Sunday, January 30, 2011

Let The Bullets Fly Now China's Highest Earning Film

The comedy action film Let the Bullets Fly (让子弹飞) last week became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time. The previous holder of that record, Aftershock, the blockbuster drama about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake and its aftermath, had earned RMB647 million (about US$100 million). At last report, Let the Bullets Fly had surpassed it with RMB660 million. Other reports have the domestic box office record by Aftershock at RMB673 million, but as Let the Bullets Fly is still showing in cinemas, this figure too should be overtaken sometime during the Spring Festival holiday season.

Let the Bullets Fly is directed by Jiang Wen (姜文), who also stars in it alongside Chow Yun-Fat (周润发, pinyin: Zhōu Rùnfā) and Ge You (葛优). Produced by the State-run China Film Group, it was released in mid-December to favourable reviews and even stronger word of mouth. It has been variously described as an Eastern Western or Oriental Western, and mixes action, a bit of violence and plenty of laughs. This contrasts it with the previous box office kings Aftershock and The Founding of a Republic, whose worthy and uplifting subject matters would certainly have pleased the Chinese authorities. Some observers (the Screening China blog is just one example) have noted how Let the Bullets Fly pushes the boundaries with its satirical take on official corruption.

Despite its success Let the Bullets Fly still falls well short of the overall record for box office receipts in China. The US blockbuster Avatar, released earlier in 2010, holds that record with box office earnings of $US207 million (RMB1,362 million). Box office figures were taken from the Film Business Asia, The Hollywood Reporter and People's Daily websites.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jane Zhang Wins Her 5th Beijing Pop Music Awards

The 2010 Beijing Pop Music Awards, one of mainland China's major music awards, were announced on 17 January. Also known as the Sprite Music Awards, the ceremony honours artists from the mainland as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Jane Zhang (张靓颖, pinyin: Zhāng Liàngyǐng, pictured) wept tears of joy when she was named Best Mainland Female Artist for the fifth successive time. 26 year-old Zhang first achieved fame through her performances in the Super Girl TV singing contest back in 2005. In 2010 she released her fourth album, Believe in Jane, represented China at the Asia Song Festival, and was even named by Asia's Sexiest Vegetarian by PETA. Besides winnng the Best Female Artist prize she also won Album of the Year, and her song If This Is Love (如果这就是爱情) was one of the Annual Golden Songs.

Li Yuchun (李宇春), who won the Super Girl contest in 2005, was named Favourite Female Singer. She too collected multiple awards, winning Best Female Stage Performer and also with a song in the Annual Golden Songs list, Meet You at the Next Crossing (下个路口见) - making it three awards apiece for the great rivals.

In the male categories, Best Male Artist went to the 41 year old veteran Sun Nan (孙楠), winning the award for the seventh time. In a career spanning over 20 years Sun is best known for his love ballads belted out in his trademark powerful tenor. In an eventful 2010 he also won Best Singer at the MTV-CCTV Music Awards, but on a down note, found himself entangled in a messy child custody battle with his ex-wife. Favourite Male Artist was awarded to Jason Zhang (张杰, pinyin: Zhāng Jié), another graduate from TV singing contests.

Corresponding Hong Kong/Taiwan awards were also handed out. Favourite Female Singer went to Hong Kong's two-time Golden Melody winning singer-actress Karen Mok (莫文蔚, pinyin: Mò Wénwèi). Taiwanese singer-actress, René Liu (刘若英, pinyin: Liú Ruòyīng) was named Best Female Singer. It was a case of experience triumphing over youth, with both recipients now in the forties. Taiwan superstar Jay Chou (周杰伦, pinyin: Zhōu Jiélún) won Favourite Male Singer, while Best Male Singer was taken home by Rochester, NY-born, Taiwan-based Leehom Wang (王力宏, pinyin: Wáng Lìhóng).

In the groups awards, pop duo and perennial winners Yu Quan (羽泉) were named Best Mainland Group, while Singapore's teenage twins By2, won the Hong Kong/Taiwan category. Four-piece folk act Xiao Jun & the Valley Residents (小娟与山谷里的居民) were named Best Band.

Here's a list of the night's major winners:
Best Male Singer (Mainland): Sun Nan
Best Male Singer (Taiwan/Hong Kong): Leehom Wang
Best Female Singer (Mainland): Jane Zhang
Best Female Singer (Taiwan/Hong Kong): René Liu
Favourite Male Singer (Mainland): Jason Zhang
Favourite Male Singer (Taiwan/Hong Kong): Jay Chou
Favourite Female Singer (Mainland): Li Yuchun
Favourite Female Singer (Taiwan/Hong Kong): Karen Mok
Most Popular New Act: Li Wei (李炜)
Most Popular Group (Mainland): Yu Quan
Most Popular Group (Taiwan/Hong Kong): By2
Most Popular Band: Xiao Jun & the Valley Residents
Album of the Year (Mainland): Believe in Jane - Jane Zhang
Album of the Year (Taiwan/Hong Kong): Era - Jay Chou
Best EP: Green Surging - Chen Chusheng ( 陈楚生)
Best Singer-Songwriter (Mainland) - Chen Chusheng
Best Singer-Songwriter (Taiwan/Hong Kong) - JJ Lin (林俊杰)
Best Female Stage Performance: Li Yuchun
Best Male Stage Performance: Wallace Chung ( 钟汉良)
Chinese Music Outstanding Achievement Award (Mainland): Mao Amin ( 毛阿敏)
Chinese Music Outstanding Achievement Award (Taiwan/Hong Kong): Chyi Chin (齐秦)
Annual Media Recommendation Award (Mainland): Man Jiang (满江)
Annual Media Recommendation Award (Taiwan/Hong Kong): Hebe Tien (田馥甄)
Media Recommendation Rock Music Award: Xie Tianxiao (谢天笑)

Annual Golden Songs
'Love of the Hawthorn Tree' Theme Song (山楂花) - Chen Chusheng
If This Is Love (如果这就是爱情) - Jane Zhang
'Love of the Hawthorn Tree' Theme (山楂花) - Shilei Chang
Eastern Fountain (东泉) - Kiki Gema
23 Seconds, 32 Years (23秒,32年) - Shang Wenjie
It's Okay To Be Lonely (寂寞寂寞就好) - Hebe Tien
To My 15-Year Old Self (给十五岁的自己) - René Liu
Happy (痛快) - Sun Nan
Exercises (练习题) - Vivi Jiang
This Is Called Love (这叫爱) - By2
Meet You At The Next Crossing (下个路口见) - Li Yuchun
Honey - Yao Yao
This Is Love (这,就是爱) - Jason Zhang
Chinese Calligraphy (中国字画) - Ji Long
All Because Of Love (只因为爱) - Yao Beina
Fireworks Cool Easily (烟花易冷) - Jay Chou
Missing You (想念式) - Allen Su
Baby (宝贝) - Karen Mok
If There Is An Afterlife (如果有来生) - Tan Weiwei
No Time (没时间) - Milk@Coffee
The Me You See Is Blue (你看到的我是蓝色的) - Li Xiaoyun
Never Mind (没关系) - Kenji Wu
Back To Back (背对背拥抱) - JJ Lin
Left Side Wing (左半边翅膀) - Xu Fei
The Most Beautiful Time (最美的时光) - Man Jiang
Rock Star - MIC Nantuan
Flower Days (那些花开的日子) - Shui Mu Nian Hua
How Wonderful (多好啊)- Yu Quan, Tan Weiwei & Xiao Jun

The full list of award winners can be found here, but in Chinese.

Eight is Lucky for Wilber Pan

American-born singer and rapper Wilber Pan (潘玮柏, pinyin: Pān Wěibó) is the new number one position holder on Taiwan's G Music Album charts with his latest release, 808. It's his eighth studio album, and the number eight also holds special significance for him as he was born in August 1980. With over 26 percent of sales in the first week of its release, 808 was a clear number one for the week 14 to 20 January. According to Pan's record company Universal, the album holds the top spot on eight charts - there's that number 8 again.

First single from the album is called Most Wanted (全面通緝) which with its heavy use of synthesisers has a vaguely retro 80s feel to it. A second single has also been released, a slower tempo dance number called U U U. The album also contains We Are All Afraid of Pain (我们都怕痛), a standard Mandopop ballad. We Are All Afraid of Pain is the theme song from the TV drama Eternally Yours in which Pan co-stars with Sandrine Pinna.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Strong Chinese Representation Amongst Asian Film Award Nominees

Nominees for the 5th Annual Asian Film Awards were announced on 20 January, with a strong contingent of Chinese films and actors in the running. Two of the six nominees for Best Film are Chinese productions: the epic drama Aftershock (唐山大地震), and the new "Oriental Western comedy" Let the Bullets Fly (让子弹飞), a mainland-Hong Kong co-production. Both films' directors, Feng Xiaogang (冯小刚) and Jiang Wen (姜文) respectively, are up for Best Director. Let the Bullets Fly also leads the nomination tally along with the Japanese drama, Confessions, both with five nominations.

Let the Bullets Fly leads the Asian Film Awards nomination race

Three of the five Best Actor nominees are Chinese. Veteran Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat (周润发, pinyin: Zhōu Rùnfā) is nominated for his performance as a mobster in Let the Bullets Fly. Another veteran performer, Ge You (葛优), who co-starred with Chow in Let the Bullets Fly, earned a nomination for his role as a vengeful court physician in the newly released Chen Kaige historical epic, Sacrifice. The youngest of the nominees is 28 year-old Taiwanese actor Ethan Ruan (阮经天, pinyin: Ruǎn Jīngtiān) who played a gangster on the rise in Monga.

One of mainland China's most acclaimed actresses and wife of Aftershock director Feng Xiaogang, Xu Fan (徐帆) is up for Best Actress for her emotional portrayal in her husband's film. Also nominated is the Malaysian-born but Hong Kong raised Michelle Yeoh (杨紫琼, pinyin: Yáng Zǐqióng). The 48 year-old, best-known for her martial arts roles, was nominated for her performance as an assassin in John Woo's wuxia film Reign of Assassins.

In the Best Supporting Actor category Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明) gets his second nomination in a row. Last year he was nominated for the espionage thriller The Message, and this year for Sacrifice. Sammo Hung (洪金宝, pinyin: Hóng Jīnbǎo), another Hong Kong martial arts veteran, was nominated for Ip Man 2. The 59 year old, who began his career as a child actor in the early sixties, was also action director in the martial arts bioflic.

Only one Chinese actor was amongst the Best Supporting Actress nominees, but veteran Carina Lau (刘嘉玲, pinyin: Liú Jiālíng) is one of the early favourites. The Hong Kong star is nominated for Let the Bullets Fly in which she played a governor's mercenary wife.

The Asian Film Awards also awards a Best Newcomer prize. Nominees this year include rising Taiwanese actor Mark Chao (赵又廷, pinyin: Zhào Yòutíng) who made a big impression in the gangster film Monga. 23 year old Hong Kong singer, Aarif Lee (李治廷, pinyin: Lǐ Zhìtíng) was also nominated for the family drama Echoes of the Rainbow, a film in which he has already been awarded Best New Performer at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Zhou Dongyu (周冬雨), an unknown with no professional acting experience before chosen by Zhang Yimou to star in The Love of the Hawthorn Tree, also earned a nomination for her performance.

The Asian Film Awards are organised by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, and the winners will be announced on March 21. The full list of nominees can be found at the Society's website.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Joey Yung Wins Record 6th JSG Best Singer Award

On 14 January the last of the big four Hong Kong music awards were held, the Jade Solid Gold Best Ten Music Awards Presentation for 2010. Joey Yung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér) won five awards on the night, including her sixth Most Popular Female Singer title. This breaks the previous record of five she had held with the late Anita Mui. Her other awards were Most Popular Commercial Song (绿野仙踪, Wizard of Oz), Most Popular Mandarin Song (信今生爱过, Believe I Loved This Life), as well as a song in the Top Ten Song Awards (破相, Disfigured).

Also in the female category, Miriam Yeung (杨千嬅, pinyin: Yáng Qiānhuà) won the consolation prize of Asia Pacific Most Popular Female Hong Kong Singer. The results were a direct reversal of last year’s, where Yeung won Most Popular Singer and Yung was awarded the Asia Pacific Hong Kong Singer award.

The Most Popular Male Singer award went to Leo Ku (古巨基, pinyin: Gǔ Jùjī), edging out last year’s winner Raymond Lam (林峯 Lin Feng). Again, it was a reversal of last year’s results with Lam picking up the Asia Pacific Most Popular Male Hong Kong Singer award that had been won by Ku in 2009. The results lend credence to the cynical theory that the awards are less about merit and are decided more so as to ensure awards are distributed evenly amongst participating record companies’ lineup of stars.

The Jade Solid Gold Awards were once arguably the most prestigious of Hong Kong’s music awards, but have been tarnished in recent years, and not just by the sometimes quite public negotiating that goes on between record companies and organisers on who gets what award. For the second year in a row, the awards were boycotted by the Big Four record companies – Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI. This explains the absence of the “Awards King” himself, Eason Chan, from any of the prizes. The reasons for the boycott were outlined in my blog post on last year’s awards.

Most Popular Group was awarded to RubberBand, helped by the absence of their main rivals because of the boycott. Janice Vidal (卫兰, pinyin: Wèi Lán) and JW won the Gold Song Gold Award with What Do Men Believe? (男人信什麽). JW was also named Most Popular Newcomer.

The Top Ten Songs were:
Ivana Wong - Song Bird (开笼雀)
Leo Ku - Theme from "No Regrets" 义海豪情
Miriam Yeung - 斗零踭
Raymond Lam - Until You Can No Longer Find Me 直到你找不到我
Andy Hui - Golden Mask (金钟罩)
Joey Yung - Disfigured 《破相》
Janice Vidal & JW - What Do Men Believe? (男人信什麽)
Justin Lo - Love Habit (爱的习惯)
Stephanie Cheng - K歌之后
Charlene Choi - Able To Let Go (放得低)

A full list of award winners can be found here at Kay's Entertainment blog.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lotus Wang Resumes the No. 1 Position on G Music Charts

Lotus Wang (王彩桦, pinyin: Wáng Cǎihuà) returned to the top of the G Music album charts with her record, 有唱有保庇 (untranslatable into English, so just called BoBee). The album had almost 20 percent of sales for the week 7 to 13 January, marking it’s second time in the top position (it was also number one three weeks ago).

The Taiwanese entertainer is an unlikely pop success story. It comes after 25 years in show business, where she started out singing in dance halls and hotels before moving on to TV hosting and acting. Then last year, at the age of 41 years, she decided to record an album, which must make her one of the oldest artists to release a debut pop record. 2010 turned out to be a year of new beginnings for Wang – she also published her first book in July.

Wang's initial plan was to release a cover of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, but copyright restrictions put paid to that idea. Instead she looked closer to home and Korean girl group T ara, covering their catchy dance tune Bo Peep Bo Peep. Wang’s Taiwanese version, the title track of her album, has proved to be just as infectious as the original. A barrage of promotional appearances in the last month or so helped propel Bobee, with its mix of Taiwanese and Mandarin language songs, to the top position on the music sales chart.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gallants Wins HK Film Critics Best Film Award

The Hong Kong Film Critics Society held their 17th Annual Awards on January 10 and awarded the surprise packet film of 2010, Gallants (打擂台), the Best Film Award. The kung fu comedy starring a bunch of 65 year old veterans has outshone bigger budgeted and better promoted movies to be a hit with critics and the public alike.

Gallants plays tribute to the kung fu flicks of the 60s and 70s but updates its storyline in a modern setting. It was made by two relatively inexperienced directors, Derek Kwok and Clement Chong, but backed by two big name actors, Andy Lau and Gordon Lam. The Hong Kong Critics also named their 2010 Top Five films. Joining Gallants were Love in a Puff, Crossing Hennessy, La comédie humaine and The Stool Pigeon.

One of the stars of Gallants, Teddy Robin Kwan (泰迪罗宾, pinyin: Tàidí Luóbīn) was named Best Actor. Best-known as a singer-songwriter whose career was at its greatest heights in the 60s with his band Teddy Robin and the Playboys. He then moved on to film composing, winning a Golden Horse Award in 1982. He has also acted in several movies, usually in supporting roles. Nick Cheung (playing a detective in The Stool Pigeon) and Chapman To for his comic turn as a movie-loving hitman in La comédie humaine, were both short-listed for the award.

In the Best Actress category Cantopop singer and comic actor Miriam Yeung (杨千嬅, pinyin: Yáng Qiānhuà) finally broke through for her first acting award in a career that has spanned 15 years. While she has picked up awards for her singing, she has been previously overlooked for her screen performances. A comedy specialist, the 35 year old won for her performance as a cynical wedding planner in the romantic comedy The Perfect Wedding. Yeung beat mainland actress Tang Wei starring in another romcom, Crossing Hennessy, and rising Taiwanese star Guey Lun-Mei (The Stool Pigeon).

A list of winners can be found at this Wikipedia entry.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Eason Chan Wins 17 Awards in 10 Days

RTHK, Hong Kong’s public broadcasting company, announced its 33rd annual awards on January 6. The big winner at what is Hong Kong’s longest-running music awards show, was Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yìxùn). He won seven awards, which now brings his tally from the three major Hong Kong music awards held so far to 17 trophies. (The other two are the Metro Awards, announced on December 29, and the Chik Chak Ultimate Song Awards on January 1. The fourth major awards ceremony, the Jade Solid Gold Awards, will be held later this month).

Eason Chan’s awards included Most Outstanding Male Singer, Highest Selling Male Singer, and Most Honoured Gold Song of the Year (Tourbillon). In the Media Recommendation awards he won Male Singer of the Year and Song of the Year. Such has been the 36 year old’s dominance of the Hong Kong music scene over the past few years, that the media have dubbed him the Awards King (奖王).

In the Female category, honours were shared between Joey Yung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér), who won Most Outstanding Female singer, and Sammi Cheng (郑秀文, pinyin: Zhèng Xìuwén). 38 year old Cheng, one of Hong Kong’s richest celebrities, was named Highest Selling Female Singer and won the Media Recommendation Female Singer of the Year. The singer-actress is in phase two of the career, after a brief retirement between 2005 and 2007. The RTHK awards are her first since she won Highest Selling Female Singer back in 2002. Both singers had songs in the Top Ten Golden Songs: Sammi Cheng with Do Not Disturb Love, and Joey Yung with Disfigured. Yung in fact continues her remarkable run of having a song in the RTHK Top Ten every year since 2000.

Rock band Mr. were named Highest Selling Group, while Taiwanese six-piece indie band Sodagreen (苏打绿, pinyin: Sūdá lǜ) were named Best National (as distinct from Local) Group. RubberBand, who had won the group prize at the Clik Clak Awards, were named Most Improved Singers, while another indie group, the Hong Kong duo Sugar Club (糖兄妹, pinyin: Táng Xiōng Mèi) were awarded gold in the Best Newcomer category.

The list of RTHK Top Ten Golden Songs is as follows:
1. Tourbillon (陀飞轮) – Eason Chan
2. Love Habit (爱的习惯) – Justin Lo
3. Disfigured (破相) – Joey Yung
4. Sinner (罪人) – Hacken Lee
5. Space Elevator (天梯) – C All Star
6. Era (时代) – Leo Ku
7. The Overcast After Rain (雨过天阴) – Kay Tse
8. Do Not Disturb Love (不要惊动爱情) – Sammi Cheng
9. Test Love With Body (收身试爱) – Jade Kwan
10. Get Over You – G.E.M

RTHK’s prestigious Golden Needle, a lifetime achievement award, was given to the Taiwan-born, Canadian-raised and Hong Kong-based Sally Yeh (叶蒨文, pinyin: Yè Qiànwén). During the 80s and 90s Yeh was one of Cantopop’s biggest stars, and from 1990 to 1993 won a record four consecutive Most Popular Female Singer prizes at the Jade Solid Gold awards. She also won Best Female Artist at Taiwan’s Golden Melody awards in 1994. Yeh retired from the entertainment industry in the mid-1990s, but made a well-received comeback in 2002. She has also had a moderately successful acting career.

The full list of award winners can be found here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fan Bingbing heads the list of China’s Young, Rich and Famous

The Chinese entertainment web portal,, has calculated the 2010 earnings of entertainment stars under the age of 30. It then came up with a top 10 of Young Rich and Famous Chinese Celebrities (English translation at this Asian Fanatics post). The list is dominated by singers, who filled eight of the ten places. Five of the celebrities are Taiwanese, three are from mainland China, and just two are from Hong Kong – another symptom perhaps of the current poor health of the Hong Kong entertainment industry. Eight of the ten are women.

At the top of the list by a clear margin is mainland actress Fan Bingbing (范冰冰 - pictured above right), with an estimated income in 2010 of 62.5 million yuan (US$9.5 million). Although as an actress she is in demand as a box office drawcard, and she endorses a string of products, her earnings would also have been helped by her business dealings. The 29 year old has built a reputation as a wily businesswoman through her involvement in her own production company.

The three singers that make up Taiwanese girl group S.H.E occupy positions 2, 3 and 5 on the list. At number 2 is Selina Jen (任家萱, pinyin: Rèn Jiāxuān) with earnings of 43.5 million yuan (US$6.6 million) in 2010, in what was otherwise an annus horribilis for her. In October she suffered shocking injuries in an on-set accident while filming a new movie, I Have a Date with Spring. Three months later the 29 year old still remains in hospital with third-degree burns to over 50 percent of her body and her career in limbo.

The other two members of the group, Hebe Tien (田馥甄, pinyin: Tián Fūzhēn) and Ella Chen (陈嘉桦, pinyin: Chén Jiāhuà), earned 41 million yuan and 36 million yuan respectively. At number 4 is mainland singer Jane Zhang (张靓颖 Zhang Liangying), a former runner-up in the Chinese version of American Idol, Super Girls. In 2010 she earned 38 million yuan.

The highest ranked Hong Kong celebrity is Charlene Choi (蔡卓妍, pinyin - Cài Zhuóyán), one half of the singing duo Twins. The rankings probably underestimated her income as it doesn’t include earnings from her recordings. Almost half her 35.5 million yuan was earned through endorsements, with film earnings providing almost a third and the rest from concert ticket sales. Pop star Rainie Yang (杨丞琳, pinyin: Yáng Chénglín), Taiwan’s unofficial “Cute Princess” and official “Queen of Endorsements”, was ranked number 7.

Hong Kong-based singer Khalil Fong (方大同, pinyin: Fāng Dàtóng ) was the highest ranked male celebrity on the list at number 8. The Hawaiian-born R&B singer earned 26.85 million yuan in 2010. Jam Hsiao (萧敬腾 pinyin: Xiāo Jìngténg), at just 23 years old was the youngest in the top ten. Another graduate from a TV talent show, Taiwan’s One Million Star, the rising idol earned 26.85 million yuan in 2010. Rounding off the top ten is mainland actor Sun Li (孙俪), best-known for her television roles.

1. Fan Bingbing - 29yo Mainland actress - 62.5 million yuan (US$9.5 million)
2. Selina Jen - 29yo Taiwan singer - 43.5 million yuan (US$6.6 million)
3. Hebe Tien - 27 yo Taiwan singer - 41 million yuan (US$6.2 million)
4. Jane Zhang - 26yo Mainland singer - 38 million yuan (US$5.75 million)
5. Ella Chen - 29yo Taiwan singer - 36 million yuan (US$5.45 million)
6. Charlene Choi - 28yo Hong Kong singer - 35.5 million yuan (US$5.35 million)
7. Rainie Yang - 26yo Taiwan singer - 29.4 million yuan (US$4.45 million)
8. Khalil Fong - 27yo Hong Kong singer - 28.8 million yuan (US$4.35 million)
9. Jam Hsiao - 23yo Taiwan singer - 26.85 million yuan (US4.05 million)
10. Sun Li - 28yo Mainland actress - 26 million ($US3.9 million)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Transformed Angie Lee Has G Music's First No 1 Album for 2011

The weekly G Music charts, which measure album sales in Taiwan, show that the first number one album of 2011 goes to the relatively obscure Angie Lee (李爱绮, pinyin: Lǐ Aiqǐ). Her album, No.100 Love Road (恋爱路100号) had 17.84 percent of album sales for the week 31 December to 6 January.

The album is actually her 18th CD (she released her first album way back in 1988 when she was just 12 years old). But up until now the pint-sized singer has had a low profile and is little known outside Taiwan. The new album marks a transformation for the singer. She has changed her name, from her stage name of 李嘉 (Lǐ Jiā) to her birth name, 李爱绮. As part of her makeover she has engaged Jolin's hairstylist, and reportedly had some plastic surgery done. She then displayed the new, improved Angie Lee for all to see in a raunchy music video and bared all in a provocative photoshoot. No doubt that, plus all the promotional weight of a major record label (Warner) behind her, played a part in the strong sales for the album, released on Christmas Eve.

Several big name Taiwanese producers and song-writers have helped out on No.100 Love Road's production. The album, with 10 tracks in all, showcases a variety of musical styles ranging from rock and pop to folk, funk and a bit of hip hop. Several of the songs are sung in the native Taiwanese language, and the rest in Mandarin.

No.100 Love Road just edged out the new release of hip hop bad boy, Edison Chen (陈冠希, pinyin: Chén Guānxī). Chen's album, CONFUSION, his first since the scandal that interrupted his career in 2008 (this post provides some background), retains its position at number 2 on the G Music chart with 15.13 percent of sales.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chik Chak Ultimate Song Awards Presentation

This blog has recently returned from a six-month break, and it seems nothing has changed in the Hong Kong entertainment scene. While TVB recycles hit television series (see my previous post on 2010’s top rating shows), the same singers continue to dominate Hong Kong’s pop music awards shows.

Joey Yung celebrates - but mind you don't take an eye out with that!

Chik Chak 903 radio station held its Ultimate Song Awards Presentation 2010 on New Year’s Day, and the role of honour was almost identical to 2009’s list of winners. Joey Yung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér) was named Best Female Singer again, collecting the award for a record sixth time. And just like last year, she was toppled by actress/singer Miriam Yeung (杨千嬅, pinyin: Yáng Qiānhuà) in the Favourite Female Singer category. Both singers were also represented on Chik Chak’s Top Ten Songs of 2010: Joey Yung was at number 4 with Peach Blossom Adventure, and Miriam Yeung had the number 10 song, I Am I.

Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yìxùn) continues to dominate the male section of Hong Kong singing awards. He repeated his success in 2009 to be named Best Male singer, and took home a total of five awards. He was also named Favourite Male Singer, had Album of the Year (Time Flies, 时日如飞) and Favourite Song (Tourbillon). Tourbillon was also on the list of Chik Chak’s Top Ten Songs.

There was a slight changing of the guard in the Groups category. Hip hop duo FAMA (农夫, pinyin: Nóng Fū) edged out last year’s winners RubberBand for the Best Group award, while RubberBand had to settle for Favourite Group award. RubberBand also had the number 1 song on the Chik Chak Top 10 with SimpleLoveSong. The 2009 winner of Favourite Group, Mr., didn’t go home empty-handed. Their song Black and White Fanatic was ranked number 2 in the Top 10 songs.

The Top 10 Songs of 2010 were:
1. RubberBand - Simple Love Song
2. Mr. - Black & White Fanatic (黑色狂迷)
3. Kay Tse - Fragile (脆弱)
4. Joey Yung - Peach Blossom Adventure (桃色冒险)
5. Eason Chan - Tourbillon (陀飞轮)
6. Pakho Chau - Homeless Prince (乞丐王子)
7. Endy Chow - Sometimes (有时)
8. Leo Ku - Era (时代)
9. Andy Hui - Forget Cannot Forget (忘了 忘不了)
10. Miriam Yeung - I Am I (我係我)

A full list of winners can be found here at the Kay's Entertainment site.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

TVB's Most Watched TV series in 2010: Can't Buy Me Love

2010's top ten most watched TV series on Hong Kong's number one network, TVB, were released at the end of December. In a year in which there were no real stand-out series, the historical romantic comedy Can't Buy Me Love (公主嫁到) just edged out No Regrets (巾帼枭雄之义海豪情) for the number one spot.

Hong Kong viewers TV might well be forgiven if last year they experienced an overwhelming feeling of deja vu. Can't Buy Me Love was very similar to the number one show of 2009, Beyond the Realm of Conscience - same historical period, and featuring many of the same cast members, just with more laughs and less dramatic moments than the 2009 show. And No Regret was the spin-off series from 2009's number 2 ranked show, Rosy Business, again with both shows starring much the same cast members.

Can't Buy Me Love is set in the Tang Dynasty and contains several tried and true elements familiar to Hong Kong TV series. There are lavish costumes and sets, bickering couples, a plotline involving the ups and downs of a family business, some palace intrigue, and an evil female villain. It stars Charmaine Sheh (佘诗曼, pinyin: Shé Shīmàn), Moses Chan (陈豪, pinyin: Chén Háo), Louis Yuen (阮兆祥, pinyin: Ruǎn Zhàoxiáng), Susanna Kwan (关菊英, pinyin: Guān Júyīng), and a host of other stars from the TVB stables. The series ran for 31 episodes from August to October, and had an average rating of 34 points, equivalent to 2,150,000 viewers). It peaked at 45 points in the final episode of the series.

Last month it won Best Drama series at the 2010 TVB Anniversary Awards. However its stars missed out on the acting awards, although Charmaine Sheh picked up the My Favourite Female Character award for her portrayal of Princess Chiu Yeung. Instead the acting awards were swept by the cast of No Regrets. Wayne Lai (黎耀祥: Lí Yàoxiáng) and Sheren Tang (邓萃雯, pinyin: Dèng Cuìwén) repeated their 2009 success with Rosy Business - that deja vu feeling again - to win Best Actor and Actress. Evergreen Mak (麦长青, pinyin: Mài Chángqīng) and Fala Chen (陈法拉, pinyin: Chén Fǎlā) were named Best Supporting Actor and Actress respectively.

No Regrets is set in 1930s Guangdong on the eve of the Japanese occupation of the city. The series combined elements of a war drama and police/triad thriller, and averaged 33 points (2,110,000 viewers) over the course of its 31 episodes. The show's final episode peaked at 47 points or 3 million viewers, making it the most watched TVB episode of the year.

The full top 10 TVB series in 2010 are (courtesy of the Hyn5@FortunateCity blog):
1. Can't Buy Me Love, 34 points (2,150,000 viewers)
2. No Regrets, 33 points (2,110,000 viewers)
3. The Mysteries of Love, 32 points (2,040,000 viewers)
4. A Pillow Case of Mystery II, 31 points (1,990,000 viewers)
5. A Watchdog's Tale, 31 points (1,970,000 viewers)
6. When Lanes Merge, 31 points (1,960,000 viewers)
7. Every Move You Make, 31 points (1,950,000 viewers)
8. Gun Metal Grey, 30 points (1,920,000 viewers)
9. Ghost Writer, 30 points (1,910,000 viewers)
10. A Fistful of Stances, 29 points (1,820,000 viewers)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Xinhua's Top 10 Female Cover Stars

The Xinhua website has nominated its Top Ten Cover Female Stars of 2010, based on appearances on the covers of the Chinese editions of leading fashion magazines. It can be taken as a measure of a star’s popularity, and provides an overview of who's currently considered the most glamorous/stylish/photogenic in the Chinese entertainment industry.

Nine of the ten stars are actors, the other a singer. Reflecting the growing dominance of the Chinese mainland in entertainment, eight of the ten are mainland stars, one was born on the mainland before moving to Hong Kong as a teenager, and the other is from Taiwan.

Zhou Xun - Queen of the Cover Girls

Zhou Xun
The 34 year old actress, who CNN once dubbed “China’s Queen of Quirk” was red hot in 2009, winning Best Actress awards at the Golden Roosters and Asian Film Awards. In 2010 she appeared in two films, the historical biopic Confucious and Hong Kong martial arts movie True Legend, neither of which had much of an impact at the box office. This year she’s set to star alongside several other leading Chinese actresses in another historical epic, about the famous Yang Lady Generals. A well-known story from Chinese history, about a group of Song Dynasty women who set out to avenge their husbands killed on the battlefield.

Zhao Wei (赵薇)
Despite her likeable screen persona and comic gifts, the 34 year old Zhao Wei has had an often bumpy relationship with the Chinese public. She took a break from filming in 2010 as she became a mother for the first time. As well as celebrating motherhood she was awarded Best Actress at both the Shanghai Film Critics Awards and One Hundred Flowers Awards for her performance in Mulan. Also in 2010 her most recent film, 14 Blades, was released, although to lukewarm reviews. Her next film will be the time-travelling romantic drama, Underground Resistance.

Li Bingbing (李冰冰)
A year ago the 34 year old Li Bingbing topped a successful 2009 with the Best Actress Award for The Message at Taiwan’s prestigious Golden Horse Awards. She had another hit movie in 2010 with the action mystery Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, but bombed out with the Hong Kong thriller Triple Tap. This year she will star for the first time in an English language film, Wayne Wang’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Will it be the breakout movie that turns her into an international star?

Zhang Ziyi (章子怡)
2010 was a quiet year filmwise for the 31 year old, though she still featured prominently in the news headlines. Early in the year she was embroiled in controversy over claims she failed to donate all the money she had pledged to Sichuan earthquake relief efforts. She later apologised and made up the shortfall, which was blamed on an error by her brokers. And the year ended with an announcement that her engagement with billionaire Vivi Nevo was over. On the positive side, she was named CineAsia’s Actress of the Decade at a Hong Kong industry trade fair. This year she will appear in Wong Kar-Wai’s latest film, a martial arts epic called The Grandmasters, as well as an English-language version of Mulan.

Fan Bingbing (范冰冰)
The in-demand actress (12 films plus 1 TV series completed or in the pipeline in the three year period 2009-11) is the youngest of the ten stars at 29 years old. She recently won Best Actress at the Tokyo Film Festival for Buddha Mountain, and will also star in the much anticipated martial arts blockbuster, Shaolin, alongside Andy Lau and Jacky Chan, as well as the new Chen Kaige historical drama, Sacrifice. She was just recently named at number one in a list of young rich and famous Chinese celebrities (link here, but in Chinese). More awards could soon be on the way.

Wang Fei (王菲)
41 year old Beijing born but Hong Kong raised Wang Fei is the only non-actor on the list. The iconic pop diva famous for her other-worldly voice and haunting ballads came out of semi-retirement in 2010. She appeared at the Spring Festival Gala performance, a Chinese New Year tradition that attracts hundreds of millions of viewers every year. She also sang the theme song for the Confucious soundtrack, and embarked on a sell-out concert tour in Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong.

Tang Wei (汤唯)
Another comeback queen of sorts, 31 year old Tang Wei achieved notoriety back in 2007 with the film Lust, Caution. In the film she bared all for some explicit sex scenes, then fell foul of conservative sections of the Chinese government and media. She found herself unofficially blacklisted and disappeared from the spotlight. Her penance apparently served, she returned to the screen in 2009 with the romantic comedy Crossing Hennessy, a role which earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Golden Horse Awards. In 2010 she starred alongside Korean star Hyun Bin in the US production Late Autumn, a love story between two immigrants in America. Her rehabilitation now complete, she will star alongside other big-name Chinese actresses in the upcoming Yang Lady Generals movie.

Shu Qi (舒淇)
The 34 year-old Taiwanese actress has made one of cinema’s most remarkable transformations, from soft-corn porn starlet to critically acclaimed mainstream leading lady. Her latest film, the romantic comedy If You Are The One 2, is vying with Aftershock and Let the Bullets Fly for the honour of China’s biggest grossing film of all time. Last year she was also nominated for a Best Actress award at the Hong Kong Film Awards for another rom-com, Look For A Star. On a less successful note, she also appeared in the heavily panned City Under Siege, and the lukewarmly-received martial arts actioner Legend of the Fist.

Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾)
Actress, director and blogger (she writes one of the world’s most visited blogs according to Technocrati), the 38 year old is known for her acting versatility. In 2010 she directed and starred in the romantic comedy Go Lala Go, which she also adapted from a best-selling novel. She’ll next appear in Eternal Moment, a romantic drama that will be released, fittingly, on Valentine’s Day. It’s the sequel to a 1998 TV drama series, Cherish Our Love Forever, the show that gave Xu her first break. Other original cast members will also return for the sequel.

Zhang Jingchu (张静初)
The 30 year old Fujian-born actress has long been touted as a candidate for superstardom, though her preference for roles in arthouse productions ahead of blockbusters has hindered her progress. She has appeared in more populist fare of late, including the biggest movie of 2010, Aftershock. Her shift to the mainstream wasn’t all smooth sailing however - she also starred in two shockers, Flirting Scholar 2 and City Under Siege.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Film Recommendations, from China Daily

After a lengthy six-month break I've decided to resume the blog, although no promises will be made that posts will appear regularly. Much as I'd love to spend hours and hours surfing the net to bring you news and information on Chinese entertainment, unfortunately things like work and family commitments too often intrude.

We'll start 2011 with a list, as it's that time of year when newspapers and magazines compile their various Top 10s and Top 5s for the year just passed. China Daily, the PRC Government's English-language newspaper, has published its Top Ten movies from 2010. In first place is the new action comedy set in the 1920s, Let The Bullets Fly (让子弹飞) - more on this film in the next couple of weeks, as it's on target to surpass Aftershock as mainland China's biggest grossing Chinese film ever.

At number two was the Taiwanese gangster movie, Monga (艋舺), directed by Doze Niu - just his second feature film - and starring two rising idols, Ethan Ruan and Mark Chao. The film was both a critical and commercial hit in a country not previously known for its gangster movies. Number three was the gritty Hong Kong family drama, Echoes of the Rainbow (岁月神偷). The Alex Law directed film won Best Actor (Simon Yam) and Best Newcomer (singer Aarif Lee) at the Hong Kong Film Awards, while the film's other star, Sandra Ng, was nominated for Best Actress.

An obscure mainland arthouse film, Deep in the Clouds, (碧罗雪山) with a cast of non-professional actors, was ranked fourth, while at number five is China's current biggest grossing locally-made film, Aftershock (唐山大地震). Aftershock begins with the disastrous Tangshan earthquake of 1976 then follows the fortunes of some of the quake's survivors. The film's climax is provided by China's second recent major earthquake, the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

The full Top Ten list is:
1. Let the Bullets Fly (China)
2. Monga (Taiwan)
3. Echoes of the Rainbow (Hong Kong)
4. Deep in the Clouds (China)
5. Aftershock (China)
6. Lost on Journey (人在囧途 - China)
7. Vegetate (我是植物人 - China)
8. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (狄仁杰之通天帝国 - Hong Kong)
9. The War of Internet Addiction (网瘾战争 - China)
10. Love in a Puff (志明与春娇 - Hong Kong)
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