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Archive for the ‘festivals’ Category

The Golden Rock - 2009 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival - Part 2

I spent my last weekend at this place:

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This is the Broadway Cinematheque, one of the three venues for the Asian Film Festival. I saw a total of three films on Saturday and Sunday here.

One of them featured a Q&A with this man:

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That would be director Sion Sono, whose Love Exposure is easily one of the great cinematic achievements of 2009, and the subject of this year’s HKAFF retrospective.

That brings us to the latest set of reviews:

The Housemaid (1960, South Korea, Dir: Kim Ki-Young): Certainly seeming dated almost 50 years, this deliciously trashy classic melodrama did earn some laughs at the screening, but that doesn’t discount the power of director Kim Ki-Young in creating this beautifully shot and often unpredictable femme fatale thriller about the worst housemaid in the world.

Ain’t No Tomorrows (2008, Japan, Dir: Yuki Tanada): Pure love this ain’t. Yuki Tanada’s adaptation of the manga about three high school boys’ first trip into sex is light an enjoyable exploration into the minds of reckless youth. Running a brisk 75 minutes, the stories are told in the most basic fashion, and it’s also the most effective. A great antithesis to those youth pure love stories on Japanese TV.

Be Sure to Share (2009, Japan, Dir: Sion Sono): Sono’s follow-up to Love Exposure takes almost a complete 180, dealing with the death of Sono’s father. A gentle mediation about family and death, Sono’s fans may find this a little dry, but one can’t help but admire his almost primitive expression of his love for his father in the film. An interesting addition to his filmography, but it won’t be his most memorable.

Note: I was asleep for a large part of the first half because of allergy medicine, not the quality of the film.

Talentime (2009, Malaysia, Dir: Yasmin Ahmad): The surprise of the festival for me, this delightful and touching film about contestants of a school talent contest and their families is an entertaining exploration of the myriad of religious and ethnic presence in the country, as well as young love. The sometimes heavy melodrama is balanced by Ahmad’s naturalistic handling. Too bad there was less than 20 people at the screening.

Flower of Kim Jong-Il (2008, South Korea/USA/France, Dir: NC Helkin): This documentary about human rights violationby North Korea as told by those who experienced them has some chilling testimonies that shed light on the horrors in the most isolated country in the world, but Helkin’s use of interpretative dance throughout distract from the focus. It almost undermined the testimonies themselves, making it not a very good documentary.

Bicycle Sighs (1990, Japan, Dir: Sion Sono): Sadly, this may be the only Pia Scholarship film that I don’t like. I’ve never fell asleep at a movie, only to wake up and find the audience as confused as I was. Sono fills the film with metaphors and strange behaviors, but I must’ve been too shallow to be able to decode them all. Besides, it should’ve ended 30 minutes before it really did. A truly strange feature debut for Sono.

Coming up: Taiwanese films Finding Her and How Are You Dad, as well as Summer Wars and Old Partner. It’s going to be a busy weekend.

The Golden Rock - Hong Kong Asian Film Festival Edition - Part 1

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It’s October, which means it’s time for the Asian Film Festival again. This year, I’m watching 22 films:

Thirst
Crows Zero II
The Housemaid
Ain’t No Tomorrows
Be Sure to Share
Talentime
Flower of Kim Jong-Il
Bicycle Sighs
Finding Her
Summer Wars
How Are You, Dad
Her Dear Old House
Old Partner
Asian Shorts 3
(including Edmund Yeo’s Kingyo. Sorry, I couldn’t make time for Woman on Fire Looks For Water)
Mother
Air Doll
Dark Harbour
Beijing is Coming
Pastry
Rabun
At the End of Daybreak
Seven 2 One

I’ve already watched two, including opening film Thirst. But before the movies, there were some pre-screening activities.

First: A talk at the University of Hong Kong featuring Tian Zhuangzhuang and Park Chan-Wook, directors of the festival’s two opening films, The Warrior and the Wolf and Thirst.

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From left to right: Tian’s translator (a grad student at HKU who seemed to be very nervous), Tian Zhuangzhuang, Moderator representing the HKU Comparative Literature Department, Park Chan-Wook, and his translator. 

With everyone needing translation, there wasn’t as much enlightening information from neither of the directors. Also, the chaos of people surrounding the directors after the talk meant I almost got my Thirst ticket signed by Park.

Almost means no.

After dinner, it was off to IFC to check out the opening ceremony, which took place between the two opening film screenings:

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Charlie Yeung, the “ambassador” of the film festival, showed up on time for some media interview. “On time” in this case meant early, because the ceremony started 20 minutes late.

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Every shot I took of Jo Odagiri has a flash on his face. He also stood alone on the stage with that expression the entire time.

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People I recognize: Ann Hui (left, and doesn’t recognize me, despite doing an entire profile on her), Jo Odagiri (left 2), Tian Zhuangzhuang (left 3), and Lawrence Lau (right)

With the ceremony running late, it also meant that the film started 20 minutes late as well. At least it was finally time for the movies!

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For the inflated ticket price, at least I got to see Park Chan-Wook (again) and got a extra small size t-shirt. I’m definitely not an extra small.

And now, for the movies I’ve seen so far:

Thirst (2009, Korea, Dir: Park Chan-Wook): After a slight stumble with I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, Park makes a glorious return to extreme cinema with this surprisingly fun (and funny) fantasy about a priest that turns into a vampire. Park’s signature musical and camera style is here, and they’re impressive as always. The violence is a little much at times, but all in all, the most “fun” Park film since Oldboy. It’s not a perfect film, but nevertheless a great cinematic experience. Kim Ok-Vin is a new name to watch out for.

Crows Zero II (2009, Japan, Dir: Takashi Miike): A sequel that’s a little too conscious of its status, Miike and his writers amp up the drama here in an attempt for a grander follow-up to their wildly fun predecessor. The result is a little underwhelming, as they wait until the very end to give the fans what they want. The fun does finally arrive at the end, but the road there can be sluggish at times.

And that’s it for now. This weekend is the Korean classic The Housemaid, Sion Sono’s Be Sure to Share (with a talk with Sion Sono in attendence), and the Japanese indie film Ain’t No Tomorrows.

Until then, let me know if you plan to stalk me at the cinemas. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. I’ll need some anyway.

The Golden Rock - September 18th, 2009 Edition

A short entry before the weekend:

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - September 15th, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - September 14th, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - July 28th, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

News from Sina News.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog of Tokyo-based filmmaker Edmund Yeo.

Blog of YTSL - Hong Kong-based writer.

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

The Golden Rock - July 22nd, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More at Tokyograph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - July 21st, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - July 13th, 2009 Edition

Possibly a slow news day in the entertainment world. It’ll be a short entry today:

- Lovehkfilm has updated with some new reviews: Boss Kozo looks at the disaster that is Roy Chow’s Murderer, schlock C-grade horror action film Blood: The Last Vampire, and the Taiwanese film Yang Yang.Meanwhile, Sanjuro looks at Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s debut film The Guard From the Underground and yours truly look at the Korean independent film One Shining Day.

- As expected, the Gokusen movie ruled the Japanese box office over the weekend in the admission rankingsIt made about 490 million yen from 409 screens. Toho expects that it’ll make about 4 billion yen when it’s all said and done, which is not too bad at all. However, for a drama that has scored an average of 22.7% over three seasons, it’s certainly much weaker than Rookies, whose film version opened with 1.2 billion yen from 428 screens after the drama had a season average of 14.8% last Spring.

Meanwhile, Knowing opened in 3rd place, and Monsters Vs. Aliens opened only at 7th place, though with the higher ticket price, it’s sure to go up by the time the numbers are out. And in its second weekend, MW has already dropped to 9th place, surely a disappointment for all involved.

- And according to Wise Kwai’s Twitter, Transformers 2 has now surpassed the box office record set by Titanic in Thailand. And a bit of hope for humanity is gone as well.

- In Spring 2009 Japanese drama ratings, Takuya Kimura’s Mr. Brain wraps up its short run with just a 20.7% rating for its final episode, giving it an average of 20.1%. This is the lowest season average rating for a KimuTaku drama since Gift back in 1997. Even though it’s the season’s highest-rated drama, the relatively large budget (guest stars, sets, special effects, the actors) certainly makes this a bit of a disappointment.

For Summer 2009, Ninkyo Helper, starring Tsuyoshi “nothing wrong being naked” Kusanagi, got off to a strong start with a 17.5% rating (especially considering how hard the My Sassy Girl drama flopped). On the other hand, Kanryo-tachi no Natsu suffered a huge drop from its 14.5%-rating premiere to a 9.1% rating for its second week. Not shaping up to be a great season already.

-  At the Taipei Film Festival, Leon Dai’s No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti took four awards, including the Grand Prize.

- Like Hong Kong, people in the Taiwanese film industry are now looking to China to develop their long-dormant commercial film industry. That’s how films like Kung Fu Dunk get made, people.

- Don’t know how the Twtich writer got to see it, but there’s a review for Francis Ng’s Tracing Shadow there anyway.

Shooting has begun for Takashi Miike’s Thirteen Assassins, but they’re apparently shooting in an unexplored part of Japan, because Yamagature Prefecture definitely doesn’t exist on any map. Didn’t know screenplay is written by Daisuke Tengan, son of Shohei Imamura and a director as well.

- It’s trailers time! Twitch has the teaser for the new Jija “Chocolate” Yanin movie Raging Phoenix. Definitely not the same movie as Chocolate.

Want to see what the ex-Deputy Director of China’s film agency SARFT is doing? He produced Looking For Jackie, which is being bashed on Mainland audiences on the film opinion site Douban right now.

Yes, it’s that Jackie.

- As Jason Gray mentioned on his blogMidnight Eye has updated with some new reviews, including Kore-eda’s latest.

The Golden Rock - July 8th, 2009 Edition

- Starting with Korean box office numbers today. While Tranformers made super-duper billions of won, sports film Bronze Medalist flops on 500+ screens.

More on Korea Pop Wars

- On the Japanese Oricon charts, Arashi takes the top single again, giving them the best three single debuts in 2009 so far. Masaharu “Galileo” Fukuyama’s latest album debuts on top with 200,000+ copies sold. Also, Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo on a Cliff DVD sold about 500,000 copies in its first week. That reminds me to buy Howl’s Moving Castle.

More from Tokyograph

- While the Chinese government is blocking user-controlled mass communication tools like Twitter and facebook as a result of the unrest in Xinjiang, they’re also using television to control what information gets out as well. This includes all the foreign reporters essentially being taken for government tours so they can control what they report.

- The Seoul Film Commission has announced its first winners for their international co-production grant, and they’re a good mix of projects based in Asia and Europe.

- After John Woo announced that he’ll co-direct a martial arts movie, he’s also announced that he’ll be working on a film about The Flying Tigers, a group of American flyers who trained the Chinese, because they finally got the Chinese government in on it. My favorite quote is producer Terance Chang commenting about the rumored $160 million budget.

Remember, you will also see Woo in China’s biggest, hugest, most spectacular movie EVER!!!!!……at least until the 70th PRC anniversary.

- Japanese rock group GReeeN’s “Kiseki”, which I mentioned as one of the best MTVs of last year, has now been certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling download single in Japan.

- After years of operating at a loss, Hong Kong’s TVB has decided to take back their own pay-vision network. I have the smaller TVB Pay Vision package, and the fact that this format allows them to play Japanese dramas and their old film unit stuff makes this a franchise worth saving.

- Because of the delay for the premiere of Japanese drama Emergency 24 Hours 4 (due to star Yosuke Eguchi motorcycle injury), Fuji will show four spin-off episodes that focus on star Nanako Matsushima’s character. However, instead of filming new episodes, it’ll simply a recap of one guest star’s story for each episode, followed by newly fiilmed “where are they now?” segments.

After the 3rd installment’s super Tokyo earthquake, I wonder what producers will come up with to top themselves, especially without the writers of the first three series on board.

-  Hong Kong movie channel Star Movies has unveiled their latest acquisitions, including blockbusters Cape No. 7, Connected, and If You Are the One. The Way We Are has already premiered. But note that like all HK subscribers-based movie channels, objectionable content like nudity and foul language are edited, so approach subscribing to them with caution.

- Even though he has no links, Wise Kwai talks about the new teaser for Raging Phoenix, the new film starring Chocolate’s Jeeja Yanin.

 
 
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