With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

ACF 485: VIZ announces April 2010 DVD releases

VIZ Media has announced their list of DVD titles scheduled for release in April 2010. This includes the final box set release of NANA, the next episodic releases of the popular BLEACH and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN series, and the latest box set release of NARUTO SHIPPPUDEN. Also releasing is the live action feature film, K-20: THE FIEND WITH TWENTY FACES, from VIZ Pictures. VIZ Media DVD titles are distributed (in English) in the U.S and Mexico by Warner Home Video and in Canada by Allegro. Here's the info VIZ has provided:

New NARUTO and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Releases Include:

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Box Set 2 Special Edition · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $69.97 US / $99.99 CAN · Available April 20

Team Kakashi is joined by Team Guy in their pursuit of Gaara's kidnappers, Deidara and Sasori, but their way to the Akatsuki hideout is fraught with familiar enemies and deadly traps. Once inside, Sakura and Granny Chiyo must take on Chiyo's own grandson, the puppet master Sasori, whose complex tricks and genius puppetry demand every last ounce of Chiyo's and Sakura's strength and skill to counter. Meanwhile, Naruto and Kakashi take off after Deidara, who is once again on the run with Gaara in tow...

The Special Edition Box Set contains 13 episodes on 3 discs, exclusive art card, and a collectible NARUTO Shippuden Mininja figure (Deidara).

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Box Set 2 Standard Edition · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $49.95 US / $71.99 CAN · Available April 20

DVD-only collection featuring 13 episodes on 3 discs. Exclusive art card and collectible figure not included.

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Volume 8 · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN · Available April 6

Supported by Naruto's powerful chakra, Granny Chiyo performs the Reanimation Ninjutsu to revive Gaara, but the cost is high. Back in the Leaf Village, Kakashi must spend time in the hospital to recover from his use of the Mangekyo Sharingan. With two open spots on Team Kakashi, Naruto is prepared to recruit some of his friends from the village. But unbeknownst to him, the replacements are being chosen by the village elders, and at least one of them he's really going to hate!

Episodes 31-34

NARUTO Uncut Season 2 Volume 2 Box Set · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $39.97 US / $57.99 CAN · Available April 27

The destruction of the Hidden Leaf Village has been averted, but at great cost. While the village mourns, a new menace arrives in the form of Sasuke's brother, Itachi Uchiha--but why is he after Naruto? Then Jiraiya whisks Naruto away on a training journey to find the legendary kunoichi Tsunade, who's been selected to become the new Hokage. But they'd better hurry, because Orochimaru is looking for her as well!

For more information on NARUTO and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, visit www.NARUTO.com.

Additional VIZ Media DVD releases include:

NANA Box Set 4 · Rated 'M' for Mature · MSRP: $59.90 US/ $85.99 CAN · Available April 13

Life is a whirlwind--will the Nanas make it through the storm without each other? As if Blast's debut wasn't causing enough stress, Takumi and Nana K.'s announcement sends everyone reeling, but none more than Nana O. and Reira. While Reira turns to Shin for comfort, Nana is drawn to Yasu and his calm understanding, leaving her questioning her relationship with Ren. Nana K. meanwhile is happily nesting in her new home, but her continued estrangement from Nana O. weighs heavily on her heart.

Contains episodes 35-47

For more information on NANA, please visit nana.viz.com.

BLEACH Volume 27 · Rated ‘T’ for Teens · MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN · Available April 20

With the Bounts defeated, Ichigo and his friends settle down to what they think will be an ordinary life of school and battling Hollows. But things take a turn for the unusual when a new student arrives at school who seems to know all about Ichigo--including the Hollow within him that's getting stronger all the time. With a menacing Spiritual Pressure descending on Karakura Town, Isshin and Urahara are worried that someone is creating an army of Arrancar--Hollows with Soul Reaper powers--and that someone may be former Soul Reaper captain Sosuke Aizen!

Episodes: 110 thru 113

For more information on BLEACH, visit BLEACH.viz.com.

From VIZ Pictures (Live Action Feature Films):

K-20: THE FIEND WITH TWENTY FACES · MSRP: $24.92 US/ $35.99 CAN · Available April 20

It is 1949 in Japan, in a world where World War II never happened and the nobility system is still in place. Heikichi, a circus acrobat, is deceived by "The Fiend (Kaijin) with Twenty Faces" and is set up to take the fall for the phantom thief. Now, Heikichi must wage war against K-20. Directed by Shimako Sato, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Takako Matsu, and Toru Nakamura.

(K-20 screened at last summer's New York Asian Film Festival. For my post about it, click here. I really liked it a lot, and I hope to have a review of VIZ's DVD up after screener's become available around the middle of March. Check back for that.)

More information on VIZ Pictures titles is available at VIZ-Pictures.com.

Friday, February 26, 2010

ACF 484: Korean Movie Night Series Two: The Remakes

Just got official word about the next Korean Movie Night film series. Sponsored by Korean Cultural Service (NY) and again free, the series will focus on three Korean movies slated to be remade by Hollywood. Whether or not the remakes will be even decent remains to be seen, but the Korean originals are fine, fine, and fine!

All films are scheduled to be shown at Tribeca Cinema, 54 Varick Street on Canal. KCS is continuing with the policy they adopted for the last film in the first series, namely free admission on a first-come, first-serve policy. Theater doors will open at 6:30 PM and showtimes will be at 7:00.

Die Bad
Directed by Ryu Seung-Wan
South Korea, 2000, 98 min
NY Premiere

This was the first film from director Ryu, whose subsequent work includes City of Violence. Die Bad is an amazing action movie that was shot on the sly for $55,000!!! Marc Foster (Quantum of Solace, Monster's Ball) came onboard in 2008 to do the Hollywood remake.

Ryu's original will be shown Tuesday, March 9th, 2010.

SHIN Ha-Kyun (left), SONG Kang-Ho (center), BAE Doona (right)
© Tartan Films 2005

Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance
Directed by Park Chan-Wook
South Korea, 2002, 129 min

This was the first film in Director Park's "Vengeance Trilogy." It was followed by Oldboy (2003) and then Lady Vengeance (2005). A kick-ass movie with a fantastic cast.

Remake rights were purchased by Warner Bros in January, 2010. The Hollywood version is being produced by the people who brought audiences GI Joe, Transformers, and Doom. (Yikes! Can you guess why I'm not the least bit hopeful about this remake.)

Catch the real deal from Park on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010.

EUN Seo-Woo in Phone
© Tartan Films 2005

Directed by Ahn Byung-Ki
South Korea, 2002, 109 min

Director Ahn will be remaking his own horror film for the production company behind the Twilight movies.

His original will screen Tuesday, April 6th, 2010.

I'll be posting reminders close to each screening and hope to have at least some reviews up as well.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ACF 483: NY Int'l Children's Film Festival


in association with

The 13th critically acclaimed New York International Children's Film Festival (NYICFF) kicks off from Feb 26 through March 21st. NYICFF is North America's largest festival of film for children and teens and stands at the forefront of a movement to define a new, more provocative and compelling film for kids. Activities include ground-breaking, fun-filled and thought-provoking new works and special events. NEW YORK-TOKYO is very happy to work with NYICFF again this year for Japanese anime.


*US Premiere*
Director: Mamoru Hosoda Production: Madhouse
2009 Japan 114 min Japanese with English subtitles

SUMMER WARS is a scintillating new feature from emerging anime star Mamoru Hosoda, a film whose "dazzling fluency of motion and untethered brilliance of invention makes the usual fantasy anime look childish and dull." Director Mamoru Hosoda will make a special guest appearance at this premiere!

Recommended Ages: 9 to Adult

Fri, Feb 26 at 6:00PM at DGA Theater

© 2009 Nobuko Takagi / Magazine House / "MAIMAISHINKO" Film Committee

*US Premiere*
Director: Sunao Katabuchi Production: Madhouse
2009 Japan 95 min Japanese with English subtitles

MAI MAI MIRACLE is a sumptuously animated film about friendship and the passing of childhood is as "splendidly colorful and beautifully illustrated as a Monet landscape".

Recommended Ages: 8 to Adult

Sat, Feb 27 at 5:30PM at Cantor Film Center
Sat, Mar 6 at 11:30AM at Symphony Space

*US Premiere*
Director: Shinsuke Sato Production: Production I.G
2009 Japan 98 min Japanese with English subtitles

OBLIVION ISLAND is a film from the creators of GHOST IN THE SHELL comes a film with exquisite 2D backgrounds with modern 3D character designs in a dazzling animated adventure.

Recommended Ages: 7 to Adult

Sat, Feb 27 at 10:30AM at Cantor Film Center
Sat, Mar 6 at 4:30PM at Symphony Space


*US Premiere*
Director: Yasuhiro Yoshiura
2008 Japan 15 min Japanese with English subtitles

The US premiere of TIME OF EVE will show at the Flicker Lounge program, a selection of the best short film and animation from around the world. The Flicker Lounge runs for 80 min.

Recommended Ages: 12 to Adult

Sat, Feb 27 at 4:30PM at Cantor Film Center
Sat, Mar 13 at 2:00PM at Symphony Space

© Iwaisawa kenji

*US Premiere*
Director: Iwaisawa Kenji
2008 Japan 5 min Japanese with English subtitles

The US Premiere of MAN IN THE TUNNEL ALLEY will show at the Heebie Jeebies program which features a selection of strange and scary short films from around the world. The Heebie Jeebies program runs for 80 min.

Recommended Ages: 10 to Adult

Sat, Feb 27 at 3:00PM at Cantor Film Center
Sat, Mar 13 at 7:00PM at Symphony Space

For more information:

NYICFF was founded in 1997 to promote intelligent, passionate, provocative cinematic works for ages 3-18 and to help define a more compelling film for kids. Since its launch, the event has grown to become the largest festival for children and teens in North America, with a paid audience of over 25,000 attending the most recent event. Since 2000, all screenings have sold out in advance.


Founded in 2001, NEW YORK - TOKYO (NYT) is a NYC - based lifestyle marketing, communications, and event media company that creates a place online and offline for the creative exchange inspired by the New York and Tokyo youth culture scenes.


Monday, February 22, 2010

ACF 482: Breathless - review and reminder

Breathless / Ddongpari
Directed by Yang Ik-June
South Korea, 2009, 131 minutes

First, the reminder:
Korean Cultural Service's Korean Movie Night has thus far proved to be a huge hit with audiences. The first stage of the series has been devoted to Independent Movies. Breathless, the fourth and final film in this first stage will be shown tomorrow, Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010.

Like prior screenings in this Korean Movie Night series, it will be shown free of charge. However the Korean Cultural Service has changed its normal R.S.V.P. policy. Instead, seating will be on a first-come, first-seated basis. Showtime is 7pm at Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, one block from the A, C, Eand 1 train Canal Street stops). The theater accommodates about 130 people, so it's suggested that you get there at 6:15 if at all possible to get online.

Director Yang Ik-June, who also wrote the screenplay and stars in the film, will be present and will do a Q&A after the screening.

The review:
Yang Ik-June
plays Sang-Hoon, a gangster who leads a crew that collects debts, and engages in violent intimidation of such groups as student protesters on a "for hire" basis. Kim Kot-Bi, in her first film role, co-stars as Yeon-Hue, a high school student who forms an unlikely relationship with Sang-Hoon, one that is based on the fact that she gives back every bit as good as he dishes out.

Profanity and brutal violence permeate the film. Prudes and the squeamish are thus forewarned. But neither the language nor the violence are gratuitous: both serve to depict the realities of severely damaged individuals who take out their discontent on others, whether in society at large or within a family situation.

Yang, who previously had a few film roles, reportedly mortgaged his house to finance this film, a far riskier gamble than that of maxing out one's credit cards. Often such a decision leads to personal ruin, but here it's paid off. Breathless won several awards at Rotterdam and was selected the "Best Debut Feature" at the 2009 New York Asian Film Festival last summer. It's a powerful film and a most auspicious first effort by a very talented director.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

ACF 481: Exhibition of Korean Dance-Drama Masks at The Korea Society NY to open March 4th, 2010

Masks of Night
Faces from Traditional Korean Dance-Dramas

Opening Reception Thursday, March 4 2010, 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM

The gallery at The Korea Society (NY) will host an exhibition of masks used in Korean dance-dramas. Evolved from ancient shamanic rituals into a form of popular theater, these dance-dramas were performed both at the Korean royal court and throughout the countryside. The exhibition will run from March 4th through May 28th, 2010. The gallery should prove perfect for an intimate experiencing of these objects from Korea's cultural past.

There will also be a Gallery Talk entitled Korean Masked Dance-Drama: Enchanted Fertility Rite and Social Satire on Thursday, April 1, 2010. Theresa Ki-ja Kim, Professor Emeritus, Department of theatre Arts, SUNY Stony Brook, will speak on "how Korea's unique tradition of masked dance-dramas masterfully blended fertility rite, social satire, and popular entertainment."

Gallery Talk on Thursday, April 1, 2010
6:00 PM - 6:30 Pm - Registration and Reception
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM - Presentation and Q&A

Register for the Gallery Talk online at www.koreasociety.org, or for more information contact Heewon Kim at 212.759.7525, ext 355 or heewon.ny@koreasociety.org.

Gallery Hours
March 4, 2010 - May 28, 2010
Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue @ 57th Street, 8th Floor
(Building entrance on SW Corner of Third Avenue and 57th Street

Saturday, February 20, 2010

ACF 480: Air Doll at Film Comment Selects

Bae Du-na (left) and Arata (right) in Air Doll

The annual Film Comment Selects series at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade theater began yesterday. (Sorry I didn't have the opportunity to get up a post about it earlier, but that's just how it goes sometimes.) It features quite few Asian films.

The one I'm most interested is Director Hirokazu Kore-eda's Air Doll (2009). It stars Korean actress Bae Du-na (Linda, Linda, Linda and The Host) as a sex doll that comes to life. I'm thinking a cross of Lars and the Real Girl (which is really about a caring community more than a sex-doll) and the delightful manga Video Girl Ai by Masakazu Katsura, in which a VHS video girl materializes out of a TV set.

Here's a description of Air Doll from the Film Society of Lincoln Center website:

Deceptively airy, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Air Doll makes us reflect on our sexual assumptions and the depths of loneliness often endured by the inhabitants of large cities. Korean star Bae Du-na plays Nozomi, an inflatable sex doll belonging to a lonesome Tokyo salaryman who comes alive and wanders the city by day. Like a child with a fresh pair of eyes, she learns about life and love through observation—but how long can her journey of discovery last?

Air Doll will be shown twice: Tuesday, February 23rd at 6:15 PM and Saturday, February 27th at 1:30 PM. For the specific Air Doll page, which includes a trailer, click here.

For descriptions of all films to be shown and to buy tickets, click here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ACF 479: Destiny's Son at Japan Society

Destiny's Son
Directed by Kenji Misumi
Japan, 1962, 71 min, color

Japan Society's current film series The Double Edged Sword: The Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu & Raizo Ichikawa continues tomorrow night, Friday, February 19th, 2010 at 7:30 PM with this rather unusual swordplay film. In it Ichikawa plays Takakura Shingo, a young man who has been raised as the son of a low ranking samurai, but whose actual origins are far different.

After wandering around Japan to gain life experience, Shingo returns to his father and sister with unexpected skills as a swordsmen. These include a formidable stance that was inspired by a lute player. Shingo's victory over a talented swordsman incurs the wrath and jealousy of another low ranking samurai whose own son was defeated in the contest. This sets Shingo off on a search for revenge and further wanderings.

Shingo demonstrates the stance inspired by a lute player

Director Kenji Misumi was born in 1921 in Kyoto, Japan. Most of his films were made for Daiei, where he was a contract player until it went bankrupt in 1971. He wnet on to make a few more films before his death in 1975. Many of his movies are available on DVD. These include several of the films in the Zatoichi series, including the first one, which appeared the same year as Destiny's Son. He also directed films in the Lone Wolf & Cub (a.k.a. Baby Cart) series and in the Sleepy Eyes of Death series, in which Ichikawa also starred.

Destiny's Son has been referred to as "a forgotten masterpiece" in some of the promo material. Personally, I think is a bit more praise than the film merits. There is a lengthy expository scene in which Shingo's "father" tells him the truth about his birth. For me, this scene brought the film to a grinding halt for awhile. Too much "telling" and not enough "showing."

There were also a few minor things that didn't make much sense. For example, at one point a government official for whome Shingo has been working says that they've been together for about three years. However, the story at that point seems to indicate that he's been in the official's employ for a far shorter time. Of course, this might be just a problem with the subtitles, or a misreading on my part.

Still, while I don't regard this very short film (at 71 minutes it probably just qualifies as feature length) as a masterpiece, I think it's a good film that is definitely worth seeing. This is especially so because it does not appear to be available on a Region 1 DVD.

So if you can, make it to Friday's screening of Destiny's Son, which will take place at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street (beteween 1st and 2nd Avenues), NYC.

Buy tickets online or call the Japan Society Box Office at 212.715.1258, Mon - Fri 11 am - 6 pm.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ACF 478: Discussion with Korean Director Bong Joon-Ho at The Korea Society, NY

Korean Film in Focus:
A Conversation with Director Bong Joon-Ho

Director Bong Joon-ho has rapidly become one of the most powerful creative and commercial forces in the Korean film industry. After releasing the critically acclaimed Barking Dogs Never Bite and Memories of Murder, Bong stepped into the international spotlight with his 2006 monster film, The Host. Throughout his films, Bong has forged an unmistakable style that fuses the inner realities of contemporary Korea—especially the shame, guilt, and trauma left over from the democratic movement of the 1980s—with all the power and fun of genre movies. His new film Mother, set for U.S. release in March, utilizes this powerful style in the service of a murder mystery.

On Thursday, February 25, The Korea Society will host a conversation with Bong Joon-ho about his filmmaking method and his career within the Korean film industry. The evening will include a special preview of clips from the upcoming Mother.

Discussion Moderated By:
Michael Atkinson
Professor of Film
Long Island University

Thursday, February 25, 2010
6:00–6:30 PM * Registration and Reception
6:30–8:30 PM * Discussion and Q&A

The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue @ 57th Street, 8th Floor
(Building entrance on SW corner of Third Avenue and 57th Street).

Tickets are available for $10 (members) or $15 (non-members). For more information contact Yuni Cho at yuni.ny@koreasociety.org or 212-759-7525 ext. 323.

About the Moderator:
Michael Atkinson is a writer, critic and professor of film at Long Island University. His writing on film and culture has appeared in The Village Voice, LA Weekly, The Guardian, Maxim, Film Comment, In These Times, and Moving Image Source. He is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship and co-author/producer of Babylon Fields, a 20th Century Fox TV pilot.

This program is supported by Magnolia Pictures (www.magpictures.com)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ACF 477: Breathless - free screening in New York on February 23rd, 2010

Directed by Yang Ik-June
South Korea, 2009, 131 minutes

Korean Cultural Service's Korean Movie Night has thus far proved to be a huge hit with audiences. The first stage of the series has been devoted to Independent Movies. Breathless, the fourth and final film in this first stage will be shown next Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010.

Winner of several awards at Rotterdam and winner of "Best Debut Feature" at the New York Asian Film Festival, Breathless is uncompromising, two-fisted, DIY filmmaking at its heartbreaking best. Written, produced, directed and starring Yang Ik-June (who mortgaged his house to finance the film!) this movie about a shiftless, violent thug drifting through life takes on emotional weight when he runs up against a schoolgirl, Yeon-Hee, who gives as good as she gets. Together, these two battered souls form an unlikely alliance against the world. Lauded by the New York Times as one of this year's real finds, Breathless will hurt you in all the right ways.

Breathless, like all films in the Korean Movie Night series will be shown free of charge. However you have to RSVP to info@koreanculture.org or call 212.759.9550 to secure a seat. If you're told that the show has been "sold out," you still may be able to attend by arriving early and getting on the stand-by line. In the past, 20 to 30 people have made it in this way.

Showtime is 7pm at Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, one block from the A, C, Eand 1 train Canal Street stops).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

ACF 476: 20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope


The Region 1 North American DVD of the second film in the 20th Century Boys trilogy is scheduled to come out tomorrow, Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 from VIZ Pictures. The single disc release will have an MSRP of $24.92 U.S. and $35.99 CAN.

The first film, 20th Century Boys 1: The Beginning of the End, was set at the end of the 20th Century as a bizarre cult let by a mysterious masked individual name "Friend" has emerged in Japan. At the same time, catastrophes that were described in "The Book of Prophecy," which was written by a young boy named Kenji in 1969, begin to occur. The film ends on New Year's Eve, December 31st 2000, as a giant virus -spreading robot walks the streets of Tokyo, wreaking havoc like a latter-day mechanical Godzilla. A giant explosion destroys buildings and kills the grown-up Kenji, who was trying to prevent the disaster, and some of his friends. Or at least that's the way things seem.

The Last Hope takes up the story fifteen years later in 2015 and focus's on Kenji's niece, Kanna. She denies the official story that her uncle was a terrorist who caused the explosion, and that Friend was mankind's savor. Her "anti-Friend" behavior earns her a stint in Friend Land, a re-education center for those with rebellious behavior. Along with her classmate Kyoko Koizumi, she is sent to the Bonus Stage, a virtual reconstruction of 1971 where each of them learn about Friend's identity.

Meanwhile, another book, The New Book of Prophecy, has emerged. It prophesies the assassination at a church in Shinjuku of a savior who will rise to uphold justice. Does this prophesy refer to Kanna, to Friend, or to someone else entirely?

The first film clocked in at 142 minutes. This second installment, at 140 minutes, is only slightly shorter, but it's much more dense and complex. Personally, I found it a bit difficult to recognize and keep track of all the secondary characters, but even so, this didn't really mar the film for me. Other viewers, especially those familiar with the manga series by Naoki Urasawa upon which the films are based, probably will not be fazed in the slightest. (Eight volumes of the manga are available from VIZ. For info at VIZ, click here.)

The DVD's soundtrack is available in Japanese 5.1 or 2.0, with optional English subtitles; there is no English-dubbed soundtrack. The extras on the DVD are pretty lean. There are trailers of the 20th Century Boys films with English-dubbed dialogue, and the original Japanese with no subtitles. Also included are two promotional trailers for other VIZ Pictures releases: Maiko Haaan!!! and Ping Pong. both of which are pretty terrific films in their own right.

On its own, I'd give 20th Century Boys 2 a 3 out of 4 start ACF rating (solidly recommended). Of course, you can't really separate it from the entire trilogy, and I've got to say I'm really looking forward to the final installment. There are some scenes from it at the end of the credits, as well as in the separate trailers, and it looks awesome. No word on when that final DVD will be out, but rest assured I'll be passing on that info as soon as I get it.

ACF 475: Jia Zhangke Retrospective at MoMA, March 5-20, 2010

Still Life / Sanxia haoren. Directed by Jia Zhangke
China/Hong Kong, 2006. Pictured: Zhao Tao.

Jia Zhangke: A Retrospective
March 5–20, 2010
The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters
The Museum of Modern Art


Internationally Celebrated Filmmaker Takes on Complex Subject Matter Using Gritty Realism, Elegant Camerawork, and Unique Artistic Vision

Jia Zhangke: A Retrospective is the first complete U.S. retrospective of this internationally celebrated contemporary filmmaker who, in little more than a decade, has become one of cinema‘s most critically acclaimed artists and the leading figure of the sixth generation of Chinese filmmakers. The exhibition screens in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters from March 5 through 20, 2010, and includes Jia Zhangke‘s (Chinese, b. 1970) entire oeuvre: eight features and six shorts, dating from 1995 to 2008. The retrospective is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

The director will be at MoMA with Zhao Tao—his leading actress since her debut in Zhantai (Platform) (2000)—to introduce most of his films at screenings between the opening night film on Friday, March 5, at 7:00 p.m. of Shijie (The World) (2004), through the screening on Monday, March 8 at 4:00 p.m. of Black Breakfast (2008) and Sanxia haoren (Still Life) (2006). Jia will also participate in a special Modern Mondays event at MoMA on the evening of March 8 at 7:00 p.m., where he will discuss his recent films and present two shorts and a sneak preview of a segment of his upcoming feature, Shanghai Chuan Qi (I Wish I Knew, 2010), followed by a discussion.

Merging a gritty realist style with elegant camera movements and postmodern flourishes, Jia tackles contemporary subject matter in both documentary and fiction projects, often fusing the two approaches to great effect. He has created a body of work that reflects on the enormous physical and interpersonal changes in Chinese society over the past 50 years. Jia Zhangke‘s films resonate with both domestic and international audiences due to his original combination of a sophisticated aesthetic with plainspoken integrity.

The films illuminate the transformations taking place in China‘s environment, architecture, and society, by placing everyday people in the midst of a landscape in turmoil. Aiming to restore the concrete memory of place and to evoke individual history in a rapidly modernizing society, the filmmaker recovers the immediate past in order to imagine the future. His films reflect reality truthfully, while simultaneously using fantasy and a distinct artistic vision to pose existential questions about life and status in a society in flux. Through rigorous specificity, his art attains universal scope and appeal.

An inspiration to fellow filmmakers, Jia has devised an original, ever-evolving, contemporary filmmaking style with a porous, symbiotic relationship between the real and the
imagined. His works are cast with amateurs as well as professional actors, and he uses fluid camera movements to deconstruct space, adapt its movements, and position its subject matter. These are prominent aspects of all the director‘s films, and are essential to his storytelling technique and to the remarkable texture of his films.

Jia Zhangke‘s beautifully calibrated 2008 dramatic short Heshang aiquing (Cry Me a River), pays homage to an earlier film from the Golden Era of Chinese filmmaking, the 1948 Chinese classic Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun (Spring in a Small Town), directed by Fei Mu, which also screens at MoMA as part of this retrospective.

The retrospective is made possible with the support of Xstream Pictures (Eva Lam, Project Manager); The Sarajevo Film Festival (Howard Feinstein, Programmer); and Tzu-Wen Cheng. Prints Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films; New Yorker Films; Cinema Guild; Memento/Artscope; China Fiilm Archive; Art for the World; Xstream; Celluloid Dreams; and Sidus Pictures.

For more information at the MoMA website, click here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

ACF 474: Happy Birthday, Kelly Hu!

A talented and gorgeous actress, Kelly Hu was born February 13, 1968 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Of Chinese, Hawaiian, and English ancestry, she is a fourth generation American. The first Asian-American to be crowned Miss Teen USA (1985), she was also named Miss Hawaii in 1993. After a modeling stint in Japan and Italy, she moved to Hollywood and got her first big break in 1987 in the TV show Growing Pains.

She has since appeared in scads of television shows. I think I first became aware of her when she co-starred in Marshall Law (1998-200) with Sammo Hung, though in looking over her filmography, I imagine I'd seen her in some of her earlier appearances. And of course, she's been in numerous films, including:

The Doors (1991)
The Scorpion King (2002)
Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)
X2 (2003, a.k.a. X-Men 2: X-Men United)

Her work in action films certainly benefited from her being a black belt in karate. She is also a very fine comedienne, as demonstrated in the unfortunately short-lived TV series In Case of Emergency (2007).

Her next movie is Almost Perfect, which filmed (at least in part) in New York, and which is currently in post-production and is slated to be released later this year.

So, best wishes for a wonderful birthday, Kelly, from Dr. G, one of your biggest fans.

Friday, February 12, 2010

ACF 473: Destiny's Son @ Japan Society NY

Destiny's Son is like a haiku. Lyrical, minimalist, a true gem."
- Patrick Galloway, Stray Dogs & Lone Wolves

Destiny's Son will be shown on Friday, February 19 at 7:30 pm at Japan Society. This forgotten masterpiece from the director of Lone Wolf and Cub features Raizo Ichikawa, the “Japanese James Dean,” in a wondrously dark and foreboding role. The screeening is part of the Monthly Classics series: THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD: The Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu & Raizo Ichikawa.

In Kenji Misumi’s breakthrough film, Ichikawa seeks revenge and redemption after his family is murdered by a rival clan. An astonishing, dreamlike samurai film written by Kaneto Shindo, Destiny’s Son is a demonic masterpiece: designed with quasi-expressionist artistry, awash with surreal landscapes, and subsumed in an otherworldly beauty that fuses Zen and sword.

After Destiny's Son, the remaining series schedule will consist of:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Visit www.japansociety.org/film for more details on the Monthly Classics, schedule and tickets.

All film screenings held at: Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, NY 10017 (at First Avenue).

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.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

ACF 472: Cactus's Secret to debut March 2nd

Cactus’s Secret:SABOTEN NO HIMITSU © 2003 by Nana Haruta/SHUEISHA Inc.


Bristling Romance Between Two High School Students
In New Shojo Manga From Nana Haruta

VIZ Media will debut the fun shojo manga CACTUS’S SECRET on March 2nd. The new series, by Nana Haruta, will be published under the Shojo Beat imprint, is rated ‘T’ for Teens, and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.

Miku Yamada has a longtime crush on classmate Kyohei Fujioka. But no matter how many times she tries to show him how she feels, clueless Kyohei just doesn't get it. Frustrated, Miku gives up on him, only to have him start calling her "Cactus" for being prickly when he's around. In the opening volume, Miku decides to try telling Kyohei her feelings by giving him chocolates for Valentine's Day. But Kyohei, unaware that he's the object of her affection, offers himself up as a practice partner for her love confession. Can Miku get through to him that he's the one she loves?

“Shojo manga fans won’t want to miss the cute artwork and funny romantic hijinks of CACTUS’S SECRET,” says Elizabeth Kawasaki, Senior Editorial Director at VIZ Media. “Creator Nana Haruta began her manga career with a debut in Ribon magazine when she was only 15, has written several popular manga series since then and we are very excited to introduce her work here in the US. Readers will smile from the very first page as the romance between Miku and Kyohei gets off to a thorny start!”

Nana Haruta debuted in 2000 with Love's ♥, Love's Symbol in Ribon Original magazine. Her other notable works include Love Berrish! and Chocolate Cosmos. Her latest series, Stardust ★ Wink, is also serialized in Ribon magazine.

For more information on this title, or other shojo titles from VIZ Media, visit www.shojobeat.com.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ACF 471: Last Witness screening at The Korea Society (NY) on Feb 18th

Last Witness / 최후의 증인
Directed by Lee Doo-yong
Starring Choi Bool-am, Han Hye-sook, Hah Myung-joong and Jeong yun-hui
1980, 158 minutes

The 2010 season of The Korea Society's Classic Movie Night series will continue on Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 6:30. To commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, The Korea Society has selected a schedule of classics that examine the conflict, and the deep, sometimes unexpected scars it has left on the Korean people. The series is entitled Facing the War: Six Decades of Film Since the Korean War

Synopsis of Last Witness:

Detective Oh Byeong-ho investigates a murder at a local brewery and uncovers the secret history of violence, and tragedy, between the communist guerrillas and right-wing militias that fought in the area during the Korean War. The film’s exploration of communism made it controversial in South Korea during the 1980s. Government censors cut 40 minutes from the theatrical release.

Guest Speaker (via video interview): Cho Jun-hyoung, researcher, Korean Film Archive; Lee Sang-joon, adjunct professor of cinema studies, New York University

The screening will take place at:

The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue @ 57th Street, 8th Floor
(Building entrance on SW corner of Third Avenue and 57th Street)

Tickets to each screening are available for $5 (members) or $10 (nonmembers).

For further info or to buy tickets, click here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

ACF 470: Happy Birthday, Ziyi Zhang!

Ziyi Zhang as The Empress Wan in
Legend of the Black Scorpion

Today marks the 31st birthday of Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang. Born in Beijing in 1979, she trained as a dancer, but gave it up and later studied at the China Central Drama College in Beijing, her birthplace. Her first noteworthy role was as Zhao Di, the young woman who's determined to marry the new teacher who comes to her village in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home (1999).

Her career skyrocketed with Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the following year. Her dance training served her well in that film's many martial arts sequences, and she at least held her own opposite veteran costars Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh.

In 2046

She's also worked with director Tsui Hark in The Legend of Zu (2001), his unfortunately inferior remake of his own Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain; Wong Kar-wei in 2046; Seijin Suzuki in his Princess Racoon (2005), and Robert Marshall in Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). She also re-teamed with Zhang Yimou for Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004).

In House of Flying Daggers

Multi-talented and beautiful, her career to date has been phenomenal. Unfortunately, she hasn't been a presence on movie screens in America for awhile.

So, heartfelt "Happy Birthday" wishes to you, Ziyi Zhang. Your fans in the U.S. surely wish you health, happiness, a continued, long and lustrous career, and to see you again soon doing what you do so well - lighting up our theaters, our widescreeen TVs, and our hearts.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

ACF 469: Beautiful - pre-screening review and reminder

Beautiful / A-leum-dab-da
Directed by Juhn Jai-Hong
South Korea, 2008, 88 minutes
New York Premiere

Let's start with a reminder about this coming Tuesday night's screening:

Beautiful, the next film in Korean Cultural Services' series of free screenings, will be shown on Tuesday, Feburary 9th at 7:00 PM. The screening will take place at the Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, one block from the A, C, E and 1 train Canal Street stops.

Although admission is free, you must RSVP to info@koreanculture.org or call 212-759-9550 to be admitted. I suggest you do so right away, as this - not surprisingly - has proved to be a very popular series. If the screening is "sold out," and if you're willing, show up anyway for the stand-by line. My understanding is that 20-30 people made it into the first two screenings this way.

One of her male "fans" obsesses over pictures of Eun-young

Now for my review.

Eun-young (Cha Su-yeon) is a lovely, young woman who has one problem: she's beautiful. Not just beautiful. but way too beautiful. So much so that giggly, teenage girls want to take her picture and get her autograph even after she assures them that she's not an actress.

When it comes to men, her looks are a liability, because men just can't help falling in love with her, wanting to have her. Although she is not a tease and does nothing to encourage them, men fall under the enchanting spell that he ethereal beauty passively casts. When one of them takes his obsession to far, Eun-young decides to make herself less attractive, first by over-eating, then by trying anorexia. As her mental state deteriorates, a police officer who started out as her "guardian angel" begins to succumb to her charms, much like other men.

This psychological thriller is the first feature film from Juhn Jai-Hong. He also wrote the screenplay, which is based on a story written by his mentor Kim Ki-duk (The Isle, Bad Guy). Juhn has done a masterful job depicting Eun-young's plight and deterioration. I especially admire him for keeping the film to a crisp run time; so many first-time directors can't resist the urge to include more-and-more, as if it might be their last chance to put something on the screen. The film deservedly won the grand Prix at the 2008 Fukuoka Asian Film Festival. (I'm scheduled to interview Juhn on Tuesday before the screening. If that goes as planned, I'll transcribe and edit the interview and post it her as soon as I can.)

Cha Su-yeon is perfectly cast as Eun -young. Not only does she have the requisite looks for the role, but she also brings the emotional frailty and vulnerability that it calls for. She also does a mean display of primal outrage.

Elements of the film are certainly reminiscent of Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965), which starred Catherine Deneuve. The ending also brought to mind that of Nagisa Oshima's In The Realm Of The Senses (1976). But make no mistake about it, Juhn Jai-Hong's Beautiful stands on its own and does so marvelously. It's a terrific thriller that'll leave you impressed with what you've seen and looking forward to more from both the director and his female lead.

ACF rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars (highly recommended).

Saturday, February 06, 2010



An Innocent Game Turns Deadly In New Sci-Fi Manga

VIZ Media has announced the release of Mohiro Kitoh’s manga series, BOKURANO: OURS on February 16th. The manga is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and will be published under the VIZ Signature imprint and carry an MSRP of $12.99 U.S. / $16.99 CAN.

One summer, fifteen kids innocently wander into a nearby seaside cave. There they meet a strange man who invites them to play an exciting new video game. This game, he explains, pits one lone giant robot against a horde of alien invaders. To play the game, all they have to do is sign a simple contract. The game stops being fun when the kids find out the true purpose of their pact.

“This release continues to demonstrate the success of our innovative partnership with Japan’s IKKI magazine, and sci-fi fans and manga connoisseurs won’t want to miss the debut of this addictive series,” says Leyla Aker, Senior Editorial Manager, VIZ Media. “Fans of Mohiro Kitoh already know that he’s a master at blending psychological suspense with amazing action, and we’re excited to introduce his work to a whole new readership.”

BOKURANO: OURS is one of the flagship series of IKKI magazine, published in Japan since 2003 and home to some of the most innovative and compelling titles in the world of contemporary manga. The series is currently available to read online at SigIKKI.com, the groundbreaking web destination for a broad range of unique manga designed for mature audiences.

Mohiro Kitoh made his manga debut in 1995 with the series, Vandemiere's Wings. In addition to Shadow Star, his other notable manga works include, Hallucination from the Womb and Zansho – A Collection of Short Stories. BOKURANO: OURS was adapted into a novel, Bokurano: Alternative, by Ohki Renji as well as a 24-episode animated series produced by studio GONZO.

For more information on other VIZ Signature titles and to check out a sneak peek of Chapter one through six of BOKURANO:OURS visit www.SigIKKI.com.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

ACF 467: VIZ DVDs for March 2010


VIZ Media has announced their list of DVD titles scheduled for release in March 2010. This includes the final box set release of HONEY AND CLOVER, the next installments of the POKÉMON ELEMENTS series, as well as the latest episodic releases of the popular BLEACH and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN series.

Also releasing is the live action feature film

VIZ Media DVD titles are distributed (in English) in the U.S and Mexico by Warner Home Video and in Canada by Allegro.

Here are the details:

HONEY AND CLOVER Box Set 3 · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $59.90 US/ $85.99 CAN · Available March 16

Yuta returns from his journey of self-discovery only to find everyone around him deep in their own struggles to shape their futures. Ayumi finds herself increasingly included in projects involving Takumi and Rika, and the strain is breaking her. Far away in America, Shinobu and his brother's endless quest for money finally helps them achieve their ultimate goal, while back home Hagumi must face the devastating consequences of an accident that could change her life forever. Can the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of art ever be one and the same?

Contains Season 2, Episodes 1-12.

For more information on HONEY AND CLOVER visit http://www.honeyandclover.viz.com/.

SHONEN JUMP releases include:

BLEACH Volume 26 · Rated ‘T’ for Teens · MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN · Available March 23

The Bount leader Jin Kariya has obtained the Jokai Crest and is absorbing its immense power. While Ichigo and the others rest and prepare for their next battle, the Soul Reapers are warned by Rantao that there are many Crests within the Seireitei, and all may explode if Kariya's Crest is released. Head Captain Yamamoto mobilizes all Soul Reapers to find and seal the remaining Crests. Then, atop Sokyoku Hill, Ichigo faces Kariya in their final clash! Contains episodes 105 – 109.

More information on BLEACH at http://www.bleach.viz.com/.

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Volume 7 · Rated 'T+' for Older Teens · MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN · Available March 9

In their battle with Sasori, Granny Chiyo and Sakura must make life-or-death choices to bring the puppet master down. Outside the Akatsuki hideout, Team Guy have fought the copies of themselves to the point of exhaustion, but Rock Lee's plan sets fire to their fighting spirits. Meanwhile, Naruto and Kakashi have caught up to Deidara, and Kakashi prepares to unleash his newest jutsu--the Mangekyo Sharingan! Contains episodes 27 – 30.

For more information on NARUTO and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN visit http://www.NARUTO.viz.com/.

New POKÉMON Releases Include:

POKÉMON ELEMENTS, Volume 9: Ghost · Rated 'A' for All Ages · MSRP: $9.98 US/ $14.99 CAN · Available March 23

POKÉMON ELEMENTS, Volume 10: Rock · Rated 'A' for All Ages · MSRP: $9.98 US / $14.99 CAN · Available March 23

Following the POKÉMON All Star series set, the POKÉMON: ELEMENTS collection consists of the most important episodes commemorating the different types of Pokémon characters. Each disc showcases a Pokémon type with three all-time favorite episodes.

From VIZ Pictures (Live Action Feature Films):

HISASHI TENMYOUYA: SAMURAI NOUVEAU, NEW PEOPLE Artist Series Volume 4 · MSRP: $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN · Available March 9

A graphic designer turned contemporary artist, Hisashi Tenmyouya brings his own style of NEO-Traditional Japanese Painting to the art world. Tenmyouya reveals his soul through melding of modern urban subjects with traditional methods of painting.

For more information on VIZ Pictures, please visit http://www.viz-pictures.com/.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

ACF 466: 20TH CENTURY BOYS 2: THE LAST HOPE coming out on DVD Feb 16th


Special Theatrical Screening Also Planned For Live-Action Sci-Fi Film –
The Second In A Trilogy Based On Popular Manga Series By Naoki Urasawa

VIZ Pictures, an affiliate of VIZ Media, LLC that focuses on Japanese live-action film distribution, has announced that it will release the science fiction feature 20th CENTURY BOYS 2: THE LAST HOPE on DVD on February 16th in North America through its distributor, VIZ Media. 20th CENTURY BOYS will carry a MSRP of $24.92 US / $35.99 CAN.

The 20th CENTURY BOYS saga is based on Naoki Urasawa’s manga series, 20th CENTURY BOYS (published in the US by VIZ Media), which has become a national phenomenon in Japan, selling over 20 million copies of the 24 volumes. Urasawa is the creator of many famous works such as the hit manga series, MONSTER and PLUTO also published in the US by VIZ Media.

The film is directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, who began directing commercials and music videos at Nihon Television. One of his most recent films includes Happily Ever After (2007) is also released by VIZ Pictures and distributed by VIZ Media. Both Naoki Urasawa and Music Director Ryomei Shirai are fans of the 1970’s rock music scene and chose “20th Century Boy” by T.REX (Imperial Records) as the main theme song.

The story began in 1969 when a young boy named Kenji and his friends write "The Book of Prophecy" in which they write about a future where they fight against an evil organization trying to takeover the world and bring about doomsday. Years later in 1997, a mysterious cult being led by a man only known as "Friend" emerges and begins to gain strong influence over society.

A series of catastrophic events begin to occur mirroring the prophecies made up by the young Kenji and the greatest fear is the climax of "The Book" becoming a reality; December 31st, 2000, a terrifying giant virus-spreading robot will attack the entire city of Tokyo leading to the end of mankind. The only people who know about "The Book" are Kenji and his childhood friends. Who is "Friend"? Will Kenji and his friends be able to save mankind and live to see the 21st Century?

(For my December 13, 2009 review of the first film, click here.)

In 20TH CENTURY BOYS 2: THE LAST HOPE it is 2015, and “Friend” rules a disturbing new world. Kenji has been missing since the Bloody New Year's Eve of 2000, and his niece Kanna is now in high school. Her history textbook contains a fabricated story about Kenji and his friends being the terrorists behind the horrific events of 2000. Kanna, knowing the truth, openly resents this, and as a result she is marked as a problem child by her teacher and sent to the Friend Land program because of her anti-Friend behavior. Friend Land is a facility where people with rebellious behavior are re-educated. As the program begins, Kanna and her classmate Kyoko Koizumi achieve high marks and are sent to the advanced program called the Bonus Stage, where they find themselves in a virtual reconstruction of 1971, when Kenji and his friends were kids. There, each of the girls learns crucial secrets about “Friend.”

The surviving secret base members have been separated since Bloody New Year's Eve but each has spent the last 15 years in various activities opposing Friend and his regime. As Kenji's friends all try to find out the truth about Friend, they discover the shocking existence of The New Book of Prophecy, the sequel to The Book of Prophecy. The New Book describes an event: In 2015, at a church in Shinjuku, a savior will rise to uphold justice but will be assassinated. Who is the savior? Once again, Doomsday looms near...

To celebrate this DVD release, VIZ Pictures will be holding a special screening event at VIZ Cinema in San Francisco on February 9th at 7:30PM. Admission is $25.00, which will include a ticket for the screening, a copy of the 20TH CENTURY BOYS 2: THE LAST HOPE DVD, poster, and pin! Additionally, VIZ Pictures is raffling off 20th Century Boys T-shirts before the show so come watch the film for a chance to win! Tickets are available at the box office or online at www.vizcinema.com. For more information about this event, please visit www.vizcinema.com or www.viz-pictures.com.

“20th CENTURY BOYS has been a mega hit since it mesmerized audiences with it’s U.S. theatrical premiere of 20th CENTURY BOYS 1: BEGINNING OF THE END in the summer of 2009, and we are excited to announce the U.S. debut of 20th CENTURY BOYS 2: THE LAST HOPE,” says Seiji Horibuchi, President and CEO of VIZ Pictures. “We also hope fans in the San Francisco Bay Area can join us for the one night only special screening at VIZ Cinema to experience 20th CENTURY BOYS on the Big Screen.”

More information on 20th CENTURY BOYS and other VIZ Pictures titles can be found at www.viz-pictures.com.