With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

DETECTIVE K: SECRET OF THE LOST ISLAND coming to U.S. and Canada on March 6th

Korea’s hit period adventure comedy, Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island will be released in the U.S. and Canada on March 6, 2015 after topping the South Korean box office. The film earned a total $22.5 million from 3.1 million admissions since its February 11th release in South Korea.


Detective K and his loyal sidekicks Seo-pil return in this sequel to the 2011 hit film Detective K: Secret of the Virtuous Wido. When Kim Min, known throughout 18th century Korea as Detective K, stumbles upon a ring of smugglers flooding Korea with counterfeit silver, he feels duty-bound to escape his exile and stop this menace before the Korean economy is shaken to its core.

To solve the case, he enters a world of intrigue populated by gun-wielding courtesans and murderous bandits, but what he finds is an even darker mystery when the bodies of young slave girls wash up on the shore.

Can Detective K solve the mysteries with his trademark inventiveness and bring the criminals to justice?

KIM Myung-min plays Kim-min (Detective K), OH Dal-su plays Seo-pil, and LEE Yeon-hee plays Hisako.

Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island is distributed by CJ Entertainment, produced by Generation Blue Films, and presented by Showbox Media.

Friday, February 27, 2015

LIFE OF CATS exhibition coming to Japan Society NY starting March 13th

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861), Chrysanthemums from the series Eight Selected Flowers from the Garden, 184448.  Color woodblock print, 16 x 22 ½ inches. Courtesy Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation.
 Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection
When: Friday, March 13 – Sunday, June 7, 2015
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, NYC
(Between 1st and 2nd Avenues)

Since arriving in Japan aboard Japanese ships transporting sacred Buddhist scriptures from China in the mid-sixth century, cats have proceeded to purr and paw their way into the heart of Japanese life, folklore, and art. Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection illustrates the depth of this mutual attraction by mining the wealth of bravura depictions of cats to be found in ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the Edo Period (1615-1867).

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892), The Enlightenment of Daruma from an untitled series known as Sketches by Yoshitoshi, 1882. Color woodblock print; 22 ½ x 16 inches. Courtesy Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation.

Ninety ukiyo-e prints in the exhibition are on loan from the esteemed Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation whose holdings are revered in Japan. Select prints, paintings, sculptures, and other works borrowed from U.S. collections complement these prints, making the exhibition over 120 artworks. With cross-cultural and multi-generational appeal, Life of Cats takes viewers on a wild ride through Japan’s love affair with our feline friends.

Roughly 50 items will be replaced with new works halfway through Life of Cats—Rotation 1 will be on view from March 13 until April 26; Rotation 2 will be on view from April 29 until June 7.

Utagawa Kunisada II (1823–1880), Kashiwagi from the series The False Murasaki's Rustic Genji, 184854.
Color woodblock print; 22 3/8 x 36 7/8 inches. Courtesy Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation.

Life of Cats is divided into five sections: Cats and People, Cats as People, Cats versus People, Cats Transformed and Cats and Play.

Further information, including exhibition-related programming, two videos, and several examples of prints from each of the five sections, is available here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Remembering Hideo Gosha

Hideo Gosha on the set of Three Outlaw Samurai

Japanese director Hideo Gosha was born on February 26, 1929 in Akasake, Tokyo, Japan. He died on August 30, 1992 at age 63. From 1964 until his death he directed 24 feature films.

His first, Three Outlaw Samurai (1964), is an almost nihilistic view of the code of the samurai, rampant with failures of loyalty and betrayals. It recently came out in the U.S. in a Criterion Collection release. The transfer is, as one would expect, gorgeous. However, the only extra is a trailer, which is interesting to watch because several shots in it were replaced by others in the released film.

His second film, Sword of the Beast (a.k.a. Samurai Gold Seekers, 1965), is also available from Criterion. It's another tale in which betrayal plays a prominent role, leading to the protagonist fleeing his clan to live in the wilds like a beast. It, too, does not come with any significant extras.

Both films are must sees for anyone interested in samurai films in particular or Japanese cinema in general. Perhaps more of Gosha's films will become available in the coming years. Meanwhile, these will have to suffice to keep his memory alive on our flat screen televisions.

CLAYMORE and ROSARIO + VAMPIRE box set details


Sets To Feature Entire Series Runs For The Bestselling
Medieval Action Saga And High School Vampire
 Comedy With Exclusive Premium Items

VIZ Media details two substantial forthcoming manga (graphic novel) releases set for the Fourth Quarter that feature new complete series box sets for CLAYMORE and ROSARIO + VAMPIRE.

Both sets will be published under the Shonen Jump Advanced imprint and will arrive in time for the start of the 2015 Holiday shopping season. The CLAYMORE complete series box set releases in October and will include Volumes 1-27 of creator Norihiro Yagi’s epic medieval action saga. CLAYMORE is a riveting, multi-arc, character-driven action story that has been a New York Times manga bestseller. The ROSARIO + VAMPIRE set debuts in November and will contain BOTH “seasons” of creator Akihisa Ikeda’s acclaimed high school vampire drama in a special 24-volume manga box set edition. Both releases also will include a collectable premium.

CLAYMORE © 2001 by Norihiro Yagi/SHUEISHA Inc.

CLAYMORE COMPLETE MANGA SERIES BOX SET • Rated “T+” for Older Teens • MSRP: $214.99 U.S. / $249.99 CAN • Available October 2015
This box set contains Volumes 1-27, along with a booklet of cover images never before released in North America. In a world where monsters called Yoma prey on humans and live among them in disguise, humanity's only hope is a new breed of warrior known as Claymores. Half human, half monster, these silver-eyed slayers possess supernatural strength but are condemned to fight their savage impulses or lose their humanity completely.

ROSARIO + VAMPIRE © 2004 by Akihisa Ikeda/SHUEISHA Inc.

ROSARIO + VAMPIRE COMPLETE MANGA SERIES BOX SET • Rated “T+” for Older Teens • MSRP: 185.99 U.S. / $214.99 CAN • Available November 2015
This box set contains the original ROSARIO + VAMPIRE and the sequel series ROSARIO + VAMPIRE SEASON II for a total of 24 volumes, and also includes an exclusive full-color mini-comic. Average human teenage boy Tsukune accidentally enrolls at a boarding school for monsters—no, not jocks and popular kids, but bona fide werewolves, witches, and unnameables out of his wildest nightmares! On the plus side, all the girls have a monster crush on him. On the negative side, all the boys are so jealous they want to kill him! And so do the girls he spurns because he only has eyes for one of them—the far-from-average vampire Moka. On the plus side, Moka only has glowing red eyes for Tsukune. On the O-negative side, she also has a burning, unquenchable thirst for his blood...

For more information on these or other manga titles published by VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

KILLERS set to debut on home video April 7th from Well Go USA

 Directed by the "Mo Brothers" (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto)
Indonesia/Japan, 2014, 138 minutes

The Horror-Thriller from the Mo Brothers Debuts on Blu-ray™ & DVD April 7

Once you start, where do you stop? Killers the blood-spattered sophomore feature from the Mo Brothers (Macabre), debuts on Blu-ray™ and DVD April 7 from Well Go USA Entertainment. Produced by Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2), the horror-thriller features a psychopathic Japanese executive who accidentally triggers a journalist’s “dark side.” They begin to connect over the Internet and make a complicated bond.

The film stars Kazuki Kitamura (Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2), Oka Antara (The Raid 2), Rin Takanashi (Like Someone in Love), Luna Maya (My Blackberry Girlfriend) and Ray Sahetapy (The Raid).

Synopsis: A series of horrific murders just went viral, posted anonymously by the handsome and seductive Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura), a predator with a taste for torture. Thousands of miles away, disgraced journalist Bayu (Oka Antarra) can’t stop watching – and in a reckless moment discovers he, too, can kill. One man in Tokyo. One in Jakarta. A serial killer and a vigilante. As the posts multiply and the body count rises, a bizarre and psychotic rivalry begins – and the face-to-face showdown that’s coming will paint the city in blood.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

VIZ announces acquisition of ULTRAMAN manga series


Japan’s Most Famous Superhero Returns In A Sleek
New Original Manga Series Inspired By The Classic
Japanese Sci-Fi Action TV Show And Updated
For A New Generation Of Fans

VIZ Media, the largest distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, brings the action-filled adventures of one of Japan’s greatest superheroes to English readers later this summer as it announces the acquisition of the ULTRAMAN manga (graphic novel) series.

ULTRAMAN depicts a new story inspired by the original classic Japanese superhero TV show that ran in the late 1960s. The ULTRAMAN manga series was created by Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi and launches in print on August 18th under the VIZ Signature imprint. In Japan, the series currently appears in Hero’s magazine.

Decades ago, a being known as the Giant of Light joined Shin Hayata of the Scientific Special Search Party to save Earth from an invasion of terrifying monsters known as Kaiju. Now, many years later, those dark days are fading into memory, and the world is at peace. But in the shadows a new threat is growing, a danger that can only be faced by a new kind of hero – a new kind of ULTRAMAN… Shinjiro is an ordinary teenager, but his father is the legendary Shin Hayata. When he learns that his father passed on the “Ultraman Factor” to him, and that he possesses incredible powers, nothing will ever be the same again.

“Ultraman is Japan’s quintessential sci-fi superhero and has enjoyed massive popularity around the world for more than 40 years, and we are extremely proud to add the new manga series to the VIZ Media manga catalog,” says Mike Montesa, Editor. “With an exciting original story that expands the premise of the original 1960s TV show, ULTRAMAN is wonderfully updated for a whole new generation of fans. We look forward to continuing the ULTRAMAN legacy and to fans and readers discovering the series later this summer!”

For more information on ULTRAMAN or other manga titles published by VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

Monday, February 23, 2015

WHITE HAIRED WITCH to debut March 10th from Well Go USA

Well Go USA
White Haired Witch
Directed by Jacob Cheung
China, 2014, 104 minutes

Jacob Cheung’s (Twin Dragons) elaborate wuxia-fantasy White Haired Witch debuts on Blu-ray™, DVD and digital March 10 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The martial arts extravaganza is loosely adapted from Liang Yusheng’s novel Baifa Monü Zhuan and stars Fan Bingbing (Iron Man 3, X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Huang Xiaoming (Eastern Bandits, Ip Man 2) as a pair of star-crossed lovers whose love could change the fate of the nation. The films also stars Vincent Zhao (Wu Dang) and features action choreography by Stephen Tung (Saving General Yang).

Bonus features on White Haired Witch include a “Making-of” featurette.

Synopsis: In the twilight of the Ming Dynasty, the Imperial court is plagued by corruption as tyrants rule over the land. With the Manchurians preying on a weakened empire, war is imminent. To save the victims from their suffering, sorceress Jade Raksha fights the soldiers who oppress people for their own gain. As payback, local government officials decide to pin the murder of Governor Zhuo Zhonglian on Jade, turning her and the members of her cult into wanted fugitives for a crime they didn’t commit.

VIZ acquires Shonen Jump manga series MY HERO ACADEMIA


New Action Title From The Pages Of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP
Magazine About An Aspiring Teen’s Quest To Become A
Superhero Launches In Print And Digitally This Summer

VIZ Media has announced the acquisition of its newest title with the addition of MY HERO ACADEMIA to its extensive manga publishing catalog.

MY HERO ACADEMIA is a new breakout hit by Kohei Horikoshi, the creator of BARRAGE (also published by VIZ Media). His new series is rated ‘T’ for Teens and will launch in North America in August in print and also digitally across all territories serviced by VIZManga.com and the VIZ MANGA App. The title also will be available internationally from select VIZ Media content partners’ proprietary digital platforms.

MY HERO ACADEMIA is presently serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, which is published in Japan by VIZ Media parent company, Shueisha, Inc. The ongoing series also appears in the latest digital English editions of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP, which is published by VIZ Media on the same day as the Japanese counterpart with simultaneous, multi-territory global release. Current issues are available at www.shonenjump.com.

What would the world be like if 80 percent of the population manifested extraordinary superpowers called “Quirks” at age four? Heroes and villains would be battling it out everywhere! Becoming a hero would mean learning to use your power, but where would you go to study? U.A. High's Hero Program of course! But what would you do if you were one of the 20 percent who were born Quirkless? Middle school student Izuku Midoriya wants to be a hero more than anything, but he hasn’t got an ounce of power in him. With no chance of ever getting into the prestigious U.A. High School for budding heroes, his life is looking more and more like a dead end. Then an encounter with All Might, the greatest hero of them all gives him a chance to change his destiny…

“We're excited to launch full volumes for the popular MY HERO ACADEMIA, fresh from the pages of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP,” says Mike Montesa, Editor. “Though a cruel twist of fate makes life hard for aspiring hero Izuki, he is positive he’s destined for something greater, and fans will cheer for Izuki on his journey as his life changes forever when All Might bestows his superpower upon him!”

Manga creator Kohei Horikoshi was born in Aichi, Japan, in 1986. He received a Tezuka Award Honorable Mention in 2006, and after publishing several short stories in Akamaru Jump, he made his debut in Weekly Shonen Jump in 2010 with Oumagadoki Doubutsuen. The space battle fantasy adventure, BARRAGE, was his second series for Weekly Shonen Jump and is also published in English by VIZ Media.

For more information on MY HERO ACADEMIA or other manga titles published by VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

Retrospective of three feature films and one short by talented rising director Midi Z coming to Asia Society

 Homecoming Myanmar: A Midi Z Retrospective
When: March 6 - 13, 2015
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue at 70th Street, NYC

Asia Society New York will present the first U.S. survey of Myanmar-born, Taiwan-based filmmaker Midi Z (b. 1982), a rising talent in international cinema. The series includes all three of the director’s fiction features plus a short film. The director and actress Wu Ke-Xi, a regular of Z’s films, will appear in post-screening discussions.

Z has developed a signature style for his intimate and authentic portraits of people struggling with displacement and poverty on the margins of Myanmar society. Hailing from an ethnic Chinese family in Lashio, a small town in the eastern Shan state, Z draws inspiration from the people he is familiar with in this remote region with a porous border next door to China, Laos, and Thailand. Driven by social and economic hardship, they make ends meet drifting in-between worlds where smuggling and human and drug trafficking are rampant. Compassion and a documentary impulse guide Z’s camera as it quietly observes his characters’ actions and choices in a nonjudgmental manner. Mostly shot guerrilla-style in Myanmar, without official permission, the films also demonstrate formal rigor through meticulously crafted narrative structure and camerawork.

“This film series provides us with the opportunity to examine a rising cinematic voice and to explore how the filmmaker’s unique multicultural background has informed his representation of Myanmar, a country with over 130 officially recognized ethnic groups,” says La Frances Hui, Film Curator, Asia Society.

Born and raised in Myanmar, Z received a scholarship at the age of 16 to attend high school in Taiwan. He later earned a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Commercial Design at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. In order to cover all his expenses, Z worked as a construction worker, chef, graphic designer, photographer, and commercial director. His college graduation short Paloma Blanca (2006) was selected and presented by acclaimed film festivals including Pusan International Film Festival and Copenhagen Film Festival.

In 2009, he was selected to participate in the Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy under the tutelage of auteur Hou Hsiou-Hsien. Z’s debut feature Return to Burma (2011) was nominated for awards at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and Pusan International Film Festival. He went on to receive a Hubert Bals Fund to make his second feature, Poor Folk (2012).

If these two early features had called attention to Z as an emerging director to watch, his third feature, Ice Poison (2014), established him as a mature cinematic voice with a unique vision. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, won the Best Film award at the Edinburgh Film Festival, earned Z the Best Director Award at the Taipei Film Festival. The film is lauded in Taiwan as one of the finest films made in recent years.

Tickets: $8 members; $10 students/seniors; $12 nonmembers.

Click here for film descriptions and the program schedule, and to order tickets.

This film series is part of Myanmar’s Moment, a season of programming on Myanmar at Asia Society New York. The film series is programmed by La Frances Hui, Film Curator of Asia Society. Support for this series is provided in part by Taipei Cultural Center of TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) in New York.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

RANMA ½ Anime Series Set 5 box sets coming March 3rd from VIZ Media

© Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan

Latest Action Packed HD Episodes Of The Legendary Martial Arts
Comedy Arrive As A New 3-Disc Blu-Ray Collectable Box Set In
Early March; Standard Edition DVD Set Also Announced

VIZ Media delivers more RANMA ½ anime action and comedy to fans with the March 3rd home media release of Set 5 of the celebrated gender-bending martial arts action comedy based on the popular manga series created by Rumiko Takahashi.

RANMA ½ is being released as a series of 7 High Definition Limited Edition Blu-ray and Standard Edition DVD Box Sets. The RANMA ½ Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 5 carries an MSRP of $54.97 U.S. / $63.99 CAN. The set features Episodes 93-115 on 3 discs, presented in full 1080p High Definition resolution with the series’ original, un-cropped 4:3 aspect ratio. The Blu-ray edition also contains a 32-page booklet with individual episode summaries. Bonus features include clean openings and endings as well as series trailers and a special “We love Ranma Part 5 - We love Collecting” segment. The set comes in a gorgeously illustrated chipboard box with embossed foil stamping.

The RANMA ½ Standard Edition DVD Set 5 also features 23 episodes with the original, un-cropped 4:3 aspect ratio, and bonus features that include clean openings and endings and trailers. The Standard Edition DVD set is available with an MSRP of $44.82 U.S. / $51.99 CAN.

In the latest episodes, Sentaro, successor to Martial Arts Tea Ceremony, makes Ranma battle the grand master as his wife to break off his arranged marriage meeting! Though he has no intention of becoming a wife, Ranma's battle spirit heats up when faced with the strength of the grand tea master! After that, the world of martial arts gets even bigger with the introduction of Martial Arts Shogi, Martial Arts Dining, and Martial Arts Calligraphy. What will be the outcome of these battles? Ranma also continues to be surrounded by many weird friends. A new transfer student arrives at school named Gosunkugi, who instantly falls in love with Akane and tries to use curses to eliminate Ranma so he can have her all to himself! The hijinks just won't stop!

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 or other award-winning anime titles from VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

4th annual NY Japan CineFest is now accepting submissions

The 4th New York Japan CineFest, which will be held at Asia Society in New York in early June, is currently accepting submissions.

The program will be presented not only in New York but also in Boston, Washington D.C. and other cities.

Films need to be something to do with Japan or Japanese to be qualified for reviews.

The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2015. There is no submission fee.

Click here for the information about what must be included in the submission and for the email address to which it must be sent.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Free screening of HWAYI: A MONSTER BOY next Tuesday

Korean Cultural Service NY
Asia Society NY
Korean Movie Night
Series One: Fathers on Screen
 Hwayi: A Monster Boy / Hwayi: Gwimuleul samkin ahyi
Directed by Jang Joon-hwan
Starring: Yeo Jin-gu, Kim Yun-seok
South Korea, 2013, 125 minutes
US Premiere
When: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Where: Asia Society’s Lila Acheson Wallace Auditorium
725 Park Avenue, between 70th & 71st Streets, NYC
Free admission. First-come, first-served.

10 years after his feature debut with a fantasy thriller SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! (a film I really liked), director Jang has returned with an offbeat crime drama HWAYI: A MONSTER BOY. A gang of cold-blooded robber-killers, led by Yun Seok-tae (Kim Yun-seok, the detective in THE CHASER), has raised a boy Hwa-yi (Yeo Jin-gu) they once kidnapped as their own, teaching him all of their know-how and treating him as their communal son. Only when the teenager learns about his past on his first mission, does he turn against them and their kind, with increasingly violent, nihilistic and extremely bloody results.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

U.S. Premiere of Nagisa Oshima's IT'S ME HERE, BELLETT and 8 experimental shorts by Osamu Tezuka tomorrow evening at Japan Society

It’s Me Here, Bellett / Watashi no Beretto
Directed by Nagisa Oshima
Japan, 1964
When: Friday, February 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, NYC
(Between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
U.S. Premiere

Tomorrow night will mark the final event of The Dark Side of the Sun: John Zorn on Japanese Cinema film series, which has been marked by "lesser-known or unknown works" selected by the musician, composer and arranger. His picks have been idiosyncratic and quirky, to say the least, and this program is no exception. I had the good fortune to watch what will be shown on DVD screeners, so here's my report.

The main event is the U.S. premiere of Nagisa Oshima's It’s Me Here, Bellett. The Bellett was a sedan car that Isuzu began manufacturing in 1963. This mid-length movie is part of a promotional film originally made for television that was produced by the Directors Guild of Japan for Isuzu. This screening consists of three episodes directed by Nagisa Oshima, long before In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (984).

The first is about a two lovers whose romantic weekend is ruined over a quarrel, part of which involves the man's love for his Bellett. The second vignette is about an aspiring actor who buys a Bellett based on the advice of a powerful female producer, played by Akiko Koyama, Oshima’s wife. The final segment is about a male office worker who wants to end an affair with a female co-worker and devote himself to his wife. Again, a Bellett features prominently in the story line. (It should be mentioned that I also found it interesting that cigarette smoking is also very prominent. A sign of years gone by, I guess.)

As this is the first official screening of It’s Me Here, Bellett in the U.S., it's pretty much a must-see for Oshima fans, though it's far from the canon for which he is most well known. General viewers will probably find it a quaint period piece, an interesting time capsule, if you will.

The screening of Oshima's film will be preceded by 8 Experimental Shorts by Osamu Tezuka. Five were made during the 1960s, two in 1987, and the final short, "Self-Portrait" (a 13 second riff on the one-armed bandits at casinos) in1988. "The Genesis" (1968, 3 minutes) is an alternate take on the story of creation as told in the Old Testament and somewhat of a spoof on John Huston's 1966 epic, The Bible: In the Beginning. My personal favorite was "Muramasa" (1987, 8 minutes). Partially this is because it's a samurai tale. The other reason is that it is "pure" animation, having no dialogue whatsoever. The images are beautifully drawn and the only audio is flute and percussion accompaniment.

All eight of these experimental shorts were fascinating and most enjoyable to watch.

Tickets for Friday evening's program are $9 for Japan Society members, seniors & students, $12 for the others.

For complete program information, including descriptions of each of the Tezuka shorts, and to order tickets, click here.

Image © Tezuka Productions.

Oh, and don't forget about the special family-friendly screening of Legend of the Forest, Parts 1 and 2 on Saturday, February 21st at 2:00 pm. The first film was directed by Osamu Tezuka, the sequel by his son Macoto Tezka based on his father's notes and synopsis. Info and tickets here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Celebrate Chinese New Year at BFI Southbank on Saturday 28 February

Chinese Visual Festival is partnering with the BFI for a series of screenings at BFI Southbank, London for Chinese New Year on Saturday 28th February. There will be two sessions of the very best in independent Chinese-language documentary cinema.

The opening film Blossom with Tears, which was awarded the prestigious documentary prize by UNICEF, follows the grueling regime of young children in acrobatic training. An exceptionally moving story, the documentary unflinchingly draws attention to the severe realities that children in some parts of China are subjected to.

The spotlight then turns to Taiwan, firstly with the entertaining short documentary Crazy Calligraphy, following an eccentric artist called Kesan, who has devoted his life to reviving the dying art of Chinese calligraphy.

The first session closes with the stunning documentary A Rolling Stone from director Ko-Shang Shen, described by The Wall Street Journal as “A Rain Man for Taiwan” and as “a uniquely bracing film”. An absorbing, atmospheric and occasionally dark study of parental love and obsession, the deeply humanistic film follows a father struggling to take care of and confront his autistic 30 year old son.

The second session of the day features Zheng Kuo’s award winning documentary The Cold Winter, which highlights the struggle of artists near Beijing’s famous Art Zone as they try to protect their land in the face of threats and violence. The film includes high profile art rebel Ai Weiwei and some fascinatingly ambitious and creative protests, and offers rare access to the artists themselves. Zheng Kuo takes a fair and objective view, and through often unflattering portraits of the artists and their actions, he explores not only the ills of bureaucracy, but the role of democracy in the so-called ‘harmonious society’ of China.

There will also be some exciting announcements about the 2015 festival which will open on May 8th 2015 in London.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

NO TEARS FOR THE DEAD is available today on Blu-ray and DVD

 CJ Entertainment
No Tears for the Dead / U-neun nam-ja
Written and Directed by LEE Jeong-beom
Starring JANG Dong-gun and KIM Min-hee
South Korea, 2014, 116 minutes

No Tears for the Dead , a very fine action thriller from South Korean director LEE Jeong-beom (The Man From Nowhere), debuts today February 17th on Blu-ray and DVD from CJ Entertainment. This review is based on watching the Blu-ray version, which has some exclusive bonus features, described below, that are not included on the DVD.

JANG Dong-gun (FriendWarrior’s Way) is Gon, a top hit man for the criminal underworld. On one assignment he unintentionally kills an innocent young girl. He is then tasked with killing her mother, CHOI Mogyeong (KIM Min-hee, HelplessVery Ordinary Couple), who is one of three individuals who may have received a computer file that Gon's bosses desperately want retrieved. But Gon is filled with remorse and instead of taking out his designated target, he does all he can to protect her from the other bad guys who are also after her.

Gon (actor JANG Dong-gun)

The film has terrific action scenes. These involve lots of gun-play, some serious knife and unarmed fighting, as well as some vehicular mayhem. Some of the action scenes in No Tears for the Dead are right up there with great scenes in both of The Raid movies and John Wick, which is high praise indeed.

Disc Statistics
- Audio Options:
   § English 5.1 or 2.0
   § Korean 5.1 or 2.0 with English subtitles (Note that there is a good bit of dialogue, particularly at the beginning that is in English. So don't think that something's wrong if you select one of the Korean soundtracks and hear English being spoken.)
- Blu-ray and DVD Bonus Features Include: 
   § “The Making of No Tears for the Dead” featurette
   § Director’s Commentary
- Blu-ray Exclusive Features Include Everything on the DVD, plus: 
   § Deleted Scenes
   § Brian Tee Interview
   § Character Spot: Mogyeong
   § Character Spot: Gon
   § Behind the Scene
   § Action Highlights

Mogyeong (actress KIM Min-hee)

I must say that “The Making of No Tears for the Dead” featurette is one of the best I've ever watched. It really addresses interesting issues, ranging from how certain complex stunts were planned and filmed to how Director Lee chose using Danny Boy as the song that Mogyeong sings. Director LEE even says on camera that the film, as a theatrical release in South Korea, was not a hit.

The Blu-ray and DVD release of No Tears for the Dead should convince western viewers that it deserved a better reception. While the film has some minor faults, such as a somewhat lengthy section in the middle that has only two short action vignettes, overall it's a really good watch. And I'm very interested in watching it again with the Director's Commentary, something I rarely have any desire to  do.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended, most definitely on Blu-ray with its additional exclusive bones features.

Monday, February 16, 2015

VIZ named North American licensee of TERRA FORMARS anime property


Leading Manga Publisher And Anime Licensor To Manage
The Licensing And Development Of A Range Of Products
Based On The Acclaimed Sci-Fi Creature Thriller

VIZ Media has been named the official North American master merchandise licensee for TERRA FORMARS.

VIZ Media will license and manage the development of a range of consumer and collectable products based on the edgy sci-fi horror anime series. The first of these are scheduled for release later this year.

In TERRA FORMARS, after humanity’s first manned mission to the Red Planet was lost a second expedition arrives. The explorers prepare to exterminate the cockroaches that were used to transform the Martian environment, but are shocked to discover that the insects have mutated into giant, aggressive humanoids with one overriding goal – exterminate the humans! However, this crew of explorers has each undergone the “Bugs Procedure,” terrifying experimental surgery designed to make them more than human…

“TERRA FORMARS is a gripping series well-suited for product development for the substantial North American market, and its strong characters and hyper-detailed artwork have captivated a substantial and growing fan base,” says Daisuke Aoki, VIZ Media’s Vice President of Licensing. “We look forward to working with leading manufacturing partners to develop TERRA FORMARS for the consumer product space and give fans of the series a range of unique and high quality products!”

For more information on TERRA FORMARS or other licensed properties available from VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

VIZ developing feature film based on THE STREET OF FRUITING BODIES


BATMAN Screenwriter Sam Hamm To Develop Script
About An Infestation Of Deadly Hallucinogenic Spores

VIZ Media has announced that its Los Angeles-based film development division, VIZ Productions, is developing the haunting short story, “The Street of Fruiting Bodies,” by famed Japanese author Sayuri Ueda into a feature film, and has retained Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm to write the adaptation.

“The Street of Fruiting Bodies” depicts the sudden spread of a mysterious and lethal species of hallucinogenic mushroom. The infestation is deadly, but it also offers visions of deceased loved ones to the infected, hinting at the reality of an afterlife, or at least a new kind of existence that is beyond human comprehension. Ueda’s story appeared in the anthology, PHANTASM JAPAN, which collected works by several bestselling authors from both the United States and Japan and was published in English in 2014 by VIZ Media’s Haikasoru literary imprint. More information on the book is available at: http://www.haikasoru.com/phantasm-japan.

Jason Hoffs, Head of Production at VIZ Productions, says the story is well suited for feature film adaptation. “Sayuri Ueda turns the ‘killer virus’ concept on its head with an agent that strikes at our emotions rather than our bodies. We hope to marry the pace of a riveting popcorn movie with a compelling meditation on life-after-death, love and memory, and God."

Screenwriter Sam Hamm is best known for his script for the 1989 Tim Burton film, Batman, and also adapted short fiction for Showtime’s Masters of Horror series. He says of the new project, “Ueda creates a world in which the most profound human emotions – love, grief, longing, and hope – can lead to one's salvation or one's undoing, and the true horror is that it may be impossible to tell the difference. ‘The Street of Fruiting Bodies’ is not only disturbing, it is moving.”

VIZ Productions coordinates the licensing of Japanese entertainment media (manga, books and film) to North American-based film studios. The company’s most recent project was 2014’s sci-fi action feature, Edge of Tomorrow, which was co-produced by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures and starred Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton. The film was based on the novel, ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and available in English from VIZ Media’s Haikasoru imprint. VIZ Productions is also currently developing a feature film adaptation of the hit manga property DEATH NOTE.

For more information on anime, manga and film titles published and distributed by VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Birthday, Moon Lee!

Moon Lee in Killer Angels in a screencapture from an old VHS tape

Hong Kong actress Moon Lee was born on February 14, 1965. IMDb lists forty-one film and TV credits for her as an actress from 1980 to 1998.

Midnight Angels (1987) was a.k.a. Fighting Madam

She's probably best known, at least in the U.S., for her starring roles in numerous "girls-with-guns" films. Cute, petite and slim of build, she nonetheless was quite capable of handling demanding action scenes, whatever the genre.

Killer Angels (1989)

Ms. Lee currently lives in Denver Colorado.

So, Happy Birthday wishes to you, Moon Lee! Thanks for all your memorable performances.

Review of THE PIRATES on Blu-ray

Well Go USA Entertainment
 The Pirates/Hae-jeok: Ba-da-ro gan san-jeok
Directed by LEE Seok-hoon
South Korea, 2014, 130 minutes

The South Korean swashbuckling blockbuster The Pirates was recently released on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital from Well Go USA Entertainment. (See my release announcement post here.) This review is based on watching the Blu-ray, which is gorgeous.

The film is set in the late 1300s, around the time of the founding of the Joseon Dynasty. The Ming Emperor of China has given the new dynasty its name and a royal seal that will be necessary to make any and all decrees official. Unfortunately, as Korean emissary HAN Sang-jil (OH Dal-su) is bringing it back to Korea, a whale attacks the ship he is on and swallows the seal! Fortunately the broken off flag pole from the ship is stuck in the whale's back, making it easily identifiable.

Pirate captain Yeo-wol (actress SON Ye-jin), center, and some of her crew

The whale is hunted by pirates and bandits, as well as by government officials, all seeking to retrive the royal seal. Captain Yeo-wol (actress SON Ye-jin, of Blood and Ties) leads one ship of pirates.

Sa-jung, a.k.a. "Crazy Tiger," (actor KIM Nam-gil), lower left, and some of his bandits

The bandits, on another ship, are led by JANG Sa-jung (actor KIM Nam-gil, of No Regret), a former military officer known as "Crazy Tiger" after he became leader of a gang.

Government officials and another pirate captain are on a third ship.

Pirate turned bandit Chul-bong (YOO Hae-jin)

Chul-bong (YOO Hae-jin, Flu) provides some of the delightful comic relief as a pirate who suffers from seasickness, leaves the ocean and joins Sa-jung's mountain bandits, only to return to help his men hunt the whale!

Disc Specs:
- Audio Options
   - Korean 5.1 DTS HDMA
   - Korean 2.0 Stereo
- Subtitles
   - English
   - Off
- Extras
  - Trailer
  - Previews (trailers of three other Well Go USA offerings)

The Pirates was the #4 hit at the South Korean Box Office in 2014 with over 8,665,000 admissions. (Roaring Currents, another South Korean film with a nautical theme, was #1, followed by two Hollywood films, Frozen and Interstellar.) Son Ye-jin was named Best Actress at the South Korea's Grand Bell Awards in 2014.

The Pirates is a terrific, fun romp, with plenty of action and adventure, a bit of romance, and some very fine special effects. I previously saw the film at a free screening sponsored by the Korean Cultural Council on September 23, 2014, and my enjoyment at watching it again attests to its repeat viewing value.

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

TIGER & BUNNY THE MOVIE: THE RISING release set for Feb 24th


Anime Action Film Adventure Based On Smash Hit Japanese
Superhero Franchise Debuts On DVD And Blu-ray/DVD
Combo Pack Filled With Special Bonus Features

VIZ Media has announced the home media release of TIGER & BUNNY THE MOVIE: THE RISING, available on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack on February 24th.

Inspired by the hit anime and bestselling manga (graphic novel) series about the adventures of a pair of corporately sponsored superheroes, the full-length animated film release also contains a variety of bonus features. The standard DVD edition and Blu-ray Combo Pack both include official theatrical trailers and promotional videos as well as exciting footage from the film’s San Francisco premiere event, a TIGER & BUNNY TV series special digest, and clean opening and closing segments. Bonus features available exclusively on the Blu-ray Combo Pack edition include specialty print foil O-card, an insightful interview with producer Kazuhiko Tamura, a video production art gallery, a Hero Weekly Countdown, and a compilation of TIGER & BUNNY commercials. English dubbed as well as subtitled dialogue options are available on both formats.

The TIGER & BUNNY THE MOVIE: THE RISING Standard Edition DVD carries an MSRP of $19.98 U.S. / $24.98 CAN. The Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features full 1080p High Definition resolution and carries an MSRP of $29.99 U.S. / $37.48 CAN.

The heroes of TIGER & BUNNY are back in an all-new feature-length film! Kotetsu T. Kaburagi, a.k.a. Wild Tiger, and Barnaby Brooks Jr.'s partnership comes to a sudden end when Apollon Media's new owner Mark Schneider fires Kotetsu and moves Barnaby back into the First League, paring him up with Golden Ryan, a new hero with awesome powers and a huge ego to match. When the heroes are sent to investigate a string of strange incidents tied closely to the city's Goddess Legend, they discover three super-powered NEXTs are plotting to bring terror and destruction to Stern Bild.

“Fans will definitely enjoy the latest adventures of Japan’s most potent band of corporately sponsored superheroes in this all-new theatrical release,” says Charlene Ingram, Senior Animation Marketing Manager. “TIGER & BUNNY THE MOVIE: THE RISING picks up after the events of the popular TV series and introduces some dynamic new characters along with a sinister new threat to the city of Stern Bild. The Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack is a definitive edition containing plenty of extras to make it a worthy addition to any fan’s collection. Get ready for some intense super-powered superhero excitement in this exhilarating new action adventure!”

The TIGER & BUNNY manga series features artwork by Mizuki Sakakibara and is based on the smash hit animated series by the famed anime studio Sunrise that has also thrilled legions of fans across North America. In the TIGER & BUNNY anime and manga series, Stern Bild is a metropolitan city where superheroes called NEXT help to maintain peace. Sporting sponsor logos on their suits, these heroes work to solve cases and save people’s lives in order to earn Hero Points, while also helping to improve the public image of their corporate sponsors. Their activities are documented and broadcast by the popular show “HERO TV,” in which each superhero strives to become the “King of Heroes” of the year.

VIZ Media is the distributor of the TIGER & BUNNY manga series (rated ‘T’ for Teens), which features artwork by Mizuki Sakakibara and is based on the massively popular animated series, created by the famed Tokyo-based anime studio Sunrise. VIZ Media also licenses and distributes the popular TIGER & BUNNY feature film and anime series that are available on DVD/Blu-ray.

More information on the TIGER & BUNNY anime is available at: www.facebook.com/TigerAndBunny and VIZAnime.com/tiger-and-bunny/

For more information on TIGER & BUNNY or other titles available from VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.

Friday, February 13, 2015

ODE TO MY FATHER passes $2 million at U.S. box office

Yun-jin KIM (left) and HWANG Jung-min

Second Most Watched Korean Movie of All Time
Behind Last Summer’s The Admiral: Roaring Currents

Ode To My Father, the larger-than-life tale of an ordinary man’s journey through extraordinary moments in South Korean history surged past the two million mark at the US box office today. The milestone comes 5 weeks (33 days) after being released nationwide. Ode to My Father is currently playing at 18 theaters in North American markets including Los Angeles, San Francisco, the greater New York City area, Washington DC, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Honolulu, Dallas, Toronto and Vancouver.

In Korea this past weekend, Ode to My Father has become the second most-watched Korean movie of all-time with over 13M admissions, second only to The Admiral: Roaring Currents, which was released last summer, also by CJ Entertainment. The Admiral grossed $2.6M in North America and tallied 17M admissions in Korea.

Separate from the film’s success at home and in the US, Ode to My Father is currently being featured at the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama Section.

For US show times visit www.CJ-Entertainment.com or the official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CJEntertainmentUSA.

Synopsis: Ode To My Father follows Deok-su, a completely ordinary man as he is forced to overcome the challenges put forth by modern history’s most significant events. Award-winning Director JK YOUN has noted that the film is a tribute to his father’s generation on whose shoulders modern Korea was built.

As a child, Deok-su loses his father in the chaos of evacuating the North Korean city of Hungnam during the Korean War. His father’s last words to his son were an oath that he would always protect their family. As he grows older, that vow leads him to the coal mines of 1960’s Germany and even into the jungles of the Vietnam War.

Ode to my Father stars HWANG Jung-min (New World, The Unjust) as Deok-su and Yun-jin KIM (Lost, Mistresses) as Deok-su’s wife, Yeong-Ja.