With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ACF 1739: UGLYDOLL original graphic novels to launch Summer of 2013 from VIZ Kids imprint

™® and © 2012, Pretty Ugly, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Award-Winning Brand Of Distinctive Plush Toy Characters Comes To Life
In A New VIZ Kids Series Set To Launch Next Summer

VIZ Media has announced a publishing deal with Pretty Ugly, LLC, the official licensors of the popular Uglydoll brand, to develop a brand new series of original graphic novels based on the bestselling plush character toys. The Uglydoll series is scheduled to launch Summer of 2013 under the VIZ Kids imprint, and will carry a rating of ‘A’ for All Ages.

VIZ Media’s UGLYDOLL graphic novel series will transport readers to a diverse universe where “ugly” just means unique and different, and celebrating who you are inside and out is the new beautiful. Join Wage, Babo, OX, Ice-Bat and their Uglydoll pals as they express themselves through laughs, tears, love and adventure!

“Uglydoll is an iconic pop culture brand that has helped to question and redefine the very definitions of ugly and cute,” says Beth Kawasaki, Senior Editorial Director. “Each Uglydoll is unique, and possesses its own distinctive characteristics and personalities that everyone can relate to. These adorable and highly original characters will come to life in a series of fun, and funny, adventures and are sure to find their way into the hearts of readers everywhere.”

David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim created the first Uglydoll hand-sewn plush toy in 2001. Since the inception of the first character, Wage™, who David drew on a love letter to Sun-Min, Uglydoll has evolved into an entire universe of characters, stories, and products for all ages. Proven sales and retail are evidenced by the brand constantly winning Best Toy Awards by TIA, Learning Express, Fat Brain Toys, TD Monthly, Oppenheim, Funfare, Parent’s Choice, iparenting, Creative Child among others. UGLYDOLL has achieved status as an ‘evergreen’ property and is merchandised among the biggest brands in the toy market.

For more information on Uglydoll, visit www.uglydolls.com.

For more information on VIZ Kids graphic novels and manga, visit VIZKids.com.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ACF 1738: THE RED DETACHMENT OF WOMEN reviewed; screens Friday night November 30th at Asia Society

 The Red Detachment of Women
Directed by FU Jie
With XUE Jinghua
China, 1970, 101 minutes
Color, 35mm.
When: Friday, November 30, 2012, 6:30 pm
Where Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC

The Red Detachment of Women is a filmed version of a ballet which premiered in 1964. That ballet was adapted from a 1961 film, which was in itself based on a novel by Liang Xin about an actual female division of the Chinese Red Army first formed in 1931.

The story's central character is Wu Qinghua, a peasant girl who escapes from an oppressive landlord called Nanbatian. She is captured, beaten and left for dead. Two members of the Red Army come upon her and point her way to the army's camp. Accepted into the Women's Detachment, she becomes part of an operation to liberate those oppressed by Nanbatian. However, overwhelmed by her hatred of the landlord, she fires at him, prematurely issuing the battle signal. Merely wounded, Nanbatian escapes via a secret tunnel. After being reprimanded, Wu redeems herself with dedication and hard work. In a battle at a mountain pass, Commissar Hong, the male leader of the Women's Detachment, is captured by Nanbatian and his troops. Taken back to Nanbatian's estate, Hong refuses to surrender his troops and dies a martyr's death. The Red Army attacks and defeat Nanbatian troops, killing him in the process. Wu is assigned to take over Hong's position as Commissar of the Women's Detachment, and she and her troops will continue the struggle of the revolution. (For a full description of the ballet, see the excellent article at Wikipedia, which I have utilized in the preceding synopsis, by clicking here.)

The film version made ballerina Xue Jinghua an instant star and deservedly so. Though no expert, I used to do some dance photography and have seen a fair share of ballets and other dance forms. Xue is magnificent, with lovely pointe work and beautiful lines. Qingtang Liu as Hong, the other dancers in significant supporting rolls, and the entire corps de ballet acquit themselves more than admirably. Especially impressive is some of the dancing in which ballerinas are toting around rifles in their hands, something one does not encounter in Western ballets. There are also a couple of songs, which makes Red Detachment a sort of ballet/mini-opera. There are a lot of heroic gestures made, hands pointing and fists clenched in firm determination.

Clearly the film is highly propagandist, and elements of it may seem quaint and amusing. But it has terrific dancing. While there is not much partnering in the traditional Western sense, there is one outstanding example in the battle scene at the mountain pass. Because of its extolment of revolutionary ideals, it was one of the few works of its kind that survived the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. In fact, it was performed for U.S. President Richard Nixon when he made his historic visit to China in 1972. It is still being performed in China today.

Much more than a mere artifact,  The Red Detachment of Women is marvelously entertaining and a delight to watch. I hope that this rare screening of the film in a 35mm version gets the full house it so richly deserves.

ACF Rating: 4 out of 4 stars, most highly recommended.

This screening of The Red Detachment of Women is part of the film series Goddess: Chinese Women on Screen which runs through December 8, 2012.

And don't forget about tonight's (i.e., Wednesday's) screening of Two Stage Sisters at 6:30 pm.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ACF 1737: Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha digital manga magazine news

NISEKOI © 2011 by Naoshi Komi/SHUEISHA Inc.

North America’s Leading Digital Manga Magazine Eliminates
Time Delay To Celebrate One Year Anniversary;
New Series To Join Anthology Starting With NISEKO

VIZ Media will synchronize its WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA (WEEKLY SJ ALPHA), a weekly serial anthology of some of the most popular manga series in the world, to Japan releases starting with the January 21, 2013 issue.

WEEKLY SJ Alpha, available exclusively on the VIZ Manga digital platform, will feature new installments of BLEACH, CROSS MANAGE, NARUTO, NISEKOI, ONE PIECE, and TORIKO on the same day as their general release in Japan. Monthly series such as BLUE EXORCIST, RUROUNI KENSHIN: RESTORATION and YU-GI-OH! ZEXAL will debut the closest Monday after the Japanese release. There are also plans for additional series to join the WEEKLY SJ ALPHA lineup.

“North American fans have been waiting for a long time for real-time publishing to synchronize with Japan, and it’s about to happen in WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA,” says Alvin Lu, Executive Vice President, Publishing. “A robust VIZ Manga digital infrastructure, combined with our close relationship with WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP in Japan allows us to close the gap in release schedules. We look forward to fans continuing to look to WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA for the latest hot new manga titles straight from Japan!”

WEEKLY SJ ALPHA also launches its newest weekly manga title today as it debuts Naoshi Komi’s romantic comedy series, NISEKOI (rated ‘T’ for Teens). In the laugh-out-loud feel-good manga series, it was hate at first sight...rather a knee-to-the-head at first sight when Raku Ichijo meets Chitoge Kirisaki! Unfortunately, Raku’s gangster father arranges a false love match with their rival’s daughter, who just so happens to be Chitoge! However, Raku’s searching for his childhood sweetheart from ten years ago, with a pendant around his neck as a memento, and he can't even remember her name or face! For a free sample, fans are invited to check out the WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA Starter Pack, which has been updated to include Chapter 1 of NISEKOI, available from SJalpha.com and VIZManga.com.

NISEKOI, Volume 1 is also available for digital download for $4.99 (USD/CAN) VIZ Manga, VIZ Media’s innovative digital platform that allows for complete interoperability to read manga from your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and supported Android smart phones and tablets (including the Kindle Fire), with VIZManga.com for desktop/laptop computers. With one account, registered users are able to view their purchases across even more devices than ever, and the rapidly growing platform features over 1,000 volumes across 100 different series.

Each digital edition of WEEKLY SJ ALPHA treats manga fans across North America to the latest chapters of some of the world’s most popular manga titles, and is available through the VIZ Manga digital platform through an annual membership that provides 52 weeks of digital access to 48 weekly issues for just $25.99. Members also receive exclusive Yu-Gi-Oh! TRADING CARD GAME promotional cards throughout the year, an annual collector’s yearbook and access to exclusive content, including creator interviews and exclusive videos.

For more information on WEEKLY SJ ALPHA and exclusive subscriber offers, visit SJalpha.com.

To learn more about VIZ Manga and to download the VIZ Manga App, visit VIZManga.com and www.viz.com/apps.

ACF 1736: Theatrical release of DRAGON on November 30th

Dragon / Wu Xia
Directed by Peter Ho-Sun Chan
Hong Kong/China, 2011, 98 minutes
Starring Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tang Wei

Dragon (a.k.a. Wu Xia) , a terrific combo martial arts and detective mystery movie, was shown at the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival this past July. The film will begin its U.S. theatrical run this coming Friday, November 30th, 2012, in eight confirmed markets (listed at the end of this review). As many as seven additional markets may be added.

Donnie Yen as Liu Jinxi

Donnie Yen (Hero; Seven Swords; Kill Zone; both Ip Man films, etc.) stars as Liu Jinxi, a papermaker and seemingly run-of-the-mill fellow. He’s married to lovely Ayu (Tang Wei, Late Autumn; Crossing Hennessey; and Lust,Caution). They have two boys: the older is Ayu’s from her previous husband, who abandoned her and the child, the younger one is her’s and Jinxi’s. They live in a small, remote village in Yunnan in southwest China.

Tang Wei as Ayu, Liu Jinxi's wife

Their life of peaceful anonymity and marital bliss goes all to hell one day in 1917 when two thugs come into a village store and demand money. When the shopkeeper tries to resist, the pair go ballistic on him and everyone else in the store. Initially cowering behind a cabinet, Jinxi emerges and wraps his arms around the larger would-be-robber. Holding on for dear life, he is flung around the store and ultimately winds up in a river. But it’s the two robbers who somehow end up dead. When it turns out that one of them was a top wanted criminal, Jinxi becomes somewhat of a celebrity and is commended for his role in bringing the pair to justice, though he claims that he was just lucky.

Takeshi Kaneshiro as Inspector Xu Baijiu

Inspector Xu Baijiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro, Chungking Express, House of Flying Daggers, the two-part Red Cliff movie) is unconvinced. With his glasses and straw hit, he displays Sherlock Holmes-like investigative abilities, including that of recreating exactly what happened by carefully examining the evidence and the testimony of those involved. Having made the mistake of going easy on a young criminal in the past, a mistake that cost innocent people their lives, Baijiu is fanatical about enforcing the letter of the law. He doggedly pursues Jinxi, not believing his account of what transpired with the two crooks and convinced that he is hiding something from his background. As a result Ayu comes to question everything she thought she knew about her husband, and the lives of Jinxi, his family, Baijiu and all the villagers are threatened by a group known as the 72 Demons, led by Jimmy Wang Yu, star of the legendary Shaw Brothers film The One-Armed Swordsman (1967).

Jimmy Wang Yu (left), the head of The 72 Demons

Like the films of Quentin Tarantino, Dragon alludes to many other movies. The revealing of the surprising past of a seemingly ordinary family man is reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. Baijiu, as I’ve already indicated, comes across much like an early 20th Century Chinese Sherlock Holmes. There are visual flourishes of the body’s inner workings similar to goings on in Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Romeo Must Die. And besides the presence of Jimmy Wang Yu, who is absolutely fantastic here, there is, suffice it to say, another nod to The One-Armed Swordsman.

This is in no way to cast any pallor on Chan’s film. I loved the references, nods or similarities I noticed. But it won’t diminish your enjoyment of Dragon one bit if you have no familiarity with any of the other movies alluded to.

Director Chan (The Warlords, Bodyguards & Assassins) has crafted a fabulous tale that features terrific martial arts. (Yen, besides starring, was also the action director). Dragon also offers compelling family drama and intriguing criminal investigative techniques. Underlying it all is the question — and it’s a big one that’s given serious and due weight here — of whether or not one can really achieve redemption and truly atone for past mistakes, sins and crimes.

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

These are the markets that have been confirmed so far:

1. NY: Village East
2. LA: Sundance Sunset
3. Cleveland: Atlas Great Lakes Stadium
4. Hartford, CT : Front Street 4
5. Orlando: Colonial Promenade
6. Tampa: Britton 8
7. Phoenix:  Shea 14, Scottsdale
8. San Diego: Gaslamp

Check local listings for showtimes.

ACF 1735: Bruce Lee remembered

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

Bruce Lee was the single person most responsible for reinventing and reinvigorating the Asian martial movie and making the genre popular in the United States and other western countries. He would have marked his 72nd birthday today if he had not died such a tragically early death in 1973.

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce is most fondly remembered for:

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

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

Enter the Dragon is available on DVD from Warner Brothers.

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

ACF 1734: Special NEON ALLEY promo for new subscribers


To coincide with the start of the 2012 holiday season, VIZ Media has just announced a special Neon Alley Cyber Monday promotion that offers a free digital manga volume (up to $8.99 value) to any new subscriber of the recently-launched 24/7 anime channel from the company’s extensive digital library at VIZManga.com and through the VIZ Manga App. The offer runs for a limited time starting today through Monday, December 10th, and fans can choose their free manga volume from a selection of over 600 titles, including top-selling volumes of BAKUMAN, BLACK BIRD, HUNTER X HUNTER, NANA, ONE PIECE, VAMPIRE KNIGHT, and more!

Neon Alley is VIZ Media’s new 24-hour, subscription-based anime channel featuring the world’s best titles (dubbed in English and uncut) and presented in HD (when available) for a low monthly subscription rate of $6.99. Neon Alley is the first platform designed to be studio agnostic, offering a diverse array of titles from many leading anime producers and distributors. Neon Alley’s schedule includes a dynamic mix of action, adventure, sci-fi, supernatural, fantasy, and horror anime, including weekly exclusive episodes of BLUE EXORCIST, INUYASHA: THE FINAL ACT, NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN, and TIGER & BUNNY, as well as blockbuster favorites DEATH NOTE, NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, ONE PIECE, VAMPIRE KNIGHT and more.  

VIZ Media’s digital manga platform allows users to access and read manga from the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, and supported Android-powered smart phones and tablets (including the Kindle Fire), with VIZManga.com for desktop and laptop computers. Manga volumes are available for purchase and download in the U.S. and Canada within the application starting from $4.99 (U.S. / CAN) per volume. The free VIZ Manga App is the top application for reading manga and features a massive library of the most popular manga series in the world. The platform features a rapidly growing library of the most popular manga series, with over 1,000 volumes across 100 different series currently available, including blockbusters like NARUTO, BLEACH, BARRAGE and BLUE EXORCIST and the digital anthology WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA. New series and volumes added every Tuesday and readers can explore all titles with free Chapter 1 previews of every series.

For more information about Neon Alley and to sign-up, visit www.neonalley.com.

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

To learn more about VIZ Manga, visit VIZManga.com.

ACF 1733: Review of Blu-ray edition of GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES

Grave of the Fireflies / Hotaru no haka
Directed by Isao Takahata
Screenplay by Isao Takahata
Based on a novel by Akiyuki Nosaka
Japan, 1988, 89 minutes
Published by Sentai Filmworks
Dstributed by Section 23 Films
SRP: $29.98

Last week the animation classic  Grave of the Fireflies was released for the first time on Blu-ray. It's the tale of 14 year old Seita and his 4 year old sister Setsuko at the end of World War II. Their father is away serving on a naval cruiser. After their mother dies in an aerial bombing, they go to live with an aunt on their father's side. She increasingly resents their presence and makes life unpleasant for them. Seita decides they should leave, and the young pair go off to fend for themselves, living in a shelter dug out from the side of a hill that's by a large pond. Their lives are initially pleasant, even bucolic, but become increasingly difficult and ultimately desparate.

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the many outstanding animation films that have come from Studio Ghibli, which was co-founded by directors Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki in 1985. I first saw the film about ten years ago as a promotional preview DVD from Central Park Media, which went out of business several years later. GotF was, and remains, one of the most powerful, heart-wrenching films I've ever seen. This is made even more so by the contrast between the horrible conditions for the Japanese as the end of the war approached and the beauty of the film's animation.

And that beauty is magnificently rendered in this Blu-ray edition. It may have been a long time coming, but it's been well worth the wait; the digital transfer is simply spectacular.

There are three audio options: a new English soundtrack, a Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles, and the original English version from 1988. The original English audio masters have been lost, so the audio quality of it is of somewhat lesser fidelity than the other two, which are both bright and crystal clear.

Extras include the option of watching the film as a series of storyboards and sketches, two deleted scenes with Japanese audio and English subtitles, and the Japanese trailer. There are also clips of six other films available from Sentai Filmworks.

This Blu-ray edition of Grave of the Fireflies is a must have regardless of whether or not you're a fan of anime, it's that terrific a film. If you happen to still have an old VHS or DVD version and are wondering whether or not you should replace it, give the matter no further thought.

Buy this Blu-ray edition or put it on the top of your list of holiday gift requests. You'll come back to watch it again and again, and wonder at the beauty and brilliance of it every time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

ACF 1732: Sci-Fi novel VIRUS coming December 4th on Haikasoru label

Fukkatsu no Hi © 1964 by Sakyo Komatsu
English translation © 2012 VIZ Media
Cover design by Fawn Lau
All rights reserved. 

Acclaimed Novel By Japanese Author Sakyo Komatsu
Published In English For The First Time Ever

VIZ Media’s Haikasoru literary imprint presents a new literary release offering a stark vision of the future of mankind in author Sakyo Komatsu’s post-apocalyptic thriller, VIRUS. The new hardcover novel will be available December 4th, and will carry an MSRP of $25.99 U.S. / $29.99 CAN. The eBook edition will also available for $9.99 on the Amazon Kindle, Apple’s iBooks Store, the Barnes & Noble’s Nook Books Store, and the Sony Reader Store.

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

In this classic Japanese sci-fi thriller originally published in 1964, American astronauts on a space mission discover a strange virus and bring it to Earth, where rogue scientists transform it into a fatal version of the flu. After the virulent virus is released, nearly all human life on Earth is wiped out save for fewer than ten thousand men and a handful of women living in research stations in Antarctica. Then one of the researchers realizes that a major earthquake in the now-depopulated United States may lead to nuclear Armageddon…

“Sakyo Komatsu is one of the world’s most celebrated science fiction authors and his books were often inspired by real world geopolitical, scientific, or environmental events,” says Nick Mamatas, Editor, Haikasoru. “VIRUS was adapted into a film in 1980, which starred Sonny Chiba and George Kennedy. The new Haikasoru release marks the first English publication of the novel, and we know our readers will enjoy this visionary thriller from this acclaimed Japanese author.”

Author Sakyo Komatsu was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1931 and began writing in college and turned to science fiction in 1959 after winning the Twenty-Seventh Annual Japan Mystery Writers Association Award with the publication of Japan Sinks. He also won the Japan SF Award for his Tokyo Vanished in 1985 and is a six-time winner of the prestigious Seiun Award. As a screenwriter, director, and producer, Komatsu brought the movie version of his novel Bye-Bye Jupiter to the screen in 1984. Sakyo Komatsu has also participated in the production of a number of large public events, including the Japan World Exposition in Osaka (1970),and the International Garden and Greenery Exposition in Osaka (1990), which earned him the Osaka Cultural Award. In 2007, he was the author Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention, the first to be held in Asia. Komatsu passed away in July 2011.

For more information and to read an excerpt of VIRUS, visit the dedicated website at www.haikasoru.com/virus.

For more information on Haikasoru and other titles available from the imprint, visit the website at Haikasoru.com.

ACF 1731: Free screening of MERRY CHRISTMAS, NORTH! this Tuesday

Korean Cultural Service
Korean Movie Night
Series Seven
Deck the Halls: It's Christmas in Korea! 
Merry Christmas, North / Ryang-kang-do: Merry Christmas, North!
Directed by KIM Sung-hoon
South Korea, 2010, 95 minutes
When: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
Admission: FREE!!!
All seating is first-come, first served

In a rural area in North Korea, little Jong-Soo dreams of visiting Pyongyang and meeting Kim Jong-Il. But when his dreams of adventure are dashed, he finds himself disheartened, wandering the woods. There, under a tree, he discovers a balloon carrying a toy robot – a Christmas gift from children in South Korea. Soon, the robot has made Jong-Soo so popular that other children in town begin offering him gifts for just a few short moments of playtime with the toy. But just as Jong-Soo realizes what the robot can do for him and his family, he discovers that another group of children in his town will do anything to make the robot their own.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

ACF 1730: THE RED DETACHMENT OF WOMEN to screen at Asia Society on November 30th, 2012

 The Red Detachment of Women
Directed by FU Jie
With XUE Jinghua
China, 1970, 101 minutes
Color, 35mm.
When: Friday, November 30, 2012, 6:30 pm
Where Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC

During the Cultural Revolution, only a small number of state-approved yangbanxi, model operas that adhered to revolutionary ideologies, were staged. One of them was the ballet opera The Red Detachment of Women, about a peasant girl who breaks away from an oppressive landlord and joins the Red Army. The performance, originally staged in 1964, was adapted to film and made the ballerina Xue Jinghua an instant star. The virtuosic and ecstatic dance sequences featuring revolutionary heroines carrying rifles and clenching fists in army shorts have formed some of the most lasting and iconic revolutionary imageries. This popular ballet opera, which also features music that is familiar to Chinese of all generations, is still being performed in China today.

This screening of The Red Detachment of Women is part of the film series Goddess: Chinese Women on Screen which runs through December 8, 2012.

Friday, November 23, 2012

ACF 1729: BLEACH THE MOVIE: HELL VERSE coming on Neon Alley, DVD and Blu-ray

© Tite Kubo/Shueisha, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot © BMP 2010

Soul Reaper Ichigo Embarks On A Perilous Mission To Hell
To Rescue His Younger Sister In New Anime Feature Film
Also Launching On DVD And Blu-ray!

VIZ Media delivers the supernatural anime action of the latest BLEACH feature film to fans with the premiere of BLEACH THE MOVIE: HELL VERSE on Neon Alley on Sunday, November 25th at 8:00pm EST / 5:00pm PST. The film will repeat 12:00am EST November 26th / 9:00pm PST November 25th, and will air again throughout the week.

BLEACH THE MOVIE: HELL VERSE will also be released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 4th with both English-subtitled and dubbed dialogue options. The new film carries a DVD MSRP of $19.98 U.S. / $24.98 CAN and a Blu-ray MSRP of $24.98 U.S. / $27.50 CAN. Bonus features include the original Japanese theatrical trailer. 

Neon Alley is VIZ Media’s new 24-hour, subscription-based anime channel featuring the world’s best titles (dubbed in English and uncut) and presented in HD (when available) for a low monthly subscription rate of $6.99. Neon Alley is the first platform designed to be studio agnostic, offering with a diverse array of titles from many leading anime producers and distributors. For a limited time only, the game console based-service is offering a one-week free trial, available for fans who sign up at NeonAlley.com.

BLEACH THE MOVIE: HELL VERSE (rated TV-14) takes audiences on a wild trip to the underworld – a place where beings that have committed mortal sins during their lifetime are sent. It is a realm where even Soul Reapers are forbidden to interfere. When a group of vicious Sinners plots to escape from this eternal prison, they discover that Substitute Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki is the key to their freedom. The Sinners launch an attack and in the process kidnap Ichigo’s younger sister Yuzu and take her to Hell. With the help of a mysterious man named Kokuto, Ichigo and his friends must now travel into the depths of Hell to stop the Sinners and save Yuzu, unaware that their actions could bring Hell to the World of the Living.

“BLEACH THE MOVIE: HELL VERSE is the fourth feature film of the popular BLEACH movie franchise and based on the smash hit manga series originally created by Tite Kubo,” says Brian Ige, Vice President, Animation. “Ichigo will face his most dangerous adversaries yet as he journeys to the underworld on a perilous mission to save his sister. Don’t miss this special North American movie premiere on our new digital anime platform this coming weekend!”

The BLEACH animated films and TV series follow the adventures of Ichigo, a 15-year old student with the ability to see ghosts. When his family is attacked by a Hollow — a malevolent lost soul – Ichigo encounters Rukia, a Soul Reaper, and inadvertently absorbs her powers. Now, he’s dedicating his life to protecting the innocent and helping tortured souls find peace.

BLEACH is a tremendously successful multimedia property internationally. The manga has been licensed to more than a dozen countries and has sold over 50 million copies in Japan alone. In North America, the manga has been a sales hit and the popular animated series (both rated 'T' for Teens) is viewed weekly by millions in the United States and Canada. This success has further spawned an array of related video games, apparel, action figures, trading cards and other merchandise.

For more information on BLEACH please visit bleach.viz.com.

Subtitled episodes of BLEACH also may be streamed on the company’s own free-to-use VIZAnime.com, as well as on Hulu. In addition, Download-To-Own dubbed episodes are available for purchase through iTunes, PlayStation Network, Xbox Video, Amazon Instant Video, and the Google Play store.

To read a free chapter 1 preview of the BLEACH manga series, please visit VIZManga.com/bleach.

ACF 1728: North American theatrical release of "BACK TO 1942" to begin November 30th, 2012

China Lion Film Distribution
Landlord Fan (Zhang Guoli) journeys across the famine-plagued frontier.
Back to 1942
Directed by Feng Xiaogang
China, 2012, 146 minutes
International version: Mandarin with English
and Traditional Chinese subtitles

Back to 1942, an epic film about a terrible famine that struck Henan province in China during World War II, will begin its North American theatrical release next Friday, November 30th, 2012 in select cities which are listed at the end of this post.

The famine began in 1942 and lasted until the spring of 1944. The primary cause of the famine was a severe drought, but the situation was made worse by, among other things, locusts, the ongoing war between Japan and China, and the incompetence if not outright corruption of the ruling Kuomintang government. More than 10 million fled the province and approximately 3 million people died.

The film focuses on two families from Henan, the wealthy family of Landlord Fan and that of one of his tenants, as they join the phalanx of refugees trudging along the roads leading to Shaanxi, where they hope to find relief. Adrien Brody has a significant role as Theodore H. White, who reported on the situation for Time magazine. Tim Robbins has a smaller roll as Father Thomas Megan, a Catholic priest who, like White, had great sympathy for the plight of the Chinese.

I'll be posting a full review at 24framespersecond next week.  I'll either cross-post it here or just put up a brief post with a link to that review. For now, let me just say that this is a film worth seeing.

Here are the places where Back to 1942 will be shown:

Los Angeles Area
AMC Atlantic Times Square 14
450 N. Atlantic Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(888) 262-4386

Cinemark Century Stadium 25 and XD
1701 W. Katella Ave.
Orange, CA 92867
(714) 532-9558

AMC Puente Hills 20
150 S. Azusa Ave.
City of Industry, CA 91748
(888) 262-4386

New York
AMC Empire 25
234 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
(888) 262-4386

AMC Village VII
66 Third Ave (11th Street)
New York, NY 10003
(888) 262-4386

San Francisco Area
Century 20 Great Mall and XD
1010 Great Mall Drive
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 942-7441

AMC Mercado 20
3111 Mission College Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95054
(888) 262-4386

Century 25 Union City Theatres
32100 Union Landing Blvd.
Union City, CA 94587
(800) 326-3264

AMC Pacific Place 11 [Note: Starts December 7th]
600 Pine St.
Seattle, WA 98101
(888) 262-4386

Toronto Area
Cineplex Odeon Yonge & Dundas 24
10 Dundas St.
Toronto, ON M5B 2G9
(416) 977-2262

Cineplex Odeon Eglinton Town Centre Cinemas
22 Lebovic Ave.
Toronto, ON M1L 4V9
(416) 752-4494

SilverCity Richmond Hill
8725 Yonge Street
Richmond Hill, ON L4C 6Z1
(416) 646-0444

Cineplex First Markham Place Cinemas
Highway 7 & Fairburn Drive
Markham, ON L3R 3P9
(905) 474-5101

Vancouver Area
Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas
88 West Pender, 3rd Floor
Vancouver, BC V6B 6N9
(604) 806-0799

SilverCity Coquitlam
170 Schooolhouse Street
Coquitlam, BC V3K 4X9
(604) 523-2911

SilverCity Riverport Cinemas
14211 Entertainment Way
Richmond, BC V6W 1K4
(604) 277-5993

Washington, D.C. Area
AMC Loews Rio Cinemas 18
9811 Washingtonian Ctr.
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
(888) 262-4386

ACF 1727: VIZ holiday manga and graphic novels for younger readers

THE MR. MEN SHOW™ and DILLYDALE™ © 2012 THOIP (a Sanrio Company). All rights reserved.

In Time For The 2012 Holiday Season!

VIZ Media delivers a colorful collection of manga and other graphic novel selections that are sure to excite kids and younger fans and catch the attention of their gift-giving friends and family members this holiday season.

Published under VIZ Media’s VIZ Kids imprint, the titles include the latest full-color graphic novel volumes for MR. MEN AND LITTLE MISS, MAMESHIBA, REDAKAI, VOLTRON FORCE, and WINX CLUB. VIZ Media has also released several new POKÉMON ADVENTURES manga box set editions for the BLACK AND WHITE, RED & BLUE, and SILVER & GOLD series.

LITTLE MISS DAREDEVIL: The incredible Race · Rated “A” for All Ages ·
MSRP: $6.99 U.S. / $7.99 CAN · Available Now! 
VIZ Media’s MR. MEN And LITTLE MISS collection features comic book versions of characters from the popular Mr. Men And Little Miss series of children’s books, originally created by author Roger Hargreaves in 1971. LITTLE MISS DAREDEVIL: THE INCREDIBLE RACE takes readers along for a wild ride as this spunky LITTLE MISS scales the top of Mount Dillydale, takes a wrong turn and rockets into outer space, and proves that no thrill’s too thrilling for Little Miss D!

MAMESHIBA: WE COULD BE HEROES · Rated ‘A’ for All Ages ·
MSRP: $6.99 U.S. / $7.99 CAN · Available Now!    
Are they beans? Are they dogs? Not quite either one – they're Mameshiba! These cute friends are back for more laughs, more trivia, and more adventure! This time, the intrepid legumes travel to a magical land, combine to form a giant robot, and help a friend in love. Plus, Tiger Bean stars in three adorable shorts created by Lark Pien (Long Tail Kitty, Mr. Elephanter)!

POKÉMON ADVENTURES RED & BLUE Box set · Rated “A” for All Ages ·
MSRP: $49.99 U.S. / $56.99 CAN · Available Now! 
Capture the excitement of POKÉMON ADVENTURES with Volumes 1-7 of the series in a box set that also features a collectible poster! All your favorite Pokémon game characters jump out of the screen into the pages of this action-packed manga adventure! Red doesn't just want to train Pokémon, he wants to be their friend too. Bulbasaur and Poliwhirl seem game. But independent Pikachu won't be so easy to win over! And watch out for Team Rocket, Red... They only want to be your enemy!

POKÉMON ADVENTURES GOLD & SILVER Box set · Rated “A” for All Ages ·
MSRP: $49.99 U.S. / $56.99 CAN · Available Now! 
The excitement continues! Complete your POKÉMON ADVENTURES collection with volumes 8-14 of the venerable series in this box set that also includes a collectible poster. Catch more exciting Pokémon adventures starring Gold and his rival Silver! First someone steals Gold's backpack full of Poké Balls (and Pokémon!). Then someone steals Prof. Elm's Totodile. Can Gold catch the thief – or thieves?! Keep an eye on Team Rocket, Gold... Could they be behind this crime wave?

POKÉMON BLACK AND WHITE Box set · Rated “A” for All Ages ·
MSRP: $34.99 U.S. / $39.99 CAN · Available Now! 
Meet Pokémon Trainers Black and White in this box set of eight volumes! His entire life, Black has dreamed of winning the Pokémon League! Now he embarks on a journey to explore the Unova region and fill a Pokédex for Professor Juniper. White has an exciting career as the Trainer of a talented troupe of performing Pokémon. She dreams of making her Tepig Gigi a star! Together, Black and White continue on their journey... What surprising new Pokémon – and people – will they meet next?!

REDAKAI Vol. 1· Rated “A” for All Ages ·
MSRP: $7.99 U.S. / $9.99 CAN · Available Now! 
Follow the adventures of Team Stax as they race against competitors searching the world for mystical Kairu energy, the primal power of the universe.  In the hands of good, Kairu is a living energy that guides the universe. But in the hands of evil, Kairu is the most destructive power in the world. Those who can harness it can eventually obtain the highest rank of Kairu warrior: Redakai. Ky, Maya and Boomer are Team Stax. Together they plan to conquer the Kairu!

WINX CLUB, Vol. 4: DRAGON’S FLAME · Rated “A” for All Ages ·
MSRP: $6.99 U.S. / $7.99 CAN · Available Now! 
The WINX CLUB graphic novels follow the magical adventures of five best friends – Bloom, Stella, Musa, Tecna and Flora – at Alfea, a school for fairies in the amazing dimension of Magix. This group of beautiful fairies fights evil using their unique magical powers! As they battle scary monsters and troublemaking witches, the girls become stronger fairies and closer friends. In volume 4, after The Trix steal the power of the Dragon Flame from Bloom, they set out to seize control of the whole Magix dimension! As the Winx Club battles The Trix and Bloom tries to get her power back, some unexpected help comes from Aisha – the Fairy of Waves – and the magical Pixies!

VOLTRON FORCE®, Vol. 5: dragon dawn · Rated “A” for All Ages ·
MSRP: $7.99 U.S. / $9.99 CAN · Available December 4th  
Years ago, Voltron mysteriously disappeared, and the five lions were scattered throughout the universe. Over time, the lions were recovered by the original Voltron Force: Lance, Pidge, Hunk, Princess Allura, and Commander Keith. Now, with the help of three new recruits, Voltron rises again, to defend the universe once more! In the latest volume, there’s a species of dragon on Planet Doom that hatches every hundred years. The eggs are just about to hatch, and Maahox orders the Drule army to collect them and ship them off to Planet Arus! Will the dragon dawn be too much for the Voltron Force?

For more information on these and other titles available from VIZ Media’s VIZ KIDS imprint, visit: www.vizkids.com.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

ACF 1726: INCLUSION to screen at Japan Society NY on December 5th

Directed by Ken’ichi Oguri
Japan, 2011, B.R., 104 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles
Documentary; Narration by Masato Hagiwara
Introduction and Q&A with executive producer
and former First Lady Kayoko Hosokawa
When: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 6:30 PM
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd avenues), NYC

Inclusion is the poignant record of Zuihou Taiko drumming team, an intellectually disabled professional drumming team that placed 2nd in the Tokyo International Japanese Drumming Competition.

Living in a community called “Colony Unzen” in Nagasaki prefecture, the team leads an autonomous existence in normal, residential homes, with the support and friendship of both specialists and ordinary neighbors. Although the members started drumming as a mere rehabilitation and therapy exercise, through sheer dedication, constant practice, they became a full-fledged drumming team, fulfilling their dream to compete professionally under the supervision of Ichiro Jishoya, a world-class taiko drummer. The film charts their gradual command of Jishoya’s compositions, while portraying their daily lives and showing how, after many years of struggle, they have earned the right “to live normally,” in Colony Unzen.

As the members of Zuihou Taiko, their families and loved ones, even a mother who once institutionalized her son, reveal the story of their lives to the camera, they show us a world of Inclusion.

Followed by a reception.

Tickets are $12/$9 Japan Society members, seniors & students

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

ACF 1725: Two new Streetfighter X Sanrio books now available

©1976, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 SANRIO CO., LTD.

The Characters Of Capcom’s Street Fighter Video Game Series
Merge With Hello Kitty and Sanrio Friends
In Two Fun New Releases -
A Full-Color Gift Book And A Sticker Book 

VIZ Media and Sanrio Inc, global lifestyle brand & parent company of pop icon Hello Kitty merge two of Japan’s biggest pop culture brands – STREET FIGHTER and Sanrio– for the debut of a pair of fun new STREET FIGHTER X SANRIO books. The hardcover STREET FIGHTER X SANRIO: WORLD VIEW and soft cover STREET FIGHTER X SANRIO: STICKER BOOK are both available now in stores.

STREET FIGHTER X SANRIO: WORLD VIEW · MSRP: $12.99 US / $14.99 CAN · Now Available!  
Life is not a video game. But don’t you sometimes wish it was? The characters of the Street Fighter video game series, with the help of Hello Kitty and Sanrio Friends, have lived through countless battles and learned many life lessons along the way. Now you can learn how to live like a warrior too!

©1976, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 SANRIO CO., LTD.

STREET FIGHTER X SANRIO: STICKER BOOK · MSRP: $7.99 US / $9.99 CAN · Now Available!  
The two legendary brands Street Fighter and Sanrio come together in the coolest sticker book ever with more than 65 stickers, bumper stickers, and paper doll stickers featuring Street Fighter characters as well as Hello Kitty and Sanrio Friends.

“2012 marks the 25th anniversary of Capcom’s Street Fighter video game franchise, and we are very excited to announce the release of this pair of new books that blends the two properties together for the first time,” says Beth Kawasaki, Senior Editorial Director. “STREET FIGHTER X SANRIO: WORLD VIEW reimagines the characters of the Street Fighter franchise as adorably cute Sanrio characters, and presents full-color profiles and warrior’s philosophy offered by several Street Fighter characters. The STREET FIGHTER X SANRIO: STICKER BOOK has a mix of cool, colorful bumper stickers, paper doll stickers, characters stickers and more that can be used to create custom adventures for fans of all ages. Don’t miss these new releases that merge the best of Japanese pop culture in a whole new way!”

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