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Archive for the ‘Hollywood’ Category

The Golden Rock - August 6, 2011 Edition

Today is what is known as Chinese Valentine’s Day. So what better way to spend the night than to write a blog entry?

Like many other places in the world, summer is when Hollywood shines in Hong Kong cinemas. With films like TRANSFORMERS and HARRY POTTER dominating literally more than half of the city’s multiplex screens, it’s hard to imagine any big local/Chinese-language films having the guts to compete.

However, there have always been a few tentpoles that is able to attract audiences over the years - INITIAL D, STORM RIDERS, INVISIBLE TARGET, and RED CLIFF. Even in 2010, we saw a good share of Chinese-language (co-production) blockbusters (regardless of their quality) like STOOL PIGEON, TRIPLE TAP, CITY UNDER SIEGE, AFTERSHOCK. Even BREAK-UP CLUB made a nice chunk of change for a film in its genre.

And now, here we are in 2011. Between June 1 and September 1, Hong Kong cinemas only have these Chinese-language films getting wide releases: MICROSEX OFFICE, TREASURE INN, BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL, BEACH SPIKE, LOVE IS THE ONLY ANSWER, WU XIA, FORTUNE BUDDIES, OVERHEARD 2, SUMMER LOVE, and THE WOMAN KNIGHT OF MIRROR LAKE. By this week last year, AFTERSHOCK and BREAK-UP CLUB already managed to break the HK$10 million mark at the box office.

On the other hand, from June 1 to August 6, 2011, none of the Chinese-language films listed above managed to reach that mark yet. Even WU XIA, the most likely candidate, will likely only gross HK$8 million when its theatrical run is over.

So, what the hell happened? Not to undermine GREAT REVIVAL and TREASURE INN, but there has been a clear lack of tentpole this year here in Hong Kong, with audiences all flocking to Hollywood films for their fix of spectacle, dimmed 3D projection, and pretty foreigners. Instead, we get low-budget Hong Kong productions made for audiences under the age of 25. While we saw LA COMEDIE HUMANIE do moderately well last year, the only adult-skewing comedy Hong Kong has to offer this summer is MICROSEX OFFICE.

It’s China’s fault.

Opening mid-June, BEGINNING OF GREAT REVIVAL essentially cleared the path for most Chinese blockbusters in Chinese cinemas, including Hong Kong-China co-productions. Granted, Lunar New Year and December are actually Chinese cinema industries’ strongest periods, but at least we got Benny Chan’s big-budget mutant movie and Derek Yee’s “I’m selling out to China” action films in 2010.

Instead, China opened smaller, local-oriented productions like LOVE FINALLY, THE DEVIL INSIDE ME, PRETENDING LOVERS, and MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, with WU XIA being the big tentpole in July. There was also the big-budget, China-oriented fantasy REST ON YOUR SHOULDER, which flopped due to it being distributed with little promotion and it sucking.

Instead, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND scored big, making 80 million yuan all thanks to young audiences not interested in WU XIA and a young starlet named Mini Yang. Even the PRETENDING LOVERS made a decent amount of change at 31 million yuan, which is not bad for a film starring Huang Bo and a director who got so fired that he was literally just credited as the “pre-production director”.

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Yes, this immense talent(s) put more asses in Chinese cinema seats than Jordan Chan and Hiro Hayama combined. Really.

However, what appeal do films like MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, PRETENDING LOVERS, and REST ON YOUR SHOULDERS have for us Hong Kongers? None - as PRETENDING and REST have yet to have any Hong Kong release date, while MYSTERIOUS ISLAND only got a small, seven-screen release (Mei Ah probably wasn’t even interested in booking more cinemas than seven). As a result, cinemas needed low-budget comedies like SUMMER OF LOVE, BEACH SPIKE, LOVE IS THE ONLY ANSWER, and MICROSEX OFFICE to fill the gap. I suspect that the combined budget for these films don’t even pay Donnie Yen’s salary on WU XIA.

It’s Hong Kong’s fault. 

As mentioned earlier, Barbara Wong’s BREAK UP CLUB was the surprise hit in summer 2010, and even MARRIAGE WITH A LIAR managed to turn a profit in  Christmas 2010. What’s a film investor to do but to invest in films that attract vapid, young consumers who have to leave the house, but need an air-conditioned venue to pass the time? That’s where BEACH SPIKE, LOVE IS THE ONLY ANSWER, and even SUMMER LOVE (which ironically opens 6 days before the school year starts) all come in.

However, what the producers didn’t anticipate was that many films avoided the double-whammy of TRANSFORMERS and HARRY POTTER, allowing the two to take up so many screens that it could fit in all the audiences that wanted to flock to them. Also, producers didn’t realize that the demographic they were trying to appeal to was also the most likely demographic that would download these low-budget films on their computer/iphones/MP4 players because, well, they look like they deserve to be played on those platforms. In fact, these films were made at such a low budget that LOVE IS THE ONLY ANSWER is already considered successful at its currently HK$5 million gross.

While people like to blame China and its money for the lack of Hong Kong-oriented productions worth watching, it was also Hong Kong audiences who marginalized themselves with their viewing behaviors and tendency to turn to the cheapest way to get anything. When BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS made 320 million yuan in China, it only made HK$15 million in Hong Kong. When OVERHEARD made 86 million yuan in China, it also made just HK$15 million. Where were Hong Kong audiences for films like ISABELLA, WRITTEN BY, GALLANTS, ONCE A GANGSTERS, and ACCIDENT? When Chinese audiences became so much more receptive to films by Hong Kong filmmakers than audiences of their own home, can you blame these Hong Kong filmmakers for having to look up north? Hong Kong filmmakers are trying to make a living, too, and they will go where they can survive, because seriously, when will Andrew Lau and Gordon Chan ever make a film for its artistic merits?

Before you get ashamed of having Patrick Kong using labels like “support Hong Kong cinema” as a selling point for his next crappy idol-driven romantic comedy, ask yourself, what have you done to prevent that from happening by supporting the good films that ought to be representing Hong Kong cinema?

It’s Hollywood’s fault. 

Comic-book heroes, magical wizards, and fightin’ robots are all that we’ve seen here in Hong Kong this summer, and it’s not only because the audiences asked for them - it’s because the distributors demanded it. Distributors of major Hollywood blockbusters here in Hong Kong, knowing their clout over multiplexes, reportedly force cinema chains to follow terms like not cutting shows in the first week and demanding them to carry 3D versions in order to cash in on the higher ticket prices. Instead of lowering the number of 3D screens for a more balanced ratio between 2D and 3D versions, these films simply took up even more screens to fit in limited showings of 2D versions.

In fact, the reason that WU XIA had to open three weeks late in Hong Kong was because it simply wouldn’t be able to withstand TRANFORMERS and HARRY POTTER, and We Pictures felt it needed a two-week gap to even make a dent. That’s how afraid we are these days.

No matter whose fault it is, I think it’s pretty accurate to say that Hong Kong cinema in the summer of 2011 has sucked. It’s a vicious cycle - you make movies that no one wants to see, then no money comes back to you. You have no money to make the next movie, so you go to another place that’ll have money for you. Perhaps this may also shed some light on why the blog has such a heavy China focus now - While Apple Daily puts up daily reports of scandals from Miss Hong Kong, Chinese reporters are busy going to one press conference after another, actually reporting news about THE FILMS. Regardless of how many shady practices are going on behind the scenes of those press conferences, at least people are actually informing people about the movies, not the gossip.

Of course, there’s also the idea of scheduling to deal with, but that’ll be a focus story some other time.

- Speaking of press conferences, CRAZY RACER/STONE director Ning Hao has finally unveiled his latest film to the press. His most expensive film to date at 50 million yuan, HUANG JIN DA JIE AN is another heist film, this time taking place in 1930s Manchuria. That means expect double-crosses, nice period set designs, and of course, evil Japanese people. While the cast is mostly new actors with little experience, Huang Bo also will have a small role in the film.

As for NO MAN’S LAND, his desert heist film that is still stuck in distribution limbo, Ning Hao only said that production on the film has finished a long time ago, and that the production company is responsible for its distribution. This is why he felt he was free to move on to another film.

Meanwhile, insiders tell me that those who saw it said NO MAN’S ZONE is great, but it’s likely that it’ll be stuck in censorship limbo for a while.

- Here in Hong Kong, director Herman Yau also unveiled his latest film, produced by prolific local producer Ng Kin Hung (GIRL$, HI, FIDELITY). It’s a romantic comedy starring Chapman To, Elanne Kwong, and Tien Niu. Chapman and Elanne will be playing husband and wife, so you already know it’s a comedy. The film just began shooting, and knowing Yau’s efficiency, it’s probably in the editing room already.

Seriously, though, it’ll probably be out by the end of the year.

- Both Zhang Hanyu and John Woo’s representative have pretty much confirmed that John Woo will be shooting a film based on the sinking of the Taiping instead of FLYING TIGERS at the end of the year. In addition to Zhang, Korean actress Song Hye-Kyo will be co-starring as Zhang’s wife. With a real-life ship sinking and a love triangle as its core, it’s no surprise that this is being dubbed as the “Chinese TITANIC”.

- In more production news, I reported earlier about Chen Kaige’s next neorealism project will start shooting in September. More details have emerged, revealing that it’ll be a drama about internet bullying that’s based on an internet novel. The film will be shot while sets are being built for his big-budget fantasy project, and insiders say that the small-scale film will star Ge You and Yao Chen.

- I also reported earlier that director Wang Quan’An’s latest will not be making it to Toronto and Venice. At a retrospective of his films in Beijing, Wang revealed that he has completed editing a rough cut of his latest film WHITE DEER PLAIN. Initially five hours long, Wang managed to cut another hour out of the film after his honeymoon with wife/the film’s star Kitty Zhang, and the current four-hour cut is being submitted to censors. After it’s approved, Wang will likely take another crack at cutting it to a manageable length. The film will be released in October at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Wang’s award-winning APART TOGETHER still hasn’t been distributed in China in cinemas nor video (though it was screened at the retrospective). What’s the hold up??!!

- Those who still care about box office: HARRY POTTER 7.2 finally opened in China, and unofficial figures put it at a 48 million yuan opening day. That means it’ll beat 7.1’s first weekend gross of 81 million yuan in two days. It won’t beat TRANSFORMERS at this rate, but it’ll probably make around 400 million yuan, which means it will also beat BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL at the box office. Meanwhile, a Weibo insider also noticed a huge surge in the box office for YANG SHAN ZHOU (one of the propaganda films) on the day of HARRY POTTER’s opening. Make what you will out of that on your own.

- The head of Xiangtan City’s Bureau of Radio, Film, and Television in Hunan Province wants to make a big-budget outdoor production of a Mao Zedong biopic, and he wants some western production values for his play. To achieve his goal, he took to his Weibo (he has a verified account), and literally wrote this:

“Can anyone help provide the contact information for Canadian director James Cameron? His films TITANIC and AVATAR set new records at the box office records. The recently-established Shaoshan Red Culture Tourism Group is currently looking for collaborators to produce a big-budget outdoor production of ZHONG GUO CHU LE GE MAO ZEDONG (Literally “China Made a Mao Zedong”), and I want to hire him as a creative consultant. Please provide, please repost. Thanks!”

Within a day, the message was reposted 37,000 times, with 15,000 comments, most of those ridiculing the poor government official of trying to be funny.  Finally, a netizen posted a phone number for what he claims to be James Cameron’s production company.  However, Lightstorm Entertainment said they haven’t heard anything about this possible collaboration.

In case you don’t know, Xiangtan is the hometown of several Chinese Communist Party founders, including Mao himself.

Next time: THE HORROR, oh, THE HORROR in China, and more.

Sources:

M1905 1
M1905 2
Mtime
Sina 1
Sina 2
Sina 3
Sina 4

The Golden Rock - 2011 Hong Kong Book Fair Edition

Contrary to popular belief, Hong Kongers actually read more than tabloid magazines. Hong Kong actually has a pretty big publishing industry, and its biggest, busiest time every year is the Hong Kong Book Fair. Held annually at the Hong Kong Convention Center, all the major bookstores and publishers of Hong Kong would unleash their latest works and their unsold inventory. In addition to hunting for cheap books, Hong Kongers also go and buy the latest books for their latest writers/pop stars/bikini models.

In addition to picking up novels that I never read (I finally finished two books I bought LAST YEAR recently), this year’s target was to grab some film books, and there were definitely some gems:

At the Kubrick booth (that’s the bookstore that’s always attached to Broadway Cinemas here in Hong Kong), I picked up two books - The 2011 Hong Kong International Film Festival’s Filmmaker in Focus book on Wai Ka-Fai. And at 15% off!

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The book includes interviews with Wai himself, an interview with Johnnie To, and essays by Hong Kong film critics. It has them in both Chinese and English.

 

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Also picked up at the Kubrick booth was A Killer Life, written by an independent film producer in America. Because after exposing shady practices in the Chinese film industry, Hollywood’s about to welcome me with open arms!

 

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One of the new books I was looking out for was Brigitte Lin’s essay collection “Chuang Li Chuang Wai”. The book collects the years of essays the actress wrote for newspapers and other publications.

 

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Even if you can’t read Chinese, you may want to buy the book for rare pictures like these:

 

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Shot by Christopher Doyle

And there’s a lot more where that came from.

I also accidentally came across two pieces of gems published by the now-defunct City Entertainment magazine.

The first one is a comprehensive collection of posters for all films that played in Hong Kong cinemas between 1997-2007:

 

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The most valuable asset of this collection is that it includes the total box office gross of each film. So, if I want to know how much, say, BALLISTIC KISS made in its theatrical run in Hong Kong…

 

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There it is.

Here are some more posters:

 

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Someone on this page is a ghost, and it’s not the one sitting on the train.

 

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There’s only one good movie on this page.

 

But Hong Kong film fans may be more excited at the other poster collection I picked up:

 

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Obviously, it’s not a comprehensive collection of all 80s Hong Kong films, but you do get treasure like these:

 

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The book also includes the total box office gross of each film featured.

For my translating work, I also picked up this book:

 

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And it includes translations of fun phrases like these:

 

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This phrase applies to most internet opinions - including this blog

 

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I heard this phrase in LOVE IN A PUFF, and now I finally understand it.

That’s the Hong Kong Book Fair for this year. I hope to find more wonderful treasure like this next year, and I hope to do it without breaking the bank like I did this year.

Next time: Back to real news!

The Golden Rock - July 23rd, 2009 Edition

- Lovehkfilm has been updated with reviews, yay. Boss Kozo has reviews of Wai Ka-Fai’s Written By and Disney’s Trail of the Panda.  Sanjuro has a review of the Ring sequel Rasen. And from yours truly is a review of the Korean-Chinese art film Life Track.

- Japan numbers are out. The crowded market, which included three major wide releases, caused steep drops for all the holdover films. Aside from the 32% drop for Evangelion and the 37% for The Summit (which has now passed the 2 billion yen mark), everything else dropped over 40%, and this include last week’s champion Gokusen and 54% for Transformers II.

Meanwhile, Mr. Texas at the Eiga Consultant blog writes about the opening weekend of Amalfi. With 376 million yen from 357 screens, the opening is 130% of the opening for The Star Reformer, the last Yuji Oda film, and that made 2.08 billion yen. The audience are pretty even across all the age demographics, and the main reasons for audiences were Yuji Oda and the Italian location.

- The South Korean numbers are also out. Harry Potter owned the weekend, as expected, attracting about 1.5 million admissions. I wonder if it’ll have any chance to beat Transformers II, which now has just under 7 million admissions. The evil wild pig movie Chaw opens with about 600,000 admissions. And the tsunami movie Haeundae had preview screenings from 19 screens and managed to make it to 10th place.

- The World Trade Organization has ruled in favor of the US in a dispute between them and China over the Chinese government’s policy of forcing American goods to be sold through Chinese-owned companies. The Chinese has asked for an investigation in US policies against Chinese products.

- Meanwhile, in South Korea, despite brawls breaking out, the Parliament has passed a media reform bill that allows newspapers and large businesses to have ownership stakes in broadcasting stations.

- China continues its fighting fire with paper bag strategy by blocking two sites that reported on a corruption scandal in Namibia involving a Beijing-based company that used to be run by Hu Jintao’s son.

- Actor/Director/Asian thugs ass-kicker Clint Eastwood has won the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government for his contribution towards understanding between the U.S. and Japan.

- As expected, the Japanese drama Negotiator, starring Ryoko Yonekura, is going to the big screen with a 1 billion+ budget after the special 2-hour TV movie scored a 17.1% rating.

- Chinese  company Chengtian has completed its takeover of Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest, turning the company into Orange Sky Golden Harvest. It will produce films and open more theaters in China.

In Japan, Nikkatsu has acquired AMG Entertainment, which specializes in mostly foreign direct-to-video films.

- After Ryuhei Kitamura made his Hollywood debut with Midnight Meat Locker, he’s taking on his second American effort, the film adaptation of the comic character Magdalena.

- Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee has a review of the Japanese film MW.

- Futoshi Abe, the former guitarist of the Japanese band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, has died at 42 years old.

The Golden Rock - July 21st, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - 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 - January 16th, 2009 Edition

Didn’t get to report on those other Asian box office numbers. Here we go:

- From 73 screens, Red Cliff II saw a very good opening day in Hong Kong with HK$1.73 million. However, that is actually below the opening of part 1, and it’s going up against the opening of Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea. Then again, it has the extended Chinese New Year holiday going for it, and it will certainly have better word-of-mouth than the first movie to carry it to success.

- A quiet weekend at the Taiwan box office, as no Chinese films ended up on the top 10. The Hollywood caper film Thick as Thieves managed a second place opening, and the best-performing Chinese film was Forever Enthralled all the way down at 11th place. The Taiwan-based political thriller Ballistic didn’t really interest anyone and could only get a 13th place opening. Red Cliff II also opened in Taiwan for this weekend, so that will probably rule the box office and bump everything else off.

- In Japan, a 3-day weekend didn’t help boost business at the box office, as Wall-E wins another weekend despite losing 41% in grosses. It’s nice to see K-20 still hanging at 3rd place with a loss of only 28.7% in gross, even though it’s only made half of the 3 billion yen Toho was hoping to make after 4 weekends.  Surprising is how well Thread of Destiny is performing, considering the fact that the TV drama is only doing single-digit ratings for the first three weeks. Things may pick up with Pandemic opening and sneak preview shows for Quantum of Solace this weekend.

- Another film opening this weekend in Japan is Ramen Girl, starring Brittney Murphy as an American trying to learn how to make ramen in Japan. The Daily Yomiuri has a feature on the film. I hope she pulls it off before her visa expires.

- Japan’s Blue Ribbon Awards handed out its Best Film award to Climber’s High, the real-life drama about a newspaper covering a plane crash, and in a surprise pick, Hirokazu Kore-eda for Best Director for his work on Still Walking. All Around Us also got some love, with Tae Kimura taking the Best Actress award and Lily Franky taking Best Newcomer.

- I don’t care about it so much, but I’m sure lots of anime fans worldwide are fuming that Fox has announced that the live-action version of Cowboy Bebop will be starring Keanu Reeves.

- Zhang Yimou, who last earned some brownie points with the Chinese government with the Olympic ceremonies, will reportedly take on directing duties for the PRC 60th anniversary show. Please go back to making movies soon, Mr. Zhang. The rest of the moviegoing public of the world misses you.

- 2008 Golden Rock of the Year Jero has taken on his first acting role in a film as a thug who has several jobs. Considering that it’s based on a Kankuro Kudo play, this should be interesting.

The Golden Rock - January 14th, 2009 Edition

A big change has come regarding the Hong Kong box office news provided on this blog. Since my usual source now.com has decided to stop its box office stats page, I will now only be able to report on Hong Kong box office once a week. My source now will be the Hong Kong Filmart website, which offers comprehensive stats only once a week. Hopefully, a better source will come along soon.

- No Japan box office numbers yet, but the attendence ranking is out. Surprisingly, Steven Soderbergh’s first Che movie landed on 2nd place in its first weekend. According to Mr. Texas at Eiga Consultant, it made 139 million yen from 248 screens nationwide in its first two days of release (even though it was a 3-day holiday weekend), and that the 47 theaters in the 9 major metropolitan areas accounted for 47% of the gross. So while the per-screen average is roughly 560,000 yen, the per-screen average in the major cities is much higher at roughly 1.21 million yen. However, with 42% of Moviewalker voters giving the first film a C, I doubt the second film will do as well when it comes out in three weeks.

Other than that, with the exception of The Day the Earth Stood Still taking a dive to 4th place, everything else remains fairly stable.

- Japan will get its first major domestic release this weekend with virus disaster film Pandemic, and Jason Gray provides a fairly lengthy review of it on his blog.

- In China, Red Cliff 2 was so huge that it already made over 100 million yuan over the opening weekend. Of course, it probably opened on a whole lot of screens to get to that number. With the Lunar New Year holiday underway in China, looks like it might actually make its budget back just with the Chinese box office gross. I’ll be catching this tomorrow night here in Hong Kong.

- In Korea, only two films on the top 10 this past weekend are local releases, but they also happen to be the highest-grossing releases on the top 10 by far.

More over at Korea Pop Wars.

- The Winter 2009 Japanese drama season is underway, with a few major drama premiering this past week. The Ryo Kase-Yukie Nakama drama Arifureta Kiseki saw a soft opening with only a 12.5% rating. Meanwhile, the 4th season of Tokumei Kakarichou Tadano Hitoshi makes its premiere at primetime (which means less of the risque content that made it special before at its old late-night timeslot), and got a respectable 11.9% rating. The Yosuke Eguchi-Goro Inagaki-Ryoko Hirose mystery drama Triangle started off with only an OK-14.7% rating.

Meanwhile, Akai Ito has benefitted from the film version with a boost to a 10% rating for its latest episode. Not in the linked chart, but the Code Blue special episode had a 23.1% rating, which is even higher than its highest-rated episode. Don’t be surprised if it’ll be heading to the big screen soon.

Next week will be the premiere of the Monday night 9pm Fuji drama and the second episode dips of the dramas mentioned above.

Visit Tokyograph for the Winter 2009 drama sypnosis.

-  On the Japan Oricon charts, the first solo single by Tackey (of Tackey and Tsubasa) scored first place on the singles chart, while Ai no Mama de has proven to be this year’s benefactor of the “Kohaku Effect” (songs not quite well-known previously gets a huge bump after appearing on the yearly Kohaku Uta Gassen music extravaganza on New Year’s Eve). Ikimono Gakari’s album gets bumped down to 3rd place in its second week by two compilation albums. Such is the tragedy of J-pop sales.

More on Tokyograph.

- Jackie Chan will likely be joining the cast of the remake of The Karate Kid, starring Will Smith’s son, as the titular character’s master. I wonder whether Jackie will be playing a Japanese character (Karate is, after all, Japanese), and how Chinese netizens will be reacting to that one.

- An interesting article from Hollywood Reporter reports that Oscar favorite Slumdog Millionaire may not do very well in India because of the harsh reality of India it portrays, despite its popularity overseas.

- Another possibly risky release is the Taiwanese blockbuster Cape No. 7, which finally has a set release of Valentine’s Day after the distributor pulled its initial release after rumors that it was out of fear of a disgruntled nationalistic audience and political reasons (the official reason was something about the subtitles). However, it will be slightly altered for some bad language, which probably includes its famous opening line.

- The Academy has announced its short list for the Best Foreign Film nominee, and Japan’s Departures managed to get on it. If nominated, it would be the first Japanese film since Yoji Yamada’s Twilight Samurai to receive a Best Foreign Film nomination. Also glad to see France’s The Class on that short list.

Not exactly a surprise, but neither Painted Skin nor China’s Olympic documentary Dream Weaver got on that short list.

- The atrocious Hana Yori Dango Final has spent its 4th consecutive week at the top of the Japanese DVD sales chart, and is now the 3rd best-selling Japanese DVD in history. It just means Japanese people need to buy more DVDs of better movies and that they need to be charged less for it.

- Despite having premiered at the Venice Film Festival back in 2006, Jia Zhangke’s Still Life didn’t get a North America release until 2008, which made it qualified for the various critics awards. This is why it managed to win two awards at the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film and Best Cinematography.

- Variety’s Derek Elley has a review for Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak 2, which satisfied this blogger’s need for a muay Thai fix. though not the need for a compelling story.

The Golden Rock - January 12th, 2009 Edition

Happy new year again, all! Back from a trip over break, and now back in Hong Kong ready for a new year of Golden Rock blogging. News will be a bit light, as I’m trying to ease back into the blogging routine. Good thing today was a holiday in Japan, so box office and drama ratings stats will be coming in slowly.

- Ip Man leads an amazing 4th weekend at the Hong Kong box office. On Sunday, Wilson Yip’s action/biopic took in another HK$619,000 from 38 screens for a 25-day total of HK$23.91 million. HK$25 million should be no problem, though I think Red Cliff should take away momentum that 30 million is not going to be possible. In a bit of a surprise, Milkyway’s PTU spin-off film Tactical Unit - Comrade in Arms nearly won the weekend with HK$614,900 from 32 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2.28 million, and it may end up wrapping up with about HK$5 million, which would exceed PTU’s original theatrical gross.

The weekend’s other wide opener, Australia, couldn’t score any blockbuster number due to a limited amount of showings and multiplex putting it on their smaller screens. With a ticket price inflation due to length, the epic romance made HK$584,000 from 32 screens for a total of HK$2.49 million from 4 days of wide release and several preview showings over the holidays.

Meanwhile, most of the New Year day openers have suffered steep drops. Alan Mak/Felix Chong’s Lady Cop and Papa Crook, which is one of the most blatant example of Chinese censorship interference of Hong Kong cinema, made only HK$387,000 from 39 screens and has made HK$6.51 million after 11 days. Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak 2 suffered an even worse fate, making only HK$159,000 from 35 screens (many of those playing a reduced number of showings) and has made only HK$4.93 million after 11 days, certainly a bit underwhelming considering Tom Yom Goong made distributor Edko over HK$10 million.

The only film from New Year’s day that’s still doing well is Forever Enthralled. Despite the Hong Kong press making up stories about underwhelming box office, it’s actually doing fairly decent business for a film that was released only on 11 screens with limited showings. On Sunday, the Chen Kaige film made HK$171,000 from 11 screens for a 11-day total of HK$2.26 million. That’s an average of HK$205,000 per day from 11 screens, and anything that can still average a HK$15,000+ per-screen daily is definitely not flopping.

Other box office totals: Madagascar 2 - HK$17.92 million after 24 days. Twilight - HK$16.41 million after 24 day. Suspect X - 11.94 million after 19 days. Bedtime Stories - HK$8.97 million after 18 days.

- Variety’s Derek Elley sends in a fairly positive review of John Woo’s Red Cliff, Part II. He calls the two movies combined “one of the great Chinese costume epics of all time”. Part II better be damn good enough to earn that title in my book.

-  Who didn’t expect this to happen? The Japanese comedy-drama Departures was the big winner at another Japanese film awards, this time the Kinema  Junpo Awards. The complete list of winners, including their top 10 domestic and foreign films, can be found here.

- They keep trying, but it won’t stop - major Chinese film producer Huayi Brothers is suing China’s top web portals for spreading illegal copies of their biggest films. Forget it, these days I’m being ridiculed for being a consumer of legit DVDs.

- Even though it’s not doing great business in Japan (roughly 650 million yen as of the weekend before last), Shochiku and Fuji TV are planning an Asia-wide release of their film-TV project Threads of Destiny. I don’t know how just releasing the film will work if the story is meant to be connected with the TV drama, which hasn’t been shown legally outside of Japan.

-Bless the good folks at Tokyograph for putting up their guide to the Winter 2009 Japanese dramas.

- Hong Kong director Derek Yee is now officially in the running for the Golden Rock of the Year after he admits that his latest film The Shinjuku Incident will give up the Mainland China market and go straight to Japan in March and Hong Kong in April because cutting the violence for a Mainland-approved “harmonious” version will just lead to disgruntled audience screaming “fraud!”. Good call, Mr. Yee and Emperor Films.

For those that don’t know, The Shinjuku Incident is the long-awaited Derek Yee film that features Jackie Chan in his first dramatic/non-action role.

- Danny Boyle, who just picked up a Golden Globe for Best Director, reveals that he’s been asked to direct a remake of Park Chan-wook’s Lady Vengeance. No word whether he said yes or no.

- Japanese actor Jo Odagiri’s first feature film as a director has been invited to the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The actor has been working on the film since it started shooting in the summer of 2006, and he finally completed the film two months ago.

The Golden Rock - December 15th, 2008 Edition

- The Day the Earth Stood Still scored one of the biggest opening weekends this year at the Hong Kong box office. On Sunday, the sci-fi drama made HK$2.62 million from 86 screens (That’s a 10 screen increase from opening day) for a 4-day weekend total of HK$10.57 million. It should have no problem crossing the HK$20 million mark, unless Ip Man puts a dent in it next weekend along with that poor word-of-mouth.

Only one other film on the top 10 broke the HK$10,000 per-screen average on Sunday. From 3 screens, the Japanese film Ikigami made HK$37,000 on Sunday for a 11-day gross of HK$450,000. Meanwhile, the opening films didn’t get much of a boost over the weekend. Romantic comedy Four Christmases made only HK$231,000 from 26 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$820,000. Tsui Hark’s All About Women did only slightly better from its disasterous opening day, making HK$109,000 from 18 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$410,000.

The Golden Horse Awards last weekend didn’t help its award winners here in Hong Kong. Cape No. 7 continues its gradual decline with HK$125,000 from 23 screens on Sunday with HK$7.28 million after 25 days. Herman Yau’s True Women for Sale (whose star Prudence Lau took Best Actress at the awards)also lost about 50% of its audience with just HK$22,000 from 5 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total of HK$440,000.

As for other films, Dante Lam’s The Beast Stalker is now at HK$7.5 million after 18 days, making the HK$10 million mark extremely unlikely now. Wu Jing’s Legendary Assassin is at HK$2.08 million after 11 days. Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect, another Gold Label film, is at HK$3.1 million after 18 days (the 24 days included the weekend previews), and What Just Happened is at HK$620,000 after 11 days.

- On the Japanese box office attendence chart, Wall-E retains its number 1 spot while two other animated films enter at 2nd and 3rd place. However, since they are animated films that would attract a large kids audience, their places on the box office gross chart may end up lower. More when the numbers come out.

-The comic-turned-TV drama-turned film Mr. Tadano’s Secret Mission dropped to 7th place in the second week. However, that didn’t stop TV Asahi from bringing back for its 4th season. They’ll even move it from the late night 11pm slot to 9pm, even though it means they’ll have to cut down on the sex.

- No Japanese TV drama ratings yet, but the Mainichi News reports that the NHK period drama Atsuhime scored a 28.7% rating for its final episode for an average of 24.5%, the highest for NHK in the last decade.

- Even though Korean superstar Rain didn’t make much of an impression with Speed Racer, this stunt reel found on Twitch proves that he’s ready for his starring role in Ninja Assassin. Girls, you may scream……………….now.

- Also, the website for Vincent Kok’s Lunar New Year comedy All’s Well’s End Well 2009 has uploaded a half making-of, half teaser. It mainly consists of a lot of people laughing and making funny faces.

- Twitch also has a teaser for the aniamted film Miyamoto Musashi, written by Mamoru Oshii and produced by his production company.

- Korean actress Bae Seul-ki will be in a major role for the Hollywood production Finale, playing a cold-blooded killer who takes on the Italian mafia.

-The Golden Rock’s favorite enka singer Jero has revealed that his second single was written by pop singer Yo Hitoto, who starred in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Cafe Lumiere.

- Japanese box office champ Toho has announced its 2009 lineup, which includes the new film by Isshin Inudo (more details from Ryuganji) and Kankuro Kudo’s latest.

- Actor Park Shin-yang has been banned from any television drama made by any member of Corea Drama Production Assosication because he asked for too much money for appearing in extra episodes of the drama he was working on and sued when he didn’t get paid.

- Twitch has an interview with Tokyo Sonata director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, but be warned that there are some spoilers for the movie in it.

- Thai actor/comedian Sayan Doksadao has passed away. He was one of the world’s few actors working with Down syndrome.

 
 
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