With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

ACF 214: "Death Note II: The Last Name" DVD due Feb 10, 2009 from VIZ Pictures

Exciting news from VIZ for the many fans of the live action Death Note films, including yours truly. Depending on when my screener arrives, I'll have a full review of the upcoming release just before or soon after the planned street date of February 10th, 2009. Meanwhile, here's the press release info. I've put some of the more pertinent facts in bold.

VIZ Pictures, an affiliate of VIZ Media, LLC that focuses on Japanese live-action film distribution, has announced the highly anticipated DVD release of DEATH NOTE II: THE LAST NAME, based on the hit supernatural action mystery manga (graphic novel) and animated series. The DVD will feature both the original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles and the English dubbed version by the outstanding voice cast of the animated series. The Red Hot Chili Peppers again contribute the theme song. Bonus features include a special segment, “Making of DEATH NOTE II” and the original Japanese theatrical trailer. The DVD will carry a suggested retail price of $24.92 and will be distributed in North America by VIZ Media. The estimated street date for DEATH NOTE II: THE LAST NAME is February 10, 2009.

DEATH NOTE II: THE LAST NAME is the sequel to the phenomenal hit live-action movie DEATH NOTE, based on the hit manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The DEATH NOTE live-action DVD, released in September 2008, was ranked as #1 in Japanese Films in North America and #34 in the Live-Action category. As the sequel of DEATH NOTE and once again directed by the renowned monster filmmaker Shusuke Kaneko, DEATH NOTE II: THE LAST NAME concludes the titanic battle between the two geniuses Light and L.

The story picks up with Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) joining the investigation team in pursuit of the serial killer known as ‘Kira’. While L (Kenichi Matsuyama) still strongly suspects that Light is ‘Kira’, Light continues to seek out the real name of L so that he can kill him with his Death Note. Making things even more unpredictable is the 'Eyes of Death' that the second Kira possesses, enabling the owner to know the true identity and lifespan of any person. Light Yagami soon learns the identity of the other Kira and wants to join forces to get rid of L. Will L be able to catch "Kira" before he gets killed? Who will be the last name written in the Death Note?

“We’re very excited to announce the highly anticipated DVD release of DEATH NOTE II: THE LAST NAME,” says Seiji Horibuchi, President and CEO of VIZ Pictures. “Is Light Yagami a crazed serial killer or merely society’s self-appointed solution to crime? DEATH NOTE is the latest manga and anime series to gain widespread international popularity, and the success of the first live-action film has primed audiences for this edgy sequel. As interest in DEATH NOTE continues to grow, we invite fans to delve into the psychological drama of this newest release from VIZ Pictures.”

VIZ Pictures has also announced 2 special giveaway promotions to coincide with the DVD release. Fans are encouraged to go to www.viz-pictures.com and answer the quick survey before February 28. 10 random winners will be selected to receive a special DEATH NOTE II poster.

Readers of SHONEN JUMP magazine are encouraged to enter the exclusive DEATH NOTE II contest where 10 lucky fans will each win a copy of the DEATH NOTE II DVD, and 3 very lucky fans will each win a copy of the DVD and an autograph from one of the lead actors (Kenichi Matsuyama, Tatsuya Fujiwara and Erika Toda). Contest details will be in the March 2009 issue of Shonen Jump magazine, which will hit newsstands on February 3.

The DEATH NOTE manga and animated series have become extremely popular domestically. The 37-episode animated series is seen by millions each week on cable broadcast and the series is also distributed on DVD by VIZ Media (rated T+ for Older Teens). On the print side, DEATH NOTE 13: HOW TO READ, a companion volume to the successful manga series, also published domestically by VIZ Media, was recently ranked in USA Today's Top 150 list of America's best-selling books.

For more information on the DEATH NOTE live action films and other VIZ Pictures films please visit www.viz-pictures.com or www.deathnotefilms.com. For more information on the DEATH NOTE manga and animation, please visit deathnote.viz.com.

ACF 213: Korean Films Made During Japanese Occupation continues

Today is the next-to-last day of the series Korean Films Made During Japanese Occupation. The seven films, the earliest extant examples of Korean cinema were discovered in China in 2003 and 2004. Since they were made under Japanese occupation, their content was shaped by the censorship of the time (the 1930' and 40's), and some are uncomfortably pro-Japanese. Nonetheless, their aesthetics and experimentation transcend the limitations imposed by Japanese colonialism.

The series is jointly presented by The Korea Society and The Museum of Modern Art. All screenings will be at The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at MoMA.

Spring in the Korean Peninsula (1941), from which the still above comes, will be shown at 1:00 PM. The story concerns a backstage romance between a director and an actress that falls into crisis when the director is jailed. The film is an adaptation of a traditional Korean program.

At 3:00 PM Straits of Chosun (sorry, no image available) will be screened. It was made in 1943 during the height of World War II, when Japanese censorship was at its tightest. It's a domestic melodrama about a marriage rent asunder.

Angels on the Street (1941), the third and final film of the day, will be shown at 5:00 PM. It concerns the efforts of a man who struggles to set up am orphanage for the city's street children. It's noted for its realistic depiction of the gritty poverty of contemporary Seoul.

Further information about the series and admission terms are available at moma.org and at koreasociety.org.

Friday, January 30, 2009

ACF 212: Korean Film Series continues at MoMA

The series Korean Films Made During Japanese Occupation continues at MoMA tonight with two programs. The series is a joint presentation of The Korea Society and The Museum of Modern Art.

Angels on the Street
Directed by Choi In-Kyu
Korea, 1941, 73 min.

Angels on the Street will be shown at 6;00 PM. It's the story of a man struggling to set up an orphanage for the city's street children. The film is notably realistic in its depiction of the gritty povery of Seoul at the time.

Sweet Dream
Directed by Yang Ju-Nam
Korea, 1936, 46 min.

The second program begins at 8;00 PM with Sweet Dream, Korean cinema's first talkie. It nearly left audiences speechless with its scandalous melodrama about a wife who abandons her family to live with another man.

Military Train
Directed by Seo Kwang-Jae
Korea, 1938, 66 min.

Military Train is the story of a man whose sister is forced into prostitution. He works on a Japanese military train and is faced with choosing between his duty to his family and his obligations to Japanese authorities. It will be shown after Sweet Dream.

Further information about the series and admission terms are available at moma.org and at koreasociety.org.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ACF 211: VIZ announces Haikasoru line of Japanese SF and Fantasy Novels

Artwork (c) 2007 Issui Ogawa
Originally published in Japan by Hayakawa Pubishing, Inc.

VIZ Media has announced the launch of a brand-new imprint called Haikasoru, which will publish an array of contemporary Japanese science fiction (SF) and fantasy stories for English-speaking audiences. This is the first time an imprint with a dedicated focus on Japanese SF has launched in North America.

Haikasoru is scheduled to publish twelve books a year and launches in the summer of 2009 with four titles: The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa (pictured above), All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, ZOO by Otsuichi, and Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Nojiri.

Haikasoru will be helmed by Nick Mamatas, a respected author of science fiction as well as an editor at VIZ Media. Mamatas is the author of two novels, which have been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and Germany's Kurd Lasswitz Prize.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of this new imprint,” says Mamatas. “Haikasoru is making history with the future. Finally, SF is going global."

The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa – Price: $13.99 U.S./CAN $16.00
Sixty-two years after human life on earth was annihilated by rampaging aliens, the enigmatic cyborg Messenger O is sent back in time with the mission to unite the humanity of past eras—during World War II and in ancient Japan, even back at the dawn of humanity—in order to defeat the alien invasion before it begins. But amidst a future shredded by war, love also waits for O. Will O save humanity only to doom himself? The Lord of the Sands of Time was nominated for the prestigious Seiun Award, the leading award for Japanese science fiction, the winners of which are selected each year by members of the Japanese National Science Fiction Convention. Available in July 2009.

ALL YOU NEED IS KILL by Hiroshi Sakurazaka – Price: $13.99 U.S./CAN $16.00
When the alien Gitai invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On his 158th iteration, he finally sees something different, something out of place—a female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she the key to Keiji’s escape or his final death? Available in July 2009.

ZOO by Otsuichi – Price: $13.99 U.S./CAN $16.00
ZOO presents eleven stories of dark fantasy and science fiction by one of Japan’s hottest authors. "The White Hut In The Forest" is the story of a man with a hole in his head and a charming home made from some strange materials. "Song of the Sunny Spot" is a rendition of the classic story of the Earth's last man...and his charming companion. And in the book’s eponymous tale, a man sees his dead girlfriend’s corpse decompose, one gristly Polaroid snapshot at a time. ZOO sold over 740,000 copies in Japan and was also turned into a successful Japanese film. Available in September 2009.

USURPER OF THE SUN by Housuke Nojiri - Price: $15.99 U.S./CAN $18.99
When a ring appears around the sun, humanity seems doomed. One woman, a brave scientist named Aki Shiraishi, travels to the core of the solar system in a last-ditch attempt to save the world. A compelling new hard SF novel, Usurper of the Sun won a coveted Seiun Award in 2002 for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year. Available in September 2009.

"Japan has long had a love affair with science fiction. In the wake of the massive international popularity of manga and anime, this is an ideal time to offer some of the best in contemporary Japanese science fiction to a sizeable domestic audience," says Masumi Washington, Editor-In-Chief, Haikasoru Imprint, VIZ Media. “VIZ Media has been publishing fiction for a while, and now with the formation of Haikasoru it’s like finding a missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. We are pleased to introduce this unique imprint and look forward to VIZ Media fans and science fiction readers in general enjoying these books.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ACF 210: The Enforcer due out on DVD

I feel that announcements of upcoming DVD releases is one type of news that fans of Asian films would be interested in. So here's some information about another Dragon Dynasty release. I hope to receive my review copy with enough lead time that I'll be able to put up a review before the February 10th, 2009 release date.

An honest cop goes undercover to infiltrate a hardcore Hong Kong crime syndicate in the Special Collector’s Edition of The Enforcer, arriving on DVD February 10th from Genius Products and The Weinstein Company’s heralded Dragon Dynasty label.

An exciting combination of action-packed crime thriller and family drama, The Enforcer stars action legend Jet Li (Forbidden Kingdom, The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) as an undercover Chinese agent sent to Hong Kong to bring down one of the region’s most nefarious criminals. When another officer is taken hostage, his cover begins to unravel, exposing him and those closest to him to grave danger.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Corey Yuen Kwai (The Transporter, DOA: Dead or Alive) and also starring the late Anita Mui (Heroic Trio, The Executioners, Rumble in the Bronx), The Enforcer is considered one of Li’s best films and picked up a Hong Kong Film Award nomination for Best Action Choreography. Loaded with all-new bonus features, The Enforcer will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.97.

A Chinese police officer goes undercover in an attempt to bring down a dangerous and highly regarded Hong Kong crime ring. When his cover is blown and his family is put in harm’s way, the stakes become much higher.

Special Features:
Crowd-pleaser: an exclusive interview with legendary producer, Wong Jing
Like Father, Like Son: an exclusive interview with star and former child prodigy, Tse Miu
Born to be Bad: an exclusive interview with super-kicking nemesis, Ken Lo
Feature-length audio commentary with Hong Kong Cinema expert Bey Logan

Price: $19.97
Street Date: February 10, 2009
Catalog Number: 81787
Rating: R
Run Time: 104 minutes
Languages: English Dolby 5.1
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Closed Captioned

Monday, January 26, 2009

ACF 209: Korean Films Made During Japanese Occupation @ MoMA

Spring in the Korean Peninsula
Directed by Lee Byeong-Il
Korea, 1941, 84 min.

In 2003 and 2004, several Korean films made during the period of Japanese occupation were found in China. They are the earliest extant works of Korean cinema. New 35mm prints were struck by The Korean Film Archive and will be shown at the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at the Musem of Modern Art. The series, jointly presented by The Korea Society and MoMA, will run from Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 through Sunday, February 1st, 2009.

Korean Films Made During Japanese Occupation is the first time the films have been screened outside of Korea and the only time they will be shown before being returned to the Korean archives.

Spring in the Korean Peninsula will kick off the series with a screening on Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 @ 6:00 PM. An adaptation of a traditional Korean tale, it tells the story of a backstage romance between a director and an actress that undergoes a crisis when the director is jailed.

It will be screened a second time on Saturday, January 31st, 2009 @ 1:00 PM.

Another film will also screen on the 28th. Straits of Chosun (1943), a domestic melodrama about a marriage torn apart, will be shown at 8:00 PM.

Further information about the series and admission terms are available at moma.org and at koreasociety.org.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

ACF 208: Japanese Food Manga Oishinbo available from VIZ Media


Here's some "tasty" manga news from VIV Media:

San Francisco, CA, January 23, 2009 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, will delight fans of Japanese cuisine and culture with the debut of the critically acclaimed OISHINBO available now, under the VIZ Signature imprint, the company’s dynamic outlet for classic and literary manga titles aimed at more mature and sophisticated readers.

Written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki, OISHINBO is considered to be the epitome of food manga and defined the genre while selling more than 100 million copies in Japan since its debut in 1983. OISHINBO is rated “T” for teens and carries an SRP of $12.99 U.S./$15.00 CDN.

OISHINBO (or “The Gourmet") depicts the adventures of journalist Shiro Yamaoka, who writes for the fictional newspaper Tozai News. When the paper’s top executives decide to create “The Ultimate Menu” to celebrate the paper’s 100th anniversary, Yamaoka, known for his reputation as a foodie with culinary skills to match, is given the daunting assignment. With the help of his coworker Kurita, Yamaoka begins an epic saga to find unique and tasty dishes that will compose this ultimate bill of fare. The subject of the debut volume is classical Japanese cuisine, and features delicious stories on subjects like how to prepare a proper dashi (the broth that is one of the building blocks of Japanese cooking), green tea, and red snapper sashimi. Each subsequent volume of OISHINBO focuses on specific foods and culinary trends such as sake, sushi, vegetables, rice dishes, ramen, and izakaya (pub) food.

“OISHINBO is a series where cuisine is put front and center and food is the star,” says Gonzalo Ferreyra, Vice President Sales & Product Marketing, VIZ Media. “Each volume introduces readers to the proper preparation and presentation of a variety of Japanese dishes, while also detailing their history and cultural significance. We’re serving up selected highlights from this epic 100+ volume series and compiled them into seven a la carte editions that can be enjoyed individually or as a series. Each volume also features full-color instructions on how to prepare the unique dishes presented. It might even inspire some to begin culinary adventures of their own!”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

ACF 207: Takashi Miike's Yatterman to have World Premiere at NY Comic-Con

Takashi Miike's newest film will have it's world premiere at the upcoming New York Comic Convention, February 6-8, 2009, at the Jacob Javits Center. Yatterman is based on Tatsuo Yoshida's '70s anime´ series. Like two of Miike's previous movies, The Great Yokai War and Zebraman, it is intended as entertainment for the whole family.

Miike will be a Guest of Honor at the event and Sho Sakurai, the film's star, will be a Special Guest. The film will be shown twice (once Friday and once Saturday), there will be a Red Carpet walk, an onstage discussion about their careers, and a Q&A.

Kyoko Fukada, who stars as Doronjo, is said to have had input into the design of her costume. Whoever is responsible, she sure looks fine! In the shot below she's pictured with her co-villains Boyacky (Katsushisa Namase) and Tonzra (Kendo Kobayashi), though I'm not sure which one is which in the foto. The trio seek a clue to the location of the world's largest gold deposit.

I'm already registered for Comic-Con and am so totally looking forward to seeing Miike in person and checking out Yatterman. It's his biggest and most expensive movie yet, and it's got robots & mecha, & a babe in a bondage outfit! How can it miss! Look here for coverage during the weekend of the fete and/or shortly thereafter.

Read about Miike and Yatterman @ Subway Cinema News. (Look for the January 21st, 2009 entry.)

Read about the upcoming Yatterman Premiere in NYC @ Grady Hendrix's Kaiju Shakedown.

Read about Miike's interest in bondage costumes for female characters, including Kyoko Fukada @ Grady Hendrix's Kaiju Shakedown.

Read about Kyoko Fukada and her Yatterman costume @ japantoday.com.

Friday, January 23, 2009

ACF 206: Five New 1st Quarter Shojo Manga offerings from VIZ Media

HEAVEN’S WILL © Satoru TAKAMIYA/Shogakukan Inc

Here's some interesting news from VIZ for you manga fans out there:

San Francisco, CA – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, has announced several eagerly awaited new shojo manga series (graphic novel) series, scheduled for release during the First Quarter of 2009.

Published under the company’s popular Shojo Beat imprint, the new series will include HEAVEN’S WILL, THE MAGIC TOUCH and OTOMEN as well as VIZBIG editions of FUSHIGI YUGI and HOT GIMMICK. The VIZBIG titles will offer omnibus volumes in a 5-3/4 x 8-5/8 size (larger than the standard 5 x 7½ manga size) with special premium presentations including new cover art and added content such as author interviews, updated text and character art.

“We’re very excited to kick off 2009 with several new manga series from some of the most talented creators in the shojo genre,” says Gonzalo Ferreyra, Vice President Sales & Product Marketing for VIZ Media. “These stories are filled with zany antics of love-struck high school kids in THE MAGIC TOUCH and OTOMEN to the supernatural fun of HEAVEN’s WILL. Readers also won’t want to miss the first VIZBIG treatments of two popular shojo manga series – FUSHIGI YUGI and HOT GIMMICK. The hefty editions are a great new way to have these two classic titles presented to new fans as well as seasoned readers. ”

FUSHIGI YUGI VIZBIG · Rated “T+” for Older Teens · MSRP: $17.99 US / $21.99 CAN · Available Now!

FUSHIGI YÛGI is a beloved fantasy from Yu Watase, one of Japan's top manga creators. The new omnibus VIZBIG edition is wonderfully exciting, funny, and heartfelt tale of a normal junior-high-school girl who is transported into a fictional version of ancient China after reading a strange book called The Universe of the Four Gods. While there she becomes a High Priestess and encounters an array of villains and dashing heroes but yet she still manages to worry about her grades and her next school banquet. Each VIZBIG edition of FUSHIGI YÛGI contains three volumes, bonus color content, and updated text.

An acclaimed manga artist for nearly 20 years, Yu Watase first gained acclaim in 1989 when her short story, An Intrusion in Pajamas, appeared in the monthly manga anthology Shôjo Comic. She has since gone one to create many long-running and renowned series including ALICE 19th, FUSHIGI YÛGI and its sequel, FUSHIGI YUGI: GENBU KAIDAN, as well as Ceres Celestial Legend, and Absolute Boyfriend (all published by VIZ Media). FUSHIGI YÛGI has sold more than 13 million copies in Japan and over 1.1 million copies in North America and spawned two animated television series, an OVA series, anime soundtrack CDs, and a string of related novels.

HOT GIMMICK VIZBIG · Rated “T+” for Older Teens · MSRP: $17.99 US / $21.00 CAN · Available March 17, 2009

In tiny, company-owned rabbit-hutch apartments live tenants who can't afford to live anywhere else. This apartment complex, in which high-school girl Hatsumi Narita lives, is ruled over by the rumor-mongering, self-righteous Mrs. Tachibana. Get on her bad side and life becomes hell. One day Hatsumi buys a pregnancy test for her popular but flirty sister Akane. Mrs. Tachibana's son, Ryoki, who used to bully Hatsumi as a kid, promises not to tell the world about Hatsumi's secret, only if she will become his slave. Soon after a boy named Azusa, who was Hatsumi's protector in their youth, reappears to save her again! He's moving back into the neighborhood, and despite a budding romance between Hatsumi and Azusa, Ryoki continues to have control over her through the secret pact that could ruin the lives of everyone in Hatsumi's family. Usually a sensible and mild-mannered young girl, Hatsumi suddenly finds herself in a swirl of drama that threatens to drive her totally crazy.

HOT GIMMICK creator Miki Aihara turned the manga world upside down with this salacious, outrageous, and funny hit series. If you think being a teenager in America is hard, wait until you read HOT GIMMICK! Aihara made her debut in 1991 with Lip Conscious!, which was published in the Bessatsu Shojo Comic anthology and she remains a major contributor to the magazine. In addition to HOT GIMMICK, Aihara also created TOKYO BOYS AND GIRLS (available from VIZ Media), TEACHER’S PET, THE CLEAR WIDE BLUE SKY, SO BAD! and AS LONG AS THERE IS A SUN IN THE SKY, among others.

HEAVEN’S WILL · Rated “T” for Teens · MSRP: 8.99 US / $10.99 CAN · Available Now!

Sudou Mikuzu has a very special talent/power – she can see ghosts. And because of this, she's become a magnet for all sorts of unwelcome spirits and monsters. Lucky for her she's just met Seto, a friendly, cross-dressing young exorcist. Sudou needs protection from all the creepy phantoms bugging her and Seto needs to practice his exorcism skills. Consequently, the pair decides to team up and help each other. In return for Seto’s help, Sudou promises to bake him a cake every time a ghost gets zapped!

Created by Satoru Takamiya, HEAVEN’S WILL first appeared as a short story in Chu Chu magazine, a popular Japanese shojo manga anthology for teen girls published by Shogakukan. HEAVEN’S WILL offers a premise similar to popular supernatural sagas like BLEACH but introduces a romantically-tinged plot element combined with stylized gothic appeal. Fans of popular supernatural television series such as Medium, Journeyman, Ghost Whisperer, and Pushing Daisies won’t want to miss HEAVEN’S WILL.

THE MAGIC TOUCH · Rated “T+” for Older Teens · MSRP: 8.99 US / $10.50 CAN · Available February 3, 2009

Aside from being the star of her high school's Massage Research Society club, Chiaki Togu is a normal, quiet girl—until she falls head over heels in love with a gorgeous back, which happens to belong to Yosuke, the hottest guy at her school! Unfortunately, Chiaki's attraction to Yosuke is thwarted by her own insecurity and the scheming of other girls, especially those of her twin sister Sayaka! Although Yosuke seems out of Chiaki's league, she will do almost anything to give him a massage. The two eventually strike a deal where she will be allowed to touch his back if she can make him fall in love with her. What Chiaki doesn't know is the real reason Yosuke wants to hang around her: to avenge his younger brother, who was allegedly deceived and dumped by somebody named Chiaki Togu! Is this a simple case of mistaken identity or the beginning of a tragedy?

THE MAGIC TOUCH was created by Izumi Tsubaki, who began drawing manga during her first year of high school. She was soon selected to be among the Top 10 artists selected by popular manga anthology Hana to Yume (Flowers And Dreams) and went on to win the publication’s Big Challenge manga contest. THE MAGIC TOUCH was a best seller in Japan (where it was originally known as Oyayubi kara Romance, or Romance from the Thumbs), and fan buzz across North America has created great anticipation for the series debut. In addition to THE MAGIC TOUCH, Tsubaki is currently working on the manga series, I’M THE TEACHER.

OTOMEN · Rated “T” for Teens · MSRP: 8.99 US / $10.50 CAN · Available February 3, 2009

Asuka Masamune is a guy who loves girly things–sewing, knitting, making cute stuffed animals and reading shojo manga. But in a world where boys are expected to act manly, Asuka must hide his beloved hobbies and instead play the part of a masculine jock. Ryo Miyakozuka, on the other hand, is a girl who can't sew or bake a cake to save her life. Asuka finds himself attracted to Ryo, but she likes only the manliest of men! Can Asuka ever show his true self to anyone, much less to the girl that he's falling for?

OTOMEN, created by Aya Kanno, is currently being serialized in Japan's BetsuHana magazine. OTOMEN is a best seller in Japan, with each new volume appearing in the Top 15 of Japan’s Tohan rankings that chart manga popularity and sales. Aya Kanno’s other series, BLANK SLATE, is also published by VIZ Media recently debuted across North America.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ACF 205: Tora-san's Love Call at Japan Society January 23rd, 2009

Tora-san's Love Call
Directed by Yoji Yamada
Starring Kiyoshi Atsumi, Chieko Baisho and Junko Ikeuchi
Japan, 1971, 113 min, 35mm, color

Commemorating Japan's longest running film series, the Japan Society Film Program continues its Monthly Classics Best of Tora-san screenings in the New Year with films hand selected by series regular director Yoji Yamada's (Twilight Samurai).

Following the clumsy yet lovable character of Tora-san as he stumbles across fun and mischief throughout Japan, Best of Tora-san celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first Tora-san film and the 80th anniversary of star Kiyoshi Atsumi’s birth.

The next film in the Best of Tora-san series will be Tora-san's Love Call on Friday, January 23, 7:30 pm at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues, New York NY. Order tickets here.

Synopsis: After Tora-san attends the funeral of his sister’s mother-in-law in Okayama, he overstays his welcome and becomes inspired by the stories and wise words of the widower. Returning to Shimabata with dreams of starting a family, Tora-san falls in love with a lovely coffee shop owner Takako and befriends her young son.

Series Overview: The Tora-san series chronicles the life of an unruly vagabond traveling through Japan with mostly the same characters and actors, following his gangly adventures and budding new love interests ("The Madonna") in each film. In an age when cool yakuza superstars such as Ken Takakura and Yujiro Ishihara dominated the screen, actor Kiyoshi Atsumi as Tora-san emerged in 1969 as Japan's comic anti-hero, and remained the country's beloved icon for over 25 years.

Over the years, Tora-san came to embody an old, distant world, humorously winning over vast audiences nostalgic for simpler times. To date, over 80 million people have seen Tora-san in theaters in Japan. Yoji Yamada wrote and directed all but two of the 48 films.

The remaining episodes after Tora-san's Love Call will be:
Tora-san's Dear Old Home (Episode 9 - Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Shibamata bojo, 1972), February 13
Tora-san's Dream Come True (Episode 10 - Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Torajiro Yumemakura, 1972), March 13
Hearts and Flowers for Tora-san (Episode 29 - Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Torajiro Ajisai no koi, 1982), April 17
Tora-san, My Uncle (Episode 42 - Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Boku no ojisan, 1989), May 22.

All films are in Japanese with English subtitles.

Prints are courtesy of Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Monday, January 19, 2009

ACF 204: The General's Son at The Korea Society Thursday, January 22, 2009

The General's Son / Janggunui adeul
Directed by Im Kwon-taek
Korea, 1990, 108 min
Korean with English subtitles

The Korea Society's Classic Movie Night continues this Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 with The General's Son, an entry in the series When Japan Ruled Korea: Movies Set in the Colonial Era.

A lifetime on the streets of Japanese-occupied Seoul has made Kim Doo-han (Park Sang-min) an aimless brawler. But when he learns he's the son of a legendary general, Kim rises to defend local merchants from yakuza boss Hayashi (Shin Hyeon-joon). Master filmmaker Im Kwon-taek directs this award-winning action classic, regarded by some as "the original Korean gangster movie."

** NOTE: This screening is on the fourth Thursday of January, but future films will continue on the third Thursday of each month.

Movies will be screened at The Korea Society in midtown Manhattan, 950 Third Avenue, 8th Floor.

Individual ticket price: $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers
Click here to buy tickets.

For more info or to register for the program, contact Heewon Kim at (212) 759-7525, ext. 355.

Monday, January 12, 2009

ACF 203: Supercop 2-disc DVD release from Dragon Dynasty

Supercop / Ging chaat goo si 3: Chiu kap ging chaat
Directed by Stanley Tong
Starring Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh
Hong Kong 1992, 91 min
(Note: the original Hong Kong release ran 95 min)

Tomorrow. Tuesday, January 13th, 2008, Supercop, a.k.a. Police Story 3 (in Britain) and Police Story 3: Supercop (the Hong Kong English title), will be released as a "Two-Disc Ultimate Edition" from Dragon Dynasty. The M.S.R.P. will be $24.95. (See ACF 200 and ACF 201 for reviews of the DD releases of Police Story and Police Story 2, respectively.)

This time around, Jackie reliquished directing duties to Stanley Tong, who would subsequently direct him again in Rumble in the Bronx and in Jackie Chan's First Strike. The script is by Edward Tang, Fibe Ma, and Lee Wai Yee. The story kind of takes a page from the James Bond films in that it travels to several locations: from Hong Kong to Mainland China and eventually Malaysia. There are plenty of fight scenes, great stunts, and big explosions to keep things lively.

Jackie's character, Inspector Chan Ka Kui, is assigned to go undercover in Mainland China, help a gangster escape from a Chinese Prison (no easy matter, that!), all in order to ultimately bring down a large drug smuggling operation. His mainland contact is Inspector Jessica Yang (Michelle Yeoh, here billed as Michelle Khan).

Supercop was Michelle's return to film after a four year hiatus due to her marriage to producer Dickson Poon, which lasted from 1988-1992. And an incredible return it is, as she easily holds her own up against Jackie, who was still at the top of his game at the time.

As far as extras go, there's the feature commentary that we've come to expect from Bey Logan on Disc 1. The other extras consist of four interviews on Disc 2. And while I admit that I expected more on a "Two-Disc Ultimate Edition" release from Dragon Dynasty (who maybe have spoiled me with their other double disc DVD releases), these interviews ain't shabby at all.

The one with Jackie was especially interesting. He talks about the film being a number of firsts. It was the first film on which he really worked with Michelle Yeoh, although her first on-camera work was a 1984 commercial that featured Jackie. It was his first film with synchronized sound. The audio on his prior films were dubbed in post-production, which was standard practice in the Hong Kong film industry. It was also the first film he'd shot, at least partially, in mainland (i.e., Commie) China.

But the most interesting thing is Jackie talking about how they worked so hard to make the best film they could. While acknowledging that he understands why an in-joke for the Hong Kong audience would be cut from the U.S. release, he expresses displeasure with many of the changes in film editing and soundtrack substition that can be found on some U.S. releases of his films, including some on this disc. The U.S. version, for example, features urban/hip hop music, including the legendary song "King Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas.

There's also a fascinating interview with Michelle Yeoh. Most amazingly, she performed an incredible motorcycle stunt without actually knowing how to ride a bike! She could only steer and give it gas. In fact, her legs were too short to touch the ground when she sat on it, so stuntmen had to hold it up for her until she started driving.

The other two interviews are with director Stanley Tong and with Jackie Chan bodyguard, training partner, and stunt crew member/actor Ken Lo.

Supercop is another fantastic Jackie Chan film, one that's elevated to a whole other level by the presence of Michelle Yeoh.

The film gets a 4 out of 4 star rating, outstanding. It's an absolute "must see," and a "you really, really, really ought to own it" flick.

The extras are good, even if not as plentiful as I've come to expect from a DD double disc release: 3 out of 4 stars for the extras.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

ACF 202: Another Episode of KBS TV's "Hwang Jin Yi" @ The Korea Society

The Korea Society's Monthly Screening Series of select episode of KBS TV's lavish and epic blockbluster drama Hwang Jin Yi will continue on Wednesday, January 14, 2008. Here's what you need to know.

In an age when women were treated as if they were invisible, Hwang Jin Yi, the celebrated Korean courtesan-singer-poet of the 16th century, was larger than life. Her beauty, wit and intellect propelled her from obscurity into the company of Korea’s most powerful aristocrats. The defining romance of her life broke across Korea’s rigid class lines and was in turn shattered by tragedy. A symbol of art and individuality, the subject of countless novels, movies and operas, Hwang Jin Yi remains a powerful feminist figure in Korea to this day.

Directed by Kim Cheol-gyu (More Beautiful Than Flowers) and written by Yoon Sun-Ju (The Immortal Lee Soon Shin), the acclaimed KBS TV drama series Hwang Jin Yi retells the tumultuous life story of Korea’s most famous kisaeng (courtesan). Top actress Ha Ji-won’s portrayal of Hwang Jin Yi made the series an instant television event when the series first aired in Korea in 2006, causing a nationwide rediscovery of the role kisaeng played in Korean history.

Part Three: Grievance
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 6:30 PM

Hwang Jin Yi is learning dance from Yim Baek-moo, one of the best court dancers in the kingdom and a harsh and manipulative teacher. When Hwang Jin Yi's first love ends tragically, she sees Yim's scheming behind it. Jealousy and bitterness build between the two as they prepare for what turns out to be a fateful performance of the crane dance.

Special Screening Guest: Hwang Jin Yi writer Yoon Sun-ju will join the audience by video conference after the screening to talk about writing for the series and take questions.

Hwang Jin Yi at The Korea Society will continue through February, 11 when the final installment, Finale, will be shown at 6:30 PM.

All screenings presented in Korean with English subtitles.

Tickets: $5 for members, $10 for non-members

Order tickets online or call The Korea Society at 212.759.7525, ext. 323.

The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue @ 57th Street
New York, NY 10022

This Monthly Screening Series is co-sponsored by KBS

Saturday, January 10, 2009

ACF 201: Police Story 2

Police Story 2 / Ging chaat goo si juk jaap
Directed by and starring Jackie Chan
Hong Kong, 1988, 122 min

With the release of Supercop on DVD only three days away, it's time to look at the second film in Jackie Chan's Police Story series.

Shooting this sequel to the original Police Story (see ACF 200) began quickly after the original became a big hit. The shot ran long and producer Leonard Ho reportedly urged Jackie to wrap things up quickly. (Both of these facts come from extras on the Dragon Dynasty disc.) This haste produced what to me is a somewhat less satisfying film than Police Story, but still a very fine film.

Jackie is back as police officer Chan Ka Kui, Maggie Cheung returns as his girlfriend May, and Yuen Chor reprises his role as Mr. Chu, the crime boss Jackie apprehended in the original. Several other key cast members are also back, as are the members of Jackie's stunt team, natch.

This time around Chor has been released because he has a fatal medical condition. His henchmen keep trailing and harassing May. Meanwhile, a group of bombers is extorting some wealthy building owners. Jackie, who's been demoted to traffic cop, is brought back to capture the extortionists. He also has to protect May. This is no small matter because she gets kidnapped. But the question is by whom?

For me the problems with Police Story 2 start with the beginning of the film, which is a montage of the great stunt scenes from the original. This would be o.k. if a really fine set-piece came up soon afterwards, but we have to wait quite awhile - too long in my opinion - for some real, new action. There are two terrific fight scenes in the middle of the film, one at a restaurant, the other a truly outstanding one at night at a children's playground.

The finale takes place at a five-story abandoned factory warehouse. But unlike the end of Police Story, where Jackie takes on numerous bad guys and performs an incredible stunt, here he only fights three guys, and the ending - while explosive - isn't a Jackie stunt at all.

The U.S. release from Dragon Dynasty is another single disc edition, like the original Police Story. Again, Brett Ratner and Bey Logan do the feature commentary and comment separately in a featurette celebrating the sequel.

Besides outtakes and trailers, the other extras include another look at Jackie's stunt team and a very nice location guide hosted by Logan. In it he revisits many of the places where the film was shot. Always informative, here he's also pretty charming. It's nice to see him as something other than a "talking head."

I rate Police Story 2 at 3 out of 4 stars, a good, solid entertainment.

As was the case with the Police Story DVD extras, those for Police Story 2 easily merit 3.5 out of 4 stars, superior offerings.

Friday, January 09, 2009

ACF 200: Police Story

Police Story / Ging chaat goo si
(a.k.a. "Jackie Chan's Police Story")
Directed by and starring Jackie Chan
Hong Kong, 1985

Back in ACF 193, I announced the upcoming release of Supercop (a.k.a. Police Story 3) next Tuesday, January 13th, 2009. So I thought it'd be worthwhile to take a look at the first two films in the series. Like next Tuesday's release, both are available from Dragon Dynasty. I've owned Hong Kong DVD versions of the entire series for years. But the discs I'll be looking at here are the DD releases.

First of, the film is terrific, a classic, one of Jackie's best. He plays a police officer involved in a major operation to bring down a drug dealer. Maggie Cheung (who was about 20 years old when the film was made and hadn't had her top front teeth fixed yet) is May, his long-suffering girlfriend. Brigitte Lin, one of my all-time favorite Hong Kong actresses plays Selina Fong, the secretary and/or girlfriend of the crime boss; their relationship isn't clear, at least it wasn't to me.

The film has incredible stunts. Early on there's a shoot-out and a car chase through - and I do mean through - a hill-top shanty town, followed by further terrific stunt work involving a double-decker bus. The extended finale takes place at a shopping center and culminates in one of Jackie's greatest-ever stunts.

The film is on a single disc DVD from Dragon Dynasty. This version is a bit trimmed down from the original Hong Kong release. Some of what's been cut - nothing of great importance as far as I'm concerned - can be seen in the deleted scenes extra. Other extras include a tribute to Jackie by Rush Hour director Brett Ratner and DD's go-to Hong Kong expert Bey Logan. The two also team up on the feature commentary, which I haven't had a chance to listen to yet.

The other extras are a conversation with Jackie, a featurette with members of his stunt team, and trailer gallery. I particularly enjoyed the insights provided by several members of Cheng Jia Ban (which means "Chan Family Group"), the Chinese name of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team. Really interesting to hear about how certain stunts were performed and how some of them went wrong.

I give the film a 4 out of 4 star rating. It's outstanding, a must see and an ought-to-own.

The extras merit 3.5 out of 4 stars, not just good, but superior offerings.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

ACF 199: Korean Horror Flick "Voices" set to open in 31 U.S. cities Friday

I just received the following info from Yuni Cho at The Korea Society. Wanted to pass it on for you horror fans in New York and the other 30 U.S. cities where VOICES will be screening. Those of you elsewhere will have either have to road-trip or wait for the Lionsgate DVD, I guess.

And while you really can't judge a film by its trailer, the one for VOICES makes it look very promising. We'll have to find out, won't we?

Korean horror film VOICES aka DU SARAM-YIDA / 두사람이다 will open in theaters in 31 US cities on Friday January 9, 2009. The film will be released with 7 other horror films through After Dark Films’ third installment of Horrorfest "8 Films to Die For," playing during a 1 week period in selected theaters nationwide. Lionsgate will release the film on DVD. The film stars Jin-seo Yun (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, The Moonlight of Seoul), Ki-Woo Lee (Crazy Waiting, Woman on the Beach) and Gi-woong Park. It was produced by Moo Ryung Kim (Lies, Memories of Murder) and directed by Ki-hwan Oh (Art of Seduction, Sun Mool).

VOICES is based on the best-selling Korean comic book series “DU SARAM-YIDA", and it’s the eerie tale of a young girl who bears witness to a shocking act of violence at a wedding party. For no apparent reason, the groom throws the bride from a high balcony, setting into motion a macabre chain of events. Overnight, brutal murders become everyday occurrences as friends turn on friends, brothers turn on sisters, and husbands turn on wives. The young girl believes she is cursed and must discover the mystery behind these killings before she too becomes a victim.

Website/film info/trailer/latest theater listing: http://www.horrorfestonline.com/

Theater listing for my fellow New Yorkers:
- Village 7 (AMC)
- Linden Blvd (NAM-Brooklyn)
- Whitestone (NAM-Bronx)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

ACF 198: Free Screening of "Hae-Nyo / Women of the Sea" in NYC on Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Korean Cultural Service New York
invites the public to a free showing of
Hae-Nyo – Women of the Sea
on Thursday, January 8, 2009 at
The ImaginAsian Theater
239 East 59th Street

Created by Israeli filmmaker Dahlia Gerstenhaber, this story is woven between Israel and Korea. It ties together death and the comfort of working in the fields, the connection between the fear of diving and the yearning for the sea.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker.

Admission is free.

RSVP suggested.

For more information, please visit the Korean Cultural Service New York website at www.koreanculture.org or call (212) 759-9550.