Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A thin line between praise and criticism

Not much of a news day, but still lots of different types of news going around.

- The Chinese media watchdog (better known as the government) has set up 20 rules to the press ahead of a major meeting of communist leaders. Some of them include a ban on talking about censorship in the media (I'm sure I'm not the only one who see the irony in this), a ban on discussing the cultural revolution, and just to be redundant, any discussion about the mistakes made during the cultural revolution should not deny the accomplishments by the party or Mao Zedong.

What the fuck?

Anyway, these are nothing new to those who have seen years of this type of censorship, and details from Variety Asia are here.

- The U.S. government isn't quite helping when they just decided to cut broadcast aid to Tibet and reduce broadcasting hours by 50%. Many of the Tibetan exiles listen to these broadcast, and now many people inside Tibet can only listen to the official Chinese radio instead.

Variety Asia report here.

- Just to show that I don't just criticize the Chinese government (because the wrath of the Chinese internet community is, honestly, kinda scary), the same agency that impose those new media rules also decided to bring cinemas to rural areas so poor farmers in those areas can watch the latest government-approved communists lovefest. Oh, there I go again. I ought to be happier that more people get to discover the magic of movies.

Again, Variety Asia has the report.

- And don't think I'm just talking about China, the censors in Malaysia and Indonesia has also went and banned two documentaries, although for slightly better reasons than China, I suppose.

- After the Oscar win for The Departed (it's from Hong Kong! Not Japan, Ms. Tuttle!), Warner Bros. have apparently been suckered into buying the rights for another Andrew Lau/Alan Mak movie - Confession of Pain (I mentioned the possibility of this 2 months ago here). Just as Hollywood Reporter reports, it's about a former police detective investigating the death of his old superior's father-in-law, and I'm puzzled why Hollywood even needs to spend 2.75 million dollars (a figure I heard Andrew Lau's production company is charging) for a script any post-film school screenwriting grad can write. Maybe William Monahan is so pissed about people saying how much Infernal Affairs was better, so he decided to buy a crappy script to make himself look better (even though he has an Oscar to prove himself already...)

- Meanwhile, over in Japan, I don't have those box office numbers yet, but Eiga Consultant does round up the results of Sakuran. On just 51 screens in the Kanto area (kind of like the opening weekend for The Departed in Japan, except 68 screens), it scored 44.83 million yen (that's roughly US$374,000 on a $1=120 yen scale), meaning about 880,000 yen per-screen, which is about $7300. Not spectacular, but still a fairly good start, considering it's been on fairly small screens in multiplex or single-screen theaters. It's also 125% ahead of Honey and Clover, which had a similar rollout. It'll open on 129 screens this weekend, so expect it to climb slightly up the top 10.

- NTV, who found a lot of yen last year with the Death Note movies, has bought stakes in a comic publisher. They've been kind of behind on those comic adaptations (TBS has Nana, and even Asmik Ace has Honey and Clover), so maybe now they can get more rolling, but to whose joy, I have no idea.

- For those in San Francisco, Bong Joon Ho, the director of The Host and Memories of Murder (both are now two of my Korean films) will be coming here for a showing of his three films at the Clay Theater on March 5th. I won't be able to make it personally, but I encourage everyone to catch all three films, they're all great in their own way. Of course, I will be catching The Host when it opens here on March 9th.

Anyway, details by Twitch here.

- I've got some new (and not as well-written as I'd like them to be) reviews on Yesasia, and they are as follows:

Love Me Not

Ad Lib Night

Hot For Teacher (aka Sexy Teacher, aka Who Slept with Her?)

Bye June

Jacky Cheung - By Your Side

- A new rapper has popped up in the hip-hop world, and guess what? He's black, and he raps in Japanese! That's right, it's Kokujin Tenzai down from the dirrrrty South. Japan Probe has an entire post on this guy, and it reports that he'll be holding a concert in Shibuya where a ticket cost 3000 yen. Would you pay 3000 yen to see this? I wouldn't.

Although I do have to give him credit for learning the language AND getting his buddies to rap along with him. But I don't think he quite has the finger on how conversational Japanese works, and in the words of Crocodile Dundee himself: That isn't Japanese rap, THIS is Japanese rap.

Plus I don't think Japanese people appreciate hearing a foreigner bragging going to Japan and "fucking yo' bitches" and having "Gats in the Cadillac."

On one last note: I've been checking who reads this blog, and what the heck are people at Circuit City, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo doing reading this blog? Get to work, guys!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Not much of an aftermath either

Just some leftover comments from the Oscars last night (and apparently my entry afterwards brought in double the page visit counts):

- Those over at Mobius (whom I believe to have some of the best insights on Asian films out there simply because, well, they know more than me) have a thread on the "Infernal Affairs is from Japan" flub by the announcer last night (although the responsibility probably goes to whoever wrote and didn't fact-check that script). There's even an interesting opinion on how the media reports that the Oscars have decided to award "homegrown films," despite The Departed being a remake (and maybe the first Asian remake to win best picture).

- Speaking of the announcer flub, Daily Dumpling seemed to have made the mistake saying that it was Oscar winner Helen Mirren who made the mistake. No, it was announcer Gina Tuttle who did it. (The only reason that I made the comment here is because I didn't want to sign up for Wordpress just to follow the usual HK-er comment about Infernal Affairs being better. In my humble opinion, it wasn't. And don't be bitter - Hong Kong did submit it to the Academy Awards for best foreign film, it just didn't get considered, boo-ya!)

- A little off-topic, but a blog I read, Hongkie Town, has a pretty good round-up of the commercials by HK broadcaster TVB during its Oscar broadcast. I downloaded their broadcast of the Oscars when I was studying in Japan, and for some reason, it didn't include any of the announcements for the presenters for some odd reason.

- Alright, I promised Hong Kong box office numbers. On Sunday, the rankings pretty much stayed the same, with Night At the Museum taking in HK$1.84 million on 45 screens for a HK$31.2 million total so far. It might hit that big 40 mil mark by the end of its run, since the Pang Brothers' The Messengers being only its biggest competition this weekend. Derek Yee's Protege, meanwhile, is showing signs of weakness with only a HK$1.06 million take from 40 screens on Sunday for a HK$21.85 million total so far. As I predicted before, it should hit the HK$25 million mark, becoming the highest-grossing Lunar New Year movie since 2004's Fantasia.

As for the other Hong Kong films, Ronald Cheng's It's a Wonderful Life is near its death rattle with a HK$320,000 gross from 33 screens for a HK$7.04 total. It might just make it to the 8-million mark. Lastly, the Twins' Twins Mission (website finally working!) manage to make HK$300,000 on 26 screens for a HK$5.27 million total, and it might just have a chance of hitting the 6-million mark. It may also mean that this is the end of the Twins franchise, considering at the heights of its popularity, Twins Effect managed to make HK$30 million.

As far as Oscar winners go, best foreign film The Lives of Others managed a healthy HK$30,000 on 2 screens and should be packed again next weekend in light of its Oscar win.


- Japanese box office rankings are also out (numbers will hopefully come tomorrow), and Oscar loser Dreamgirls actually took the top spot after debuting at 2nd last week. Dororo drops down one to second, and the kind of-big debut this week Sakuran (which is getting good reviews. More later) opens at 7th. It may not seem very strong, but it's also not a very wide opening (while Bubble He Go! gets 28 theaters in the Tokyo area, and Dororo gets 27, Sakuran is only on 13). More on the results tomorrow when I have solid numbers in my hands.

Source: Movie Walker (for those screen counts), and Eiga Daisuki!

- Hoga Central has a roundup of some of the positive reviews for the Japanese films that opened this past weekend - Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Retribution, Sakuran, and the new film by the director of Linda Linda Linda. Yes, she actually has the title of the film whose kanji I couldn't read. Here it is.

- A set of solid numbers I do have are those Japanese drama ratings, and TBS's anniversary drama Karei Naru Ichizoku tumbles to its lowest ratings of the season with a 21.1 rating, while the Flower Boys surpassed it with a 22.7 rating. That's right, Japan is so into its metrosexual boys that a drama featuring 5 of them would beat an epic-scale drama about a rich family in 70s Japan. TBS isn't aching, though, they can now brag that two of the highest-rating dramas are on their network.

Meanwhile, the two Monday dramas recover from getting their lowest ratings last week, and Haken no Hinkaku continues to get above-average ratings with a 20.2 rating, down very slightly from last week.

- Variety also has the numbers for Letters From Iwo Jima's international performance (i.e. outside Japan and the US). It's a really long article, so I'll just quote the important stuff:

"'Letters From Iwo Jima' launched best in France with $744,500 at 153, while the pic's soph sesh in Spain declined only 15% to $316,000 at 69, the U.K. debut took in $129,000 at 38, and the Australian opening grossed $104,000 at 24. "Letters" has grossed $47 million overseas, including $42 million in Japan."

In case you want to know how Ghost Rider did overseas (I honestly don't care), here's the article.

- South Korea also had a pretty strong weekend. I don't know much about the films opening and playing there (of course I know the foreign films, I mean the Korean films, although I review a lot of it for my freelance work). So I'll let Korea Pop Wars do the job for me.

- After Chen Kaige's The Promise was given the ultimate sarcastic middle finger by the Chinese internet community, the government is now imposing new rules for film crew in order to protect the environment. Maybe next they can try and get rid of pollution so smog will stop traveling to Hong Kong.

Source: Variety Asia.

- Hong Kong's Sundream Pictures (whose logo looks like a mainland Chinese film studio from the 70, or worse, Raymond Wong's Mandarin Pictures) is planning on expanding its work to international distribution and video production. Details from Variety Asia is here.

Lastly, I apologize for not getting back to comments as quickly as I had hoped to. I didn't enable the comment notification option, and by the time I found the comments, it's already been a week or two. I've activated that feature now, and comments are open to everyone (subject to not very strict moderation by yours truly), so go for it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Notes on an Oscar

Lots n' lots of surprises tonight - some good, some bad.

- Pan's Labyrinth lost to The Lives of Others for best foreign film. Now I'm definitely watching it this week.

- In turn, Pan's Labyrinth is on the winning side of an upset by beating Children of Men, and it was flat out highway robbery.

- Babel wins only one award, shame

- On the other hand, The Departed wins 4, yay. Oscar count: Infernal Affairs - 0, The Departed - 4. And Hong Kong actually submitted Infernal Affairs for its best foreign film pick, so which one's better now?

(Why Hong Kong chose to submit The Banquet for its best picture over After This, Our Exile, I have no idea.

- In Asian films, Letters From Iwo Jima wins best sound editing. whoo.......

Now notes on the show. (in reverse order of the show)

-Way too many montages, even though I liked the Michael Mann one. And the popularity contest known as "In memoriam" is ridiculous. Hold your applause til the end, people.

- Brad Grey gets screwed over for The Departed producing credit, yikes. Will Brad Grey be this year's Bob Yari?

- The original three amigos excuse for bringing out Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg to give the Oscar to Martin Scorsese was cute, but it kinda ruined the surprise.

- Alan Mak must be pissed, having been snubbed by Scorsese at least twice in his acceptance speeches.

- Since when does screaming equate to singing? I'm talking to you, Dreamgirls.

- Good job on getting the trailers guy to do the announcing. But why the hell is Infernal Affairs touted as a Japanese film? At least Monahan and Scorsese get it right.

- Best Ellen quote: "People say that the children are our future. This year, they're our competition."

- Great job by Ellen overall, including bringing Snakes on a Plane to the Oscars and the digital camera gag with Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg.

Very enjoyable ceremony overall, and well-deserved winners....well, mostly, but you can't please everyone.

Tomorrow we have more news, Hong Kong box office (maybe UK numbers for Letters from Iwo Jima), and Japanese drama ratings.

Hollywood's biggest night, but who cares?

I could be watching E!'s 2-hour long coverage on the red carpet, but I honestly couldn't care less about who's showing up with who and who's wearing what. Turner Movie Classics is showing Casablanca 'til 4:45 or so, and then maybe I'll watch the rest of the pre-show. If I get tired of that, I just picked up 2 DVDs today, one of which can keep me entertained for a bit. Just no more red carpet, please.

And because it's Hollywood's biggest night (and also the fact that it was Sunday in Asia), there's not really much news.

- The thing about Hong Kong entertainment news is that they only report celebrity matters. I knew Miki Mizuno is in Hong Kong shooting a movie with a Sam Lee and a bunch of B-list stars, but the news never mentions what type of movie or who's directing (although the costumes looked real chessy). Now Ryuganji provides the details that it's a new version of the "Female Convict Scorpion" series, and it's a Japanese-Hong Kong co-production by Artport (who also did Dog Bite Dog, whose shooting process is described in a book by producer Sam Leung Tak-Sam that I bought in Hong Kong). Joe Ma is directing, which cannot be a good sign for the film.

Miki-san has a blog, and she writes about her shooting process in Hong Kong (which includes a Cantonese lesson on beer-drinking) here.

- Time Asia has an interview with Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi. Not much new information, but it's a nice interview anyway.

- Jason Gray has some news on a few upcoming high-profile projects by directors Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Kore-eda today. He also announces that the release for the well-received Strawberry Shortcake will have Japanese subtitles (he knows that because he did the subtitles himself).

- I'm not a big fan of the cri English site because they stole one of the articles I wrote for Yesasia. But Lovehkfilm forum's Dimsum99 provided a link about the beginning of shooting for the new Peter Chan film "The Assassination of Ma" starring Takeshi Kanshiro, Andy Lau, and Jet Li. So here, and I hope they didn't steal that story from anyone else.

- Variety has a review for the first Finnish martial arts film Jade Warrior. Apparently it even did pretty well in China.

- As for the Oscars, instead of predicting who'll win, I'll just say who I want to win. a * means that I haven't watched all the films in the category, so it's a matter of personal preference. But it also means I'll only comment on the categories where I've seen at least 3 of the films


Children of Men


Children of Men


Pan's Labyrinth


Adriana Barraza - Babel


Mark Whalberg - The Departed


Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Babel (although I want Scorsese to win, but not because of his work on The Departed)



I'll be posting thoughts and results later tonight, but until then, I'm hoping Ellen is better than Chris Rock (not a hard task at all).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Not much of an independent spirit here

Was watching the Independent Spirit Awards, where Little Miss Sunshine bagged at least 4 awards, including best picture and best director(s) because it might just be one of the few films those people actually saw when they voted. Even though I liked it immensely, it may be the next most undeserved best picture winner if it wins the Oscar tomorrow night. Just a fair warning.

And can Sarah Silverman just start hosting every film award show from now on with no bleeping?

Anyway, slow news day, but just as important.

- Pop singer/actress/part-time musician Candy Lo has uploaded her latest song on her website. Actually, the link for the download is what the entire website is, and it's not bad at all.

- This is why there needs to be a free flow of information on the internet: A Hong Kong blog has an expose on Hong Kong's so-called hottest MTV director, nicknamed "Jacky" (who has done MTVs for mostly EEG artists). In an interview for Easyfinder, he talks about his MTV for Yumiko Cheng's single "Up and Down," which is outright copied from Goldfrapp's Strict Machine MTV. This is a (translated) excerpt about his "creative process"

"A lot of dance songs are just pure Music Video (earlier in the article, he mentions three types of music videos - pure music videos, ones with story, and ones for advertisements), because inserting a story would just be hackneyed. I use a lot of graphics and abstract color tones to package it. The record company already decided that Yumiko would wear Chinese-style red and green clothes to dance. I felt that the clothes is like a kaleidoscope, so I found a lot of vintage toys to create that kaleidoscope effect."

Yeah, I'm sure he's that much of a genius.

the blog entry is here (The pictures on the left are from the Goldfrapp video while the ones on the right are of Yumiko Cheng's)

- YTSL, a writer for the site Hong Kong Cinema: View From the Brooklyn Bridge, has posted a top 10 list for 2006 Hong Kong films on her blog here. She amazingly includes McDull the Alumni, which I've always contend is Hong Kong's answer to the Monty Python films and comes even with a hell of a monologue by Jim Chim.

- Twitch has a link to the 6-and-a-half minute trailer for Takeshi Miike's film adaptation of the game Ryu Ga Gotoku (or in American better known as Yakuza). I'm not a huge fan of Miike, but might this actually be good?

- So the panel investigating the natto TV scandal in Japan has now found even more "undesirable content" in the program from the past. Blah blah blah.

- And a final piece of news just for gossip's sake, Daily Dumpling has a report on why the Chinese people don't like their biggest star at the moment - Zhang Ziyi. *Gasp!* People don't like Zhang Ziyi?! Lies, all lies!

Tomorrow, Oscar predictions, but only the major one because I'm too lazy to predict them all.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The calm before the storm

This weekend is Hollywood's biggest weekend, with the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday and the Oscars on Sunday. What does that have to do with this blog? Absolutely nothing, but i'll be busy this weekend anyway watching these, writing 4 reviews, and watching Karate Bullfighter tonight on IFC. Awesome weekend coming up? oh, you betcha.

- The troubled Bangkok Film Festival (which Grady Hendrix's Kaiju Shakedown once chronicled) is officially back in July, but with a limited budget and no American dictators running things from LA. Apparently, the new focus will be Asian cinema and a festival more friendly to Thai audience. Hmm...Bangkok film festival, Bangkok is in Thailand, Bangkok film festival more friendly to Thai audience...that makes sense! Why didn't they think of that in the first place?

- I don't watch much Thai films, honestly, so you can't blame me for not catching SARS Wars, although it does sound real wacky in that good way. Now the director Teewewat Wantha is back with a new work, and it sounds wackier than ever. Honestly, with a title like The Sperm, how can it not be wacky? Twitch has posted a teaser up, and it may be the funniest teaser I've seen in a while. Don't worry, I don't speak Thai either, and I thought it was funny, so there.

- I was once a huge fan of director Kwak Jae Young (note, imdb does NOT have his complete filmography) - I, like every other Asian American college student who had an internet connection, loved My Sassy Girl (don't worry, I discovered it on a legit Hong Kong VCD). I even liked most of The Classic, which had great camerawork and directorial flair. But then he made Windstruck, one of the most uneven and intentionally emotionally manipulative Korean films I've ever had to sit through (and that's say quite a bit). Now he's back with another one those "My Girl is____" films (maybe he's making a trilogy) with his Japanese debut "My Girlfriend is a Cyborg."

More information from Ryuganji is here (I don't want to steal his compiled links, so go check it out)

- Japan Times' Mark Schilling really likes movies. He's been giving quite a few 3.5-4-star reviews to films lately. But now he finally loves movies, particularly the personally-anticipated Sakuran directed by Mika Ninagawa (featuring the music of the amazing Shiina Ringo). It finally opens tomorrow local time in Japan, and Schilling has given it 5 stars.

Japan Times even posted two feature stories on the film, one an interview with director Mika Ninagawa, and another an interview with star Anna Tsuchiya. Both are well worth the read, and the official full-length trailer even has three Shiina songs in it.

As mentioned yesterday, it will also screen at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

- Japan Probe has more information about the new film written by infamously conservative Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara. That's right, much like my own governor, Tokyo has a leader that also dips into the world of film. "Ore Wa, Kimi No Tame Ni Koso Shini Ni Iku" (For You, I Go to My Death) is a touching tale about young kamikaze pilots during World War II through the eyes of a restaurant owner who watched over them.

Yup, another nationalistic war movie that tries to paint the Japanese troops as kind souls who just want to protect their country that will also serve as a guilt trip device for current generation for not learning about the war "properly." I'm not saying if this film will be any good or any bad, but didn't Hollywood do these kind of movies some 20 years ago already?

Considering this is the man who makes statements such as this, I wonder what the movie is going to be like.

- Oricon Style offers a music video of personal favorite Utada Hikaru's latest single Flavor of Life (theme song for that drama with the Flower boys). It's only the "ballad version," but even as a fan, I have to say it's easily the worst Utada Hikaru single ever released. The only appealing part is the chorus, while everything else sounds like it's written randomly. There's no rhyme or reason to the melody nor to the arrangement. It's plain flat J-pop, and it's no good. And I even defended Exodus, for crying out loud.

And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that it's the theme song to a drama I refuse to watch.

- And now, some Oscar news:

Hollywood Elsewhere reports the voting habit of one voter. The movies this year aren't THAT bad.

And Borat will not be making an appearance as a presenter. Not so niiiiiceeeee.

I should say I won't be posting much this weekend, but considering I even spent an hour writing this entry on a slow news day, who knows what'll happen?

Friday, February 23, 2007

A note of interest

For those in Tokyo, Cinema Square Tokyo in Shinjuku (according to this map, it's in Tokyu Milano Building 3rd floor) is having an encore of recent Japanese Academy Awards winner Hula Girls with English subtitles from February 24th to March 16th at a reduced admission of 1000 yen.

Scroll all the way down on this page to シネマスクエアとうきゅう for フラガール and you'll be able to find those showtimes.

All over the map

Update's a little late today, but that's ok.

- Updating late enough means I caught Hong Kong's Thursday box office numbers. Sometimes I think I need to live in Hong Kong to understand release patterns. Case in point - the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore romcom Music and Lyrics have been on the top 10 since Valentine's Day. Not very good results (actually the bottom spot among the new Lunar New Year films), but still respectable. But now it's overtaken everything except Protege and Night at the Museum to take 3rd spot on its official opening day. It earned HK$450,000 on 31 screens for a HK$3.20 million total already.

As mentioned before, Night at the Museum and Protege continue to own the box office, taking in HK$2.18 million and $1.25 million respectively. Protege seems to be showing a bit of a slowdown, but business should pick up this weekend again, and at a total of 18.02 million so far, it'll at least reach the 25 million mark, which would make it the Hong Kong film to beat for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, It's a Wonderful Life closes in on the HK$6 million point with HK$410,000 on 33 screens on Thursday, and Twins Mission does HK$370,000 on 26 screens to get past the HK$4 million mark.

According to today's Oriental Daily (no link because content changes daily)Gold Label's head honcho Paco Wong is satisfied with It's a Wonderful Life's mediocre performance since it's only Ronald Cheng's directorial debut. Right, Paco, it has nothing to do with quality at all, I'm sure.


- Speaking of Protege, Kozo at Lovehkfilm posted his long-awaited review, and simply said: it's good. Not great, but pretty good.

- What I want to discuss more though, is his own Lovehkfilm 2006 awards. I didn't come up with a top 10 for 2006 because 1) it was too late by the time I came back from vacation, and 2) As a film studies major trying to finish his degree in film studies, it's tough to catch up on new films (although this is the first year in a long time that I've actually caught all 5 of the Academy Awards best picture nominee. More on that on Sunday).

Anyway, agreed on most of the top 10 (only mostly because I have yet to see My Wife is a Belly Dancer, and I'm only half way through After This Our Exile). Can't agree on bottom 10 because I've only seen two of those (but no Love@First Note? Too charitable, I say). Most agreed on the special award to Gold Label ("For the dubious achievement of somehow making EEG look good"), and agreed on the best overacting award. Make your own judgments from there.

- Twitch has discovered a new database for those who just can't seem to remember the faces of those HK actors that appear in every other movie. I say they need one for Korean films....

- I love the Hong Kong International Film Festival. They get all kinds of movies that I would not be able to catch here in the States (or in the case of my experience at the HKIFF, movies I couldn't catch during my year in Japan). Too bad I live in San Francisco, not Hong Kong.

Anyway, this year's lineup has been announced, and it seems like there are so many films that they can't even fit in a closing film. I have a few personal picks myself - the opening films (Eye in the Sky and I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK), Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust, Sakuran, Woman on the Beach, Love and Honor, and almost everything in the Hong Kong Panorama section. They even have Berlin winner Tuya's Marriage, and a Herman Yau tribute featuring the infamous Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome. I'm not saying I want to see those two, I'm just saying they should be very interesting screenings.

- It's been floating around for a couple of days, but I didn't want to report it because it's such bad news. But now it's been confirmed by auteur Rob Cohen (excuse while I vomit) that Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh will be in The Mummy 3. Jet Li will play a head mummy of the Terracotta Army. Excuse me while I go vomit some more.

- Personal favorite Shiina Ringo has a new album out that I posted an external review for a few days ago. Better news is that it debuted at number 1 on its first day of release. I'm gonna be ordering a copy of this myself when I dig up the 30 bucks needed to buy it, but rest assured, I'm gonna love it too.

- Oops, they did it again. Another Japanese TV station has admitted to presenting false data. Same old, same old.

- Top Japanese studio Toho's chairman Isao Matsuoka will receive the lifetime achievement award at this year's Showest convention. How about honoring him by putting more Japanese films on American screen?

Source: Variety Asia.

- If you haven't checked out Japander, you really should. It features Hollywood star in all kinds of Japanese commercial ranging from awesome to strange to just plain mediocre. I mention this because Japan Zone has announced that Madonna will be advertising for some new apartment complexes set to open in 2009. Other stars mentioned in the report include Jean Reno, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Ken Watanabe. I myself saw one featuring Richard Gere in a subway station in Tokyo.

- Hoga Central just announced that the blockbuster Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea (just not as catchy as Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World or Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, or Norbit: From Unfunny to Plain Disgusting) has had its distribution rights sold to 60 countries, including Iraq (a film about a conqueror that wants to rule the world. hmm......). Of course, none of this is any indication that it'll be any good.

- The Saturn Awards (Or Academy Awards for fantasy films) has recognized quite a few Asian films. For instance:


Apocalypto (Buena Vista)
The Curse of the Golden Flower (Sony Pictures Classics)
Fearless (Rogue / Focus)
The Host (Magnolia Pictures)
Letters From Iwo Jima (Warner Bros.)
Pan’s Labyrinth (Picturehouse)


Ko A-Sung (The Host) (Magnolia Pictures)
Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth (Picturehouse)
Jodelle Ferland (Tideland) (ThinkFilm)
Tristan Lake Leabu (Superman Returns) (Warner Bros.)
Mitchel Tate Musso (Monster House) (Sony)
Edward Speleers (Eragon) (20th Century Fox)


Joan Bergin (The Prestige) (Buena Vista)
Yee Chung-Man (Curse of the Golden Flower) (Sony Classics)
Penny Rose (Pirates of the Caribbean:
Dead Man’s Chest) (Buena Vista)
Judianna Makovsky (X-Men: The Last Stand) (20th Century Fox)
Nic Ede (Flyboys) (MGM)
Sammy Sheldon (V For Vendetta) (Warner Bros.)

A complete list is here

- Twitch also reports today on the societal impact of recent Korean blockbuster 200-Pound Beauty.

- Lastly, Variety has posted its
review for David Fincher's Zodiac. It's sounding more and more like Memories of Murder, and that's alright with me.

Whew, that was a lot of news. That should make up for the delay.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

End of new year fun

With the new year holidays coming to an end in Hong Kong, it's time to get back to the down and dirty. That's right, it's box office round up time:

- Tuesday numbers (or the third day of new year and the last day of the public holidays) indicate that Night at the Museum overwhelmingly wins the battle with a HK$2.94 million take on Tuesday from 45 screens for a HK$19.94 million total (even though it got a $2.5 million head start with previews). On the Hong Kong side, Protege trumps its competitors by a mile with a HK$2.07 million Tuesday take from 40 screens for a HK$14.94 million total. Note that in multiplexes, it's playing on smaller screens (because Night at the Museum took the one large screen in these theaters), and with a really good word-of mouth, it's gonna do pretty well in the long run.

As for the other Hong Kong films, Ronald Cheng's "directorial debut" It's a Wonderful Life (review by LovehkFilm here) scored HK$810,000 on Tuesday from 33 screens for a total of HK$4.71 million total after 7 days. It's the obligatory "fun lunar new year movie," so expect business to be brisk past this week, but it will finish under $10 million, which is nowhere near the success of Dragon Loaded 2003, but still better than last years' Lunar New Year offering The Shopaholics.

Not doing so hot are those cute Twins, whose Twins Mission (website still not working!) found HK$640,000 on 26 screens for only a HK$3.24 million total after 6 days. However, looking at per-screen average, it's actually doing better than the Gold Label gang, so who knows?

Family films Open Season and Charlotte's Web did acceptable business on Tuesday (HK$530, 000 on 27 screens and HK$560,000 on 28 screens, respectively) and are tied at HK$2.38 million for totals. And in limited release, Borat continues to be huge with HK$60,000 on 2 screens, and a HK$1.06 million total.


- South Korea also had its new year holidays, and according to Variety Asia (specifically, the always-reliable Darcy Paquet), box office is actually down overall, while Mark Russell over at Korea Pop Wars report the drop is attributed to new years being on a Sunday. Anyway, Mark's analysis is here.

- In Japan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has concluded that Japanese Variety shows need more fact-checking in a report about the investigation into the research process of such shows. Details from Variety Asia are here.

- On that note, the new years installment of TVB variety show Beautiful Cooking is up on Youtube (I'm not condoning piracy here, I'm just taking advantage of the free flow of information). Essentially, it's a show where three females celebrities go on the show and test their cooking skills (or often, the lack thereof) for the male judges. Of course, it features the same old canned laughter and lame musical segments that only TVB can think of. Most amusing is Alex Fong Lik-Sun lip-syncing to the theme song to It's a Wonderful Life, except he even lip-synced to Tony Leung Ka-Fai's line.

Through further research on Youtube, I have found a long-running Japanese variety show called "Ai no Apron" (or the Apron of Love), and it's basically where the cooking skills of female idols are tested for a male judge...wait a minute, that sounds like exactly what Beautiful Cooking is! This Wikipedia entry in Japanese shows that it at least goes back as far as 2005 (Beautiful cooking debuted in fall 2006)And here are those poor posters of Asian Fanatics Forum believing that TVB has come up with something original. Unless TVB's got the rights to it, they better start preparing for a lawsuit.

This is why there should be free flow of information on the internet.

Note: looking up "Ai no Apron" or "愛のエプロン"( Japanese name) will not get you any result on youtube because of the copyright claims by Japan's copyright people. Sorry.

- Back to more positive things, Twitch has a great interview with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (whose new film Sakebi is coming out soon in Japan). But the interview isn't about his new film, but rather about Japan's response to Clint Eastwood's critically acclaimed Letters From Iwo Jima (which has finally made its way to the imdb top 250!). It's very informative, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

- According to Hollywood Elsewhere, Shakespeare in Love has been voted by British voters as the most undeserving Oscar best picture winner. I partially agree, since it should've gone to Saving Private Ryan, easily. But what about Chicago? Crash? even Gladiator (which I really love, but even I gotta face the truth some time)? Hell, what about Forrest Gump? or Driving Miss Daisy?

The point is the Academy Awards often make wrong calls more often than right ones. It's not the first, it won't be the last. It took me a while, but I got over Crash winning....eventually.

- A congratulations to Yee Chung Man for his winning the Costume Designers Guild award for Curse of the Golden Flower. The multi-talented Yee is a director, production designer, art director, and of course, a costume designer who made the enjoyable And I Hate You So and Anna Magdalena, but has also worked on dozens of Hong Kong films.

Source: Variety Asia

- Thank heavens for RSS feeds. I just got the news that the Japanese blockbuster Dororo is now headed down the trilogy road. According to Ryuganji, 2 back-to-back sequels for Dororo has just been green-lit and is set for a 2009 release with a 6 billion yen budget (that's US$50 million, very huge for a Japanese film). The original hasn't even made that much yet!

- Oh, and the Resident Evil 3 trailer is up. Looks like Mad Max crosses The Mummy. blah.

Lastly, visits have been going way up, and I would like to thank Hoga Central,, and my friend Jason for linking the site and bringing more visitors over. You guys rule.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nippon Tuesday part 2

Let's fly over to Japan first to see what's going on out there:

- Japan weekend numbers are out, and as I mentioned last time, Dreamgirls debuted in second place with 200 million yen, which according to Eiga Consultant, is 72% of Chicago (also written by Bill Condon and made 3.5 billion yen) but 171% of the painful The Producers (which made 1 billion yen). Pending positive word of mouth, its total should come in around 2 billion yen, and be a solid little hit for Dreamworks/Paramount, even if they didn't get those major Oscar nods.

Meanwhile, those pesky Dororo and Pursuit of Happyness are finally showing signs of waning, each dropping more than 30% after making tons of money. Surprisingly, last week's newcomer Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust has some staying power, losing only 17% of its business, showing the second least decrease out of all the films in the top 10. The least decrease of the top 10 goes to the Japan-Korean co-production "26 Years Diary," based on the true story of a Korean man who gave his life to save another on a train platform.

- Eiga Consultant also analyzes the performance of best foreign film nominee The Lives of Others (which is doing very good business in limited release in the States), currently showing in one theater in Tokyo. Its first three days, all holidays, brought in 3032 people, totaling a 4.49 million yen take (120 yen=1 dollar). While solid, it's also only 94% of what Brokeback Mountain did in its first 3 days in that same theater, and unlike The Lives of Others, it didn't open during a holiday weekend. Still, German films don't exactly bring in as big a crowd as an English film would, which makes this start pretty good as it is.

- Now kind of to Hong Kong, where a Twitch columnist has posted her own review of the Fearless director's cut, and she likes it a lot more than the theatrical cut. I haven't seen it myself, but skimming through it, I agree it turns into a much different film - more of the ambitious epic that it aimed to be than the tremendously entertaining theatrical cut. I don't know if it's better yet, I'll let you all know when I see it.

- Kind of halfway back to Hollywood, Hollywood Elsewhere has a link to an interview with The Departed screenwriter William Monahan, who also wrote the great Kingdom of Heaven, whose director's cut is one of the greatest films that never got discovered. He answers questions about what he thinks about the original films, kind of hints about whether there'll be a sequel, and why it won't based on the original prequel/sequel combo. It's a good interview, even when he's not talking about Infernal Affairs or The Departed.

- I loved Children of Men. No doubt about it. And I love the brilliant cinematography even more. That's why I'm so happy to see Variety reports that its cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has won the top feature film award at the American Society of Cinematographers award. Good for you, man. I'm pulling for him to win again at the Oscars this week.

- Lastly, Variety also posted its review of Hot Fuzz. Yeah, we know it's gonna be good, we just like posting good news, is all.

Tomorrow, hopefully things are back up and running out in Hong Kong so we can get some box office numbers. It's gonna be huge, just you see.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Trailer Monday

With the Lunar New Year holidays, there's not much news coming out of Hong Kong, Korea, and China. But there are still some notable trailers released today:

- After Oxide Pang's solo project Diary, it's now Danny's turn for his moment in the spotlight after the strange action flick Leave Me Alone with Forest of Death, starring Ekin Cheng and Shu Qi (a Young and Dangerous reunion!). The concept is based on the forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji that's known for being a popular spot for people to hang themselves, especially after the economic bubble popped in the 1990s. Anyway, Twitch has a link to the new trailer, and....I don't know.

Thanks to Twitch, I also found the Sina page for Kidnap, the new film by Law Chi-Leung, the sometimes talent director of Double Tap, Inner Senses and Koma. It stars Karena Lam (with a blond look seemingly inspired by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, another film about kidnapping. See here for reference.) and Rene Liu, and the not-quite-promising teaser is not showing much. Kidnap will be released in June, and the trailer is here.

And today came the trailer for one of the most anticipated films in my lifetime. That's right, it's the full-length trailer for The Simpsons Movie is out, and it's awesome. As always, HD versions are available on Dave's Trailer Page, and the film (honestly, even if it's 90 minutes of random gags, I'd be very happy) will be released in the States on July 27th.

- At the box office, Japan has this weekend's rankings out already, and Dororo takes first place again, while Dreamgirls debut in 2nd place. More when the actual numbers come out.

- On the rest of the world, Variety reports that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Hot Fuzz scored US$11.6 million on its home turf in the UK this past weekend. Hopefully this will encourage Universal to push it further when the US release comes.

- Rounding up this Presidents Day is Japan drama ratings number. Kimura Takuya's Karei Naru Ichizoku is back on top by rounding out the week with a 23.5 rating, while the Flower Boys continue at a 21.0 rating. More amazing is Haken No Hinkaku's popularity. After showing its first decline in ratings last week, the comedy jumps up to its highest ratings yet again this week with a 20.7 rating. The average is now trailing very close behind those pesky Flower Boys. Even more amazing is the freefall Nakama Yukie's drama this season, premiering with a 16.1, and now dropping to a new low with a 10.8 rating.

All the numbers are here (with drama titles in Japanese).

Update will come late or not at all tomorrow, so treasure this while you can.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Yo, dawg, I totally just lied

Happy new year to all my Asian brethren out there. I did promise a break, but it seems like there are quite a few news that I missed out on yesterday, so I'll keep it short:

- Edison Chan, aside from being a rich pretty boy who, despite his aristocratic roots in Canada (note: not the birthplace of hip-hop), has promoted street culture by wearing and selling clothes that are probably too expensive to be worn on the streets, is now also a CEO!

That's right, after constantly spelling out the word C-L-O-T in his musical appearance (at first I thought it was just to show his spelling abilities, but it's actually his overpriced clothing store in Hong Kong), he has now started Clot Media Division., as in if you shelled out money to buy clothes at my store, you may have a blood clot in your brain.

Anyway, the report from the Daily Dumpling is here.

Better yet, why don't we have our homeboy EDC himself tell you? I dare you find 5 grammatically correct English sentences in that entry. Yeah, son, ya best peep and represent.

- The Berlin Film Festival has come to an end. And a (seemingly Chinese censors-sanctioned) Chinese film takes the Golden Bear. That's right, it's not "Lost in Beijing," it's "Tuya's Marriage," a drama about a Mongolian women's search for a new mate after her husband becomes disabled that scored the Golden Bear. The controversial, but critically acclaimed "Lost in Beijing," on the other hand, did not score anything.

Meanwhile, Park Chan-wook finds his first overseas success for "I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK" by winning the Alfred Bauer Prize for innovative prize. According to a more detailed report by Twitch, Park asks her wife for forgiveness for being a director. "When I get home, I hope she will tell our friends, 'My husband is a director but that's OK,'" Park says in his acceptance speech.

That's certainly more romantic that this touching statement.

Source: Variety

- A Shiina Ringo fan blog, who seems to know everything and anything about Shiina's music, has released a review of Shiina's latest album (also serves as a pseudo-soundtrack for Sakuran) Heisei Fuuzoku. It's a positive review if you don't listen to Shiina's concerts, because the reviewer obsessively goes into how the arrangements for some songs are carried over from her previous concerts. Anyway, I look forward to the album when it comes out the 21st.

That's it for today. Gong Hei Fat Choy to everyone out there in the blogosphere!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gong Hei Fat Choy

Not gonna have much of a new years spirit here, since we do things very serious here (ha ha!). Let's do a bit of everything today:

- Curtis Hanson is a filmmaker I've come to admire after L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile (I liked The River Wild too, but it's no masterpiece). I've been looking forward to his latest, Lucky You, since it was scheduled for release last fall...except it never came out. It has a very solid cast - Eric Bana and Robert Duvall (the less said about Drew Barrymore, the better), and it's co-written by the brilliant Eric Roth, who wrote The Insider and Munich (in this case, the less said about The Postman, the better). Cashing in on the fading popularity of Texas Hold 'em poker, the film is finally going to open on May 4th (perhaps long enough that people can forget In Her Shoes, which I haven't seen). The good news is that it'll be opening the 2007 summer season. The bad news is that it's going against Spiderman 3, which means Lucky You seems to be aiming for the "chick flick" market rather than the male poker-playing crowd.

Anyway, the third trailer is out, thanks to Dave's Trailer Page (where you can find HD versions)
, and it still looks like a solid little flick.

- Twitch also brings us two trailers (one trailer, one teaser, actually): One for Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "Red Balloon" (Ballon Rouge), and a teaser for Takeshi Miike's film version of the Japanese game "Ryu ga Gotoku" (better known in the states as Yakuza).

- Saw two films that seem to be worthy of comparison: Japan's "The Sinking of Japan" and Korea's mega-blockbuster "The Host." Both films take formulas that Hollywood has mastered over the years and puts an Asian twists to them. However, the difference is astronomical.

"The Sinking of Japan" is about exactly what its title suggests: Japan sinks. Explained by a flurry of pseudo-science and a bunch of experiments (explained by on-screen text - giving a whole new meaning to visual storytelling), it basically blends docudrama and spectacle into possibly the most somber disaster pic since The Day After Tomorrow (which probably inspired this remake). With an unconvincing romance as the central plot, the film really takes off when things get destroyed - the special effects are awe-inspiring, with no one safe and everyone buying the farm, even though it's done with such seriousness that unintentional humor breaks through far too often (the afro-wearing scientist, upon finding out that Japan has less time than expected, punches his computer monitor...which would not be good if that was the only evidence he has). Even though it does follow a certain Hollywood formula (the fate of Japan really does fall onto only one man's hands), it doesn't pretend to have any meaning beyond the island - scenes where politicians realize the rest of the world has abandoned Japan once it finds out the land and the economy are sinking fast is a sobering reminder of Japan's role in the world. It makes for a fairly depressing time at the movies, especially when watching it in Japan, where frequent earthquakes are a part of daily life.

"The Host," on the other hand, takes the same risk at genre conventions. But thanks to genuine characterizations and the sure-handed direction by Bong Joon-Ho, The Host is a thrilling good time. The humor, often black, is intentional and it even works. Unlike most Asian Hollywood clones, it even integrates some very Korean humor (I actually had to go to imdb to see explanations of a few jokes) so that it adds an extra layer for local audiences. I don't have much else to say except to end with a wholehearted recommendation for it.

The American trailer for The Host is here (it opens in most of the country on March 9th).
The trailer for the spectacular, but depressing Sinking of Japan is here, courtesy of Twitch.

- Last night I saw the awesome Sonny Chiba in Karate Bear Fighter on IFC. Besides the obvious title (yes, Sonny Chiba does fight a bear barehanded, although it's more like a guy in a bear suit most of the time), he also pulls a "Drunken Master" Jackie Chan by popping open a barrel of sake and drinks straight from the gaping hole as it pours out, and seeks guidance from a master whose trick is pushing a stick against Sonny Chiba's eye....and by that, I mean the camera. It's 85 minutes of karate awesomeness, and you should definitely seek out for it.

- Poor Mika Nakashima. After the success of her third album Music (not to mention Nana), she decided to try new things musically by doing the gospel thing with singles Cry No More and All Hands Together - and both were met with poor sales. So now with a hit drama to do a theme for, she's back to her old ballad roots with the new single "Mienai Hoshi" (Invisible Stars). And what a coincidence that is just happens to sound like her first hit single Will.

Unless there's any big news, I should be taking a break tomorrow. Will be back Monday with all kinds of useless Asian cinema and entertainment news.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Happy Happy Friday

The sun is out, the earth is warming up, let's have some fun.

- First, trailer 2 for the highly-anticipated (at least among the male population of the country) self-masturbatory violent trash-fest Grindhouse. Hi-res version is here, but you can find the HD-versions at Dave's Trailer Page.

I've been wanting to see Linda Linda Linda (essentially a rock version of Swing Girls, I presume) for a long time, but before it's even going to be released on DVD here, the trailer for director Nobuhiro Yamashita's new film is already out. I can't read the title, but the trailer looks like a dark comedy set in the early 1990s about murder and some gold. Maybe a Japanese version of Fargo then? Trailer link, courtesy of the Japanese Trailer blog, is here (click on the first link).

- The Japanese Academy Awards results are out, and I was kind of right - Memories of Matsuko's Tetsuya Nakashima did not get the best director's award. Instead, it went to Hula Girl's Lee Sang-Il. Apparently, since Hula Girls was not produced by the big three (Toho, Shochiku, and Toei), this is pointing to further diversity in the industry....even though Hula Girls' fate was written in the wind when it was picked for Academy Award consideration last year.

Hoga Central analyzes the awards and has the winners list here.

- Follow-ups to two cases of the Japanese variety show scandals. TBS has apologized for a new case where they suggest Welfare Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa apologizing for the wrong comment! They made it seem like he was apologizing for suggesting that "healthy" families should have two children when he was apologizing for calling women "birth-giving machines." Maybe TBS agrees with such sentiments...

Lest we not forget that TBS is already in trouble for the "misunderstanding" where they just brought some chimes to a rural school and did a report on how the school has used the chimes to help children study.

Then, Japan's National Association of Commercial Broadcasters has suspended natto lovers Kansai Television's membership for at least six months. What does it all mean?

"The suspension, which was unanimously approved by the board, means KTV will not be able to participate in org meetings and events, and its shows will not be eligible for NAB awards."

but that means....what, exactly?

Both news courtesy of Variety Asia.

- Thursday numbers (and probably the last update for about a week or so thanks for Lunar New Year) are out for Hong Kong. Night at the Museum, as expected, ruled the theaters on 40 screens with HK$1.44 million for HK$6.10 million total already. Derek Yee's Protege with a very solid 970,000 on 40 screens for a HK$4.19 million total. It should pass the 10 million mark by the end of the weekend, making it Yee's highest grosser since One Night in Mongkok (which only did a very moderate just under 10 million in Hong Kong). Opening day for the other Hong Kong fares are not doing so well - the Twins' homage (and I know I'm kind of pushing it there) to crappy 80s action films Twins Mission (whose website is impossible to find and it's down) stole only HK$270,000 on 26 screens, while talented singer-songwriter turned class clown Ronald Cheng's directorial debut It's a Wonderful Life made only HK$220,000 on 33 screens on its second day, pointing to a not-too-bad 650,000 opening day. But the tremendous drop just got me thinking how many of these people don't work for Gold Label? All the Western family movies are flopping with little signs of life until the weekend comes when the family may show up. We may just find out on Wednesday, after the public holidays are over.


- Going over the China, it seems that the filmmakers behind the controversial Lost in Beijing has decided to screen the uncensored version for the public audience in Berlin, regardless of what the Chinese censors say. Ballsy move, indeed.

Source: Variety Asia

- I grew up watching movies by Hong Kong fallen giant Golden Harvest - I can still hum the jingle when the logo pops up. Even though they haven't made any films for a while (I can claim that Vincent Kok brought it down, but that'd be mean), now they are coming back big time. Too bad, they seem like they're going to be concentrating on the mainland market instead of making anymore real Hong Kong movies. Shame.

Source: Variety Asia

Speaking of Chinese new year, this blog may be taking a break on Sunday as well to observe Chinese new year, but unlike Hong Kong, I don't push holidays back to weekdays, so rest assured (to you 22 people out there. yes, I check the visit stats), a day without me is all you can get.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Flying to Hollywood

It's kind of a slow news day, so let's talk about a bit of everything, including, yes, Hollywood.

- Aaron Eckhart, or sometimes the guy who plays the villain you love to hate, is joining the "Batman Begins" sequel "The Dark Knight," playing Harvey Dent, or Two-Face (played by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever, if I'm not mistaken). This is following Heath Ledger's casting as The Joker, and of course, Christian Bale will return as Batman himself. The kick-ass Christopher Nolan also returns as director/co-screenwriter.

Source: Variety

- Eiga Consultant is predicting the winners of the major awards at the Japan Academy Awards this Saturday. An analysis of it and an English translation by Hoga Central is here. Personally, I think this is pretty spot-on, even though I would've predicted Yoji Yamada's "Love and Honor" as winner of best picture. But then again, since Hula Girls did get chosen as Japan's representative for the Academy Awards, the committee isn't about to piss off that other committee by choosing any other movie.

And looking at the past history of the awards, I think the committee is too conservative to hand a best director award to "Memories of Matsuko" director Tetsuya Nakashima. I think the bigger chance goes to, of course, Yoji Yamada, whose "Twilight Samurai" swept the awards while "The Hidden Blade" didn't. The frequency of one single film being able to sweep the awards should say something about how conservative the committee can be.

The nominees list (in Japanese) is here.

- Reviews time:

Variety posted their first review of the highly-anticipated 300. Funnier, though, is how New York Post critic Lou Lumenick links to it here.

Lumenick also links a review of the critic-proof blockbuster Ghost Rider here.

- Remember when Korean films like "A Moment to Remember" and "April Snow" scored big in Japan? "April Snow" even made more money in Japan than in its native South Korea (arigato, Yon-sama). Well, that magic's gone away, and it went away quickly. Now CJ Entertainment is just lucky to be able to sell Park Chan-Wook's "I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK" to Japan. In fact, sales of Korean films to Japan has dropped by an astonishing 70%. That's so sad that there's no punchline to follow that up with.

Source: Variety Asia

- Finally, two humorous notes that has nothing to do with entertainment. Well, one of them kind of does.

People who's read my review of Eason Chan's album "What's Going On...?" knows that I'm a huge fan of track 6 "Better Not to Meet." Well, here's a bittersweet version of it on youtube that laments the strengthening of the Chinese Renminbi against the Hong Kong dollar (it's quite a serious issue in Hong Kong now. Back then, 100 Hong Kong dollars meant 140 renminbi. But now, it's 100 Hong Kong dollar for roughly 99 renminbi.). It's amusing and sad at the same time, really. (warning, in Chinese only)

Lastly, An anchorwoman in Hong Kong wrote a column about what true love to her means. Here is the translation. Here, however, is the original post in Chinese from a blog, where people criticize the columnist as a "typical Hong Kong woman" who expects men to give them everything. I think the best part of the post is the suggestion by the blogger, who says that if he encountered a girlfriend like that, he would follow up such "touching" words with "if my businesses fail and I would go bankrupt and crippled, would you give me back all those income that I've given you?"

True love? or selfishness?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Everyone's feeling the love

While I'll be staying at home with my DVD player tonight, many people out there are feeling the joy of Valentine's Day:

- Hou Hsiao-Hsien is feeling the love because Film Distribution bought the rights to his new film The Red Balloon. Universe is feeling the love because someone bought the rights to Benny Chan's still-filming "Invisible Target." And the Pang Brothers continue the love they're getting after the modest box office take of The Messengers by selling the rights to their new films "The Photo" and "Darling Lover"

Source: Variety Asia

- Production companies are loving Japan because distributors from there are not quite buying as many films this year, and they should be lucky to be able to tap into their market.

Source: Variety Asia

- Hong Kong is feeling the love because Korean superstar Rain is heading to Hong Kong again, this time for the screening of "I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK" because it will open the great Hong Kong International Film Festival in March.

Source: Variety Asia

- Chinese viewers are feeling the love because Access Hollywood is heading to Chinese screens, and it will probably be just as crappy and filled with trash gossips as the American version.

Source: Variety Asia

- Hong Kong audiences and Derek Yee are feeling the love because Protege opened to spectacular numbers on Tuesday night, scoring HK$950,000 on 45 screens. Remember that Protege only opened on Tuesday night, which means each theatre only played from 3 to maybe 5 shows at most that night. Look for its real test to come when everything else opens by tomorrow in Hong Kong.


- The brother of a soldier who fought at Iwo Jima is feeling the love because a WWII veteran who picked up a box of letters 62 years ago has decided to return it after said sibling gave a long interview on Japanese television. Pardon me for being a cynic, but why wait 62 years? Maybe Clint Eastwood has something to do with it...


- and finally, DVD collectors like me are feeling the love because Hong Kong is seeing so many new releases these couple of days (ahead of Lunar New Year, I'm sure). Some of the major releases include:

Confession of Pain
Curse of the Golden Flower
After This, Our Exile (sadly, only the theatrical version)
Death Note (a cheap alternative to the uber-expensive Japanese set coming up)
Casino Royale
Jan Lam's latest talk show (which I wish they use better production values for. Just because it's someone talking doesn't mean we don't deserve serviceable video and audio quality, especially when you're charging 27 bucks a pop)
There's also a 2-disc special edition for James Yuen's Heavenly Mission (which you won't be able to find in Yesasia if you're in the states because Tai Seng has the rights, sorry)

In the states, we also get Scorsese's superior remake The Departed, and next week we see the masterpiece Babel. Feeling the love, indeed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nippon Tuesday

Lots of Japan news today:

- Japanese box office numbers are out, with Dororo and Pursuit of Happyness staying put at first place and second place, respectively. The big Japanese opening this weekend would be Ryoko Hirose's Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust (or Bubble He Go! in Japanese), and it only mustered a 4th place opening with 140 million yen. According to Eiga Consultant, that's only 49% of Shibasaki Kou and Yuji Oda's "The Prefectural Star" (also currently flopping big time in Hong Kong so bad that it never appeared on the top 10 on mov3) and only 76% "Udon," which grossed a total of 1.36 billion yen (121 yen=$1). Looks like it'll struggle to the 1 billion yen mark, depending on word of mouth.

The other big Japanese opening "Tengoku wa Mattekureru" (Heaven Can Wait, Maybe) scored only a 9th place opening with 59 million yen.

As for other openings, Kevin Costner's The Guardian (which has been advertised quite aggressively in Japan, at least when I was there) opened at 3rd with 178 million yen, which is quite auspicious, considering the domestic gross of only $55 million.

Source: Box Office Mojo

- Hoga Central reports that the Japanese Genghis Kahn film "Genghis Kahn: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea" will open on a record 425 screens come March 3rd. It's also known to be one of the most expensive Japanese productions ever with a $30 million budget. Twitch has their own report, along with the strange looking trailer where Mongolians are now proficient in Japanese. Honestly, how do they write Japanese dialogue for a film that took place some thousands of years ago? Classical Japanese? As long as they don't start suggesting that Genghis Kahn is actually Japanese, then I wouldn't mind checking it out.

Source: Twitch, Hoga Central blog

- Twitch also reports that the official site for Takeshi Kitano's new film "Kantoku, Banzai!" now has a teaser up. And it is what it is: a teaser.

- In Japanese drama ratings that not many people care about, Kimura Takuya's family epic extravaganza "Karei Naru Ichizoku" found its lowest ratings with 21.3, closely followed by "Hana Yori Dango 2" (Or the sequel of the Japanese 's own adaptation of the Meteor Garden series), with a 21.0 rating. This season's surprise hit "Haken no Hinkaku," which has seen rising ratings since its premiere (it's a fairly rare case that a drama's first episode ratings are its lowest) finally sees its first drop to a slightly below-average 18.6 rating. Looks like "Karei Naru Ichizoku" will have to find some way to pull in viewers or risk having to stand those "you lost to a group of boys with the word 'flower' in their name" jokes for a long time.

- In other parts of Asia, Twitch also has the first review for Derek Yee's much anticipated Protege. And the good news is that it doesn't sound much like Traffic. I'm really looking forward to it now.

- Johnnie To has also apparently signed a deal to make his English debut - a remake of the French film Le Cercle Rouge. Good news is the To is now asking legendary French star Alain Delon to be in the film (who is apparently quite interested), bad news is that it'll be produced by the producer of Rush Hour Arthur Sarkissian. Judging from the plot of the French original, this seems like the perfect way for To to break into the West. Just don't forget about Hong Kong!

Oh, John Woo is also making a film under this deal. After all the rumored projects he took up over the years, I don't know what's true and what's not anymore.

Source: Variety Asia.

- In Korea, last week's champ Voice of a Murderer drops about 50% this weekend, but still already has over 2 million viewers to become the top grossing film of the year so far. 200 Pound Beauty doesn't count because it opened in December.

Source: Korea Pop Wars

- Finally, David Mamet has written a book about his experiences in Hollywood and advice for those who would like to enter that elite world. My favorite quote from the review on Yahoo News refers to film school: "One can study marching, the entry-level skill of the military, until one shines at it as has none other. This will not, however, make it more likely that one will be tapped to be the Secretary of the Army." Mamet films are a bit of hit-and-miss for me, but you can't deny that he's a pretty damn good writer.

The review of the book is here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rainy days AND Monday

Raining here hard in San Francisco means it's time to watch some movies. And so last night, I popped in the HK DVD for Memories of Matsuko, the latest from Shimotsuma Monogatari (better known as Kamikaze Girls) director Tetsuya Nakashima. A Japanese online commenter wrote in wrote that it's essentially a pop version of Dancer in the Dark, and it's mostly true - Memories of Matsuko is a story of a woman who experiences an almost-constant downward spiral, but finds comfort in singing a little ditty here and there. The difference is that it's not as pretentious, and there are actual pop stars involved.

Some may criticize it for things such as its gender politics (Matsuko makes some really bad decisions along the way because she just wants to be loved by a man) or its shallow MTV-style storytelling, but I find the MTV stuff done much better here than its Hong Kong counterparts. Hong Kong filmmakers often indulge in MTV-style editing for the sake of style, and they hinge on taking the film merely from one sequence to another to show off new visual tricks with no knowledge of pacing or fluidity between scenes. Here, Nakashima crams in decades of Matsuko's life using this style, but he somehow manage to juggles style and storytelling at the same time, streamlining events along the way at an efficient pace, but also allowing the emotions to be felt at the same time. As for gender politics, Matsuko's search for love isn't simply out of her need for a man; that need comes from her family upbringing, out of her inability to be loved.

And the music - as a musical, Memories of Matsuko has some of the best integration of pop music last year. Unlike the recent musical, which cashes in on hit pop song cashing in on collective nostalgia, songs created for this film (by J-pop artists such as AI and Bonnie Pink, who both make appearances in the film) actually have things to do with what's going on onscreen. It may be pop, but it's pop with a meaning.

Behind the pretty pop stuff, though, there is a very tragic story in Memories of Matsuko, but the impact is lessen thanks to the blend of bubble gum pop and 50s technicolor Hollywood spectacle. Nevertheless, emotions are felt, and the senses are stimulated just the same. You buy it or you don't. I did, and I think it's one of the best Asian films of 2006.

A report of an interview with director Tetsuya Nakashima from back in May is here.

The Twitch review (written better, but tougher to read through) is here.

Buy the HK DVD here.

- The Hong Kong numbers are in, and as expected, Night at the Museum tops the box office with its advanced screenings with HK$1.43 million on Sunday from 55 screens (that includes most theatres who put it on at least two screens) for a $2.99 million total so far. I didn't realized that the umpteenth computer-animated animal film Open Season (The Chinese version boasts the voice talents of Eason Chan and Jan Lam) also had its advance screenings this weekend, and it's at number two with a very weak HK$220,000 Sunday on 27 screens. Repeating its fate from pretty much around the globe, Charlotte's Web got only HK$160,000 on 29 screens for a total of HK$330,000 so far. These three films open next weekend before Lunar New Year.

Everything else is pretty meh around Hong Kong, with Borat having another strong Sunday showing with HK$70,000 on only two screens for a HK$650,000 total so far. Pretty good, considering it's only been showing on two screens.


- The controversial uncensored version of Lost in Beijing was screened in Berlin, and people are wondering what the hell the big deal is. The details here from Variety Asia.

Good news is that it's also generally well-received. At least by Variety.

- Update on the Yellow Handkerchief remake I mentioned a couple of days ago thanks to Hoga Central. Apparently, imdb lists Udayan Prasad, who made the little-known, but timely My Son the Fanatic, as the director. Apparently, Yoji Yamada is understandably not directing this (but did hand over a script, apparently) because this is going to be a Hollywood film too.

- Midnight Eye has posted its results for the best of 2006 poll by readers. As great as it is that lesser known films (really, Miike isn't all that huge in Japan) are recognized, I think some of the better mainstream films are getting left out simply because they're....well, mainstream. Japan's mainstream films are quite solid, even if they're often made for commercial intentions. At least they don't make movies like Norbit in Japan.

Midnight Eye reviewers' own best-of lists are here.

I was hoping the Japanese drama ratings would be out by last night, but it wasn't. That's life.