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Archive for the ‘gossip’ Category

The Golden Rock - January 18th, 2008 Edition

- First, a short box office report from Thursday opening day in Hong Kong, just to see how things will be over the weekend:

The J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield attracted a ton of audience based on its mysterious commercial. The handheld-camera-monster-flick made HK$863,000 from 36 screens and should be close to the HK$5 million mark by the end of the weekend. Surprisingly, the teen flick See You In Youtube, produced by Oxide Pang and directed by a new director plus 6 film students (Some say it’s Oxide Pang and the other 6, who cares? A student film is a student film is a student film), managed to make HK$408,194 (sorry to say 30 of those dollars are mine) from 28 screens. At third is the Hollywood romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which made just HK$227,000 from 26 screens.

Wait, there’s 3 more opening films to go: The Japanese cartoon Atashin’ichi The Movie made HK$125,000 from 27 screens, but should see its business pick up considerably over the weekend. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (which was torn apart by critics in the West, but heard good reviews around Hong Kong) made HK$78,000 from 12 screens. Lastly, Gavin Hood’s Rendition made only HK$54,000 from 16 screens. Then again, who expects a movie about torture to do well?

- The numbers for the Japanese snow sports movie Giniro No Season came out. However, Box Office Mojo got them wrong by reporting that it opened on 66 screens, when it really opened on 266 screens. As a result, the per-screen average is still a solid US$6,570, or 715,500 yen.

- The nominees for the 2nd Asian Film Awards have been announced, and it’s the Chinese-speaking films’ world, as Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution is tied with Peter Chan’s The Warlords with 6 nominations each. Rounding out the best picture nominees are the Iranian film Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame, Japan’s I Just Didn’t Do It, South Korea’s Secret Sunshine, and China’s The Sun Also Rises. I was really happy that not only did Sakuran get recognized for its art direction, but also for the score by Shiina Ringo.

Also, the awards are being held with a larger budget than last year. Why, you ask? Because there’s no writers strike in Asia, guys! They’re just lucky to get paid!

Complete list of nominees.

- Speaking of I Just Didn’t Do It, it just picked up two major awards at the Mainichi Film Awards - Best Film and Best Director (English-subtitled DVD, where art thou??!!) . However, there are some puzzling choices in there: Talk Talk Talk for Best Actor AND Best Sound?! Actor, maybe, but the movie’s DVD didn’t even have a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack!

- Despite a slow first half in 2007, Toho ended up having their most successful year ever, thanks to Always 2, Hero, A Tale of Mari and Her Three Puppies. Hell, even Tsubaki Sanjuro ended up working out.

- Andy Lau rules. He might not have been able to pay people’s salary in pizzas and online game strategies (that would be the Korean pop star that did it), but he did jump off the stage during a concert to rescue a fan getting jumped by security guards for jumping past the fence. Why? Because he’s Andy-freaking-Lau.

- Next to this here blog getting linked for the Storm Riders story (in this entry, y’all), Kaiju Shakedown also has bits of other news for you. I hope those so-called Dragonball set pictures aren’t real.

The Golden Rock - November 7th, 2007 Edition

- It’s Oricon charts time! Mr. Children scores their 27th consecutive number 1 single this week, while Glay’s latest EP could only get a 2nd place debut. As for the album chart, The Backstreet Boys’ comeback album manages to hold on to the top spot for the second week in a row, as Seamo’s latest manages a second place debut with 56,000 in sales. Go read more at Tokyograph.

- Despite delays and 7 minutes of cuts (though some of the sex scenes remain), Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution is a hit in China and is expected to surpass the distributor’s forecast for its final gross. It’s even made people discuss film sexuality, though it couldn’t avoid the juvenile “shameless actors will do anything for money!” comments.

- As for South Korea, October 2007 box office is down 33% from October 2006. Before someone screams “piracy,” a possible explanation for the drop is because the Chuseok holiday occurred in September this year.

- It’s reviews time! Variety’s Derek Elley actually manages to survive the Mainland Chinese comedy Contract Lover and lives to tell about it. Elley also reviews Taiwan’s Academy Awards best foreign film entry Island Etude (also known as “the movie that replaced Lust, Caution”). Then Russell Edwards caught the hit “cell phone novel” adaptation Koizora (Sky of Love) at Tokyo International Film Festival.

Elsewhere, Lovehkfilm’s Kozo offers up reviews of the Hong Kong “relay” film Triangle, the small Hong Kong film Magic Boy, and the hit Japanese drama adaptation film Hero. Meanwhile, Sanjuro offers up reviews of another Japanese drama adaptation Unfair: The Movie and the Korean summer horror hit Black House.

- Both Ryuganji and Jason Gray write about the latest controversy regarding Toho actually asking people to give a standing ovation for the cast at an opening day event for the Japanese film Always 2. This comes after Toho had a PR nightmare on their hands when Erika Sawajiri ridiculed her latest film Closed Note at a similar event.

Jason Gray coverage
Ryuganji coverage

- The fifth Bangkok World Film Festival is over, and the Austrian film Import/Export won best film, while Taiwanese art film Help Me Eros managed to earn the special jury prize.

- Did I enjoy the comic adaptation film Honey and Clover? Not greatly. Was it a really big hit? Not really. That’s not stopping Fuji TV from bringing it to the drama world next season on Tuesdays at 9pm. Maybe it’d be better off there.

- With the possible exception of 28 Weeks Later, Fox Atomic hasn’t released one movie that can be considered “good.” However, that’s not stopping them from becoming the first Hollywood studio to produce a movie in South Korea. This one doesn’t sound any good, either.

- Under “Hong Kong people just like to complain, complain, complain” news today, after Batman realized Victoria Harbor’s water is too toxic to jump into, environmental groups and some tenants are complaining the producers’ request to keep the lights on at night for buildings along the waterfront.

To answer the group Green Sense: No, you cannot just “turn on” lights at night through post-production because there’s no light on the buildings themselves. For a group named “Green Sense,” you certainly don’t have much “common sense.”

- Under “most dubiously interesting idea” news today, Japan’s NTV is planning a “blog drama,” in which the path of a TV drama will be decided by fans who contribute to the drama’s blog.

The Golden Rock - October 26th, 2007 Edition

The start of another weekend, and the beginning of spreading news out over 3 days. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of news all weekend.

- Last week I linked to the review for Suzuki Matsuo’s Welcome to the Quiet Room, which opened on 13 screens last weekend. With one theater in Shibuya seeing full house all day on opening day, the comedy-drama made an impressive 15.47 million yen, surely scoring the best per-screen average amidst the weak box office.

Meanwhile, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling chimes in with a review.

- There are also a ton of stories about the animated series Afro Samurai, which is seeing its extended cut get a theatrical release in Japan this weekend.

First, there’s a report from The Associated Press/The Daily Yomiuri about the reaction to the first series.

Then the Japan Times has a feature on what’s next, including a comic book version by the creator himself.

And then comes the confirmation that creator Okazaki is now working on the production of the second series.

- Don’t think I forgot about the Tokyo International Film Festival. Actually, I’ve been waiting all week for a review anywhere for the opening film Midnight Eagle. But the only news about the film so far is that it’s been sold to a few more territories, including this blogger’s current city of residency Hong Kong.

- At least we know Tokyo is the real land of opportunity: Even a movie a written by the writer of the Tony Jaa starrer Tom Yum Goong can win the Tokyo Project Award out of 37 other movies.

- Meanwhile, another film festival is underway. In addition to the Sylvia Chang tribute, the World Film Festival of Bangkok opened with the unintentionally funny historical epic Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea (lovingly called here as “that Genghis Khan movie).

- Also, the Reel Asian International Film Festival in Toronto announced its lineup. Try to avoid the self-promotion along the way.

- Lastly, in your daily Lust, Caution news, the Philippines will be getting a full uncensored version of Ang Lee’s erotic espionage drama in its theatres while those in neighboring countries are stuck with a censored version.

Sadly, it has also become the little puppy without a home, as the Hong Kong Film Awards have also disqualified the Asian co-production because it doesn’t feature eight Hong Kong residents in key creative roles.

That, and a ton of other unfairness in the world from Kaiju Shakedown.

The Golden Rock - October 3rd, 2007 Edition

- It seems like I made a mistake last week in predicting this week’s Oricon charts because the daily charts at the time had not included the new singles yet. So the predictions from last week are completely wrong. On the singles chart, YUI’s latest, the theme song for the film Closed Note, debut at number one with about 87,500 copies sold. BoA’s latest is far far behind at 3rd place with about 28.400 copies sold. Ayumi Hamasaki’s latest actually did not top the charts again, falling to 4th place with just 18,700 copies sold. Next week (and this should be correct), expect rock superstar band B’z’s latest single to top the chart.

As Tokyograph predicted, Ai Otsuka’s latest album topped the albums chart with about 208,000 copies sold. Not too close behind at second place is personal favorite Tokyo Jihen’s 3rd album, which sold about 101,000 copies in its first week. Angela Aki’s album falls to 3rd place in its second week, and I can’t believe Hideaki Tokunaga’s cover album is still going this strong at 4th place. Next week, expect the album chart battle to be between Yuki’s or Yuzu’s compilation albums.

- I’m combining the box office and the regular entry into one today. The Japanese box office numbers came out, and there are a bunch of discrepancies between the numbers and the admissions ranking. Apparently the Isao Yukisada film Closed Note may have attracted less people than Perfect Stranger, but it make more cold, hard cash, putting it at 2nd place. The same thing happened between Fantastic 4 and No Reservations. Also, La Vie En Rose actually opened on 196 screens, which makes it 8th place opening kind of disappointing.

Actually, Closed Note’s second place opening isn’t all that swell, either. While it is 176% of the opening for Sugar And Spice ~ Fumi Zekka, it’s only 94% of the opening for Yukisada’s Haru no Yuki, which means the film will barely pass the 1 billion yen mark in box office.

- Speaking of Closed Note, its star Erika Sawajiri has apologized for her rudeness in a recent press conference for the film. Still, her appearance at the film’s screening at the Pusan Film Festival has been canceled due to the incident. I’m not exactly sure how not having her take an extra trip to Korea to promote a movie is punishment unless she was going to get paid.

- Speaking of Pusan, Hollywood Reporter has a bunch of reports from the festival. First, a general overview of this year’s festival, then a report on the new anti-piracy campaign being launched at the festival, and a preview of opening film The Assembly, which will see its world premiere on Thursday.

- Speaking of Feng Xiaogang, he has already casted Jiang Wen and Ge You for his next film, a comedy that pokes fun at the new overnight millionaires of China. Sounds like Feng is going back to his roots as a commercial comedy director.

- As a young aspiring filmmaker, this news is quite disappointing: The new Film Development Council of Hong Kong has announced their terms for disburse the HK$300 million film fund - by giving it to commercially-appealing films made by experienced filmmakers/producers. That means your director or producer has to have made at least 2 films, but yet your budget has to be kept under US$1.55 million (HK$12.1 million). Not that they’ll actually give you more than 30% of your budget anyway.

Do these people actually know how much it cost to make an audience-friendly, commercially-appealing movie these days? Your average movie star take at least HK$4 million already, and what commercially successful HK movie this year actually cost just HK$12 million? Obviously, the money should’ve gone more to developing young talents, but what can I say? I go to film school in Hong Kong, so that makes me biased by default.

- On the other hand, legendary Japanese filmmaker Yoji Yamada is working with the students of a film class he is currently teaching on a new film as part of a collaboration between Shochiku and a university in Kyoto. Eventually, the studio will establish a training facility with the students of the university as research interns. THIS is how you develop young talent, Hong Kong Film Development Council.

- Meanwhile, Yamada’s latest film Love & Honor, starring Kimura Takuya, has been picked up by tiny American distributor Funimation, and will be released in one New York cinema in November.

- It’s reviews time! From Variety, we have a short review by Robert Koehler for Christmas in August director Hur Jin-Ho’s latest film Happiness, and a review by Russell Edwards for the Japanese film Sea Without Exit.

- From Lovehkfilm, Kozo has reviews for Oxide Pang’s entertaining mystery-thriller The Detective, the shitter Wong Jing comedy Beauty and the 7 Beasts, the independent film Breeze of July, the Taiwanese film The Most Distant Course, and the 80s action film Angel. From Sanjuro are reviews of Japanese sports drama Rough and the Japanese drama A Long Walk. From yours truly are reviews of the Japanese art film The Many Faces of Chika and the independent award-winning film This World of Ours. Expect an interview with the director on this blog soon.

- Variety Asia has a feature on the future of film investment in Asia, as many major film markets in the region have been seeing a downturn in the number of productions. Of course, it was eventually going to happen anyway after so many years of growth.

- With over 200 million yuan, Michael Bay’s Transformers have become the second highest-grossing foreign film in China, just behind Titanic. I could say something about this, but I’ve run out of energy.

- World, meet Jeong Seung-Hye, one of Korea’s most promising up-and-coming producers.

- Creepy news coming out of Belgium, it seems like a note was found near where severed body parks were found in a park that may be connected to the Death Note comics. I think the killer forgot the part where he’s not supposed to do the murdering himself.

The Golden Rock - July 13th, 2007 Edition

- Remember yesterday I reported that the new Harry Potter played on only 42 screens in Hong Kong? According to the Hong Kong Thursday opening day numbers (where nothing officially opened since Potter opened on a Wednesday), it’s actually playing on 92 screens! This is probably because Ming Pao daily meant 42 theaters, and most of these theaters are multiplexes that are playing the film on multiple screens. This makes the negative reporting on Ming Pao’s part more accurate, since the film managed to take in “only” (”only” being a comparative term with Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean) HK$3.15 million for the two-day total of HK$6.68 million. Simple math would show that the opening day gross was HK$3.53 million on 92 screens. Still, the opening is the highest in the Potter series, and apparently it’s the highest non-holiday opening day ever.

Meanwhile, Die Hard 4 begins to slip with only HK$360,000 on 36 screens after a 15-day official total of HK$13.48 million, and Shrek 3 also dies down with just HK$190,000 on 34 screens with a 15-day total of HK$18.85 million. Believe it or not, there are still four movies on the top ten, even though their grosses are pretty weak - Hooked On You leads the pack with HK$140,000 on 19 screens for a 15-day total of HK$8.09 million; Wonder Women made HK$60,000 on 9 screens for 8-day total of HK$1.11 million (making it the lowest-grossing handover commemoration film out of the three); Eye in the Sky made HK$10,000 on 4 screens for a 22-day total of HK$4.12 million; and Simply Actors made a measly HK$4,000 on 3 screens for HK$9.3 million after 24 days. This is scary: Only two HK films have broken that HK$10 million mark this year - Protege (good) and Love is Not All Around (bad).

(HK$7.8=US$1)

- In a prediction of how the latest Pokemon film will do in Japan, 2 million advance tickets have already been sold before the film’s opening this weekend. While these tickets are cheaper, at least they’re money in the bank before the film has even opened. Plus, we know with kids’ films that admissions is the true gauge of success, not money.

- A month ago or so, the Hong Kong press covered the hell out of Japanese pop diva Ayumi Hamasaki’s visit to Hong Kong to shoot the MTV for her latest single, which also stars Hong Kong model-turned-serious-actor Shawn Yue (no kidding, he went to New York for three months for acting lessons, with a translator in tow and all). Turns out the whole thing is a short film that’ll be featured on the DVD accompanying the single, which apparently will be out on the 18th.

The MTV, which I guess is part one, is now on Youtube. Hong Kong certainly looks real pretty, but director Wong Hoi (I think he does music video in HK) edits the whole thing as if he’s trying to make Infernal Affairs 328, which again shows the ineptness of MTV filmmaking in Hong Kong (EDIT: Now I remember. Wong Hoi was the editor on Initial D, which means he was responsible for the incredible annoying editing style that single-handedly ruined the film. It all makes sense now.). Plus, the whole communicating by dictionary thing just reminds of that episode of Undeclared where one of the main character can only communicate with his new Japanese girlfriend through talking dictionaries in each other’s languages. The storyline, in which Ayumi plays herself falling in love with her bodyguard during a video shoot in Hong Kong, is especially strange, seeing how she had just announced her break-up with her boyfriend of 7 years.

- Speaking of Youtube, Tokyo local broadcasting network TokyoMX, which is like the community news channel, has signed a deal to put their program on the video site. They are the first Japanese television station to do so, and I hope more stations will follow their lead.

- Jason Gray talks about the latest film by Isao Yukisada, who is getting out of his period drama slump after making THE movie of 2004 Crying Out For Love in the Center of the World. Amazingly, this childhood fantasy film is actually an original screenplay rather than based on preexisting material.

- The Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (better known as PiFan) launched on Thursday after years of turmoil. However, this year will see 215 films screened in 10 days, and ticket sales are up.

- In more festival news, Ang Lee’s latest Lust, Caution has officially been invited to the Venice Film Festival. This year’s festival, whose jury will be headed by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, is already feeling the Chinese influence after this week’s announcement of Alexi Tan’s Blood Brother’s placement as the festival’s closing film.

- Lastly, Benny Chan’s Hong Kong summer action flick Invisible Target, which is one of Hong Kong films’ final hope this summer, has already been bought up by the Weinstein Company for distribution in North America, Australia, and South Africa. Distribution means they’ll hold it until everyone also bought the Hong Kong DVD, then release it with a corny English dub, straight-to-video style.

The Golden Rock - June 18th, 2007 Edition

The Golden Rock is back for another month and a half of continuous blogging. Yes, I did miss compiling a ton of news everyday, as I still kept up on Variety Asia and Twitch from 70 miles away. Anyway, the weekend’s over now, so let’s do this thing.

- Hong Kong box office was pretty disappointing over the holiday weekend, at least for Hong Kong. The two Hong Kong openings - Mr. Cinema and Kidnap, both opened to very weak openings. On Sunday, Samson Chiu’s Mr. Cinema made only HK$350,000 on 27 screens for a 4-day total of HK$1.16 million, while Law Chi-Leung’s Kidnap made only HK$230,000 on 25 screens for a 4-day (plus previews the previous weekend) total of HK$1.16 million. Patrick Leung and Chan Hing-Ka’s Simply Actors, starring Jim Chim and Twins’ Charlene Choi, opens today in Hong Kong, and we’ll see how it does on Wednesday. Yau Nai-Hoi’s Milkyway production of Eye on the Sky didn’t do too well either, making only HK$80,000 on 26 screens of advanced preview showings, and HK$170,000 after two nights. Either way, Hong Kong cinema’s summer season isn’t having a very good start so far.

In other box office rankings, Fantastic Four naturally opens in first place, making HK$2.07 million on 62 screens (I don’t even remember the first film doing that well in Hong Kong) for a HK$7.71 million after 4 days, Ocean’s Thirteen hangs on with HK$630,000 on 38 screens for an11-day total of HK$9.3 million, and British film Cashback stays strong with HK$40,000 on 2 screens. There are no huge Hollywood openings this weekend (Wild Hogs and Zodiac), so maybe it’s time for Hong Kong films to bounce back. One can only hope.

- Meanwhile, Lovehkfilm updates with a few reviews - Law Chi-Leung’s Kidnap, Billy Chung’s straight-to-video Undercover, the Korean fantasy extravaganza The Restless, and the J-horror film Ghost Train (written by yours truly).

- The audience rankings for Japan is also up, as Pirates continues its rampage across Japan as the number one movie. Japanese comedy Maiko Haaaan!!! is a hit, debuting at second place; Zodiac opens weakly at 5th place, but not as weakly as the Japanese romance Last Love (more on its weekend performance tomorrow), and Apocalypto jumps up to 9th place in the first weekend of wide release. Numbers and analysis tomorrow.

- In Japanese drama rankings, the Japanese remake of the Korean drama Hotelier starring Aya Ueto wrapped up its lackluster run with only a 9.1 rating, which is just above the season average rating of 8.5, but below the highest rating of 11.1. Sexy Voice and Robo continues to limp at 6.5 (I’m guessing episode 7 will never be broadcasted), train nerd drama Tokkyu Tanaka 3 Go took a huge drop to a 6.8 from last week’s 9.7, Kodoku No Kake has dropped from the season-opening 11.2 to a sad sad 5.1, losing more than half of its initial audience (Even Sexy Voice and Robo managed to avoid that). Speaking of disappointments, Joudan Janai goes back down a little bit this week with a 12.0 rating.

The season, which has been pretty sad in terms of ratings, will wrap in the next two weeks. I think we all know that Operation Love will come out on top in two weeks (the big question is if it will break the 20.0 mark), but what about Banbino, Watashi Tachi No Kyokasho, both which have seen pretty stable ratings all season? How will audience favorite Liar Game wrap up after seeing a ratings decrease this week? Will Joudan Janai and Sexy Voice and Robo fight off their “disappointment” label by attracting more viewers next week? We shall know by next Monday.

Part 2 of today’s entry is about little controversies in recent Chinese medias.

- I’ve never been a fan of Jia Zhangke. In fact, I have a legit copy of Still Life sitting here, waiting to be watched. Recently, director Jia was asked to write an editorial about the word “perplexity,” and he chose to write about Xiao Wu’s banishment due to someone in the film industry denouncing it. Since then, it has stirred a controversy because the media found its suspect. I might not have liked Ziao Wu, but I am certainly sympathetic with the ridiculous treatment of the film.

- r@sardonicsmile warns that if you’re a celebrity in Hong Kong and you have a personal blog, you might want to watch what you even dare to hint at, because the Hong Kong media will jump on you like a shark looking for even the slightest hint of red. One thing: Is the Storm in a teacup reference to the old Commercial Radio Hong Kong talk show, or is it actually a pretty widely-used phrase?

- Doing my part to spread the word, a Hong Kong blogger realizes that one of his posts was recently plagiarized by a writer for Hong Kong pop culture magazine Milk. However, the editor was confronted, only to say that it was entirely coincidental that the feature happens to match the original entry 90% of the time (even the two glaring mistakes in the entry was carried over). I’m even ashamed now to admit that I do read Milk Magazine with some enjoyment, which makes the disappointment even greater.

Now to regular news:

- I’m only reporting this for rachael: Aoi Miyasaki, better known as the cute Nana in the first Nana movie, announced her surprise marriage this past weekend. Yeah, usually I wouldn’t report something like this, but anything to keep them readers happy.

- The Jackie Chan/Jet Li historical family film Forbidden Kingdom has delivered its progress report, and they might as well have not reported it if they just say something like “it’s going well.” Jackie Chan apparently did offer promising words about the Chan/Li fight, but I’m still being very very skeptical about this English production passed off as a Chinese film.

- The Shanghai International Film Festival has officially opened, but it opened fairly low-key with very little business being done and a lack of real Panasian stars.

Meanwhile, Geoff Gilmore, the head of the Sundance Film Festival, took the Shanghai festival as an opportunity to blast the International Federation of Film Producers Association for their ratings of film festivals around the world. Might not matter to you, but it does to me.

- Japan Times reviewed Miki Satoshi’s Insects Unlisted in the Encyclopedia, probably most notable outside Japan for being Kinko Kikuchi’s first film after her Oscar nomination for Babel.

And they also liked The Prestige very much too.

- Dai Nipponjin is hitting the festival circuits, and they’re the major ones. The most exciting one in Hong Kong because I’ll actually be there next year, but Toronto is pretty damn exciting too.

- Speaking of exciting, the teaser for P.T. Anderson’s There Will be Blood is up and running. It looks different than anything he’s done, but he’s one of my favorite filmmakers, so I’m looking forward to it big time.

- Noruhiro Koizumi, the director of Midnight Sun, is taking on Gachi Boy, the adaptation of a play about a professional wrestler with a memory problem. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be an inspiring sports story or a comedy yet.

- Also working on a new film is Jeff Lau. His new comedy The Fantastic Waterbabes will star Gillian Chung and Alex Fong (seems natural to have an ex-olympics swimmer turned pop star to be in a movie about swimming), and will be released in time for the Beijing Olympics. I like Jeff Lau, but I don’t like EEG and movies that cash in on current events. What to do, what to do…

- Twitch write about the new Korean film The Wonder Years, about a young girl who is so sure that her mom is a famous rock star that she goes out in search of her in Seoul…with a little help from her friends(That was a Wonder Years reference, by the way). Plot sounds interesting, but after Ice Bar, I am approaching Korean films about searching for biological parents with caution.

- Doesn’t really have anything to do with Asian entertainment, but Jean Reno has a new commercial in Japan, and it’s pretty awesome. Who knew that he’s such a cool romantic lead?

- There’s gonna be another Godzilla movie…….in 3D!

The Golden Rock - June 5th, 2007 Edition

This isn’t a political blog, but these were the headlines of Hong Kong newspapers on yesterday June 4th. I honestly can’t believe the price of pork can be more important on June 4th, but I’m not a publisher, so what do I know?

- There again seems to be discrepancy between the actual attendance rankings to whatever Box Office Mojo has. And this time it isn’t simple exchange rate difference or money count, it’s practically different statistics altogether.

From what we can tell, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End lost only 20% of its business (roughly, because the exchange rate is slightly different again), and the rest is all kind of confusing. For one, Mojo decided to include the money Warner Bros. reported it made on its weekend previews of 300. Not only that, Mojo also put it in the rankings, while the attendance ranking leaves it out completely (by the way, considering it only had showings on Saturday, it did pretty well). Also, Takeshi Kitano’s Glory to the Filmmaker is now placed at 10th place, which is what the attendance ranking reported, except it’s ahead of The Banquet, even though Mojo even reported The Banquet making about US$1000 more. They also reported that Glory opened only on one screen, when Variety Asia reports that figure at 113 screens.

Of course, the big news is the big opening of Hitoshi Matsumoto’s directorial debut “Dai Nipponjin.” On 221 screens, the superhero comedy made 230 million yen for an impressive 1,040,723 yen per-screen average (US$1=121 yen). However, the opening is only 83% of the opening of Train Man (Densha Otoko), which had a similarly secretive promotional campaign. Furthermore, the general public seems to be not liking the film very much, which means the opening weekend may only have satisfied the curious crowd and won’t have much legs in the long run.

Who cares, though, when you have won the battle of the comedians? Dai Nipponjin won a trifecta against Kitano’s Glory to the Filmmaker - screen count, total gross, and per-screen average.

- The “HOCC vs Leo Ku” debacle has blown up just a little bit more when the two showed up for a concert put together by a radio station. And of course, the media is fanning the flame to sell more newspapers:

基仔甫坐下即說新歌《錢錢錢錢》的種類屬於Progressive Rock,與Queen的《Bohemian Rhapsody》屬同一種曲風,但兩首歌的旋律絕不一樣。

(in translation)Leo immediately said that his new song “Money Money Money Money” belongs in the category of Progressive Rock, the same style as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but the melodies are absolutely different.

OK, Mr. Ku, I’ll buy that your song doesn’t sound like Bohemian Rhapsody, but let’s make this clear - this song is Progressive Rock; your song is not.

Meanwhile, Paco Wong, the manager of all Gold Label artists, has this to say:

觀點角度不同,何韻詩發表的言論並無指名道姓,這是她的個人看法,如果她說的是雷頌德和古巨基的歌,那要多謝她幫手宣傳,不過請寫清楚名字。」基仔見狀不禁拍拍經理人膊頭,並打圓場說:「她沒說名字,不要對號入座。」

(in translation) “Perspectives are different. Denise Ho expressed her opinion without naming any names. That is her personal opinion; if she says that it’s Mark Lui and Leo Ku’s song, then thanks for helping with the promotion, but please clear up the names.” Then Leo pat his manager’s shoulder, trying to make peace saying, “she didn’t say any names, do not jump to conclusions.”

This is essentially a battle that the press started. HOCC didn’t even write that anyone copied any songs. Anyway, I won’t be translating the next line about Leo not smiling when they greeted each other since that’s just gossip. You can read the Chinese report to read about it.

- Under the “jumping the gun” file today, TV Asahi already has plans to turn their Summer drama Sushi Ouji into a feature film, before any of the drama has even aired on TV. Starring KinKi Kids’ Koichi Domoto, filming on the feature film will start within the next few days and will be distributed by Warner Bros. for next year’s Golden Week slot.

- Twitch has the first trailer for the Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To collaborative experiment Triangle. I don’t care what the critics say, I still think it looks like a hell of a ride. Be sure to use Internet Explorer to watch the link.

- I saw a billboard in Tokyo with a countdown clock for when TV transmission signal is expect to go digital. That number was still over 1000 days, but it was a cool billboard anyway. Anyway, looks like Hong Kong needs to go get themselves one of those billboards, because the government is switching off analog in 2012, and people can already start watching digital transmitted TV by the end of the year.

- The second trailer for Kenta Fukasaku’s X Cross, an adaptation of the first “This Mystery is Amazing!” contest winner, is up. It’s shorter than the first trailer, and it actually features brief glimpses of behind-the-scenes work. Still, I don’t know why they’re waiting until December 1st to release it, especially it’s completed enough to already get slapped with a PG-12 rating.

- Shiina Ringo is back with Tokyo Jihen, and they’re not just releasing two singles this summer; they’re going on tour again! Anyone want to help me buy a ticket for the Tokyo show?

- Under the “that’s overdoing it a little bit” file today, the otaku-targeted girl group AKB48, which already has an astonishing 48 members, is looking to add another 18, totaling 66 members when it’s all said and done. They’re not building a pop band; they’re gathering an army!

- I feel obliged to report any time an Asian-American director hits it big. This time, So Yong Kim’s debut film “In Between Days,” which was well-received when it premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, has been picked up for distribution by Kino International (they distributed Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together and the Wong Kar-Wai DVD box set as well). The film has also won an award at the Berlin Film Festival.

- I used to like Quentin Tarantino even when people attack him for ripping off Asian films, because at least he made them look (fairly) good. The man has a sense of style and he certainly knows how to make a movie. Then Death Proof was too self-indulgent to bear (despite a really cool car chase at the end), and suddenly Tarantino doesn’t seem like such a good filmmaker anymore. Recently at Cannes, he was lamenting the current state of the Italian film industry, which certainly didn’t make the Italians very happy at all. Quentin, don’t even say one word about Hong Kong, alright?

Nippon Wednesday Part 2

As the title suggests, there’s a lot of news coming out to Japan again. Of course, there’s news from everywhere else, but we’ll start with Japan

- Oricon rankings again fairly weak this week. On the singles chart, Seki Jani Eight (I don’t really get them, but whatever floats Japan’s boat) rules the chart with their new single, selling 190,000 copies. In second and third place are also new singles, but sales are way lower than the top single. As for remaining singles, Glay drops all the way down to 7th place, and Namie Amuro’s “Funky Town” (Not a cover of the disco hit) is already out of the top 10. Next week should be interesting, as the daily chart indicates 14 singles vying for the top 10.

Albums sales are even weaker this week, as YUI hangs for to number 1 again with just 100,000 copies sold. The best-selling new album of the week is the second album by Endlicheri Endlicheri (also known as Tsuyoshi Domoto of Kinki Kids), which sold only 77,000 copies. Most of the albums still on the top 10 are holdovers such as Ai Otsuka and Kobukuro’s compilation albums and Mr. Children’s latest. Next week, expect boy pop collective Kat-tun to rule the charts with their latest (probably cashing in on the respective members’ debuting dramas).

- And looks like the music sales slump isn’t just a seasonal thing either - Hollywood Reporter reports that Japanese music sales have been declining since last year, and the majority of that loss actually is in declining sales of foreign music. Not that Japanese music weren’t selling less either; their decline just wasn’t as bad. One thing I don’t understand is why Japanese music as priced so much more expensive than its foreign counterpart - According to the figures, even foreign CD (album and singles included) cost an average of $9.30, while a Japanese music cost an average of $10.54. It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but Japanese albums can cost over 1000 yen more than American albums. Is it production costs? Is it simply a way to cash in on a market that can move almost 53 million units?

- Academy Award winner The Queen opened in one theater over the weekend, and in light of high advance ticket sales, the theater decides wisely to put it on two of its three screens. Eiga Consultant reports that decision was right, because with 428 seats available for 10 shows a day, The Queen attracted 4072 people, bringing in 5.59 million yen over the weekend. With expansion over the next two weekends, can The Queen become a sleeper hit in Japan?

- A while ago, I complained that Japanese television broadcasters were not stepping up quick enough to get its dramas overseas. Once a giant market for exporting dramas, Japan has since been overshadowed by South Korea. Finally, the broadcasters are waking up, and are collaborating with the Communication Ministry to build an online database for potential buyers of TV shows. Japan does make decent television shows that should be just as popular as the ones in South Korea, but its lack of access for foreign audience has caused those potential audiences to find other ways to access these contents such as Bittorrent and triad-sanctioned pirated discs.

- Speaking of TV, looks like TBS screwed up again, this time on reporting the Fujita food scandal.

- I like Lee Byung-Hun. I never watched his dramas, but he’s done some great movies such as J.S.A., Bungee Jumping of Their Own, and A Bittersweet Life. He’s also quite a heartthrob in Japan, although his movies haven’t done very well there. Of course, it would make sense that if a Japanese blockbuster were to need a Korean heartthrob, it’d be him or Bae Yong Joon (or Yonsama, as Japanese people call him). That’s why I’m not very surprised to hear that Lee has been casted in SMAP member/Asian superstar Kimura Takuya’s latest film Hero, a film version of the hit drama. It’s official - this movie is gonna be huge.

- Two weeks ago, I introduced the Japanese film Campaign. Turns out Jason Gray has seen it (as did people in film festivals around the world), and he offers far more information than I had on it. This makes me want to watch it even more.

- Now that I’m done with Japan, let’s pick on China. I swear I didn’t make this up:

CBS has chosen China as the next spot for its popular reality show Survivor. While this is a great development for western media trying to break into China, it should also speak volumes about how living in Mainland China can actually be equal to living on a jungle island in the middle of nowhere with no civilized necessity. Maybe finding a way to talk about Tiananmen Square in public without getting sent to a labor camp can be one of the challenges.

- Meanwhile, Hong Kong has its own battle to fight. On film, that is. More details have emerged about the so-called “Battle of Hong Kong” trilogy that actually sounds like it might be good. Called “The Exodus,” the sci-fi epic is about how enslaved citizens in Kowloon rise up against their wealthy captors on Hong Kong Island. Of course, if you look at the map of Hong Kong, you would realize that logistically, you don’t want to be the power holder and be stuck on an island, but I’m just nitpicking.

The summary still sounds very promising, until I read this ugly tagline by the director that seems better used for a Hollywood boardroom - ““This is Ten Commandments meets Blade Runner shot like 300.” Honestly, I don’t know how that’s gonna work out.

- The Singapore International Film Festival lineup has been announced, and this time the theme is “fuck the censors.” They will be showing “Syndromes and a Century” and “Village People Radio Show,” both Thai films that are in big trouble with the Thai censors. Also, they are fighting the Singaporean censors to get the local homosexual film “Solos” played at the festival uncut. The censors have already forced the Danish film “Princess” to withdraw from the festival, so they ain’t taking this fight lying down.

Edit: Ummm…I need to read the stories closer. As YTSL pointed out, the film festival is already underway, and Village People Radio Show was banned by the Malaysian censors. Disregard all that you just read and read the story yourself.

- The Herman Yau-directed/Dennis Law-produced Gong Tau (Curse) has a trailer up, thanks to the good people at Twitch. I personally loved the purple floating head, what’s your favorite?

- In an exercise in redundancy, the Australian government has backed the establishment of a Pan-Asian film awards. The Asia Pacific Screen Awards will take place in November in Queensland for at least three years before being moved to another country. In an even wiser movie, the show will be recorded for CNN and would concentrate on recognizing films from countries we don’t necessarily associate with film rather than blinging it up on the red carpet.

The bad news? It’ll only offer 3 nominations per category and its winner will be determined by a 3-member jury? It may beat Hong Kong in presentation, but this award might just lose on credibility.

- The developing story in Hong Kong is obviously the future of John Woo’s Battle of Red Cliff. Producer Terence Chang has shot back, citing Chow Yun-Fat’s attitude as the reason for his withdrawal. From Ming Pao, excerpt are as follows:

張家振承認投資者和發行商的確嫌發哥演周瑜太老,發哥的年齡的確是比周瑜大了20歲,但他和吳宇森一直都很維護發哥。真正的原因是發哥經律師擬定的合約,美國保險公司有73條不接納,他已盡量作出讓步,但可惜還是不能成事。

Terence Chang admits that investors and distributors complained that Chow was 20 years too old for the role, but John Woo and he have always protected Chow. The real reason is that the contract Chow’s lawyer wrote up - the American insurance company would not except 73 of the conditions. He [Chang?] already tried to compromise, but they couldn’t finalize it.

張家振說﹕「發哥要求在開拍前一次付清片酬,他說對每部獨立電影也一視同仁,後來我苦苦哀求,他才答應先付50%,收到錢3天後才向劇組報到,另外50%要我們在銀行一個帳戶,拍到一半時給他,雖然他不是一次拿到錢,但我也要一次把錢拿出來。(發哥的片酬是否很昂貴?)是500萬美元,另加全球分紅,沒有虧待他,他最近拍了4部電影的片酬加起來也不及此數目。」

Chang says: “Chow requested that his salary be paid in one installment before shooting began, he said that he treats every independent film the same. I end up pleading to him, so he agreed to taking 50% first and reporting to the set 3 days after receiving the money. The other 50% would be given to him halfway through shooting from a bank account. Even though Chow’s not getting the money in one installment, I have to raise the money in one installment. (Was Chow’s salary high?) It’s US$5 million, plus a cut of the worldwide gross. We don’t mistreat him, this salary is higher than the salaries he got from the last four movies he did combined.”

對於發哥指一星期前才收到劇本,張家振直斥這是廢話,他說﹕「早在去年,我就偷偷地交稿給他看。他在美國拍戲時,也跟我們提出了一些周瑜和小喬的感情戲,我們都覺得不錯。去年初,第一稿出來,我們同時給了他和梁朝偉,發哥有一些意見,向吳宇森和編導陳汗提出,編劇就發哥的說法潤飾了劇本, 此稿的確是一周前給他。」

Regarding Chow’s claim that he only got the script a week before shooting, Chang says that’s a lie. He says, “We’ve been showing him drafts since last year. When he was shooting another film in the States, he even gave us some suggestions regarding the romance that we thought was good. At the beginning of last year, the first draft came out, and we showed it to him and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Chow had some suggestions for John Woo and the screenwriter, so he changed the screenplay according to those suggestions. That draft did get to him a week beforehand.”

Original text in Chinese is here.

So there you have it. Who’s in the right? Who’s in the wrong? Chow admits that he did write up his contract in accordance to the Hollywood treatment he had, while Chang did admit that he only sent Chow the complete final draft a week before shooting. Meanwhile, even some of the Chinese press is blaming Chow’s wife for making these demands on the contract.

With Oriental Daily reporting that Tony Leung Chiu-Wai has actually joined the film again, but this time taking over Chow’s role, the plot thickens. More tomorrow when the latest Ming Pao comes online.

In less gossipy news about Red Cliff, Mei Ah has signed on as the distributor for the film, even without Chow, and predicted a HK$100-200 million gross in Hong Kong alone. Yeah, right.

Misinformation

- So remember over the weekend, Shochiku announced that the opening day box office was so high for the film version of Tokyo Tower that they expect it to surpass Kimura Takuya X Yoji Yamada’s 4 billion yen hit “Love and Honor?” Well, the Japan box office numbers are out, and Eiga Consultant can’t see how that’s possible. On its opening day, Tokyo Tower made only 196 million yen, which is 90% of the 1.41 billion yen-grossing Shinobi. In fact, its opening day gross was only 65% of what Love and Honor made on its opening day. You can compare the results yourself for Love and Honor and Tokyo Tower with those links. My own calculation (following the exchange rate BOM used for the respective weeks) actually showed that Tokyo Tower only made 53% of Love and Honor’s opening weekend, but that only furthers the point that Shochiku is lying out of their asses. This isn’t the first time Japanese distributors overestimated final grosses anyway; remember the Genghis Kahn movie? Exactly.

Elsewhere on the top 10, Blood Diamond seems to be hanging on thanks to word-of-mouth, and Sunshine opened weaker than I thought with only roughly $500,000. Otherwise, it’s been a pretty quiet weekend in Japan again.

- Meanwhile, South Korea had a fairly quiet weekend at the box office as well, with The Show Must Go On falling a sad 58% in its second week.

- The South Korean box office isn’t really looking all that bright for the summer either, with Hollywood offering Spiderman, pirates, and transformers, while Korea is offering horror flicks and….D-War?!

- The big news out of Hong Kong is not only Lau Ching-Wan’s best actor win at the Hong Kong Film Awards, but also fellow nominee Chow Yun-Fat withdrawing from John Woo’s epic The Battle of Red Cliff. It’s another “he-said-he-said” (there’s no she in this story) type of situation - producer Terence Chang said that the financiers can’t acquiesce to Chow’s request to pay his salary of US$5 million at once (which is reportedly 3 times the salary he got for Curse of the Golden Flower), while Chow’s side says that he got the script too late, which meant he couldn’t prepare early enough for a role that requires him to speak in Mandarin (Chow’s native tongue is Cantonese). He also said he already took a pay cut for not demanding a raise after the decision was make to split the films in two (um….they’re shooting it at the same time anyway). This is the second major blow to Woo’s ambitious US$70-million project after star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai dropped out due to the 6-month shooting schedule. Of course, the bigger question is whether Chow’s withdrawal will affect Woo and Chow’s legendary friendship.

- I read about this about a week ago in Oriental Daily, but I don’t remember reporting it. Anyone waiting for a Shaolin Soccer sequel can release half their breath. The good news is that there is a Stephen Chow-involved sequel being made, the bad news is that it probably won’t have anything to do with the first film. Fuji TV has teamed up with Chow to make a pseudo-sequel called “Shorin Shoujo” (Or Shaolin Girl) starring Ko Shibasaki as the title character and Bayside Shakedown helmer Katsuyuki Motohiro directing. It’ll be about a young girl returning from Japan after training at the Shaolin Temple and ends up helping out a college Lacrosse team. Shaolin Soccer co-stars Lam Chi-Chung and Tin Kai-Man will appear, Chow will apparently not. While in anyone else’s hands, this might be a bad idea, but I like Robot Productions and Motohiro enough that it might turn out to be a good popcorn flick.

- The big news coming out of Tokyo is the world premiere of Spiderman 3. Honestly, the only interesting part about the report is how making sequels actually keep down marketing costs and allow the studio to leave that for the production instead. Other than that, there’s no advance review out yet.

- Reading Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” (for a Comparative Literature class) and Kobo Abe’s “Woman in the Dunes” in the same quarter put me in a huge existential crisis. In other words, it was one of the greatest academic periods of my life. Anyway, I mention this because Criterion is releasing Teshigahara’s surprisingly faithful adaptation of Woman in the Dunes in July on DVD as part of a Teshigahara boxset. Anyone looking to get into an existential funk should check out this surreal classic.

- Like Warner Bros. in Japan, 20th Century Fox has struck a deal with Showbox (who distributed The Host) to finance and distribute South Korean films. This comes as no surprise to me since my Kick the Moon DVD was actually released by Fox already. Is this good news or not? Look at what Warner Bros. did in Japan and you might have an idea.

- Professor Bordwell is back from Hong Kong, and his first entry since returning tackles a subject that I, as a wannabe filmmaker, is actually immensely interested in. Many film viewers may not notice, but for me, the toughest part of editing a film is dialog scenes. Editing rely on a capturing a certain beat, and shooting dialog scenes are particularly tough because when you only have one camera, you have to shoot the scene many times at different angles, which can be tough for actors AND directors. Then when you have all that footage, you have to decide when to cut to which angle without ruining the pace of the scene. The cutting-in-between technique in dialog scenes is called “reverse shots,” meaning you start on one angle, then you cut to where the opposite angle where the camera shows where the initial shot was from.

Anyway, Professor Bordwell goes into how certain directors don’t use reverse shots. For me, it’s fascinating. Maybe for me only though.

- I’m sure many have heard about the Virginia Tech shooting allegedly committed by a disturbed neutralized South Korean student (please let it be known that he is a naturalized American citizen, not just some foreigner that went crazy on Americans) that killed 32 people, including himself. At one point, the Chinese press got a hold of reports that a Chinese student actually did the deed and ran with it (the local Chinese papers I saw today all have it on their headlines). During that time, the Chinese press ran into chaos, trying to decide whether to run the story or not, while the netizens reacted very quickly on the message boards. This is their story.

Hump Day

Being Wednesday, hump is being used here as a noun, not a verb.

- Let’s start with some rankings. Today it’s the Japanese Oricon (To answer a question that has never been asked, I only go over the Oricon because it’s the most widely-known easy-access general ranking in Asian music. Of course, I’m only saying that because I know Japanese and I don’t know Korean. Plus, I don’t know much about Taiwanese music anyway to go over rankings there). It was a slow week on both fronts - on the singles side, Glay leads the chart with their latest single, selling only 67,000 copies. By that number, you can tell how badly the rest of the singles are selling.

The album chart was fairly weak this week as well, with rock-pop songstress YUI taking the top spot with her second album, selling 290,000 copies. It’s also her first number 1 album, thanks to weak albums sales overall this week. Unlike the crowded album market last month, only 4 new releases found its way on the top 10, and 3 of them are ranked 5th and below.

- In case anyone still cares, Hong Kong Tuesday numbers are out. Mr. Bean still ruled the Hong Kong Easter box office, and Super Fan still flopped.

Several follow-ups from previous reported news:

- In response to Eason Chan’s comments about Ayumi Hamasaki lip-syncing part of her way through her Hong Kong concert, fans in Hong Kong have suggested they boycott Eason’s albums. Excerpt from Chinese report below:

陳奕迅(Eason)因公然指濱崎步在演唱會「咪嘴」而惹步姐迷不滿,昨日就有網友發起罷買Eason的唱片。

Eason Chan’s claim that Ayumi Hamasaki was lip-syncing at her concert has angered her fans. Yesterday, netizens were initiating boycotts of Eason’s albums.

Eason心情未受影響。但談到步姐和網友發起罷買其唱片,他就顯得很避忌,不欲多談,只強調當日接受訪問,大讚步姐是個聲色藝俱全歌手,其他事情不作回應了,免得事件愈鬧愈大。

Eason’s mood did not seemed to be affected, but when the boycott issue was brought up, he appeared wanting to avoid the issue and refused to comment. He only emphasized that during the interview, he complimented Ayumi as an all-around talented singer. He didn’t want to respond to other issues as to not blow things out of proportion.

Original Chinese report is here.

This isn’t the first time he said the wrong thing anyway. A few years ago, he said among the four Heavenly Kings of Cantopop (Leon Lai, Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, and Aaron Kwok), he only bought Jacky’s albums, which set off another media/fan storm that eventually blew over. As one of Hong Kong’s top pop acts, I don’t think Eason has to worry about any type of boycott.

- Yesterday, I reported that the United States formally filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization about China’s rampant piracy. In response, China pretty much gives the U.S. a very gentle middle finger.

- Park Chan-Wook’s latest I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK is finally coming to DVD on April 30th. I’ll assume that a Hong Kong edition (that will be wiped out by the legions of screaming Rain fans, including those that didn’t show up for the theatrical release) is coming soon after that as well.

- I hated Kim Tae-Kyun’s A Romance of Their Own. It represented everything that was bad about Korean teen cinema - the posing, the melodrama, the tragic twist. I barely made it to the ending. Asian Cinema - While on the Road has a review of his latest, and it seems like it’s more formulaic melodrama that I would hate. Shame, I thought Volcano High was a solid film.

- On that note, Korean films seemed to have hit a slump for March, taking only 21.6% of the market. But the fact that the big picture shows that Korean films is still enjoying a 55.3% share for the year, the reports may be blowing it out of proportion a little bit. Hong Kong would kill for that kind of number, people.

- Japanese production company Nikkatsu has announced its line-up for 2007-2008. The most notable films include the cgi-animated film of popular 70s toon “Gatchaman,” to be made by Hong Kong firm Imagi and directed by Kevin Munroe, who teamed up for the recently-released TMNT. They also announced the Death Note spinoff film based on the detective character L, which will be shot later this year and distributed by Warner Bros. Japan.

- Japan Probe offers a look at what shooting on Kill Bill Volume 1 might have been like. It even offers a Quentin Tarantino impersonator that’s close enough, as far as Japanese impersonation goes.

- The Hong Kong International Film Festival is coming to an end, with the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday (I’ll be watching it on Sunday night on the tape-delay broadcast by the local TVB channel in San Francisco), which means Professor Bordwell is leaving. But before he leaves, he shares a ton of pictures, and even mentions this blog! Thanks, Professor, I enjoyed your coverage of the HKIFF!

 
 
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