Saturday, June 30, 2007

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.

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