Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 31st, 2007 Edition

- Let's first go over the Japanese box office numbers. Takashi Miike's Crows Zero was quite a hit, making 397 million yen over the first two days from 259 screens, which was way more than enough to knock Hero off the top spot after holding it for 7 weeks. The drama adaptation is no slouch, though - it only lost under 18% of its business and is still on 475 screens. This is probably Fuji's way of trying to push it to the 1- billion yen mark.

The other newcomers all found spots in the top 10, with Jigyaku No Uta (also known as Happily N'ever After) starring Miki Nakatani and Hiroshi Abe opening somewhat disappointingly at 8th place on 147 screens. Even more disappointing is Neil Jordan's The Brave One starring Jodie Foster, which found only a 5th place opening after opening it on 294 screens and a big Hollywood-size premiere in Japan.

- The blog is now leaving the Oricon charts reporting to Tokyograph's weekly reports because it seems like people don't quite care about analysis of Japanese music charts. I care about numbers, but I deliver what people want, and I skip what people don't. So, Bump of Chicken has two singles on the top 10, and a Morning Musume compilation album can only muster a 6th place debut.

- It's reviews time! All from Variety this time are Russell Edwards' review of the Tokyo International Film Festival opener Midnight Eagle, which is supposed to open day-and-date in Japan and North America, though it sounds kind of crappy. There's also Robert Koehler's review of Ryo Nakajima's This World Of Ours, which is revealing plot details I've never heard of. Lastly, Derek Elley has a review of the Korean blockbuster May 18.

- Twitch has more about Danny Pang's latest film In Love With the Dead. After reading the convoluted plot description, I honestly wonder if it'll be able to top brother Oxide Pang's The Detective.

By the way, I couldn't get the trailer to work, but good luck to you.

- Just like The Forbidden Kingdom, Jet Li would like to tell you that The Mummy 3 may not be a very good movie.

- I know i should not judge a book based on its title, but why would anyone give $40 million for a film with a title like Laundry Warriors? I think it was the "We will deliver a stylized, partly anime feel, with the techniques of '300,' but a look that is brighter" line that inspired their confidence. Their confidence, not mine.

Anyway, they'll be shooting this thing in New Zealand.

- NHK will be airing a special of actress Takako Matsu's singing career. For Hong Kong Japanese entertainment fans, Takako is known as half of the golden duo (with Kimura Takuya) that started the Japanese drama fever in the late 90s with the drama Love Generation. Perhaps that's why I can't really buy the idea of her being a singer.

- Kaiju Shakedown writes about Japanese director Masato Harada's two latest movies. One of them happens to be that suicide song movie from earlier in the year that had advertisements in Japanese toilets.

- After the live-action franchise has proven to be a hit (though not very good in quality), Capcom and Sony will be working on a CG 3D feature animated film based on the Biohazard franchise set to be released in the second half of next year. For those not in the know, Biohazard is better known as Resident Evil outside Japan.

- Last but not least, director Senkichi Taniguchi, who directed several screenplays written by Akira Kurosawa, has passed away at 95.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 10/30/07

- The Hong Kong box office numbers are back. On Sunday in Hong Kong, the crime drama Brothers topped the charts with HK$590,000 from 34 screens for a 11-day total of HK$9.18 million. That means it will indeed reach the targeted box office producer Andy Lau hoped for, making it a qualified hit. Still hanging on at second place is Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, which actually almost beat Brothers with HK$568,000 from 34 screens. After 33 days, the erotic thriller has made an astounding HK$38.81 million.

Newcomer-wise, Saw 4 opened day-and-date to the United States, but didn't open as impressively as it did in North America. From 26 screens, the horror sequel made HK$346,000 for a 3-day total of HK$1.12 million. The other horror opening this weekend was Rob Zombie's "reimagining" of Halloween. However, it made only HK$70,000 from 13 screens for a 4-day total of just HK$300,000.

Other flops that opened include the British historical drama Amazing Grace with only HK$176,000 from 15 screens for a HK$610,000 4-day total. There's also the Communist propagandistic animated film Sparking Stars, which made just HK$88,000 from 10 screens for a 4-day total of HK$170,000.

- Some Japanese box office numbers are out, but I'll wait another day for the full numbers to come out before I report what happened.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 29th, 2007 Edition

- Another Monday, another look at Japanese drama ratings this past week. Galileo holds on to its strong premiere ratings with a 22.1 rating for its second episode. Abanrenbo Mama with Aya Ueto also managed to hold on well, dropping only to a 14.2 rating after its 15.3 premiere episode.

Several episodes saw its ratings increased - Hataraki Man went up to a 13 rating from the previous week's 12.3, Friday night TBS drama Utahime went up to a season-high 9.8 after a dip to 7.5, and Mop Girl's ratings have risen for the second week in a row.

The season's biggest disappointment (and there are quite a few already) may be the sequel Iryu 2. After premiering with a strong 21 rating, its rating has fallen dramatically to a 15.5 rating by its third week, despite the first installment being voted the favorite drama that season.

All Fall 2007 Japanese drama information here.

- The Australian film Home Song Stories, which scored several nominations at the Golden Horse Awards, just won both best feature and an award for achievement in acting for Joan Chen at the Hawaii Film Festival.

- After this year's TV remake of High and Low, another Kurosawa film is going down the remake route: this time it's Hidden Fortress, starring Arashi member Jun Matsumoto and Masami Nagasawa. Directed by Shinji Higuchi, who last directed the disaster spectacle The Sinking of Japan, the remake will start filming next month and set for a Golden Week 2008 release.

- The Tokyo Film Festival just wrapped, and the jury awarded the Israeli film The Band's Visit with the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Jason Gray has a bit more on Japanese Eyes section winner United Red Army.

- Speaking of festival, the Cannes anniversary commemoration omnibus film To Each His Own Cinema will actually be released theatrically in France. Twitch has a link to the trailer, though it only features one still from each film. In case you don't know, the omnibus features quite a few Asian directors, including Takeshi Kitano, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, and Zhang Yimou, among others.

- Why didn't someone think of using the name earlier? Isn't it such an obvious website name for legit Japanese comics?

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 10/29/07

The Sunday Hong Kong box office has not been updated yet, so just wait for another day.

- Japanese attendance ranking is out, but only in Japanese. Finally, Hero has been dethroned, and by a Takashi Miike film, no less. Crows Zero marks Miike's first number one debut this year (out of his four or five theatrical release this year so far), and Miike's first number one film....ever?

Meanwhile, Hero is still at number 2, while the melodrama Zo No Senaka starring Koji Yakusho opened at number 3, Neil Jordan's The Brave One with Jodie Foster could only muster a number 5 opening, Matthew Vaughn's Stardust did even worse with a 6th place opening. Opening in a somewhat wide release (only three screens in central Tokyo, but looks like a total screen count of 100 or so) is Jigyaku No Uta with Miki Nakatani and Hiroshi Abe only got an 8th place opening.

While the box office still seems somewhat quiet, there were still 6 newcomers on the top 10. We'll see how everything else did when the numbers come out.

- In Korea, things were pretty quiet as Lee Myung-Se's M opens only a third place with 276,000 admissions. Still 6 of the top 10 films are Korean, which has to be a sign of the industry turning around...or Hollywood just isn't offering very good products.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 28th, 2007 Edition

With The Hong Kong Film blog wondering whether Hong Kong box office source has closed down for good, this blogger has found a new box office source in Starting tomorrow, the Hong Kong box office report should get back to normal.

- The American Film Market starts this coming week, and both Korean and Japanese film companies have quite a few films in store for buyers there (probably ignoring the Tokyo Film Market in the process).

Korea's Cineclick has Volcano High director Kim Tae-Kyun's latest, about a North Korean ex-soccer player who crosses over to China and tries to get his family to join him. It will also be bringing a promo reel for Kim Jee-woon's highly anticipated The Good, The Bad, and the Weird.

Meanwhile, Japan's Fuji TV is taking Shaolin Girl (the Stephen Chow-approved "sequel" to Shaolin Soccer) and Koki Mitani's The Magic Hour, the follow-up to the ensemble hit The Uchoten Hotel.

- It's not going to the American Film Market, but CJ Entertainment is trying to penetrate Hollywood by co-investing in the Warner Bros. film August Rush. Considering that it's to be released next month, there's surprisingly little out there about it in terms of buzz. There's a website up, though.

- It's reviews time! Lovehkfilm's Kozo closes out October with a review of the much-hyped "TVB Tigers" reunion film Brothers and a review of Kon Ichikawa's shot-by-shot remake of his own film The Inugamis. Meanwhile, yours truly have a review of the Japanese documentary The Naked Emperor's Army Marches On and a review of the Japanese hosts comedy Waters.

- There's a pretty big possibility that I'll be watching the Kohaku in Japan again this year, which is why I care about this news: After two years of actress Yukie Nakama hosting as head of the red team, this year may see young actress Masami Nagasawa taking on hosting duties. The problem is that Nakama was chosen because she starred in NHK dramas, while Nagasawa hasn't been doing anything for NHK. This signals a possible desperate move by NHK to bring in more viewers for the struggling new years show.

- Speaking of Japanese TV, the Daily Yomiuri's Teleview reports on Beat Takeshi as an educator on this week's Japanese TV, and a pretty positive on this season's hit drama Galileo.

- If you are Japanese, and you're asking what the hell is a Galileo, who the hell is Masami Nagasawa, and the only thing you get from this entry is Kohaku, then this new TV station is for you.

- Posters for Johnnie To/Wai Ka-Fai's latest Mad Detective, starring Lau Ching-Wan and premiered in Venice, has started appearing in Hong Kong theaters. There's no official release date yet, but the poster shows that it's already been rated category-III (no one under 18 may be admitted). It seems like after the success of Election, SPL, and Lust, Caution, Hong Kong filmmakers are finding the guts to make some hardcore films again.

- Japanese pop singer Bonnie Pink, who has traveled to Sweden to record so much that she calls it her second home, announced that her latest album will be released in Sweden in February next year.

- The Hong Kong government will start a public consultation soon about the fate of public broadcaster RTHK after an independent committee suggested earlier that a new independent broadcaster be established. In addition, the broadcaster has also undergone a year of both private and public scandals.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Golden Rock - Special Golden Horse Award Edition

- The biggest news of the day is the announcement of the Golden Horse Awards. After getting rejected from two important film awards, Ang Lee's Lust, Caution finds a home in the Golden Horse with 11 nominations, including one in every major category (except for supporting acting roles, because let's face it, Leehom Wang isn't that good of an actor). Sadly, no Hong Kong films were deemed good enough to get a best picture, but it did get a nomination in all the other major categories.

Here are the nominees for the major categories:

Best film

What on Earth Have I Done Wrong?!
Tuya's Marriage
Getting Home
Lust, Caution
The Home Song Stories

Best Director

Wong Quan An (Tuya's Marriage)
Yau Nai Hoi (Eye in the Sky)
Ang Lee (Lust, Caution)
Li Yang (Blind Mountain)

Best Actor

Gurmit Singh (Just Follow Law)
Aaron Kwok (The Detective)
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (Lust, Caution)
Zhao Ben Shan (Getting Home)

Best Actress

Yu Nan (Tuya's Marriage)
Joan Chen (Home Song Stories)
Tang Wei (Lust, Caution)
Li Bing Bing (The Knot)

Best Supporting Actor

Tony Leung Ka-Fai (The Drummer)
Louis Koo (Protege)
Wu Jing (Invisible Target)
Joel Lok (The Home Song Stories)

Best Supporting Actress

Chang Chun Ning (What On Earth Have I Done?)
Maggie Shiu (Eye In the Sky)
Fan Bing Bing (The Matrimony)
Alice Tzeng (Secret)

Best Adapted Screenplay

A Battle of Wits
The Sun Also Rises
Lust, Caution

Best Original Screenplay

Just Follow Law
Tuya's Marriage
God Man Dog
The Home Song Stories

The complete list of nominees.

Hong Kong films (meaning the film is in Cantonese and/or the director originated from Hong Kong) accounted for a total of 22 nominations, although I'm somewhat disappointed that there are actually feature film categories with no Hong Kong films nominated at all.

Why the hell is Alice Tzeng nominate for Secret, but not lead actress Guey Lun-Mei?

Tony Leung Ka-Fai for The Drummer? Really? I swear half his scenes were leftover footage from Election.

The committee seems to love Aaron Kwok so much they should probably just give him an honorary lifetime achievement acting award already.

Thanks to the Hong Kong film blog for the link.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 26th, 2007 Edition

The start of another weekend, and the beginning of spreading news out over 3 days. Don't worry, there's plenty of news all weekend.

- Last week I linked to the review for Suzuki Matsuo's Welcome to the Quiet Room, which opened on 13 screens last weekend. With one theater in Shibuya seeing full house all day on opening day, the comedy-drama made an impressive 15.47 million yen, surely scoring the best per-screen average amidst the weak box office.

Meanwhile, Japan Times' Mark Schilling chimes in with a review.

- There are also a ton of stories about the animated series Afro Samurai, which is seeing its extended cut get a theatrical release in Japan this weekend.

First, there's a report from The Associated Press/The Daily Yomiuri about the reaction to the first series.

Then the Japan Times has a feature on what's next, including a comic book version by the creator himself.

And then comes the confirmation that creator Okazaki is now working on the production of the second series.

- Don't think I forgot about the Tokyo International Film Festival. Actually, I've been waiting all week for a review anywhere for the opening film Midnight Eagle. But the only news about the film so far is that it's been sold to a few more territories, including this blogger's current city of residency Hong Kong.

- At least we know Tokyo is the real land of opportunity: Even a movie a written by the writer of the Tony Jaa starrer Tom Yum Goong can win the Tokyo Project Award out of 37 other movies.

- Meanwhile, another film festival is underway. In addition to the Sylvia Chang tribute, the World Film Festival of Bangkok opened with the unintentionally funny historical epic Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea (lovingly called here as "that Genghis Khan movie).

- Also, the Reel Asian International Film Festival in Toronto announced its lineup. Try to avoid the self-promotion along the way.

- Lastly, in your daily Lust, Caution news, the Philippines will be getting a full uncensored version of Ang Lee's erotic espionage drama in its theatres while those in neighboring countries are stuck with a censored version.

Sadly, it has also become the little puppy without a home, as the Hong Kong Film Awards have also disqualified the Asian co-production because it doesn't feature eight Hong Kong residents in key creative roles.

That, and a ton of other unfairness in the world from Kaiju Shakedown.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 24th, 2007 Edition

For convenience, everything will be combined into one entry today:

- The Japanese box office numbers are out, and it's consistent with the audience admission rankings. As expected, the box office is fairly weak, with The Good Shepard managing only a third place opening with only 97 million yen from 290 screens. Even less lucky is The Invasion with only 560 million yen. Disastrous is the Hollywood action film The Kingdom, which lost almost 53% of business from last weekend. The only films that are still really hanging in there are Hero, The Sign of Love, and Pan's Labyrinth.

- Under "What silly thing will Jackie Chan do today?" news today, someone actually have the bad taste to ask Jackie Chan to sing the official countdown song for the Chinese Olympics. It's OK, it's one of the many songs the Olympic organizers plan to release to celebrate the Olympics. Seriously, how many songs does China need to celebrate the damn thing?

- Hideo Nakata is going back to Hollywood, this time adapting a Japanese novel for English-speaking audiences. No word on whether the adaptation will retain the Tokyo setting.

- Thai horror film Alone just won 4 awards at the Los Angeles Scream Fest, and no one had to censor the trailer for it to get attention either.

- I'm getting increasingly convinced that China is living in 60s United States with no racial tensions: a group of 40 conservative songwriters have signed a petition calling for a boycott of vulgar pop songs with "weird" lyrics and "lustful" themes. Next thing you know, they'll be complaining about hip gyrations.

- I take that back - they seem to be living in a timeless fantasy communist world where producers actually think that putting the Twins as voice talents would help sell a propaganda animated film in Hong Kong.

- There will be a Japan Film Council established by April 2009 to help foreign producers coordinate their shoots in Japan. One of the reasons: The Last Samurai could've been shot in Japan instead of New Zealand. They probably shot in New Zealand because a bottle of coke doesn't cost 140 yen there.

- Expect China to give The Knot its best film award at the Golden Rooster this week, because no way the film they picked to be their representative at the Academy Award would not be the best Chinese film of the year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 23rd, 2007 Edition

This is going to be another relatively short entry. Quite frankly, I was expecting more news from the Tokyo International Film Festival, but we only have this so far:

- The Tokyo film market started yesterday with higher attendance. However, with the Asian Film Market just wrapped up at Pusan and the American Film Market coming up, it seems like not quite enough is happening there.

- It's reviews time! From Variety's Russell Edwards comes a review of Kenta Fukasaku's horror flick X-Cross. Also from Edwards is a review of Isao Yukisada's moderate hit/Erika Sawajiri-controversy-fodder Closed Note.

- Under "this film may very well signal the apocalypse" news today, director Rob Cohen wrote in his blog that he has taken the shoot for "The Mummy 3," co-starring Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, and Isabella Leung, to Beijing. With a scene described as "the Dragon Emperor racing through 1946 Shanghai Bund with 4 bronze horses," don't be surprised that you won't find this film in a Mainland Chinese theater near you.

- Under "Japanese animation houses" news today, otakus, anime buffs, and fans of weird Japanese films will be quite happy about the team assembled for the new animated film Red Line. Meanwhile, animation house GDH will be releasing their first live-action effort in late November.

- Satoshi Tsumabuki will actually be in a film that might be interesting (as opposed to...5 seconds in The Fast and the Furious 3): He will play a teacher in a pseudo-documentary (based on a real 1993 documentary) featuring 28 children that will actually live together and raise a pig together. The film will follow a general plot, there will not be a script.

- In a crime against cinema, there has yet to be an American distributor for the excellent Memories of Matsuko because of "its depiction of domestic violence." If it can be a 1 billion yen-plus hit in Japan, why can't it stand a chance in America?

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 10/23/07

- This week's Hong Kong numbers come courtesy of Box Office Mojo, because hasn't been doing its job for over a week now. Hence, the following covers the entire weekend rather than just Sunday.

As reported, Brothers takes the top spot over the holiday weekend with roughly HK$5.46 million from 35 screens. However, with its not-so-good word of mouth, it's expected to take a dive this weekend and will probably wrap with under HK$10 million. Meanwhile, Lust, Caution is now at HK$35 million and may very well end with HK$40 million, making it harder for any film to even try and beat it for the rest of the year. Of course, be aware that like all films of this length, Lust, Caution is buoyed by a 10-20% ticket price inflation due to its length.

The TV drama adaptation Hero scores one of the more impressive opening weekends for a Japanese film with HK$2.21 million over 4 days from 27 screens, thanks to the now-legendary pairing of Kimura Takuya and Takako Matsu. The entertaining legal drama seems to carry pretty good word-of-mouth and maybe end up with over HK$5 million.

Also, two limited releases did fairly well in the crowded market this weekend: The British film Becoming Jane made HK$347,000 from 6 screens over 4 days, while the American hit comedy Knocked Up made HK$229,000 from 4 screens over 4 days.

- By the way, Lust, Caution's gross dropped by 5%, despite it undergoing a 48-screen expansion to a total of 125 screens. After 4 weekends, the film's made only roughly US$2.1 million at 20th place this weekend. No wonder James Schamus is cautious about expanding it. No pun intended.

- In South Korean box office, two big Korean films took over the box office with over 500,000 admissions each, while Resident Evil 3 could only get a 3rd place opening. Only 4 Korean films on the top 10 this week, and a surprising amount of small European films on the chart as well.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 22nd, 2007 Edition

Try not to be shocked - most of today's news come from only Variety Asia and Tokyograph.

- Let's do the Japanese drama ratings first (All drama information on Tokyograph) - a few more dramas premiered this past week, including the Monday 9 pm Fuji drama Galileo. With the hottest prime time drama spot, the Masaharu Fukuyama/Kou Shibasaki-starrer with a terrible theme song scored a very impressive 24.7 rating for the first episode. Meanwhile, the Aya Ueto drama Abarenbou Mama did OK in its premiere with a 15.3 rating.

Last week's winner Iryu 2 (which may be getting its own movie with its strong ratings) saw a pretty big drop from its 21-rating premiere to a 16.8 rating for its second episode. Joshi Deka, the latest drama with Yukie Nakama, opened weakly with just a 13.4 rating playing at the same time as Iryu 2. Hatachi No Koibito, which the Daily Yomiuri's Teleview column recommended this past weekend, saw its ratings drop even further to a 10.4 on Sunday night.

- Fuji TV is so happy about Galileo's premiere ratings (the strongest since Saiyuki's premiere back in January '06 for that time slot) that they've already greenlighted the movie version. The source material, a series of novels about a math genius, is probably all ready to be adapted, as soon as the movie makes Fuji a ton of cash.

- Variety Asia has a feature about the extent of Hollywood studios into foreign local industries. In Asia, the biggest Hollywood studios are Warner Bros. in Japan and Sony in Chinese-speaking territories.

- Under "Japanese adaptations and remakes" news today (in addition to Galileo), the fantasy trading card game Aquarian Age is heading to the big screen, and so is the successful daytime drama Sunadokei, which was based on a manga in the first place. Also, TV Tokyo is retelling the story of Sanshiro Sugata, a famous judo artist whose story was told by Akira Kurosawa in his feature film debut.

- Some film festivals that are not named Tokyo International Film Festival are also currently underway in Asia: The second annual Chinese Film Festival in Yokohama started today, with Feng Xiaogang and Zhang Yang expected to attend. Also, the first Phuket Film Festival started on Saturday as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the coastal town after the devastating tsunami three years ago.

- If you stop by a certain chain of love hotels in Tokyo, you'll get to watch the Hollywood thriller Vacancy for free in your room. Apparently, these people got the idea that watching a movie about a couple trapped by maniacs in a run-down hotel room with hidden cameras and snuff tapes will "deepen the love". I think they'll probably just have sex instead.

- Under "what's the deal in Japan?" news today, major studio Nikkatsu has signed a deal with Madhouse toon house to invade the US market together with a brand-new office in LA. Then, American distributor of Japanese films FUNimation will be delivering their acquisitions to US theaters digitally instead of the traditional way of shipping film to them.

- It's reviews time! Catching up from last week, Lovehkfilm updated with several new reviews. Kozo gives us reviews of Kenneth Bi's well-meaning but ill-conceived The Drummer, Kim Ki-Duk's Breath, and Ang Lee's erotic drama Lust, Caution. Meanwhile, yours truly checks in with a review of idol nostalgia drama Yellow Tears and the "historical" Korean blockbuster Hwang Jin-Yi.

- Variety has named Lust, Caution star Tang Wei one of the 10 actors to watch.

- Lastly, yet another one of the many films based around the Nanjing Massacre has started filming. Actually, the next time anything about this should be news is when they're done making it, not when another one starts filming.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 10/22/07

- For some reason, has not updated their box office page for a week now. However, the Hong Kong Film blog comes to the rescue with their own box office report. On Sunday, the ranking the Hong Kong box office grosses are as follows:

1) Brothers
2) Lust, Caution
3) Hero
4) Resident Evil: Extinction
5) No Reservations
6) Becoming Jane
7) Michael Clayton
8) Knocked Up
9) Detective Conan

While there are no numbers, newspaper reports indicated that Brothers had a HK$1 million-plus opening day, and that it might've reached as much as HK$2 million daily gross over the holiday weekend. No idea whether it got anywhere near the HK$8 million goal producer Andy Lau is shooting for, though.


Measure of success in HK box office: HK$10 million

- Only the audience admission ranking is currently out for Japan. It shows Hero on top again, with three opening films from Hollywood taking the second through fourth spots: Hairspray, The Good Shepard, and The Invasion. However, if you remember, last week was a really slow week at the box office. With Hero on top again, it must've been REALLY slow this week.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Golden Rock Song of the Week - 10/21/2007

This week's Song of the Week is again not picked because it's any good, but because the video is so damn out there. From the man who introduced naked boob suits to the yearly New Year Kohaku show, it's DJ Ozma's Spiderman, courtesy of TV In Japan.

Seriously, the song is no good, and the video may not even be work-safe. Watch at your own risk.

The Golden Rock - October 21st, 2007 Edition

Let's start off with some more news from the TIFF (That's what the Tokyo International Film Festival calling themselves these days, despite Toronto having the same abbreviations):

- Jason Gray won't be in the country for the rest of the TIFF, but he does have a link to the two-hour video of red carpet coverage and opening ceremony. I don't think anyone is expected to watch all 2 hours of it, but you can see some interesting things, including finding out that Akiko Wada and Tokoro Joji are voicing Marge and Homer in the Japanese dub of the Simpsons movie, which will screen during the festival. D'oh!

For those not in the know, some fans protested to 20th Century Fox for not using the original Japanese voice actors for the film, but I guess Fox cared about getting non-fans in more than loyal fans.

- Meanwhile, the Winds of Asia section has a new programmer this year: Asian film scholar Kenji Ishizaka. Like many film scholars, he decided to bring lesser-known Asian films to the festival this year, particularly films from Islamic countries. The problem is even if you bring the movies, will people go see them?

Now, back to your regular news.

- Of course, we always start off with box office news around here. In the first seven months of 2007, local Japanese films have fallen to making up just 43% of the market, down 10 % from the same period in the previous year. Judging from this year's output, the answer lies in the fact that there hasn't been any huge blockbuster that reached the size of those last year. local megahit Hero opened in September, so we won't know until the end of the year whether Japanese films will regain its strength. But there are still a few possible crowdpleasers on the way.

- The Daily Yomiuri's Teleview column looks at two dramas where the Kanto and Kansai separation seems to be an issue: the new NHK morning drama Chiritotechin, which is getting much better ratings in the Kansai region than Kanto, and the Masami Nagasawa drama Hatachi no Koibito.

- Today's Oriental Daily reports that some netizens are saying that the MTV for Jay Chou's latest single "A Cowboy is Very Busy" (directed by Chou himself) is similar to the video for Christina Aguilera's Candyman.

Jay Chou's "A Cowboy is Very Busy" (try not to get too shocked)

Christina Aguilera's Candyman

Personally, just because the diner images are similar don't mean that one is copying the other, but what do you think?

- In more possible plagiarizing news in Chinese music, the Chinese blog 3cmusic reveals that netizens are saying that Hong Kong pop singer Paisley Wu's "Don't Think Just Do" has a similar arrangement (credited to veteran C.Y. Kong) to British singer Sophie Ellis Bextor's "The Sun's On Us."

Don't Think Just Do

The Sun's On Us

Since "Don't Think Just Do" seems to be a cover song, can anyone name the original track, and can that same person tell us whether that song has a similar arrangement as well?

- In more posting of Youtube clips, Chinese star pianist Li Yundi says in the an interview that he wonders out loud if treating classical musicians as pop idols (i.e. him) is the right thing to do. Probably not, but showing up on TVB promoting a Japanese drama that you have nothing to do with just seemed like such a right thing to do.

- In more TV news, Hotaru No Hikari, which averaged only a 13.6 rating on Wednesday nights during the Summer 2007 season, won four of the five awards at the Nikkan Sports Drama Grand Prix. The fifth award went to Arashi member Kazunari Ninomiya for his role in Yamada Taro Monogatari.

- Under "cut off one head, another one will pop up" news today, Taiwanese police arrested two people who run the website XYZ and confiscated 40,000 pirated discs of Hollywood movies. Yes, just two people and one of the many many websites that sell pirated discs.

- Under "what things will Jackie Chan say" news today, the action star, who is producing the Chinese reality show The Disciple in a search for the next martial artist, tells aspiring action stars to not bow the "old-fashioned way". I hope he doesn't mean greet your master with high-fives.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 20th, 2007 Edition

The Tokyo International Film Festival is officially underway, with the action film Midnight Eagle premiering tonight. Variety's already got their people on the job:

- Festival head Tsuguhiko Kadokawa says that he would like the Tokyo fest to become one of the big four film festivals, alongside Berlin, Venice, and Cannes. It probably helps that it's part of a 40-day content festival that will overtake Hong Kong's Filmart in terms of sheer size.

- Also part of both the film festival and the CoFesta (exclamation marks optional) is the Tiffcom. Slightly less ambitious than Kadokawa, Tiffcom would just like to be bigger than Filmart, which may happen if it isn't programmed so close to the Asian Film Market in Pusan.

- Another major event is CoFesta is the Akihabara Enta Matsuri, where otakus can get their otaku on after catching a movie at the Tokyo Film Festival. I myself would rather stay at the film festival.

Now, we move over to the Daily Yomiuri for their coverage:

- Fest head Kadokawa also says as long as Japan is the second largest market in the world (note: that's only for Hollywood films, and that's because of how much Japan charges for a movie ticket), Tokyo will always be the center of Asia for films. I could argue that, but this entry's getting long.

- Meanwhile, programming director Kazuo Kuroi talks about the films for the competition section this year. He said there's only one Japanese film because the submissions "lack depth," whatever the hell that means.

Now, your regular news:

- The Daily Yomiuri reviews director/writer/actor Suzuki Matsuo's latest Welcome to the Quiet Room. I have my reservations after watching the manic Koi No Mon.

- Meanwhile, Japan Time's Mark Schilling reviews the animated film sequel Appleseed: Ex-Machina, which is actually produced by John Woo.

- The Daily Yomiuri also has an interview with Appleseed director Shinji Aramaki, who complains that Hayao Miyazaki should be more proud of his Oscar (for Spirited Away).

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 19th, 2007 Edition

Today is a public holiday in Hong Kong, so no box office reports. However, from unscientific research (looking at the ticket sales on the internet and from my observation last night at the cinema), it'll be between Derek Chiu's Brothers (Four of the five tigers in one film! Review later on the spin-off) and the Japanese drama adaptation Hero. Andy Lau says he's hoping for $HK8-10 million total gross. Can they pull it off over the holiday weekend? We shall know on Monday.

And now, your daily Lust, Caution news:

- EastSouthWestNorth has some stories about Lust, Caution's Mainland release, including the fact that you don't have to trek all the way to Hong Kong to see THE shot and how even the man who's supposed to protect copyright in China can't even believe there's no pirated copy of the film out there.

Back to reality:

- The Tokyo International Film Festival is just getting underway, but don't expect lots of reporting about the market there, especially when the tepid Asian Film Market just wrapped up a week ago at Pusan. More tomorrow when we get the news from The Daily Yomiuri.

- Twitch reports that Johnnie To's Mad Detective, starring Lau Ching-Wan, has been bought up by the Independent Film Channel in North America. They will likely release the film in a small limited release before releasing it on DVD. Don't take my word for it, though; I only said "likely".

- It was much ado about nothing as an Indian court has officially dismissed a lawsuit challenging Eklavya's entry to the Academy Awards.

That's it for today. Come back tomorrow for another shortened entry for The Golden Rock.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 18th, 2007 Edition

Three slow news days automatically add up to a slow news week in general. That means shorter entries. Expect short weekend entries if this keeps up. I may just post something in the spin-off instead.

- Lust, Caution's chances at the Oscars has just decreased by quite a bit, as the Academy Awards foreign films committee disqualifies Ang Lee's erotic drama as the Taiwanese entry because it's not Taiwan enough. Essentially, the main gripe is that it doesn't have enough Taiwanese involvement. That must suck for Lee, seeing that his Chinese movie for westerners, also known as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, manages to win best foreign film, while his Chinese movie for Chinese people gets disqualified.

Taiwan will submit Island Etude in its place.

- In another blow to the film (this ought to be the unofficial Lust, Caution blog), Chinese censors have apparently yet to screen the Mainland Chinese-safe version of the film, which means its November 1st opening date may get pushed further back. Meanwhile, pirated copies have finally gotten online, which may hurt the big chunk of change the film expected to make from the region.

- Meanwhile, Twitch has another update for the latest omnibus-film-in-a-city film Tokyo!. Apparently, Korean director Bong Joon-Ho's section is done filming, with Michel Gondry's getting ready to shoot later in the month. No idea when third director Leos Carax will be filming his, though.

Original Tokyograph story.

- Poor Twitch contributor Blake only got two questions with Park Chan-Wook because what was supposed to be a one-on-one interview became a roundtable with people asking about ridiculous rumors such as whether Park took a 5-year break to train being an astronaut. At least now you know he's making a bat film for his next project.

- DVDTalk has a review for the American DVD of Kazuaki Kiriya's Casshern, which boasts a so-called "director's cut" that's 25 minute shorter than the original Japanese cut. According to some poster on imdb, the DVD is missing not only scene selections, but the subtitles are also off-sync, and important bits are cut out.

- It's no news, but Japan's DVD market is still suffering, as sales for the first half year are down 2% from the same period last year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 16th, 2007 Edition.

There are days like these where there are so little news, I just decide to combine all the entries together.

- The numbers for the Japanese box office came out, and the rankings are pretty much the same as the admission rankings. However, what the rankings don't tell you is what a quiet week it was. In fact, only one film made more than 100 million yen (number 1 film Hero), and the rest of the holdovers all saw fairly significant drops. Yes, that includes Closed Note, which is supposed to be doing pretty well, but actually doesn't look to make that 1.5 billion yen mark Toho is setting.

Signs of Love (based on those Dreams Come True songs) actually lost only 25% of its audience in its second week, which is pretty typical in the pure love genre. It should wrap up with about 800 million yen. Not all that impressive, but it is what it is.

- Thanks to the success of Hero, Japanese distributor Toho is having their best September ever, which means expect more TV dramas going to a big screen near you in Japan.

- Two sites reported on the Sushi Ouji movie, so I'll just use both links. Essentially, the drama that was the second worst-performer in the primetime ratings in the summer 2007 drama season (average 7.5 rating) was announced to have its own movie before the drama even began its broadcast. But now, TV Asahi has Warner Bros. Japan behind them and is planning to release it during next year's Golden Week. They're probably hoping for fans of the two stars' respective boy groups to show up.

Tokyograph report.

Variety Asia report.

- The only reason I saved up this report was because I thought it was Tsai as in Tsai Chin.

Turns out it's Jolin Tsai that's doing a duet with Kylie Minogue in the Asian edition of her latest album. Actually, it would be so much more interesting if Tsai Chin, the songstress who brought us this, do a duet with Kylie Minogue, but that's just what I think.

- Variety's Richard Kuiper has a review for the highly successful Japanese animated film Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone.

- The Associated Press has an interview with Joan Chen, who's been in the spotlight of recent Chinese cinema with her roles in Lust, Caution and The Sun Also Rises.

- Asian films are the big winners at this year's Sitges Film Festival in Catalonia, including wins for Park Chan-Wook's "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK" and even Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django.

- The first still for the Pan-Asian film Blood: The Last Vampire, starring Gianna "Sassy Girl" Jun is up. Todd Brown says yes, I say no, thank you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 15th, 2007 Edition

- The new drama season started in Japan last week (Fall 2007 drama information from Tokyograph), and Iryu 2, the sequel to the hit drama from Spring 2006, got off to an excellent start with a 21 rating on the ratings chart. Meanwhile, Dream Again, starring Takashi "Genghis Khan" Sorimachi could only score a 12.9 rating for its premiere. Another star who might not be such a star is Masami Nagasawa, as her latest drama Hatachi No Koibito got only a 13.5 rating for its first episode. More premieres to come this coming week, so look for a slightly more comprehensive wrap-up next week. It all depends how tired I'll be, really.

Now, the wrap-up from Pusan International Film Festival:

- The competition section of Pusan, called New Currents, actually has the least well-known films. This is probably because the jury tends to pick heavy art films with social messages, and Variety reports that history has repeated again this year.

- Meanwhile, it seems like the Asian Film Market was pretty quiet in terms of sales, with distributors sending people to just look as opposed to buy.

- Despite the festival running into obstacles and just being generally bland this year, the attendance was still record-breaking.

And now, back to your regular news:

- Wong Kar-Wai was supposed to make a biopic about Bruce Lee's master and it was supposed to star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, who reportedly spend the last few years getting physically prepared for the role. However, his 5-year rights is expiring and Raymond Wong's Mandarin Films (who last made the Donnie Yen lovefest Flash Point) is stepping in and make their own film about Bruce Lee's master.

This is in addition to the planned film by Fruit Chan about two childhood friends in 1950s Hong Kong who split up on their own roads, one of them being Bruce Lee.

- The teaser trailer is out for the Hollywood remake of the Pang Brothers' The Eye, and I guess it looks blah.

- Also, the second trailer for Feng Xiaogang's The Assembly is online. I use Firefox, so I haven't watched it, and I'll probably watch the movie when it comes out anyway.

- In not-so-pleasant news for the blogging community, the Chinese government is continuing its crackdown of the internet ahead of the party congress.

- And yet, they decided to allow a shorter version of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, which was edited by Lee himself and is a few minutes longer than the Malaysian version, to play nationwide starting November 1st. Can someone tell me whether Lam Ka Tung makes an appearance at the end of the Mainland version? Someone who's seen both Infernal Affairs and Lust, Caution should get this.

- Then again, despite the film having done very well in Asian territories, audiences in China may very well not even get what "the bad guy" in the movie does.

- China may seem pretty bad, but then the head of the Thai ministry of culture came out and pretty much says: 1) Thai audiences are not educated, and 2) just because said audience doesn't understand a movie, it should be be classified and/or banned.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 10/15/2007

- In Hong Kong, Lust, Caution wins the Sunday box office yet again, making HK$1.25 million from 52 screens for a 19-day total of HK$30.06 million. Not only has Ang Lee's erotic thriller now become the highest-grossing Chinese film of the year in Hong Kong, it is also now the highest-grossing category-III film (no one under 18 admitted) in Hong Kong history.

In the rest of the box office, the Hollywood romantic drama No Reservations is the strongest of the newcomers, making HK$340,000 from 28 screens for a 4-day total of HK$1.19 million. Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney, did only ok (for a film of its kind, that is) with HK$200,000 from 17 screens for a 4-day HK$700,000 total.

Now we're down to the disappointments - Kenneth Bi's well-meaning but disappointing drama The Drummer made only HK$60,000 from 18 screens for a 4-day total of just HK$210,000. HK$30,000 of those came from opening day. Ouch. Death Sentence, starring Kevin Bacon, had a Drummer-like per-screen average and made only HK$40,000 from 12 screens for a 4-day total of HK$160,000.

In holdovers, Resident Evil 3 had a pretty solid second weekend with HK$600,000 from 36 screens on Sunday. After 11 days, the horror-action flick has made HK$8.95 million. Oxide Pang's The Detective continues its slow fade with only HK$90,000 from 18 screens for a 18-day total of HK$5.22 million. Sadly, Wong Jing's Beauty and the Seven Beasts had a higher per-screen average with HK$70,000 from 8 screens. Its 19-day total is only HK$2.88 million.

- In Korean box office, it was such a slow week that even The Nanny Diaries and Becoming Jane made the top 10. Hur Jin-Ho's Happiness leads the chart again. Can anyone tell me whether it was any good?

- In Japanese box office, no numbers yet, but the audience ranking says that Closed Note is still doing quite well (despite never having made it to the top spot), Peter Berg's The Kingdom made second place, and people are actually still going to watch A Perfect Stranger. Scary.

The Golden Rock Song of the Week - 10/14/07

The Golden Rock should be back from its break tomorrow. Until then, it'll slowly get back onto schedule.

This week's artist was almost completely forgotten by this blogger until he started listening to their last album on MD. It's kind of commercial, and I expect choosing it would make my credibility as a music critic go down further, but I'll risk it. From A Rush of Blood to the Head, it's Coldplay's The Scientist.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

An interview with Ryo Nakajima, the director of This World of Ours

Photo courtesy of Peija Films.

Recently, I raved about a small Japanese independent film named This World Of Ours on Lovehkfilm after I received a copy of the film from its director Ryo Nakajima and enjoyed it thoroughly. Through our e-mail correspondence, Nakajima-san also graciously agreed to an e-mail interview for The Golden Rock. This is the result. Please note that English is not Nakajima-san's first language, and that none of his answers have been edited from his email replies.

Answers are in bold.

1) Please tell the world about yourself - your background, your life,

I am an only child. My parents brought up me with loving care.
i was a spoiled child.
My world was very small.

I began working on the screenplay when I was 19 going 20 ; at the
time, I was a hikikomorin which means I was socially withdrawn and
never left the house.

I could not find my place in life, and through days of doing nothing,
because emotionally cornered.
I decided to make a film back then because I felt a strong desire "
to connect with somebody and break out of my own shell".

2) Why did you name the character acted by Okutsu Satoshi as Ryo
Nakajima? Does he represent your personality/thoughts the most?

I was asked this Question in Vancouver.
Ryo is not me. He is Dark Hero for me .
It represent that I want to be Dark Hero.
Hiroki represent my personality / thoughts most.

3) Has your views of the world, specifically of Japanese society,
changed since the making of the film?

Now our surroundings changes more hopeless ( environmental
pollution,uncertainty over the course of the economy, inconvenience
of he mind and the body and so on)
I am having difficulty in breathing in my life.
But I found a ray of hope.
That is to develop rapport with somebody.
for example ,I and you have communication through the movie.

4) Some reviewers have compared your film to those of Shunji Iwai.
How do you feel about that? And what are some of your cinematic
influences, both foreign and Japanese?

The honor is more than I deserve.

In Japan , Most young people like my movie, But most adults feel
unpleasant. They said it is full of Violence and ill.
So far ,some of foreign people like my movie. I have posted about
25~30 DVD.
5 people mailed me and liked it.

(regarding cinematic influence)

Lars von Trier and Fernando Meirelles(city of god)
They are the best directors for me

5) You mentioned on your website that you ran into many obstacles
during production, what were some of them specifically? And how did
the cast and crew help you overcome them?

Mr Taniguchi, main actor, played Hiroki, was stabbed with knife by
madness man.
The shooting was adjourned until he recoverd.
Fortunately he got smoothly better, and his passion to make this
movie became even stronger since he overcame his own death.
It also strengthened the bonds of all the casts and staffs, and the
story that young people fell into the attraction of destruction in
despair changed into the one that they struggle to reach for hopes.

6) You didn't have introduction of two of your stars - Hata Arisa and
Okutsu Satoshi - on the website. Who are they, and will they continue
to act in the future?

They quit to be an actor and actress. Now Okutsu is married. He is
working on Hospital. Hata is fickle girl. Now She wants to be a
singer. She takes lessons twice a week.
I want them to became good actor and actress. But it cannot be helped.

7) I read recently that you were hired by a major Japanese production
company. Do you plan to continue making films about tough topics like
those you explored in your film, or will it be time to explore new

I got a job in Star Dust Pictures.  It is difficult to make
Tough topics movie in Star Dust Pictures.
But I have a strategy. At first I make a typical a popular movie. If
I make an enormous profit on that movie, I will have an increasingly
powerful voice within the company in the future. Then I make a movie
whatever I want.
I wish I can do it.

8) Are you already working on first film under Star Dust Pictures? If
so, can you give any information about it?

Now I am taking part in the Film of Miki Nakatani.
She is actress ,「Memories of Masuko」so on. She is trying
to make her own film.
I am her assistant.

Again, I would like to thank director Ryo Nakajima for his candid answers. I wish him all the best with his future endeavors. Please do find out more about the film at its official website.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A short break

As you can see from the wrong date in the last entry, this week has been quite tiring for this blogger. With at least two more student productions to work on the next two days and all the news about Pusan not all that engaging, the news entries will be taking a short break. There will probably be a box office report tomorrow, and if there's something interesting, I might do a news post. But until the end of the weekend, don't expect too much.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 10th, 2007 Edition

- It's Oricon charts time! As expected, B'z tops the single chart with their latest, selling 180,000 copies to make it their 40th consecutive number-one single. This also puts them above SMAP as their 41st consecutive single in the top 10. Meanwhile, Dreams Come True scores a number-two debut on the same week as the film based on their songs open this past weekend. The new single sold more than 81,000 copies, which would've earned it a number 1 spot on any other week. Lastly, Mika Nakashima's latest could muster only a 5th place debut with 13,600 copies sold. If the daily charts hold up, expect L'Arc~En~Ciel's latest to top the charts next week.

On the album chart, two compilations topped the chart. Yuki's compilation is far and away the number 1 album with 180,000 copies sold. Far far behind is Yuzu's compilation, which sold 95,500 copies. Last week's winner Ai Otsuka's album (this one's for you, Tokyograph) drops to 3rd place with a still-pretty-strong sales of 66,000 copies, and last week's second place album, the latest from Shiina Ringo's Tokyo Jihen, tumbles to 5th place with just 26,700 copies sold. As for daily rankings, Spitz's latest album should take the top spot if they hold up through the week.

Today in Pusan Film Festival news:

- Director Peter Greenaway would like you to know that cinema has been dead since 1983. Yeah, I saw his 1999 film 8 1/2 women - it wasn't much of a movie indeed.

- The Hollywood Reporter critics report on the critical and audience reactions for some of the films at the festival.

- Variety also has their own report, but concentrating more on the Asian Film Market rather than the films themselves.

- It's festival reviews time! From Pusan comes Russell Edward's review of Isao Yukisada's Into the Faraway Sky and Derek Elley's review of Takashi Miike's Crows: Episode 0, which seems to be the talk of the town so far.

- This year marks the first ChinaBizCamp, where Chinese film industry professionals teach Korean audiences how to sell their movies in a market that restricts foreign films imports to 20 a year and where piracy is rampant partly because of said laws.

- There's an interview with director Lee Chang-Dong, who is currently a jury member on the New Currents section. His award-winning Secret Sunshine is opening in Hong Kong today.

- Lastly, J-Pitch, where Japanese producers try to sell ideas to foreign investors, took its show on the road to Pusan this year with three presentations. At least two of them sound promising. No, I'm not telling you which two.

Back to a short version of your regular news:

- Remember I mentioned in a previous entry that Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django is being criticized for featuring a character hung on a Shintoist gate? Twitch has the offending image that's now been deleted from all the promotional materials. It's in the movie anyway, people.

- After weeks of secrecy, China has revealed that they submitted the carefully calculated war drama The Knot as their pick for a nomination for best foreign film at the Academy Awards. For weeks, there were speculations that China would also pick Lust, Caution (Taiwan's entry) after Peter Chan announced that The Warlords won't be ready on time.

- Good for him. Feng Xiaogang says openly that he hopes to shed the propaganda image of recent Chinese war films with his latest The Assembly. However, it still features an ending fit for both government and audiences.

- Lastly, there's a teaser for Daniel Lee's Three Kingdom: Resurrection of the Dragon, starring Andy Lau and Maggie Q (wtf?). Honestly, it's always been hard to get me excited about a Daniel Lee film, even one with Andy Lau.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 10/10/07

- The Japan box office numbers are out, but there are no standings, and the "pure love" film The Sign of Love (from the two songs by the group Dreams Come True) only got into the admissions ranking. As a result, I wouldn't call it the most accurate ranking. Still, you can find out that Hero is still on top (and showing little sign of slowing down), and Pan's Labyrinth had an OK opening on a 28-screen limited release.

- A quick rundown on the Hong Kong mid-week numbers: Lust, Caution made another HK$1.04 million from 60 screens for a total of HK$24.61 million. Resident Evil 3 made HK$530,000 from 36 screens for a 6-day total of HK$6.37 million. Oxide Pang's The Detective is slowing down with just HK$140,000 from 28 screens for just HK$4.79 million after 13 days (yes, I did pay to see this as well. More on an entry on the spin-off later). There's no real wide releases this weekend, which means it'll be Lust, Caution on the top of the charts on Friday again.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 8th, 2007 Edition

Tons more news Pusan Film Festival news today:

- The Asian Film Market is kicking off, but like we mentioned yesterday, both attendance and market screenings are going down.

- Meanwhile, a bunch of production/co-operation deals are going down: the Korean Film Council and the British Film Council have teamed up to help distribute each other's movies in each other's countries, namely in publicity support. Also, the film festival has become the launching pad for Taiwanese international sales firm Joint Entertainment, who hopes to bring Taiwanese films abroad to different film markets.

Also, from last week is a set of features about the Taiwanese film industry - a slate of upcoming releases, the slow action by the government to help the struggling film industry (sounds a bit like Hong Kong to me), and the industry's own attempts to put away its arthouse label in recent years.

Other project announcements includes Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's latest project, a period martial arts film (12-minute long one-take fight scene?), and a Taiwan-Korean co-production from Eternal Summer director Leste Chen.

With so many Korean-another Asian country co-productions going on, it seems like the Korean industry is learning the only way to ensure its survival is to play nice with others.

Now, back to your regular programming:

- Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django has run into some problems with the Shintoists in Japan because of an image of people hanging from the shinto gate. While Sony has removed the offending image from all of its promotional materials, the shot remains in the film.

- There's a bit of confusion going on about whether the Hong Kong relay-crime film Triangle was really re-edited after its Cannes screening. While the various reviews at Cannes put the film at 100 minutes (a running time they probably got from the booklet), Hong Kong's Television and Entertainment Authority (who give ratings with exact running times on the certificates) puts the film at 93 minutes. I doubt the film runs exactly at 100 minutes, especially when the rules stipulated that each section needs to run at 30 minutes.

- Universal, who is already co-releasing the Japanese action flick Midnight Eagle in Japan, has also signed on to release the film in North America. However, the trailers have left me fairly cold, so how are they going to be selling in to American audiences?

(Yes, I know the trick answer is: they don't try to tell it. They just keep in on the shelves a couple of years, then release it straight to DVD with some sexy woman on the cover)

- Lastly, Jackie Chan does something he doesn't whine about on his blog: A Japanese commercial with model/actress/singer Aya Ueto.

The Golden Rock Box Office Report - 10/8/07

- There was no Friday update of the hong Kong box office, so I couldn't predict what happened yesterday. On Sunday box office in Hong Kong, Lust, Caution continued to perform extremely well, earning HK$1.9 million from 61 screens. After 12 days, Ang Lee's erotic thriller has already made an amazing HK$22.76 million. According to the Hong Kong Film Blog, it'll beat Basic Instinct as the highest-grossing category-III film in history (no one under 18 may be admitted) once it grosses an additional HK$5 million, which will probably happen by the weekend.

From the same distributor in Hong Kong is last week's only opening film Resident Evil. On 36 screens, the second sequel from the sci-fi horror series made HK$1.4 million for a 4-day total of HK$5.27 million. Continuing with a bit of legs is Oxide Pang's The Detective, which is hanging on with another HK$310,000 on 28 screens. After 11 days, the mystery thriller has made HK$4.53 million. The Hong Kong loser from last week's mid-autumn festival Beauty and the 7 Beasts limped through Sunday with just HK$100,000 from 14 screens for just HK$2.37 million after 12 days. Quite frankly, I'm even surprised that this got past HK$2 million.

- In North America, Lust, Caution expanded by 16 screens to the other major cities, and it made $369,000 at 26th place for a per-screen average of $21,705. However, I don't expect it to have any commercial success later on due to the NC-17 rating and the not-so-positive reviews from Western critics.

- In Korean box office, Hur Jin-Ho's Happiness (which looks kind of blah to me, and I'm a fan. Then again, I don't understand a word of Korean) led the charts with 583,000 admissions, while Rush Hour 3 flopped with a 2nd place opening with just 354,000 admissions. This week, 5 of the 10 films on the top 10 were Korean, though most of the Hollywood films were just holdovers.

The Golden Rock Song of the Week - 10/7/07

This week's song is more for the album than the song itself. A month ago, I bought a compilation named Tokyo Cafe Vol. 2, which I guess plays songs that would recreate the feeling of being in a cafe in Tokyo. Even though it opens with a Lisa Ono song, the rest of the album isn't quite like that. It combines R&B, acoustic guitar pieces, and even old pop songs like today's song. You can find it on the Tokyo Cafe compilation as track 3, or find it on a compilation by the group, it's Original Love's "Kiss."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 7th, 2007 Edition

More coverage of other people's coverage of the Pusan Film Festival:

- I mentioned that New Taiwan Cinema filmmaker Edward Yang's films are getting a retrospective in Pusan. I was wrong. He's actually getting a posthumous Filmmaker of the Year award.

- Variety, meanwhile, has two new reviews from the festival - a rave by Derek Elley for the hit Japanese drama adaptation Hero, and a review by Russell Edwards for the Taiwanese coming-of-age film Summer's Tail.

- Meanwhile, the attendance at this year's Pusan film market may be around the same, but it seems like the decline in Korea's film industry, not to mention Japan's own Content Festival still underway, does seem to have an effect this year.

- Lastly, there's an interview with David Shin, the head of Korea's CJ Entertainment.

Now back to our regular coverage of the news:

- Fuji's Saturday 11pm drama Life wins the satisfaction poll conducted by Oricon. Last season, the time slot's first drama Liar Game won second place with an even higher score than Life, proving that putting edgier dramas there may equal to success. However, people don't seem very excited about SP, this coming season's drama in that time slot.

- In light of the Olympics next year, there will probably be a lot of "ethically inspiring" sports films coming out of China. There are already two basketball movies. In fact, someone should make a movie out of this, it'll be called Olympic Fever Gone Wild.

- It may not be the final image, but Hong Kong animation firm Imagi's Astro Boy is looking pretty good.

- Lastly, it seems like someone is trying to submit Lust, Caution as their region's official representative for the best foreign film award at the Academy Awards, but China and Taiwan can't seem to decide. Then again, Taiwan followed the rules and played the film for 7 days before submitting it, China didn't. You snooze, you lose.

The Golden Rock - October 6th, 2007 Edition

- Continuing our coverage of other people's coverage of the Pusan Film Festival, Hollywood Reporter has an interview with John Woo's producer Terence Chang, who's in the town for a screening of Lion Rock Picture's latest producing effort Blood Brothers. According to him, the disappointing film noir-wannabe was "well-received" in Venice and that "a lot of foreign people really appreciate the film." You know, I always just use the "quite loved in Europe" thing as a joke, I didn't think that would really happen, especially to a movie like Blood Brothers.

- Of course, if Hollywood Reporter has interviews, Variety has to have them too. So they have an interview with festival director Kim Dong-Ho, although a portion of the interview is devoted to Korean food and when he would be hanging out at the bars.

- While America's film censorship body MPAA considers giving films with scenes of smoking an automatic rated R (restricted - no one under 17 admitted without parent or guardian), the Chinese government are actually listening to public complaints and will be asking TV/film producers to cut down on "unnecessary" smoking scenes. However, since there are no laws banning smoking, the request obviously simple remains a request.

- There's a first teaser for the officially approved sequel/spinoff for Shaolin Soccer. Moving the action to the Lacrosse field, Shaolin Girl stars Kou Shibasaki as the titular character, it's directed by Bayside Shakedown director Katsuyuki Motohiro, and will even feature cameos by some of Stephen Chow's favorites. It looks pretty silly (OK, I get that the ball is going fast by the intense flame), but I have faith in Motohiro to deliver something watchable.

- It's reviews time! Japan Times' Mark Schilling has a review for the new Yoshimitsu Morita film (I presume he made this before the Sanjuro remake) Southbound.

That's it for the day. Time for this blogger to get some much-needed sleep.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 5th, 2007 Edition

As the second round of filmmaking starts in film school, expect updates to be somewhat short in the next few days.

- The Pusan Film Festival is now fully under way. This year, there's a retrospective on New Taiwan Cinema director Edward Yang, who passed away earlier this year from colon cancer. Variety Asia has a feature on Yang's filmography and also another feature by Derek "Too Little Lust and Too Much Caution" Elley about his own experiences with Yang.

- There's also a report on Variety Asia about the festival's opening film The Assembly.

- Just as the film festival is starting, the Pusan (or Busan?) film critics are also taking the opportunities to give out their film and rising stars awards. Most of the awards have already been announced: Im Sang-Soo will win best director for The Old Garden, Song Kang-Ho will win best actor for The Show Must Go On, Yeh Ji-Won will win best actress for Old Miss Diary, and Tezza: The High Rollers will win for best screenplay. Also, Daniel Henney will win best actor at the rising star awards. I guess now I should check out My Father, I expect he would act better than he did in Seducing Mr. Perfect.

- Turns out the rumors out there about the Hong Kong "relay film" Triangle being brought back for a major re-edit after Cannes are not correct - the film only went back for audio remix and "print tuning," which means everyone in Hong Kong will be seeing the Cannes version all the critics were panning about.

- It's reviews time! Variety has a review for Singaporean best foreign film Academy Award entry 881 and a review for Yoichi Sai's Korean debut Soo, which I also reviewed a while ago.

That's it for today. No, really, it's the weekend. I need to save some news for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 4th, 2007 Edition

- I'm sure you all now know how well the uncensored prints of Lust, Caution have done in Asia, but what about the censored versions? As far as I know, a version that's been cut by 11 minutes have been playing in at least Malaysia and Singapore. However, Malay censors went ahead and cut and another 3 minutes and barred anyone under 18 from seeing it anyway. Still, the formerly-erotic espionage drama. According to the distributor, the film is still doing rather well considering the genre, despite netizens aware and complaining about the censorship.

- Speaking of censorship, how will they pull this off? China's Shenzhen Golden Coast Film had just optioned the remake rights for a Spanish comedy about an encyclopedia salesman who turns to making porn. The film is due to start production in the fall, and will of course have to be clean enough to clear Chinese censors.

- Eiga Consultant, in light of the recent controversy surrounding actress Erika Sawajiri, posted poll results to why people showed up to her latest film Closed Note. The ratio of male to female audience is 37 to 63, and a majority of audiences are in their 20s and under. When asked why they decided to go watch the film, 26.8% said the content seemed interesting, and the second biggest reason, with 14.4% of audience choosing it, is actually because they were fans of Sawajiri (as opposed to fans of Yuko Takeuchi, which only made up 10.8% of the audience). How come no one says it's because of the director, especially since he made one of the biggest Japanese romantic blockbusters in recent years?

- The first Asia Pacific Screen Awards, which isn't even taking place in Asia, has announced its nominees. The fact that I don't know most of the nominated films means that they really are trying to look for the best Asian films out there, rather than your usual crowd favorites. An especially pleasant surprise for me is Ryu Deok-Hwan's best actor nomination for Like a Virgin. Who says you can't give a great performance in a comedy?

- Under your daily Pusan Film Festival news today, Japanese broadcaster TBS (TV networks are actually the biggest film producers in Japan) is sending quite a few interesting films to the festival. While many people are surely interested in Takashi Miike's Crow Zero, I myself find Kenji Uchida's After School the most interesting after his promising debut A Stranger of Mine. Is it really not coming out until May?

- On the other hand, meet Korea's latest export to Hong Kong - Korean idol Lee Jun-Ki has just signed with Hong Kong entertainment conglomerate EEG. Unless he speaks really good Cantonese already, I have no idea what EEG will be doing with him, except making movies where his voice will be dubbed anyway.

- Also, yet another Korean-Chinese-Hong Kong co-production is on the way. This time it's the Chinese comedy Let's Fall in Love, with no actors or directors announced yet. That makes this news a bit of a waste of space.

- After D-War/Dragon Wars have made millions and millions of dollars around Korea and North America, director Shim Hyung-Rae has announced several follow-up projects, including the film's sequel and a movie called Fish Wars. Really, I'm not shitting you.

- This blogger's idol Hikaru Utada has broken yet another record - she is now the first artist in the world to break the 10 million-mark in digital sales within a year. Too bad her works this year just haven't been up to par.

- Forget about remaking films based on novels, Hollywood is now going straight to the source, as Fox is planning to adapt the Japanese novel Goth with publisher Kadokawa Shoten producing. At least now they don't have to worry about people comparing it with the original Japanese film because it doesn't exist.

- There's an English-subtitled trailer for the Korean film Le Grand Chef, a film based on the comic by the same author of the comic Tezza: The High Rollers. It's a bit of a stretch, yes, but it still looks pretty interesting.

- There's a review for Feng Xiaogang's war film The Assembly by Variety's Derek Elley (aka the guy who inexplicably panned Lust, Caution), which just had its world premiere today at the Pusan Film Festival.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Golden Rock - October 3rd, 2007 Edition

- It seems like I made a mistake last week in predicting this week's Oricon charts because the daily charts at the time had not included the new singles yet. So the predictions from last week are completely wrong. On the singles chart, YUI's latest, the theme song for the film Closed Note, debut at number one with about 87,500 copies sold. BoA's latest is far far behind at 3rd place with about 28.400 copies sold. Ayumi Hamasaki's latest actually did not top the charts again, falling to 4th place with just 18,700 copies sold. Next week (and this should be correct), expect rock superstar band B'z's latest single to top the chart.

As Tokyograph predicted, Ai Otsuka's latest album topped the albums chart with about 208,000 copies sold. Not too close behind at second place is personal favorite Tokyo Jihen's 3rd album, which sold about 101,000 copies in its first week. Angela Aki's album falls to 3rd place in its second week, and I can't believe Hideaki Tokunaga's cover album is still going this strong at 4th place. Next week, expect the album chart battle to be between Yuki's or Yuzu's compilation albums.

- I'm combining the box office and the regular entry into one today. The Japanese box office numbers came out, and there are a bunch of discrepancies between the numbers and the admissions ranking. Apparently the Isao Yukisada film Closed Note may have attracted less people than Perfect Stranger, but it make more cold, hard cash, putting it at 2nd place. The same thing happened between Fantastic 4 and No Reservations. Also, La Vie En Rose actually opened on 196 screens, which makes it 8th place opening kind of disappointing.

Actually, Closed Note's second place opening isn't all that swell, either. While it is 176% of the opening for Sugar And Spice ~ Fumi Zekka, it's only 94% of the opening for Yukisada's Haru no Yuki, which means the film will barely pass the 1 billion yen mark in box office.

- Speaking of Closed Note, its star Erika Sawajiri has apologized for her rudeness in a recent press conference for the film. Still, her appearance at the film's screening at the Pusan Film Festival has been canceled due to the incident. I'm not exactly sure how not having her take an extra trip to Korea to promote a movie is punishment unless she was going to get paid.

- Speaking of Pusan, Hollywood Reporter has a bunch of reports from the festival. First, a general overview of this year's festival, then a report on the new anti-piracy campaign being launched at the festival, and a preview of opening film The Assembly, which will see its world premiere on Thursday.

- Speaking of Feng Xiaogang, he has already casted Jiang Wen and Ge You for his next film, a comedy that pokes fun at the new overnight millionaires of China. Sounds like Feng is going back to his roots as a commercial comedy director.

- As a young aspiring filmmaker, this news is quite disappointing: The new Film Development Council of Hong Kong has announced their terms for disburse the HK$300 million film fund - by giving it to commercially-appealing films made by experienced filmmakers/producers. That means your director or producer has to have made at least 2 films, but yet your budget has to be kept under US$1.55 million (HK$12.1 million). Not that they'll actually give you more than 30% of your budget anyway.

Do these people actually know how much it cost to make an audience-friendly, commercially-appealing movie these days? Your average movie star take at least HK$4 million already, and what commercially successful HK movie this year actually cost just HK$12 million? Obviously, the money should've gone more to developing young talents, but what can I say? I go to film school in Hong Kong, so that makes me biased by default.

- On the other hand, legendary Japanese filmmaker Yoji Yamada is working with the students of a film class he is currently teaching on a new film as part of a collaboration between Shochiku and a university in Kyoto. Eventually, the studio will establish a training facility with the students of the university as research interns. THIS is how you develop young talent, Hong Kong Film Development Council.

- Meanwhile, Yamada's latest film Love & Honor, starring Kimura Takuya, has been picked up by tiny American distributor Funimation, and will be released in one New York cinema in November.

- It's reviews time! From Variety, we have a short review by Robert Koehler for Christmas in August director Hur Jin-Ho's latest film Happiness, and a review by Russell Edwards for the Japanese film Sea Without Exit.

- From Lovehkfilm, Kozo has reviews for Oxide Pang's entertaining mystery-thriller The Detective, the shitter Wong Jing comedy Beauty and the 7 Beasts, the independent film Breeze of July, the Taiwanese film The Most Distant Course, and the 80s action film Angel. From Sanjuro are reviews of Japanese sports drama Rough and the Japanese drama A Long Walk. From yours truly are reviews of the Japanese art film The Many Faces of Chika and the independent award-winning film This World of Ours. Expect an interview with the director on this blog soon.

- Variety Asia has a feature on the future of film investment in Asia, as many major film markets in the region have been seeing a downturn in the number of productions. Of course, it was eventually going to happen anyway after so many years of growth.

- With over 200 million yuan, Michael Bay's Transformers have become the second highest-grossing foreign film in China, just behind Titanic. I could say something about this, but I've run out of energy.

- World, meet Jeong Seung-Hye, one of Korea's most promising up-and-coming producers.

- Creepy news coming out of Belgium, it seems like a note was found near where severed body parks were found in a park that may be connected to the Death Note comics. I think the killer forgot the part where he's not supposed to do the murdering himself.