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Archive for the ‘United States.’ Category

The Golden Rock - January 5, 2011 Edition

- Today on the front of Oriental Daily’s entertainment page is a story about two filmmakers trying to get the Hegemon-King of Western Chu story made at the same time. On one hand is CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH director Lu Chuan’s version, starring Daniel Wu, Liu Ye, and Chang Chen. The word of Apple Daily is that Lu quit/was removed from the project after he disagreed with his production company about the film. Lu then found other investors and resurrected the project, leaving his previous production company very mad.

So, Lu’s first production company then hired director Daniel Lee (of DRAGON SQUAD and THREE KINGDOMS), got a cast that’s rumored of Louis Koo, Fan Bing Bing, Huang Xiaoming, and Andy Lau. Lee said in an interview that the film hasn’t confirmed its cast yet, but will be ready to shoot in March.

I know Daniel Lee has the bigger cast and all, but my money’s still on Lu Chuan.

Story from Apple Daily, in Chinese, for access from Hong Kong only.  Also take Apple Daily news with a grain of salt.

- Hollywood studio Warner Bros. is finding a new way to penetrate the Chinese market - internet video on demand. The studio signed a deal with video site Youku to let Chinese users watch the film for a few yuan. Compared to the already low price of a DVD, there’s no excuse for Chinese netizens to illegally download the movie other than….well, who knows?

- More in video-on-demand news, FUNimation in the United States has signed a video-on-demand deal with Asia Media Rights, who has been active in buying Asian films for such type of distribution model. FUNimation holds films such as EVANGELION 2.0 and SUMMER WARS.

- Korean pop has officially invaded Japanese music with popular girls group Girls’ Generation winning Best New Artist at the Japan Gold Disc Award.

- Derek Elley at Filmbiz Asia reviews the hit Chinese comedy JUST CALL ME NOBODY and COLOR ME LOVE, the latest film from BLOOD BROTHERS director Alexi Tan.

The Golden Rock Podcast - The People I’ve Slept With Edition

33413_200805241847371thumb.jpg

A week and a half ago, I had the chance to interview the director and cast members of the romantic comedy The People I’ve Slept With. They were in town because the film was one of the closing films of the Hong Kong Asian Independent Film Festival.

img_7788.jpg
Three of them were there: (from left) Director Quentin Lee, actor Wilson Cruz, actress Karin Anna Cheung, and actor Archie Kao

During the interview, we discussed the film, the characters, the inspiration, and the state of Asian-American films in America.

Part 1 (128 kbps MP3, 21 MB, 23:23)

Part 2 (128 kbps MP3, 22 MB, 23:39)

Music: Judy is a Punk by James Iha from the Beams 30th Anniversary Album.

Our sincere thanks to Quentin, Karin, and Archie for talking to us. Also, many thanks to Ms. Kit Ho and Kozo for arranging the interview. Apologies for any moments where I come off unprofessional. I am, after all, just a small-time blogger.

If you’d like to find out more about the film, please check out the official website, and become a fan on Facebook. It’s a film worth supporting, not just because it’s an Asian-American production, but because it’s just a damn fun film. Look for it in a town near you.

Photos courtesy of Quentin Lee and his Alivenotdead blog. Used with permission. 

The Golden Rock - July 23rd, 2009 Edition

- Lovehkfilm has been updated with reviews, yay. Boss Kozo has reviews of Wai Ka-Fai’s Written By and Disney’s Trail of the Panda.  Sanjuro has a review of the Ring sequel Rasen. And from yours truly is a review of the Korean-Chinese art film Life Track.

- Japan numbers are out. The crowded market, which included three major wide releases, caused steep drops for all the holdover films. Aside from the 32% drop for Evangelion and the 37% for The Summit (which has now passed the 2 billion yen mark), everything else dropped over 40%, and this include last week’s champion Gokusen and 54% for Transformers II.

Meanwhile, Mr. Texas at the Eiga Consultant blog writes about the opening weekend of Amalfi. With 376 million yen from 357 screens, the opening is 130% of the opening for The Star Reformer, the last Yuji Oda film, and that made 2.08 billion yen. The audience are pretty even across all the age demographics, and the main reasons for audiences were Yuji Oda and the Italian location.

- The South Korean numbers are also out. Harry Potter owned the weekend, as expected, attracting about 1.5 million admissions. I wonder if it’ll have any chance to beat Transformers II, which now has just under 7 million admissions. The evil wild pig movie Chaw opens with about 600,000 admissions. And the tsunami movie Haeundae had preview screenings from 19 screens and managed to make it to 10th place.

- The World Trade Organization has ruled in favor of the US in a dispute between them and China over the Chinese government’s policy of forcing American goods to be sold through Chinese-owned companies. The Chinese has asked for an investigation in US policies against Chinese products.

- Meanwhile, in South Korea, despite brawls breaking out, the Parliament has passed a media reform bill that allows newspapers and large businesses to have ownership stakes in broadcasting stations.

- China continues its fighting fire with paper bag strategy by blocking two sites that reported on a corruption scandal in Namibia involving a Beijing-based company that used to be run by Hu Jintao’s son.

- Actor/Director/Asian thugs ass-kicker Clint Eastwood has won the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government for his contribution towards understanding between the U.S. and Japan.

- As expected, the Japanese drama Negotiator, starring Ryoko Yonekura, is going to the big screen with a 1 billion+ budget after the special 2-hour TV movie scored a 17.1% rating.

- Chinese  company Chengtian has completed its takeover of Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest, turning the company into Orange Sky Golden Harvest. It will produce films and open more theaters in China.

In Japan, Nikkatsu has acquired AMG Entertainment, which specializes in mostly foreign direct-to-video films.

- After Ryuhei Kitamura made his Hollywood debut with Midnight Meat Locker, he’s taking on his second American effort, the film adaptation of the comic character Magdalena.

- Hollywood Reporter’s Maggie Lee has a review of the Japanese film MW.

- Futoshi Abe, the former guitarist of the Japanese band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, has died at 42 years old.

The Golden Rock - June 24th, 2009 Edition

- Boss Kozo has updated the Lovehkfilm main page with reviews. From the boss himself are reviews of the pancontinent Plastic City, the Chinese comedy Crazy Racer, and the Japanese film adaptation of animated series Yatterman.

From Sanjuro is the review for Korean film Tezza: The High Rollers, and yours truly looks at the Korean art film Iri.

So please support what we do and go read some reviews, ya?

- No official Hong Kong numbers yet. Will get back to it when I do.

-  In Japan, Transformers 2 rolled into theaters, but after the big hoopla (including the IMAX version on the three newest IMAX screens around the nation), it still opening in second place behind Rookies, and it even earned more than 10% less than its predecessor did in its opening weekend. Tsurukidake expanded into a wide opening and landed right at 4th place, with The Reader opening right behind it. More when the numbers come out.

Japan admission ranking.

……and in the hours I took a break from writing this entry, the numbers came out. Yes, Tranformers 2 may look like it had a bigger opening than its predecessor in American dollars, but look at the exchange rate:

Transformers: 5,299,278 x 118.104 yen= 625,865,929 yen

Transformer 2: 5,825,212 x 96.323 yen= 561,101,896 yen

That opening is only 89.6% of the first film. BUT, I just noticed that the screen count for the sequel is only half of the first film, and there doesn’t seem to be an expansion planned (although this might just be the distributor not reporting the multiple screens in multiplexes for a better per-screen average).

Then again, Japan has been an anomaly before for Hollywood blockbusters (The Dark Knight, though it did great critically), so it might not mean much for the performance of Transformers 2 around the world. There’s already talks of it breaking box office records here in Hong Kong.

With both Terminator 4 and Transformers 2 taking over theaters (By the way, have you seen this?), every holdover film on the top 10 (except for Rookies, of course) dropped over 40%. And the wide release strategy obviously didn’t work for The Reader.

- In Korea, the latest schoolgirl horror movie opens with only half the audience of last week’s champ Running Turtle, even though it’s still at 2nd place, Mother is grinding to a halt at 2.8 million admissions, and Shinjuku Incident could only get a 9th place opening.

More over at Korea Pop Wars

- And if you’re in Korea, going the movies will be an extra 1,000 won expensive. And this also supports why a film’s popularity needs to also include admissions, not simply monetary taking.

- And it’s the return of Japanese drama ratings! Aishiteru has a stellar 18.6% rating for its finale (even though it only averaged a 14.8% for the season), Boss is setting up for a possible 20% finale with a Takashi Sorimachi cameo that marks a Beach Boys reunion with Yutaka Takenouchi with second-to-last episode getting 17.4%, The Quiz Show wrapped up with 14.6 and a 12.1% season average, and the disastrous Monday 9pm Fuji drama Kankatsu continues its under-10% ratings run before its finale.

But the week’s disappointment goes to Takuya Kimura’s Mr. Brain, which falls under 20% for the second time in its run, despite the presence of guest Yukie Nakama. Usually, an 18% rating would be great for a season’s mid-season, but TBS has spent so much money on the actors and production that anything under 20% would certainly be something to be worried about.  Then again, it’s also easily Kimura’s worst drama in a while, so I don’t blame viewers for giving up.

- The Swedish-Danish film Original took the top prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival, while the Aaron Kwok starrer Empire of Silver healed at least some of the bad buzz it got in Berlin wit hthe jury award. There were other awards that you can read about at the link, but I’ll just spoil it for you now and say that Aaron Kwok did NOT win any acting awards this time.

- Meanwhile, Apple Daily reports that the 9th Chinese Media Film Awards was given out over the weekend. Ann Hui picked up both Best Film and Best Director with The Way We Are, while Chan Lai-Wun picked up Best Supporting Actress. However, Bau Hei-Jing was beaten by Zhou Xun for Equation of Love and Death, definitely a showier performance that commands acting awards, and deservedly so.

- The big announcement so far this week is certainly the announcement of John Woo’s latest film. It’ll be a martial arts film that’s also a co-directorial effort starring Michelle Yeoh. No other details, such as setting or other actors, have been announced yet.

- Also, Zhang Yimou started shooting his latest film this week after spending the last 2 years working on the Olympic ceremonies. This time, it’ll be a thriller-comedy that’s a remake of The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. I guess just to show the remake thing can go both ways.

- After being ordered to reform by the Japanese Financial Agency. film fund JDC Trust has officially been suspended from doing business for three months. The film fund has been in financial difficulty after their recent films have underperformed at the box office.

JDC is not the only film-related business in trouble in Japan - Usen is selling film distributor Gaga, and producer/distributor Wide Policy declared bankruptcy in May.

- After the Chinese government rolled out its internet filtering software (which reportedly even blocked pictures of Garfield spreaking his legs)and also criticized Google for bringing in foreign porn, America is hitting back and criticizing China for forcing the software on the Chinese people.

- Not really news: Stephen Daldry, the director of the Academy Award-winning film The Reader says he will think about editing his film for release in China, depending on the censorship that will be put on him. Then again, the nudity are all Western nudity, there’s no Chinese Japan conspirators, and it’s not on Google, so maybe it’ll be OK.

- In film festival news, Wai Ka-Fai’s latest film Written By starring Lau Ching-Wan opened the great New York Asian Film Festival with Wai Ka-Fai there to meet the audience. Twitch has a write-up of the film, and you can watch Wai Ka-Fai’s appearance on the Subway Cinema blog.

And before it opens on July 10th in Hong Kong, you can also watch the bombastic trailer. Look at how rewarding reading this blog can be!

Also, king of English-language Thai film news Wise Kwai reports that the acclaimed political documentary Citizen Juling, which has made the rounds at film festivals around the world, will get a limited release in Bangkok.

- Andy Lau’s indie film unit Focus Films is putting together a series of low-to-mid-budget action films, and the first film will be Pye Dog and Moss director Derek Kwok’s latest project Fists of Dignity. I think a better English title is in order.

And one of the ways to keep down costs is to hire student (i.e. cheap) screenwriters. I know because there was a recruiting flyer at my school.

- Christopher Nolan has begun shooting Inception, his follow-up to The Dark Knight, in Tokyo with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe. With a reported US$200 million price tag (I honestly can’t believe that), Tokyo is one of the six locations around the world it will shoot at.

Really, US$200 million?

- Last, and definitely not least, Jason Gray reports that Japanese director Yasuharu Hasebe, who started making films in the 60s and became a regular director on the hit detective series Aibou (Partners), died last week at the age of 77. Hasebe did make a return to feature films before his death with the Aibou spin-off film.

The story is all over the trades by now, but I credit Jason because he first broke the story (as far as my compiling process goes), even though Screen decided to not even put it on its website.

The Golden Rock - June 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 - February 21st, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Japan Times piece by Mark Schilling.

The Daily Yomiuri piece by Ikuko Kitagawa. 

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - February 12th, 2009 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More at Korea Pop Wars

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

BEST PICTURE

Red Cliff
Ip Man
Painted Skin
The Way We Are
CJ7

BEST DIRECTOR

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

BEST ACTOR

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

BEST ACTRESS

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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

BEST SCREENPLAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Rock - December 8th, 2008 Edition

- Dante Lam’s The Beast Stalker captured the top spot at the Hong Kong box office for the second weekend in a row. On Sunday, the melodramatic thriller made HK$539,000 from 34 screens for a 11-day total of HK$6.02 million. This is a 37% drop from last Sunday’s take, and signals that it’s slowing down a little quicker than Connected. Getting to the HK$10 million mark will be tough, but considering how Hong Kong films have done this year, this is a modest success for Emperor.

Cape No. 7 may have gotten a slight boost from its wins at the Golden Horse Awards, losing only 20% of last Sunday’s business for a take of HK$395,000 from 25 screens. After 18 days, the Taiwanese music-based romance has made HK$6.4 million. At this rate, the HK$10 million mark is looking more and more probable. On the other hand, Herman Yau’s True Women For Sale didn’t quite get the boost it needed from Prudence Lau’s Best Actress win. From 5 screens, the dramedy made HK$51,000 for a 4-day weekend total of HK$180,000.

The opening film with the best per-screen average is the Japanese film Ikigami. From just 4 screens, the high concept drama made HK$59,900 for a 4-day weekend total of HK$210,000. On the other hand, the best-performing opener was Wu Jing’s co-directorial debut Legendary Assassin. From 31 screens, the action film made just HK$336,000 at 3rd place for a 4-day total of HK$1.23 million. I guess all those Gold Label stars showing up didn’t help much.   The other Gold Label film , Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect, made another HK$189,800 from 34 screens, losing 45% of last Sunday’s gross. After 11 days, the identity-switching comedy has made HK$2.69 million.

The distributor of the American indie comedy What Just Happened? is probably asking that same question. From 13 screens, the Berry Levinson film made HK$111,000 on Sunday for a 4-day total of just HK$410,000. Quantum of Solace has made HK$18.91 million after 32 days, Beverly Hills Chihuahua has made HK$2.89 million after 18 days, and Burn After Reading has made HK$2.98 million after 25 days.

- Over to the Japan attendance figures, where Wall-E and the disaster film 252 finally came together to knock Red Cliff of its top spot for first and second place, respectively. The TV drama/comic-based spinoff Tokumei Kakaricho Hitoshi Tadano film (which looks terrible) got a 5th place debut. Surprisingly, Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s Where the Legend Lives saw a boost to 7th place this weekend after almost being knocked off the top 10 chart last week. However, like last week, its placing may end up being lower on the box office gross chart because it attracts an elderly audience, who pay a lower ticket price. More when the numbers are out.

- After months of production turmoil and coming in the midst of a political shuffle, Ong Bak 2 opened last Friday and is now projected to be the top local film this year. Kaiju Shakedown looks at some initial reviews, which reveal that it sets up for Ong Bak 3. I’ll be watching this in Hong Kong just after New Year.

-  In addition to the Golden Horse Awards, there was also a Taipei Projects Market (refer to my interview with Kenneth Bi to hear about how these things work), where two films had to share the top prize. A lack of high-profile projects (except for the Eat Drink Man Woman sequel NOT by Ang Lee and Pang Ho-Cheung’s The Bus) made it hard to find extended reports about it, but here ya go.

- Variety lines out the tough week the media had last week in Asia, and it was about more than giving away police strategies to terrorists and illegal airport blockages.

- Ryuganji translates a very long article in a Japanese magazine about the Japanese film business in the 21st century. Part one covers the overwhelming dominance of local distributor Toho.

- If you want to know what the most popular songs in Japan are, you should check out DAM’s (that’s a Karaoke machine) top 20 2008 Karaoke ranking because people tend to sing what they like, especially in a Karaoke-heavy country like Japan. As Tokyograph reported, here are the top 10 Karaoke songs of 2008:

1) Kiseki - GReeeeN (which has a great music video. You don’t need to know Japanese to be touched by it. Oh, alright, here’s an English-subtitled version.)
2) Lovers Again - Exile
3) Ai Uta - GReeeeN (This video, on the other hand, not so good)
4) Tsubomi - Kobukuro (I admit that I sang this a few times at Karaoke myself)
5) Soba ni Iru ne - Thelma Aoyama featuring Soulja (the no.1 selling single in Japan this year so far. Or some Arashi single might’ve already surpassed it.)
6) Ai no Uta - Kumi Koda (apparently the words Ai (love) and Uta (song) are huge in Japanese music)
7) Hanamizuki - Yo Hitoto (Apparently the only song she ever sings when she goes to the year-end Kohaku Uta Gassen every year)
8) Sakura - Kobukuro (The word Sakura is also huge in Japanese music)
9) Suirenka - Shonan no Kaze (which Hacken Lee covered in his Concert Hall II album. It wasn’t good.)
10) Ayaka - Mikatsuki

If you know Japanese and care enough about the rest of the rankings, check out the complete list here. By the way, my man Jero’s debut single Umiyuki got on the 15th place. Not bad for a kid from Pittsburgh.

- Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo has been announced as the first director of this year’s Jeonju Digital Project. Produced by the Jeonju International Film Festival, the Jeonju Digital Project is a trio of short films produced each year by three different directors. The other two directors for the upcoming festival’s project will be announced on January 13th.

- With China making the unusual choice of a sending a documentary to the Academy Awards Best Foreign Film race, some people in China wonder if the country’s even trying to get into the race anymore. At least it didn’t pick Painted Skin as its representative.

- Under “Japanese drama casting” news today, Arashi leader Satoshi Ohno will be doing his first comedic role in a TV drama next season.  Meanwhile, major film actor Koji Yakusho and popular actress Eri Fukatsu will be starring in a made-for-TV movie (I guess a drama special if you want to get all specific with names) with a script written 30 year ago.

- In order to encourage people to go to the cinemas, China has been trying to promote digital projection and 3D films in theaters. It’s so eager to it that its authorities even exempted Disney’s latest animated film from the 20 foreign films quota.

- Famed Japanese composer Minoru Endo, who has written 5000 songs in the last 60 years, passed away over the weekend. He was 76 years old.

The Golden Rock - November 24th, 2008 Edition

Long time no see. It’s been a very busy month, so please excuse the extended breaks.

-  In the same situation as Taiwan, Cape No. 7 entered the Hong Kong box office with a good, but not spectacular start. The now-historic Taiwanese comedy-romance-drama opened on 23 screens and made HK$586,380 for a 4-day weekend total of HK$2 million. However, unlike its run in Taiwan, the opening in Hong Kong was preceded by unavoidable buzz, which makes this opening a little underwhelming. Depending on word-of-mouth, normal box office patterns suggest that this will end up making around HK$5 million, which makes this one of the better-grossing Taiwanese movies in recent years (excluding Lust, Caution, of course). Nevertheless, for a movie that beat every movie except Titanic in its native country, underwhelming is the buzz word here.

At least it did better than Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua. From 32 screens, the family-friendly doggie film  made HK$1.36 million over the 4-day weekend, which means it’ll surely not repeat the success of High School Musical 3 last month. The Richard Gere-led romantic drama Nights in Rodanthe opened on 20 screens, but made only HK$400,000 over the 4-day weekend.

As for the holdovers, Quantum of Solace is still in 2nd place in its 3rd weekend, now with a 18-day total of HK$17.12 million after making another HK$507,000 from 41 screens on Sunday. Champions lost about half its audience in its second weekend, now with HK$4.42 million after 11 days. The sad part is that it’s actually quite close to the Mainland Chinese gross after two weeks, which surely makes this a not-very-successful film for Tsui Siu Ming, his Sundream Pictures, and Dicky Cheung, who still has a few more films (including his directorial debut) under his contract.

The Coens’ Burn After Reading lost two screens in its second weekend, but saw a much lower drop in its second weekend. From 18 screens, it still managed to make HK$184,000 for a 11-day total of HK$2.07 million. Last week’s limited release Bella also hung on to its audiences, still making HK$90,000 from 8 screens on Sunday for a 11-day total of HK$1.04 million. Detroit Metal City passed the HK$10 million mark over the weekend, and has now made HK$10.18 million after 25 days, marking this another hit for Kenichi Matsuyama in Hong Kong.

Patrick Kong’s Nobody’s Perfect made a total of HK$180,000 from 30 screens over 5-6 sneak preview shows over the weekend. It’ll open against plenty of newcomers over the weekend, so we’ll see whether the intended teen girl audiences will show up this weekend.

- In Hong Kong, despite the complaints about falling grosses and dying Cantonese film industries, cinemas actually saw a higher total gross than last year. Of course, this is mostly due to the major success of several Hollywood films such as The Dark Knight and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

- It was a public holiday today in Japan, so no Japan numbers until over the next few days. However, in TV drama news, the Summer 2008 ratings winner Code Blue will get a special one-off episode in January. Can someone say film adaptation soon?

- Speaking of Patrick Kong, his new film Love Connected has just started filming, and Gold Label has already premiered a new trailer. However, there’s no actual footage from the film; it’s only a somewhat funny parody of the Connected trailer. Love Connected comes out next Valentine’s Day.

- The Good, the Bad, and the Weird was the big winner at Korea’s Blue Dragon Awards, even though it only won one of the major awards (Kim Jee-woon for Best Director). Instead, the handball film Forever the Moment picked up Best Picture, while Son Ye-jin picked up a surprise win for My Wife Got Married. The Chaser, which swept the competing Grand Bell Awards earlier in the year, only won a much-deserved Best Actor award for Kim Yoon-suk.

- Giving credit where it’s due, it was first reported on Kaiju Shakedown. Now Screen Daily has confirmed that Johnny Hallyday - not Alain Delon - will be starring in Johnnie To’s latest, about a French gangster-turned-chef coming to Hong Kong to avenge his daughter. Will this be a new Milkyway masterpiece, or another Fulltime Killer-like attempt at international filmmaking?

- Also from Kaiju Shakedown today is the news of legendary actress Josephine Siao coming back to Hong Kong cinema with a new role after finding a script that she loves enough to bring her out of retirement.

- Chinese television dramas was such a lucrative business that every other production company started making them. However, the global financial crisis and a growing backlog in the stations’ schedules has caused things to slow down, even though the major players are still doing their thang.

-  Under “Japanese music” news today, Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli is releasing a brand-new compilation of their most well-known theme songs if any Ghibli fan hasn’t collected them all yet.

Mr. Children, who have been been active since 1989 and has rejected the invitation to Japan’s year-end musical extravaganza Kohaku Uta Gassen every year, has finally agreed to appear for the first time ever. Now NHK needs to get Hikaru Utada - another chronic rejection musician - to finally appear as well.

- Next month, American theaters will see Waiting for Beijing, the directorial debut of Chinese entrepeneur Alan Zhang, who worked 20 years to break into the world of cinema. However, his film was unable to get any deals at the recent American Film Market, even though he plans to make four more films in 2009.

The Golden Rock - November 6th, 2008 Edition

- This isn’t any type of bias. I’m going over the Japanese box office numbers first because it has more detailed statistics. As reported before, John Woo’s Red Cliff made an amazing 960 million yen over the three-day weekend. Box Office Mojo reveals that its two-day gross is roughly 665 million yen, which means it has beaten Hero’s 2-day 630 million yen opening to be the biggest non-Japanese Asian film opening ever. Interesting to see that Suspect X actually saw its two-day box office went up compared to last weekend, even though it’s already in its 5th weekend and no other movie saw its gross go up.

Even though Departures has already dropped to 10th place, but it lost only 9.4% from the previous weekend. The smallest drop, however, went to Journey to the Center of the Earth, most likely due to the popularity of the 3D version. On the other hand, the largest drop went to Fumihiko Sori’s Ichi, which joins a long chain of flops released by Warner Bros. Japan, who hasn’t had a number 1 opening since February with L: Change the WorLd.

- In Taiwan box office, megablockbuster Cape No.7 has finally been knocked off the top spot after 10 weeks there. It’s been knocked to 3rd place by Tropic Thunder’s opening weekend and the second weekend of High School Musical 3. I don’t think the filmmakers are sad, though; it’s already made an amazing 447 million Taiwan New Dollars, and the highest-grossing Mandarin-language film in the region. Meanwhile, high-profile films Body of Lies and 20th Century Boys are definitely now flops. Again, without screen numbers and per-screen averages, it’s hard for me to make kind of detailed analysis, so remember to not just go by standings and numbers.

- Under “more Cape No. 7 news” today, the Taiwanese hit has now been given the green light for release by Mainland Chinese censors, thanks to a warming of the two region’s relationship.

But even when it reaches Mainland Chinese cinemas, the film and its fans still have to put up something as ignorant and idiotically paranoid as this.

- The Japanese press is finally reporting on the Japanese remake of Sideways currently shooting in California right now. According to this report from a week ago, the assistant producer of the Fuji TV-20th Century Fox production says that it’ll be a remake “with all the bad stuff taken out”, whatever the hell that means.

-  Under “films by Hong Kongers I’m not looking forward to yet” news today, Jackie Chan has announced that he will not only produce and star in his next film, but he will also write the Qin Dynasty-set road movie. He also chose a relatively unknown director to start shooting it next year.

Meanwhile, Jeff Lau, best known for his irrelevant Wong Kar-Wai-parodying comedies, will next make a movie named Robots, which is poised to be the Chinese version of Transformers. It will start shooting later this month.

- Young actor Yuya Yagira has posted his first blog entry since his accidental overdose back in August. He writes that he is now overseeing his first novel, a “wrenching love story” that he hopes will be turned into a film with him in the starring role. Please make something light with a happy ending already!

- The American Film Market is now underway, and the major news is Japanese production companies continuing to buy up Korean content, though now at a lower price than during the Korean wave.

A little preview - The Golden Rock will have an interview up here with someone who’s actually done his thing at these film markets perhaps this weekend.

- France and China are close to signing a co-production treaty that will allow the French film industry look to one of the world’s fastest-growing film markets.

- Two ex-Morning Musume members (they call them “graduates”, I call them ex-members. Let’s call the whole thing off) are teaming up for a new unit whose debut mini-album will be released simultaneously in the United States.

 
 
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