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Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

The Golden Rock at the 2011 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival - Day 6

Had tickets to two films at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival today, but I decided to push back THE RAID to watch the 10th anniversary digital remastered version of Pang Ho-Cheung’s YOU SHOOT I SHOOT instead. So, this is the only film watched on Day 6:

Himizu (2011, Japan, Dir: Sion Sono)

himizu_sono.jpg

In the middle of the screening, I had to take a bathroom break and missed about 5 minutes of the film. However, I’m actually thankful that I had to take the break, because watching the film in one sitting is an extremely draining experience. From the extreme displays of emotions to the bombastic sound design, Sion Sono takes everything to the extreme in this drama about two tortured youths in post-earthquake Japan. At 129 minutes, HIMIZU is never boring, and it’s often compelling. However, it also feels like it’s about three hours long.

With that said, you’ll either be totally immersed into Sono’s storytelling style or feel completely alienated. I was the former, absorbed from the very first shot of the film, which shows lone figures wandering in the midst of the destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed a good part of northeastern Japan in March 2011. Many will be disturbed by the amount of smacking the lead actors take throughout the film, and you will have to be in tune with Sono’s very dark sense of humor to ride along with it as well. Those who do will be rewarded by this bleak, but engaging coming-of-age tale.

It’ll be interesting to see how Japanese audiences respond to the film come January, as it deals directly with how Japanese people are coming to grips (or not) with the devastating disasters. Some will be disgusted by how Sono portrays Japanese society, and some may admire him for the absurd, over-the-top social critique. Either way, it shows that just because Sion Sono is adapting existing work for the first time, he hasn’t lost his edge as a rebel working in the Japanese film industry. A brave piece of work, but I wouldn’t blame you if you have to wait for video.

Skipping two days due to a detour to the China Film Panorama and a night of rest. But next time: A tattooed assassin and a Taiwanese gymnast.

The Golden Rock at the 2011 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival - Day 5

I originally had three films scheduled for today: India’s THE KITE, plus the two I watched. However, an eye exam (plus the subsequent visit to the optical store) caused me to miss the film. So, day five featured only two films, both from Japan:

tokyokoen.jpg

Tokyo Koen (2011, Japan, Dir: Shinji Aoyama)

I have three cities around the world that I consider home: Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Tokyo. As a result, I tend to be easier on films that can represent these three cities well. That may be why I found the latest Shinji Aoyama film to be more engaging that i had expected it to be. On the surface, the lighthearted drama is about the three women in the life of an aspiring photographer. However, in Aoyama’s hands, TOKYO KOEN breaks through simple Japanese indie aesthetics with its picturesque journey through Tokyo’s parks and an odd sense of humor that only Aoyama can pull off.

While Nana Eikura plays the impossibly cute, perky film buff (LIPSTICK reference!), it’s Manami Konishi that surprised me as the hero’s step-sister. Usually playing withdrawn, quiet characters, Konishi exudes a sexy, seductive vibe that I’d never seen before from her. The film’s too light to attract any attention for her performance, but TOKYO KOEN may be my favorite Konishi performance yet.

On a more personal note, the film has also inspired me to take a journey of my own on my next trip to Tokyo. While going around all of Tokyo’s parks may be a bit much, it would be nice to see parts of the city I’ve never been to. Aoyama’s version of Tokyo is one that overseas viewers rarely see - one with little sense of urbanization and technology (the hero insists on using an old film camera). Tokyo’s parks is as big a character as the four human characters in the film, and I would argue that it’s the most beautiful one.

 

karate-robo.jpg

 

Karate Robo-Zaborgar (2011, Japan, Dir: Noboru Iguchi)

Nikkatsu’s Sushi Typhoon has mostly been specializing in exporting blood, guts, and projectiles shooting from human bodies from Japan to the world - which means they’ve pretty much been making films for foreigners. However, KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR finally feels like a Sushi Typhoon film for the Japanese audience, even if it’s a very small amount that can appreciate modern throwbacks to cheesy 70’s superhero shows.

The best way I can describe KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR is a low-budget version of YATTERMAN - a live-action fantasy superhero adaptation that both recreates and parodies its genre. If you look for video of the original ZABORGAR show (or just watch the credits), you’ll see how hard director Noboru Iguchi (MACHINE GIRL) worked to get the film right. However, when he gets to the second half of the film, which jumps 25 years to present day, into the portion of the story not based on the original show, Noboru struggles to keep the energy up as it starts to overstay its welcome.

Still, KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR is great, irreverent fun at the movies, except when Noboru had to do his Sushi Typhoon duty by throwing in girls in bikinis, blood spraying, and projectiles shooting out of strange places. The rest of the film is so inspired as parody that I wish it left the Sushi Typhoon label so it wouldn’t have had to give any fan service. But I suppose the film wouldn’t have been made without Sushi Typhoon, so KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR is what it is.

Tomorrow: Sion Sono looks at post-earthquake Japan.

The Golden Rock at the 2011 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival - Day 2

Day 2 at the 2011 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival featured only one film:

cut_naderi.jpg

 

Cut (2011, Japan, Dir: Amir Naderi)

With Japanese filmmakers like Shinji Aoyama and Kiyoshi Kurosawa attached, CUT fortunately doesn’t fall into the foreign filmmaker in Japan syndrome that sees directors misrepresenting Japan and its cultura. Instead, CUT sees Naderi flaunting his love for the art of cinema via an obsessed cinephile who spends his days screaming about the nature of “pure cinema” and holding rooftop screenings of classic films. Forced to take on the 12 million yen debt his yakuza brother left behind, the cinephile becomes a human punching bag for yakuza thugs for money with the help of a bar girl and an elder gang member.

There’s little doubt that those who aren’t arthouse film buffs will find CUT wildly self-indulgent. The abuse the man takes can be an allegory for the indignation passionate filmmakers take for the sake of their art, but even those that understand that metaphor will find it difficult to identify with Naderi’s manic cinema addiction. Essentially, this is the kind of film that an arrogant film school student might make given the resources Naderi has.

In addition to its artistic ambitions, CUT also suffers from a loose narrative that becomes redundant after the intriguing 45-minute setup. At 132 minutes, CUT doesn’t do enough with its central idea to earn the running time, making it a bit of a slog to sit through. It’s not a particularly violent film (lots of punches and lots of bruises, but very little blood), but seeing star Hidetoshi Nijishima getting punched repeatedly for an hour and a half can get a little uncomfortable to watch.

With that said, CUT is sometimes involving, and cinephiles (especially film school graduates) will identify with its obsession with its love of cinema. However, it still suffers from the problem that films about filmmakers suffer from: It assumes that the plight of a filmmaker is interesting even to those not interested in films.

It isn’t, and I’m a film school graduate.

Day 3: Tatsumi.

The Golden Rock - August 31, 2011 Edition

Back at the Chinese box office. Not many surprises, but still worth looking at:

- Last week, OVERHEARD 2 failed to beat the SMURFS in the 7-day chart (it opened on a Thursday), but now it gets its revenge as it held strong in the second week and overtook those pesky blue creatures on the chart. After 11 days, the white-collar crime thriller has already made 161 million yuan. With 82 million yuan made over its first full week, it looks it will break through the 200 million mark, and it’s probably aiming straight at beating SHAOLIN’s 212 million yuan gross to become the second highest-grossing Chinese-language film of the year, if not the 250 million mark.

Excluding ensemble guest star roles in films like BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL, OVERHEARD 2 will also likely be the highest-grossing film for all three stars in Mainland China - Louis Koo (beating ALL’S WELL ENDS WELL 2011’s 167 million), Daniel Wu (beating HOT SUMMER DAYS’ 131 million yuan), and Lau Ching Wan (beating, well, OVERHEARD 1). This is excellent news for Polybona, who served as sole distributor of the film and now has the biggest hit of the company’s history. This is also another victory for producer Derek Yee, who has been adjusting his crime film formula for the Mainland as director/producer since PROTEGE, to increasingly higher box office gross on each outing. Guess who lost? Those who had to sit through TRIPLE TAP.

OVERHEARD 2 has also done extremely well in Hong Kong, passing the HK$15 million mark in two weekends, and it should have no problem hitting the HK$20 million mark.

However, one should look closer at OVERHEARD 2’s numbers in China. Even in its opening weekend, the film averaged only about 45 admissions per show from a total of 50000+ showings. In its first full week, it only scored an average of 33 admissions per show. This suggests that the only reason OVERHEARD 2 is doing so well is that it’s taking up all the screens, which is in turn caused by a lack of major competition for male audiences after MY KINGDOM moved out of the way to September 9th. With the weibo buzz on SOURCE CODE pointing to it having a chance at scoring moderate numbers this coming weekend, we’ll see how OVERHEARD 2 does in its second full week.  Either way, it won’t have any major competition for another week, so that 200 million mark won’t be so hard to reach.

I had to add a disclaimer that OVERHEARD 2 had no major competition for male audiences because CARS 2 was actually supposed to be its major competition this past weekend. However, the Disney 3D film made only 42.95 million yuan over 5 days (WITH 3D premium prices) for a 27.37 admissions per show average. This is very much a flop-like gross for a Pixar film in China.

Speaking of flops, congratulations to the production company of Wong Jing’s TREASURE HUNT, who probably still hasn’t been able to cover Cecilia Cheung and probably Ronald Cheng’s salaries with its 10-day gross of 18.25 million yuan (remember, half goes to the cinemas). PERFECT BABY, starring Deng Chao, Jane March (Yes, THAT Jane March), and some cute French baby, made a nice, round 10 million yuan over its first 4 days, which is not bad until you see its average admissions per show: 17.95.

Holdovers: SMURFS now at 225.1 million yuan after 19 days, HARRY POTTER 7.2 now at 396 million yuan after 25 days,and TRANSFORMERS 3 now at 1.08 billion yuan.

Oh, remember those “excellent, recommended films” dictated by the SARFT? YANG SHAN ZHOU has now grossed a total of 65.55 million yuan (that’s higher than Andy Lau’s WHAT WOMEN WANT), while WENTIAN is now at 55.1 million yuan. Sorry, POTTER, SMURFS, TRANSFORMERS, and probably even OVERHEARD 2.

Trailer park time:

- Today we have three new trailers: First up, it’s the latest 1-minute trailer for Gordon Chan’s fantasy romance MURAL (to open in China for National Day, but no HK release date planned), the 5-minute trailer for SEEDIQ BALE, and a trailer for the “Main Melody Film” 72 HEROES, starring Eric Tsang, Alan Tam, Tse Kwan Ho, and Liu Kai Chi. I know.  72 HEROES opens in China in mid-September. Don’t even try and shove that stuff down here to Hong Kong, kthx.

- Speaking of SEEDIQ BALE, actress Chie Tanaka revealed that her role in teh film is actually quite small. More importantly, she revealed that SPEED ANGEL, which she co-stars in with Rene Liu, Tang Wei, and Cecilia Cheung, will be released in December.

- And speaking of Japanese cinema, the Montreal World Film Film Festival has once again given two major prizes to Japanese films - Masato Harada’s CHRONICLE OF MY MOTHER for Grand Prix and Takahisa Zeze’s LIFE BACK THEN for the “Innovation Prize”. This is such an important award because the winners at the Montreal World Film Festival usually return to Japan and gain major critical acclaim. DEPARTURES was one of those films.

- Then, we move our focus to Korean cinema. CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST director Hur Jin-Ho is in currently prepping for the China-invested remake of DANGEROUS LIAISONS, and now there’s word that Korean superstar Jang Dong Gun is in talks to join the cast. Nothing’s set in stone yet, but this might signal at a pretty major Panasian cast for Hur’s film.

And on a short version of I read Weibo so you don’t have to:

- Vicki Zhao wrote on her Weibo that the shoot for PAINTED SKIN 2 has finished, and she posted this picture:

zwpaintedskin.jpg]

This is obviously supposed to be an attempt to disprove reports that Zhao and co-star Zhou Xun have been feuding on set, especially the Apple Daily story about the two throwing chairs on the set at one point. I know at least one guy who isn’t convinced by these pictures and think that they need to be more intimate to make their point clear. I am not that person.

Next time: Chinese/Hong Kong directors speak out, and more news!

I put sources down here so you’d know I didn’t invent my own news:

Entgroup
Filmbiz Asia
m1905
Sina
Sina Weibo

The Golden Rock - August 14, 2011 Edition

Today, we’re focusing on a story in China’s Time Weekly about the emergence of the horror genre in Chinese cinema.

First, I will paraphrase the article, then add in my own thoughts in italics

- Between the releases of BEGINNING OF GREAT REVIVAL and TRANSFORMERS was a little horror film called MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. How was this film, which cost only five million yuan to make (compared to REVIVAL’s 70 million yuan and WU XIA’s reported 110 million yuan), managed to make an astonishing 90 million yuan at the box office?

In the last two years, the horror genre has been finding success at the Chinese box office. However, the article also points out that horror films tend to gross only around 10-20 million yuan at the box office. Even the most successful example before ISLAND was MIDNIGHT BEATING, which surprised many by grossing 32 million yuan.

Despite these seemingly low grosses, horror films have actually been very profitable for Chinese investors.  The articles points out several recent examples: THE DESERTED INN cost three million yuan and grossed 23.6 million yuan, LOST IN PANIC ROOM cost 4.5 million yuan and grossed 24.5 million yuan, and the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY-style horror film NO.32, B DISTRICT cost a total of 4 million yuan (including advertising) for a total gross of 17 million yuan. In fact, insiders put the actual production budget of NO. 32 B, B DISTRICT (which takes place almost entirely in one house and shot on digital cameras) at just around 100,000 yuan.

That’s why ISLAND producer Liu Jing said that he would’ve actually been perfectly satisfied with a 40 million yuan gross. Instead, Liu is now seeing a mega hit on his hands, and his efforts here is definitely something that other producers should learn from. Specifically, what set Liu’s film apart from the other recent Chinese horror films is the amount of calculations in put into the film.

Specifically, he examined Hollywood’s low-cost horror model and the elements that made those films so profitable in the United States, particularly its clear target at the teen audience and their low-risk budgets.

For MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, the production company first looked for a Hong Kong director (”they have more experience with horror than China [directors]”) that wasn’t necessarily a big name, but is experienced in genre (that’s where Rico Chung Kai-Cheong came in). Then, the filmmakers and production met and agreed on using several clear selling point for the film: a mid-summer release date, pretty people, girls in bikinis, and an isolated island.

 mysterious.jpg
The horror….the horror…

 

This is where Mini Yang came in. However, Yang wasn’t to be the sole selling point of the film. After all, television drama PALACE, Yang’s breakout success, had not yet been aired, and she was actually cast early on in the process because she was a talent signed under investor Mei Ah. Instead, Yang was just part of the “girls in bikini” selling point that also include Anya, Maggie Lee, and other hotties.

However, in a stroke of incredible luck and good timing, PALACE was released, and Yang’s Weibo popularity shot from 1.2 million followers when she was cast to 7 million at the time of release. In fact, many of those fans actually successfully organized mass ticket buying campaigns on the internet, which likely helped its opening weekend gross by quite a bit.

Even though the beginning of the new Chinese horror trend can be traced back to 2007 with MIDNIGHT TAXI (a 2 million yuan budget for a 13 million yuan gross), the article also pointed out that horror films actually had hit a period of popularity in 1999 with a series of films by Agan (TWO STUPID EGGS, DON QUIXOTE). However, after a string of horror hits, the director left the genre in 2004 and began making comedies instead.

The article explains that Agan left because of the multiple obstacles facing the horror genre right now: Even though they made money, recent horror hits are often lambasted by both critics and audiences. On Douban, MIDNIGHT TAXI is averaging only 3.5 out of 10, DESERTED INN averages a 4.2, MIDNIGHT BEATING has a 3.3, and NO. 32, B DISTRICT is the stinker of the year with just a 2.4 average. Even MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, with its mobilized Mini Yang fans, could only earn a 3.3 average so far.

While the audiences blame the film’s scripts, the article says that the scriptwriters blame the censorship authority. While there is no official law that films in China cannot feature ghosts, it has become an unwritten law that all filmmakers understand. Even though a producer says that this “rule” isn’t the kiss of death for the genre (”You can still tell a good story while following the law for horror films. The problem with many horror film scriptwriters is that they lack imagination,” says the producer), Agan says, “Chinese horror films are all scams. The censorship rules are obvious, so can you actually make a horror that’s suitable for all audiences?”

The article ends with several points about the dangers of the genre. While a producer points out that there are actually cases of financial failures in horror, the genre has become the least risky risk for new film investors that want to dabble in filmmaking. Agan gets the last word in the article, saying “In a time when big films are bad in various spectacular ways, the sudden rise of Chinese horror films is not all that surprising, nor is it much of a miracle.”

And now, my own thoughts:

Like Liu Jing said, the success of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is from producers having a very clear idea about who its target audience is. With selling points that are clearly aimed at attracting the young audience (especially the summer vacation release date), it got exactly the people it wanted to show up. Meanwhile, other horror films like DEVIL INSIDE ME and LOST IN PANIC ROOM simply used stars with names and no box office appeal (Kelly Lin, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Simon Yam) or advertising campaigns that tried to sell things that audiences who know China’s censorship rules realize they will never see. 

Despite the actual quality of these films, this new genre does help bring more variety into the Chinese film industry. Tentpoles will always stay roughly the same (period epics, period epics, and martial arts period epics), but audiences will quickly abandon Chinese films for better-produced Hollywood counterparts if they’re not offered any variety. Not only do producers get to turn a profit with a low-risk investment, Chinese audiences get a bit of trashy thrills in their local language when Hollywood horror films are not allowed in. This will help the industry to mature, and hence protecting itself from becoming that bursting bubble. 

However, the issue with consistent low quality will hurt the genre in the long run. Soon, audiences will finally learn to avoid these products (especially when those MYSTERIOUS ISLAND copycats start popping up), and the horror bubble will quickly burst.  The only ways this situation will improve is either 1) find better scriptwriters (though they’re not safe from bad producers and investors), 2) Have China loosen their ideological censorship standards AND create a rating system that allows edgier films. But of course, neither of these will happen, so as of right now, we should only chalk MYSTERIOUS ISLAND up as a miracle rather than the beginning of anything.

- YING XIONG DUE XUE (No English title), about the Huang Hua Gang Uprising, is the latest “mainstream” film (nationalistic) from China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. The film, directed by Derek Chiu (THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED), stars Eric Tsang as the villain. However, after joining the cast, Tsang decided to sign on a producer because he wants to help make it a commercial “mainstream” film. Yes, Eric Tsang - now in the Chinese propaganda business.

- Mtime presents a collection of the best Chinese movie posters of the new millennium. Check them out and see what you think.

- Toei, one of the three major film companies in Japan (Toho and Shochiku are the other two), is returning to the business of foreign film acquisition for the first time in 30 years. This is especially important news in light of the trouble among smaller independent distributors in recent years. The first film to open under this revival is THE MAN FROM NOWHERE from Korea.

- Toei’s next acquisition will be Jackie Chan’s 1911, the action star’s 100th film. It has been announced that it will also join THE THREE MUSKETEERS as the other opening film in the 2011 Tokyo International Film Festival. These are not particularly odd choices, as TIFF has always premiered high-profile commercial films to attract attention. Attending the Asian premiere of KUNG FU HUSTLE in its 2004 edition (with Stephen Chow in attendance) is likely one of my fondest experiences as a film buff.

A side “I read Weibo so you don’t have to” note: Weibo industry insider says that 1911 has been shred to pieces in the editing room (may or may not be related to the authority’s reported ideological censorship). Jackie Chan’s role has now been relegated to 2nd lead, and the director is furious. Considering the film is a month and a half away from release, not much footage has made its way anywhere (except for the Japanese teaser). What’s going on here?

EDIT:  My bad. The Chinese teaser for 1911 is now up. It’s different from the new Japanese trailer, with more footage, and a completely different structure. It also looks real purty.

- MURDERER director Roy Chow is currently shooting NIGHTFALL, starring Nick Cheung and Simon Yam, and the film now features a cameo by Chinese Fifth Generation director Tian Zhuangzhuang (BLUE KITE). For those who’s wondering what Tian is doing in the film, both NIGHTFALL and Tian’s previous film THE WARRIOR AND THE WOLF are both co-invested by Edko. Of course, considering the media reports quoting Tian talking about the importance of Hong Kong cops and robbers film as a genre that needs to be preserved, it’s obvious that it’s an Edko PR move.

- Jeff Lau has finished his three-month shoot for (unofficial titled)  EAGLE SHOOTING HEROES 2011. Like JUST ANOTHER PANDORA’S BOX, it will have a huge cast of recognizable HK/China actors (Eason Chan, Karen Mok and Ekin Cheng as leads), except that it’s a modern comedy. The film is aiming for a November release.

- Jason Gray write a bit about the upcoming Japanese youth crime flick THE HARD ROMANTICKER, starring Shohei Matsuda.

- A recent Hong Kong newspaper wrote that Daniel Wu and Stephen Fung have been feuding because Wu didn’t want to produce TAI CHI. Daniel Wu has taken to his Alivenotdead blog to deny the comment and even pointed out how the sensationalist Hong Kong press has now gotten him in trouble. I always say that Hong Kong entertainment news is strictly for entertainment, and this is again the case.

Next time: Whatever we can find time for.

Sources:

Film Business Asia 1
Film Business Asia 2
Sina 1
Sina 2
Sina 3
Time Weekly (via Entgroup)

The Golden Rock - August 9, 2011 Edition

I was going to write a little bit about YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE, but I’ll save it for the next entry. Instead, let’s go straight into Chinese box office:

- Like the gift that keeps on giving, the Chinese weekly box office chart is out.

 

As expected, HARRY POTTER 7.2 topped the box office, with 188.15 million yuan over four days. The film saw 4.66 million admissions from 73,000 shows for an not-bad 63.1 admissions per show. This ends the multiplex dominance of TRANFORMERS 3, which made another 168 million yuan over the past seven days for a 18-day total of 939.5 million yuan and a per-show average of 42.64 admissions. While it is the highest-grossing film of the year so far and expected to pass the billion yuan mark, it’s not likely to beat AVATAR’s record of 1.35 billion yuan.

 

Like the past two weeks, the most interesting part of the chart is seeing how the Communist Party’s “excellent, recommended films” are doing. YANG SHAN ZHOU, about a rural Communist Party committee secretary, saw a 251% jump in box office gross this past weekend, making 17.1 million yuan from 6,700 showings for a 20-day total of 26.3 million yuan. WENTIAN, produced by the People’s Liberation Army’s August 1st Studio, finally saw a decline with 10.5 million yuan for a 38-day total of 31.95 million yuan.

 

If these numbers don’t mean much, look at the admissions per show for these two films: YANG SHAN ZHOU has an 84 admissions per show, and WENTIAN still has a 74.1 admissions per show. Even BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL, now in its 8th week, managed a 286% jump for a 6.3 million yuan gross and a 77.1 admissions per-show average, despite already being on DVD and legal online streaming. GUO MING YI, despite outside the top ten, still managed 73 admissions per show in the past seven days.

 

Know why no local distributor is saying anything about it? Because both Huaxia and China Film Group, both distributors of HARRY POTTER and TRANSFORMERS, happen to be co-distributors of YANG SHAN ZHOU, WEN TIAN, and BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL, which mean whatever these five films make goes to these two companies anyway. “Whether you believe it or not, I believe it” indeed.

 

Elsewhere on the chart: SEER now at 40.1 million yuan after 11 days, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND at 89.35 million yuan after 31 days (and expected to pass 90), Taiwan’s L-O-V-E opens with 7.45 million yuan over three days, and WAGES OF SIN makes 2.25 million yuan over three days.

 

Opening this weekend in China are THE SMURFS, documentary OCEANS, youth action flick NO LIMIT, TVB/Shaw Brothers’s FORTUNE BUDDIES, and the animated flick LEGEND OF THE MOLE - FROZEN HORROR. Guess which ones will stay and which one will go?

Just some small news tidbits before we go:

- Yes, the Venice Film Festival competition has added Johnnie To’s LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE. He finished reshoots a couple weeks ago, and my inside source told me that they were working very hard on post-production for it, so looks like it will make it for the fest after all.

The Hollywood Reporter story says that there will still be one more surprise film in the competition, and now I’m betting that there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be Zheng Yimou’s NANJING HEROES.  It has reportedly passed censorship in Mainland China already, so it’s likely it’ll use Venice as its launching pad for a major international release.

- At a promotional event for OVERHEARD 2 in China, Daniel Wu talked about Clara Law’s LIKE A DREAM, his first effort as a producer/investor. He was quite honest, as he pointed out that he lost money on that film after its disappointing box office run. However, he said that he didn’t mind that it lost money, as it was more an artistic effort than a commercial effort.

He’s currently following the production of TAI CHI, which is the first film of his new production company. He said that his role as producer is to help director Stephen Fung find investments and actor, while Fung will do the same for Daniel when he directs a film. Sounds like a true collaborative effort.

When asked whether he likes being a boss, he said that he likes being an actor, but he doesn’t like being a star. Now, he’s also liking the feeling of being a boss, so look forward to Daniel as he takes on more films behind the scenes.

- Shang Jing, the director of hit comedy MY OWN SWORDSMAN, is working on a new film. The farce, which stars Huang Bo, Fan Wei, and other comedy stars, takes place in a 12-hour period in a group dinner. In China, dinners, especially business-related ones, are more about the social interactions (and drinking) than the food itself. I liked MY OWN SWORDSMAN a lot, so it’ll be interesting to see what Shang Jing does without an established source material like MY OWN SWORDSMAN

- Fox International has announced that it will stop distributing 35mm film prints to cinemas in Hong Kong and Macau starting January 2012. This is an expected step, as most western film distributors (and some local ones) have turned to distributing digital prints rather than film ones. There are not many theaters left in the area (a few in Macau and at least two in Hong Kong) that are not yet equipped with digital projection, so the pressure’s on them to make the change.

- Edit: NEW LINK

Over in Japan, friend Jason Gray started a project that brings free film screenings over to areas devastated by the earthquakes/tsunami earlier in the year. The project has been going well, but he needs help to make these screenings even better by providing more food for the people. If you believe at all in the magic of movies and the joy it brings people, please visit his blog to see how you can help. I know i will.

Next time: Seriously, finally doing the horror in China story. If we can find time.

Sources:

Entgroup
Filmbiz Asia
Hollywood Reporter
Mtime
Sina

 

The Golden Rock - January 5, 2011 Edition

- Today on the front of Oriental Daily’s entertainment page is a story about two filmmakers trying to get the Hegemon-King of Western Chu story made at the same time. On one hand is CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH director Lu Chuan’s version, starring Daniel Wu, Liu Ye, and Chang Chen. The word of Apple Daily is that Lu quit/was removed from the project after he disagreed with his production company about the film. Lu then found other investors and resurrected the project, leaving his previous production company very mad.

So, Lu’s first production company then hired director Daniel Lee (of DRAGON SQUAD and THREE KINGDOMS), got a cast that’s rumored of Louis Koo, Fan Bing Bing, Huang Xiaoming, and Andy Lau. Lee said in an interview that the film hasn’t confirmed its cast yet, but will be ready to shoot in March.

I know Daniel Lee has the bigger cast and all, but my money’s still on Lu Chuan.

Story from Apple Daily, in Chinese, for access from Hong Kong only.  Also take Apple Daily news with a grain of salt.

- Hollywood studio Warner Bros. is finding a new way to penetrate the Chinese market - internet video on demand. The studio signed a deal with video site Youku to let Chinese users watch the film for a few yuan. Compared to the already low price of a DVD, there’s no excuse for Chinese netizens to illegally download the movie other than….well, who knows?

- More in video-on-demand news, FUNimation in the United States has signed a video-on-demand deal with Asia Media Rights, who has been active in buying Asian films for such type of distribution model. FUNimation holds films such as EVANGELION 2.0 and SUMMER WARS.

- Korean pop has officially invaded Japanese music with popular girls group Girls’ Generation winning Best New Artist at the Japan Gold Disc Award.

- Derek Elley at Filmbiz Asia reviews the hit Chinese comedy JUST CALL ME NOBODY and COLOR ME LOVE, the latest film from BLOOD BROTHERS director Alexi Tan.

The Golden Rock - July 5th News Edition

While Boss Kozo takes a much-needed/deserved break, I will work hard to try and fill that void with news and other content for this blog.

First of all, while East Screen/West Screen head man Paul Fox is off to vacation in Florida, he worked hard and uploaded the first of two short blu-ray episodes we recorded before he left.

- It’s box office time! We start off in Japan, where, as expected, BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 3 took the top spot in the audience admissions ranking. According to Oricon, the film made 972 million yen in its first two days from 477 screens, with 707,000 admissions. Toho is sure the film will break the 10 billion yen mark, and the question is now how close it will do to its predecessor, which still holds the record for the highest-grossing Japanese live-action film ever at roughly 17 billion yen.

Amazingly, Tetsuya Nakashima’s CONFESSIONS is still holding up at second place, beating the debut of Luc Besson’s THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADEL BLANC-SEC. Meanwhile, Shunya Ito’s 300 MILLION (or LOST CRIMES) mustered a 10th place debut. More when further analysis comes out.

- In South Korea, SHREK and KNIGHT AND DAY rule the charts, while third to fifth places are taken up by Korean films. The KOFIC chart here is missing the names, but they are: 3)  71-INTO THE FIRE, 4) MAN OF VENDETTA, and 5) THE SERVANT.

- As Ryan of the Hong Kong Film blog reports, SHREK FOREVER AFTER dominated the weekend box office in Hong Kong. Thanks to inflated 3D prices and the extra takings from the two IMAX screens, the film has already made HK$12 million after opening on July 1st. TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE opened big and remained strong, despite SHREK. After five days, it has made HK$8.34 million. With much of its target audience out of school, expect fairly strong showing during the week. This will give distributor Golden Scene (who also has a minor hit with BREAK UP CLUB already) something to celebrate about, as NEW MOON actually grossed less than the first film. ECLIPSE is almost certain to do better than NEW MOON, but the question is whether it’ll match or beat the HK$18 million gross of the first film.

Meanwhile, the competition didn’t help the performance of Derek Yee’s TRIPLE TAP, which made only HK$3.74 million over 4 days. Word-of-mouth will determine whether it’ll go past HK$10 million, and I don’t predict it will. Again, a more thorough analysis will come when hkfilmart.com or box office mojo updates its numbers.

- There are two news items today about Feng Xiaogang’s AFTERSHOCK: One on Film Business Asia about it in the context of its distribution, and one by the Associated Press (carried by the Hollywood Reporter) about the film itself.

Cynic mode: Feng has been pushing this film hard on how it has made the audience cried, and the cast has been doing the same about their own reaction to the film. These are part of contradicting message Feng has been putting out. At times, he throws out ridiculous box office predictions like 500 million RMB and how much he cares about how the film does at the box office. At other times, he talks about how the film isn’t an entertainment film, and how meaningful it is to have the families of the dead to be in the film. To me, I’m just hearing a director who’s flip-flopping to say what people wants to hear, and he’ll say whatever’s needed to sell the film. The most shameful (and perhaps unintentionally the smartest) of the publicity effort is when Feng and the cast continued to have its big trailer reveal publicity event on the same day of the Qinghai Earthquake.

This is, however sobering the film is, a commercial blockbuster, from its big-budget special effects to the gimmick of being converted to IMAX. Feng isn’t going to put his film in the format if he knows he doesn’t have something to offer for it. At the same time, he knows the pushing the big budget spectacle isn’t going to help his cause, considering what his film is about, hence the calculated effort to play both sides. Again, it’s smart on Feng’s part (and have been told that this isn’t the first time he’s used calculated publicity effort), but from my cynical point of view, it’s also quite shameless.

- Yoshimoto Kogyo, a huge talent agency in Japanese entertainment known for its arsenal of comedians (including actor/director Hitoshi Matsumoto) has formed a joint venture with the Shanghai Media Group to produce and distribute programs for China.

- Earlier in the day, I posted a link to a Chinese new report with the new trailer for the Benny Chan sci-fi action film CITY UNDER SIEGE. Thanks to wildcinema’s Twitter, you can now check out a Youtube version of it, or if you have Facebook, there’s even an English-subtitled version.

The Golden Rock - July 4th, 2010 Edition

The Golden Rock celebrates America’s independence with a bunch of news from Asia!

- The controversial documentary THE COVE opened yesterday in Japan. Japan Times reports that police security was on scene at the theaters, and Nikkan Sports reports that the Directors Guild of Japan has put out a statement firmly opposing any move by the protesters to prevent the film being shown. You can agree or disagree with the film’s agendas, but you can’t stop the open screening of any films in a society with free speech.

- Speaking of lack of free speech, the Chinese government news agency Xinhua is launching their own English-language 24-hour news channel to give “a Chinese perspective to global audiences”. Propaganda goes international!

- Korean hit war film 71: INTO THE FIRE is a hit in Korea, and now it’s heading to American cinemas.

- It’s reviews time! Japan Times’ Mark Schilling reviews director Shunya Ito’s LOST CRIME, and Film Business Asia’s Derek Elley reviews the Chinese desert comedy WELCOME TO SHAMATOWN.

- For those that didn’t like Derek Yee’s TRIPLE TAP, the co-writer/director explains that even he can’t believe that the film is his. “This is just a commercial film. I hope the audience can easily understand it”. Now it makes sense, except the problem with the film is that IT’S TOO FLAT.

- The Ryuganji blog translate excerpts from an upcoming book about Takeshi Kitano, and he has plenty to say about Japanese society.

- We here at Lovehkfilm loves the BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN franchise, and its third installment opened this past weekend in Japan, and star Yuji Oda has promised that if the film makes over 10 billion yen, he’ll work hard towards doing a 4th film.

- For those in Tokyo, rare color footage of early 1950s Japan shot by an American soldier will be screened in the Edo-Tokyo Museum in August.

- K-pop fans: Artists of the major talent agency SM Entertainment such as Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, and BoA will be going on a world tour. Oh, and TVXQ will be there, too……………………….just kidding, they’re not done suing yet.

- Last, but definitely not least, Korean actor Park Yong-Ha, known for his roles in WINTER SONATA and the film THE SCAM (which I reviewed) has passed away in an apparent suicide. The media has been covering which big stars are grieving for him, but I don’t think I need to join that party to say that the actor will certainly be missed.

The Golden Rock - What day iz thiz Edition

Before I move on to regular programming, perhaps some (or none) are asking, “hey, where did you go?”

I ask myself the same question everyday.

As for the serious answer, I made an extremely awkward transition from my student life to my working life, which involved the two blending together, and then diving into the latter pretty much immediately, meaning I haven’t really had the time to adjust. Of course, that could sound like an excuse, but considering the other time I spend doing my weekly review job, recording East Screen/West Screen, plus real life crap, 24 hours doesn’t seem enough in a day. Also, Google Chrome is real crappy with this wordpress thing, which means I get a little confused when switching browsers, leading to all kinds of headaches and taking longer than usual to write an entry.

So what motivated me to start writing again now? First of all, Kozo keeps footing the bill for this space, which means it would go to waste if I keep letting it accumulate in spam, and that ain’t very nice.  Second, I will be sadly writing less reviews than before, though that’s only because much of my work has shifted to a certain section of a website that starts with Y and ends with Asia. However, my motivation to start writing again is mainly because I want to do internet journalism right. As I mentioned on the latest episode of East Screen/West Screen, some sites have gotten away too long with spinning information the wrong way. I can’t say I never did the same with this blog, but at least I spun responsibly, and I own up to my mistakes. If the blog writing schedule goes right again, I hope to return to the old format that people (barely) read, but I will certainly no longer use the site I mention in the podcast as a serious source, but only to point out and correct their errors.

Here’s a little news for today, to get things started:

- As always, we start at the box office. At the Japan box office, Tetsuya Nakashima’s CONFESSIONS reign again for a third week, while the MASKED RIDER movie opens at second place, and the youth tearjerker PIECING ME BACK TOGETHER opens at ninth. Check the admissions ranking, and more when the numbers are out.

- Looking at the Korean box office, A MOMENT TO REMEMBER director Lee Jae-Han’s latest 71-INTO THE FIRE scores a huge opening with 1 million-plus admissions, while the period film SERVANTS has already earned 2 million admissions. STREETDANCE 3D opened at 6th place, and PRINCE OF PERSIA is approaching 2 million admissions, but not likely to get there.

Hancinema rankings (which switches the admissions for HAHAHA and THE HOUSEMAID) and the KOFIC ranking.

- After several theaters backed out in Japan (including one in Shibuya, Tokyo) from showing the documentary THE COVE, the distributors have found another theater in Tokyo in the same neighborhood to take over the film. The Image Forum (which also runs a film school) will be showing the film after Theater N pulled out due to threats by crazy right-wingers. I’m guessing this will be another YASUKUNI situation, where the threats will continue until the film opens, then ntohing will happen.

The report also lists 21 other Japanese theaters that’ll be showing the film, so look for one near you, er….if you know how to read Japanese.

- In film production news, I wrote a few weeks ago that the new Bruce Lee biopic that will be covering his teenage life in Hong Kong, and as now Film Business Asia has confirmed that production will indeed begin on the Manfred Wong-produced, Raymond Yip-directed film WITH MC JIN….not as Bruce Lee. As I mentioned on East Screen/West Screen, this is the version of the Bruce Lee story that I look more forward to than the Hollywood bullying one that Filmko/Mandarin Films are planning.

Also, in the words of Nikki Finke, TOLDJA!

- The Millennium documentary festival in Brussels has given the Chinese documentary LAST TRAIN HOME its top award. I saw LAST TRAIN HOME at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and liked it. Congratulations to the filmmakers.

I will be back, and hopefully soon. Especially if it’s not a slow news day.

 
 
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