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Archive for the ‘review’ Category

The Golden Rock - July 22nd, 2009 Edition

- As always, we’ll start with some number crunching. This time, it’s the Japanese Summer 2009 drama ratings. The Fuji Monday night 9pm drama Buzzer Beat premiered with a dismal 15.5% rating, which is reportedly the second-worst premiere rating ever for that time slot. Even last season’s disaster Kankatsu! premiered with a 16.3% rating. Nevertheless, it didn’t lose too much audience in its second week, and its season average is already better than Kankatsu! over the same period.

Not so good news for SMAP’s Tsuyoshi Kusanagi’s drama Ninkyo Helper, which dropped to a 13.8% rating for its second week after the excellent 17.5% premiere rating.  Will this be the second consecutive season with a SMAP flop?

Kareinaru Spy, the new drama from Bayside Shakedown creator Ryoichi Kimizuka starring Tokio front man Tomoya Nagase and Kyoko Fukuda, premiered with an OK 15.6% rating. However, not sure if its tongue-in-cheek style will keep the audiences around. Meanwhile, Call Center no Koibito dropped to a depressing 5.6% in its third week, while Kanryotachi no Natsu rose slightly back up with a 10.6% rating.

Also playing on Tuesday nights are the “special episodes” of Emergency Room 24 Hours while leading man Yosuke Eguchi recovers from his motorcycle accident injuries. The first episode last week got a 13.1% rating, and this week’s episode got a 15% rating. With the anticipation from the delay, this might beat out everything else to become this summer’s ratings champion. Why didn’t Fuji put it into the Monday 9pm slot, like it did with series 3 back in 2005?

In other drama news, hit detective drama Aibou will be coming back for an 8th season, despite the departure of co-leading man Yasufumi Terawaki during the 7th season. Then again, with the 7th season getting its best ratings ever, it’s a no-brainer for TV Asahi.

- And more ratings news coming out of Hong Kong. The two major free-to-air channels launched their new talent shows - The Voice for TVB and HK Edition of Taiwanese hit A Million Stars on ATV - on the same night, and while the 26 points rating for TVB is disappointing consider how well the Sandra Ng talk show did before in that time slot, ATV is ecstatic about its 8 points rating, because it’s double the viewers they usually get for that slot.

Meanwhile, The Voice is also coming under criticism by viewers for plagiarizing A Million Stars, but that’s just gossip, so I won’t go any further.

- As for the Japanese Oricon music charts, the ridiculously-named Johnny’s group NYC Boys/Yuma Nakayama (I’m pretty sure none of them are from New York City) scored their first #1 single. They also broke the record for the youngest group with a #1 single, since the average age of the group is 14.6 years old. Meanwhile, the group Tegomass saw their debut album go #1.

More at Tokyograph

-  No numbers yet, but a box office blog from Japan reports that Harry Potter has already made 2.2 billion yen (roughly US$22 million) over the Wednesday-Monday period from 860 (!) screens, Pokemon made over 672 million yen over its first two days on 366 screens, and Fuji TV’s Amalfi made a respectable 377 million yen from 357 screens over its first two days.

- Turning Point, the spin-off/prequel from the TVB drama E.U. directed by Herman Yau that marks the first collaboration between the TV conglomerate and Shaw Brothers, now has a trailer on the official site.  You’ll need Quicktime to watch it.

I didn’t watch the drama, but what I know is that the film is based on the character Laughing, played by Young and Dangerous veteran Michael Tse, a gang member who is revealed to be an undercover cop. His character, only a supporting one, was so popular that the facebook group named after the character soared to 150,000 members after his character’s death on the show.

The film opens on August 13th, and I guess I’ll still go watch it.

Note: An informant from inside TVB told me that when the poster design guys were designing the poster for the film, they had the Infernal Affairs poster opened on the computer for “reference”. Go figure.

- Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Film blog reports that Herman Yau is already working on a new film, which may be a dark comedy based on its Chinese name, a wordplay off the Chinese title of the horror series Final Destination. The cast includes pop stars Kay Tse, Stephanie Chang, Fama, Andy Hui, and even MC Jin.

-  It’s film festival news time! In addition to Japanese actor/director Hitoshi Matsumoto’s latest film premiering there, Thai films like Ong Bak 2 (part of the the Midnight program) and a short film as a part of an omnibus will also be featured at the festival.

Jason Gray writes about the stuff he’s seen at the just-ended Skip City Film Festival and the just-opened Pia Film Festival.

The three Chinese films that were supposed to be at the Melbourne Film Festival have all pulled out - producer Chow Keung pulled Jia Zhangke’s short film Cry Me a River and his wife’s film Perfect Life from the festival in objection to the presence of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer and the festival’s decision to premiere the documentary 10 Conditions of Love, about Kadeer, despite demands from the Chinese consular to pull it. Also, the documentary Petition was also withdrawn, possibly to not add fuel to the fire.

Lou Ye’s Cannes competition film Spring Fever will be opening the Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

-It’s trailers time! Twitch has the first, over-cgi-ed trailer of the espionage film The Message, which will opened in time for the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Communist China along with the super-duper Chinese superstar extravaganza where almost every actor got paid nothing for acting in order to secure their career in China as their patriotic duty and joke about having only single-digit amount of lines.

Nippon Cinema has the trailer to the third and final installment of the 20th Century Boys trilogy. But if you haven’t seen the first two films, I suggest you not watch this trailer.

Twitch also has new footage of Imagi Studio’s Astro Boy that was shown on a Japanese morning news show. However, the host failed to mention that even though it was financed by an American studio, Imagi Studios is based in Hong Kong.

- WiseKwai has more information about the just-announced sequel to the horror omnibus 4Bia, which will offer five short films instead of four.

-Under “what’s next for that director?” news today, Japanese director Mamoru Oshii will be taking his short films Assault Girls, which he put in two omnibus films, and giving them the feature-length treatment. The Assault Girls in both short films, including Rinko Kikuchi, will return for the feature film.

-I’m confused now: Singaporean production company Boku films will be footing part of the bill for the Korean sequel of the monster hit The Host, even though there’s no director. On the other hand, Crazy Stone director Ning Hao is working on the Chinese sequel, which the producers don’t want to call Host 2. Why does The Host need two sequels? You don’t have to answer me, I just remembered how much money it made.

- The Hollywood Reporter has a review of the Korean girls high school horror film A Blood Pledge by Maggie Lee.

The Golden Rock - July 13th, 2009 Edition

Possibly a slow news day in the entertainment world. It’ll be a short entry today:

- Lovehkfilm has updated with some new reviews: Boss Kozo looks at the disaster that is Roy Chow’s Murderer, schlock C-grade horror action film Blood: The Last Vampire, and the Taiwanese film Yang Yang.Meanwhile, Sanjuro looks at Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s debut film The Guard From the Underground and yours truly look at the Korean independent film One Shining Day.

- As expected, the Gokusen movie ruled the Japanese box office over the weekend in the admission rankingsIt made about 490 million yen from 409 screens. Toho expects that it’ll make about 4 billion yen when it’s all said and done, which is not too bad at all. However, for a drama that has scored an average of 22.7% over three seasons, it’s certainly much weaker than Rookies, whose film version opened with 1.2 billion yen from 428 screens after the drama had a season average of 14.8% last Spring.

Meanwhile, Knowing opened in 3rd place, and Monsters Vs. Aliens opened only at 7th place, though with the higher ticket price, it’s sure to go up by the time the numbers are out. And in its second weekend, MW has already dropped to 9th place, surely a disappointment for all involved.

- And according to Wise Kwai’s Twitter, Transformers 2 has now surpassed the box office record set by Titanic in Thailand. And a bit of hope for humanity is gone as well.

- In Spring 2009 Japanese drama ratings, Takuya Kimura’s Mr. Brain wraps up its short run with just a 20.7% rating for its final episode, giving it an average of 20.1%. This is the lowest season average rating for a KimuTaku drama since Gift back in 1997. Even though it’s the season’s highest-rated drama, the relatively large budget (guest stars, sets, special effects, the actors) certainly makes this a bit of a disappointment.

For Summer 2009, Ninkyo Helper, starring Tsuyoshi “nothing wrong being naked” Kusanagi, got off to a strong start with a 17.5% rating (especially considering how hard the My Sassy Girl drama flopped). On the other hand, Kanryo-tachi no Natsu suffered a huge drop from its 14.5%-rating premiere to a 9.1% rating for its second week. Not shaping up to be a great season already.

-  At the Taipei Film Festival, Leon Dai’s No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti took four awards, including the Grand Prize.

- Like Hong Kong, people in the Taiwanese film industry are now looking to China to develop their long-dormant commercial film industry. That’s how films like Kung Fu Dunk get made, people.

- Don’t know how the Twtich writer got to see it, but there’s a review for Francis Ng’s Tracing Shadow there anyway.

Shooting has begun for Takashi Miike’s Thirteen Assassins, but they’re apparently shooting in an unexplored part of Japan, because Yamagature Prefecture definitely doesn’t exist on any map. Didn’t know screenplay is written by Daisuke Tengan, son of Shohei Imamura and a director as well.

- It’s trailers time! Twitch has the teaser for the new Jija “Chocolate” Yanin movie Raging Phoenix. Definitely not the same movie as Chocolate.

Want to see what the ex-Deputy Director of China’s film agency SARFT is doing? He produced Looking For Jackie, which is being bashed on Mainland audiences on the film opinion site Douban right now.

Yes, it’s that Jackie.

- As Jason Gray mentioned on his blogMidnight Eye has updated with some new reviews, including Kore-eda’s latest.

Murdering Murderer

As a Chinese person, if I sat down in a movie theater and saw a movie with Caucasian actors taping their eyes to appear slanted speaking fake “ching-chong” Chinese and making each other eat “fried lice” for 120 minutes, I would only have half the anger and shock I did coming out of Roy Chow’s Murderer.

murderer.jpg

“Bet you didn’t know this movie sucks when you paid for it.”

I apologize for calling Roy Chow “Andy Chow” when I posted the trailer, by the way. But I will not apologize for this review.First, the relative pros: Horror fans will like the gore. The movie has some very unsettling and very violent scenes, and it makes for a fairly unpleasant viewing experience, if you like that kind of thing. Aaron Kwok was also OK, although he certainly am vying for getting his picture under “trying too hard” in the dictionary.

Yes, I know that’s not a word in the dictionary.

But never have I seen a film that falls so far off the cliff that it drilled a 50-feet crater into the ground. It tries so hard to find its way out, but it just digs itself deeper and deeper.

On the website of the film, the crew section is called the “perpetrator” section, and it’s certainly right of them to do so: The cinematic crime they have committed earns them the right to be labeled as criminals.

And yet, despite the immensely idiotic twist provided by scriptwriter Christine To Chi-Long, I can’t completely blame her for this mess. As a semi-experienced screenwriter, I know that no movie is ever made from one draft. A movie, especially one as commercial as this, has producers and even the director to have the logic and the correct judgment to know when something on paper will just not work. For co-producer Bill Kong and director Roy Chow to not even consider how moronic its film’s third act is puts them equally at fault for this mess.

Roy Chow was on Ang Lee’s assistant on Lust, Caution (a fact endlessly hyped by Edko’s publicity department, as if it means more than delivering coffee and calling for cars), and Lee is put under the “special thanks” section in the credits. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee only read about 80 pages of the script, and I definitely won’t be surprised if he ends up calling Chow wanting his name removed from this movie.

I was angry at Transformers 2 for its juvenile humor and its complete waste of US$200 million when that money could’ve gone not blowing things up good. I am angrier at this because even HK$0.1 was even spent in putting this movie on film when there are actually talented people out there who could’ve taken the potential this film had and made something coherent out of it.

This certainly won’t damage the career of seasoned professionals like cinematographer Lee Ping-Bing, editor Cheung Ka-Fai. and composer Shigeru Umebayashi because they did their best with what they had, and I’m sure even they laughed boisterously when they saw what they had to work with. The problem is this won’t even damage the careers of Chow (who’s also the Project Development Director of Edko Films) or To (whose last several produced scripts are all released by Edko).

I can only hope the word-of-mouth will be so bad that it will result in one of the largest second-week drops in Hong Kong cinema history. As the audience was leaving, two HK-ers passed by Sean Tierney, who was sitting next to me, and said to him in English, “so sh*t!”, which prompted Mr. Tierney to not only agree, but to raise them with a “double sh*t”.

I hope logical HK audiences would agree with this assessment, but from reading the Uwant forums, people seem to like the movie simply because they couldn’t guess who the murderer is.

I never thought eating cow dung would be a good idea, but eating it because no one would expect me to eat it doesn’t make me a culinary genius, either.

But if I had to guess what cow dung tastes like, I’d take in a screening of Murderer.

I did, and I can tell you it’s no gourmet.

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 - June 21st, 2009 Edition

Not a lot of news for the weekend, but here ya go:

- China tells google to stop exposing foreign porn to their country. Yes, from now on, only domestic, social harmony-promoting porn!

- Mark Schilling has a review of Yuichi Sato’s Shugo Tenshi for the Japan Times. Sato last made the acclaimed comedy Kirasagi, except it’s damn near impossible to get ahold of it with English subtitles. Time to make a trip to Shenzhen?

And yes, Schilling is right that the basic premise, despite the tagline about courage and hope in the trailer, is still kind of creepy.

- Another trailer this week caught my attention, thanks to Nippon Cinema. It’s the trailer for Nanyoku Ryorinin, based on two autobiographical novels about a chef at a Japanese research station in the South Pole. Looks like Naoko Ogigami’s The Seagull Diner in the South Pole? Then again, there’s that damn evil Masato Sakai smirk, even though he’s playing a nice guy.

- Twitch has a short one-minute clip from the set of Yuen Wo-Ping’s new film True Legend, starring Chiu Man-Cheuk, Michelle Yeoh, and Jay Chou and about the famous Beggar So. I can’t help but shake the thought that they got Chiu Man-Cheuk because they couldn’t get DONNNNIIIEEEEE.

FYI: Stephen Chow and director Gordon Chan have done a version of this story in 1992’s King of Beggars.

- This weekend’s Daily Yomiuri talks to Japanese music group Dragon Ash, who are releasing a compilation of their biggest hits, but don’t call them a pop group, though - they sound like they can kick my ass.

- More on Danny Boyle’s stint as Shanghai International Film Festival jury head: He calls Chinese film censorship “regrettable”. Is that really news?

- Also from the Shanghai International Film Festival is a review of Chinese film A Tale of Two Donkeys by Veriety’s Derek Elley. Sounds like an interesting flick, if the Cultural Revolution background can get past the censors.

- Daily Yomiuri TV columnist Wm. Penn laments this week on Teleview about the quality of Japanese news and reveals that the 4th installment of drama Emergency Room 24 Hours will be delayed.

- Lastly, the Youtube clip of the week in Hong Kong netizen world, but only Mandarin and Cantonese speakers need to apply: I present to you the reason why Louis Koo should keep doing ads in Hong Kong.

The Golden Rock - June 18th, 2009 Edition

And here comes another attempt at a news post.

- The Japanese box office numbers are out. Turns out Box Office Mojo didn’t include the officially announced version of the Terminator 4 opening numbers. Instead, Rookie’s amazing third week take of roughly 815 million yen kept it in first place and bumped Terminator to 2nd place instead. Eiga Consultant also reports that Terminator’s opening weekend is only 53% of Terminator 3’s opening in Japan. However, there’s also the 400 million yen it made with sneak previews, which begs the question whether this Terminator’s opening would’ve been stronger had there been no sneak previews the week before?

Also worth noting is the amazing limited opening of Tsurugidake, the mountain climbing film that marks the directorial debut of veteran cinematographer Daisaku Kimura. On three screens in the Toyama area, the film attracted 14,275 people for a total of 15.25 million yen take. That’s a per-screen average of 5.08 million yen, which is almost unheard of anywhere in the world.

- Under “Japanese music news” today, Girl Next Door’s latest single hits first place, while GReeeeN’s third album finds the biggest album debut of the year on the charts, and they managed to do so without any public appearance whatsoever.

More over at Tokyograph

Even though Exile is now the best-selling Japanese pop unit in the first half year for the second year in a row, Mr. Children and Arashi actually have the best-selling album and single, respectively.

- The projects market at the Shanghai International Film Festival has wrapped up, with a Chinese and a Korean project taking the two top prizes.

- Japanese lawmakers have taken another step to stop illegal downloading by revising copyright laws to make downloading pirated material a punishable crime starting January 1st. So downloaders in Japan - it’s time to download to your heart’s content for the rest of the year….then not encounter any type of punishment at all for breaking the law.

- Untold Scandal director E J-Yong has put together a large female ensemble cast for his latest film, about six actresses who meet at a photo shoot. The actresses will be acting under their real names, though maybe not as themselves.

- After helping NHK to a ratings victory with the period drama Atsuhime, writer Kumiko Tabuchi will be writing the public broadcaster’s 2011 yearly period drama. Like Atsuhime, its central character will be female, but no casting decision will be made until next year.

-Last year, it was the Olympics. This year, with the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, there are not a lot of Chinese films coming out in the summer. Guess who’s there to fill the void? American alien robots and pretty boy vampires.

- Speaking of Westerners in Hollywood, Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle is in Shanghai as the head of the Shanghai International Film Festival jury, which he admits he’s doing as a sign of appreciation to China for allowing Slumdog to be released in the country.

- Also in film festival news: Just as the Japanese tearjerker April Bride was confirmed to play at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, the festival has also announced that it will open with M.W., the adaptation of the Osamu Tezuka comic.

- After SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi was pulled as the spokesman for the government’s digital broadcast conversion campaign, fellow member Shingo Katori will be appearing on police promotional posters, thanks to his latest drama leading role.

- Twitch has a full-length trailer for the big-budget Korean disaster film Haeundae, and it just looks like a Michael Bay film with the trailer emphasizing all the comedic bits. But is it really looking like a comedy? Not really.

- Lastly, Variety’s Justin Chang has a review for the documentary Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, about the role of insects in Japanese culture.

The Golden Rock - June 16th, 2009 Edition

And now, another attempt to salvage this blog - another news entry.

- First, let’s look at the Hong Kong weekly box office numbers. Star Trek finally took first place after losing to Terminator over its opening weekend, thanks to what I assume is very good word-of-mouth and a lack of a similarly high-profile film opening. After making HK$3.53 million over the first four days, the sci-fi franchise reboot made another HK$3.62 million in its first full week, comfortably beating Terminator 4, which has made HK$16.4 million after 18 days. Star Trek, on the other hand, has made HK$7.16 after 11. With Transformers not hitting the screen for another week, Star Trek should comfortably break the HK$10 million mark.

Targeting the female adult demographic, Coco Before Chanel did fairly well in its modest 18-screen release. Over four days, the French film made HK$1.9 million, which is very good coming from just 18 screens. Even Julia Roberts and Clive Owen’s Duplicity couldn’t touch it, despite being on 24 screens. The Tony Gilroy heist comedy made just HK$1.56 million over its first 4 days.

But at least Duplicity’s weak weekeend is nowhere near the disastrous proportion of the opening for Yu Lik-Wai’s Plastic City. Despite heavy promotion by investor/distributor Sundream Picture, the Panasian crime film made only HK$236,000 from 18 screens over 4 days. And they didn’t even show the artsy fartsy stuff in the trailers!

Also extremely weak is the opening for the Japanese disaster film 252 Signal of Life. Opening on 23 screens with no English subtitles (an exception rather than the rule here in Hong Kong), it only made HK$895,000 over its first 4 days.

- At the Japanese box office, clever accounting helped put Terminator 4 at the top spot with 1.02 billion yen. Instead of reporting that it made 592 million yen over its first two days (which is not a bad number at all, mind you), it also added the 429 million yen it made from sneak preview screenings last week. Of course, it bumped off two-week champ Rookies the Movie, which has now surpassed 4 million admissions andnow heading for the 5 billion yen mark.

Meanwhile, the World War II submarine flick Battle Under Orion opened at 4th place as the only other opener in the top 10, and Darren Aronofsy’s The Wrestler opened 37 screens for an OK 19,846,300 yen take. The film also coincidentally opened the same weekend that Japanese wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa tragically died on the wrestling ring. Thankfully, the Nikkatsu doesn’t seem to be cashing in on it….yet.

Sources: Box Office Japan, Box Office Gross Blog (in Japanese)

- In Korea, the crime thriller Running Turtle tops the box office as Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother falls to 4th place in its 3rd weekend. With 2.6 admissions, it seems like a good number, but it’s certainly somewhat disappointing considering Bong’s track record. Blood also deservedly flops at 7th place.

More at Korea Pop Wars

- Speaking of Blood: The Last Vampire, the Hollywood trades have chimed in with reviews: one from Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee and one from Variety’s Peter Debruge.

- China’s Huayi Brothers Studio, which must be swimming in money after the success of If You’re The One, has signed a deal with Imax to co-produce three movies. The first of them will be Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock. Not sure if these films will get to shoot with the Imax cameras, or if this will only include the remastering process.

- Also in Korea, Michael Bay has made a public apology to the Korean public, but not for making movies.

- At the Shanghai Film Festival, America’s MPAA Chairman speaks like a broken record and tries to convince China to open up its film market to foreign films. By foreign films, I’m pretty sure he means American films.

- Also, at the Shanghai Film Festival, the chairman of a major conglomerate expressed that he expects almost impossible returns on producing Chinese films and unveils plans to have brain-reading machines that will surely help them find the ultimate formula for commercially successful films. Scary.

- Twitch offers two Hong Kong trailers. One that I care about is the trailer for Alan Mak/Felix Chong’s Overheard, starring Louis Koo, Lau Ching-Wan, and Daniel Wu. It looks slick and I hope it’ll be better than the trailer suggests.

One that I don’t so much is the trailer for Andy Chow’s Murderer, the first film under the Edko-Focus Features deal starring Aaron Kwok, because the trailer’s been around for a while already. The thing more noteworthy is Todd Brown’s mentioning that Aaron Kwok seldom makes a bad movie. I would like to call the survivors of Heat Team, Para Para Sakura, China Strike Force, and 2000 A.D. to the stand, please.

- Under “seemingly only in Japan” news today, a TV producer decides to bring three female screenwriters together for a pop trio after realizing that they can sing. If it helps in it making sense at all, one of the three is an actress and a former idol as well.

- The producers of the final 20th Century Boys film is using secretcy as such a promotional tool that they promise only about ten people (which may not even include the actors themselves) will know what happens in the final ten minutes before its opening on August 29th. Not that it’ll help the entire world knowing about it by August 30th, though.

- The hit Japanese romantic tearjerker April Bride will be going to the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival next month. Ironically, there’s nothing fantastic about the film - it’s based on a well-publicized true story.

The Golden Rock - May 13th, 2009 Edition

That’s right, it’s a news post!

- Let’s first look at Hong Kong box office for the past week, courtesy of the Hong Kong Filmart site. The biggest surprise may be the opening for Lu Chuan’s Nanking Massacre film The City of Life and Death. On a limited 15-screen release, it managed to make HK$1.24 million over 4 days. This is easily the best-performing Mainland Chinese film in a long time, though the excellent production value and sensational subject probably helped it plenty.  I expect at least a HK$3 million take.

The next best performing debut film is Disney’s Chinese film The Trail of the Panda, which opened on 27 screens and only recorded a 4-day take of HK$725,000. I guess we don’t care as much about pandas as Americans care about 3D animated dogs. Meanwhile, Wolverine stayed on the top for its second week and has since made HK$12.5 million. However, it’s losing steam quickly, especially with Angels and Demons opening this week, which means it should top out under HK$15 million. 17 Again takes second place with a solid HK$5.8 million take and a very slow descent, which means it may end up with about HK$8 million. Not bad for a Zac Efron movie in Hong Kong.

Wong Jing’s I Corrupt All Cops (self-whoring time: My LHKF review) lost a modest 53% during its second week in business with HK$4.6 million after 11 days, and likely to do close to HK$6 million. The Japanese comedy Handsome Suits, which is only being shown with a Cantonese dubbed version (2 shows of the Japanese version at one theater barely counts), has made HK$3.5 million, and the church-backed film Team of Miracle: We Will Rock You is miraclously still in theaters (probably with showings paid by churches) with HK$2.1 million after 37 days.

- However, Disney is probably more optimistic about the performance of Trail of the Panda in China, where the film opened the weekend before the first anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake. The film was near the end of its shoot in Sichuan when the earthquake happened. A film cashing in on a real-life disaster? What is this, Hollywood?

- In Korean box office, the comedy My Girlfriend is An Agent continues to dominate, even with Star Trek opening this past weekend. Meanwhile, Park Chan-Wook’s Thirst has already found 1.7 million admissions, which is a great rebound for Park from the box office disappointment that was I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK. Also, with Daniel Hanney in a supporting role, I’m surprised Wolverine hasn’t done better than only 1.1 million admissions after two weeks.

More from Korea Pop Wars.

- Speaking of Thirst, which will be competing at the just-opened Cannes Film Festival, Koreanfilm.org’s Darcy Paquet has written a review for Screen Daily. Also, Hollywood Reporter has an interview with director Park Chan-Wook.

- In Japan, the tearjerker April Bride, starring Eita and directed by Vibrator director Ryuichi Hiroki, hit the top spot with 412 million yen from a modest 310 screens. The popular animated Conan film has dropped below Red Cliff II, which is holding on to its seocnd place standing. Kazuaki “Casshern” Kiriya’s Goemon drops to 4th place in its second weekend, but has already made 900 million yen after 10 days. It’s almost certain that it’ll do better than Casshern at this point. After 30 days, Crows Zero II has made more than 2.6 billion yen and has surpass the take of the first installment. I haven’t seen the film, but who’s betting that there really won’t be a third film?

Outside the top 10, Peter Chan’s Warlords opened at 12th place, and the Pang Brother’s Hollywood remake of Bangkok Dangerous opened only at 13th place. I guess it wasn’t as well-liked as these pachinko ads.

Sources: The Japanese box office blog, Screen Daily

-  The Hong Kong and Chinese governments has added new amendments to the 2003 CEPA agreement, which was responsible for allowing China-Hong Kong co-productions and is responsible for today’s HK cinema climate. The new amendment includes one that allows Hong Kong film distributor to directly release home video versions of approved co-production films. But what difference does it make when everyone downloads in China anyway?

-  Under “how the world sucking affects the film world” news today, the second annual Phuket Film Festival in Thailand has been cancelled because of the political turmoil and the logistic nightmare the ASEAN meeting was supposed to cause the region.

Meanwhile, Japan film distributor/producer Wide Policy, who last distributed Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution in Japan, has filed for bankruptcy.

Also, Japan’s Usen is planning to sell major film distributor Gaga Communications. Gaga has been troubled since it announced to stop acqusitions and productions last year, though it still distributes films with and for other companies.

- On the other hand, under “the world sucking has nothing to do with making films” news today, Takashi Miike, coming off the successes of Yatterman and Crows Zero II, will be remaking the 1963 film Thirteen Assassins with Jeremy “Last Emperor” Thomas on board as producer.

Korea’s Sidus has signed on as a co-producer for the remake of the classic Hong Kong martial arts film The One-Armed Swordsman with Hong Kong’s Celestial Pictures, to be directed by the director of Musa: The Warrior. No word on who will be starring, though.

Hong Kong’s Edko, who will next be releasing Blood: The Last Vampire, has signed a 3-film co-financing deal with America’s Focus Features. The three films will include Yuen Wo-Ping’s latest film, starring Michelle Yeoh, Jay Chou, and David Carradine.

Peter Chan Ho-Sun’s next film will be for his new production company Cinema Popular, and is now being touted as the first superhero film from China. Also in Cinema Popular’s slate is a serial killer movie set in Hong Kong, which I wonder how it’ll get into China.

And Singapore is telling the world that they have plenty of money to make films - about 17-20, to be exact.

- Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle will be the head of the jury at this year’s Shanghai Film Festival, happening mid-June.

- Twitch has a teaser for the big-budget Korean disaster film Haeundae, which has been getting quite a bit of attention at the recent film markets.  It looks like Deep Impact meets Poseidon. That’s not a compliment.

- Korean star Lee Byung-Hun will come off his role in the highly-anticipated TV drama Iris with…….Iris: The Movie.

- Lastly, Star Trek director JJ Abrams claims during his promotional appearance in Japan that he’s a fan of the idol group AKB48. Not sure how that’s relevant to this blog, I just find it funny.

Not sure when the next news post will be, but that’s it for now.

The Golden Rock at the HKIFF, Part III

About 3 weeks ago, I finished sitting through the rest of the 25 films I watched at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. These reviews are not comprehensive, because I only mention the Asian stuff, so don’t panic if they don’t add up to 25:

Rough Cut (2008, South Korea. Dir. Jang Hun) - The basic concept of this Korean comedy-drama is packed with ass-kicking potential - star actor hires gangster so he can get into real fights in his latest movie, except the ass-kicking became more than he could take. However, the script - written by Kim Ki-Duk - is often sidetracked by digression and is essentially off the rails by the third act. Tolerable, but could’ve been better. Maybe I was just tired that night.

Torso (2009, Japan. Dir: Yamazaki Yutaka) - The directorial debut from Hirokazu Kore-eda’s cinematographer is a quiet study of the life of a lonely Tokyo woman and her prosthetic torso that she sleeps with from time to time. The surprise of this film comes from the focus on the woman’s dysfunctional relationship with her half-sister, played out to subtle emotional effect. Shot in the same handheld realism style of a Kore-eda film, the script may be a little too close to real-life to generate any memorable emotional impact, but it does reward more than it punishes with its leisurely pacing.

Citizen King (2008, Hong Kong. Dir: Ching Long, Johnson Lee) - Kozo already reviewed this film when he saw it at the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival, and count me in as one of those who was greatly surprised and impressed by actor/impersonation-extraordinaire Johnson Lee’s directorial debut. Entertaining, funny, biting, and even affecting at spots, this is a rare Hong Kong indie film that actually embraces its indie trappings without being restricted in it. If I had seen this last year, it would’ve ended up on my top 10 HK film list.

Dying in a Hospital (1993, Japan. Dir: Jun Ichikawa) - This rarely-seen film from the recently deceased director is so hard to get ahold of overseas that the subtitles had to be projected under the screen. Even thougha good portion of te subtitles were not displayed properly, these 5 straightforward and heartbreaking tales of people dying in a hospital is a life-affirming gem that got quite a few people crying - including a middle-age foreigner - by the time the lights came back on. Ichikawa employed a Hou Hsiao-Hsien-wide shot style for the stories, but he always make sure different things are happening in the frame, and that all of them are worth focusing on. A great film that should’ve been the masterpiece that put Ichikawa on the map, despite its overly straightforward title.

KJ (2009, Hong Kong. Dir. Cheung King-Wai) - This documentary from the screenwriter of Ann Hui’s latest film hits a homerun when it comes to its titular character, a 17-year old music prodigy that has the attitude of an worn-out veteran with too much ideals. Aside from a clear structure that keeps the film worth following, Cheung successful captures the essence of his subject wonderfully, comparing his attitude at 12 years old and 17 years old. The result is not just the study of an arrogant musical prodigy, but the portrait of all the pains and pressure that torture him underneath.

There will be a full review, as well as an interview with a director coming soon.

Achilles and the Tortoise (2008, Japan. Dir: Takeshi Kitano) - Kitano’s third film in his self-reflexive trilogy is an entertaining look at an artist who collapses while trying to balance commercialism and individualism. Even though the third act goes a little too far in its antics, this is definitely the most enjoyable and the most accessible film out of the three, even though it’s by no means a masterpeice due to its simplistic characters and ideals.

I spent the last two days of the festival with an American and two French films, so I won’t write about them here. With that, another soul-draining year at the Hong Kong International Film Festival is over, and I’ll finally be able to blog regularly starting mid-May until who-knows-when. Even though there were a few underwhelming films, this year’s selection has been fairly solid, and I certainly don’t regret going to almost all of them. Hopefully, I can stay awake for more of them. Maybe they’ll have a cure for whatever I got by the next film festival.

 
 
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