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Archive for the ‘South Korea’ Category

The Golden Rock - August 31, 2011 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trailer park time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

zwpaintedskin.jpg]

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

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

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

Entgroup
Filmbiz Asia
m1905
Sina
Sina Weibo

The Golden Rock - July 7, 2011 Edition

 

- This is an issue that’s been discussed since last year, but it’s still worth throwing it out because it’s an ongoing problem with no solution in sight.

 

Recently, a photo of an alleged list of actors’ pay on PAINTED SKIN 2 was posted on Sina Weibo by a netizen. The list showed that the highest-paid actor of the film is being paid only RMB4 million to be in the film, and award-winning actress Kara Hui is being paid only RMB 300,000 for her role. Hui immediately denied the list on Weibo, because, well…she’s not even in the film. However, one of the producers weibo-ed that the list is about right.

 

Whether the list is true or not, this is a good time to bring up what’s happening in China right now regarding actors’ pay and how it affects Hong Kong cinema. According to a report in Apple Daily last year, Chow Yun Fat is currently the top earner in Chinese cinema now, making RMB 40 million per film. Andy Lau and Donnie Yen are not far behind, with roughly RMB 25 million each. However, Mainland actors continue to get the shaft, with even names like Ge You, Aloys Chen, and Zhou Xun getting less than RMB 5 million for each film.

 

How does this affect Hong Kong cinema, you ask? With Hong Kong stars getting these outrageous pay, it’s now hard for Hong Kong producers to be able to afford films with bankable star. This may explain the attempt to nurture films with mainly young talent (not that it’s working. Is there even a new Andy Lau out there?), and this is the most likely reason that Chow Yun Fat hasn’t been in a Cantonese film in 16 years. Salary issues was rumored to be the reason he dropped out of John Woo’s RED CLIFF.

 

Meanwhile, the Chinese film industry is also realizing that revenue isn’t growing quick enough to cover costs. While Chinese blockbusters are making big bucks, they’re not making enough to cover ballooning budgets, especially if talents are taking up 1/3 of each films budget. THE LOST BLADESMAN made RMB160 million at the Chinese box office, which is no small feat. However, its budget was a reported RMB 80 million, which means it would need to have made at least RMB 200 million at the box office just to break even.

 

If the film industry shifts to a point where China can finally produce its own box office-guaranteed stars, producers will either get wise and use strictly China stars (bad for HK stars), or they will have to spend even more on talent (bad for everyone except the stars). Chinese cinema can only grow bigger with bigger productions, but it’s getting to a point where domestic gross is not enough to cover the budget any more. Foreign sales are also drying up, as foreign audiences are getting tired of big Chinese period flicks.

 

Will Chow Yun Fat, Donnie, and Andy Lau keep sucking up their 20-40 million per film, or will they soon have to compromise? Unless the Chinese film industry start controlling the number of productions, their inflating budgets, and the enormous amount of money they pay to Hong Kong talents, Chinese cinema is undoubtedly heading towards a bubble. And when that bubble pops, everyone’s going down.

 

- Hong Kong MPA released the box office figures for the first half of 2011. As we all know already, SEX AND ZEN: EXTREME ECSTASY, fueled by curiosity by both Hong Kongers and visiting Mainland Chinese tourists, managed to beat the general negative word-of-mouth (bonus: popular video of Chapman To reading a scathing netizen review - translation could be better, though) and became the highest-grossing Hong Kong film in years (which is amusing for a society that’s been progressing backwards in terms of morals). According to the report, 24 Hong Kong films were released, which would be about on pace with the past few years.

 

SEX AND ZEN was essentially the AVATAR-like outlier, with local films in general grossing lower than last year’s films. With the rest of the year looking fairly devoid of big box office performers (it’s WU XIA in August, then OVERHEARD 2, then not much until December), expect SEX AND ZEN to keep its top spot for the rest of the year.

 

- While we’re at it, Film Business Asia looked at Korean box office in the first half of the year. After its bubble popped a few years ago, it seems like the South Korean film industry is stabilizing, as admissions in the first six months of 2011 is only down 2.1% (remember last year cinemas had AVATAR). Better yet, Korean films are currently taking a higher market share in the first half year than the same period last year, as three of the five top-grossing films are Korean.

 

- Before you say say REST ON YOUR SHOULDER, another feud has brewed up in Chinese cinema. A few days ago, I tweeted a link to the peculiar poster for director Jiang Cheng’s TO LOVE OR NOT. The poster showed stars Alex Fong Chung-Sun and Li Shaoran making out passionately in a bathtub, and that has sparked a lot of feedback about what the film will be like.

 

20110705071751203.jpg

 

And then Li Shaoran fought back.

 

The star apparently now denies that she ever did the scene depicted in the poster. She insists that the “woman” spitting water is a male double wearing a wig, and then her part in the scene was only one shot that did not involve kissing. She is now refusing to do any further promotional activities for the film.

 

Director Jiang Cheng then fought back, saying that only one shot in the sequence (the one of the two falling into the tub) was done by body doubles, and that everything else was done by the actors. Of course, now the feud is turning into a he said, she said, with Li spilling everything she was dissatisfied about Jiang, and Jiang Li of essentially being a difficult actress to work with. Both sides have even used Alex Fong as their weapon against the other. Meanwhile, sources confirm that the stills are taken directly from the final cut rather than stills taken on set.

 

On the surface, this is close to gossip, but if we peel that back, we can speculate what is going on here. 1) There’s a real feud between Li and Jiang, with one actress embarrassed for being talked into doing a scene she now regrets doing. 2) It’s a week away from the film’s release. You don’t have real bankable stars. Any news is good news. 3) Something else. I won’t taking any of these three positions, but the Chinese film industry isn’t exactly the most transparent one, and it’s likely impossible to ever really know what is going on here.

 

Anyway, if you can read Chinese, read all about it here.

 

- Upcoming Chinese animated film LEGEND OF A RABBIT has the netizens talking, but in a bad way. Apparently, the character designs all look a little too close to KUNG FU PANDA for comfort. Director Sun Lijun is strongly denying that his work is being influenced by KUNG FU PANDA in any way.

 

Some of his defenses:

 

“Netizens say that LEGEND OF A RABBIT is the copycat version of KUNG FU PANDA, then why doesn’t Dreamworks sue us over copyright?! LEGEND OF A RABBIT has been sold to 62 countries. Overseas buyers are not stupid. You think they haven’t seen KUNG FU PANDA?!”

 

“The characters in LEGEND OF A RABBIT are very different from KUNG FU PANDA’s. Why don’t they say that KUNG FU PANDA took influences from Chinese kung fu?”

 

[when asked why has hasn’t seen KUNG FU PANDA 2] “Not interested. No second film is better than the first film”

 

Obviously, Sun hasn’t seen THE GODFATHER PART II.

 

See the trailer for LEGEND OF A RABBIT here and decide for yourself.

 

- After AFTERSHOCK and BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL, it’s now time for Korea to have their first film converted into the digital IMAX format. Korea still has something to be proud of, though – it’ll be the first non-English-language film to be converted into IMAX 3D. Korea currently has ten IMAX screens that can show the film, and CJ Entertainment operates all ten of them. It’s a no-brainer.

 

Check out the teaser for the monster film here.

 

Next time: Spike some Beach. A double feature across the border. And whatever else comes my way.

 

The Golden Rock Korean Blogathon Edition - Why South Korean Indies Will Live, and Hong Kong Indies May Not

This post is my entry for the Korean Film Blogathon 2011.

As the website that carries this blog is Hong Kong film-related, the way I’m approaching Korean cinema is in comparison with Hong Kong cinema. Some have dubbed the new renaissance of Korean cinema as the new Hong Kong cinema. While that statement is right in a superficial level (new emerging commercial cinema), I wouldn’t call it accurate because of the difference in the two systems. This will be a quasi-academic look at the two systems based purely on my knowledge.

Sorry, what follows will be a whole lot of text and no pictures:

Hong Kong cinema history:

Hong Kong began making films around 100 years ago, but its viability as an internationally-recognized commercial industry didn’t truly come until the 60s with the rival studios/rise of Cantonese cinema, Golden Harvest in the 1970s, and the artistic New Wave in the 1980s. Much of its successes are industry-related, with audience demand mainly driving the type of films being made. As a result, I always dubbed Hong Kong cinema as a type of “hyper-commercial cinema”.

This also applies to the current age of co-productions, where Hong Kong filmmakers are forced to make films with production companies in Mainland China because of its quickly rising box office gross and the government allowing HK-based co-productions to bypass quotas. The old overseas market for Hong Kong films, such as Malaysia and Taiwan, no longer earn much revenue, forcing filmmakers to modify (and sometimes recycle) formulas for a Chinese audience that they assume weren’t previously exposed to their works before.

Korean Cinema History:

The development of Korean cinema is very closely connected to South Korea’s political situation, with history of government censorship (one victim of that I’ve seen is 1981’s THE BALL SHOT BY A MIDGET) and brief period of freedom in the 1970s. With government censorship of films ending in the late 80s, Korean cinema began to explore new social and other issues never explored before. However, audience levels remained low due to Hollywood presence, especially when they began to directly distribute their films.

In late 1990s, Korean producers began to find new ways of investment for films, helping to elevate the production quality of films. With the South Korean government’s protective measure in the form of the screen quota (referring to the time a South Korean cinema must give to exhibiting local films) and increasing attendance at films like THE CONTACT, CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST, and of course, the record-breaking SHIRI, commercial Korean cinema took off to heights never imagined before.

Over a decade after the breakthrough of commercial Korean cinema, it is now one of the biggest film industries in Asia. In addition to commercial success with local audiences, it has also earned critical acclaim with films by directors like Park Chan Wook (JSA, The Vengeance Trilogy), Kim Ki-Duk, Lee Chang-Dong catching international film festival recognition. Its own Pusan Film Festival has also grown to be one of the biggest and most important film festivals in Asia. In other words, in just one decade, South Korea has made itself a self-sustaining film industry, despite recent threats of a bubble burst.

Hong Kong independent film scene - recent developments

This section is going to be a short one, because there’s not all that much to say about Hong Kong independent films. Hong Kong government’s art development council offers funding for making of independent films, and there are a few organizations that facilitate the making and distribution of indie films (particularly Ying E Chi).

However, the problem with Hong Kong indie film (In my opinion) is its reputation. Indie filmmaking is considered an alternative way of expression here in Hong Kong. This might be because Hong Kong cinema panders to commercialism so much that it widened the spectrum between commercial cinema and independent cinema. If indie films are made as a response to commercial films, then they will obviously be even artsy-er than your typical independent film from America or Japan.

I won’t name any examples, but some organizations see “independent” as an expression rather than a mean of expression. In other words, some see “independent” as an excuse to make something tough to understand under the shield of being avant-garde and thought-provoking, not realizing that traditional definition of “independent” is in the context of funding. As a result, independent films in Hong Kong often feel like they are made for the filmmakers themselves rather than the audience.

That creates a vicious cycle where people stay away from indie films in fear of watching something incomprehensible, and not enough cinemas have the guts (and the money) to take on the loss of playing indie films. No distribution, no audience. No audience, no distribution.  Meanwhile, Hong Kong indie films are also rarely well-made enough to see play on the festival circuit (though LOVERS ON THE ROAD and CITIZEN KING - both Ying E Chi films - got festival play around the world), leaving less and less options for HK indie films to get the exposure they need.

Meanwhile, YEC also tried to get its own Independent Film Festival off the ground after the infamous feud with the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival several years ago. However, its partial focus on beating out the HKAFF (mainly by programming it so closely to it and holding its annual press conference on HKAFF’s opening day) hasn’t exactly helped publicity or attendance.

South Korean indie scene vs Hong Kong indie scene
Every year, quite a few Korean independent films cross my path either via film festival or my own film reviewing work. They cover a variety of genres (though they mainly share a similar minimalist visual style) and various types of characters. However, many of them have one thing in common: They include government funding. In addition to the screen quota (which has been reduced to much protest), South Korea has the Korean Film Council to give funding to local films, including art films. Like Hong Kong, South Korea also has several film schools for film training.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government finally started its own film fund a few years ago. However, indie filmmakers have had little access to the fund due to constraints: 1) The film’s producer and/or director must have made two films, 2) The fund will only provide up to 40% of the funding, provided the film doesn’t cost more than HK$15 million, 3) the film must be “commercially viable” and 4) have secured third-party financing already. Of course, it did help films like the third McDull animated film, THE BREAK-UP CLUB, and Xiong Xin Xin’s COWEB (which still hasn’t seen any HK release) get made, but this still leaves many independent filmmakers out, especially when the words “commercial viable” is so subjective.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong does have film schools. I know because I attended one of them. These film school students also have the annual Fresh Wave Competition, with all qualified productions each getting HK$40,000 to make a 30-minute short film. However, the Arts Development Council-sponsored contest recently made themselves independent of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, leaving them on their own to attract audiences. Also, my own film school is mostly made up of Mainland Chinese students who shoot their thesis films in China and seem to be aiming for careers there.

In the end, there are plenty of opportunities for aspiring filmmakers in Hong Kong to make it, but it all ultimately goes back to quality. Hong Kong commercial filmmakers need to learn that “independent” isn’t a dirty word, and that it’s OK to make an audience-friendly film WITH personal expression. The Korean indie scene has its share of art films that are not audience-friendly, but they also have films that have attracted audiences not just at home, but overseas as well, making it a film scene with enough variety to attract all kinds of audiences.

Of course, you can also say it comes down to audience numbers. It’s amazing for a city with just six-seven million people to have its own film industry, let alone an independent one, so perhaps we should be thankful for what we can get. However, I’d argue that keeping this miracle industry alive is an even bigger motivation for independent filmmakers to make works that would travel beyond their own friends. I’m not calling for independent filmmakers of Hong Kong to give up their voices, and I’m not calling for them to blame the government for a lack of support. I am calling for a better investment models, and more awareness by HK indie filmmakers of what their audiences want to see without losing themselves.

Or they can all just move to Korea.

Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee all the details in this blog entry are correct, but I can say that my general points are still valid.

The Golden Rock - January 4th, 2010 Edition

As I keep trying to plug the hole that lets the spam come in, there will still be no comments. You can @ me on Twitter and that’ll be a comment. Will be glad to retweet or paste back here on the blog.

- My report on 2010 Chinese box office. There hasn’t been a comprehensive report with these numbers yet, so I crunched the numbers myself based on SARFT’s and entgroup.cn’s numbers. Feel free to refer to them, as they should be pretty close to the official numbers.

A little update: As of January 3rd, LET THE BULLETS FLY has surpassed INCEPTION to become the third highest-grossing film ever released in China with 530 million yuan in the bank.

- Chinese-Korean director Zhang Lu (of DESERT DREAM and IRI) will be getting a retrospective of his work at the Korean Film Archive in March. The venue will also be giving blankets and pillows for those who want to sleep through them.

- The full program hasn’t been announced yet, but the Berlinale has already announced roughly half the films in its Panorama section, and it includes three Korean movies! I can’t wait for them to announce the Generation K-Plus selections to see which Hong Kong movie 14-year-olds will be honoring this year.

- Speaking of being honored, the Korean Times gives an introduction/review to this weekend’s no. 1 Korean film THE LAST GODFATHER. It sounds like the comments section of the trailer is funnier than the movie itself. A sampling:

“As you said, this movie might be a crap movie.

But keep in mind that Younggu (acted by Shim Hyung-rae) is the Korean national comedy character like Mr. Bean in England. So if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it. But don’t say bad words that can provoke Korea and Koreans.”

Replace “Korea” and “Koreans” with “China” and “Chinese”, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Short entry today. They’ll get longer as I get my groove back.

The Golden Rock - July 5th News Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - July 4th, 2010 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - What day iz thiz Edition

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

I ask myself the same question everyday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, in the words of Nikki Finke, TOLDJA!

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

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

The Golden Rock - September 15th, 2009 Edition

- Lovehkfilm has updated with reviews from Boss Kozo. In this update, Kozo writes about the trashy, but entertaining Kung Fu Chef, the teen flop Trick or Cheat, Sion Sono’s epic masterpiece Love Exposure, and Miki Satoshi’s Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers.

- Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Symbol opened in Japan this past weekend on 242 screens (roughly the same amount of screens Dai Nipponjin opened on) and made 133 million yen, which is only 45.6% of Dai Nipponjin’s opening weekend. With an even more mysterious promotional campign than his first film, Matsumoto’s film doesn’t seem to be aiming for a large commercial audience anyway.

- In Korea, the Hindi-language film Black has become quite a hit, despite it being a four-year old film. After three weekends, it already has 700,000 admissions, and may get to the million mark in two weeks. I’ll keep keeping track of it.

- The Chinese TV/film authority SARFT has released new guidelines banning commercials for certain products and limiting the amount of ads during a program. No big deal for me, since such regulations is quite normal everywhere, especially for things like tobacco products.

I read a report that implies these regulations were made in time for the PRC’s 60th anniversary, but with these regulations not coming into effect until January, it doesn’t seem likely that this is the case.

- Korean female Park Chan-Ok, who worked under Hang Sang-Soo as his assistant director, finally sees her second film Peju coming out in theaters, despite the fact that it was announced 4 years ago.

- The Seoul International Drama Awards were given out last week, with the Grand Prize going to Chinese drama Memoirs in China. Dramas from Europe also took home multiple awards.

- It’s reviews time! Variety’s Derek Elley reviews the Venice closing film Chengdu, I Love You, which features a short film from Fruit Chan and one from Chinese rockster Cui Jian. Then Ronnie Schieb reviews the Montreal World Film Festival Best Director winner Villon’s Wife.

And lastly, Screen International’s Tim Grierson reviews the American cut of Ong Bak 2, and strangely doesn’t make mention of its open ending. Did they get a different version in the States?

- The American producers who were accused of bribing Thai government officials to run the Bangkok International Film Festival have been convicted for conspiracy and money laundering. They plan to appeal the ruling.

- And under “Film festivals in Japan” news, a 16-minute set of footage from James Cameron’s Avatar will be shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival. No word whether this is the same footage shown on “Avatar Day” around the world last month, despite the report writing that it will include unseen footage, though it runs roughly the same length.

Japanese film distributor Only Hearts has bought Mexico’s representative at the Academy Awards and it’ll be shown at the Latin Beats Festival in Tokyo this week.

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.

 
 
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