With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

ACF 241: Shinjuku Ecstasy film series ending tomorrow

The final two films in the series Shinjuku Ecstasy: Independent Films from the Art Theatre Guild of Japan will be shown at Japan Society at separate screenings tomorrow, Sunday, March 1, 2009. The first screening will be of Pitfall at 3:00 PM

Pitfall / Otoshiana
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Japan, 1962, b&w, 97 min.
The ghost of a miner killed by a mysterious stranger stays on because he can't understand the reason for his death. Based on a novel by Kobo Abe, ATG-co-founder Teshigahara's first feature film is a surreal and atmospheric study of alienation, moral descent and spiritual bankruptcy.

Pitfall webpage
Direct link to order Pitfall tickets
The final film that will be shown is Ecstasy of the Angels, which will screen at 5:15 PM.
Ecstasy of the Angels / Tenshi no kokotsu
Directed by Koji Wakamatsu
Japan, 1972, b&w with color in part, 89 min.

In it, a militant revolutionary group is torn apart by betrayal as its members descend into paranoia and sexual decadence. Wakamatsu marries sexploitation with radical politics and anticipated the real-life bombing of the extreme left, making this ATG's most controversial film.

Ecstasy of the Angels webpage
Direct link to buy Ecstasy of the Angels tickets

Friday, February 27, 2009

ACF 240: A Man Vanishes and Crazy Love

Tomorrow there will be two separate films screened at Japan Society's Shinjuku Ecstasy Film Series. Both films will be screened at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd venues), New York, NY.

A Man Vanishes / Ningen johatsu
Directed by Shohei Imamura
Japan, 1967, b&w, 130 min.

This controversial faux documentary portrayal of a young woman's search for her vanished fiancée is Imamura’s ingeniously constructed and subversively intellectual, yet captivating meditation on the ephemeral nature and inaccuracy of reality. Showtime: 3:00 PM.

A Man Vanishes webpage
Direct link to order A Man Vanishes tickets

Crazy Love / Kureiji rabu
Directed by Michio Okabe
Japan, 1968, b&w with color in part, 90 min.

Correlated with Susan Sontag's theorization of kitsch as well as employing the queer lingo of "camp," this film's relentless equal opportunity pop-art montage shattered the foundations of conventional cinema, making it a true document of the Shinjuku underground scene. Showtime: 5:45 PM.

Crazy Love webpage
Direct link to purchase Crazy Love tickets

Thursday, February 26, 2009

ACF 239: Blue Dragon @ Xbox LIVE and the first episode is free until March 2, 2009!

Special Launch Promotion!
Xbox LIVE Community Will Be Able To Download the First Episode
of BLUE DRAGON For Free Until March 2, 2009

Hot on the heels of VIZ's announcement of BLUE DRAGON's availability at iTunes (ACF 237), comes word of it also being at Xbox LIVE:

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media) has announced the availability of the hit animated series BLUE DRAGON on the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. Fans in the U.S. will now have the ability to watch these episodes on a Download-To-Own (DTO) basis through Xbox LIVE for 160 Microsoft Points per episode. As a special launch promotion, the first episode of BLUE DRAGON will be available for download for free at Xbox LIVE until March 2nd. Episodes and more information are available at: www.xbox.com/live.

The BLUE DRAGON animated series, based on the popular Xbox 360 role playing game (RPG), is a classic adventure story of magical Shadow powers, flying air fortresses, and unbounded heroism! Brought together by fate, Seven Soldiers of Light must awaken the Shadow within themselves in time to overcome a despotic power and bring peace to their land. Their ensuing journey through a rich fantasy world is also an internal journey to awaken the great power within each of them. Journey with them into the world of BLUE DRAGON!

The Xbox 360 game “BLUE DRAGON” was developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi (the creator of Final Fantasy). The game and animated series feature memorable characters designed by Akira Toriyama, the creator of the best-selling DRAGON BALL series of manga (also published in North America by VIZ Media and featured in SHONEN JUMP Magazine). The animated series debuted in Japan on TV Tokyo on April 7, 2007 and is produced by Studio Pierrot, which is well known for its work on NARUTO and BLEACH, also licensed by VIZ Media. The “BLUE DRAGON” video game has already established itself in Japan as one of the hottest releases in the RPG category and also enjoys a sizable and growing fan-base in North America.

“The anime genre continues to enjoy a huge and growing following among avid Xbox 360 owners,” said Scott Nocas, Group Product Manager for Xbox LIVE. “The addition of the BLUE DRAGON series from VIZ Media to the Xbox LIVE library will be a big attraction.”

Xbox LIVE provides easy access to hundreds of full-length TV shows for download-to-own and the latest feature films for download-to-rent. Xbox 360 is also the first gaming console to offer Standard and High Definition TV shows and movies via digital distribution. Xbox LIVE currently includes a worldwide social entertainment network reaching more than 17 million members and offering 24/7 online access to gaming, movies, music, TV shows and more.

“We are very excited to continue our successful relationship with Microsoft and add BLUE DRAGON animation to the growing library of VIZ Media animated titles now available on Xbox LIVE,” says Brian Ige, Director of Sales, Home Entertainment, VIZ Media. “The combination of the hottest television and movie programming, video gaming and social networking interaction continues to make Xbox LIVE a compelling platform to present our hit animated series. We look forward to fans across the United States turning to Xbox LIVE for the latest in online animated programming from VIZ Media.”

For more information on BLUE DRAGON please visit the dedicated website at Bluedragon.viz.com, which currently features animated series trailers, character descriptions, artwork from the anime, and a news section that will be updated regularly with announcements regarding the anime series.

ACF 238: This Transient Life

This Transient Life / Mujo
Directed by Akio Jissoji
Japan, 1970, b&w, 146 min.

The Shinjuku Ecstasy Film Series at Japan Society continues tomorrow night with Jissoji's feature film debut. It's about the incestuous relationship of two siblings from a traditional family near Kyoto is a rare example of a successful rendition of Buddhist thought in film and features captivating photography with breathtaking tracking shots.

Showtime is 7:30 PM at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY.

This Transient Life webpage

Direct link to buy This Transient Life tickets

Shinjuku Ecstsy Film Series webpage

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ACF 237: Blue Dragon animated series now at iTunes and the 1st episode is FREE!!!

Special Launch Promotion Includes Free Download Of The First Episode
of BLUE DRAGON on iTunes Through March 10, 2009

Received this great news from VIZ recently. I've already downloaded my free episode and can't wait to watch it. Read on for more info.

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), has announced the availability of its popular animated series BLUE DRAGON on the iTunes® Store (www.iTunes.com) in the US and Canada. As a special launch promotion, the first episode of BLUE DRAGON will be available for download for free on the iTunes Store until March 10th and can be found at www.itunes.com/tv/bluedragon.

BLUE DRAGON animated series, based on the popular Xbox 360 role playing game (RPG), is a classic adventure story of magical Shadow powers, flying air fortresses, and unbounded heroism! Brought together by fate, Seven Soldiers of Light must awaken the Shadow within themselves in time to overcome a despotic power and bring peace to their land. Their ensuing journey through a rich fantasy world is also an internal journey to awaken the great power within each of them. Journey with them into the world of BLUE DRAGON!

The Xbox 360 game “BLUE DRAGON” was developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi (the creator of Final Fantasy). The game and animated series feature memorable characters designed by Akira Toriyama, the creator of the best-selling DRAGON BALL series of manga (also published in North America by VIZ Media and featured in SHONEN JUMP Magazine). The animated series debuted in Japan on TV Tokyo on April 7, 2007 and is produced by Studio Pierrot, which is well known for its work on NARUTO and BLEACH, also licensed by VIZ Media and available on iTunes.

"We are excited to add the beloved BLUE DRAGON animation to the growing library of VIZ Media titles now available on the iTunes store.” says Ken Sasaki, Sr. Vice President of Strategy & Business Development, VIZ Media. “VIZ Media is committed to giving fans the best in animated entertainment and we are thrilled to provide the best options in delivering exciting animated content in a high quality digital way.”

For more information on BLUE DRAGON please visit the dedicated website at Bluedragon.viz.com, which currently features anime series trailers, character descriptions, artwork from the animation, and a news section that will be updated regularly with announcements regarding the anime series.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ACF 236: Double Suicide screens at 7:30 tomorrow night @ Japan Society

Double Suicide / Shinju ten no Amijima
Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Japan, 1969, 103 min.

Japan Society's Shinjuku Ecstasy Film Series continues tomorrow with Shinoda's visually stunning Double Suicide. I've only had the opportunity to watch some of it so far, but the story is fascinating and some of the compositions are absolutely breath-taking.

Further info follows below, but let me say now that I'm going to put up as many posts as I can about this series. The films featured are ones that I think most readers of AsianCineFest would at least be interested in knowing about, even if they can't make it to the screenings. Some of these films are already available on DVD. Double Suicide, for example, has been available as a Criterion release for some time now. So I urge you to see them at Japan Society if you can, at another venue if the opportunity arises, or on DVD as a last resort.

In this brilliant modernist adaptation of Monzaemon Chikamatsu’s famous 1720 bunraku puppet play about the doomed romance of a married merchant and a courtesan, Shinoda’s direction is perfectly matched by Toru Takemitsu's music and Kiyoshi Awazu's arresting sets.

All screenings are at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY 10017

Shinjuku Ecstasy series webpage
Double Suicide webpage
Direct link to order Double Suicide tickets

Monday, February 23, 2009

ACF 235: Pussycat Dolls to remix "Jai Ho"

Just received this interesting news from Sadao Turner of premiereradio.com:

The morning after Slumdog Millionaire bagged eight statues at the 81st Academy Awards, Ryan Seacrest took to the airwaves to debut a remix of the title song Jai Ho featuring the Pussycat Dolls. The remix was composed by double Oscar winner A.R. Rahman and produced by popular hip hop producer Polow Da Don.

[Click on the link below the image and you'll be able to hear the remix. Sweet!]

ACF 234: Protege DVD from Dragon Dynasty due to street February 24, 2009

Protege / Moon to
Directed by Derek Yee
Hong Kong, 2007, 106 min.

Protege is set to street tomorrow, Tuesday, February 24, 2009 in a single disc edition from Dragon Dynasty. It'll carry a $19.97 suggested retail price.

Daniel Wu (Legend of the Black Scorpion, One Night in Mongkok, Naked Weapon) plays Nick, an undercover cop who's spent seven years rising to a position of trust within the gang that controls half the local heroin supply in Hong Kong.

Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers, Infernal Affairs and Infernal Affairs 3) is Lin Quinn, the boss who's brough Nick along as his protege and eventual successor. Quinn looks upon the heroin trade as pure business and has no regard for the impact of the drug on the lives of its users, nor for the users themselves. In an interesting ironic touch, he is suffering from kidney failure as a result of his diabetes. Although he needs a transplant, he remains as unable to quit his addiction to sweets as his customers are to stop using heroin.

Lin Quinn (Andy Lau, left with gun) checks Nick's (Daniel Wu) story

As if working long-term undercover wasn't enough, Nick's life is further complicated by his attachment to Jane (Zhang Jingchu from Seven Swords and Rush Hour 3). She lives in a neighboring apartment with her adorable young daughter. She's also trying to kick her dependence on horse. The situation gets even more complex when Jane's addict husband (Louis Koo from Flash Point, Election, Election II, and Robin-B-Hood) shows up.

The film is pretty much a straight drama. There's some action, but not much. It's perhaps a bit too earnest in its depiction of the devastating effects of heroin addiction, and doesn't devote as much time or energy as it should to really engaging the viewer. For example, with the exception of one particular scene, there's little or no sense of Nick being apprehensive about being discovered as a plant.

My impression is that the film probably played better to Hong Kong and Asian audiences than it will to U.S. audiences. Still, while it's perhaps not the most compellingly told story, the acting by the four principals is very good. Andy Lau won 2007 Hong Kong Golden Horse Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Quinn. And Derek Yee proves himself to be a quite competent director.

Jane (Zhang Jing Chu) and her adorable daughter

The DVD offers both the original Cantonese and a dubbed English soundtrack, as well as English, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles.

It has the assortment of extras that are typical for a single disc release from Dragon Dynasty:
- a feature-length commentary by Bey Logan
- a making of featurette
- three separate interviews with Daniel Wu, Zhang Jing Chu, and produceer Peter Chan
- an original theatrical trailer

Protege is decent, if not inspired piece of film-making. It's not remotely close to the original Infernal Affairs, which also dealt with undercover operatives, but it's a fairly good watch, which translates to a 2.5 out of 4 star ACF rating.

Andy Lau won 2007 Hong Kong Golden Horse Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actor

Louis Koo - Jane's husband - Flash Point, Election, Election II, Robin-B-Hood

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ACF 233: Shinjuku Ecstasy series starts tonight at Japan Society

Photo ©1971 Art Theater Guild of Japan Co., Ltd./Jinrikihikosha

Throw Away Your Books, Let's Go into the Street
(Sho wo suteyo machi e deyo)
Written and directed by Shuji Terayama
Japan, 1971, 137 min

Just a quick reminder that Japan Society's Shinjuku Ecstasy: Independent Films From the Art Theatre Guild begins tonight at 7:30 with a screening Terayama's first feature-length film, an avant-guarde, underground exploration of an estranged youth, his strange family, and his strange relationships with others.

I watched a DVD screener and the image quality was probably not as good as that of the projected film will be. Frankly, as is often the case with this sort of fare, I found the film a bit dated and pretentious. Nonetheless, it's an important film historically, and a real time-capsule journey back to Japan's 60s counterculture. Also, I'm sure that there are things that would resonate with others who are familiar with Japan during that time period, things that I missed entirely. So I'm giving it a qualified recommendation.

I also strongly suggest checking out Steve Ridgely's article. [See the link at the end of this post.] Having read it after watching the film, I'm strongly inclined to go back and watch it again.

Art Theater Guild
Founded in 1961 as a distributor of European art films in Japan, the Art Theater Guild (ATG) began co-producing independent films in 1967, and quickly established itself as the leading platform for highly experimental and innovative film. This 12-film series curated by Roland Domenig and Go Hirasawa focuses on the first decade of ATG and on the Shinjuku Bunka, ATG's flagship theater, which formed a unique intersection of filmmakers and artists of all kinds in Shinjuku, the center of Japan’s vibrant counterculture.

Tonight's screening will be introduced by and there will be a Q&A with series curator Mr. Domenig.

Get further info, order tickets, view the trailer, and access a link to a PDF article by Steve Ridgely, by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ACF 232: Protege DVD from Dragon Dynasty streets next Tuesday

Here's some news about Protege, the next DVD release coming from Dragon Dynasty:

Genius Products is proud to present the award-winning Protégé on DVD Tuesday, February 24th from the Dragon Dynasty label. Featuring Andy Lau and garnering nine Hong Kong Award nominations, the fine line between right and wrong is tested beyond its limits in this saga based on true stories of undercover police agents.

With a cast of Asian cinema superstars including Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers), Daniel Wu (Legend of the Black Scorpion), Louis Koo (Flash Point) and Jingchu Zhang (Seven Swords), PROTÉGÉ earned Lau a 2007 Hong Kong Award for Best Supporting Actor and received nine Hong Kong Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Zhang) and Best Supporting Actor (Koo).

Based on true stories of undercover agents on the police force, PROTÉGÉ follows their story among the clandestine drug world, as they struggle to balance both justice and crime. Packed with extensive all-new bonus features (see details below), the PROTÉGÉ DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.97.

Protégé is the saga of a young cop infiltrating the deepest levels of a secret drug ring. He survives seven years of violent, nail-biting close calls, as he works his way from dealer to heir apparent. Every step consolidates his power and reveals another piece of his boss’s operations, bringing him closer to destroying a brutal heroin empire…or inheriting it.

Special Features
Commentary By Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
The Making Of Protégé
Undercover & Over The Edge: An Exclusive interview With Leading Man Daniel Wu
Chasing The Dragon: An Exclusive interview With Leading Lady Zhang Jing-chu
The Dealer: An Exclusive Interview With Producer Peter Cha
Original Theatrical Trailer

Price: $19.97
Street Date: February 24, 2009
Catalog Number: 81703
Rating: NR
Run Time: 108 minutes
Languages: English Dolby 5.1 and Cantonese Dolby 5
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
Closed Captioned

Here's a link provided by Dragon Dynasty if you want to pre-order from amazon.com.

Monday, February 16, 2009

ACF 231: "Death Note II: The Last Name" DVD from VIZ Pictures reviewed

"L", Light Yagami and TV star Misa Amane

Death Note: The Last Name / Desu noto: The last name
Directed by Shusuke Kaneko
Japan, 2006, approx 140 min.

As I'd previously announced, Death Note II: The Last Name, came out on a single disc DVD from VIZ Pictures last Tuesday. Sorry that my review is a little later than I'd hoped, but it's delay is no reflection on the movie or the DVD, both of which are top notch. Think of the two Death Note movies as the Godfather I and IIs of supernatural police procedural thrillers.

Death Note II, like the first film, is based on the hit manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. (Sales of 15 million copies!) It picks up right after the conclusion of the original Death Note movie, which you'll definitely want to watch first if you haven't already.

The story centers around young Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara), an extremely bright law student whose father, Soichiro Yagami (Takeshi Kaga), is a police chief. Light has found a book dropped by Ryuk, a God Of Death. Merely writing a person's name in it while thinking of their face (so as to avoid mistaken identity) results in that person's death. Disillusioned with the failures of the justice system, Light sets out to create a crime-free world by killing all the criminals he can.

While many approve of the vigilante justice meted out by "Kira" (the name Light uses), others do not. This is particularly true of the police, including Light's father. They call on the mysterious "L" (Kenichi Matsuyama), a young genius detective, to discover who Kira is.

Death God Ryuk and "L"

In the sequel, Light joins the investigation team in pursuit of the vigilante/serial killer. While super-detective "L" still strongly suspects (correctly) that Light is Kira, Yagami continues to seek out the real name of "L" so he can kill him with his Death Note.

Making things even more unpredictable is the emergence of a second “Kira” (Erika Toda). This new vigilante has the “Eyes of Death” which enables her to know the true identity and lifespan of any person. Light Yagami seeks to learn the identity of this other Kira so they can join forces to get rid of "L". Once this is accomplished, Light develops an intricate plot that involves empowering a third "Kira" who has no knowledge of Light's nefarious plans.

Misa undergoing extreme police "interrogation"

Part of the reason for the appeal and success of both Death Note films is the source material, although there are some minor changes in the live-action versions. Also contributing to the sequels success is the return of not only director Kaneki, but also all of the leads and many of the supporting cast from the original. I must point out the remarkable job done by the three young leads: Fujiwara as Light, Matsuyama as "L", and Toda as Misa Amane. They are fantastic considering their age and the fact that they carry the movie.

The video transfer on the VIZ DVD is first rate. The image is sharp and the colors are bright and crisp. The subtitles are in white letters outlined in black, so they stand out and are easy to read no matter what the background is. I watched some of the movie with the English-dubbed soundtrack (more on it in a moment) and with the English subtitles on. There are often minor differences between the words in the subtitles and what's being said by the voice actors. This is usually a sign that some time and thought has gone into honing the dialogue so that the dubbed words more closely match the movements of the character's mouth. Nicely done here.

You can chose from four audio options: original Japanese or English-dubbed soundtracks, both available in either Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stero. The only fault I found with the disc - and it's a very minor one - is that the English 2.0 soundtrack was mastered at a slightly lower level than the other three. But a small increase in volume will correct this without any distortion.

Aside from various trailers, the only significant extra is 23 minute "Making of Death Note II" featurette. In it director Kaneko offers some insights into the film, including differences between the manga and anime´versions on the one hand, and his live-action versions on the other. I found these comparisons interesting, even though I haven't read the mangas nor seen the anime´films.

Death Note II rates a 4 out of 4 star ACF rating. It's outstanding, and even though there aren't that many extras, the DVD will be a welcome acquisition to any collection.

Keep in mind that the original Death Note live-action film has been available for awhile now. I gave it a 3.5 out of four star rating in ACF 111. [For my review of the original, click here.] Also, L: Change the World, the live-action tale of a significant 23-day period in L's life, is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2009. Both are or, in the case of L: Change the World, will be from VIZ Pictures. This is the live-action division of VIZ Media, which also distributes the Death Note mangas and anime´films.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

ACF 230: Mulberry at The Korea Society

Mulberry / 뽕
Director by Lee Doo-yong
Korea, 1986, 107 min.
In Korean with English subtitles

The Korea Society's new Classic Movie Night series, When Japan Ruled Korea: Movies Set in the Colonial Era, continues this Thursday, February 19th, 2009 with a screening of Mulberry at 6:30 PM.

Lee Mi-sook won best actress at the 31st Asian Pacific Film Festival for her role as a neglected wife who seeks fulfillment from other women's husbands. Set in rural, Japanese-occupied Korea, this erotic, cautionary tale is based on a story by Na Do-hyang. Contains mature themes.

Mulberry will be screened at The Korea Society in midtown Manhattan at 950 Third Avenue (entrance on 57th Street), 8th Floor.

Individual ticket price: $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers

Click here to buy tickets.

For more information contact Heewon Kim at (212) 759-7525, ext. 355.

Monthly Screenings of The Korea Society's Classic Movie Night are held every third Thursday of the month.

Friday, February 13, 2009

ACF 229: Shinjuku Ecstasy film series at Japan Society 02/18/09 - 03/01/09

Japan Society Presents 12 Groundbreaking
Art House Films from the 60s and 70s

Shinjuku Ecstasy: Independent Films
from the Art Theatre Guild of Japan

Featuring early work by Oshima, Yoshida, Terayama and more!
February 18-March 1, 2009

The Japan Society Film Program presents the Globus Film Series Shinjuku Ecstasy: Independent Films from the Art Theatre Guild of Japan, highlighting 12 remarkable Japanese art house films and introducing the independent filmmaking phenomenon Art Theatre Guild. Curated by eminent Japanese film scholar Roland Domenig and film historian Go Hirasawa, the Shinjuku Ecstasy series runs February 18 through March 1 at Japan Society, and features an introduction and Q&A with curator Roland Domenig on February 18 and an opening weekend party on February 20.

Founded in 1961 as a distributor of European art films in Japan, the Art Theatre Guild (ATG) began co-producing independent films in 1967, and quickly established itself as the leading platform for highly experimental and innovative cinema. For three decades, ATG played a decisive role in the development of art-house films in Japan, often dealing with some of the most controversial subjects of the time including incest, anarchism, homosexuality and gay culture and capital punishment.

Shinjuku Ecstasy: Independent Films from the Art Theatre Guild of Japan focuses on the first decade of ATG and on the Shinjuku Bunka, ATG's flagship theater, which formed a unique intersection of filmmakers and artists of all kind in Shinjuku, considered the center of Japan’s vibrant counterculture in the 60s. Although many famed filmmakers such as Oshima, Yoshida, Shinoda and Shuji Terayama gained international recognition through their films made in cooperation with ATG, the Art Theatre Guild is still little known outside of Japan.

Schedule February 18th thru 22nd:

Above image from Throw Away Your Books
©1971 Art Theater Guild of Japan Co., Ltd./Jinrikihikosha

Throw Away Your Books, Let's Go into the Street / Sho wo suteyo machi e deyo
Wednesday, February 18 at 7:30 pm
1971, 137 min., 35mm, color.
Written and directed by Shuji Terayama.
With Hideaki Sasaki, Masaharu Saito and Yukiko Kobayashi.

The internal chaos and uncertainty of a young man and his dysfunctional family is captured in fragmented and imbalanced images. Playwright and theater director Terayama's first feature film is a psychological study of alienation and a plea for sociopolitical revolution of the 1960s countercultural generation.

Introduced by and Q&A with series curator Roland Domenig.

Funeral Parade of Roses / Bara no soretsu
Friday, February 20 at 7:30 pm
1969, 105 min., 16mm, b&w.
Written and directed by Toshio Matsumoto.
With Peter, Yoshio Tsuchiya and Osamu Ogasawara

This dizzying and sardonic version of Sophocles' Oedipus set in modern Tokyo's gay milieu is a parodic and aesthetically delirious deconstruction of conventional, oppositional politics and a milestone of Japanese queer cinema.

Followed by the Shinjuku Party. Tickets for this special screening are $15/$12 Japan Society members, students & seniors. FREE for audience members who arrive in fabulous retro kimono or vintage 60s style!

Death by Hanging / Koshikei
Saturday, February 21 at 3 pm
1968, 117 min., 35mm, b&w
Directed by Nagisa Oshima
With Kei Sato, Fumio Watanabe and Masao Adachi

In this first film planned and produced by ATG, Oshima's subversive and provocatively absurd reconstruction of the murder crime of a young Korean man, who is executed but refuses to die, is an ingeniously conceived farce on intolerance, assimilation and capital punishment.

Silence Has No Wings / Tobenai chinmoku
Saturday, February 21 at 5:30 pm
1966, 100 min., 35mm, b&w
Directed by Kazuo Kuroki
With Mariko Kaga, Minoru Hiranaka and Shoichi Ozawa

Following the journey of a caterpillar along the Japanese islands from Nagasaki to Hokkaido, this allegorical and oblique first feature film by Kuroki depicts in exquisite images a series of encounters and life's turning points.

Eros plus Massacre / Erosu + gyakusatsu
Sunday, February 22 at 3 pm
1970, 167 min., 35mm, b&w
Directed by Yoshishige (Kiju) Yoshida
With Mariko Okada, Toshiyuki Hosokawa and Yuko Kusunoki

Yoshida's dense and self-reflexive film about the anarchist Sakae Osugi, who was killed in the wake of the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, explores the obscure intersection between reality and fiction, history and memory, anxiety and revolution in the wake of the collapsed left movement.

Tickets are $11/$7 Japan Society members, students & seniors, except the February 20 screening including the Shinjuku Party.

For the complete Shinjuku Ecstasy schedule, trailers, and links to order tickets, click here.

All films will be shown at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ACF 228: Tora-san's Old Home at Japan Society this Friday, February 13th, 2009

Tora-san's Dear Old Home
Episode 9 - Otoko wa Tsuraiyo: Shibamatabojo
Directed by Yoji Yamada
With Kiyoshi Atsumi, Chieko Baisho and Sayuri Yoshinaga
Japan, 1972, 107 min.

Japan Society's monthly screening of episodes selected by director Yamada from the long-running Tora-san film series continues this Friday, February 13, 2009 at 7:30 PM with Tora-san's Dear Old Home.

In the historic, charming city of Kanazawa, Tora-san (Kiyoshi Atsumi) befriends a group of 3 young women who all adore Tora-san’s goofiness, but shy, pretty Utako particularly catches his eye. A few weeks later, Utako visits Tora-san in Shimabata to cheer her up when her grumpy father refuses to let her marry the man she loves.

The Best of Tora-san series began last October and celebrates both the 40th anniversary of the first Tora-san film and the 80th anniversary of Atsumi's birth.

Tickets: $11/$7 Japan Society members, students & senior

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

The Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ACF 227: Death Note II due out today

This time there's another "Kira" who possesses a Death Note of her own.

Just a quick reminder that Death Note II: The Last Name is due out on DVD today, Tuesday, February 10th, 2009, from VIZ Pictures. I just received my screener last night, but had plans to take my wife out for her birthday. So I hope to get a look at the release within the next day or so and get a review up quickly.

I have seen the film previously and can tell you it's a worthy sequel to the top-notch original live-action Death Note. I'll be very interested in checking out the image and sound quality of the DVD and looking at the extras. From the package, these appear to include both English and Japanese language soundtracks, a 23 minute making of featurette, and some other offerings.

So check back here for a full review in the very near future.

Monday, February 09, 2009

ACF 226: "The Enforcer" DVD streets tomorrow, February 10th, 2009"

As I first wrote in ACF 210, The Enforcer is coming out in a single disc Dragon Dynasty "Special Collector's Edition" tomorrow, Tuesday, February 10th, 2009.

Directed by Corey Yuen, the film stars Jet Li as Kung Wei, an undercover cop in Beijing, who somehow has managed to keep his job a secret from his asthmatic wife and adorable young son Johnny (Xie Miao), who like is father is adept at martial arts.

Arrested as part of a new assignment, Kung Wei busts out of jail with G-Dawg, and together they travel to Hong Kong, where G-Dawg arranges for Kung to join the gang that he belongs to. Pretty soon they're ripping off some Latvian (!) arms dealers in a high-octane set-piece at a glass walled restaurant.

At this point Inspector Fong (Anita Mui, at right in the photo above) becomes involved. She travels to Beijing to get info about Kung, whom she knows only as a criminal involved in the shoot-out. Under false pretense, she meets and befriends his family, and winds up bringing Johnny back to Hong Kong.

The two Kungs, father and son, are united in a very satisfying final confrontation with the bad guys. Some truly innovative martial art stunts are employed, and a couple of comic elements are thrown into the mix.

I was astonished to find that the DVD has only a dubbed English soundtrack. The lack of a Cantonese soundtrack is addressed in this statement released by Genius Products (which, along with The Weinstein Company puts out Dragon Dynasty) after the initial P.R. release and the sending out of screeners:

"Dragon Dynasty strives to provide fans with only the highest quality DVD releases, including restored video and audio and extensive never-before-seen bonus features created exclusively for the label.

Though no usable version of the original Cantonese-language track was available in time for this release, every effort was made to bring together the best elements in the world in creating the greatest version of The Enforcer ever experienced on DVD in the U.S."

I'm sorry but I find this hard to swallow. The give-away is the phrase "in time for this release," which indicates there is/are original Cantonese-language tracks available.

Last fall, in response to a generally positive comment about Dragon Dynasty releases that I made at Grady Hendrix's Kaiju Shakedown (since dropped by Variety), I took considerable grief from some others for my views. I still have a generally positive view of the Dragon Dynasty releases, especially the bonus features they provide. But they've really dropped the ball with this one.

The Enforcer has some problems as it is. Jet Li has never been a great actor, and the drama inherent in the plot are beyond his skills. But everyone's performance suffers more because of the invariable disconnect between the actors in the film and the voice actors doing the English-dubbed soundtrack. This even though it's at times clear that some decent effort has been made to match the movement of the actor's mount to the English being spoken.

I like having an English-dubbed soundtrack as an option, either for a change or when I'm too tired to read subtitles. But only as an option to the original soundtrack.

I can't in good conscience recommend this DVD as anything more than a rental. I can only judge the film through the filter of the dubbed dialogue. It's not top-drawer Jet Li, but it does have some great action sequences. Also the film benefits from the presence of the late Anita Mui, a multi-talented star who died in December, 2003 from cervical cancer. She was only 40 years old. So the movie gets 2.5 out of 4 stars, fairly good.

Despite the decent extras (a commentary by Bey Logan and three interviews), I can only give the DVD package a rating of 1 out of 4 stars, poor. The lack of a Cantonese soundtrack prohibits a higher rating.

So rent it, find a version with the Cantonese soundtrack on the Internet, or wait until Dragon Dynasty decides to do right by the film and its customers.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

ACF 225: More NY ComicCon 2009 Images

Here's another batch of three pictures from Saturday at NY ComicCon 2009.

Again, thanks to all for letting me take these pictures and putting them on AsianCineFest.

"The Royal Predator"

Three seriously costumed young ladies

If I could have a nurse like this, I'd be ill every day!

ACF 224: Hwang Jin Yi - The Korea Society to screen final episode of TV drama Wed

The Korea Society will screen the final select episode of KBS TV's blockbuster TV drama Hwang Jin Yi on Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 at 6:30. Here's some info about the series, its director, writer, and star, and a brief synopsis of the final episode:

In an age when women were treated as if they were invisible, Hwang Jin Yi, the celebrated Korean courtesan-singer-poet of the 16th century, was larger than life. Her beauty, wit and intellect propelled her from obscurity into the company of Korea’s most powerful aristocrats. The defining romance of her life broke across Korea’s rigid class lines and was in turn shattered by tragedy. A symbol of art and individuality, the subject of countless novels, movies and operas, Hwang Jin Yi remains a powerful feminist figure in Korea to this day.

Directed by Kim Cheol-gyu (More Beautiful Than Flowers) and written by Yoon Sun-Ju (The Immortal Lee Soon Shin), the acclaimed KBS TV drama series Hwang Jin Yi retells the tumultuous life story of Korea’s most famous kisaeng (courtesan). Top actress Ha Ji-won’s portrayal of Hwang Jin Yi made the series an instant television event when the series first aired in Korea in 2006, causing a nationwide rediscovery of the role kisaeng played in Korean history.

Part Four: Finale

Having won the acclaim of King and court, Hwang Jin Yi is confidant that she will win the heart of the people by performing her elegant dances in the marketplace. The people turn out to be a much harder audience to impress than the nobility. Hwang Jin Yi wrestles with the question of whether her life's passion is really meaningful if it doesn't resonate with the people among who she was raised.

All screenings presented in Korean with English subtitles.

The Korea Society is located at 950 Third Avenue (entrance on 57th Street), 8th Floor, New York, NY

More information at www.koreasociety.org or calling at (212) 759-7525, ext. 323.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

ACF 223: NY ComicCon 2009

Well, I wasn't able to make it to last night's world premiere of Takashi Miike's Yatterman. Bummer! But I heard that it was a fantastic evening for those who were there, so I'm happy for them.

This afternoon I did make it to the convention, and it was quite a scene. Last year I only went for a brief time on Friday afternoon, and though I expected a large crowd on a Saturday afternoon (especially given the first mild, sunny day we've had here in New York for quite awhile), I wasn't prepared for the mass of humanity that crowded almost every aisle. As the pictures below show, there was no shortage of great costumes on view.

Thanks to all of you who agreed to let me take your picture and run it here at AsianCineFest.

MiMi is "Catblue Dynamite"

One of several groups of costumed friends

"Batgirl" @ ComicCon; schoolteacher and playwright at other times

ACF 222: I's DVD Box Set to debut March 24th from VIZ Media

Here's news of another animation release from VIZ:

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, will expand its library of animated properties with the eagerly awaited debut of I”s as a special two-disc DVD box set with an estimated street date of March 24th.

I”s is based on a popular manga series (Rated ‘M” for mature audiences) by Masakazu Katsura, published domestically by VIZ Media under its Shonen Jump Advanced imprint. The original I”s animated series, as well as a six-episode follow-up called I”s PURE, will be included this new DVD box set (rated “M” for Mature audiences) and carries an SRP of $29.98 US/$39.99 CAN.

Iori Hazuki is a beautiful high school girl with ambitions of becoming a model and actress. Ichitaka Seto is an indecisive sixteen year-old boy with a mad crush on Iori. Things become more complicated for Ichitaka when a childhood friend named Itsuki returns from living in the United States and ends up living at his house – and Itsuki is far from the shy and homely young girl Ichitaka remembers. Ichitaka must now reconcile his feelings for each girl and work hard to make sure that his angst-riddled personal life doesn't become any more dramatic. Put all three “I”s together and you have a tale of love, comedy, and dreams!

In I”s PURE, hapless Ichitaka continues to face endless obstacles that include pranks, misunderstandings, stalkers, and a romantic intervention as he continues to try and win the heart of his classmate and budding actress Iori. But most of all, Ichitaka tries to remain true to his feelings. Are these two "I"s destined to find happiness together, or does fate have other ideas?

Widely known in anime circles as the character designer for IRIA: ZEIRAM THE ANIMATION, a Science Fiction series about a sexy female bounty hunter, I”s creator Masakazu Katsura is also a popular manga artist celebrated for the buxom beauties and madcap stories that are a focal point of his work. His best-selling series VIDEO GIRL AI (which I really liked, says Dr. G) is also published domestically by VIZ Media.

“This zany and often unexpectedly sweet romantic comedy, understandably celebrated by fans of the original I”s manga, plays out wonderfully in this special 2-disc DVD box set,” says Gonzalo Ferreyra, Vice President Sales & Product Marketing. “Creator Masakazu Katsura's quirky sense of humor and penchant for drawing appealing young ladies will make I”s a unique favorite. We look forward to fans of the manga exploring this new DVD box set and encourage audiences that have yet to discover the humor and fun of I”s to check out both the manga and the anime series from VIZ Media!”

Friday, February 06, 2009

ACF 221: NY ComicCon begins today!

The 2009 NY ComicCon begins today and runs through Sunday, February 8, 2009. It will be held at the Jacob Javits Center on West 34th Street near the Hudson River. I spent some time at last years convention, the first I'd attended. This year I expect to spend more time, and hopefully will get to see - and write about - the premiere of Takashi Miike's Yatterman.

It's an incredible event that shouldn't be missed if you're in the area and like comics in general, manga in particular, anime, or related fare. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

For the NY ComicCon's main webpage, click here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

ACF 220: VIZ announces April 2009 animation DVD lineup

Here's the low down on VIZ Media's April 2009 DVD releases of animation films:

VIZ Media has announced their DVD lineup for April 2009, which include animated favorites such as HUNTER X HUNTER, DEATH NOTE, NARUTO, INUYASHA and POKÉMON. VIZ Media’s April releases include many hefty box set editions as well as some featuring special premium collectibles. VIZ Media DVD titles are distributed (in English) in U.S and Mexico by Warner Home Video and in Canada by Allegro.

HUNTER X HUNTER DVD Box Set Volume 2 · Rated “T+” for Older Teens · MSRP: $49.95 US / $64.99 CAN · Available April 7

Gon and his friends have passed the first two stages of the Hunter Exam, but they still have three more grueling phases to complete. The applicants must escape the maze-like Trick Tower and survive a free-for-all on an isolated island before they can battle it out in the final tournament. Will Gon and his friends prove their worth and earn the right to call themselves Hunters? Find out in this exciting new Box Set inspired by the popular HUNTER X HUNTER manga series created by Yoshihiro Togashi.

Artwork (c) 2002 Masashi Kishimoto
Shonen Jump and Naruto are trademarks of Shueisha, Inc. in the U.S. and other countries

NARUTO UNCUT DVD Box Set Volume 13 Special Edition · Rated “T+” for Older Teens · MSRP: $69.97 US / $89.99 CAN · Available April 7

Naruto summons a couple of old amphibious pals – Gamakichi and Gamatatsu – to help him solve a mystery surrounding a mysterious Cursed Warrior. But back at home, there's nothing more motivating for Choji and Naruto than a bowl of steaming hot Ichiraku ramen, and they're really going to have to sing for their supper when the owner's daughter is kidnapped! Can they get her back and save the restaurant's secret recipes in time for dinner? Then, Anko must face the darkness in her past when she's called to lead a mission to a place she once visited with her former sensei, Orochimaru! Will facing the truth save the mission – or break her forever? Special Edition Box Set includes Naruto playing cards plus a collectible Kakashi ninja figure.

NARUTO UNCUT DVD Box Set Volume 13 Standard Edition· Rated “T+” for Older Teens · MSRP: $49.95 US / $64.99 CAN · Available April 7
DVD-only collection featuring episodes from the hit series; no cards or collectible are figure is included.

Artwork (c) Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata/Shueisha
(c) DNDP, VAP, Shuisha, MAdhouse
Shonen Jump and Death Note are trademarks of Shueisha, Inc. in the U.S. and other countries

DEATH NOTE DVD Box Set Volume 2 · Rated “T+” for Older Teens · MSRP: $69.97 US / $89.99 CAN · Available April 14

Through the power of the Death Note, Light Yagami is close to creating a world in which he holds ultimate authority over right and wrong. But many obstacles remain, including a second Death Note user who has his own nefarious goals, and the two brilliant protégés of L., the genius detective who once vowed to expose the identity of the Death Note’s owner. Light is confident that he can prevail, but as the surviving players in the game converge for a final showdown, whose name will be the last one written in the Death Note? This new Box Set features the exciting conclusion to the supernatural mystery crime thriller based on the popular DEATH NOTE manga series.

All Pokemon artwork (c) 2008 Pokemon
(c) 1997-2008 Nintendo, Creatures, Game Freak, TV Tokyo, ShoPro, JR Kikaku. Pokemon properties are trademarks of Nintendo

POKÉMON: ALL STARS Volume 19: Torchic ·
MSRP: $9.98 US / $12.99 CAN Each · Available April 21

MSRP: $9.98 US / $12.99 CAN Each · Available April 21

Following up with POKÉMON’s 10th Anniversary celebration set, the POKÉMON ALL STARS will have a total of twenty DVD releases each commemorating some of the most popular Pokémon characters. Each disc showcases a single character with three classic TV episodes featuring their adventures. Gotta Catch ‘em All!

INUYASHA SEASON 7 DVD Box Set Deluxe Edition · Rated “T” for Teens · MSRP: 119.89 US / $149.99 CAN · Available April 28

The story of the priestess Kikyo and half-demon Inuyasha ended in tragedy. Will Inuyasha and Kagome's story have a happier ending? Each battle draws the group closer to their ultimate goal – the border of the afterlife and the final shard of the Shikon Jewel. But the last stage of their journey is the most difficult of all. In their final battle with Naraku, will the bond between Kagome and Inuyasha prove strong enough to vanquish him at last? Special Deluxe Box Set Edition comes with a Limited Edition collectible Inuyasha figure.

INUYASHA SEASON 7 DVD Box Set Standard Edition · Rated “T” for Teens · MSRP: $99.94 US / $129.99 CAN · Available April 28
DVD-only collection featuring episodes from the hit series; no collectible figure is included.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

ACF 219: Happy Flight screens for free in Pittsburgh tomorrow night

Happy Flight
Written and directed by Shinobu Yaguchi
Japan, 2008, 103 min.

ANA (All Nippon Airways) is presenting a free screening of this air-travel-centered comedy in Pittsburgh tomorrow night, Thursday, February 5th, 2009. The screening will be at the Regent Square Theater, 1035 South Braddock Ave, Edgewood, PA 15218. Doors will open at 6:15 PM, and the film will be shown at 7:00 PM.

Director Yaguchi's previous works include Waterboys (2001), his break-out film, and Parco Fiction (2002), both of which are delights. Haruka Ayase won the Nikkan Sports FIlm Award for Best Actress for her performance in Happy Flight.

While admission is free, you need to RSVP to attend. For the RSVP form, click here.

And here's some background about the film and director from new-york-tokyo.com:

Director Shinobu Yaguchi brought feelings of laughter, tears, and exhilaration to audiences with his films about boys’ synchronized swimming (WATERBOYS) and girls’ high school big band jazz (SWING GIRLS). The theme of his latest film, HAPPY FLIGHT, is “airplanes” - of all things!

Yaguchi’s intent was to create a realistic, completely new film that oversees all corners of the aviation industry. Having ANA (All Nippon Airways) lend their Boeing 747 for filming and 500 staff members’ involvement, he created a wonderfully entertaining film chock-full of Yaguchi’s love and fascination of airplanes. The setting of the film takes place at an airport and on an airplane.

A great variety of “aviation professionals” such as pilots, flight attendants, the ground crew, mechanics, dispatchers, controllers, and the bird patrol crew all support a single flight. They have only one mission: to secure the safety of the passengers. Today was supposed to be any other day on the job, departing on schedule and heading safely to Honolulu, but…Just like riding on a jumbo jet, please experience this movie as tremendously fun and exciting!

The cast includes Seiichi Tanabe (Memories of Tomorrow, Honey and Clover) and Haruka Ayase (Cyborg She, The Magic Hour, and Ichi). The film was produced by Altamira Pictures (”Shall we dance ?”). Now you really can’t miss it!

ACF 218: Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild at Lincoln Center

Days of Being Wild / A Fei zheng chuan
Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Hong Kong, 1990, 94 min.

One of Wong Kar-wai's great Hong Kong films, Days of Being Wild will be shown at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater on Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 7:30pm. The theater is a terrific venue, with comfortable stadium seats. Here's the info put out by the FSLC:

“A rapturous film about cool men, hot women and the thousand and one nights and cigarettes they share. - Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

Few films are able to evoke the bittersweet path from romanticism and heartbreak as seamlessly as Wong Kar-wai’s vibrant second feature. Set in Hong Kong in 1960, Days of Being Wild follows a charming playboy (the late Leslie Cheung) and the lives of the women he exploits: a baby-faced concession stand girl (Maggie Cheung) and an energetic showgirl (Carina Lau).

Considered the first in a trilogy of provocative romantic explorations that includes In the Mood for Love and 2046, this erotically charged, sumptuously shot film stands among recent cinema’s world-class achievements and with Hong Kong’s best films. An official selection of New Directors/New Films 1991.

Jaime Wolf, a journalist and screenwriter, will introduce the screening and there will be a post-film party with an open bar and hors d’oeuvres in the Furman Gallery, adjacent to the Walter Reade Theater's lobby.

Admission (includes screening and reception):
- Young Friends of Film members receive one complimentary ticket.
- Admissions for guests of Young Friends of film members, regular members and the public is $25.

Please note: there is a $2.50 service charge per ticket ordered online and cash only transactions at the box office. No passes ~ no vouchers accepted to this event.

FSLC webpage for Days of Being Wild, including link to order tickets.

Due to construction, access to the Walter Reade Theater is on the north side of West 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. Look for the FILM banner and use the escalator, elevator or stairs.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

ACF 217: Takashi Miike at Japan Society on Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Tadanobu Asano as Kakihara in Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer

In conjunction with the screening of Yatterman, his newest film, at this coming weekend's NY Comic-Con, prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike will be talking about his filmmaking at Japan Society this Saturday. The talk, which will be translated into English, will take place at 2:00 PM.

I've been a big fan ever since I saw Ichi the Killer, Miike's 2001 Yakuza splatter-fest, at Lincoln Center several years ago. (Previously I had seen his Fudoh: The New Generation, 1996, on VHS, but hadn't noted his name.)

In the 15th Anniversary Issue of Asian Cult Cinema magazine (1st quarter 2008), Ichi ranked #1 in the ACC Readers' Poll of Guilty Pleasures. Here's the Japan Society info about Miike's upcoming appearance:

From the gory horror of Audition (1999) to the spaghetti western parody Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) to the musical comedy The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), Japan’s busiest film director Takashi Miike has made over 50 films in the widest range of possible genres. His razor-sharp, most absurd and yet entertaining style of filmmaking makes him one of the most distinctive directors working today, and this has brought a whole new type of international, enthusiastic, young followers to contemporary Japanese films. In this incisive afternoon, Miike will speak in depth on his filmmaking behind-the scenes.

A reception will follow.

Born in Osaka in 1960, Takashi Miike graduated from the Japan Academy of Moving Images in Yokohama. After assisting directors such as Shohei Imamura and Hideo Onchi, he directed a number of Yakuza movies on video and made a theatrical feature debut with Shinjuku Triad Society in 1995. His filmography includes more than 50 films to date, and the latest film Yatterman is being released in Japan in March.

Tickets:$11/$7 Japan Society members, seniors & students.

Purchase tickets online or call the box office at 212.715.1258.

Japan Society is located 333 East 47th Street at First Avenue, NYC.