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Archive for the ‘South Korea’ Category

The Golden Rock - Temporarily Out of Hibernation Edition

ZZZZZZZZ…..

Oh, sorry, I fell asleep one night and ended up staying asleep for a good three weeks.

Or I could just be in the middle of HKIFF. I can’t tell.

Anyway, I’ve seen 10 movies so far at the HKIFF already, and I’m sure the filmmakers are very grateful that I managed to sleep for a period of time at only 7 of them. So without the qualification to write an actual review, here are some of my thoughts on the more notable films (ie. the Asian stuff) I’ve seen so far at the festival.

Echo of Silence (Japan, 2004. Dir. Watabe Atsuro) - Actor Watabe Atsuro makes his directing debut with this Lars Von-Trier-like realist film about the impact of silence. The documentary feeling of the film gets just the right naturalistic peformances from the actors, the snowy Hokkaido landscape is quite nice, and there’s a pretty heartbreaking twist at the end that really brings everything together. But I’ve seen too many minimalist Japanese films that are more intriuging and memorable than this.

Mental (Japan, 2008, Dir. Kazuhiro Soda) - It runs a little long, but Campaign director Kazuhiro Soda’s latest documentary is an eye-opening look at the taboo subject of mental illness in Japan. It’s sad that this group of mentally ill people have so little care that they essentially have only one place where society gives them a chance to be themselves - their psychiatrist’s clinic.

By the way, if Soda-san is reading this, I apologize for missing the Q&A after the film. I really did like your film and would’ve loved to learn more about it, but I had to run somewhere else.

Daytime Drinking (South Korea, 2009, Dir. Noh Young-Seok) - Even though it’s shot in that extremely dry indie, shot-on-DV style, Noh Young-Seok’s low-budget film is a hilarious road trip film that shows why social drinking can kill you and bring new opportunities at the same time. You’ll need a drink after the movie, and that’s a good thing. By the way, there’s a cameo at the end of the film that I thought was only someone that looks like a certain celebrity. The fact that it was actually her makes the film even more brilliant.

A Place of One’s Own (Taiwan, 2009, Dir: Ian Lou) - Lou last co-wrote and co-produced Singing Chen’s God Man Dog, which ended up being one of my favorite films from last year’s HKIFF. This time, it’s Lou’s turn at the director’s chair, with Chen taking co-writing and producing duties. Like God Man Dog, it’s again an ensemble piece, this time about how obsession with property changes the lives of the characters. Too bad some of the central characters are so unlikable that even though it’s easy to identify with their needs, but it’s hard to care about them. The film drags in the last reel, which makes it a bit of a tough sit, considering Lou’s dry directorial style. Still, a Taiwanese worth watching for its issues.

Naked of Defenses (Japan, 2008, Dir. Masahide Ichii) - This year’s big winner at the PIA Film Festival is a quiet and unassuming drama about a woman’s growing jealousy of her new pregnant co-worker. It’s a little more dry in style than I expected, and it’s certainly not as explosive a work as last year’s Bare-Assed Japan and This World of Ours, but it’s certainly a film that emotionally pays off in the end.

Shinjuku Incident (Hong Kong, 2009, Dir. Derek Yee) - The latest Jackie Chan production was potentially interesting - not only is it Jackie’s first non-action role (at the hands of Derek Yee, no less), it’s Jackie playing an illegal migrant worker in Japan who climbs through the ranks of the Shinjuku crime world. The first hour is excellent, as the characters and the Shinjuku crime world is slowly set up. However, it takes a freefall beause Jackie Chan being Jackie Chan, he never goes through the arc his character is supposed to. Instead, his character is just full of contradictions that makes his “gangster with a heart of gold” character an incomplete archetype instead of a fully-fleshed character. Word is that Yee is definitely not happy with the movie, and it’ll be pretty important to go in knowing that, because the blame definitely goes to someone else this time around. A major disappointment for me.

Night and Fog (Hong Kong, 2009, Dir. Ann Hui) - I’ve done way too much research on this movie to be objective about it. Not many people agree with me so far, but I think this is Hui’s most intense and powerful film in a long time. The script by King Cheung (with contribution from Alex Law) can be a little heavy-handed in its commentary at times, but great performances from Zhang Jingchu and Simon Yam (you’re in fear every time his character is onscreen), as well as great cinematography by Charlie Lam make this easily a top contender for the top ten list next year. Then again, perhaps not many people will agree.

That’s it so far. See you 15 films later.

The Golden Rock - February 21st, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Japan Times piece by Mark Schilling.

The Daily Yomiuri piece by Ikuko Kitagawa. 

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - February 19th, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

More from Korea Pop Wars.

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

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

More from Tokyograph.

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - February 15th, 2009 Edition

A small weekend update, since there wasn’t much news out there.

- Lovehkfilm just updated with some reviews and a little more. First, Kozo gives his takes on Ivy Ho’s directorial debut Claustrophobia and the DOONNNNIIIIEEEEE classic Mismatched Couples.Can you believe Yuen Wo-Ping directed that movie?

Sanjuro gives his take on the I Not Stupid sequel, aptly named I Not Stupid Too. Lastly, yours truly looks at Choi Ho’s Go Go 70s and the serial killer thriller Truck. Yes, there’s a truck in it.

Lastly, Kozo announced the final nominations for this year’s Lovehkfilm Awards. I’m definitely happier with it than the nominations for the Hong Kong Film Awards.

- Also, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling takes a look at Michael Arias’ Heaven’s Door and the indie film Lost Girl in a double review.

- It’s trailers time!  Both trailers are from Nippon Cinema today. First it’s the teaser for the Panasian production Last Blood, starring Gianna Jun (Jun Ji-Hyun) and Koyuki. Then it’s the teaser for Sobu’s latest Kanikosen.

- Under “music news” today, Yui Aragaki (who still isn’t much of a singer) will be collaborating with Studio Ghibli for her latest single, with a director from the studio doing the cover art and the music video.

Meanwhile, Ayumi Hamasaki will be releasing her next album on not only CD format, but on a 2GB USB flash drive as well.

- After giving up a Mainland China release due to the fallout from that phot scandal, Dante Lam’s Sniper finally has a few international distribution deals lined up.

- This week’s Televiews column on Daily Yomiuri suggests five ways Japanese terrestrial television stations can do to save themselves. I agree with some, but I don’t agree with the others, especially that idea about a Japanese Daily Show.

- Wong Kar Wai’s Jet Tone will be producing Cheng Hsiao-Tse’s follow-up to the teen romance Miao Miao in a series of projects by young Asian directors.

- Japan’s Film Preservation Society has recovered and remastered an old 1929 silent film, despitethe print having been cut down to 15 minutes for home viewing.

The Golden Rock - February 12th, 2009 Edition

- Again, I’m using the Hong Kong Filmart website numbers for this week’s Hong Kong box office. Thanks to excellent word-of-mouth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button took the top spot for the week, beating All’s Well Ends Well 2009 for a total of HK$19.6 million after 18 days. Meanwhile, Bride Wars led the newcomers, making HK$2.2 million from 33 days over the first 4 days. Will Smith’s Seven Pounds is all the way down at 9th place with just HK$1.72 million from just 19 screens after 4 days.

The rest of the numbers seem faulty (All’s Well Ends Well should be well past the HK$20 million mark now), so I’ll save the reporting for next week when better numbers come out.

-In Japanese box office, 20th Century Boys II managed to hold on to the top spot, despite losing 43.8% of business and Benjamin Button opening. Running 20 minutes longer (but on 53 more screens), Benjamin Button could only muster a 2nd place opening with a lower per-screen average than 20th Century Boys. According to Mr. Texas at Eiga Consultant, its opening was 110% of The Departed (another major Oscar nominee), which means it’ll make just under 2 billion yen. Then again, it may end up going to Hong Kong route and end up being a long-term hit. Weeks 2 and 3 will answer that.

In a relatively moderate release, High School Musical only scored a 5th place opening in terms of gross (it got bumped to 6th by Penguins in the Sky - Asahiyama Zoo on the attendence chart), it earned a respectable per-screen average.

- In Chinese box office, Look For A Star continues its reign at the top with 68 million yuan and counting, despite it not doing so well in Hong Kong.I’m surprised All’s Well Ends Well was the only film with an increase in gross, now with 31 million yuan and counting. And what the hell is Black Book doing there (unless it’s heavily censored)?

- In Taiwan box office, Foreign films continue to reign, with Yes Man and Seven Pounds taking the top spots. Red Cliff II still doing very well too, with 136 million New Taiwan Dollars in the bank. However, it’s also far from what part 1 had after its 4th weekend, which is the general pattern it’s following throughout Asia, except in China and Korea.

- In Korea, Red Cliff II has surpassed part 1, and still in second place this past weekend. The good news is that Korean films has taken 45.9% of total box office so far this year. Hopefully, that’s pointing towards an upward trend from the slump last year.

More at Korea Pop Wars

- The Hong Kong Film blog has posted the list of the nominess for the Hong Kong Film Awards. Red Cliff has 15 nominations, Ip Man and Painted Skin have 12 nominations,and even though The Way We Are only has 6 nominations, it was nominated in all themajor categories except Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Here are the major nominations:

BEST PICTURE

Red Cliff
Ip Man
Painted Skin
The Way We Are
CJ7

BEST DIRECTOR

Ann Hui - The Way We Are
Johnnie To - Sparrow
John Woo - Red Cliff
Wilson Yip - Ip Man
Benny Chan - Connected

BEST ACTOR

Louis Koo - Run, Papa Run
Simon Yam - Sparrow
Donnie Yen - Ip Man
Nick Cheung - Beast Stalker
Tony Leung - Red Cliff

BEST ACTRESS

Bau Hei-Jing - The Way We Are
Prudence Lau - True Women For Sale
Zhou Xun - Painted Skin
Karena Lam - Claustrophobia
Barbie Hsu - Connected

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Zhang Fenyi - Red Cliff
Stephen Chow - CJ7
Liu Kai-Chi - Beast Stalker
Lam Ka-Tung - Ip Man
Louis Fan - Ip Man

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Race Wong - True Women For Sale
Vicky Zhao - Red Cliff
Chan Lai-Wun - The Way We Are
Betty Sun Li - Painted Skin
Nora Miao - Run, Papa Run

BEST SCREENPLAY

Run, Papa Run
Claustrophobia
Painted Skin
Beast Stalker
The Way We Are

Some real atrocious choices (Painted Skin?! CJ7?! No Beast Stalker for Best Film?!), but I hope the voters will have some common sense left and let The Way We Are gets its day in the spotlight.

If anyone wonders how Claustrophobia got nominated, they had 5 night showings that were not opened to the public, but counted as having a week of release in 2008.

- Some Ip Man-related news today on Apple Daily: Wilson Yip and co. will start shooting the sequel this summer with a target release date of February 2010 (probably the next Lunar New Year slot), and Mandarin Films has already greenlit a second sequel as well. Right now, the filmmakers are looking for Jay Chou or Shaolin Soccer’s Chan Kwok-Kwan (aho already played Bruce Lee in the CCTV drama) to play Bruce Lee.

Meanwhile, Tony Leung said that Wong Kar-Wai plans to begin shooting his version of the Ip Man story in June, but he also says WKW may not even be done with shooting the film until the third Ip Man movie has been released, and that he expects that version to take a path that strays from Wilson Yip’s action film.

-  From Youtube is the trailer for Gegege no Kitaro and 10 Promises with My Dog director Katsuhide Motoki’s crazy looking Kamogawa Horumo (info from Nippon Cinema). It looks crazy, but I have little faith in Motoki’s work in general.

-  It’s reviews time! Both reviews are from Hollywood Reporter Asia today - one for Ivy Ho’s Claustrophobia from Peter Brunette, and by Neil Young is the review for Funahashi Atsushi’s Deep In the Valley, which was shown at the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival.

- It already went through the TELA’s rating system in December, and now Sex and Chopsticks II has a poster which reveals a release date of March in Hong Kong. See you at the Dynasty.

- In other release news, despite a generally weak European Film Market at Berlin, America’s Magnolia Pictures, who brought the cut version of Ong Bak 1 and the uncut version of Chocolate to the United States, has picked up the American rights to Ong Bak 2.

- Under “Japanese TV drama” news , the moderate hit drama Zettai Kareshi is coming back for a one-episode drama special this spring.

Meanwhile, actor Jo Odagiri is returning to TV after Jikou Keisatsu for a TBS drama next season, co-starring Masami Nagasawa as his sister.

Lastly, the weekly variety show Goro’s Bar, hosted by SMAP member Goro Inagaki, will be turned into a drama special that will feature Inagaki playing the owner of a bar instead of him pretending to be a pop star pretending to be the owner of a bar.

- Chen Kaige talks about making Forever Enthralled at the Berlin Film Festival, where the film is the only Chinese-language film in competition. He talks about the pressure of having opera star Mei Lanfang’s son as a consultant and how important liberty is. Surely, he’s only able to say that outside of China.

- Lastly, further proof why Naoto Takenaka is the most awesome actor working in Japan.

The Golden Rock - February 4th, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More over at Tokyograph.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - January 21st, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

More over the Korea Pop Wars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - January 14th, 2009 Edition

A big change has come regarding the Hong Kong box office news provided on this blog. Since my usual source now.com has decided to stop its box office stats page, I will now only be able to report on Hong Kong box office once a week. My source now will be the Hong Kong Filmart website, which offers comprehensive stats only once a week. Hopefully, a better source will come along soon.

- No Japan box office numbers yet, but the attendence ranking is out. Surprisingly, Steven Soderbergh’s first Che movie landed on 2nd place in its first weekend. According to Mr. Texas at Eiga Consultant, it made 139 million yen from 248 screens nationwide in its first two days of release (even though it was a 3-day holiday weekend), and that the 47 theaters in the 9 major metropolitan areas accounted for 47% of the gross. So while the per-screen average is roughly 560,000 yen, the per-screen average in the major cities is much higher at roughly 1.21 million yen. However, with 42% of Moviewalker voters giving the first film a C, I doubt the second film will do as well when it comes out in three weeks.

Other than that, with the exception of The Day the Earth Stood Still taking a dive to 4th place, everything else remains fairly stable.

- Japan will get its first major domestic release this weekend with virus disaster film Pandemic, and Jason Gray provides a fairly lengthy review of it on his blog.

- In China, Red Cliff 2 was so huge that it already made over 100 million yuan over the opening weekend. Of course, it probably opened on a whole lot of screens to get to that number. With the Lunar New Year holiday underway in China, looks like it might actually make its budget back just with the Chinese box office gross. I’ll be catching this tomorrow night here in Hong Kong.

- In Korea, only two films on the top 10 this past weekend are local releases, but they also happen to be the highest-grossing releases on the top 10 by far.

More over at Korea Pop Wars.

- The Winter 2009 Japanese drama season is underway, with a few major drama premiering this past week. The Ryo Kase-Yukie Nakama drama Arifureta Kiseki saw a soft opening with only a 12.5% rating. Meanwhile, the 4th season of Tokumei Kakarichou Tadano Hitoshi makes its premiere at primetime (which means less of the risque content that made it special before at its old late-night timeslot), and got a respectable 11.9% rating. The Yosuke Eguchi-Goro Inagaki-Ryoko Hirose mystery drama Triangle started off with only an OK-14.7% rating.

Meanwhile, Akai Ito has benefitted from the film version with a boost to a 10% rating for its latest episode. Not in the linked chart, but the Code Blue special episode had a 23.1% rating, which is even higher than its highest-rated episode. Don’t be surprised if it’ll be heading to the big screen soon.

Next week will be the premiere of the Monday night 9pm Fuji drama and the second episode dips of the dramas mentioned above.

Visit Tokyograph for the Winter 2009 drama sypnosis.

-  On the Japan Oricon charts, the first solo single by Tackey (of Tackey and Tsubasa) scored first place on the singles chart, while Ai no Mama de has proven to be this year’s benefactor of the “Kohaku Effect” (songs not quite well-known previously gets a huge bump after appearing on the yearly Kohaku Uta Gassen music extravaganza on New Year’s Eve). Ikimono Gakari’s album gets bumped down to 3rd place in its second week by two compilation albums. Such is the tragedy of J-pop sales.

More on Tokyograph.

- Jackie Chan will likely be joining the cast of the remake of The Karate Kid, starring Will Smith’s son, as the titular character’s master. I wonder whether Jackie will be playing a Japanese character (Karate is, after all, Japanese), and how Chinese netizens will be reacting to that one.

- An interesting article from Hollywood Reporter reports that Oscar favorite Slumdog Millionaire may not do very well in India because of the harsh reality of India it portrays, despite its popularity overseas.

- Another possibly risky release is the Taiwanese blockbuster Cape No. 7, which finally has a set release of Valentine’s Day after the distributor pulled its initial release after rumors that it was out of fear of a disgruntled nationalistic audience and political reasons (the official reason was something about the subtitles). However, it will be slightly altered for some bad language, which probably includes its famous opening line.

- The Academy has announced its short list for the Best Foreign Film nominee, and Japan’s Departures managed to get on it. If nominated, it would be the first Japanese film since Yoji Yamada’s Twilight Samurai to receive a Best Foreign Film nomination. Also glad to see France’s The Class on that short list.

Not exactly a surprise, but neither Painted Skin nor China’s Olympic documentary Dream Weaver got on that short list.

- The atrocious Hana Yori Dango Final has spent its 4th consecutive week at the top of the Japanese DVD sales chart, and is now the 3rd best-selling Japanese DVD in history. It just means Japanese people need to buy more DVDs of better movies and that they need to be charged less for it.

- Despite having premiered at the Venice Film Festival back in 2006, Jia Zhangke’s Still Life didn’t get a North America release until 2008, which made it qualified for the various critics awards. This is why it managed to win two awards at the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film and Best Cinematography.

- Variety’s Derek Elley has a review for Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak 2, which satisfied this blogger’s need for a muay Thai fix. though not the need for a compelling story.

The 1st Annual Golden Rock Awards

It’s now 2009 here in Asia, and that means it’s time to wrap up the year.  This year was a huge moviegoing year for me, having finally had the chance to go wild at film festivals and spending lots of time at the theaters, as well as my movie critic work. And since I’m leaving my Hong Kong film thoughts for the LHKF awards, here are my thoughts for things that LHKF doesn’t cover.

Remember, this is only one man’s opinion, and that man doesn’t nearly watch as many movies or listen to as much music as he should anyway, so take it with a grain of salt.

BEST PANASIAN MOVIES VIEWED IN 2008 (which means some might’ve been released in 2007). In no particular order:

The Chaser (Korea) - An exciting and powerful serial killer movie that shows Korea still has emerging talent.

Fine, Totally Fine (Japan) - Hilarious and crude without losing its simple charm, this is Japanese comedy at its best.

Life is Cool (Korea) - This is how you do a gimmick without getting lost in it: by remember to tell a story first.

God Man Dog (Taiwan) - Compelling cinema that has a surprisingly bright charm coming from out of left field in the third act. This was the beginning of the Taiwanese cinema resurrection for me.

Tokyo Sonata (Japan) - Compelling and haunting, this family drama was sorely undermined by the Japan Academy Awards. Then again, maybe it was the third act that didn’t work for them.

I Just Didn’t Do It (Japan) - A straightforward legal drama that uses truth to provoke audience response. An excellent shift of tone by Masayuki Suo.

The Magic Hour (Japan) - Classy and still funny, Koki Mitani’s follow-up to Suite Dreams is less ambitious, but still very funny and even more touching.

After School (Japan) - Kenji Uchida’s forward-backwards comedy-mystery sometimes appears clever for clever’s sake, but clever is clever, and it’d be unfair to dismiss that.

Milkyway Liberation Front (Korea) - Funny and surreal, this is a indie Korean comedy that would only work for those who know about the movies. Doesn’t mean I didn’t find it funny.

Yasukuni (China-Japan) - A documentary that shows the controversial Yasukuni Shrine as is, even though most of its staff is Chinese. As balanced as one can get for a Yasukuni Shrine movie made by a Chinese filmmaker living in Japan.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Radio Dayz (Korea)
Girl Scout (Korea)
All Around Us (Gururi no koto) (without subtitles, which is the only reason why it’s here and not higher)
Parking (Taiwan)
Gachi Boy (Japan)
Detroit Metal City (Japan)
Suspect X (Japan)
Cape No. 7 (Taiwan)
Glasses (Japan)
The Rebirth (Japan) (Because I made through it without sleeping)

The worst

Shaolin Girl (Japan)
Cherry Tomato (Korea)
L:Change the World (Japan)
Open City (Korea)
Kung Fu Dunk (It counts because it’s Taiwan)

(Dis)honorable mention - only because I never bothered watching a subtitled version and never watched the TV show:

Hana Yori Dango Final.

I have to say I was pretty disappointed with Hong Kong music this year, with not nearly enough good albums to make a good top 10 list. Hell, there’s not even that many memorable songs to make a top 10 list. While HK pop fans were all ga-ga-ing about albums like Kay Tse’s Binary and Leo Ku’s Guitar Fever, I didn’t think they were all that ear-catching. Then again, that might just be me.

Nevertheless, I still have a top 5 Hong Kong albums, and some honorable mentions:

HONG KONG MUSIC

Juno Mak - Words of Silence - Leave it the rich boy of Hong Kong pop to show how to do an album of Karaoke ballads.

Denise Ho - Ten Days in the Madhouse - HOCC’s most ambitious album of her career is an album that’s actually about something important, and we’re all appreciative of it.

Khalil Fong - Wonderland - It came out late last year, but it didn’t find its audience until this year. An excellent R&B album that happens to be in Chinese. Fong is the best Hong Kong-based musician you’re probably not paying attention to.

Chet Lam - Travelogue 3 - Nice and breezy, and wonderfully folksy.

Fama- Richest in the World - Hong Kong’s most fun hip-hop duo is back with an album surprisingly mostly produced within a week or so.  Easily the most entertaining HK pop album of the year.

Notable mentions:

Khalil Fong - Orange Moon
Kay Tse - Binary
Jan Lam - 30mething QK
24 Herbs
Eason Chan - Don’t Want to Let Go

Bianca Wu - Still…A Wonderful World.

OUTSIDE HONG KONG:

Notable mentions:

Utada Hikaru - Heart Station
Jam Hsiao - Debut album
Jero - Covers
Orange Range - Panic Fancy
Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak
- this deserves a special mention for showing what happens when an egomaniac like Kanye West essentially takes apart his shell-like ego and expose all of his heartbreaks and tragedies in his music. It’s really the perfect album who’s hated Kanye’s music before this. Just drop your bias against the auto-tune stuff and listen.

And now, the individual awards:

BEST DEBUT ALBUM (tie):

p1011095233.jpg p1010952902.jpg

Jam Hsiao Debut album and Jero - Covers.

The former went from a Taiwanese idols show contestant to this year’s Chinese pop sensation, while the latter made the fading enka genre relevant for young people again while sweeping all the major awards.

BEST CONCERT VIEWED IN HONG KONG (tie):

Fama
Chet Lam - One Man Live

Fama rocked the packed house, with their audience standing almost the entire time rapping along. You can’t buy an audience like that with flashy stage lights; you earn it with talent and royalty.

Meanwhile, Chet Lam managed to run an entire 2-hour concert with only him and a looping machine. Meanwhile, he doesn’t forget to tell touching stories and sing great songs.

BEST COMPILATION:

p1010771440.jpg

Denise “HOCC” Ho - Goomusic Collection 

With brand-new remixes and three solid new tracks, this is a compilation that tries to be good to the fans by providing things they may not have. It actually makes its existence almost OK.

BEST SOUNDTRACK (tie):

Fine, Totally Fine, Sparrow

The former album helped give a comedy a relaxing groove, and the other helped turn a stylistic Hong Kong film into a 60s French film. Both stood out while complementing the film they’re written for.

MOST ANNOYING TRENDS IN 2008 ASIAN POP CULTURE:

Rewarding stupidity (Japan) - One of the most dead-on Western perception of Japanese game shows was on the Simpsons, when the Japanese game show host said that the difference between Western and Japanese game show is that one rewards intelligence while the other punishes ignorance. While that is still the case for Quiz Hexagon II, where the team that fails a challenge having to dunk one member into water, some of its worst players have been put together into pop music units by Fuji TV. Instead of six dumb talentos scraping by a living, they’re now pop sensations that have no business in having any kind of musical careers. The male group - Shuchishin - even scored the 5th best-selling single in Japan this year, which surely says something about the taste of the Japanese general public.

Irresponsible criticisms on the web (China, South Korea) - In China, web bullies have gotten so powerful against anyone that disagree with them that people are making comparisons to Red Guards and Cultural Revolution. In South Korea, hurtful messages about celebrities reportedly helped drive one to suicide. These cannot be fixed with limiting internet rights and taking away internet annoymity. It starts with educating the people.

Disclaimer: This blog has, over the course of the year, given fairly harsh criticism. However, there has been no particular effort to hide who I am, and I have asserted that they are purely my own opinion, nor did I ever make any unreasonably hostile comments or threats against the people I criticize.

BEST TRENDS IN ASIAN POP CULTURE:

MTVs for songs without the singers (Japan) - Some of this year’s biggest hit songs feature popular pop stars’ voices, but not their faces. Instead, these videos tell complete stories with actors, and they actually work as their own short films. They seemed to have been a Korean trend, and now, it’s moved to Japan.

It’s been done with songs like March 9th by Remioromen a few years ago:

And it’s been a huge thing in 2008 Japanese pop songs such as Exile’s Ti Amo (the newly-awarded Song of the Year):

Or GReeeeN’s Kiseki (my vote for the most touching MTV of the year):

Or the surprise pop hit Kimi No Subete Ni by Spontania and Juju:

Either Japanese music video directors are all trying out to be film directors, or these are all done by the same guys. Either way, they do what they’re supposed to do - express the feeling of the songs - and yet, they can tell something that resembles a complete story that works without being as melodramatic as the Koreans. Well done.

Resurgence of Taiwanese films (Taiwan) - It’s not all thanks to Cape No. 7. In addition to the mega-blockbuster, Taiwan has produced some fine films this year not made by Hou Hsiao Hsien. Parking was a great dark comedy with a touch of film noir that marked a promising film debut, while God Man Dog was an excellent ensemble film. Hopefully, the young directors of these films can balance art and commercialism and bring back Taiwan as a formidable cinematic force in Asia.

EEG making respectable movies (Hong Kong) - This year (let’s count January 1st, 2009 as well), Emperor Motion Pictures, who once released movies like Bug Me Not!, the Twins Effects movies, and is still trying to release Jeff Lau’s The Fantastic Water Babes, were responsible for Run Papa Run, The Beast Stalker, Connected, and Chen Kaige’s Forever Enthralled. Even though Connected was not a particular great motion picture, it was at least more respectable than say, Twins Effects 2. Hopefully, EEG will just leave the pop star fodder to Gold Label and stick to making good Hong Kong movies that just happens to have Chinese money. I wish I can say the same about their music and management division, but that’s a different award…..

BEST DISCOVERY

The PIA Film Festival (Japan) - It started last year when I watched Ryo Nakajima’s This World of Ours. As more PIA films started coming to Hong Kong, to the point that the Asian Film Festival gave it its own retrospective, I began to respect this fesival for staying alive every year, despite losing money and having difficulty finding sponsors every year. I also admiring them for not letting financial difficulty stop them from discovering good films and making good films with their annual scholarship films. This is a film festival worth discovering, and its award films are worth searching out for.

WORST DISCOVERY

Jazz Hip Jap. A parody of the worst In Living Color soundtrack of all time. I don’t know why it’s still on my shelf.

THE GOLDEN ROCKS OF THE YEAR

These are the thing or the people who have made the biggest impression over the year and deserve all the recognition they can get:

Cape No. 7 - The one film that has been credited for resurrecting an entire film industry and got people to care about Taiwanese films again. It’s not great, but it is an immensely entertaining film that has seemed to really connect with people. And if it did finally get Taiwanese people back into the cinemas, then good for them.

Jero - a young African-American, 1/4 Japanese man goes to Japan and becomes a singer of his grandmother’s favorite genre of enka. He opens the year telling people that his dream is to get on Kohaku Uta Gassen for his dead grandmother. His debut single is the no. 16th best-selling single of the year in Japan. He wins multiple newcomer awards, including one at this year’s Japan Record Awards.

On December 31st, 2008, he appeared on Kohaku Uta Gassen and sang with his mother in the audience.

What success story coming out of 2008 Asian entertainment has a better ending than the one of Jerome White Jr.?

SPECIAL LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

This award goes to someone whose entire career has dominated newspapers and internet news throughout 2008. And by entire career, it means his career is already over:

edisonchenquitsshowbiz.jpg

Any man who could ruin Hong Kong’s most popular pop duo, get on international gossip headlines, and bring this blog its largest amount of traffic for getting too friendly with his camera and too stupid to just throw away the computer full of those pictures ought to get some kind of recognition, especially since this will be the most contribution he’ll make with his career in this lifetime.

That is, unless he makes it in Hollywood. But it won’t be LoveHKFilm’s problem by then anyway.

And so wraps up a busy year in Asian entertainment. Please remember not to take these awards seriously, as they are just one partially-informed man’s opinion. If you feel I missed out on anything worth mentioning in 2008, feel free the comment.

A good New Year to all!

The Golden Rock - December 30th, 2008 Edition

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

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

And now, a little bit of news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More over at Korea Pop Wars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
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