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Archive for the ‘feature’ Category

The Golden Rock - June 20th, 2008 Edition

Will be away for the weekend again, so here we go with the news for the weekend:

- A surprising turnout at the opening day Hong Kong box office, as Johnnie To’s Sparrow managed to beat out all the major competition to take the top spot on its first day. From a modest 30 screens, the caper film made HK$527,000, and is poised to take the weekend if it sees a boost in adult audiences over the weekend. However, Narnia and The Incredible Hulk are breathing down its neck not too far back, with HK$460,000 and HK$410,000 each and looking to take up the younger audiences over the weekend.

As for the other opening films, Hollywood parody flick Superhero Movie is down at 4th place with HK$373,000 from 22 screens, and City Without Baseball only made HK$40,000 from 8 screens, despite the citywide blanket promotion and its multiple appearances in the news. Lastly, Las Vegas caper film 21 made HK$35,000 from 2 screens. More on Monday or Tuesday when the weekend numbers are out.

- Universe did the distribution for Sparrow, and news has come out that its major shareholder is apparently trying to exit the company and sell its share to another firm. No word on whether this will affect for their ongoing productions, which include the Pang Brothers’ Storm Riders sequel.

-  I literally read about this at three different places in the last 24 hours, along with coverage on daytime entertainment news yesterday. So I’ll just let them do all the talking: I’m talking about respected Japanese director Koji Yakusho making his directorial debut that’s now filming and looking for a release next year:

(in order of discovery)

Tokyograph report.

Jason Gray report

Variety Asia report.

I can’t tell if this will be serious like Tokyo Sonata or quirky like Dog in a Sidecar yet. Either way, I assume that Yakusho has picked up enough from all the directors he’s worked with to do fairly well with his debut. I hope.

- I wrote a half-paragraph review of The Magic Hour because I don’t want to give a full review of a film I only understood 60% of. So here’s a review from Japan Times’ Mark Schilling, someone who did understand the whole movie.

- China has issued the first set of licenses for over 200 sites to share streaming video over the internet, but failed to include some of the country’s biggest sites on that list.

- As the world slowly moves from analog to digital television broadcasting, the ASEAN (Association of Southeastern Asian Nation) has come together to set a unified standards for the member nations’ own transition.

- The Daily Yomiuri looks at the Chinese film The Western Trunk Line, a film about a rural village just after the end of the Cultural Revolution that picked up the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

- The Southern All Stars managed to cram in one more high-profile single before their hiatus, which will be featured in the latest line of a cosmetics commercial.

- This week’s Televiews Column on the Daily Yomiuri covers observations on mainstream Japanese media and how they cover recent breaking news such as the Akihabara killer and the major earthquake last week. I agree - I really don’t want to know anymore about how quickly this crazy bastard managed to slice down people, and I don’t want to see anymore cameras shoved into greiving families’ faces.

- Jason Gray also covers the latest news on Takeshi Kitano’s new film with the release of the poster. Kitano as a painter? He so crazy.

The Golden Rock in Japan - Summer 2008 Edition - Part 1

After my first year of film school, I decided to take another trip to Japan, this time for four weeks. While the biggest difference this time around is that I spend most of my time in front of a TV in an apartment at a suburban city in Saitama prefecture, some things remain the same during my trip to Tokyo a few days ago:

For example, Cameron Diaz is still pimping out cell phones:


Yon-sama is rocking Pachinko parlors big-time now:


They still apparently love the Death Note movies:


In fact, they love Death Note so much that they let L sell other stuff now:


And of course, I’m still grabbing an obscene amount of A4-sized movie posters (they sell these things at the Broadway Cinematheque, you know):



This is only a part of brilliant movie promotions the Japanese can pull off. Of course, this is basic:


And I guess a poster like this on each side of Shibuya Crossing is basic too:


And this was just pretty cool:


Then they add some crazy cross-promotion along with it. This was at the Tower Records soundtrack section.


By the way, I did see the Ponyo on a Cliff trailer, and it looks extremely cute. As far as I can tell, it’s about a sea creature (the one in the picture above) who comes above the water and develops a friendship with a human boy. I’d say…Totoro meets Spirited Away, but I shan’t.

I saw the trailer when I went to watch Koki Mitani’s The Magic Hour at the nearby theater.


At 136 minutes, The Magic Hour is a more focused film that Mitani’s Suite Dreams, which means that it’s not as deserving of its epic length. However, from what I understood (roughly 60% of the movie), it was still a very funny film that’s a love letter to movie magic without being self-congratulatory. The gangster-vs-actor pretending to be a gangster stuff are pretty universal, and ought to travel fairly well overseas. Overall, I had a good time, and I look forward to watching it again with subtitles.

I also managed to catch the controversial documentary Yasukuni (with English subtitles):


The intimate 100-seat theater in Shibuya. The screen seemed like a big screen TV,


Since I did see this with subtitles, I will be reviewing this soon. The question everyone is probably asking is whether the film is anti-Japanese. While I’d say that it’s not anti-Japanese, I would say that the viewpoint can be problematic for some and I can see where the conservatives got some of their ammo against the film. It’s a film filled with emotional outbursts, so it’s expected that the response to the film is similar to what’s in the actual film.

Anyway, I’m almost halfway through my trip, and I’ll be catching at least two more films: All Around Us, and Kore-eda’s Aruitemo. Also, I’ll be covering some music stuff in the next report. Until then, back to regular news postings.

The Golden Rock - May 31st, 2008 Edition

- It’s Taiwanese music charts time! Japanese boy band NEWS tops the chart with their latest album with 5.63% of total sales, while Vitas Lu’s debut album hits second place with 3.07% of total sales. The other debut album this week by Hsiao Hung Jen could only muster a 16th place debut with 0.69% of total sales. Also, Ai Otsuka’s latest single only debuted at 18th place, although it may be due to the fact that it’s a single. The only album on the chart that rose in the standings is the original soundtrack to the drama Honey and Clover. Lastly, the album that dropped the steepest is last week’s winner Jesse McCarthy, who dropped from first place to 9th place this week.

- With Mongol coming soon to American theaters, Variety has a piece on the foreign language film market in America and why the market is a bit depressing.

- It’s reviews time! First, Mark Schilling has reviews of up-and-coming director Yuya Ishii’s two films that are finally reaching the big screen. I’ll be reviewing Bare-Assed Japan for this site soon. Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee sends in a review of the Singaporean film My Magic.

- Who has the balls to go up against the Japanese box office giant that is Studio Ghibli this year? Believe it or not, it’s Pokemon.

- A veteran Hollywood producer is now onboard for the upcoming Korean robot blockbuster Robot Taekwon V. Please don’t let this be the next D-Wars.

The Golden Rock - May 24th, 2008 Edition

- Watching TV today, I realize that the trailer for Johnnie To’s The Sparrow is up, and I found it on Youtube. Whoever edited it is a genius.

-Under “Cannes market deal” news today, Variety has a wrap-up of the various deals Cannes market. Meanwhile, Jason Gray also has a look at the deals being made for Japanese films at the market.

Also, director Wim Wenders have a Korean investor involved with his latest film, an adaptation of a novel by Ryu Murakami.

- The comic adaptation Maison Ikkoku is coming back for another live-action episode this summer.

- Amidst the current situation in China, it’s amazing that the media authority in the government still has time to get some censorin’ on.

- The Daily Yomiuri has a feature on the flash animated movie Eagle Talon II, currently playing in one Tokyo theater. Confession time and relax time in the middle of the movie? Sounds like a ton of fun.

- Actress Aoi Miyazaki just picked up the Galaxy Award for her starring role in the Taiga drama Atsuhime, currently playing to pretty damn good ratings on NHK.

The Golden Rock - March 24th, 2008 Edition

The blogger has been extremely busy during the holiday weekend, which would explain the lack of posts. Maybe.

- Before we go over the Hong Kong box office tomorrow, let’s look at how things were on Thursday opening day. Patrick Kong’s L for Love, L For Lies actually remained on top with HK$680,000 from 35 screens. As for opening films, Spiderwick Chronicles opened on 35 screens with HK$650,000 and should do well for the weekend, Charlie Wilson’s War opened at just 19 screens and made HK$350,000. Under “possible disappointments” is the opening for Ching Siu-Tung’s An Empress and the Warriors, which opened on 35 screens with only HK$600,000. One of the possible reasons may be the audience not being able to find a Cantonese version (even though the trailers were dubbed in Cantonese and the film features actors based in Hong Kong), but I’m just guessing. Either way, it’s not poised to pass the HK$10 million mark at this point. We’ll know more during the week.

- The Winter 2007 Japanese drama season is pretty much over (with two dramas having yet to wrap up), and the highest-rated series of the season is the Monday 9pm Fuji drama Bara No Nai Hanaya with an average 18.2 rating a week ahead of its finale. In a far-off second is Saito-san with an average 15.5 rating. The disappointment of the season has to be Sasaki Fusai No Jingi Naki Tatakai, which opened with a strong 17.3 rating, but ends up averaging only 10.9 by the end of the season. Hell, even The Negotiator could recover for an average 13.4 rating by the time it ended. However, the lowest-rated drama this season belongs to Yon Shimai Tantei, which saw an average 7.0 rating and even saw one of its episodes get only a 3.5 rating. On the other hand, with an average 7.1 rating, Ashita No Kita Yoshio performed more consistently bad and had the lowest-rated finale of the bunch.

There ends another bad season for dramas, but with KimuTaku returning this coming season, perhaps ratings will pick up a little bit.

- Speaking of Japanese TV, this week’s Televiews column on the Yomiuri is about the various “Monagatari” (The Japanese word for “story) on the Japanese TV these days.

- While the usual big-time surely got what they wanted at Filmart this year, Malaysia companies also managed to strike some big-time deals on their own, especially in animation.

- It’s reviews time! This weekend, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling looks at actor Jiro Sato’s directorial debut Memo. Meanwhile, Japan Times’ Giovanni Fazio looks at Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights. In fact, the Yomiuri’s Ikuko Kitagawa also looks at My Blueberry Nights, although she seems to like it more than Fazio did. From the Hollywood Reporter, Elizabeth Karr looks at Joe Ma’s Sasori and calls it “vile” and “lacking in wit, irony and wisdom.” Meanwhile, Maggie Lee looks at the Korean film Man Who Was Superman, starring Jeon Ji-Hyun.

- Please, can someone tell me why the world needs an animated version of the hit Korean drama Winter Sonata? Oh, well, at least they got Yon-sama himself to dub the voice.

-  It’s trailers time! First, Twitch has a trailer for Katsuhito Ishii’s latest film Yama No Anata, with Smap member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi as a blind masseur who doesn’t kill people. They also have the final theatrical trailer for the Stephen Chow-produced blockbuster junk food Shaolin Girl. It’s not only Lacrosse with Shaolin kung-fu: it also has villains kicking ass.

- The comeback edition of the Yubari Fantastic Film Festival ended on Sunday successfully, and the short film Daichi o Tataku Onna picked up the competition prize.

Shin Ka-Hyun is now joining Song Kang-Ho for Park Chan-Wook’s latest Thirst. You know what that means? When Bae Doo Na’s in, we have ourself a Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance reunion!

- Lastly, the Yomiuri does a feature on African-American enka singer Jero, who has hit the big time with the young using an old-fashioned genre.

The Golden Rock - March 9th, 2008 Edition

- There’s a very interesting feature on Japan Times this weekend, which transcribes a panel discussing the Japanese war trial film Ashita He No Yuigon (Best Wishes For Tomorrow)  featuring Japan Times critic Mark Schilling and the film’s co-writer.  With two other contributors, the four discuss the impact of another war film on the Japanese, the message, and about its intents were successful.

- Yesterday we mentioned Mika Nakashima making the cover of Rolling Stone Japan, and now Oscar-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi is on the cover of the British i-D Magazine.  She is not the first Japanese actress to appear on the cover, though: Chiaki Kuriyama made the cover back in 2004 thanks to her role in Kill Bill.

- It’s reviews time! Twitch offers a review of Kelvin Tong’s Rule #1, starring Shawn Yue and Ekin Cheng in their first official screen collaboration (they had an unofficial partnership in Shamo. You’ll know what I mean).  Then Variety’s Ronnie Schieb offers a review of Makoto Shinkai’s Five Centimeter Per Second, which I almost immediately dismissed because he dismissed the song in the film before he even bothered to understand it. Japan Times’ Mark Schilling offers a review for Gachi Boy (Wrestling with a Memory), the latest from the director of Song of the Sun. There’s also an interview featuring the director, who apparently made his actors perform their own wrestling stunts.

- Wrestling With a Memory will have its Asian premiere at the Hong Kong International Festival, and I already have a ticket to one of its showings. Not sure to what it can be credited to, but the festival is seeing an incredible 40% surge in online ticket sales from last year. Then again, after hearing horror stories of the festival’s ticketing system last year, no wonder more people decided to buy it the year the system happens to work.

- Eiga Consultant also looked at the box office performance of Wrestling with a Memory’s opening weekend. From 284 screens, the wrestling comedy/drama made 67.87 million yen, which is only 55% of another Toho + Fuji teen comedy Check It Out Yo!

Meanwhile, The Golden Compass made 550 million yen from 667 screens, which is 70% of The Chronicles of Narnia. Considering that Narnia made 6.85 billion yen, will The Golden Compass make it to 5 billion yen? Also, the ratio of the box office take for the subtitled version to the dubbed version is 53:47, which supposedly means that the film is attracting people of all demographics (in film market jargon, we say “demographics,” not “age”). Also, in case you’re wondering why the Box Office Mojo reported gross is so high, that’s because they included last weekend’s preview screenings.

- I think this would qualify as self-promotion: The Foreign Film Importer-Distributor Association of Japan will be giving its top award to Gaga Communications, who imported hits such as Babel, Earth, and the current box office topper The Golden Compass.

- Under “yet another comic going to TV” news today, the comedy comic Tokyo Ghost Trip is getting the live-action treatment.

- It’s trailers time! First, there’s the Japanese teaser for John Woo’s Battle of Red Cliff, and it still just looks really expensive, but not much else. Next is the trailer for the Mainland Chinese film, which may be the weirdest trailer I’ve seen all year. Considering that it’s from the conservative Mainland (more later), that’s kind of a good thing.

- With the National People’s Congress happening in Beijing right now (an ironic title, by the way), the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television of China are restating their rules on what movies are OK and what movies are not. In simple words: Most movies are not OK, but simple peasant stories with subtle allegories of government dictatorship will probably be. Zhang Yimou, you’re not out of work yet!

- Speaking of a filmmaker not out of work in China, Twitch has an interview with Stephen Chow and the star of his latest film CJ7.

Hayao Miyazaki spoke about his latest film Ponyo on a Cliff this week, and reading him describing the film just makes me look incredibly forward to it already. It seems like it’ll be a return to simpler fantasy tales like Totoro.

Kaiju Shakedown looks at another one of Takashi Miike’s latest films, which producer Haruki Kadokawa says is based on a novel that he read while he was in prison. Prison may be a good place to find films to adapt, but I still wouldn’t want to go there.

- Jason Gray looks at the lineup for the upcoming Nippon Connection Festival in Frankfurt, Germany. Man, that’s one hell of a lineup.

The Golden Rock - March 8th, 2008 Edition

- Japanese artist/attitude girl/real-life Nana Mika Nakashima will be the first Japanese artist to appear on the cover of Rolling Stones Japan. The question is, why did it take a year for Rolling Stones Japan to put a Japanese musician on its cover?

-  Twitch brings us the first teaser for Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest Aruitemo Aruitemo, which looks like a return to modern drama after his previous outing Hana.

- The global domination of Walt Disney continues: Disney Japan will be using Japanese animation houses to produce animation targeted at a Japanese and Greater Asia audience. Theese will start broadcasting in Japan in April.

-  While the information aren’t exactly all straight, and it lacks true balance, The Hollywood Reporter Asia has a feature on China-Hong Kong co-productions that’s fairly worth reading.

- This week on the Daily Yomiuri Teleview column, columnist Wm Penn looks at more dramas coming on Japanese TV come the Spring season, including the one where Kimura Takuya becomes the Prime Minister of Japan. In case you don’t know what that equates to, imagine an entire drama where Andy Lau plays the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

- Despite saying the wrong thing on radio and people saying she apologized the wrong way, Koda Kumi will most likely open her nationwide tour on schedule.

Again a short entry, but that’s it for today. We’ll wrap the weekend up tomorrow

The Golden Rock - March 7th, 2008 Edition

- According to the supposed reliable Oriental Daily in Hong Kong (and in turn, The Hollywood Reporter Asia), Lust, Caution star Tang Wei has been banned from Chinese media by the government because of her role in Ang Lee’s erotic espionage thriller. Supposedly, the government wasn’t happy with Lust, Caution and is determined to bring down anyone involved in the controversial sex scenes, especially its main actress. Since this news is not confirmed (and likely will never be), we have no idea whether this is true or not. If it is so, this is a pretty sleazy thing to do even for the Chinese government. Or they must just really hate skincare products.

- Like last year’s Confession of Pain from Hong Kong, Warner Bros. has been quick to buy up this year’s big crime hit, the Korean serial killer thriller The Chaser. Also like the Confession of Pain remake, William Monahan and Leonardo DiCaprio may be involved.

- Despite the Lunar New Year and taking a majority of the market, box office gross for Korean films has once again dropped for February. This time, admissions are down 3.7% from the same period in 2007, despite the hit handball film Forever the Moment and the current hit The Chaser.

- Hot off her win at the Golden Arrow Awards, Yui Aragaki will next star as a high school bookworm who joins a one-member cheerleader team to get closer to her baseball player crush. Only in the world a movies would Yui Aragaki play a bookworm who can’t get a boyfriend.

- We reported on Chen Kaige’s biopic Mei Lanfang finishing shooting. Today, Hollywood Reporter Asia has a complete feature on the film.

That’s it for now. Have to save some for the rest of the weekend.

The Golden Rock - January 25th, 2008 Edition

- A few news straight from Peter Chan’s mouth: The Warlords was actually cut by several minutes in Mainland China for violence, and that is also the version that is mostly being passed around on the internet. Also, his co-producer Andre Morgan apparently took the film and made his own international cut for oversea buyers, which Chan is not very happy about because it’s being done without any input from him. Unhappy enough that now his next film Waiting is on hold while Chan takes a break for a year to  watch the “shifting marketplace.” I’m not sure if he’s lamenting, but he’s suggesting that next time he makes a mid-budget film, he will be aiming towards China, because he’s now a businessman, not a filmmaker.

Another Hong Kong filmmaker bites the dust…

- I wonder if Taiwanese producers regretting their decision to start filming a Taiwanese version of the live-action Honey and Clover series at the same time as the Japanese one. I’m asking because ratings for the Japanese one has now slid to single-digit numbers. Who knows? Chinese teenagers love (to download) their idol dramas, so this might be a hit.

-  Japanese horror director Hideo Nakata seems to be taking a turn away from the genre that made him famous with not only the upcoming Death Note spin-off L, but also his upcoming project Gensenkan, a film about a group of people who hide at a hot spring inn for different reasons.

Meanwhile, Korean director Park Chan-Wook’s vampire film will star Song Kang-Ho.

Both films will be featured at the upcoming Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum.

- Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Josie Ho from Hong Kong, in light of The Drummer’s competition slot at Sundance. Just reading that introduction (especially about her calling Chinese film executives “dick face”) makes me like her so much more.

- The Midnight Eye has posted a set of top 10 2007 Japanese films lists from several contributors well-versed in Japanese films, including Golden Rock favorite Jason Gray. Those lists just show how much more Japanese films I need to watch.

- Big news for foreigners in South Korea: CJ entertainment and Korea’s largest theater complex will offer some of the bigger films English-subtitled screenings during their release. About 4-6 films will be getting the subtitle treatment, with A Man Once Superman being the first one. How long will it take before Japan does that same? I suspect never.

- The Chinese learn the idea of irony, with a new brand being named after the most famous street in Beijing for knock-off goods. The ultimate irony? The general manager of the market that started the brand is warning people to not sell fake versions of the goods.

The Golden Rock State of the Blog, and Some More Random Things About Japan

A little over a year ago, I started a small blog on Blogger as a random news blog, highlighting random going-ons of Asian films and box office numbers. Eventually, the daily posts, which used to only share news that share a common theme, got longer and longer. Then it simply became what is now The Golden Rock: An (almost) daily news aggregation blog really inspired by the old daily news post by Japan Probe.

Slowly, the blog began getting attention from those who cover the same field such as Jason Gray, Don Brown (of Ryuganji), Kaiju Shakedown’s Grady Hendrix, and of course, my boss at lovehkfilm, who has been a great enough supporter to make this blog legit by bringing it on board this site. For this past year’s support, I thank all these people, plus my average of 100 daily readers and those who have commented, sincerely from the bottom of my heart.

And so I ask myself, what are my goals for this upcoming year?

- Continue developing the right format for the blog, which is an ongoing process.
- Try and stay grammatically correct in every entry. That’s reaching a little bit.
- Update the spin-off more often. That might not happen until I’m out of school.
- More picture posts. People like pictures.
- Write entries more efficiently. Aggregating news means I would waste time looking at other sites while I’m writing.
- Now that there’s no more podcast (no time), bring back the Best of the Week entries.

And of course, I’ll think of some more as the year goes by. As they say in Japan: 今年もよろしくお願いします! (if someone can translate that in English, that’d be great).

And now, more random discoveries in Japan that I forgot to cover last time:


Don’t mistaken this as an actual sequel for Bae Yong-Joon’s (or Yong-sama) classic drama Winter Sonata. It’s actually an ad for a new pachinko machine (the steel marble game). I guess to attract more housewives to pachinko parlor?


A picture of the blogger with his own blog. No, seriously, I got it at a temple on New Years day and just don’t feel like eating it.


And then there’s the biggest discovery of the trip: The ass-biting bug (this is a PG-13 blog, so forget the kid-friendly names). I first discovered this catchy and addictive tune at a display in the “practical life store” Tokyu Hands, where this song was playing on loop:

It has no real melody, it has a bug that bites people’s asses, and he even goes under the waterfall training seen in The Storm Riders.

So of course I had to buy one for myself.


Because really, how can you not like a bug that bites asses to bring people closer together? Thank you, NHK.

Just in case you haven’t had enough, here’s a live version: Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen