With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ACF 1573: HINDSIGHT and NO MERCY out on DVD Today

CJ Entertainment is releasing two fine South Korean movies on DVD today.

Hindsight / Poo-reun so-geum
Written and directed by LEE Hyeon-seung
Starring SONG Kang-ho and SHIN Sae-kyung
South Korea, 2011, 122 minutes

During the pre-credits sequence of Hindsight, a man is confronted by a young woman aiming a pistol at him. Another man, who has a rifle with a scope mounted on it, observes from a distance. A shot is fired and the first man falls. But just who shot him is unclear. When the movie proper begins, we learn that the man who was shot is YOON Doo-heon (SONG Kang-ho, The Host, Secret Sunshine, Thirst) He’s a retired gangster who has moved to Busan and wants to open a restaurant because the boss always owns one “in foreign gangster movies.” movies. To that end he is taking cooking classes, where his culinary aspirations far exceed his abilities.

Partnered with him at one of the cooking stations Se-bin (SHIN Se-kyung, My Little Bride, Cinderella), the woman who had the pistol in the opening scene. She’s far better at preparing food than he is. She is single, has a  boyish haircut and rides a motorcycle. The pair are like “odd balls out” from the other students, all of whom are all housewives. Se-bin also has an ulterior motvie: she’s been tasked by a rival gang, to whom she owes money, to keep and eye on YOON and submit weekly reports about his activities. When the boss of YOON’s old gang dies, a question of whether or not he will return to lead it once again. Meanwhile, Se-bin, a crack shot, has been tasked with killing him. Will she kill him and will Yoon’s struggle in cooking class all come to naught, both of which seem to have been the case in the movie’s opening?

Hindsight is a multi-genre film: a stylish thriller that is also part gangster movie, part romance, and part comedy. It works as well as it does largely because of the dynamism of the interaction between its two leads. SONG Kang-ho, one of Korea’s best and most popular actors, is charming and effective, a joy to watch, as always. SHIN Se-kyung pulls off a roll that is different from the good girls she’s known for playing. Here, she’s one tough cookie who can shot a gun, ride a bike, and hold her own in the verbal jousting that takes place between her character and SONG’s.

The DVD also has some fine special features. There’s a Making Of that really conveys what a joy it must be to have SONG on a set. He’s funny and generous, yet a total professional. Other features focus on SONG’s preparation for his action scenes and SHIN’s transformation into her character. 

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars for the film (a solid recommendation) and 3.5 for the DVD extras (superior)

No Mercy / Yongseoneun Eupda
Written and directed by KIM Hyoung-Jun
Starring SEOL Kyeong-gu, RYOO Seung-beom and Han Hye-jin
South Korea, 2010, 125 minutes

KANG Min-ho (SOL Kyung-gu) is South Korea’s top medical examiner. He’s on the verge of retiring so that he can spend more time with his grown daughter who’s returning from the United States, where she’s been living for several years. However, when the dismembered body of a young woman is found with all her body parts neatly arranged – except for a missing arm – KANG finds himself embroiled in a bizarre murder case.

The other two main characters are MIN Seo-young (HAN Hye-jin), a young female detective on probation (a “probie”) who displays keen insight into the case, and LEE Seong-ho (RYU Seung-beom), a victim of polio in his youth and currently the leader of the I Love Venus environmental group. When LEE confesses to the crime, it seems like the case is open and shut; instead it expands beyond the single corpse and becomes increasingly complex, convoluted, and dark. The initial murder becomes linked to another crime in the present, the threat of a more serious one in the future. All of these, it turns out, are related to events buried deep in the past.

In No Mercy director KIM Hyoung-jun has fashioned one of the finest police procedurals I’ve ever seen. The narrative is taut, compelling and totally gripping. The pacing is dynamic and the performances of both the three leads and the supporting cast are spot on.

This DVD also has some fine extras, including interviews with SOL Kyung-gu, RYU Seung-beom, and HAN Hye-jin, a music video, and trailers. However, the most interesting special feature to me was the one on forensics, which centered primarily on Dr. HAN Gil-roh, an advisor on the film. He points out that while the director changed some aspects of autopsies for dramatic purposes, overall the procedures shown were considerably more realistic than in all previous films depicting the subject.

ACF Rating: 4 out of 4 stars for the film (outstanding); 3.5 out of 4 for the special features (superior)

Friday, July 27, 2012

ACF 1572: ACF Happy Birthday wishes to Hong Kong star Donnie Yen

Donnie Yen at the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival

Donnie Yen was born in Canton, China, on July 27, 1963. The martial artist and Hong Kong action star's career began with Yuen Woo-ping 1984's Drunken Tai Chi (1984) and includes nearly 50 films (and several TV series early in his career) to date. Three more of his films are in post-production.

Donnie in the first Ip Man film

One of his most famous recent roles was portraying Bruce Lee's teacher in the two Ip Man films. And indeed the case could be made that while he was well known before, it was with the first Ip Man film in 2008 that his career really began to take off.

Donnie, flying high, in Dragon

Earlier this month Donnie received the Star Asia Award at the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival before the screening of Dragon / Wu Xia ( 2011). In it, at least in my opinion, he showed greater depth and range in his acting then ever before, all the while maintaining the electrifying martial arts action skills that have thrilled audiences for years.

Star Asia award winners Sammo Hung(left) and Donnie Yen in Kill Zone

Another of his films shown at this years NYAFF was Kill Zone (a.k.a. Saat po long or S.P.L., 2005) in which he faced off against Sammo Hung, who received the first Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

So, Happy Birthday wishes, Donnie, and congratulations on receiving the Star Asia Award at this years NYAFF. May many more great rolls and awards come your way in the years to come.

P.S. to all AsianCineFest readers: check out The Official Website of Donnie Yen.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

ACF 1571: THE DEVIL'S FEAST due out on DVD next Tuesday, July 31st

The Devil's Feast / Oni no kaen
Directed by Kenji Hanyuu
Screenplay by Hiroshi Yoshino
Based on a novel by Oniroku Dan
Japan, 2007, 67 minutes
Presented by Switchblade Pictures

Oniroku Dan (April 16, 1931 - May 6, 2011) was a famous, popular and prolific Japanese writer of S&M novels, many of which were made into films. The Devil's Feast will be the latest one to make it to U.S. shores when it comes out on DVD next Tuesday, July 31st.

Shiro Okamoto is the talented advertising director at Nippo Newspaper, a small neighborhood paper. His wife Shizuyo is a lovely and well-endowed young thing, devoted to her husband. Unfortunately Shiro can't seem to see his nuptial duties through to completion. Shizuyo repeatedly apologizes each time  Shiro fails to perform as expected, which only makes her frustrated husband angry at her.

Shiro tries to pleasure his wife Shizuyo

Shiro's sex life perks up when the lovely Kumiko Nishikawa joins the editorial staff of the paper. She is enticingly introduced by a series of shots taken by a camera that faces backwards towards her and tracks along with her as she walks down a hallway: first her feet and ankles, then her short skirt and thighs, and finally her face and neck. She's smart and talented, as well as great looking, and could have been working at a bigger, better paper, but has chosen instead to join the staff at Nippo.

Shiro and Kumiko soon are going at it full bore and often at the Oubi Inn. With her, he has no problem performing up to expectations. In fact, he becomes even more amorous when she insists that he bind her with ropes.

Kumiko gets tied up by Shiro

All hell breaks loose, however, after Kumiko learns about an old scandal from Shiro. It seems that 10 years ago Genkai Yoshioka, the founder of a new age religion called The Sutoka Group, was suspected in a series of violent rapes. He was never charged and the matter seemingly has been forgotten by all except Shiro and the head of Nippo Newspaper.

When Kumiko publishes an article exposing the history of rape suspicions, the financial health of the paper, which relies heavily on Sutoka ads for revenue, and Shiro's job both are put in jeopardy. To placate Yoshioka, Shiro asks his wife to serve as a "shrine maiden" -- whatever that means -- to the cult leader for a week. Will all be forgiven by the sadistic cult master, or will Shizuyo be served as just another dish at the devil's feast?

Shizuyo as "shrine maiden" 

There are numerous soft-core sex scenes in the film, and both actresses are lovely to behold. The three leads acquit themselves well, and the production values are decent enough. What the film really has going for it is Oniroku Dan's story, which makes the whole thing very interesting, and not just prurient.

On the downside, the dubbed moans in some of the sex scenes can be a bit distracting. Somewhat surprisingly, the English subtitles are not removable; they are embedded in the film. And there are no meaningful special features, just DVD credits and trailers for three other releases from Switchblade Pictures.

Still, even though it's a bare-bones disc, the story, the female bodies and the sex scenes warrant an ACF Rating of 3 out of 4 stars. It's a good release that I'm quite comfortable recommending.

ACF 1570: KUNOICHI - DVD review

Kunoichi
Written and directed by Seiji Chiba
Starring Rina Takeda
Japan, 2011, 65 minutes

For many years the Iga and Koga ninjas have been deadly rivals. Certain Iga warriors have traditionally kidnapped Koga kunoichi (female ninjas), brought them back to the Iga village and made them sex slaves. Two Igas, Shimotsuki and Hyotsu, are leading the latest four captives when a male Koga enables them to escape. His motives are unclear at first, perhaps not as pure as they might appear. Among the escapees is Kisaragi (real life karate black belt Rina Takeda, of High Kick Girl!, Karate Girl, and most recently Dead Sushi). She is not only beautiful, but also a formidable ninja warrior. Freed from her rope bonds, she embarks on a mission to protect the other three kunoichi and lay some whoop-ass on their captors and any other deserving souls.


Among director Chiba's previous works is Alien vs. Ninja (2010), which was a co-presentation of the New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts that year. In Kunoichi, Rina Takeda makes her first period film and and fights with swords for the first time, though her phenomenal kicks are also in ample evidence. Mention must also be made of the fine contributions of action director Kensuke Sonomura; a lengthy fight scene between Kisaragi and Shimotsuki is really top-drawer.


Kunoichi came out on DVD earlier this week from Sentai Filmworks that was distributed by Section23 Films. In addition to the movie, their are several extras. The Making of The Kunoichi provides interesting insight into what goes on in the making of a film, especially what life is like for the actors on set. The Kunoichi Stage Greeting features Chiba, Takeda, and Mitsuki Koga, who plays Shimotsuki, addressing a late night crowd at one of the early screenings of the film in the Shibuya section of Tokyo.

The Action of the Kunoichi provides extensive coverage of both rehearsals and for-real shooting of many of the action sequences. The Outtakes extra is different from what I am used to seeing. Here we're shown several scenes as several takes are filmed. Rather than being bored, I found that just enough was being shown so that I could appreciate what the film-making process if so often like for the cast. The final extra consists of a number of Japanese trailers for the film.


The storyline is a bit on the thin side, and there are some overlong shots of the kunoichi and their pursuers running through the woods. Still, I pretty much enjoyed the film, largely because of Ms. Takeda's presence and skills. There's no doubt that she's the main draw here. And there also is that outstanding action sequence I referred to above.

ACF Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars for the film (flawed, but fairly good overall); 3.5 out of 4 for the extras (superior offerings).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

ACF 1569: SHANGHAI CALLING to open Asian American International Film Festival in NY this Wednesday

Shanghai Calling
Directed by Daniel Hsia
USA/China, 2012, 100 minutes
When: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:30pm
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
Map
 Buy tickets

Shanghai Calling will be the opening night selection of the Asian American International Film Festival tonight at 7:00pm. This New York City premiere will take place at Asia Society and will include a Q&A with the director and producer. The event is to begin at 6:30pm, with the film being shown at 7:00, followed by a gala reception at 9:30. (There will be an encore AAIFF NYC screening, also with a Q&A featuring the director and producer, on July 28, 2012 at 5:15pm at the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas.)

The film is a modern day romantic comedy set between two cities, New York & Shanghai. It's also a fish-out-of-water tale, or more specifically the story of a highly ambitious New York lawyer way out of his comfort zone.

Sam (left) on the run with another expat

Sam (Daniel Henney, the son of a Korean-American mother and a British American father) has just won a very important case and expects to be named a partner in the very upscale law firm where he works. Instead, he's "asked" to be a team player and go to China to head up the new office being opened in Shanghai, after which the question of his becoming a partner will be addressed. Clearly Sam's been picked because he's Chinese-American, even though he's has no real link other than genetics to his cultural heritage. He doesn't speak a word of Chinese in any of its dialects.

Since he has little choice if he wants to advance in the firm, Sam agrees to the assignment. He's greeted at the airport by Amanda (Eliza Coupe), a relocation specialist and one of many American expatriates in booming Shanghai. When a problem arises with the luxurious apartment she found for him, he rejects her advice to consider moving to another place, insisting that she set things right and solve the problem, something she knows is easy to say but nigh on impossible to do in Shanghai.

Fang Fang (actress Zhu Zhu)

Sam also ignores the advice of his office assistant Fang Fang (actress Zhu Zhu), and as a result an incredibly important business deal is put into grave jeopardy. Sam has a hard time accepting the fact that the way he's used to getting things done in New York do not necessarily, in fact, most often do not, work in Shanghai. With his entire future on the line he realizes he must learn from others, including not only Amanda and Fang Fang, but also Donald (Bill Paxton), the mayor of the expat community, and "Awesome" Wang (Geng Le), a "problem solver."

Writer/director Daniel Hsia has done a remarkable job in this, his first feature-length film. Working with a large international cast -- all of whom are outstanding, from the leads through the various supporting actors and actresses -- he has crafted a funny, yet touching, look at an intriguing contemporary development in the world economy. And not to diminish his accomplishment in any way, due credit also must be given to producer Janet Yang, whose numerous credits include that of producer of The People vs. Larry Flint and executive producer of  The Joy Luck Club. Her considerable experience, both in Hollywood and in China, enabled the USA/China co-production to go navigate the potentially devastating pitfalls of mainland China's rules and regulations.

Amanda and Sam, with Shanghai in the background

Shanghai Calling is a stunning success that hopefully will reach huge audiences in both the United States and in China, as well as in other parts of the world. While its setting and circumstances are particular, its story has wide-spread appeal to audiences everywhere. The story, performances and production values are all top notch.

ACF rating: 4 out of 4 stars; outstanding!

And if you can't make it to the NYC screenings, the film will be released in movie theaters across China on August 10th! If that also is not doable, keep checking the official Shanghai Calling website for news about its U.S. theatrical release, which I'm confident will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ACF 1568: U.S. Premiere of PLANET OF SNAIL at Film Forum in New York

 Planet of Snail
Directed by YI Seung-jun
South Korea/Japan/Finland, 2011, 88 minutes
When: July 25 -  August 7
Where: Film Forum
209 West Houston Street, NYC
Map
U.S. Premiere

This award winning documentary/drama begins its U.S. premiere tomorrow at Film Forum in New York.

It's a love story like no other. He is tall and thin and very handsome, but cannot see or hear. She is tiny with a strikingly beautiful face. South Koreans Young-Chan and Soon-Ho are a loving married couple who communicate through finger braille (a touch-based sign language which she taps into his palm; he responds verbally). Often he carries her on his shoulders and together they accomplish ordinary domestic tasks to which the rest of us wouldn’t give a second thought.


Young-Chan is an accomplished poet and his writings imbue the film with an other-worldly sensibility that reflects his self-image as a snail or as an astronaut. It is tempting to see them as characters from a fairytale, cursed by an evil spell. In reality, the extraordinary love which passes between them suggests the opposite: that they are blessed with immeasurable happiness the rest of us would be fortunate to experience.

Daily Showtimes: 1:00, 2:45, 4:30, 6:15, 8:10, 10:10 (all times PM)

$7 Member, $12 Regular

For any questions please contact Film Forum at 212.727.8110.

Monday, July 23, 2012

ACF 1567: Final days of JAPAN CUTS


Space Battleship Yamato © 2010 "Space Battleship Yamato" Production Committee
SPACE BATTLESHIP ヤマト (Space Battleship Yamato) © 2010 SPACE BATTLESHIP ヤマト 製作委員会
After a break today, the final five days of JAPAN CUTS: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema will begin tomorrow, Tuesday, July 24th, and there are still some super fine films to see and one extra-special event.

Rebirth will be shown on Tuesday at 7 pm.

Wednesday will offer two films: Rent-A-Cat at 7 pm and Ushijima the Loan Shark at 9:15.


Don’t Stop! © 2011DON'T STOP!Project
Don’t Stop! © 2011DON'T STOP!」製作委員会

The international premiere of Don't Stop! on Thursday at 7 pm will be followed by the DON'T STOP JAPAN CUTS party.

Leonie will be shown on Friday at 7 pm with an introduction and Q&A with director Hisako Matsui.

Saturday, the last day of the festival, will offer a total of five films. A Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima will start things off at 1 pm, and Women on the Edge will follow at 3 pm,. Both are part of the Focus on Post 3.11 sidebar. Both of these features will be preceded by We Are All Radioactive, a series of short films.

Lonely Swallows will be shown on Saturday at 5, and The Brat! at 7.

Closing out the festival will be Space Battleship Yamato, a live-action version of the landmark 1974 animated series, with a showtime of 9:00 pm.

ACF 1566: NEW PEOPLE announces dynamic musical line-up for the 2012 J-POP Summit Festival

J-POP LOVERS INVITED TO ROCK OUT JAPANESE STYLE
AT THE 2012 J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL

Annual Weekend-Long S.F. Pop Culture Celebration
Presents The Pop Sounds Of Kylee, 
The Alt Rock Punch Of The Akabane Vulgars And All Ages,
J-Pop Scholar Artist Capital,
And The Pop-Rock Fun Of Bay Area Girls

NEW PEOPLE has announced a dynamic musical line-up designed for “J-Pop Lovers” as part of the live programming for the 2012 J-POP Summit Festival. The annual cultural event, now in its fourth year and presented in association with the Japantown Merchants Association, will be held across San Francisco’s Japantown district on Saturday, August 25th and Sunday, August 26th.

J-POP Summit Festival 2012 will feature FREE live performances for “J-Pop Lovers” by Kylee, The Akabane Vulgars, All Ages, Capital, and the Bay Area Girls. These live sets will take place on the main stage of Japantown’s spacious Peace Plaza, located across the street from the NEW PEOPLE venue which is at 1746 Post St. Check the dates below for each performance. Additional live performers will be announced in coming days.

The J-POP Summit Festival is a yearly summertime gathering for fashion, film, anime, video game, technology and music fans as well as Bay Area residents, and tourists visiting the city. More information about the J-Pop Summit Festival is available at J-Pop.com.


THE AKABANE VULGARS – Saturday, August 25th
The 2012 J-POP Summit Festival is pleased to welcome the first-ever West Coast appearance by The Akabane Vulgars On Strong Bypass, a bluesy, all-girl power trio hailing from Tokyo, Japan. The group, composed of sisters Yumi Uchizono on guitar and vocals and Miki Uchizono on bass, is joined by drummer Kei Sofue. The Akabane Vulgars formed while the members were still in high school and have gone on to enjoy a wide following in Japan with its unique brand of bluesy-rock vocals and soulful lyrics. The band is heavily influenced by Green Day, Joan Jett, The Beatles, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Japanese groups such as Blankey Jet City and Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. The Akabane Vulgars have released a self-produced CD, “The Rumps Smolder at the Gloom” as well as a 3-song EP, “We Need The Riot, Our Riot, Your Riot.” The band is preparing to record and release their full length debut on a U.S.-based record label later this year. More information on the band is available at: www.akabane-vulgars.com


Kylee – Sunday, August 26th
Kylee is an upbeat 18 year-old pop singer/songwriter born to an American father and Japanese mother. She is currently signed to Sony Music Japan and has become a fast-rising multi-cultural star that is developing a major following in both the U.S. and Japan. Kylee has been featured in the U.S. on the Today Show, and her second single, "missing/IT'S YOU," released in 2010, was featured heavily in a commercial for online apparel retailer NISSEN. In 2011 she performed for an audience of more than 50,000 people at an official Major League Baseball game and also sang for President Barack Obama during a visit to her home state of Arizona earlier this year.  More information on Kylee is available at: www.facebook.com/kyleeofficialfanpage.


ALL AGES – Sunday, August 26th
The San Francisco-based rock band, All Ages, formed in 2005 and has thrived as a national and international live touring musical act. The band is heavily influenced by J-rock and has performed in Japan with preeminent acts such as The Pillows, Noodles, Red Bacteria Vacuum and many more. In 2008 All Ages was featured in the documentary "Pop! How Japanese Culture Took Over My Life". All Ages opened The Pillows' 2011 NAP TOUR and Red Bacteria Vacuums' California tour in June of 2012. All Ages recently released the single "42 Sub Machine Guns," now available on iTunes. More information on All Ages is available at: www.iloveallages.com


CAPITAL – Sunday, August 26th
Capital is a prolific artist/scholar from Los Angeles, already featured on over 20 albums ranging from rock to Japanese hip-hop to Brazilian electronica alongside artists such as Marco Bosco, Airto Moreira, Paulo Calasans, Swing Out Sister, Del the Funky Homosapien, DJ Nozawa and more. His latest release, FLOATS ON FLAT TIRES, combines Brazilian overtones with electronic beats. Capital has a master's degree in J-Pop music research, and also speaks and sings fluent Japanese.  He has toured extensively in the U.S., Canada, Japan and Brazil and has performed at numerous music festivals including Japan's massive Fuji Rock Festival. Capital's performances also have been broadcast in Japan on Space Shower TV, and he recently performed live on KTLA's "Good Day L.A.” More information on Capital is available at: http://www.capitalguitar.com


BAY AREA GIRLS – Sunday, August 26th
The Bay Area Girls are a dynamic all-girl rock band consisting of five talented 12 and 13 year olds. The girls first got together to perform at their school talent show, which then inspired them to take things to the next level to entertain people of all ages as a band. Their musical repertoire ranges from the likes of Joan Jett to Avril Lavine, Miley Cirus, Journey and Bob Markey. Among their notable gigs, the Bay Area Girls have performed a “Tribute to Armando Peraza” (the notable former Santana percussionist), as well as a performance at Yoshi’s in San Francisco with Pete Escovedo and Sheila E. Last year the girls performed at the 2011 J-POP Summit where they covered “Four Seasons,” by Japanese pop diva Namie Amuro! Catch their inspired set this year as they return to rock the 2012 J-POP Summit! More information on the Bay Area Girls is available at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bay-Area-Girls/139005686184005. 

“Live music is a huge attraction at the J-POP Summit and each year we strive to present a diverse array of unique artists from Japan, or ones that are heavily influenced by the J-pop and J-rock genres,” says Seiji Horibuchi, the President/CEO of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. and Co-Chairman of the J-POP Summit Festival Committee. “This year we look forward to welcoming the alternative rock punch of the Akabane Vulgars and All Ages, the pop sounds of Sony Music Japan’s Kylee, as well as hybrid music stylings of Capital, and the rock and roll-inspired fun of the Bay Area Girls. Several more musical acts and live programs will be announced in coming days that are sure to make this year’s J-POP Summit the biggest and best one yet!”

A variety of other pop-inspired attractions including fashion shows, theatrical film premieres,  live art performances, celebrity appearances, and mini-concerts by some of Japan’s hottest bands are planned for the 2012 J-POP Summit both inside the NEW PEOPLE complex, and outdoors at the adjacent Peace Plaza. Innovative artists from Japan will join a variety of product merchants and food vendors from the Bay Area to offer an array of pop-inspired products and delicacies for sale in open air displays on both sides of Post Street, the main Japantown thoroughfare.

NEW PEOPLE opened in 2009 and has become a unique must-see attraction of San Francisco’s cultural landscape. The 20,000 square foot contemporary venue features the latest examples Japanese popular culture expressed though film, art, fashion, and a variety of specialty boutiques and ongoing monthly events. NEW PEOPLE is located at 1746 Post Street in the city’s Japantown.

About J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL
The J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL is an annual Japanese Pop Culture celebration that features live bands and artists from Japan, pop culture panel discussions, film premieres, fashion and DJ dance events, and celebrity appearances. The Festival is hosted by NEW PEOPLE in cooperation with the Japantown Merchants Association. In 2011, the two-day event attracted 55,000 attendees. More information about the J-Pop Summit Festival is available at J-Pop.com

Sunday, July 22, 2012

ACF 1565: BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC I – THE EGG OF THE KING to screen at Fantasia Film Festival

VIZ MEDIA BRINGS THE ARMS AND ARMOR ACTION OF
BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC I – THE EGG OF THE KING 
TO MONTREAL FOR THE 16th ANNUAL
FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Gripping Anime Action Adventure Opens New Feature Film Trilogy
Based On The Bestselling Medieval Dark Fantasy Manga Series

VIZ Media has announced the Canadian premiere of the kinetic new anime action feature film, BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC I – THE EGG OF THE KING, as part of the 16th annual Fantasia International Film Festival. Taking place in Montreal, the Fantasia International Film Festival, which began on July 14th and runs to August 9th, is recognized as the largest and most influential event of its kind in North America and is a leader on the genre film scene and one of the country’s most popular film festivals.

BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC I – THE EGG OF THE KING will be in competition for the Satoshi Kon Award for Achievement in Animation. It will screen at Concordia University's Hall Theatre at 11:45am on August 4th and at 3:05pm on August 5th More information on the Fantasia International Film Festival is available at: www.fantasiafestival.com

BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC filmtrilogy was produced in Japan by the legendary Studio 4ºC, and is based on the bestselling medieval dark fantasy manga (graphic novel) series created by Kentaro Miura. VIZ Media has licensed the entire BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC anime film trilogy and plans to debut the movies on Neon Alley, an innovative new 24-hour gaming console-based anime channel, launching in the fall in the United States and Canada, and set to feature the genre’s best titles.

Combining a foreboding medieval European-inspired setting with fantasy and exquisitely detailed swordsmanship, BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC I – THE EGG OF THE KING (directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka) follows lone mercenary Guts as he travels the land where a hundred-year-old war is taking place. His ferocity and ability to take down enemies attracts the attention of Griffith, leader of the mercenary group “The Band of the Hawk,” and Guts is recruited to the unit. Thanks to their continued victories on the battlefield, the bond between Guts and Griffith deepens, but despite all their success, Guts begins to question his reasons for fighting for Griffith’s dream. Unknown to Guts, this unyielding dream is about to bestow a horrible fate on them both.

The BERSERK manga series, by Kentaro Miura, debuted in Japan in 1989 and quickly drew a devoted following, going on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide. The series, still ongoing in Japan, has been published in North America and the UK, as well as in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, and Latin America. The BERSERK manga has also inspired a popular anime television series and has spawned a variety of related video games, collectable figures and toys, and music soundtracks, as well as the current BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC film trilogy.

More information on the BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC film trilogy is available at the official Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/BerserkFilm.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

ACF 1564: FINDING MR DESTINY is now available on DVD

Finding Mr. Destiny / Kim-jong-wook-chat-gi
Directed by CHANG You-jeong
Starring: LIM Soo-jung and GONG Yoo
South Korea, 2010, 112 minutes

This delightful Korean rom-com recently became available on DVD from CJ Entertainment and 5 Point Pictures. And while the film marks the cinematic directorial debut of CHANG, she is no newcomer to the material. It's a film adaptation of her hit 2006 musical entitled Finding Kim Jong-wook which had over 1,000 performances.

Ji-woo (LIM Soo-jung of A Tale of Two Sisters and I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK) is single, in her thirties, and the stage director of a new musical called "The Last Show." She's also romantically stuck, unable (or unwilling) to get past the memory of her first love, whom she met on a trip to India ten years earlier.

Ji-woo in India

Gi-joon (GONG Yoo from the film She's on Duty and The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince TV series) is also single and in his thirties; he works for a travel agency. At least he did until he was fired for spending more time telling prospective customers of the perils of travel (such as tsunamis) than about its joys. He then decides to open the First Love Agency, a one-man operation dedicated to helping clients find their long-lost first loves.

When Ji-woo rejects the marriage proposal of a young airline pilot, her father secures Gi-joon's services to find the mysterious man from the India trip so that her daughter will either find her "Mr. Destiny" in him or realize that it's time to move on.

Using her talents and experience from the live stage, CHANG has quite successfully crafted a most enjoyable tale in a medium that's new to her. Both leads are terrific in their respective roles. LIM, who previously played dark, depressed characters, is wonderful as a bright, bubbly young woman; her comically expressive face is a joy to behold. GONG, in his first film since completing his military duties (making it his first in five years) shows that he has not lost his acting chops. His performance as a very straight-laced, earnest young man who gradually loosens up under Ji-woo's spell demonstrates beautifully nuanced evolution.

Ji-woo and Gi-joon check out a Kim Jong-wook who might be Ji-woo's first love

The single disc DVD has terrific bonus features. The roughly 30-minute making of featurette is far better than most. While there are a few of those "this was the greatest experience I've ever had" type of comments, they sound pretty sincere and heartfelt. More importantly, this extra has a lot to say about the film's roots as a stage play, which made me appreciate the film even more. And when's the last time you could say that about a film's DVD extras? There's also a music video of star GONG Yoo recording the song "A Second First Love," a Q&A with director CHANG, a filming on location in India Q&A (Finding Mr. Destiny was the first Korean film with on-location shooting done in India), and more.

Bottom line: Finding Mr. Destiny is a charming romp about the vicissitudes of romance with fine performances by its two leads and supporting cast. It's also most auspicious directorial debut for director CHANG.

ACF rating: 3 out of 4 stars (solidly recommended) for the film, and a separate 3.5 out of 4 (very good) for the DVD extras.

Friday, July 20, 2012

ACF 1563: The Korea Society to host THE HOST on August 9, 2012

The Host / Gwoemul
Directed by BONG Joon-ho
South Korea, 2006, 119 minutes
When Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 6:30 PM
Where: The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue, 8th Floor, NYC
Map 
Members: Free; Click here to register
Nonmembers: $5; Purchase tickets

The Host is a loopy, feverishly imaginative genre hybrid about the demons that haunt us from without and within.” - Manohla Dargis of The New York Times

Yuni Cho, The Korea Society’s director of film, has chosen The Host (2006) to screen at the summer Members’ Free Film Night. This family comedy/monster flick from acclaimed director Bong Joon-Ho is Korea’s highest grossing movie of all time and has won numerous awards, including Best Film at the Asian Film Awards. The Host has been described as a “mutant hybrid spawned from the improbable union of Little Miss Sunshine and Godzilla, for the film is a family comedy and political satire in which an unnaturally evolved tadpole just happens to loom (very) large.”

Quentin Tarantino included The Host in his list of top 20 films released since 1992 (the year he became a director).

This is a great opportunity to see (or to see again) one of the finest South Korean films of recent years. And you can't go wrong seeing it for free if you're a member or for $5 if you're not.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

ACF 1562: Free screening of BEASTIE BOYS next Tuesday in NYC

Korean Cultural Service
presents
Korean Movie Night 
Series 4: YOON Jin-Seo - An Actress on the Edge:
From Oldboy to Beastie Boys  
Beastie Boys / Biseuti boijeu
Directed by YUN Jong-bin
South Korea, 2008, 123 minutes
When: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas (map here)
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
Admission: FREE!!!
All seating is first-come, first served
North American Premiere
 
The once-affluent Seung-Woo (pop superstar YOON Kye-Sang) is now relegated to serving female customers at a host bar - a late-night job that dangerously flirts with male prostitution. When his encounters with the lovely Ji-Won (YOON Jin-Seo) turn into more than just a customer-host relationship, the realities of his job quickly rear their ugly head. Meanwhile, his drunk, gambling  obsessed boss Jae-Hyeon (The Chaser’s HA Jung-Woo) is causing his own complications and, when every problem suddenly collides – Seung-Woo discovers it’s going to take more than just street smarts for him to come out this job unscathed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ACF 1561: Real Escape Game x Evangelion: Escape From An Angel at 2012 J-POP Summit Festival

J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL PRESENTS
REAL ESCAPE GAME x EVANGELION: ESCAPE FROM AN ANGEL

New Version Of Interactive Multiplayer Puzzle Solving Game
Incorporates Smash Hit Sci-fi Anime Property
For A New Installment For The Annual San Francisco
Japanese Pop Culture Festival This Summer

NEW PEOPLE and creative company SCRAP will co-present a brand new installment of “Real Escape Game,” for the upcoming 2012 J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL, an all-day, weekend-long event taking place in San Francisco’s Japantown (presented in association with the Japantown Merchant Association) on Saturday, August 25th and Sunday, August 26th Multiple daily game sessions will be offered during the J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL on both Saturday and Sunday.

“The Real Escape Game,” is an inventive puzzle solving interactive game event, originally created in Japan, which requires players to cooperate and use their intuition and detective skills to solve multiple mysteries within a limited time.

For the J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL, a very special version of the game – “Real Escape Game x Evangelion: Escape from an Angel” – will be presented by NEW PEOPLE, Real Escape Game creative company, SCRAP, along with Nippon Television and Evangelion licensor Ground Works. The game will begin inside the NEW PEOPLE venue’s cinema and then move outdoors with participants seeking out clues, puzzles and hints that will be hidden throughout Japantown.  

“Real Escape Game x Evangelion: Escape from an Angel” takes a variety of cues and imagery from the smash hit sci-fi anime series. The creators at SCRAP will also localize the game especially for the J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL with a variety of special additions to make this event memorable for game aficionados and anime fans. More than 10,000 people played the “Real Escape Game x Evangelion: Escape from an Angel” when it debuted in Japan last year.

Game Times For Real Escape Game x Evangelion: Escape from an Angel:

Saturday, August 25th:
11:00 AM, 11:45 AM, 12:30 PM, 1:15 PM, 2:00 PM, 2:45 PM, 3:30 PM, 4:15 PM

Sunday, August26th:
11:00 AM, 11:45 AM, 12:30 PM, 1:15 PM, 2:00 PM, 2:45 PM, 3:30 PM, 4:15 PM

Early bird tickets are now available for $20 if purchased 30 days before event; Advance tickets are $25 if purchased 6 hours before event; Tickets at the door (subject to availability) are $30. Each game session lasts about 90 minutes. Advance tickets and complete game details are available at: http://regxeva.eventbrite.com.

**Note: The Game puzzles require no special skills or knowledge to solve; all puzzles can be solved with use of intuitive logic and deductive reasoning. All aspects of The Game will be conducted in English.

The game is built around the theme of a secret NERV outpost that is suddenly surrounded by hostiles. The operatives are trapped by a group of invisible "Angels." Suddenly, a strange melody can be heard and a cryptic code comes through on MAGI. As NERV agent, you must now figure out how to escape from this mysterious place, if you can!

Real Escape Game x Evangelion combines thought provoking game play with vivid imagery and plot aspects from one of anime’s most legendary properties to create an intriguing new version of this fun multi-player puzzle game,” says Seiji Horibuchi, the President/CEO of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. and Co-Chairman of the J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL Committee. “We invite J-POP SUMMIT attendees to participate and use their analytical skills and powers of deduction to solve the mysteries contained in this fun new game!”

Information about the Festival is available at J-Pop.com and features regular updates. Additional official news alerts over the coming weeks will detail specific events, attractions, event partners and sponsors as well as Guest of Honor appearances. Additional information about Real Escape Game is available at RealEscapeGame.com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

ACF 1560: Romantic comedy SHANGHAI CALLING to play at two New York area film festivals

Shanghai Calling
Directed by Daniel Hsia
USA/China, 2012, 100 minutes
 
A modern day romantic comedy set between two cities, New York & Shanghai, is about to descend upon New York City and Long Island.  SHANGHAI CALLING  will be playing the Stony Brook Film Festival on Saturday, July 21st at 7:00pm followed by the opening night premiere at the Asian American International Film Festival on Wednesday, July 25th at 7:00pm. This New York City premiere will be at Asia Society and will include a Q&A with the director and producer and a gala reception to follow. There will be an encore NYC screening, also with a Q&A featuring the director and producer, on July 28, 2012 at 5:15pm at the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas.

From first-time feature Director Daniel Hsia and produced by Janet Yang (The People vs. Larry Flint), comes this new age romantic comedy filled with stellar performances by Daniel Henney (“X Men Origins: Wolverine”), Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings) , Bill Paxton (“Big Love”), Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and rising star Zhu Zhu.

SHANGHAI CALLING tells the story of Sam Chao (Daniel Henney), an up-and-coming Manhattan attorney angling for partnership, who is dispatched by his bosses to Shanghai to open the firm’s new satellite office there. If Sam completes the three-month assignment, they will give him the promotion he’s been dreaming about.

But Sam may not be suited for life in China. His first day in Shanghai, he humiliates Amanda (Eliza Coupe), the lovely relocation specialist hired to smooth his way into the expat community, browbeats Fang Fang (Zhu Zhu), his hyper-capable office assistant, and insults everyone he meets with his refusal to adapt to local customs.

When his insistence on doing things his way costs an important client a potential billion-dollar deal, Sam must rely on the very people he has alienated to fix his blunders and save his job. As he painfully learns to temper his take-no-prisoners style, Sam slowly discovers a new way of looking at the world—and at Amanda.

Monday, July 16, 2012

ACF 1559: Maggie Cheung stars in retro screening of IRMA VEP at Lincoln Center tomorrow

Images courtesy of DACIA FILMS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION
Irma Vep
Directed by Olivier Assayas
Starring Maggie Cheung
France, 1996, 99 minutes
When: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm
Where: The Walter Reade Theater
The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th Street, New York, NY

The film Society of Lincoln Center's ongoing series 50 Years of the New York Film Festival will present Irma Vep tomorrow evening. Although not an Asian film per se, it does star one of Hong Kong's greatest actresses, Maggie Cheung. And quite frankly, she wears her catsuit magnificently in this lively comedy, directed by her then-husband Olivier Assayas.

The screening will be introduced by filmmaker, critic and former NYFF selection committee member Kent Jones, editor of the newly published collection Olivier Assayas.

Here's what the Film Society has to say about the film, which was  shown at the 1996 New York Film Festival:

Arguably the most innovative and influential French director of his generation, Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, Carlos) made his first NYFF appearance with this wildly inventive valentine to movies and moviemaking, featuring Hong Kong superstar Maggie Cheung as... a Hong Kong superstar named Maggie Cheung.

Cast as the eponymous, latex-clad cat burglar in a modern-day French remake of Louis Feuillade’s classic silent serial Les Vampires, Cheung finds herself at the center of an artistic maelstrom overseen by an unstable, aging New Wave director (Godard and Truffaut alter-ego Jean-Pierre Léaud), acting in a language she doesn’t understand, and fending off the amorous advances of her costume designer (Nathalie Richard).


A latter-day Day for Night that emphasizes the chaotic realities and strange, circus-like atmosphere of filmmaking over the romantic allure, Irma Vep is one of the great movies about what happens before “action” and after “cut.”

"A dark and mysterious comedy about the intrigues around a movie set, as well as a droll meditation on the state of world cinema today." —NYFF34 program note

"In Irma Vep, shot in 16mm on a tiny budget, Assayas affirms that for viewers and filmmakers alike, movies are still worth believing in—that the very lunacy of trusting in their significance is just as brave and extravagant an act as actually going out and making one yourself." —Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com

“For a moment, the movie turns wildly beautiful and savage in Feuillade’s style. When we return to the workaday world of squabbling actors and technicians, we feel the decline from magic to realism. In the end, Assayas both deconstructs illusion and creates it all over again. Irma Vep may be a bitter lament over a dead art form, but the movie itself is an extraordinary sign of life.”
--David Denby, New York



Sunday, July 15, 2012

ACF 1558: VIZ Manga app for Android-powered smart phones

AO NO EXORCIST © 2009 by Kazue Kato/SHUEISHA Inc.
VIZ MEDIA EXPANDS VIZ MANGA DIGITAL PLATFORM
TO ANDROID-POWERED SMART PHONES

VIZ Media, the largest publisher, distributor and licensor of manga, graphic novels and anime in North America, announced plans to expand its VIZ Manga digital platform to include Android Smart Phones.

Manga fans running Android 2.2 or higher on their phones will be able to download the free VIZ Manga app from the Google Play Store and read the world’s best manga anywhere they go. VIZ Manga for Android phones debuts today with 80 series, including blockbusters NARUTO, BLEACH, BLACK BIRD, and BLUE EXORCIST, with additional series added every week, The digital anthology WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA will also be available. Content purchased on Android will be synchronized across the entire VIZ Manga digital network, including VIZManga.com and the VIZ Manga apps for iOS devices.

“Finally, the world’s most popular manga is available on the world’s most popular mobile operating system,” said Gagan Singh, Executive Vice President for VIZ Media.  “Launching VIZ Manga on Android smart phones will help us make sure even more fans have access to the manga characters and stories they love.”

VIZ Manga’s app for Android phones was developed by VIZ Labs, led by Executive Vice President Gagan Singh. VIZ Labs was founded in April 2012 to expand, enhance and innovate VIZ Media’s digital content distribution.

The VIZ Manga app for Android is the most recent step in an ongoing effort to transform the traditional manga business, making manga more accessible than ever before through a variety of strategic partnerships and digital platforms. The VIZ Manga digital platform was an industry breakthrough, making high quality, legal translations of the world’s most loved manga available at VIZManga.com and the free VIZ Manga apps for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and now Android phones. VIZ Media took things even further when it introduced WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA, a digital manga anthology making the most popular manga series in the world available in the United States within two weeks of their original Japanese release, faster than ever before in the history of the industry. VIZ Media recently announced plans to launch Neon Alley, a 24-hour programmed channel featuring the world’s best anime. VIZ Media’s anime titles rank among the most popular streaming entertainment series online, thanks to partnerships with Apple, Hulu and Netflix.

Download the free VIZ Manga App for your Android and iOS devices at www.VIZ.com/apps.

To learn more about VIZ Manga, please visit www.vizmanga.com.

For more information on VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.