Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Super Junior-M (the M is for Mandarin) were created, or manufactured might be the better word, last year to cash in on Super Junior's popularity in the Chinese-speaking world. The band has seven members, made up of five original Super Junior members including the group's only Chinese member Han Geng. Another two newcomers were then added to the mix: a Chinese-Canadian who goes by the name of Henry, and Wuhan-born Zhou Mi.
Super Junior-M's debut album titled Me (迷) featured mainly covers of Super Junior's Korean hits but sung in Mandarin. The musical arrangements were also tailored to suit Chinese audiences. The result: a kind of hybrid K-Pop "with Chinese characteristics". The new mini-album Super Girl in contrast contains some original material, though the title track and first single was written by the same man who composed the similar-sounding Sorry Sorry, Super Junior's latest hit.
Super Junior the original are part of a recent fad for boy (and girl) bands the size of football teams - Super Junior for example has 13 members. And like a musical amoeba, the group has regularly subdivided to fill particular niche markets. Super Junior has sporned at least four sub-groups: as well as Super Junior-M there's Super Junior-K.R.Y (which specialises in slow, sorrowful ballads), Super Junior-T (T standing for "trot music", a style of dance music dating back to the 1930s), and Super Junior-Happy whose music style is, well, happy. Super Junior-T recently morphed into Super Junior-T X Moeyan, joining forces with a Japanese girl act in an attempt to conquer the Japanese market.
Super Junior itself is a carefully planned and manufactured product, just one in a long line of pop groups created by the Korean record company and talent agency, SM Entertainment. The group were unleashed on the Korean public after massive fanfare and publicity back in 2005. Members are known for their versatility: as well as singing, they are expected to be dancers, actors and presenters. Of course good looks are also an essential selection criteria.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The box office figures were provided earlier this month by Hong Kong's Motion Picture Industry Association. Although the list of films was dominated by Hollywood blockbusters like Transformers 2 and the latest Harry Potter, which were the number 1 and number 2 grossing films of the summer respectively, four Hong Kong-produced films managed to make the top ten. The other two were Murderer, a thriller starring Aaron Kwok which grossed HK$11.7 million, and the period comedy On His Majesty's Secret Service ($HK8.8 million).
Overhead, written and directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, stars the versatile Lau Ching-Wan - last seen in Mad Detective - as well as Louise Koo and Danny Wu, and is about a surveillance operation investigating insider trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The film also features Mainland actress Zhang Jingchu (张静初).
Turning Point marks the return to movie-making after a lengthy absence of the legendary Shaw Brothers studio - 22 years away from film-making according to some reports such as this Hollywood Reporter article, though Shaw Brothers were listed as producers for Drunken Monkey (2002), so in fact only a seven-year absence. The film is a prequel to this year's hit TVB series E.U (see my earlier blog article), and cashes in on the popularity of the supporting character "Laughing Gor" played by Michael Tse. It also stars prominent Hong Kong acting identities Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang and Francis Ng. Direction is by prolific Hong Kong movie-maker Herman Yau.
Despite the good box office returns, are the films actually any good? My favourite source for Hong Kong film reviews, Love HK Film.com, gives both Overheard and Turning Point positive reviews albeit with some reservations.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
You're Hired has a business setting and stars Dayo Wong (黃子華, pinyin: Huáng Zǐhuá) as an unorthodox entrepreneur who sets himself up as a "business doctor". His path crosses that of the daughter of one of his clients, played by Charmaine Sheh (佘诗曼, pinyin: Shé Shīmàn) in possibly her first comedy role. Sheh's character develops an immediate distrust of him but, as is the way of all good romantic comedies, the bickering pair eventually fall in love.
Dayo Wong is best known as a stand-up comic and has been a fixture of the Hong Kong entertainment industry for over two decades. Sometimes very funny, sometimes annoying, the 49 year-old has appeared in dozens of movies, many of them forgettable. His TV career has been more successful, especially the hit series War of Genders (2000) and Men Don't Cry in 2007. The latter series gained him the Best Actor prize at the TVB Anniversary Awards. He also has an on on-again, off-again singing career, and in fact sings You're Hired's theme song.
Charmaine Sheh got her start in showbusiness when she was a Runner Up at the Miss Hong Kong pageant in 1997. Over a ten-year acting career she has developed into a respected actress, culminating in a TVB Anniversary Awards Best Actress prize for her performance in Maidens' Vow (2006).
As well as the two leads, You're Hired features Michael Tse who is already enjoying one of his best years in 2009 after his popular performance in E.U, and another former Miss Hong Kong Runner Up, Theresa Lee.
Monday, September 14, 2009
The album returns to the top spot - it also held that position last month (see this earlier post). Clearly many people are buying the album as a gesture of support for the victims of the recent typhoon in Taiwan. Album sale proceeds will go to help reconstruction efforts in the affected areas. Various benefit concerts by singers connected with the New Family of Artists are also helping boost sales.
Also notable in this week's charts - Jolin and Butterfly are STILL in the top ten. The album has now being charting a phenomenal 24 weeks- that's almost 6 months. Clearly when the 2009 music awards circuit starts up Jolin is going to be very hard to beat.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Billed as the largest talent competition in the world, Super Girls 2009 had its grand finale last Friday evening. In a three-way play-off, 21 year old Sichuan native, Jiang Yingrong (江映蓉), was crowned the winner, beating second-place getter Li Xiaoyun (李霄云), while sentimental favourite, Huang Ying (黃英), finished third.
Jiang Yingrong won despite being well behind some of the other contestants in the public polls on the Baidu and QQ web portals. Although Jiang failed to gain the enthusiastic public followings of singers like Zeng Yike and Sara Liu, she won over the judges with her more accomplished and versatile performances.
The final night required each of the singers to perform six songs. Huang Ying was the first to be eliminated, despite her unique high-pitched voice and a heartwarming background story of an impoverished upbringing. The original field of tens of thousands of contest hopefuls had been reduced to just two standing. Li Xiaoyun, who composes some of her own songs and is fluent in English, had a big following amongst teenage girls. But in the end her less than perfect vocal skills swung the balance in Jiang Yingrong's favour. Wikipedia of all places has some pretty thorough tables showing the voting process for this year's competition.
Super Girls 2009 was, predictably, a big ratings success for Hunan TV. No doubt the most popular contestants, all of whom are signed to EE Media - a branch of Hunan TV - will generate lucrative record sales. However, like the earlier seasons, not everyone approves of the concept. One National Congress politician infamously denounced the earlier series for "contaminating our youth" while other critics compared it to Western junk food.
Another criticism was that the democratic process was more of a popularity contest than a fair reward of the most talented singers. Perhaps as a result, this season the public voting component was dramatically scaled back and viewers could no longer text their votes. The only concession to a public vote was a panel of audience members who cast votes along with the judges and industry executives. Of course another factor may have been the concern that if people get the idea they can vote for singers they like, who knows - they might want to apply it to politics too!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
This year saw the introduction of three new categories, honouring the contribution of non-Mainland artists to the Chinese movie scene. The inaugural Best Overseas Actor award went to Hong Kong's Donnie Yen for his performance as kung fu legend Ip Man in the movie of the same name. Taiwan's Shu Qi completed her transformation from Category III eye-candy to respected actress. Her portrayal of the troubled romantic lead in the comedy If You Are The One won her Best Overseas Actress. Best Overseas Director went to John Woo for the historical epics Red Cliff Parts 1 and 2.
The full list of the ten Excellent Films, a few of which are unlikely to see the light of day outside mainland China, are:
Iron Man (铁人) - not the Robert Downey Jnr blockbuster but a biopic of model oil-field worker and socialist hero Wang Jinxi
Women in War - Six Sisters of Yimeng Mountains (战争中的女人-沂蒙六姐妹)
Forever Enthralled ( 梅兰芳)
The River (大河)
Yuan Longping (袁隆平)
My Left Hand (我的左手)
The First of August (八月一日)
College Entrance Examination 1977 (高考1977)