With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Thursday, June 04, 2020

ENTER THE FAT DRAGON Debuts on Digital, Blu-ray™ & DVD on July 14th

Well Go USA
Presents
Enter the Fat Dragon / Fei lung gwoh gong
Directed by Kenji Tanigaki
Hong Kong, 2020, 97 minutes

International martial arts icon Donnie Yen [Ip Man, Mulan (2020), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story] is back in the action-comedy Enter the Fat Dragon, “a hilarious, hyper-paced, rock-em sock-em blast of a movie!” (Ultimate Action Movies) debuting on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD July 14 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film chronicles the events that transformed super-fit super-cop Fallon Zhu (Yen) into a records clerk with a major snack cake habit—and one shot to regain his job and his fiancée. A hilarious parody of Bruce Lee's 1972 film Way of the Dragon and a reimagining of the popular comedy martial arts film starring Sammo Hung, Enter the Fat Dragon was directed by Kenji Tanigaki (Legend of Seven Monks) and costars Teresa Mo (Hard Boiled), Niki Chow (Heavenly Mission) and Wong Jing (Kung Fu Mahjong).

Synopsis:

Enter the Fat Dragon is a hilarious chronicle of the events that transformed super-fit super-cop Fallon Zhu (martial arts phenom Donnie Yen) into a glorified records clerk with a major snack cake habit. After a desperate request from an old colleague, Zhu teams up with a wily, wok-wielding restaurateur to solve a mysterious murder—and take his one last shot at regaining both his job and his fiancée.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

SPECIAL ACTORS will be the Opening Night film of JAPAN CUTS 2020

Japan Society NY
Presents
Special Actors  © 2019 Shochiku Broadcasting Co., Ltd.
Special Actors
Directed by Shinichiro Ueda
Japan, 2019, 119 minutes

Live virtual Q&A with director on Friday, July 17

Filmmaker Shinichiro Ueda is best known for his breakout indie debut One Cut of the Dead (2017), a low-budget zombie film that was an unexpected box office hit in Japan—where it screened across 340 theaters and surpassed 2 million admissions from word of mouth—and became an international festival sensation. JAPAN CUTS 2020 Opening Night film Special Actors, an ensemble comedy about an oddball acting troupe that infiltrates a cult, is Ueda’s much-anticipated follow-up feature, which had its theatrical run in Japan in late 2019. The film has not yet screened in North America and will make its online streaming debut at JAPAN CUTS.

Friday, May 29, 2020

New Superhero Franchise GUNDALA to debut on Digital, Blu-ray™ & DVD July 28, 2020

Well Go USA
Presents
Gundala
Written and Directed by Joko Anwar
Based on the comic by Harya Suraminata
Indonesia, 2019, 124 minutes

Indonesia's preeminent comic book superhero and his alter ego enter the cinematic universe to battle the wicked Pengkor and his diabolical squad of orphan assassins in the action-packed Gundala, debuting on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD July 28 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Based on a popular comic book first published in 1969, Gundala is the first film in a proposed eight film franchise launching a new superhero cinematic universe (in the vein of Marvel). In this origins story, Sancaka (Abimana Aryasatya) is a security guard who was struck by lightning, giving him superhuman powers and turning him into the superhero Gundala. Gundala had its international premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and this release features an all-new English dub, in addition to its original subtitled soundtrack.

Synopsis:
Gundala is a poignant portrayal of the notion that heroes—whether everyday or superhuman—can be found anywhere (though a superpower never hurts). Indonesian orphan Sancaka spent his life on the streets trying to attract as little attention as possible, but when greed and violence reach a fever pitch in Jakarta, it soon becomes clear that he is the people’s only hope for peace.

JAPAN CUTS 2020 Film Festival: First Online-Only Edition, July 17-30, 2020

Japan Sciety NY
Presents

Announcing JAPAN CUTS 2020 Film Festival: First Online-Only Edition

Japan Society NY has announced that, in light of the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19, they are taking North America's largest contemporary Japanese cinema festival out of its usual form and crafting a completely online version of JAPAN CUTS.

Re-imagining this format, they will maintain the festival’s high quality of film offerings and its intimate support of the film community while also finding new ways of engaging with now-nationwide audiences.

Set within both recurring sections and new initiatives, the online festival will offer a diverse slate of around 30 feature films and shorts programs. Live-streamed virtual Q&As, panels and greetings from guest filmmakers will serve as opportunities for in-depth interaction.

The full lineup of films and events will be revealed in late June, and AsianCineFest will be providing updates and additional information.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Section23 Films announces its June, 2020 slate of releases


Home video distributor Section23 Films has announced its June, 2020 slate of releases which includes Sentai Filmworks heartwarming standout drama, After the Rain, available on Blu-ray June 30th.

Here are the product details, in order of release.

Title: TAMAKO MARKET LOVE STORY COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 385 min.
Street Date: 6/2/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: Growing up in a candy store is just a daydream for most kids, but for Tamako, it's her real life. And, yes, most of the time it's pretty sweet! Tamako gets to create new flavors, hang out with her friends and discover all kinds of ways to have fun. There are difficult parts, though, and one of them is figuring out her relationship with Mochizo, whose family runs a rival shop. Does she really like him or is she just experiencing a candy crush in TAMAKO MARKET? Then, get ready for a double scoop of Tamako goodness as Tamako and her friends prepare to finish high school. It's exciting, but sad too, as some of them will be moving away… including Mochizo. Sometimes life is sugary and other times it's bittersweet in TAMAKO LOVE STORY!


Title: NON NON BIYORI VACATION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 71 min.
Street Date: 6/9/2020
Format: BD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $29.98

SYNOPSIS: Even when you're fortunate enough to live in a place as beautiful as the country village of Asahigaoka, you should never turn down the chance to explore someplace else. So, when Suguru wins a free trip to Okinawa just as the summer vacation is coming to an end, the town's entire school… all 5 students and 1 teacher, plus the local candy shop owner… can hardly wait for their 3-day trip to begin! Between kayaking, swimming and meeting new people, there's always something fun happening, but the best part of all is that big city girl Hotaru and her new small-town friends all get to explore the wonders of Japan's famous vacation destination together. Prepare for the perfect trip as the whole gang boards the plane for NON NON BIYORI - VACATION!


Title: DOMESTIC GIRLFRIEND
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 6/16/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: Natsuo Fuji has a serious crush on one of his teachers, Hina Tachibana, but since he knows he has zero chance of ever being in a relationship with her, he lets his friends talk him into going to a party where he meets Rui. One thing leads to another and then, well, neither of them is a virgin anymore. Unfortunately, it wasn't what they expected, but that's fine. They're just ships passing in the night and they'll never have to see each other again, right? Except when Natsuo's father announces that he's getting married again, Natsuo discovers that he's getting two new step-sisters as well. Now there's a problem, because one is his teacher, Hina, and the other is Rui. Yep, the family dinners at Natsuo's house are about to get REALLY awkward in DOMESTIC GIRLFRIEND!


Title: MYSTERIA FRIENDS PREMIUM BOX SET
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 150 min.
Street Date: 6/16/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $99.98

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Mysteria Academy, where the secrets of magic are taught to an eager student body composed of humans, gods and demons. Of course, it takes an unusual degree of tolerance for these groups to mingle freely, but thanks to this unusually diverse and inclusive educational experience, the most unlikely friendships are bound to spring up. Which is how Anne, a human honor student who happens to be a Princess, finds herself growing increasingly close to Grea, a half-human/half-dragon who also happens to be a Princess. Sure, fairy tales would have you believe that relationships between Princesses and Dragons are bound to end up badly, but that doesn't take bonding while shopping and trips to the beach into account, let alone the fact that what they're feeling may be a little more than just friendship in MYSTERIA FRIENDS!


Title: RE:STAGE! DREAM DAYS
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 6/23/2020
Format: BD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: When Mana Shikimiya joins her new school's struggling Lyrical Tradition Dance club, she finds herself swept up in a dream shared by thousands of other middle school girls across Japan: To someday compete at the Prism Stage, where teams of young women battle in song and dance for the chance to become the next generation of top idol singers! First, though, she'll have to help save the club from being shut down, and then she and her new friends Sayu, Mizuhua, Kae, Kasumi and Minori will have to up their musical game in order to make it to the first level of competition. Because no matter how badly they want to win, there are hundreds of other girls who want it just as much… and those girls all have a head start in RE:STAGE! DREAM DAYS!


Title: REAL GIRL PREMIUM BOX SET
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 600 min.
Street Date: 6/23/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $129.98

SYNOPSIS: Hikari Tsutsui has never been popular, his one real friend is an even worse otaku than he is, and the only girls he's known are the two-dimensional women from his manga and video games. Until, that is, he's sent to help clean the pool as punishment and is partnered with the school's resident "bad girl", the very real, very three-dimensional Iroha Igarashi. Brash, beautiful, and known for her promiscuous behavior, Iroha is loathed by other girls but loved by the guys. And yet, inexplicably, she not only seems to be interested in Hikari, but proposes that they enter into a relationship! Unable to resist, Hikari agrees, but there's one big catch - Iroha's moving away in six months, so no matter what happens between them, in half a year Hikari's guaranteed to lose his REAL GIRL!


Title: AFTER THE RAIN
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 6/30/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: Akira Tachibana's life has taken a wrong turn. Sidelined from her high school track team by an injury, she's found herself increasingly distanced from her friends and unsure of what to do next with her life. That's not her biggest worry though. The real problem is that she's found someone that she's interested in, someone who makes her feel like she's never felt before… even though she knows that, by society's standards, it's completely wrong. Because the person at the center of the emotional storm overwhelming her is nearly three times her age and the manager of the restaurant where she's just begun to work. So, what now? Does this runner take the next step and tell him how she feels? Or will she stumble, turn, and flee from the one thing she truly wants in AFTER THE RAIN?


Title: RUN WITH THE WIND PREMIUM BOX SET
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 575 min.
Street Date: 6/30/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $129.98

SYNOPSIS: Kakeru Kurahara was a track star in high school, but after losing his money gambling, the only running he's doing is fleeing after shoplifting food. Then Kakeru's escape route crosses paths with Haiji Kiyose, and he gets a chance to change his life's direction. A fourth-year college student, Haiji has dreamed of entering the famous Hakone Ekidan relay marathon, but he's been one runner short of a potential team… until he sees Kakeru blow past him like the wind and knows he's found his critical tenth man. Of course, it won't be easy convincing Kakeru to join, and the rest of the team includes such questionable choices as a chronic smoker and an underweight otaku, but they've all got legs and Haiji will make sure they learn how to use them to RUN WITH THE WIND!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

THE MAN STANDING NEXT coming to Digital and Blu-ray & DVD on May 26th


The Man Standing Next
Directed by WOO Min-ho & LEE Ji-min
Written by WOO Min-ho
Starring LEE Byung-hun, LEE Sung-min, KWAK Do-won,
LEE Hee-jun, and KIM So-jin
South Korea, 2020, 113 minutes

MPI Media Group has announced the May 26, 2020 theatrical/digital release of The Man Standing Next.

Film Synopsis:
In the 1970's, Korea is under the absolute control of the President Park (Lee Sung-min) who controls the KCIA, the organization with an edge over any branch of government. The director of KCIA, Kim Gyu-pyeong (Lee Byung-hun), is the seemingly most prospective second-in-command. In the midst of reign of fear, a former KCIA director, Park Yong-gak (Kwak Do-won) who knows all about the government's obscure operations, exiles to the U.S where the investigation of 'Koreagate' is underway. As the tension escalates, the stifling political maneuvering by the all second-in-command's unfolds.

In my February 7, 2020 review I gave The Man Standing Next a 3.5 out of 4 star rating, highly recommended. Read that review here.

Watch the trailer here.

Martial Arts Movie Channel Hi-YAH! Goes Mobile

 Hi-YAH! Features Commercial-Free
Martial Arts and Asian Action Movies
Available on Mobile and Connected TV Devices

Hi-YAH! (hiyahtv.com), the premier platform for streaming martial arts and Asian action movies in the U.S., today announced its official launch on mobile devices and connected TVs. As part of the launch, new users will be eligible for a 30-day free trial, after which a monthly subscription fee of only $3.99 will apply. Hi-YAH!—available through app stores for devices including iOS, Android, Roku and Amazon Fire TV—offers both exclusive and non-exclusive content that will be refreshed monthly.

Hi-YAH! currently provides subscribers with more than 500 hours of high-quality, commercial-free viewing of films featuring all-time favorite kung fu masters including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa, along with hits from acclaimed directors Johnnie To, Yuen Woo-Ping, Wilson Yip, Tsui Hark and more. As of today, subscribers can take advantage of Hi-YAH!’s exclusive streaming release of Takashi Miike’s 2019 twisty, hyper-violent yakuza romp FIRST LOVE, added as part of the “Miike Madness” collection featuring many of the classic and fan-favorite films from the iconic director.

“With the launch of the app, Hi-YAH! now allows action and martial arts fans unparalleled access to stream our content on any device,” said Jason Pfardrescher, EVP, Digital Distribution at Well Go USA Entertainment. “The app offers an exceptional entertainment experience and makes our extensive library of movies, TV series and exclusive content much more accessible to consumers.”

Subscribers can watch classic martial arts hits such as RISE OF THE LEGEND, FLASH POINT, and THE ASSASSIN as well as Asian action favorites like TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, and DRUG WAR—all while anticipating the forthcoming additions of Donnie Yen as the Grandmaster in the complete IP MAN franchise and THE VILLAINESS, which inspired the unforgettable motorcycle fight scene in John Wick: Chapter 3.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Section23 Films has announced its May 2020 slate of releases



Home video distributor Section23 Films has announced its May slate of releases which includes Sentai Filmworks griping sports drama, Run with the Wind, available on Blu-ray May 26th with a Limited Edition Premium Box Set to be released soon.

Product details follow, in order of release.

Title: WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE, TEACHER!?
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 195 min.
Street Date: 5/5/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Kawanuma West may be a public school, but some of its students are about to get private lessons in sex ed courtesy of four very attractive teachers! To be clear, none of our lady educational professionals begin their semesters by writing "get involved with a fortunate male member of my class" in their daily planners… but strange and inexplicable things keep happening to thrust our teacher/pupil combos into sexually charged situations where something's bound to happen! Whether it's falling into water, doors ripping off clothing, or that frequent staple of Japanese school life, the accidental breast/face collision, these poor ladies just can't help it. And what are the guys supposed to do as they're pulled deeper and deeper into titillating TILF traps of epic proportions? It's time to come and learn in WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE, TEACHER!?


Title: MAID SAMA
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 665 min.
Street Date: 5/12/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $89.98

SYNOPSIS: Misaki Ayusawa fought hard to earn respect as Seika High's first female student council president, but her personal life has been in shambles since her father left her family deep in debt. To pay off the bills, Misaki's taken a job on the side, but it's one that no one at school can ever find out about. It would just be too humiliating for her classmates to learn that she's secretly a… gasp!... waitress at a maid café! And, of course, when someone does discover her double life, it's the worst possible person: her aloof and much too handsome classmate, Usui Takumi. Can Misaki convince Usui to keep her apron in the closet? And what is his silence going to cost her? Now that her Maid life has been made, there's a Devil to be paid in MAID-SAMA!


Title: VAMPIRE HUNTER D STEELBOOK
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 80 min.
Street Date: 5/12/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: For 10,000 years, Count Magnus Lee has walked the night, sustained by an unholy thirst for blood and an unending lust for human women. But when he tastes the sweet nectar running through Doris Lang's veins, the Count knows he has found more than his next meal: this is the woman he intends to claim as his next vampire bride. As the daughter of a werewolf hunter, however, Doris Lang is less than willing to step into the thrall of evil. And if she is unable to defend herself from the Count's nightmarish powers, she is fortunate enough to have found someone who can: the Vampire Hunter known as D. But D is no ordinary man, and signing up for his protection may carry a price of its own. Driven by the art of acclaimed designer Yoshitaka Amano (FINAL FANTASY I - VI, the Hugo nominated Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN-THE DREAM HUNTERS), this is the epic animated fantasy that spawned multiple sequels and helped launch the anime revolution. Remastered in high-definition from the original elements and upgraded audio tracks, it's the legendary classic as you've never seen it before in VAMPIRE HUNTER D!


Title: SENRYU GIRL
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 180 min.
Street Date: 5/19/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Eiji Busujima was a delinquent in middle school, but now that he's in high school, he's trying to put all that behind him. He's even joined the literature club! Unfortunately, while Eiji's heart might be in the right place, his face didn't get the memo, and if his scowling, slit-like eyes don't scare people away, then his attempts at senryu poetry probably will. But there's one member of the literature club who isn't easily intimidated: Nanako Yukishiro, an odd but cheerful young woman who never speaks and communicates only through senryu poetry! So, when the meddling president of the club decides to encourage a relationship between this strange literary pair, the haiku is sure to fly! The most important words are left unsaid when an ex-delinquent becomes the target of a write-by romance from a SENRYU GIRL!


Title: RUN WITH THE WIND
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 575 min.
Street Date: 5/26/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $89.98

SYNOPSIS: Kakeru Kurahara was a track star in high school, but after losing his money gambling, the only running he's doing is fleeing after shoplifting food. Then Kakeru's escape route crosses paths with Haiji Kiyose, and he gets a chance to change his life's direction. A fourth-year college student, Haiji has dreamed of entering the famous Hakone Ekidan relay marathon, but he's been one runner short of a potential team… until he sees Kakeru blow past him like the wind and knows he's found his critical tenth man. Of course, it won't be easy convincing Kakeru to join, and the rest of the team includes such questionable choices as a chronic smoker and an underweight otaku, but they've all got legs and Haiji will make sure they learn how to use them to RUN WITH THE WIND!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Section23 Films has announced its April 2020 slate of releases


Home video distributor Section23 Films has announced its April slate of releases, featuring the latest installment in BUSHIROAD’s popular multimedia franchise: BanG Dream! 2nd Season.

Product details follow, in order of release.

Title: REVUE STARLIGHT
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 4/7/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: As the 99th graduating class of the Seisho Music Academy prepares for their annual review, "Starlight", aspiring actress Karen Aijo is happy just to have the chance to be in the cast. But when Karen's childhood friend Hikari mysteriously arrives after years abroad, Karen quickly learns that there is more going on at Seisho than the normal drama classes. Following Hikari late one night, Karen discovers an elevator that takes her deep below the Earth, where the secret auditions for the leads in Starlight is underway… a competition that is fought with real weapons as well as song and dance! Goaded by the giraffe in charge of the trials, Karen throws caution to the wind and takes the stage herself… but will she be ready to survive the ultimate contest of drama and skills that is REVUE STARLIGHT?


Title: AO-CHAN CAN'T STUDY
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 180 min.
Street Date: 4/14/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Most high school girls would be proud that their father is a famous writer, but Ao Horie's father is an EROTIC writer, a purveyor of pornographic prose. He's authored hundreds of dirty books and it has definitely warped his twisted sensibilities. Since Ao thinks that anyone who learns about her father is going to assume that Ao is at least somewhat like her pornographic papa, Ao's solution is to just not talk to other people, especially boys. All she wants to do is study and get good grades so she can go to a school far away from her family. And that's why Takumi Kajima is driving her crazy! He keeps trying to talk to her, distracting her, and causing her to think about the kind of things she'd rather not think about… which is why, suddenly, AO-CHAN CAN'T STUDY!


Title: CINDERELLA NINE
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 4/14/2020
Format: BD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: Since Satogahama High School was an all-girls school until recently, they've never even had a boy’s baseball team. Arihara Tsubasa isn't the kind of girl who waits for boys to lead the way, however, so she makes an unauthorized announcement that the Girls' Baseball Team is seeking members! But that was the easy part! Now she has to find the four other girls required to form a school club, and then four more girls to make a team. At least Arihara's best friend, Tomoe, can fill one position, but then they'll have to get creative. If that means co-opting cheerleaders, student council members, reporters from the school paper and even an archrival from Junior High, then so be it! They're not running away from the ball; they're fielding it and running for home in CINDERELLA NINE!


Title: BANG DREAM! 2ND SEASON
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 4/21/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: It's a new school year and Kasumi, Arisa, Saya, Tae, and Rimi are thrilled to finally be second-year students. Even more exciting than becoming upperclassmen, however, is the fun they have while performing in their band Poppin' Party… until things get out of control when the girls publicly announce that they're going to do their own concert before they've really studied the issue. Suddenly they're committed to doing something that's a lot more difficult than it seemed, and the pressure is doubled since their musical rivals in Roselia, who've also announced a live concert, are way ahead of them in planning! But you can't stop the music, and with a little hard work and help from other groups and some talented newcomers, Poppin' Party fever will soon be popping up all over in BANG DREAM! 2


Title: CLANNAD STEELBOOK
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 1225 min.
Street Date: 4/28/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $149.98

SYNOPSIS: Sometimes all it takes to change your life forever is a chance encounter. Since the death of his mother, Tomoya has distanced himself from his abusive father and seems on a path of self-destruction. Nagisa's poor health has left her a year behind in school, but she longs to restart the now disbanded Drama Club. In an impulsive moment, Tomoya agrees to help her and they soon find themselves joined by others in desperate need of support and emotional healing. Join the Club and meet the ambitious Tomoyo, who dreams of becoming class president; Kotomi, a troubled genius with a secret past; and the mysterious Fuko, whose disassociation with the world is so severe that she seems to be fading away as the sentimental, the surreal and the supernatural merge together in the acclaimed anime classic CLANNAD!


Title: W'Z
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 400 min.
Street Date: 4/28/2020
Format: BD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: Even though he’s only 14, Yukiya wants to become the best online DJ anyone has ever heard. But becoming famous isn’t easy, and it’s made even more difficult by his father’s odd instructions to never touch hands with anyone else. So, while Yukiya spends every moment he can working on music videos, he knows that hard work alone may not be enough to achieve his goals. He needs something else. Something different. And then he finds the Ziggurat. It’s another world, a place that Yukiya can access just by touching hands with another person. Any other person. That’s something that no one else has ever been able to do before. And that ability makes Yukiya an extremely valuable commodity that some people will be willing to do anything to control in W’Z!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Naoto Takenaka's NOWHERE MAN showing in 35mm at Japan Society NY this evening, Friday, March 13th

Japan Society NY
presents
© 1991 Shochiku Ltd.
Nowhere Man / Muno no Hito
Directed by Naoto Takenaka
With Naoto Takenaka, Jun Fubuki,
Ren Osugi, and Hiroshi Kanbe
Japan, 1991, 107 minutes
35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles

When: Friday, March 13, 2020 at 7:00 PM
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC
Tickets: $14/$11 seniors & students/$5 members

In this wry comedy adapted from legendary cartoonist Yoshiharu Tsuge's newly translated semi-autobiographical work The Man Without Talent (New York Review Comics), a hapless manga artist disillusioned with drawing comics turns his attention to selling rocks that he finds in a nearby river—a hopeless endeavor that only further estranges him from his poverty-stricken family.

An auspicious directorial debut by popular Japanese actor and comedian Naoto Takenaka, Nowhere Man won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 48th Venice Film Festival.

This rare 35mm screening is co-presented with New York Review Comics in celebration of their brand-new publication of The Man Without Talent, the first full-length work by Tsuge translated into English.

Watch the Nowhere Man trailer here.

This screening is part of Japan Society's MONTHLY CLASSICS film series.

Read Japan Society’s Coronavirus Update

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Martial arts film BLOOD HUNTERS coming to digital on March 17th

DarkCoast
presents
Blood Hunters
Directed by Vincent Soberano
USA, 2019, 70 minutes

DarkCoast will release the award winning martial arts film, Blood Hunters (a.k.a. Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids) onto digital platforms (Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, FlixFling, Vudu, FANDANGO) on March 17th.

Starring Mayling Ng (Suicide Squad, Wonderwoman) and international Chinese-American martial arts champion, Sarah Chang, Blood Hunters follows Gabriella on a trail of vengeance, teaming up with a group of monster hunters called the “Slayers”, hoping they can save the world from the Monster Queen.

Watch the trailer here.

Monday, March 09, 2020

CROSSCURRENT getting its digital premiere on MUBI on April 3rd

Cheng Cheng Films
presents
Crosscurrent / Chang jiang tu
Written and directed by Yang Chao
China, 2016, 116 minutes

Crosscurrent, a breathtaking fantasy journey on China's longest river, will have its digital premiere on MUBI on April 3rd. The visually stunning film about a poet's trip on China's longest river was shot by Mark Lee Ping-Bing (In the Mood for Love, The Assassin) in 35 mm and won the master cinematographer a Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution at Berlinale.

Synopsis:
This mysterious, sublime and elegiac odyssey blends breathtaking images of the river that has nurtured Chinese civilization with fantasy, poetry and history to create a complex universe. From the spinning Shanghai metropolis to snow-capped Tibet mountains, Gao Chun steers a cargo up the Yangtze and comes across a reversely aging woman named An Lu at every port recorded in a poetry book. He wonders if she is supernatural or if he is traveling back in time. After passing a pagoda that reverberates Buddha’s voice, a flooded town, and the grandiose Three Gorges Dam, he finally arrives at the start of the river and unveils the secret of his past and An Lu.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Romantic Indian film DRAUPADI UNLEASHED opening March 20th in eight U.S. cities

Passion River Films
presents
Draupadi Unleashed
Directed by Tony Stopperan and Nisha Sabharwal
USA, 2019, 110 minutes

Set in 1930’s India, Draupadi Unleashed centers on sixteen-year-old Indira, who finds herself torn between true love, her duty to follow through with an arranged marriage and the powerful allure of a mysterious guru. Through her heartbreaking journey to self-discovery, long-held secrets are brought to light, and Indira discovers the strength within herself to break free.

In a story that mixes magical realism and gorgeous surroundings with the harsh realities of a patriarchal society, this beautifully-told tale of a young woman at a crossroads in her life offers a rare look at aristocratic Indian society in the early part of the 20th Century - one that will resonate with audiences today.

Based on the novel by the same title by Nisha Sabharwal (also co-director), Draupadi Unleashed is written for the screen and directed by Tony Stopperan, produced by Hello Desi and distributed by Passion River Films.

The film will release in the following eight cities on March 20th and the next two cities on March 27th:

March 20th Theatrical Releases:
Chicago — AMC River East 21
Dallas-Ft. Worth — AMC Stonebriar Mall 24
Hartford & New Haven — AMC Plainville 20
Houston — AMC First Colony 24
Orange County — AMC Orange 30
Los Angeles — Laemmle Town Center
Philadelphia — AMC Hamilton 24
New York City — AMC Empire 25

March 27th Theatrical Releases:
Larkspur, CA (Marin County) — Lark Theater
Hartford, CT — Real Art Ways

Watch trailer here

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

BORO TEXTILES: SUSTAINABLE AESTHETICS exhibition coming to Japan Society NY on March 6th

Japan Society NY
presents
Boro Textiles: Sustainable Aesthetics
When: March 6th - June 14th, 2020
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC

Boro (“rags” or “tatters”) are patchwork textiles hand-pieced by peasants in Japan in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The inability to cultivate cotton in the northern climate of Tohoku necessitated the practice of stitching remnants of used fabric into utilitarian items, including blankets, coats and mittens. These hard-used garments – reworked over generations – express essential principles of Japanese ethics and aesthetics, such as an appreciation for distinguished imperfections and the avoidance of waste.

For the first time in the U.S., this exhibition assembles over 50 archival pieces from the personal collection of folklorist and cultural anthropologist Chuzaburo Tanaka (1933–2016) presented alongside new portraits by editor-photographer Kyoichi Tsuzuki, designs by pioneers of Japanese avant-garde fashion Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and textile-based works by Susan Cianciolo and Christina Kim – part of a generation of contemporary artists influenced by the aesthetics and ethics of mending, patchwork, and re-use. The installation, designed by New York architecture firm SO–IL, rediscovers this traditional handicraft, its history of survival and ingenuity, and its continued legacy within creative practices today.

Admission is $12, $10 for students and seniors; free for Japan Society members. (Join today to receive an exclusive invite to Japan Society's members-only Boro Textiles preview & reception on March 5th.) Tickets can be purchased in-person at the Welcome Desk or online in advance.

Docent tours are provided free with admission on Friday & Saturday at 2:30 PM (English) and Friday at 6 PM (Japanese)

Related Events:

Kyoichi Tsuzuki: The Beauty of Survival - lecture on Saturday, March 7th at 2:00 pm

Japanese Textiles: New Perspectives - panel discussion on Sunday, March 15th at 11:00 am

Friday, February 21, 2020

THIS TRANSIENT LIFE at Japan Society NY this coming Saturday

Japan Society NY
presents
(c) Courtesy of Arrow Films
This Transient Life / Mujo
Directed by Akio Jissoji
Starring: Ryo Tamura, Eiji Okada, Michiko Tsukasa,
Mitsuko Tanaka, and Minori Terada
Japan, 1970, 145 minutes
DCP, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles

When: Saturday, February 22, 7 PM 
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC
Tickets: $14/$11 seniors, students & persons
with disabilities/$10 Japan Society members

Winner of the 1970 Locarno Film Festival’s Golden Leopard and an instant theatrical hit for the Art Theater Guild (ATG), Jissoji’s controversial debut concerns a brother and sister who retreat into an incestuous relationship in defiance of every social and moral obligation put upon them—a taboo act of self-willed liberation that leads to more than one tragedy. A challenging work featuring breathtaking black-and-white compositions and extravagant camera movements, This Transient Life is often regarded as Jissoji’s masterpiece and an unheralded highlight of ATG’s game-changing productions.

Part of the Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy film series

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Akio Jissoji POEM at Japan Society NY this coming Saturday

Japan Society NY
presents
Poem / Uta
Directed by Akio Jissoji
Starring: Saburo Shinoda, Eiko Yanami, Hiroko Sakurai,
Ryo Tamura, and Shin Kishida
Japan, 1972, 136 minutes
DCP, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles

When: Saturday, February 22nd at 4:00 pm
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC
Map
Tickets: $14/$11 seniors & students/$10 Japan Society members

The final entry in Jissoji’s trilogy is also the most austere, marking a stark departure in style and substance from his previous two films. A severely ascetic young man employed by a wealthy family takes it upon himself to protect their large estate and the spiritual lineage of Japanese tradition it symbolizes despite the family’s amoral sons’ apathy and embrace of Western values. Recalling postwar masterworks such as Kon Ichikawa’s Conflagration (1958) and Yuzo Kawashima’s The Temple of Wild Geese (1962), Poem similarly questions the place of purity within the cruel reality of modern life.

Part of the Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy film series

Hirokazu Kore-eda's THE TRUTH to open Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2020 at Lincoln Center

Film at Lincoln Center
presents
The Truth / La vérité
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
France/Japan, 2019, 106 minutes

When: March 5, 2020 at 6:30 pm and 9:15 pm
Where: Film at Lincoln Center 
Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th Street, NYC

The Truth, the first-ever French-language film from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, will have its New York premiere as the Opening Night selection of the upcoming Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2020 festival that will run March 5 - 15, 2020.

Featuring screen legends Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche as a strained mother-daughter duo, The Truth is a dynamic family drama co-starring Ethan Hawke. Binoche and Hawke will appear in person at the festival for opening night, and for a special conversation about their collaboration with Kore-eda.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Akio Jissoji's MANDALA at Japan Society NY this coming Saturday

Japan Society NY
presents
(c) Courtesy Arrow Films
Mandala / Mandara
Directed by Akio Jissoji
Starring: Shin Kishida, Ryo Tamura, Koji Shimizu,
Akiko Mori, and Hiroko Sakurai.
Japan, 1971, 135 minutes 
DCP, color and b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles

When: Saturday, February 22nd at 1:00 pm
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC
Tickets: $14/$11 seniors, students & persons
with disabilities/$10 Japan Society members

Jissoji’s second feature addresses the despondency and confusion of Japan’s post-’68 youth through the divergent responses of two former anti-state student activists confronted by a menacing primitivist utopian cult invested in rape and agriculture. Referencing a range of contemporary political discourses and filmmaking practices—including the experimental arthouse of the New Wave and the radical pink “eroductions” of peers like Koji Wakamatsu—Mandala finds Jissoji continuing his investment in highly stylized and contentious material while also offering pointed criticism of the era’s excesses.

Part of Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy film series

Zhang Yimou's SHADOW reviewed

Well Go USA
Entertainment
presents
Shadow / Ying
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Starring: Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Qianyuan,
Wang Jingchun, Hu Jun, Guan Xiaotong, and Leo Wu
China/Hong Kong, 2018, 115 minutes

Director Zhang Yimou's most recent martial arts (wuxia) film Shadow was released on digital on-demand, Blu-ray + DVD combo pack and DVD back on May 03, 2019. It was not until recently, however, that I managed to watch it (on Blu-ray).

Zhang, of course, has had a varied career, both in terms of the type of films he's directed and their reception. (He also has been involved in stage productions and in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.) He is known for the films he directed featuring Gong Li and later Zhang Ziyi (no relation) early in their careers. His previous martial arts films include Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004).

Whereas Hero had sections themed with different vibrant colors, Shadow features "a canvas of inky blacks and greys punctuated with bursts of color from the blood of the defeated" (Well Go USA's spot-on description). Set in an ancient period in which three rival kingdoms competed for power, including control of a great walled city, the film's title comes from the look-alike (i.e., a "shadow") that an injured military commander employs to convince others that he is still alive and healthy.

Shadow has a good story line and terrific action sequences. It also has a fanciful use of umbrellas as deadly weapons! Definitely a "must-see."

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
    -- Mandarin Dolby Atmos in Dolby True HD
    --  English Dolby Digital 5.1
-- Subtitles
    -- English
    -- Traditional Chinese
    -- Simplified Chinese
-- Bonus
    -- Making Of
      -- About the Double
      -- The Director
      -- The Unknown Side of Zhang Yimou
      -- Behind the Scenes
      -- Heroes
      -- Deng Chao
      -- Zheng Kai
  -- International Trailer
  -- U.S. Trailer
-- Previews
    -- Ip Man 4
    -- Legend of the Demon Cat
    -- Better Days
    -- Freaks

AsianCIneFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended

Shadow is available from Amazon Prime (click here), on 4K UHD + Blu-ray, Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, and DVD  

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

WARRIORS OF THE NATION reviewed; available today on Digital and Blu-ray

Well Go USA
Presents
Warriors of the Nation / Huang Fei Hong: Nu hai xiong feng
Directed by Marco Mak
Starring Zhao Wenzhuo, Li Lubing,
Miya Muqi, and Kenya Sawada
China, 2018, 92 minutes

Warriors of the Nation, a period kung-fu action film, debuts on Digital and Blu-ray™ today, February 18th, from Well Go USA Entertainment. The film is a squeal to Lin Zhenzhao's The Unity of Heroes (2018), which also starred Zhao Wenzhuo as the Chinese martial artist, physician and folk hero Wong Fei-Hung. My review is based on watching the Blu-ray.

The film is set just after the end of the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). The Japanese army hires a secret organization, The White Lotus Society, to kidnap Zhang Zhidong, a top Chinese military minister. Wong Fei-Hung (sometimes spelled Huang Fei-hung) and his disciples must rescue Zhang and prevent another war from starting.

With Warriors of the Nation and its predecessor The Unity of Heroes, Zhao Wenzhuo has joined an illustrious list of martial artists/actors who have portrayed Wong. These have included: the Hong Kong actor Kwan Tak-hing who starred as Wong in over 70 films between the 1940s and 1980s and earned himself the nickname "Master Huang"; Jet Li in the Once Upon a Time in China film series; and Jackie Chan in Drunken Master and Drunken Master II. Zhao not only does a fine job handling the martial arts sequences, but also imbues his character with dignity and depth.

One of the aspects of the film that greatly appealed to me was the significant extent to which Huang is assisted by his disciples, friends and other Chinese patriots in fighting both The White Lotus Society and the Japanese military agents. Thus Zhao, capable as he is, doesn't have to handle all the "heavy lifting" in the action sequences, but has considerable help from others. This results in a greater variety of martial arts on display than there would be with only the main protagonist confronting the bad guys, and gals.

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
    -- Mandarin DTS-HDMA 5.1
    -- Mandarin Stereo
-- Subtitles
    -- English
    -- Off
-- Warriors of the Nation Trailer
-- Previews
    -- Ip Man 4: The Finale
    -- Ne Zha
    -- Kung Fu League

Warriors of the Nation is a solid, kung fu, action flick and a worthy addition to the pantheon of Wong Fei-Hung films.

Asian CineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

THE CLOSET reviewed; currently playing at two Californa venues

capelight pictures
presents
The Closet
Written and directed by KIM Kwang-bin
Starring HA Jung-woo, KIM Nam-gil and HEO Yul
South Korea, 2020, 97 minutes

The South Korean supernatural thriller The Closet, director KIM Kwang-bin's feature film debut, opened yesterday, February 14th, at CGV Los Angeles and CGV Buena Park. My review is based on watching an online screener.

YEON Sang-won (HA Jung-woo) is an architect and a widower with an eleven-year-old daughter, Ina (HEO Yul). His wife died in a tragic accident and since then YEON has been prone to panic attacks. While working on a museum, he and Ina move into a new house at some distance from the work site. The situation is complicated by their strained relationship and Sang-won's inability to secure a nanny for his daughter. Not to mention the strange noises that begin to trickle out of a closet and Ina beginning to exhibit increasingly weird behaviors.

Worst of all is Ina's sudden disappearance without a trace. Fortunately for YEON, a self proclaimed "exorcist hero" named HEO Kyung-hoon (KIM Nam-gil) appears on the scene.Turns out that thirty-two children have similarly disappeared over the previous twenty-or-so years. The parents of one of them, a girl named Hyun-soo, had set up a ritual performed to determine if the child was dead. HEO's mother performed the ritual and died during it, and he has been trying to solve the mysteries of the disappearances for the last ten years.

Initially skeptical, YEON decides to enlist HEO's assistance in trying to locate his missing daughter, before it's too late.

The film is well paced and has some nice "scare moments." I'm not a big fan of this particular genre, but I definitely enjoyed watching The Closet.

I must mention that there is a cute tongue-in-cheek reference made to the Along with the Gods films (Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds and Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days); HA Jung-woo starred in both films.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; a good, solid supernatural thriller.

The Closet is produced by CJ Entertainment (Parasite) and distributed by capelight pictures.

Watch the official movie trailer here.

Friday, February 14, 2020

ENTER THE FAT DRAGON opens in North American theaters today

Well Go USA
Entertainment
presents
Enter the Fat Dragon / Fei lung gwoh gong
Directed by Kenji Tanigaki
Hong Kong, 2020, 97 minutes

In this action-comedy movie starring martial arts superstar Donnie Yen, a police officer's suspect suffers a mysterious death, and he must team up with an undercover inspector to solve the murder mystery.

Synopsis:
Sent to Japan on a routine police escort, Officer Zhu (Yen) is excited to have the chance to re-qualify for full time duty as a police officer. However, after a series of mishaps, the mission goes terribly wrong and the suspect Officer Zhu is escorting suffers a mysterious death. Zhu enlists the help of wok-wielding restaurant owner and a former undercover inspector to solve this murder mystery in the new best action comedy movie from martial arts superstar Donnie Yen.

To watch the trailer and get tickets, click here.

[Note that this film seems to bear no relationship with Sammo Hung's 1978 film of the same title.]

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Film series AIM FOR THE BEST: SPORTS IN JAPANESE CINEMA coming to Japan Society NY in April

Japan Society NY
presents
Aim for the Best: Sports in Japanese Cinema
When: April 10-25, 2020
Where: Japan Society NYC
333 East 47th Street
Map

Like cinema, sports have been integral to the development of modern Japan since the late 19th century when the country opened its borders to the West. Intersecting these two major cultural forces is the multifaceted and ubiquitous sports film, a fluid genre that offers fascinating insight into issues related to Japanese national identity, gender roles and the clash between tradition and modernity. Organized in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, Aim for the Best: Sports in Japanese Cinema celebrates the Japanese sports film in its myriad iterations—covering a wide range of athletic disciplines and filmmaking styles, from wartime Japan to the present—including classics, documentaries, anime and commercial crowd-pleasers.

The series opens April 10th with a 35mm screening of Masayuki Suo’s award-winning sports comedy Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t, about a mismatched group of outcasts brought together to participate in a dysfunctional college sumo club, followed by a post-screening Sumo Party with chankonabe (a hearty stew commonly eaten by sumo wrestlers), drinks, and a sumo demonstration. One of the uniquely Japanese sports disciplines with premodern origins highlighted in the series, sumo wrestling is also central to The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine, a contemporary period epic by the prolific auteur Takahisa Zeze that focuses on the little-known history of women’s participation in the sport. Other titles involving Japan’s domestic sports include Akira Kurosawa’s debut feature Sanshiro Sugata, a judo film made while the country was still at war, and Kenji Misumi’s The Sword, a postwar classic about kendo starring Raizo Ichikawa adapted from a story by the infamous author Yukio Mishima, both screening on imported 35mm prints.

Other highlights include Koshien: Japan’s Field of Dreams, Ema Ryan Yamazaki’s perceptive and richly dramatic documentary about Japan’s wildly popular high school baseball tournament Koshien, which serves as a microcosm for Japanese society as a whole—followed by a Q&A with Yamazaki. Koshien is also the subject of the rarest film in the series, which is the 1968 documentary Youth: The 50th National High School Baseball Tournament by legendary director Kon Ichikawa. Long unavailable and relegated to mythical status among Ichikawa completists, the film screens for the first time outside of Japan on April 25th as the final event of the series. Another recently unearthed discovery is Tokyo Paralympics: Festival of Love and Glory, a fascinating document of the 1964 Paralympic Games that was newly restored this past year, making its International Premiere.

The series is rounded out by the recently remastered tennis anime feature Aim for the Best!, adapted from a popular manga and anime series inspired by women’s athletics; biting satires about baseball scouting and capitalism in sports—Masaki Kobayashi’s I Will Buy You—and the manufacturing of sports stars through advertising—Seijun Suzuki’s characteristically eccentric golf film A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness; the synchronized swimming audience favorite Waterboys from hitmaker Shinobu Yaguchi; and two free events: a talk by Dr. Robin Kietlinski contextualizing the history of modern sports in Japan through the lens of gender and social issues, and a free screening and talk presentation of the pilot episode of the NHK “taiga drama” Idaten, about the history of Japan’s involvement in international sports and the Olympics.

“With the Summer Games in Tokyo on the horizon, this is a perfect opportunity to consider the longstanding tradition of putting Japanese sports on the big screen,” says K. F. Watanabe, series curator and Deputy Director of Film at Japan Society. “From sumo to baseball, the intersection of sports with Japanese cinema offers rich insight into some of the most salient issues in Japan’s modern history, including how sports have served to define its social and political values as a compromise between tradition and globalizing change.”

Tickets: $14/$11 seniors, students and persons with disabilities/$10 Japan Society members. Screening of Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t + Sumo Party: $18/$15/$14. 3-Film Pass: $2 off each ticket when you purchase three films in the same transaction. All-Access Pass: $77 ($7 per ticket for all 11 films in the series.) Purchase tickets online at japansociety.org, in person at Japan Society, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258.

Complete schedule informatics can be found here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

THE WILD GOOSE LAKE opens at New York's Film Forum on March 6th; national rollout to follow

Film Movement
presents
The Wild Goose Lake / Nan Fang Che Zhan De Ju Hui
Written and directed by DIAO Yinan
Starring HU Ge, LIAO Fan, and GWEI Lun-Mei
China, 2019, 113 minutes

The Wild Goose Lake is Chinese director Diao Yinan’s much anticipated follow-up to his breakthrough film Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014). His new film is a noir crime thriller about a gangster on the run; it will open on March 6th, 2020 at New York’s Film Forum followed by a national roll out.

Set in the nooks and crannies of densely populated Wuhan in central China, the elegantly down-and-dirty The Wild Goose Lake follows the desperate attempts of small-time mob boss Zhou Zenong (the charismatic Hu Ge) to stay alive after he mistakenly kills a cop and a dead-or-alive reward is put on his head. Director Diao Yinan proves his action bona fides in a series of stylized set pieces and violent shocks, simultaneously devising a romance between Zhou and a mysterious young woman (Gwei Lun-mei) who’s out to either help or betray him. Diao deftly keeps multiple characters and chronologies spinning, while examining social changes of contemporary China. Chaotic and nocturnal, The Wild Goose Lake is punctuated by long pursuits and stunningly choreographed gang fights, in a filmic geometry of arresting beauty and originality.

DIAO Yinan was born in Xi'an, China, and studied dramatic literature at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing. He has directed the features Uniform, Night Train, and Black Coal, Thin Ice. The Wild Goose Lake is a box office sensation in China, having grossed $23 million in its first week of release.

View the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E5De82Yo9c.

Friday, February 07, 2020

South Korean horror mystery THE CLOSET opening at two venues in California on February 14th

capelight pictures
presents
The Closet
Written and directed by KIM Kwang-bin
Starring HA Jung-woo, KIM Nam-gil and HEO Yul
South Korea, 2020, 97 minutes

Mystery and the supernatural lie at the center of The Closet - a hotly-anticipated new thriller from South Korea. The film, which marks the feature film debut of KIM Kwang-bin, will open at CGV Los Angeles and CGV Buena Park on February 14th. His feature film debut.

When a tragic accident leaves Sang-won (HA Jung-woo) and his daughter Ina (HEO Yul) without their wife and mother, he moves to a new home to restore his relationship with his daughter. Despite all his efforts, nothing he does seems to work but she makes a new friend who makes her laugh. This moment of peace doesn’t last long, as strange noises trickle out of their closet and Ina begins displaying strange behaviors.

A few days after Sang-won starts having eerie nightmares, Ina disappears without a trace. While searching for her, Sang-won comes across enigmatic Kyung-hoon (KIM Nam-gil), who seems to know where Ina has disappeared to: the closet. Kyung-hoon tells Sang-won that he’s been looking for whereabouts of missing children for the past 10 years and believes that the key to finding Sang-won’s daughter is inside the closet. Desperate to find his daughter, Sang-won reaches out to open the forbidden closet…

The Closet is produced by CJ Entertainment (Parasite) and distributed by capelight pictures.

Watch the official movie trailer here.

THE MAN STANDING NEXT reviewed; expands to nationwide release today

capelight pictures
presents
The Man Standing Next
Directed by WOO Min-ho
Written by Lee Ji-min
Starring LEE Byung-hun, LEE Sung-min, KWAK Do-won,
LEE Hee-jun, and KIM So-jin
South Korea, 2020, 114 minutes

The South Korean political thriller The Man Standing Next opened at CGV Buena Park on January 24th and CGV Los Angeles on January 31st. Today, Friday, February 7th, the film goes into nationwide release, including such venues as the AMC Empire 25 on West 42nd Street. My review is based on watching an onine screener.

The film tells the story of scandals in the KCIA, the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, and is based on the non-fiction hit book KCIA Chiefs, although "creative liberties were taken for certain settings." Specifically, the film concerns the forty days leading up to the assassination of President PARK Chung-hee on October 26, 1979.

Back on May 16, 1961, the army began a military coup d'etat. The Third Republic was established and Korea's first intelligence agency was founded. The KCIA, based in Namsan, Seoul, used its absolute power to insure PARK's autocratic rule for eighteen years. The so-called "Directors of NAMSAN" were PARK's right-hand men.

KIM Gyu-pyeong (LEE Byung-hun) plays the current KCIA director thoughout the film's "present time" in the fall of 1979. PARK Yong-gak (KWAK Do-won). a friend of KIM as well as a predecessor in the post, has fled the country and is testifying against President PARK (LEE Sung-min) in the U.S. Congress. In his efforts, he's assisted by Deborah SHIM, a lobbyist. The other major character is GWAK Sang-cheon (LEE Hee-joon), chief of presidential security and a total toady to the president.

Tension escalates over PARK Yong-gak's revealing many of the leadership's sordid secrets. Political maneuvering by those wanting to maintain what power they have and by those aspiring to increased power, as well as by those who have at least somewhat decent intentions, leads to rising levels of conflict.

The film is a tense and dense thriller. Director WOO does an admirable job of keeping the developments clear and understandable. The cast is uniformly fine.

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

For the official movie teaser visit: https://youtu.be/rODF85LAUcg

SECRET ZOO reviewed; film set to expand from two California theaters to nationwide release today

capelight pictures
presents
Secret Zoo
Directed by SON Jae-Gon
Starring AHN Jae-hong, KANG So-ra,
PARK Yeong-gyu, and KIM Sung-oh
South Korea, 2020

Based on the webcomic series Haechijiana by Hun that ran from 9/20/2011 - 4/27/2012, Secret Zoo is a charming and delightful comedy about a zoo struggling to stay afloat. The film opened on January 24th at CGV Cinemas in Los Angeles and Buena Park. My review is based on watching an online screener.

KANG Tae-soo (AHN Jae-Hong) is a young lawyer who has worked as a temp at JH Law for eight months and fervently wants to secure a permanent position in the firm's Mergers and Acquisition (M & A) department. It looks like his opportunity has arrived when he is tasked with normalizing and maintaining the failing Dongsan Park Zoo within three months for one of his employer's clients. The trouble is, all the viable animals have been sold off by loan sharks to pay the zoo's debts!

Undeterred, Tae-soo comes up with a plan to used somewhat realistic-looking animal costumes for the four remaining members of the staff to wear and fool the public. Not surprisingly, things don't go well; until, that is, a chance event goes viral on the internet and transforms the zoo into a major attraction.

Given the nature of the genre, one knows that things are basically going to turn out alright at film's end. It's really a matter of how convincing the rather outlandish premise is depicted and how interesting the twists and turns are. On all these accounts, the film succeeds admirably.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, a fine comedy that's well-worth watching.

The official movie trailer is available at https://youtu.be/WPdCjA2Gfys.

Also, a February 4, 2020, interview with director SON Jae-Gon at KoBiz can be found here.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

ASHFALL reviewed

capelight pictures / MPI Media Group 
presents
 
Directed by LEE Hae Jun and KIM Byung Seo
Starring LEE Byung Hun, HA Jung Woo, Don LEE,
JEON Hye Jin, and BAE Su Zy
South Korea, 2019, 130 minutes

Ashfall, a disaster action-drama from South Korea, opened nationwide on January 17th. I watched an online screener on my iMac at home.

Captain CHO In-chang (HA Jung Woo) is about to end his dangerous field career in the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit of the South Korean Army, which is a good thing as his wife Ji-young (BAE Su Zy) is do to have their first child soon.

Unfortunately Baekdu Mountain, along the border between North and South Korea, undergoes a 7.8 volcanic eruption, with more to follow. This at a time when a US. warship is en route to pickup North Korea's last six nuclear warheads, ending the demilitarization of the North.

Professor KANG Bong-rae (MA Dong Seok, a.k.a. Don Lee), a Korean-American seismologist, has identified three more lava layers, the first two small, but the third is really big and will lead to massive devastation. Fortunately he thinks he has a plan that will minimize the eruptions. Unfortunately it involves CHO leading a time into North Korea, stealing the six nuclear missiles and detonating them at a precise place in the labyrinth on mines near the volcano.

Jun-pyong (left) and In-chang (right); photo credit: capelight pictures

To locate the warheads, In-chang's team needs the assistant of a North Korean military officer, RI Jun-pyong (LEE Byung Hun) He's a master of betrayal, making him an unreliable ally with an agenda of his own. Oh, and he has to be recovered from a North Korean military prison! Later in the film, as In-chang and Jun-pyong drive towards the mountain with the nukes, I couldn't help but thinking of Frodo and Sam going to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings. The difference here being that Jun-oyong is not the ever-reliable friend that Sam was.

The premise of the movie admittedly is pretty far out there, but then again so was that of John Woo's Face/Off, one of my all-time favorite action movies, and within a few years of its release, doctors began performing facial transplants, albeit not as complex as those depicted in Woo's film. So Ashfall viewers have to really suspend their disbelief and go along with this fine flick on its own terms. It's well worth the ride.

Click here to watch the official trailer.

The list of theaters at which Ashfall was scheduled to open on January 17th can be found in my release announcement post that day by clicking here. Check local listings to see if it's still playing in your area.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (good); a solid action flick.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

NE ZHA returning to theaters on January 31st in honor of the Lunar New Year

Well Go USA
Entertainment
presents
Ne Zha / Nezha zhi motong jiangshi
Written and directed by Yang Yu
China, 2019, 110 minutes

In observance of the Chinese Lunar New Year, Well Go USA Entertainment will rerelease the Chinese box office hit animated-feature Ne Zha in select markets on January 31st.

With somber understanding that this is a very sensitive time for many in the Chinese community and with the cancellation of many Lunar New Year releases, Well Go USA wanted to give a Lunar New Year gift with an English dubbed Ne Zha.

The Lunar New Year is the Chinese festival launches on the new moon and celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. The first day of the Chinese New Year was Saturday, January 25th, initiating the Year of the Rat, which runs through February 8.

In addition, Well Go USA Entertainment has created an English-dub version of the trailer, now available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYSiEFeMbZ0

In Ne Zha, a young boy, Ne Zha, is born from a heavenly pearl by the Primeval Lord of Heaven, Yuanshi Tianzun. Born with unique powers, he finds himself as an outcast who is hated and feared. Destined by prophecy to bring destruction to the world, the young boy must choose between good and evil in order to break the shackles of fate and become the hero.

Produced by Beijing Enlight Pictures and written and directed by first time director Yang Yu (aka Jiao Zi), Ne Zha is currently the highest-grossing animated feature in China’s film history with box office gross presently at $535 million and over 100 million admissions. Ne Zha is on course to pass Wandering Earth and become China’s second-highest grossing film of all-time by the end of its theatrical run. Ne Zha is also the highest-grossing animated IMAX feature in China’s film history, and the second highest-grossing local language IMAX feature of all time in the market.

BATTLE OF JANGSARI reviewed; now available on home video

Well Go USA
Entertainment
presents
 Battle of Jangsari
 Directed by Kyung-taek Kwak
Starring: Kim Myung-Min, Minho Choi, George Eads, and Megan Fox
South Korea, 2019, 104 minutes

Battle of Jangsari, a fact-based Korean War film, has come to digital-on-demand, Blu-ray + DVD combo pack and DVD today, Tuesday, January 28th from Well Go USA Entertainment. I watched the Blu-ray version.

To support General MacArthur's planned landing at Inchon, several diversionary attacks were to take place elsewhere on the peninsula. One of these was at Jangsari in Yeongdeok, North Gyeongsang Province, on the eastern coast of the Korea peninsula. The attack was carried out by minimally-trained student soldiers who had not even been issued military service numbers. Basically they were being used as "cannon-fodder".

KIM Myung -Min portrays LEE Myung-Jun, the officer in charge of the attack. This character is based on Lt. LEE Myung-Heum, who spent years trying to get the student soldiers their well-deserved service numbers and recognition.

Megan Fox (Transformers, Jennifer's Body, and Prudence in a memorable episode of Two and a Half Men) portrays Maggie, a character inspired by Marguerite Higgins, an American reporter and war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, and, to a lesser extent, photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Fox does a decent enough job in her role, although she is perhaps a bit too eager and earnest in her portrayal.

George Eads has a small but significant role as an American general who does right by Maggie.

The film is well shot and edited. It makes effective use of Maggie's part of the story to occasionally take a break from the plight of the student soldiers. The Blu-ray version was visually stunning, a real godsend in immersing the viewer in the overall story, but especially in the combat sequences.

The Wikipedia entry for the film says that it is the second installment, after Operation Chromite,(a.k.a. Battle for Incheon: Operation Chromite), in a trilogy, though there's no source sited or information about the third film. Whether there actually is, or will be, a third film, Operation Chromite and Battle of Jangsari do make for a good home video double feature.

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
    -- Korean DTD-HDMA 5.1
    -- Korean Stereo
-- Subtitles
    -- English
    -- Off
-- Bonus
    -- "Making of" featurette
    -- Trailer A
    -- Trailer B
    -- U.S. Trailer
-- Trailers
    -- The Divine Fury
    -- T-34
    -- Swing Kids

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, good; a solid, interesting and well-made war film