With MOON So-ri at Asia Society NY

With MOON So-ri at Asia Society NY
With MOON So-ri at Asia Society NY

Thursday, July 31, 2014

There's a FIRESTORM coming on September 23rd from Well Go USA

Well Go USA
Directed by Alan Yuen
Starring Andy Lau
Hong Kong/China/Malaysia, 2013, 109 minutes

“The must-see Hong Kong action thriller of the year that’s packed with exhilarating action, a compelling plot, and a commanding lead performance from Andy Lau.”

“… a relentlessly fiery pyrotechnical spectacle, climaxing with a protracted heavy-artillery shootout that has Hong Kong's central business district literally caving in on itself.”

“…the Hong Kong equivalent of a Hollywood action blockbuster.”

Hong Kong action icon Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs, House of Flying Daggers) stars in Director Alan Yuen’s (Princess D) action-packed crime thriller Firestorm, coming on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital Sept. 23 from Well Go USA Entertainment. A hardboiled police inspector (Lau) must confront, and cross, moral lines in order to hunt down a crew of seasoned criminals. Rounding out the cast are Michael Wong (Triple Tap), Ray Lui (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Ka Tung Lam (Drug War, IP Man), Jun Hu (Bodyguards & Assassins), Chen Yao (Caught in the Web), Vincent Sze (Vengeance), Chi-yin Wong (Life Without Principle) and Shing-Ban Lam (Young and Dangerous: Reloaded).

Synopsis: A storm is heading toward the city of Hong Kong, threatening the lives of everyone in its path. As citizens scramble for cover, a crew of seasoned criminals stage a series of armored car heists in broad daylight, showing no mercy to anyone who gets in their way. Hardboiled police inspector Cao Nam (Andy Lau) has had enough. He vows to take back his city, but quickly learns that regular police tactics are no match for the thieves’ unmerciful brutality. The more Nam pursues them, the more unhinged he becomes - and the savage confrontation brewing in the streets may leave an aftermath even more horrifying than the devastating effects of nature itself.

Bonus Materials Include:
- “The Making of Firestorm” Featurette, including segments on:
  - Andy Lau
  - Yao Chen
  - Lam Ka Tung
  - The Criminals
  - Action Choreography
  - Action Scenes
  - Visual and Special Effects
  - Crossfire Scene
- Trailer

Firestorm had its New York Premiere on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at the New York Asian Film Festival. I wasn't able to catch it then, so I'm really looking forward to Well Go USA's release. Look for a review here at AsianCineFest on or shortly before the September 23rd release date.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2014 J-POP SUMMIT Festival set new attendance record


S.F.’s Annual Japanese Pop Culture Extravaganza Attracts Huge
Crowds For Music, Anime, Film, Fashion And Ramen

The 2014 J-POP SUMMIT Festival, San Francisco’s premiere celebration of Japanese pop culture, music, fashion, games, art, food and film, broke all previous attendance records during its recent 6th annual weekend-long event. More than 120,000 people attended the two-day Festival that took place across the city’s Japantown on July 19th and 20th.

The second annual J-POP Live at Union Square concert took place on the evening of Saturday, July 19th and attracted nearly 5,000 people who filled the iconic downtown plaza and surrounding vantage points to enthusiastically welcome an array of headlining live musical performers from Japan.

The 2014 J-POP SUMMIT also kicked off the second annual Japan Film Festival of San Francisco, which ran thru Sunday, July 27th at the NEW PEOPLE Cinema, located at 1746 Post St in Japantown.

The 2014 J-POP SUMMIT presented several top Japanese artists that made their U.S. debut including pop stars and Guests of Honor former AKB48 memeber, Tomomi Itano, May’n, Una and the teen idol group, Tokyo Girls’ Style, as well as crowd favorite Kimono Cosplay pop singing duo, Yanakiku, Japanese-American pop singer Kylee, and the return of human beat box phenomenon, DAICHI. Japanese actor and star of Itazura Na Kiss, Yûki Furukawa, also appeared in-person to introduce the U.S. theatrical debut of his new film at NEW PEOPLE Cinema, "wo ai ni” (I love you) in TOKYO, as well as director Mitsutoshi Tanaka who appeared for the premiere of his new historical biopic, Ask This of Rikyu.

In addition to Japantown appearances by all of these artists, fans were treated to some J-flavored punk and alternative music from the Akabane Vulgars on Strong Bypass and Pinky Doodle Poodle, who were notably introduced on-stage by Robby Takac of The Goo Goo Dolls.

Kawaii-themed fashion programming was presented in partnership with ASOBISYSTEM and gave attendees and fashionistas kinetic live appearances by iconic Harajuku models Misa Kimura, Akira, Una and Ayumi Seto, who launched her new, “Aymmy in the batty girls” apparel line. Fans also were introduced to the sexy pop color explosion of the girls of Black Diamond from Shibuya and an array of other on-stage dance and fashion contests and other programming such as Baby, the Stars Shine Bright Contest, an “ODOTTEMITA” Dance Contest, Cosplay Masquerade, J-POP IDOL Contest and the Japan Discovery Stage.

Kinokuniya Book Stores of America and SEGA® of America welcomed visual artist, KEI, who designed the character of Hatsune Miku, the world’s first virtual pop star, and made his first-ever U.S. appearance to meet Miku fans and sign his art books.

Web-based Japanese cultural channel and sponsor JAPANKURU, taken from an original coined word that implies, “Come to Japan,” showcased the country’s strong influence on pop culture with a colorful JAPANKURU x J-POP SUMMIT Festival 2014 booth that offered attendees unique products unavailable in the U.S. and insights into travel to various parts of Japan.

The POP GOURMET Food Festival also returned to J-POP SUMMIT for its second consecutive year and offered new expanded attractions that included a Sake Tasting area, produced by Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco and hosted by more than a dozen premiere sake brands and brewers, as well as RAMEN Street, and a Japanese Beverage and Bites & Snacks Area hosted in-part by Takara Sake USA, which brought the festival’s official cocktail “J POP,” as well as Sapporo USA, Azuma Foods, Meiji and ITO-EN.

RAMEN Street was a brand new attraction for J-POP SUMMIT this year and was co-presented in cooperation with the Ramen Yokocho Association. The scrumptious event drew tens of thousands who cued in hours-long lines throughout the entire weekend for a taste of authentic hearty, made-from-scratch Japanese ramen from some of the best purveyors of the dish in the world. Many of the local restaurants, merchants and other businesses in the Japantown area also benefited from the massive attendance.

“The record setting attendance for the 2014 J-POP SUMMIT affirms the tremendous popularity that Japanese pop culture has across a truly wide cross section of people of all ages, from all walks of life, and it is a direct result of the support of our sponsors, the City of San Francisco, the Japantown community, and the passion and hard work invested by our Festival staff as well as legions of dedicated volunteers that so generously contributed their time before, during as well as after this year’s event,” says Seiji Horibuchi, J-POP SUMMIT Festival founder and chairman of the J-POP SUMMIT Festival Committee. “Each J-POP SUMMIT strives to present a unique composite of the latest pop culture trends happening in Japan right now. Many of the artists and content that has been featured goes on to become globally popular. As we look forward to 2015, we reflect on lessons learned and also the energy that J-POP SUMMIT has brought to Japantown and the fun and excitement it has given to so many attendees year after year.”

2014 J-POP SUMMIT Festival sponsors included: JAPANKURU, ASOBISYSTEM, TAKARA SAKE USA, SEGA, Biken International, MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON, the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, SAPPORO, Ma Chére Cosette?, Crunchyroll, United Airline, Kinokuniya USA, Meiji, Azuma Foods, JVTA, and the Japan Foundation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

THE PROTECTOR 2 is now available

Magnet Releasing
a division of
Magnolia Home Entertainment
The Protector 2 / Tom Yum Goong 2
(a.k.a.  Warrior King 2 in the United Kingdom)
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
Starring Tony Jaa, RZA,  Phetthai Vongkumlao,
Marrese Crump, and Ratha Phongam
Thailand, 2013, 104 minutes

The Protector 2 is Prachya Pinkaew's sequel to his 2005 film The Protector. (Pinkaew also directed the original Ong Bak film.) Starting today, Tuesday, July 29th, it's available in North America as either a 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray combo pack ($39.98), a Blu-ray ($29.98), or a DVD ($26.98). I watched the regular Blu-ray version for this review.

Once again Tony Jaa stars as Kham and again he loses his elephant and must rescue it. And again he is assisted by Mark (Phetthai Vongkumlao), an Australian policeman. This time his main adversary is LC (the RZA), an arms dealer with a yen for brutal martial arts contests.

The 3D roots of the film are evident even in the 2D Blu-ray version. For example, at one point Jaa, who has been on top of a vehicle, is hurled off of it when it crashes into the side of a bridge, and his body comes flying straight at the camera.

The following shots make use of safety wires, as is made explicit in an extra feature and which no doubt will turn off some Jaa fans. I had no problem with the occasional use of wires and some CGI. I mean, no one in their right mind is going to send Jaa off of the tallest bridge in Souteast Asia without using a safety harness and wires.

A bit less easy to understand or excuse is the recycling of certain stunts from the original Ong Bak film. Here I'm thinking of two scenes in particular. One has Jaa running, then sliding under a table on the fronts of his lower legs with his body leaning backwards, almost horizontal to the ground. Another is a fight scene in which his feet and lower legs are on fire, although The Protector 2 does up the ante here in that the lower extremities of his multiple opponents are also on fire as is the room in which they're fighting. This scene, in which the room essentially is a furnace, uses both practical and CGI fire, again a point made explicit in an extra.

For me the film's biggest fault is a matter of casting. I think that RZA is sincere in his love for and appreciation of Asian martial arts movies. I also think he's talented. Unfortunately, his talents don't include an ability to convincingly act nor to engage in serious martial arts combat, most particularly him going one-on-one against Jaa. Their climactic fight is perhaps as well choreographed as it could be, given RZA's limitations, but it's pretty much hollow and unconvincing.

Disc Special Features:
- Behind the Scenes Featurettes:
  - Cast & Characters
  - Speaking with the Director
  - Action & Stunts, Working in 3D
- AXS TV: A Look at The Protector 2
- Trailers

AsianCineFest Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. A fairly good film. Definitely of some interest, but with some serious flaws. Maybe not well-worth-watching, but definitely worth-watching. Give it an extra 1/2 star if you don't mind RZA's performance.

If you're going to buy The Protector 2 and have a 3D television, I think that the 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray combo pack is probably the way to go. No 3D TV? Then go for the Blu-ray for just $3 more than the DVD, at least in terms of the SRPs.

For more info:

Official Site: www.protector2.com

Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Protector2TonyJaa

DRAGONWOLF available today

Well Go USA
Directed by Raimund Huber
Thailand, 2013, 122 minutes
Blu-ray SLP: $29.98
DVD SLP: $24-98

Dragonwolf is a Thai martial arts film that comes out on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital today from Well Go USA. My review is based on watching the Blu-ray version, which was no mean feat. Not that it looked bad; no the video transfer on Blu-ray was top notch, as one has come to expect from Well Go. The problem was that the movie is terrible.

So, for those who might at all be inclined to think about buying Dragonwolf in any form, and who don't care to read further, let me just offer two words of advice: "Don't bother."

In fact I would have stopped watching sometime well before the film reached its one hour mark, but the good people at Well Go had provided me with the screener, and I felt it only proper to watch the entire movie for this review.

My first thought that Dragonwolf might be a turkey came before I even inserted the disc in my player. Raimund Huber, the director, has also made Bangkok Adrenaline (2009) and Kill 'em All (2012), both very mediocre films that I watched on Netflix Streaming. (I imagine that at some point Dragonwolf will be available there also. Streaming is the only way I can even remotely recommend viewing the film, unless you have some other no-extra-cost option available.)

Mozart (standing) about to confront a trio

The story concerns two friends, Mozart (Kazu Patrick Tang, who's had small rolls in such films as Ong Bak 2, BKO: Bangkok Knockout, and Chinese Zodiac) and Julius (Johan Kirsten, here in his film debut). They live in Devil's Cauldron, which is supposedly "the vice and bloodshed capital of the world" though there's no real evidence in the film that it's really all that exceptionally bad a place.

Mozart (a.k.a. "Mo") and Julius (a.k.a. "Dragon") work for Brutus, the head of the organization that controls Devil's Cauldron. They are his best "sweepers," effectively handling the toughest, dirtiest and most violent work he needs done.

The two, friends since childhood, are practically brothers. Unfortunately they meet a lovely young thing named Mary at a charity event. She and Julius become an item, but she lets Mozart know that she's interested in him.  Naturally this puts a "strain" (to put it mildly) on the guys' friendship.

The convoluted story unfolds using a great many flashback scenes, far to many as far as I'm concerned. The dialog tends to range between trite and stilted. For example, who really would say, "Had he told me the truth, I'd not have killed him"?

Julius seems uninterested in the sushi or the "platter" on which it's offered

As for the action, I'll grant that a few of the moves are okay. But must of the "combatants" come across like mediocre students who just managed to pass "Stuntman 101" at a community college. And far too often the camera angles reveal that the punches or kicks were never intended to come even remotely close to connecting.

On the positive side, such as it is, the film has some nice female breasts on view and most of the few comedic touches are actually decent. If Huber were to make a sexploitation action comedy, it just might be a decent watch. But there were neither enough tits & ass nor enough laughs in Dragonwolf to redeem it.

I usually don't notice film ratings at IMDB, but I happened to see that Dragonwolf currently has a dismal 3.4/10 rating from 203 users. That sounds like about what it deserves in my opinion.

AsianCineFest Rating: 1 out of 4 stars; poor. (Note: this overall rating is based on 1/2 star for the titties and another 1/2 star for the action.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Free screening of THE FATAL ENCOUNTER tomorrow night in NYC

Korean Cultural Service New York
Korean Movie Night 2014
Series Four: EPIC ACTION!
The Fatal Encounter / Yeok-rin
Directed by LEE Jae-kyoo
South Korea, 2014, 135 minutes
When: Tuesday July 29, 2014 @ 7:00 pm
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas 54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
Admission: FREE!!!

Synopsis (courtesy Korean Cultural Service): Given the seven assassination attempts on his life in his first year as king, young King Jeongjo was known by all as “The King of Misfortune” – a title he constantly hoped to escape from. Based on Jeongyuyeokbyeon, one of the many assassination attempts on his life in 1777, the film follows the 24 hours leading up to that incident.

Jeongjo and his court servant Sang-chaek do everything they can to stay safe from assassins, but the king’s defense can only do so much against a constant barrage of attacks. In one such encounter, an orphan-turned-assassin has been ordered to execute the king, unaware that the king’s only friend and confidant – court servant Sang-chaek – was his own life-saving childhood companion!

The Fatal Encounter had a North American theatrical run that began this past May 23rd. My review at that time can be found here.