With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, February 08, 2016

Celebrate The Year of the Monkey with THE MONKEY KING 2 in 3D

China Lion
Presents
The Monkey King 2 in 3D
Directed by Cheang Pou-Soi 
China/Hong Kong, 2016, 119 minutes

The Asian Lunar New Year has arrived and China Lion is presenting a most fitting way to celebrate The Year of the Monkey. The Monkey King 2 in 3D opened in select U.S. theaters last Friday. It is the sequel to The Monkey King, the 2014 film that was also directed by Cheang Pou-soi and filmed in 3D. The original film starred Donnie Yen, who also served as the film's action director, as the titular protagonist. In The Monkey King 2, Aaron Kwok plays Sun Wukong, a.k.a. the Monkey King. The legendary Sammo Hung assumed duties as action director. The cast also includes Gong Li as White Bone Spirit, a demon, and Kelly Chen as The Mercy Goddess, the Bodhisattva Guanyin (sometimes spelled Kuan-yin).

The tale is based on The Journey to the West, a major classic of Chinese literature consisting of one hundred chapters. It tells the tale of a Chinese monk named Xuanzang who is selected to undertake an arduous and dangerous journey to the West (i.e., to India) to get holy scriptures from the Buddha. He is accompanied and protected by the Monkey King, who is really the main character, and two others. For years I have owned the first volume of the four volume set translated and edited by Anthony C. Yu. By an interesting coincidence, I just got around to reading it recently. The Money King 2 is concerned with portions of the latter part of that twenty-five chapter volume.

I have not seen the original film, but it apparently ended with the mischievous Monkey King, who has achieved mystical powers and wrecked havoc in Heaven, being imprisoned within a mountain for five hundred years. He has been selected by The Mercy Goddess to travel with the monk, who frees him from the mountain. Subsequently they are joined by Baijie, a pig-man who can transform into a handsome youth and a wild boar, and Bro Sha, a mighty blue-skinned warrior. The main protagonist is White Bone Spirit, also called Lady White. She wants to devour the monk so she can become an immortal demon.

I only saw a 2D online screener of the film, but was quite impressed with it. The make-up and special effects were quite good. Ric Meyers, my "big brother" in the days when we were both columnists at Asian Cult Cinema magazine, has seen the 3D version and reports liking it.

So my plan is to make the one hour round-trip to mid-town New York and actually pay to see a film that I could have seen for free at a pre-release screening that I foolishly passed on. It seems that it's really worth seeing in 3D on a big screen with a great sound system.

So, if The Monkey King in 3D is playing near you, I strongly suggest you give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny to premiere Feb 26th

Netflix
Presents
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny
Directed byYuen Wo-Ping
Starring: Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen

Premiering on Netflix on Friday, February 26, 2016
and also available in IMAX

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny tells an epic story of lost love, young love, a legendary sword and one last opportunity at redemption, set against breathtaking action in an epic martial arts battle between good and evil that will decide the fate of the Martial World.

Directed by the renowned martial arts choreographer (The Matrix Trilogy and Kill Bill 1& 2) and director (Tai Chi Master) Yuen Wo-Ping, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny stars Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Lady) as Yu Shu-Lien and Donnie Yen (Ip Man 1&2, Monkey King 3D) as Silent Wolf.

Based on the acclaimed novel, Iron Knight, Silver Vase, by Wang Dulu (book 5 in the Crane-Iron Pentalogy) and written by John Fusco (Marco Polo) the new film is produced by Harvey Weinstein (Academy Award winner - The King’s Speech, The Artist) and Peter Berg (Emmy Award winner - Friday Night Lights; Lone Survivor, Hancock) and Sarah Aubrey (Friday Night Lights; Lone Survivor, Hancock) and executive produced by Morten Tyldum (Headhunters, The Imitation Game), Ralph Winter (X-Men franchise), Anthony Wong and Bey Logan (The Medallion).

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny also stars Harry Shum Jr (Glee, Revenge of the Green Dragons), Jason Scott Lee (Seventh Son, Hawaii Five-O), Roger Yuan (Bulletproof Monk), Eugenia Yuan (Revenge of the Green Dragons) and newcomer Natasha Liu Bordizzo.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

THE BEAUTY INSIDE reviewed

Well Go USA
Presents
The Beauty Inside / Byuti insaideu
Directed by BAEK Jong-Yeol
South Korea, 2015, 127 minutes

The Beauty Inside debuted on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD last Tuesday, February 2nd from Well Go USA Entertainment. This review is based on my having watched the Blu-ray version.

Most of us have at one time or another felt not quite like ourselves. But twenty-nine year old KIM Wo-jin experiences that feeling at its most extreme every day after he wakes up. Since his eighteenth birthday he has awoken to find himself a different person than he was when he went to sleep the night before, at least in terms of his physical appearance. His age, gender, even his nationality is subject to transformation without rhyme or reason. Only his memories, his consciousness, remains consistent from day to day.

Only two other people are aware of Wo-jin's unique circumstance. One is his mother, to whom he turned when he first awoke transformed and who, we  learn, has an insight into his condition. The other is Sang-beck, his friend from childhood and who helps him run ALX, Wo-jin's upscale furniture company. Wo-jin does the design and construction, while Sang-beck handles relations with clients and customers, something that the different-every-day Wo-jin could not possibly do.

Wo-jin's life changes when he falls for HONG E-soo (HAN Hyo-yoo, seen in C'est Ci Bon and Masquerade). She's a lovely and knowledgeable saleswoman at Mamastudio, a furniture store that sells high end items like those Wo-jin makes. He hits upon a way to see her and, using a trick, prevent himself from transforming into a different looking person. But this only works for a very limited time and then he must decide whether to reveal his secret to E-soo. If he does, what will be her reaction to having a relationship with someone who looks different each day?

The film is described as a romantic comedy in its publicity materials and that's not really wrong. It's certainly a film about romance and has many comic touches. But it's more of a romantic drama than comedy, dealing at great length with serious issues such as just what, or who, is it that we "fall in love" with and can love for a person's inner beauty overcome considerable obstacles.

There are by my count and the cast list at IMDb, twenty-two people who play Wo-jin. And while some have no lines and only brief screen time, director BAEK has done a remarkable job of making them all seem to be various manifestations of the same person, despite all the variations in age, sex and nationality. One of the Wo-jins is KO Ah-sung, the marvelous young actress seen in The Host (2006), Snowpiercer (2013), and more recently, Office (2015). She does have considerable screen time, consistent with her great talent. High praise must also be given to HAN Hy-yoo, who gives a spectacular and touching performance as E-soo.

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
  -- Korean DTS 5.1 HDMA
  -- Korean 2.0 stereo
-- Subtitles
  -- English
  -- Off
-- Additional Features
  -- Trailer
  -- Previews of other Well Go USA releases
    -- Lost in Hong Kong
    -- Very Good Girls
    -- And While We Were Here 

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended. A most original and well-executed romantic drama with quite a fair amount of humor.

One last comment: be sure to stick around through the credits so you don't miss a very nice coda.

LOST IN HONG KONG coming to home video on March 1st

Well Go USA
Presents
Lost in Hong Kong / Gang jiong
Directed by Xu Zheng
Hong Kong/China, 2015, 114 minutes

The Sequel to Lost in Thailand from Director Xu Zheng
Arrives on Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital HD March 1

From the producers of Lost in Thailand and No Man’s Land comes the road trip comedy LOST IN HONG KONG, debuting on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD March 1 from Well Go USA Entertainment. Xu Lai had a dream once; to be an artist and marry the girl of his dreams. 15 years later, he’s sick of designing bras, humoring his baby-crazy wife and catering to his loopy in-laws. Now on a family vacation that includes his DVD-pirating, aspiring-documentarian brother-in-law, he has a hidden agenda: a chance meetup with his old flame. But ditching his clan for a clandestine hookup might be the least of his worries. There’s been a murder and the cops want a word with him. Lost in Hong Kong is directed by and stars Xu Zheng (Lost in Thailand, Breakup Buddies), with Zhao Wei (Red Cliff, Shaolin Soccer) and Bao Ber’er (Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, The Four) rounding out the cast.

Synopsis:
In the mid-1990s, university art majors Xu Lai (Xu Zheng) and Yang Yi (Du Juan) fell in love, but then Yang was transferred to the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Xu hasn’t seen her since. Almost twenty years later, Xu has long forgotten his dreams of becoming an artist, but he can never forget Yang even though he enjoys a comfortable life with his loving wife Cai Bo (Zhao Wei), the only major problem between them being the repeated failure of conceiving a child. During a vacation in Hong Kong with Cai’s overbearing family, Xu plans to secretly visit Yang, but Cai Bo’s goofy young brother Cai Lala (Bao Bei’er) — always carrying a video camera in hand for his documentary project — tags along like his unwelcome shadow to spoil the rendezvous. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Wong Jing is filming another riotous gangster movie, while two police officers (Sam Lee and Eric Kot) investigate a murder.

Bonus Features Include:
-- Making of Featurette
-- Blooper Reel

Saturday, February 06, 2016

VIZ brings all 10 Naruto titles to the Steam multimedia delivery platform

THE LAST: NARUTO THE MOVIE
© 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO/2007 SHIPPUDEN © NMP 2014
VIZ MEDIA’S NARUTO FEATURE FILM CATALOG TO
HEAT UP STEAM MULTIMEDIA CONTENT PLATFORM

Leading Content Platform - Steam – Offers The Intense Ninja
Action Of All 10 Movies From The NARUTO And
NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Universes For Digital Purchase

VIZ Media brings the action and excitement of NARUTO to Steam, a leading interactive content delivery platform by software company, Valve Corporation.

All 10 full-length feature films from the NARUTO and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN story arcs are available (English dubbed) for purchase and rental on Steam in the U.S. and Canada, including:

NARUTO THE MOVIE: NINJA CLASH IN THE LAND OF SNOW: 
© 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO  © NMP 2004

• NARUTO THE MOVIE: NINJA CLASH IN THE LAND OF SNOW
• NARUTO THE MOVIE: LEGEND OF THE STONE GELEL
• NARUTO THE MOVIE: GUARDIANS OF THE CRESCENT MOON KINGDOM
• NARUTO SHIPPUDEN THE MOVIE
• NARUTO SHIPPUDEN THE MOVIE: BONDS
• NARUTO SHIPPUDEN THE MOVIE: THE WILL OF FIRE
• NARUTO SHIPPUDEN THE MOVIE: THE LOST TOWER
• NARUTO SHIPPUDEN THE MOVIE: BLOOD PRISON
• ROAD TO NINJA: NARUTO THE MOVIE
• THE LAST: NARUTO THE MOVIE

For a limited time only, a special promotional price will be available on the movies. Please visit http://store.steampowered.com/ to access these films.

“With its kinetic on-screen action and iconic characters, NARUTO has captivated millions of dedicated gamers and anime fans, and the movies are a wonderful complement to the content Steam offers its substantial user community,” says Brian Ige, Vice President, Animation. “We look forward to the future of this partnership.”

Steam is a leading content platform with thousands of titles and millions of members. Through Steam, fans can easily buy, play, share, modify, and build communities around Valve products as well as titles from other independent studios. Steam is available in 237 countries and 21 different languages. Since March 2015, Steam has also added more than 100 film titles, with more coming soon.

In the NARUTO manga and animated series, Naruto Uzumaki wants to be the best ninja in the land. He's done well so far, but Naruto knows he must train harder than ever and leaves his village for intense exercises that will push him to his limits. NARUTO SHIPPUDEN begins two and a half years later, when Naruto returns to find that everyone has been promoted up the ninja ranks – except him. Sakura’s a medic ninja, Gaara’s advanced to Kazekage, and Kakashi…well he remains the same. But pride isn’t necessarily becoming of a ninja, especially when Naruto realizes that Sasuke never returned from his search for Orochimaru. Plus, the mysterious Akatsuki organization is still an ever-present danger. As Naruto finds out more about the Akatsuki’s goals, he realizes that nothing in his universe is as it seems. Naruto is finding that he’s older, but will he also prove wiser and stronger?

VIZ Media is the North American master licensor for NARUTO and distributes the NARUTO and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN anime series and feature films as well as publishes the bestselling NARUTO manga series in print and digitally.

Additional information on NARUTO and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN is available at www.Naruto.com.

For more information on anime titles available from VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.