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Archive for the ‘festivals’ Category

The Golden Rock - July 6th, 2009 Edition

Back after a week-long break.

Also added new Twitter feed. You can see it on your right.

- No official Hong Kong numbers yet, but like America, expect it to be a fight between Transformers and Ice Age 3

- In Japanese attendance figures, the comic adaptation MW debuts at a disappointing 6th place and Anpanman debuts at 7th place, while everything above that stays the same. More when the numbers are out.

- In Spring 2009 Japanese drama ratings, the Monday 9pm Fuji disaster Kankatsu wraps up with a 10.5% rating for a season average of 10.5%. Mr. Brain’s second-to-last episode dips back down to 18.3%, keeping it under 20% for the third week in a row. It’ll need a 20+% rating for its final episode to keep its average above 20%. Either way, it’ll be the highest rated show of the season, even though it kinda cheated with only 8 episodes.

For the Summer 2009 dramas, which seems to be getting an early start, Kanryotachi no Natsu (looks like a rehash of Kareinaru Ichizoku without the big cast and big budget) premiered with a 14.5% rating. Call Center no Koibito, the first starring role for Kotaro “son of Junichiro” Koizumi, premiered to just a 9.3% rating. Will be able to know which ones to focus on when I see the synopses for them all.

- As expected, Chinese box office continues to grow exponentially, with box office gross from the first half year up 45% from the same period last year.

- In South Korea, thanks to local hits My Girlfriend is an Agent, Mother, and Old Partner, local box office has shot up compared to this same time last year, when the industry was in the middle of a slump.

- The great New York Asian Film Festival has wrapped up with the jury announcing its winners. Japan picks up five awards, and I can say the awards are well-deserved, at least for the ones I’ve seen.

-  Under “Japanese casting news” today, the prolific Kenichi Matsuyama will be in another comic-adapted film, and this one will reunite him with his Death Note co-star Tatsuya Fuijiwara. Kaiji will be released in October.

Actress Nao Matsushita will be the lead for the next NHK morning drama, about the wife of Gegege no Kitaro creator Shigeru Mizuki. It won’t be on TV until next March.

- It’s trailers time! First off is the first-ever trailer for China’s biggest film ever ever ever! It’s the PRC 60th anniversary film, translated title as “The Great Cause of Our Great Country’s Foundation”. Featuring 170 actors, there’s a prominent actor/director in probably every single shot of this trailer that features a human being. Except Leon Lai -  everyone knows he’s a robot. How many stars can you spot?

Just as bizarre from Japan is the trailer for Tajomaru, which takes the bandit character from the Akutagawa short story In a Grove (which Kurosawa’s Rashomon is based on. Toshiro Mifune played Tajomaru in that film), give him the pretty boy face of Shun Oguri, and give him a totally created background story. Personally, I think it’ll be another Ichi for Warner Bros. Japan. In other words, a flop.

- The Chinese film censorship body SARFT has a new vice-director, and it’s a surprise pick because he was kind of a nobody. However, not much is expected to change since he’s already within the system in the first place.

- Another Japanese production house is in trouble. This time it’s animation house Gonzo, whose stocks have been delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange after they found their debt exceeded their revenue.

- Twitch reviews the entire box set of the Jeonju Digital Project films, and this is just part 1.

- J.J. Abrams, watch out - AKB48 may be going to perform in New York after they made their overseas debut in Paris.

- Thousands attended the memorial service for the 22nd anniversary of actor Yujiro Ishihara’s death in Tokyo over the weekend.

- The Hollywood Reporter’s international news reporter/editor Steve Brennan passed away. He was 57.

The Golden Rock - June 24th, 2009 Edition

- Boss Kozo has updated the Lovehkfilm main page with reviews. From the boss himself are reviews of the pancontinent Plastic City, the Chinese comedy Crazy Racer, and the Japanese film adaptation of animated series Yatterman.

From Sanjuro is the review for Korean film Tezza: The High Rollers, and yours truly looks at the Korean art film Iri.

So please support what we do and go read some reviews, ya?

- No official Hong Kong numbers yet. Will get back to it when I do.

-  In Japan, Transformers 2 rolled into theaters, but after the big hoopla (including the IMAX version on the three newest IMAX screens around the nation), it still opening in second place behind Rookies, and it even earned more than 10% less than its predecessor did in its opening weekend. Tsurukidake expanded into a wide opening and landed right at 4th place, with The Reader opening right behind it. More when the numbers come out.

Japan admission ranking.

……and in the hours I took a break from writing this entry, the numbers came out. Yes, Tranformers 2 may look like it had a bigger opening than its predecessor in American dollars, but look at the exchange rate:

Transformers: 5,299,278 x 118.104 yen= 625,865,929 yen

Transformer 2: 5,825,212 x 96.323 yen= 561,101,896 yen

That opening is only 89.6% of the first film. BUT, I just noticed that the screen count for the sequel is only half of the first film, and there doesn’t seem to be an expansion planned (although this might just be the distributor not reporting the multiple screens in multiplexes for a better per-screen average).

Then again, Japan has been an anomaly before for Hollywood blockbusters (The Dark Knight, though it did great critically), so it might not mean much for the performance of Transformers 2 around the world. There’s already talks of it breaking box office records here in Hong Kong.

With both Terminator 4 and Transformers 2 taking over theaters (By the way, have you seen this?), every holdover film on the top 10 (except for Rookies, of course) dropped over 40%. And the wide release strategy obviously didn’t work for The Reader.

- In Korea, the latest schoolgirl horror movie opens with only half the audience of last week’s champ Running Turtle, even though it’s still at 2nd place, Mother is grinding to a halt at 2.8 million admissions, and Shinjuku Incident could only get a 9th place opening.

More over at Korea Pop Wars

- And if you’re in Korea, going the movies will be an extra 1,000 won expensive. And this also supports why a film’s popularity needs to also include admissions, not simply monetary taking.

- And it’s the return of Japanese drama ratings! Aishiteru has a stellar 18.6% rating for its finale (even though it only averaged a 14.8% for the season), Boss is setting up for a possible 20% finale with a Takashi Sorimachi cameo that marks a Beach Boys reunion with Yutaka Takenouchi with second-to-last episode getting 17.4%, The Quiz Show wrapped up with 14.6 and a 12.1% season average, and the disastrous Monday 9pm Fuji drama Kankatsu continues its under-10% ratings run before its finale.

But the week’s disappointment goes to Takuya Kimura’s Mr. Brain, which falls under 20% for the second time in its run, despite the presence of guest Yukie Nakama. Usually, an 18% rating would be great for a season’s mid-season, but TBS has spent so much money on the actors and production that anything under 20% would certainly be something to be worried about.  Then again, it’s also easily Kimura’s worst drama in a while, so I don’t blame viewers for giving up.

- The Swedish-Danish film Original took the top prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival, while the Aaron Kwok starrer Empire of Silver healed at least some of the bad buzz it got in Berlin wit hthe jury award. There were other awards that you can read about at the link, but I’ll just spoil it for you now and say that Aaron Kwok did NOT win any acting awards this time.

- Meanwhile, Apple Daily reports that the 9th Chinese Media Film Awards was given out over the weekend. Ann Hui picked up both Best Film and Best Director with The Way We Are, while Chan Lai-Wun picked up Best Supporting Actress. However, Bau Hei-Jing was beaten by Zhou Xun for Equation of Love and Death, definitely a showier performance that commands acting awards, and deservedly so.

- The big announcement so far this week is certainly the announcement of John Woo’s latest film. It’ll be a martial arts film that’s also a co-directorial effort starring Michelle Yeoh. No other details, such as setting or other actors, have been announced yet.

- Also, Zhang Yimou started shooting his latest film this week after spending the last 2 years working on the Olympic ceremonies. This time, it’ll be a thriller-comedy that’s a remake of The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. I guess just to show the remake thing can go both ways.

- After being ordered to reform by the Japanese Financial Agency. film fund JDC Trust has officially been suspended from doing business for three months. The film fund has been in financial difficulty after their recent films have underperformed at the box office.

JDC is not the only film-related business in trouble in Japan - Usen is selling film distributor Gaga, and producer/distributor Wide Policy declared bankruptcy in May.

- After the Chinese government rolled out its internet filtering software (which reportedly even blocked pictures of Garfield spreaking his legs)and also criticized Google for bringing in foreign porn, America is hitting back and criticizing China for forcing the software on the Chinese people.

- Not really news: Stephen Daldry, the director of the Academy Award-winning film The Reader says he will think about editing his film for release in China, depending on the censorship that will be put on him. Then again, the nudity are all Western nudity, there’s no Chinese Japan conspirators, and it’s not on Google, so maybe it’ll be OK.

- In film festival news, Wai Ka-Fai’s latest film Written By starring Lau Ching-Wan opened the great New York Asian Film Festival with Wai Ka-Fai there to meet the audience. Twitch has a write-up of the film, and you can watch Wai Ka-Fai’s appearance on the Subway Cinema blog.

And before it opens on July 10th in Hong Kong, you can also watch the bombastic trailer. Look at how rewarding reading this blog can be!

Also, king of English-language Thai film news Wise Kwai reports that the acclaimed political documentary Citizen Juling, which has made the rounds at film festivals around the world, will get a limited release in Bangkok.

- Andy Lau’s indie film unit Focus Films is putting together a series of low-to-mid-budget action films, and the first film will be Pye Dog and Moss director Derek Kwok’s latest project Fists of Dignity. I think a better English title is in order.

And one of the ways to keep down costs is to hire student (i.e. cheap) screenwriters. I know because there was a recruiting flyer at my school.

- Christopher Nolan has begun shooting Inception, his follow-up to The Dark Knight, in Tokyo with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe. With a reported US$200 million price tag (I honestly can’t believe that), Tokyo is one of the six locations around the world it will shoot at.

Really, US$200 million?

- Last, and definitely not least, Jason Gray reports that Japanese director Yasuharu Hasebe, who started making films in the 60s and became a regular director on the hit detective series Aibou (Partners), died last week at the age of 77. Hasebe did make a return to feature films before his death with the Aibou spin-off film.

The story is all over the trades by now, but I credit Jason because he first broke the story (as far as my compiling process goes), even though Screen decided to not even put it on its website.

The Golden Rock - June 21st, 2009 Edition

Not a lot of news for the weekend, but here ya go:

- China tells google to stop exposing foreign porn to their country. Yes, from now on, only domestic, social harmony-promoting porn!

- Mark Schilling has a review of Yuichi Sato’s Shugo Tenshi for the Japan Times. Sato last made the acclaimed comedy Kirasagi, except it’s damn near impossible to get ahold of it with English subtitles. Time to make a trip to Shenzhen?

And yes, Schilling is right that the basic premise, despite the tagline about courage and hope in the trailer, is still kind of creepy.

- Another trailer this week caught my attention, thanks to Nippon Cinema. It’s the trailer for Nanyoku Ryorinin, based on two autobiographical novels about a chef at a Japanese research station in the South Pole. Looks like Naoko Ogigami’s The Seagull Diner in the South Pole? Then again, there’s that damn evil Masato Sakai smirk, even though he’s playing a nice guy.

- Twitch has a short one-minute clip from the set of Yuen Wo-Ping’s new film True Legend, starring Chiu Man-Cheuk, Michelle Yeoh, and Jay Chou and about the famous Beggar So. I can’t help but shake the thought that they got Chiu Man-Cheuk because they couldn’t get DONNNNIIIEEEEE.

FYI: Stephen Chow and director Gordon Chan have done a version of this story in 1992’s King of Beggars.

- This weekend’s Daily Yomiuri talks to Japanese music group Dragon Ash, who are releasing a compilation of their biggest hits, but don’t call them a pop group, though - they sound like they can kick my ass.

- More on Danny Boyle’s stint as Shanghai International Film Festival jury head: He calls Chinese film censorship “regrettable”. Is that really news?

- Also from the Shanghai International Film Festival is a review of Chinese film A Tale of Two Donkeys by Veriety’s Derek Elley. Sounds like an interesting flick, if the Cultural Revolution background can get past the censors.

- Daily Yomiuri TV columnist Wm. Penn laments this week on Teleview about the quality of Japanese news and reveals that the 4th installment of drama Emergency Room 24 Hours will be delayed.

- Lastly, the Youtube clip of the week in Hong Kong netizen world, but only Mandarin and Cantonese speakers need to apply: I present to you the reason why Louis Koo should keep doing ads in Hong Kong.

The Golden Rock - June 18th, 2009 Edition

And here comes another attempt at a news post.

- The Japanese box office numbers are out. Turns out Box Office Mojo didn’t include the officially announced version of the Terminator 4 opening numbers. Instead, Rookie’s amazing third week take of roughly 815 million yen kept it in first place and bumped Terminator to 2nd place instead. Eiga Consultant also reports that Terminator’s opening weekend is only 53% of Terminator 3’s opening in Japan. However, there’s also the 400 million yen it made with sneak previews, which begs the question whether this Terminator’s opening would’ve been stronger had there been no sneak previews the week before?

Also worth noting is the amazing limited opening of Tsurugidake, the mountain climbing film that marks the directorial debut of veteran cinematographer Daisaku Kimura. On three screens in the Toyama area, the film attracted 14,275 people for a total of 15.25 million yen take. That’s a per-screen average of 5.08 million yen, which is almost unheard of anywhere in the world.

- Under “Japanese music news” today, Girl Next Door’s latest single hits first place, while GReeeeN’s third album finds the biggest album debut of the year on the charts, and they managed to do so without any public appearance whatsoever.

More over at Tokyograph

Even though Exile is now the best-selling Japanese pop unit in the first half year for the second year in a row, Mr. Children and Arashi actually have the best-selling album and single, respectively.

- The projects market at the Shanghai International Film Festival has wrapped up, with a Chinese and a Korean project taking the two top prizes.

- Japanese lawmakers have taken another step to stop illegal downloading by revising copyright laws to make downloading pirated material a punishable crime starting January 1st. So downloaders in Japan - it’s time to download to your heart’s content for the rest of the year….then not encounter any type of punishment at all for breaking the law.

- Untold Scandal director E J-Yong has put together a large female ensemble cast for his latest film, about six actresses who meet at a photo shoot. The actresses will be acting under their real names, though maybe not as themselves.

- After helping NHK to a ratings victory with the period drama Atsuhime, writer Kumiko Tabuchi will be writing the public broadcaster’s 2011 yearly period drama. Like Atsuhime, its central character will be female, but no casting decision will be made until next year.

-Last year, it was the Olympics. This year, with the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, there are not a lot of Chinese films coming out in the summer. Guess who’s there to fill the void? American alien robots and pretty boy vampires.

- Speaking of Westerners in Hollywood, Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle is in Shanghai as the head of the Shanghai International Film Festival jury, which he admits he’s doing as a sign of appreciation to China for allowing Slumdog to be released in the country.

- Also in film festival news: Just as the Japanese tearjerker April Bride was confirmed to play at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, the festival has also announced that it will open with M.W., the adaptation of the Osamu Tezuka comic.

- After SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi was pulled as the spokesman for the government’s digital broadcast conversion campaign, fellow member Shingo Katori will be appearing on police promotional posters, thanks to his latest drama leading role.

- Twitch has a full-length trailer for the big-budget Korean disaster film Haeundae, and it just looks like a Michael Bay film with the trailer emphasizing all the comedic bits. But is it really looking like a comedy? Not really.

- Lastly, Variety’s Justin Chang has a review for the documentary Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, about the role of insects in Japanese culture.

The Golden Rock - June 16th, 2009 Edition

And now, another attempt to salvage this blog - another news entry.

- First, let’s look at the Hong Kong weekly box office numbers. Star Trek finally took first place after losing to Terminator over its opening weekend, thanks to what I assume is very good word-of-mouth and a lack of a similarly high-profile film opening. After making HK$3.53 million over the first four days, the sci-fi franchise reboot made another HK$3.62 million in its first full week, comfortably beating Terminator 4, which has made HK$16.4 million after 18 days. Star Trek, on the other hand, has made HK$7.16 after 11. With Transformers not hitting the screen for another week, Star Trek should comfortably break the HK$10 million mark.

Targeting the female adult demographic, Coco Before Chanel did fairly well in its modest 18-screen release. Over four days, the French film made HK$1.9 million, which is very good coming from just 18 screens. Even Julia Roberts and Clive Owen’s Duplicity couldn’t touch it, despite being on 24 screens. The Tony Gilroy heist comedy made just HK$1.56 million over its first 4 days.

But at least Duplicity’s weak weekeend is nowhere near the disastrous proportion of the opening for Yu Lik-Wai’s Plastic City. Despite heavy promotion by investor/distributor Sundream Picture, the Panasian crime film made only HK$236,000 from 18 screens over 4 days. And they didn’t even show the artsy fartsy stuff in the trailers!

Also extremely weak is the opening for the Japanese disaster film 252 Signal of Life. Opening on 23 screens with no English subtitles (an exception rather than the rule here in Hong Kong), it only made HK$895,000 over its first 4 days.

- At the Japanese box office, clever accounting helped put Terminator 4 at the top spot with 1.02 billion yen. Instead of reporting that it made 592 million yen over its first two days (which is not a bad number at all, mind you), it also added the 429 million yen it made from sneak preview screenings last week. Of course, it bumped off two-week champ Rookies the Movie, which has now surpassed 4 million admissions andnow heading for the 5 billion yen mark.

Meanwhile, the World War II submarine flick Battle Under Orion opened at 4th place as the only other opener in the top 10, and Darren Aronofsy’s The Wrestler opened 37 screens for an OK 19,846,300 yen take. The film also coincidentally opened the same weekend that Japanese wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa tragically died on the wrestling ring. Thankfully, the Nikkatsu doesn’t seem to be cashing in on it….yet.

Sources: Box Office Japan, Box Office Gross Blog (in Japanese)

- In Korea, the crime thriller Running Turtle tops the box office as Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother falls to 4th place in its 3rd weekend. With 2.6 admissions, it seems like a good number, but it’s certainly somewhat disappointing considering Bong’s track record. Blood also deservedly flops at 7th place.

More at Korea Pop Wars

- Speaking of Blood: The Last Vampire, the Hollywood trades have chimed in with reviews: one from Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee and one from Variety’s Peter Debruge.

- China’s Huayi Brothers Studio, which must be swimming in money after the success of If You’re The One, has signed a deal with Imax to co-produce three movies. The first of them will be Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock. Not sure if these films will get to shoot with the Imax cameras, or if this will only include the remastering process.

- Also in Korea, Michael Bay has made a public apology to the Korean public, but not for making movies.

- At the Shanghai Film Festival, America’s MPAA Chairman speaks like a broken record and tries to convince China to open up its film market to foreign films. By foreign films, I’m pretty sure he means American films.

- Also, at the Shanghai Film Festival, the chairman of a major conglomerate expressed that he expects almost impossible returns on producing Chinese films and unveils plans to have brain-reading machines that will surely help them find the ultimate formula for commercially successful films. Scary.

- Twitch offers two Hong Kong trailers. One that I care about is the trailer for Alan Mak/Felix Chong’s Overheard, starring Louis Koo, Lau Ching-Wan, and Daniel Wu. It looks slick and I hope it’ll be better than the trailer suggests.

One that I don’t so much is the trailer for Andy Chow’s Murderer, the first film under the Edko-Focus Features deal starring Aaron Kwok, because the trailer’s been around for a while already. The thing more noteworthy is Todd Brown’s mentioning that Aaron Kwok seldom makes a bad movie. I would like to call the survivors of Heat Team, Para Para Sakura, China Strike Force, and 2000 A.D. to the stand, please.

- Under “seemingly only in Japan” news today, a TV producer decides to bring three female screenwriters together for a pop trio after realizing that they can sing. If it helps in it making sense at all, one of the three is an actress and a former idol as well.

- The producers of the final 20th Century Boys film is using secretcy as such a promotional tool that they promise only about ten people (which may not even include the actors themselves) will know what happens in the final ten minutes before its opening on August 29th. Not that it’ll help the entire world knowing about it by August 30th, though.

- The hit Japanese romantic tearjerker April Bride will be going to the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival next month. Ironically, there’s nothing fantastic about the film - it’s based on a well-publicized true story.

The Golden Rock - May 13th, 2009 Edition

That’s right, it’s a news post!

- Let’s first look at Hong Kong box office for the past week, courtesy of the Hong Kong Filmart site. The biggest surprise may be the opening for Lu Chuan’s Nanking Massacre film The City of Life and Death. On a limited 15-screen release, it managed to make HK$1.24 million over 4 days. This is easily the best-performing Mainland Chinese film in a long time, though the excellent production value and sensational subject probably helped it plenty.  I expect at least a HK$3 million take.

The next best performing debut film is Disney’s Chinese film The Trail of the Panda, which opened on 27 screens and only recorded a 4-day take of HK$725,000. I guess we don’t care as much about pandas as Americans care about 3D animated dogs. Meanwhile, Wolverine stayed on the top for its second week and has since made HK$12.5 million. However, it’s losing steam quickly, especially with Angels and Demons opening this week, which means it should top out under HK$15 million. 17 Again takes second place with a solid HK$5.8 million take and a very slow descent, which means it may end up with about HK$8 million. Not bad for a Zac Efron movie in Hong Kong.

Wong Jing’s I Corrupt All Cops (self-whoring time: My LHKF review) lost a modest 53% during its second week in business with HK$4.6 million after 11 days, and likely to do close to HK$6 million. The Japanese comedy Handsome Suits, which is only being shown with a Cantonese dubbed version (2 shows of the Japanese version at one theater barely counts), has made HK$3.5 million, and the church-backed film Team of Miracle: We Will Rock You is miraclously still in theaters (probably with showings paid by churches) with HK$2.1 million after 37 days.

- However, Disney is probably more optimistic about the performance of Trail of the Panda in China, where the film opened the weekend before the first anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake. The film was near the end of its shoot in Sichuan when the earthquake happened. A film cashing in on a real-life disaster? What is this, Hollywood?

- In Korean box office, the comedy My Girlfriend is An Agent continues to dominate, even with Star Trek opening this past weekend. Meanwhile, Park Chan-Wook’s Thirst has already found 1.7 million admissions, which is a great rebound for Park from the box office disappointment that was I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK. Also, with Daniel Hanney in a supporting role, I’m surprised Wolverine hasn’t done better than only 1.1 million admissions after two weeks.

More from Korea Pop Wars.

- Speaking of Thirst, which will be competing at the just-opened Cannes Film Festival, Koreanfilm.org’s Darcy Paquet has written a review for Screen Daily. Also, Hollywood Reporter has an interview with director Park Chan-Wook.

- In Japan, the tearjerker April Bride, starring Eita and directed by Vibrator director Ryuichi Hiroki, hit the top spot with 412 million yen from a modest 310 screens. The popular animated Conan film has dropped below Red Cliff II, which is holding on to its seocnd place standing. Kazuaki “Casshern” Kiriya’s Goemon drops to 4th place in its second weekend, but has already made 900 million yen after 10 days. It’s almost certain that it’ll do better than Casshern at this point. After 30 days, Crows Zero II has made more than 2.6 billion yen and has surpass the take of the first installment. I haven’t seen the film, but who’s betting that there really won’t be a third film?

Outside the top 10, Peter Chan’s Warlords opened at 12th place, and the Pang Brother’s Hollywood remake of Bangkok Dangerous opened only at 13th place. I guess it wasn’t as well-liked as these pachinko ads.

Sources: The Japanese box office blog, Screen Daily

-  The Hong Kong and Chinese governments has added new amendments to the 2003 CEPA agreement, which was responsible for allowing China-Hong Kong co-productions and is responsible for today’s HK cinema climate. The new amendment includes one that allows Hong Kong film distributor to directly release home video versions of approved co-production films. But what difference does it make when everyone downloads in China anyway?

-  Under “how the world sucking affects the film world” news today, the second annual Phuket Film Festival in Thailand has been cancelled because of the political turmoil and the logistic nightmare the ASEAN meeting was supposed to cause the region.

Meanwhile, Japan film distributor/producer Wide Policy, who last distributed Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution in Japan, has filed for bankruptcy.

Also, Japan’s Usen is planning to sell major film distributor Gaga Communications. Gaga has been troubled since it announced to stop acqusitions and productions last year, though it still distributes films with and for other companies.

- On the other hand, under “the world sucking has nothing to do with making films” news today, Takashi Miike, coming off the successes of Yatterman and Crows Zero II, will be remaking the 1963 film Thirteen Assassins with Jeremy “Last Emperor” Thomas on board as producer.

Korea’s Sidus has signed on as a co-producer for the remake of the classic Hong Kong martial arts film The One-Armed Swordsman with Hong Kong’s Celestial Pictures, to be directed by the director of Musa: The Warrior. No word on who will be starring, though.

Hong Kong’s Edko, who will next be releasing Blood: The Last Vampire, has signed a 3-film co-financing deal with America’s Focus Features. The three films will include Yuen Wo-Ping’s latest film, starring Michelle Yeoh, Jay Chou, and David Carradine.

Peter Chan Ho-Sun’s next film will be for his new production company Cinema Popular, and is now being touted as the first superhero film from China. Also in Cinema Popular’s slate is a serial killer movie set in Hong Kong, which I wonder how it’ll get into China.

And Singapore is telling the world that they have plenty of money to make films - about 17-20, to be exact.

- Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle will be the head of the jury at this year’s Shanghai Film Festival, happening mid-June.

- Twitch has a teaser for the big-budget Korean disaster film Haeundae, which has been getting quite a bit of attention at the recent film markets.  It looks like Deep Impact meets Poseidon. That’s not a compliment.

- Korean star Lee Byung-Hun will come off his role in the highly-anticipated TV drama Iris with…….Iris: The Movie.

- Lastly, Star Trek director JJ Abrams claims during his promotional appearance in Japan that he’s a fan of the idol group AKB48. Not sure how that’s relevant to this blog, I just find it funny.

Not sure when the next news post will be, but that’s it for now.

The Golden Rock at the HKIFF, Part III

About 3 weeks ago, I finished sitting through the rest of the 25 films I watched at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. These reviews are not comprehensive, because I only mention the Asian stuff, so don’t panic if they don’t add up to 25:

Rough Cut (2008, South Korea. Dir. Jang Hun) - The basic concept of this Korean comedy-drama is packed with ass-kicking potential - star actor hires gangster so he can get into real fights in his latest movie, except the ass-kicking became more than he could take. However, the script - written by Kim Ki-Duk - is often sidetracked by digression and is essentially off the rails by the third act. Tolerable, but could’ve been better. Maybe I was just tired that night.

Torso (2009, Japan. Dir: Yamazaki Yutaka) - The directorial debut from Hirokazu Kore-eda’s cinematographer is a quiet study of the life of a lonely Tokyo woman and her prosthetic torso that she sleeps with from time to time. The surprise of this film comes from the focus on the woman’s dysfunctional relationship with her half-sister, played out to subtle emotional effect. Shot in the same handheld realism style of a Kore-eda film, the script may be a little too close to real-life to generate any memorable emotional impact, but it does reward more than it punishes with its leisurely pacing.

Citizen King (2008, Hong Kong. Dir: Ching Long, Johnson Lee) - Kozo already reviewed this film when he saw it at the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival, and count me in as one of those who was greatly surprised and impressed by actor/impersonation-extraordinaire Johnson Lee’s directorial debut. Entertaining, funny, biting, and even affecting at spots, this is a rare Hong Kong indie film that actually embraces its indie trappings without being restricted in it. If I had seen this last year, it would’ve ended up on my top 10 HK film list.

Dying in a Hospital (1993, Japan. Dir: Jun Ichikawa) - This rarely-seen film from the recently deceased director is so hard to get ahold of overseas that the subtitles had to be projected under the screen. Even thougha good portion of te subtitles were not displayed properly, these 5 straightforward and heartbreaking tales of people dying in a hospital is a life-affirming gem that got quite a few people crying - including a middle-age foreigner - by the time the lights came back on. Ichikawa employed a Hou Hsiao-Hsien-wide shot style for the stories, but he always make sure different things are happening in the frame, and that all of them are worth focusing on. A great film that should’ve been the masterpiece that put Ichikawa on the map, despite its overly straightforward title.

KJ (2009, Hong Kong. Dir. Cheung King-Wai) - This documentary from the screenwriter of Ann Hui’s latest film hits a homerun when it comes to its titular character, a 17-year old music prodigy that has the attitude of an worn-out veteran with too much ideals. Aside from a clear structure that keeps the film worth following, Cheung successful captures the essence of his subject wonderfully, comparing his attitude at 12 years old and 17 years old. The result is not just the study of an arrogant musical prodigy, but the portrait of all the pains and pressure that torture him underneath.

There will be a full review, as well as an interview with a director coming soon.

Achilles and the Tortoise (2008, Japan. Dir: Takeshi Kitano) - Kitano’s third film in his self-reflexive trilogy is an entertaining look at an artist who collapses while trying to balance commercialism and individualism. Even though the third act goes a little too far in its antics, this is definitely the most enjoyable and the most accessible film out of the three, even though it’s by no means a masterpeice due to its simplistic characters and ideals.

I spent the last two days of the festival with an American and two French films, so I won’t write about them here. With that, another soul-draining year at the Hong Kong International Film Festival is over, and I’ll finally be able to blog regularly starting mid-May until who-knows-when. Even though there were a few underwhelming films, this year’s selection has been fairly solid, and I certainly don’t regret going to almost all of them. Hopefully, I can stay awake for more of them. Maybe they’ll have a cure for whatever I got by the next film festival.

The Golden Rock - Temporarily Out of Hibernation - HKIFF Edition, Part 2

Another short time out of hibernation means more reviews from the Hong Kong International Film Festival:

Love Exposure (Japan, 2008, Dir.: Sion Sono) - It’s  almost impossible to try and describe this 237-minute film in a 1000-word review. Taken in one go is like an array of extremes thrown into your eyeball that grip you from the first hour and rarely lets go. Even though its video format, its not-so-professional production quality, and its length makes home viewing a more comfortable way to watch it, there’s nothing like sitting in a room with 400 other people and watching it all unfold together. Simply said, it’s an insane masterpiece of epic proportions.

Buy a Suit (Japan, 2008, Dir: Jun Ichikawa) - Jun Ichikawa’s first self-produced film is sadly his last, as the Tony Takitani director died just after its completion. More of a story about Tokyo than a story about a woman and her homeless brother, the film is really more about the ideas it’s suggesting than what you really see onscreen. Not-so-professionally shot on HD-video, there’s a crudeness in the filmmaking that can alienate certain audiences, but those who buy into it will see a director’s sublime observation of the city he lives in. It will certain connect to Tokyo-ites better than others, but it’s still interesting to see where Ichikawa was heading and could’ve gone, had he remained with us.

Cry Me a River (China, 2008, Dir. Jia Zhangke)  - Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke proves that his brand of filmmaking is better served in small doses with this 19-minute short film about two pairs of reunited ex-lovers traveling down the Suzhou. Along the way, they talk about how dissatisfied they are with their lives, and that’s about it. It’s supposed to serve as an allegory for something, but I’m not entirely sure what it is. Nevertheless, what’s there is actually not bad, with Jia’s naturalistic style actually delivering effective emotions by its conclusion.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (South Korea, 2008, Dir: Kim Jee-Woon)(International Cut) - This is easily the most fun I’ve had at the big screen all year. Kim Jee-Woon’s so-called “Oriental Western” isn’t quite a modern copy of Leone, as it relies heavily of over-the-top, Hollywood-style action, but it does feature three charismatic characters, a hell of a cinematographer, and the always versatile Kim Jee-Woon in charge. It’s comforting to know that Kim is such a versatile director that he won’t even have to try and top himself after this.

Fish Story (Japan-Korea, 2009, Dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura) -  I bought a ticket to this, not knowing what to expect from this Japan-Korean co-production (I merely skimmed through Mark Schilling’s review, skipping plot descriptions.). It ended up being the most pleasant surprise of the festival for me. Blending four stories in four time periods and four genres, Fish Story is a thoroughly entertaining and has the ability to surprise in ways that most films just don’t anymore. What a joy to hear the gleefully surprised reaction of 500 fellow audiences after every twist. Highly recommended.

That’s it so far. Next entry will cover the final week of Asian films at the HKIFF, including a Japanese indie, a Hong Kong indie, and a documentary from the screenwriter of Night and Fog.

The Golden Rock - Temporarily Out of Hibernation Edition

ZZZZZZZZ…..

Oh, sorry, I fell asleep one night and ended up staying asleep for a good three weeks.

Or I could just be in the middle of HKIFF. I can’t tell.

Anyway, I’ve seen 10 movies so far at the HKIFF already, and I’m sure the filmmakers are very grateful that I managed to sleep for a period of time at only 7 of them. So without the qualification to write an actual review, here are some of my thoughts on the more notable films (ie. the Asian stuff) I’ve seen so far at the festival.

Echo of Silence (Japan, 2004. Dir. Watabe Atsuro) - Actor Watabe Atsuro makes his directing debut with this Lars Von-Trier-like realist film about the impact of silence. The documentary feeling of the film gets just the right naturalistic peformances from the actors, the snowy Hokkaido landscape is quite nice, and there’s a pretty heartbreaking twist at the end that really brings everything together. But I’ve seen too many minimalist Japanese films that are more intriuging and memorable than this.

Mental (Japan, 2008, Dir. Kazuhiro Soda) - It runs a little long, but Campaign director Kazuhiro Soda’s latest documentary is an eye-opening look at the taboo subject of mental illness in Japan. It’s sad that this group of mentally ill people have so little care that they essentially have only one place where society gives them a chance to be themselves - their psychiatrist’s clinic.

By the way, if Soda-san is reading this, I apologize for missing the Q&A after the film. I really did like your film and would’ve loved to learn more about it, but I had to run somewhere else.

Daytime Drinking (South Korea, 2009, Dir. Noh Young-Seok) - Even though it’s shot in that extremely dry indie, shot-on-DV style, Noh Young-Seok’s low-budget film is a hilarious road trip film that shows why social drinking can kill you and bring new opportunities at the same time. You’ll need a drink after the movie, and that’s a good thing. By the way, there’s a cameo at the end of the film that I thought was only someone that looks like a certain celebrity. The fact that it was actually her makes the film even more brilliant.

A Place of One’s Own (Taiwan, 2009, Dir: Ian Lou) - Lou last co-wrote and co-produced Singing Chen’s God Man Dog, which ended up being one of my favorite films from last year’s HKIFF. This time, it’s Lou’s turn at the director’s chair, with Chen taking co-writing and producing duties. Like God Man Dog, it’s again an ensemble piece, this time about how obsession with property changes the lives of the characters. Too bad some of the central characters are so unlikable that even though it’s easy to identify with their needs, but it’s hard to care about them. The film drags in the last reel, which makes it a bit of a tough sit, considering Lou’s dry directorial style. Still, a Taiwanese worth watching for its issues.

Naked of Defenses (Japan, 2008, Dir. Masahide Ichii) - This year’s big winner at the PIA Film Festival is a quiet and unassuming drama about a woman’s growing jealousy of her new pregnant co-worker. It’s a little more dry in style than I expected, and it’s certainly not as explosive a work as last year’s Bare-Assed Japan and This World of Ours, but it’s certainly a film that emotionally pays off in the end.

Shinjuku Incident (Hong Kong, 2009, Dir. Derek Yee) - The latest Jackie Chan production was potentially interesting - not only is it Jackie’s first non-action role (at the hands of Derek Yee, no less), it’s Jackie playing an illegal migrant worker in Japan who climbs through the ranks of the Shinjuku crime world. The first hour is excellent, as the characters and the Shinjuku crime world is slowly set up. However, it takes a freefall beause Jackie Chan being Jackie Chan, he never goes through the arc his character is supposed to. Instead, his character is just full of contradictions that makes his “gangster with a heart of gold” character an incomplete archetype instead of a fully-fleshed character. Word is that Yee is definitely not happy with the movie, and it’ll be pretty important to go in knowing that, because the blame definitely goes to someone else this time around. A major disappointment for me.

Night and Fog (Hong Kong, 2009, Dir. Ann Hui) - I’ve done way too much research on this movie to be objective about it. Not many people agree with me so far, but I think this is Hui’s most intense and powerful film in a long time. The script by King Cheung (with contribution from Alex Law) can be a little heavy-handed in its commentary at times, but great performances from Zhang Jingchu and Simon Yam (you’re in fear every time his character is onscreen), as well as great cinematography by Charlie Lam make this easily a top contender for the top ten list next year. Then again, perhaps not many people will agree.

That’s it so far. See you 15 films later.

The Golden Rock - February 19th, 2009 Edition

- Japan numbers are out on Box Office Mojo. Apparently, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button only lost 11.6% of previous week’s business to take the top spot away from 20th Century Boys. However, the latter isn’t stopping too quick, losing only 28.5% of previous week’s business at just past 2 billion yen. However, at this pace, it’s slightly behind part 1, which means it’s not likely to get past that 3.5 billion yen mark. Meanwhile, High School Musical lost a surprising 46.8% of business in its second weekend, making it a bona-fide disappointment for Disney.

Meanwhile, Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon opened in Japan this past weekend. From a limited release of 8 screens, the Daniel Lee film made 5.08 million yen over 2 days. It doesn’t sound very strong, but according to Mr. Texas of Eiga Consultant blog, its Tokyo screen attracted 1359 admissions (out of a possible 1608 for its 8 shows in a 201-seat auditorium) and made 1.66 million yen, with packed shows on Saturday opening day.

- In Korea, Benjamin Button took the top spot, as expected. Meanwhile, the movie that’s making the big news is the documentary Old Partner, about an injured farmer and his ox. Started as a small indie release, it has blown up to a 200+ screen release and more than 700,000 admissions already.

More from Korea Pop Wars.

- In Chinese box office, Transporter 3 is off to a very good start, making just over 30 million yuan on opening weekend. Look For a Star is now at 89 million, and will likely pass that 100 million yuan mark. Joe Ma’s Give Love, despite being distinctly a recepient of the new Hong Kong government film fund, opened in China first and made roughly 9.5 million yuan. Cape No. 7, which finally saw its China release for Valentine’s Day, could only muster a 5th place opening of about 9 million yuan. This may be because many of its target youth audience has already downloaded the film and have no reason to go the theaters for it.

- On the Japanese Oricon charts, KAT-TUN gets their 9th consecutive number 1 single on the singles chart, while Thelma Aoyama gets her first number 1 album with her latest compilation, although I don’t know someone with just one full-length album can already have a compilation album.

More from Tokyograph.

- Coming off the moderate success of See You in Youtube, the directorial team of Seven’s (which include producer Oxide Pang, Cub Chien, and six other young directors) are back together for a school-themed film with young stars such as G.E.M., William Chan, and Siu Fey. Yikes.

- In what is likely to be a better film by a better director, Ang Lee is the latest director in talks to direct the adaptation of The Life of Pi.  Directors involved before Lee includes M. Night Shyamalan and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

- In Thailand, the cabinet has passed the controversial film ratings system, and it’s set to be in place in May. It was meant to allow greater freedoms for filmmakers, but the sketchy wording of the system and the structure of the regulatory party have found more disapproval among Thai filmmakers instead.

- Variety’s Ronnie Scheib takes a look at Takashi Miike’s Yatterman after its screening at Berlin.

- Lastly, director Tsai Ming-Liang is in Taiwan rushing to complete his latest film Face in time for the Cannes Film Festival. But first, he will have to flood several city blocks of Taipei to get there.

 
 
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