Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/29/2007

Today's song comes in light of the news that ex-Zone vocalist Miyu going off to do her own solo thing. So today's song is going to be the first Zone song I've ever heard. Now on their compilation album, it's Zone's "Secret Base ~ Kimi Ga Kureta Mono"



And here is how I first discovered the song (stick with it, it gets really really good)

The Golden Rock - June 29th, 2007 Edition

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/28/2007

Today's Song of the Day is a little trippier, a little more atmospheric, and even a little sexier. Originally from the album The Magnificent Tree, it's Hooverphonic's Mad About You.

The Golden Rock - June 28th, 2007 Edition

- Michael Bay's Transformers have started its rampage around the world in South Korea, where it has seen the best advanced ticket sales so far this year. People seem to love it too. One dubious section in the report regarding the spokesperson of distributor CJ Entertainment:

"'Movies that do well in South Korea tend to do well in other parts of Asia,' Kim said, attributing the trend in part to the growing popularity of South Korean movies, TV dramas and music across the region.

'A movie's popularity in Asia seems to be affected by its popularity in South Korea,' she said. 'In that sense, South Korea has emerged as an important movie market in Asia in recent years.'"

Right, that's why someone wrote this article. And that's why Japan has been hosting huge Hollywood world premieres all summer, including the Harry Potter premiere just yesterday.

Meanwhile, Hollywood Reporter just put up their review today (I don't know why Variety had their review up so early when there's an embargo on it until today/tomorrow Asia time), and critic Kirk Honeycutt says right out that it's an extravaganza rather than overwrought excess. I might actually pay to see a Michael Bay movie....well, matinee price, at the most. I only paid US$4 to see The Island.

For more Hollywood news, we'll be looking at the opening for Die Hard 4 in North America and Asia tomorrow.

- Lovehkfilm updates with a review of Hong Kong's first summer hit Simply Actors (which, pardon my pun, simply doesn't sound that good. It also sound like Chan Hing-Ka's overloaded hit-or-miss comedic trend continues). There's also a review for Waiting in the Dark, by Daisuke Tengan (the son/screenwriter for legendary director Shohei Imamura) and starring Taiwanese actor Wilson Chen. There's also a review for the Korean film A Day for an Affair written by yours truly, and I can confess here that yes, I totally mean that it's watchable.

- As Lovehkfilm reported, Barbara Wong's Wonder Women has been chosen as the "official handover anniversary film. It opens next week, and a trailer is on the website. It doesn't really show much, and it's not subtitled.

- Keita Motohashi's Tobo Kusotawake, about two misfits who go off on an aimless adventure, is going to the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in Korea. There's not even an official website for the film yet, but you can read the director's blog, who reports the film will open in limited release in October.

- I don't know what the Macao Studio City will be like, but at least I know it'll have a Playboy Mansion. That means more places for girls like her to go to (don't worry, link is work-safe...unless you're an animals rights activist).

- The only Bollywood film I've ever seen is Lagaan, the 4-hour epic about Indian farmers playing crickets to beat their oppressive English landlord, and it's better than it sounds. Anyway, it's finally coming in a super-duper special edition DVD, and if you have a few hours to spare, I highly recommend it.

- I always complain about how Japanese entertainment producers are so protective about their work and always work too slow to distribute them. Turns out a government advisory panel agrees with me and wants some of those protective rights pulled for easier distribution of content. I would like to think that what I write here makes a difference, but I know it doesn't. At least someone finally came out and did something.

- But which government isn't letting uncut movies in? The Chinese! A blogger writes about a possible reason why some Chinese people end up buying pirated works - to see how Chow Yun-Fat vilifies Chinese people. Note that the link is a translation of the original Chinese entry from last week.

- I think it's been pretty widely reported that Martin Scorsese is working on adapting the Japanese novel Silence, about the persecution of Catholics in 16th century Japan. Apparently, it's actually a "remake" of the 1971 film by Masahiro Shinoda, and now the Shinoda film is finally coming to the States soon.

- Jason Gray has more about Shaolin Shojo, the Stephen Chow-approved Japanese spin-off of Shaolin Soccer that will move the action to Lacrosse and have a better-looking protagonist.

- Twitch has some more reviews from the New York Asian Film Festival, including the director's cut of After This, Our Exile.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/27/2007

Let's continue that summer mood today with the SMAP boys. They don't sing all that well, but at least they're (pretending to) having fun! It was never on an album, but it is a single. From the Japanese boy band SMAP, it's "Bang Bang Bakansu!"


The Golden Rock - June 27th, 2007 Edition



Saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Shane Black, the writer of the first Lethal Weapon film and considered the pioneer of the buddy action genre. Instead of the usual violent action flicks he has written, Black offers up a self-conscious noir comedy directed with great pacing and plenty of quotable lines (the memorable quotes section brings back a lot of good laughs). What I liked best, though, was its constant subversion of cliches. I don't want to reveal too much, it's just a bloody good time at the movies. In fact, the only reason this didn't do any better at the box office is because it was sold as an art film when it's not. Trust me, it's not. Check it out, you won't regret it.

- The Japanese record sales were fairly weak this past week. On the albums chart, Crystal Kay scores her first number 1 debut album (though I think her compilation album from 2004 debuted at number 1) with her latest All Yours, selling 51,000 copies. Zard's Golden Best compilation spends another week at number after selling another 38,000 copies, and Kick the Can Crew member MCU's second album debuts way low at 15th place, selling just over 10,000 copies. I think it's time for Kick the Can Crew to get back together now. Thing should pick up next week as Namie Amuro's new album has already sold over 40,000 copies on the first day.

The singles chart is even weaker, with the number 1 single by Gackt selling only 43,000 copies. Another Kick the Can Crew member Kreva (Kureba=Clever, get it? ha ha) gets better results by selling 19,000 copies of his latest single for a 4th place debut. Last week's number single by YUI drops to 3rd place, and it's just kind of quiet everywhere else. Next week's chart should be a battle between popular rap group Ketsumeishi and Koda Kumi, whose singles took second and first place on the first day of sale, respectively.

- As expected, Eiga Consultant has looked at the weekend performance of the Yuko Takeuchi Side Car Ni Inu (is this is a wordplay? It sounds like it's supposed to be Side Car Ni Iru), and in two Tokyo theaters, it made 4.13 million yen with an attendance of 2544 people over two days. With a total of 20 shows for the two-day weekend (5 shows a day per theater), that's only 127 people per show on two screens that hold at least 200 people, but I suppose a 2.07 million yen per-screen average is damn good.

- Variety Asia has a random box office report for this past weekend in Hong Kong (probably because of the presence of all those Hong Kong films). The only reason I mention it is that it actually introduces the early summer hit Simply Actors (a film starring Jim Chim make more than HK$5 million is a hit in my book).

- Popular actor Ken Matsudaira is heading to the stage, starring as Dracula in a musical planned to start next year. That's right, this man is the next person to play Dracula.

By the way, I have the DVD for that. Don't laugh, you try hearing it all year and not think it's awesome.

- Jet Li and Jackie Chan has come out to ask people to stop trying to ask them which one do they think is better, with Li saying that it's like coffee and tea. Well, I like tea better, so which one are you, Jet Li?

- The Toronto International Film Festival, often regarded as probably the most internationally renowned film festival in North America, has just announced their preliminary lineup for this year. Representing Asia are Naomi Kawase's The Mourning Forest, Lee Chang-Dong's Secret Sunshine, Hou Hsiao-Hsien's The Flight of the Red Balloon, and Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy. Obviously missing are mainstream Asian crowdpleasers such as Exiled, The Host, and Hula Girl from last year. Then again, it's still early, so who knows?

Meanwhile, the festival's big honchos have decided to make a conscious effort to not grab attention by showing off the words "world premiere" or "North American premiere" by not inviting the films based on such labels. In fact, they won't even show off that the screening of the Elizabeth sequel really is a world premiere.

In related news, Ming Pao reported yesterday that Ang Lee's Lust, Caution will be premiering in Venice and will be released in Hong Kong late September.

- Aoi Miyazaki is going to try the pull off the ultimate actress challenge by playing two roles in Sono Toki Kare Ni Yoroshiku director Yuichiro Hirakawa's latest Kagehinata ni Saku. The film itself sounds interesting, although Hirakawa's Sono Toki Kare Ni Yoroshiku doesn't.

- Ryuganji reports that Ogigami Naoko, the director of Kamome Diner, which became a long-running independent hit in Japan, is back with a new film. Megane actually appeared as a short film on the Kamome Diner DVD, and is now given the feature film treatment. Go to Ryuganji for more info. By the way, that teaser on the website doesn't show anything.

- The slew of Nanking Massacre films is starting in July with the documentary Nanking. Apparently, the trick to get script approval in China is to be China-centric without pissing off Japan. The strangest entry is Stanley Tong's $40 million film about the massacre, which got script approval and even has Japanese money invested.

- Brian at Asian Cinema - While on the Road, who is one of the organizers for the New York Asian Film Festival, reports from the ongoing festival and writes about the various audience reactions.

- Under "what the hell?" today, Curtis "50 Cent and a bunch of gunshot wounds" Jackson is joining the cast of Righteous Kill as a drug dealer alongside Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro . Yeah, what an acting challenge that will make.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/26/2007

Today I decided for a song with more of a summer mood, especially since the song came out last summer. From the compilation Every Single Day, it's Bonnie Pink's "A Perfect Sky"




Here's the ad that the song was written for (note: model is not Bonnie Pink).

The Golden Rock - June 26th, 2007 Edition

- The Japanese box office numbers just came out on Box Office Mojo, except they didn't provide the exchange rate they used this week, so we'll just simply have to trust their number. Anyway, Pirates of the Caribbean drops another moderate 23% for a current total of roughly 8.36 billion yen already (and this monster is still making more than 500 million yen a weekend!) , so it should go well past the 10 billion mark Sony couldn't get Spiderman 3 to hit. More amazingly, the comedy Maiko Haaaan!!! drops only 3.1% from last weekend's gross to make roughly 738 million yen already and should go past the 1 billion mark pretty easily as well.

Other than Spiderman 3's slow but consistent drop (only 25% this week, but a weak per-screen average means its pulse is quickly growing weak) and the small 20% drop for Sono Toki Kare Ni Yoroshiku, everything else on the top 10 are dropping at the usual 30-40% rate. Furthermore, this weekend's double whammy of Shrek 3 and Die Hard 4.0 should give the box office a knock on its ass.

There's an interesting addition this week on the chart worth mentioning that didn't show up last week . The dark comedy-suspense-one-set film Kusaragi opened on the weekend on the 15th on only 28 screens and still managed to make 20.4 million yen. While that's only 49% of the opening for star Oguri Shun's last film Ghost Train. To be fair, Kusaragi opened only on 30% of the screens Ghost Train opened with, so this opening of 729,000 yen per-screen is pretty impressive. As for its second week, it seemed to have played even stronger with a roughly 839,000 yen per-screen average for 30 screens. I have to admit, a film about 6 guys coming together to mourn the death of their D-grade youth idol does sound pretty interesting, even if it's from the writer of a commercial heart tugger like Always - Sunset on Third Street.

One movie that did open this past weekend but didn't show up is Yuko Takeuchi's return to the big screen with Side Car Ni Inu(more info from Hoga News). What's the big deal, you might ask? The big deal is (and I'm afraid this involves a bit of geinou gossip) that this is Takeuchi's first film role since her rather ugly divorce with Kabuki bad boy Shidou Nakamura (which got set off when he got caught drunk-driving with another woman in the car). To add irony into this, she actually plays the mistress of a married man who moves in to the family home one 80s summer.

Anyway, the film actually seems like a lot more innocent than it sounds, and it just opened in a limited release. I look forward to Eiga Consultant's analysis of it (with a star like Takeuchi, it's bound to come sooner or later), though some theaters seem to be reporting that it's not bringing in a lot of audiences. Meanwhile, check out the official site for a trailer (click on 予告編)

- In Korea, the win by horror film Black House in nationwide attendance marks the first time a Korean film has taken the top spot at the box office in eight weeks.

- The hit drama of the Spring season Proposal Daisakusen (Operation Love) wrapped up its run Monday night Japan time, and it managed to score a season-high 20.9 rating (roughly 13.56 million viewers), effectively saving the season from total embarrassment. It's also by far the winner of the season with a season average of 17.3 (roughly 11.23 million).

- Nielsen EDI, a firm that tracks box office and TV ratings, is expanding their box office tracking service to South Korea and Japan. Too bad a little blog like mine won't benefit from it.

- The Tribeca Festival, started after the 2001 World Trade Center attack to revive New York, is bringing a mini-version to Beijing?! So, will it be more overpriced movie tickets and glamourous superstars, or will there actually be quality movies shown there?

- Yoji Yamada's Love and Honor was released on DVD with English subtitles earlier this month in Japan. Now the people who didn't want to shell out 3000 yen for it can get the Hong Kong edition in a few days.

- The Bangkok International Film Festival was forced to drop the Cannes jury award winner Persepolis as its opening film after the Iranian government called to complain. The animated film is directed by Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian living in France, and the film is an autobiographical work based on her childhood in Tehran. Another ugly example of politics unreasonably intervening in art.

- As I was browsing around the Tokyo movie theater websites, I found the new films by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, who made Trick the Movie, Memories of Tomorrow, AND Sairen in 2006. This year he's off making three more with the already-released Taitei No Ken, Hotai Club (with Yuya Yagira), and Jigyaku no Uta (starring Hiroshi Abe and Miki Nakatani). Click on トレーラ to see the trailers in their respective official sites.

Anyway, this goes to show that Japanese directors work surprisingly hard, mostly regardless of the reaction to their work. Tsutsumi is not the only one that has made three films in a year: Isshin Inudou saw three films released in 2005, Takeshi Miike often see 3-4 releases each year, and Isao Yukisada even follows up the biggest blockbuster of the year in summer 2004 with a huge historical blockbuster in time for New Years 2005. Of course, the film industry has to be healthy enough to enable these filmmakers to make so many films, which would explain why people are so impressed that Johnnie To can work on so many films at once.

- This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, and Vancouver, which has been named mini-Hong Kong by some, is holding a small film series as a part of the Vancouver International Film Festival to celebrate it. For some reason, they managed to pick both the Election films by Johnnie To to be part of the screening. Considering those films are known to be allegories for the relationship between mainland China and Hong Kong, it's like showing Wag the Dog to celebrate Independence Day in the United States.

- In Hong Kong, one pop culture way to celebrate the handover anniversary is getting a bunch of pop stars together and sing a song! "Have You After All" features Andy Lau, Alan Tam, Hacken Lee, Eason Chan, Joey Yong, Leo Ku and even some Chinese opera singers pretty much praising how great Hong Kong has been in the last ten years. Especially cringe-inducing in its ass-kissing is the line about "Lion Rock connecting with the Great Wall/It can be felt in the veins" and the random Mandarin lines towards the end.

Then some Hong Kong netizens come along and make a spoof of the song (a version with English lyrics here), not only writing satirical lyrics to lampoon the Hong Kong government with a pro-democracy slant, but also finding buddies to imitate the singers in the original song (especially spot-on are the Alan Tam and Chinese opera singer impressions). The best part is that the spoof got 10 times more viewers than the original song on Youtube.

It has become such a pop culture phenomenon that a RTHK program (RTHK is the government-run radio station with television production as well) would use the spoof as a way to mock the government (At one point, the host says everyone should get a "Don't Speak Taboo face mask" and a "Don't Hear Taboo ear plug") and the Chief Executive. Of course, there's also the anti-democracy spoof of the spoof, which just goes to show how much freedom of speech people still have in Hong Kong.

(Thanks to EastSouthWestNorth for the idea)

- Lastly, Christina Aguilera says that she has been reading scripts to find the right role for her acting debut. I hope she never finds that script.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/25/2007

Today's song, if i remember correctly, is the first solo single by Paul Wong during my high school days (obviously, I'm not that old). The album Yellow Paul Wong is out of print now, but you can find today's song in the Beyond the Ultimate Story Compilation. It's "Incomparable."

The Golden Rock - June 25th, 2007 Edition

- In Hong Kong on Sunday, The Fantastic Four sequel ruled the box office for the second week in a row, making HK$1.07 million on 47 screens, bringing its 11-day total to HK$15.47 million, and already surpassing the gross of the first film. Patrick Leung/Chan Hing-Ka's Simply Actors remained strong over the weekend, making HK$880,000 on 34 screens on Sunday for a 6-day total of HK$4.78 million. Milkyway Production's Eye in the Sky rebounds with HK$530,000 on 29 screens for a current total of HK$1.96 million. Will it go away quickly like Mr. Cinema and Kidnap, or will it have a bit of legs?

Speaking of which, Mr. Cinema managed another HK$190,000 on 21 screens (many of whom are already limiting it to 2-3 shows a day) for a 11-day total of HK$2.59 million, while Kidnap, which is mostly on one-show-a-day basis already, made another HK$100,000 on 18 screens for the 11-day total of only HK$2.01 million, despite positive response from audiences. Another adult-oriented film, David Fincher's Zodiac, made HK$250,000 on 11 screens for a 4-day total of HK$820,000. For a 158-minute serial killer film with no stars, I don't expect this to pass the HK$2-million mark. The weekend's third opener, the Hollywood comedy Wild Hogs, made only HK$90,000 on just 7 screen for a HK$270,000 4-day total.

- In South Korea, Ocean's 13 wins in Seoul for a second week in a row, despite seeing 4 other movies on the top 10 with higher screen counts. However, the horror film Black House won the nationwide attendance count. Go over to Korea Pop Wars and check out the rest of the top 10.

- In Japanese audience rankings, Pirates of the Caribbean and Maiko Haaaan retain their top two spots this past weekend. Meanwhile, the period comedy The Haunted Samurai, starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, enters at number 3 (more on that later). Unsurprisingly, everything else falls by a spot.

Eiga Consultant looks at the end of Satoshi Tsumabuki's box office streak with The Haunted Samurai. At 3rd place, it made only 120 million yen, which is 27% of Dororo (with Kou Shibasaki, 3.4 billion yen total), 31% of Tears for You (with Masami Nagasawa, 3.1 billion yen total), and 65% of Snowy Love Fallin' in Spring (with Yuko Takeuchi, 1.27 billion yen total). Is this another proof that Japanese films these day can't be completely reliant on only one star?

- A bulk of this season's Japanese dramas wrapped up this past week (Here for all Spring 2007 drama information). Only Liar Game managed to end on a high note, scoring a season-high 13.6 rating for its 3-hour finale (about 8.83 million viewers), and ending with a 11.4 season average (about 7.5 million viewers). For a drama on an experimental time slot (11 pm Saturday night), Fuji is smiling happy. On the other hand, Sexy Voice and Robo ends weakly with only a 6.4 (4.15 million viewers) season-low rating, ending with a season average of 7.6 (4.93 million viewers). Another drama that ended with season-low rating is Fufudo, with saw a near-season high last week, only to end with a season low 12.4 rating (8.05 million) and a season average of 13.6 (8.83 million).

Of course, no drama comes close to Kadoku no Kake, which saw a freefall in viewership since week 7, starting from a 11.2 rating (7.27 million) for its premiere all the way down to a 4.5 (2.92 million)for its last episode, and a sad sad 7.0 rating (4.54 million)for its season average. Sequel Kui-Tan 2 ends its season with a solid 14.0 rating (9.09 million) for its finale, but ends weaker than the 17.4 average of the first series with only a 13.7 average (8.89 million). Still, it's good enough to be the season's third-highest rated drama. Lastly, the Yuji Oda disappointment Joudan Janai! ends on a somewhat positive note, with the final episode's rating rising to a tepid 12.7 (8.24 million) for a season average of 13.4 (8.7 million). Will Yuji Oda recover from this? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Operation Love (Proposal Daisakusen) drops a little bit for its second-to-last episode with a 17.2 rating (11.16 million), though it's expected to rise for its last episode Monday night Japan time. Also wrapping up this coming week is Bambino, which has seen a consistent increase in ratings since week 7. But this season's clear winner is Proposal Daisakusen.

- Meanwhile, Tokyograph already has a set of introductions for the busy summer drama season. Nothing has caught my eye yet, though. Will it be a repeat of Spring 2007?

- The major industry papers in Hollywood have their reviews of Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0 is my preferred title), and it's mostly positive. Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt praises it for using real movie magic and stunkwork over cgi. Meanwhile, Variety's Todd McCarthy calls it a virtual action cartoon...in a good way.

- Filmbrain takes a look at Yoichi Sai's Blood And Bones, which I liked for Takeshi Kitano's hard-ass performance as the utterly unlikable main character. However, I do agree with the notion that the film got a little episodic, just stringing episodes of Kim Shunpei's reign of terror.

- The blog for Benny Chan's Invisible Target has launched, but it's in Chinese. Apparently (I haven't looked at the videos other than the trailer yet) it has a lot of making-of video, one of which includes Jackie Chan's visit to the set.

- The Shanghai International Film Festival has wrapped up, with German film According to Plan taking the top prize (meaning it's headed straight for release in China without the import quota blocking its way) and best actress (shared amongst 4 of them). The Go Master won the best director prize for Tian Zhuangzhuang and best cinematography for Wang Yu. The complete list, as well as a wrap-up of the end of the festival, from Variety Asia.

Also at the Shanghai Film Festival, 7 potential filmmakers were given the chance to pitch their projects to major investors and filmmakers, which apparently intimidated some of them (I can't even pitch my scripts to my own family, let along a sea of major industry people).

- According to a producer on Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino might add additional installments to the series, and the ideas just don't seem interesting enough to warrant another film, let alone two of them. Because, let's face it:

SPOILERS

You can't really continue a franchise named Kill Bill when Bill is dead.


END SPOILERS

- TV Asahi is remaking the Kurosawa film "Tengoku to Jigoku" (which, as the resident Bayside Shakedown expert, I have to point out was also referenced in Bayside Shakedown the Movie) as a mini-series for the fall. Yasuo Tsuruhashi, who last made a hit out of the film Love Never to end, is directing.

- After one lawsuit goes away for Rain, another one comes, as a promoter in Hawaii is taking him to court after he can't seem to accept the excuse that Rain had to cancel his concert there because he was getting sued. Since when the hell do people use "flimsy" in lawsuits anyway?

- I like the new American TV drama Heroes quite a bit. The season finale had its problems (mostly I'm guessing is of budgetary concerns), but it's promising quite a bit, including an entire character subplot taking place in feudal Japan. Japanese pop star Eriko Tamura (who was a pop star long ago in Japan...though she still looks very young) is joining the cast (I'm hoping as audience favorite Hiro's love interest), but David Anders is playing Takezo Kensei....?!!!! Apparently the creators have a good explanation, but it better be a damn good one.

Man, this entry took forever to do. But we'll be back tomorrow to do it all again.

The Golden Rock Podcast - 6/25/07

You can definitely hear a few audio flubs, and the uploading process took forever, but here it is finally:

The First Golden Rock Podcast - (right-click, save as. 5.38mb, 7:50, 96kbps).

Now I can finally get to today's entry.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Best of Golden Rock - June 18th to June 24th, 2007

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from June 18th to June 24th, 2007:

- I've never been a fan of Jia Zhangke. In fact, I have a legit copy of Still Life sitting here, waiting to be watched. Recently, director Jia was asked to write an editorial about the word "perplexity," and he chose to write about Xiao Wu's banishment due to someone in the film industry denouncing it. Since then, it has stirred a controversy because the media found its suspect. I might not have liked Ziao Wu, but I am certainly sympathetic with the ridiculous treatment of the film.

- r@sardonicsmile warns that if you're a celebrity in Hong Kong and you have a personal blog, you might want to watch what you even dare to hint at, because the Hong Kong media will jump on you like a shark looking for even the slightest hint of red. One thing: Is the Storm in a teacup reference to the old Commercial Radio Hong Kong talk show, or is it actually a pretty widely-used phrase?

- Doing my part to spread the word, a Hong Kong blogger realizes that one of his posts was recently plagiarized by a writer for Hong Kong pop culture magazine Milk. However, the editor was confronted, only to say that it was entirely coincidental that the feature happens to match the original entry 90% of the time (even the two glaring mistakes in the entry was carried over). I'm even ashamed now to admit that I do read Milk Magazine with some enjoyment, which makes the disappointment even greater.

- The teaser for P.T. Anderson's There Will be Blood is up and running. It looks different than anything he's done, but he's one of my favorite filmmakers, so I'm looking forward to it big time.

- A sequel to the mega Korean blockbuster The Host is now in pre-production. I know monster flicks are prone to sequels, but there's almost no way this is going to top the original.

- The website for Feng Xiaogeng's latest film The Assembly, which seems to be next year's big Chinese New Year film in China, just uploaded a trailer. It looks technically accomplished, but it still seems pretty derivative to me.

- With the latest chapter of the China-vs-Japan-history saga taking a turn for the worse, it's good to see some people still acting pretty sane. Toho/UniJapan and China film are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for cinematic cooperation. What does that mean? It means China and Japan are now one step closer to collaboration on film, strengthening the role of Asian films around the world, politics be damned.

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

By the way, I watched part of the documentary the students made about their experiment, and it's a pretty damning look at the Taiwan television media that includes a lot of interview with media experts and students. Definitely worth a look if you speak Chinese.

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

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

- The American Film Institute, in their holier-than-thou glory, updated their 100 best films list after they made their first list 10 years ago. Since then, a few films were added (The General! Shawshank Redemption!), which means that a few films dropped out as well. In a further attempt to undo any credibility I have built, I admit now that I have only seen 35 of those 100 films.

- In addition to possible co-production opportunities with Japan, China Film has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Korea's CJ Entertainment, which will lead to at least two co-productions. How huge is CJ Entertainment? I have CJ brand rice at home. No kidding.

- The Tokyo Project Gathering, a meeting that will hook up future productions with international co-production partners, is upping their goal for submissions (but they're looking for more novel adaptations and remakes, ugh), so apply if you got a few million bucks to spare and a really good screenplay. I have neither, so I'll just have to miss out on it.

- Business Week offers a possible way to fix the Chinese piracy situation: It's the prices, stupid.

- Yoshimoto Kyogo, one of Japan's premier managing agencies for comedians, has established a project to get 100 (!!!!) of its comedians to direct their own short films. This just goes to show that anyone can make a movie. However, their quality is highly doubtful at this point.

- I really really liked the Panasian omnibus film About Love, which put together somewhat intertwined stories with directors from Taiwan, China, and Japan. The director of the Chinese segment, Zhang Yibai, goes back to the Japanese-Chinese romance formula of his segment with his new film The Longest Night in Shanghai. Filmphilia has more information and link to a trailer.

- Eiga Consultant reports that Norbit just went straight-to-DVD in Japan! Eddie Murphy comedies have always done badly in Japan, with 4 of his last 6 films (the other 2 being The Haunted Mansion and Dreamgirls) making less than 300 million yen (that's less than US$3 million). Its title in Japanese? Mad Fat Wife (Maddo Fatto Wifu). No kidding.

- Andrew Lau has hooked up with the Weinsteins to produce three films under his new production company. Lau and Weinstein - now that's a formula for crappy commercial films. Honestly, I can't ever get excited about neither Lau or Weinstein's Asian stuff, so just go to the link to read more.

- Hate to say it, South Korea, but your Korean Wave in Japan has pretty much ended, no matter how much you might deny it.

- Then again, looks like Rain (the Korean superstar, not the Beatles Cover Band from Nevada) will just continue invading North America after the lawsuit against his use of the name was dropped by a judge. Dance on, Rain. Dance on.

- This is in no way confirmed, but Amazon seems to be listing a DVD called Kill Bill - The Whole Bloody Affair on their site for release on November 6th, If this holds up, this might be the singular uncut version of Kill Bill that Quentin Tarantino said he was putting together for DVD a long time ago. I still won't be selling my Japanese DVD of Kill Bill 1 though, especially if Tarantino doesn't restore the fight scene with color.

- The Chinese state-run broadcasting authority stopped two television stations from playing any commercials after they continued to run banned ads for some shady weight loss products despite being warned. I can't argue whether it's right for them to do it or not because I hate both the broadcasting authority and medical informercials, but the authorities certainly did their jobs by warning against bribing censors. Those censors could at least do what they were bribed to do, for crying out loud.

- A trailer has surfaced for Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou's directorial debut Secrets. I don't think Jay Chou is very qualified to be a director judging from the music videos he directed before, and the trailer isn't exactly promising much more than flashy music video stuff. That overdramatic score doesn't help, either.

- Jason Gray met up with Ryuganji's Don Brown and pretty much shot the breeze for his first podcast. For those really into the current Japanese film industry like I am, it's a fairly entertaining and educational hour to spend at the computer (or on your iPod, which I don't own one of).

- During Cannes, the new Hong Kong film production company Big Media announced that they would make 100 movies. Turns out the Mei Ah website has a bunch of promotional posters for some of those projects, though at least half of them don't even have directors attached. Biggest surprise? Wong Ching-Po taking on Young Men Suddenly in Black. Apparently Eric Tsang really likes to tell stories about men who screw around.

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/24/2007

Rarely do I pick a song of the day because of the MTV I put here, but today's is one of those choices. Originally from the album Dreaming, it's Leslie Cheung's "Side."

So why did I pick this particular (incomplete) MTV? After the 2-minute mark, you actually can clearly see a very young Jordan Chan Siu-Chun dancing right behind Leslie. So now we know where Little Spring started his career.

The Golden Rock - June 24th, 2007 Edition

- Mel Gibson's Apocalypto went wide to 147 screens last weekend in Japan after a week of exclusive run in a Tokyo theater, and managed to make only 41.13 million yen. According to Eiga Consultant, the opening is only 24% of The Passion of the Christ (which actually made only 1.4 billion, which is pretty kind of weak compared to how much it made elsewhere). That makes people wondering whether people had just mistaken this hardcore action film for another art film, especially since it follows the limited release pattern.

- A trailer has surfaced for Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou's directorial debut Secrets. I don't think Jay Chou is very qualified to be a director judging from the music videos he directed before, and the trailer isn't exactly promising much more than flashy music video stuff. That overdramatic score doesn't help, either.

Ming Pao's columnist, which some people say is screenwriter/director Chan Hin-Ka, writes about the commercial potential of Secrets. Specifically, he wonders whether Hong Kong audiences would go for Jay Chou. Excerpts as follows:

香港電影觀眾分得清楚,唱歌與拍電影是兩回事,紅歌手拍戲,不一定捧場,要視乎電影拍得是否好看。

The Hong Kong moviegoing audience separates singing and filmmaking very clearly; When a pop star makes a movie, they only go depending on the quality of the movie.

無論是自導自演的《不能說的.秘密》和《灌籃》,估計在中、台的票房成績一定比香港好。

Regardless whether its self-directorial/starring Secrets or Kung Fu Dunk, the box office gross in China and Taiwan will definitely be better than in Hong Kong.

周杰倫在中、台的「粉絲」多不勝數,他們捧偶像也比香港「粉絲」瘋狂,只要周董做的,一定會捧場。

Jay Chou has an enormous amount of fans in China and Taiwan, and their fandom is often crazier than Hong Kong fans. As long as "Chou Dong" (Chou's nickname amongst his fans) is in it, they will definitely show up.

難怪行內說,中、台市場,比香港易做。

No wonder industry people say the Chinese and Taiwanese market are easier to do than Hong Kong.

Original Chinese column here.

Of course, I don't quite get his argument, since a bulk of the people who made Curse of the Golden Flower a HK$20 million hit probably showed up because Jay Chou was in it (and sang the theme song, which I don't remember off the top of my head anymore), and they're probably just as willing to see Jay Chou is a youth romance. The very very basic reason why his two films this year will do better in Taiwan and China is that those two places have more screens and more audience.

Then again, I'm not a screenwriter who just co-directed the first Hong Kong hit of the summer, so what do I know?

- I forgot to mention that Lovehkfilm updated at the end of last week with a review of Samson Chiu's Mr. Cinema. A review of the Japanese blockbuster Star Reformer by this blogger was put on the website as well.

- EastSouthWestNorth actually notes Kozo's review of Mr. Cinema because it points out the film's dubious stance on Chinese historical events, particular the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989. I was looking forward to it quite a bit, but now I'm second-guessing my anticipation.

- Jason Gray met up with Ryuganji's Don Brown and pretty much shot the breeze for his first podcast. For those really into the current Japanese film industry like I am, it's a fairly entertaining and educational hour to spend at the computer (or on your iPod, which I don't own one of).

- Dennis Law, who's currently around my filmmakers shit list for Love@First Note, has announced that he's going to make yet another martial arts film after Fatal Contact. The triad film Duo Shuai stars Sammo Hung, Wu Jing, and Danny Lee, and will start filming in July. No Gold Label pop stars?! I might just show up for this one.

- The Toronto Film Festival will official announce its lineup this week, but Hollywood Reporter reports that a couple of films that made their debut at Cannes such as Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon will show up here as well. The most surprisingly pick is actually the sequel to Elizabeth, which will see original director Shekar Kapoor and star Cate Blanchett reunite.

- Shinji Aoyama's latest film Sad Vacation has a new trailer up on its website, except it's still kind of hard to know what to expect from it.

- Actor Takayuki Takuma, who actually also writes dramas such as the Hana Yori Dango series under a different name (for reeeeaaal?), is making his directorial debut. Not only is he writing and directing it, he was also picked to star in it. People who read this blog regularly know I don't have much love for Hana Yori Dango, but its syrupy gimmicky subject matter is slightly intriguing me.

- Twitch has a review of a new Francis Ng flick Our Last Dance, which co-stars Harvey Keitel. They don't make the film sound very promising, but I might just search this out to see Francis Ng's performance.

- During Cannes, the new Hong Kong film production company Big Media announced that they would make 100 movies. Turns out the Mei Ah website has a bunch of promotional posters for some of those projects, though at least half of them don't even have directors attached. Biggest surprise? Wong Ching-Po taking on Young Men Suddenly in Black. Apparently Eric Tsang really likes to tell stories about men who screw around.

- The Film Center at The National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo is putting on a retrospective in remembrance of important film figures that passed away in the years 2004 to 2006. The page is apparently still under construction, but at least we know it will run from July 27th to September 26th.

- Lastly, there's a new documentary called Tokyo Cowboys, which again puts an ethnographic eye (Look, it's kimono! The Harajuku girls! They look stranger than we do!) on privileged Caucasian men who live the Roppongi nightlife, end up scoring Japanese girls, and stick around to complain about racism.

Not that I don't sympathize with their plights (OK, only just a little bit), but why do these documentaries only focus on Caucasian men, who actually has it the easiest among the foreign minority in Japan? Of course, the Japanese media also perpetrate the stereotypes of foreign=white. But what about Asian-Americans such as myself, who ended up being seen as someone who was supposed to know better because of the color of my skin, but also had to carry this foreign identity once people realized that we actually didn't know any more than those Americans do? Better yet, how about a Caucasian man who ended up NOT living the nightlife and NOT ended up with a Japanese girl?

Then again, maybe guys like that just aren't very interesting.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/23/2007



Today's song of the day comes from what I got in my mailbox today. You can find it on countless Jacky Cheung compilations, but it was originally from his 1992 album True Feelings, which is probably one of the best Cantopop albums ever. It's one of Jacky Cheung's most well-known songs - "Breakups Always Happen on Rainy Days."

The Golden Rock - June 23rd, 2007 Edition

- Hate to say it, South Korea, but your Korean Wave in Japan has pretty much ended, no matter how much you might deny it.

- Then again, looks like Rain (the Korean superstar, not the Beatles Cover Band from Nevada) will just continue invading North America after the lawsuit against his use of the name was dropped by a judge. Dance on, Rain. Dance on.

- This year's buzz words in the movie industry seem to be threequels and international co-production. A bunch of producers, government film officials, fund managers, and lawyers put together a panel at the Shanghai Film Festival to pretty much preach about the importance of international co-productions. Just no more big martial arts epics, please.

- It didn't happen at the festival, but Singaporean media agencies signed a co-production agreement with Japanese media producers, officially marking yet another Panasian co-production deals. zzzzzzzz...........

- Me: "Hey, Japan Times!"
Japan Times: "Hey, Golden Rock!"
Me: "What reviews do you have for us this weekend?"
Japan Times: "We have a review of the Cannes Grand Prix winner The Mourning Forest, which is playing only in one theater in Tokyo right now."
Me: "Thanks, Japan Times!"

- Twitch has more on Love My Life, which seems to be the Japanese version of the lesbian film Spider Lilies. No, I don't think it's a remake, I just like to group all my lesbian films together.

- Earlier this week I wrote about the May-December romance Last Love flopping at Japanese box office. Daily Yomiuri tells you what's so special about the film and its aging star.

- The website for the John Woo-produced gangster film Blood Brothers has a second trailer up, and Twitch is oh so bloody excited about it! It does look nice, but I could hardly get myself all that excited about anything other than Sun Honglei's role as the villain.

- This is in no way confirmed, but Amazon seems to be listing a DVD called Kill Bill - The Whole Bloody Affair on their site for release on November 6th, If this holds up, this might be the singular uncut version of Kill Bill that Quentin Tarantino said he was putting together for DVD a long time ago. I still won't be selling my Japanese DVD of Kill Bill 1 though, especially if Tarantino doesn't restore the fight scene with color.

- American distributor ADV has picked up the well-received Japanese animated film 5cms per second. Now you downloaders have no excuse to download it anymore; they're even going to give it a theatrical run, for crying out loud.

- The Chinese state-run broadcasting authority stopped two television stations from playing any commercials after they continued to run banned ads for some shady weight loss products despite being warned. I can't argue whether it's right for them to do it or not because I hate both the broadcasting authority and medical informercials, but the authorities certainly did their jobs by warning against bribing censors. Those censors could at least do what they were bribed to do, for crying out loud.

That's it today, or I'll run out of news by tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/22/2007

Today's song of the day comes a bit out of a missed opportunity. I recently found out that Brett Anderson, the lead singer of one of my favorite band Suede, is going to Hong Kong on the 14th to perform a concert. I would have been in Hong Kong for about 10 days already, but certain factors mean I'm going to have to miss out, which is regrettable because the ad states that he'll be singing old Suede songs. Anyway, today's song is from Suede's 1996 album Coming Up. It's Trash.


The Golden Rock - June 22nd, 2007 Edition


Just checked out Steven Soderbergh's latest attempt to emulate the good old days, better known as Ocean's Thirteen. This second sequel to the original (itself a remake) takes the series back to its American stylistic roots after he veered into French New Wave territory with the last film. I always have fun watching Soderbergh's mainstream (note mainstream) works because he would so blatantly recall a classic cinematic style as homage that it's always a film student's joy watching them (French New Wave? Check. 40s Warner Bros. black and white? Check. 60s Rat Pack romp? Check). This time, it's the breezy 50s color comedies mixed with the best of 70s commercial filmmaking.

I honestly don't remember enjoying Ocean's Eleven much (I remember kind of liking it while watching it, but never really seeing a reason to go back to it ever), and I might've been the only person who had a load of fun with Ocean's Twelve (exactly because of the tongue-in-cheek European film style, though the breakdancing thing was a bit much). With that said, I had a blast again with Ocean's Thirteen, though this time they really up the disbelief ante. I can buy that the plan ends up going completely different than the plan they had spend the first two acts discussing, I can buy they can manage all that gadgetry, but I had a bit of trouble buying the earthquake bit. But who cares about logic when Soderbergh is upping the visual flair again with his "I so miss the 70s" camerawork and the oozing star chemistry throughout? It's Al Pacino! It's Brad Pitt! It's George Clooney! It's Matt Damon.....seducing Ellen Barkin! I don't think I have to mention anymore. Unlike Pirates of the Caribbean (the only other huge third-movie I've seen this year), this series knows what breezy Hollywood entertainment ought to be, and it ends up delivering more by being less serious.

- It's time for those Thursday Hong Kong opening day numbers. Today, we have three movies breaking into the market - Milkyway Production's Eye in the Sky, directed by screenwriter Yau Nai-Hoi, David Fincher's Zodiac, and the surprise American hit comedy Wild Hogs. Eye in the Sky didn't do very well during 5 nights of previews this past weekend, and only made HK$230,000 on 28 screens on its official first day. Up to now, Eye in the Sky has made HK$570,000. As an adult-oriented and male-oriented thriller, business might pick up during the weekend, but I don't see this making more than HK$2 million. Meanwhile, Zodiac picks up only HK$110,000 on 11 screens, even with its inflated ticket price (140 minutes and more=inflated ticket price), and Wild Hogs breaks down on arrival with only HK$40,000 on 7 screens.

Meanwhile, Fantasy Four is looking to lead the weekend again with HK$590,000 on 50 screens on Thursday, bringing its 8-day total to HK$12.37 million (theaterowners happy, HK film producers not so happy). The summer's first HK film hit Simply Actors, starring Jim Chim and Charlene Choi, expands by two screens and makes HK$450,000 on 31 screens for a 3-day total of HK$2.2 million. It won't hit the $1 million mark on daily box office this weekend, but I expect it to hit the $5 million mark after Sunday. Theaterowners are already giving up on Mr. Cinema and Kidnap, as they are still on 20-something screens, but only playing one to three shows a day. On Thursday, they made HK$150,000 and HK$50,000 for totals of HK$2.06 million and HK$1.73 million, respectively. Oh, and Norbit made another HK$30,000 on 9 screens for a 15-day total of HK$2.34 million.

(US$1=HK$7.8)

- Why did I mention Norbit? Because Eiga Consultant reports that it just went straight-to-DVD in Japan! Eddie Murphy comedies have always done badly in Japan, with 4 of his last 6 films (the other 2 being The Haunted Mansion and Dreamgirls) making less than 300 million yen (that's less than US$3 million). Its title in Japanese? Mad Fat Wife (Maddo Fatto Wifu). No kidding.

- Technically, the Daily Yomiuri just scored the first official major review of Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0 in Japan, a title I like a lot more) since it's the first place in the world to show it. Reviewer Julian Satterthwaite says that it's highly entertaining, but also grows increasingly ridiculous as it rolls along. It actually officially opens next Saturday, but has a full day of previews today in a ton of theaters.

If you can't wait until next week to go watch it (and there are less of you out there than I think, as it's not tracking very spectacularly in the United States, probably due to its PG-13 rating. Explanation: the first three films have been rated-R, suggesting the 4th film has been watered down in violence and foul language), Twitch has a link to 8 minutes of it.

- Variety, on the other hand, has one of the first reviews of Michael Bay's Transformers. Big bad robots, lots of explosions, and unnecessary human subplots. Sounds like a blockbuster sci-fi movie to me.

- The entertainment industry doesn't just like to bully people in America for piracy, they like to bully the rest of the world too. A court in China has ruled for a U.S. industry group in a lawsuit, ordering a Chinese firm to pay 4 major U.S. studios for copyright violation. Looks like it'll be a long time before Hollywood knows what "if you can't beat them, join them" means, especially that they know this ruling doesn't really do much to stop things.

- David Strathairn, a great character actor who's done some great work (especially in George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck), has just been casted in the Hollywood remake of the Korean horror film A Tale of Two Sisters. I'm slightly looking more forward to it now. It starts shooting next month.

- Looks like Erika Sawajiri is heading to a recording career after all, as I just found her first music video under the name "Erika" on Youtube today. With that weak vocal and generic melody, it's not really Song of the Day material (then again, you can argue against a ton of choice I've made...).

- The silly box office battle between Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is coming to an end, as a definite winner is pretty much set.

- Andrew Lau has hooked up with the Weinsteins to produce three films under his new production company. Lau and Weinstein - now that's a formula for crappy commercial films. Honestly, I can't ever get excited about neither Lau or Weinstein's Asian stuff, so just go to the link to read more.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/21/2007

I'm going to admit it, I actually did like one of EEG's Yumiko Cheng's albums. Hell, I even gave it a really positive review. And that's where today's Song of the Day comes from. From her 2005 album Yumiko's Space, it's Thoughts (yeah, I translated the title wrong in the review).

The Golden Rock - June 21st, 2007 Edition

I've been experimenting with a new look for The Golden Rock, and it's still not quite easy enough on the eye yet, so pardon the mess.

- The American Film Institute, in their holier-than-thou glory, updated their 100 best films list after they made their first list 10 years ago. Since then, a few films were added (The General! Shawshank Redemption!), which means that a few films dropped out as well. In a further attempt to undo any credibility I have built, I admit now that I have only seen 35 of those 100 films.

- David Fincher's Zodiac opened in Japan this past weekend. While Fincher's past films has mostly done well, this is his first film in Japan without any major bankable star, and the effect showed. Its opening of 80.85 million yen is only 26% of Panic Room, which grossed 2.5 billion yen in Japan. However, Zodiac's opening is 141% of Jake Gyllenhaal's previous film Jarhead. Other Fincher films have done fairly well in Japan - Seven made 2.65 billion yen, The Game made only 980 million yen, and Fight Club made 1.98 billion yen. Looks like Fincher isn't as big as a commercial draw as studios might've believed.

- Korea Pop Wars has a small write-up of the Korean box office this past weekend. Ocean's 13 barely dethroned Shrek 3 (though that's a matter of screen counts - it only opened on 249 screens), while the blockbuster suffered pretty big drops. Two Japanese films (Kiroi Namida and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) made it to the top 10 too.

- One of those quickly falling blockbuster is the historical epic Hwang Jin-Yi. However, it has made back most of its budget in domestic box office, and Pony Canyon in Japan just bought it up, despite the weak market for Korean historical dramas.

- Apparently your good-old 2-dimensional movie experiences are no longer good enough, as 3-D screens are expanding worldwide. Even Hong Kong has a 4-D screen now, though they decided to put it at the airport for some odd reason.

- In addition to possible co-production opportunities with Japan, China Film has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Korea's CJ Entertainment, which will lead to at least two co-productions. How huge are CJ Entertainment? I have CJ brand rice at home. No kidding.

- The Tokyo Project Gathering, a meeting that will hook up future productions with international co-production partners, is upping their goal for submissions (but they're looking for more novel adaptations and remakes, ugh), so apply if you got a few million bucks to spare and a really good screenplay. I have neither, so I'll just have to miss out on it.

- China has seen its revenues from films, radio, and TV go up 18% in 2006. Now they'll just have to start letting artists do what they want.

- Business Week offers a possible way to fix the Chinese piracy situation: It's the prices, stupid.

- Meanwhile, Sony CEO Howard Stringer is saying that Sony is learning from its past mistakes and is on its way to profitable growth. Too bad it's coming too late for the Minidisc (which I still faithfully use, despite the hate-inspiring ATRAC format).

- a Hong Kong blogger writes how TVB can learn to embrace Youtube instead of treating like the friend of its enemies, aka illegal downloaders. Like I said, I wouldn't mind watching advertisements for free access to programs that were originally broadcast for free in the first place.

- Yoshimoto Kyogo, one of Japan's premier managing agencies for comedians, has established a project to get 100 (!!!!) of its comedians to direct their own short films. This just goes to show that anyone can make a movie. However, their quality is highly doubtful at this point.

- Twitch has more information about Sky Crawlers, the new film from Mamori Oshii that I wrote about yesterday with very little enthusiasm. I shall continue that today.

- I really really liked the Panasian omnibus film About Love, which put together somewhat intertwined stories with directors from Taiwan, China, and Japan. The director of the Chinese segment, Zhang Yibai, goes back to the Japanese-Chinese romance formula of his segment with his new film The Longest Night in Shanghai. Filmphilia has more information and link to a trailer.

- Kanye West (coughamericanrapsbiggesthackcough) filmed his latest MTV in Japan and even claimed to feature a real motorcycle gang. Of course, whoever was in charge of making that Japanese title screwed up (Instead of "Sutoronga," which would read like "Stronger," the title right now reads "Sutosoga" because the katakana for the sound "so" looks similar to the sound "n"). It doesn't help that Kanye pretty much wrote the song like a nursery rhyme.

- New York Asian Film Festival starts tomorrow, and Asian Cinema - While on the Road is, of course, doing some self-promotion. Hell, even this counts as promotion.

-

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/20/2007

This being my own blog and all, I should be able to indulge in some Karaoke-friendly HK pop every once in a while. At least today's song is by the talented songwriter-sometimes-singer Pong Nan. From the album Singing in the Ring (Yay Hong Kong and their inexplicable English album titles), it's Wilfred Lau's Broken End.




And here is songwriter Pong Nan's own rendition of it.

The Golden Rock - June 20th, 2007 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Day - 6/19/2007

While Linkin Park took the opening chord of the Halloween theme and made this, Shiina Ringo's Tokyo Jihen took the opening chord of the Twilight Zone theme and created something that has a sense of fun with an air unpredictability. From the band's first album Kyoiku (Education), it's "Sounan" (Accident).

The Golden Rock - June 19th, 2007 Edition

We're surprisingly busy here for the rest of the week, but we gotta get through all this news anyway, so let's do it quickly:

- Japanese box office numbers are out at a much higher exchange rate than last week (US$1=123.495 yen this week vs 121.775 yen last week), which means they seem to be earning less in American dollars in addition to the drop. I really wish they'd just stick to a consistent rate to show the true week-to-week drop each week.

Anyway, except for Pirates of the Caribbean and Apocalypto (which saw a screen increase), looks like almost all the films took a pretty big hit, with 300 leading the way by losing 56% of its audience. That almost never happens in the top 10 in Japan.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Maiko Haaaan!!! opened pretty big at second place with 230 million yen. However, Eiga Consultant gets it straight and points out that it actually only opened at 76% of writer Kenkuro Kudo's last film Kisarazu Cat's Eye World Series (which ended up with an 1.8 billion yen total) and 80% of Kou Shibasaki's last comedy Star Reformer (2 billion yen total). Mr. Texas also points out that this year seems to lack the huge hits such as Umizaru 2, Suite Dreams, and even Star Reformer. In fact, the highest-grossing Japanese film this year, Dororo, only grossed less than half of Umizaru's final gross. Is the Hoga resurrection that short-lived?

Meanwhile, the May-September romance Last Love, starring Masakazu Tamura and Misaki Ito, opened pretty weakly at 8th place with only 45 million yen. That's only 29% of Love Never to End, another drama that aimed at an older crowd, though the latter film did have the sex scenes to bring in more of the older crowd.

- Jason Gray got it first, as he reported that Tsukamoto Shinya's Nightmare Detective is headed for a sequel less than half a year after the first film was released. Less than a day later, Ryuganji has plenty of expanded information about what the sequel will be like. According to the website, the DVD of the first film will be out this weekend. Did anyone know how well this film did? I don't even remember it ever hitting the top 10.



This was a clothing store in Harajuku that happened to also be promoting the film at its storefront, January 2007.

- The Melody Awards was handed out in Taiwan recently. Nicky Lee and Jolin Tsai, both pop stars that I don't particular care for, picked up best male and female awards, respectively. And David Tao, who delivered a fairly underwhelming album last year, still managed to pick up an award for best duet.

- There are some creative ways to meet your favorite celebrity, this is not one of them.

- Under "most surprising news" today, a sequel to the mega Korean blockbuster The Host is now in pre-production. I know monster flicks are prone to sequels, but there's almost no way this is going to top the original.

- A Chinese documentary about a school class election picked up the top feature award at the AFI/Discovery Channel Docufest. Good for them.

- The website for Feng Xiaogeng's latest film The Assembly, which seems to be next year's big Chinese New Year film in China, just uploaded a trailer. It looks technically accomplished, but it still seems pretty derivative to me.

- Twitch also has a trailer for the Korean film May 18th, about the Kwangju uprising. It looks pretty intense, considering its director made Mokpo, Gangster's Paradise. But there's something about that overdramatic music towards the end...

- With the latest chapter of the China-vs-Japan-history saga taking a turn for the worse, it's good to see some people still acting pretty sane. Toho/UniJapan and China film are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for cinematic cooperation. What does that mean? It means China and Japan are now one step closer to collaboration on film, strengthening the role of Asian films around the world, politics be damned.

- Unlike Hong Kong, Shanghai's ongoing film market is currently still only seen as a work-in-progress.

- After teaching Hong Kong a lesson, Hollywood went up to Shanghai and taught the Chinese film industry how to emulate Hollywood too.

- The Dragon Dynasty two-disc DVD for John Woo's Hard Boiled is up for pre-order. I'm very happy with my Mei-Ah remastered DVD (which I guess isn't the best in the market), so unless it has some mind-blowing feature, I'm skipping it. Still, if you haven't seen this amazing action flick, this is probably the chance to see it.

- Lastly, looks like they're trying to really give the newly reset James Bond franchise some class by signing up Monster's Ball director Marc Forster to direct the next film. The last time they tried that with Michael Apted ended up with The World is Not Enough. Might not be such a good idea.