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Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

The Golden Rock State of the Blog, and Some More Random Things About Japan

A little over a year ago, I started a small blog on Blogger as a random news blog, highlighting random going-ons of Asian films and box office numbers. Eventually, the daily posts, which used to only share news that share a common theme, got longer and longer. Then it simply became what is now The Golden Rock: An (almost) daily news aggregation blog really inspired by the old daily news post by Japan Probe.

Slowly, the blog began getting attention from those who cover the same field such as Jason Gray, Don Brown (of Ryuganji), Kaiju Shakedown’s Grady Hendrix, and of course, my boss at lovehkfilm, who has been a great enough supporter to make this blog legit by bringing it on board this site. For this past year’s support, I thank all these people, plus my average of 100 daily readers and those who have commented, sincerely from the bottom of my heart.

And so I ask myself, what are my goals for this upcoming year?

- Continue developing the right format for the blog, which is an ongoing process.
- Try and stay grammatically correct in every entry. That’s reaching a little bit.
- Update the spin-off more often. That might not happen until I’m out of school.
- More picture posts. People like pictures.
- Write entries more efficiently. Aggregating news means I would waste time looking at other sites while I’m writing.
- Now that there’s no more podcast (no time), bring back the Best of the Week entries.

And of course, I’ll think of some more as the year goes by. As they say in Japan: 今年もよろしくお願いします! (if someone can translate that in English, that’d be great).

And now, more random discoveries in Japan that I forgot to cover last time:

dscn2452.JPG

Don’t mistaken this as an actual sequel for Bae Yong-Joon’s (or Yong-sama) classic drama Winter Sonata. It’s actually an ad for a new pachinko machine (the steel marble game). I guess to attract more housewives to pachinko parlor?

dscn2568.JPG

A picture of the blogger with his own blog. No, seriously, I got it at a temple on New Years day and just don’t feel like eating it.

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And then there’s the biggest discovery of the trip: The ass-biting bug (this is a PG-13 blog, so forget the kid-friendly names). I first discovered this catchy and addictive tune at a display in the “practical life store” Tokyu Hands, where this song was playing on loop:

It has no real melody, it has a bug that bites people’s asses, and he even goes under the waterfall training seen in The Storm Riders.

So of course I had to buy one for myself.

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Because really, how can you not like a bug that bites asses to bring people closer together? Thank you, NHK.

Just in case you haven’t had enough, here’s a live version:

The Golden Rock - November 24th, 2007 Edition

- It’s reviews time! This week we see why reading film criticism is like watching Rashomon - first a glowing review of the Japanese aspiring blockbuster Midnight Eagle from The Daily Yomiuri’s Ikuko Kitagawa, then a pan from Japan Times’ Mark Schilling. Who should we believe?

- The Daily Yomiuri is so enthusiastic about Midnight Eagle that they even have a feature on the actor who plays the Prime Minister in the film. No, he’s not the star, but he talks like one.

- If you’re in New York, Midnight Eagle is playing as a day-and-date release at the Imaginasian theatre in New York City.  Of course, if you’re not, then it doesn’t really mean anything to you.

- The first teaser for Stephen Chow’s CJ 7 is indeed out and a Chinese-subtitled version is all over Youtube. Thanks to Lovehkfilm’s Sanjuro, now I can actually link a version with English subtitles instead. By the way, the first time is mis-translated: it should say “stop yelling or I’ll throw you out to the streets.”

- Oh, no, it’s sex! Chinese doctors are so afraid of the impact of Lust, Caution - now on track to be the highest-grossing Chinese film of the year in China - that they have to warn people to not imitate the sex scenes from the uncensored version. If you get hurt doing them, they’ll probably arrest you for piracy.

- Under “piracy is bad, mmkay?” news today, The Korean Film Council will be launching a new anti-piracy campaign in South Korea, where box office gross is one of the highest in the world without the DVD sales to reflect it. Meanwhile, European businesses are putting the pressure on European Union officials to make China do something about their piracy problem. Lastly, five Hollywood studios have come together to sue a Chinese online service and an internet cafe in Shanghai for providing illegal downloads of films.

Quite frankly, short of shooting ballistic missiles at random Chinese vendors, Chinese pirates are harder to take down than Al Qaeda insurgents. But good tries, everyone.

Later today: Maybe a post in the spin-off.

The Golden Rock - October 8th, 2007 Edition

Tons more news Pusan Film Festival news today:

- The Asian Film Market is kicking off, but like we mentioned yesterday, both attendance and market screenings are going down.

- Meanwhile, a bunch of production/co-operation deals are going down: the Korean Film Council and the British Film Council have teamed up to help distribute each other’s movies in each other’s countries, namely in publicity support. Also, the film festival has become the launching pad for Taiwanese international sales firm Joint Entertainment, who hopes to bring Taiwanese films abroad to different film markets.

Also, from last week is a set of features about the Taiwanese film industry - a slate of upcoming releases, the slow action by the government to help the struggling film industry (sounds a bit like Hong Kong to me), and the industry’s own attempts to put away its arthouse label in recent years.

Other project announcements includes Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s latest project, a period martial arts film (12-minute long one-take fight scene?), and a Taiwan-Korean co-production from Eternal Summer director Leste Chen.

With so many Korean-another Asian country co-productions going on, it seems like the Korean industry is learning the only way to ensure its survival is to play nice with others.

Now, back to your regular programming:

- Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django has run into some problems with the Shintoists in Japan because of an image of people hanging from the shinto gate. While Sony has removed the offending image from all of its promotional materials, the shot remains in the film.

- There’s a bit of confusion going on about whether the Hong Kong relay-crime film Triangle was really re-edited after its Cannes screening. While the various reviews at Cannes put the film at 100 minutes (a running time they probably got from the booklet), Hong Kong’s Television and Entertainment Authority (who give ratings with exact running times on the certificates) puts the film at 93 minutes. I doubt the film runs exactly at 100 minutes, especially when the rules stipulated that each section needs to run at 30 minutes.

- Universal, who is already co-releasing the Japanese action flick Midnight Eagle in Japan, has also signed on to release the film in North America. However, the trailers have left me fairly cold, so how are they going to be selling in to American audiences?

(Yes, I know the trick answer is: they don’t try to tell it. They just keep in on the shelves a couple of years, then release it straight to DVD with some sexy woman on the cover)

- Lastly, Jackie Chan does something he doesn’t whine about on his blog: A Japanese commercial with model/actress/singer Aya Ueto.

The Golden Rock - July 8th, 2007 Edition

The Podcast is all done, but will come a little later.

- As reported early in the week, Die Hard 4.0 had quite a huge opening in Japan, making 600 million yen on its opening weekend (to add to the advanced preview gross). That opening is actually 99% of Die Hard with a Vengeance’s opening, which ended up making a pretty amazing 7.2 billion yen 12 years ago. However, considering that the series has made gradually more money with each installment (the first film did 1.8 billion, and the second film did 5.11 billion yen), so will this become the downward trend in the series?

- In “Why do celebrities matter that much” news today, Ozzy Osbourne has been enlisted to help Taiwan get recognized by the UN by joining a gothic band on a tour around the world. What the hell were they smoking when they came up with that idea?

- A humorous observation by the Hong Kong Films blog from Hong Kong looks at the classification papers for the new Hong Kong film Mr. Cinema. It has been somewhat controversial for glamorizing the left-wingers in Hong Kong by telling a selective version of Hong Kong history, including taking out the Tiananmen Square incident. Ironically, the classification for the film was issued on June 4th, the 18th anniversary of the incident.

- The TV Tokyo Thursday Night Western Theater, unlike the weekly movie time slot on American networks, has lasted 2000 weeks and seems to be going strong. On the other hand, the big networks in the United States have pretty much stopped showing movies during primetime on any set schedule. I don’t know why this is news, I was kind of desperate.

- Twitch has a link to the first 12 minutes of Fumihiko Sori’s Vexville, which is being streamed on video rental chain Tsutaya on their server. I got lazy and didn’t get to check out the clip, but I’m sure it’s visually exciting, if what’s in the trailer is an indication of anything.

- Baidu, the website that was once accused of providing illegal download of music to its users, has now struck a deal with Rock Music to provide music streaming, with the record company getting advertising revenue. Finally, someone that gets the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” concept.

- I forgot to do a review for Deadly War in Hiroshima, the second episode of the classic Yakuza Papers series. It features a crazy overacting Sonny Chiba as a reckless gang leader with an oversized ambition. I mention this because Sonny Chiba has mentioned that he is planning to quit acting at the end of the year.

- Lastly, Michael Wells turns in his last report at the New York Asian Film Festival, although I personally don’t mind if Hula Girl gets the audience award.

The Golden Rock - June 4th, 2007 Edition

- The world is changing fast. These days, a movie makes US$218 million by the end of its second weekend, and suddenly it’s a disappointment. Of course, Pirates’ disappointment probably has something to do with the 61% drop from last weekend, but that can be easily attributed to it 1) opening on a record-breaking holiday weekend, and 2) on too many screens to meet demands rather than relying on steady stream of word-of-mouth. I think the movie is getting generally good responses from people, but everyone that needed to see it had plenty of chances to see it already, so those that need convincing aren’t going to because they missed out on the first two. Anyway, with a current global take of US$624 million (to add to the over US$1 billion the second movie already made) there’s absolutely no doubt that everyone’s going to be smiling to the bank when it’s all over - they’re just upset that their deposit is a little smaller than before.

Pirates continued to do strongly (though still lagging behind Spiderman 3) on Sunday in Hong Kong, making HK2.55 million on 88 screens for a 11-day total of HK$32.92 million - that’s an average of almost HK$30,000 per day. Look for this sucker to break the HK$40 million mark, but remember - the ticket prices are 20-30% higher than the usual ticket price, so the only real gauge of success is audience admissions, and I don’t see Hong Kong releasing that type of figures anytime soon.

Meanwhile, urban romantic-docudrama-comedy Single Blog makes HK$280,000 on 28 screens for a lackluster 4-day total of HK$1.06 million. The word-of-mouth seems to be doing OK on the mov3 message board (a lot of them are saying it’s funnier than they expected), but quite a few people seemed to have gone in with free tickets. With Ocean’s 13 taking over the screens this weekend, I doubt the chain theaters are going to give this film a chance. By the way, as I mentioned last week, the “blog” connection is stated in the trailer - that 99% of the film is based on experiences people write in blogs. Just what blogs and how many blogs I have no idea. The rest of Hong Kong cinemas seem kind of ho-hum, except for the surprising performance of British film Cashback. On 2 screens, the comedy made an impressive HK$60,000 for a 4-day total of HK$190,000.

Box Office Mojo only has the top 6 movies on their site, so I’ll wait until they have the full ranking before I talk about numbers. However, I do have the attendance rankings, and as expected, Pirates took the weekend again (but with much more staying power than it did in the States). The bigger surprise is Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Dai Nipponjin showing up at 2nd place. Apparently, it opened wider than I thought, though it’s not playing in that many theaters in Central Tokyo (look at the screen counts for Pirates and the new Masami Nagasawa movie for comparison). It also beat Takeshi Kitano’s Kantoku Banzai by quite a margin, as Kantoku opened at only 10th place, right under The Banquet (!!).

Eiga Consultant further analyzes the opening weekend of the previous mentioned new Masami Nagasawa film, Sono Toki Wa Kare Ni Yoroshiku. Nagasawa got her big break with the 2004 Japanese blockbuster Crying Out For Love In the Center of the World (whose DVD probably sold so many copies that I managed to get a second-hand DVD in Tokyo for just 500 yen), and has had a considerable presence in both movies (Tears For You and Rough) and TV (Sailor Suit and Machine Gun and the currently-playing Proposal Daisakusen) ever since. However, the opening of Sono seems to prove that maybe she isn’t the big box office attraction after all. Sono made 89 million yen on its Saturday opening, which is only 94% of Rough and 23% of Tears For You. After the ratings disappointment that was Sailor Suit (only a 13.3 average rating, including a 45% drop from its first to third episode) and this, Eiga Consultant wonders whether the success of Nagasawa’s outing depend more on her male co-stars? After all, Proposal Daisakusen has boy band member Tomohisa Yamashita, and Tears for You has hunky actor Satoshi Tsumabaki. Too bad, I actually fell quite head over heels for Masami-chan (she’s three years younger than me, so I get to call her that!) after Crying Out for Love.

- Meanwhile, the recent blockbusters have been taking up so much screens in Korea (and pretty much everywhere else, come to think of it) that the Korean government is actually looking into whether studios are breaking monopoly laws. However, since these screen counts were reached by consensus between theaterowners and distributors (more demand=more screens=bigger cut), not much wrongdoing is likely to be found.

- Speaking of Proposal Daisakusen (as always, see Tokyo Graph for all drama introductions), it took quite a dive in the Japanese dramas ratings last week, dropping from a 17.4 % in week 6 to a 14.7% rating in week 7. Sexy Voice and Robo suffered from NTV dropping their 7th episode as episode 8 shows a new ratings low with only 6.5%. The Japanese remake of Korean drama Hotelier, starring Aya Ueto, also saw its lowest rating at 7.1 this past week. After announcing its planned 3-hour finale, Liar Game saw its first ratings drop in 6 weeks, from 12.0% to 11.4%. This is Fuji’s first attempt at a late-night drama, and it appears to have worked quite well. Meanwhile, TBS’s Sunday night disappointment Joudan Janai! finally stopped its freefall by recovering a slight bit on Sunday night. Starring Yuji Oda, the sitcom-like drama went back up from a 10.7 % rating last week to a 11.3% rating this week.

- Over the weekend, I posted a link to the Korean monster film D-War. Now an August release date has finally been set in both North America (where the distributor plans to open in on over 1000 screens) and in Korea. It’s hard to believe director Shim Hyung-Rae managed to get US$70 million to make this, although over half of it went to starting up a brand-new effects house for it.

- Director Katsuhito Ishii (Taste of Tea, Funky Forest: The First Contact) has leaked out some details of his latest film “Yama no Anata ~Tokuichi no Koi~.” A “cover” of the 1938 silent film “Anma to Onna,” the film will star SMAP’s Tsuyoshi Kusanagi as a blind masseur that I assume is not named Zatoichi.

- Spanish cinema is getting to be such a commodity that some of the biggest international film buyers are heading to Madrid for the latest screenings. I wonder if this is helped by the success of Pan’s Labyrinth, or am I just assuming too much because of my lack of knowledge about Spanish cinema?

- After the Indian film Rang de Basanti got nominations at the BAFTA, its studio UTV decided to release a new cut that’s 30 minutes shorter to capture more audiences. No word whether the new cut is approved by director Rakeysh Screwvalla, but he does have a comment in the article, so it would seem so.

- After appearing in 6 films, starring in one TV drama (Taiyou no Uta, or the drama version of Midnight Sun, which was confirmed to be inspired by the Hong Kong film C’est la vie, Mon Cheri), and releasing a single under said drama character’s name, Erika Sawajiri may be headed for a singing career. Sony Music has introduced a new singer named Erika who happens to look like her, has the same birthday as her, and even has the same voice….except she was born in Paris, unlike Sawajiri. But, but, she’s not even much of a singer.

- r@sardonicsmile is looking forward to the comedy Maiko haaaan, written by Ping Pong screenwriter Kankuro Kudo, and with good reason, too - it has Shibasaki Kou as a maiko.

- Twitch reviews the Korean animated film Yobi, The Five-Tailed Fox, from the team that brought you My Beautiful Girl Mari.

- There’s a parody of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing floating around the web, starring those Fisher Price Sesame Street toys. I’ve had neither, but I still found it hilarious.

- Jim Carrey is getting to be more of an actor than just another funnyman - I loved his performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I guess taking on a thriller like The Number 23 sounded pretty good on paper. Now he’s taking on the dark comedy I Love You Philip Morris, as a real-life character who escaped prison four times after falling in love madly with his released-cellmate.

- Lastly, one of those people who got sued by the America record industry for downloading is now fighting back, countersuing the RIAA and Universal on several counts, including trespassing. That way, everyone loses!

Moving ahead

The big Cannes screening this past day was the director’s cut of Quentin Tarantino’s self-indulgent Death Proof. Essentially, the new cut extends the film by about 20 minutes with two major scenes - the missing reel with the lap dance, and a scene where Stuntman Mike (played by Kurt Russell) actually meets the girls in the second half. Variety likes it even more than the theatrical cut, saying that now the film benefits from the additional details in the second half. And I guess Hollywood Reporter doesn’t really have much of a problem with it either, which probably means that the director’s cut is pretty much a longer version of the same film. On the other hand, Jeffrey Wells, who actually liked the Grindhouse cut of Death Proof, is indirectly slamming it all of a sudden. Lastly, the Risky Biz blog by Hollywood Reporter has more on the press conference.

This didn’t happen yesterday, but someone uploaded footage from Hitoshi Matsumoto’s introduction of his film Dai Nipponjin at the Cannes premiere.

Hollywood Reporter critics Ray Bennett and Kirk Honeycott talk about the critical reception to the Cannes Festival films so far, including a reprieve for the panned-opening film My Blueberry Nights.

Meanwhile, there have been quite a few business deals made in Cannes:

Martin Scorsese, with other directors from around the world such as Wong Kar-Wai, Walter Salles, Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Stephen Frears, have started the World Cinema Foundation, which is committed to restoring and preserving old neglected films.

Meanwhile, the Independent Film Channel (IFC) picked up the North American rights for Cannes front-runner “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” among other films.

Colombia Films, owned by Sony, has signed a production deal with Stephen Chow’s production company Star Overseas. The first film under the deal is the Stephen Fung-directing effort Jump, starring Hong Kong’s spoiled bad boy Edison Chen. This doesn’t seem like a surprising decision, considering that Sony handled the distribution for Kung Fu Hustle and will do the same for Chow’s latest A Hope.

In the past few years, Korean films have hit it big in Japan, with huge distribution deals being made at film festivals around the world. Seems like the tables have turned, with Korean distributors now buying up Japanese films for their market after their recent relative success.

Yet another film investment fund has now established. A3 International will produce films with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese films in the mid-budget range. No films have been announced under the fund yet.

Now back to regular programming:

- Speaking of launching funds, the Pusan International Film Festival has also launched a film fund for Asian filmmakers. But there’s a catch - the fund is for documentaries.

- Numbers from the Japanese box office ranking this past weekend are in. As I mentioned yesterday, only two films penetrated the top 10, with the other 8 remaining films staying at the same place as last week. And most impressive is that none of the remaining films dropped by more than 30% from last week’s gross. Even Spiderman 3, which has been suffering pretty big falls around the world, dropped only 24% after losing only 21 screens.

- Eiga Consultant analyzes the 10th place opening for Will Farrell’s Stranger Than Fiction. He basically compares Farrell to Adam Sandler, another American comedy actor who has a huge following at home, but whose films fail to perform in Japan. At 26 million yen, the Stranger Than Fiction opening is only 17% of Bewitched’s opening in Japan, but it’s also 113% of Click. I doubt that Japanese people buy Farrell’s type of humor anyway.

- There were a few Asian films on the North American box office as well, excluding Shrek 3, which was co-directed by an Asian. Sad news is they’re at the 101st and 102nd place. The two films are Triad Election (which moved on to a San Francisco engagement this week with almost no fanfare) and Ken Watanabe’s Memories of Tomorrow, which also opened with pretty much no advance word at all.

- Following in the footsteps of Variety Asia, Hollywood Reporter has recently decided to expand their coverage into Asia with new offices in Hong Kong and Beijing. Good for them.

- I guess it’s pretty important for some people. Variety has the first major review of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and it seems to be more of the same. I’ll probably go watch it, as soon as I get myself to go catch Spiderman 3.

- New York Post critic Lou Lumenick warns that Evan Almighty, now officially the most expensive comedy ever made, might not be any good. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of a good comedy that runs under 90 minutes.

- Yesterday, I reported that the winner of the Shanghai International Film Festival will be allowed to see a release in China without worrying about import quotas. And now, here are the official selections.

- EastSouthWestNorth has a link to an English TVB-produced special about The Society For Truth and Light, a conservative group in Hong Kong that is very much on the opposing side against the Chinese University of Hong Kong student newspaper controversy, and is a strong opponent against laws that outlaw discrimination of “sexual minorities” (that would mean the gays). The focus of the program is that they have recently been teaching a human rights course to schoolteachers. My favorite quote about the course: “If you think your time is valuable, don’t try to join this course.” Sounds like a quote ready for print.

- Japan must really love Richard Gere. After being featured in several ads in Japan and dancing with former Prime Minister Koizumi, now he’s taking part in one of Japan’s most beloved pet stories. That’s right, Richard Gere has signed on to star and produce “Hachiko: A Dog’s Story,” playing the role of the professor owner who meets a tragic end. At least Japanese distributor Shochiku has its hands in it, or Japanese audiences might be crying foul.

- Korea, you guys are getting an Universal Studios theme park. I guess there’s no need to go to Osaka anymore, huh?

- I’m sure many people know that there’s such thing as a news agenda, which means news producers has an agenda in putting what they think is the most important story early in the newscast. This, I believe, is the reason why perhaps such agendas may be a little misguided sometimes. If you look at the top left corner, this news came on 12 minutes into the newscast. Are there actually less important news out there then a Civet running around in a TV station, or is it just to show the Japanese police’s lack of priority in solving crimes?

Nippon Friday

Before I get into the Japan news, let’s get into some Hong Kong box office business first -

- A total of five films opened in Hong Kong on Thursday opening day, and that would naturally take away quite a few screens from Spiderman 3. Losing about 40 screens, Spidey still made HK$1.12 million on 81 screens for a 10-day total of HK$34.71 million. Expect another fairly big weekend (maybe 2-3 million per day?) and smooth sailing for the $50 million record mark until those pirates come along.

The biggest opening this week is the sequel 28 Weeks Later. On 27 screens, the zombie horror film made $300,000, and may do OK for the weekend with about HK$500,000 per day. The Japanese blockbuster Umizaru: Limit of Love (which made an astonishing US$60 million-plus box office take last year, despite the ratings for the drama and the original film’s gross not all that spectacular.), which is playing in Hong Kong right after the end of the drama’s run on TV, made only HK$120,000 on 14 screens. Expect TV fans either having already downloaded this or just waiting to catch this on home video instead. Fracture also opened on 15 screens with only $100,000 on opening day, Priceless, starring Audrey Tautou and just opened last month here in the United States, made HK$60,000 on 7 screens, and the Singaporean blockbuster “Just Follow the Law” crashes and burn with just HK$10,000 on 7 screens.

Lastly, Herman Yau’s Gong Tau, which has a strange release date of Tuesday the 15th (I think it might be a Chinese thing), did OK with its advance midnight shows. On 15 screens, it made only HK$50,000, which is decent, considering it’s only one show on a weeknight. There will be more midnight shows through the weekend, which might help earn some buzz that it desperately needs.

- A Japanese streaming video site has the teaser for Hitoshi Matsumoto’s “Dai Nipponjin,” which just joined the Director’s Fortnight lineup at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s OK, I have no idea what the hell was going on in that teaser either.

- The previously-mentioned “King of Foreign Otaku” contest was on TV in Japan two nights ago, and Japan Probe has a report on it with short clips (the link he provides to the contest on Youtube is already gone. Well-played, TV Tokyo). And the winner is from Hong Kong! Represent!

Wait. Upon closer inspection, the guy’s name is Cheng Ga Fai….isn’t that the former radio host who specializes in Japanese pop culture?! I actually have one of his Tokyo guidebooks. Crazy…

- Kiroi Namida, starring boy band Arashi, opened April 14th at just one theater in Tokyo. After its expansion on April 28th to 31 screens nationwide (considering this is starring a fairly popular pop group, why not open it wider?). Eiga Consultant reports that it has since recorded over 107,000 viewers after 4 weeks (that’s a good thing), and that it’s pretty much attracting everyone from their 20s to their 60s (thanks to Arashi, director Isshin Inudou, and the writers of both the screenplay and the original novel.). The trailer actually looks pretty good, proving that boy bands in Japan don’t necessarily always make bad movies.

- Sakuran is coming to DVD on August 3rd, and this time, it has English subtitles! As much as I am looking forward to this one, too bad I won’t be able to afford it.

- This took a while. The Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization in Japan (did anyone actually know this existed?) formed a new Broadcasting Ethics Verification Committee that will investigate false information on factual TV programs. Call me a cynic, but I predict bureaucracy and politics to get in the way of getting any actual work done on this committee.

- Do they really need to do this? The head of the Motion Pictures Association John G. Malcolm is going all the way to Japan to encourage crackdowns on piracy and to congratulate Osaka police for taking down groups that produce and sell pirated films in the region. Of course, what Malcolm doesn’t know is that he’s thanking the worst police force in the country.

- With at least four Chinese films and one Japanese documentary being made about the Nanjing Massacre, a Japanese government official is saying to make sure the facts are “not distorted.” What part does he not want distorted, he didn’t specify, but I have a feeling it might the part that has something to do with Japanese soldiers killing Chinese people.

That’s it for today. More tomorrow, including Japan Times reviews.

Back with a vengenace

After a small break yesterday, it’s time to catch up - in a big way.

- As always, let’s start with box office reports. Japan had the beginning of its Golden Week holiday this past weekend (Tuesday and Wednesday are technically business days, but people take them off anyway), so obviously numbers are gonna be pretty huge. However, Box Office Mojo doesn’t have their charts updated yet, so I’m relying on audience ranking for now. The big battle for this Golden Week weekend is the highly anticipated-Babel (due to the Academy Award nominated performance of Rinko Kikuchi) and the classic cartoon adaptation “Gegege Kitaro.” And the winner is…..neither. Conan the child detective film won the weekend at number 1, while “Gegege” does win the duel at number 2, and Babel still manages a number 3 opening. All the other top 10 movies stayed pretty close to their rankings last week, but expect Spiderman 3, which already opened today Japan time, to come and wipe them all out this coming weekend. Hell, its first day already attracted 400,000 people, which far surpassed the opening days of the last two films (248,000 for the first film, 301,000 for the second film). That’s OK, Babel was never meant to be a crowd-pleasing hit anyway.

- Speaking of Babel, after the negative press it got earlier in the year when the deaf community in Japan rightfully complained the lack of Japanese subtitles made the film hard to understand for them, the film is under fire again for making people sick. In one theater in Nagoya (funny how the press is only covering one of the some-300 screens it’s playing at), several moviegoers complained of feeling sick during the club scene, which features strobe lights. I rewatched the film recently, and having seen it on the big screen, I can see why that scene would be a problem, especially for those sensitive to such effects. But when I got uncomfortable, I just turned away for a second, which I think any sensible person would do….right?

Of course, it’s funny to see how comments on various Japan blogs that carry the story would go off-topic and take the opportunity to blast the film.

- Another weak weekend at the South Korean box office, as Paradise Murdered rules again. My Tutor Friend 2 (which I hear has nothing to do with My Tutor Friend 1, which I wished I enjoyed more, but didn’t) is a flop.

- I had thought that Election 2 (renamed Triad Election in the United States) would not do very well, even in a cinephile city like New York. But look - at 71st place, it actually made a very impressive $10,811 on just one screen! I wonder if the theater is counting Election and Election 2 as one film, and since the two films require separate admission, it just happened that people stuck around for both films, thus inflating the gross? Who cares, the numbers look good either way.

- The Tarantino/Rodridguez flop Grindhouse was originally going to be released as a double feature in many European regions (apparently, Asia doesn’t “get” the idea of double features.). Looks like the Weinsteins are changing their tune now.

- Someone correct me if I get this wrong, but looks like both the big Japanese comedies expected this summer - Takeshi Kitano’s “Kantoku Banzai” and Hitoshi Matsumoto’s “Dai Nipponjin” - are both going to Cannes. “Kantoku” was previously reported to be in competition, and “Dai Nipponjin” had just been invited into the Director’s Week lineup. According to the report, Matsumoto was not intending to join the Cannes lineup, but seems to be changing his mind now.

- Twitch reports 2 upcoming DVD releases - the region 1 DVD for Katsuhito Ishii’s A Taste of Tea, which I marked down as a film I should have saw when I was in Japan, but just couldn’t get the motivation to rent the damn thing (or was it because the rental DVD didn’t have English subtitles?) on July 3rd, and Danny Pang’s Forest of Death (LoveHKFilm review) on May 10th.

- The Udine Far East Film Festival wrapped up on Saturday, and the Korean film No Mercy For the Rude won the audience prize, with After This, Our Exile at 2nd place and Memories of Matsuko at 3rd.

- With that, Variety Asia also covers the Udine Far East Festival as part of a trend that’s seeing Asian films penetrating into the mainstream market in Europe.

- File this under “idiotic Asian pop decisions”: The huge Taiwanese boy pop group F4 (the F stands for Flower), which got its name from their drama Meteor Garden, which was based on the Japanese comic Hana Yori Dango anyway (still following me?), is now changing their name to…..you ready for this? JVKV. The new name is comprised of the first letters of the members’ respective names - Jerry, Vic, Ken, and Vanness (which is a name I’ll never take seriously, seeing how we have a Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco). Just because I filed this under humor, don’t think that I made it up. I totally didn’t.

- And file this one under “bad gimmicks”: The second trailer for Takeshi Miike’s so-called “Sukiyaki Western” film “Django” is on the website (I suggest watching the Windows Media Player version), and it honestly looks pretty bad. The trailer itself is ridden with horrible English narration (I swear it sounds like it comes from a mock Grindhouse trailer), and the trailer shows that the film is actually completely in English (The problem lies in that the film has an all-Japanese cast). Yikes.

- Professor David Bordwell and Dr. Kristin Thompson go to Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival (which apparently will be renamed Ebertfest next year), where Ebert himself made an appearance, despite his recent condition. Oh, and they watch a couple of movies too.

- This is nothing new, but the U.S. decides to remind which Asian countries suck at protecting copyright.

- Daniel Wu and the alive boys really DID show up at the San Francisco International Film Festival. And SF360 has an interview with them that the Hong Kong media might have a field day with.

An interesting thing to note - there were quite a few Chinese people at the After This, Our Exile screening on Sunday, but at 22, I think I was the youngest person in the entire screening. As I was leaving, the line for The Heavenly Kings rush tickets, which was to be shown in about half an hour after that, was forming. Instead of the mature crowd that was at my screening, the people in line were much younger in comparison. I could see it already: screaming ABC girls as Daniel Wu comes out to introduce the film. That wouldn’t have been very pleasant. Who knows, there’s still one more chance to see the Alive boys….nah, probably not.

Instead of the song of the day, there will be a feature coming up.

Twists and turns

- The biggest news out there, as I started teasing yesterday, is Tony Leung Chiu-Wai signing back onto John Woo’s troubled production of Battle on Red Cliff. As mentioned, Oriental Daily first broke the news without official confirmation. Ming Pao waited until this morning Hong Kong time to do it. Excerpt as follows:

昨晚《赤壁》監製透過網上承認此消息,他說﹕「經與梁朝偉先生聯絡後,梁朝偉先生基於與吳宇森導演20多年的友誼,又見到周潤發離開了《赤壁》劇組,《赤壁》又是一部令人期待的作品,必須要拍下去,所以當吳宇森邀請他重返劇組時,他一口答應,替吳宇森解決燃眉之急。」

Last night, “Red Cliff” producer admitted to the news via the internet: “After communication with Mr. Leung Chiu-Wai, based on his 20-year friendship with John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat’s departure, and the need to continue shooting the much-anticipated film, he decided to rejoin the film after John Woo invited him, helping John Woo due to the pressing need.

張家振表示,因偉仔已經熟讀劇本(去年初第一稿出時,已經給了偉仔)不會有發哥最介意的劇本問題(究竟發哥最介意的劇本問題是什麼,張家振未有回答)

Terence Chang said, since Tony have already read the script thoroughly (The first draft was given to him early last year), Chow’s problem with the script will not occur (But Chang has not responded to the question of what specific script problem Chow had).

Original Chinese report.

Variety Asia also has an English report.

- The other big story is the geniuses at New York Times finding what drove Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui to kill 32 of his peers. Apparently, a package he sent to NBC just before he killed 30 students in a school building contained a picture of him holding a hammer that looks like he’s trying to imitate an image from Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy. You know, it’s obvious because he’s a Korean, so of course violent Korean films would drive this poor disturbed bastard to murder.

OK, so how long before the American press starts blaming John Woo movies for the murders too?


Oh, wait, they’re not Korean, so Cho cannot possibly be influenced by those movies. Personally, I think anyone that blames movies for real-life crimes are just looking for false scapegoats so they can avoid dealing with real problems with society, like why he was mentally disturbed in the first place, and why he wasn’t properly treated by the authorities.

Plus, if Cho knew how fucking silly he looks with that hammer, maybe he would’ve woken up, but that’s just me.

In related media news, not only has there been reports of South Koreans coming out and apologizing for Cho’s rampage (what the hell for? They’re just feeding into this racial scapegoating the media is doing. The man has been in America so long he’s more Americanized than I am, for crying out loud), the Korean media has also taken a “it’s America’s fault” approach as well. (Thanks to Japan Probe for the link)

- Back to more relevant news to this blog, the Cannes 2007 lineup has been announced. As predicted, Wong Kar-Wai’s English-language debut My Blueberry Nights will be opening the festival, assuming that Wong is actually done with post-production. Representing Asia in competition will be South Korea’s Kim Ki-Duk with “Breath,” South Korea’s Lee Chang-Dong’s “Secret Sunshine,” and Japan’s Naomi Kawase with “Mogari No Mor.” Except for Wong, no Hong Kong films will be screened in or out of competition, despite predictions that Tsui Hark-Ringo Lam-Johnnie To actioner Triangle might make it. Nevertheless, the lineup looks pretty solid.

- Speaking of Korean films, Asian Cinema - While on the Road has reviews of a few Korean gangster films that are sure to corrupt another Korean-American youth’s mind (that was sarcasm, by the way).

- With the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo being a huge success, who can resist holding another film market in Hong Kong? That’s right, another film market event is going to Hong Kong, this time it’s Amazia, and it will open in November 2008. Yay.

- However, I don’t think the Amazia folks would be very happy to find what Hong Kong celebrities are doing with their Nintendo DS - some publicity photos have caught these celebrities playing their DS’s with an add-on that’s designed to enable the DS to play pirated games.

- I’ve never pushed box office news this far down an entry before, but I don’t want seem like I’m beating a dead horse. Eiga Consultant analyzes just exactly how bad Sunshine has done in Japan. According to his figures, it only grossed 52% of The Promise in its opening week in Japan. 52%?! I’m pretty damn sure Sunshine is better than The Promise based on this photograph alone.

- Ryuganji apparently has this report as well, but I saw it on Twitch first, so I gotta be fair. Anyway, Takeshi Miike is working on another new film, and apparently it’s a manga adaptation. I don’t care much for Miike, so you can find out more for yourself here as well.

- The troubled Bangkok Film Festival is making progress on its comeback, and this year they’re promising more Asian films. Good for them.

- I consider myself a fairly big fan of Japanese films. Sure, I’ve missed out on a lot of classics (I.have.not.seen.Seven.Samurai.), but I’m still a fan. So who’d know when Japanese people what 10 films they would recommend to foreigners, they would not only recommend a non-Japanese film (Letters From Iwo Jima), but they would actually recommended 57 films instead (the Tora-san series contains 48 films. I assume the Japanese people want us to watch them all)?

- Japanese new artist Ayaka has become the first female artist in over 4 years to sell more than 1 million copies of her album. Good for her too.

- I discovered Kon Ichikawa’s work when I took a Japanese cinema class last year. I discovered Shunji Iwai’s genius when I followed up my first viewing of Swallowtail with Love Letter. Too bad Iwai hasn’t done a new narrative film since Hana and Alice, but at least he made a documentary about Ichikawa, and it’s coming on DVD.

- Aside from making his war film The Assembly, Chinese director Feng Xiaogang is making a short film for China’s anti-piracy campaign. It even features one of the best metaphors for pirated films I’ve ever read.

- Jeffrey Wells has a link the the first legit review of Spiderman 3, and the verdict isn’t good.

Lowered Standards

The news today come from random corners of the world, so I’m just going to dive right in without much organization.

- Yesterday I mentioned Nikkatsu’s line-up, which includes the Death Note spin-off film about the L character. We find out today that horror director Hideo Nakata, who made the Japanese versions of the “Ring” and “Dark Water,” will take on directing duties. Well, at least he’s better than the director of Gamera films (that would be the guy who did the Death Note movies).

- On the less commercial side of things, Twitch introduces a film from a country we rarely associate with any film not about war - Vietnam.

- Remember the highly-anticipated Jackie Chan-Jet Li project that turned out to be a kids’ movie? Variety Asia offers us more details, including the director (guy who did Lion and Stuart Little), and the plot, about an American teenager transported into ancient China, where he would join a crew of warriors (with it reportedly based on Journey to the West, it would probably be the monk and his disciples, which include the Monkey King) to free an imprison king. Holy ethnographic gaze, Batman!

- Speaking of Jackie Chan, Rob-B-Hood opened this past weekend in Japan to satisfactory results. According to Eiga Consultant, Rob-B-Hood (called “Project BB” in Japan, which is a direct translation of its Chinese title) grossed 25.6 million yen on 60 screens for an OK 426600 yen per-screen average. The opening is 162% of “The Myth,” but only 58% of “New Police Story,” which grossed 200 mill yen.

- Korea Pop Wars offer some random notes about Korean films and beyond (include Korean films playing at beyond).

- While I said that Grindhouse flopped because it lacked the audience, not shows per day, New York Post critic comes out and says that wasn’t the case in New York, where the per-screen average was actually over $30,000! We’ve just found one more thing to blame rural America….

- Last week I posted a link to the poster of director Benny Chan’s upcoming flick “Invisible Targets,” and now Twitch has delivered again with a report from Chinese TV that contains a bit of footage. That roof jump looks mighty impressive, I hope the rest of the movie can live up to that.

- In Shaolin Soccer, there was a goalie character that was a dead ringer for Bruce Lee. Of course we know that it was intentional that the actor was probably casted in that role because of his looks (Stephen Chow held a huge audition before filming, so I wouldn’t be surprised that’s where he found the actor). That man was Chen Guokun. Who would expect that he was actually casted to play Bruce Lee himself in a biographical TV series based on Lee’s life? Well, believe it, because its shoot starts next week.

- The Tokyo governor’s election has been over and done with for a while (with everyone’s favorite xenophobic nationalist politician Shintaro Ishihara getting his third term in office, just in time for his movie to open!), and the video has been out there for a while. Anyway, as part of the campaign, each candidate has the right to do a 5-minute video explaining their position on issues and why people should vote for them. Out of nowhere comes Koichi Toyama, an ultra left-wing musician and his kooky campaign video. The reason I waited this long because I finally found an English subtitled version. Someone even made a South Park version of the campaign video, because it’s so crazy, baby.

Of course, he’s not the only guy that’s done a kooky campaign video. Rocker Yuuya Uchida also ran for governor in Tokyo in 1991, and he did a similarly entertaining video as well (you don’t even need English subtitles for this, it’s in English already).

Obviously, Uchida lost the election, but what happened to Koichi Toyama? He was in 7th place with 15,000 votes!

What does this have to do with The Golden Rock, you ask? It’s Asian entertainment, isn’t it?

 
 
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