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Archive for the ‘news’ Category

The Golden Rock - September 14th, 2009 Edition

Whoa, it’s a news post! You have Tropical Storm Koppu to thank for that.

First off, the latest episode of East Screen/West Screen is up. This time, Paul and I talk about Trick or Cheat, Sophie’s Revenge, realistic romance movies, and Hong Kong’s representative at the Academy Awards.

- And as I predicted about Prince of Tears, the controversy has already started.  Just a day after we recorded the podcast, Taiwan’s Government Information Office has requested their NT$10 million subsidy back if it remains to be HK’s representative. Yonfan has also responded, saying that he would rather give back the money. He can probably afford it anyway.

- No HK box office figures yet, but South Korea’s film council already has the weekend stats up. The melodrama Ae-Ja takes the top spot in its opening weekend, as Take Off adds another 321,000 admissions (with 63,000 of those going to the new director’s cut.). Meanwhile, Haeundae has passed Silmido and is now aiming for Taegukgi with 11.18 million. The Case of Haewon Suicide opens in 3rd place with an OK 282,000 admissions.

-In Japan admission rankings, 20th Century Boys continues to hold the top spot, while Wolverine debuts at 2nd place. Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Symbol (which got its premiere in Toronto, not Venice. D’oh!) debuts at 5th place, and Tajomaru with Shun Oguri (somewhat based on the short story In a Grove, which inspired Rashomon) flops with a 7th place debut.

- Speaking of Symbol, Variety’s Russell Edwards has the first review of it after he saw it in Japan.

-Fans of Takeshi Kitano’s gangster films will be happy to know that his latest film, which is now in production, will be a return to the violent gangster genre that he departed from with three self-reflexive films.

- Though it’s yet to be officially reported, Haeundae now has a Canadian distribution deal. No word, however, on whether it’ll be the shorter cut that China and Hong Kong are getting.

- Continuing with the blog’s obsession with super-duper Communist celebration movie Founding of a Republic, a record 1,450 prints will be going out for its release this weekend.

- In a move that will confuse foreign viewers, Team Bastista no Eikou, whose characters have already been seen twice in feature films with a different cast, will be getting a one-off special episode (i.e. TV movie).

- Mark Schilling writes about the wave of 1950s nostalgia that’s been sweeping Japanese mainstream culture in recent years.

And not much else today on storm night. Hopefully this will be a daily thing again. See you all tomorrow.

The Golden Rock - July 28th, 2009 Edition

- Still on 105 screens, Harry Potter continues to rule the Hong Kong box office. However, it also suffered a huge drop in its second week, which means it may not end up going much further from the current HK$37.5 million take, especially with Disney/Pixar’s Up opening this weekend.  Meanwhile, Public Enemies beat out the other opening films by a large margin, making HK$3.64 million over its first 4 days from 35 screens (note that it had a ticket price inflation for length), while Taken (which appeals the same group of audience, sans female Johnny Depp fans) made just HK$1.86 million from 34 screens over 4 days, despite the heavy publicity effort.

With those two films, Murderer suffered a loss of screens and audience, but it has also grossed HK$11.2 million and will likely do better than The Detective and After This, Our Exile combined. Sad, but true. Written By looks like it will stop with about HK$4 million, which is decent for a borderline arthouse flick like this. However, the Hong Kong Film blog has been reporting strange grosses at Newport Theater chain theaters, though I always take their box office reports with a grain of salt because of a lack of source reported.

KJ continues to sell out showing, and has now made it to the top 10, making a total of HK$134,776 with just 1-2 shows a day on 2 screens, with more shows just added. It’s quite amazing. Also impressive in its limited release, the French film Paris 36 has made HK$119,686 on just one screen after 11 days on just one screen.

- In China, Alan Mak/Felix Chong’s Overheard and the new McDull movie both opened this past weekend. While both lost to Harry Potter, Overheard managed an impressive 35.3 million RMB (in perspective, Forever Enthralled opened with 42.2 million RMB, and Painted Skin opened with 40 million RMB, though both opened just before holiday periods), and McDull opened with 33 million RMB, which breaks the record set by Chinese animated film Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf for the opening of an animated film. Supposedly.

News from Sina News.

Meanwhile, even though the Chinese comedy One Night in Supermarket made only about 8 million RMB in its first week, it’s been packing shows in certain areas, prompting theater owners to call it the next Crazy Stone. Areas like the Southern region of Guangdong, where comedies from the north like this one don’t do too well, is even starting to add shows.

- In Japan, no newcomer really challenged the existing films, so everything stays the same, except Ice Age 3 flops with a debut at 10th place on the admission ranking chart. At least it replaced Transformers 2. Now we know at least two things about the Japanese market: They don’t buy into the 3D thing, and they don’t buy into Americans messing with their franchises. Wait, does anyone know how the Hollywood take on Godzilla did in Japan?

And since I said I don’t do box office reports that don’t quote sources, I will refrain from looking at blogs that report numbers without sources. Not even Japanese ones.With eight of the top ten local hits, naturally Toho is the highest-grossing distributor of Japan, especially when their hits are more moderately-budgeted films like Rookies and April Bride, even though they also have the mega-budget 20th Century Boys to take care of.

Nevertheless, the real news is that box office earnings in Japan is up 17.6% this year over the same period last year.

- No South Korean numbers out yet, but there’s already reports of disaster film Haeundae scoring a huge opening over its first 5 days with 1.57 million admissions, knocking Harry Potter off the top spot.

-In Summer 2009 Japanese drama ratings, I already mentioned last week that Buzzer Beat didn’t fall as badly as Kankatsu! in its second week. Kareinaru Spy now has the biggest drop of the season anyway, dropping to an 8.3% rating after the 15.6% it got for its premiere. On the other hand, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi’s Ninkyo Helper managed to bounce back a bit with a 14% for its third episode.  It’s now the highest-rated drama this season so far.

Believe or not, the second highest-rated series so far this season is the 9th season of the “Wednesday Mystery” drama Kasouken no Onna, with a current season average of 15%. However, its ratings have been slipping, but if it keeps up, it will be its highest-rated season, and if Ninkyo Helper slips again, it may even be the first season to top the season average.

- As I mentioned in the Twitter, Hong Kong arthouse theater the Cine-art House, which was known for being one of HK’s only arthouse and the patience for showing limited releases for hundreds of days at a time (it still holds the record for longest period of release with the Japanese film The Yen Family, which played for 524 days.), will be officially reopened this week in the residential neighborhood of Kowloon Bay, even though it’s been operating as Cine-Art for the last two months (I saw Largo Winch there a few weeks ago). The lease is six years long, and the owner is looking to recoup its cost within 3-4 years.

Playing a mix of foreign arthouse films and commercial films, it will also be doing morning shows of older films and a Chinese film retrospective in September. After all, the Cine-Art house is own by patriotic company Sil-Metropole, who recently closed down Kwun Tong’s Silver Theater, only two subway stations away from the current Cine-Art House location.

- After Twitch wrote about a rumor involving Hong Kong director Andrew Lau taking over directorial duties on the film Bodyguards and Assassins after Teddy Chen quit/fired over disagreements with producer Peter Chan, it’s now confirmed that Lau has indeed joined the production. No details, though, about the extent of Lau’s participation or whether Teddy Chen really did return to the set, as Twitch also reported.

- The Network of Asian Fantastic Films, the projects market of the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, just wrapped up its second edition, with plenty of praise from its guests. Four films, two of them Korean or partly Korean, won post-production support awards.

- With almost all Chinese films pulled out of the Melbourne Film Festival over the documentary about exiled Uighur leader Rebiyah Kadeer and its website hacked by presumably Chinese hackers, the festival is now considering going the Venice Film Festival route of making potentially controversial China-related films surprise films in its future editions.

Food for thought: Does anyone else think that these producers pulled their films out of government pressure/need to appease government position to keep their careers? Just a question, not an opinion.

- Even though the second Umizaru film was advertised as the last one yet, Fuji understandably changed their minds after it became the highest-grossing local film of the year, and the third film, featuring essentially the same damn story as the second film, will be coming in 2010. For people who called their sequel Limit of Love, they certainly don’t know what “Limit of Franchise” means.

-Hong Kong director Lee Kung-Lok, perhaps best known for My Mother is a Belly Dancer and co-directing Fu Bo with Wong Ching-Po, will be directing the romantic comedy Let’s Fall in Love in Beijing, and Hong Kong’s Sundream has now joined the list of investors, which also include China’s Polybona and Korea’s IHQ.

- Netizens in Hong Kong has discovered similarities between the new commercial for electronics retailer Broadway featuring Joey Yung and a commercial for Microsoft portable music player Zune. I can’t even get myself to be surprised about these things anymore.

Does anyone know which agency did the ad? I’m very very curious.

-It’s reviews time! Variety’s Ronnie Scheib has a review of the Shunji Iwai-produced effort Halfway, directed by TV writer Eriko Kitagawa, and Japan Times’ Mark Schilling took a look at Fuji TV’s Amalfi last week.

- Two departures to report in this entry:Malaysian director Yasmin Ahmad passed away over the weekend after suffering a stroke. At least two blogs on my rss reader has written about her passing, and they can write more and more eloquently than I ever can:

Blog of Tokyo-based filmmaker Edmund Yeo.

Blog of YTSL - Hong Kong-based writer.

Actor Tetsuo Yamada, who was in Departures as a tough-talking widower, has passed away from cancer. His last film appearance will be in the upcoming epic The Sun That Doesn’t Set. He was 53 years old.

The Golden Rock - July 23rd, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - July 21st, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - July 8th, 2009 Edition

- Starting with Korean box office numbers today. While Tranformers made super-duper billions of won, sports film Bronze Medalist flops on 500+ screens.

More on Korea Pop Wars

- On the Japanese Oricon charts, Arashi takes the top single again, giving them the best three single debuts in 2009 so far. Masaharu “Galileo” Fukuyama’s latest album debuts on top with 200,000+ copies sold. Also, Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo on a Cliff DVD sold about 500,000 copies in its first week. That reminds me to buy Howl’s Moving Castle.

More from Tokyograph

- While the Chinese government is blocking user-controlled mass communication tools like Twitter and facebook as a result of the unrest in Xinjiang, they’re also using television to control what information gets out as well. This includes all the foreign reporters essentially being taken for government tours so they can control what they report.

- The Seoul Film Commission has announced its first winners for their international co-production grant, and they’re a good mix of projects based in Asia and Europe.

- After John Woo announced that he’ll co-direct a martial arts movie, he’s also announced that he’ll be working on a film about The Flying Tigers, a group of American flyers who trained the Chinese, because they finally got the Chinese government in on it. My favorite quote is producer Terance Chang commenting about the rumored $160 million budget.

Remember, you will also see Woo in China’s biggest, hugest, most spectacular movie EVER!!!!!……at least until the 70th PRC anniversary.

- Japanese rock group GReeeN’s “Kiseki”, which I mentioned as one of the best MTVs of last year, has now been certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling download single in Japan.

- After years of operating at a loss, Hong Kong’s TVB has decided to take back their own pay-vision network. I have the smaller TVB Pay Vision package, and the fact that this format allows them to play Japanese dramas and their old film unit stuff makes this a franchise worth saving.

- Because of the delay for the premiere of Japanese drama Emergency 24 Hours 4 (due to star Yosuke Eguchi motorcycle injury), Fuji will show four spin-off episodes that focus on star Nanako Matsushima’s character. However, instead of filming new episodes, it’ll simply a recap of one guest star’s story for each episode, followed by newly fiilmed “where are they now?” segments.

After the 3rd installment’s super Tokyo earthquake, I wonder what producers will come up with to top themselves, especially without the writers of the first three series on board.

-  Hong Kong movie channel Star Movies has unveiled their latest acquisitions, including blockbusters Cape No. 7, Connected, and If You Are the One. The Way We Are has already premiered. But note that like all HK subscribers-based movie channels, objectionable content like nudity and foul language are edited, so approach subscribing to them with caution.

- Even though he has no links, Wise Kwai talks about the new teaser for Raging Phoenix, the new film starring Chocolate’s Jeeja Yanin.

The Golden Rock - July 6th, 2009 Edition

Back after a week-long break.

Also added new Twitter feed. You can see it on your right.

- No official Hong Kong numbers yet, but like America, expect it to be a fight between Transformers and Ice Age 3

- In Japanese attendance figures, the comic adaptation MW debuts at a disappointing 6th place and Anpanman debuts at 7th place, while everything above that stays the same. More when the numbers are out.

- In Spring 2009 Japanese drama ratings, the Monday 9pm Fuji disaster Kankatsu wraps up with a 10.5% rating for a season average of 10.5%. Mr. Brain’s second-to-last episode dips back down to 18.3%, keeping it under 20% for the third week in a row. It’ll need a 20+% rating for its final episode to keep its average above 20%. Either way, it’ll be the highest rated show of the season, even though it kinda cheated with only 8 episodes.

For the Summer 2009 dramas, which seems to be getting an early start, Kanryotachi no Natsu (looks like a rehash of Kareinaru Ichizoku without the big cast and big budget) premiered with a 14.5% rating. Call Center no Koibito, the first starring role for Kotaro “son of Junichiro” Koizumi, premiered to just a 9.3% rating. Will be able to know which ones to focus on when I see the synopses for them all.

- As expected, Chinese box office continues to grow exponentially, with box office gross from the first half year up 45% from the same period last year.

- In South Korea, thanks to local hits My Girlfriend is an Agent, Mother, and Old Partner, local box office has shot up compared to this same time last year, when the industry was in the middle of a slump.

- The great New York Asian Film Festival has wrapped up with the jury announcing its winners. Japan picks up five awards, and I can say the awards are well-deserved, at least for the ones I’ve seen.

-  Under “Japanese casting news” today, the prolific Kenichi Matsuyama will be in another comic-adapted film, and this one will reunite him with his Death Note co-star Tatsuya Fuijiwara. Kaiji will be released in October.

Actress Nao Matsushita will be the lead for the next NHK morning drama, about the wife of Gegege no Kitaro creator Shigeru Mizuki. It won’t be on TV until next March.

- It’s trailers time! First off is the first-ever trailer for China’s biggest film ever ever ever! It’s the PRC 60th anniversary film, translated title as “The Great Cause of Our Great Country’s Foundation”. Featuring 170 actors, there’s a prominent actor/director in probably every single shot of this trailer that features a human being. Except Leon Lai -  everyone knows he’s a robot. How many stars can you spot?

Just as bizarre from Japan is the trailer for Tajomaru, which takes the bandit character from the Akutagawa short story In a Grove (which Kurosawa’s Rashomon is based on. Toshiro Mifune played Tajomaru in that film), give him the pretty boy face of Shun Oguri, and give him a totally created background story. Personally, I think it’ll be another Ichi for Warner Bros. Japan. In other words, a flop.

- The Chinese film censorship body SARFT has a new vice-director, and it’s a surprise pick because he was kind of a nobody. However, not much is expected to change since he’s already within the system in the first place.

- Another Japanese production house is in trouble. This time it’s animation house Gonzo, whose stocks have been delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange after they found their debt exceeded their revenue.

- Twitch reviews the entire box set of the Jeonju Digital Project films, and this is just part 1.

- J.J. Abrams, watch out - AKB48 may be going to perform in New York after they made their overseas debut in Paris.

- Thousands attended the memorial service for the 22nd anniversary of actor Yujiro Ishihara’s death in Tokyo over the weekend.

- The Hollywood Reporter’s international news reporter/editor Steve Brennan passed away. He was 57.

The Golden Rock - June 24th, 2009 Edition

- Boss Kozo has updated the Lovehkfilm main page with reviews. From the boss himself are reviews of the pancontinent Plastic City, the Chinese comedy Crazy Racer, and the Japanese film adaptation of animated series Yatterman.

From Sanjuro is the review for Korean film Tezza: The High Rollers, and yours truly looks at the Korean art film Iri.

So please support what we do and go read some reviews, ya?

- No official Hong Kong numbers yet. Will get back to it when I do.

-  In Japan, Transformers 2 rolled into theaters, but after the big hoopla (including the IMAX version on the three newest IMAX screens around the nation), it still opening in second place behind Rookies, and it even earned more than 10% less than its predecessor did in its opening weekend. Tsurukidake expanded into a wide opening and landed right at 4th place, with The Reader opening right behind it. More when the numbers come out.

Japan admission ranking.

……and in the hours I took a break from writing this entry, the numbers came out. Yes, Tranformers 2 may look like it had a bigger opening than its predecessor in American dollars, but look at the exchange rate:

Transformers: 5,299,278 x 118.104 yen= 625,865,929 yen

Transformer 2: 5,825,212 x 96.323 yen= 561,101,896 yen

That opening is only 89.6% of the first film. BUT, I just noticed that the screen count for the sequel is only half of the first film, and there doesn’t seem to be an expansion planned (although this might just be the distributor not reporting the multiple screens in multiplexes for a better per-screen average).

Then again, Japan has been an anomaly before for Hollywood blockbusters (The Dark Knight, though it did great critically), so it might not mean much for the performance of Transformers 2 around the world. There’s already talks of it breaking box office records here in Hong Kong.

With both Terminator 4 and Transformers 2 taking over theaters (By the way, have you seen this?), every holdover film on the top 10 (except for Rookies, of course) dropped over 40%. And the wide release strategy obviously didn’t work for The Reader.

- In Korea, the latest schoolgirl horror movie opens with only half the audience of last week’s champ Running Turtle, even though it’s still at 2nd place, Mother is grinding to a halt at 2.8 million admissions, and Shinjuku Incident could only get a 9th place opening.

More over at Korea Pop Wars

- And if you’re in Korea, going the movies will be an extra 1,000 won expensive. And this also supports why a film’s popularity needs to also include admissions, not simply monetary taking.

- And it’s the return of Japanese drama ratings! Aishiteru has a stellar 18.6% rating for its finale (even though it only averaged a 14.8% for the season), Boss is setting up for a possible 20% finale with a Takashi Sorimachi cameo that marks a Beach Boys reunion with Yutaka Takenouchi with second-to-last episode getting 17.4%, The Quiz Show wrapped up with 14.6 and a 12.1% season average, and the disastrous Monday 9pm Fuji drama Kankatsu continues its under-10% ratings run before its finale.

But the week’s disappointment goes to Takuya Kimura’s Mr. Brain, which falls under 20% for the second time in its run, despite the presence of guest Yukie Nakama. Usually, an 18% rating would be great for a season’s mid-season, but TBS has spent so much money on the actors and production that anything under 20% would certainly be something to be worried about.  Then again, it’s also easily Kimura’s worst drama in a while, so I don’t blame viewers for giving up.

- The Swedish-Danish film Original took the top prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival, while the Aaron Kwok starrer Empire of Silver healed at least some of the bad buzz it got in Berlin wit hthe jury award. There were other awards that you can read about at the link, but I’ll just spoil it for you now and say that Aaron Kwok did NOT win any acting awards this time.

- Meanwhile, Apple Daily reports that the 9th Chinese Media Film Awards was given out over the weekend. Ann Hui picked up both Best Film and Best Director with The Way We Are, while Chan Lai-Wun picked up Best Supporting Actress. However, Bau Hei-Jing was beaten by Zhou Xun for Equation of Love and Death, definitely a showier performance that commands acting awards, and deservedly so.

- The big announcement so far this week is certainly the announcement of John Woo’s latest film. It’ll be a martial arts film that’s also a co-directorial effort starring Michelle Yeoh. No other details, such as setting or other actors, have been announced yet.

- Also, Zhang Yimou started shooting his latest film this week after spending the last 2 years working on the Olympic ceremonies. This time, it’ll be a thriller-comedy that’s a remake of The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. I guess just to show the remake thing can go both ways.

- After being ordered to reform by the Japanese Financial Agency. film fund JDC Trust has officially been suspended from doing business for three months. The film fund has been in financial difficulty after their recent films have underperformed at the box office.

JDC is not the only film-related business in trouble in Japan - Usen is selling film distributor Gaga, and producer/distributor Wide Policy declared bankruptcy in May.

- After the Chinese government rolled out its internet filtering software (which reportedly even blocked pictures of Garfield spreaking his legs)and also criticized Google for bringing in foreign porn, America is hitting back and criticizing China for forcing the software on the Chinese people.

- Not really news: Stephen Daldry, the director of the Academy Award-winning film The Reader says he will think about editing his film for release in China, depending on the censorship that will be put on him. Then again, the nudity are all Western nudity, there’s no Chinese Japan conspirators, and it’s not on Google, so maybe it’ll be OK.

- In film festival news, Wai Ka-Fai’s latest film Written By starring Lau Ching-Wan opened the great New York Asian Film Festival with Wai Ka-Fai there to meet the audience. Twitch has a write-up of the film, and you can watch Wai Ka-Fai’s appearance on the Subway Cinema blog.

And before it opens on July 10th in Hong Kong, you can also watch the bombastic trailer. Look at how rewarding reading this blog can be!

Also, king of English-language Thai film news Wise Kwai reports that the acclaimed political documentary Citizen Juling, which has made the rounds at film festivals around the world, will get a limited release in Bangkok.

- Andy Lau’s indie film unit Focus Films is putting together a series of low-to-mid-budget action films, and the first film will be Pye Dog and Moss director Derek Kwok’s latest project Fists of Dignity. I think a better English title is in order.

And one of the ways to keep down costs is to hire student (i.e. cheap) screenwriters. I know because there was a recruiting flyer at my school.

- Christopher Nolan has begun shooting Inception, his follow-up to The Dark Knight, in Tokyo with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe. With a reported US$200 million price tag (I honestly can’t believe that), Tokyo is one of the six locations around the world it will shoot at.

Really, US$200 million?

- Last, and definitely not least, Jason Gray reports that Japanese director Yasuharu Hasebe, who started making films in the 60s and became a regular director on the hit detective series Aibou (Partners), died last week at the age of 77. Hasebe did make a return to feature films before his death with the Aibou spin-off film.

The story is all over the trades by now, but I credit Jason because he first broke the story (as far as my compiling process goes), even though Screen decided to not even put it on its website.

The Golden Rock - February 21st, 2009 Edition

- Now.com finally updated their Thursday opening day numbers on time for me to make a prediction for this weekend at the Hong Kong box office. As expected, Patrick Kong’s Love Connected led the way, but with only HK$357,000 from 36 screens. That gross is higher than the HK$209,000 opening for Nobody’s Perfect. Either the teens will show up, or it will continue the downward spiral of Patrick Kong. Following close behind is My Bloody Valentine 3D, which managed to make HK$326,000 from 18 screens because of the inflated ticket price. Then again,it may end up winning the weekend exactly because of that.

Clint Eastwood’s Changeling opened on 5 screens with HK$48,000, while Milk also opened on 5 screens, but to just HK$37,000. As the Academy Awards approaches, these films should get a boost over the weekend, at least with per-screen averages.

By the way, Joe Ma and Leefire’s Give Love, which opened on at least 10 screens, didn’t even make it to the top 10, despite the presence of Gigi Leung. More on Monday when the full numbers are out.

-  As expected, Departures swept the Japan Academy Prize last night, winning 10 awards, including all the major awards EXCEPT for Best Actress, which went to All Around Us’s Kimura Tae. It’s well-deserved, but I feel a little sorry for Ryoko Hirosue at the same time.

Meanwhile, Ponyo won two awards - Best Animated Film, and Best Music. Paco and the Magical Book won Best Art Direction, and The Dark Knight won Best Foreign Film. The audience awards went to Suspect X for Best Picture and Kenichi Matsuyama for Best Actor.

- Departures is also nominated for Best Foreign Film at the upcoming Academy Awards this weekend. Of course, it’s no surprise that both Japan Times and the Daily Yomiuri have respective features on the film.

The Japan Times piece by Mark Schilling.

The Daily Yomiuri piece by Ikuko Kitagawa. 

- In Korea, John Cameron Michell’s sexually explicit film Shortbus will finally be shown in Korea with a restricted rating that will actually allow the film be shown in the country, thanks to a court decision.

- Scud, reportedly the creative driving force behind City Without Baseball, is continuing his obsession with male nudity with the so-called “extreme trilogy”. The first film of that trilogy is Permanant Residence, and here’s the trailer (NSFW for male nudity), with a bad cover of Truly, Madly, Deeply playing in the background. Now we know who was responsible for the bad Cantopop covers in City Without Baseball then.

That’s it for today. More on Sunday to wrap up the weekend.

The Golden Rock - February 19th, 2009 Edition

- Japan numbers are out on Box Office Mojo. Apparently, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button only lost 11.6% of previous week’s business to take the top spot away from 20th Century Boys. However, the latter isn’t stopping too quick, losing only 28.5% of previous week’s business at just past 2 billion yen. However, at this pace, it’s slightly behind part 1, which means it’s not likely to get past that 3.5 billion yen mark. Meanwhile, High School Musical lost a surprising 46.8% of business in its second weekend, making it a bona-fide disappointment for Disney.

Meanwhile, Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon opened in Japan this past weekend. From a limited release of 8 screens, the Daniel Lee film made 5.08 million yen over 2 days. It doesn’t sound very strong, but according to Mr. Texas of Eiga Consultant blog, its Tokyo screen attracted 1359 admissions (out of a possible 1608 for its 8 shows in a 201-seat auditorium) and made 1.66 million yen, with packed shows on Saturday opening day.

- In Korea, Benjamin Button took the top spot, as expected. Meanwhile, the movie that’s making the big news is the documentary Old Partner, about an injured farmer and his ox. Started as a small indie release, it has blown up to a 200+ screen release and more than 700,000 admissions already.

More from Korea Pop Wars.

- In Chinese box office, Transporter 3 is off to a very good start, making just over 30 million yuan on opening weekend. Look For a Star is now at 89 million, and will likely pass that 100 million yuan mark. Joe Ma’s Give Love, despite being distinctly a recepient of the new Hong Kong government film fund, opened in China first and made roughly 9.5 million yuan. Cape No. 7, which finally saw its China release for Valentine’s Day, could only muster a 5th place opening of about 9 million yuan. This may be because many of its target youth audience has already downloaded the film and have no reason to go the theaters for it.

- On the Japanese Oricon charts, KAT-TUN gets their 9th consecutive number 1 single on the singles chart, while Thelma Aoyama gets her first number 1 album with her latest compilation, although I don’t know someone with just one full-length album can already have a compilation album.

More from Tokyograph.

- Coming off the moderate success of See You in Youtube, the directorial team of Seven’s (which include producer Oxide Pang, Cub Chien, and six other young directors) are back together for a school-themed film with young stars such as G.E.M., William Chan, and Siu Fey. Yikes.

- In what is likely to be a better film by a better director, Ang Lee is the latest director in talks to direct the adaptation of The Life of Pi.  Directors involved before Lee includes M. Night Shyamalan and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

- In Thailand, the cabinet has passed the controversial film ratings system, and it’s set to be in place in May. It was meant to allow greater freedoms for filmmakers, but the sketchy wording of the system and the structure of the regulatory party have found more disapproval among Thai filmmakers instead.

- Variety’s Ronnie Scheib takes a look at Takashi Miike’s Yatterman after its screening at Berlin.

- Lastly, director Tsai Ming-Liang is in Taiwan rushing to complete his latest film Face in time for the Cannes Film Festival. But first, he will have to flood several city blocks of Taipei to get there.

The Golden Rock - January 21st, 2009 Edition

With a lot of box office numbers coming in, it’ll mainly be a number crunching entry today.

-  We’ll start with the Japan box office numbers since they’re the most comprehensive. As reported yesterday, Pandemic opened at top with about 302 million yen from 324 screens. In line with what happens after a holiday weekend, grosses dropped more than usual, with The Day the Earth Stood Still taking the hardest hit with a 59.2% drop. On the other hand, the smallest drop goes to Threads of Destiny, which lost only 21.3% in business, indicating word-of-mouth traveling around its target audience. Not surprisingly, the TV drama has seen an increase in ratings since it returned after new years.

Even though Pandemic had a promising opening, Mr. Texas at Eiga Consultant reports that the film’s opening is only 67% of the last Satoshi Tsumabuki-Toho-TBS film Dororo, which ended up making 3.4 billion yen. If the trend is going to be similar, then Pandemic should end up with just a little over 2 billion yen. Then again, word-of-mouth can throw that off anytime.

- In Chinese box office, Red Cliff II dominates for a second weekend in the middle of the Chinese New Year holidays. It has now made 181 million yuan, and with If You Are the One slowing down (losing 74% of the previous week’s gross), it has a good chance of speeding past it after the new years holiday. Meanwhile, If You are the One has now made 305 million yen, which is still pretty amazing. With its momentum coming to a quick stop, it should have no chance hitting the 350 million yuan mark.

- Red Cliff II also dominated the Taiwan box office over the weekend, making a phenomenal 27 million New Taiwan Dollars this past weekend. However, part one actually performed better back in July with 42 million New Taiwan dollars over its first weekend. Meanwhile, everything else had absolutely no chance in even nearly equaling the Red Cliff numbers.

- In Korea, the pre-New Years period mean not much changes in the box office charts. The two top films are still Korean, with only one new film entering the chart at 10th place.

More over the Korea Pop Wars.

- On the Japanese Oricon charts, Ai no Mama De solidifies its new status as the benefactee of the “Kohaku effect” by finally taking the number 1 spot this week on the singles chart. Meanwhile, another compilation takes the top of the album charts. I’m sleepy, so I’m turning it over to Tokyograph for the report.

- The nominations for this year’s Asian Film Awards were announced today. The Good The Bad and the Weird managed 8 nominations, and while I was glad to see Tokyo Sonata well-represented, there were definitely some eye-popping choices. For example, were Eri Fukatsu and Vicky Zhao THAT good? If You Are the One was good, but was it only because of Feng Xiaogang, since he was nominated for Best Director, but not Best Film. Meanwhile, was Tokyo Sonata only nominated for Best Film because the film was good, but not because of director Kiyoshi Kurosawa? And Shoda Matsuda for Hana Yori Dango Final?!

On the other hand, good to see Shinichi Tsutsumi recognized for his work on Suspect X.  The awards will be handed out in March.

- Poor CCTV censors in China had to be up until past midnight in order to make sure the part in President Obama’s inauguration speech about fighting communism is edited out at just the right moment.

- Finally, China’s State Administration of Radio, Television, and Film has proposed a law that would start the film rating system in the country,  However, the lack of a rating system was not the excuse that One Night in Mongkok and Lady Cop and Papa Crook got cut, so while it might allow films with stronger content in the theaters, it doesn’t get rid of the riduculous censorship rules.

- Variety’s Derek Elley chimes in with his review of Wilson Yip’s Ip Man.

- Japan’s National Association of Commercial Broadcaster reveals that a record 55 out of 127 TV stations in Japan are losing money because of loss in revenues and the expensive switch from analog to digital broadcasting.

 
 
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