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Archive for the ‘Southeast Asia’ Category

The Golden Rock - July 26th, 2007 Edition

- Apparently there are quite a few fans of David Lynch in Japan. His latest Inland Empire, which I honestly think it looks too weird to be my kind of film, opened on two screens in Japan this past weekend. With three shows a day over two days, the film attracted 2031 admissions and grossed 3.24 million yen. Considering one theater seats only 111 and the other seats 232, that’s a pretty good opening. According to Eiga Consultant, people started lining up at the Tokyo cinema 2 hours before the first show and the last show was sold out three hours beforehand. Also, the pamphlet/program had a 40% sales rate. Either that means good-of-mouth or it means people just plain don’t get it. Return business, anyone?

- Inland Empire was released by Kadakawa films in Japan, who also released the remake The Murder of the Inugami Clan, a ton of smaller films, and a bunch of TV shows after ruling the Japanese film world way back then. Now they are planning to do their own “fight fire with fire” strategy by posting their copyrighted material onto Youtube. However, they are also developing a program that would find internet video content that are violating copyright, though I’m not exactly sure whatever that means.

- Hollywood Reporter has more on the hit opening weekend for the Thai horror film Alone at the Korean box office, including the distributor’s strategy to market Thai horror as the next big wave and that J-horror is over. They’re a couple years behind, but hey, whatever works for them.

- Recently, Japan entertainment trend reporting website Oricon polled people on what they thing is the scariest J-horror film. The results aren’t really all that surprising.

- Time for Venice festival news - First, Jason Gray has information on the Japanese selections, both in and out of competition (They even gave an in competition spot to Takeshii Miike. Is this a first for Miike in a major European film festival?). Then you can just go and check out the entire list at Variety, which includes quite a few major Asian films.

- On the other hand, things are definitely not going very well at the Bangkok International Film Festival, where there are more sellers than buyers at the market, films are not well-attended, and one Thai executive even said the money spent should’ve gone straight to the film industry instead. Ouch.

- It’s reviews time! Twitch has a review of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Retribution, a rather long review of the new Korean film May 18th, and a shorter one for Japanese blockbuster Dororo. Then, Variety’s Derek Elley turns in a review for the opener for the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival Eternal Hearts.

- The Weinstein Company has snapped up another Asian film that they could potentially ruin, this time one of Vietnam’s biggest films ever.

- Yesterday I reported the misreporting of casting news regarding Derek Yee’s The Shinjuku Incident. Today Hollywood Reporter, whom I consider to be a pretty accurate news reporting organization, reports that China Film Group is onboard as a co-producer, which means you know the good guys and/or the Chinese will again win in the end.

- Apparently Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou’s latest single, the theme song for his directorial debut Secrets, is suggested to be a breakthrough in style by incorporating British rock influences. Why is this news, especially when he’s done it before already?

The Golden Rock - July 16th, 2007 Edition

The Podcast is ready, just waiting to be uploaded.

- Who is actually surprised that Harry Potter is the number one film this weekend in Hong Kong? According to the Sunday box office numbers, Pot-tah expanded to 105 screens on Sunday and made HK$5.23 million for a 5-day total of HK$20.71 million. I don’t anticipating this thing slowing down soon, so it should pass the HK$40 million mark. However, also note that this gross is after ticket price inflation of HK$10 and a ticket for the IMAX showing cost double the usual ticket. Again, number of admissions, in my mind, is the true measure of success, but they don’t roll like that in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Die Hard 4 is actually still bringing in the audiences (good word-of-mouth?), grossing another HK$840,000 on what is officially its second weekend (though it’s actually its third, thanks to a full week of “previews”) from 36 screens for a 18-day total of HK$15.6 million. Shrek 3, on the other hand, lost a ton of business to Harry Potter and made only HK$400,000 from 33 screens for an 18-day total of HK$19.8 million.

The top Hong Kong performer this weekend is still Hooked On You, making a so-so HK$250,000 on 19 screens for an 18-day total of HK$8.74 million. The question everyone that cares is asking is whether Hooked On You will pass the HK$10 million mark. With HK$1.25 million to go, I’m personally not expecting it to happen, but it’ll get pretty close. Wonder Women continues its slow fading process with only HK$90,000 on 9 screens (it’s already down to two to three shows a day in most theatres) for an 11-day total of just HK$1.36 million. This weekend, I’m not just expecting, but really hoping that Invisible Targets would do well. Pretty please?

- Transformers (reviewed in the Podcast today) broke the opening day record for a foreign film in China and also had a very impressive weekend overall.

- Elsewhere, Japan had a national holiday on Monday, so no box office figures or drama ratings have come in yet. We might get to it tomorrow.

- Just like the movie business in Hong Kong, even Universal music is now turning to China to make more bucks.

- Loft, known to be Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s crappier film from the past year, is now on an English-subtitled Malaysian DVD. Watch at your own risk.

- The Korean film Public Enemy was a critical and commercial success, which led to its not-so-critically successful sequel Another Public Enemy. Apparently, director Kang Woo-Suk doesn’t know how to take a hint, and now he’s making a third movie. At least the good news is that Sol Kyung-Ku will return to his role as a corrupted detective from the first film.

- After Sonny Chiba made a sudden announcement last week on television that he is to quit acting, he finally explains it all at a press conference. Apparently, he doesn’t plan to retire entirely, but rather cut back and turn to doing other things instead. Hey, I’d join the Thousand Leaves Hollywood school just to ask him how he killed a bull and a bear with Karate.

- Turns out the reason for 20th Century Fox not selling their remake rights for Prison Break isn’t really their doing - The Writers Guild of America have policies that prohibits studios from selling their shows to China for remakes (is this ONLY for China, or what?). Nevertheless, Can’t Fox still sue the production company if they actually register the name?

- Anti-smoking groups in China are complaining that the drama New Shanghai Bund (based on the classic Hong Kong drama Shanghai Bund) features too much smoking. These guys should just light one up and chill.

- The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Han Sang-Jun by Korea Pop War’s own Mark Russell. Han is overseeing his first Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival after the controversy last year, but the festival seems to be back to running smoothly this year.

- There was also a panel with several young Korean directors about the recession of the Korean wave and trying to offere possible ways to stabilization.

- TV Asahi is adapting the novel Hanochi for a drama special (or a mini-series). The novel was already adapted in 2004 for film, and it even won best film and best actor at the Japanese Academy Awards. However, the drama is to make some alterations from the novel and the film. Hell, at least they waited a couple of years.

- The historical Queen’s Theatre in Hong Kong is closing down, continuing to signal the death of a golden age in Hong Kong cinema. Now, theatregoers mostly favor multiplexs in malls over single screen theatres such as this. There are still, however, a few older single-screen theatres in Hong Kong, but who knows how long they’ll last.

- One of the things I hate most about Japan are street scouts. Stationed on busy streets in neighborhoods like Shinjuku and Shibuya, these men harass women that they think might be suited to join adult business (or the AV industry as well?) and would pretty much be on them like flies on sweets until they reach the train station or they show any interest. Now TV Asahi is making a drama about what is probably one of the crappiest professions in all of Japan.

- When a Hollywood film fails, they tend to have international gross to try and salvage back the rest of the budget. But now the family comedy Evan Almighty, infamously known as the most expensive comedy ever made, can’t even rely on Japan, one of Hollywood’s largest markets. That’s because the Japanese distributor canceled the theatrical release altogether.

- According to writer/director David Goyer, director Alex Proyas is going back to cult favorite sci-fi film Dark City for a brand-new special edition. I myself like Dark City as well, but I wonder if it really needs such an edition.

- Robert De Niro is putting on his ethnographic glasses to produce a film about the Chinese Revolution in 1949 told through the eyes of one of the few foreigners in the country. Not to be a man of little faith, but I predict this is going to suck already.

The Golden Rock - July 16th, 2007 Edition

The Podcast is ready, just waiting to be uploaded.

- Who is actually surprised that Harry Potter is the number one film this weekend in Hong Kong? According to the Sunday box office numbers, Pot-tah expanded to 105 screens on Sunday and made HK$5.23 million for a 5-day total of HK$20.71 million. I don’t anticipating this thing slowing down soon, so it should pass the HK$40 million mark. However, also note that this gross is after ticket price inflation of HK$10 and a ticket for the IMAX showing cost double the usual ticket. Again, number of admissions, in my mind, is the true measure of success, but they don’t roll like that in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Die Hard 4 is actually still bringing in the audiences (good word-of-mouth?), grossing another HK$840,000 on what is officially its second weekend (though it’s actually its third, thanks to a full week of “previews”) from 36 screens for a 18-day total of HK$15.6 million. Shrek 3, on the other hand, lost a ton of business to Harry Potter and made only HK$400,000 from 33 screens for an 18-day total of HK$19.8 million.

The top Hong Kong performer this weekend is still Hooked On You, making a so-so HK$250,000 on 19 screens for an 18-day total of HK$8.74 million. The question everyone that cares is asking is whether Hooked On You will pass the HK$10 million mark. With HK$1.25 million to go, I’m personally not expecting it to happen, but it’ll get pretty close. Wonder Women continues its slow fading process with only HK$90,000 on 9 screens (it’s already down to two to three shows a day in most theatres) for an 11-day total of just HK$1.36 million. This weekend, I’m not just expecting, but really hoping that Invisible Targets would do well. Pretty please?

- Transformers (reviewed in the Podcast today) broke the opening day record for a foreign film in China and also had a very impressive weekend overall.

- Elsewhere, Japan had a national holiday on Monday, so no box office figures or drama ratings have come in yet. We might get to it tomorrow.

- Just like the movie business in Hong Kong, even Universal music is now turning to China to make more bucks.

- Loft, known to be Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s crappier film from the past year, is now on an English-subtitled Malaysian DVD. Watch at your own risk.

- The Korean film Public Enemy was a critical and commercial success, which led to its not-so-critically successful sequel Another Public Enemy. Apparently, director Kang Woo-Suk doesn’t know how to take a hint, and now he’s making a third movie. At least the good news is that Sol Kyung-Ku will return to his role as a corrupted detective from the first film.

- After Sonny Chiba made a sudden announcement last week on television that he is to quit acting, he finally explains it all at a press conference. Apparently, he doesn’t plan to retire entirely, but rather cut back and turn to doing other things instead. Hey, I’d join the Thousand Leaves Hollywood school just to ask him how he killed a bull and a bear with Karate.

- Turns out the reason for 20th Century Fox not selling their remake rights for Prison Break isn’t really their doing - The Writers Guild of America have policies that prohibits studios from selling their shows to China for remakes (is this ONLY for China, or what?). Nevertheless, Can’t Fox still sue the production company if they actually register the name?

- Anti-smoking groups in China are complaining that the drama New Shanghai Bund (based on the classic Hong Kong drama Shanghai Bund) features too much smoking. These guys should just light one up and chill.

- The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Han Sang-Jun by Korea Pop War’s own Mark Russell. Han is overseeing his first Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival after the controversy last year, but the festival seems to be back to running smoothly this year.

- There was also a panel with several young Korean directors about the recession of the Korean wave and trying to offere possible ways to stabilization.

- TV Asahi is adapting the novel Hanochi for a drama special (or a mini-series). The novel was already adapted in 2004 for film, and it even won best film and best actor at the Japanese Academy Awards. However, the drama is to make some alterations from the novel and the film. Hell, at least they waited a couple of years.

- The historical Queen’s Theatre in Hong Kong is closing down, continuing to signal the death of a golden age in Hong Kong cinema. Now, theatregoers mostly favor multiplexs in malls over single screen theatres such as this. There are still, however, a few older single-screen theatres in Hong Kong, but who knows how long they’ll last.

- One of the things I hate most about Japan are street scouts. Stationed on busy streets in neighborhoods like Shinjuku and Shibuya, these men harass women that they think might be suited to join adult business (or the AV industry as well?) and would pretty much be on them like flies on sweets until they reach the train station or they show any interest. Now TV Asahi is making a drama about what is probably one of the crappiest professions in all of Japan.

- When a Hollywood film fails, they tend to have international gross to try and salvage back the rest of the budget. But now the family comedy Evan Almighty, infamously known as the most expensive comedy ever made, can’t even rely on Japan, one of Hollywood’s largest markets. That’s because the Japanese distributor canceled the theatrical release altogether.

- According to writer/director David Goyer, director Alex Proyas is going back to cult favorite sci-fi film Dark City for a brand-new special edition. I myself like Dark City as well, but I wonder if it really needs such an edition.

- Robert De Niro is putting on his ethnographic glasses to produce a film about the Chinese Revolution in 1949 told through the eyes of one of the few foreigners in the country. Not to be a man of little faith, but I predict this is going to suck already.

The Golden Rock - July 14th, 2007 Edition

- I’m not a fan of Ayumi Hamasaki at all, but for your information - the second MTV of her short film with Hong Kong actor Shawn Yue is up as well. While the annoying flashes and whooshes are gone, it runs out of steam and logic halfway.

- This weekend, Japan Times’ Kaori Shoji reviews the kamikaze documentary Tokko (Wings of Defeat), while also turning in a feature on the film, its director Risa Morimoto, and producer Linda Hoagland (one of the most top subtitlers in Japan). Meanwhile, Mark Schilling reviews the Cannes participant dark comedy Funuke Domo, Kanashimi No Ai Wo Misero ( Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers!)

Meanwhile, other critics in Japan has been praising the film as one of the best of the year, which helped Funuke score a pretty big opening weekend on July 7th. In one Shibuya theater, the film attracted 1870 admissions, grossing 2.84 million yen. However, since the theater actually sits 303 people, and let’s say it opened at 4 shows a day (it’s now at 5 shows a day), that’s just a “pretty good” 77% capacity. Still, you can’t ignore that 2.84 million yen gross.

By the way, the film will play with English subtitles from August 4th to August 10th, so you can check it out for yourself which critics are right.

- As the Hong Kong Broadway Cinema chain website has reflected, the Carol Lai-directed horror film Nakara 19, starring EEG stars Gillian Chung and Vincy Chan, has been pushed back from an early August opening to the post-summer date of September 6th. This signals either: 1) Hong Kong films are learning to get out of Hollywood blockbusters’ way, or 2) The powers that be don’t have much faith in the film. This leaves only two Hong Kong summer films left - Benny Chan’s Invisible Target and Wilson Yip’s Flashpoint. The Hong Kong Film blog also lists Triangle as an August 23rd opening, but no Hong Kong cinema chain website has confirmed that. More on the Hong Kong summer tomorrow on the Podcast.

- Dave’s Trailer Page has a trailer of the Hong Kong limited release hit Two Days in Paris, directed by and starring Julie Delpy. Honestly, it doesn’t even look like an arthouse film.

- Everyone has completely forgotten, but it looks like Derek Yee’s long-awaited The Shinjuku Incident, featuring Jackie Chan playing a rare dramatic role, is actually now set to start shooting in November. Yes, Jackie Chan is still playing an exchange student in Japan. Actually, now that I think back to my days in Japan, there were some somewhat old Chinese exchange students there, so it MIGHT work. Maybe.

- Posters, posters, posters everywhere. First, we have the latest posters for Yoshimitsu Morita’s remake of Sanjuro, then we have the individual character posters for Peter Chan’s Warlords.

- In China, a sci-fi writer lost his case against 20th Century Fox and director Roland Emmerich, whom he accused of stealing his play for the hit film The Day After Tomorrow. He lost because 1) He couldn’t prove when he wrote the plays, and 2) that 20th Century Fox ever had access to his plays. Ouch. Then again, is Hollywood the only one doing the plagiarizing?

- Spain’s Neptuno Films has bought up distribution rights for the China-Singapore co-produced animated series Katakune. So far, the show is set to broadcast in China, Taiwan, and Thailand, with Neptuno planning to bring it to all areas outside Asia and North America.

- The Japanese film University of Laughs, about a clash between a playwright and a government censor, has been adapted into a play by British playwright Richard Harris. In fact, the whole crew just took the play to Japan.

The Golden Rock - July 2nd, 2007 Edition

Hong Kong was on public holiday Monday, which means no weekend box office figure until later tonight Pacific Time (Tuesday in HK) or even tomorrow night.

- On the other hand, the Japanese box office numbers are already out, and Box Office Mojo already has the comprehensive chart. Die Hard 4.0 takes the top spot with a strong 603 million yen from 741 screens. Adding the Saturday’s preview screenings’ take of 289 million yen, it has already made 892 million yen to date. However, its 814,000 yen per-screen average is kind of weak for an opening this wide (Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean saw higher per-screen average on even higher screen counts). Meanwhile, Shrek 3 opens at third, making 363.8 million yen on 543 screens, which is much higher than Shrek 2’s opening of 284.8 million yen on 551 screens in 2004. If the performance pattern is similar to Shrek 2, this one should end up doing better than the previous film by about 25%.

Except for The Haunted Samurai, Maiko Haaaan!!!, and Pirates of the Caribbean, everything else took a pretty big hit, especially Spiderman 3’s 52.2% hit, Zodiac’s 40.1% hit, and Dai Nipponjin’s 43% drop (at least it passed the 1 billion yen mark). Lastly, Pedro Almodovar’s Volver missed the top 10 because it’s only playing on 40 screens. It only make 19 million yen.

- By the way, I forgot to report that the Akihi To Kamo No Coin Locker opening in Tokyo also marked the best opening for a Japanese film at that theater after last year’s Mamiya Brothers, and is the 7th best opening ever at the theater.

- After the financial failure of Ichikawa Kon’s self-remake of The Inugami Family earlier in the year, director Nobuhiko Oobayashi’s self-remake of his 1982 film Exchange Students also failed in its limited release. Originally the first part of the “Onomichi Trilogy” (the director’s hometown), the remake, named Tenkousei - Sayonara Anata, takes the film out of its original location to Nagano. On 30 screens, the film made only 5 million yen with only a 166,666 yen per-screen average. Perhaps these self-remakes aren’t very good ideas.

- Meanwhile, Kiroi Namida, the Isshin Inusou film starring Johnny’s boy group Arashi, opened in South Korea to a seemingly weak 16,000 admissions, only because it’s compared to Memories of Tomorrow’s 38,000 admissions and Tears For You’s 64,000 admissions for their respective opening weekends. However, there’s nothing about how many screens it opened on, considering that the film is considered less mainstream than its counterparts in Japan. However, Eiga Consultant also points out that the film actually didn’t even do all that well in Japan. While the film has finally broke the 200 million yen barrier, other films starring individual members of Arashi (such as Letters From Iwo Jima and Honey and Clover) has actually done much better.

- It’s kind of been reported before, but Pirates of the Caribbean has officially surpassed Spiderman 3 in worldwide gross. I’m reporting this because a bulk of that cash comes from Asia.

- Get it here first, the first full-length trailer for Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, starring Tony Leung, Joan Chen, Leehom Wang, and newcomer Tang Wei, is everywhere on Youtube. A Chinese neonoir/political thriller? Sign me up.

Speaking of trailer, the full-length trailer for Paul Greengrass’ The Bourne Ultimatum is up, and it’s looking good. Could this deliver even better old-school movie magic action than Live Free or Die Hard? (HD links can be found at Dave’s Trailer Page)

- Since Shinya Tsukamoto’s Nightmare Detective was recently announced to be in production, I should probably link the latest review for the first film here.

- Lovehkfilm has updated with some reviews. First, Derek Kwok’s directorial debut The Pye-Dog with Eason Chan, then a review for Herman Yau’s direct-to-video film A True Mob Story (also his third release this year), and one for the Japanese heist/romance/true story First Love.

OK, there’s also one for sleazy low-budget exploitation flick Lethal Angels.

- Jason Gray has more about the Japanese documentary Campaign, including his interview with the director on The Midnight Eye and news of nightly English-subtitled screenings.

- Eason Chan and Miriam Yeung win big at the 7th Chinese Music Media Awards in Hong Kong. I’ve never even heard of this award in the first place, let alone the winners for the first 6 ceremonies.

- Naked News, the show where reporters literally remove pieces of clothing while reporting the latest news, is on an adult-oriented channel in Japan. Guess what? It’s also subsidized by the government.

- Variety has a review of the action film Dynamite Warrior, which Michael Wells wrote about after it screened at the New York Asian Film Festival.

- Associated Press, via the Daily Yomiuri, reports further about the death of master filmmaker Edward Yang.

- A while ago I reported about yet another censorship case involving Hong Kong’s Television and Entertainment Licensing Council. An essay in Hong Kong’s inMediaHK site included a picture from Flickr with nudity, prompting a warning from TELA that it might be sent to be classified as a category II indecent material. However, the writer refuses to budge (the irony is that the essay is actually about this Hong Kong witch-hunt of “indecent” material by conservative groups), and a month later, the essay has been classified as category II material, with the writer now at risk to pay fines and serve jail time.

Now, EastSouthWestNorth has translated the latest interview with the writer, who still refuses to give in to the ridiculous and ineffective censorship this government council is doing.

- Reuters introduces the Singaporean documentary Invisible City, featuring footages of a forgotten Singapore from the 1950s.

- Universal Music, one of the few record companies that is actually uploading their own artists’ music videos onto Youtube voluntarily, is refusing to draw a long-term licensing deal with Apple’s iTunes, which takes up 70% of the digital music market, because they pretty much want more money. According to Hongkie Town, Universal Music feels that iTunes isn’t charging enough for songs and is looking for another provider that would make them more money. And corporations wonder why people don’t like giving money to them.

The Golden Rock - June 29th, 2007 Edition

I was messing around with Audacity to plan for this weekend’s podcast, and I’ve already started planning it. Looks like I might put in some music after all. Anyway, review first:

Saw the latest Die Hard movie today in a 65-75% full house. I love the Die Hard franchise, though my love extends to only the first and the third movies. This time, Len “I can’t even make a cool comic idea entertaining” Wiseman takes the helm and actually directs the action quite capably. I’m very appreciative that he actually bothered to make most of the action look real (even the flipping car in the tunnel that you see in the trailer is actually real), although they’re over-the-top to an extreme. Also appreciative to see a few Asian-American actors, though I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with Maggie Q being THE character that can fight well with the generic Asian name.

After a while, I realize just how bored Wiseman was when he filmed all those dialogue scenes. He was probably so bored that in one scene, he just picked up the camera and just moved it a lot in close-ups to make it look “dynamic.” That, plus the unusual instances of obvious ADR (dubbing in post-production), just says how much the crew was into making the non-action stuff, which is not very. The violence, which people were worried about because of the PG-13 rating, actually isn’t all that watered down - the death count is still pretty high and there are a couple of groaners, even though they are mostly bloodless (no, Bruce Willis with a couple of wound doesn’t count as lots of blood. Him walking through a bathroom filled with broken glass on the floor, THAT’S bloody). If anything, it just shows the failure of the PG-13 rating since the Die Hard franchise was never made for kids in the first place, and the violence here is still R-worthy, with or without blood. Plus, the way they toned down his signature line (motherf*cker=instant R-rating!) just feels forced.

I think watching this just ended up proving how great of an action director John McTiernan was, because the third Die Hard film was genuinely funnier, more exciting, better shot, and even smarter than Live Free or Die Hard. Hell, I’ll even forgive him for Basic….though not Rollerball. And I liked The Last Action Hero, sue me. Live Free or Die Hard may be a ton of fun, but Die Hard it ain’t. Well, at least Japan Times loved it, even if it gets a couple of plot details wrong.

In North America, it goes up against the new Disney/Pixar flick Ratatouille this weekend, but it did do fairly well on its opening day, making US$9 million. Since the action flick is appealing to older male, and the Pixar flick is appealing to families, I think they’ll both end up doing well, especially since they are both going to have pretty good word-of-mouth.

Die Hard is having an entire weekend of sneak previews in Hong Kong until it officially opens on July 4th to take advantage of the holiday weekend. However, it only made HK$480,000 on 34 screens, which is a solid but unspectacular opening day. Nevertheless, looking at the Broadway website, the online booking is picking up for the weekend, so it might end up doing pretty well.

No one released the numbers for the sneak previews last weekend in Japan, so I expect this weekend’s numbers to be inflated a little bit since the preview numbers will probably be counted into the opening weekend total as well.

- Judging by the Thursday opening day numbers, this weekend looks to be fairly busy at the Hong Kong box office. In addition to the Die Hard previews, Shrek 3 and the Milkyway comedy Hooked On You are also out to take advantage of the long holiday weekend. Shrek 3 managed to get a very healthy HK$1.29 million gross on 49 screens, though I’m not sure how the screens are split between the Cantonese and English versions. Hooked On You also managed a healthy take of HK$580,000 on 32 screens, which should ensure a solid weekend take. Limited release 2 Days in Paris by Julie Delpy made HK$50,000 on a limited 4-screen release and should pick up the hip 20-40 arthouse audience this weekend.

On the other hand, there’s no telling how holdovers from last weekend will do. Simply Actors made another HK$310,000 on 29 screens for HK$6.47 million after 10 days and should maintain an over-HK$10,000 per-screen average this weekend. However, Eye in the Sky made only HK$120,000 on 27 screens for the current 8-day total of HK$2.86 million. Hopefully, it’ll do solid business over the weekend again to lift it over HK$4 million. But even then, Eye in the Sky remains a commercial failure, any way you look at it.

- The Harry Potter reviews by the two big Hollywood trade papers, and they are both kind of negative. Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt doesn’t have much to say, except that it’s the least enjoyable film of the bunch. Variety’s Todd McCarthy, meanwhile, actually doesn’t seem to have any solid opinion of it.

- Celestial is making their movie channel in Indonesia local by including subtitles and dubbing all on-air promotions in Bahasa Indonesia.

- Miyu Nagase, the lead vocalist of the Japanese pop band ZONE, is branching off on her own years after the popular band disbanded in 2005, now that she’s done with compulsory education. Guess how’s she launching her solo debut? By starting a blog.

- Ryuganji introduces this year’s Pia Film Festival, which is a pretty damn important festival since some of Japan’s best young filmmakers got their first breaks there. At least their Robert Altman retrospective is in English, though I’m sure the overlapping dialogue in his films make them hard to understand too.

- Lastly, famous American film critic Joel Siegel (He’s the on-air reviewer for ABC’s Good Morning America) passed away today at the age of 63 after a battle with colon cancer. I don’t always agree with respectable critics such as Siegal (especially his behavior at the Clerks 2 screening), but I always respect their expertise, and he will be missed.

The Golden Rock - June 20th, 2007 Edition

- I had no idea that the public holiday in Hong Kong ended up being on Tuesday the 19th, not Monday the 18th. That would explain why Fantastic Four ended up making another HK$2.12 million on 60 screens Tuesday in Hong Kong, bringing a 6-day total of HK$11.14 million. Simply Actors, starring Jim Chim and Charlene Choi, is a hit with HK$970,000 on 29 screens on its first full day of screenings (it made an additional HK$250,000 the previous night). Mr. Cinema continues to do weakly with just HK$300,000 on 27 screens for a 6-day total of HK$1.7 million. It has now surpassed Kidnap, which made only HK$230,000 on 25 screens on Tuesday for a HK$1.56 million after 6 days plus previews. Milkyway’s Eye in the Sky has accumulated a total of HK$340,000 after 4 nights of preview screenings. It opens officially on Thursday. 4 Hong Kong movies on the top 10 - that’s a rare sight for sore eyes.

- Oricon released the rankings for music and DVDs sold in the first half of 2007. On the singles chart, Sen No Kaze Ni Natte is the number one top-seller with 916,000 copies sold. Released late last year, sales for the single rocketed after Masafumi Akikawa appeared on the year-end Kohaku Uta Gassen, and has been steady through the first six months of the year. In a far-off second is Utada Hikaru’s Flavor of Life, which in my opinion is easily Utada’s most mediocre single ever released (And I’m speaking as a fan who has shelled out 30+ dollars for her stuff since her first album); it has sold nearly 630,000 copies. Arashi’s Love So Sweet rounds out the top 3, selling nearly 421,000 copies. It’s official: Hana Yori Dango 2 ruled the music world.

In albums, Mr. Children not so surprisingly tops the chart, selling over 1.12 million copies of their album Home. I was a little surprised that Koda Kumi managed to sell 998,000 copies of her album Black Cherry, and Ayumi Hamasaki rounds out the top 3rd and 4th place with her compilation albums A BEST 2 WHITE and A BEST 2 BLACK. More surprising is the third best-selling non-compilation Japanese album would not show up until 7th place with YUI’s Can’t Buy My Love. Even Avril Lavigne managed to sell 656,000 copies of the album with that annoying Girlfriend song. Someone save J-pop.

In the DVD charts, the best selling DVD so far this year is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (which I’m sure was helped by the follow-up At World’s End), selling 430,000 copies. Second place is Hitoshi Matsumoto’s roundtable discussion DVD with 310,000 copies, and third place is the best-selling Japanese film so far this year, Umizaru 2: Limit of Love, with 267,000 copies. Even the huge pop culture event of last year, Death Note, has only sold 244,000 copies of its complete set since March. The reason why the sales seem bad is because Japan has a very active rental market due the gap between the price of a rental (400-500 yen) and the price of a DVD (2500-4000 yen for a single movie). With such a huge price difference, it’s understandable why people would rather rent than buy.

- In the weekly charts, Sen No Kaze Ni Natte is still selling strong in the singles chart. This week, it’s at 16th place, selling 7,300 copies as it inches slowly towards that million mark. Meanwhile, YUI rules the chart with the debut of her new single, selling just 79,000 copies. The Korean boy band Dong Bang Shin Ki (TVXQ) managed to sell 35,000 copies of their latest single for a second place debut. Dreams Come True’s latest disappoints slightly at third place, with only 31,000 copies sold of their latest single. Even a wedding didn’t help troublemaker DJ Ozma’s latest single, debuting at 14th place selling only 7,400 copies. Gackt’s Japanese theme for Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige is expected to win the charts next week, as shown in the daily rankings.

On the albums chart, Bon Jovi’s album hits a very surprising first place, selling 73,000 copies. ZARD’s Golden Best compilation continues to sell very well as it remains at second place with another 54,000 copies sold. There’s no real major Japanese album release this past week, so it all looks a bit quiet. Next week, Crystal Kay may earn her first number one album, if the daily rankings hold up.

- In Taiwan, three Hong Kong/Macau university students decided to show how ineffective news reporting is by creating fake news items and forwarding them to television stations. And those stations actually ended up running the stories without any verification. Someone’s in the big trouble, and it’s not the students.

- Sales are down this year at the Shanghai Television Festival, especially historical dramas. Good news is that over 40% of the stall holders were from outside Mainland China, which means it’s no longer just a place for the Chinese market. However, only 1.2% of the buyers were from Europe and the U.S..

Meanwhile, the German film March of Millions took the top TV Film Award at the Shanghai TV Festival. The strangest win in my mind was the best TV Series Award to Living, based on the same novel as Zhang Yimou’s To Live. To Live gets banned, but the drama version wins an award in China?

- Twitch has a longer trailer to new director Carl Zhang’s Lovers. It looks real pretty with the filters and all, but all it says is that the guy has some style. Let’s hope his directing and writing will back it up.

- Since Japan’s United International Pictures is packing up, Hollywood studio Paramount just flat out decided to do things themselves by distributing their own films in Japan.

- Reviews, reviews, reviews. Variety surprisingly already has a review of current Japanese blockbuster Maiko Haaaan!!! up already, while the Daily Yomiuri has a review of Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest. On the same note, Japan Times has a feature on the French translator who helped translate the scenario and the script to get French funding for The Mourning Forest, which makes the fact that he still hasn’t met the director somewhat strange.

- A government-appointed advisory panel in Singapore is urging the authorities to embrace the new media by finding new ways to take advantage of traditional forms of entertainment. Then there’s a bunch of vague official suggestions that look like English, but not really.

- Shanghai finally has their first full-fledged art house theater. Hong Kong had so many of them that they had to get rid of them one by one. OK, that’s not why they’re diminishing, but Hong Kong still has plenty of them.

- Andy Lau pisses off a CCTV program by refusing to appear on their human interest show. But then they piss off the people by complaining about it. This comment is my favorite: “If Andy Lau won’t come, you criticize him. What if Andy Lau criticizes you directly? Are you going to give him a physical beating?”

- Wilson Yip is making yet another Donnie Yen movie, but at least it’s not just another action movie. It’ll be a supernatural action movie. I thought China doesn’t like ghost and supernatural tales.

- Takeshi Kitano (Beat Takeshi is fine too) is returning to the TV drama world, except it’ll only be a two-part made-for-TV film.

- The Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (I think they mean Fantasy rather than boasting that the films will be fantastic) has announced its lineup, which includes Oxide Pang’s Diary, Yamashita Nobuhiro’s The Matsugane Potshot Affair, and a special program of films by Herman Yau.

- The international hit drama “Jewel in the Palace” (Dae Jang Geum) is going to the stage in Japan after it was successful adapted as a musical earlier this year in Korea. Performance will begin this December.

- The Daily Yomiuri has a feature on the Japanese documentary Election, which has seen very good word-of-mouth.

- Director Mamoru Oshii, best known for the animated film Ghost in the Shell, announced that his next film will be The Sky Crawlers, based on the novel by Hiroshi Mori. I haven’t seen any of his work, so I can’t really comment on this.

- Twitch has a set of reviews for the films playing at the upcoming New York Asian Film Festival in case you can’t decide what to watch. The festival starts this weekend.

The Golden Rock - June 3rd, 2007 Edition

- Anyone who follows this blog and Hong Kong music at the same time would know that I don’t have much love for Mark Lui, whose pop duplication skills is only second to Hanjin Chan(Edison Chen vs. 2Pac, Jordan Chan vs. Justin Timberlake). But I have to admit that Hong Kong press tends to make far too much out of nothing, even when it’s about Mark Lui’s copycat skills.

Case in point, I point you to the blog of Hong Kong pop star Denise “HOCC” Ho (yes, that is actually her real blog). In a recent entry, she wrote:

今日唔覺意聽電台。
唔覺意比我聽到d甘geh野。
聽到我想死。
我最愛的東西比人攪成甘……..
求神拜佛唔好比我再聽到。

(in translation)
I was unconsciously listening to the radio today.
I unconsciously heard such a thing.
I wanted to die listening to it.
Someone turned the thing I love the most into something like that……
I pray that I won’t have to listen to it ever again.

Somehow the Hong Kong media (and by that, I mean the Oriental Daily, circulation over 2,000,000 in Hong Kong, plus however many internet visitors it attracts) has connected it with reports that Mark Lui’s latest work “Money Money Money Money” by Leo Ku has been accused of copying Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Then somehow, Oriental Daily connected it with HOCC’s post about listening to a song on the radio that has ruined the thing she loves, which is conveniently Queen. Thing is, she has nothing to deny because she never named the song, and the report states that HOCC admits to have heard the song, but doesn’t wish to criticize it. Then the reporter apparently continued to pursue the question, prompting her to say the following:

「 創 作 人 同 音 樂 人 心 中 有 把 尺 , 我 把 尺 set 得 好 高 , 自 己 盡 量 避 免 ( 抄 襲 ) , 其 實 歌 手 都 應 該 有 責 任 ! 」 阿 詩 最 後 暗 寸 Mark 說 : 「 有 抄 襲 成 分 話 係 冇 得 追 究 , 不 過 總 會 有 人 知 ! 」

(in translation from the report)”Musicians have a bar in their hearts; I set the bar very high, and I try my best to avoid (copying). Actually, all artists have that responsibility!” Ah C also finally subtly criticizes Mark, saying “If there’s copied elements then it can’t be pursued, but someone always knows eventually!”

I love how these reports love to assume what the people are trying to say just by the report’s agenda.

Anyway, here’s the song in question, and here’s Bohemian Rhapsody. There’s a saying in Chinese, “The eyes are tall, but the hand is low,” meaning that the vision is ambitious, but the way it’s done is lackluster, which is the best way to describe the Leo Ku song. Lui’s ambition is high, trying to create a pop song that attempts to emulate Bohemian Rhapsody’s structure (it’s not the only song to do so anyway) and avoiding the Karaoke-friendly cliches. But the song sounds like a bunch of random melodies that Lui’s written before held together by the chorus; the whole thing just sounds like one of those bad pop song medleys…..like this one by Leo Ku rather than an actual song. Furthermore, Ku’s whole “can you hear me trying to sound like I’m having fun?” tongue-in-cheek delivery is irritating, especially when he does it for five minutes. I’m sure Leo Ku is a talented singer (though his “I love to sing” shtick is a little tiresome), but he’s no Freddie Mercury. And yes, the beginning and the random a capella does sound a bit like Bohemian Rhapsody’s structure, but saying that “Money Money Money Money” is copying from Bohemian Rhapsody is an insult.

….an insult to Bohemian Rhapsody, that is.

Still, this isn’t the worst case of Mark Lui’s copying skills. You can even write this one off and call it an homage.

- Speaking of Oriental Daily and bad press behavior, the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority has finally decided to send the erotic pages of several Hong Kong major newspapers, including Oriental Daily, to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for classifications. This comes after the TELA received hundreds of complaints following the Chinese University of Hong Kong student newspaper scandal, where bloggers accuse the TELA for holding a double standard. If they have any type of fairness, then they would classify these pages as category II, which then would just show that the people in charge might just be a tad too uptight about sex.

- After game developers Midway’s abrupt resignation as the official sponsor of the New York Asian Film Festival, Twitch has decided to call a boycott of Midway because of their unethical practices.

On the other hand, Suntory (yes, as in “For relaxing times, it’s Suntory time” Suntory) and the Weinstein Company’s Dragon Dynasty have stepped up to become sponsors, though the financial gap left by Midway’s departure still hasn’t been filled, which should say how big of a presence they would’ve been.

- Korea Pop Wars has a link to a very good editorial about the way the Korean Wave is going.

- Twitch has an extended trailer for the big-budget Korean monster film D-War, which still doesn’t look very good. But hey, the special effects actually look pretty impressive, which balances out the dialogue, which is not very impressive.

- TV Tokyo, which is still considered the CW of Japan (smallest network with the fewest affiliates in the country), is hoping to expand to four more major territories by 2011. More programming choices: good. More crappy variety shows: bad.

- Nominees for the 44th Grand Bell Awards in Korea have been announced. They’re still busy giving awards to The Host? That felt like it was so long ago. The biggest surprise is to see films that I didn’t particularly care for (Seducing Mr. Perfect and Ice Bar) in the nominations.

- Hideo Nakata is a very very busy man - he has the period horror film Kaidan coming out on August 4th, then he’s also shooting the Death Note spinoff film L this summer, and now he has signed on to return to Hollywood for Inhuman, a horror film that’s not a remake. Inhuman will be produced partly by Taka Ichise, who worked with Nakata on the original “Ring” series.

- A while ago I introduced the trailer for the Singaporean film “Men in White,” a horror-comedy that seemed to be trying too hard to be funny. Now there’s a review, and it seems to confirm a couple of things that I fear the film might be.

- I guess Thailand is making a transgender parody of Kung Fu Hustle?

- Lastly, we have a report about China’s closest thing to a school of rock - a rock band named 20088 (they apparently turn 8 in 2008)consisting of 4 kids from the school’s music club. I can’t wait until they do some Nine Inch Nail covers.

The blog that never ends


Today’s entry title refers to the Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts, who has a huge presence in the film I saw last night. Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Linda Linda Linda doesn’t play out like a crowdpleaser - it doesn’t have the dramatic flair of the usual high school girls films, nor is it outrageously hilarious like Shinobu Yaguchi’s Swing Girls - and yet, it’s so easy to get excited about it. The basic plot is fairly formulaic, with 4 girls overcoming obstacles to play in the big school fair, but its approach is so subdued and natural that I was surprised that I could muster up such enthusiasm for a film that intentionally doesn’t have much of a climax. The girls work hard, they bond, some kind of screw-up happens (which actually was such a natural thing to happen that I’m surprised I didn’t think of it), and they still play in the big show. There’s no time for big dramatic moments, and that helps to capture an authentic sense of reality rarely seen in American teen films without appearing artistically pretentious. And best of all: The movie has no montages.

Naturally, the standout is Korean actress Bae Doona playing Korean exchange student/lead vocalist that was randomly recruited. Speaking very little Japanese, Bae captures the simple charm in her character, an outcast that finds real friends through pure coincidence. Scenes involving her interacting with unsuspecting characters, including a crush that managed to learn a bit of Korean for his confession to her, are often the funniest scenes in the film. Too bad the subtitles couldn’t capture when Bae is actually speaking Japanese or Korean when it was crucial to getting the joke of said confession scene.

Anyway, it’s a different creature from Swing Girls, but it’s great just the same. It’s not the most entertaining, but Linda Linda Linda is simply one of the better teen films from Asia in recent years, period. And even though I’m about 12 years late, I’ve just become a Blue Hearts fan. I’m gonna have to check out the lead singer’s latest works too.

- The story this weekend at the box office is again Spiderman 3. But unlike last weekend’s “holy shit!” reactions, this week is about disappointment.

At the Hong Kong Sunday box office, Spiderman 3 still scored an impressive HK$2.86 million on 88 screens, bringing its 13-day total to HK$42.8 million, smashing Night at the Museum’s record as the highest-grosser this year so far. AND it still has the upcoming weekend to dominate before those pirates come and sweep the box office away.

In Japan, it still made 593 million yen this past weekend, with a 51% drop (which is perfectly natural since last week was part of a major public holiday period. If you look closely, just about every remaining film on the top 6 dropped over 50%) for a 13-day total of over 4.3 billion yen. This already way surpassed the track record of the previous film in Japan.

On the other hand, North America actually saw quite a huge drop on the gross, even though it still made a very large US$58 million, because it suffered a 61% drop from last weekend. In comparison, Pirates of the Caribbean only saw a 54% drop in its second weekend after its record-breaking opening.

And in worldwide box office overall, it took an even bigger tumble, losing 63.5% of its business, despite still making $85 million total. It’s not good, but how can anyone ever call a film that’s made over US$600 million a commercial failure?

- That was fast. While Kiroi Namida is putting people in small theaters, Isshin Inudou also has a more commercial film just opening in theaters. Bizan, starring Nansko Natsushima, opened in 291 screens this past weekend, making 135 million yen for a 4th place opening, right behind “For Those We Love,” which made an unspectacular 178 million yen. But that’s another story.

Anyway, according to Eiga Consultant, Bizan’s opening is 104% of the opening for Natsushima’s previous film Inugamike no Ichizoku and 125% of Gege, the previous adaptation of the author’s work. However, for the past 3 years, Toho opened huge hits Umizaru: Limit of Love, Negotiator(The Bayside Shakwdown spinoff), and Crying Out for Love in the Center of the World around this period, so that makes Bizan’s opening a bit of a disappointment.

- Another pretty big news today surrounds John Woo’s Battle of Red Cliff yet again. According to Oriental Daily, and now pretty much around several Asian Entertainment news site, Chow Yun-Fat, who suddenly dropped out due to reasons that had people screaming “prima donna,” has rejoined the cast, but only in a cameo role that will have scenes opposite Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s character. This, ladies and gentlemen, is called an act public relations damage control.

- In Hollywood, there are also rumors flying around that Korean pop star Rain is joining the cast of the Wachowski Brother’s Speed Racer. After the free publicity Stephen Colbert gave him last week on the Colbert Report, I wouldn’t be surprised.

- Herman Yau may just be the low-budget genre version of Johnnie To. Aside from Gong Tau opening this Thursday, he also have 2 more movies coming up - Whispers and Moans, which was shown at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and was just reviewed by Kozo of Lovehkfilm, and Mob Story, which I’m sorry to say looks kind of bad. Twitch has links to all three trailers.

- Instead of more real news, Variety Asia posted reports on Asia’s current three biggest film regions - Japan, which is seeing independent distributors growing, China, where small distributors are beginning to take on the state-run China Films, and South Korea, where indie films are sadly getting bruised by the big bad Hollywood blockbusters.

- Malaysian native Tsai Ming-Liang is back in Malaysia with his latest film I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, but it ran into trouble with its censors. Tsai managed to make a compromise, making five cuts from the film himself, though the film will only be screened in one theater for two weeks. Good thing Tsai is also very good at selling his movie.

But Tsai isn’t going to take this lying down. He believes that now I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone will play in Malaysia in its truncated version, it’ll open up talks about censorship. He argues that wouldn’t have happened if the film had simply gotten banned. The Twitch link above has links to the two reports in the local press.

- Somewhere out there, Asian film fans are about to pull their hairs out because Jeffrey Wells doesn’t realize what he’s missing out on just because he can’t stay up for an extra couple of hours. Hell, I would’ve caught a 3 am screening if it meant being able to watch the world premiere of Triangle.

- A film that I’ve grown to look forward to is Hong Kong director/UFO staple Samson Chiu’s latest film Call Me Left, which chronicles the journey of a middle-aged man through the ten post-handover years of Hong Kong. It looks like a male version of Golden Chicken without the sex, but with parodies of Communist propaganda.

- Lastly, Twitch looks ahead to the summer months in Singaporean cinema, including the latest from I Not Stupid director Jack Neo.

Standards

A bit of everything today, but actually quite a bit of reviews.

- Japan Times offers us three reviews this weekend. The most intriguing one is Tony Takitani director Jun Ishikawa’s latest Ashita No Watashi Tsukurikata, which from the plot description and trailer sounds like a pretty good movie. It’s currently playing on limited release at these theaters (if you are in Japan and is interested in this movie, you ought to be able to read it anyway). Kaori Shoji, meanwhile, reviews Panasian film Invisible Waves by Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. Lastly, they also have a review of the MTV-affiliated documentary Just For Kicks, which is about hip-hop and sneakers……I guess?

- Thanks to the Trailer Blog, we have our first look at Ang Lee’s Lust Caution, starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. It’s part of a reel from Focus Features, who also distributed Lee’s previous film Brokeback Mountain. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Lust Caution is expected to be released in the United States in September. No word on the Asia release date, though.

- I had previously expressed my disappointment that the Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To collaboration Triangle didn’t get invited to the Canne official lineup. Turns out they were waiting for the Chinese censors to clear the film (which they didn’t do with last year’s Summer Palace by Lou Ye), which was likely because of its “uncontroversial content.” Now it’s been cleared, and it’s part of the out of competition lineup. No idea when this will be released in Hong Kong, though. More news on Triangle tomorrow.

- I recently saw a link on Mobius Home Theater Forum to the results of a readers’ poll on they consider to be the 40 best foreign films of all time. I agree with one of the posters on the board that says it’s unfair to place all non-English films as simply foreign films. Maybe I’m just the resident Asian film fanatic who doesn’t know better, but I’m more bothered by the fact that 32 of the films are made by the Western world than the fact that Amelie actually got second place.

- With the surge of Korean national cinema, it’s about time that they recognize some of the classics. For the first time, several classic Korean films will be registered as national cultural heritage materials. Considering film restoration was virtually non-existent in Korean, it’s amazing that these films survived through the war.

That’s it for today. A few more news tidbits tomorrow.

 
 
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