With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

SuBLime launches digital yaoi manga catalog on Amazon Kindle Store

EMBRACING LOVE:
© 2012 Youka Nitta/Libre Publishing
 GLOBAL YAOI MANGA PUBLISHER SuBLime
LAUNCHES EXTENSIVE DIGITAL YAOI MANGA
CATALOG ON AMAZON KINDLE STORE

North America’s Most Diverse Digital Yaoi Manga Collection
Is Now Available For The World’s Best-selling e-Reader!

SuBLime, the global yaoi manga publishing initiative between VIZ Media and Japan’s Animate, Ltd. (Animate), has announced the launch of its extensive manga (graphic novel) catalog for Amazon Kindle devices, including Kindle Fire tablets and the new Kindle Paperwhite. Global users of the world’s best-selling e-reader already have instant access via the Amazon Kindle Store to 53 titles by some of the top creators in the yaoi genre.

Volumes are generally available for purchase and immediate download directly from the Kindle Store for $5.99 (U.S. / CAN) each (subject to Amazon’s own discount). Individual volumes are generally rated ‘M’ for Mature Readers. New series debuts and updates for ongoing titles will be added regularly as part of SuBLime’s regular digital release schedule throughout 2014.

TABLEAU NUMERO 20: 
© 2009 Esutoemu/LibrePublishing

Among the many SuBLime digital releases in the Kindle Store that are sure to capture the attention of fans are several highly acclaimed titles such as AWKWARD SILENCE, by Hinako Takanaga, EMBRACING LOVE, by Youka Nitta, DEVIL’S HONEY, by Isaku Natsume, OKU-SAN’S DAILY FANTASIES, by Noboru Takatsuki, and TABLEAU NUMÉRO 20, by est em, in addition to many more. Please visit the Amazon Kindle Store for a complete list of launch titles.

“The launch of the SuBLime catalog on the Amazon Kindle Store arrives just in time for the holidays and gives readers a new way to enjoy a diverse selection of fun and sexy yaoi manga with the crisp resolution, compact portability, and affordability the Kindle devices are renowned for,” says Jennifer LeBlanc, Editor, SuBLime. “We look forward to expanding our catalog substantially in the coming year and to utilizing the Kindle Store to deliver even more of the best the yaoi genre has to offer!”

The SuBLime website at www.SuBLimeManga.com will also continue to offer downloadable PDFs for each title that are interoperable with all Kindle devices, with no region restrictions.

For more information on SuBLime’s print and digital titles, please visit www.SuBLimeManga.com, or follow SuBLime on Twitter at @SuBLimeManga, Facebook at facebook.com/SuBLimeManga, or Tumblr at sublimemanga.tumblr.com.

For more information on Amazon Kindle devices, visit https://kindle.amazon.com.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

THE BERLIN FILE becomes available on Region 1 DVD this Wednesday

CJ Entertainment
Presents
The Berlin File
Written and directed by RYOO Seung-wan
Starring Ha Jung-woo, HAN Suk-kyu,
RYU Seung-beom, and Gianna JUN
South Korea, 2013, 120 minutes

Get ready for an action-packed espionage thriller in which the clandestine operatives of the two parts of Korea, the only remaining country of those that were divided in the immediate post-WWII period, go at one another in the formerly divided city that was the focus of so much Cold War intrigue. The Berlin File arrives on Region 1 DVD on Wednesday, December 24th.

The Berlin File set attendance records in South Korea after it opened at the end of January, 2013. South Korean filmmakers BONG Joon-ho (The Host), CHOI Dong-hoon (The Thieves) and LEE Joon-ik (The King and the Clown) have each praised it and for good reason. It's top-drawer entertainment.

North Korean "ghost" agent PYO Jong-seong (HA Jung-woo)

The film, which was written and directed by RYOO Seung-wan (The City of Violence), centers around PYO Jong-seong, a North Korean operative played by HA Jung-woo (The Yellow Sea, Nameless Gangster). Currently stationed in Berlin, where his wife is a translator for the North Korean ambassador, PYO is called the hero of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. However, he is not known to the intelligence agencies of South Korea (a.k.a. the Republic of Korea), the United States, Britain, or Israel.

Such an agent is termed a “ghost” and that’s what South Korean intelligence agent JUNG Jin-soo (HAN Suk-kyu, Green Fish, Shiri, A Bloody Aria) calls him when he’s seen on surveillance cameras at an arms deal taking place in a hotel room. PYO is arranging, via a Russian broker, for the sale of North Korean weapons to a member of an Arab “anti-imperialist” terrorist organization. When a third party interrupts the meeting, all hell breaks loose, and JUNG’s quest to capture the resourceful and elusive PYO begins.

RYUN Jung-hee (Gianna JUN) is PYO's wife and a translater for the North Korean ambassador

The story is further complicated because PYO’s wife, RYUN Jung-hee (played by Gianna JUN, a.k.a. JUN Ji-hyun, Blood: The Last Vampire, My Sassy Girl, Il Mare), is suspected of treason. DONG Myung-soo, a vicious North Korean agent and son of a powerful political figure, has been sent to deal with the situation. He gives PYO, who begins to have some of his own suspicions about his wife, forty-eight hours to clear her. RYOO Seung-bum (Doomsday Book, Foxy Festival, No Mercy), brother of director RYOO Seung-wan, plays the role of DONG with truly relentless, sinister menace. (I have no idea why their family name is spelled RYOO for one RYU for the other, but that's how they appear in publicity materials and at IMDb.)

South Korean intelligence agent JUNG Jin-soo (HAN Suk-kyu)

To say that the film has a dense story line is almost an understatement. In addition to the North and South Korean intelligence and diplomatic factions and the Arab terrorists, there is involvement of the U.S. CIA and Israel’s Mossad, suspicions of defection, and a $4 billion fund supposedly squirreled away by North Korea’s supreme leader KIM Jong-il before he died. Individuals are often not what they seem to be and are rarely to be trusted. In the world of espionage, after all, duplicity is the name of the game. Still, it’s easy enough to follow along and enjoy the show.

Dong Myung-soo (RYU Seung-bum, brother of director RYOO Seung-wan) is a ruthless North Korean operative

Terrific, stylish, high-adrenaline action scenes frequently punctuate the film. Great credit must be given to JUNG Doo-hong, the film’s action coordinator, as well as to the actors and stunt personnel involved.

The audio and video on the DVD are fine. There's absolutely nothing to find fault with nor to complain about, although I must confess that I'd love it if CJ Entertainment would start making their films available on Blu-ray discs as well as DVDs (like Well Go USA does) or as Blu-ray/DVD combo editions (as The Criterion Collection is now doing).

There are four language track options: the original Korean soundtrack with English subtitles or an English dubbed version, both available as either 5.1 or 2.0.

The Berlin File disc extras include "The Making of The Berlin File," a much better than average behind-the-scenes featurette that clocks in about 83 minutes. There are some very interesting bits of information that come to light, especially from action coordinator JUNG and from a woman formerly from North Korea who advised the cast on the various accents they employed and which were based on the social status of their characters.  Some deleted scenes are also included.

The Berlin File is taut, well-paced, action-packed thriller with an outstanding all-star cast. ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended.

Some other reviews of the film, not the DVD per se, can be found at:
Film Business Asia
Screen Daily

Death Note Graphic Novel Box Set available at 50% off from RightStuf


Death Note is about a creature from the shinigami realm, Ryuk, who drops his Death Note in the human world where it is found by Light Yagami, a brilliant high school student. Light finds that, as the note's instructions indicate, when the Death Note's owner has a person's face in mind and writes that person's name in it, that person will die. Light decides to use the Death Note to rid the world of criminals. This sets off a cat-and-mouse game between Light and L, an equally brilliant young man who is capable of solving crimes that leave everyone else mystified.

I first became aware of Death Note when the three live-action films were released on DVD. (You can read my review of the Death Note II: The Last Name movie here.) However I really wasn't familiar with the original manga with story by Tsugumi Ohba and art by Takeshi Obata.


Recently I noticed a post by VIZ on Facebook that RightStuf.com was having a 50% off sale on the Death Note Graphic Novel Box Set. It contains all twelve volumes of the original manga, a special thirteenth volume entitled Death Note: How to Read, and a slim volume entitled Death Note: How to Use It that contains all the rules for using a Death Note.

I'm not a manga maniac, but I have enjoyed reading quite a few. I liked the Death Note films very much and found the 50% off price of $49.99 a deal I couldn't resist. I'm now on volume 10 and am really pleased with my purchase. The artwork is gorgeous, very detailed, and the story is quite engrossing, as I'd expected it would be. Interestingly, the story line in the manga is quite different from the films in some important ways. It seems that the films were to a considerable degree based on the novel Death Note: L, change the WorLd. This alternate story of the face-off between Light and L is by M (yes, just the single letter), with artwork again by Obata.

I highly recommend the Death Note Graphic Novel Box Set, especially at the 50% off sale price. But if you're interested in taking advantage of that offer, I suggest that you to act fast. The sale may end within the next few days. If interested, check out the offer by clicking here.

The Death Note Graphic Novel Box Set is published by VIZ books.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sentai Filmworks has licensed FAMILIAR OF ZERO SEASON 1


What do you get when you add a mage who’s a zero to the unlikeliest of heroes? Trouble with a capital “T” in Sentai Filmworks’ newest acquisition: Familiar of Zero Season 1. This 13 episode fantasy is directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Best Student Council) and features character designs by Masahiro Fujii (Dream Eater Merry) with scripts and series composition by Takao Yoshioka (Demon King Daimao) and music by Shinkichi Mitsumune (Rozen Maiden).

Synopsis: Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière’s name is so long and her spell-casting skills are so poor that everyone at the Tristain Academy of Magic just calls her “Louise the Zero”. Louise’s humiliation only increases during an important second year test, where the other students summon up dragons and other mythological creatures as their familiars, and she inexplicably summons Hiraga Saito, a totally normal teenager from Tokyo.

Now she’s stuck with him and Saito’s stuck with the lousy life of being a familiar. Except, maybe there’s more going on than meets the eye, because Saito’s not prepared to accept the social inequities that Louise and other aristocrats consider the status quo, and he may not be quite as normal as everyone thinks. And the reason Louise is so bad at magic might just be that she hasn’t figured out what she’s good at yet. In fact, they might even have the makings of a great team.

If they can learn to stand each other first, that is! Will familiarity breed contempt? Will combining two negatives result in a positive? The answer will be spelled out, enchantment by enchantment, in Familiar of Zero.

Familiar of Zero Season 1 will be available soon through select digital outlets and on bilingual DVD & BD.

VIZ accepting pre-orders for anime series RANMA 1/2 on Blu-ray & DVD

© Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan
VIZ MEDIA ANNOUNCES PRE-ORDERS FOR THE
CLASSIC RANMA ½ ANIME SERIES ON RESTORED
BLU-RAY FOR THE FIRST TIME AND DVD

Legendary Martial Arts-Action-Adventure-Comedy Debuts In High
Definition In New 3-Disc Sets That Feature The First Season Of The
Celebrated Series And An Array Of Special Bonus Features

VIZ Media has announced that it is accepting pre-orders for the upcoming March 25th release of RANMA ½, the celebrated martial arts action-adventure based on the smash hit manga (graphic novel) series created by Rumiko Takahashi (2-in-1 omnibus manga editions featuring the original right-to-left reading format also debut the same month).

VIZ Media will release the first of seven seasons of RANMA ½ sets as a special Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set and also as a Standard Edition DVD Set. Pre-orders will be available soon through most major video/DVD/Blu-ray retailers as well as from leading anime retailers including Amazon, RightStuf, and Robert's Anime Corner Store.

The RANMA ½ Blu-ray Box Set carries an MSRP of $54.97 (U.S. / CAN) and offers hours of fun in the special 3-disc set that features 23 episodes of the acclaimed series, presented in full 1080p High Definition resolution taken straight from the original Japanese Blu-ray masters giving fans the uncropped, original 4:3 aspect ratio. For the first time, all episodes are presented in the original Japanese episode order. Dialogue options are available for original Japanese with English subtitles or with dubbed English audio tracks, and a secondary subtitle track for signs and songs will also be included. The set comes packaged in a premium chipboard box with gold foil stamping with art that is beautifully illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi and also includes a 64-page booklet with a full color episode guide along with a manga re-master sampler.

An extensive selection of bonus features for the Blu-ray Box Set makes it a must-own for North American fans. In addition to trailers and upcoming episode previews, the Blu-ray set includes footage of the packed-capacity RANMA ½ panel from the 2013 New York Comic Con, a highlight reel of the 2013 New York Comic Con VIZ Media events, and an exclusive “We Love Ranma” Part 1 - Manga Re-Mastering interview with the VIZ Media Editor Hope Donovan that details some of the processes of the latest manga release.

The RANMA ½ Standard Edition DVD Set is also scheduled for release on March 25th and will be available soon for pre-order. Carrying an MSRP of $44.82 U.S. / CAN, the Standard Set features 23 episodes on 3 discs along with bonus features that include trailers, and a 2013 New York Comic Con highlight reel. English and Japanese audio options will be available, as well as the songs-and-signs subtitle track.

RANMA ½ Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set

From the legendary oeuvre of master creator Rumiko Takahashi, the mixed-up, madcap, martial arts romantic comedy RANMA 1/2 returns! After taking a surprise dip in a cursed spring while on a training journey in China, martial artist Ranma Saotome and his father, Genma, aren’t quite themselves anymore. Now Ranma turns into a girl whenever he’s splashed with cold water, and Genma turns into a panda! Their new forms cause nothing but confusion at the Tendo dojo, where Soun Tendo is waiting to introduce one of his three daughters to Ranma—as his fiancée! Turns out Genma and Soun arranged the match long ago, but the girl, Akane, and the boy, Ranma, aren’t exactly crazy about the idea, or each other! Or are they? Watch the gender switching, jealous rages, and martial arts battles unfold all over again!

“This is the series that introduced many fans to manga and anime, and we’re extremely excited to mark the return of RANMA ½ to North America in its High Definition debut,” says Charlene Ingram, Senior Animation Marketing Manager. “Catch all of the action and hilarious gender- and species-bending hijinks in the first set of this groundbreaking comedy that also comes jam-packed with an array of special bonus features. We’re pleased to invite fans to take advantage of this special pre-order to secure their Blu-ray or DVD copy of this acclaimed series. These gorgeous sets are truly great to collect and treasure!”

The spotlight on Rumiko Takahashi's career began in 1978 when she won an honorable mention in Shogakukan's prestigious New Comic Artist Contest for Those Selfish Aliens. Later that same year, her boy-meets-alien comedy series, Urusei Yatsura, was serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday. This phenomenally successful manga series was adapted into anime format and spawned a TV series and half a dozen theatrical-release movies, all incredibly popular in their own right. Takahashi followed up the success of her debut series with one blockbuster hit after another. Maison Ikkoku ran from 1980 to 1987, Ranma 1/2 from 1987 to 1996, and Inuyasha from 1996 to 2008. Other notable works include Mermaid Saga, Rumic Theater, One-Pound Gospel, and RIN-NE.

Takahashi won the Shogakukan Manga Award twice in her career, once for Urusei Yatsura in 1981 and the second time for Inuyasha in 2002. A majority of the Takahashi canon has been adapted into other media such as anime, live-action TV series, and film. Takahashi's manga, as well as the other formats her work has been adapted into, have continued to delight generations of fans around the world. Distinguished by her wonderfully endearing characters, Takahashi's work adeptly incorporates a wide variety of elements such as comedy, romance, fantasy, and martial arts. While her series are difficult to pin down into one simple genre, the signature style she has created has come to be known as the "Rumic World." Rumiko Takahashi is an artist who truly represents the very best from the world of manga.

For more information on Rumiko Takahashi titles by VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

Friday, December 20, 2013

WEDDING PALACE coming on DVD and VOD early in January 2014!


There's more great news for those who are already fans of Christine Yoo's wonderful Korean-American comedy Wedding Palace and those who are sure to become fans. (My review of the film is available here.)

On January 7th it will be released on DVD and will be available on VOD! The DVD will be available in every Barnes & Noble store across the U.S. It will also be in select Family Video Stores, the largest DVD rental chain in the Midwest.

In the meanwhile, Wedding Palace is now officially UP IN THE AIR! It's playing on Malaysian Airlines through the end of December. In February, it will be shown on Hawaiian Airlines.

Wedding Palace is still showing in Hawaii at the Pearl Ridge theater, and can be seen there until Dec 26, which will end a 14 week run there.

BLEACH and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN imagery for smartphone customization

NARUTO © 1999 by Masashi Kishimoto/SHUEISHA Inc.
VIZ MEDIA PARTNERS WITH UNITED, INC. TO OFFER OFFICIAL
BLEACH AND NARUTO SHIPPUDEN SMARTPHONE IMAGE SETS

Customize Your Smartphone’s Homepage And One-Touch Icons
With Official Imagery From Hit Anime Action Series With
The CocoPPa App For Android And iPhone Devices VIZ

Media is offering anime and manga fans a fun way to customize their Smartphone with official BLEACH and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN digital imagery from the CocoPPa App developed by UNITED, Inc., a Japanese digital multimedia company. The CocoPPa app enables Android and iPhone users to purchase exclusive Smartphone image sets based on these popular anime and manga properties, and choose from a variety of colorful images from the hit anime and manga properties to customize "one-touch icons" and homepage backgrounds. Two NARUTO SHIPPUDEN-themed sets debut today, and two BLEACH sets debut on Monday December 23rd.

The CocoPPa App is available for free download to U.S. users from the GooglePlay Store and iTunes Store, and from within the app, users may select and purchase the two different sets available for BLEACH and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN. Each set contains a wallpaper, a lock screen image, and either 8 or 16 different icons, for 200 or 300 points ($1.99 or $2.99 U.S.) per set.

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Selections Available Now:

 Symbol Kisekae Set
Hip designs and symbols from the series, including the Sharingan Eye, Rock Lee’s eyebrows, the Akatsuki cloud and more!

Chibi Kisekae Set
Get all your favorite NARUTO SHIPPUDEN characters in cute chibi-style! Set includes Naruto, Sasuke and Nine-Tail Fox.

BLEACH © 2001 by Tite Kubo/SHUEISHA Inc.

BLEACH Selections Available December 23rd:

Arrancar Kisekae Set
Featuring fan-favorite Arrancar team members from the series – Grimmjow, Nel, Ulquiorra and more!

Symbol Kisekae Set
Renji’s distinctive hair, Rukia’s butterfly and more, in a modern stylized design!

CocoPPa is a unique application that connects users to a global community with a virtually limitless selection of original icons and wallpapers. Users can both submit and download content to customize their Smartphone home screens. The app amassed over 15 million downloads by September 2013, a mere 14 months after its initial launch. Additional information on CoCoPPa is available at: https://cocoppa.com/.

Created by Masashi Kishimoto, NARUTO was first introduced in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in Japan in 1999 and quickly became that country’s most popular ninja manga properties. The manga series (rated ‘T’, in print and digital editions) and anime counterpart (NARUTO & NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, rated ‘TV-14’) are some of VIZ Media’s most successful titles and have captivated millions of fans across North America, Europe, and South America. Additional information on NARUTO and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN is available at www.viz.com/Naruto.

The BLEACH animated film and TV series (distributed in North America by VIZ Media, rated ‘TV-14’) are based on a smash hit manga series created by Tite Kubo (also published in North America by VIZ Media, rated ‘T’) and follows the adventures of Ichigo, a 15-year old student with the ability to see ghosts. When his family is attacked by a Hollow — a malevolent lost soul – Ichigo encounters Rukia, a Soul Reaper, and inadvertently absorbs her powers. Now, he’s dedicating his life to protecting the innocent and helping tortured souls find peace. For more information on BLEACH please visit www.viz.com/Bleach.

To download the CocoPPa Android app, visit the GooglePlay store.

To download the app for iOS, visit the iTunes store.

For more information on NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, BLEACH or VIZ Media anime and manga properties, visit www.viz.com.

Comedy manga NISEKOI coming January 7th, 2014 from VIZ Media

NISEKOI © 2011 by Naoshi Komi/SHUEISHA Inc.
LOVE TRIANGLE!! ROMANTIC COMEDY!! GANG WARFARE?!
MANGA FANS ARE INVITED TO CATCH THE PRINT
DEBUT OF NISEKOI FROM VIZ MEDIA IN JANUARY

It’s False Love And Hate At First Sight In This
Hilarious Manga Series About A Pair Of
Mismatched Lovers That Kicks Off 2014

VIZ Media delivers laugh-out-loud fun as it announces the print debut of Volume 1 of the comedy manga (graphic novel) series NISEKOI on January 7th, 2014. The hit series by creator Naoshi Komi will be published under the company’s SHONEN JUMP imprint, rated ‘T’ for Teens, and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.

It's hate at first sight—or rather, a knee-to-the-head at first sight—when Raku Ichijo meets Chitoge Kirisaki! Unfortunately, Raku’s gangster father arranges a false love match between Raku and their rival gang leader’s daughter, who just so happens to be Chitoge! Raku’s searching for his childhood sweetheart from ten years ago, however, with a pendant around his neck as a memento…but he can't even remember the girl’s name or face!

NISEKOI, Volumes 1-6 are also available for digital download for $6.99 (USD/CAN) each on VIZManga.com and through the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones, and also for NOOK, KOBO, and KINDLE tablets and devices. With one account, registered VIZ Manga users are able to view digital manga purchases across even more devices than ever and the platform currently features over 2,000 volumes across 170 different series.

“North American manga fans got their first taste of NISEKOI when VIZ Media launched it simultaneously in our WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP digital manga magazine on the same day as the Japanese debut, and the buzz on this series has grown ever since,” says Amy Yu, Editor. “Raku and Chitoge must pretend to be in a relationship to maintain the peace between their fathers’ warring yakuza factions, but false love is easier said than done—especially once an overprotective bodyguard, a dangerous female assassin and a mysterious girl claiming to be Raku’s fiancée appear! Fans and readers won’t want to miss all the drama and action as we kick off 2014 with the print debut of this great series!”

Manga creator Naoshi Komi’s first serialized title in Japan’s Weekly Shonen Jump was the series, Double Arts. His current series, NISEKOI, is currently serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump and in North America in VIZ Media’s WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP digital manga magazine.

For more information on NISEKOI, or other manga titles from VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PERSONAL TAILOR opens tomorrow

Huayi Brothers and
China Lion present
 Personal Tailor / Si Ren Ding Zhi
Directed by Feng Xiaogang
Screenplay by Wang Shuo
China, 2013, 117 minutes

Personal Tailor, the new satirical comedy from Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, opens tomorrow in several major metro areas in the U.S. and Canada. This is in keeping with China Lion's policy of releasing films theatrically here to closely coincide with their release in China, where Personal Tailor is to formally open today, December 19th. Check IMDb, Fandango or local listings for theaters and showtimes in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Washington D.C, Honolulu, Vancouver and Toronto.


The film's title is the name of a dream fulfillment service whose corporate motto is, "What you don't dare imagine, we dare to do." For a short period of time, typically a day or two, the four members of the company will help an individual realize something that they otherwise would never experience. Yang Zhong (Ge You, The Banquet, a.k.a. Legend of the Black Scorpion, 2006) is the director of dreams; Miss Bai (Bai Baihe) serves as the personal fantastician to the clients; Miss Lu (Li Xiallu, Blood Brothers, 2007) is the caterer of whims; and Ma Quing (Zheng Kai, My Lucky Star, 2013) is the spiritual anesthetist.

Miss Lu and Ge You as visiting dignitaries to the chauffeur who would be a powerful person

After an introductory sequence that plays like a black-and-white World War II movie set in Europe, the film switches to color. There are three main stories in this omnibus film. The first, "Honest Instincts," stars Fan Wei (Back to 1942, 2012) as a chauffeur. A succession of his past corporate bosses have been convicted of corruption and his fantasy is to be in a position of power to prove that he's incorruptible and would therefore make an outstanding cadre.

Miss Lu, Ge You, Miss Bai and Ma Quing watch a performance by their vulgar film director client

In "Bloody Vulgar" Li Chengru portrays a film director who has made nothing but cheap, vulgar entertainment. His desire is to go art house. The staff of Personal Tailor come to realize that they are all vulgar, so they should follow their instincts, then do the exact opposite. Fans of Seinfeld will recognize this ploy from the episode in which the George Costanza character does exactly that and turns his life around, albeit temporarily. This segment features a brief cameo by Jackie Chan, and one minor character brings to mind Vulgaria director Pang Ho-cheung, at least judging by their distinctive hairstyles.

Mrs. Song and Ge You

The final fantasy is "Mo' Money," which stars Dandan Song (House of Flying Daggers, 2004)) as Mrs. Song, an old woman who once saved spiritual anesthetist Ma Quing when he fell  into a river during an earthquake. She dreams of being immensely rich, and the lengths to which she, assisted by the staff of Personal Tailor, will go in order to "spend" her wealth are among the funniest moments in the film.

Which brings me to the dilemma of rating and evaluating Personal Tailor. As far as I'm concerned,  comedies are the most difficult category of films both to make and to review. For the filmmaker it's a matter of generating at least an adequate number of laughs from the intended audience, whether it's a broad and general one or a specifically targeted audience. As a reviewer, I feel I have to consider not only what made me laugh and if these things are likely to make others laugh, but also will things that I didn't find funny possibly or likely amuse others.

The situation is compounded with a foreign film, where viewers not understanding the language have to deal with subtitles. (This of course doesn't apply, or barely applies to physical comedy, which transcends language. Witness, for example, the widespread appeal of such silent film stars as Chaplin, Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.) And a satirical comedy has the additional factor of how familiar does one need to be with what is being satirized in order to appreciate the humor.

All in all, I have to say that Personal Tailor succeeds quite well as comic satire from a foreign country. I'm sure that the more familiar one is with present day mainland China, the more one is likely to be amused by the film. But the subjects of the three main sections -- sanctimonious self-righteousness, artistic pretensions, and the flaunting of obscene wealth -- are all topics that know no borders. Feng does a fine job of puncturing their respective bubbles,

I enjoyed the movie a lot and I'll go on record as believing that anyone inclined to see it will find Personal Tailor quite entertaining and amusing. Go see it, give it a chance, and find out for yourself.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anime Action Series "K" streams for free on Hulu until January 15th

 VIZ MEDIA ANNOUNCES THE ENGLISH DUB DEBUT
OF THE EDGY ANIME SERIES “K” ON HULU
FOR A LIMITED TIME BEGINNING TODAY!

Complete 13-Episode Anime Action Series About
A Psychic War Between Seven Kings Launches
On The Leading Online Video Streaming Service

VIZ Media has announced a special limited run of the psychological thriller “K” on the free, ad-supported Hulu video streaming service and the Hulu Plus subscription service. The complete series (13 episodes) will debut today with dubbed English dialogue and will run until Wednesday, January 15th. Please visit www.Hulu.com for complete details.

K introduces fans to Shiro, an easygoing teenager content with just being a student – until his seemingly perfect life is suddenly halted when a bloodthirsty clan, glowing red with fire, attempts to kill him in the streets. Unbeknownst to Shiro, he is suspected of murdering a member of their clan and will need a miracle to escape their vengeance. Miraculously, a young man named Kuroh Yatogami swings in and aids Shiro in his getaway, only to reveal afterward he's also after Shiro's life. Now a hunted man, Shiro will have to evade the clans of seven powerful kings and desperately try to prove his innocence – before it’s too late!

VIZ Media will also release K as a special Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and as a standard DVD edition on February 25th, 2014. The edgy 13-episode series is rated TV-14 and will be offered as a special 4-Disc limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with an MSRP of $69.99 US/CAN. The set will also include a full-color 80 page premium art booklet containing individual episode synopses, character profiles, poster art, translated song lyrics, an exclusive KANAME☆ K cosplay photo gallery, and much more! A standard edition 2-disc DVD set will be offered at an MSRP $44.88 US/CAN.

K was developed by GoHands, the noted Japanese animation studio that created the cyberpunk anime film series, Mardock Scramble, and the enigmatic writers’ collective, GoRA Project. K also is also currently featured in Japanese with English subtitles on VIZAnime.com, VIZ Media’s own website for free anime.

For more information on K and other animated titles from VIZ Media visit www.VIZAnime.com.

VIZ announces year end manga discount promo & new digital debuts

WHISTLE! © 1998 by Daisuke Higuchi/SHUEISHA Inc.
VIZ MEDIA ROUNDS OUT 2013 WITH A SPECIAL
PROMOTION OF UP TO 20% OFF ON ALL TITLES
FEATURED ON VIZ MANGA DIGITAL PLATFORM

Explore And Enjoy More Than 2,000 Manga
Volumes Across More Than 170 Series On
VIZManga.com Or the VIZ Manga App

VIZ Media is closing 2013 with a special up to 20% off promotion covering all digital manga (graphic novel) titles featured on VIZManga.com and the VIZ Manga App. Readers are invited to dive into a wide range of new and classic series that span more than 2,000 volumes across 170 different series. Enjoy manga throughout the holiday season with this special offer that runs for a limited-time only until Wednesday, January 15th.

VIZ Media also announces several exciting new debuts set for digital launch on VIZManga.com and for download through the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones and also for NOOK tablets and devices. Soccer fans can also kick into the digital launch of WHISTLE! on December 31st. Updates to over 20 different series will also be available, including the digital-first debut of CROSS MANAGE Volume 4, and the next installments of pop idol hijinks of SKIP•BEAT! and the supernatural action of YUYU HAKUSHO.

WHISTLE!, Vol. 1 • Rated ‘A’ for All Ages • MSRP: $6.99
Everybody has a dream, and for Sho Kazamatsuri, that dream is simple: he wants to be the best soccer player he can possibly be. He's the spirited leader of the Josui Junior High team and everyone looks up to him. In turn, he tries to keep the team together at any cost! Catch the on and off the field drama and action in this series by Daisuke Higuchi.

The free VIZ Manga App continues to be the top application for reading digital manga and features a massive library of the most popular series in the world. Through the innovative VIZ Manga digital platform, registered users are able to use one account to view their purchased manga across more devices than ever. The platform features a massive library of the most popular manga series in the world with new series and volumes added every Tuesday.

All manga volumes are generally available for purchase and download in the U.S. and Canada within the application starting from $6.99 (U.S. / CAN) each and readers can also explore all titles with free Chapter 1 previews of every series. For more information, visit VIZManga.com or www.VIZ.com/apps.

Download the free VIZ Manga App for Android and iOS devices at www.VIZ.com/apps.

To learn more about VIZ Manga, visit www.vizmanga.com.

Multiple POKEMON manga series available for top eReaders and eStores

POKÉMON BLACK AND WHITE
© 2013 Pokémon.
© 1995-2013 Nintendo/Creatures Inc./GAME FREAK inc.
TM, ®, and character names are trademarks of Nintendo.
POCKET MONSTERS SPECIAL © 1997 Hidenori KUSAKA, Satoshi YAMAMOTO/SHOGAKUKAN
 VIZ MEDIA ANNOUNCES THE DIGITAL LAUNCH OF
MULTIPLE POKÉMON MANGA SERIES FOR THE
WORLD’S TOP eREADERS AND eBOOK STORES

30 Volumes, Including The Latest Series POKÉMON BLACK AND WHITE,
Launch In iBooks And GooglePlay Stores As Well As
For The NOOK, Kindle, And Kobo Digital Tablets

VIZ Media has announced the North American digital debut of four acclaimed POKÉMON manga (graphic novel) series for NOOK, Kindle Fire, and Kobo ereaders, as well as the launch of these titles from the venerable kids property in the iBooks and GooglePlay Stores. This is the first time that POKÉMON manga titles will be available for these platforms.

The new series that are available now include: POKÉMON ADVENTURES Vols. 1-14, POKÉMON DIAMOND & PEARL ADVENTURE! Vols. 1-8, POKÉMON ADVENTURES: DIAMOND & PEARL/PLATINUM Vols. 1-4, and POKÉMON BLACK AND WHITE Vols. 1-4. POKÉMON manga series are published in North America by VIZ Media’s Perfect Square imprint. All volumes are rated ‘A’ for All Ages and will be offered with an MSRP of $3.99 to $4.99 per volume.

POKÉMON Digital Manga Available Now:

POKÉMON ADVENTURES, Vols. 1-14 • Rated ‘A’ for All Ages
All your favorite Pokémon game characters jump out of the screen into the pages of this action-packed manga! Follow Red, Blue, and Green on their journey around the Kanto region. Then meet Yellow as she searches for Red, who goes missing! The Johto region is the next stop in the series and there’s more excitement when you meet Gold and his rival Silver. Round out the series with stories of Crystal, who teams up with Yellow to find a mysterious flying Pokémon. Will all seven Trainers meet again?

POKÉMON DIAMOND & PEARL ADVENTURE!, Vols. 1-8 • Rated ‘A’ for All Ages
Most kids spend their days at school, but not Hareta. Raised in the wild by Pokémon, he can climb as high as an Aipom, swim as fast as a Magikarp, and even eat bark like a Bidoof! Recruited by Professor Rowan, Hareta decides to become a Pokémon Trainer. Along with his first Pokémon, Piplup, and his new friend Mitsumi, he sets off in search of the legendary Pokémon Dialga. But Team Galactic is hunting for Dialga too. Can Hareta and Piplup defeat Team Galactic and stop their evil plans?

POKÉMON ADVENTURES: DIAMOND AND PEARL / PLATINUM: 
© 2011 Pokémon.
© 1995-2011 Nintendo/Creatures Inc./GAME FREAK inc.
TM, ®, and character names are trademarks of Nintendo.
POCKET MONSTERS SPECIAL © 1997 Hidenori KUSAKA, Satoshi YAMAMOTO/SHOGAKUKAN

POKÉMON ADVENTURES: DIAMOND & PEARL/PLATINUM, Vols. 1-4 • Rated ‘A’ for All Ages
Pokémon Trainers Pearl and Diamond are star-struck! Their lifelong dream is to floor an audience with their Pokémon comedy act. So how do they wind up as bodyguards to a pampered little rich girl on a quest to reach the peak of Mt. Coronet...?! Come along and join the thrills and laughs as Pokémon Adventures continues! Plus, meet Starly, Bidoof, Luxio, Combee, Bronzor, Rotom and many more Sinnoh Pokémon friends!

POKÉMON BLACK AND WHITE, Vols. 1-4 • Rated ‘A’ for All Ages
Meet Pokémon Trainers Black and White! His entire life, Black has dreamed of winning the Pokémon League! Now he embarks on a journey to explore the Unova region and fill a Pokédex for Professor Juniper. White has an exciting career as the Trainer of a talented troupe of performing Pokémon. She dreams of making her Tepig Gigi a star! Together, Black and White continue on their journey... What surprising new Pokémon – and people – will they meet next?!

POKÉMON is one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time with over 241 million video games sold worldwide in addition to extraordinary publishing and merchandise sales. The next generation of Pokémon video games, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, launched worldwide in October 2013, exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS system. Pokémon VIZ Media distributes a wide array of POKÉMON animated titles and also is the exclusive North American publisher of POKÉMON manga graphic novels through its Perfect Square imprint.

Additional information on POKÉMON titles published by Perfect Square is available at www.PerfectSquare.com.

Friday, December 13, 2013

ACF 2053: Happy Birthday wishes to Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai

Nakadai as Lord Hidetora in Kurosawa's Ran

Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai was born in Tokyo, Japan, on December 13, 1932 although some sources say 1930. His 147 credits at IMDb include starring roles in such films directed by Akira Kurosawa as Yojimbo (1961), High and Low (1963), Kagemusha (1980), and Ran (1985).

Tatsuya Nakadai in Samurai Rebellion

He also appeared in well-known films by other directors. With Masaki Kobayashi he made The Human Condition (a trilogy made from 1959-61), Harakiri (1962), and Samurai Rebellion (1967).

In Okamoto[s The Sword of Doom

With Kihachi Okamoto he made The Sword of Doom (1966) and Kill! (1968).

Hachikô monogatari

One of my personal favorites is Hachi-ko (1987), directed by Seijiro Koyama from a screenplay by Kaneto Shindo.

So, Happy 81st (or 83rd) Birthday, Nakadai-san and Best Wishes for many more.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

ACF 2052: Remembering Yasujirô Ozu

Mariko Okada, Ozu, and Yoko Tsukasa on the set of Late Autumn (1960)

Renowned Japanese director Yasujirô Ozu was born on December 12, 1903 in Tokyo, Japan. He died there on the same day in 1963, his 60th birthday. So today marks the 110th anniversary of his birth and the 50th of his death.

Among his 54 credits as a director are such films as A Story of Floating Weeds (1934, remade by him as Floating Weeds in 1959), Early Summer (1951), Tokyo Story (1953), Late Autumn (1960, and An Autumn Afternoon (1962), his final film. Lovers of Japanese film are most fortunate in that his oeuvre is well-represented in The Criterion Collection.

New Yorker's have an excellent way to commemorate this outstanding figure of Japanese cinema by attending tonight's screening of Late Autumn at Japan Society.

But wherever you are, please join AsianCineFest in taking at least a few moments today to remember this great man who directed so many wonderful movies.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

ACF 2051: FRIEND 2: THE LEGACY opens this Friday in the U.S.

Trinity Entertainment and
CJ Entertainment
present
Friend 2: The Legacy / Chingu 2
Directed by KWAK Kyung-taek
South Korea, 2013, 124 minutes
Korean language with English subtitles

Director KWAK Kyung-taek's Friend (2001) was a huge hit. A tale of four close friends who grew up in the 1970s and the course their lives took under the influence of gang life, it garnered over 8 million domestic admissions, making it the most successful Korean movie to that time. Now, twelve years larter, KWAK is back with a follow-up film, Friend 2: The Legacy, which had 1.06 million admissions over its first weekend in release in South Korea, topping the local box office despite its "Restricted" rating.

This Friday, December 13th, 2013, is a lucky day for anyone looking for a great Korean action gangster film as Friend 2 opens here in the U.S. (Check IMDb, Fandango or your local listings to see if it's playing in a theater near you.)


Also known as Friend: The Great Legacy (its title on the online screener I watched for this review). the film begins with a flashback of LEE Joon-suk (actor YOO Oh-seong reprising his role from the first film) confessing in court that he ordered the murder of HAN Dong-su, one of his childhood friends.

The film then moves into the cinematic present, set seventeen years later as Joon-suk is about to be released from prison after serving his sentence. Before he gets out, however, he's visited by YEON Hae-ji, who requests that he use his influence in the prison to protect CHOI Sung-hoon (KIM Woo-bin), her 27 year old son who is just starting to serve a brief sentence. Joon-suk agrees and thereby saves Sung-hoon, who was marked for death because he and his gang had attacked a temple that was under the control of members of Lee's gang.

YOO Oh-seong as LEE Joon-suk

Upon his release,  Joon-suk finds that he has lost status in the gang that was founded by LEE Chul-ju (JOO Jin-mo) his father. (Chul-ju's founding of the gang in 1963 is shown in one of several flashbacks to various time periods that punctuate the film.) While Joon-suk was incarcerated the Chairman of the gang had health problems, and nefarious gang member Eun-gi essentially seized the power to which Joon-suk was rightly entitled. Joon-suk becomes a mentor to Sung-hoon after he too is released from prison and enlists him and his friends in the upcoming battle with Eung-gi.

I  must admit that I have not yet seen Friend (though I now really want to), but I don't think that's necessary to understand and enjoy Friend 2: The Legacy. I do know that the first film was centered on the friendship between the four main characters. The sequel differs in that there is no focus on any friendship between equals or cohorts. Rather it is the relationship between Joon-suk and Sung-hoon, who are basically a generation apart in age, upon which the narrative revolves.

Joon-suk (left) and CHOI Sung-hoon (actor KIM Woo-bin)
 
Friend 2: The Legacy is a crackin' good gangster flick, in the vein of Coppola's Godfather movies, which KWAK has acknowledged admiring. ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 star; highly recommended.

Also highly recommneded is the Korean Cinema Today podcast, which is also available at iTunes. The November 22, 2013 initial episode has host Pierce Conran talking with director KWAK Kyung-taek about Friend 2.

Sung-hoon (left) and Joon-suk

[A note about names: In this review I've spelled names as they appeared in the subtitles of the online screener I watched. Some of the spellings may differ on the theatrical print. I mention this because, for example, in press materials Joon-suk is spelled Joon-seok, and Sung-hoon is spelled Seong-hoon. This variation in spelling seems to occur fairly often when Korean names are anglicized.]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ACF 2050: Screening of Ozu's LATE AUTUMN at Japan Society NY

Late Autumn © 1960 SHOCHIKU Co., Ltd.
Late Autumn / Akibiyori
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1960, 128 minutes
When: Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Where: Japan SOciety, 333 East 47th Street, NYC
(Between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
In Japanese with English subtitles

*Screening in place of Equinox Flower (see below)
 
Donald Richie on Late Autumn:
"A daughter is reluctant to leave her widowed mother, even though it is time for her to marry. The story could be seen as a ‘remake’ of Late Spring – and though more autumnal, it is just as moving."

Among the earliest champions of the now-immortal director, Richie first introduced Yasujiro Ozu to the world with a retrospective at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1963, followed by a European tour of his films. Richie's book, Ozu (University of California Press, 1974), illuminated Ozu’s uniquely serene style and went on to bring him international recognition.

A thoughtful and charming late work by Ozu, Late Autumn revisits the premise of Late Spring (1949), in which a daughter refuses to marry in order to take care of her single parent, and implements some subtle but powerful changes. Having played the part of the daughter in the earlier film, the beautiful Setsuko Hara returns in Late Autumn as the widowed mother, making a poignant connection that movingly speaks to the passing of time and to children growing up to be parents.

Director, writer and producer Atsushi Funahashi, who is currently making a documentary on Ozu for NHK, will introduce the film.

This screening, part of Richie's Fantastic Five: A Tribute to Donald Richie (1924-2013), Part 1, will be taking place on the 110th anniversary of Ozu’s birth and the 50th anniversary of his passing. It will be followed by an Ozu birthday celebration reception.

Tickets: $12; $9 for Japan Society members, seniors and students

Buy tickets online or call the Japan Society Box Office at (212) 715-1258, Mon. - Fri. 11 am - 6 pm, Weekends 11 am - 5 pm.

If you are interested in purchasing group tickets for the event (10 or more), please email f2@japansociety.org for information on their discounted rate.

*Please note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Equinox Flower will not be screened as previously scheduled. Tickets for Equinox Flower will be honored for the screening of Late Autumn and do not require an exchange. Any customer who already purchased tickets for Equinox Flower is entitled to a refund upon request. All inquiries can be directed to Japan Society's Box Office manager, Julia Moran, at (212) 715-1246. The Japan Society apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your understanding.

ACF 2049: Theatrical release of PERSONAL TAILOR set for Dec 20th


On Friday, December 20th, China Lion will release the Feng Xiaogang comedy Personal Tailor in theaters in select cities. It’s said to be a very unique film and akin to The Dream Factory, a prior project of his.

Personal Tailor will be playing at:

AMC Empire (New York)
AMC Atlantic Times Square (Los Angeles area/Monterey Park)
AMC Puente Hills (Los Angeles area/Rowland Heights-City of Industry)
SilverCity Riverport (Vancouver)
Cineplex Odeon Yonge & Dundas (Toronto)
Regal Cinemas Dole Cannery (Honolulu)

Check local listings for showtimes.

Feng's previous works also include Back to 1942, a drama about a terrible famine that struck China’s Henan province during World War II. That film, also released by China Lion and available on Netflix streaming, was China’s submission to the Foreign Language category for the Academy Awards this year. For my review of Back to 1942 at the 24Framespersecond website, click here.

I'm excited about the upcoming release of Personal Tailor from this talented, controversial and outspoken Chinese filmmaker. I expect to receive a screener soon, so look for a review here at AsianCineFest on or before December 20th.

Monday, December 09, 2013

ACF 2048: Jay Chou's colorful, action comedy/musical THE-ROOFTOP will be available tomorrow

Well Go USA
presents
The Rooftop / Tian tai ai qing
Written and directed by Jay Chou
Taiwan/China/Hong Kong, 2013, 120 minutes
Language: Mandarin

The-Rooftop had its international premiere and was given the prestigious position of being the closing night film at the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival. Tomorrow, December 10th, it will debut on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital ((VOD, electronic sell-through, and streaming). This review is based on watching the Blu-ay release.

Taiwanese-born writer, director and star Jay Chou is a major pop star in Asia, having sold more than 30 million albums and received over 350 rewards. Here he plays Gao, one of the denizens of a rooftop community in the imaginary city of Galilee. Gao has gleaming hair with a high pompadour that he keeps in place with a "switchblade" comb. He and his rooftop friends are good-natured, fun-loving types who readily burst into song and dance. (The film features 11 musical numbers.) On the other hand, they're not above engaging in some hard-knuckled kung-fu martial arts action when confronted with bad guys.

This colorful, fanciful and comic tale is a frothy concoction, although last 15-20 minutes do turn dark and serious. As a result, the final scene forms an appropriate bookend with the opening of the film, both taking place at a photography exhibition.

The film is absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray, and I imagine it looks fine in the other versions. Either a 5.1 or 2.0 Mandarin soundtrack can be chosen. English or Chinese subtitles are available, the latter for non-Mandarin speakers, I assume. The only extras are trailers of the film and of other offerings from Well Go USA.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; recommended.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

ACF 2047: BIG BAD MAMA-SAN - DEKOTORA 1 on DVD this Tuesday

Switchblade Pictures
Presents
Big Bad Mama-San - Dekotora 1/ Dekotora Gyaru Nami
Written and directed by Hideo Jôjô
Japan, 2008, 75 minutes

Big Bad Mama-San: Dekotora 1, the first of what promises to be a new series of releases from Switchblade Pictures, will be available this coming Tuesday, December 10th, 2013. It's about a  trucker named Nami, who knows how to haul ass and make good time on Japan's highways and back roads. Oh, and her own sweet ass and accompanying good looks will make you want to make time with her!

Nami at the wheel with her assistant Momoka riding shotgun

Nami is the daughter of the late Toraichiro Saito, a legendary and beloved driver who left her saddled with his debts. To pay off the debts, she makes deliveries in her dekotora, an extravagantly decorated truck. ( See the dekotora entry in Wikipedia for a fuller description.)

Momoka plying her trade before becoming Nami's assistant

Another screen-capture of Momoka at work
 
In this episode, Nami is befriended by Momoka, a truck-stop hooker with the proverbial heart of gold. Momoka wants to change her ways and become Nami's assistant so that she can regain custody of her daughter Michi.

Drug couriers indisposed at the side of the road as Momoka, in the background, by mistake prepares to load their goods into Nami's truck

When they mistakenly load a box of drugs on Nami's truck, they run afoul of a pair of drug couriers. Things look pretty grim for them as the couriers decide to bring them to their boss, who's thinking of branching out into the sale of body organs!

Nami (left) and Momka captured by the drug couriers
 
Language options are the original Japanese soundtrack (with English subtitles) or an all new English dubbed version. Disc extras consist of the original Japanese trailer of the film and trailers of other Switchblade releases.

Momoka (left) and Nami take a break from hauling goods

Big Bad Mama-San - Dekotora 1 is sexy, fun romp, a film in a category all its own.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; pleasant and enjoyable entertainment with some soft-core nudity. A sexploitation film with a better than average story, some real heart, hot babes and outrageous trucks!

Coming next: Smokey & The Bushido. Can't wait!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

ACF 2046: SAVING GENERAL YANG available this Tuesday, December 10th

Well Go USA
presents
Saving General Yang
Directed by Ronny Yu
Hong Kong/China, 2013, 102 minutes

Saving General Yang will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital (VOD, electronic sell-through, and streaming) this coming Tuesday, December 10th. It's an epic action war drama based on the story of seven filial sons who fought against great odds to rescue their father. My review is based on watching the movie on Blu-ray.

The story is set in Northeast China during the early Northern Song dynasty, around 986 AD. The story is set in motion by the actions of the 6th and 7th brothers. Yang Yan Zhao (Wu Chun), the 6th born brother, loves Princess Chai of the Song Imperial family. Although she feels the same way towards him, the Emperor's brother-in-law, Pan Bao wants to marry her and sets up a rigged tournament to win her hand. The Yang and Pan families have been at odds with one another for a long time.

General Yang (Adam Cheng)

Defying his father's orders, Yan Zhao enters the tournament. When he's defeated by a cheating Pan Bao, the 7th brother, impulsive Yang Yan Si (Fu Xin Bo), steps into the ring and knocks Pan Bao down. Pan Bao lands badly and dies. Although the death was purely accidental, Pan Boa's sister, the Emperor's wife is furious with the Yang family.

The Khitan are enemies of the Song, and  are again threatening to invade. General Yang Linggong (Adam Cheng) had defeated them before, but the Emperor accedes to the request of Pan Bao's father that he be put in charge of the army, relegating General Yang to leading only the front-line troops.The Khitan forces are led by Yelu Ye, whose father had been defeated and killed by General Yang. On the battlefield, Pan refuses to come to the aid of Yang's forces and instead withdraws, leaving Yang and his remaining men to seek refuge at a remote location. With the Emperor's blessing, Yang's seven sons lead a small force to fight their way through the Khitan and save their father.

The Khitan on the move

There's action galore in the film, courtesy of experienced martial arts action director Dong Wei. He did a terrific job of preparing the stars, who hail from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan, in handling their weapons and horseback riding. Director Ronny Yu sought authenticity in the action scenes, and so the weapons were heavy, as was the armor, to give them substance. This made the action sequences a real challenge for the actors.

The action is that of warfare, not kung fu. So there are no fancy stances and posing, just fierce warriors going at it in life-or-death battles. The live-action is discretely supplemented by some digital blood flying off of bodies as cuts are made. This effect doesn't always succeed, but here it works pretty well.

Once again an outnumbered brother fights on bravely

The disc has two language tracks: the original mandarin and an English dubbed version, both in 5.1 or 2.0. English, Spanish, and French subtitles are available. Extras include a "Making Of" featurette (8:58 minutes long); interviews with director Yu and the actors playing General yang and the seven brothers (1 hour, 34 minutes long); and a trailer with English dubbed audio.

While the main draw of Saving General Yang is the action, it also is a touching story that focuses on the traditional Chinese virtues of loyalty, filial piety, benevolence and righteousness. ACF rating: 3 out of 4 stars; solidly recommended.

Friday, December 06, 2013

ACF 2045: J-POP Summit Festival and Japan Film Festival of San Francisco scheduled for July 2014

 NEW PEOPLE ANNOUNCES DATES FOR 2014 J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL
AND THE RETURN OF THE JAPAN FILM FESTIVAL OF SAN FRANCISCO

The Bay Area’s Largest Japanese Pop Culture Festival Will Return
For 6th Consecutive Year To Showcase The Best In Modern
Japanese Film, Food, Fashion, Music And Entertainment
At Weekend-Long Celebration Scheduled For July 2014

NEW PEOPLE, a dynamic entertainment destination bringing the latest examples of Japanese popular culture to North American shores, and the J-POP Summit Festival Committee have announced the dates for the 2014 J-POP Summit Festival.

The popular annual celebration of Japanese pop culture, music, art, anime, fashion, and film will return to San Francisco’s Japantown and will also present another special J-Pop concert in Union Square the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, July 19th and 20th, 2014.

The J-POP Summit Festival is the Bay Area’s premier annual Japanese pop culture celebration featuring a variety of live bands and artists, pop culture panel discussions, film premieres, fashion shows, DJ dance events, interactive games, celebrity appearances, and much more. Many of the attractions are free to attend. The Festival is hosted by J-POP Summit Festival Committee in cooperation with the Japantown Merchants Association. Additional details will be forthcoming at www.J-POP.com.

In 2013, J-POP Summit welcomed more than 80,000 people to Japantown and nearly 10,000 more music fans to the Festival’s first-ever concert held in Union Square that featured Japan’s Ambassador of Kawaii, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, as well as Kylee, Daichi, and LoVendoЯ. The downtown San Francisco Union Square stage will host a compelling line-up of J-Pop artists again next year.

Also returning as part of the 2014 J-POP Summit will be the second annual Japan Film Festival of San Francisco, the only full-fledged Japanese film festival held in the Bay Area. The week-long series of live-action and anime film theatrical premieres will run Saturday, July 19th through Sunday, July 27th at the NEW PEOPLE Cinema and will be highlighted by red carpet events featuring appearances by prominent Japanese directors and actors, as well as several lecture presentations, workshops, autograph sessions, and film industry networking opportunities. Additional information will be available at: www.JFFSF.org.


Showcasing cutting edge Japanese fashion has always been a popular aspect of the J-POP Summit. 2013’s theme of “Making Kawaii Universal” resonated with thousands of attendees that savored leading brands as well as live shows featuring top models from the bustling Harajuku fashion scene including Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Next year’s programming will present even more brands and icons to highlight a wide selection of exclusive designs, apparel, and accessories only available for a limited time during the Festival.

The 2014 J-POP Summit Festival also will present the return of the POP GOURMET Food Festival, which will delight attendees with a scrumptious array of innovative Japanese and Asian-influenced cuisine along with Japanese sake and teas. Festival-goers will be able to enjoy popular local gourmet food trucks and exclusive sake tasting by premier sake distillers/distributors on an even bigger scale.

“The growth of the J-POP Summit Festival has been phenomenal since our very first one in 2009 that also marked the Grand Opening of the NEW PEOPLE complex,” says Seiji Horibuchi, the President/CEO of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. and Chairman of the J-Pop Summit Festival. “The J-POP Summit Festival has become an integral part of San Francisco’s summertime fun and after 2013’s tremendous success we are planning even bigger and more exciting programming for 2014. Stay tuned for news and updates as we begin announcing artists and events early next year!”

About J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL
The J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL is an annual Japanese Pop Culture celebration that features live bands and artists from Japan, pop culture panel discussions, film premieres, fashion, food, art, and celebrity appearances. The Festival is hosted by NEW PEOPLE in cooperation with the Japantown Merchants Association. In 2013, the two-day event attracted 80,000 attendees.

About NEW PEOPLE, Inc.
Based in San Francisco, California, NEW PEOPLE, Inc. (www.newpeopleworld.com) offers the latest films, art, fashion, and retail brands from Japan through its unique entertainment destination as well as through licensing and distribution of selective Japanese films. NEW PEOPLE Entertainment (www.newpeopleent.com), a film division of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. strives to offer the most entertaining motion pictures straight from the "Kingdom of Pop" for audiences of all ages, especially the manga and anime generation, in North America.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

ACF 2044: GOOD MORNING, KARACHI - an SAIFF review

Amna Ilyas as Rafina (Photo courtesy of Vidhi Films)
Good Morning, Karachi
Directed by Sabiha Sumar
Pakistan, 2013, 85 minutes
Languages: Urdu (with English subtitles) and English
When: Friday, December 6, 2013 at 7:30 PM
Where: NYIT Auditorium, 1871 Broadway 
Between 61st and 62nd Streets

Good Morning Karachi will be shown tomorrow evening as the Centerpiece Film of the 2013 South Asian International Film Festival, which runs through Sunday, December 8th. It's the story of Rafina (played by the stunning Amna Ilyas), a sweet, simple and lovely young woman living in modern day Pakistan with her mother and younger brother. She dreams of working and seeing a bit of the world. From the balcony of her family's apartment she gazes across the way at a large billboard featuring a beautiful model. The billboard is hated by fundamentalists, who brand it as an obscenity against Islam and an example of the decadent influence of the West on traditional Pakistani values. Thus is set up the conflict between Rafina's aspirations and widespread religious extremism.

Rafina gazing at the billboard featuring a beautiful model

There are other forces aligned against her desires. Her mother wants her to get married and set up a family as a traditional Pakistani wife and mother. Rafina does become engaged to Arif, a young man who lives in a neighboring apartment. While he does give her driving lessons and is politically progressive, a follower of Benazir Bhutto, he has traditional views of what Rafina's role will be as a wife and that role does not include working.

Rosie Khala, Arif's mother, agrees to let Rafina assist her in her work. She provides beauty services to wealthy Pakistani women, both freelancing and at an upscale salon called Radiance. It is there that Rafina's determination and resourcefulness, aided by her beauty and slim figure (Amna herself is a model) lead to breaks that could result in her realizing her dream. But such a path will not come without its costs and conflicts, not only with those she knows and loves, but with others who hate what such a dram represents.

Rafina serving tea at Radiance, a beauty salon

I had some difficulties with the DVD screener I received, problems that turned out to be related to the player I was using, not the screener itself. These difficulties made viewing the film less than optimal, but I stuck with it because the story was so compelling, as was Amna's performance. For a Westerner, it can be all too easy to dismiss Pakistan (and certain other countries) as being inhabited by right-wing, ultra-conservative religious zealots. Good Morning, Karachi remarkably portrays the fact that there are those who do not share those extremist beliefs, but who look forward to living there own lives and attempting to realize their own dreams in a modern Pakistan, one in which the role of women will not be horribly confined and restricted.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended

After Friday night's screening, there will be a post Film Q&A with Nayyareen Chhapra (production designer), Harune Massey (first assistant director) & Malia Scotch Marmo (co-screenwriter).