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Archive for the ‘trailers’ Category

The Golden Rock - July 11, 2011 Edition

- Before getting into the focus story today, Sina News just posted a story about WU XIA’s box office in China:

According to the story, the film only made RMB 92 million in the seven days, which co-investor Stellar Megamedia’s CEO admits to being disappointed by. However, he also points out that the film already took up 50% of total box office gross in China this past week, which means that people just aren’t going to movies. He also believes that the recent box office gouging scandal has only minimal impact (more on that later), and that there are bigger factors at play here.

We Pictures marketing head Mr. Lu also admits to being disappointed with the gross, especially its weekend gross. He says total box office in July so far is “outrageously low” compared to the same time last year. However, Lu also says that with overseas sale, the film will eventually find its way to profitability. More analysis of WU XIA’s box office when figures come out in a day or two.

- Today’s focus story is on internet distribution for films in China. In January 2011, LET THE BULLETS FLY premiered on Chinese video sites such as Youku, Tudou, and others, on an on-demand basis. Essentially, the idea is that you pay RMB 5, and you can watch the film as many times as you’d like within 48 hours. The film was viewed over 200,000 times in 20 days, grossing over RMB 1 million.

With legitimate DVD cost continuing to rise and piracy still rampant, this is the new way of film distribution in China. Basically, a film typically lands on these video sites about a month after their theatrical release. After a paid VIP Zone window, which allows members to watch the film in HD for a small premium, the film becomes free for all members. As of today, A BEAUTIFUL LIFE, NO. 32  B DISTRICT, and LOVE FOR LIFE can all be seen for free already, some with subtitles and some without. These sites also include a large arsenal of television dramas, including all 30 episodes of NAKED WEDDING (trust me, they’re not naked like the way you think they are), which just premiered on one major Chinese regional network tonight.

Only a year or so ago, films were being uploaded illegally by users mainly on sites like Tudou and Youku. These sites pulled off a major cleanup and began acquiring licenses from content owners, which would make sense considering the amount of advertising these deals can generate. LeTV (the site I frequent the most) is one of the leading video sites in China. Not only has it built up an archive of over 4,000 films, it is also the first company of its kind to be traded on the stock market. In addition to a free iPad app, LeTV also sells an Apple TV-like device that streams its archive of films via the internet to television in HD, and they’re planning to sell 100,000 of these things this year. I saw an ad for it when I was in the cinema this past weekend:

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Tudou, Youku, and now even CCTV’s movie channel have made mobile apps for easier access to their films.

This is a very similar model to what Apple is doing in the states and Japan with iTunes, opening up more platforms and choices for audiences to watch films legitimately. However, these Chinese film industry is relying on this platform to work more so than the studios in the United States. Due to high ticket prices, cinema going is still considered a luxury for workers who only make about an average of US$500 a month. By making films available at a lower price than pirated DVDs, content owners are taking back any revenue they can in any possible way. As I had predicted earlier, the Chinese film industry is definitely heading towards a bubble situation, but there are things being done to delay that day, and internet distribution is one of them.

However, there are problems that come with this model:

1) There’s no report on the true impact of these technology has on cinema revenue yet, but once there is, cinema owners will not be happy (the previous report about July box office being low may be one of the first signs). Like it or not, cinema revenue is still the best way for films to make money, and on a personal note, I believe that films are made to be seen in cinema. If the cinemas go down, the industry will also be severely impacted in a negative way. The same goes for legitimate video sales. Video publisher already had to resort to releasing inferior DVD-5 versions of Chinese films to make them more affordable, but internet distribution is offering these films at a better video quality for a lower price. With Blu-rays being sold at astronomical prices and DVD sales likely to go way down, the Chinese video market may eventually disappear. As far as I know, there is no legit video rental industry in China at the moment.

2) Rising licensing cost. While smaller films will appreciate that video sites will buy their content, production companies are likely charging more and more for bigger films. One day, these licenses may become so expensive that video sites don’t see the point in shelling out the money for them anymore. The rising cost situation is already happening on the TV drama end, where prices are per episode, not per series.

3) Copyright infringement. LeTV recently filed suit against a manufacturer of a home media center (similar to LeTV’s television box) for allegedly providing access to films that LeTV claims to hold exclusive rights for. The media scene in China is very fragmented right now, with more video sites, television stations, and news outlets than I care to count, which means many different companies sharing content that they might not be permitted of having. This may discourage video sites to pay the big bucks for exclusive rights, or encourage video sites to clamp down harder on enforcing their exclusive rights, as well as extending pay windows. This will have a negative effect on consumers, who may just go back to illegal downloads or buying pirated DVDs.

There are a million directions which internet film distribution in China can go, but I say the more legit ways people have to watch films, the healthier the film industry will be. Sure, a film should be watched in the cinema, but it seems like for now, the masses have spoken, and they say otherwise.

- Following up on the box office gouging story from last week, netizens are still reporting that they’re not getting tickets to films they paid to see. To refresh your memory, audience buys ticket to WU XIA, theater prints a ticket to BEGINNING OF GREAT REVIVAL. Audience watches WU XIA, but money go towards BEGINNING OF GREAT REVIVAL.

Netizens reported last week that this practice is still happening in some cities. The distributor lamented that cinemas are simply saying that their employees made mistakes at the box office and that they can do little more than that. China Film Group continues to deny and decry the practice, while Stellar Media continues its campaign of offering RMB 1000 to each report of box office gouging for WU XIA. Stellar Media says they have already given out RMB 5000, and they have no idea how many more thousands they’ll have to give out.

Weibo reports of gouging have slowed down over the weekend, and I will say that this past weekend, I was given printed tickets for films that I actually bought tickets for, so no RMB 1000 for me.

- TVB/Shaw Brothers’ FORTUNE BUDDIES, spun off from the TVB variety show FUN WITH LIZA AND GODS, completed its 20-day shoot. Star/producer Eric Tsang said the film will only have three days of post-production because it has to go through Mainland censorship before its opening date of August 11th (simultaneous with Hong Kong). This is not the shortest shoot for a Hong Kong film - Johnnie To/Wai Ka Fai’s HELP!! only took 30 days from shooting to hitting cinemas, and director Pang Ho-Cheung shot EXODUS in reportedly 18 days. Go, Hong Kong cinema!

Trailer for FORTUNE BUDDIES here.

And now, today’s edition of WHAT I LEARNED FROM SINA WEIBO:

- Derek “son of Eric” Tsang posted the cover of the script for Pang Ho-Cheung’s reportedly Beijing-set sequel to LOVE IN A PUFF. It revealed two things: the script is co-written by Pang and Hong Kong novelist Lu Yi Xin, and its current English title is LOVE IN A BUFF. No kidding. Tsang wrote that he was heading back to Hong Kong to do a cameo for the film, but the weibo post has since been deleted.

- William Chan (HI, FIDELITY) has signed on for a 3D film called WU XING GONG LUE, a drama about Mongolian wrestlers in the 1960s directed by Casey Chan. According to its Baidu entry, the film is supposed to star Siqin Gaowa, Betty Sun, and Josie Ho, and it was presented at Hong Kong’s Filmart in 2010.

- Donnie Yen says that he personally prefers the Cantonese version of WU XIA, though it may have something to do with the fact that he spoke Cantonese in the film (He was dubbed in the Mandarin version).

- MURDERER director Roy Chow will soon shoot a film starring a buffed up Nick Cheung and (after some research) Simon Yam. Could this be the MURDERER 2 that Simon Yam was referring to? According to this story, Janice Man will also co-star.

Next time, Chinese box office analysis, a busy, low-budget summer in Hong Kong and whatever else we can get our hands on.

The Golden Rock - July 7, 2011 Edition

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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And then Li Shaoran fought back.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Some of his defenses:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Check out the teaser for the monster film here.

 

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

 

The Golden Rock - July 5th News Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - July 22nd, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More at Tokyograph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - July 6th, 2009 Edition

Back after a week-long break.

Also added new Twitter feed. You can see it on your right.

- No official Hong Kong numbers yet, but like America, expect it to be a fight between Transformers and Ice Age 3

- In Japanese attendance figures, the comic adaptation MW debuts at a disappointing 6th place and Anpanman debuts at 7th place, while everything above that stays the same. More when the numbers are out.

- In Spring 2009 Japanese drama ratings, the Monday 9pm Fuji disaster Kankatsu wraps up with a 10.5% rating for a season average of 10.5%. Mr. Brain’s second-to-last episode dips back down to 18.3%, keeping it under 20% for the third week in a row. It’ll need a 20+% rating for its final episode to keep its average above 20%. Either way, it’ll be the highest rated show of the season, even though it kinda cheated with only 8 episodes.

For the Summer 2009 dramas, which seems to be getting an early start, Kanryotachi no Natsu (looks like a rehash of Kareinaru Ichizoku without the big cast and big budget) premiered with a 14.5% rating. Call Center no Koibito, the first starring role for Kotaro “son of Junichiro” Koizumi, premiered to just a 9.3% rating. Will be able to know which ones to focus on when I see the synopses for them all.

- As expected, Chinese box office continues to grow exponentially, with box office gross from the first half year up 45% from the same period last year.

- In South Korea, thanks to local hits My Girlfriend is an Agent, Mother, and Old Partner, local box office has shot up compared to this same time last year, when the industry was in the middle of a slump.

- The great New York Asian Film Festival has wrapped up with the jury announcing its winners. Japan picks up five awards, and I can say the awards are well-deserved, at least for the ones I’ve seen.

-  Under “Japanese casting news” today, the prolific Kenichi Matsuyama will be in another comic-adapted film, and this one will reunite him with his Death Note co-star Tatsuya Fuijiwara. Kaiji will be released in October.

Actress Nao Matsushita will be the lead for the next NHK morning drama, about the wife of Gegege no Kitaro creator Shigeru Mizuki. It won’t be on TV until next March.

- It’s trailers time! First off is the first-ever trailer for China’s biggest film ever ever ever! It’s the PRC 60th anniversary film, translated title as “The Great Cause of Our Great Country’s Foundation”. Featuring 170 actors, there’s a prominent actor/director in probably every single shot of this trailer that features a human being. Except Leon Lai -  everyone knows he’s a robot. How many stars can you spot?

Just as bizarre from Japan is the trailer for Tajomaru, which takes the bandit character from the Akutagawa short story In a Grove (which Kurosawa’s Rashomon is based on. Toshiro Mifune played Tajomaru in that film), give him the pretty boy face of Shun Oguri, and give him a totally created background story. Personally, I think it’ll be another Ichi for Warner Bros. Japan. In other words, a flop.

- The Chinese film censorship body SARFT has a new vice-director, and it’s a surprise pick because he was kind of a nobody. However, not much is expected to change since he’s already within the system in the first place.

- Another Japanese production house is in trouble. This time it’s animation house Gonzo, whose stocks have been delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange after they found their debt exceeded their revenue.

- Twitch reviews the entire box set of the Jeonju Digital Project films, and this is just part 1.

- J.J. Abrams, watch out - AKB48 may be going to perform in New York after they made their overseas debut in Paris.

- Thousands attended the memorial service for the 22nd anniversary of actor Yujiro Ishihara’s death in Tokyo over the weekend.

- The Hollywood Reporter’s international news reporter/editor Steve Brennan passed away. He was 57.

The Golden Rock - June 21st, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - June 18th, 2009 Edition

And here comes another attempt at a news post.

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

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

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

More over at Tokyograph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - June 16th, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More at Korea Pop Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - May 13th, 2009 Edition

That’s right, it’s a news post!

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

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

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

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

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

More from Korea Pop Wars.

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

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

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

Sources: The Japanese box office blog, Screen Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - 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.

 
 
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