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Archive for the ‘media’ Category

The Golden Rock - February 4th, 2009 Edition

Happy Lunar New Year to everyone. Best new year gift so far: Finding a link to this blog on Professor David Bordwell’s blog.

Sad, sad news coming out of Asia. Due to the worldwide economic downturn, Variety Asia, which this site uses as a major source for news, has been indefinitely suspended after its two top guys - Patrick Frater and Marcus Lim - has been let go. The same goes for Grady Hendrix’s Kaiju Shakedown blog, which served as a great influence on the development of this blog. Hope to see these guys on the internet soon.

- Still using the HK Filmart website numbers this week to see how films did over the entire Lunar New Year holiday week in Hong Kong. Leading the way for the week is All’s Well Ends Well 2009, which made HK$14.1 million over the week for a 10-day total of HK$18.3 million and should hit the HK$25 million mark before its run ends. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which has far less showings and an inflated ticket price, is in 2nd place with HK$9.9 million for a 11-day total of HK$13.9 million. With strong word-of-mouth, this should have no problem making the HK$20 million mark.

However, the Lunar New Year will likely go to Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea, which made HK$9 million over the week and has already made HK$21.4 million after 16 days. With this pace, it will current leader Red Cliff II, which made HK$6.4 million over the week and is currently at HK$21.7 million. There’s a chance that it will match the HK$25 million take of part 1, but with more competition this weekend, its chances are slim.

The underperformer of the holiday is Andrew Lau’s Look For a Star. From 35 screens, it made HK$7.3 million from 35 screens over the week and made HK$9.56 million after 9 days. It should hit the HK$15 million mark, but still somewhat disappointing for an Andy Lau starrer. However, the true loser of the holiday week is the Hollywood dog film Marley and Me, which made just HK$4.2 million over the week and HK$6 million after 11 days. This is somewhat surprising since dog films tend to do very well in Hong Kong.

- No Box Office Mojo numbers yet, so we only have the box office admission chart from Japan. As expected, the second chapter of 20th Century Boys opened on top. According to Mr. Texas of Eiga Consultant Blog, it made 620 million yen from 374 screens, which is 99.4% of the opening for chapter 1. Also, a trucated version of chapter 1 (with “new scenes”. I checked, they just filmed a new way to bookend the film and took out scenes. It ran only 114 minutes with commercial) scored a 18.6% rating on TV the night before its opening. With 80.6% of the weekend audience saying that they definitely want to watch the final chapter, NTV, Toho, and the rest of the investors should have no trouble getting their investment back.

Mamma Mia managed to open at 2nd place, which bumped Quantum of Solace and Pandemic all the way down to 3rd and 4th place, respectively.

With all the competition, the 2nd part of Che only managed a 6th place opening after part 1 opened on top 3 weeks ago. More when Box Office Mojo has the numbers.

- Red Cliff II leads for the second weekend in a row in a relatively quiet weekend in Korea. There’s no analysis this week by Mark Russell at Korea Pop War, but I’ll link you over there anyway for the figures.

- The Winter 2009 Japanese drama season continues to see weak ratings across the board, with no drama hitting the 20% rating so far (Aibou doesn’t count because it’s the middle of a 6-month season). However, Kiina may have a chance after losing only a small amount of audience for its second episode, and Mei-Chan no Shitsuji is keeping steady around the 14% mark.

Meanwhile, the Fuji Monday 9pm drama Voice drops further to 15.0% rating for its 3rd episode (we’ll look at this week’s ratings next week. That’s how we roll). Even though Triangle took that deep second episode dive, it’s been staying steady about the 11% mark as well. Arifureta Kiseki took a slight turn upwards with a 11.4% for its latest episode, but Love Shuffle took a dive to a 8.2% rating for its third episode, making it the flop of the season. The Kenichi Matsuyama-starrer Zeni Geba isn’t doing so well either, dropping to a 9% rating for its third episode. Another drama with potential is Rescue, which actually saw an increase in ratings for its second episode.

All Japanese drama sypnosis can be found on Tokyograph, but seriously, who still cares about Japanese dramas?

- KinKi Kids extends their world record of having the largest number of consecutive number 1 single with their latest, which topped the singles chart this week on the Japanese Oricon chart, of course.

Meanwhile, an original album finally takes the top spot this week on the albums chart. Thanks, Koda Kumi!

More over at Tokyograph.

- In Japan, overall 2008 box office dropped by 1.8%, with a 2-yen drop on average ticket price and a staggering 23.9% drop in foreign film box office.  On the other hand, local films’ box office take went up by 22.4%, so it’s all good.

- Box office was also all good in China, where the Lunar New Years holiday box office this year was up by 20% from the same period last year, partly helped by having ten new releases packing theaters. Surprisingly, Andrew Lau’s Look for a Star led the holiday box office along with Ning Hao’s Crazy Racer.

- It’s reviews time!  Variety’s Jay Weissberg looks at the Japanese indie film Non-Ko. It may not be an Asian film, but Push was filmed entirely in Hong Kong, which is enough for me to link to Robert Koehler’s review of it.

-Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda has already finished filming his follow-up to Still Walking. This time, the film stars Korean actress Bae Doona as a vinyl doll who comes to have human emotion. Sounds nothing like Still Walking at all.

- Even though Ivy Ho’s directorial debut Claustrophobia (saw it at the Asian Film Festival in Hong Kong and liked it) not opening in Hong Kong until next week, the renowned screenwriter is already getting to shoot her second film, with Jacky Cheung and Tang Wei attached as stars. This time, what I’ve heard is that it’ll be a more commercial effort than Claustrophobia, and it’ll be shot for a fairly low budget.

- Nippon Cinema has the second trailer for Donju, starring Tadanobu Asano and written by Kankuro Kudo.

The Golden Rock - December 30th, 2008 Edition

This blogger would like to apologize for missing two weeks of blogging. Being a student means times like these take away precious time to blog.

Then the blogger would like to thank everyone for letting this blog survive past the two year-mark now. My 2009 resolution: Try not to take so many breaks.

And now, a little bit of news:

- Lovehkfilm wraps up our 2008 with two reviews - Kozo’s review for the Chinese film Deadly Delicious, and my review for Wilson Yip’s Ip Man.

-  The dust has settled after the crowded and chaotic Christmas weekend at the Hong Kong box office. Wilson Yip’s Ip Man takes the second weekend with HK$1.23 million from 39 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total of HK$14.02 million. It’ll likely break past the HK$20 million mark and become the Christmas champion, despite the upcoming opening of Lady Cop and Papa Crook, Ong Bak 2, and Forever Enthralled.

Not too far behind is the animated film Madagascar 2, with HK$1.16 million from 41 screens for a 10-day total of HK$12.52 million. These two should surpass current holiday season box office leader The Day The Earth Stood Still, which is quickly losing business with a 18-day total of HK$18.27 million.

Leading among the Christmas openers is Suspect X (The Galileo movie version), which made HK$917,000 from 34 screens for an impressive 5-day total of HK$6.29 million. With a large audience here for the drama and Panasia releasing it before the pirates can upload it online, it should break the HK$10 million mark for another Japanese film success for the distributor. Behind it is Disney’s Bedtime Stories, which made HK$809,000 from 39 screens for a 4-day total of HK$4.44 million. At least it’s doing better than the average Adam Sandler movie.

The other two Christmas openers didn’t do nearly as well. The Tale of Desperaux made only HK$448,000 from 35 screens for a 4-day total of just HK$2.04 million, despite having TVB “it” boy Wong Cho-Lam as the voice of the protagonist. Lastly, Feng Xiaogang’s If You’re the One will definitely not do Mainland China-level business, with just HK$51,000 from 8 screens for a 4-day total of $260,000.

- In Korea, Scandal Makers continue to top the box office, with over 3.8 million admissions and counting. Meanwhile, Ponyo isn’t doing so great.

More over at Korea Pop Wars.

- Minomonta, the Japanese TV host who recently broke the Guinness World Record for having the most hours on TV in a week, will quit one of the two shows he hosts daily for a real gracious reason. I wonder why he really quit.

- Here’s one proof of why Ip Man had to cater to the Chinese audience: Head honcho/producer Raymond Wong Bak-Ming just sold 8.5% of Mandarin Film shares to two Mainland Chinese investors.

- Some may not know that Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon had a source material of the same name, but its groundbreaking structure was actually from another short story named In a Grove. Now, another film will be borrowing from In a Grove, though they’re only borrowing one of the major characters.

- Under “film financing” news today, Hong Kong’s Mei Ah is still losing money. But thanks to Red Cliff, they’re losing less this year. Yay.

On the other hand, the Hong Kong-based animation studio Imagi is in so much financial trouble that their auditor isn’t even sure if the studio will have the money to complete the three films they have set up.

- Fuji Television continues its streak of having the highest ratings in three major timeslots out of all Japanese nationwide TV networks.

- Under “who’s directing what next” news today, three Asian directors - Fruit Chan, Hur Jin-ho, and musician Cui Jian - will be making an omnibus film about the earthquake-stricken region of Chengdu. It shall be ethically inspiring.

Meanwhile, legendary director Yoji Yamada will be making Otouto - Younger Brother, which will be his first contemporary film in a while. With his last film being “Kabei - Our Mother”, I wonder if Yamada is making another trilogy.

- For the first time in its history, the China Film Academy has allowed in Hong Kong industry professionals for memberships. Hong Kong professionals that have gotten in include Jackie Chan, Peter Chan, and Andy Lau.

There’s really not much news around this time of year. However, expect a special feature just before the year ends.

The Golden Rock - December 8th, 2008 Edition

- Dante Lam’s The Beast Stalker captured the top spot at the Hong Kong box office for the second weekend in a row. On Sunday, the melodramatic thriller made HK$539,000 from 34 screens for a 11-day total of HK$6.02 million. This is a 37% drop from last Sunday’s take, and signals that it’s slowing down a little quicker than Connected. Getting to the HK$10 million mark will be tough, but considering how Hong Kong films have done this year, this is a modest success for Emperor.

Cape No. 7 may have gotten a slight boost from its wins at the Golden Horse Awards, losing only 20% of last Sunday’s business for a take of HK$395,000 from 25 screens. After 18 days, the Taiwanese music-based romance has made HK$6.4 million. At this rate, the HK$10 million mark is looking more and more probable. On the other hand, Herman Yau’s True Women For Sale didn’t quite get the boost it needed from Prudence Lau’s Best Actress win. From 5 screens, the dramedy made HK$51,000 for a 4-day weekend total of HK$180,000.

The opening film with the best per-screen average is the Japanese film Ikigami. From just 4 screens, the high concept drama made HK$59,900 for a 4-day weekend total of HK$210,000. On the other hand, the best-performing opener was Wu Jing’s co-directorial debut Legendary Assassin. From 31 screens, the action film made just HK$336,000 at 3rd place for a 4-day total of HK$1.23 million. I guess all those Gold Label stars showing up didn’t help much.   The other Gold Label film , Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect, made another HK$189,800 from 34 screens, losing 45% of last Sunday’s gross. After 11 days, the identity-switching comedy has made HK$2.69 million.

The distributor of the American indie comedy What Just Happened? is probably asking that same question. From 13 screens, the Berry Levinson film made HK$111,000 on Sunday for a 4-day total of just HK$410,000. Quantum of Solace has made HK$18.91 million after 32 days, Beverly Hills Chihuahua has made HK$2.89 million after 18 days, and Burn After Reading has made HK$2.98 million after 25 days.

- Over to the Japan attendance figures, where Wall-E and the disaster film 252 finally came together to knock Red Cliff of its top spot for first and second place, respectively. The TV drama/comic-based spinoff Tokumei Kakaricho Hitoshi Tadano film (which looks terrible) got a 5th place debut. Surprisingly, Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s Where the Legend Lives saw a boost to 7th place this weekend after almost being knocked off the top 10 chart last week. However, like last week, its placing may end up being lower on the box office gross chart because it attracts an elderly audience, who pay a lower ticket price. More when the numbers are out.

- After months of production turmoil and coming in the midst of a political shuffle, Ong Bak 2 opened last Friday and is now projected to be the top local film this year. Kaiju Shakedown looks at some initial reviews, which reveal that it sets up for Ong Bak 3. I’ll be watching this in Hong Kong just after New Year.

-  In addition to the Golden Horse Awards, there was also a Taipei Projects Market (refer to my interview with Kenneth Bi to hear about how these things work), where two films had to share the top prize. A lack of high-profile projects (except for the Eat Drink Man Woman sequel NOT by Ang Lee and Pang Ho-Cheung’s The Bus) made it hard to find extended reports about it, but here ya go.

- Variety lines out the tough week the media had last week in Asia, and it was about more than giving away police strategies to terrorists and illegal airport blockages.

- Ryuganji translates a very long article in a Japanese magazine about the Japanese film business in the 21st century. Part one covers the overwhelming dominance of local distributor Toho.

- If you want to know what the most popular songs in Japan are, you should check out DAM’s (that’s a Karaoke machine) top 20 2008 Karaoke ranking because people tend to sing what they like, especially in a Karaoke-heavy country like Japan. As Tokyograph reported, here are the top 10 Karaoke songs of 2008:

1) Kiseki - GReeeeN (which has a great music video. You don’t need to know Japanese to be touched by it. Oh, alright, here’s an English-subtitled version.)
2) Lovers Again - Exile
3) Ai Uta - GReeeeN (This video, on the other hand, not so good)
4) Tsubomi - Kobukuro (I admit that I sang this a few times at Karaoke myself)
5) Soba ni Iru ne - Thelma Aoyama featuring Soulja (the no.1 selling single in Japan this year so far. Or some Arashi single might’ve already surpassed it.)
6) Ai no Uta - Kumi Koda (apparently the words Ai (love) and Uta (song) are huge in Japanese music)
7) Hanamizuki - Yo Hitoto (Apparently the only song she ever sings when she goes to the year-end Kohaku Uta Gassen every year)
8) Sakura - Kobukuro (The word Sakura is also huge in Japanese music)
9) Suirenka - Shonan no Kaze (which Hacken Lee covered in his Concert Hall II album. It wasn’t good.)
10) Ayaka - Mikatsuki

If you know Japanese and care enough about the rest of the rankings, check out the complete list here. By the way, my man Jero’s debut single Umiyuki got on the 15th place. Not bad for a kid from Pittsburgh.

- Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo has been announced as the first director of this year’s Jeonju Digital Project. Produced by the Jeonju International Film Festival, the Jeonju Digital Project is a trio of short films produced each year by three different directors. The other two directors for the upcoming festival’s project will be announced on January 13th.

- With China making the unusual choice of a sending a documentary to the Academy Awards Best Foreign Film race, some people in China wonder if the country’s even trying to get into the race anymore. At least it didn’t pick Painted Skin as its representative.

- Under “Japanese drama casting” news today, Arashi leader Satoshi Ohno will be doing his first comedic role in a TV drama next season.  Meanwhile, major film actor Koji Yakusho and popular actress Eri Fukatsu will be starring in a made-for-TV movie (I guess a drama special if you want to get all specific with names) with a script written 30 year ago.

- In order to encourage people to go to the cinemas, China has been trying to promote digital projection and 3D films in theaters. It’s so eager to it that its authorities even exempted Disney’s latest animated film from the 20 foreign films quota.

- Famed Japanese composer Minoru Endo, who has written 5000 songs in the last 60 years, passed away over the weekend. He was 76 years old.

The Golden Rock - December 1st, 2008 Edition

Goodbye, November. Hello, December. See you soon, 2nd anniversary.

- Four of the five opening movies in Hong Kong got on the top 10 on opening day last Thursday, but only three remained on the Sunday box office chart. Beast Stalker remained on top with an impressive HK$844,000 from 37 screens on Sunday for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2.91 million. This is 80% of Connected’s 4-day opening number (both are from Emperor Motion Pictures), and it ended up making over HK$13 million. If the word-of-mouth is similarly positive, it may end up passing the HK$10 million mark.

Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect didn’t quite get the youth boost it needed on Sunday, making just HK$340,400 from 34 screens for a 4-day total of HK$1.49 million. It’s an improvement over Kong’s horror film Forgive and Forget, but I doubt this will pass the HK$3 million mark as theaters quickly move to reduce the number of showings by Thursday. Lastly, Hong Kong audience show that they don’t really care movies paralleling Taiwanese current events, as Lawrence Lau’s Ballistic made only HK$64,800 from 18 screens for a 4-day weekend total of HK$270,000.

Cape No. 7 is showing some potential for long-term success, as its take of HK$490,600 from 25 screens on Sunday is 83% of last Sunday’s take. After 11 days, the Taiwanese music-themed romance has made HK$4.55 million. At this speed, the HK$7 million mark is a likely possibility. Meanwhile, Beverly Hills Chihuahua is now at only HK$2.44 million after 11 days, Quantum of Solace is at HK$18.38 million after 25 days. While it won’t do the HK$20+million that Casino Royale did two years ago (it’s hard to believe that the blog started out tracking its Hong Kong box office), it’s also worth noting that Casino Royale had a ticket price inflation due to its length.

Moving down the chart, The Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading now has HK$2.68 million after 18 days. Champions has passed the HK$5 million mark on Sunday with HK$80,000 from 27 screens. After 18 days, it has made HK$5.06 million. The church-endorsed Bella is showing legs, with another HK$78,000 from 8 screens for HK$1.41 million after 18 days. Lastly, Detroit Metal City remains on the top 10 with HK$10.51 million after 32 days.

- It was a slow week at the Japanese box office, at least attendance-wise. Red Cliff takes the 5th week at the top, while I’d Rather be a Shellfish remains at 2nd place, and Happy Flight remains at 3rd. The best-performing debut goes to Death Race at 5th, while Saw V could only muster a 7th place opening. More when the numbers come out.

- The ratings for the Fall 2008 Japanese drama season continues to be very disappointing. The ratings for Aibou Season 7 - the highest of the season so far - is going through bigger ups and downs than the stock market. After a series-high 20.7% two weeks ago, it dips to a 15.7 this week. Just when Ryusei no Kizuna seems to have found a loyal group of audience, it saw its season low of 14.5% this week in its 3rd straight week of declining ratings. The same happened to the terrorism thriller Bloody Monday, which saw steady ratings since its premiere until it dropped to a 10.1% for this week’s episode.

Some dramas are beginning to see their ratings pick up slightly: Scandal saw a boost to a 12.3% rating after a mere 10.4% in the previous week. Gira Gira saw a similar boost, going up to a 10.2% after seeing a season-low 7.2% in the previous week. As it reaches its final weeks, Kaze no Garden’s 8th episode also saw a boost to 14.1% rating.

The season’s biggest disappointment, next to Ryusei no Kizuna’s fall from grace, has to be the struggling ratings for Fuji’s Monday night 9pm drama Innocent Love. whose current season average of 13.2% is the lowest since Boku Dake no Madonna in Summer 2003. This week, it saw a boost up to 12.6% after two straight weeks of season-low 11.7%.

- Under “The economy went shitty, and all I got was this stupid t-shirt” news today, Hong Kong’s TVB is cutting 212 staffs, or 7% of their workforce, because they anticipate a sharp drop in profits. Note that said drop hasn’t officially happened yet, they just anticipated it.

Meanwhile, Japanese animation house GDH, who made the award-winning Summer Days with Coo, is cutting 20% of its workforce through early retirements.

- DJ Ozma, who pissed Japan off at the 2006 Kohaku Uta Gassen with this performance, is retiring from show biz after his third album. Of course, he’s not going away entirely: Ozma is just one of the roles the ex-Kishidan leader plays. He’s playing one of the three members of Yazima Biyoushitsu. It’s borderline offensive if that damn song isn’t so catchy.

- The Indian government has called in broadcasters to investigate whether the news media helped the terrorists by giving them the police’s tactical strategies with their wall-to-wall coverage.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter looks at the effect of the tragedy on the worldwide entertainment industry at a time when India is trying to expand to the world with various production deals.

One of the biggest effects already felt is the cancellation of Live Earth India, which was set to take place this Sunday in Mumbai.

- The Tokyo Filmex just wrapped up over the weekend, with the Isreali-German-France co-produced animated film Waltz with Bashir taking home the grand prize.

The film attracting the most attention at the Tokyo Filmex this year must be Sion Sono’s 4-hour romance epic Love Exposure. It ended up taking home the Agnes B Audience Prize. Jason Gray gives a quasi-review, and Edmond Yeo gives it a very strong praise. Now I hope the Hong Kong International Film Festival is daring enough to take it on.

- Kyoko Koizumi picks up another acting prize for Tokyo Sonata at this year’s Fumiko Yamaji Film Awards, which only gives out female acting awards in addition to the film awards. In addition to Koizumi’s Best Actress win, Haruka Ayase also picked up the Best Newcomer Award for her three theatrical releases this year - Cyborg She, Ichi, and Happy Flight.

- The Japanese talent agency Yoshimoto Kogyo, which manages some of Japan’s top comic talents, is partnering with a Chinese theater group to give comedy stage shows in China.

- Holy crap, the other five guys in Exile finally has something to do other than dance in the background while the other two sing.

- Twitch has a full trailer for Chan Kaige’s Forever Entralled, which will be released in a few weeks in China and on January 1st in Hong Kong.

- The TBS-produced Japanese medical mystery The Glorious Team Batista has a decent run in cinemas earlier in the year. This season, Fuji took the same source material and turned it into a TV drama, which is doing OK in the ratings. Now TBS is taking back the spotlight by announcing a sequel for the film version with the original cast returning. It will be released in March 2009. Kozo reviewed the first film here.

- An interesting off-topic find: In a survey of about 400 people - with 47.8% of the participant in their 30s - the cinema is the top spot for a first date. It also reveals that nearly 97% of Japanese moviegoers never had their phones go off in the movie theater. This number would surely be much much lower here in Hong Kong.

The Golden Rock - November 28th, 2008 Edition

- Lovehkfilm just updated with some new reviews: From Boss Kozo are reviews for Lawrence Lau’s Ballistic, the Taiwanese film noir Parking (which was my 4th favorite film at this year’s Asian Film Festival), and the Korean film Baby and I. From yours truly is the review for the artsy Korean-Mongolian-French production Desert Dream, which is my 100th review for LHKF. Honestly, I wasn’t keeping count.

- Five films opened in Hong Kong yesterday - Two major releases, one modest release, and two limited releases - and four of them made it on the top 10 on opening day. Dante Lam’s Beast Stalker opened on top, with HK$483,000 from 34 screens. It’ll likely pass the HK$2 million mark at the end of the weekend, but we won’t know whether it’ll fall as fast as Champions (which had similar opening numbers) until next weekend. Last week’s top film Cape No. 7 will be at second place, unless the teen audience come out in droves for Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect.  The Gold Label-produced comedy opened at third place with just HK$209,000 from 24 screens. At least it’ll do better than Forgive and Forget.

Lawrence Lau’s Taiwan politics-themed Ballistic opened on 18 screens, but it only made HK$49,000, which makes the HK$200,000 mark even a hard one to reach by the end of the weekend. The limited releases didn’t do so well, either: The Taiwanese youth film Miao Miao made only HK$31,000 from 8 screens, and Choke didn’t even hit the top 10. More when the numbers are out on Monday.

- Variety has a report on how the ongoing terrorist attacks in Mumbai is affecting the Indian entertainment industry. Mumbai is considered the center of the Bollywood film industry, with many of film companies’ offices situated there.

- The awards season has begun in Japan, as the yearly Hochi Awards is the first one to announce its 2008 winners. Beating out finalists Tokyo Sonata, Climber’s High, and Still Walking is the comedy-drama Departures. However, the Best Director award went to All Around Us‘ Ryusuke Hashiguchi instead.

The Best Actor Award went to Shinichi Tstsumi for his performances in both Climber’s High and Suspect X, while the Best Actress Award went to Kyoko Koizumi for her performances in Gu-Gu Datte Neko de Aru and Tokyo Sonata. The Best Supporting Actor Award went to Masato Sakai (a hit-and-miss actor for me) for Climber’s High and After School, while Kirin Kiki took the Best Supporing Actress Award for Still Walking.

Ayane Nagabuchi took home the Best New Actor Award for Sanpongi Nougyo Kokou Bajutsu Bu, and The Dark Knight won Best Foreign Film.

The complete list in Japan is here.

- If you know Japanese (or know the film well enough to not need subtitles), a thoroughly digitally-restored version of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon will be showing in a Tokyo theater for the next two weeks starting tomorrow.

- Despite production companies around Asia cutting back due to the global financial crisis, the outlook for Asian media in 2009 is still rather positive.

That’s it for today. More over the weekend. Probably.

The Golden Rock - November 26th, 2008 Edition

I reported the Hong Kong weekend box office on Monday. Now it’s time to look at the rest of Asia:

-In Japan, John Woo’s Red Cliff Part 1 ruled the box office for 4th weekend in a row during the holiday weekend. It lost only 10% of its audience, and has now made about 3.1 billion yen. It’s on track to become the highest-grossing non-Japanese Asian film in Japan ever. As Avex reportedly invested US$35 million of the two films’ total US$80 million budget, Avex should be making their money back plus some change if the second film does just as well next Spring.

Meanwhile, the only new Japanese release on the top 10 is the oddly-titled post World War II war crimes trial drama I’d Rather Be a Shellfish. With a fairly large amount of 330 screens, it opened at second place, and has the highest per-screen average in the top 10. The other three English-language openers - Tropic Thunder, Blindness, and 1408 - all opened on a modest amount of screens, and could score only modest openings.

The biggest drop in the top 10 goes to the gimmicky comedy Handsome Suits. It lost only 29.1% from the previous weekend, and has made 668 million yen after 4 weeks. The second smallest drop (next to Red Cliff) is the TV drama film adaptation Suspect X. It managed to lose only 15.4% in business for its 8th weekend. It has now made 4.5 billion yen, and may have a shot at 5 billion when it’s all over.

-  In China, Quantum of Solace barely held on to its top spot for the third weekend in a row, and has now made almost 133 million RMB (200 million RMB is the super hit line that Red Cliff, Warlords, and Painted Skin have crossed). Right behind it is the Chinese romance Desire of the Heart. Variety has a report of how great the opening is.

Dante Lam’s Beast Stalker had a respectable 6.2 million RMB opening at 4th place, behind Hellboy II (which I’m surprised managed to open in China despite its supernatural elements). Depending on how it does in Hong Kong, the two regions’ gross combined may help EEG break even.

There’s not much else to say, since what was provided wasn’t even a completed top 10 list.

- In Taiwanese box office, the largest drop went to Quantum of Solace as well, which also held on to its top spot for the third weekend in a row. Local film Blue Brave is doing fairly well, still in second place despite losing 30% in audience. It has now made over 15 million New Taiwan Dollars, which may be chump change when compared to Cape No. 7, but it’s a fairly good gross for a local film. Just look at Miao Miao, which lost 38.4% in business and has only made 2.8 million New Taiwan Dollars so far.

But like the China data, there’s no screen count, so I have no idea how more limited release such as The Good, the Bad, and the Weird did with their low grosses.

- In a rare sight for 2008, two Korean films are on the top of the Korean box office. Meanwhile, both Connected and Blindness opened weakly in their first weekend.

More over at Korea Pop Wars

- On the Japanese Oricon Charts, UVERworld now has their first #1 single, while Perfume debuts far behind and Girl Next Door’s sales continue to slide. On the album charts, NEWS’ album debuts on top, with Guns N’ Roses’ controversial Chinese Democracy managed a 3rd place opening.

More on Tokyograph.

-  It’s trailers time! Nippon Cinema has the first official trailer for the second installment of the 20th Century Boys trilogy. This one is different from the one at the end of the short film, as it is longer and has more footage. It’ll be released in Japan just two months from now, with the third film aiming for a Fall 2009 release. Twitch reports that the Japanese website for the omnibus New York I Love You has opened with a short teaser. The website only reports that the film will open there some time in 2009. By the way, the website is only fully viewable with Internet Explorer.

- China’s Xinhua Media has announced a new slate of five US-China co-production. One is another martial arts action flick from Forbidden Kingdom writer John Fusco, and another one is a new take on the classic Hua Mulan tale.

- The Hollywood Reporter looks at how Thai TV networks - the four biggest ones owned by the Thai army - are looking at the latest anti-government protests, which led to the shutdown of Thailand’s biggest airport.

- Under “Japanese stars going international for Japanese cinema” news today, “it” actors Kenichi Matsuyama and Maki Horikita are starring in a Japanese-language film directed by American director Hans Canosa. I was greatly impressed by Canosa’s Conversations With Other Women, so I’m looking forward to what he does in a totally foreign environment with such high-profile actors.

Meanwhile, Yuji Oda has signed on to star in Fuji Television’s 50th annivarsary film Amalfi: Megumi no 50 Byou. About a diplomat abroad investigating an abduction, it’ll be the first Japanese film completely shot in Italy.

- Reported earlier in the Hong Kong press and now showing up on Twitch, Raymond Wong has confirmed that Wilson Yip’s DONNNNIIIIIEEEE Yen starrer Ip Man will be getting a sequel. It will cover the titular character’s move to Hong Kong, after he seemingly kicks a lot of Japanese asses in the first film, which won’t even be opening until mid-December. I ought to be excited about this, but I would rather see how Wong Kar Wai pulls off the story instead of seeing another DOOOONNNIIIEEE-centric martial arts fest.

- The global economic crisis has claimed another victim in the film world, as the Jakarta Film Festival in Indonesia has been forced to cut its 9-day schedule to just 5 days, and the festival will only be able to show 10 of the 84 local films produced this year.

- After it was confirmed that Steven Spielberg is working on a Hollywood remake of Oldboy with Will Smith looking to star, the rumors traveling now suggest that the Hollywood remake will be based on the original comic instead of Park Chan-wook’s adaptation, which apparently deviated plenty from the source material.

The Golden Rock - November 14th, 2008 Edition

Sorry for the extended break. Here’s a weekend edition to tie you over.

- 7 movies were released yesterday in Hong Kong for a very crowded box office charts - two wide releases (over 20 screens), and five limited releases. The best performer is Tsui Siu-Ming’s “everyone-stunning” martial arts epic Champions, which ironically did not get first place. Instead, it made a somewhat surprising HK$425,000 from 36 screens (surprising because everyone I talked to was wondering why I even bothered), and is looking to top HK$2 million over the weekend, behind Quantum of Solace.

Even more surprising is the 3D horror film Scar, which opened only on eight screens, but made HK$393,000 on opening day. Worth noting is that ticket prices are almost doubled because of the 3D format, but the opening remains impressive for a limited release.

The Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, which got just about no promotion before its opening, opened on 20 screens with HK$156,000. The American indie film Bella opened on 8 screens and made an OK HK$70,000. It’ll likely get a boost from the adult audience over the weekend. On the other hand, no boost can help the dance film Make it Happen, which made just HK$27,800 from 17 screens. The distributor should’ve probably gotten a clue when it got sent straight to DVD in America. Lastly, Death Defying Acts opened on 4 screens and made HK$25,000.

Takashi Miike’s Crows Zero quietly opened on one screen, and naturally did not make it to the top 10. More on Monday when the numbers are out.

- Wong Jing was all over Hong Kong’s newspapers today. China’s Affluence Pictures, which Wong owns 10% of and was previously called the Wong Jing Film Workshop, lost a lawsuit over My Kung Fu Sweetheart because the company released the film’s VCD in China only seven days after the theatrical release, as opposed to the 15 stated in their contract with the investors.

- It’s trailers time! First up is Sion Sono’s seemingly whacked out “pure love” epic Love Exposure. I’m not just calling it whacked because of what’s in the trailer, but also because the movie runs a crazy 237 minutes. It’s even a selling point in the trailer!

Next is the first trailer for John Woo’s Red Cliff Part II, which I hope will be two and a half hours of money shots after Part I nicely set up the stakes (though the film itself is somewhat underwhelming). The release date is now set on January 15th, 2009 in Hong Kong, which means it’ll go up against Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea and Vincent Kuk’s All’s Well That Ends Well 2009. It’s going to be an interesting Lunar New Year.

Lastly, Youtube has the full trailer for Ryoichi Kimizuka’s Nobody to Watch Over Me, which won the Best Screenplay Award at the Montreal World Film Festival. This movie is also worth noting because Kimizuka is the man who penned the Bayside Shakedown TV drama, its two ultra-hit films, and the one underwhelming spin-off.

- After several high-profile PR blunders, the Chinese Ministry of Culture announces that it will punish artists who lip-sync to replace singing at public events. One of these high-profile blunders was the use of a cuter young girl at the Olympic opening ceremony when an unnamed senior government official deemed the original singer “too ugly”.

- Meanwhile, a different Chinese government department, the State Authority of Radio, Film, and Television, took Hong Kong’s Alan Mak/Felix Chong’s Lady Cop and Papa Crook and cut over 10 minutes out of it after a certain section of the film feature gangsters getting out of Mainland China unharmed and unarrested. Because you know, there are no gangsters in China. The oft-delayed film will now open in Hong Kong on January 1st, on the same day as Chen Kaige’s Forever Enthralled. No word which version of the film will be shown in Hong Kong.

- In Thailand, audiences will be able to celebrate Christmas with Tony Jaa, as the troubled Ong Bak 2 is almost completed and set to be released in Thailand on December 5th. After Japanese and American distributors pulled their distribution deals in light of the production troubles, it’s now time for producers to go on heavy-duty damage control.

The Golden Rock - October 21st, 2008 Edition

A quick update because of a lack of time:

- First, here are how the opening films are doing at the Hong Kong box office after 5 days in theaters:

Mirrors - HK$1.97 million - 31 screens
The Vampire Who Admires Me - HK$1 million - 27 screens
Awake  - HK$420,000 - 10 screens (opened on 13 screens)
Accuracy of Death - HK$170,000 - 3 screens.

As for the others, Body of Lies is now at HK$4.94 million after 11 days, Butterfly Lovers is behind with HK$4.87 million after 11 days, Painted Skin is still under the HK$10 million mark with HK$9.87 million after 20 days, Connected has passed the HK$13 million mark with HK$13.06 million after 26 days, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona is doing well (by Woody Allen standards) with HK$1.89 million after 11 days, and Mamma Mia is still going with HK$11.87 million after 40 days.

- At the Japanese box office attendance chart, Suspect X (the film spin-off of TV drama Galileo) gets its third weekend at the number one spot. Hollywood films Eagle Eye and P.S. I Love You open at 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. Departures continues its strong run at 4th place, and Ponyo jumps back up to 8th place.

-The fall 2008 drama season in Japan is coming to a great start for some of the major networks. Fuji has great premiere ratings for Celeb to Binbou Taro (17.6% rating) and The Glorious Team Bastista (15.2% for their troubled Tuesday 10pm spot is pretty good), while Kaze no Garden holds on to a respectable 18.0 rating in its second week. TBS has the highest-rated drama premiere with Ryusei no Kizuna (21.2% rating), with its Sunday night drama Scandal premiering with a promising 16.9 rating. On the other hand, NTV’s highest-rated drama is currently Scrap Teacher, with only a 12+ rating so far for both episodes.

Still, TBS and Fuji have their share of disappointments: the expensive terrorist drama Bloody Monday (co-produced with film distributor Toho) is still at 11.4% rating after two weeks, while Fuji’s Saturday 11pm drama Room of King has fallen to single-digit ratings for its second week in a row. More next week, when the rest of the private network dramas premiere.

All drama sypnoses are at Tokyograph.

- The Tokyo International Film Festival is off to a strange start this year: First, guests at opening film Red Cliff were walking out because only one of the two screens had an Englush-subtitled print. Then competition jury chairman Jon Voight raised his hands towards the ceiling while thanking Akira Kurosawa in Japanese during his opening remarks. Maybe it’s the green carpet.

- Meanwhile, at the Contents market, American producers came together to talk about the challenges of remaking Asian films for the western market.

- Japanese electronic pop group Perfume, featuring three almost overly spunky girls, is certainly having their biggest year ever: they have now sold more DVDs than pop divas such as Koda Kumi and Namie Amuro. I think it’s the voice and their excellent lip-syncing.

-Hong Kong film producer Universe is looking at another year of loss as video sales drop 30% and theatrical takings dropped by 12%, mainly due to the lack of a true hit film. If I remember correctly, their only releases this year so far are See You in Youtube (which was a surprise moderate hit) and Sparrow, neither of which got even past the HK$7 million mark. Of course, they blame internet piracy instead.

- The role of internet libel in the recent string of celebrity suicides in South Korea have sparked talks of imposing restrictions on free speech on the internet. Of course, there are theories that suggest it’s the government’s way of suppressing dissent.

- It’s reviews time! Derek Elley looks at two Mainland Chinese films this time - first the Chinese Academy Awards representative Dream Weavers - Beijing 2008, then the so-bad-it’s-hilarious Kung Fu Hip Hop. I’m surprised he didn’t mention the horrendous subtitles.

- Lastly, Hong Kong actress Gigi Lai, who may be best known to foreign viewers for her role in the Young and Dangerous movies, has announced that she will retire to take care of her ailing younger brother’s business. Of course, Hong Kong viewers will continue to see her on the small screen until February as one of the three female leads on the new 82-episode TVB drama The Gem of Life. Yes, that’s 82.

The Golden Rock - October 19th, 2008 Edition

A quick entry before going off for another film at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival (tonight it’s Kenji Uchida’s After School).

- Judging from Thursday opening day box office numbers in Hong Kong, it’s looking to be a rather quiet weekend when the numbers come out tomorrow. Mirrors, the Hollywood remake of the Korean film Into the Mirror, opened on top with HK$275,000 from 31 screens. The new Wong Jing-produced horror film The Vampire Who Admires Me managed to make HK$202,000 from 27 screens, but it would be a miracle if it even makes it to HK$2 million. The Hollywood thriller Awake made HK$49,000 from 13 screens, and Accuracy of Death made an OK HK$25,000 from just 3 screens. More tomorrow with the weekend numbers.

-Gordon Chan’s Painted Skin has now passed the 200 million yuan mark at the Chinese box office, placing it along the ranks of The Warlords and Red Cliff, except it’s not as good.

- Just before the temporary relaxed regulations for foreign journalists in China during the Olympics was due to expire, the Chinese authorities decided to extend those regulations. However, nothing has changed for domestic journalist, and Chinese nationals are still not allowed to be full-time correspondants for foreign networks.

- First Cuts, the project created by Andy Lau’s Focus Group to find young talents, has announced the first four filmmakers for the second stage of the project, which will now set its sights mainly in the Mainland Chinese market. The first project’s biggest success was Crazy Stone, by Mainland Chinese director Ning Hao. The first project also featured films from Malaysia and Lam Chi-Chung’s I’ll Call You. Too bad Lam followed it with The Luckiest Man.

- The Tokyo Drama Award, part of the International Drama Festival during the Japan CoFesta, has given out its first prizes. The grand prize went to two dramas - drama special Ten to Sen and made-for-cable drama Pandora. Believe it or not, Last Friends, which deals with domestic violence, gender identity crisis, and even incest, won Kids and Youth category.

- Speaking of CoFesta, the event’s major event - The Tokyo International Film Festival  - is underway with John Woo’s Red Cliff as the opening film. Japan’s Daily Yomiuri has a feature on the festival this weekend.

- And speaking of Japanese dramas, The Daily Yomiuri’s Televiews column for this week looks at this season’s newest dramas, all of which are potential contenders for next year’s Tokyo Drama Awards.

- With the Korean film industry experiencing a downturn this year, companies are seeing the chance in filling the screens with films that have been sitting on their shelves instead of investing in new productions.

- This week, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling reviews the indie horror film Peeping Tom (Makiguri no Ana).

- Lastly, Variety finally mentions that Korean pop star BoA is venturing into the American music market.

The Golden Rock - September 17th, 2008 Edition

- It’s Japanese Oricon charts time! Namie Amuro’s hit compilation album has finally been bumped off the top of the charts….by another compilation album. This time, it’s Ayumi Hamasaki’s latest compilation, which marks the 14th #1 album in the pop diva’s career. Meanwhile, Amuro’s album, still the best-selling album of 2008 so far, is now down at 5th place.

On the singles chart, Mr. Children manages to hang on to their first place for the second week in a row, despite new releases by Ai Otsuka and Glay.

More from Tokyograph.

- The Hong Kong Films Blog looks at the miraculous cinema run for Kelvin Tong’s Rule #1 in Hong Kong. Released two weeks ago, the film could only secure 7 screens, at least 2 of which only played the film at 11:45 pm, and only after the film won two Best Actor Awards at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. However, the audiences kept coming thanks to strong word-of-mouth, and not only did one of the two 11:45pm-only theater added an afternoon screening, another theater also joined in to screen the film. Rule #1 will now go into its third week, still with only a limited amount of screenings. But for a film that started with only a show a day and never got onto the top 10 to continue playing for a third week is pretty amazing for Hong Kong cinema these days.

- Kaiju Shakedown looks at the two finished Herman Yau films that will probably come out this year. He’s probably calling Rebellion the more interesting film because he doesn’t know that the Chinese title for True Women For Sale roughly translates to “I Don’t Sell My Body, I Sell My Uterus”. Honestly, I’m surprised that the studio kept the title.

- The Japanese media has been reporting that the critically-acclaimed Japanese film Departures won three awards at China’s Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, including Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Director. However, the only English-language report and the only “complete” awards list report that Feng Xiaogang’s The Assembly won Best Film at the Hundred Flowers Award and has no mention of Departures winning anything at the festival.  So what the hell is going on? Overzealous Japanese media or indifferent Chinese media?

- Under “who cares that this is getting made?” news today, the sequel for the 1997 comedy Beverly Hills Ninja will begin shooting in Korea next month, and will be the first major Hollywood film to do so. Presumably, Chris Farley, the star of the first film, will not be returning, since he passed away nearly 11 years ago. However, Red Cliff star Lin Chi Ling will be in it, which makes this all the more worthy of the blog. I guess.

- While most of the world has already seen Pixar’s Wall-E, the Tokyo International Film Festival will be giving it prestige status by making it its closing film this year…..screening it a full three months after its American release date and almost two months before it’ll be released theatrically in Japan.

In context, just 4 years ago, the TIFF managed to be the hold the world premiere of Kung Fu Hustle two months before its release date in the rest of Asia.

- The Japanese band GReeeeN, which has yet to make a public appearance because they’re all either aspiring or practicing dentists, will be collaborating with the band BACK-ON for a new unit called BAReeeeeeeeeeN. The 10 e’s is because it has 10 members, not because someone kept the finger on the e button.

- Kaiju Shakedown also has the trailer for the next likely hit Hollywood comedy, except it’s made in Japan.

 
 
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