Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/30/07

I thought long and hard about today's song. It was originally going to be another song (which has been the case a few times), but upon looking around Youtube, I had found something that caught my attention more. So today's song is a bit of an oldie (available on a compilation album) and was rediscovered from a cover done by Masami Nagasawa (although as the protagonist of the drama, not as Masami herself) last year when TBS adapted the story into a drama. It's Hiroko Yakushima's "Sailor Suit and Machine Gun," from the movie of the same name.

Why? Because it's an oldie but goodie. Because while Masami Nagasawa's vocals are flat as any other pop idol, Hiroko's version is more expressive, more alive.

(It's the first song in the clip)

And here's the 2006 cover by Hoshi Izumi (Played by Masami Nagasawa)

Asian Cinema News 101

Oh, come on, you had to expect me to use a title like that, right?

- OK, Hong Kong Thursday (opening day) numbers are up, and this weekend, those abstract-sounding Hong Kong-produced cgi animated-fest TMNT are going to try and take down the 300 Spartans. Sadly, even ninja turtles can't fight 300 6-packs, as they tie for first place with HK$230,000 on 31 screens. Of course, TMNT being an animated film, business will pick up quite a bit during the weekend. However, don't be surprised if Pursuit of Happyness comes back from behind to do great business again this weekend - it's already the only film in the top 10 with a per-screen average higher than $HK 10,000, and HK audiences just LOVE a tearjerker.

The only other notable opening is Yoji Yamada's "Love and Honor," starring Asian megastar Kimura Takuya as a blind samurai. On 5 screens, the Japanese blockbuster only got HK$30,000. Again, look for business to pick up, thanks to the older adult audience that will come out during the weekend.

- Eiga Consultant looks at the box office result of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest "Sakebi," which first was reported to have opened huge ("Standing audiences only!"), but after a month and an expansion up to 100 screens, it only ended up making about 130 million yen. The first Ju-on (That's "The Grudge" for you non-Japanese speakers out there) film made about 500 million yen (not exactly a nationwide phenomenon), but the second film ended up making a little more than a double that. So is he saying that Sakebi had buzz that never followed through?

- Recently, the National Broadcaster Association of Japan kicked NTV out due to the natto diet scandal, and now, the president of KTV (Kansai Television) will resign on the day that a program that explains the fraud data will air.

- Japan's internet content provider Nifty added a bunch of new content on their website, but will charge money and requires membership....which mean it gives no alternative to the Youtube problem. People want easy access to free information - TV shows, music videos, things that are already shown for free if one has a TV. Hell, I'll even step up and say I'd watch advertisements in between them, but I'm just speaking for myself.

- Hideo Nakata (The director of the original "Ring" film. NOT Ringu, Ring, that's what it was meant to be called) is back in Japan with "Kaidan," and a new teaser is out.

- Jeffrey Wells believe that this year's Cannes opener will be Wong Kar-Wai's English debut My Blueberry Nights. Yeah, maybe he'll finish shooting by May 2009, who knows?

- I was pleasantly surprised by Han Jae-Rim's Rules of Dating, which was a surprisingly complex and dark romance that was just not meant for a mainstream audience. But apparently, enough people were impressed by it that Han managed to cast Korean's most unlikely favorite leading man Song Kang-Ho (who has been in some of Korea's biggest grossers such as The Host, JSA, Shiri, and Memories of Murder) for his second film "The Show Must Go On." Twitch has the details (The trailer even feature Yentown Band's cover of "My Way" from Shunji Iwai's Swallowtail, whoa!), and it sounds like The Sopranos...maybe with less sass?

- Seoul's city government is now trying to attract more foreign films and TV dramas to shoot there by offering incentives.

- Like Kung Fu Hustle, Sony Classics have bought the international distribution rights for Stephen Chow's "A Hope," which should have a summer release date, but was also reported to be going up against Feng Xiaogang's latest during Chinese New Year in some Chinese reports. June and Chinese New Year has a long time in between, which is it gonna be?

- One of those months in between is December, and that's when Peter Chan Ho-Sun's latest "The Warlords," starring Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Jet Li will open. Variety reports that the film has just wrapped up a 4-month shoot and will now go into post-production. Yay.

- Lastly, here are this month's Yesasia reviews:

Seducing Mr. Perfect
Once in a Summer
No Regret
Shiina Ringo - Heisei Fuzoku

Friday, March 30, 2007

The big 100 - The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 3/29/07

It's not everyday that you have to choose one particular song to mark your blog's 100th entry. But I decided to do it just the way I've always done it - just choose what I listen to. So today, the latest single by Japanese pop-rock band Remioromen, it's Akanezora.

Why? Because it's good. Just one of those little perks that comes with the 100th entry.

Death Note 2 review, and nearing the milestone

This is the 99th post of the Golden Rock, which I am quite proud of. I suppose a state of the blog is in order as well, then:

The blog started in mid-December of 2006, with a goal to be a source of just news that interests me and some number crunching that not a lot of Asian cinema blogs do. It started at an average of only a few readers a day (when I was on vacation, there was actually a day when nobody visited), and now it's averaging roughly 60. It's not a particularly huge number, but it's a pretty good increase over 3 months, considering about 50% of my visitors are new. I'm glad to have started this blog, and I'm glad to keep doing it. Thanks for reading, and let's keep on truckin'.

- Watched the second half of the Death Note saga last night. Again, having no knowledge of the manga nor the anime whatsoever, I am only judging this as a film. Maybe that makes me more qualified, or that makes me less qualified, I don't know. I don't care that they're trying to cram in from the source material to satisfy fans, I just wanted to watch a movie. And with that:

Why didn't they just make a drama out of this?

Death Note has a pretty cool Gothic concept - Notebook dumped onto earth by a God of Death, self-righteous human picks it up and begins to kill people with it. It inspires fear for criminals and hope for people. How dark, how bizarre, how cool. Then they had to add the detective elements; the mind games, the chess-playing, and the talking. The endless talking. If I were to sum up all the scenes between our bad/good guy Kira (owner of the Death Notebook) and strange detective L, it might go like this:

Kira: "I want to capture Kira."
L: "But you are Kira."
Kira: "I am not."
L: "I hope you're not"
Kira: "Great, let's capture Kira together."
L: "....but you are Kira."
Kira: ".....and I'm going to kill you."

In the first film, it took director Shusuke Kaneko 2 hours of screen time to set up the heart of the story - the head-to-head match between Kira and L. In the second film, it took him 2 hours and 15 minutes to, well.....make it not much of anything. One of the more suspenseful parts of the first film was seeing how Kira's clever scheming helped him get away, although I mentioned I didn't know whether that was the original creators' work or the film's screenwriters'. In "The Last Name" (That's the title of the second film), a second and third (!) Kira are established, killing more people than ever, but it all gets a bit tiresome. How many more scenes of people talking about the ethics of Kira do we need before the filmmakers can pat themselves on the back for asking "the tough questions?"

Back to the schemings. "The Last Name" takes Kira's schemes to a whole new level - he would do something, and you won't even find out until 30 minutes of screen time later just what the hell he was up to. It was clever in the first film when it didn't take that long to find out what really happened, but it just seems a bit too much in the second film. True, the stakes are higher, so the schemes need to go further, but how unbelievably smart are these people supposed to be for them to do so much damn scheming? The review linked above pointed out that nearly everything that happens in the film happened in the manga, but is that needed? While an adaptation can satisfy fans by including everything, if you still can't include everything with 4 and a half hours of screen time, you just have to get creative and get the story across in a simpler way. Cramming everything from the original shows that you like the manga, but a more creative filmmaker would make the adaptation stand on its own.

So is Death Note: The Last Name better than its predecessor? Can't really answer that, since they're really one film split into two, but the Death Note saga as a whole is only a pleasing commercial effort thanks to its concept. It's a routine adaptation with uninspired acting, directing, and some clever screenwriting in between. It's not something worth running out to see if you have no familiarity with the original work, but it's not a bad way to occupy a couple of hours just to see that Japanese commercial cinema can be just as mediocre as American ones.

And now, on to the news:

- There's still reports coming from Variety about Hong Kong's Filmart (which wrapped last week), mostly just new distribution deals. If you're in Japan, you'll be glad to know the Daniel Henney invasion is coming your way in the form of Seducing Mr. Perfect, one of the films I reviewed for Yesasia this month.

- Los Angeles is a great down for movies (duh), and here are a few reasons why.

- Yunjin Kim, who many may know as the Korean woman from Lost, really caught my eye from the Korean blockbuster Shiri. For some reason, I never really saw her in another film until she showed up on Lost (she did appear in Korean films before that - just ones I haven't seen). Anyway, in a bit of homecoming, she's been casted in the Korean crime thriller Seven Days. I don't know if the film will be any good, but I wonder if Lost will make this film any more successful that it would've been.

- So what's the best way to beat a movie you want to protest against? In India, they seem to have found the answer to be: Just ignore it.

- Apparently, The Host has become the fastest Korean film to reach the $1 million mark in the United States box office. That's because Korean films have a history of not doing too well here. Oh, well, a good thing is a good thing, I guess.

- Oricon rankings are out. On the singles side, Utada Hikaru's Flavor of Life, as predicted, fell to third place behind new singles by boy band News and pop group (I think they're a man band) Kobukuro's latest, which also served as the theme song for the drama version of Tokyo Tower.

As for the album ranking, Mr. Children hangs on for the second week, but after a huge drop to 180,000 copies after last week's 680,000 copies sold. Mika Nakashima's latest also hangs on for a third place for its second week, while Koda Kumi's compilation (the album that beat Mika last week) drops to 5th behind Exile. After the firing of one of its own, Morning Musume's latest, the creepily named "Sexy 8 Beat" (considering most of the members are even adults yet), could only muster an 8th place debut.

- Eiga Consultant analyzed the flop that is the fable Argentine Hag (Japan Times reviewed it two weekends ago). Hoga News has a translation, so I'll let it speak for itself.

- Hoga News also reports about the directorial debut of comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto (half of the comedy duo Downtown that hosts the hit music show Hey Hey Hey AND does those "No laugh or get beat" games). Details are sparse, but the title is "Dai Nippon Jin" (or Big Japanese Person, or Super Japanese Person. Either way, the translation is open to interpretation), and it'll open on the same day as Takeshi Kitano's latest "Kantoku Banzai!" Joint marketing, I smell...

- Twitch has a clip to the press conference done for Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip's latest Flashpoint. Don't worry, the only reason I'm mentioning it is because it has footage. Good ones, too! It's looking like this will be Wilson Yip's attempt to emulate John Woo, so it might just be a lot of fun.

- India has started its own version of the Academy Awards, and what do they do at the launch? Talk about global warming, of course.

- A few weeks ago, Lovehkfilm mentioned that their "most underrated performance" award to Andrew Lin Hoi for The Heavenly Kings was actually noticed by the man himself. Turns out it didn't stop there - they actually met up and Kozo presented him with a real award!

- I waited for a few days to post this - not on purpose, of course, I simply forgot - but here's Jeffery Wells' well-written review (certainly far better than what I wrote up there for Death Note) of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino trashfest Grindhouse.

- I enjoyed Brian Helgeland's revenge flick Payback, starring Mel Gibson. I didn't think it was a masterpiece or anything, but it was enjoyable enough. Turns out it was meant to be a complete thing altogether, as apparent by the review of the soon-to-be-released director's cut on DVD. It's not just another one of those director's cut that adds a couple of minutes. No, the entire palate was redone, the whole third act was redone, and it's like another movie altogether. It might just be worth checking out.

Next, the 100th entry, which is the song of the day.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/28/07 - follow-up

Thanks to Pedestrian Y's comment, she has helped me found another cover of Mika Nakashima's "Yuki No Hana." After her comment, I was reminded of ANOTHER cover of it last year, and it's a direct Japanese cover. These two covers have something in common - they're both sang at unusually high key by men.

First, Park Hyo Shin's Snow Flower (Thanks Pedestrian Y!), which you can find on this album.

Then, we have the Japanese cover, which was probably inspired by the Koreans' ability to realize the song can be done with a male voice, done by Hideaki Tokunaga on this single (It was actually on the Oricon singles chart too).

I could sing it that high too, it'd just be creepy, and no one wants to see a video of THAT, right?

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/28/07

Today's song of the day appears on three different albums - Mika Nakashima's compilation "Best," her second album "Love," and also Hong Kong newcomer Vincy Chan's second album "Flower Without Snow." It's Mika Nakashima's "Yuki no Hana," or "The Snow Flower".....or "Flower of Snow," depending on however your Japanese ability would like to argue with mine.

Why, especially since it's Spring now? Because it's known as Mika's masterpiece, and unlike Lin Xi's incredibly contrived attempt to adapt the lyrics into Chinese (Vincy's delivery and the new arrangements are all fine), the imagery is beautifully conveyed in this original Japanese version. And it's a damn beautiful song anyway.

And here's Vincy's attempt to outdo Nana herself

Nippon Wednesday

After posting up all those news yesterday, there's not much left for today. In fact, it's mostly Japan news.

- I reported about the opening week result of Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo's latest "Bugmaster" yesterday, along with a Hoga Central report. Now Eiga Consultant helps and puts it all in perspective. On its opening day on Saturday, "Bugmaster" made 95 million yen - that's 44% of Shinobi (Joe Odagiri's hit film from 2005 that ended up making 1.4 billion yen), and 61% of director Otomo's previous film Steamboy, which ended up making 1.16 billion yen. Looks like not even Joe Odagiri, Yu Aoi, nor the creator of Akira could get fans of the original comic to show up for a movie about bugs.

- Jason Gray also has some tidbits from the Japanese film industry, including the fate of that Genghis Khan movie (that effectively proved you can't just shove anything down Japanese audiences' throats), and what one Japanese actress thought of the latest Rocky movie.

- After Takeshi Miike's latest "Ryu Ga Gotoku" just came and went in theatres, he's already hard at work on another relatively high-profile film. Twitch provides us today with a link to the teaser for "Sukiyaki Western Django." It looks like crazy western fun, but I'm not a huge fan of Miike, even though he can be as crazy as it gets, so we'll see what happens when it opens in September.

- Speaking of Japanese films, Lovehkfilm updates with a review of Japanese blockbuster (but Hong Kong flop) Dororo. Also up is a review of the latest Milkyway film, Eye in the Sky, which opened the Hong Kong International Film Festival this year. It also have some reviews from your truly, but I'll just let it go.

- It was just announced last week, but Hayao Miyasaki's latest "Ponyo on the Cliff" already has a progress report, thanks to the people of Twitch, Ghibli World. and NHK.

- Remember that I reported that the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan suspended NTV's membership after the natto scandal? Well, now they just decided to just kick them out of the damn organization altogether. Ouch.

- Oh, and Haruki Murakami's anthology "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman," which includes the original short story of Tony Takitani (great film, by the way), just won a Kiriyama Prize. Yay.

I told you there's not that much news today. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/27/07

Today's song of the day is unfortunately only available in its incomplete version. It was never released as a single, and it's available on three separate albums - The out of print compilation Early Times, Love Psychedelico III, and on the live CD Live Psychedelico. Me, I was at the show myself. It's Love Psychedelico's "Neverland."

Why? Because it's Love Psychedelico's 7-minute ultimate emo epic. Because you could hear a pin drop in the Budokan when they did this song. Because I was damn near reduced to tears listening to lead singer Kumi deliver that final section, which is sadly NOT in the following video. This is all I can manage, but you can watch the whole thing on the DVD, which I also reviewed.

Coming back strong

Still slightly under the weather, so report will be briefer and shorter. Still, there are some good stuff out there.

- Hong Kong Sunday numbers show 300 top at first place again, with HK$870,000 on 32 screens and a HK$11.61 million total already. The Pursuit of Happiness leads the pack for openers with a strong HK$490,000 on 16 screens, with Danny Pang's "Forest of Death" scoring a moderate HK$380,000 on 31 screens (A Pang Bros. overload in HK? I think so). The two films have 4-day totals of HK$1.71 million and HK$1.46 million, respectively. Park Chan Wook's I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK made HK$140,000 on 8 screens on Sunday for a HK$450,000. Who wants to bet how many of those are Rain fans?

- I always just let Mark Russell's Korea Pop Wars take care of the Korean weekend box office. Why? Because he knows more than me, of course. Well, I know that 300's global domination has reached Korea as well. SPARTA!!!!

- In Japan, the box office this weekend is once again strong, with Night At the Museum taking a significant tumble, but Doraemon and Unfair hanging on. The Holiday opens fairly strong, at least according to Eiga Consultant. It opens at 146% of Something's Gotta Give (the previous Nancy Meyers film) and 241% of In Her Shoes (the previous Cameron Diaz film in Japan). It should repeat the strong word-of-mouth business it has done around Asia.

Hoga News also has a report on another opening this weekend - Katsuhiro Otomo's Bugmaster. I know, I'm just passing on the work to everyone else!

- Japan Times has a review of Bugmaster too.

- The Host expanded by about 30 screens on its third weekend, and it also saw a gross increase of about 9% for a 24th place weekend (up from 28th last week). With its opening gross responsible for only 29% of total gross, it means word-of-mouth is keeping this movie in theaters, and also well on the way to become one of Magnolia Pictures' top grossers. Still, a mere $1.5 million gross for a film that made about 80 in its home country isn't that great.

- Magnolia Pictures also hold the release rights for Johnnie To's masterpiece Exiled, which didn't do very well for distributor Media Asia at the box office. Now they attempt to cash in some more with a Hollywood remake coming. I don't see why a film in the style of Sergio Leone Westerns needs to pay for any type of remake rights from Hong Kong, but good for Media Asia, I guess.

- Last time I posted a link to Professor Davis Bordwell's report from the set of Johnnie To's portion of Triangle and a deconstruction of To's cinematography. Now Twitch's Todd Brown has some set photos of his own.

- Filmart, how do they love thee? Let them count the ways.

- Speaking of which, Twitch's Todd Brown has a report on what he saw at Filmart.

- In the realm of bad film ideas, the much-talked-about Jackie Chan and Jet Li project will be a family-friendly film based on The Journey to the West, the famous Chinese fairy tale with the Monkey King as its protagonist. There are other ways people are planning to bastardize the story too, but I'm honestly over it.

- Midnight Eye has a review of Sakuran, a film I'm still looking forward to watch.

- In a last bit of self-promotion, my article on Hong Kong director Derek Yee is up and running. Thanks to the editors at Yesasia for updating the post-Protege stuff.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Current Status, and Golden Rock Song of the Day - 3/26/07

The Golden Rock is under the weather while trying to wrap up backed-up work. I'll try to update again today or tomorrow, but first, enjoy today's song of the day - Notorious B.I.G.'s Big Poppa.

Why? Because it's Biggie Smalls, yo. Word. That's right, throw yo hands in da air if you's a true playa.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/24/07

Today's Song of the Day was inspired by a recent viewing of P.T. Anderson's masterpiece Boogie Nights on IFC. Honestly, it's not even that great of a song, and I've never watched The Transformers. But it's a pretty good discovery from the time capsule. It's Stan Bush's "The Touch."

Why? Because it's a song by a guy named Stan Bush used for a movie about the porn industry. What else did you expect, that I picked it for quality?

Here's Mark Whalberg's bastardized version of it on Boogie Nights

A male gaze

Skipped a day yesterday, which was kind of good because I wouldn't have had enough news to fill up the weekend anyway. Plus I have a lot of backed up freelance work, so today, a review and a roundup of the last day of Filmart.

Watched 300 last night (regrettably not on IMAX because tickets were gone by the time we got there), and just couldn't get out of my head at just how much it supported Mulvey's male gaze. Basically, Mulvey proposed that films are made in the view of a Caucasian male gaze acting as a voyeur, thus women are often shot in more glamorous way in order to appeal to the male viewer. But what Mulvey didn't (and maybe wasn't about to find at the time the theory was developed) realize was that the male viewers aren't necessarily looking for a female image, but that they are also looking for a perfected version of men.

Much like women and their supposed "images of perfection" driving them to strive to match this image, 300 presents a perfected men with warrior figure and ultimate bravery that appeals to men because it's what they strive for. Its testosterone-driven tone means to boil up the blood of male viewers (I can go into it being meant for a Caucasian audiences, considering it's a bunch of European Whites fighting an army of various minority races, but I shan't because it's more divided along gender lines than race lines anyway) and get them coming out high-fiving each other as they go "hoo-ha" and screaming "Spartans!!!" And for that, it does the job. There were some impressing long takes of battle scenes, and the first battle was particular impressive. Anyone tired of the shaky-cam effect in battle scenes will be happy to see the carnage not only shot with a refreshing relative stability, but in lots of slow-motion as well.

But that's about it - the slow-motions seems way too showy and "looking cool" just for the sake of looking cool, and even as an action film, it surprisingly breezes past the battles (perhaps due to the budget limitations, I don't know) so that it felt like the Spartans have been fighting for a while when history shows that it only lasted three days....and actually had way more than 300 Spartan soldiers. The redundant pep speeches and the excessive amount of slow-motions (I think by some unscientific measure that 1/3 of the film's action was probably played at slower speed), and forget about any type of historical accuracy, although considering it's more based on the Frank Miller comic than Greek history, maybe it's not really a complaint.

I suppose in the end it's a pretty-looking and well-paced popcorn film, but I am honestly surprised that people think anything beyond that (It's already on the imdb top 250. Which I suppose would make sense considering the number of geek fanboys on imdb). Even producer Gianni Nunnari said in Entertainment Weekly that he would be "surprised if even one person from the audience is watching this movie and thinking of Bush and Iraq. That would be a disaster - it would mean that people were bored." Well, I did think about Bush and Iraq, and I was bored at points, but fortunate for Mr. Nunnari, 300 was far from a disaster.

And now, news from Filmart:

- The Hong Kong-Asian Film Financing Forum also ended with seven awards handed to Asian filmmakers, and better yet, it came with cold hard cash. Kim Jee Woon's upcoming western film "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird," Clara Law's "The Messenger," Mabel Cheung's "Romance of the Three Kindgoms: Red Rose and Black Rose" all got $13,000 awards to go towards production (it sounds like not much, especially for bigger budget films like "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird," but the buzz the grant comes with is worth more than the money itself). The biggest winner is probably Edmond Pang Ho Cheung, who went into the HAF with no money for his upcoming film "Now Showing," and now he's found enough financing to start shooting in June.

- On the other hand, while business was slow for Korean films and Filmart, Korean distributors still managed to make a few deals so they don't go home empty. However, Korean dramas are hitting the jackpot in the market.

- Five people, including Raman Hui, who worked on the Shrek films at Dreamworks and help solidify Hong Kong's status in the digital animation world, were awarded the "Digital Person of the Year" awards.

In other news:

- Professor Bordwell has a first-hand look at the set of Johnnie To's portion of "Triangle" with a very insightful look at To's special form of cinematography. This just fueled my desire to be in the Hong Kong industry even further.

- Ryuganji has a look at Asmik Ace's upcoming films, which include some potentially interesting projects.

- In addition to the Asian Contents Market, this year's Tokyo International Film Festival will also include a market featuring animation showcases.

- Lovehkfilm has two reviews up - one for Ann Hui's The Postmodern Life of My Aunt by head reviewer Kozo and one for Korean nationalist commercial/critical disappointment Hanbando by Sanjuro.

Tomorrow, news translations from Hong Kong, Japan Times review, and let's see what else we can come up with.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/22/07

Today's song of the day was going to be something else, but I was reminded of good old "Kokujin Tensai." Unlike those guys, I wanted to put up some more "authentic" Japanese hip-hop just because some of this stuff is actually good. So today, we got Zeebra, who is known as the first Japanese rapper, from his album The New Beginning. It's "Street Dreams."

Why? Because the hook is addictive, the guy isn't all about sex and bling-bling (although it does have that egotistic self-promotion stuff), and as he raps in his chorus, he's the "number one hip-hop person." It's not something I'd agree with, but I can't really afford to not agree with the father of Japanese hip-hop, can I?

A small slowdown

There's a bit less news than yesterday, which is good, because it's taking longer and longer to write this thing everyday lately.

First, round-up from Hong Kong Filmart:

- A new production company has been unveiled, and it's Big Media, backed mostly by sometimes-film producer but mostly video distributor Mei Ah. The company has announced that it will produce 100 movies in 5 years, which means I better get those screenplays written STAT! It's too bad the films they've announced so far are creatively-drained pseudo-sequels like "Young Man Suddenly in Black" and "Another Better Tomorrow"

- A seminar on talent management of Asian stars crossing over into Hollywood finds a "let's please everyone" answer of "we need to network.....and network some more."

- The Digital Forum was also held today in light of the upcoming release of TMNT, which was produced by Hong Kong firm Imagi. The goal of increasing Asian computer animation is apparently telling Asian stories with Western storytelling. What if they can just capture audiences again with simple 2-D animation that the West has chosen to abandon?

- Professor Bordwell has also wrote a new entry, including his experience of watching Twins Mission (why oh why that one movie), getting free stuff from the Korean Film Council (man, I need to get that type of connection....even if it means some 30 years of film scholarship), meeting the incomparable Grady Hendrix and HKMDB's Ryan Law, and also previews his visit to Johnnie To's set of his portion of "Triangle" (can'!!!!!!!!!!).

In other news:

- Ryuganji now has even more details about Kantoku Banzai, the latest from Takeshi Kitano (or Beat Takeshi, I guess). Apparently it'll be a film more from his comedian side than his art side. My favorite quote? When asked whether the film will be submitted to the Cannes Film Festival, Kitano says, "Well, bits of it are are little embarrassing..."

- "Triangle," which I thought has finished shooting, actually hasn't because I saw the report of an opening shooting ceremony and Johnnie To joking that Ringo Lam took too long to shoot his portion on Ming Pao yesterday. Variety Asia has more details on the highly-anticipated project, including who's gonna be distributing it in China (an HK film being approved for China, to me, is like the HK film version of watering down a movie to PG-13 in America).

- Asian Film - While on the Road has a review of two Kadokawa idol films - Sailor Suit and Machine Gun and The Young Girl who Conquered Time, starring two different idols that actually look quite alike and still do solid work in Japanese films today. It's too bad I have seen neither, I almost bought Sailor Suit and Machine Gun on my last day in Hong Kong, but thought I already had too many DVDs to bring back. Shame.

- There's still hope that Jet Li won't be in Mummy 3! Official reports state that he's still "in negotiations" to play the main villain in the Rob Cohen-directed cash-milking sequel. Even the original stars haven't agreed to appear yet!

Of course "in negotiations" in Hollywood means he already said yes, he's just holding out for more money.

- The problem that the Chinese government has with those idol music shows such as "Supergirl" is the entire idea behind the winners chosen is based on votes. You basically tell your viewers that you may not be able to vote on say, who leads your country or the direction your country is going, but at least you can choose who'll become rich and famous!

Apparently, that's not the only problem they have. They can't seem to get over the fact that the word "super" is used for someone that's democratically voted, as in someone that is actually liked by the people instead of telling the people who they should like, because "super" has powerful connotations.

So this season, the word "super" is is the word "girl." Now it'll be named "Happy Boy" instead. D'oh.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/21/07

Today's song of the day comes from the Peter Chan film Perhaps Love, and while the vocals on this song is nowhere near as good as Jacky Cheung, its use in the film still makes it one of the best songs in the musical. The song is Zhou Xun's "Out There."

Why? Because it's a companion piece to "The World Out There," a song that was used in the film that was NOT created for the film (While the original song is about a guy losing a girl who went out there, the Perhaps Love song is from the perspective of the girl). It not only works as an effective companion piece either - it also fits the Zhou Xun's character perfectly. It's a touching examination of someone who looks to the world out there for some type of salvation, and it's a pretty damn good song by itself.

Here's the original song, performed by someone else (because the only version with the original singer is a badly recorded live version where you hear the audience more than the singer):

Film's a business Part 2

My main news source Variety Asia is flooded with Hong Kong Filmart news, and here's a small round-up from the first day:

- On the heels of HK Filmart's successful expansion into the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo, Japan will have its first Asia Contents Market in Osaka and Kyoto at the end of September. The market will be focused on CG, animation, and digital cinema, catering mostly to the domestic market. It will be part of the Japan International Contents Festival, which include the Tokyo Game Show and the Tokyo International Film Festival (which starting last year, have begun to focus on exhibiting more obscure films).

- HK film production company Universe, having just joined the international sellers market at Berlin, is a huge presence at the Filmart. With at least Benny Chan's latest, Johnnie To's "Sparrow," and new films by the Pang Brothers, it has added two mores films to its slate at Filmart - both medium-budgeted films by lesser-known talents, which has got to be a good thing.

- In addition to Universe, Emperor Motion Pictures has also announced a myriad of projects, many of which are Chinese co-productions (gags). It has also announced the hiring of Peggy Chiao, who is widely recognized as the mother of New Taiwan Cinema, as Production Controller. Does quality control come with that title?

- Variety Asia also rounds up the first seminar at Filmart, which was about the profitability of low-to-mid budget films, in light of the Hong Kong government's recently-announced subsidy for these low-to-mid-budget films in order to encourage new talent. For those who are interested in the future of Hong Kong films, this is a good read.

In other news:

- I mentioned Susie Au and Ming Ming here before, though not in detail. It's shown at the Hong Kong Filmart, and Twitch has what is probably its first English review. From this quote, I thought I was going to hate it: "Rather than surpress her stylistic urges she has further developed them, using every trick in her extensive book to try and create a new language of cinema." But as I read along, it got gradually more promising, and now I'm honestly kinda looking forward to how it turns out.

- People who have followed this blog knows how critical I can be of Chinese censorship (Then again, I'm critical of a lot of other things too), so I hope that I never have to write this blog from China, because it seems like the government is going arrest-crazy again with cyber dissidents. Educators who blog criticizing the education system gets fired, editors of online news sites get 6 years of jail time, and so on and so on. Just how many more lives will the government have to ruin and how much authority has to be abused before China turns into total fascism?

- Lovehkfilm's Sanjuro has a look at what's in store in the Lovehkfilm pipeline. I have a few reviews coming up myself as well, most of them being Korean films that is already on Yesasia and, except for Ad Lib Night, aren't really anything to get excited about.

- Meanwhile, Sanney Leung, former webmaster of Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review, chimed in with his review of Edmond Pang's Isabella - in diary form! I don't agree totally (I felt the emotions, but maybe it just pushed a button in me or something, or because I was just really wanted to like it for Edmond Pang's sake).

- I mentioned Justin Lin's latest Finishing the Game a few entries ago, and now Twitch has a report on its premiere at the opening night of the San Francisco Asian Film Festival. It features an interview with Survivor winner Yul Kwon and the cast and crew. Quite a good read, particularly about Asian American issues.

- And just how many films about the Nanjing massacre has to be made? Apparently now the count is up to 4 - you got the International co-production based on the Iris Chang book, the Japanese documentary set to present the "truth" about the massacre, the documentary that premiered at Sundance, and now China has approved one more Nanjing film to be made by director Yim Ho, whose Pavilion of Women I watched for about 10 minutes before I couldn't stood it any longer and called it quits. I bet all of these movies will balance each other out and just make no money whatsoever.

- Moving to Hollywood, we have Variety's review of the horribly titled Disturbia, which is essentially an uncredited Rear Window update in suburbia with less talented actors and none of that Mulvey male gaze stuff that Rear Window was made famous for. I'm honestly surprised it got a good review. I still won't go watch it though.

- I'm a fan of Kevin Smith, and if that gives me less credibility as a film scholar, then so be it. Anyway, it's no secret that he wrote a script for a Green Hornet movie that he turned down the directing job for. Now that it's no longer at the Weinstein company, Sony has picked it up, and it will NOT be using the Kevin Smith script. I've never read Smith's comics, but knowing that Smith is the big comic fan that he is, I would think that he probably crafted a pretty solid script (although being a loyal subject of the Weinstein regime it probably helped it get greenlit too). It's too bad it'll never see the light of day.

- Lastly, as an off-topic kind of thing. If you want to know how young Japanese women from age 20-34 think, you should at least go to their favorite websites. You'll thank me later.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/20/07

Today's Song of the Day comes from Corinne Bailey Rae's debut album. While the hit single Put Your Record On is perfectly enjoyable, this track is the one that told me "this girl's really good." It's opening track "Like a Star"

Why? Because its quiet soulfulness places you immediately in a dark smoky lounge where you can light up a cigarette while sipping a glass of ___________ (insert name of favorite alcohol not named beer here) on the rocks. It's that smooth.

Here's her trio performance with John Meyer and John Legend at the Grammys

Better late than never part 2

Since I'm writing a little late and by now a lot of news from Asia (particularly film deals from HK Filmart), but I'll leave them for tomorrow.

- Box Office Mojo's Japanese box office numbers show their unreliability again as its results are different from the total audience ranking. Their numbers (down from their 117 yen=$1 rate to 116 yen this week) show Night at the Museum at number 1 on 525 screens, Unfair the Movie with a far larger per-screen average at number 2, and the Doraemon movie at number 3. This is because since the Doraemon movie attracts more kids, and kids pay less money for a movie ticket. So while more people showed up to see Doraemon, Unfair attracted a predominantly adult audience, thus it made more money than Doraemon. This, of course, begs the question which ranking is more accurate? Would you want more people to watch your movie, or more money to be made from your movie?

- Another Japanese drama wrapped up last night, and it's the soon-to-be-adapted-way-too-many-times Tokyo Tower series. Considering that it hasn't done very well in the ratings, its last episode got an 18.1% rating, up from a 14.2 last week for an overall 14.9 rating. As evident from the success of the Unfair movie, Tokyo Tower the movie should do pretty well at the box office come April.

- My girlfriend also alerted me that one of the main actors in the recently-wrapped Haken No Hinkaku is actually former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's son Kotaro Koizumi.

See the resemblance?

- Just how serious is Mark Russell at Korea Pop Wars about the Korean box office? He reported it all the way from Hong Kong, where he's attending Filmart! Good work, Mark! Seriously, I wouldn't be updating this thing if I get to go cover Filmart.

- Those Oricon rankings are out too, and Utada Hikaru holds on to the number 1 spot for the third week in a row with the single Flavor of Life. As a fan, I'm happy that she's found this kind of success again, but too bad it's for a single that's become less Utada and more J-pop (at least compared to her older works). Meanwhile, Koda Kumi is at a relatively closed second with her latest single, and Remioromen, who became huge J-pop figures after the one-two punch of March 9th and Konayuki, could only muster a third place with their latest. Hikki may have to fight for that top spot next week as NEWS joins in the Spring break fight with their new single.

On the album side, even Koda Kumi's erokawaii couldn't beat Mr. Children, whose latest album Home scored first place with a huge sales figure of 690,000 copies. Koda Kumi and Mika Nakashima fought out the battle of second and third place, and Koda Kumi wins the battle barely with 161,000 while Mika managed to sell 153,000 copies herself.

- The Death Note Complete Set is also number 1 on the overall DVD sales chart on its first week with 161,000 copies sold. While this is not as spectacular as Bayside Shakedown 2 (which moved 327,000 copies its first week) and Crying Out For Love in the Center of the World (which moved 174,000 copies), this is the third best-selling first-week sales for a Japanese DVD ever, and also the best sales for a Japanese DVD since Sinking of Japan came out in January.

- I really liked the Japanese film Ping Pong. So much that I bought a second-hand DVD in Tokyo that still cost me an arm and a leg. And now its director has returned for his second film after producing 2004's Appleseed. Variety Asia reported that Shochiku has picked up his latest film, the animated "Vexille," about an undercover American military force who enter Japan to stop them from building a dangerous weapon in the year.

Likes: Director
Doesn't like: animated film.

What to do, what to do....

- Korea Herald has provided the first English review of the first Korean film by Choi Yang Il (or known elsewhere in the world as Yoichi Sai, the director of the violent, but excellent downer Blood and Bones) Soo. Sounds like it'll be even more intense than Blood and Bones.

Link courtesy of Ryuganji.

- Ever imagined a futuristic war film in the streets of Hong Kong? Your dream is coming true as Singapore have teamed up with an American investor to make the sci-fi futuristic fantasy "The Battle of Hong Kong - Exodus," about the natives of Kowloon rising up to fight Hong Kong Islanders that have enslaved them. If I were them, Hong Kong islanders would make better rebellion story. The pic will be the most expensive ever made in Singapore....but why is Singapore, not Hong Kong, making this?

- Starting tomorrow, this blog's is gonna be flooded with news from Filmart, but why not get a personal perspective from someone who's actually there (honestly, from the news I got today, I might actually be there myself next year. Fingers crossed). That's why, it's Asian Film Award winner David Bordwell, who is reporting his trip on his blog (with some very very cool starstruck moments) . He'll be there until April doing research, so I'm sure he'll continue to turn in great entries from my favorite city in the world.

Asian Film Awards results

I'm usually more loyal to Variety because they recently freed up their online content, and it just loads up faster. But leave it to The Hollywood Reporter to get the first report of the Asian Film Awards. They even got a list of the winners already:

Best film -- "The Host," produced by Choi Yong Bae (South Korea)

Best director -- Jia Zhangke, "Still Life" (China)

Best actor -- Song Kang-ho, "The Host" (South Korea)

Best actress -- Miki Nakatani, "Memories of Matsuko" (Japan)

Best cinematographer -- Kim Hyung-goo, "The Host" (South Korea)

Best screenwriter -- Mani Haghighi, "Men at Work" (Iran)

Best editor -- Lee Chatametikool, "Syndromes and a Century" (Thailand/France/Austria)

Best composer -- Rahayu Supanggah, "Opera Jawa" (Indonesia)

Best production designer -- Tim Yip "The Banquet" (Hong Kong/China)

Best visual effects -- The Orphanage, "The Host"

Yay for The Host and Miki Nakatani, although I REALLY wanted Exiled to win something. There's always the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Speaking of The Host, KFCcinema posted a report from the Korean Film Council announcing The Host as a success. It cites that it's earned $631,000 on its first week of release, which just ain't true. While its second weekend was pretty good with only a 21% drop on 2 less screens and a slightly lower per-screen average, it is, sad to say, a disappointment. Hell, I checked the Film Council's website, and the 631,000 figure is for the Chinese box office anyway.

Now that it's the BEST ASIAN FILM of last year, can Americans get off their asses and go pay to see it now?

A real report coming later today

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/19/07 - part 2

In honor of this season's winning (and most expensive) drama Karei Naru Ichizoku, today's second song of the day is its theme song.

Why? Because it's grand, and it's the best theme to represent the tone of a drama that I've heard in a while.

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/19/07

Today's song of the day comes from Khalil Fong's second album This Love, which I've recommended a couple of times here before. This song was, in my opinion, the first great Hong Kong pop single of 2007 and maybe my favorite song in the album. It's "Foursome" with Khalil Fong and Fiona Sit.

Why? Because it's a funky duet that's not another one of those Karaoke-friendly monotonous pop shit that Hong Kong is used to feeding its listeners, despite Fiona Sit's flawed Mandarin.

A new week

And a lot more news than I expected, so let's rip through this sucker

- Before they take this thing down, check out Hollywood Elsewhere's links to the screaming matches between Lily Tomlin and director David O. Russell on the set of I Heart Huckabees. I think Russell's made some great works, but the guy looks like a downright asshole.

- Hong Kong Sunday numbers are up, and as expected, 300 takes the top slot. However, the grosses weren't as high as I expected, considering that it grossed a phenomenal HK$1 million on Thursday. Instead, it made HK$1.69 million on 42 screens (a great number by any count) for a 4-day total of HK$6.47 million, including previews. Meanwhile, Ghost Rider is in second with HK$340,000 on 34 screens for a 11-day total of HK$5.76 million, The Haunted School is at HK$120,000 on 14 screens for a 4-day total of HK$480,000, and Dororo just can't seem to get the audiences in seats by earning just HK$120,000 on 18 screens for a sad sad HK$380,000 4-day cume.

Good news for the limited releases though, as Pan's Labyrinth draws in HK$120,000 on only 4 screens, while Ann Hui's The Postmodern Life of My Aunt actually saw increased business with HK$100,000 on 5 screens. I knew Hong Kong audiences can't just turn away a movie with Chow Yun Fat like that.

- The major Japanese dramas wrapped up this week, including the big three - Haken No Hinkaku (about temp office workers in Japan), Hana Yori Dango 2 (or who I mockingly called the Flower Boys), and Karei Naru Ichizoku (the big-budget rich family epic). Being a disliker of those Flower Boys and its positive word-of-mouth, I was afraid that the final episode would be higher than Karei Naru Ichizoku. But Kimura Takuya and his huge messed-up family rallied for a huge win with a 30.4% rating and a final average of a slightly disappointing 23.9 rating, while the Flower Boys did get a huge boost with a 27.9% rating for a final average of 21.7. The biggest boost, however, went to Haken No Hinkaku, who followed up its 19.9 rating for its 9th episode with a 26.0% rating for its last episode to get a 20.1% average.

The overall ratings this season are higher, since only one drama only got higher than a 20 rating average at the same season last year(while this season saw 3). But while Karei Naru Ichizoku did achieve a higher average than Kimura Takuya's last drama Engine (I mention Kimura Takuya because he is the main draw for Karei Naru Ichizoku, considering all the posters around Tokyo has just his big face on it), but this is a man whose dramas once earned a 34.2 average (Hero in 2001), so a 23.9 rating for a big anniversary drama maybe not be so impressive.

Even a national newspaper reported on the huge ratings Karei Naru Ichizoku got, so let's just all admit that it was pretty huge and all cheer like supportive people should.

Source: Drama News.

- The Japanese box office attendance rankings are also out, and Night at the Museum opened big at number 1, while the Doraemon movie held on a number 2. Drama adaptation Unfair the Movie opened at number 3, Happy Feet at number 4, and Deja Vu at number 5. As reliable as I can get numbers will come tomorrow, hopefully.

- Actress Ryoko Shinahara must be having a really happy week - her headlining drama Haken no Hinkaku got huge ratigns for its finale (which means let's get her back for a sequel and stat!), and now her drama adaptation Unfair the Movie opens huge at 370 million yen, despite the drama only getting a 15.4 rating (which means Haken's boost must've rolled over to Unfair too). Eiga Consultant predicts that this has gotta be pretty good omen for upcoming drama adaptations Saiyuki (a bastardization of the most beloved Chinese fairy tale ever Journey to the West) and Hero, which had a 22.8 and 34.2 average, respectively.

- After the critical failure of the last Studio Ghibli film Tales From Earthsea (which has been rumored to be Studio Ghibli officials' way of hooking Hayao Miyazaki to come back and save the studio's reputation by making one more film), Mr. Miyazaki's latest project has finally been announced. According to Hoga News, it'll be Gake No Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff), a story of a goldfish princess who wants to be human and a 5-year old boy. A producer said that it's based on a time when Goro Miyazaki (Hayao's son, and the one who directed Tales from Earthsea while detailing how horrible a father Hayao was on his blog) was 5 years old. Maybe this is Hayao's attempt for a father-son reconciliation.

- Speaking of release dates, Stephen Chow's latest A Hope has secured one too. Ming Pao writes this:


Current reports indicate that post-production is basically done, and it will be sent to the Bureau for Film, Radio, and Television for inspection. Since the film is touching story about love between father and son, there's no sensitive material, it should have no problem getting through the inspection. It's now tentatively set for a June 25th nationwide opening.

The story is something about a poor kid picking up a communicator that allows him to communicate with an alien, and the alien feel so sorry for the kid and his father (played by Stephen Chow) that it helps them out by punishing those that bully them. Sounds like good ol' family fun indeed.

Original Chinese report is here.

- Youtube has a 5-minute trailer to the lesbian love story "Spider Lilies," starring Taiwanese pop star Rainie Yang and Hong Kong pop star Isabella Leong. Rainie does even a nice little strip tease in the beginning. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, and will be shown at the Hong Kong International Film Festival as well.

- The Hong Kong Entertainment Expo is underway, and Variety Asia's got you covered with a guide to fine dining and a guide to Hong Kong fashion shopping.

- At Hong Kong's Asian Film Awards tonight, expect Andy Lau to get the "box office star" award. Excerpt from Ming Pao as follows:


According to the "Hong Kong United Artist Cinemas Anniversary Awards" in December of 2005, Andy Lau's film has grossed a total of HK$170 million. In the last one-year period, "A Battle of Wits" and "Protege" has grossed a total of over HK$41 million, and that's just Hong Kong box office gross. Calculating the box office gross for Andy Lau's films in Asia would come up with even more amazing numbers.

And why do people still just take Andy Lau as the next Hong Kong Chief Executive as a joke? He might just be the democratically-voted leader both China and Hong Kong can agree with.

Chinese report is here.

- Twitch's logboy post a huge list of reviews for films he watched recently. None of them are complete, but they are another man's opinions on some interesting Asian films that's worth checking out.

- It's all been reported out, but Mark Schilling wrote a comprehensive round-up of the recent Japanese health show scandal, which made the media turn against its own by leading a charge to uncover as much false data as possible.

- Twitch also has a review of the Ultimate Edition DVD of Versus. It was crazy and sometimes inspired fun, but was it really that great? Adrenaline-pumping does not a great movie made. Perhaps after the reported major tweaking, it's now a better film. I'll have to check this out.

- Those who were sad about Hong Kong girl group At 17's split (I'm one of them) should rejoice, since Ming Pao has confirmed that the split is only for a half year. Ming Pao reports the following:


After the concert, the sisters will have to work apart the second half of the year. Ellen will star in a musical with Chet lam, and Eman (Chet Lam's sister) will release a comic collection. They'll reunite to release an album at the end of the year.


The original Chinese report is here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/18/07

Today's song is a cover of an older song by Janis Ian. The cover artist is Shiina Ringo, one of my favorites, and the song appeared on her 2-disc cover album Utaite Myori. It's "Love is Blind."

Why? While the original is also quite good, Shiina Ringo's intense vocals really elevates the song to a new type of emo anger. It changes the song from a sense of bitterness from Janis Ian to agonizing pain on Shiina Ringo, who sounds like she's literally hurting just singing. It's really one of the most incredible covers I've ever heard.

Someone just took the song and put it on the video for Ringo No Uta, so watching is not necessary, just listen and feel it.

Here is a concert version where Shiina sings it at a lower key. In my opinion, it's actually not as good as the album version.

Best of Golden Rock - March 12th to 18th

- I'm a fan of Haruki Murakami. Honestly, he's the only author I consistently read (that is, if I ever decide to read). I haven't bought his latest short story anthology "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" yet because I'm waiting for the paperback, but now the translation for his latest After Dark is finally arriving. I still have quite a few books to catch up, so maybe I'll be reading this in 5 years or so.

- Miss R over at Sardonic Smile has a cool profile of Hong Kong's hippest MTV director Susie Au, whose latest film MingMing will debut at the Hong Kong International Film Festival this year.

- Asian Cinema - While On the Road has a review of the book "Asia Shock," which I agree I would not read just based on the title alone (I, too, hate the stereotype that Asian films represent some type of carnal or violent extreme). But it seems like the book does pick some good mainstream titles. No, Ichi the Killer is NOT a mainstream film anywhere in the world.

- Sales of Japanese home video have been sliding, as Japanese animation (which takes up the biggest piece of the pie with 24.5% of sales....why am I not surprised by this?) drops by 14.5 %, foreign films (which takes up 20% of sales) drop by some 40% this past year, while Japanese films performs better with a 5.8% gain and a 9.8% share of total sales. Sales overall has fallen by 10%, although a Japan Video Association Manager has said that they can definitely recover from a 10% drop.

Actually, one interesting portion is that sales of television dramas have risen. Perhaps with a long-term trend, this would encourage television stations to begin to branch out to international market, as the Korean drama has over the last few years.

- Or they can learn from America, who is seeing a decline of theatrical window in the past year. Basically, theaterowners are worrying that the window between theatrical exhibition and home video release is getting smaller and smaller (this year, the average shortened by 10 days), making this an even bigger problem than piracy. Even though films do make a bulk of their money from theatrical exhibition, the home video market is still a very very viable way of making money, and the studios have no idea whom to please these days.

- If you read my profile on the right, you'd know that my main interest is the new "Panasian" films and their effect on national cinema. In light of the upcoming Hong Kong entertainment expo, Variety Asia's Patrick Frater has turned in a report on the new Asian style of film finance. Very very informative if you're into that kind of stuff like I am.

- The new 3D animation trend is so huge that even Hong Kong is joining in on the fun, and the person doing it is none other than Brian Tse, who carved out Hong Kong's most famous contemporary animated franchise with McDull. According to Twitch, he's developing a 3D animated feature about a duck liver sausage that finds out he's a piece of poop. No kidding. At least the duck liver sausage idea is pure original HK humor.

- I mentioned about those Southern boys trying to do awesomely bad Japanese rap a while ago on this blog, and that they were putting a show in a Shibuya club. Well, their gigs already happened, and Japan Probe is awesome enough to provide a video of those Kokujin Tensai (literally means Black Person Genius, or a grammatically correct title of Black Genius). I searched on Youtube, and trust me, this is the best quality one can find of that show. Believe me, I don't think the Japanese people who are there are laughing with them. They're probably laughing at them. I know I would, and I'm not even Japanese!

- A blog on all things Japan uncovered an interesting Japanese independent film that is nationalist, but not in that right-wing way. Sounds interesting on paper, but it looks a bit boring.

Twitch has new behind-the-scenes footage for the latest Wilson Yip-Donnie Yen (SPL, Dragon Tiger Gate) collaboration Flash Point (it's a better title than Killzone), starring Donnie Yen and Louis Koo. Looks good so far, now let's just make it be better than Dragon Tiger Gate, yeah?

Looks like after a string of failed foreign runs, The Host has finally become a hit in China, where it topped the box office in its opening weekend and praised by critics (it was praised by critics in the States too, so what's with that crappy opening weekend?). Meanwhile, Variety Asia has a more solid report on its financing process and just how big of a hit it really is (for an Asian film to have a net profit of double its production cost is pretty damn amazing).

- There are two new members to the pop collective (it's a better name than record-company-built cute young girls pop group) Morning Musume, and they're Chinese (dun-dun-dun!). One of them actually auditioned to be on one of those pop idols show in China, and Japan Probe has the clip. Well, we can forget about her being the one with singing skills (the judge at the end, by the way, says that she sings like a child. No kidding).

- Lastly, Variety has posted a review of The Godfather (yes, that Godfather). Of course, a review now would use words like "masterpiece" "and "classic" (which I agree with), and not words like "overlong" and "confusing." That's because this review was written in 1972 when the film first came out. I wonder if that critic ever changed his mind about it eventually.

- There's a rather amusing trailer for a new film starring John Malkovich named Color Me Kubrick, a kind of true story about a man who looks and acts absolutely like Stanley Kubrick, but somehow pretended to be him anyway.

- Danwei, an English blog on the Chinese media that is far better organized and written than this site, has a translation of an article about how one phone call stopped the Chinese film rating system. The idea of the film rating system is good, but when you have conservative middle-aged men behind the system with an agenda, it's bound to be corrupted. Kinda like the MPAA.

Link courtesy of EastSouthWestNorth

- Don't assume that the made-for-TV genre only exists in America, NTV has its own series of made-for-TV films (they call it dramas, but I call it made-for-TV movie, let's call the whole thing off) every Tuesday night. Being the sometimes-creatively-drained industry that is TV, Japan loves doing one story in as many formats as possible. Look at Tokyo Tower - which was first a hit novel, then a made-for-TV film, then a currently-running drama, and coming in April, a feature film starring Joe Odagiri. That's three incarnations of the same damn story within a half-year period.

This past week, the NTV movie-of-the-week is "The Eraser in My Head," which is the Japanese title of the hit Korean film A Moment to Remember (it was a surprise hit in Japan, and was credited as an integral part of the Korean wave in Japan). Before I assumed it was just a rip-off of the Korean film (the credits on the website does not credit the Korean film), I found out that the film itself was based on a 2001 Japanese drama named Pure Soul, which is what NTV credited as the source material. Even though it was based said drama, you can't deny that this incarnation was inspired by the success of the Korean film....can you?

Nippon Sunday

I know I promised the box office estimates for North America yesterday, but The Host isn't on the estimates (which cannot be spelling good things for the critically-acclaimed film), so I have no reason to care.

- Don't assume that the made-for-TV genre only exists in America, NTV has its own series of made-for-TV films (they call it dramas, but I call it made-for-TV movie, let's call the whole thing off) every Tuesday night. Being the sometimes-creatively-drained industry that is TV, Japan loves doing one story in as many formats as possible. Look at Tokyo Tower - which was first a hit novel, then a made-for-TV film, then a currently-running drama, and coming in April, a feature film starring Joe Odagiri. That's three incarnations of the same damn story within a half-year period.

This past week, the NTV movie-of-the-week is "The Eraser in My Head," which is the Japanese title of the hit Korean film A Moment to Remember (it was a surprise hit in Japan, and was credited as an integral part of the Korean wave in Japan). Before I assumed it was just a rip-off of the Korean film (the credits on the website does not credit the Korean film), I found out that the film itself was based on a 2001 Japanese drama named Pure Soul, which is what NTV credited as the source material. Even though it was based said drama, you can't deny that this incarnation was inspired by the success of the Korean film....can you?

This coming week's movie-of-the-week is miniseries "Ai No Ryukeichi," based on a hit novel and was made into the movie "Love Never to End," which was a moderate success in January. I'll assume that this TV version won't be as explicit as the film, which earned an R-15 rating due to its sexual content.

- Speaking of Joe Odagiri, Hoga News has a story on the latest surge of his exposure rate in Japanese media.

- Japan Time's notable reviews for the week are the Japanese fantasy fable "Argentine Baba" (Argentine Hag) and documentary Crossing the Bridge by Fatih Akin, whose devastatingly Head On was one of my favorite films last year.

- Twitch has the link to a second trailer for a possible Japanese comedy hit this summer "Maiko Hannnnn!" written by Kankuro Kudo, who wrote Go and Ping Pong. It looks just strange enough that it might be one of those sleeper hits.

- I reported a while ago about the opening of the Wald 9 Cinemas in Shinjuku. The Daily Yomiuri has reported on its effect on Shinjuku, which has one of the highest concentration of cinemas in Japan. I saw The Incredibles at this incredible 800-seat theater (I believe it was the Piccadilly, but I can't recall the name. It was a multiplex of sorts, since it did have 3 screens) there. And now the opening of the Wald 9 has driven it to be closed down (maybe it's the theatre the report cites as being rebuilt), which is a shame, because huge screens like that has ceased to exist in San Francisco (I saw Star Wars episode 1 at the Coronet, where the original Star Wars film premiered 20-odd years before that), and now it's slowly dwindling away in Tokyo as well. Too bad, it was worth every one of those 1500 yen I paid for, and now those money are going towards small auditoriums with small screens.

- Anyone tired of those Samurai period dramas from Japan lately? Then start rejoicing, because a non-samurai period film is coming soon. Originally a novel, the film "Akane Zora" is about a tofu maker's business and his family.

- The Daily Yomiuri also shows off how awesomely unbelievably great Japanese mangas are by pointing out all the adaptations of them in other Asian countries. MANGA BANZAI!!!!!

The Daily Yomiuri links are courtesy of Ryuganji.

- Danwei, an English blog on the Chinese media that is far better organized and written than this site, has a translation of an article about how one phone call stopped the Chinese film rating system. The idea of the film rating system is good, but when you have conservative middle-aged men behind the system with an agenda, it's bound to be corrupted. Kinda like the MPAA.

Link courtesy of EastSouthWestNorth

Related news, a Chinese blog has detailed the cuts done to Babel for Chinese viewing, and it pains me to list all these out (WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS):

- The Moroccan kid masterbating
- The chicken killing shot in Mexico
- Rinko Kikuchi's character taking off her panties
- Rinko Kicuchi's character opening up her skirt
- Rinko Kikuchi's character grabbing the dentist's hand and bringing it to her crotch (fully dressed)
- Rinko Kikuchi's charater's nude scene, where she attempts to seduce the policeman.
- Rinko Kikuchi's character nude at the balcony (which probably killed the entire final shot).


- Ming Pao has an editorial about how Hong Kong is attempting to save itself from total destruction. Excerpts are as follows:


Andy Lau not only invests in new directors in Hong Kong through low-budget productions, he also invested in other regions in Asia.


Eric Tsang bravely used fresh talents in his productions. Director Wong Ching-Po and screenwriter To Jing Lang were his discoveries.


Johnnie To, who's been quite strong these few years, has seen his Associate director Law Wing-Cheong and screenwriter Yau Nai-Hoi become directors.


Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, who is triumphing overseas, is using HD films to teach newcomers, allowing them to take bigger risks.


Outsiders believe that Filmmakers only know how to ask the government for help while doing nothing, and that's just not true.


There are very few news about the film industry in entertainment news, which only knows how to report on celebrities' private lives. Outsiders know nothing at all about the changes going on in the film industry.


Small-to-medium budget productions are the best tool to try new themes and train newcomers. Those who don't know films think that movies are products of genius, when the truth is that those who have succeeded grew up from past failures.


To win the faith of financiers, the products of those success stories should use their reputations to vouch for newcomers. In these few years, there is a notion from those who haven't been to the movies in years that all Hong Kong films are bad films. To change their attitudes, we can't just rely on 300 million dollars from the government to do the job.

How about changing the notion among Hong Kong youths that movie should be downloaded?

The original Chinese article is here.

Coming up: Best of the week, and song of the day.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Golden Rock song of the day - 3/17/07

Today's song of the day is from Hong Kong rap group Fama, discovered by DJ Tommy. In their second album "Music Tycoon," there were two main collaborations, one was "Love is Like Edison Chan," featuring, you guessed it, supposed rapper Edison Chan, the other is today's song: "Love is Like Chet Lam."

Why? Because I've been choosing all rock and ballads since I started this thing, and I wanted to show that I listen to a bit of hip-hop too. Of course, I know that this song isn't hip-hop, it's just rapping with a guitar.

So why THIS song, then? Because it's rap with a guitar. Because it undoes all those ideal notions we have about love, most notably George Lam, who sang that "love is like the sun and the air." In the main hook, Chet Lam and Fama kill the idealist in all of us and sings:

Oh 叫佢食陽光空氣

Only a couple of hundred bucks in your account
and you still want to raise her daughter
tell him to eat the sun and the air

The lesson of the song: Real love is for those who can afford it. Ideal love is for those poor bastards with no money. It's painful, but there it is.

A New (old) kind of hero

I love the Independent Film Channel. I don't know why I receive it, but I happen to have it, and it's a great source for uncut independent films. They've been running a series called the Grindhouse every Friday night, showing pretty much trash movies by art standards. This is where I saw Sonny Chiba in Karate Bearfighter and Karate Bullfighter (in that order, even though the story's in reverse order) last month, and it's also where I saw Killing Machine (real title: Shorinji Kenpo, or the Shaolin Fist) last night. I'm now convinced that Sonny Chiba was probably Japan's best hero, even better than Ultraman and Kamen Rider combined.

The movie opens during the Sino-Japanese war, where a bunch of Chinese solders with a commander that doesn't really speak Chinese (he's just pretending) were about to attack a bunch of troops. But a man wearing one of those Chinese sombrero pops out, and it's Sonny Chiba as an undercover Japanese secret agent. He's like James Bond, except he first uses Shaolin kung-fu to wipe out half the troops, THEN he uses the machine gun. Man, I would want an opening like that in any movie (not the killing Chinese people part, but the Shaolin kung-fu part).

He then retreats to his base, where he's told by his superiors that Japan has surrendered and that it's no use fighting. So he takes said machine gun and wipes out his superiors. "Japan may have lost, but I haven't!" he says. What a bad ass. Being the bad ass Sonny Chiba is, he would fight for justice everywhere - on the train, where he stops a fight by twisting a dude's arm and says, "There are 80,000,000 Japanese and 800,000 Koreans. You can't swim back to Korea, so if you want to live here, be friends." At the black market, where he fights black marketeers because he told the kids it's OK to steal from them, and he gets into a fight with the cops and American soldiers (over what, I don't know, I lost my attention for about 3 minutes, and Chiba the man just didn't wait to get some ass-kicking done).

Of course, you also get to learn about behaviors when around Sonny Chiba. First, you don't wanna be interrupting his udon eating, or he'll look at you as he slurps up that last string. Second, you don't want to rape the neighborhood udon shop's owner's daughter, because he'll come beat you down with Shaolin kungfu, then castrate you (I am seriously not kidding about this). And you don't wanna go over to his dojo and start something, because even though he says not to start fight with other schools, he will kick your ass anyway.

All in all, Killing Machine isn't actually all that entertaining when compared with the Karate series (I mean, the word "good" wouldn't be used to describe any of these movies), but it does have some entertaining fun here and there. It's even surprising even-handed for a testosterone-pumped movie about Japan (Chiba may kill Chinese soldiers, but he respects Chinese martial arts and I would presume its people).

- March has been known to be an off-peak month in South Korea (unlike Hong Kong, where people actually get Easter holiday), and that means it's time for a foreign invasion!

- This weekend, Japan finally sees the opening of two Hollywood blockbusters Night at the Museum and Academy Award winner Happy Feet. Last weekend, they had a preview duel with advanced showings, and on an unknown number of screens, Night at the Museum wins it with 169 million yen, while Happy Feet brought in 72 million yen. This should be a pretty clear indicator who's gonna win.

Source: Eiga Consultant.

- The Filmbrain blog has its own review of a film I reviewed last month, the subtle Ad Lib Night.

- There's a rather amusing trailer for a new film starring John Malkovich named Color Me Kubrick, a kind of true story about a man who looks and acts absolutely like Stanley Kubrick, but somehow pretended to be him anyway.

- After watching The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, I wished Justin Lin was given better scripts to do, because I think he means well, but he just keeps getting stuck with crappy scripts. So after two ventures into Hollywood, he's doing his own thing (in just 8 months after Tokyo Drift, no less) with his latest Finishing the Game, a spoof on the search for a replacement of Bruce Lee after he died while making Game of Death, and it just premiered at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival. Did anyone catch it?

- Two pieces of news to translate from my new Chinese news source Ming Pao:

1) Hong Kong International Film Festival run into a snag regarding missing tickets for its opening night film I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK, among other shows. excerpt of Chinese report as follows:


Regarding online ticketing, the association received about 30 complaints saying that they did not receive their confirmation e-mail for their reservations. After an investigation, the association will sent out these e-mails accordingly.

Apparently, there's also a case of someone continuously complaining that he/she never got the confirmation email for said opening night, but turns out the confirmation numbers were faked, and this person might get charged for fraud.

Also, the official website has put up an official apology about the failures of the new online ticketing system. This is what happens when you rely on the internet. Then again, this blog is on the internet, so maybe I shouldn't bite the hand that feeds me.

2) Using the Wong Jing crapfest The Lady Iron Chef, Ming Pao also claims that a bad box office gross doesn't always spell the end of a movie.
Excerpt as follows:






Currently there are quite a few films that doesn't desperately need box office gross to make money. That's why even though the industry is in a recession, there's still many productions similar to The Lady Iron Chef coming out.

The way these types of movies make money is through adding up video, television, and overseas distribution deals. These type of productions only need to be on the screens for a little while.

Why do they need to be on the big screen? Because a film that does not go to theatres is regarded as an inferior film, and all those potential money from selling broadcast or distribution rights will suffer a loss.

A film that played on the big screen and was promoted would attract attention would surely fetch a higher price than films that didn't.

Looking at the box office, maybe it would be strange for these television networks to still be financing movies. But as long as there's buzz or a familiar topic, just find a couple of known actors, the film can still sell abroad. A film with a low box office gross can still make money.

It's not a lot of news today, I'm saving the rest for tomorrow. Some Japan Times reviews, the best of the week, of course a song of the day, and maybe some American box office estimates.