With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

WEDDING PALACE goes global today!

The terrific Korean-American romantic comedy Wedding Palace has gone global!

It's now available on demand and online across Europe and Latin America under these titles:


Read my  September 27, 2013 review of the film here.

MAX STEEL: HAYWIRE coming April 1st from VIZ's Perfect Square imprint

MAX STEEL and associated trademarks and trade dress are owned by, and used under license from Mattel, Inc.
©2014 Mattel, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When Technology Fails, Teen Superhero Max Steel Must Think
Outside The Box To Defeat A Mysterious Alien Bent
On Unleashing Chaos With A Deadly Computer Virus

VIZ Media delivers an exciting new installment in the continuing MAX STEEL™ series of original graphic novels published by the Perfect Square imprint with the debut of MAX STEEL: HAYWIRE on April 1st.

The full-color sci-fi action adventure was written by Tom Pinchuk with artwork by Jan Wijngaard, is rated ‘A’ for All Ages, and will carry an MSRP of $7.99 U.S. / $9.99 CAN. A digital version will also launch on April 1st for $4.99 U.S. / CAN from the Perfect Square App, which offers titles for the Apple iPad® and iPad® Mini. The Perfect Square App is available from the iTunes store. Fans can also find a digital version for the NOOK, Kindle Fire, and Kobo ereaders, as well as in the iBooks and GooglePlay Stores.

In MAX STEEL: HAYWIRE, a shadowy new villain hits Earth with a deadly super computer virus that takes down technology and creates communications chaos. Can Max figure out how to get things back online – without using his usual techno tricks to do it?!

“The fun in the latest MAX STEEL adventure is going to be downright infectious for every single reader,” says writer Tom Pinchuk. “’Turbo’ artist Jan Wijngaard and I had an absolutely awesome time throwing mega-virus danger at Max and Steel and pitting them against this newest, deadliest alien threat!”

Originally developed by Mattel, MAX STEEL is a global boy’s entertainment franchise spanning toys, publishing and consumer products. Season 1 of an acclaimed MAX STEEL CGI animated series, co-produced with FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment, has also captivated legions of fans around the world. In the TV and original graphic novel series, Maxwell McGrath™ is just an average 16-year-old boy… until he starts experiencing uncontrollable Turbo Energy! To control this amazing superpower, he must merge with a know-it-all alien Ultralink™ named Steel. Steel gives Maxwell the ability to harness his power and merge his own to create one unified super force – Max Steel – and together, this unlikely duo will battle to save the earth as the ultimate turbocharged superhero!

Tom Pinchuk is a prolific writer and media personality who has created daring comics like Unimaginable and written for animated series produced by the world-famous Man of Action Studios. MAX STEEL: HAYWIRE is his first title for VIZ Media and Perfect Square.

MAX STEEL artist Jan Wijngaard is a professional illustrator based in Manchester, England. Jan recently did work for T Publications and also drew the MAX STEEL: THE PARASITES graphic novel for Perfect Square.

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

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

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

HELLO KITTY: SURPRISE! coming April 1st from VIz's Perfect Square

© 1976, 2014 SANRIO CO., LTD

Expect The Unexpected In New
Original Graphic Novel Release!

VIZ Media takes readers on a whimsical new outing from its Perfect Square imprint with the world’s favorite pop culture icon and her adorable friends in the debut of HELLO KITTY: SURPRISE! on April 1st.

The latest full-color release in the ongoing HELLO KITTY® Perfect Square collection features seven new stories and three shorts centered around the theme of unexpected discoveries. HELLO KITTY: SURPRISE! reunites the creative team of Jacob Chabot (HELLO KITTY, VOLTRON FORCE), Jorge Monlongo (HELLO KITTY, MAMESHIBA), and Ian McGinty (UGLYDOLL), along with special guest artist Anastassia Neislotova. HELLO KITTY: SURPRISE! is rated ‘A’ for All Ages and carries a print MSRP of $7.99 U.S. / $9.99 CAN.

A digital version is also available for $4.99 U.S. / CAN from the Perfect Square App, which has titles available for the Apple iPad® and iPad® Mini. The Perfect Square App is available from the iTunes store. Fans can also find a digital version for the NOOK, Kindle Fire, and Kobo ereaders, as well as in the iBooks and GooglePlay Stores.

In HELLO KITTY: SURPRISE!, a day at the beach is more than just fun in the sun. A mysterious egg holds a tiny secret. Mama and Papa have a few secrets of their own. And a quiet afternoon with a good book is more exciting than Hello Kitty ever could have imagined! Plus, prepare to be amazed by Anastassia Neislotova’s tales of wonder!

“In this third Hello Kitty release from Perfect Square, we really took the opportunity to play," says Traci Todd, Senior Editor, Children’s Publishing. "Not only are there surprises in the storytelling (Just in time for April Fool's Day!), but a few unexpected characters show up as well. We hope readers have as much fun reading this volume as we had making it."

Jacob Chabot is a New York City-based cartoonist, illustrator and writer. His comics have appeared in publications such as Nickelodeon Magazine, Mad Magazine, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Simpsons comics, and various Marvel titles. He has illustrated three HELLO KITTY titles as well as VOLTRON FORCE: SHELTER FROM THE STORM and VOLTRON FORCE: TRUE COLORS for VIZ Media. His comic series, The Mighty Skullboy Army, is published by Dark Horse, and in 2008 Chabot was also nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Book for Teens.

Comic artist, book illustrator and game designer Jorge Monlongo hails from Spain and combines traditional and digital techniques to create worlds in beautiful colors that hide secrets. SUPRISE! is his third HELLO KITTY title for VIZ Media/Perfect Square and his work has also been featured in several prominent magazines, including Rolling Stone.

Artist Ian McGinty resides in Savannah, Georgia, and his portfolio includes Adventure Time: Candy Capers (kaBoom!), Bravest Warriors (kaBoom!), HELLO KITTY (VIZ Media), UGLYDOLL (VIZ Media), and Suckers (Zenescope). He is also creator of Chomp! (Top Shelf).

Anastassia Neislotova is a happy artist and children’s book illustrator. She spends all her time creating nice illustrations and paintings, where she puts all her love and kindness. She loves making people smile. She feels very happy when her art can provoke positive emotions in people, and for this she is ready to draw forever. She also feels happy when feeding squirrels, stroking sausage dogs and eating up cream from cakes.

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

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

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

About Sanrio
Sanrio is the global lifestyle brand best known for pop icon Hello Kitty, who is celebrating her 40th Anniversary this year. Home to many endearing characters including Chococat, My Melody, Badtz-Maru and Keroppi, Sanrio was founded on the ‘small gift, big smile’ philosophy – that a small gift can bring happiness and friendship to people of all ages. Since 1960, this philosophy has served as the inspiration for the broad spectrum of unique products and experiences. Today, more than 50,000 Sanrio-branded items are available in over 70 countries and upwards of 15,000 U.S. retail locations including department, specialty, national chain stores and over 80 Sanrio boutiques. For more information visit www.sanrio.com and www.facebook.com/hellokitty .

Sentai Filmworks announces acquisition of ONE WEEK FRIENDS

Can a truly unforgettable friendship really be formed in only seven days? In Yuki’s case, it’s going to have to be in Sentai Filmworks' latest acquisition, One Week Friends. This comedic high school drama from original creator Matcha Hazuki is directed by Tarou Iwasaki (Sunday Without God, Another), with series composition by Shotaro Suga (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, The Eccentric Family), art direction by Akira Ito (Bodacious Space Pirates, AKB0048), and animation production by Brains Base (Penguindrum, Amnesia).

Synopsis: It is said that one of the qualities of a true friendship is to understand and be understood. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done, particularly when it comes to being friends with someone that has no recollection of being your friend the week after befriending them. To become friends over and over, again and again… that is the goal of Yuki Hase when approaching schoolmate Kaori Fujimaya. You see, things aren’t so simple when your memory disappears.

And that’s exactly what happens with Kaori – she’s always alone because she can’t commit anything to memory, even if that commitment is as special as a memory of one of her friends. No matter how cherished her memories are, they vanish by the time Monday rolls around. But Yuki won’t give up in the fight for friendship as he embarks on a new mission every week to befriend a person he already knows. In this friendship, everything that’s old is new again in One Week Friends.

One Week Friends will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

Friday, March 28, 2014

SuBLime launches its yaoi digital manga catalog on Kobo eBookstore

© 2009 Esutoemu/LibrePublishing

Most Diverse English-Language Yaoi Publisher Gives Fans
A New Way To Enjoy Its Complete Catalog Of Popular Digital
Manga Titles On World's Fastest-Growing eReading Service

SuBLime, the global yaoi manga publishing initiative between VIZ Media and Japan’s Animate, Ltd. (Animate), has announced the launch today of its diverse yaoi manga library to Kobo, a global leader in eReading.

Fans are invited to access Kobo’s eBookstore and enjoy a seamless yaoi manga eReading experience with the company’s E Ink eReaders, the award-winning Kobo Arc Android tablet, and top-ranking free apps for iOS, BB10 smartphones, and Android devices.

Digital volumes are generally available for purchase and immediate download directly from the Kobo eBookstore for $5.99 (U.S. / CAN) each. Individual volumes are generally rated ‘M’ for Mature Readers. New series debuts and updates for ongoing titles will be added regularly as part of SuBLime’s regular digital release schedule throughout 2014. Please visit the Kobo eBookstore for a complete list of available titles.

Oku-san's Daily Fantasies © Noboru Takatsuki 2011

Among the scores of SuBLime digital titles now featured in Kobo’s eBookstore that are sure to capture reader’s attention are acclaimed titles such as EMBRACING LOVE, by Youka Nitta, AWKWARD SILENCE, by Hinako Takanaga, NIGHTS, by Kou Yoneda, OKU-SAN’S DAILY FANTASIES, by Noboru Takatsuki, and TABLEAU NUMÉRO 20, by est em, in addition to many more.

Supporting fixed layout ePubs, Kobo provides comic lovers with a responsive reading experience that allows users to zoom and pan into scenes and images effortlessly with a simple double-tap of the screen as well as seamlessly swipe through titles with no delays.

“Yaoi manga enjoys a very dedicated and passionate fan base and the SuBLime imprint has nurtured this growing market with a rich catalog of titles by an array of the genre’s most popular and celebrated creators,” says Jennifer LeBlanc, Editor, SuBLime. “The launch of our catalog on the Kobo eBookstore gives readers a fun new way to enjoy a diverse selection of some of the best yaoi manga, and we look forward to expanding this library throughout 2014.”

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


A quiet life alone has some advantages, but Usa may never find out what those are in Sentai Filmworks' latest acquisition, The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior. This romantic slice of life comedy from original creator Ruri Miyahara (Love Lab) is directed by Shigeyuki Miya (Blood Lad, Supernatural: The Anime Series) with series composition by Takeshi Konuta (Ace of Diamond, Library Wars), music by Akito Matsuda (D-Fregments, Dog & Scissors), and animation production by Brains Base (Kamichu!, Natsume’s Book of Friends).

Synopsis: Living away from home can have its perks, especially when you're just a kid: no parents, no rules, no curfew! Add the fact that you just – miraculously - moved in right next to the girl of your dreams and it sounds too good to be true. Naturally, things that sound too good to be true usually are. Kazunari Usa’s independence arrives by way of his parents' new job placement. However, with this newfound freedom come the shackles of responsibility, and his hopes and dreams are soon dashed when confronted with the indecent behavior of his lecherous neighbor, Shirosaki. Usa promised he wouldn’t complain if he could just live on his own... he just didn’t expect so much drama.

Not only do Usa and his dream-girl Ritsu attend the same school, but Ritsu’s grandaunt, the landlady Sumiko, tries to give Usa weird relationship advice regarding the two. To top it all off, everything is upended when Usa meets Mayumi, an older, flirty woman that he runs into on the street. Will Usa’s fantasy of a normal life ever become a reality? Stay tuned to find out in The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior

The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hardcover edition of Hayao Miyazaki memoir TURNING POINT: 1997-2008 coming April 8th from VIZ

© 1996 Nibariki
© 1996 Studio Ghibli
TURNING POINT: 1997-2008

Collection Of Essays And Interviews Spotlights Critical
Stage Of Career And Complements A New Paperback
Edition Of STARTING POINT: 1979-1996

VIZ Media has announced the release of TURNING POINT: 1997-2008, an insightful collection of essays, interviews, memoirs, and illustrations from legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki. The new title covers the critical stage in the legendary director’s career when his animated films such as Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo began to garner a significant international audience. TURNING POINT: 1997-2008 will debut as a hardcover edition on April 8th and will carry an MSRP of $29.99 U.S. / $34.99 CAN.

TURNING POINT: 1997-2008 is the companion second volume to the earlier Miyazaki chronicle, STARTING POINT: 1979-1996, which was originally published by VIZ Media in 2009. This volume examined the first part of Miyazaki’s career, during which he rose from humble beginnings to create the seminal animated features Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, Castle In The Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Porco Rosso, as well as his launch of Studio Ghibli. A fitting introduction is offered by John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and Walt Disney. VIZ Media will release STARTING POINT: 1979-1996 in a new paperback edition on April 8th under the Studio Ghibli Library imprint with an MSRP of $16.99 U.S. / $19.99 CAN.

© 1996 Nibariki
© 1996 Studio Ghibli

TURNING POINT: 1997-2008 follows Hayao Miyazaki as his grand vision continued to mature, cinema-lovers worldwide discovered and embraced his creations, and prominent film critics such as Roger Ebert delivered tremendous acclaim for the director’s films. In his legendary career, these crucial years represent the turning point. In the mid-1990s, Miyazaki moved from success to success as his work found a fervent audience outside of Japan. His animated films of the era, including Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo, were internationally lauded, and Miyazaki won an Academy Award® in 2003 for his film, Spirited Away, which was a commercial and critical hit.

“These two memoirs focused on Hayao Miyazaki are extremely insightful and give tribute to the power of animation as an art form,” says Masumi Washington, Senior Editorial Director. “Both STARTING POINT and TURNING POINT offer collections of essays, interviews, and memoirs that go back to the roots of Miyazaki's childhood, the founding of Studio Ghibli and continues with essays and discussions focusing on some of his most popular films, including Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. A captivating must-read for any anime aficionado or fan of the entrepreneurial spirit, these new books are wonderful tributes to a true visionary’s unending dedication and skill as a master storyteller.”

Hayao Miyazaki is one of Japan's most beloved animation directors. His first feature, The Castle of Cagliostro, was released in 1979. His film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, based on his own manga, was released in 1984. In 1985 Miyazaki cofounded Studio Ghibli, through which he directed the box-office smashes Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001), which won the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival and the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature Film in 2003. Howl's Moving Castle (2004) received the Osella Award for technical achievement at the 2004 Venice International Film Festival. In 2005 VIFF awarded Miyazaki the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement. His other acclaimed films include My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Ponyo. Miyazaki's essays, interviews, and memoirs have been collected in Starting Point: 1979-1996 and Turning Point: 1997-2008. His final film, The Wind Rises, was nominated for both a Golden Globe and Academy Award®.

VIZ Media will also be releasing a stunning full-color hardcover edition, THE ART OF THE WIND RISES, based on Hayao Miyazaki’s latest and final feature film, on April 8th.

For more information on a variety of Hayao Miyazaki titles published by VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

Sentai Filmworks licenses HAIKYUU!!

Get set for the next volley as fierce rivals take their fight to the courts in Sentai Filmworks' latest acquisition, HAIKYUU!!. This high speed slice of life sports series from original creator Haruichi Furudate is directed by Susumu Mitsunaka (Cuticle Detective Inaba, Bunny Drop) with series composition by Taku Kishimoto (Silver Spoon, Tales from Earthsea), character designs by Takahiro Kishida (BTOOOM!, Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and animation production by Production I.G (Ghost Hound, Kuroko’s Basketball).

Synopsis: Shoyo Hinata may be a small guy, but he’s got big ambitions. Ever since he saw a short-statured volleyball pro dominate the scoreboards in the National Championship, he’s been determined to become the next big thing in High School Volleyball. Unfortunately, he’s barely played the game. The only time he was able to assemble enough players to form a team was in junior high, when the team suffered a crushing defeat in their first and only match against a team lead by up-and-coming setter Tobio Kageyama. Now, as his first year of high school begins, Shoyo’s finally getting the chance to join a real club and play with a real team.

There’s just one problem: Tobio Kageyama’s decided to attend the same school, and he’s established a reputation as being one of the best players in the game. Can this small fry hold his own against the King of the Court? Or could the rivalry and competition actually be the best thing for both of them? Get ready for a knock down, throw down, ultimate show down barrage of volleys, spikes, and blocks as Shoyo leaps for the glory and Kageyama aims for the stars in HAIKYUU!!

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Kenzo Okuzaki
The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On
Directed by Kazuo HARA
Japan, 1987, 122 minutes
When: Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 3:00 PM
Where: Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, NYC
Between 1st and 2nd Avenues
Buy tickets

This coming Saturday afternoon, Japan Society's Richie's Electric Eight: A Tribute to Donald Richie (1924-2013), Part 2  will feature this fascinating documentary about Kenzo Okuzaki. During World War II (or The Pacific War, as it's referred to in Japan), he served in the 36th Regiment in New Guinea, where conditions became horrendous, to say the least.

After the war, Okuzaki was in trouble with the law on several occasions. In 1956 he murdered a real estate broker and served 10 years hard labor. (Aside from his statement late in the film that he didn't want to kill the man he murdered, we unfortunately learn nothing of the circumstances of or reason for this crime.) In 1969, Okuzaki used a homemade slingshot to fire pachinko balls at Emperor Hirohito. For this he was sentenced to 1 year, 6 months of hard labor. In 1976 he scattered flyers with pornographic images of the Emperor, earning him a sentence of 1 year, 2 months.

Okuzaki was captured during 1944. Very few members of his regiment survived the war. Of those who did not, two died under mysterious circumstances, having been executed by a firing squad shortly after the war ended. The film is primarily a record of his efforts to learn the truth about what happened, and to get those who were responsible to accept their responsibility. This, at least in part, accounts for his enmity towards Hirohito, whom he blames for not apologizing for putting his soldiers in the position in which they found themselves.

His quest leads him to interview some of the few remaining soldiers who served in the garrison. When some are evasive or reluctant to answer his questions at all, Okuzaku is not above resorting to physical violence. A particular target of his is one Koshimizu, who had been the garrison's leader, and who changed his name to Muramoto after the war. Koshimizu becomes implicated in the execution of those two soldiers. He even may have delivered the coups de grace to the pair.

Okuzaki becomes increasingly violent during the course of the film and was once again sentenced to a lengthy prison term at the movie's end. Fanatical and self-righteous though he was, he managed to unearth things that speak of the lowest levels of behavior to which human beings are capable in their determination to survive, no matter what the cost.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, solidly recommended.

Afternote: Okuzaki died at the age of 85 in 2005 in Kobe Japan, about six years after his 1987 sentence was to have ended.


TM & © Cartoon Network.

A Dangerous Villain From The Past Returns To Threaten The
Very Existence Of Superhero Ben Tennyson And Partner Rook

VIZ Media dials up the action to 11 with the release of an exciting new original graphic novel adventure – BEN 10 OMNIVERSE: PARALLEL PARADOX – debuting on April 1st from the Perfect Square imprint. The latest release from the continuing BEN 10 OMNIVERSE series reunites the dynamic creative team of writer Joel Enos and artist Alan Brown.

BEN 10 OMNIVERSE: PARALLEL PARADOX is rated ‘A’ for All Ages and will carry a print MSRP of $7.99 U.S. / $9.99 CAN. A digital version will also launch on April 1st for $4.99 U.S. / CAN from the Perfect Square App, which offers titles for the Apple iPad® and iPad® Mini. The Perfect Square App is available from the iTunes store. Fans can also find a digital version for the NOOK, Kindle Fire, and Kobo ereaders, as well as in the iBooks and GooglePlay Stores.

In the series’ latest installment, an attempt to catch a thief who’s stealing tech from the inhabitants of Undertown puts Ben and Rook face-to-face with someone from their past whose very existence could mean the end of the world as we know it. To save the universe (again), Ben will have to make one of the hardest decisions of his life. Can he do it before the parallel paradox unravels the very thread of history itself?!

“PARALLEL PARADOX, Ben and Rook's latest adventure in the Omniverse, lets us reintroduce one of my all-time favorite Ben 10 characters back into the current storyline,” says writer Joel Enos. “We were able to come up with a surprising new way for her to interact with Ben that still stays true to her roots. In Parallel Paradox, there's more action, more mystery, and a whole lot more mind-bending Omniverse secrets!”

Perfect Square’s BEN 10 OMNIVERSE original graphic novels are inspired by Cartoon Network’s original animated Ben 10 Omniverse series that airs on Cartoon Network and is one of the network’s biggest global franchises. Ben Tennyson has been saving the universe with his partner, Rook, and his trusty Omnitrix, which allows him to use the DNA of aliens to take on heroic new forms. But he’s never encountered challenges quite like these!

BEN 10 OMNIVERSE writer/editor Joel Enos has worked on a variety of VIZ Media manga titles including NARUTO, YU-GI-OH!, and POKÉMON, as well as editing original comic series, MONSUNO and MAX STEEL, for the Perfect Square imprint. Joel wrote the story “Down in the Dumps” featured in BEN 10 OMNIVERSE: JOYRIDES, which was published earlier this year.

BEN 10 OMNIVERSE artist Alan Brown has a love of comic art and cartoons that led him to a career as a storyboard and concept artist for a busy London agency, working for clients such as Lego and Ford. As a freelance artist and designer he has also created a variety of licensed artwork for Disney, Warner Bros. and the BBC, while continuing to provide comic art for a variety of small press and independent comics publishers. Alan currently draws the BEN 10 OMNIVERSE graphic novel series for Perfect Square and also will be prominently featured in the imprint’s forthcoming release, BRAVEST WARRIORS: THE SEARCH FOR CATBUG.

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

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

GIRLS, GANGSTERS & ZOMBIES is available today on DVD

Switchblade Pictures
Girls, Gangsters & Zombies
Directed by Masahiro Asao
Japan, 2011, 77 minutes

Girls Gangsters & Guns, the latest sexploitation release from Switchblade Pictures, is available today in a single disc DVD edition. It's about a trio ripping off a shady drug deal, and is not to be confused with Girls, Guns and Gangsters (1959), a B-movie that's also about a heist, nor with Gangsters, Guns & Zombies from 2012.

The title is actually a bit of a misnomer, as there's only one "girl" in the film, aside perhaps from some incidental female zombies. Her name is Maki, and she's portrayed by -- as the DVD cover informs us --  AV (Adult Video) superstar Laura Aoyama. She's slim, very small-breasted, and has a long, rather snub nose. And she does, I must say, rock her fishnet stockings.

Maki's boyfriend Akio works is an underling to Mr. Awazu, a yakuza who has decided to "borrow" 70 million yen from "the family" to finance an independent meth deal with some Koreans. Awazu knows that the old man of the family wouldn't approve of the deal, which is why he's carrying it out on the Q.T. He truly intends to return the money before it's missed but only after he's made 100% profit on the "loan."

Things don't work out that way because Akio has come up with a plan to rip off the 70 mil. Maki and Kenji, the third accomplice, steal the suitcase with the money as Awazu, Akio and two others are on their way to buy the meth. The trio go to bury the money at Mt. Ryujin, a sinister place which the yakuza use as a dumping ground and where suicides are committed. It's also the site where the 731st Japanese Army Corps allegedly worked on a bacterial weapon during World War II.

In no time at all, betrayal breaks out amongst the trio, the gangsters come after the them to get the stolen yen back, and the undead are swarmin' all over Mt. Ryujin.

It's unfortunate that with such a promising title, the film doesn't really deliver. By my count there are five scenes that feature nudity, but they tend to be rather brief and not particularly hot in any way, shape or form. Director Asao either doesn't know how to film soft-core sex scenes very well or his "heart" just wasn't into it. Since he also wrote the screenplay, he must also bear the blame for a plot that falls way short of its promise. The acting is par for a Japanese direct-to-video (a.k.a. V-Cinema) film, not horrendous, but not particularly good either.

The disc's special features, such as they are, consist of the Japanese trailer for the film, trailers for some other offerings from Switchblade Pictures, and DVD credits.

Girls, Gangsters, & Zombies is not a terrible entry in the sexploitation genre, just a very mediocre one.

ACF Rating: 2 out of 4 stars; fair-to-middling.

For a much better Japanese girls and zombie film, though one admittedly without  gangsters, check out Big Tits Zombie ( a.k.a. Zombie Stripper Apocalypse and Big Tits Dragon) which stars Sor Aoi, another AV superstar.

Monday, March 24, 2014


The battle for supremacy will be anything but fun and games in Sentai Filmworks' latest acquisition, Problem children are coming from another world, aren't they? This otherworldly action comedy series is directed by Keizou Kusakawa (Campione, Ro-Kyu-Bu!) with series composition by Noboru Kimura (Amagami SS, Motto To Love Ru), music by Shiro Hamaguchi (Girls und Panzer), and animation production from diomedea inc. (Polyphonica Crimson S, Squid Girl).

Synopsis: On the world known as Little Garden, factions and communities compete for power via Gift Games, in which individuals with unusual abilities are set against each other. But where there are winners, there are also losers, and the group called the “No Names” has been so devastated in their conflicts with the Demon Lords that almost all of their 120 remaining members are still children! For surviving leaders Jin and Black Rabbit there seems to be only one hope: Bring in outside recruits and gamble that their new abilities will somehow reverse the tide!

Of course, Earthborn Izayoi, Asuka, and Yo don’t know any of this when they accept the invitation to come to Little Garden, nor do they know how dangerous the games actually are. Fortunately, all three are far more formidable than anyone can imagine, but before they can win the games, they’ll have to learn how to work together and with the other No Names… and the time they have to do that in is rapidly running out! Supernatural and fantasy collide as the ultimate battle for power begins in Problem children are coming from another world, aren't they?

Problem children are coming from another world, aren't they? will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

BLACK LAGOON digital manga sale


For A Limited Time, Lock And Load Big Savings On
Digital Edition Of The Hit Manga Series Through
VIZManga.com And Digital Partners; Print Version
Available From BarnesAndNoble.com

The bullets and high seas action flies off the page as VIZ Media unleashes special savings on Rei Hiroe’s smash hit manga (graphic novel) series – BLACK LAGOON. For a limited time, BLACK LAGOON, Volumes 1-9, (rated ‘M’ for Mature Readers) are available digitally each for $2.00 off the regular MSRP ($8.99) from VIZManga.com; a discount will be available as well as through the NOOK, Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and GooglePlay stores. Print editions are also available to order for 40% off the regular MSRP ($12.99 + s/h) from BarnesAndNoble.com (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/manga/379003481). The special promotion runs until April 2nd, and coincides with the debut of the Black Lagoon anime series on Toonami on Saturday, March 22nd.

VIZManga.com is the web-accessible North American portal to VIZ Media’s massive catalog of digital manga titles that spans more than 2,000 volumes across 180 different series. Fans can also purchase VIZ Media digital titles on the NOOK, Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and GooglePlay stores.

Lock n' load with the baddest group of mercenaries ever to hit the high seas of Southeast Asia! Aboard their World War II-era torpedo boat, the Black Lagoon, Dutch the Boss, Benny the Mechanic, Revy Two Hand, and Rock, the salaryman from Japan, deliver anything, anywhere. In the dangerous underworld of the Russian Mafia, Chinese triads, Colombian drug cartels, crazed assassins, and ruthless mercenaries, it's hard to know who to trust. But if you've got a delivery to make, and you don't mind a little property damage along the way, you can count on the crew of the Black Lagoon!

Creator/artist Rei Hiroe debuted his first manga series in 1993. His most notable work, BLACK LAGOON, has been published in Shogakukan's monthly magazine Sunday GX since 2002. The series is critically acclaimed for its unrelenting, fast-paced action, gritty stories and highly detailed array of weaponry and military hardware. Based on the success of the manga in Japan, BLACK LAGOON was also developed into a blockbuster animated series that gone on to garner substantial international acclaim and a fervent fan base.

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

Saturday, March 22, 2014

VIZ & WeLoveFine announce first-time ever BLEACH design contest

BLEACH Manga Creator Tite Kubo And Shueisha Series Editor Will
Personally Judge Fan Submissions, With The Grand Prize
Winner Receiving A Trip To Anime Expo 2014

VIZ Media has announced a special first-ever BLEACH design contest with BLEACH licensee WeLoveFine (WeLoveFine.com). Artwork submissions will be accepted through midnight on Tuesday April 8th, 2014.

Artistic fans across the U.S. are invited to tap their Bankai and create original and innovative designs that will have a chance to become officially licensed BLEACH t-shirts / merchandise. In addition to cash and other valuable premiums, one lucky winner will be awarded a Grand Prize package that includes airfare to Los Angeles, CA and a full show pass to attend Anime Expo 2014, July 3rd-6th, where they will meet the VIZ Media and WeLoveFine teams, and enjoy a fun weekend jam-packed with all things anime/manga. Grab your pens, tablets, mouse, or Zanpakutō and create that winning design today!

The contest’s judging panel includes BLEACH manga creator Tite Kubo and his series editor, Shueisha’s Yujiro Hattori, and representatives WeLoveFine, hip apparel retailer Hot Topic, and anime/manga/media site, Crunchyroll.com.

Full contest rules and a downloadable submission kit are available at: http://contest.welovefine.com/contest/79-bleach-design-contest#.UyNll_SwKCp.

All designs MUST incorporate characters and themes from the BLEACH anime and/or manga series. Art pieces should be scanned and submitted to WeLoveFine. Submittals must be 100% original and exact copies or tracing of BLEACH manga or anime will not be accepted.

One (1) Grand Prize winner will receive an all expense paid, 3-day 2-night trip to attend Anime Expo 2014, the nation’s biggest annual anime convention to be held in Los Angeles, CA, July 3rd-6th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Prize package includes an Anime Expo membership badge, 1 round trip airfare ticket (limited to U.S. domestic flights only) and lodging near the convention center.

Other valuable prizes will also be awarded. Three (3) runner-up Guest Judge's pick winners will each win a $300.00 Cash Prize. One (1) Hot Topic Pick winner will receive a $300.00 Cash Prize and have their design carried exclusively by Hot Topic; One (1) Crunchyroll.com Pick winner will receive a $300.00 Cash Prize and have their design carried exclusively by Crunchyroll.com; and One (1) WeLoveFine Pick winner will also receive a $150.00 gift certificate from WeLoveFine.com.

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

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 click here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

UGLYDOLL: MY HERO? original graphic novel coming April 1st

TM, ®, and © 2013, Pretty Ugly, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Latest Collectible UGLYDOLL Installment Features
10 Full-Color Superhero-Inspired Stories

VIZ Media delivers a whimsical new breed of pop culture champions with the debut of the latest original graphic novel release from the Perfect Square imprint. UGLYDOLL: MY HERO? launches on April 1st, is rated ‘A’ for All Ages and will carry a print MSRP of $7.99 U.S. / $9.99 CAN.

A digital version will also be available beginning on April 1st for $4.99 U.S. / CAN from the Perfect Square App, which has titles available for the Apple iPad® and iPad® Mini. The Perfect Square App is available from the iTunes store. Fans can also find a digital version of the title for the NOOK, Kindle Fire, and Kobo ereaders, as well as in the iBooks and GooglePlay Stores.

Do you need a hero? We do too. We want to help, we really do. But after all the suiting up, choosing powers, assembling a super team and rescuing cats from trees, there's no time for pie. And we really like pie. So maybe we're not cut out for saving the world. Don't you agree, Ice-Bat? Oh, wait, he's off defending the Uglyverse. We'll ask him when he's done. Right after we finish dessert.

MY HERO? features 10 full-color stories by veteran UGLYDOLL writer and artists Travis Nichols, Ian McGinty, and Phillip Jacobson. In this new release, Uglydoll co-creator Sun-Min Kim, Theo Ellsworth, renowned pop culture artist/writer Junko Mizuno, and two talented design teams from Japan—MAD BARBARIANS and DEVILROBOTS—also lend their considerable talents.

“Uglydolls may not be the first characters to come to mind when you think of super heroes, but they rise hilariously to the occasion in UGLYDOLL: MY HERO?,” says Traci Todd, Senior Editor, Children’s Publishing, “Frostbite, Ice-Bat's alter-ego, is back, and he's joined by a whole host of Ugly heroes... and anti-heroes. Some of the stories in MY HERO are epic, some are about cookies, but they're all about being true to yourself—the most heroic act of all.”

David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim are renowned for creating the world of Uglydoll. Inspired by a love letter David drew for Sun-Min, Uglydoll began as a line of handmade plush dolls and has since grown into an evergreen, multi-million dollar brand loved internationally by fans all ages. Their works can be found around the world, from the MOMA in Tokyo and the Louvré in Paris, to the windows of the Uglydoll shop in Seoul. Based on a vision to build a world that showed the whimsical twists and turns that make people unique, both inside and out, and to demonstrate how “ugly” means unique and celebrating who you are is the new beautiful. This UGLYDOLL comic is also inspired by some of Sun-Min and David’s personal heroes from the pop art and comic art world.

VIZ Media’s Perfect Square imprint focuses on delivering original comics, graphic novels and other books with an emphasis on strong storytelling, eye-popping graphics, empowering themes, and a dash of irreverence, that captures the imagination of a whole new generation.

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

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

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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

THE OLD SCHOOL KUNG FU FEST 2014 is coming to NYC April 18-20

in association with
Poster by Jerry Ma

April 18 – 20, 2014
at Anthology Film Archives

Rising from the ashes of Subway Cinema’s original underground Old School Kung Fu Fests of the early 2000s, the Old School Kung Fu Fest is back for its 2nd annual installment as a 3-day celebration of classic Asian martial arts and action films at Anthology Film Archives. This year, with the support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York, the Fest will celebrate the life and work of Lau Kar-leung (August 1936 - June 25, 2013), the man who was the soul of kung fu cinema.

Lau Kar-leung in Legendary Weapons of China

Throughout the Festival, special guests will introduce some of the screenings and share their personal insights on the lasting legacy of Lau Kar-leung: author Ric Meyers and Sifu Alex Richter, the chief instructor and president of the City Wing Tsun martial arts school in NYC.

The tribute to Lau Kar-leung will include a special New York premiere of an exhibition about his life and career, entitled My Way, Lau Kar-leung, which was previously shown in Hong Kong and Chicago.

Subway Cinema also has assembled a team of top local comic book artists and illustrators to create original artwork inspired by the films in this year’s lineup! The artwork will be on display at Anthology Film Archives for the duration of the Old School Kung Fu Fest.

Friday, April 18
36th Chamber of Shaolin
7:45pm - 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN

Saturday, April 19
1:00pm - 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN
Heroes of the East
7:45pm - Super Special Secret Screening!!!

Sunday, April 20
Dirty Ho
 7:00pm - DIRTY HO

Tickets: $10 general; $8 for students, seniors, & children (12 & under); $6 AFA members

For more information, visit www.subwaycinema.com, www.facebook.com/NYAFF and follow @subwaycinema on Twitter.

Anthology Film Archives is located at 32 Second Ave. at 2nd St.
Subway: F train to 2nd Ave; 6 train to Bleecker.

Web: http://www.anthologyfilmarchives.org
Twitter: http://twitter.com/anthologyfilm
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnthologyFilm

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

VIZ Media digital manga update

SHOKUGEKI NO SOMA © 2012 by Yuto Tsukuda, Shun Saeki /SHUEISHA Inc.

Catch the Digital-First Premiere Of Battle Cuisine Series
FOOD WARS! And The Return Of Fan Favorites

VIZ Media moves into March with the announcement of a brand new digital manga (graphic novel) update. Don’t miss today’s digital-first premiere of the titillating new Shonen Jump culinary battle comedy, FOOD WARS!: SHOKUGEKI NO SOMA (available August in print). Shojo drama TAIL OF THE MOON PREQUEL: THE OTHER HANZO(U) will launch on March 25th.

Also scheduled to debut during the second-half of month are CHIBI VAMPIRE and D.N. ANGEL, previously released in North America and returning to digitally only on March 25th at a MSRP of only $4.99 each (U.S. / CAN) from the VIZ Select imprint, dedicated to making select, fan favorite manga titles available in English once again, digitally.

These new releases and 25 other popular series featured on VIZManga.com and the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones and 7” tablets, as well as on the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and GooglePlay stores. With these dynamic platforms, fans can explore and enjoy a wide range of new and classic manga series that spans more than 2,100 volumes across 175 different series.

Additional notable updates for March include the exciting series finales for BLACK BIRD, CROSS MANAGE and FUSHIGI YUGI: GENBU KAIDEN, along with newly added volumes for BLUE EXORCIST, ONE PIECE, STROBE EDGE, PHOENIX, X 3-in-1 Edition, WHISTLE and many more. Also don’t miss double-volume updates for BASARA and BOYS OVER FLOWERS and a special triple volume serving of KNIGHTS OF THE ZODIAC.

New Series Now Available:

FOOD WARS!: SHOKUGEKI NO SOMA, Vol. 1 • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $6.99 (U.S. / CAN) • Debuting March 18th (Available August in print)
Soma Yukihira’s old man runs a small family restaurant in the less savory end of town. Aiming to one day surpass his father’s culinary prowess, Soma hones his skills day in and day out until one day, out of the blue, his father decides to enroll Soma in a classy culinary school! Can Soma really cut it in a place that prides itself on a 10 percent graduation rate? And can he convince the beautiful, domineering heiress of the school that he belongs there at all?!

PHANTOM THIEF JEANNE, Vol. 1 • Rated ‘T’ for Teens • MSRP: $6.99 (U.S. / CAN) • Available Now!
High school student Maron Kusakabe has a secret: she’s Phantom Thief Jeanne. She sneaks into private art collections to steal paintings in which demons reside. Jeanne’s task is to seal the demons before they can devour human hearts. So far she’s been able to evade the police on her midnight outings, but now another thief has come onto the scene – Phantom Thief Sinbad – and he’s trying to take the paintings before she does! Catch the launch of this new series by acclaimed manga creator Arina Tanemura (FULL MOON, THE GENTLEMEN'S ALLIANCE †, I.O.N., TIME STRANGER KYOKO; all titles also from VIZ Media)

New Titles Available March 25th:

TAIL OF THE MOON PREQUEL: THE OTHER HANZO(U) • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $6.99 (U.S. / CAN) • Available March 25th
A romantic ninja adventure! Kaguya doesn't remember who she is or why she has a huge scar on her back. Six months ago, she was found injured and unconscious in a field of bamboo. Now she works as a housekeeper and babysitter at a brothel, living her new life simply as ""Kaguya."" Kaguya's real identity is entwined with two men--Hanzou, a handsome bodyguard of Okazaki Castle, and Hanzo, a leader of the ninja village of Iga. Between amnesia and mistaken identity, no one knows for sure what kind of person Kaguya is. Only her distinctive scar will lead her to the truth...

CHIBI VAMPIRE, Vol. 1 • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $4.99 (U.S. / CAN) • Available March 25th
Karin is a cute little girl who also happens to be a vampire...with a twist. Once a month, she experiences intense bleeding from her nose--we're talking gushers! In other words, she's a vamp with blood to spare, so rather than stealing blood from humans she actually gives her blood to them. If done right, this can be an extremely positive experience that benefits the "victim" as much as the vampire. The problem is that Karin never seems to do things right!

D.N. ANGEL, Vol. 1 • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $4.99 (U.S. / CAN) • Available March 25th
Daisuke Niwa is an ordinary middle school student who has an inherited an interesting family tradition. Upon seeing Risa, the girl he adores, he transforms into a daring phantom thief. When the phantom thief sees his own object of desire, he turns back into Daisuke. The only way to cure this craziness is if Daisuke can get Risa to fall in love with him, but how can she love someone she can't see?

The free VIZ Manga App continues to be the top application for reading digital manga and features a massive library of the most popular series in the world. Through the innovative VIZ Manga digital platform registered users are able to use one account to view their purchased manga across more devices than ever. New series and volumes are added every Tuesday. Fans can also find these titles and more for the NOOK, Kindle Fire, and Kobo ereaders, as well as in the iBooks and GooglePlay Stores.

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

RANMA 1/2 available in Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set and Standard Edition DVD Set on March 25th

© Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan

One Of Anime Genre’s Greatest Titles Returns This Month
In New 3-Disc Blu-ray And DVD Sets That Feature
The Celebrated Series, Plus An Array Of Special Bonus Features

VIZ Media has announced the March 25th release of the first of seven sets of the venerable RANMA ½ anime series as a special new Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set and also as a Standard Edition DVD Set.

For the first time, all RANMA ½ episodes will be presented in their original Japanese series order. The Blu-ray Box Set carries an MSRP of $54.97 (U.S. / CAN) and features a special 3-disc set containing the first 23-episodes of the acclaimed martial arts action comedy, presented in full 1080p High Definition resolution for the first time, taken straight from the original Japanese Blu-ray masters giving fans the original, un-cropped 4:3 aspect ratio. The Standard DVD Edition is available with an MSRP of $44.82 (U.S. / CAN). RANMA ½ is rated TV-14.

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

The Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set comes packaged in a premium chipboard box with gold foil stamping with beautifully illustrated art by Rumiko Takahashi, and also includes a 64-page booklet with a full color episode guide along with a manga sampler from the brand new VIZ Media 2-in-1 omnibus release. Dialogue options are available for original Japanese with English subtitles or with dubbed English audio tracks, and a secondary subtitle track for signs and songs will also be included.

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

© Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan

The RANMA ½ Standard DVD Edition features 23 episodes presented with the original, un-cropped 4:3 aspect ratio, the 2013 New York Comic Con highlight reel, and official series trailers. Dialogue options are available for original Japanese with English subtitles or with dubbed English audio tracks.

“RANMA ½ is a groundbreaking series based on Rumiko Takahashi’s bestselling manga series and it has thrilled millions of fans across multiple generations since the late 80s,” says Charlene Ingram, VIZ Media Senior Manager, Animation Marketing. “The new must-own Blu-ray Box Set captures all the zaniness and over the top martial arts action of RANMA ½ Set One and is packed with lots of extra bonus features and other premium goodies for any fan of the series. We invite new and veteran fans to dive into the fun this month with this exceptional release from VIZ Media.”

RANMA ½ manga creator Rumiko Takahashi is one of Japan’s most prolific and respected manga artists and is the creator of several long running series including MAISON IKKOKU, RANMA ½, and INUYASHA – all published in North America by VIZ Media. The spotlight on her prolific career began in 1978 when she won an honorable mention in Shogakukan's annual New Comic Artist Contest for Those Selfish Aliens. Later that same year, her boy-meets-alien comedy series, Urusei Yatsura, was serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday. This phenomenally successful manga series was adapted into anime format and also spawned a TV series and half a dozen theatrical-release movies, all incredibly popular. Takahashi followed up the success of her debut series with one blockbuster hit after another— MAISON IKKOKU ran from 1980 to 1987, RANMA ½ from 1987 to 1996, and INUYASHA from 1996 to 2008. Other notable works include MERMAID SAGA, RUMIC THEATER, ONE-POUND GOSPEL, and RIN-NE (all also published in North America by VIZ Media).

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

Catch FLU on DVD today!

CJ Entertainment
Flu / Gamgi
Directed by KIM Sung-soo
South Korea, 2013, 122 minutes

The South Korean epidemic thriller Flu arrives in North America today in a single disc DVD edition from CJ Entertainment.

Kang Jigu (Jang Hyuk of The Client) is a member of a two-man Emergency Response Team in Bundang, a city with a population of just under a half a million people that is located near Seoul. He does most of the real rescuing while his partner tries to gab up any comely female who's nearby. One day Jigu rescues the driver of a car that, to avoid another vehicle, has fallen into a deep shaft where it is caught precariously on some wires. She is Kim In-hye (Su Ae, Sunny) who just happens to be an epidemic specialist at Bundang Hospital. In-hye is a single mother with a young daughter named Mirre who is played by Park Min-ha. Mirre is clever, brave, absolutely adorable and very funny, and I must say that Min-ha pretty much steals every scene she's in, she's that good.

A group of illegal immigrants from Hong Kong arrive in Bundang in a cargo container. Problem is that all but one of them are dead from a virulent form of flu! One of two brothers who come to pick up the "cargo" becomes infected and quickly spreads the disease. Meanwhile the sole survivor, a young man named Monssai, runs away.

As the disease quickly spreads, government officials employ the military to sealed off Bundang and to screen all its citizens for symptoms. Those who are not found to be infected are interned in the Tancheon Non-infected Quarantine Camp, which is set up by a river bank. Those with symptoms are totally segregated and subject to draconian measures. Jigu, In-hye and Mirre all find themselves in Tancheon, and although not infected they remain at great risk of contracting the disease.

Both within the camp and at Bundang hospital the search goes on to locate a cure for the epidemic, with efforts primarily focused on locating Monssai, whose blood, it is hoped, has anti-bodies that can be used to produce a vaccine. Pressure rises and tempers flare as officials debate releasing the non-infected -- and thereby risk possibly spreading the deadly disease -- or keeping them interned until a vaccine is developed, whenever that may be, if ever. As the non-infected become more restive in response to their prolonged confinement, an American "adviser" is prepared to resort to a most extreme measure to ensure containing the epidemic.

Flu, it should be apparent, shares much with other recent entries in the epidemic sub-genre of disaster films, namely Contagion (2011) and World War Z (2013). And it holds up well, especially considering it most certainly was made for much less than the estimated budgets of $60 million for Contagion and $190 million for WWZ.

Admittedly there are perhaps a bit too many coincidences in Flu. Also, some developments are rather far-fetched; here I'm thinking especially of one character managing to locate another in a huge pit filled with bodies (In the extras we learn that 1,000 dummies were used.) And things do get a bit overly melodramatic, particularly near the film's end.

But overall I found the film to be quite engrossing. I was concerned about the fate of the three main characters and found the variety of reactions of those both inside and outside the quarantine camp to be convincing for the most part.

Audio Options include four soundtrack choices:
- Korean 5.1 or 2.0 soundtracks with English Subtitles
- English 5.1 or 2.0 dubbed soundtracks

Bonus Features Include:
- “The Making of Flu” Featurette (20:45)
- Concept Art (11:06)
- Deleted Scenes (9:33)

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; a good movie, solidly recommended. CJ Entertainment also gets extra credit for the particularly fine DVD bonus features.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Well Go USA
 The Wrath of Vajra
Directed by Wing-cheong Law
Action director: Zhang Peng
China, 2013, 111 minutes

The Wrath Of Vajra is a martial arts action film set in China during World War II. It will debut tomorrow, Tuesday, March 18th on Blu-ray, DVD and digital (video-on-demand, electronic sell-through and streaming) from Well Go USA.

The story concerns a fictional Japanese death cult called Hades. During the 1930s it kidnapped poor children from China and elsewhere and trained them as assassins. During World War II it was disbanded because its strategy clashed with that of the Japanese military. Amano Kawao, its founder and spiritual leader was imprisoned and its members exiled. Faced with what the film describes as the "strong resistance" of the Chinese, the Japanese military decides to revive Hades to facilitate its total conquest of that country, and a Japanese prince meets with Amano in his prison cell to begin this process.

K-29 (right) with the kindly Shaolin elder

The Hades Shrine, reconstructed in China near the Southern Shaolin Temple in China, is headed by Kurashige Daisuke (Steve Yoo, Man of Tai Chi), who is assisted by a High Priest and numerous followers. Like others who as children were trained by the cult, Kurashige has a designation tattooed on his arm; his is K-28. Another member of the cult was K-29, who escaped from Hades, became a disciple at the Southern Shaolin Temple, and is now known as the King of Vajra (Shi Yenneng, a.k.a. Xing Yu, who was in Kung Fu HustleIp Man, & Shaolin and who here makes his debut in a leading role.) K-29 is a kung fu adept familiar with the 17-second Deadly Moves. He also harbors the terrible memory of having killed his brother, K-31, in a fight when they were children.

When the Hades Cult kidnaps Qingkong, a young monk from the Shaolin Temple, as well as a number of other children, K-29 goes to the shrine determined to set all the children free. There he finds that a number of prisoners of war, including three former members of Hades, are being forced to fight in the "killing game" that serves as training practice for cult members. K-29 himself must fight three opponents in succession:

K-29 (left) fights Tetsumaku

-- Tetsumaku Rai (Jiang Baocheng, Legendary Assassin), a massive fighter two meters tall
-- Crazy Monkey (Poppin Hyun-Joon, a trained dancer) who has incredibly sinuous and deadly moves
-- Hades Cult leader Kurashige Daisuke in the film's climactic encounter which takes place in the rain

The film is highly imaginative, almost an alternative history. Very little of it -- beyond the hatred of the Chinese for what the Japanese did to them during World War II -- has any basis in historical accuracy. Some of the dialogue could almost come from a fortune cookie. For example, K-29's kindly old master at the Shaolin Temple says: "Only when one's feelings are true can one trigger The Wrath of Vajra" and that when moderated by compassion, it is the true path.

Crazy Monky (dancer Poppin Hyun-Joon)

Ya Mei, in her first film role, provides some welcome estrogen in this understandably testosterone heavy film. She plays Amano Eko, the daughter of the founder of the Hades Cult. The character is a journalist at the cult's shrine and comes to serve as the one example of a "good Japanese" in the film.

Of course, the film's main reason for existing are the action sequences and here great credit must be given to action director Zhang Peng. He utilizes not only Shaolin Kung Fu (Shi Yenneng is both a martial artist and a former Shaolin month), but also Japanese martial arts, Sanda (a.k.a. Sanshou, a Chinese fighting style similar to Muay Thai and Kickboxing), and Tae kwon do (Steve Yoo's specialty). All three of the fights in which K-29 engages are well choreographed and filmed, but my favorite is the one that pitted him against Crazy Monkey. Incorporating parkour, it takes place on land, on the bridge leading to the Hades Shrine and in the water! In my opinion, it far and away has the best camera work of any of the film's action sequences.

K-29 (left) fights Kurashige Daisuke, a.k.a. K-28

The original soundtrack in Mandarin, Japanese and some English is available in both 5.1 and 2.0 versions. Both English and French subtitles are available. An English-dubbed soundtrack can also be selected, again either as 5.1 or 2.0.

Disc bonus features include a "Making Of" feature (25:46) that consists of six segments and a trailer for the film.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; recommended. While the story-line is highly fanciful, the martial art scenes are very well done and that's the real reason for coming to this dance.