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Archive for the ‘off-topic’ Category

Are you reading closely?

As mentioned yesterday, there aren’t many news coming out, even Variety Asia seems to be taking a break. But there are still news elsewhere, and I’ll just even them out for the weekend. I might even go into my own collection a do a bit of a feature.

Watched The Prestige on DVD, better known as Christopher Nolan’s break between the Batman movies. It’s a hell of a mind-bender about two magician’s relentless pursuit to top each other. You might expect them to eventually band together and become friends, but no such luck. They get dirty all the way to the end, and they really know how to duke it out. While there’s not much real thrills to be had (much of the thrills are in the complicated puzzle the Nolan brothers and novelist Christopher Priest put together), the movie moves at a constant pace, moving forward and backward in time enough that audience participation is guaranteed. The movie is well-shot, well-acted, well-written, and even most of the final twists work (even though the sci-fi twist was a bit of a stretch). It makes me wish Nolan would do another small personal film like this before spending 2 years of huge blockbusters.

- This weekend is kind of considered a holiday weekend here in the United States, although Easter is not an official holiday. But in Hong Kong, it’s a 5-day weekend, and that means a huge weekend at the movies too. At least 7 movies open this weekend - Mr. Bean’s Holiday (which dominated world box office last weekend), Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, Luc Besson’s Arthur and the Minimoys, Happily N’ever After, Disney’s Meet the Robinsons, The Reaping (which also opens in the US this weekend), and the sole Hong Kong entry is Eric Kot’s idol comedy Super Fans.

As far as ticket sales go, my unscientific research method is showing that Mr Bean is selling like hotcakes, and Sunshine seems to be doing moderate business (probably because it’s being put on smaller screens). Super Fans seems to be doing ok as well, although I doubt it’ll make a huge dent. We’ll know the results on Tuesday.

- China has this silly rule where they would block foreign films from opening in order to allow domestic films to thrive at the box office. This happened to The Da Vinci Code last year, although some say it was pulled because the government didn’t want to piss off the Catholics, which I wouldn’t be surprised at. This year, Spiderman 3 is lucky enough to squeeze in on May 1st before the July blackout period, and they’re gonna open it on a record 500 screens. That still won’t stop the millions of pirated disc soon to flood the streets of China, though.

- Are you ready for more Self-Defense Force Zombie? I am.

- Brian’s Asian Cinama - While on the Road has two entries of reviews. For chronological order’s sake, here’s his review of the Japanese hair scare thriller Exte.

- One reason for this film scholar to go to France this May? To see Martin Scorsese give a masters class in filmmaking at the Cannes Film Festival.

- Speaking of which, Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily (which means it should be taken with a grain of salt) reports that they have asked Jet Tone directly about the status of Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights, and apparently the representative has responded it has been officially invited to open the festival, which would be an enormous honor for a Chinese director to go through. But apparently people are liking it so much that they think it should be going into competition, and that now it’s undergoing post-production. More as this develops, but it seems like no English media has picked this story up yet, so no idea how credible the report is yet.

- New York Times has a guide to Hong Kong, although it’s certainly a little to bourgeois for my taste. But hey, if it rocks your boat, go for it.

That’s it for today, hopefully more tomorrow.

It’s a comeback

- Hong Kong’s finally posted the Sunday numbers, and as predicted, those TMNT made a comeback after its dismal opening on Thursday to make HK$630,000 on 32 screens for a 4-day total of HK$1.84 million. Those 300 Spartans hold on to second place with HK$420,000 on 32 screens, but tied with the Smith family and their Pursuit of Happyness, which also made HK$420,000, but on only 16 screens. 300 has made an impressive HK$13.4 million after 18 days, and Pursuit has made HK$3.65 after 11 days.

As the only Hong Kong film left in the top 10, Danny Pang’s Forest of Death barely hangs on to a 4th place with HK$230,000 on 24 screens for a HK$2.85 million 11-day total. In limited release, Pan’s Labyrinth continues to play strongly with HK$60,000 on 4 screens on Sunday for HK$1.16 million after 18 days, while those screaming Rain fans realize I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK might just not be their cup of tea as it only earned HK$80,000 on 9 screens for HK$890,000 after 11 days.

- Speaking of box office, Eiga Consultant has declared Sakuran a relative success with 600 million yen after 28 days of release on 126 screens. Meanwhile, Hoga News has some results for other Spring break films as well.

- NHK dramas are not huge phenomenons in Japan, but really something that people watch out of habit. That’s why the daily 15-minute morning drama has scored fairly strong ratings over the years since people simply tune in everyday. But now even that staple is running into hard times as its latest drama (not clear if this is the daily morning one) scores record low ratings for its debut. Nothing is sacred these days, I tell you.

- I went to Tokyo Disneysea during my trip to Japan this past Christmas, and I was frozen. But I guess it’s comparatively warmer, otherwise it wouldn’t have attracted all these people.

- I wrote about Ping Pong director Fumihiko Sori’s new film, the animated Vexville, a while ago. Now Twitch has found some brand-new footage. Too bad I don’t care for animation much.

- Turning our attention over to South Korea, it seems like after the screen quota for Korean films was removed, the evil giant U.S. conglomerate has decided to also rape its TV industry as well by taking away the cap Korea has on foreign ownership in a broadcaster, among other things. Free trade, my ass.

- Meanwhile, Twitch has a review of the Korean blockbuster from 2006 - Tezza: The High Roller, which I’ve heard great things about, but keep managing to miss.

- One piece of news and one piece of editorial from Ming Pao:

News: Quentin Tarantino, the graverobber of Asian films, so to speak, is apparently planning to remake the martial arts classic The One-Armed Swordsman. The Chinese text as follows:

著名導演昆頓塔倫天奴上月底宣布,下一部電影將會是中國功夫片,會起用很多中國演員,雖 然會用英語對白,但肯定會配上中文字幕。他表示很久以前看過很多邵氏經典電影,對這些影片推崇備至,尤其是《獨臂刀》等作品,喜歡那種獨特的節奏感和故事 的張力。不過若他翻拍的話,會加入一些自己和現代結合緊密的元素。

Renowned director Quentin Tarantino announced last month that his next film will be a Chinese martial arts film with many Chinese actors. Even though the dialogue will be in English, he’ll definitely put on Chinese subtitles. He said that he’s seen many classic Shaw Bros. films and admire them, especially the “One-Armed Swordsman” series and its unique pacing and plot tensions. But if he is remaking it, he will infuse his own modern elements.

The original Chinese text is here.

Can’t this guy come up with his own martial arts movie without doing “homages?”

Ming Pao also has an editorial about the status of screenwriters - one of the most overlooked jobs in Hong Kong cinema. Excerpt are as follows:


There have been many market research regarding Hong Kong films in recent years, and audiences points that box office gross are low because the scripts are no good. Local scriptwriters not being treated well is one of the reasons are scripts are bad. To improve the quality of scripts, cultivating new talents is not the only solution.


Screenwriters are weaklings in the film industry, despite their important creative role. But their wages are often lower than the cinematographer, production designers, and even production crew. If they don’t take on other careers concurrently, they wouldn’t be able to survive.


Just raising screenwriters’ fees isn’t enough. The government should improve the protection of script copyrights, allowing screenwriters to get fair reward.


To a screenwriter, the screenwriters’ fees isn’t the most important thing, but rather how the script can get basic protection after its creation. Ensuring that ideas aren’t stolen can protect copyrights and allow for a healthy bonus system. Even if the fee is zero, it would attract many more people to participate (in screenwriting).


How can people create under an unfair system?


A good script isn’t bought simply with money. A good creative environment is really the most important thing.

Original Chinese text is here.

Remember a superstar

Another month, another new beginning. If you noticed, the profile has been updated.

- The Hong Kong customs have been desperate in catching those Bittorrent pirates. They’ve been trying to save time and money by implementing a new automated system to catch who’s uploading and who’s downloading. This is the result.

- While Johnnie To’s Election series is a masterpiece unto itself, I don’t know why Tartan bought it and thought people would like the second film better. It asks for more patience, it moves slower, and it requires character background. The first film is a mixture of a tight thriller and involving look at triad politics, and it’s a better blend of commercial and the arts. Anyway, it seems like Tartan has decided to release both films at once, at least in New York, where out of five showings, one will be for Election 1, and the other 4 for Election 2.

- Twitch went to the AFI Dallas Film Festival, and Peter Martin has a slew of reviews from it.

- Professor Bordwell has checked in with two new reports - one is film-oriented, the other is not. Both are equally interesting.

- DJ Ozma is known in Japan as the man who managed to make Kohaku (the annual singing extravaganza on New Year’s Eve for who-knows-how-many-years-running) show entertaining by getting all his female dancers into naked body suits and wearing a dildo on stage (more details, including video, here). Apparently, this year the parks of Tokyo are selling said body suits during Hanami (the yearly period when people gather to look at blooming sakura and get trashed like it’s 1999).

- Grindhouse is coming out next week, and the faux-trailer by Hostel director Eli Roth is already online.

- An official release date for the modern-day pink film The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai has been announced.

I took this shot from a TV just above the streets of Shinjuku on my trip. I thought it was weird how they had a random cell phone ad of Cameron Diaz talking on the phone. I mean, considering how much Cameron got paid for the commercial, I’m not surprised why she took it. I guess people would want to use Softbank phones more if Cameron Diaz uses it?

Anyway, Tokyo Times offers another shot, this time on a billboard and I’m guessing that’s Akihabara.

Next, best of the week, and a special song of the day

Death Note 2 review, and nearing the milestone

This is the 99th post of the Golden Rock, which I am quite proud of. I suppose a state of the blog is in order as well, then:

The blog started in mid-December of 2006, with a goal to be a source of just news that interests me and some number crunching that not a lot of Asian cinema blogs do. It started at an average of only a few readers a day (when I was on vacation, there was actually a day when nobody visited), and now it’s averaging roughly 60. It’s not a particularly huge number, but it’s a pretty good increase over 3 months, considering about 50% of my visitors are new. I’m glad to have started this blog, and I’m glad to keep doing it. Thanks for reading, and let’s keep on truckin’.

- Watched the second half of the Death Note saga last night. Again, having no knowledge of the manga nor the anime whatsoever, I am only judging this as a film. Maybe that makes me more qualified, or that makes me less qualified, I don’t know. I don’t care that they’re trying to cram in from the source material to satisfy fans, I just wanted to watch a movie. And with that:

Why didn’t they just make a drama out of this?

Death Note has a pretty cool Gothic concept - Notebook dumped onto earth by a God of Death, self-righteous human picks it up and begins to kill people with it. It inspires fear for criminals and hope for people. How dark, how bizarre, how cool. Then they had to add the detective elements; the mind games, the chess-playing, and the talking. The endless talking. If I were to sum up all the scenes between our bad/good guy Kira (owner of the Death Notebook) and strange detective L, it might go like this:

Kira: “I want to capture Kira.”
L: “But you are Kira.”
Kira: “I am not.”
L: “I hope you’re not”
Kira: “Great, let’s capture Kira together.”
L: “….but you are Kira.”
Kira: “…..and I’m going to kill you.”

In the first film, it took director Shusuke Kaneko 2 hours of screen time to set up the heart of the story - the head-to-head match between Kira and L. In the second film, it took him 2 hours and 15 minutes to, well…..make it not much of anything. One of the more suspenseful parts of the first film was seeing how Kira’s clever scheming helped him get away, although I mentioned I didn’t know whether that was the original creators’ work or the film’s screenwriters’. In “The Last Name” (That’s the title of the second film), a second and third (!) Kira are established, killing more people than ever, but it all gets a bit tiresome. How many more scenes of people talking about the ethics of Kira do we need before the filmmakers can pat themselves on the back for asking “the tough questions?”

Back to the schemings. “The Last Name” takes Kira’s schemes to a whole new level - he would do something, and you won’t even find out until 30 minutes of screen time later just what the hell he was up to. It was clever in the first film when it didn’t take that long to find out what really happened, but it just seems a bit too much in the second film. True, the stakes are higher, so the schemes need to go further, but how unbelievably smart are these people supposed to be for them to do so much damn scheming? The review linked above pointed out that nearly everything that happens in the film happened in the manga, but is that needed? While an adaptation can satisfy fans by including everything, if you still can’t include everything with 4 and a half hours of screen time, you just have to get creative and get the story across in a simpler way. Cramming everything from the original shows that you like the manga, but a more creative filmmaker would make the adaptation stand on its own.

So is Death Note: The Last Name better than its predecessor? Can’t really answer that, since they’re really one film split into two, but the Death Note saga as a whole is only a pleasing commercial effort thanks to its concept. It’s a routine adaptation with uninspired acting, directing, and some clever screenwriting in between. It’s not something worth running out to see if you have no familiarity with the original work, but it’s not a bad way to occupy a couple of hours just to see that Japanese commercial cinema can be just as mediocre as American ones.

And now, on to the news:

- There’s still reports coming from Variety about Hong Kong’s Filmart (which wrapped last week), mostly just new distribution deals. If you’re in Japan, you’ll be glad to know the Daniel Henney invasion is coming your way in the form of Seducing Mr. Perfect, one of the films I reviewed for Yesasia this month.

- Los Angeles is a great down for movies (duh), and here are a few reasons why.

- Yunjin Kim, who many may know as the Korean woman from Lost, really caught my eye from the Korean blockbuster Shiri. For some reason, I never really saw her in another film until she showed up on Lost (she did appear in Korean films before that - just ones I haven’t seen). Anyway, in a bit of homecoming, she’s been casted in the Korean crime thriller Seven Days. I don’t know if the film will be any good, but I wonder if Lost will make this film any more successful that it would’ve been.

- So what’s the best way to beat a movie you want to protest against? In India, they seem to have found the answer to be: Just ignore it.

- Apparently, The Host has become the fastest Korean film to reach the $1 million mark in the United States box office. That’s because Korean films have a history of not doing too well here. Oh, well, a good thing is a good thing, I guess.

- Oricon rankings are out. On the singles side, Utada Hikaru’s Flavor of Life, as predicted, fell to third place behind new singles by boy band News and pop group (I think they’re a man band) Kobukuro’s latest, which also served as the theme song for the drama version of Tokyo Tower.

As for the album ranking, Mr. Children hangs on for the second week, but after a huge drop to 180,000 copies after last week’s 680,000 copies sold. Mika Nakashima’s latest also hangs on for a third place for its second week, while Koda Kumi’s compilation (the album that beat Mika last week) drops to 5th behind Exile. After the firing of one of its own, Morning Musume’s latest, the creepily named “Sexy 8 Beat” (considering most of the members are even adults yet), could only muster an 8th place debut.

- Eiga Consultant analyzed the flop that is the fable Argentine Hag (Japan Times reviewed it two weekends ago). Hoga News has a translation, so I’ll let it speak for itself.

- Hoga News also reports about the directorial debut of comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto (half of the comedy duo Downtown that hosts the hit music show Hey Hey Hey AND does those “No laugh or get beat” games). Details are sparse, but the title is “Dai Nippon Jin” (or Big Japanese Person, or Super Japanese Person. Either way, the translation is open to interpretation), and it’ll open on the same day as Takeshi Kitano’s latest “Kantoku Banzai!” Joint marketing, I smell…

- Twitch has a clip to the press conference done for Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip’s latest Flashpoint. Don’t worry, the only reason I’m mentioning it is because it has footage. Good ones, too! It’s looking like this will be Wilson Yip’s attempt to emulate John Woo, so it might just be a lot of fun.

- India has started its own version of the Academy Awards, and what do they do at the launch? Talk about global warming, of course.

- A few weeks ago, Lovehkfilm mentioned that their “most underrated performance” award to Andrew Lin Hoi for The Heavenly Kings was actually noticed by the man himself. Turns out it didn’t stop there - they actually met up and Kozo presented him with a real award!

- I waited for a few days to post this - not on purpose, of course, I simply forgot - but here’s Jeffery Wells’ well-written review (certainly far better than what I wrote up there for Death Note) of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino trashfest Grindhouse.

- I enjoyed Brian Helgeland’s revenge flick Payback, starring Mel Gibson. I didn’t think it was a masterpiece or anything, but it was enjoyable enough. Turns out it was meant to be a complete thing altogether, as apparent by the review of the soon-to-be-released director’s cut on DVD. It’s not just another one of those director’s cut that adds a couple of minutes. No, the entire palate was redone, the whole third act was redone, and it’s like another movie altogether. It might just be worth checking out.

Next, the 100th entry, which is the song of the day.

Film’s a business Part 2

My main news source Variety Asia is flooded with Hong Kong Filmart news, and here’s a small round-up from the first day:

- On the heels of HK Filmart’s successful expansion into the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo, Japan will have its first Asia Contents Market in Osaka and Kyoto at the end of September. The market will be focused on CG, animation, and digital cinema, catering mostly to the domestic market. It will be part of the Japan International Contents Festival, which include the Tokyo Game Show and the Tokyo International Film Festival (which starting last year, have begun to focus on exhibiting more obscure films).

- HK film production company Universe, having just joined the international sellers market at Berlin, is a huge presence at the Filmart. With at least Benny Chan’s latest, Johnnie To’s “Sparrow,” and new films by the Pang Brothers, it has added two mores films to its slate at Filmart - both medium-budgeted films by lesser-known talents, which has got to be a good thing.

- In addition to Universe, Emperor Motion Pictures has also announced a myriad of projects, many of which are Chinese co-productions (gags). It has also announced the hiring of Peggy Chiao, who is widely recognized as the mother of New Taiwan Cinema, as Production Controller. Does quality control come with that title?

- Variety Asia also rounds up the first seminar at Filmart, which was about the profitability of low-to-mid budget films, in light of the Hong Kong government’s recently-announced subsidy for these low-to-mid-budget films in order to encourage new talent. For those who are interested in the future of Hong Kong films, this is a good read.

In other news:

- I mentioned Susie Au and Ming Ming here before, though not in detail. It’s shown at the Hong Kong Filmart, and Twitch has what is probably its first English review. From this quote, I thought I was going to hate it: “Rather than surpress her stylistic urges she has further developed them, using every trick in her extensive book to try and create a new language of cinema.” But as I read along, it got gradually more promising, and now I’m honestly kinda looking forward to how it turns out.

- People who have followed this blog knows how critical I can be of Chinese censorship (Then again, I’m critical of a lot of other things too), so I hope that I never have to write this blog from China, because it seems like the government is going arrest-crazy again with cyber dissidents. Educators who blog criticizing the education system gets fired, editors of online news sites get 6 years of jail time, and so on and so on. Just how many more lives will the government have to ruin and how much authority has to be abused before China turns into total fascism?

- Lovehkfilm’s Sanjuro has a look at what’s in store in the Lovehkfilm pipeline. I have a few reviews coming up myself as well, most of them being Korean films that is already on Yesasia and, except for Ad Lib Night, aren’t really anything to get excited about.

- Meanwhile, Sanney Leung, former webmaster of Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review, chimed in with his review of Edmond Pang’s Isabella - in diary form! I don’t agree totally (I felt the emotions, but maybe it just pushed a button in me or something, or because I was just really wanted to like it for Edmond Pang’s sake).

- I mentioned Justin Lin’s latest Finishing the Game a few entries ago, and now Twitch has a report on its premiere at the opening night of the San Francisco Asian Film Festival. It features an interview with Survivor winner Yul Kwon and the cast and crew. Quite a good read, particularly about Asian American issues.

- And just how many films about the Nanjing massacre has to be made? Apparently now the count is up to 4 - you got the International co-production based on the Iris Chang book, the Japanese documentary set to present the “truth” about the massacre, the documentary that premiered at Sundance, and now China has approved one more Nanjing film to be made by director Yim Ho, whose Pavilion of Women I watched for about 10 minutes before I couldn’t stood it any longer and called it quits. I bet all of these movies will balance each other out and just make no money whatsoever.

- Moving to Hollywood, we have Variety’s review of the horribly titled Disturbia, which is essentially an uncredited Rear Window update in suburbia with less talented actors and none of that Mulvey male gaze stuff that Rear Window was made famous for. I’m honestly surprised it got a good review. I still won’t go watch it though.

- I’m a fan of Kevin Smith, and if that gives me less credibility as a film scholar, then so be it. Anyway, it’s no secret that he wrote a script for a Green Hornet movie that he turned down the directing job for. Now that it’s no longer at the Weinstein company, Sony has picked it up, and it will NOT be using the Kevin Smith script. I’ve never read Smith’s comics, but knowing that Smith is the big comic fan that he is, I would think that he probably crafted a pretty solid script (although being a loyal subject of the Weinstein regime it probably helped it get greenlit too). It’s too bad it’ll never see the light of day.

- Lastly, as an off-topic kind of thing. If you want to know how young Japanese women from age 20-34 think, you should at least go to their favorite websites. You’ll thank me later.

Extra large Monday edition

Having been lazy for the last couple of days about blogging, I feel somewhat obligated to deliver more news today.

- The Pang Bros.’ Hollywood debut The Messengers (although not completely their film - Producer Sam Raimi reportedly brought in another director to reshoot a couple of scenes after filming ended) debut at no. 1 with 14.7 million dollars at the box office, marking the 5th best Super Bowl opening of all time. Reviews have been mostly negative, even though I thought Variety’s review was leaning towards the positive side, and it still got a rotten tomato.

In other box office news, Letters From Iwo Jima sinks 9% this weekend, despite a screen expansion. Sadly, the multiple Oscar nominee will limp to get to the 10 million-mark, unless Flags of Our Fathers’ DVD release this week help boost box office takes. I doubt Warner Bros. is worried, though, since it’ll make 40 million dollars in Japan alone. That’s double its budget.

Meanwhile, Babel and Children of Men are in a virtual freefall now. Especially sad is Children of Men, which has gotten great acclaim, word-of-mouth, and even Oscar nominations, only to earn back less than half of its budget in the States. On the other hand, good news for Pan’s Labyrinth, which has now apparently becoming the highest-grossing Spanish-language film in the States (sans inflation).

Source: Box Office Mojo.

- Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, new opener House of Mahjong has inexplicably become the number 1 film this weekend, earning HK$410,000 on 29 screens on Sunday for a 1.52 million gross after 4 days. Even the Project Greenlight film Feast opened at third place with a solid 260,000 on 23 screens on Sunday for a 1.01 million total so far, even though the version in Hong Kong theatres is reportedly only 87 minutes long, suggesting a 8-minute trim for a friendlier category II-B rating.

Blood Diamond continues to stay strong at second place with a inflated 370,000 take on 31 screens on Sunday with a 7.71 million total as it draws closer to being first 2007 10-million earner in Hong Kong. It might happen, it might not, who cares?

In limited releases, Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering, which is also doing decent but not great limited release business in the States, managed to make HK$150,000 on 7 screens on Sunday for a HK$560,000 total. The biggest limited release opener, though, is the 2-screen opening of Borat. It made an extraordinary 90,000 on only 2 screens for a 280,000 total so far.

Source:, Broadway Cinemas

- There was a test screening for Derek Yee’s new work Protege last week, and results were generally positive. In the post-screening Q&A, Yee also laments the decline of Hong Kong films, citing the recent incident where citizens called in to complain about a broadcast of the classic film An Autumn’s Tale because of the scene where the Chow Yun-Fat character swears in a scene of road rage played for laughs.

Source is from the Oriental Daily newspaper from Hong Kong, but they change their online content everyday, so there’s no longer any official source.

- Additional review for Japanese blockbuster Dororo. Last week I posted a negative review, so now here comes a positive review for the usually-reliable (at least when it comes to Japanese films) Mark Schilling at Japan Times.

- Speaking of reviews, four new reviews for the month are up:
Joey Yung - Close Up (music)
Miriam Yeung - Unlimited (music)
Like a Virgin (Korea)
Live Good (aka: Mission Sex Control) (Korea)

- I like the Colbert Report. Unlike The Daily Show’s sometimes-liberal slant on its skewering of news, The Colbert Report is a sharp satire of the so-called fair and balanced Fox News and other right-wing news shows. So why am I talking about Colbert, you ask? Because he recently did a segment on this year’s Academy Awards and how it’s destroying America. Trust me, it’s funnier than it sounds.

Watch it here.

More tomorrow, hopefully, when the Japanese box office results may come out. What can I say? I live by Box Office Mojo, and so should you. Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen