With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

KCCNY and NYAFF present: A MERRY ZOMBIE XMAS

KCCNY and NYAFF
Present

A MERRY ZOMBIE XMAS
When: December 24, 2020 - January 7, 2021
Where: koreanmovienight.org

Celebrate the holiday season with brains, blood and guts!
WATCH hit Korean Zombie Films starting X-Mas Eve for free!


'Tis the Season to run for your life as Korean Cultural Center New York (KCCNY) and the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) are in the giving spirit to present a free streaming series that highlights one of the sweeping film genres to grace the big screen that will aim to leave you dying for more...literally.

What lurks in Winter's breath is the stillness of the undead creeping upon an unknowing populace. Keep your loved ones close and your enemies as a human shield as they take the first bite from a relentless zombie horde! Don't wait up for Santa. He probably didn't make it.

Full Lineup:
TRAIN TO BUSAN
TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS: PENINSULA
RAMPANT
ZOMBIE FOR SALE (also known as: ODD FAMILY: ZOMBIE FOR SALE)

A MERRY XMAS SERIES Streaming details:
Free and unlimited run of the films for 15 days
December 24, 2020-January 7, 2021 at koreanculture.org


Sunday, November 22, 2020

IP MAN: KUNG FU MASTER coming to theaters and on demand starting December 11, 2020

Magnet Releasing
Presents

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master
Directed by Li Liming
China, 2019, 84 minutes
 
Ip Man: Kung Fu Master will be available in theaters and on demand December 11th, 2020 by Magnet Releasing. The film harks back to Ip Man's early days before the Communist Revolution in 1949. Ip Man was then a police captain who was framed for the murder of a ruthless but honorable mobster, and targeted for vengeance by his dangerous daughter. Forced to quit the force, he soon also has to contend with the arrival of the Japanese army in Guangzhou.
 
Ip Man, the martial artist who famously tutored Bruce Lee, is portrayed by Dennis To for the third time. His previous outings in this series were in The Legend is Born: Ip Man (2010) and Kung Fu League (2018).

TAKOYAKI STORY reviewed

  Takoyaki Story
Directed by Sawako Kabuki
Japan, 2018, 1’35”
 
Takoyaki Story is an animated short about a girl who is attracted to takoyaki and who eventual overcomes her hesitancy to eat them. Takoyaki is translated into English as octopus balls. But let's be absolutely clear:  they are not the genital sacks of male octopuses!  Rather, takoyaki is a famous and very delicious Japanese street food snack made of ball-shaped cakes containing pieces of chopped octopus and sundry other items.

Takoyaki Story is colorful, fun and delightful. Made me think of the Beatles' animated film Yellow Submarine, only it's a short and features dancing octopuses instead of Blue Meanies.

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

Takoyaki Story is one of the fourteen short films showing online at this year's New York Japan CineFest which ends today, Sunday, November 22nd.
 
Registration: $1 service fee plus suggested donation
Official Festival site: http://watch.nyjcf.com
Official Website: http://nyjcf.com

Friday, November 20, 2020

More information about the 9th annual New York Japan CineFest

The 9th New York Japan CineFest
held online for the first time
Festival dates: November 20 – November 22, 2020

New York Japan CineFest (NYJCF), an independent Japanese short film festival now in its 9th year, will be held online for the first time from November 20th to November 22nd. This year, fourteen short films in the categories of documentary, narrative and animation have been selected. NYJCF 2020 will be presented by Mar Creation, Inc., sponsored CYBER-NY, (platform provider), partnered with Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan, and supported by Sapporo International Short Film Festival and Market, Aichi International Women’s Film Festival and Kadoma International Film Festival.

As most film festivals around the world have been forced to go online due to the Coronavirus pandemic, NYJCF is also going to hold the film festival online after the 5-month delay from the regular festival month, June. The festival has implemented a digital platform called, “LOGIC” which is a business cloud solution, provided by CYBER-NY.

This year’s theme is “LIGHT” which is the festival committee found after struggling and discussing what the best way is to continue the annual festival during the pandemic.

NYJCF was founded by three Japanese producers based in New York in 2012; Yasu Suzuki (Actor, dancer and filmmaker), Kosuke Furukawa (Film director) and Hiroshi Kono (CEO of Mar Creation, Inc.) Since 2015, the film festival has been invited to screen its programs and films in multiple cities; Boston, Washington D.C. Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco in the U.S. and also at film festivals in Japan; Aichi International Film Festival Sapporo International Short Film Festival and Market, Kadoma International Film Festival and New Director Film Festival. In the nineth year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, they are planning to continue the tour online are scheduled to host in Akita City, Japan in November and Boston, MA in December, 2020.

Dates: Friday, November 20, 2020 – Sunday, November 22, 2020
Place: on-demand online
Registration: $1 service fee plus suggested donation
Official Festival site: http://watch.nyjcf.com
Official Website: http://nyjcf.com

Program
1. Coming Back Sunny (Noriko Yuasa | drama | Japan | 2020 | 15’02”)
2. Ice Farmers {Tatsuya Ino | documentary| Japan | 2020 | 3’22”)
3. RAY (Tekkoku Nogami | drama | Japan | 2019 | 28’19”)
4. BOZE (Fuyuko Mochizuki | documentary | Japan | 2019 | 14’26”)
5. The Walking Fish (Thessa Meijer | drama | Japan | Netherlands | 2018 | 18’59”)
6. RAMETOKKOR YAN (Yuichiro Yamada | documentary | Japan | 2019 | 10’3”)
7. Makhaliss (Koji Yamamoto | drama | Japan | 2019 | 34’25” )
8. The Buttefly (Shiho Fukada | documentary| Japan | 2019 | 11’20”)
9. 20dB (Hiroyuki Nishiyama |drama | Japan | 2020 | 14’43”)
10. Takoyaki Story (Sawako Kabuki | animation | Japan | 2018 | 1’35”)
11. Miyamoto and the Machine: The Story of KenKen (Dan Sullivan | documentary | 
      USA | 2019 | 39’22”)
12. Samurai in the Oregon Sky (Ilana Sol | documentary | USA | 2019 | 48’16”)
13. Hello! Brand New World (Ryo Takebayashi drama/YouTube short | Japan | 2019 | 18’52”)
14. Nourishing Japan (Alexis Aligana Sanborn | documentary | USA | 2019 | 23’59”)

Experience Japan Society's Virtual Cinema Online

Japan Society NY's online streaming platform offers a carefully hand-selected collection of popular picks, auteur masterpieces and exclusive opportunities to view widely unavailable gems. Bonus Content includes special introductions and Q&As. Immerse yourself in the world of Japanese film, and share your recommendations with friends—many of the titles are available to stream across North America and beyond. From documentaries to narratives and features to shorts, Japan Society's Virtual Cinema has plenty of options for you to enjoy remotely.

Tickets: $2-10 / Japan Society Members 20% off.

Enter Japan Society NY's Virtual Cinema here.

New York Japan CineFest is available online this weekend, Nov 20th-22nd

New York Japan CineFest, a jewel of a festival that's been around since 2012, is returning this weekend with a program of fourteen short films. This year marks the first time that the festival has been online, a result of the COVID situation (as was the case with 2020's New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Society NY's JAPAN CUTS film festival).

For all the information you need about the films that will be available and how to register to watch them, click here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

WORDS CAN’T GO THERE available to stream starting November 20th

Ocean Mountain
Presents


Words Can't Go There
Directed by David Neptune
U.S.A., 2019, 89 minutes

Words Can't Go There is a documentary feature film that received the Best Feature Documentary and Best Score awards at Show Low Film Festival 2020. It depicts the extraordinary journey of musician John Kaizan Neptune, a California surfer turned Japanese traditional bamboo flute master, as told through his son’s perspective. Ocean Mountain has set November 20th, 2020 as the VOD streaming release for the film in North America. Words Can't Go There, will be available on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. It will also be streaming in the UK, Australia and 64 other countries worldwide.

John Kaizan Neptune was a young California surfer when he discovered the shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese bamboo flute, in Hawaii, which set him on his life path. As an outsider in 1970s Japan, he dived into tradition headfirst, facing and overcoming the prejudice that comes with being a Caucasian pursuing a traditional artform.

He played jazz and classical music, discovered new sounds with the shakuhachi and composed pieces to incorporate his discoveries. He began touring the world, crossing Europe and North America including notable venues in Los Angeles and New York and ultimately received the prestigious best album award from the Agency of Cultural Affairs in Japan for his album “Bamboo”. It was the first jazz album and first award by a non-Japanese artist.

John even began crafting the instrument himself and blew open the potential of this ancient instrument in a completely new way. Directed by his son David Neptune, this personal story delves deep into the life of an artist and a family man and ultimately the sacrifices he made to cross cultural borders and become a pivotal figure in the evolution of this rare instrument.

Monday, September 28, 2020

THE LEGEND OF TOMIRIS reviewed

Well Go USA 
Entertainment 
Presents
The Legend Of Tomiris
Directed by Alan Satayev 
Kazakhstan, 2019, 155 minutes

The Legend Of Tomiris is an epic drama about one of the world's first female warlords. It debuts on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 29th, from Well Go USA Entertainment. My review is based on watching the Blu-ray version.

Tomiris was a daughter of Spargap, the leader of the Massagetae, one of the pastoral-nomadic tribes in the steppe of Central Asia. He taught her to be brave, fearless, and smart when she was a young girl. These values would serve her well after two members of the tribe overthrew Spargap in a coup following a dispute over relations with another people.

Taken to safety by a group loyal to her father, Tomiris, continued to train as a warrior. As an adult (now played by actress Almira Tursyn), she joins the Savromat tribe, whose female warriors were sort of 6th century BCE Central Asian Amazonians. With their aid, she returns to avenge her father and family and to claim leadership of the Massagetae. Her skills as a uniter of the Scythian and Saka tribes and as a military strategist are tested to their fullest when Cyrus, the founder and first king of the Persian empire, brings his troops east to expand his empire

Western audiences are not often treated to films from Central Asia in general and Kazakhstan in particular. This film is a most welcome addition to that limited group. Aside from some iffy CGI during a hunt early on, it is well done and flows nicely during its over one-and-a-half-hour running time. There's plenty of action on hand, and for  the most part its fairly easy to tell who's fighting who.

As a fan of Zena: Warrior Princess, the television show that starred Lucy Lawless in the title role and that ran for six seasons from 1996 - 2002, I especially enjoyed this historical action-drama based on a real life warrior princess (and later Queen).

Disc Stats
-- Audio:
  -- Original Kazakh DTS HDMA 5.1
  -- Original Kazakh Stereo
-- Subtitles:
  -- English
  -- Off
-- Trailer
--  Previews:
  -- Samurai Marathon
  -- The First King
  -- The Great Battle

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.0 out of 4 stars; a solid historical action film from Cental Asia.

For the Wikipedia entry about Tomiris (spelled there as Tomyris, one of a number of alternate spellings), click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

SAMURAI MARATHON reviewed

Well Go USA
Entertainment
Presents
Samurai Marathon / Samurai marason
Directed by Bernard Rose
Japan/UK, 2019, 103 minutes

Samurai Marathon, an unusual samurai jidaigeki film, recently became available as Digital On Demand, DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA. My review is based on watching the Blu-ray version.

The film is set in the 1850s. when the arrival of U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry (played here by Danny Huston) and his infamous "black ships" brought about the end of roughly 260 years of Japan's relative isolation from the rest of the world. Itakura Katsuakira, lord of the Annaka Domain, foresees problems for the the feudal system of Japan, the Tokugawa Shogunate and the samurai. Fearing that the long period of peace has made the samurai soft and vulnerable, he decides to test the mettle of all of his samurai and foot shoulders with a thirty-six mile footrace on steep hills and rough terrain, the winner to be granted a wish.

Unfortunately, a shogunate spy in Itakura's fiefdom, misinterprets his call for his men to assemble the next day -- when he plans to announce the race -- as a signal for rebellion and reports this to the shogunate, who of course send assassins. When the spy learns of his mistake, he tries to stop his messenger but is too late.

The tale is further complicated by Princess Yuki (Komatsu Nana), the 5th daughter of Kiakura. She is more open-minded then her father and is interested in the ships that have come to her land. She adopts male garb and the name Kumanosuke, and enters the race, hoping to sneak out of her father's fiefdom and get a look at the ships firsthand.
 
Also thrown into the mix is Tsujimura, a would-be suitor of Yuki, who will stop at nothing to win the race and use the wish his lord would then grant him to marry her. Then too, there is the elderly Mataemon Kurita, who's been forced to retire and who teaches the boy Isuke Fukumoto how to run.

There's amply skullduggery and traitorous action to keep things interesting during the film's running time. 
 
In addition to the fine cast, director Bernard Rose (known best perhaps for 1992s Candyman) deserves significant credit. He managed to produce a very Japanese feeling film, unlike, say, Edward Zick in his Tom Cruise starring vehicle The Last Samurai (2003), which has Hollywood written all over it. Rose's efforts perhaps were assisted by the multitude of Japanese producers, co-producers, executive producers, and associate producers, twenty-six in all according to IMDb!

Credit also must be shared with Ishizaka Takuro for cinematography, Kamitsuna Mako for film editing, and Philip Glass for yet another wonderful film score.

The film is based on a historical event. The Annaka clan's first race was in 1855. Twelve years later the era of the samaurai ended with the Meiji Restoration.

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
  -- Japanese DTS-HDMA 5.1
  -- Japanese Stereo
-- Subtitles
  -- English
  -- Off
-- Trailer
-- Previews
  -- Cut Throat City
  -- Ip Man 4: The Finale
  -- First Love
 
Before getting to my rating of the film, I must mention these three facts about Samurai Marathon and the 2019 New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF):
- The film had its North American Premiere as the Festival's Opening Film on June 28, 2019 
- An image from the film was used on the cover of the Festival brochure
- Komatsu Nana, who portrayed Princess Yuki, received the Festival's Screen International Rising Star award for an actress. (Ryu Jun-yeol, seen in the film Money, received this award for male actor.)
 
AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended; well-worth owning.

Friday, September 04, 2020

SECRET ZOO reviewed [NYAFF 2020]

capelight pictures
presents
Secret Zoo
Directed by SON Jae-Gon
Starring AHN Jae-hong, KANG So-ra,
PARK Yeong-gyu, and KIM Sung-oh
South Korea, 2020


Based on the webcomic series Haechijiana by Hun that ran from 9/20/2011 - 4/27/2012, Secret Zoo is a charming and delightful comedy about a zoo struggling to stay afloat. The film is playing as part of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), which this year is running online only from August 28th to September 12th. Secret Zoo, like two other offerings, will only have two screenings: Saturday, September 5 at 8:00 PM and Tuesday, September 8 at 5:00 PM. My review is based on watching an online screener back in January, 2020, in conjunction with the film's theatrical opening in the U.S.A. that month.

KANG Tae-soo (AHN Jae-Hong) is a young lawyer who has worked as a temp at JH Law for eight months and fervently wants to secure a permanent position in the firm's Mergers and Acquisition (M & A) department. It looks like his opportunity has arrived when he is tasked with normalizing and maintaining the failing Dongsan Park Zoo within three months for one of his employer's clients. The trouble is, all the viable animals have been sold off by loan sharks to pay the zoo's debts!

Undeterred, Tae-soo comes up with a plan to used somewhat realistic-looking animal costumes for the four remaining members of the staff to wear and fool the public. Not surprisingly, things don't go well; until, that is, a chance event goes viral on the internet and transforms the zoo into a major attraction.

Given the nature of the genre, one knows that things are basically going to turn out alright at film's end. It's really a matter of how convincing the rather outlandish premise is depicted and how interesting the twists and turns are. On all these accounts, the film succeeds admirably.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, a fine comedy that's well-worth watching.

The official movie trailer is available at https://youtu.be/WPdCjA2Gfys.

Also, a February 4, 2020, interview with director SON Jae-Gon at KoBiz can be found here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

IP MAN 4: THE FINALE reviewed

Well Go USA 
Entertainment 
Presents
IP Man 4: The Finale / Yip Man 4
Directed by Wilson Yip
Action Director - Yuen Woo-Ping
Hong Kong, 2019, 105 minutes

Donnie Yen reprises his role as the Wing Chun grandmaster in Ip Man 4: The Finale, the concluding film in this martial arts franchise. It is available as Digital On Demand, DVD, and Blu-ray + DVD Combo pack from Well Go USA Entertainment. I watched the Blu-ray version. [Note: Ip Man 4: The Finale, and the three previous Donnie Yen Ip Man films, as well as the spin-off Master Z: Ip Man Legacy, currently are available for Netflix Streaming subscribers.]


This time around, Ip Man travels to San Francisco to look for a school for his son Ip Ching, a sullen, defiant, disobedient and rebellious young man who would rather learn Wing Chun than go to school. Ip Man meets the martial arts members of the city's Chinese Benevolent Association, led by Tai Chi master Mr. Wan (Wu Yue). The CBA is upset with Ip Man's student Bruce Lee because Lee teaches Chinese martial arts to non-Chinese, a big no-no in their thinking. Wan withholds a letter of recommendation for Ip Man's son to the school that Wan's daughter Yonah (Vanda Margraf) attends because Ip Man refuses to lay down the law to his student.

Further complicating things are the anti-Chinese biases of almost every white American in the film. These include Becky, a fellow student of Yonah, who is bested by her in a cheer-leading tryout, Becky's mother and her father, who just happens to be an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent with considerable clout.

Most ominous however, is the attitude of two Marines at a nearby base: karate instructor Colin Frater (Chris Collins) and his superior, Gunnery Sergeant Barton Geddes (Scott Adkins). They are fanatical devotees of karate and have no respect whatsoever for Chinese martial arts. (This flies in the face of some facts about the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, but this Ip Man series is not particularly big on being accurate where the historical facts are concerned.)

Their attitude would actually seem to be warranted insofar as Frater and Geddes easily overcome every single Chinese martial arts master in brutal encounters. But rest assured, Ip Man, though recently diagnosed with terminal cancer (!) is on hand to defend the honor of Chinese kung fu!

The numerous action scenes are very well done overall, which is to be expected in that Yuen Woo-Ping is again onboard, as he was on Ip Man 3, as Action Director.

Unfortunately, the story line and plot points leave a lot to be desired. So to do the characterizations of the white Americans, who are one-dimensional at best. Even the female head of the school that Ip Man goes to is a money-grubber, willing to forego the required letter of recommendation if he will make a very sizeable donation (read "bribe") to the school. This episode does at least give Donnie Yen a chance to deliver a very funny line in response to a comment by the school's principal.

I noted three things in the movie that did, for the most part, ring true:

-- Bruce Lee did have difficulties with Chinese martial arts leaders in the U.S. because he accepted non-Chinese students.

-- Lee did perform at the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships. (Long Beach is a city within the Los Angeles metropolitan area, not San Francisco, but let's call this cinematic poetic license.)

-- Ip Man did die on December 2, 1972 from laryngeal cancer.

But, after all, this is a martial arts themed action movie, not a reality grounded bio-pic drama.

Disc Stats:
— Audio:
  — Cantonese Dolby ATMOS in true HD
  — English HDMA 5.1
— Subtitles:
  — English
  —Traditional Chinese
  — Simplified Chinese
  — French
  — Off 
— Bonus: 
  — Making Of
  — The 10-Year Legend
  — The Story
  — Trailer A
  — Trailer B
  — U.S. Trailer
— Previews:
  —Cut Throat City
  — Enter the Fat Drago
  — Ne Zha (English Dub)

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; a decent enough action flick, if you can ignore, tolerate or perhaps laugh at the fanciful plot and the ridiculously stereotypical portrayal of pretty much all the white Americans.

Friday, August 21, 2020

NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2020 going virtual August 28th

THE NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FOUNDATION,
FILM AT LINCOLN CENTER, 
and SMART CINEMA USA
ANNOUNCE

OPENING FILM, COMPETITION and MAIN LINEUP
for

THE 19th NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL,
August 28 – September 12, 2020

The 19th edition of the annual NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL will be a special virtual edition from August 28 to September 12, 2020.

Whether online or offline, the festival continues to highlight women both behind and in front of the camera, and features a specific FOCUS on women filmmakers: WOMEN TRANSFORMING FILM, starting with:

The OPENING FILM - the North American Premiere of The Girl and the Gun (Babae at Baril), directed by Rae Red, led by a superb performance by actress Janine Gutierrez, and produced by Iana Celest Bernardez (in a first-time producing role) and Bianca Balbuena.

The Festival’s programming team went the extra mile to spotlight female talent. There is much more to Asian cinema than the male-dominated films shown at Cannes and the Oscars. NYAFF is proud to spotlight an exciting lineup of titles directed and led by women:

Heavy Craving from Taiwan, Lucky Chan-sil and Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 from South Korea, My Prince Edward from Hong Kong, and Victim(s) from Malaysia, among others.

The CENTERPIECE film marks both a departure from genre as well as the festival’s embrace of an ever-expanding range of films: They Say Nothing Stays the Same by Odagiri Joe, one of Japan’s best-known actors, who makes a remarkable feature debut behind the camera. Odagiri is joined by a no less remarkable cast and crew: cinematographer Christopher Doyle; veteran actor Emoto Akira, who leads a star cast including Nagase Masatoshi, Asano Tadanobu and Aoi Yu, plus a rare appearance by musician Hosono Haruomi; Oscar-winning costume designer Wada Emi; and a fabulous score courtesy of Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan.

A generous share of the program is devoted to new filmmakers, including striking directorial debuts and sophomore efforts. Integral to NYAFF’s mission is showcasing the Asian cinema vanguard that emerges largely from new talent and fresh voices. This edition reflects today’s particularly kinetic innovations, much informed by social media and the hyper information highway. An impressive cross-section of work highlights new ideas in storytelling and tackles social mores and personal demons, including Philippines’ John Denver Trending, Korea’s Beauty Water and Taiwan’s Detention and IWeirDo, just to name a few.

In regional terms, South Korea is front and center in this year’s selection. Faithful to tradition, the Festival presents a balance of arthouse and genre titles with an emphasis on outstanding storytelling and accessibility: Secret Zoo, Hitman Agent Jun, Moving On.

As the boundaries between what is strictly film and TV blur, NYAFF has found, in its tireless search for exciting, new content, an extraordinary example of the convergence of both formats in SF8, a series of eight stand-alone 52-minute science fiction films that will make their International Premiere at this first virtual edition. Each film is directed by prominent Korean filmmakers, and the knowledgeable viewer will recognize the names of Min Kyu-dong, Jang cheol-su, Noh Deok.

The series, first shown on Korea’s version of Netflix, Wavve, has been praised locally and has drawn comparisons with Black Mirror.

The Festival continues to champion the work of new directors and filmmakers that have not yet received international recognition with its “Uncaged” Competition section, which includes five films by first and second-time directors: (IWeirDo, Moving On, Legally Declared Dead, Victim(s) and They Say Nothing Stays the Same.)

The Hong Kong Panorama, the point of origin of the Festival, has a specific emphasis on Cantonese-language stories and the new generation of filmmakers at a turning point in the history of the Special Administrative Region.The selection features the following: the World Premiere of Hell Bank Presents: Running Ghost, the North American premieres of Memories to Choke on, Drinks to Wash Them Down; The Grand Grandmaster, Legally Declared Dead, Unleashed, the East Coast premiere of the previously mentioned My Prince Edward, and Witness Out of the Blue, one of the few and best representatives of a genre that put Hong Kong cinema on the map: the crime thriller.

Keeping continuity with the festival’s roots, this year’s edition also features Chasing Dream, the latest by Johnnie To, Hong Kong cinema’s l’enfant terrible turned patron saint. NYAFF is notable as the first festival and institution to bring the wild cinematic stylings of To and his team to the US with the groundbreaking series, "Expect the Unexpected: Contemporary Urban Cinema from Milkyway Image Productions" back in 2000.

This year’s selection of films from Japan proves as eclectic as ever with a fascinating diversity of styles and themes, by emerging and established creators. There is salient cinematic sophistication in the resonant work of returning filmmakers: Naito Eisuke’s cause-for-alarm cautionary tale Forgiven Children; Otomo Keishi’s hypnotically enigmatic Beneath the Shadow. On the other end of the spectrum is the hilariously uncomfortable cringe-com Beloved Wife; and rounding things out are Sabu’s supernatural dramedy Dancing Mary, Mariko Tetsuya’s shocking manga adaptation Miyamoto, and more.

At a time when Hollywood and the new East Asian superpower go both head to head and hand in hand, the China selection continues to show a wide-ranging selection of titles that reflects the versatility of the mainland’s filmmaking, and puts the spotlight on new directors: Fresh off the massive success of last year’s White Snake, the programming slate includes a brand new title that shows the sudden rise of the Chinese animation sector with recent hit Mr. Miao, Li Lingxiao’s epic directorial debut. Produced by the team behind box office champion Ne Zha, the film, released in China on July 31, has drawn praise and comparisons with Studio Ghibli's productions. Also on the menu is an original take on the scifi genre: Gone with the Light, a strikingly original feature debut by Dong Runnian, who has made a name for himself as the scriptwriter of Mr Six and Crazy Alien. The film, powered by the performances of star actor Huang Bo and an all-star female cast (Bai Baihe, Song Chunli, Wen Qi , Huang Lu), artfully marries an empowering drama with genre tropes. In addition to highlighting new talent, the Chinese selection includes Sixth-Generation director Wang Rui’s most recent work by (and one of its best to date): Mongolian-language drama Chaogtu with Sarula.

“Since the very first day of our launch, our goal is to always promote and screen the latest quality Asian films to international audiences. So it is our great pleasure to work with NYAFF, one of the most prominent Asian film festivals in the world, for their 19th edition, following our successful partnerships with Shanghai International Film Festival and Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. As a technology and data driven platform, we have created a unique, cutting-edge, virtual “Almighty Cinema” ecosystem to accommodate all the various demands from international festivals, distributors as well as traditional exhibitors.” said Jack Gao, founding partner and CEO of Smart Cinema.

“We are honored that NYAFF selected Smart Cinema USA to be their partner as they continue to showcase the best films from all over Asia during this global pandemic. Smart Cinema has become the premiere virtual cinema destination for movies in Asia and we are committed to replicating that success in North America.” said Doris Pfardrescher, President & CEO of Well Go USA and Board Member, Smart Cinema USA.

“At a time when the work of festivals might seem like a rearguard battle, I’m glad to take a leap into the unknown, and search east, not only for the films, but for new ways of exhibiting those films“, said Samuel Jamier, executive director and president of the New York Asian Film Festival & Foundation.

The full lineup currently consists of 51 films. (Note that the program still subject to change).
 
For more information, visit New York Asian Film Festival.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

THE LEGEND OF TOMIRIS is set to debut on September 29th, 2020

Well Go USA 
Entertainment 
Presents
The Legend Of Tomiris
Directed by Alan Satayev 
Kazakhstan, 2019, 155 minutes

With the likes of Charlize Theron kicking butt in The Old Guard, 2020 is turning into the year of the strong female action hero, and joining Wonder Woman, Mulan and Black Widow is The Legend Of Tomiris, the epic drama on one of the world's first female warlords It will be debuting on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD September 29 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Directed by award-winning director Akan Satayev (The Liquidator), this is the story of the life of the great queen of the steppe – the legendary Tomiris, a woman destined to become a skillful warrior and strategist, unite the Scythian/Saka tribes under her authority, and slay the founder and first king of the Persian empire. The Legend Of Tomiris, the highest-grossing action film in Kazakhstan, stars Almira Tursyn, Adil Akhmetov, Yerkebulan Daiyrov, Berik Aitzhanov, Azamat Satybaldy, Aizhan Lighg and Ghassan Massoud (Kingdom of Heaven).

Synopsis:

Based on historical heroine Queen Tomiris of Massagetae and her cadre of female warriors (the real-life 6th century BCE Amazonians), The Legend of Tomiris recounts the tale of the nomadic ruler who overcame great personal tragedy to repel the powerful Persian empire and unite the Great Steppe.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

GUNDALA comes to Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD today, July 28, 2020

Well Go USA
Presents
Gundala
Written and Directed by Joko Anwar
Based on the comic by Harya Suraminata
Indonesia, 2019, 124 minutes

Gundala is a superhero origin film based on a popular Indonesian comic book first published in 1969. It debuts today, July 28th, on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD from Well Go USA Entertainment. This review is based on watching the Blu-ray version.

As a young boy, Sancaka (here played by Muzakki Ramdhan) is orphaned and forced to struggle to survive on the mean streets of Jakarta. He is saved from a beating by a gang of other youths by the somewhat older Awang, who proceeds to train him in the martial arts. Awang also advises Sancaka to not get involved in other people’s affairs and problems, warning him that if he does, his life “will be shitty.” Alas, the two are separated when Sancaka can’t get on the moving train on which Awang is leaving the city.

Years later, as a young man, Sancaka (now portrayed by Abimana Aryasatya) works at the printing house of The Djakarta Times. The political and economic scene is controlled by Haidas Subandi, the head of the underworld and, like Sancaka, an orphan. In flashback we learn how Subandi, better known as Pengkor, lost his family and fortune, and how he received the burn scar on the side of his face.

Seeing the effects of injustice and corruption on people he has come to care about, the adult Sancaka finds he cannot continue to embrace Awang’s advice, but must intervene on behalf of the downtrodden victims. Fortunately, as it turns out, he and lightening have an affinity for each other, and being struck by lightening gives Sancaka superpowers to fight evil.

There is plenty of action in this fine film. The dominant fighting style is Silat, a class of martial arts from the Indonesian archipelago that includes many styles and schools, which tend to focus on either strikes, joint manipulation, weaponry, or a some combination of them. Street fighting is also in evidence, as are some other Asian martial arts.

There’s a coda mid-way through the end credits that sets the stage for the next film in what is planned as an eight film franchise. (Think Marvel Universe, only in Indonesia.) Given what a fine beginning the series has in Gundala, one can only hope that the series continues to a satisfying point, even if all eight films are not made or distributed in North America..

Disc Specs:
— Audio:
  — Indonesian DTS-HDMA 5.1
  — Indonesian Stereo
  — English DTS-HDMA 5.1
  — English Stereo
— Subtitles:
  — English
  — Off
— Bonus:
  — Behind the Scenes
  — Production Vlog
  — International Trailer
  — U.S. Trailer
— Previews:
  — Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula Teaser
  — Cut Throat City
  — Enter the Fat Dragon

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; good film

Friday, July 17, 2020

JAPAN CUTS 2020 launches today, Friday, July 17th, 2020

Japan Society New York
Presents
JAPAN CUTS
When: July 17 - 30, 2020
Where: Online

All Films Available for Immediate Streaming

JAPAN CUTS Festival of New Japanese Film, North America’s largest festival of contemporary cinema, kicks off today! From now through July 30, a diverse slate of 30 features and 12 short films can be streamed on demand across the United States. Join fans of Japanese cinema for the Opening Film selection Special Actors and a live virtual Q&A tonight at 9 pm EDT with director Shinichiro Ueda.

Festival highlights also include a series of panel discussions, live virtual Q&As, and a special tribute to the late filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi, free and accessible to all worldwide.

Individual films and discounted bundles are available including a limited number of All-Access passes for the low price of $99!

Tickets are on-sale now and quantities are limited, so please be sure to purchase early before titles sell out!

Note: a number of my colleagues at VCinema have already posted reviews of several films and there are more to come. Find them here. (Look for [JAPAN CUTS 2020] at the end of the title of the review.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

ENTER THE FAT DRAGON becomes available today from Well Go USA on digital, Blu-ray & DVD

Well Go USA
Presents
Enter the Fat Dragon / Fei lung gwoh gong
Directed by Kenji Tanigaki
Hong Kong, 2020, 97 minutes

Enter the Fat Dragon, starring Donnie Yen (the Ip Man franchise & oh, so many other fine action films) debuts on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD today, July 14th from Well Go USA Entertainment. This review is based on watching the Blu-ray.

The film is a reimagining of the popular comedy martial arts film of the same name that starred Sammo Hung, which in turn derived it’s title from Bruce Lee’s ground-breaking Enter the Dragon (1973). This Enter the Fat Dragon was directed by Kenji Tanigaki (Legend of Seven Monks) and costars Teresa Mo (Hard Boiled), Niki Chow (Heavenly Mission) and Wong Jing (Kung Fu Mahjong).

Fallon Zhu (Yen) is a super-fit, by-the-books cop with a fiancée who’s a lovely aspiring actress. His over-enthusiasm at work results in him being demoted into a records clerk . On top of this, he’s dumped by his fiancée. As a result he develops a major snack cake habit and becomes most morbidly obese. A routine assignment escorting of a prisoner extradited to Japan goes wrong, providing Zhu an opportunity to redeem himself at work and in the eyes — and heart — of his fiancée.

Enter the Fat Dragon is a good film with some very fine stunts, lots of action, and some nice comedic touches.  Stick around during the end credits for a time-lapse segment of Donnie getting his “fat face” put on and for some outtakes.

Disc Specs:
— Audio:
  — Cantonese DTS-HDMA 5.1
  — Cantonese Stereo
— Subtitles:
  — English
  — English (Full Version)
  — Traditional Chinese
  — Off
— Trailers:
  — International Trailer
  — U.S. Trailer
— Previews:
  — Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula Teaser
  — Cut Throat City
  — Is Man 4: The Finale

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Thursday, July 09, 2020

WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES available online and in select theaters tomorrow

Oscilloscope Laboratories
Presents
We Are Little Zombies / Wî â Ritoru Zonbîzu
Written and Directed by Makoto Nagahisa
Japan, 2019, 120 minutes

We Are Little Zombies, Makoto Nagahisa's impressive feature film directorial debut, can be screened at home or seen in select cinemas starting tomorrow, July 10, 2020. Information about how to see the film can be found here.

The film is ostensibly a "youth movie" as it's four young main characters have an average age of 13.5 years. The main protagonist is bespectacled Hikari Takami (Keita Ninomiya), an only child and a video game otaku. His parents die when their tour bus is involved in a road accident. At their cremation, Hikari meets three other young people whose parents have also died in unusual circumstances. Shinpachi Ishi (Satoshi Mizuno) lost his parents to a freak gas explosion; those of Yuki Takamura's (Mondo Okumura) committed suicide; while the parents of Ikuko Ibu (Sena Nakajima), the lone female in the group, were murdered.

(l to r) Sena Nakajima, Keita Ninomiya, Mondo Okumura, and Satoshi Mizuno in Makoto Nagahisa’s WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES. Photography by Hiroaki Takeda. © 2020 Oscilloscope Laboratories / The Nikkatsu Corporation

Each of the four are emotionally deadened, as if they're zombies, but alive. They form a rag tag band, calling themselves Little Zombies. Hikari handles vocals, pudgy Ishi is on drums, Takamura plays bass, and Ikuko is on keyboards. They become a big sensation and their album "Who Killed Them" is a huge hit.

We Are Little Zombies tackles some heavy subject matter for a "youth movie." It does so without being either pretentious or preachy. There's a nice touch in using Hikari's devotion to video games as a motif, such as obtaining objects, advancing levels, etc. The film had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it was the winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Originality, and deservedly so.

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

For those interested, We Are Little Zombies was previously reviewed by John Atom at VCinema on November 1, 2019 in conjunction with its screening at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival on November 10th. Read John's very positive review here.

Also, two other Japanese "youth films" that are also well worth watching are Linda, Linda, Linda (2005), which starred Doona Bae as a Korean exchange student in an all girl band at a high school in Japan and All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001).

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film will be a completely online version in July, 2020

Japan Society NY
presents
Special Actors © 2019 Shochiku Broadcasting Co., Ltd.

In light of the ongoing international situation with COVID-19, the organizers behind JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film have decided to take this popular annual event at Japan Society out of its usual form and craft a completely online version of the festival. Partnering with Festival Scope and Shift72 as the streaming platform and technology service, the festival team is hand-crafting 14 days of unique screening opportunities for Japanese cinema lovers, serving the Society’s dedicated audiences in New York City but also, for the first time, making the festival available to viewers throughout the United States.

“While nothing can replace the thrill of welcoming filmmakers and audience members together into our auditorium, we are excited by the new possibilities opened up by putting the festival online this summer,” says K. F. Watanabe, Deputy Director of Film at Japan Society. “Our programming team is committed to maintaining the high quality of film offerings and intimate feeling of community provided by JAPAN CUTS within this reimagined format while also finding ways of engaging new audiences across the country and supporting Japanese film culture.”

Set for July 17-30, the online edition of the festival will offer a diverse slate of around 30 feature films and shorts programs on a VOD model, with a limited number of virtual tickets and access geoblocked to the U.S. Recurring thematic festival sections such as Documentary Focus and Experimental Spotlight will return, and a new competitive section dedicated to early-career independent filmmakers will be introduced. In addition, live and pre-recorded virtual Q&As, discussion panels, and video greetings from filmmakers and programmers will round out the dynamic and interactive program.

A live virtual Q&A will be scheduled and hosted on the festival’s opening day, July 17, with Shinichiro Ueda, director of the JAPAN CUTS 2020 Opening Film selection Special Actors. The filmmaker is best known for his breakout 2017 indie debut One Cut of the Dead, a low-budget zombie film written and directed by Ueda that was an unexpected box office hit in Japan—where it screened across 340 theaters and surpassed 2 million admissions from word of mouth—and an international festival sensation. Special Actors is Ueda’s much-anticipated follow-up feature, an ensemble comedy about an oddball acting troupe infiltrating a cult, which had its theatrical run in Japan in late 2019. The film has not yet screened in North America and will make its online streaming debut with JAPAN CUTS courtesy of international rights holder Shochiku.

“I am honored to have my film selected as the opening film [for JAPAN CUTS] among the many others included in the festival,” wrote Ueda through email. “Though we are in a situation where it is difficult to travel, I am happy that at least this film can travel and reach people overseas in North America. Unpredictable twists and turns await you in this film, but try not to faint like the main character—and please enjoy this fun movie journey!”

The full lineup of JAPAN CUTS 2020 films and panels will be released in late June.

About JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film

Emphasizing the diversity and vitality of one of the most exciting world cinemas, JAPAN CUTS gives cinephiles their first (and sometimes only) chance to discover the next waves of filmmaking from Japan. Founded in 2007, the festival presents the biggest Japanese blockbusters, raucous genre flicks, peerless independents, arthouse gems, radical documentaries, and avant-garde forms, along with unique collaborative programs, workshops, and panels put together with the cooperation of other international organizations. Special guest actors and filmmakers join the festivities for Q&As, award ceremonies, and the post-screening parties and receptions audiences have come to expect, with live music, food, and drinks. 2020 is the first year that JAPAN CUTS will not be physically hosted at Japan Society since its inception.

About Japan Society

Founded in 1907, Japan Society in New York City presents sophisticated, topical and accessible experiences of Japanese art and culture, and facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge and innovation between the U.S. and Japan. More than 200 events annually encompass world-class exhibitions, dynamic classical and cutting-edge contemporary performing arts, film premieres and retrospectives, workshops and demonstrations, tastings, family activities, language classes, and a range of high-profile talks and expert panels that present open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). www.japansociety.org

Credits

JAPAN CUTS is sponsored by Shiseido Americas with additional support provided by Sapporo U.S.A, Inc. Japan Society Film's programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund and Gaia Holistic Health Foundation/Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura-Hillyer. Additional season support is provided by The Globus Family, David Toberisky, Geoff and Fumi Matters, Laurel Gonsalves, James Read Levy, Masu Hiroshi Masuyama, Akiko Koide and Shohei Koide, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, George Gallagher, David S. Howe, Michael Romano, Hiroshi Tsuyuki and Yasuko Tsuyuki, and an anonymous donor.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

ENTER THE FAT DRAGON Debuts on Digital, Blu-ray™ & DVD on July 14th

Well Go USA
Presents
Enter the Fat Dragon / Fei lung gwoh gong
Directed by Kenji Tanigaki
Hong Kong, 2020, 97 minutes

International martial arts icon Donnie Yen [Ip Man, Mulan (2020), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story] is back in the action-comedy Enter the Fat Dragon, “a hilarious, hyper-paced, rock-em sock-em blast of a movie!” (Ultimate Action Movies) debuting on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD July 14 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film chronicles the events that transformed super-fit super-cop Fallon Zhu (Yen) into a records clerk with a major snack cake habit—and one shot to regain his job and his fiancée. A hilarious parody of Bruce Lee's 1972 film Way of the Dragon and a reimagining of the popular comedy martial arts film starring Sammo Hung, Enter the Fat Dragon was directed by Kenji Tanigaki (Legend of Seven Monks) and costars Teresa Mo (Hard Boiled), Niki Chow (Heavenly Mission) and Wong Jing (Kung Fu Mahjong).

Synopsis:

Enter the Fat Dragon is a hilarious chronicle of the events that transformed super-fit super-cop Fallon Zhu (martial arts phenom Donnie Yen) into a glorified records clerk with a major snack cake habit. After a desperate request from an old colleague, Zhu teams up with a wily, wok-wielding restaurateur to solve a mysterious murder—and take his one last shot at regaining both his job and his fiancée.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

SPECIAL ACTORS will be the Opening Night film of JAPAN CUTS 2020

Japan Society NY
Presents
Special Actors  © 2019 Shochiku Broadcasting Co., Ltd.
Special Actors
Directed by Shinichiro Ueda
Japan, 2019, 119 minutes

Live virtual Q&A with director on Friday, July 17

Filmmaker Shinichiro Ueda is best known for his breakout indie debut One Cut of the Dead (2017), a low-budget zombie film that was an unexpected box office hit in Japan—where it screened across 340 theaters and surpassed 2 million admissions from word of mouth—and became an international festival sensation. JAPAN CUTS 2020 Opening Night film Special Actors, an ensemble comedy about an oddball acting troupe that infiltrates a cult, is Ueda’s much-anticipated follow-up feature, which had its theatrical run in Japan in late 2019. The film has not yet screened in North America and will make its online streaming debut at JAPAN CUTS.

Friday, May 29, 2020

New Superhero Franchise GUNDALA to debut on Digital, Blu-ray™ & DVD July 28, 2020

Well Go USA
Presents
Gundala
Written and Directed by Joko Anwar
Based on the comic by Harya Suraminata
Indonesia, 2019, 124 minutes

Indonesia's preeminent comic book superhero and his alter ego enter the cinematic universe to battle the wicked Pengkor and his diabolical squad of orphan assassins in the action-packed Gundala, debuting on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD July 28 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Based on a popular comic book first published in 1969, Gundala is the first film in a proposed eight film franchise launching a new superhero cinematic universe (in the vein of Marvel). In this origins story, Sancaka (Abimana Aryasatya) is a security guard who was struck by lightning, giving him superhuman powers and turning him into the superhero Gundala. Gundala had its international premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and this release features an all-new English dub, in addition to its original subtitled soundtrack.

Synopsis:
Gundala is a poignant portrayal of the notion that heroes—whether everyday or superhuman—can be found anywhere (though a superpower never hurts). Indonesian orphan Sancaka spent his life on the streets trying to attract as little attention as possible, but when greed and violence reach a fever pitch in Jakarta, it soon becomes clear that he is the people’s only hope for peace.

JAPAN CUTS 2020 Film Festival: First Online-Only Edition, July 17-30, 2020

Japan Sciety NY
Presents

Announcing JAPAN CUTS 2020 Film Festival: First Online-Only Edition

Japan Society NY has announced that, in light of the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19, they are taking North America's largest contemporary Japanese cinema festival out of its usual form and crafting a completely online version of JAPAN CUTS.

Re-imagining this format, they will maintain the festival’s high quality of film offerings and its intimate support of the film community while also finding new ways of engaging with now-nationwide audiences.

Set within both recurring sections and new initiatives, the online festival will offer a diverse slate of around 30 feature films and shorts programs. Live-streamed virtual Q&As, panels and greetings from guest filmmakers will serve as opportunities for in-depth interaction.

The full lineup of films and events will be revealed in late June, and AsianCineFest will be providing updates and additional information.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Section23 Films announces its June, 2020 slate of releases


Home video distributor Section23 Films has announced its June, 2020 slate of releases which includes Sentai Filmworks heartwarming standout drama, After the Rain, available on Blu-ray June 30th.

Here are the product details, in order of release.

Title: TAMAKO MARKET LOVE STORY COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 385 min.
Street Date: 6/2/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: Growing up in a candy store is just a daydream for most kids, but for Tamako, it's her real life. And, yes, most of the time it's pretty sweet! Tamako gets to create new flavors, hang out with her friends and discover all kinds of ways to have fun. There are difficult parts, though, and one of them is figuring out her relationship with Mochizo, whose family runs a rival shop. Does she really like him or is she just experiencing a candy crush in TAMAKO MARKET? Then, get ready for a double scoop of Tamako goodness as Tamako and her friends prepare to finish high school. It's exciting, but sad too, as some of them will be moving away… including Mochizo. Sometimes life is sugary and other times it's bittersweet in TAMAKO LOVE STORY!


Title: NON NON BIYORI VACATION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 71 min.
Street Date: 6/9/2020
Format: BD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $29.98

SYNOPSIS: Even when you're fortunate enough to live in a place as beautiful as the country village of Asahigaoka, you should never turn down the chance to explore someplace else. So, when Suguru wins a free trip to Okinawa just as the summer vacation is coming to an end, the town's entire school… all 5 students and 1 teacher, plus the local candy shop owner… can hardly wait for their 3-day trip to begin! Between kayaking, swimming and meeting new people, there's always something fun happening, but the best part of all is that big city girl Hotaru and her new small-town friends all get to explore the wonders of Japan's famous vacation destination together. Prepare for the perfect trip as the whole gang boards the plane for NON NON BIYORI - VACATION!


Title: DOMESTIC GIRLFRIEND
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 6/16/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: Natsuo Fuji has a serious crush on one of his teachers, Hina Tachibana, but since he knows he has zero chance of ever being in a relationship with her, he lets his friends talk him into going to a party where he meets Rui. One thing leads to another and then, well, neither of them is a virgin anymore. Unfortunately, it wasn't what they expected, but that's fine. They're just ships passing in the night and they'll never have to see each other again, right? Except when Natsuo's father announces that he's getting married again, Natsuo discovers that he's getting two new step-sisters as well. Now there's a problem, because one is his teacher, Hina, and the other is Rui. Yep, the family dinners at Natsuo's house are about to get REALLY awkward in DOMESTIC GIRLFRIEND!


Title: MYSTERIA FRIENDS PREMIUM BOX SET
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 150 min.
Street Date: 6/16/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $99.98

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Mysteria Academy, where the secrets of magic are taught to an eager student body composed of humans, gods and demons. Of course, it takes an unusual degree of tolerance for these groups to mingle freely, but thanks to this unusually diverse and inclusive educational experience, the most unlikely friendships are bound to spring up. Which is how Anne, a human honor student who happens to be a Princess, finds herself growing increasingly close to Grea, a half-human/half-dragon who also happens to be a Princess. Sure, fairy tales would have you believe that relationships between Princesses and Dragons are bound to end up badly, but that doesn't take bonding while shopping and trips to the beach into account, let alone the fact that what they're feeling may be a little more than just friendship in MYSTERIA FRIENDS!


Title: RE:STAGE! DREAM DAYS
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 6/23/2020
Format: BD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: When Mana Shikimiya joins her new school's struggling Lyrical Tradition Dance club, she finds herself swept up in a dream shared by thousands of other middle school girls across Japan: To someday compete at the Prism Stage, where teams of young women battle in song and dance for the chance to become the next generation of top idol singers! First, though, she'll have to help save the club from being shut down, and then she and her new friends Sayu, Mizuhua, Kae, Kasumi and Minori will have to up their musical game in order to make it to the first level of competition. Because no matter how badly they want to win, there are hundreds of other girls who want it just as much… and those girls all have a head start in RE:STAGE! DREAM DAYS!


Title: REAL GIRL PREMIUM BOX SET
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 600 min.
Street Date: 6/23/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $129.98

SYNOPSIS: Hikari Tsutsui has never been popular, his one real friend is an even worse otaku than he is, and the only girls he's known are the two-dimensional women from his manga and video games. Until, that is, he's sent to help clean the pool as punishment and is partnered with the school's resident "bad girl", the very real, very three-dimensional Iroha Igarashi. Brash, beautiful, and known for her promiscuous behavior, Iroha is loathed by other girls but loved by the guys. And yet, inexplicably, she not only seems to be interested in Hikari, but proposes that they enter into a relationship! Unable to resist, Hikari agrees, but there's one big catch - Iroha's moving away in six months, so no matter what happens between them, in half a year Hikari's guaranteed to lose his REAL GIRL!


Title: AFTER THE RAIN
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 6/30/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: Akira Tachibana's life has taken a wrong turn. Sidelined from her high school track team by an injury, she's found herself increasingly distanced from her friends and unsure of what to do next with her life. That's not her biggest worry though. The real problem is that she's found someone that she's interested in, someone who makes her feel like she's never felt before… even though she knows that, by society's standards, it's completely wrong. Because the person at the center of the emotional storm overwhelming her is nearly three times her age and the manager of the restaurant where she's just begun to work. So, what now? Does this runner take the next step and tell him how she feels? Or will she stumble, turn, and flee from the one thing she truly wants in AFTER THE RAIN?


Title: RUN WITH THE WIND PREMIUM BOX SET
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 575 min.
Street Date: 6/30/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $129.98

SYNOPSIS: Kakeru Kurahara was a track star in high school, but after losing his money gambling, the only running he's doing is fleeing after shoplifting food. Then Kakeru's escape route crosses paths with Haiji Kiyose, and he gets a chance to change his life's direction. A fourth-year college student, Haiji has dreamed of entering the famous Hakone Ekidan relay marathon, but he's been one runner short of a potential team… until he sees Kakeru blow past him like the wind and knows he's found his critical tenth man. Of course, it won't be easy convincing Kakeru to join, and the rest of the team includes such questionable choices as a chronic smoker and an underweight otaku, but they've all got legs and Haiji will make sure they learn how to use them to RUN WITH THE WIND!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

THE MAN STANDING NEXT coming to Digital and Blu-ray & DVD on May 26th


The Man Standing Next
Directed by WOO Min-ho & LEE Ji-min
Written by WOO Min-ho
Starring LEE Byung-hun, LEE Sung-min, KWAK Do-won,
LEE Hee-jun, and KIM So-jin
South Korea, 2020, 113 minutes

MPI Media Group has announced the May 26, 2020 theatrical/digital release of The Man Standing Next.

Film Synopsis:
In the 1970's, Korea is under the absolute control of the President Park (Lee Sung-min) who controls the KCIA, the organization with an edge over any branch of government. The director of KCIA, Kim Gyu-pyeong (Lee Byung-hun), is the seemingly most prospective second-in-command. In the midst of reign of fear, a former KCIA director, Park Yong-gak (Kwak Do-won) who knows all about the government's obscure operations, exiles to the U.S where the investigation of 'Koreagate' is underway. As the tension escalates, the stifling political maneuvering by the all second-in-command's unfolds.

In my February 7, 2020 review I gave The Man Standing Next a 3.5 out of 4 star rating, highly recommended. Read that review here.

Watch the trailer here.

Martial Arts Movie Channel Hi-YAH! Goes Mobile

 Hi-YAH! Features Commercial-Free
Martial Arts and Asian Action Movies
Available on Mobile and Connected TV Devices

Hi-YAH! (hiyahtv.com), the premier platform for streaming martial arts and Asian action movies in the U.S., today announced its official launch on mobile devices and connected TVs. As part of the launch, new users will be eligible for a 30-day free trial, after which a monthly subscription fee of only $3.99 will apply. Hi-YAH!—available through app stores for devices including iOS, Android, Roku and Amazon Fire TV—offers both exclusive and non-exclusive content that will be refreshed monthly.

Hi-YAH! currently provides subscribers with more than 500 hours of high-quality, commercial-free viewing of films featuring all-time favorite kung fu masters including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa, along with hits from acclaimed directors Johnnie To, Yuen Woo-Ping, Wilson Yip, Tsui Hark and more. As of today, subscribers can take advantage of Hi-YAH!’s exclusive streaming release of Takashi Miike’s 2019 twisty, hyper-violent yakuza romp FIRST LOVE, added as part of the “Miike Madness” collection featuring many of the classic and fan-favorite films from the iconic director.

“With the launch of the app, Hi-YAH! now allows action and martial arts fans unparalleled access to stream our content on any device,” said Jason Pfardrescher, EVP, Digital Distribution at Well Go USA Entertainment. “The app offers an exceptional entertainment experience and makes our extensive library of movies, TV series and exclusive content much more accessible to consumers.”

Subscribers can watch classic martial arts hits such as RISE OF THE LEGEND, FLASH POINT, and THE ASSASSIN as well as Asian action favorites like TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, and DRUG WAR—all while anticipating the forthcoming additions of Donnie Yen as the Grandmaster in the complete IP MAN franchise and THE VILLAINESS, which inspired the unforgettable motorcycle fight scene in John Wick: Chapter 3.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Section23 Films has announced its May 2020 slate of releases



Home video distributor Section23 Films has announced its May slate of releases which includes Sentai Filmworks griping sports drama, Run with the Wind, available on Blu-ray May 26th with a Limited Edition Premium Box Set to be released soon.

Product details follow, in order of release.

Title: WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE, TEACHER!?
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 195 min.
Street Date: 5/5/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Kawanuma West may be a public school, but some of its students are about to get private lessons in sex ed courtesy of four very attractive teachers! To be clear, none of our lady educational professionals begin their semesters by writing "get involved with a fortunate male member of my class" in their daily planners… but strange and inexplicable things keep happening to thrust our teacher/pupil combos into sexually charged situations where something's bound to happen! Whether it's falling into water, doors ripping off clothing, or that frequent staple of Japanese school life, the accidental breast/face collision, these poor ladies just can't help it. And what are the guys supposed to do as they're pulled deeper and deeper into titillating TILF traps of epic proportions? It's time to come and learn in WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE, TEACHER!?


Title: MAID SAMA
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 665 min.
Street Date: 5/12/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $89.98

SYNOPSIS: Misaki Ayusawa fought hard to earn respect as Seika High's first female student council president, but her personal life has been in shambles since her father left her family deep in debt. To pay off the bills, Misaki's taken a job on the side, but it's one that no one at school can ever find out about. It would just be too humiliating for her classmates to learn that she's secretly a… gasp!... waitress at a maid café! And, of course, when someone does discover her double life, it's the worst possible person: her aloof and much too handsome classmate, Usui Takumi. Can Misaki convince Usui to keep her apron in the closet? And what is his silence going to cost her? Now that her Maid life has been made, there's a Devil to be paid in MAID-SAMA!


Title: VAMPIRE HUNTER D STEELBOOK
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 80 min.
Street Date: 5/12/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: For 10,000 years, Count Magnus Lee has walked the night, sustained by an unholy thirst for blood and an unending lust for human women. But when he tastes the sweet nectar running through Doris Lang's veins, the Count knows he has found more than his next meal: this is the woman he intends to claim as his next vampire bride. As the daughter of a werewolf hunter, however, Doris Lang is less than willing to step into the thrall of evil. And if she is unable to defend herself from the Count's nightmarish powers, she is fortunate enough to have found someone who can: the Vampire Hunter known as D. But D is no ordinary man, and signing up for his protection may carry a price of its own. Driven by the art of acclaimed designer Yoshitaka Amano (FINAL FANTASY I - VI, the Hugo nominated Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN-THE DREAM HUNTERS), this is the epic animated fantasy that spawned multiple sequels and helped launch the anime revolution. Remastered in high-definition from the original elements and upgraded audio tracks, it's the legendary classic as you've never seen it before in VAMPIRE HUNTER D!


Title: SENRYU GIRL
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 180 min.
Street Date: 5/19/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Eiji Busujima was a delinquent in middle school, but now that he's in high school, he's trying to put all that behind him. He's even joined the literature club! Unfortunately, while Eiji's heart might be in the right place, his face didn't get the memo, and if his scowling, slit-like eyes don't scare people away, then his attempts at senryu poetry probably will. But there's one member of the literature club who isn't easily intimidated: Nanako Yukishiro, an odd but cheerful young woman who never speaks and communicates only through senryu poetry! So, when the meddling president of the club decides to encourage a relationship between this strange literary pair, the haiku is sure to fly! The most important words are left unsaid when an ex-delinquent becomes the target of a write-by romance from a SENRYU GIRL!


Title: RUN WITH THE WIND
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 575 min.
Street Date: 5/26/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $89.98

SYNOPSIS: Kakeru Kurahara was a track star in high school, but after losing his money gambling, the only running he's doing is fleeing after shoplifting food. Then Kakeru's escape route crosses paths with Haiji Kiyose, and he gets a chance to change his life's direction. A fourth-year college student, Haiji has dreamed of entering the famous Hakone Ekidan relay marathon, but he's been one runner short of a potential team… until he sees Kakeru blow past him like the wind and knows he's found his critical tenth man. Of course, it won't be easy convincing Kakeru to join, and the rest of the team includes such questionable choices as a chronic smoker and an underweight otaku, but they've all got legs and Haiji will make sure they learn how to use them to RUN WITH THE WIND!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Section23 Films has announced its April 2020 slate of releases


Home video distributor Section23 Films has announced its April slate of releases, featuring the latest installment in BUSHIROAD’s popular multimedia franchise: BanG Dream! 2nd Season.

Product details follow, in order of release.

Title: REVUE STARLIGHT
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 4/7/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: As the 99th graduating class of the Seisho Music Academy prepares for their annual review, "Starlight", aspiring actress Karen Aijo is happy just to have the chance to be in the cast. But when Karen's childhood friend Hikari mysteriously arrives after years abroad, Karen quickly learns that there is more going on at Seisho than the normal drama classes. Following Hikari late one night, Karen discovers an elevator that takes her deep below the Earth, where the secret auditions for the leads in Starlight is underway… a competition that is fought with real weapons as well as song and dance! Goaded by the giraffe in charge of the trials, Karen throws caution to the wind and takes the stage herself… but will she be ready to survive the ultimate contest of drama and skills that is REVUE STARLIGHT?


Title: AO-CHAN CAN'T STUDY
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 180 min.
Street Date: 4/14/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Most high school girls would be proud that their father is a famous writer, but Ao Horie's father is an EROTIC writer, a purveyor of pornographic prose. He's authored hundreds of dirty books and it has definitely warped his twisted sensibilities. Since Ao thinks that anyone who learns about her father is going to assume that Ao is at least somewhat like her pornographic papa, Ao's solution is to just not talk to other people, especially boys. All she wants to do is study and get good grades so she can go to a school far away from her family. And that's why Takumi Kajima is driving her crazy! He keeps trying to talk to her, distracting her, and causing her to think about the kind of things she'd rather not think about… which is why, suddenly, AO-CHAN CAN'T STUDY!


Title: CINDERELLA NINE
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 4/14/2020
Format: BD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: Since Satogahama High School was an all-girls school until recently, they've never even had a boy’s baseball team. Arihara Tsubasa isn't the kind of girl who waits for boys to lead the way, however, so she makes an unauthorized announcement that the Girls' Baseball Team is seeking members! But that was the easy part! Now she has to find the four other girls required to form a school club, and then four more girls to make a team. At least Arihara's best friend, Tomoe, can fill one position, but then they'll have to get creative. If that means co-opting cheerleaders, student council members, reporters from the school paper and even an archrival from Junior High, then so be it! They're not running away from the ball; they're fielding it and running for home in CINDERELLA NINE!


Title: BANG DREAM! 2ND SEASON
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 4/21/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: It's a new school year and Kasumi, Arisa, Saya, Tae, and Rimi are thrilled to finally be second-year students. Even more exciting than becoming upperclassmen, however, is the fun they have while performing in their band Poppin' Party… until things get out of control when the girls publicly announce that they're going to do their own concert before they've really studied the issue. Suddenly they're committed to doing something that's a lot more difficult than it seemed, and the pressure is doubled since their musical rivals in Roselia, who've also announced a live concert, are way ahead of them in planning! But you can't stop the music, and with a little hard work and help from other groups and some talented newcomers, Poppin' Party fever will soon be popping up all over in BANG DREAM! 2


Title: CLANNAD STEELBOOK
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 1225 min.
Street Date: 4/28/2020
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $149.98

SYNOPSIS: Sometimes all it takes to change your life forever is a chance encounter. Since the death of his mother, Tomoya has distanced himself from his abusive father and seems on a path of self-destruction. Nagisa's poor health has left her a year behind in school, but she longs to restart the now disbanded Drama Club. In an impulsive moment, Tomoya agrees to help her and they soon find themselves joined by others in desperate need of support and emotional healing. Join the Club and meet the ambitious Tomoyo, who dreams of becoming class president; Kotomi, a troubled genius with a secret past; and the mysterious Fuko, whose disassociation with the world is so severe that she seems to be fading away as the sentimental, the surreal and the supernatural merge together in the acclaimed anime classic CLANNAD!


Title: W'Z
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 400 min.
Street Date: 4/28/2020
Format: BD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: Even though he’s only 14, Yukiya wants to become the best online DJ anyone has ever heard. But becoming famous isn’t easy, and it’s made even more difficult by his father’s odd instructions to never touch hands with anyone else. So, while Yukiya spends every moment he can working on music videos, he knows that hard work alone may not be enough to achieve his goals. He needs something else. Something different. And then he finds the Ziggurat. It’s another world, a place that Yukiya can access just by touching hands with another person. Any other person. That’s something that no one else has ever been able to do before. And that ability makes Yukiya an extremely valuable commodity that some people will be willing to do anything to control in W’Z!