Long time no see. It’s been a very busy month, so please excuse the extended breaks.
- In the same situation as Taiwan, Cape No. 7 entered the Hong Kong box office with a good, but not spectacular start. The now-historic Taiwanese comedy-romance-drama opened on 23 screens and made HK$586,380 for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2 million. However, unlike its run in Taiwan, the opening in Hong Kong was preceded by unavoidable buzz, which makes this opening a little underwhelming. Depending on word-of-mouth, normal box office patterns suggest that this will end up making around HK$5 million, which makes this one of the better-grossing Taiwanese movies in recent years (excluding Lust, Caution, of course). Nevertheless, for a movie that beat every movie except Titanic in its native country, underwhelming is the buzz word here.
At least it did better than Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua. From 32 screens, the family-friendly doggie film made HK$1.36 million over the 4-day weekend, which means it’ll surely not repeat the success of High School Musical 3 last month. The Richard Gere-led romantic drama Nights in Rodanthe opened on 20 screens, but made only HK$400,000 over the 4-day weekend.
As for the holdovers, Quantum of Solace is still in 2nd place in its 3rd weekend, now with a 18-day total of HK$17.12 million after making another HK$507,000 from 41 screens on Sunday. Champions lost about half its audience in its second weekend, now with HK$4.42 million after 11 days. The sad part is that it’s actually quite close to the Mainland Chinese gross after two weeks, which surely makes this a not-very-successful film for Tsui Siu Ming, his Sundream Pictures, and Dicky Cheung, who still has a few more films (including his directorial debut) under his contract.
The Coens’ Burn After Reading lost two screens in its second weekend, but saw a much lower drop in its second weekend. From 18 screens, it still managed to make HK$184,000 for a 11-day total of HK$2.07 million. Last week’s limited release Bella also hung on to its audiences, still making HK$90,000 from 8 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total of HK$1.04 million. Detroit Metal City passed the HK$10 million mark over the weekend, and has now made HK$10.18 million after 25 days, marking this another hit for Kenichi Matsuyama in Hong Kong.
Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect made a total of HK$180,000 from 30 screens over 5-6 sneak preview shows over the weekend. It’ll open against plenty of newcomers over the weekend, so we’ll see whether the intended teen girl audiences will show up this weekend.
- In Hong Kong, despite the complaints about falling grosses and dying Cantonese film industries, cinemas actually saw a higher total gross than last year. Of course, this is mostly due to the major success of several Hollywood films such as The Dark Knight and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
- Speaking of Patrick Kong, his new film Love Connected has just started filming, and Gold Label has already premiered a new trailer. However, there’s no actual footage from the film; it’s only a somewhat funny parody of the Connected trailer. Love Connected comes out next Valentine’s Day.
- The Good, the Bad, and the Weird was the big winner at Korea’s Blue Dragon Awards, even though it only won one of the major awards (Kim Jee-woon for Best Director). Instead, the handball film Forever the Moment picked up Best Picture, while Son Ye-jin picked up a surprise win for My Wife Got Married. The Chaser, which swept the competing Grand Bell Awards earlier in the year, only won a much-deserved Best Actor award for Kim Yoon-suk.
- Chinese television dramas was such a lucrative business that every other production company started making them. However, the global financial crisis and a growing backlog in the stations’ schedules has caused things to slow down, even though the major players are still doing their thang.
Mr. Children, who have been been active since 1989 and has rejected the invitation to Japan’s year-end musical extravaganza Kohaku Uta Gassen every year, has finally agreed to appear for the first time ever. Now NHK needs to get Hikaru Utada - another chronic rejection musician - to finally appear as well.
- Next month, American theaters will see Waiting for Beijing, the directorial debut of Chinese entrepeneur Alan Zhang, who worked 20 years to break into the world of cinema. However, his film was unable to get any deals at the recent American Film Market, even though he plans to make four more films in 2009.
- This isn’t any type of bias. I’m going over the Japanese box office numbers first because it has more detailed statistics. As reported before, John Woo’s Red Cliff made an amazing 960 million yen over the three-day weekend. Box Office Mojo reveals that its two-day gross is roughly 665 million yen, which means it has beaten Hero’s 2-day 630 million yen opening to be the biggest non-Japanese Asian film opening ever. Interesting to see that Suspect X actually saw its two-day box office went up compared to last weekend, even though it’s already in its 5th weekend and no other movie saw its gross go up.
Even though Departures has already dropped to 10th place, but it lost only 9.4% from the previous weekend. The smallest drop, however, went to Journey to the Center of the Earth, most likely due to the popularity of the 3D version. On the other hand, the largest drop went to Fumihiko Sori’s Ichi, which joins a long chain of flops released by Warner Bros. Japan, who hasn’t had a number 1 opening since February with L: Change the WorLd.
- In Taiwan box office, megablockbuster Cape No.7 has finally been knocked off the top spot after 10 weeks there. It’s been knocked to 3rd place by Tropic Thunder’s opening weekend and the second weekend of High School Musical 3. I don’t think the filmmakers are sad, though; it’s already made an amazing 447 million Taiwan New Dollars, and the highest-grossing Mandarin-language film in the region. Meanwhile, high-profile films Body of Lies and 20th Century Boys are definitely now flops. Again, without screen numbers and per-screen averages, it’s hard for me to make kind of detailed analysis, so remember to not just go by standings and numbers.
- Under “films by Hong Kongers I’m not looking forward to yet” news today, Jackie Chan has announced that he will not only produce and star in his next film, but he will also write the Qin Dynasty-set road movie. He also chose a relatively unknown director to start shooting it next year.
Meanwhile, Jeff Lau, best known for his irrelevant Wong Kar-Wai-parodying comedies, will next make a movie named Robots, which is poised to be the Chinese version of Transformers. It will start shooting later this month.
After 17 days, 16 festival movies, 3 theatrical screenings, and 2 other missed screenings, the 2008 HKAFF has come to an end. Here are the last six movies this blogger watched:
Miao Miao (dir: Cheng Hsiao Tse. Taiwan, 2008)
A pretty-looking youth film from Wong Kar-Wai’s Jet Tone further proves the fact that “gay youths in Taiwan” is practically its own genre. Director Cheng Hsiao Tse’s debut film has a cast of good-looking sets and good-looking people - the girls act cute while the men wander around with the word “angst” branded on their forehead. But what it doesn’t do is add anything to the genre. It’s nice during its brief running time, but if you’ve seen Blue Gate Crossing, Eternal Summer, and Spider Lillies, chances are you’ve seen this movie before.
A review I read of this omnibus film called it the “bad-boy sibling of Paris Je’Taime”, and that label is mostly right. The two films by French directors can be alienating with their weirdness and an obvious Western-centric take on Japan’s capital city. However, what Gondry is able to do with his film that Corax can’t is actually get his audience involved with the story. Of course, the Corax film, about a monster who crawls up from his underground hideout and terrorizes Tokyo with his anti-social behavior, is almost intentionally hard to get involved in, but what’s there really isn’t all that interesting. On the other hand, with its brilliant camerawork and thoroughly involving story, Bong Joon-ho’s segment may have less of an impact than the other two films, but it’s easily the best short film I’ve seen all year.
Director Yukiko Sode (left) at the Q&A for Mime Mime
This 2008 PIA Film Festival runner-up prize and the Avex Entertainment Award winner is one of those indie-style slow-burn drama with an interesting central character. It features several nicely-directed scenes, but the rest of the story feels too vague and too ambiguous to really make an impact. Nevertheless, protagonist Makoto’s sarcastic and indifferent nature makes her an interesting character to follow, even though the film sometimes feel as direction-less as Makoto’s life. I would rank it as the weakest PIA film out of the seven I’ve seen so far, but even that is a major compliment to the general quality of films coming out of the film festival.
Sode also signed my ticket stub with three hearts. You gotta love a female film director who signs autographs like that.I know I do.
Claustrophobia (dir. Ivy Ho. 2008/2009, Hong Kong)
Renowned Hong Kong screenwriter Ivy Ho’s directorial debut has three interesting things going for it: 1) Karena Lam and Ekin’s fourth pairing, 2) The film is clearly divided into eight sections, and 3) The story is told backwards. Even though the structure seems more suited for a European film, Ho picks very local settings and very local characters for this tale of an ambigious office romance between an employee and her boss. There’s not much of a plot or narrative, but the mood it gives off and the fact that it stayed with me for days make this an easy pick for one of my favorite Hong Kong films of the year. Too bad it won’t come out until next year.
This Window is Yours (dir. Tomoyuki Furuyama. 1993, Japan)
The 1993 PIA Scholarship film, this is a very low-key look at an unrequited romance between two high school students before one of them moves to Hokkaido for good. It’s also very strange, because it was shot on 16mm (not even with widescreen in mind), and the sound was in mono, so it felt like a homemade 70s film. But it also helped emphasize its perosnal indie spirit. Nothing much happens in this movie, except for two people teasing each other before realizing that they actually love each other. The more interesting stuff happens when the side characters and their criss-crossing infatuations come together. This is one of those movies that works much better on repeat viewing, but you just have to get through that first viewing to fully enjoy it later on.
Sky Crawlers (dir. Mamoru Oshii. 2008, Japan)
Chihiro Ito, who’s been writing for Isao Yukisada since Crying Out For Love In the Center of the World (Yukisada, on the other hand, is a “script consultant” on this film), adapts the novel for this very slow animated film about teenagers who fight brutal aerial battles, smoke, drink, and do all the things that adults do. Mamoru Oshii supposedly keeps up the tedious pacing he has been known for over the years, but what he does is make some breathtaking aerial battle sequences (helped by the sound effects by Skywalker Sound). However, his handling of the story doesn’t match up to Ito’s script, which has a strange way of revealing plot points. Nevertheless, I surprisingly liked it, and it was a good way to wrap up the festival.
It also has a really good theme song that fits well with the tone of the film:
Overall, all the films I saw this year had strong points, and I can’t say I was really disappointed by any of them. However, this is how I would rank them if I had to:
1. Tokyo Sonata 2. After School 3. Claustrophobia
5. Crows Zero
6. Cape No. 7
8. Yoshino’s Barber Shop
9. Sky Crawlers
10. True Women For Sale
11. AYSL: Park and Love Hotel
12. Accuracy of Death
13. Miao Miao
14. The Window is Yours
16. Mime Mime
Next is the Hong Kong Asian Independent Film Festival, which will have The Rebirth, Tokyo Gore Police, and the Matsugane Potshot Affair. Until then, we’ll be back to our normal programming.
- As I predicted, Jingle Ma’s Butterfly Lovers came back from behind over the weekend to beat Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies at the Hong Kong box office. On Sunday, the idols period flick made HK$761,079 from 36 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2.67 million. Meanwhile, Body of Lies made HK$734,000 from 35 screens on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2.6 million. While Body of Lies has one less screen and runs 20 minutes longer, it also attracts the higher-priced adult tickets, while Butterfly Lovers attracted the lower-priced student tickets, so there’s essentially no handicap for either film.
As for other openers, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona did pretty well on its relatively limited release (although this is pretty wide for Woody Allen). It made HK$261,000 from 16 screens on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$890,000, which is reportedly better than Match Point already. The Hollywood rom-com My Best Friend’s Girl did slightly better during the weekend, making HK$110,000 from just 13 screens, but it still only made HK$280,000 after 4 days.
Painted Skin lost almost half of its audience over the weekend, making HK$517,000 from 30 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total (it says 19, but it’s really 11) of HK$8.28 million (minus the possibly bogus HK$350,000 gross from its “one-week run”). Connected is proving relatively long legs, making HK$382,000 from 34 screens on Sunday. After 18 days, Benny Chan’s action thriller has made HK$11.91 million. The Duchess also hangs on during its second weekend in limited release, making HK$67,000 from 6 screens for a 12-day total of HK$1.36 million. 20th Century Boys has passed the HK$6 million mark after 18 days after making HK$87,000 from 14 screens. Lastly, Mamma Mia is now at 11.56 million after 32 days, and Eagle Eye is at HK$6.14 million after 18 days.
-It’s a public holiday in Japan today, so all we have today is last week’s drama ratings. The Fall 2008 season has started, and as reported last week, Kaze no Garden is leading the pack with a 20.1% rating for its premiere episode. Yume wo Kanaeru Zou takes a big drop for its second episode, losing nearly 43% of its audience for a 4.1% rating in its second week. OL Nippon, from the writer of the successful Haken no Hinkaku, flops in its first episode with just a 8.3% rating. Fuji’s Saturday night 11pm drama fails to outdo last season’s 33-Minute Detective, but outdoes Hachi One Diver’s premiere with a 10.4% rating.
I found out during a random look yesterday at the Now TV movie trailer channel that there’s a trailer out for the Wong Jing-produced cheapie flick The Vampire Who Admires Me. Here it is in all its Youtube glory.
- Salon Films, hot off the success of their first film Painted Skin at the Chinese box office, is now set to make nine more films. Four of the films, all English-language films, will be made with the recently established multinational Asian film fund and will be shot in China. One of the other five films will be a sequel to Eat Drink Man Woman, which doesn’t seem to have Ang Lee’s name attached…yet?
- Veteran Japanese actor Toru Minegishi, who last appeared in the acclaimed film Departures and I probably last saw him in TV drama Karei Naru Ichizoku, passed away from cancer on Saturday. He was 65.
The trade papers took a break because it’s Memorial Day. As a result, it’ll be a somewhat short entry today.
- As expected, the Hong Kong box office was dominated by Indiana Jones over the weekend, and it ended up getting a very big boost over the weekend. On 101 (!) screens, the adventure film made HK$3.7 million on Sunday, and a 4-day total of HK$12.06 million. Definitely no underperforming here. Meanwhile, Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind actually did the second best in terms of per-screen average, making HK$137,000 from 11 screens on Sunday as the only other film to pass the HK$10,000 per screen mark. After 11 days, the film has made HK$1.48 million.
Iron Man is still in second place in its 4th weekend, making HK$243,000 from 32 screens for a 26-day total of HK$21.06 million. What Happens in Vegas is still doing OK with HK$231,000 from 30 screens for a 18-day total of HK$6.5 million, which is a little better than average for this type of films in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Speed Racer is now only on 8 screens, and made only HK$28,000 on Sunday for an 18-day total of HK$2.71 million.
The Japanese family film Tale of Mari and Three Puppies is still around with HK$95,000 from 23 screens for a 25-day total of HK$7.15 million, which is the best performing Japanese film in Hong Kong since Hero. That’s right, dogs are more appealing than Kimura Takuya here in Hong Kong.
- As expected, The Chronicles of Narnia took over as box office champ at the Japanese box office. The sequel finally bumped Aibou off the top spot down to 2nd place. Meanwhile, Rambo opened at 3rd place, Katsuhito Ishii’s Yama No Anata opens at6th place, and Kenji Uchida’s After School opens at 7th place. Poor Charlie Wilson’s War fell all the way from 3rd place last week to 8th place this week, which signals not-very-good word-of-mouth in Japan. More when the numbers are released.
- It’s Japanese drama ratings time! It was kind of a quiet week at the Japanese drama world this past week. CHANGE fell very slightly in the ratings to 23% for its second episode, while Gokusen’s season-low rating of 21.1% this week may give the Kimura Takuya drama a chance to catch up. Meanwhile, Zettai Kareshi and Puzzle both hit their season-low this week, falling to 12.4% and 8.9%, respectively. In fact, only one drama, the third season of Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Kagari, hit its season-high this week with 12.4%.
Last Friends continue to go back down to its original average numbers with a 16% rating for its 7th episode, Osen falls slightly down to 9%, 81 Diver takes a steep drop to 8.4% after its season-high rating the previous week, Muri Na Renai falls slightly again to a 6.6%, and Ryoteki Na Kanojo (My Sassy Girl)is also down slightly at 7.6%.
- It’s Taiwanese music charts time! Energy member Milk Yeh’s debut album could only muster a 2nd place debut behind Jesse McCartney’s album with 2.9% of total sales. The slow sales gave Victor Wong and Kenji Wu a chance to climb back up on the chart. Coco Lee’s relevance in Chinese pop may’ve just been proven, as her latest compilation could only get a debut at 11th place with just 0.86% of total sales. Khalil Fong also made it back into the top 20 at 17th place with 0.7% of total sales.
- Japan takes successful adaptation one step further. After the film and TV drama versions of Ima, Ai Ni Yukimasu (Be With You), the tearjerker fantasy novel is now coming back as an audio drama. The news also mentions that a Hollywood remake starring Jennifer Garner is in the works. Actually, I can see her in the Yuko Takeuchi role.
- It’s reviews time! Hollywood Reporter finally updated their review page with the latest from Cannes. From reviewer Maggie Lee are reviews of the Korean thriller The Chaser, the omnibus film Tokyo!, Jia Zhangke’s 24 City, and the Korean horror The Guard Post. Meanwhile, Peter Brunette has a review of Wong Kar-Wai’s Ashes of Time Redux.
- The announcement came at the Avex party over at Cannes, where an extended trailer for John Woo’s Red Cliff was shown, as Avex is one of the film’s major investors.
- Japanese public broadcaster NHK has come up with a new way to irritate non-fee payers into paying: put a big bold warning across their screens. I had fee collectors come to my door when I was in Japan, but I’m pretty sure the text across the screen is more annoying.
- As expected, The Chronicles of Narnia opened first place at the Korean box office. However, as Korea Pop Wars reports, the sequel opened slightly lower than the first film. Meanwhile, Speed Racer didn’t experience a real free fall, already having 745,000 admissions after two weekends, meaning it should move past the million admission mark. Iron Man continues to perform strongly with 3.7 million admissions after three weekends. Full chart over at Twitch.
- The Oriental Daily reported it, and now Variety’s Derek Elly confirms it in his review: The new Ashes of Time Redux isn’t much different from the original film in terms of structure and length, although the new score seems to make a world of difference.
- The first posters for Derek Yee’s The Shinjuku Incident, featuring Jackie Chan in his first dramatic/non-action-oriented role, showed up at the Cannes film market. Also, someone in the comment section revealed that the film may be due for a ban in China because it involves the Japanese yakuzas, even though the film is a co-production that filmed in China.
- Those who don’t get who the newly popular Japanese male trio Shuuchishin is can get a brief explanation here. Japan has a thing for gimmick pop, and it looks like this is one of them.
- Lastly, the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live did a Japanese take on The Office that’s funny at first, but only ended up growing annoying as it went on. Still, at least the Japanese was correct despite the heavy accent. And Ricky Gervais is still brilliant.