With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TATARA SAMURAI to open theatrically this Friday, June 2nd

Eleven Arts
Tatara Samurai
Directed by Yoshinari Nishikori
Japan, 2016, 120 minutes

Following a massively successful festival circuit, ELEVEN ARTS has licensed North American distribution rights to Yoshinari Nishikori’s award-winning period action-drama TATARA SAMURAI. The Los Angeles-based distribution company, whose recent titles include THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN, UZUMASA LIMELIGHT, and SAILOR MOON R: THE MOVIE, has set June 2nd for the theatrical release of the film in the U.S., which is produced by EXILE HIRO.

TATARA SAMURAI is the latest feature from director Yoshinari Nishikori, whose films, KONSHIN and RAILWAYS were box office smashes in their native Japan. His latest historic epic stars Sho Aoyagi (YAKUZA APOCALYPSE), pop star Naoki Kobayashi, Tomoko Tabata, and Anna Ishii.

Gosuke (Aoyagi), a young villager in Sengoku Period Japan, is trained to be a blacksmith, but seeks to become a warrior. After joining the army of Oda Nobunaga, he begins to question whether swords are a viable defense against the new technology of firearms - but soon discovers that his skill as a blacksmith might very well be the most powerful weapon he has to protect his home.

For a list of the cities and theaters where Tatara Samurai will be playing, click here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

SEOUL STATION is now available in U.S. exclusively on iTunes

Seoul Station
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho
South Korea, 2016, 92 minutes

Seoul Station, the animated prequel to the live-action hit Train to Busan arrives on iTunes exclusively in the U.S. today, Tuesday, May 30th. Both films are from visionary director Yeon Sang-ho, who also directed The King of Pigs (2011) and The Fake (2013).

A man sleeping in Seoul Station becomes a catalyst for the pandemonium in downtown Seoul; a zombie apocalypse. The rapidly spreading infection propels an authentic family drama, drawing mordant parallels to real-world social horrors.

Seoul Station is a fresh and terrifying take on the modern zombie film. Lots of thrills, chills and surprises.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended

Friday, May 26, 2017

FLYING COLORS will return to Japan Society next Friday, June 2nd

Japan Society NY
Flying Colors / Eiga Birigyaru
Directed by Nobuhiro Doi
With Kasumi Arimura, Atsushi Ito, Shuhei Nomura,
Tetsushi Tanaka, and Yo Yoshida
Japan, 2015, 117 minutes
DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles

When: Friday, June 2nd at 7:00 PM
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC

Winner of the inaugural JAPAN CUTS Audience Award in July 2016, the irresistible crowd-pleaser Flying Colors returns to Japan Society for an encore screening in anticipation of the upcoming 11th edition of JAPAN CUTS. Based on an inspiring true story, this smash-hit comedic drama stars Kasumi Arimura as a ditzy high school material girl who is unexpectedly encouraged by an overly-optimistic and unconventional cram school teacher to apply for admission to one of the toughest universities in Japan. Full of heart and big laughs, Flying Colors could easily be considered Japan's winking response to Legally Blonde.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

RAILROAD TIGERS debuts on digital today; will be coming to Blu-ray & DVD on June 20th

Well Go USA
Railroad Tigers
Directed by Ding Sheng
China, 2016, 125 minutes

Hong Kong’s cheeky, lovable and best-known film star Jackie Chan (Rush Hour franchise) reunites with Director Ding Sheng (Little Big Soldier) for a third time with Railroad Tigers, debuting on digital today, Tuesday, May 9th and on Blu-ray™/DVD Combo Pack and DVD June 20th from Well Go USA Entertainment.

With his patented blend of martial arts action and comedy, Chan plays a railroad worker in 1941 China who leads a team of freedom fighters against the Japanese in order to get food for the poor. The action-packed Railroad Tigers also stars Huang Zitao (Edge of Innocence), Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee Chan (1911), Wang Kai (The Golden Era), Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (Ip Man), Ping Sang (Saving Mr. Wu), Alan Ng (Young Bruce Lee) and Darren Wang (Our Times).

In this action-comedy caper hearkening back to Jackie Chan’s classic Hong Kong films, a railroad worker (Chan) and his ragtag group of freedom fighters find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks when they decide to ambush a heavily armed military train filled with desperately needed provisions. Unarmed and outnumbered, they must fight back against an entire army using only their wits, in a series of dazzling set pieces and action scenes rivaling anything seen on the big screen.

Bonus Materials Include:
-- Five Featurettes:
    -- “Director’s Featurette”
    -- “The Dangers of Shooting”
    -- “The Making of ”
    -- “VFX Featurette”
    -- “The Characters”
-- Trailers

Friday, May 05, 2017

Godzilla Legend - Music of Akira Ifukube - live performance at Japan Society NY reviewed

Special guests Charan-Po-Rantan and Makigami Koichi (center) performed in Godzilla Legend—Music of Akira Ifukube at Japan Society on April 28, 2017. The concert was conceived and arranged by Inoue Makoto (far left) and performed by the band Hikashu and other special guest musicians. Photo by Ayumi Sakamoto. 

Last Friday, April 28th, I had the extremely good fortune of having a press seat at Japan Society's presentation of Godzilla Legend - Music of Akira Ifukube, a live performance by the innovative and talented Japanese band Hikashu, which was founded in 1978, and several guest artists.

The Godzilla Legend project leader was Inoue Makoto, a founding member of Hikashu, who plays synthesizer. Although he left the group in 1991 to pursue other projects, he still performs with them for the Godzilla Legend concerts. He arranged several Ifukube compositions for Hikashu's debut concert and has been involved in several other Ifukube-related projects, as well as serving as score manager on the Shin Godzilla film (2016). At Friday night's performance, he also provided brief introductions to the event's six sections.

The current members of Hikashu include:

- Makigami Koichi (vocals, theremin, gong); a co-founder and now the current leader of Hikashu
- Mita Freeman (lead guitar)
- Sakaide Masami (bass guitar)
- Shimizu Kazuto (piano, synthesizer)
- Sato Masaharu (drums)

Appearing as guest artists were:

- Tatsumi Kogoro (trumpet)
- Goto Atsushi (trombone)
- Yoshida Ryuichi (baritone sax)
- Charan-Po-Rantan, a sister duo comprising vocalists Momo and her older sister Koharu, the latter who also plays accordion

If you are familiar with Frank Zappa and his group the Mothers of Invention, and can imagine him as a Japanese musician in love with Ifukube's Godzilla music, you'll have some idea of what the performance was like. If I had to use one word to describe the evening, it would be "spectacular."

After performing the planned program of music from various Godzilla movies, including the 1954 original, Rodan (1956), Mothra (1961), and others, the band came back onstage for  two-number encore. A vocal number was followed by an incredible version of the original Godzilla theme that built to a rousing crescendo.

I didn't see anyone still in their seat after this final number ended, but if anyone was, I'm sure it must have been due to a medical infirmity.

It was one of the best concert's I've ever attended, and I've seen Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and other great musicians perform live.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Dante Lam's OPERATION MEKONG available on digital today; coming to Blu-ray and DVD on June 6th

Well Go USA
Operation Mekong / Mei Gong he xing dong
Directed by Dante Lam
China/Hong Kong, 2016, 124 minutes

Members of an international task force seek justice against the leader of an Asian drug cartel and his murderous henchmen in the action-packed thriller Operation Mekong. Inspired by a true story, acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker Dante Lam (Stool Pigeon, Unbeatable) brings his “shoot first, ask questions later” cinematic approach to this violent crime thriller, which stars Zhang Hanyu (The Taking of Tiger Mountain), Eddie Peng (Tai Chi Hero), Chen Baoguo (Moment in Peking), Sun Chun (1911), Feng Wenjuan (Helios), Wu Xudong (The Taking of Tiger Mountain) and Carl Ng (The Viral Factor).

Operation Mekong blasts onto digital today, Tuesday, May 2 and explodes in a Blu-ray™/DVD Combo Pack and on DVD on June 6th from Well Go USA Entertainment.

A band of elite narcotics officers are sent by the Chinese government to uncover the truth behind the ambush of two Chinese commercial vessels traveling down the Mekong River. When it’s discovered the drugs seized from the ships had been planted by a notorious drug cartel, a multi-country joint task force is assembled to stop the criminals. The road to justice is, however, paved with dangerous and deadly obstacles.

Bonus Materials Include a 6-Part “Making of” Featurette:
-- Uncovering the Truth
-- The Team
-- The Secret Mission
-- The Journey
-- Two Heroes
-- A Force of Nature

Ringo Lam's SKY ON FIRE available on digital today, Tuesday, May 2nd; coming to Blu-ray & DVD on June 13th

Well Go USA
Sky on Fire / Chongtian huo
Directed by Ringo Lam
China/Hong Kong, 2016, 100 minutes

Legendary filmmaker Ringo Lam (City on Fire, Full Alert) returns to his Hong Kong roots with Sky on Fire, the explosive crime drama packed with high-speed car chases, dramatic plot twists and fiery gunfights. The film also marks Daniel Wu’s return to Asian cinema following his stateside success on the TV series “Into the Badlands” and the international blockbuster Warcraft: The Beginning.

Wu plays a security officer who becomes embroiled in an epic battle to protect stem cell research, which can potentially cure cancer, from falling into the wrong hands. The film also stars Zhang Ruoyun in his feature film debut, Zhang Jingchu (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation), Chang Hsiao Chuan (Wild City) and Amber Kuo (Lord of Shanghai).

Sky on Fire blasts onto digital today, Tuesday, May 2nd and on Blu-ray™ and DVD June 13th from Well Go USA Entertainment.

In this driving, non-stop action thriller, the chief security officer at a top-secret medical facility (Daniel Wu) finds himself caught in an explosive battle when a young thief and his accomplices steal a groundbreaking curative medicine. After discovering the true origins of the medicine, the officer must decide whom he can trust to protect the cure from falling into the wrong hands and prevent an all-out war from bringing the city to its knees.

Korean disaster thriller TUNNEL is available on DVD today, May 2nd

Well Go USA
Tunnel / Teo-neol
Directed by Kim Seong-hun
Starring Ha Jung-woo, Doona Bae & Oh Dal-su
South Korea, 2016, 127 minutes

Korean disaster thriller Tunnel debuts on DVD today, May 2nd from Well Go USA Entertainment. (It's been available on digital since Tuesday, April 4th.)

South Korean superstar Ha Jung-woo (The Handmaiden) plays a car salesman fighting for survival inside a collapsed tunnel while rescue workers race against time to free him in the tense, taunt thriller Tunnel, from internationally-acclaimed director Kim Seong-hun (A Hard Day).

With draining cell phone battery power and a rescue effort that might end before they locate him, days pass by without success, and people start to lose hope as the rescue operation becomes an ordeal when incompetence, the media and government interference slow down the process.

The film also starring Doona Bae (Netflix’s “Sense8”) and Oh Dal-su (Oldboy).


When a tunnel collapses on Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo), the ensuing rescue operation becomes the subject of widespread media coverage and frenzy. But days go by, nerves stretch thin, and Jung-soo must struggle for his life in the suffocating darkness alone.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; a good thriller