With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

ACF 442: Happy Birthday, Gong Li!

Gong Li as the Empress in Curse of the Golden Flower
Image copyright 2006 Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc

Gong Li
was born December 31st, 1965, in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China and graduated from the Central Drama Academy in Beijing in 1989. While still a student, she was cast as the female lead in the 1987 release Hong gao liang (aka Red Sorghum), the initial directing effort of Zhang Yimou. She starred in a number of his other films, including Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern, over the next several years and reunited with him for Curse of the Golden Flower (2006). Her work in the films of other notable Chinese directors includes Farewell My Concubine by Chen Kaige and Wong Kar Wai's 2046.

Talented and lovely, she has won numerous awards as Best Actress or Female Actor, and has been named as one of the "sexiest movies stars" or "most beautiful" women in various lists.

Unfortunately, her Hollywood films (Memoirs of a Geisha, Miami Vice, Hannibal Rising) thus far have failed to strike Box Office gold. Ms. Gong is due to be seen next in the period piece Shanghai, which has a January 1, 2010 release date. She also is set to star along with Mickey Rourke, Forest Whitaker, and Ray Winstone in Walter Hill's St. Vincent, which currently is in pre-production. Hopefully we'll continue to see her in Western as well as Eastern productions for many years to come.

Gong Li @ IMDb
Gong Li @ WikipedeaGong Li @ Fandango

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ACF 441: Samurai Films by Roland Thorne


This book was one of those 'faith' purchases I make every now and then. It was 'recommended' by Amazon.com based on my other purchases of Asian film related books. Because the book seemed interesting and was reasonably priced, I decided to take a chance on it. While it has its faults, overall I'm quite happy I bought it and consider it a worthwhile addition to my collection.

Roland Thorne is a writer based in Australia and this is his first book. He rather broadly defines samurai films to include other Japanese swordplay movies. This is actually tipped off by the cover photo of Takeshi Katano in his 2003 version of 'Zatoichi,' which he both directed and starred in. Zatoichi is a blind masseur and, despite his visual handicap, a master swordsman, but he most definitely is not a samurai. Still, Thorne shouldn't be faulted for this decision, as he has picked terrific films to discuss, whether actually concerning samurai or considering swordspersons in general. Furthermore all his picks are readily available on DVD.

The first chapters briefly discuss the history of the samurai and of samurai films, some important directors, and a few of the major stars. The bulk of the book is devoted to actual reviews , and takes a chronological approach. Information about each film - including the Japanese title - is followed by sections devoted to plot summary, analysis, and a verdict of the films worthiness.

The writing at times is a bit repetitive, and Thorne has a tendency to overuse the phrases "worthy of mention, 'should be commended,' and variations of them. Also the images are somewhat disappointing: most of them appear to be screenshots that are not particularly sharp.

Occassionally his statements are rather questionnable, to say the least. For example, on page 23 he writes: “Beginning with the excellent Rashomon, Kurosawa made one classic film after the other, throughout the 1950s and 60s” [emphasis mine]. In fact, Kurosawa's next film after Rashomon was The Idiot (1951), which was a critical and box office failure. In Something Like An Autobiography, Kurosawa wrote that if it hadn't been for the awards that he received for Rashomon, he would have had to "eat cold rice" because The Idiot would have seriously derailed his career. And several of his other post-Rashomon films, while worthwhile, are hardly deserving of being called "classics."

Still, Thorne writes about films that anyone interested in samurai or Japanese swordplay films should know about. I've seen almost all the films covered and I think he has done an essentially sound job in describing and discussing them. I learned a fair number of new things.

Samurai Films is a very worthwhile guide book for viewers new, or relatively new, to samurai and swordplay cinema. However, if you're already very knowledgeable, it may not be of particularly great value.

Monday, December 21, 2009

ACF 440: VIZ DVD releases for January 2010


VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media) has announced their list of DVD titles scheduled for release in January 2010. This includes the first box set of NARUTO SHIPPUDEN in regular and special editions, the next installments in POKÉMON ELEMENTS, as well as the latest episodic releases of the popular BLEACH and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN series. VIZ Media DVD titles are distributed (in English) in the U.S and Mexico by Warner Home Video and in Canada by Allegro.

SHONEN JUMP releases include:

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Special Edition Box Set 1 · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $69.97 US / $99.99 CAN · Available January 26

Naruto Uzumaki is back! After two and a half years of training on the road with Jiraiya of the Sannin, Naruto is back in the Village Hidden in the Leaves, and he's ready to show off his new skills. He and Sakura team up to take on their old master Kakashi, who's pretty impressed with their progress. They'll have plenty of opportunity to put it into action when news arrives from the Sand Village that Gaara, Naruto's former rival and now Kazekage of the Sand, has been kidnapped! And the culprits are the very same group who are after Naruto--the Akatsuki! The Special Edition Box Set features 13 episodes on 3 discs and also includes a collectible NARUTO Shippuden Mininja figure.

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Box Set 1 Standard Edition · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $49.95 US / $71.99 CAN · Available January 26

DVD-only collection featuring 13 episodes from the hit series on 3 discs; (collectible figure is not included.)

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Volume 5 · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN · Available January 12

Team Guy and Team Kakashi finally reach the Akatsuki hideout, only to encounter a tricky five-seal barrier that triggers an even stranger trap. While Team Guy face some pretty tough opponents--themselves!--Kakashi and Naruto must take off after Deidara who has absconded with Gaara. Sakura and Granny Chiyo are left behind to confront Sasori of the Red Sand. Granny Chiyo may be the only one with the ability to see through his many complex traps and skilled puppetry, but even one scratch from his poisoned weapons could mean instant death!

BLEACH Volume 24 · Rated ‘T’ for Teens · MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN · Available January 19

Captain Toshiro Hitsugaya is assigned to lead the defense of the Soul Society and mobilize the Soul Reapers to find and kill the intruding Bounts. But the Bount leader Jin Kariya has gathered a huge mob of ruffians and plans to use them in his quest for revenge. Meanwhile, it is discovered that Maki Ichinose, the banished Soul Reaper helping the Bounts, has infiltrated the Seireitei and has been secretly manipulating their data. What strategies will play out, and how can Ichigo and his allies stop them?

New POKÉMON Releases Include:

POKÉMON ELEMENTS, Volume 7: Psychic · Rated 'A' for All Ages · MSRP: $9.98 US/ $14.99 CAN · Available January 26

POKÉMON ELEMENTS, Volume 8: Dragon · Rated 'A' for All Ages · MSRP: $9.98 US / $14.99 CAN · Available January 26

Following the POKÉMON All Star series set, the POKÉMON: ELEMENTS collection consists of the most important episodes commemorating the different types of Pokémon characters. Each disc showcases a Pokémon type with three all-time favorite episodes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

ACF 439: GHOST HOUND and TO LOVE RU anime DVDs now on sale

Section23 Films has announced two new anime DVDs from Sentai Filmworks: the first installment of the interplanetary romantic comedy To Love Ru and the final volume of the supernatural thriller Ghost Hound. Both new releases are available now.

Ghost Hound Collection 2 concludes Production IG’s 20th Anniversary Project, a haunting series about three friends who learn to project their consciousness into a parallel world – just as that spirit world threatens to collide with our own! Created by anime legend Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed), this lavish production is a fitting tribute to Prodution IG’s twenty years of anime excellence.

SYNOPSIS: Teenager Taro Komori and his friends are getting used to the experience of soul traveling – leaving their bodies to travel in spirit form unseen by others. But something sinister is brewing in the Hidden Realm. The spirits are restless and a malevolent ghost is appearing with increasing frequency. In the “real” world, an out of favor religious cult is finding dozens of new converts, especially among high ranking politicians. And just what the scientists at Dai Nippon Bio are up to is a question in need of an answer. Can Taro and his friends find the answers they need in time to save their friends and family? Find out in the dramatic conclusion to Masamune Shirow’s psychology masterpiece Ghost Hound!

Title: GHOST HOUND COLLECTION 2
Running Time: 275 min.
Age Rating: TV 14
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Format: DVD
SRP: $59.98

To Love Ru Collection 1 is an interstellar romantic comedy that reminds us just seriously how close encounters with aliens can wreck your social life. With 13 episodes on two discs, this collection is loaded with laffs!

SYNOPSIS: One should always understand other people’s customs before making commitments. Unfortunately, Rito Yuki had no idea the planet Develuke even existed when their Princess Lala teleported naked into his bathtub, let alone that touching a girl’s breasts is how they propose marriage! Given that he was IN the tub when she appeared, and slippery soap suds being what they are, Rito’s now engaged to a beautiful girl with a pointed tail. Worse, various aliens are showing up on missions of varying hostile intent; the girl that Rito REALLY loves is still completely unaware of his feelings; and all of the new customs he’s got to learn seem to involve touching a girl’s chest! (Okay, maybe he’ll get used to that last one, but he’s still in high school and a bit intimidated.) Can a nice boy from Japan become the next King of Galaxy A or will he just end up feeling like a boob? Keep abreast of further developments in To Love Ru Collection 1!

Title: TO LOVE RU COLLECTION 1
Running Time: 325 min.
Age Rating: TV 14
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Format: DVD
SRP: $39.98

Saturday, December 19, 2009

ACF 438: "Oishinbo a la Carte, Vol 7 - Izakaya: Pub Food" due out January 2010

FINAL VOLUME OF THE ULIMATE FOOD MANGA
OISHINBO A LA CARTE Vol. 7
RELEASING JANUARY 19TH!

Izakaya: Pub Food, The Last Hand-Selected Volume
Out Of A 100+ Volume Hit Series
Exploring Essential Elements Of Japanese Cuisine
Will Soon Be Here!

In my December 10th review of Oishinbo Vol. 6: The Joy of Rice, I mentioned that the seventh and final volume would be coming out in January, 2010. Well, VIZ Media has announced the planned release of the final volume of the mega hit food manga for January 19th. Volume 7, Izayaya: Pub Food is rated ‘T’ for Teens and carries an estimated retail price of $12.99 US and $16.99 CAN.

Izakaya occupies the same vital space in the Japanese culinary landscape as tapas bars in Spain or tavernas in Greece. Unpretentious and frequently boisterous, they're places to meet with friends or business partners to unwind over drinks and small dishes that range from hearty standards to refined innovations. In this volume of OISHINBO, Yamaoka and Kurita investigate classic Izakaya foods such as edamame and yakitori, devise new dishes to add to the menu of an old shop, and discover how the concept of "play" is essential to the enjoyment of food.

OISHINBO creator Tetsu Kariya, writer and essayist extraordinaire graduated from prestigious Tokyo University. Kariya was employed with a major advertising agency before making his debut as a manga writer in 1974 when he teamed up with legendary manga artist Ryoichi Ikegami to create Otoko Gumi (Male Gang). The worlds of food and manga were forever changed in 1983 when Kariya, together with artist Akira Hanasaki, created the immensely popular and critically acclaimed OISHINBO.

“Fans of Japanese cuisine and culture have been delighted with every volume of the critically acclaimed OISHINBO series and we are excited to bring them this final volume that covers the excitement of izakaya,” says Evelyn Dubocq, Sr. Director of Public Relations, VIZ Media.

OISHINBO (or “The Gourmet") depicts the adventures of journalist Shiro Yamaoka, who writes for the fictional newspaper Tozai News. When the paper’s top executives decide to create “The Ultimate Menu” to celebrate the paper’s 100th anniversary, Yamaoka, known for his reputation as a foodie with culinary skills to match, is given the daunting assignment. With the help of his coworker Kurita, Yamaoka begins an epic saga to find unique and tasty dishes that will compose this ultimate bill of fare. Each volume of OISHINBO focuses on specific foods and culinary trends such as sake, sushi, vegetables, rice dishes, ramen, and Izakaya (pub food). VIZ Media has served up selected highlights from this epic 100+ volume series and compiled them into seven a la carte editions that can be enjoyed individually or as a series. OISINBO has further inspired a 136-episode anime series, a live-action film and TV dramas, video games, recipe collections, and TV shows in Japan.

For more information on OISHINBO and other VIZ Media titles please visit www.Viz.com.

Friday, December 18, 2009

ACF 437: "Ear To The Ground: Tokyo" - Free, Legal 18 Track Music Download

LimeWire Store and New York – Tokyo Present:
EAR TO THE GROUND: TOKYO

I learned about this in an email from New York-Tokyo. It's not only a free, legal download of 18 tracks, but a damn fine one. A terrific offer you should take advantage of.

Here's the basic info:

Ear To The Ground: Tokyo is an exclusive collaboration between LimeWire Store and New York – Tokyo. LimeWire Store’s Ear To The Ground series of FREE digital music compilations spotlights a different city for each release, and Ear To The Ground: Tokyo is the series’ 15th installment! New York – Tokyo has selected a group of artists that represent the current progressive music scenes of Tokyo. They are the tastemakers within their scenes: from their fashions to the artwork on their album covers, these creative artists are making an effort to stand out in the crowded urban setting of Tokyo.

And here's the link to the LimeWire website for Ear To The Ground: Tokyo.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ACF 436: Natsume Ono's manga "not simple" from VIZ Media

NOT SIMPLE © 2006 Natsume ONO/Shogakukan)

Emotional Slice-of-Life Story About A Man’s Search For Family, Love And His Place In The World Engages Fans Of Both Manga And U.S. Indie Comics

Preview On SigIKKI.com after December 17th, 2009

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media) kicks off 2010 with the release on January 19th of Natsume Ono’s manga, not simple. The story, contained in a single volume, is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens, will be published by the VIZ Signature imprint and carries an MSRP of $14.99 U.S. / $19.99 CAN.

To celebrate this launch, a preview of the prologue of not simple will be available on SigIKKI.com, VIZ Media’s premiere website for presenting a diverse collection of titles which include the most inventive, bold, and compelling titles in the world of contemporary manga.

not simple follows Ian, a young man with a fractured family history, as he travels from Australia to England and on to America in the hope of realizing his dreams and reuniting with his beloved sister. His story unfolds backwards through the framing narrative of Jim, a reporter driven to capture Ian's experiences in a novel titled not simple.

“This new release will captivate readers with its unconventional story and artwork,” says Gonzalo Ferreyra, Vice President Sales & Marketing, VIZ Media. “Natsume Ono’s art blends manga aesthetics with a graphic style reminiscent of many western indie and alternative comics, and fans of both genres will enjoy this title. We also welcome not simple as the newest addition to SigIKKI.com, the hottest outlet for online manga. Fans can check out the prologue chapter after December 17th at www.SigIKKI.com!

Another of Ono’s manga series, HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES, is an action drama about samurai during the height of the shogun's rule in Edo-era Japan and is also currently serialized on SigIKKI.com.

Natsume Ono is one of today's top creators of seinen manga – designed for adult readers of mature and more sophisticated stories. She made her professional debut in 2003 with the web comic LA QUINTA CAMERA and subsequent works not simple, Ristorante Paradiso, and GENTE (a continuation of Ristorante Paradiso) have met with both critical and popular acclaim. In 2009 Ristorante Paradiso was adapted into an animated TV series. Her manga drama HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES (Saraiya Goyou) is currently published in Japan in IKKI magazine.

For more information on this title please visit http://www.sigikki.com/. For information on all other VIZ Media titles please visit http://www.viz.com/.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ACF 435: Korean Talismans of Protection at The Korea Society through January 29, 2010

Key Charm with a Medallion and Commemorative Coins

A rare collection of locks, latches, and key charms from the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910) are on view at The Korea Society through January 29, 2010. The objects are on loan from the Lock Museum in Seoul and are being shown in the U.S. for the first time.

Fish-Shaped Lock

These beautifully designed metal and wood objects come in myriad shapes and reveal the richly symbolic and exquisitely decorative dimensions of the traditional Korean aesthetic.

Clockwise from top right: Drum-shaped lock; Lock with silver inlay; Embroidered key charm

And here's a suggestion: If you're going to see tomorrow night's screening of Korean Ghost Stories, which starts at 6:30 PM, arrive a bit early and check out this interesting and intimate exhibit.

For further info and gallery hours, click here.

The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue @ 57th Street, 8th Floor
(Building entrance on SW corner of 3rd Ave. and 57th St.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ACF 434: Serizawa textiles on exhibit at Japan Society through January 17, 2010

Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design
Japan Society Gallery
Through January 17, 2010

Obi (Sash) Length, Scenes in Okinawa, stencil-dyed crepe silk

Last Friday my wife Francesca, who weaves and knits, and I, who do neither, took in this exhibit at Japan Society. Both of us marveled at the creations of Serizawa Keisuke (1895-1984). They made it readily apparent why he was deemed a "Living National Treasure" during his lifetime.

Noren (Entrance Curtain), Knots in the form of
the Chinese character Kotobuki (long life), stencil-dyed cotton

Serizawa was a master of stencil-dying. His works of art, based on craft techniques, covered a broad range of media, such as screens, kimonos, book covers, magazine designs, and entrance curtains. He also utilized a wide variety of materials: cotton, silk, hemp, and other fibers, all decorated with beautiful natural dyes.

Chinese character hana (flower), stencil-dyed tsumugi-weave silk

The above images are from scans I made of the three postcards that are on sale. A fully illustrated catalog can be ordered online or purchased at Japan Society.

But Serizawa's creations deserve to be seen and appreciated in person, if at all possible.

For further information and gallery hours, click here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

ACF 433: Two episodes of Korean Ghost Stories to screen at The Korea Society

The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue @ 57th Street, 8th Floor
(Building entrance on SW corner of 3rd Ave. and 57th St.)

The second installment of The Korea Society's Korean Ghost Stories mini-series features two spine-tingling episodes. Haunted House and The Reincarnated Princess will be shown this Thursday, December 17, 2009, starting at 6:30 PM. Both were originally shown on the KBS television series Korean Ghost Stories, which was also known as Hometown of Legend. They will be presented in Korean with English subtitles.

This is the second of the two-part mini-series. The first, on November 19th, featured a fascinating and informative introduction by Heinz Insu Fenki, both an author and the director of Interstitial Studies Institute at Suny New Paltz. This was followed by a screening of Nine-Tailed Fox, a marvelous tale of a clan that uses the harshest means imaginable to hide a dark secret about some of its women.

Haunted House

In Haunted House (starring Lee Duck-hwa, Lee Min-woo, and Yoo Hye-jung), the ghost of a young woman haunts the family members who sold her into a life of corruption.

The Reincarnated Princess

Two sisters return from the grave to seduce and punish the men who killed them in The Reincarnated Princess (starring Lee Jin, Kang Sung-min, and Lee Ji-hyun).

For further information, click here.

Korean Ghost Stories is a presentation of The Korea Society with support from
kbs

Sunday, December 13, 2009

ACF 432: 20th Century Boys 1 DVD due out this Tuesday, December 15th from VIZ

20th Century Boys 1
© 1999, 2006 Naoki Urasawa, Studio Nuts / Shogakukan
© 2008 “20th Century Boys” Film Partners


20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End
Directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Japan, 2008, 142 min.

20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End, the first film in a trilogy based on Naoki Urasawa's hugely popular manga, is due out on DVD this Tuesday, December 15th from VIZ Pictures, the live-action division of VIZ Media. Both this film and its immediate sequel 20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope had their New York premieres at this past summer's New York Asian Film Festival. I was unable to go to a screening of either of them, so I was glad to get an advance screener of this upcoming release.

The film begins in 2015 in the Disciplinary Cells of Umihotaru Prison, a clearly high-security lock-up on a barge located in a bay, presumably Tokyo's. Two prisoners who can't see one another are talking, one of them recounting the story of a hero to the other, a hapless manga artist.

That story, and the bulk of the film, is set in the late 1990s. It concerns several individuals, roughly in their late twenties, who were close friends in their youth. Kenji Endo (Toshiaki Karasawa) was the leader of the group in 1969. He later went on to play guitar in a rock band, but now (late '90s) manages a convenience store and takes care of his young niece, whose mother, Kenji's sister, disappeared sometime ago. Among his friends are long-haired Otcho (Etsuishi Toyokawa) and Yukiki Setoguchi (Takako Tokiwa), a lovely female police officer.

The group comes together again as a mysterious cult led by a man who wears a mask and is known only as "Friend" has emerged. Numerous individuals have disappeared, just like Kenji's sister, and one of their friends has met an untimely and bizarre death. At the same time, catastrophic events have begun occurring around the world, events that seem to be replicating fantasies in Kenji's "The Book of Prophecy" which he wrote years earlier to entertain his young friends. As the new millennium approached, is the world heading towards the apocalypse he predicted? And who is this "Friend" and what role, if any does he have in these strange occurrences?

Intercut within the general "flashback" to the late 1990s are further flashbacks to 1969, when Kenji and his friends hung out in a "clubhouse" fashioned from tall grass and when he wrote "The Book of Prophecy." One of the very nice touches here is the expert casting of the younger counterparts of the various characters. Each really bears a strong resemblance to their grown-up personage, which aids in reinforcing their individual characteristics.

20th Century Boys 1 is blessed with an intriguing story line, solid directing, and fine acting. My only regret was that I didn't have the next two volumes available to pop into my DVD. I can't wait to see the two remaining films and find out what happens.

ACF rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars (very good, highly recommended).

The 20th Century Boys 1 DVD will have an M.S.R.P. of $24.92 US and $35.99 CAN. Sorry, but I don't have any info at this time about special features on the DVD.

But I have been informed that 20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope is scheduled to be released in February, 2010, also by VIZ Pictures. No word yet on when 20th Century Boys 3: Redemption, which premiered in Japan in August, 2009, will be out, but I expect it to be sometime later next year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

ACF 430: Oishinbo a la Carte - The Joy of Rice


OISHINBO A LA CARTE © Tetsu KARIYA, Akira HANASAKI/Shogakukan Inc.

The latest installment in the Oishinbo a la Carte manga series recently became available from VIZ Media. This one is all about that quintessential Japanese food, rice. It covers such topics as the optimum moisture content of rice grains before cooking, when organic brown rice can be very unhealthy, foods that actually taste better with rice than by themselves, and dishes in which other items are either cooked separately or together with the rice.

All this is remarkably entertaining as well as informative.

Rice of course has been of major importance to the Japanese for millennia. So much so that it was used as a unit of monetary exchange, the koku (approximately 330 lbs of rice), and of a daimyo's (feudal Japanese lord's) wealth. Estates were appraised by how many koku of rice they could produce.

By coincidence, shortly after reading this volume, I happened to watch Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill again. In it, Jo Shishido's character has a thing for smelling fresh cooked rice. In an interview on the Criterion DVD, Suzuki explains that since the character was an assassin, he did not think the character would crave the smell of cooked meat. So instead, Suzuki says, he decided to use rice, the most Japanese of all foods.

Oishinbo ("The Gourmet") has sold over 100 million copies since it began publication in 1983. The VIZ a la carte editions compile selected highlights by topic. Consequently, the narrative is sometimes non-chronological. That is, developments in the story line that occur in one edition may not have yet occurred at points in a subsequent edition. Fortunately, there's a concise, easy to use appendix of notes at the end of each volume. Here such "temporal dislocations" are explained, and additional terms are described.

The Joy of Rice is another fine volume in this terrific manga series, which is definitely one of my favorites. The only downside about it that occurs to me is that, like every other volume, it made me hungry and wishing that I was wealthy enough to fly to Japan and eat and drink nothing but the best of the national cuisine!

Finally, for your info, the next and I believe final a la carte edition will explore the world of izakaya - Japanese bars and drinking establishments. It's due to be available in January 2010.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

ACF 429: Section23 Films announces two more DVD releases

Section23 Films has announced the release of Clannad After Story Collection 2, the latest anime release from Sentai Filmworks, as well as the live-action Japanese thriller Gun-Kyu ~ War Pigeon from Switchblade Pictures. Both DVDs are available now.

Anime fans have been following the Clannad saga since the blockbuster launched two years ago. Now the journey comes to an end with Clannad After Story Collection 2, a two -disc release containing the final 13 episodes of the Clannad saga.

SYNOPSIS: The course of love doesn’t always run true. Nagisa may have accepted Tomoya’s proposal, but her father, Akio, withholds his permission until Tomoya can meet his terms… and even if that can be achieved, darker clouds are gathering that will shatter their dreams forever, as Nagisa’s health begins declining. When what should be a happy moment turns instead into tragedy, Tomoya’s rage and frustration at being unable to do more than be by Nagisa’s side leaves him unable to handle the responsibility left to him. But the story is not yet over, and there is still another act to follow. Happiness can still be attained, provided that Tomoya holds onto love, the most precious thing of all. The grand climax, plus several enchanting side stories, await in the second collection of CLANNAD AFTER STORY.

Title: CLANNAD AFTER STORY COLLECTION 2
Running Time: 325 min.
Age Rating: TV PG
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Format: DVD
SRP: $39.98

Beware the doves of war! Next up is Gun-Kyu ~ War Pigeon, the new live-action thriller from Switchblade Pictures. With all the chills and suspense you’ve come to expect from Japanese horror, plus the violence, adult situations, and nudity you crave, Gun-Kyu is a worthy addition to the Switchblade catalog!

SYNOPSIS: Ever since that fatal incident in college, Kanako has sensed them. A sound behind her… an object moving at the corner of her vision. Birds. Cooing, taunting birds… But are they real, or just in her head? As she struggles to perform her duties teaching marine biology, the images of pigeons slowly begin to drive her to the edge of insanity, until even drugs and alcohol no longer offer her protection. And what if they aren’t figments of her imagination? What if that strange rumor she heard at the crime scene was true? If it was, then the real nightmare is only beginning! Vengeance has wings and the sky is filled with terror in GUN-KYU!

Title: GUN-KYU ~ WAR PIGEON
Running Time: 77 min.
Age Rating: Unrated (contains violence, adult situations, and nudity)
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Published by: Switchblade Pictures
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Format: DVD
SRP: $19.98

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

ACF 428: Samurai Vendetta kicks off new series at Japan Society this Friday, Dec 11th

All images © 1959 Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.

Samurai Vendetta / Hakuoki
(a.k.a. A Chronicle of Pale Cherry Blossoms)
Directed by Kazuo Mori
Japan, 1959, 109 min
In Japanese with English subtitles

The Double-Edged Sword: The Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu & Raizo Ichikawa is the name of Japan Society's new monthly film series. It kicks off this Friday, December 11th at 7:30 PM with a screening of Samurai Vendetta (Hakuoki). This 1959 film stars both actors as expert swordsmen from rival schools.

This rivalry has resulted in numerous duels. To end the bloodshed, each are sacrificed by the heads of their schools by kicking them out. The two are also rivals who each love the same woman. But both are highly honorable, sort of a samurai version of "frenemies."

I first encountered Raizo Ichikawa in his title role in the Nemuri Kyoshiro series, a.k.a. Sleepy Eyes of Death. (The fourth film in that series will also be screened as part of The Double-Edged Sword). In fact, I still have several films in the series on VHS tapes that AnimEigo put out under their Samurai Cinema brand. Ichikawa died a tragically early death from cancer in 1969, just shy of his 38th birthday.

Raizo Ichikawa is probably best known for his roles as Zatoichi and as Hanzo the Razor. It's terrific seeing him paired off with Ichikawa in this epic swordplay variation on the story of the 47 Ronin.

I had the opportunity to watch a screener of Samurai Vendetta and really enjoyed it. So much so that I'm going to the opening night screening and see it again!

This series has been curated by Chris D. (a.k.a. Chris Desjardins), author of Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film (a fine book that I'm about half-way through), and is an updated version of a series he presented in Los Angeles in 2002. He's slated to be present for the opening night festivities, which will include a reception and book signing in addition to the screening.

For more information, go to my November 24th post, or to this page at the Japan Society website.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

ACF 427: Naoki Urasawa's "MONSTER" available Tuesday, Dec 8th as DVD Box Set

VIZ MEDIA UNLEASHES NAOKI URASAWA’S MONSTER
FOR SPECIAL DVD BOX SET DEBUT

Animated Crime Drama Based On Smash Hit Manga Series Weaves
An Intricate Tale of Conspiracy, Political Intrigue and Murder

Naoki Urasawa’s MONSTER is scheduled to be released as a DVD Box Set from VIZ Media next Tuesday, December 8th.

Based on the acclaimed manga creator’s tense psychological masterpiece, MONSTER Box Set 1 features 3 DVDs/15 episodes (episodes 1-15), is rated ‘M’ for Mature Audiences, and carries a suggested MSRP of $59.90 U.S. / $85.99 CAN. The DVD box set will also include an exclusive digital booklet, which is a digitized version of the original Japanese booklet.

What would you do if a child you saved grew up to be a Monster? An ice-cold killer is on the loose, and Dr. Kenzo Tenma is the only one who can stop him! Tenma, a brilliant neurosurgeon with a promising future, risks his career to save the life of a critically wounded young boy named Johan. When the boy, now a coldhearted and charismatic young man, reappears nine years later in the midst of a string of unusual serial murders, Tenma must go on the run to uncover the story of Johan and stop the Monster he set loose upon the world. Conspiracies, serial murders, and secret government experiments set against the grim backdrop of the former East Germany are masterfully woven together in this compelling psychological drama. The critically acclaimed MONSTER manga series is also published in North America by VIZ Media and was nominated for a prestigious Eisner Award in 2009.

“Naoki Urasawa’s MONSTER is a real must-see for any true fan of anime, suspense or crime dramas,” says Brian Ige, VIZ Media Director of Sales, Home Entertainment “The animated series follows in a fine tradition of psychological crime noir ranging from Hitchcock and Mickey Spillane to Silence of the Lambs and CSI. All the tension and drama that made Urasawa’s manga such a masterpiece comes to life, and audiences will be glued to the screen when Dr. Tenma matches wits with a monstrous serial killer!”

Naoki Urasawa’s MONSTER is also featured each Monday night on Syfy’s Ani-Monday block, and re-broadcasted the week after on SyFy’s sister network, Chiller, which airs a variety of horror and suspense-themed programs. Check local listings for specific airtimes.

For more information on MONSTER the anime, please visit Monster.viz.com.

For more information on Naoki Urasawa’s MONSTER manga series (rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens), please visit www.vizsignature.com/monster.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

ACF 426: New Live-Action Double Feature DVD Released by Section 23 Films

Section23 Films has announced the DVD release of the Makiriko / Battler Sienne Matra Double Feature from Switchblade Pictures.

This special release contains two high-octane live-action features on one disc – because after all, what goes best with swords, sex and sorcery better than a second serving?

SYNOPSIS: The monsters, maidens and mayhem are out of control as Switchblade Pictures dishes out a double helping of double-breasted demon hunting goodness! First up: MAKIRIKO, which transposes the perennial anime premise of high-school heroine with a giant sword into live action reality! When sailor-suited warrior Makiriko shows up at a new school, there are two immediate clues that trouble is brewing: 1) the soul sucking demons taking over the student bodies; and 2) the talking green demon thing sitting on her shoulder that tells her trouble is brewing!

Then get ready for babes, blades and bare-chested battles galore as a nubile ninjette in training must confront her treacherous sister student, a possessed demon hand and the even more monstrous monster master to which the hand belongs. Why she thinks a tiny leather bikini is the appropriate garb for this is anyone’s guess, but that’s why she’s BATTLER SIENNA MATRA!

Two totally twisted fantasy thrillers on one great Switchblade DVD… because they know you like things that come in pairs!

Title: MAKIRIKO / BATTLER SIENNE MATRA DOUBLE FEATURE
Running Time: 60 min. + 67 min.
Age Rating: Unrated (Contains Violence, Nudity)
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Published by: Switchblade Pictures
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Format: DVD
SRP: $39.98

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

ACF 425: Comedy Manga "Butterflies, Flowers" available today from VIZ

BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS-CHOUYO HANAYO © 2006 Yuki YOSHIHARA/Shogakukan

VIZ MEDIA RELEASES NEW SHOJO MANGA SERIES
BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS

Zany Comedy About Office Romance And Social Class Introduces
The ‘Josei’ Genre Of Manga Aimed At Older Female Readers

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media) has announced the North American debut today, December 1st, of BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS, a new manga series that takes place against a backdrop of office romance and social class. BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS, published under the Shojo Beat imprint, is rated ‘M’ for Mature Audiences and carries an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.

Choko Kuze is the sensible daughter of a venerable family who went bankrupt. She joins a real estate company as an entry-level office worker, but her eccentric boss is harder on her than anyone else in the company! After hearing him inadvertently call her "milady," she realizes he was the young servant boy she knew as a child. At work he's a tyrant, but after hours he insists on treating her like a lady of the nobility. Is romance even possible for a couple locked in such a crazy role reversal?

BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS is a josei manga, a comic aimed primarily at female readers over the age of 18,” says Candice Uyloan, Director Brand Marketing, VIZ Media. “Readers familiar with the genre will enjoy this lighthearted story that is often funny and more than a bit sexy. As shojo manga readers mature and their interests expand, we are delighted to be able to offer titles that are aimed at a grown up audience. We look forward to readers discovering this zany romantic comedy.”

BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS was created by Yuki Yoshihara. She debuted in 1988 with Chanel no Sasayaki which appeared in the pages Betsucomi magazine. Yoshihara is also the creator of numerous josei manga series including Darling wa Namamono ni Tsuki and Itadakimasu.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

ACF 424: Tears to Tiara, Collection 1 now available on DVD from Section23 Films

Section23 Films has announced a brand new anime DVD release from Sentai Filmworks, Tears to Tiara Collection 1.

Tears to Tiara Collection 1 brings together the first 13 episodes of the Celtic-flavored fantasy-adventure series in a single two-disc set. This action-packed series became one of 2009’s big hits when it was first broadcast in Japan last April. Now North American fans have a chance to get in on the fun.

SYNOPSIS: In a strange dark age, the Divine Empire’s path of conquest seems unstoppable, endlessly devouring its weaker neighbors in a brutal cycle of subjugation and pillage. But when a savage priest makes a critical mistake while attempting to resurrect a Demon Lord, the scales of fate begin to tip in the other direction! Choosing to side instead with the priest’s intended sacrifice, the Gaelic Priestess Riannon, the resurrected Lord Arawn joins with Riannon and her brother Arthur, as together they begin to assemble the force that will bring the Divine Empire to its knees! Wizards, archers, sword masters and even pixies take arms as the ancient Celtic, Gaelic, British and Roman myths of Albion receive a spectacular new animated interpretation in Tears To Tiara, Collection 1!

Title: TEARS TO TIARA COLLECTION 1
Running Time: 325 min.
Age Rating: TV PG
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Format: DVD
SRP: $39.98

Friday, November 27, 2009

ACF 423: Bruce Lee remembered

Bruce Jun Fan Lee
Born November 27, 1940, San Francisco
Died July 20, 1973, Hong Kong

Bruce Lee was the single person most responsible for reinventing and reinvigorating the Asian martial movie and making the genre popular in the United States and other western countries. He would have marked his 69th birthday today if he had not died such a tragically early death in 1973.

Born in the U.S. to Chinese parents who were touring with a Chinese opera company, he grew up in Hong Kong, but returned to the U.S. in 1959. Most accounts attribute his return to his father's concern for his safety after Bruce got in a fight with the son of a feared Triad [Chinese criminal gang] member. He majored in Philosophy at the University of Washington, where he met his future wife Linda Emery. They later had two children. Son Brandon Lee, was born in 1965 and died in a tragic weapons accident on March 31, 1993 while filming The Crow. Daughter Shannon Lee, born 1969, is an actress. Interestingly her first credited film role was as the Party Singer in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, the under-rated 1993 bio-pic of her father..

Lee was the real deal - a true martial arts master. He developed his own martial arts system, known as Jeet Kune Do or the Way of the Intercepting Fist. A non-formalized style, it emphasized "practicality, flexibility, speed and efficiency." [source: Wikipedia]

Lee appeared in films from a young age because of his parents being in Chinese opera. However, it was in the United States, after he began teaching martial arts to such film stars as Steve McQueen and James Coburn, that his career really began. He starred as Kato in the 1966-67 television series The Green Hornet. Reportedly, he felt that his future in Hollywood was limited after he was passed over for the role of Kwai Chang Caine in the Kung Fu TV series, a role that went instead to David Carradine.

Bruce returned to Hong Kong, where film producer Raymond Chow offered him the lead in Tang sha da xiong, or The Big Boss in English. The film was a huge hit, as were his next two films. But it was with the Warner Brothers financed Enter the Dragon that Bruce's international reputation was immortalized. The final fight in the room of mirrors is one of the most iconic of all martial arts film sequences.


Sadly, Bruce died before the film premiered. He was visiting actress Betty Ting Pei, who gave him one of her prescription pills because he had a headache. He had an adverse reaction, could not be revived, and died later that day of cerebral edema.

He is most fondly remembered for:
The Big Boss (a.k.a. Fists of Fury), 1971
Fist of Fury (a.k.a. The Chinese Connection), 1972
Way of the Dragon (a.k.a. Return of the Dragon) 1972
Enter the Dragon, 1973
Game of Death, 1978 (Most of this film was shot after his death using a stand-in for Bruce. Still, the last sequence, as the real Bruce fights his way up a pagoda, facing increasingly difficult opponents on each successive floor, is fantastic. It plays like a series of boss fights in a live action video game.)

Only the first two of these were released in the United States prior to his death.

Enter the Dragon is available on DVD from Warner Brothers.

The other four films can be found in Bruce Lee: The Master Collection from 20th Century Fox, which also includes a bonus disc of documentary footage. They are, however, dubbed versions. It would be great if at some point the original versions, with good subtitles, become available.

In the meanwhile, all of these films are wonderful ways to remember Bruce and keep his spirit alive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ACF 422: Double Edged Sword

Raizo Ichikawa in Samurai Vendetta
© 1959 Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.


Japan Society's Monthly Classics Film Series Delivers 9 Slices of Rare '60s Samurai Cool with a Duel Dose of Masculine Mystique

The Double-Edged Sword: The Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu & Raizo Ichikawa

Opening Screening: Samurai Vendetta on Friday, December 11, 2009, 7:30 PM
Introduced by curator Chris D. with reception and book signing

Japan Society just announced their new Monthly Classics film series and it looks like it's oging to be a super-blast! Expect advance reviews of many of the films here at AsianCineFest. In the meanwhile, here's extensive info about the series.

New York -- Japan Society's latest Monthly Classics film series The Double-Edged Sword: The Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu & Raizo Ichikawa pays tribute to two Japanese screen legends in their most respected, representative and stylish chambara (sword fighting) films. Curated by film expert and author Chris D. (Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film), the series features 9 films slated to be screened monthly from December 2009 through May 2010. The opening night screening Samurai Vendetta takes place Friday, December 11 at 7:30 pm, and is followed by a reception and book signing. (Opening night tickets including reception are $15/$10 members, students & seniors; all subsequent screenings are $11/$7.)

Macho cool had two faces in Japanese cinema from the 1960s: Daiei Studios’ cult stars Shintaro Katsu (1931-1997) and Raizo Ichikawa (1931-1969). The actors dominated postwar genre films in Japan, projecting a disparate duality of masculine mystique. The earthy Katsu played the affable anti-idol rogue, unpredictable onscreen (and off), while ethereal, coolly enigmatic Ichikawa was considered the "James Dean of Japan." Beyond their differences, both stars instilled in their roles a poisonous poetry and existential angst that lifted their art into genre-transcending territory.

The Double-Edged Sword film series offers seminal works from each actor's arsenal chambara epics. Popular films such as Samurai Vendetta and three choice selections from the Zatoichi series are coupled with the surreal Destiny’s Son and art house film Scar Yosaburo. The series also presents Nemuri Kyoshiro's At Bay: The Sword of Seduction and Kenji Misumi's little known masterpiece The Devil’s Temple for the first time in 35 mm on the big screen with English subtitles.

With 2009 marking the 40th anniversary of Ichikawa’s death, The Double-Edged Sword series also anticipates the centennial of legendary director Akira Kurosawa in 2010. Samuel Jamier, newly appointed film programmer at Japan Society, notes, "While the Kurosawa/Mifune collaborations have long been consecrated as examples of ultimate samurai films, this retrospective series gives the occasion to unearth cinematic treasures that are too often overlooked, exposing an entire movement that took place parallel to Kurosawa and Cie."

Chambara designates a category of films that involve swordplay. Alternately romanized as chanbara, the label is an onomatopoeia, mimicking the "chan-chan, bara-bara" sound of clashing swords. The origin of chambara can be traced back to dramatized sword fights in kabuki dramas. Some of the earliest silent films in Japan were chambara with elaborate, balletic fight scenes. The genre reached maturity in the 1960s (many critics and fans describe that period as the golden age of chambara). The central figure in chambara films is the swordsman, who could be a samurai (often a ronin–a masterless samurai), ninja, or yakuza, always armed and dangerous. Chambara is part of the jidai-geki genre (period drama) and includes the matatabi sub-genre (wanderer or drifter that becomes a gambler).

“The chambara genre… was one of the central vehicles by which Japan would reexamine its culture and values in light of its new postwar, post-imperial role," notes Allen White, in his essay “A Man, a Blade, an Empty Road: Postwar Samurai Film to 1970” (GreenCine). "Chambara not only recycled and redefined Japanese history; it also used it as a thinly-coded metaphor for present-day struggles." Today, with anime reaching a peak of popularity in the U.S., many of the most popular series among young Americans--from Samurai Champloo to Afro-Samurai—are based on and inspired by old chambara movies.

THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD Screening Schedule:

Friday, December 11, 2009, 7:30 pm
Samurai Vendetta (A.K.A A Chronicle of Pale Cherry Blossoms)
**Opening screening with curator Chris D., reception and book signing

Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, 7:30 pm
Zatoichi, the Fugitive

Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, 7:30 pm
Destiny’s Son

Saturday, March 20, 2010
5:00 pm Zatoichi On the Road (A.K.A Zatoichi and the Scoundrels)
7:00 pm: Scar Yosaburo

Saturday, April 24, 2010
5:00 pm: New Tale of Zatoichi
7:00 pm: Nemuri Kyoshiro At Bay: The Sword of Seduction (A.K.A. Sleepy Eyes of Death 4)

Friday, May, 2010
5:00 pm: The Lone Stalker (A.K.A. Lone Wolf Isazo)
7:00 pm: The Devil’s Temple

THE DOUBLE EDGED SWORD Screening Details & Descriptions:

Samurai Vendetta (Hakuoki)
Friday, December 11, 2009 at 7:30 pm
**Opening screening introduced by series curator Chris D., with reception and book signing.
1959, 109 min., 16mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuo Mori. With Raizo Ichikawa, Shintaro Katsu, Chitose Maki.

A unique take on the 47 Ronin story, this epic film propelled Shintaro Katsu to superstardom alongside then-reigning Raizo Ichikawa. Betrayal, dishonor and death imbue this tragic tale of two swordsmen whose clans are embroiled in a blood feud and who vie for the same woman. The film is also known as A Chronicle of Pale Cherry Blossoms.

Zatoichi, the Fugitive (Zatoichi kyojo-tabi)
Friday, January 22, 2010 at 7:30 pm
1963, 86 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka. With Shintaro Katsu, Miwa Takada, Misayo Banri, Junichiro Narita, Katsuhiko Kobayashi.

As the iconic blind masseur Zatoichi, Katsu enters this fourth--and one of the most acclaimed--episode of the saga with a bounty on his head. Soon he is up to his neck slicing and dicing through a throng of yakuza thugs, fending off a long-lost love and battling a ruthless rogue samurai for hire.

Destiny’s Son (Kiru)
Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7:30 pm
1962, 71 min., 16 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Misumi. With Raizo Ichikawa, Eijiro Yanagi, Yoshio Inaba, Masayo Banri.

In director Kenji Misumi’s breakthrough film, Ichikawa seeks revenge and redemption after his family is murdered by a rival clan. An astonishing, dreamlike samurai film written by Kaneto Shindo, Destiny’s Son is a demonic masterpiece--designed with quasi-expressionist artistry, awash with surreal landscapes, and subsumed in an otherworldly beauty that fuses Zen and sword.

Zatoichi On the Road: Fighting Journey (Zatoichi kenka-tabi)
Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm
1963, 87 minutes, 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda. With Shintaro Katsu, Reiko Fujiwara, Shiho Fujimura.

Also known as Zatoichi and the Scoundrels, chapter five of the Blind Swordsman saga, Zatoichi encounters a dying man who asks him to deliver the maiden O-Mitsu to her family. Feeling honor-bound to fulfill the request, the canesword-wielding masseur goes on a perilous journey and soon finds himself caught between rival gangs competing to kidnap his beautiful protégée for a ransom.

Scar Yosaburo (Kirare Yosaburo)
Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 7:00 pm
1960, 94 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Daisuke Ito. With Raizo Ichikawa, Manami Fuji, Keiko Awaji.

A band of yakuza ruffians mutilate the face of an actor after he is caught with the gang boss’ mistress. A misty, moonlit tale from the kabuki repertoire and a stirring classic of the most artful category of samurai films, zankoku jidai-geki (cruel historicals).

New Tale of Zatoichi (Shin Zatoichi monogatari)
Saturday April 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm
1963, 91 min, 35mm, in English with Japanese subtitles. Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka. With Shintaro Katsu, Mikiko Tsubouchi, Seizaburo Kawazu.

Returning to his hometown in the hope of laying down his cane-sword and renouncing the wayward ways of his hack-and-slash life, Zatoichi reunites with his former sensei in the throes of his own moral dilemma. Trouble ensues as a mysterious gang of marauders ravages the town, a fellow drifter thirsty for revenge lurks in the shadows, and a forbidden love threatens to stand between Ichi and his beloved mentor.

Nemuri Kyoshiro At Bay: The Sword of Seduction (Nemuri Kyoshiro Joyo Ken)
Saturday April 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm
1964, 87 min., 35mm, in Japanese, presented for the first time in the U.S. with new digital subtitles. Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro. With Raizo Ichikawa, Michiko Ai, Akira Amemiya, Shinjiro Asano, Saburo Date, and Tomisaburo Wakayama.

Widely considered to be the strongest entry in the wonderfully perverse and violent samurai Nemuri saga, The Sword of Seduction finds the shadowy outcast mixed up in a labyrinthine intrigue involving persecuted Christians, opium smuggling, a drug-addled princess, and a search for a holy Madonna. Also known as Sleepy Eyes of Death 4, half-breed warrior Kyoshiro Nemuri (“Sleepy-Eyed”), the other most popular swordsman of all time alongside Zatoichi, and the self-proclaimed "Son of the Black Mask," was the archetypal anti-hero: dark, romantic and desperate.

Lone Wolf Isazo (Hitori Okami)
Friday, May 14, 2010 at 5:00 pm
1968, 83 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro. With Raizo Ichikawa, Isamu Nagato, Mayumi Ogawa.

Also known as The Lone Stalker, the epitome of the matatabi (samurai gambler) movie, Lone Wolf Isazo ranks as one of Ichikawa’s most spectacular performances. Employing flashbacks within flashbacks and a brooding romantic style poised somewhere between Budd Boetticher and early Sergio Leone, director Kazuo Ikehiro charts Isazo’s descent from chivalrous naïf to vengeance-obsessed cynical wanderer, giving a definitive chronicle of the loneliness the character faces.

The Devil's Temple (Oni no Sumu Yakata)
Friday, May 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm
1969, 76 min., 35 mm, in Japanese, presented for the first time in the U.S. with new digital subtitles. Directed by Kenji Misumi. With Shintaro Katsu, Hideko Takamine, Michiyo Aratama, Kei Sato.

In this little known Kenji Misumi masterpiece, an abandoned temple nestled in the mountains is the scene of a fateful encounter between a Buddhist monk, two women in love with the same man, and a fallen samurai (Katsu, at his most ferocious). As destinies collide, it appears that not just the lives of the quartet are at stake, but their very souls.

~

Chris D. (aka Chris Desjardins) is the author of Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film (2005, I.B. Tauris), which features essays and interviews with Japanese genre film directors from the '60s to the '90s. He recently completed work on two forthcoming books: an exhaustive study of yakuza films titled Gun And Sword – An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980, and an anthology of prose and poetry entitled A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die (New Texture Books, due Dec. 9). Chris worked as a film programmer at The American Cinematheque in Los Angeles 1999-2005 and was the main programmer of the Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre from 2006-09. Chris was also a singer/songwriter/producer for The Flesh Eaters and Divine Horsemen between 1978 and 2003. As an actor, Chris has appeared in Border Radio (1987), No Way Out (1987), Tweeked (1999) and Double Deception (2001). I Pass For Human (2004) was his feature film debut behind the camera. Japan Society's presentation of The Double-Edged Sword is an updated edition of a series he presented in Los Angeles in 2002.

The Japan Society Film Program offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Its aim is to entertain, educate and support activities in the Society's Arts & Culture programs. The Film Program has included retrospectives of great directors, thematic series and many U.S. premieres. Some original film series curated by Japan Society have traveled to other U.S. venues in tours organized by the Film Program. Since 2007, the Program has presented the annual summer JAPAN CUTS Festival of New Japanese Film in collaboration with the New York Asian Film Festival. The Monthly Classics series are yearly events inviting guest curators to organize film series with once-a-month screenings.

Established in 1907, Japan Society has evolved into North America's major producer of high-quality content on Japan for an English-speaking audience. Presenting over 100 events annually through well established Corporate, Education, Film, Gallery, Language, Lectures, Performing Arts and Innovators Network programs, the Society is an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that provides access to information on Japan, offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, and fosters sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia.

Tickets for regular screenings in The Doubled-Edged Sword series are $11/$7 members, students & seniors; the Dec. 11 opening night screening including reception is $15/$10. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd St.) For reservations visit www.japansociety.org or call the box office at 212-715-1258. For further information call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.

Japan Society 2009-10 Film Programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by the Globus Family, Yoshiko and Tim Schilt, David S. Howe, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, Joshua S. Levine and Nozomi Terao, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

ACF 421: More VIZ Holiday Gift Ideas

MONTHLY MANGA ANTHOLOGY SHONEN JUMP JOINS ART,
SCIENCE FICTION, AND BIOGRAPHICAL RELEASES TO MAKE FOR
UNIQUE GIFT IDEAS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

VIZ Media completes several recent announcements about some of the hottest anime and manga releases for kids, teens and adults – all available in time for the holidays – with a spotlight on a few other noteworthy gift ideas.

These include a 2010 subscription to North America’s leading monthly manga magazine - SHONEN JUMP – now available at a special low holiday rate that is 50% off cover price. Other releases include STARTING POINT: 1979-1996, a collection of biographical essays and interviews by and about Hayao Miyazaki, one of Japan's most beloved animation directors, as well as a new art book for his latest film, PONYO. The latest two Japanese science fiction novels – USURPER OF THE SUN and ZOO – are also new from VIZ Media’s Haikasoru imprint.

SHONEN JUMP MAGAZINE

Give the gift of SHONEN JUMP (12 HUGE issues) at a special LOW HOLIDAY RATE of only $29.95 (Canadian price: $41.95), a 50% off the cover price. Subscribers also receive 2 free YU-GI-OH! cards – Genesis Dragon and Orichalcos Shunoros – with each paid subscription. Please allow 6 - 8 weeks for delivery.

STARTING POINT: 1979-1996 · MSRP of $29.99 U.S. / $34.99 CAN · Available Now

This insightful collection of essays covers the first half of director and Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki’s legendary career, during which he rose from humble beginnings to create some of the most-loved animated features ever made, including Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, Castle In The Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso. A fitting introduction is offered by John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and Walt Disney.

THE ART OF PONYO · MSRP: $34.99 U.S. / $39.99 CAN · Available Now

A comprehensive softcover edition featuring striking watercolor and pastel concept sketches and layout pages from the film, as well as interviews with production principals and the complete screenplay to give an inside look at the entire creative process behind PONYO, the acclaimed film from Hayao Miyazaki. The movie is a wondrously imaginative retelling of the timeless Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Little Mermaid,” starring a little fish-girl named Ponyo, whose father happens to be a great sorcerer of the seas.

ZOO by Otsuichi · MSRP: $13.99 U.S. / CAN $16.00 · Available Now

ZOO presents eleven tales of dark fantasy and science fiction by one of Japan’s hottest authors. "The White Hut in the Forest" is the story of a man with a hole in his head and a charming home made from some strange materials. "Song of the Sunny Spot" is a rendition of the classic story of the Earth's last man...and his charming companion. And in the book’s eponymous tale, a man sees his dead girlfriend’s corpse decompose, one gristly Polaroid snapshot at a time. ZOO sold over 740,000 copies in Japan and was also turned into a successful Japanese film.

USURPER OF THE SUN by Housuke Nojiri · MSRP: $15.99 U.S. / CAN $18.99 · Available Now

Aki Shiraishi is a high school student working in the astronomy club and one of the few witnesses to an amazing event—a mysterious tower being built on the planet Mercury. Soon after, the enigmatic Builders construct a ring around the sun, and the ecology of Earth is threatened by its immense shadow. Aki is inspired to pursue a career in science, and the truth. She must determine the purpose of the ring and the plans of its creators, as the survival of both humanity and the alien Builders hang in the balance. A compelling new hard science fiction novel, USURPER OF THE SUN won a coveted Seiun Award in 2002 for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ACF 420: "Scream Scenes" iPhone/iTouch app from Mill Creek Entertainment

MILL CREEK ENTERTAINMENT ANNOUNCES LAUNCH
OF “SCREAM SCENES” IPHONE/IPOD APPLICATION

Collection of “Screams and Scenes” From 16 Classic Horror Films Including Night of the Living Dead, House On Haunted Hill, Little Shop of Horrors and More Available Now in the iTunes Store!

I know it's not Asian, but this sounds like a really neat iPhone/iTouch app that many of you readers would like to know about. Unfortunately, I only have a 1st generation iTouch, and it requires at least a 2nd gen iTouch. So I can't review it. Check it out yourself at the iTunes App Store.

The scary season doesn’t have to end with Halloween! Kitchy and fun vintage horror moments are being celebrated by Mill Creek Entertainment with the release of “Scream Scenes”, a scary and spooky application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Mill Creek, a recognized leader in value entertainment, has developed “Scream Scenes,” featuring audio and video clips from 16 of the most frighteningly fantastic classic horror films which can be found in Mill Creek Entertainment’s Horror Classics 50 Movie DVD collection. Featuring screams and scenes from such beloved horror films including Night of the Living Dead, House on Haunted Hill, Little Shop of Horrors and 13 more! The application is available now on iTunes for the low price of $0.99.

“Scream Scenes” users will be able to select multiple screams at once to create their own montage of terrifying sounds as well as view a scary video clip from each of the legendary horror movies. As an added bonus, this application features a TIMER feature where users can select a scream, set the delay time and wait patiently to scare their friends silly. With just a few clicks, iPhone and iPod Touch owners can download and enjoy the spine-tingling, ear-shattering, blood-curdling screams and scenes from the greatest classic horror movies of all time.

“Audiences today want to access movie content in a variety of original ways, and experience it through different applications,” says Ian Warfield, President and COO of Mill Creek Entertainment. “As we’ve expanded outside of the DVD marketplace, we noticed an exploding demand for film content. The addition of these applications to our product line significantly strengthens our position as a producer of high-quality entertainment.”

About Mill Creek Entertainment
Mill Creek Entertainment is a source of value home video entertainment. Helmed by a management team with over eighty years of experience in the consumer home entertainment marketplace, the company produces entertainment products that typically sell in quantity, at impulse price-points, while adhering to high standards of quality unsurpassed in the industry. The Mill Creek product line encompasses many genres, speaks to broad consumer tastes and has found favor with both North American and emerging Latin markets. The company's DVD product line consists of classic movies, television episodes, historical documentaries and feature films.

About 3 Sixty Software
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ACF 419: VIZ announces manga for kids holiday offerings

PONYO, POKÉMON AND ZELDA DELIGHT YOUNGER READERS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON IN NEW BOOKS & MANGA RELEASES

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media) has a fun variety of age-appropriate titles based on popular anime and manga (graphic novel) properties that will delight younger fans (as well as their parents) this holiday season.

The releases include a trio of books capturing the unique art and tender story of PONYO, the new animated film from the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Fans of POKÉMON won’t be disappointed with a variety of the latest manga editions along with puzzle books and a new posterzine, and THE LEGEND OF ZELDA fans can also look forward to a brand new manga adventure.

“These are all titles that parents can select with confidence for younger readers,” says Gonzalo Ferreyra Vice President, Sales & Marketing, VIZ Media “From the gorgeously illustrated PONYO FILM COMIC and PICTURE BOOK, to the fun puzzles of LET’S FIND POKÉMON and the magical fantasy of THE LEGEND OF ZELDA, there are plenty of thoughtful selections to delight anyone on your holiday gift lists this year!”

PONYO FILM COMICs, Volumes 1-4 · Rated ‘A’ For All Ages · MSRP: $9.99 US / $11.50 CAN each

From the Academy Award®-winning director and world-renowned Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki comes PONYO, a story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale “The Little Mermaid.” A box-office success when it was released by Walt Disney Studios earlier this year, the film tells the story of a young and overeager goldfish named Ponyo and her quest to become human. The official 4-volume film comic of PONYO re-tells the film’s story with vivid full-color frames.

PONYO PICTURE BOOK · Rated ‘A’ For All Ages · MSRP: $19.99 US / $23.50 CAN

The colorful and easy-to-read PONYO Picture Book is a fabulous hardcover edition that will appeal especially to younger readers. The book uses the vividly colored animation cel art from the feature film combined with simplified text to retell the story of Ponyo and her adventures in the human world.

THE ART OF PONYO • Rated ‘A’ for All Ages • MSRP: $34.99 U.S. / $39.99 CAN

A comprehensive soft cover edition that features striking watercolor and pastel concept sketches and layout pages from the film, as well as interviews with production principals and the complete screenplay to give an inside look at the entire creative process behind PONYO.

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA, Volume 8 · Rated ‘A’ For All Ages · MSRP: $7.99 US / $9.99 CAN

Enjoy the newest adventure in the official manga series based on the popular Nintendo video game.

POKÉMON POSTERZINE · Rated ‘A’ For All Ages · MSRP: $9.99 US / $9.99 CAN

Packed with 11 full color fold-out posters, this large (16” x 22”) edition is a must-have for any fan of Pikachu and his friends. A variety of favorite POKÉMON Platinum characters, from Pikachu and Piplup to Chimchar and Turtwig, are all featured.

LET’S FIND POKÉMON! RUBY & SAPPHIRE · Rated ‘A’ For All Ages · MSRP: $11.99 US / $13.99 CAN

Look for Pikachu hiding among a variety of colorful puzzles and other games. Fun for adults too!

POKÉMON ADVENTURES, Vol. 3 · Rated ‘A’ For All Ages · MSRP: $7.99 US / $9.99 CAN

This is the latest volume in the exciting POKÉMON manga series.

POKÉMON DIAMOND & PEARL ADVENTURE!, Vol. 5 · Rated ‘A’ For All Ages · MSRP: $7.99 US / $9.99 CAN

Check out the latest volume in the exciting POKÉMON DIAMOND & PEARL manga series.

For information on VIZ Media titles, please visit www.VIZ.com.