report should get back to normal.

- The American Film Market starts this coming week, and both Korean and Japanese film companies have quite a few films in store for buyers there (probably ignoring the Tokyo Film Market in the process).

Korea’s Cineclick has Volcano High director Kim Tae-Kyun’s latest, about a North Korean ex-soccer player who crosses over to China and tries to get his family to join him. It will also be bringing a promo reel for Kim Jee-woon’s highly anticipated The Good, The Bad, and the Weird.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Fuji TV is taking Shaolin Girl (the Stephen Chow-approved “sequel” to Shaolin Soccer) and Koki Mitani’s The Magic Hour, the follow-up to the ensemble hit The Uchoten Hotel.

- It’s not going to the American Film Market, but CJ Entertainment is trying to penetrate Hollywood by co-investing in the Warner Bros. film August Rush. Considering that it’s to be released next month, there’s surprisingly little out there about it in terms of buzz. There’s a website up, though.

- It’s reviews time! Lovehkfilm’s Kozo closes out October with a review of the much-hyped “TVB Tigers” reunion film Brothers and a review of Kon Ichikawa’s shot-by-shot remake of his own film The Inugamis. Meanwhile, yours truly have a review of the Japanese documentary The Naked Emperor’s Army Marches On and a review of the Japanese hosts comedy Waters.

- There’s a pretty big possibility that I’ll be watching the Kohaku in Japan again this year, which is why I care about this news: After two years of actress Yukie Nakama hosting as head of the red team, this year may see young actress Masami Nagasawa taking on hosting duties. The problem is that Nakama was chosen because she starred in NHK dramas, while Nagasawa hasn’t been doing anything for NHK. This signals a possible desperate move by NHK to bring in more viewers for the struggling new years show.

- Speaking of Japanese TV, the Daily Yomiuri’s Teleview reports on Beat Takeshi as an educator on this week’s Japanese TV, and a pretty positive on this season’s hit drama Galileo.

- If you are Japanese, and you’re asking what the hell is a Galileo, who the hell is Masami Nagasawa, and the only thing you get from this entry is Kohaku, then this new TV station is for you.

- Posters for Johnnie To/Wai Ka-Fai’s latest Mad Detective, starring Lau Ching-Wan and premiered in Venice, has started appearing in Hong Kong theaters. There’s no official release date yet, but the poster shows that it’s already been rated category-III (no one under 18 may be admitted). It seems like after the success of Election, SPL, and Lust, Caution, Hong Kong filmmakers are finding the guts to make some hardcore films again.

- Japanese pop singer Bonnie Pink, who has traveled to Sweden to record so much that she calls it her second home, announced that her latest album will be released in Sweden in February next year.

- The Hong Kong government will start a public consultation soon about the fate of public broadcaster RTHK after an independent committee suggested earlier that a new independent broadcaster be established. In addition, the broadcaster has also undergone a year of both private and public scandals.

The Golden Rock - October 16th, 2007 Edition.

There are days like these where there are so little news, I just decide to combine all the entries together.

- The numbers for the Japanese box office came out, and the rankings are pretty much the same as the admission rankings. However, what the rankings don’t tell you is what a quiet week it was. In fact, only one film made more than 100 million yen (number 1 film Hero), and the rest of the holdovers all saw fairly significant drops. Yes, that includes Closed Note, which is supposed to be doing pretty well, but actually doesn’t look to make that 1.5 billion yen mark Toho is setting.

Signs of Love (based on those Dreams Come True songs) actually lost only 25% of its audience in its second week, which is pretty typical in the pure love genre. It should wrap up with about 800 million yen. Not all that impressive, but it is what it is.

- Thanks to the success of Hero, Japanese distributor Toho is having their best September ever, which means expect more TV dramas going to a big screen near you in Japan.

- Two sites reported on the Sushi Ouji movie, so I’ll just use both links. Essentially, the drama that was the second worst-performer in the primetime ratings in the summer 2007 drama season (average 7.5 rating) was announced to have its own movie before the drama even began its broadcast. But now, TV Asahi has Warner Bros. Japan behind them and is planning to release it during next year’s Golden Week. They’re probably hoping for fans of the two stars’ respective boy groups to show up.

Tokyograph report.

Variety Asia report.

- The only reason I saved up this report was because I thought it was Tsai as in Tsai Chin.

Turns out it’s Jolin Tsai that’s doing a duet with Kylie Minogue in the Asian edition of her latest album. Actually, it would be so much more interesting if Tsai Chin, the songstress who brought us this, do a duet with Kylie Minogue, but that’s just what I think.

- Variety’s Richard Kuiper has a review for the highly successful Japanese animated film Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone.

- The Associated Press has an interview with Joan Chen, who’s been in the spotlight of recent Chinese cinema with her roles in Lust, Caution and The Sun Also Rises.

- Asian films are the big winners at this year’s Sitges Film Festival in Catalonia, including wins for Park Chan-Wook’s “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK” and even Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django.

- The first still for the Pan-Asian film Blood: The Last Vampire, starring Gianna “Sassy Girl” Jun is up. Todd Brown says yes, I say no, thank you. Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen