With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New box set of BLACK BIRD manga series coming Oct 21 from VIZ Media

BLACK BIRD © 2007 Kanoko SAKURAKOUJI/SHOGAKUKAN
 VIZ MEDIA’S BLACK BIRD MANGA SERIES
TAKES FLIGHT IN A NEW BOX SET EDITION

Catch The Entire Romantic Supernatural Adventure
In This Complete Box Set; Release Also Features
Exclusive Bonus Hardcover Art Book

VIZ Media will be igniting the passions of readers with the release on October 21st of the manga (graphic novel) box set for creator Kanoko Sakurakoji’s hit supernatural fantasy series, BLACK BIRD.

The BLACK BIRD Complete Box Set features the entire series run of 18 volumes and will be released under the Shojo Beat imprint. The set is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and will carry an MSRP of $149.99 U.S. / CAN. With an exclusive bonus premium art book and substantial savings over buying the individual volumes, the BLACK BIRD box set will make a notable addition to any fan’s manga collection.

In BLACK BIRD, there is a world of myth and magic that intersects ours, and only a special few can see it. Misao Harada is one such person, and she wants nothing to do with magical realms. She just wants to have a normal high school life and maybe get a boyfriend. But she is the bride of demon prophecy, and her blood grants incredible powers, her flesh immortality. Now the demon realm is fighting over the right to her hand...or her life.

“The BLACK BIRD manga box set offers a comprehensive way to enjoy this acclaimed fantasy story in its entirety and the bonus art book also lets new and veteran fans enjoy even more of Kanoko Sakurakoji’s beautiful shojo illustrations,” says Pancha Diaz, Editor. “With its winning mix of romance and a captivating story about the darker corners of the supernatural world, BLACK BIRD has continued to be a consistent favorite with readers. We look forward to fans catching the complete series with this new release from the Shojo Beat imprint.”

Manga creator Kanoko Sakurakoji hails from Tokyo and debuted in 2000 with Raibu Ga Hanetara (When The Live Jumps) in the monthly shojo manga anthology, Betsucomi. BLACK BIRD also ran in Betsucomi and won the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award in 2009 for Best Shojo Series. Kanoko Sakurakoji is also the creator of the manga series BACKSTAGE PRINCE (rated ‘T’ for Teens), which is also published domestically by VIZ Media.

For more information on BLACK BIRD, or other shojo manga titles from VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

VIZ Media announces five upcoming VAMPIRE KNIGHT releases


Vampire Knight © Matsuri Hino 2004/HAKUSENSHA, Inc.
VIZ MEDIA ANNOUNCES THE FINALE OF
MATSURI HINO’S HIT SERIES VAMPIRE KNIGHT

Celebrate The Conclusion Of The Bestselling Gothic Romance
With A Limited Edition Of The Final Volume, Manga Series
Box Set 2, Exclusive Digital-Only Story VAMPIRE KNIGHT: LIFE,
And New Novel VAMPIRE KNIGHT: FLEETING DREAMS

VIZ Media delivers the stunning climax to Matsuri Hino’s epic VAMPIRE KNIGHT series with the release of the finale, Volume 19, on October 14th.

The final volume will be available in a special Limited Edition featuring an alternate cover and a hardcover mini art book. The standard edition volume will be available in print and digitally.

VIZ Media will further thrill readers with the release of the VAMPIRE KNIGHT “NIGHT CLASS” Manga Box Set 2 on November 4th, the second VAMPIRE KNIGHT Box Set with volumes 11-19 to complete the series.

On December 2nd, the VAMPIRE KNIGHT: FLEETING DREAMS novel will be released in print and digitally, housing a collection of prose short stories never before released in English. Also being released on that date will be the digital exclusive, VAMPIRE KNIGHT: LIFE, a special new manga chapter by Matsuri Hino!

Digital versions of VAMPIRE KNIGHT Vol. 19 will be available for $6.99 (USD/CAN) and VAMPIRE KNIGHT: FLEETING DREAMS for $10.99 (USD/CAN) on the same day of their respective print releases from VIZManga.com and through the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones, as well as through the Nook, Kobo, Kindle, iBooks, Comixology and GooglePlay stores.

“VAMPIRE KNIGHT is a groundbreaking series that has introduced many readers to the shojo manga genre,” says Nancy Thistlethwaite, Editor. “Shojo Beat debuts our first-ever Limited Edition release for VAMPIRE KNIGHT Volume 19! And in December, the VAMPIRE KNIGHT: FLEETING DREAMS novel will feature new illustrations by Matsuri Hino. The digital exclusive chapter, VAMPIRE KNIGHT: LIFE, reveals more of the story from volume 19. Don’t miss out on these special releases in celebration of this beloved manga series!”

In Matsuri Hino’s acclaimed series, the foreboding Cross Academy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, protecting the Day Class from the Academy's dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires.

Vampire Knight © Matsuri Hino 2004/HAKUSENSHA, Inc.

VAMPIRE KNIGHT Vol. 19 Limited Edition • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $15.99 U.S. / $18.99 CAN • Available October 14th
Savor the tense finale to Matsuri Hino’s acclaimed paranormal series in a limited edition featuring an exclusive alternate cover and a mini hardcover 42-page art book.

VAMPIRE KNIGHT Vol. 19 Standard Edition • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN / $6.99 Digital • Available October 14th
In the concluding volume to the series, Kaname vows to sacrifice himself. But Yuki vows to sacrifice herself to stop him. Zero takes a weapon in hand to protect what is dear to him. Whether parted for eternity or close enough to touch, they each will always desire their beloved…

VAMPIRE KNIGHT Manga Box Set 2 • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $89.99 U.S. / $99.99 CAN • Available November 4th
Comprehensive manga box set features the second-half of the VAMPIRE KNIGHT manga series, Volumes 11-19, along with the hardcover 42-page art book. Set is contained in a gorgeously illustrated slipcase.

VAMPIRE KNIGHT: FLEETING DREAMS • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $14.99 U.S. / $16.99 CAN / $10.99 Digital • Available December 2nd
Fans will not want to miss this special collection of short stories by Ayuno Fujisaki based on VAMPIRE KNIGHT, with illustrations by Matsuri Hino! Stories include “Deranged Love,” in which a dying Rido reflects on his obsessive love for Juri. Kaname seeks to reward Yuki for doing well on her studies with tutor Aido in “Gifts for Yuki.” The story of Sara’s first love is revealed in “Hidden Love.” In “Queen of the Abyss,” after Zero parts ways with Yuki and returns to being a vampire hunter, he encounters a vampire named Shien.

VAMPIRE KNIGHT: LIFE (Digital Release Only) • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $2.99 U.S. / CAN • Available December 2nd
In this exclusive digital manga chapter, Matsuri Hino returns to the events at the end of volume 19.

Manga creator Matsuri Hino burst onto the manga scene with her title Kono Yume ga Sametara (When This Dream Is Over), which was published in LaLa DX magazine. Hino is renowned as a highly talented artist with a distinctive style and became a published manga artist a mere nine months after she decided to pursue it as a full-time career. With the success of her other popular series, CAPTIVE HEARTS and MERU PURI (both also published by VIZ Media), Hino has firmly established herself as a major force in the world of shojo manga.

Also catch the VAMPIRE KNIGHT and VAMPIRE KNIGHT GUITY anime series, available exclusively on DVD from VIZ Media and featured on the company’s digital anime streaming platform – Neon Alley.

For more information on the VAMPIRE KNIGHT anime series, visit: http://www.viz.com/anime/streaming/vampire-knight.

For more information on the VAMPIRE KNIGHT manga series, or other manga titles from VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Japan Society NY's new monthly film series "The Dark Side of the Sun"

Matango, aka. Attack of the Mushroom People, (c) 1963 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights reserved
The Dark Side of the Sun: John Zorn on Japanese Cinema
When: October 18, 2014 – February 20, 2015
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC
(Between 1st and 2nd Avenues)

Maverick avant-garde composer, musician and arranger John Zorn will be the guest curator of Japan Society NY's  2014–15 Monthly Film Series. Entitled The Dark Side of the Sun: John Zorn on Japanese Cinema, the series will run from  October 18, 2014 to February 20, 2015. Zorn, who has a deep love and knowledge of Japanese cinema, has selected lesser-known or overlooked works from six Japanese directors.

Ranging from experimental shorts by the “godfather of anime” Osamu Tezuka to the U.S. premiere of the whimsical, made-for-television movie It’s Me Here, Bellett, directed by Nagisa Oshima, this series will inspire cinephiles to discover or re-discover Japanese cinema through the eyes of one of its most ardent fans.

The first film to be shown will be Atsushi Yamatoya’s Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands (1967) on Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 7 PM.

This series marks the first time each of these films will be shown at Japan Society.

Complete series information here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hong Sang-soo's HILL OF FREEDOM to screen twice at NY Film Festival

Hill of FreedomJayuui Eondeok
Directed by Hong Sang-soo
2014 South Korea, 2014, 66 minutes
Korean and English with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Showtimes
Tuesday, September 30 at 6:00 pm at the Walter Reade Theater
and
Wednesday, October 8 at 9:00 pm at the Howard Gilman Theater

Kwon (Seo Young-hwa) returns to Seoul from a restorative stay in the mountains. She is given a packet of letters left by Mori (Ryo Kase), who has come back from Japan to propose to her. As she walks down a flight of stairs, Kwon drops and scatters the letters, all of which are undated. When she reads them, she has to make sense of the chronology… and so must we.


Hong Sang-soo’s daring new film, alternately funny and haunting, is a series of disordered scenes based on the letters, echoing the cultural dislocation felt by Mori as he tries to make himself understood in halting English.


At what point did he drink himself into a lonely stupor? Did he sleep with the waitress from the Hill of Freedom café (Moon So-ri) before or after he despaired of seeing Kwon again?


Sixteen films into a three-decade career, Hong has achieved a rare simplicity in his storytelling, allowing for an ever-increasing psychological richness and complexity.

These two screenings of Hill of Freedom are part of the NYFF52 Main Slate.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Korean documentary NON-FICTION DIARY to screen twice at NYFF52

Non-fiction Diary
Direc ted by JUNG Yoon-suk
South Korea, 2013, 93 minutes
Korean with English subtitles
Showtimes: Tuesday, September 30 at 6:00pm at the Francesca Beale Theater
and
Wednesday, October 1 at 3:00pm at the Howard Gilman Theater
U.S. Premiere

Chronicling a history of violence and death from society’s lower depths to its corridors of power, Jung Yoon-suk’s gripping documentary is a quietly devastating indictment of pervasive injustice nested within the post–military dictatorship economic breakout of South Korea in the 1990s.


The film begins by recounting the case of the “Jijon Clan” (“Supreme Gangsters”), a group of youths from a backwoods province arrested in 1994 for committing a series of horrific murders, enacting a savage and warped form of class warfare in the face of growing social inequity. Jung provocatively compares and contrasts their case with two other notorious episodes of the era—the 1994 Seongsu Bridge disaster and the death of 502 people in the Sampoong Department Store collapse of 1995.


Resisting the temptation to sensationalize, this cool and methodical cinematic essay uses these ostensibly unrelated incidents to demonstrate that the punishments did not fit the crimes, and also to draw a series of uncomfortable conclusions about South Korean society.


These two screenings of Non-fiction Diary are part of the Spotlight on Documentary section of the 52nd New York Film Festival which runs September 26 – October 12, 2014.

Friday, September 26, 2014

TAZZA: THE HIDDEN CARD opens today in the U.S. and Canada

CJ Entertainment
presents

Tazza: The Hidden Card (a.k.a. Tazza 2), opens today, Friday, September 26, 2014 in the U.S. and Canada. This South Korean gambling saga is a follow-up to the 2006 box office hit Tazza: The High Rollers. Check your local listings or click here for more details including theaters and cities.

Tazza, it should be noted, is a Korean word that refers to "a person who is gifted at gambling." There are thirteen significant characters listed in the film's opening credits. The main character is Dae-gil, the nephew of Goni, who was the protagonist in the first movie. Goni is not present in The Hidden Card, but Yoo Hai-jin reprises his role as Gwang-ryeol, a friend of Goni's. At the beginning of The Hidden Card, he brings money from Goni to his family.

Dae-gil (left) and Mina in their hometown

HAM Dea-gil is portrayed as a young adult by CHOI Seung-hyun. CHOI is also known as T.O.P of the South Korean boy band BIG BANG; he also starred as a North Korean spy in the film Commitment). Like his uncle Goni, Dae-gil develops great skill as a card player.

His true love is Mina (SHIN Sae-kyeong). After an altercation with Ghost (KIM Jun-ho), who'd threatened his uncle over a debt, Dae-gil has to leave his hometown. But he vows to reunite with Mina. Dae-gil goes to Seoul, where he meets up with Jjari (LEE Dong-hwi), a hometown friend who now goes by the name Charlie. Jjari introduces Dae-gil to the Seoul gambling underground where his skills promptly find employment.

It is in Seoul that Dae-gil and Mina eventually find one another, but under vastly changed circumstances. Mina has become the mistress and virtual possession of JANG Dong-shik (GWAK Do-won). JANG is the main villain in the world of professional gamblers, where alliances, partnerships, and friendships are always subject to betrayal. It is just such a betrayal that causes Dae-gil to lose everything to JANG. Dae-gil then embarks on a course that he hopes will lead to revenge against JANG and to a permanent reunion with Mina.

Dae-gil and Mina face each other across a gambling table

Tazza: The Hidden Card is directed by KANG Hyeong-cheol. His first two films, Scandal Makers (2008) and Sunny (2011) were the highest grossing Korean films of their respective years. He's done a fine job once again, especially in keeping it pretty clear just who is who and what's going on in a complicated story involving many characters and lots of back-stabbing.

Watching, enjoying and appreciating Tazza: The Hidden Card is in no way dependent on having seen the original. The sequel works quite satisfactorily as a stand-alone. But I do think that the experience is enhanced if one has already seen Tazza: The High Rollers. Fortunately, that film is available both on Blu-ray and as a Two-Disc Special Edition DVD. (Given the Amazon prices at the time of this posting, $49.77 for the Blu-ray and $27.98 for the 2-disc DVD, I'd say go with the DVD unless you've got money to burn. I reviewed and still have the DVD and am perfectly happy with it.)

AsianCineFest Rating for Tazza: The Hidden Card: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended.

LILTING opens today at the Village East Cinema in New York City

Strand Releasing
presents
Lilting
Written and Directed by Hong Khaou
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Cheng Pei Pei and Andrew Leung
United Kingdom, 2014, 91 minutes

Lilting, Cambodian-born writer/director Hong Khaou's poignant feature film debut and winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival's Best Cinematography Award, is scheduled to open in New York today, Friday, September 26 at the Village East Cinema and in Los Angeles on Friday, October 3rd at the Sundance Sunset Cinema and Laemmle’s Playhouse, with a national roll out to follow.

It's a remarkable film about love, loss, and memory. Indeed, one of the fabulous cinematic tricks employed by the film involves how powerful memory can make the past seem like it's taking place in the immediate present.

Cheng Pei Pei as Junn

Cheng Pei Pei (Come Drink with Me; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) stars as Junn, a Cambodian/Chinese woman living in a home for the elderly in London. She'd been put there, with the expectation that it would only be temporary, by her son Kai (Andrew Leung).

Junn, despite living in England for many years, has never learned to speak English and is, for all intents and purposes, totally unassimilated. Her situation is compounded because her son, who unbeknownst to her was gay, dies in an vehicular accident. Richard (Ben Whishaw), Kai's lover, visits her and tries to help her adjust to her situation, while keeping secret the real nature of his relationship with her son. Richard hires Vann (Naomi Christie, in her screen debut) as an interpreter so that he can communicate with Junn and also so Junn and her man-friend Alan (Peter Bowles) can communicate with one another.

Ben Whishaw as Richard

All the actors were very good, each performance seemingly effortless and totally natural.  But Cheng Pei Pei was absolutely incredible. She conveys so much with a look, a facial gesture, and her posture that one can get a strong sense of what she's saying -- always in Chinese -- even without reading the subtitles. Frankly, she deserves serious consideration for an Oscar nomination as Best Actress.

Prior to Lilting, 38 year-old Hong Khaou wrote and directed two short films which were selected for the Berlin and Sundance film festivals. In 2013, he was named one of Screen International’s "Stars of Tomorrow", and in 2014, he won the Sundance Institute/Mahinddra Global Filmmaking Award – supporting a new generation of storytellers – for his screenplay Monsoon. He was selected for this past Summer’s Sundance Lab for his next project. Lilting is certainly a most auspicious feature film debut for Khaou.

Vann (Naomi Christie_ and Richard (Ben Whishaw)

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Artifacts of Fukushima: Selections from Unknown Spring at NYFF52

Artifacts of Fukushima: Selections from Unknown Spring
Directed by Jake Price, Visakh Menon, 2014
USA, 2014, 60 minutes
Showtime: Sunday, September 28 at 12:00pm at the Howard Gilman Theater

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake off the coast of Tohoku spawned a tsunami that would destroy swaths of the Japanese coast and initiate a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant power plant.


Nearly four years after the reactors at the Fukushima began melting down, nature has reclaimed every vestige of civilization and transformed the landscape, blurring the lines between once refined humanity and unrestrained nature. In the middle of this borderland are the survivors who cannot abandon their homes, ornate temples, and ancient Buddhist carvings from time immemorial.


Artifacts of Fukushima will present fragments of what was left behind and still remains—where memory and abandonment, unrestrained nature and humanity intersect. Combining projected video, audio, and photography, Artifacts will immerse viewers in the cityscapes of the abandoned towns, guided by the voices of those who fled their homes but can never leave in their hearts.


This screening of Artifacts of Fukushima: Selections from Unknown Spring is part of the NYFF52 Convergence series of the 52nd New York Film Festival

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Garden of Unearthly Delights: Works by Ikeda, Tenmyouya & teamLab coming to Japan Society NY

Meltdown, by Manabu Ikeda
Garden of Unearthly Delights: Works by Ikeda, Tenmyouya & teamLab
When: Oct 10, 2014 – Jan 11, 2015
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street
Between 1st and 2nd Avenues

A monster tsunami uproots a city. Modern tough guys lock samurai-style in battle. Candy-colored streams of animals and flowers hyperpixilate. These dramatic visual moments are among many to be encountered this fall in Japan Society NY's new exhibition Garden of Unearthly Delights.


The featured artists Manabu Ikeda (b. 1973, Saga Prefecture), Hisashi Tenmyouya (b. 1966, Tokyo) and the art and technology collective teamLab (est. 2001) are today's takumi, or master artisans, taking pride in the execution of dense and precisely detailed works requiring time and contemplation to grasp.

Rhyme by Hisashi Tenmyouya

Their creative imaginations travel through time, finding inspiration in a range of styles; from medieval Buddhist paintings to contemporary anime and manga. Stroll through their fantastical visions during the three months they will be on exhibition.

Ever Blossoming Life by teamLab

Information about the Garden of Unearthly Delights exhibition and exhibition-related programming is available here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

POKÉMON BW: ADVENTURES IN UNOVA DVD SET 1 launches today

©2014 Pokémon. ©1997-2012 Nintendo, Creatures, GAME FREAK, TV Tokyo, ShoPro, JR Kikaku. TM, ® Nintendo.
 FANTASTIC ADVENTURES AWAIT IN
POKÉMON BW: ADVENTURES IN UNOVA DVD SET 1
RELEASE FROM VIZ MEDIA

Ash, Pikachu And Their New Friends Take On The Unova Region’s
Ultimate Challenge In The Latest POKÉMON Anime DVD Box Set

VIZ Media has announced that Pokémon fans will embark on an exciting adventure through the Unova region where they will meet their favorite Pokémon when the home media release of POKÉMON BW: ADVENTURES IN UNOVA DVD SET 1 launches today, Tuesday, September 23rd.

POKÉMON BW: ADVENTURES IN UNOVA DVD SET 1 features more than 9 hours of animated fun contained on 4 discs. The new set is rated ‘TV-V7’ (for Viewers Over the Age of 7) and will carry an MSRP of $26.95 U.S. / $31.98 CAN.

In BW: ADVENTURES IN UNOVA, Ash and his friends Iris and Cilan have foiled Team Rocket's latest evil plan, and a new danger lurks on the horizon! But first, with eight Gym badges in hand, Ash is ready to take on the region's ultimate challenge: the Unova League, where he'll face familiar rivals and new opponents in his ongoing quest to become a Pokémon Master! Meanwhile, Iris has been having some trouble connecting with her powerful and stubborn Dragonite – can a visit home to the Village of Dragons help sort things out for the aspiring Dragon Master? And what exciting new adventures await our heroes beyond the Unova League? The answers will come as the journey continues.

Pokémon is one of the largest entertainment franchises in the world, selling more than 260 million video games, shipping more than 21.5 billion Pokémon TCG cards, and featuring a library of more than 700 animation episodes and 16 full-length animated films. In October 2013, the Pokémon X and Pokémon Y video games launched worldwide for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems, selling nearly 12 million copies globally in the first four months of sale.

VIZ Media offers a wide range of DVD Box Sets for several acclaimed POKÉMON animated series including the various POKÉMON ADVENTURES story arcs as well as POKÉMON BLACK & WHITE and POKÉMON feature films such as POKÉMON THE MOVIE: BLACK – VICTINI AND RESHIRAM, POKÉMON THE MOVIE: WHITE –VICTINI AND ZEKROM, POKÉMON THE MOVIE: GENESECT AND THE LEGEND AWAKENED and POKÉMON THE MOVIE: KYUREM VS. THE SWORD OF JUSTICE.

VIZ Media also publishes a wide array of POKÉMON manga (graphic novel) series titles under its Perfect Square imprint.

For additional information on VIZ Media’s POKÉMON manga and anime titles, visit www.VIZ.com.

FIRESTORM available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital today, September 23

Well Go USA
presents
Firestorm / Fung bou
Written and Directed by Alan Yuen
Starring Andy Lau
Hong Kong/China, 2013, 109 minutes

Tagline: A citywide outbreak

Firestorm is an  action-packed crime thriller that is now available on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital from Well Go USA Entertainment. This review is based on the Blu-ray release.

As a severe storm approaches Hong Kong, an audacious and ruthless gang of criminals perpetrate a series of armed robberies. Just how audacious are they? Well, I'd say their using a huge crane to hook a moving armored car is way up there on the list. And as for ruthless, let's just say that they have no qualms about letting loose with fusillades of gunfire on public streets, totally indifferent as to whether they're killing and injuring civilians or police officers.

The forces of the law are led by Police Inspector Lui (Andy Lau, who also co-produced the film). He's a by-the-books kind of officer, but he increasingly turns to extra-legal and morally questionable actions to kill or capture the criminals.His frustrations are complicated by the cops under his command, whom he describes as being "drunks, divorced or gamblers."


The fine cast also includes:
- Michael Wong (Triple Tap)
- Ray Lui Leung-Wai (Transformers: Age of Extinction)
- Ka Tung Lam (Drug War, Ip Man)
- Jun Hu (Bodyguards & Assassins)
- Chen Yao (Caught in the Web)
- Vincent Sze (Vengeance)
- Chi-yin Wong (Life Without Principle)
- Shing-Ban Lam (Young and Dangerous: Reloaded).

Disc Stats:
Soundtracks:
- Cantonese 5.1 DTS HDMA
- Cantonese 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles:
- English
- Off
Bonus Materials
- “The Making of Firestorm” which includes very good mini-featurettes on:
   - Andy Lau
   - Yao Chen
   - Lam Ka Tung
   - The Criminals
   - Action Choreography
   - Action Scenes
   - Visual and Special Effects
   - Crossfire Scene
- Firestorm Trailer
- Trailers for three other Well Go USA offerings


Firestorm had its New York Premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival this past July, where it was shown in its original 3D format as Firestorm 3D. Regretfully, it was one of numerous screenings that I would have liked to have seen, but couldn't make. So I can't comment on how the film looks in 3D, but some of the scenes were clearly shot with the intention to have maximum impact in that format. In any case, the film doesn't seem to suffer at all in 2D. It looks quite fine, as far as I'm concerned.

If, like me, you're a big fan of the street shootout in Michael Mann's Heat (1995), or if you just like your action film filled with several balls-to-the-wall action sequences, you will absolutely love Firestorm.

AsianCineFest rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, very highly recommended.

Monday, September 22, 2014

BRAVEST WARRIORS: THIS WAY OR THAT – THE GREAT CORE CAPER coming on October 7th

© 2013 Frederator Networks, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 VIZ MEDIA’S PERFECT SQUARE IMPRINT RELEASES NEW
BRAVEST WARRIORS: THIS WAY OR THAT – THE GREAT CORE CAPER

New Interactive THIS WAY OR THAT Book Lets Readers
Decide How The Galaxy-Travelling Heroes And Catbug
Will Save A Planet From Total Destruction

VIZ Media expands its roster of original titles based on the popular action/adventure brand BRAVEST WARRIORS with the release of BRAVEST WARRIORS: THIS WAY OR THAT - THE GREAT CORE CAPER on October 7th.

Set to be published under the company’s Perfect Square imprint, the latest BRAVEST WARRIORS title was written by Chris “Doc” Wyatt with illustrations by Corin Howell. The chapter book-style release presents multiple story options that give readers a variety of possible narrative options to decide the course of the plot. BRAVEST WARRIORS: THIS WAY OR THAT - THE GREAT CORE CAPER is rated ‘A’ for All Ages and will carry an MSRP of $7.99 U.S. / $9.99 CAN.

In THE GREAT CORE CAPER, the planet Goober-Delta-9 will lose orbit if its stolen planetary core is not returned. Where is that core? In the most secure vault in the Galaxy – beneath SID BEEMER-BOOF’S FUN PLANET, the biggest amusement park in the known universe. The Bravest Warriors must recruit a daring team, including Plum, Catbug, President Memory Donk, Professor Brain Dog 7 and the Emotion Lord, to help them on their mission. Each team member must play their part in order to pull off the most outrageous heist of all time! And on EVERY page, the reader is in complete control of what happens next!

“The galaxy-hopping band of Bravest Warriors take off in a great new way for their first ever THIS WAY OR THAT adventure that lets the reader decide exactly how the story unfolds,” says Beth Kawasaki, Senior Editorial Director. “Everyone who worked on THE GREAT CORE CAPER is a BRAVEST WARRIORS fan, and editor Joel Enos and the creative team were thrilled to pay homage to the classic adventure books from when they were kids! Chris Wyatt’s hilarious and eccentric story paired with Corin Howell’s endearing illustrations captures the BRAVEST WARRIORS spirit, and gets better and better with repeated readings. Become part of the action and help decide just how the teenage heroes will save a planet in peril!”

BRAVEST WARRIORS writer Chris "Doc" Wyatt is a TV animation writer whose work can be seen on current and upcoming episodes of Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel's Avengers Assemble (both on Disney XD), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (on Nickelodeon), Transformers: Rescue Bots (on the Hub), and The Octonauts (on Disney Jr.).

Artist Corin Howell is an alumnus of the Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Sequential art. She’s recently worked on Ben 10 Omniverse (Halloween Special) and the upcoming HELLO KILLY: HELLO 40 for Perfect Square. She also contributed to the new BRAVEST WARRIORS: THE SEARCH FOR CATBUG book and had her artwork featured in 2014’s Perfect Square Free Comic Book Day comic.

Bravest Warriors is a hit animated series widely seen on YouTube’s Cartoon Hangover and was created by Pendleton Ward, the visionary creator of the Emmy Award-winning Cartoon Network show Adventure Time. In Bravest Warriors, four teenage travelers traverse the universe saving those in need...though not always in the way you’d expect...in fact...never! Along the way they meet aliens, phantoms and other inter-dimensional beings – including everyone’s favorite, Catbug. Sometimes...they even meet themselves! The web series won a Shorty Award in 2013 for Best Web Show and has spawned a wide array of collectibles and other products.

VIZ Media’s Perfect Square imprint focuses on delivering original comics, manga (graphic novels) and other children’s books with an emphasis on strong storytelling, eye-popping graphics, empowering themes, and a dash of irreverence, that captures the imagination of a whole new generation. Additional information on titles published by Perfect Square is available at www.PerfectSquare.com.

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Free screening of THE PIRATES in NYC this Tuesday, September 23rd

Korean Cultural Service New York
presents
Korean Movie Night 2014
Series Five: Blown Away by Korean Blockbusters!
The Pirates / Kundo: min-ran-eui si-dae
Directed by LEE Seok-hoon
South Korea, 2014, 130 minutes
When: Tuesday September 23, 2014 @ 7:00 pm
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas 54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
Admission: FREE!!!

A legend has been whispered of for ten years – one of a ghost whale that attacked a ship and swallowed the great seal of the Joseon Dynasty. This epic comedy adventure, based on the loss of the great seal (which wasn’t found until 1403), has a group of bandits, pirates, and heads of state, driven by honor, ambition, thrill, and greed to find the seal at all costs. Facing off against evil buccaneers, corrupt government officials, and their own ranks, there is no telling who will track down the ghost whale, recover the great seal, and save the day.


Filled with incredible action, sexy romance, and hilarious characters – The Pirates is one of Korea’s biggest box office hits of 2014.

There almost certainly will be a really big turnout, so I suggest that if you don't want to be turned away for lack of seating, get there as early as you can.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

VIZ launching WORLD TRIGGER on October 7th in graphic novel form

WORLD TRIGGER © 2013 by Daisuke Ashihara/SHUEIHSA Inc.
 VIZ MEDIA LAUNCHES SCI-FI MANGA SERIES
WORLD TRIGGER IN GRAPHIC NOVEL FORMAT

Two Unlikely Heroes Are Earth’s Last Hope Against
Alien Invaders In New Manga Action Series Straight
From The Pages Of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP;
Series To Debut In Print And Digitally

VIZ Media has announced the print and digital launch of creator Daisuke Ashihara’s thrilling sci-fi action manga series – WORLD TRIGGER – in a dedicated graphic novel format on October 7th. The series is currently being serialized chapter-by-chapter SIMULTANEOUS to Japan in the pages of the digital anthology WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP.

WORLD TRIGGER will be published under the Shonen Jump imprint with the first two volumes releasing simultaneously on October 7th. Volumes 1 and 2 are rated ‘T’ for Teens and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN each. New volumes are scheduled to be released bi-monthly.

Digital versions of WORLD TRIGGER also will launch for $6.99 (USD/CAN) each on the same day on VIZManga.com and through the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones, as well as through the Nook, Kobo, Kindle, iBooks, comiXology and GooglePlay stores.

Destroy thy Neighbor! Earth is under constant threat from Neighbors, invincible monsters from another dimension that destroy humanity’s way of life. At least there are the elite agents of Border, warriors who co-opt alien technology to fight back. Our hero Osamu Mikumo may not be the best agent, but along with his Neighbor friend Yuma, he’ll do whatever it takes to defend life on Earth as we know it.

WORLD TRIGGER © 2013 by Daisuke Ashihara/SHUEIHSA Inc.

In the series’ opening volume, when straight-laced Osamu meets a feisty humanoid Neighbor named Yuma, everything that he thinks is right is turned on its head. Can the two natural enemies ever become friends?

Things become tense and the action heats up in Volume 2. Osamu has protected the feisty Neighbor’s identity ever since they met, but he’s about to get a rude awakening when he discovers that Border has ways of sniffing out traitors in their midst.

“WORLD TRIGGER begins four years after a gate to another dimension opens, letting alien Neighbors invade and the unlikely heroic duo of Osamu and Yuma must deploy powerful weaponry called Triggers to defeat the invaders and save the world,” says Hope Donovan, Editor. “WORLD TRIGGER has captivated fans in serialized form in WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP, and with the anime releasing in October, we can’t wait to introduce even more readers to the manga series with the simultaneous launch of the first two graphic novels in early October.”

WORLD TRIGGER creator Daisuke Ashihara began his manga career at the age of 27 when his manga, Room 303, won second place in the 75th Osamu Tezuka Awards. His first full series, Super Dog Rilienthal, began serialization in Japan in Weekly Shonen Jump in 2009. WORLD TRIGGER is his second serialized work to appear in Weekly Shonen Jump and chapters also run in the English digital counterpart published by VIZ Media. Daisuke Ashihara is also the author of several shorter works, including the manga one-shots Super Dog Rilienthal, Trigger Keeper and Elite Agent Jin.

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

MAYURA: BLUE PEACOCK - review of an Indian dance performance

Mayura: Blue Peacock
When: Friday, September19 and Saturday September 20, 2014
Where: Chen Dance Center
70 Mulberry Street, Chinatown, NYC

Last night I attended the opening performance of Mayura: Blue Peacock, an evening-length, Indian classical dance production with original music and choreography. Mayura is the Sanskrit word for peacock, which is the national bird of India and which serves as the inspiration for this dance production. The program, which runs for just over an hour with no intermissions, will be repeated tonight and tomorrow night at the Chen Dance Center in NY's Chinatown and consists of four segments.

Sonali Skandan and Jiva Dance performed the dances. The company consists of Sonali, who also serves as artistic director and chief choreographer, and five other female dancers: Bavani Pillai, Mallika Bhargava, Maya Kappil, Njideka Emenogu, and Sangita Sahasranaman. Sonali choreographed three of the dance segments: Mayil Viruttham, Kalidassa Mala (garland of Kalidass), and Thillana, the final segment. Bragha Bessell was the choreographer of Andal/Mira, the third segment.


Rajkumar Bharathi composed the music, and there were rhythmic sections by G. Vijayaraghavan and Bala Skandan. These sounds were supplemented by the rhythmic pounding of feet slapping and stomping on the dance floor and by the tinkling of the numerous bells around the dancers' ankles. Movements ranged from incredibly rapid to slow and sinuous; the arms and fingers especially tended to move in delicate undulations. At times the dancers assumed still poses, often balancing on one leg.

Years ago I used to do some dance photography and attended performances much more often than I have in recent years. I am by no means a dance critic, and I have, unfortunately, only minimal familiarity with Indian dance. But I thoroughly enjoyed the movements and the sounds of Mayura: Blue Peacock, and highly recommend attending one of the two remaining performances.

TRACKS opens today in NY & LA

The Weinstein Company
presents
Tracks
Directed by John Curran
Australia, 2014, 102 minutes

Tracks is a fascinating adventure story based on the remarkable real-life experience of Robyn Davidson. It opens today in theaters in New York and Los Angeles. (Check your local listings in those cities.)

On April 9, 1977, Ms. Davisdson set off from Alice Springs in Central Australia with her dog Diggity and four camels on a 1,700 mile journey westward to the Indian Ocean. Periodically Rick Smolan, a photographer working for National Geographic (which helped to underwrite the cost of the journey) would meet up with her and take photographs. Ms. Davidson provided the captions and text that accompanied Smolan's pictures when they ran in the magazine. Later she expanded her writings into a book, Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback, that became a bestseller.

Mia Wasikowska portrays Ms. Davidson in the film and also provides voice-over narration at times. For her journey, she had to learn how to break and train the feral camels she would need to carry her supplies. Interestingly, camels were not native to Australia, but were imported because of their suitability to the hot, arid climate. When motor vehicles supplanted them for transportation purposes, they were set free with the expectation that they would die out. Instead they thrived and Australia came to have the largest feral camel population in the world.

In the film, she meets Smolan (Adam Driver) when he comes with her sister and some friends to visit her prior to her departure. When he hears of her financial problems in bankrolling the trek, he suggests National Geographic as a potential source of funding and offers to contact them on her behalf. Determined to do things on her own and on her own terms, she declines his offer to serve as an intermediary and announces that she will contact the magazine on her own.

The journey takes between six and seven months, during which her animals are her only company.  For part of the journey she does travel with a Mr. Eddy (Rolley Mintuma), one of the most highly respected Aborigine elders. This enables her to go through sacred Aboriginal sites, which are off limits to unaccompanied women. Otherwise she would have had to take a long and time-consuming detour.

The trip takes her through visually breathtaking areas, but it is also fraught with danger. She has only an old compass given to her by her deceased father to keep her on track; at this time there was no GPS to instantaneously let her know exactly where she was. On at least two occasions mishaps placed her very life in jeopardy.

The story of her journey is periodically broken with flashbacks which provide insight into her past: the loss of a beloved parent and of her childhood home, and so forth.

Ms. Wasikowski clearly was well-trained in how to work with the camels. Perhaps doubles were used at times, but for the most part it is clear that it was she who was interacting with them.

The role is not a glamorous one. At times she is covered with dust and dirt, her hair unkempt. Her bare shoulders are made to look sunburnt and in one brief shot, a bushy, unshaved armpit is evident. For the most part, it is a quiet role, but I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't receive some consideration for a Best Performance by an Actress nomination, especially considering the Weinstein's considerable success backing their actresses (Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago, and Renée Zellweger in Cold Mountain both won Oscars for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.)

Oh, also be sure to stick around during the end credits, which are accompanied by pictures of Ms. Davidson taken by Smolan during the actual journey. They reveal how closely at least some of the scenes in the film reproduced the real events upon which they were based, as well as Ms. Wasikowska's likeness to the subject she portrays.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended.

Note that Tracks is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). There are some scenes regarding the death and killing of animals that truly are too explicit for younger viewers.


Chinese historical drama THE LAST SUPPER will arrive on October 14th

Random Media and Cinedigm
Present
The Last Supper / Wang de Shengyan
Directed by Lu Chuan
China, 2012, 116 minutes
Language: Mandarin w/ English subtitles

International, Epic Adventure Of War, Dreams and Betrayals
Arrives On Blu-ray, DVD And Digital HD October 14

 “Compelling in its detailed intrigues and magnificent frescoes” - Variety

The heroic Chinese-language historical drama, The Last Supper, will arrive on Blu-ray ($19.93), DVD ($14.93) and Digital HD on Tuesday, October 14 from Random Media and Cinedigm. Featuring lavish action sets and extravagant style, the visually stunning retelling of the Han dynasty is directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death) and features China’s two-time Asian Film Awards nominee Ye Liu (City of Life and Death), Daniel Wu (Protégé, The Banquet, Legend of the Black Scorpion) and Chen Chang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

The Last Supper follows Liu Bang (Ye), the first emperor of China’s Han Dynasty, as he recounts his life on his deathbed through restless memories and flashbacks. Haunted by nightmares of his biggest enemies, Lord Yu (Wu) and General Xin (Chen), Bang recalls his betrayal of both men due to his overwhelming thirst for power as an uncultured and uneducated soldier, which led to paranoia and fear once he became ruler. Even years after the deaths of Yu and Xin, Bang’s soul is still deeply troubled as he is unable to find peace in the position he dreamed of and fought ruthlessly to achieve.

Synopsis: Witness a young peasant’s meteoric rise to power in this action-packed martial arts saga from renowned director Lu Chuan. During the tumultuous last days of the Qin dynasty, the Commander of the era’s most powerful army recognizes great potential in an inexperienced laborer named Liu. When he gives Liu command of thousands of officers, he unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will put his own life in peril and determine the fate of a nation. Praised by audiences and critics alike, The Last Supper chronicles the brutality of war and the devastation of betrayal.

I'm expecting a screener, so look for a review here at AsianCineFest on or just before the October 14 release date.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yaoi publisher SuBLime announces new manga acquisitions at YaoiCon

GLOBAL YAOI PUBLISHER SuBLime REVEALS EXCITING
NEW MANGA ACQUISITIONS DURING YAOICON 2014

LOVE STAGE!!, THE WORLD’S GREATEST FIRST LOVE, GINGER HONEY,
THE NIGHT BEYOND THE TRICORNER WINDOW, And More!

SuBLime, the global yaoi manga publishing initiative between VIZ Media and Japan’s Animate, Ltd. (Animate), provided detailed updates for a variety of brand-new and continuing yaoi manga titles during its YaoiCon 2014 panel this past weekend in San Francisco. News of the acquisitions of several exclusive new digital and print titles thrilled fans in attendance.

To the delight of many fans, SuBLime announced plans to release Eiki Eiki and Taishi Zaou’s LOVE STAGE!! (Rated ‘M’ for Mature) in print starting May 2015 with additional volumes to follow every other month. In this romantic comedy, the protagonist’s family is packed with famous celebrities but Izumi Sena is actually a huge otaku with aspirations of becoming a manga creator.

SuBLime also detailed plans to publish GINGER HONEY (Rated ‘M’ for Mature), creator Isaku Natsume’s humorous follow-up to DEVIL’S HONEY (also published by SuBLime), which is set for digital-only release February 2015.

SuBLime also acquired Tomoko Yamashita’s THE NIGHT BEYOND THE TRICORNER WINDOW Vol. 1 (Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens) and plans to debut the series digitally beginning March 2015.

In addition to these new releases, SuBLime updated fans about the forthcoming simultaneous, worldwide digital release on October 28th of Episode 2 of author Rieko Yoshihara and artist Ryo Tateishi’s INTO ILLUSION, the same day it debuts in Japan! Don’t miss the half-manga/half-novel release of this unique and exciting series from the author of Ai no Kusabi – The Space Between.

“YaoiCon 2014 was the perfect setting to announce our latest manga acquisitions, and we know fans are getting excited for these upcoming releases,” says Jennifer LeBlanc, SuBLime’s Editor. “From the acquisition of the highly anticipated LOVE STAGE!! to the simultaneous U.S./Japanese debut of the latest installment of the supernatural, erotic thriller INTO ILLUSION, fans will have a lot to look forward to in coming months!”

YaoiCon fans also cheered the news of the North American debut of Shungiku Nakamura’s THE WORLD’S GREATEST FIRST LOVE (Rated ‘M’ for Mature). This romantic comedy about a handsome, single young man discovering his new boss is actually an old flame will debut in print beginning February 2015.

SuBLime also updated fans on a variety of other ongoing, popular yaoi series. EMBRACING LOVE Vol. 3 is scheduled for print and digital release August 2015; the final print and digital volume of HIDE AND SEEK, Vol. 3, is set for release in March 2015; and STARTING WITH A KISS Vol. 3, also the final volume of the series, is scheduled for print and digital release June 2015.

SuBLime titles are offered worldwide in print and digital formats. For digital editions purchased directly from www.SuBLimeManga.com, readers have two methods of access – a DRM-free downloadable PDF that is viewable on any PDF-enabled eReader device and computer, and via the online manga viewer found on the web site. Readers can also purchase SuBLime’s digital editions through e-tailers such as Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

For up-to-date news and release information, visit the SuBLime website at SuBLimeManga.com, or follow SuBLime on Twitter at @SuBLimeManga, Facebook at facebook.com/SuBLimeManga, and Tumblr at sublimemanga.tumblr.com.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sentai Filmworks announces acquisition of LOVE STAGE!!


All the world’s a stage, and for two boys the spotlight will shine brightly upon their stars in Sentai Filmworks' latest acquisition, Love Stage!! This romantic comedy series is directed by Kenichi Kasai (Honey and Clover, Bakuman) with series composition by Michiko Yokote (Kobato, Princess Tutu), art direction by Hirotsugu Kakoi (Hatsukoi Limited, Kyousogiga) and animation production by J.C. Staff (Dream Eater Merry, The Familiar of Zero).

Synopsis: Daydreamer Izumi Sena is the black sheep of his family. With a model for a mother, a singer for a father, and a brother who fronts one of the most popular bands around, you’d think Izumi would be destined for stardom. Despite being born into a family of stars, Izumi has no desire to be in the spotlight, and his only dream is to become a world-class manga artist. But in an unexpected turn of events, Izumi finds himself not only pulled onto the set of a commercial, but forced to dress as a girl!

In case the situation wasn’t awkward enough, Izumi stumbles into his costar, the handsome Ryoma Ichijo, and it’s love at first sight. Or, at least it is for Ryoma, who is so convinced by Izumi’s costume, that when the shoot is over, he makes it his life mission to track down the “actress” that sets his heart aflutter. But when Ryoma discovers Izumi’s secret, will it be sparks that fly or fists? And will Izumi be able to avoid his destiny as a superstar, or will he be sucked into the same fame-filled life as the rest of his family?

Love Stage!! will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

WARRIOR PRINCESS available on DVD today, Tuesday, September 16th

Lionsgate
presents
A Shudder Productions Film
Warrior Princess (a.k.a. Queen Ahno - Spirit of a Warrior)
Written & Directed by Shuudertsetseg Baatarsuren
Mongolia , 2013, 95 minutes
DVD SRP: $26.98

Warrior Princess arrives today on a single disc DVD from Lionsgate that includes a digital Ultraviolet download. The historical action/drama is based on the true story of Queen Ahno of Mongolia, who gave her life to save her husband in battle.

The title is a bit misleading. Ahno is indeed a princess in a Western Mongolia kingdom, but it as a Queen that she fights as a warrior. The film is also known, rather more accurately, as Queen Ahno - Spirit of a Warrior. Perhaps Warrior Princess was used for the DVD release to evoke memories of the Xena: Warrior Princess television series.

The film is another case of what seems to be a strong trend in Asian movies of late, namely using the bookend approach to storytelling. The film begins with the one and only battle in it, then proceeds via flashback to tell the tale of how Ahno got there. The film ends basically with a replay of the opening sequence, supplemented by some additional information. This same approach, for example, was used in the Chinese romance/drama But Always (2014).

Official WARRIOR PRINCESS Trailer -- September 2014

Princess Ahno (Otgonjargal Davaasuren) is the seventeen year old daughter of Ochirt Tsetsen, one of the kings of Western Mongolia. She is quite adept at using the bow and arrow, and is in love with Galdan, one of the sons from a nearby kingdom that is a rival to her father's. Unfortunately Galdan has taken his vows and is a Grand Lama.

Galdan's younger brother Senge has claimed the family throne and is to marry Ahno. However when he is killed, Galdan is convinced by his mother to break his sacred vows and assume the throne, because Senge's son Tseveenravdan is not of age. As the new king, Galdan marries Ahno, but peace and happiness eludes them because there are rivalries not only within the tribes of Western Mongolia, but also between the Western and the Central Mongolian tribes. Fanning the flames of these internecine rivalries is Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty.

QUEEN AHNO - SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR - International Version Trailer

Quite frankly, in some cases I at times had a bit of trouble keeping track of just who was who. Given the period costumes and my lack of familiarity with Mongolian actors, this is not all that surprising. Still, whatever fuzziness I occasionally had with the identities of some characters did not prevent me from following the general drift of events.

Another thing worth noting is that, despite the title, there is not much battlefield action going on, at least not until the end. The film is much more concerned with political intrigue. There are some other violent scenes, but these pertain to politically motivated assassinations rather than warfare.

That being said, the film's large battle is quite impressive. So are the exterior scenes in general and the costumes in particular.

Disc Stats:
- Digital Ultraviolet download
- Audio
  - Mongolian 5.1 Dolby Digital
  - English 5.1 Dolby Digital
- Optional English and Spanish subtitles
- Warrior Princess trailer
- Trailers from other Lionsgate offerings

Although not really an action picture, Warrior Princess does a credible job as a historical drama and biography.

AsianCineFest rating 3 out of 4 stars; a decent enough film that's worthwhile mainly because of its depiction of a period in Mongolian history, which is not the subject of many films. And the free download that's included with the DVD is a very nice bonus.

Monday, September 15, 2014

FRIEND II: THE LEGACY available tomorrow, September 16th on DVD

CJ Entertainment
presents
 
Friend II: The Legacy / Chingu 2
Directed by KWAK Kyung-taek
South Korea, 2013, 121 minutes
Korean language with English subtitles

Friend II: The Legacy, director KWAK Kyung-taek's long-awaited follow-up to his 2001 cult phenomenon Friend, will be available on a single-disc DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 16th from CJ Entertainment. The original was a huge hit about 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. The 2013 sequel had 1.06 million admissions over its first weekend in release in South Korea, topping the local box office despite its "Restricted" rating.


Also known as Friend: The Great Legacy or Friend 2, the film begins with a flashback of LEE Joon-suk (actor YOO Oh-sung 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-sung 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 hope to before long), but thatdidn't prevent me from understanding and enjoying Friend II: 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)

DVD Stats:
- Audio Options
  - Korean 5.1 with English subtitles
  - Korean 2.0 with English subtitles
  - english 5.1
  - English 2.0
- Extras
  - Characters
  - Making of Friend IIL The Legacy
  - Cast and Crew Intrviews
  - Trialers (for other CJ Entrtainment offerings; there's no Friend II trailer)

Sung-hoon (left) and Joon-suk
 
Friend II: 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.

I also highly recommend 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.

U.S. theatrical run of ICEMAN to begin on Friday, September 19th

Well Go USA
Entertainment
presents
Iceman / Bing Fung: Chung Sang Chi Mun
Directed by Law Wing Cheong
Starring Donnie YEN, WANG Baoqiang, Eva HUANG,
Simon YAM, Mark WU, Gregory WONG
China/Hong Kong, 2014, 100 minutes 
Original Language: Cantonese

This Chinese action adventure starring Donnie Yen will open theatrically in select U.S. cities on Friday, September 19th. Locations and showtimes here.


Synopsis:
A Ming Dynasty palace guard - wrongly accused of a murder - is being hunted by his three sworn brothers and all four get accidentally buried and kept frozen in time during a battle. 400 years later, they are defrosted and continue the battle while adjusting to modern day life. A Ming Dynasty palace guard - wrongly accused of a murder - is hunted by three sworn brothers bent on revenge. All four are accidentally buried, frozen in time at the height of battle. 400 years later, they are defrosted and resume their mortal struggle…while also adjusting to modern-day life.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sci-Fi & Fantasy story anthology PHANTASM JAPAN coming September 16th from Haikasoru

VIZ MEDIA’S HAIKASORU IMPRINT SET TO RELEASE
PHANTASM JAPAN: FANTASIES LIGHT AND DARK, FROM AND ABOUT JAPAN

Sample The Fantastic, The Strange, And The Surreal In A
Stirring New Anthology Of Sci-Fi And Fantasy Stories
Inspired By Japan From An Array Of Noted Authors

VIZ Media’s Haikasoru literary imprint brings a fantastic anthology of short stories inspired by the Land of the Rising Sun to readers across the English-speaking world with the release this Tuesday. September 16th of PHANTASM JAPAN: FANTASIES LIGHT AND DARK, FROM AND ABOUT JAPAN.

Co-edited by Haikasoru’s Nick Mamatas, a noted sci-fi author and Bram Stoker Award-winning anthologist, and Masumi Washington, Haikasoru’s Editor-in-Chief, PHANTASM JAPAN presents more than 20 works by a stirring collection of some of today’s most compelling fiction authors, including New York Times best-seller Zachary Mason, horror master Gary A. Braunbeck, the Hugo Award-winning Tim Pratt, and others. PHANTASM JAPAN also features works by several highly acclaimed Japanese authors such as Project Itoh (HARMONY, GENOCIDAL ORGAN), Miyuki Miyabe (BRAVE STORY, ICO: CASTLE IN THE MIST, APPARITIONS), and Sayuri Ueda (THE CAGE OF ZEUS), whose works have been published in English by Haikasoru.

PHANTASM JAPAN: FANTASIES LIGHT AND DARK, FROM AND ABOUT JAPAN will be available in print from Haikasoru for $14.99 U.S. / $16.99 CAN. An eBook edition will also be available for $8.99 (U.S. / CAN) for the Amazon Kindle, Apple’s iBooks Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Book Store, the Kobo eBooks Store, and the Google Play store.

Haikasoru publishes some of the most compelling contemporary Japanese science fiction and fantasy stories for English-speaking audiences, and is the first imprint based in the U.S. dedicated to Japanese science fiction and fantasy in translation.

PHANTASM JAPAN: FANTASIES LIGHT AND DARK, FROM AND ABOUT JAPAN • MSRP: $14.99 U.S. / $16.99 CAN • Available September 16th
The secret history of the most famous secret agent in the world; A bunny costume that reveals the truth in our souls; The unsettling notion that Japan itself may be a dream; The tastiest meal you’ll never have; A fedora-wearing neckbeard’s deadly date with a yokai; and the worst work shift anyone – human or not – has ever lived through. Welcome to PHANTASM JAPAN!

“PHANTASM JAPAN seeks to use the fantastic not to mystify, but to demystify, to bring the English-speaking world not only traditional stories of tanuki (raccoon dogs) and kitsune (foxes), of ghosts and yokai (supernatural monsters), but the bleeding edge of the Japanese fantastic,” notes Nick Mamatas in the introduction to the book. “Japanese fantasy is in a dialogue not only with Japan’s spiritual traditions and modern experiences, but also with Western ghost stories and science fiction. Japanese fantasy is in dialogue with virtually everything, from the New Weird to real life horror.”

Haikasoru’s previous short fiction anthology, THE FUTURE IS JAPANESE, was published in 2012. It included Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware”, which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. The anthology itself was nominated for the Locus Award, and other stories nominated for the Sturgeon, Shirley Jackson, and SF&F Translation Awards. Five pieces from THE FUTURE IS JAPANESE were also reprinted in various “year’s best” science fiction anthologies.

For more information these titles and the Haikasoru imprint, visit the dedicated website at www.haikasoru.com.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sentai Filmworks announces acquisition of FATE/KALEID LINER PRISMA ILLYA 2WEI!


The Fate universe will once again “kaleid” with an extra dose of magical girl misadventures in Sentai Filmworks' latest acquisition, Fate/Kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! This magical girl action series is directed by Shin Oonuma (Dusk maiden of Amnesia, ef: a tale of memories) with art direction by Ken Tateishi (Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, Kotoura-san), sound direction by Masanori Tsuchiya (Brynhildr in the Darkness, Five Numbers!) and animation production by SILVER LINK (WATAMOTE, Penguindrum).

Synopsis: The magical girls are back, and ready for another round of adventure! After successfully recovering the Class Cards, eighth graders-turned magical girls Illya and Miyu think they can finally take it easy. But as fate would have it, the girls are once again called back into active duty when they find out that the Cards have left some very nasty side effects on their world. However, their seemingly easy mission goes totally awry with the appearance of a dark stranger who looks just like Illya! Who is this new but familiar face, where did she come from, and what does she want from Illya? With the arrival of this new foe, it seems like Illya’s finally met her match when her everyday life takes one dark turn.

Fate/Kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

RANMA ½, Volume 3 Blu-ray & DVD box sets available September 16th

© Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan
 VIZ MEDIA RELEASES RANMA ½ ANIME SERIES
VOLUME 3 LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY BOX SET

Latest Home Media Edition For Legendary Martial Arts Comedy
Presented In Beautiful High Definition In A 3-Disc Set Filled With
Special Bonus Features; Standard Edition DVD Also Available

VIZ Media has announced the latest installment of digitally restored RANMA ½ episodes with the release this coming Tuesday, September 16th of Set 3 of the classic anime series in new High Definition Limited Edition Blu-ray as well as a Standard Edition DVD Set.

The RANMA ½ Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set, Set 3 contains Episodes 47-69 of the venerable gender-bending martial arts action comedy based on the celebrated manga series created by Rumiko Takahashi. The RANMA ½ Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set, Set 3 will carry an MSRP of $54.97 U.S. / $63.99 CAN and features 23 episodes on 3 discs, presented for the first time in full 1080p High Definition resolution with the series’ original, un-cropped 4:3 aspect ratio. The Standard Edition DVD will be available with an MSRP of $44.82 U.S. / $51.99 CAN. The series is rated ‘TV-14.’

The latest RANMA ½ home media editions continue the series’ premium presentation with the Limited Edition Blu-ray version packaged in a high quality chipboard box with gold foil stamping, beautifully illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi, along with a 32-page booklet, complete episode guide, and a collectable full-color RANMA ½ art card. Notable bonus features offered exclusively on the Blu-ray edition include, ’We Love Ranma Part 3 – The Appeal Of Ranma ½,’ the newest installment of an ongoing series of insightful interviews tracing the legacy and impact of the groundbreaking anime property.

The RANMA ½ Standard Edition DVD set contains 23 remastered episodes presented with the original, un-cropped 4:3 aspect ratio and bonus features that include clean openings and endings and trailers.

Dialogue options for both DVD and Blu-ray formats include original Japanese with re-done English subtitles or dubbed English audio, along with a secondary subtitle track for signs and songs.

In this acclaimed anime series, Ranma Saotome never thought a martial arts training mission to China would turn out like this! An accidental dunk in a cursed spring changes boy Ranma into a young girl, every time he is splashed with cold water. Hot water reverses the effect - but only until next time.

In the latest collection of episodes, things just can't stay quiet at the Tendo Dojo. After a morning ruckus, Ranma hits his head, falls into water, and turns completely into a girl. Now, even when Ranma transforms back into a boy, he still thinks he's a girl! Things become even more complicated when Shampoo, still in love with Ranma, gets a surprise visit from Chinese Amazon twin sisters Ling-Ling and Lung-Lung, two of her protégées who have it in for Ranma. Then, after Soun and Genma's master, Happosai, uses maxihustion to weaken Ranma, he must master a new legendary technique and defeat Happosai to become strong again. Everything culminates in a final battle against Happosai as Ranma fights to regain his strength.

RANMA ½ manga creator Rumiko Takahashi is one of Japan’s most prolific and respected manga artists and is the creator of several long running series including MAISON IKKOKU, RANMA ½, and INUYASHA – all published in North America by VIZ Media. The spotlight on her prolific career began in 1978 when she won an honorable mention in Shogakukan's annual 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 also spawned a TV series and half a dozen theatrical-release movies, all incredibly popular. Takahashi followed up the success of her debut series with one blockbuster hit after another— MAISON IKKOKU ran from 1980 to 1987, RANMA ½ from 1987 to 1996, and INUYASHA from 1996 to 2008. Other notable works include MERMAID SAGA, RUMIC THEATER, ONE-POUND GOSPEL, and RIN-NE (all also published in North America by VIZ Media).

For more information on RANMA ½ and other Rumiko Takahashi titles published by VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.