With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

ACF 1642: WEDDING PALACE to play at 1st Atlanta Korean Film Festival

Wedding Palace
 Directed by Christine Yoo
When: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7pm
Where: LeFont Theater, Atlanta

Christine Yoo's romance comedy Wedding Palace will have its Atlanta premiere next Saturday as part of AKFF 2012, the 1st Atlanta Korean Film Festival.

Director Yoo and actors Young Joo Ko and Nancy J. Lee will be on hand for a Q&A.

Wedding Palace is the only American film in the festival line up.

For details, click here.

ACF 1641: HIDAMARI SKETCH X HONEYCOMB licensed by Sentai Filmworks


Sentai Filmworks welcomes you back to a new school year with everyone’s favorite student artists in: Hidamari Sketch X Honeycomb. Featuring work by returning Hidamari Sketch veterans Nahoko Hasegawa (series composition), Toshiaki Ito (character designs), Toshiki Kameyama (sound director) and Tomoki Kikuya (music) the new term at Yamabuki Arts High School is sure to take the blue ribbon!

Hidamari Sketch X Honeycomb will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow in 2013.

Synopsis: Studying at the Yamabuki Arts High School has been a dream-come-true for Yuno, and she’s learned so much already!  And not just from her instructors, but from her friends and neighbors who’ve become her second family and made the Hidemari Apartments such a safe and nurturing home.  But as the day of her “big sisters” Sae and Hiro’s graduation draws slowly closer, it’s time for Yuno to start seriously taking on the same role for Nazuna, Nori and the other budding young artists who’ve entered Hidemari’s protective cocoon.

And it’s also time to tackle some really challenging artistic assignments.  That doesn’t mean there won’t still be time for fun with Miyako and all the others, but it’s definitely time to pencil in her plans for the future.  And sometimes that means you have to put the art before the course!  Prepare to be drawn in once again as the magic that surrounds Hidemari continues in HIDAMARI SKETCH X HONEYCOMB!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

ACF 1640: Final four films of Yeonghwa: Korean Film Today

Today and tomorrow are the final days of the Yeonghwa: Korean Film Today series at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition, a collaboration of the MoMA and The Korea Society, was made possible by Hyundai Card Company. Here is information about the four remaining films to be shown.

Poongsan / Pung-san-gae
Directed by Jeon Jae-hong
Screenplay by Kim Ki-duk
With Yoon Kye-sang, Kim Gyu-ri, Kim Jong-soo, Han Gi-jung
South Korea, 2011, 121 minutes 

Jeon (Beautiful, 2008) was an assistant to filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, who wrote and produced this film and whose influence is at once palpable and subordinate to Jeon’s own talent. Poongsan, who does not speak, carries messages back and forth between separated families in North and South Korea. When he is enlisted to smuggle the mistress of a high-ranking North Korean defector out of the North, passion intervenes, and an unexpected, “crazy” love threatens political chaos.

Pink / Ping-keu
Directed by Jeon Soo-il
Screenplay by Jeon Kim Kyung
With Lee Seung-yeon, Seo Kap-sook, Park Hyeon-woo, Kang San-eh
South Korea, 2011, 97 minutes

Among a clutch of derelict buildings sits Pink, a condemned bar that caters to drifters and lost souls. Jeon’s eighth feature is a portrait of a struggling small business, the world-weary middle-aged woman who runs it, and her dwindling clientele.

From Seoul to Varanasi / Varanasi
Written and directed by Jeon Kyu-hwan
With Yoon Dong-hwan, Choi Won-jung, Shin Ye-an, Nollaig Walsh
South Korea, 2011, 96 minutes 

Jeon, whose Town Trilogy (Mozart, Dance, and Animal) was a highlight of last year’s Yeonghwa, returns with a steamy and explicit melodrama that moves beyond Korea to India and even the Middle East. A married executive in Seoul has an affair and, eventually, so does his wife—with a foreign worker. Secrets multiply, and what began as personal betrayals become explosive global incidents.

Fire in Hell / Ji-ok-hwa
Written and directed by Lee Sang-woo
With Won Tae-hee, Cha Seung-min, Kim Hun, Lee Yong-rye
South Korea, 2012, 99 minutes

A graduate of both UC Berkeley and the Kim Ki-duk “school” of filmmaking, Lee, one of Korea’s maverick multitasking filmmakers, makes his Yeongwha debut with this sensual melodrama. In a vivid exploration of the notion of karma, a Buddhist monk loses control. The calamitous results are followed, perhaps, by redemption. In Korean; English subtitles. 99 min.



 

Friday, September 28, 2012

ACF1639: HEADSHOT reviewed; limited theatrical release begins today, release in multiple formats to follow on October 2nd

Tul receives his instructions for his next trrget
Headshot
Written and directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang
Based on the novel Fon Tok Kuen Fah by Win Lyovarin
Thailand-France, 2011, 105 minutes
In Thai with English subtitles

In Headshot, writer/director Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Mon-rak Transistor, Ploy) turns the noir crime film upside down -- literally. The film had it's New York premiere at the Tribecca Film Festival earlier this year. Today, Friday, September 28, 2012, it begins a limited theatrical release at New York's Cinema Village and at the The Grand Illusion Cinema in Seattle, Washington. On October 2nd, the film will become available on DVD, iTunes and other online VOD channels.

The film begins with a man typing -- on a typewriter, not a computer! -- what turns out to be information about a politician who is targeted for assassination. That information is then received by Tul (Nopachai "Peter" Jayanama), a talented hitman, or to use the film's preferred term, "assassination expert." Shaving his face and head, Tul disguises himself as a monk and carries out his assignment.

Tul bleeding from the headshot he received

Only he doesn't get away clean but is hit by a bullet -- the headshot of the title. The next thing he knows he's waking up in a clinic where's he's spent three months in a coma. Oh, and while everything else is fine with his body and mind, he now sees the world upside down.

At this point the film shifts back and forth between the seven years and five months (as the film tells us precisely) of Tul's back story prior to his injury and his coming to grips with both it and its implications. We learn what Tul used to do before he became a hitman, how he came to this profession, and what happens to him when he tries to walk away from it.

Joy (Chanokporn "Dream" Sayoungkul), the films most fatale of femmes

Rataanaruang's Thai-noir has all the classic elements of the genre. There's corruption, deception, betrayal, and the requisite femme fatale. There's also enough gun-play and other action to keep even the most jaded fan engrossed. And like any good noir, there is a moral issue at its root. In this case its the issue of karma. Regardless of the why and how Tul came to be an assassin, did his decision to engage in this line of employment ultimately lead to karmic payback?

Headshot reportedly has been chosen as Thailand's submission to the 85th Academy Awards.Check out Wise Kwai's post about that development here. While I think it's unrealistic to expect it to make the list of nominees, it's not too much to hope that just being chosen as Thailand's entry will provide the additional  publicity and box office that the film definitely deserves.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

ACF 1638: Free Shonen Jump Alpha meet-up at Kinokuniya Bookstore during 2012 NY Comic Con

NARUTO © 1999 by Masashi Kishimoto/SHUEISHA Inc.
VIZ MEDIA INVITES MANGA AND ANIME FANS
TO A SHONEN JUMP ALPHA MEET-UP AT
NEW YORK CITY’S KINOKUNIYA BOOKSTORE

Meet TIGER & BUNNY Character Designer Masakazu Katsura
And Catch The Debut of New SJ ALPHA 2013 Yearbook
At FREE Event Coinciding With 2012 New York Comic Con

VIZ Media invites manga and anime fans of all ages to join the company for a very special SHONEN JUMP ALPHA Meet-Up, taking place Friday, October 12th from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Kinokuniya Bookstore, located at 1073 Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue between 40th & 41st Streets). The meet-up is FREE to attend, and coincides with VIZ Media’s appearance at the 2012 New York Comic Con taking place October 11th-14th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. VIZ Media will be located in Booth 2042.

Making a special in-person appearance at Kinokuniya will be legendary creator and character designer Masakazu Katsura (I”S, VIDEO GIRL AI, ZETMAN, TIGER & BUNNY), who will meet fans and sign autographs from 7:00pm-8:00pm. A variety of door prizes will be given away, and visitors are also encouraged to take advantage of many Kinokuniya manga and anime products that will be specially discounted during the duration of the meet-up event.

Meet and mingle with other fans and the editors of SHONEN JUMP ALPHA and be among the first to get the SHONEN JUMP ALPHA Yearbook 2013. This is a very special premium, available only at New York Comic Con, celebrating the best of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA including BAKUMAN。, BLEACH, BLUE EXORCIST, NARUTO, ONE PIECE and all the other great manga series the magazine offers along with exclusive editorial content not available anywhere else. Don’t miss your chance to get a copy!

This year’s special edition also features Sachie-chan Good!!, Masakazu Katsura’s collaboration with famed DRAGON BALL creator Akira Toriyama, along with a special interview with both of the visionary creators. And fans won’t want to miss the hilarious BAKUMAN。 spin-off one shot manga Otter 11, and the exclusive double-sided centerfold poster featuring BAKUMAN。 and NARUTO!

Fans can also stop for a refreshment at Café Zaiya, located inside Kinokuniya, and receive a special bonus promo item for signing up for a new annual subscription to WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA.

Each digital edition of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA treats manga fans across North America to the latest chapters of some of the world’s most popular manga series only two weeks after they debut in Japan’s massively popular WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP magazine.

WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA is available through an annual membership that provides 52 weeks of digital access to 48 weekly issues for just $25.99. Single issues of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA can be read for four weeks for only $0.99. Each issue may be read on VIZManga.com, and also on the VIZ Manga App for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and Android tablets and smart phones. In addition to the collector’s yearbook, WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA members also receive access to exclusive content, including creator interviews and exclusive videos.

For more information on WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA and exclusive subscriber offers, visit SJAlpha.com

Monday, September 24, 2012

ACF 1637: HOME SWEET HOME reviewed; free screening Tuesday

Korean Cultural Service
presents
Korean Movie Night 
Series Six: Gems of Korean Cinema
OH Tae-su, left, and Se-ra's father on the roof of the Prestige Lodging House
 Home Sweet Home
Written and directed by MUN Si-hyeon
South Korea, 2011, 95 minutes
When: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
 Map
Admission: FREE!!!
All seating is first-come, first served
North American Premiere

Home Sweet Home, like Helpless, is a Korean film that focuses on the effect of extreme financial hardship on the individual and the family. Here, a young couple who have been living well are faced with the prospect of giving up the lovely apartment they own and having to take their daughter out of the school she's attending outside of Korea.

LEE Yeon-joo, the wife, refuses to allow this. As an alternative, OH Tae-su, the husband, is to move out, and the couple will pretend to get divorced. It wasn't clear to me exactly what's brought about their financial difficulties, but the specifics really don't matter. My sense is that with them ostensibly being divorced, she will not be responsible for any debt he owes, and thus be entitled to keep their apartment.

Tae-Su inadvertently interrupts Se-Ra as she's dressing in the communal bathroom

Tae-su moves into the Prestige Lodging House in Busan, one of many such dwellings for those down on their luck. The walls are thin and the place is smelly. There he barely manages to cope with the situation in which he finds himself. Making it somewhat bearable is the friendship that develops between him and Se-ra, a high school aged girl who lives there with her father.

But things are not quite what they seem to be on several scores, leading to developments and revelations that further threaten Tae-su's physical and financial well-being.

As best I could discover, Home Sweet Home is MUN's first film. (He subsequently served as Assistant Director on Kim Ki-duk's Pieta, which was recently named best picture at the Venice film Festival and which also deals with the subject of debt.) The film is somewhat slow-paced initially, but not glacially so, and it picks up rather briskly in the last 20-30 minutes. Overall it's quite a solid freshman outing for MUN.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, a good film that I have no hesitancy about recommending.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

ACF 1636: WORLD FILM LOCATIONS: BEIJING book giveaway contest at VCinema


My friend and fellow VCinema staffer John Berra has been contributing a series of articles about Beijing to help celebrate the release of World Film Locations: Beijing, which he co-edited.

Intellect LTd., the book's publisher, has given VCinema three copies of the book to give away in a contest.

The three winners will be drawn from those entrants who correctly answer this trivia question:

Who directed the Sixth Generation classic Beijing Bicycle (2001)?

For complete information on the contest, including how to enter, go to VCinema by clicking here.

ACF 1635: Korean thriller BLIND at MoMA tomorrow afternoon

MIN Soo-ah is followed in a subway car by a psycho-killer
Blind / Beul-la-in-deu
Directed by Ahn Sang-hoon
South Korea, , 111 minutes
Where: Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, NYC

One night MIN Soo-ah (KIM Ha-neul), a bright young woman who's a student at the police university, makes a terrible mistake. As a result someone dear to her dies, and she goes blind and loses her chance to join the police.

Three years later she is still struggling to adapt to her condition, this despite the assistance of Wisey, her female guide dog. One day she goes alone to visit the House of Hope, the orphanage where she grew up. Prideful, she gets angered at a suggestion that is made and takes off on her own. Consequently, she is drawn into the case of a psychotic killer who targets young women.

Using her skills of observation -- sound and smell, if not sight -- and of her police training, she's pitted against this maniac. Will she be able to save herself and at the same time find redemption for her earlier mistake in judgement?

For me, there were some serious problems with the film. One was what I perceived as an overly melodramatic linking of the terrible consequences of her mistake of three years earlier with the situation that develops later.

Secondly, we know nothing about the killer until near the very end of the film, and even then what we learn doesn't really give us enough information to make him anything more than a cardboard cut-out of a psychopath. The explanation -- such as it is -- for his actions are simplistic and don't begin to meaningfully account for his motivation to kidnap and kill young women, nor for his physical abilities.

Finally there are some developments that are just way too implausible. Why, for example, would a cop who's assigned to guard Soo-ah and the young man, sit out in his car in the rain and not be with them inside the building where they are staying? It's clearly to allow the killer to get to his targets, but it's also just plain dumb. I might give this sort of thing a pass in a teen horror/thriller -- such as House at the End of the Street -- but Blind aspires to a higher level of cinema. Sadly, it falls a bit short.

But while the plot could've been better fleshed out, the acting is uniformly good, particularly that of KIM Ha-neul and Jo Hie-bong, who plays the rather out-of-his-league detective who's assigned the case. Also the cinematography is well done, and there are some truly suspenseful moments.

ACF Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. Flawed, but overall a fairly good film for the genre. Certainly worth seeing.

This screening of Stateless Things is part of the third edition of Yeonghwa: Korean Film Today. This joint presentation of The Korea Society and MoMA includes 11 distinctive contemporary narratives, from genre films to unclassifiable features by some of Korea’s leading renegade filmmakers.

And if you're drawn to the theme of blind women effectively dealing with really bad guys, then consider checking out Audrey Hepburn in Terence Young's Wait Until Dark (1967).

ACF 1634: Free screening of HOME SWEET HOME on September 25, 2012

Korean Cultural Service
presents
Korean Movie Night 
Series Six: Gems of Korean Cinema
Home Sweet Home
Directed by MUN Si-hyeon
South Korea, 2011, 95 minutes
When: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
 Map
Admission: FREE!!!
All seating is first-come, first served
North American Premiere

Tae-su is a promising young businessman with an amazing, supportive family, but all that changes when he loses everything overnight after underwriting a friend's debt. Unable to bear the thought of selling their posh loft, his wife proposes divorcing on paper.

Tae-su agrees and attempts to steer clear of creditors by hiding out at a low-cost lodging facility for the poor. There, a precocious teenage girl named Se-ra takes an interest in him, but it’s not before long her father intervenes – taking this “home is where the heart is” tale in a very different, surprising direction.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

ACF 1633: Two screenings of Korean drama STATELESS THINGS at MoMA

Stateless Things / Jool-tak-dong-si   
Written and directed by KIM Kyung-mook
South Korea, 2012, 118 minutes
Where: Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, NYC
Map here

The “stateless things” in the title of documentarian Kim’s first narrative feature are three marginalized young people in Seoul: a teenage North Korean defector and a Chinese Korean girl who occasionally do odd jobs together, and a gay hustler who, for a while anyway, has a lovely apartment and a sugar daddy. At once harsh and dreamy, the film treats its dispossessed characters with a hopeful empathy, bringing them together in a fresh and provocative manner.

These screenings of Stateless Things are part of the third edition of Yeonghwa: Korean Film Today. This joint presentation of The Korea Society and MoMA includes 11 distinctive contemporary narratives, from superior genre films to unclassifiable features by some of Korea’s leading renegade filmmakers.

Friday, September 21, 2012

ACF 1632: Select theatrical release of Hong Kong comedy VULGARIA begins next Friday, September 28th

China Lion Film Distribution
Presents
 Vulgaria
Directed by Pang Ho-Cheung
Hong Kong, 2012, 93 minutes
Select Theatrical Release Starts Friday, September 28, 2012
In Cantonese with Mandarin and English subtitles

Vulgaria, which had its North American premiere on the opening night of the 2012 New York Asian FIlm Festival, will  be released on September 28th at select theaters throughout North America.


Synopsis: A second rate movie producer must go to extraordinary lengths in order to finance his latest film, Confessions of Two Concubines, a softcore extravaganza set to star an actress well past her prime – all as his personal life unravels around him.

The film stars Chapman To as the producer, Ronald Cheng as a Mainland gangster who has some bizarre culinary and sexual appetites and wants to bankroll the film, and the voluptuous Dada Chen as a would-be-starlet with an incredible talent for bringing men to sexual orgasm. For my review of this hilarious, raunchy film, click here.


The currently scheduled theatrical release locations are listed below, subject to change.

Boston:
- AMC Loews Boston Common 19 175 Tremont St. Boston, MA 02111 (888) 262-4386

Chicago
- AMC River East 21 322 East Illinois Street Chicago, IL 60611 (888) 262-4386

Houston
- AMC Studio 30 2949 Dunvale Houston, TX 77063 (888) 262-4386

Los Angeles Area
- AMC Atlantic Times Square 14 450 N. Atlantic Ave. Monterey Park, CA 91754 (888) 262-4386
- AMC Puente Hills 20 150 S. Azusa Ave., City of Industry, CA 91748 (888) 262-4386

Miami
- AMC Sunset Place 24 5701 Sunset Drive South Miami, FL 33143 (305) 740-8904

New York
- AMC Empire 25 234 West 42nd Street New York, NY 10036 (888) 262-4386
- AMC Village VII 66 Third Ave (11th Street) New York, NY 10003 (888) 262-4386

San Diego
- AMC Mission Valley 20 1640 Camino Del Rio North San Diego, CA 92108 (888) 262-4386

San Francisco Area
- AMC Loews Metreon 16 101 Fourth Street San Francisco, CA 94103 (888) 262-4386
- AMC Mercado 20 3111 Mission College Blvd. Santa Clara, CA 95054 (888) 262-4386

Seattle
- AMC Pacific Place 11 [Note: Starts October 5th] 600 Pine St. Seattle, WA 98101 (888) 262-4386

Toronto Area
- Cineplex Odeon Yonge & Dundas 24 10 Dundas St. Toronto, ON M5B 2G9 (416) 977-2262
- SilverCity Richmond Hill 8725 Yonge Street Richmond Hill, ON L4C 6Z1 (416) 646-0444

Vancouver Area
- Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas 88 West Pender, 3rd Floor Vancouver, BC V6B 6N9 (604) 806-0799

Washington D.C. Area
- AMC Loews Rio Cinemas 18 9811 Washingtonian Ctr. Gaithersburg, MD 20878 (888) 262-4386

Official North American VULGARIA Facebook page

Official North American VULGARIA Twitter page

China Lion Film Facebook page

Thursday, September 20, 2012

ACF 1631: Happy Birthday wishes to Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung

Maggie in Heroic Trio (1993)

Actress Maggie Cheung was born in Hong Kong on September 20, 1964. Over the years she's grown from a cute young thing (see the first Police Story movie) to an accomplished actress on the world stage (Irma Vep and Clean).

Here's a list of some of the films that I've loved her in:

- Police Story (1985)
- As Tears Go By (1988)
- Center Stage (1992)
- The Heroic Trio (1993)
Green Snake
 - Green Snake (1993)
- Ashes of Time (1994)
Irma Vep
- Irma Vep (1996)
- In the Mood for Love (2000)
- Hero (2002)
- Clean (2004)

So Happy AsianCineFest Birthday wishes to 48-year-young Maggie Cheung.

ACF 1630: Two screenings of MIRAGE in Yeonghwa film series at MoMA

Mirage / Mir-wol-do Ga-neun Gil    
Written and directed by YANG Jeong-ho
With Mun Jeong-ung, Kim Chang-hwan,  and Shin Jae-seung
South Korea, 2011, 83 minutes
Where: Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, NYC

After a night of celebratory drinking, a successful author wakes up on a train with no money or papers. Yet when he finally does find his bag, it’s a bag that has been missing since his childhood, and the search for his missing present becomes a journey into a dark past. Yang’s debut feature is a compelling, semi-supernatural thriller about one man’s return “home.”

These screenings of Mirage are part of the third edition of Yeonghwa: Korean Film Today. This joint presentation of The Korea Society and MoMA includes 11 distinctive contemporary narratives, from superior genre films to unclassifiable features by some of Korea’s leading renegade filmmakers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ACF 1629: HELPLESS - movie review

 Helpless / Hoa-cha
Written and directed by BYUN Young-Joo
South Korea, 2012,  117 minutes
Where: Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, NYC
Map here


JANG Mun-ho (LEE Seon-gyun), a successful veterinarian, is driving his fiancé GANG Seon-yeong (KIM Min-hie) to meet his parents. They stop at a service area rest stop, and Mun-ho gets out to get some coffee. When he returns, Seon-yeong is not in the car. Mun-ho cannot find her anywhere and can't reach her on her cell phone.

When he goes to her place, he finds that every personal item of hers is gone. Desparate to find Seon-yeong, Mun-hoe enlists the aid of Jong-geun ( JO Seong-ha), a former policeman who'd been dismissed for taking bribes. Their search leads them along an increasingly complex path involving loan sharking, debt and bankruptcy, identity theft, and more.

Seon-yeong, left, and Mun-ho
This gripping mystery thriller was adapted by director BYUN from the novel All She Was Worth by Miyabe Miyuki. It's exceedingly well-crafted, and the rising suspense is palpable.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, highly recommended

These screenings of Helpless are part of the third edition of Yeonghwa: Korean Film Today. This joint presentation of The Korea Society and MoMA includes 11 distinctive contemporary narratives, from superior genre films to unclassifiable features by some of Korea’s leading renegade filmmakers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ACF 1628: Fantasy manga series LOVELESS rebooted by VIZ

Loveless © Yun Kouga/ICHIJINSHA
HIT MANGA SERIES LOVELESS RETURNS AFTER FOUR YEARS
WITH VIZ MEDIA’S RELEASE OF NEW VOLUMES
OF THE POETIC SAGA OF SPELL BATTLES AND SECRET NAMES

Intense Psychological Masterpiece Resumes In Volume 9 Release;
VIZ Media Also To Publish Earlier LOVELESS Volumes
In New 2-In-1 Manga Omnibus Editions

VIZ Media will thrill readers as it reboots the English-language publication of LOVELESS, the hit fantasy manga (graphic novel) series from creator Yun Kouga. Volume 9 is available now and is rated ‘T’ for Teens, with an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN / £6.99 UK.

VIZ Media has also announced plans to publish the earlier volumes of LOVELESS as new 2-in-1 omnibus editions beginning in October. These releases will feature updated translations, new lettering, retouched sound effects, and a fresh cover design. Volume 1 debuts on October 9th and includes 6 full-color pages, as well as 50 pages of bonus comics and insightful artist commentary from Yun Kouga >previously not published in North America. MSRP for the 2-in-1 editions will be $14.99 U.S. / $16.99 CAN / £9.99 UK

In LOVELESS, Ritsuka Aoyagi is alone in the world – never fitting in at school and alienated from his own past by a fragmented memory. When his beloved older brother Seimei is brutally murdered, Ritsuka is heartbroken but determined to find answers. His only lead is Soubi, a mysterious, handsome college student who offers him an intimate link to his brother’s other life: a dark and vibrant world of spell battles and secret names.

First new 2-in-1 omnibus edition

“Fans have eagerly anticipated the release of new LOVELESS volumes ever since VIZ Media first announced that it had rescued the publishing license last year,” says Hope Donovan, Editor. “This is the first new release in years of one of the best-selling manga series, and we’re excited to continue the story for existing fans, and captivate new readers who now have a chance to dive into the rich world of LOVELESS from the beginning!”

Manga creator Yun Kouga began her career as a doujinshi (or self-published) author and debuted in 1986 with the original manga, Metal Heart, which was later serialized in Comic VAL magazine. Kouga is the creator of the popular series, LOVELESS as well as Earthian, and has worked on several notable manga and anime projects, including the character designs for Gundam 00. Two of Kouga’s works, CROWN OF LOVE (rated ‘T’ for Teens) and GESTALT (rated ‘T’ for Teens), are published in North America by VIZ Media’s Shojo Beat imprint.

For more information on LOVELESS, or manga titles from VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

ACF 1627: PERSONA 4 the Animation on sale today on DVD and Blu-Ray


Section23 Films has announced the release of PERSONA 4 the Animation. Based on the megahit game-within-a-game from ATLUS, in which extraordinary humans take on even more extraordinary “Personas”.  PERSONA 4 releases on DVD & Blu-Ray by Section23 client, Sentai Filmworks.

Title:                 PERSONA 4 COLLECTION 1
Running Time:   305 min.
Age Rating:       TV 14 (V)
Language:         English & Japanese with English Subtitles
CAT:                 SF-PS100
UPC:                814131010834
Published by:    Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by:  Section23 Films
Street Date:      9/18/2012
Format:              DVD
SRP:                $59.98

Title:                 PERSONA 4 COLLECTION 1 BLU-RAY
Language:         English
CAT:                 SFB-PS100
UPC:                814131010933
Format:              BD
SRP:                $69.98

SYNOPSIS: When Yu Narukami moves to the country town of Inaba to stay with his uncle and cousin, he's expecting a lot more peace and quiet than he's been used to in the big city.  What he isn't expecting is for his uncle's job as a police detective to spill over into his own life.  Or for the murders that are occurring across town to be somehow linked to Yu's own strange experiences, odd local weather patterns and a mysterious TV show world that seems to be attempting to get Yu to enter it!

Now, together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer, or lead him to his doom.  Journey into the Velvet Room and beyond as the hit PlayStation 2® game becomes a spectacular anime in PERSONA 4 Collection 1.

ACF 1626: TAZZA : THE HIGH ROLLERS - DVD review

CJ Entertainment
and 5 Points Pictures
present
Tazza: The High Rollers / Tazza
Directed by CHOI Dong-hoon
South Korea, 2006, 140 minutes
Special Edition 2-disc DVD 

Tazza is a Korean word that refers to "a person who is gifted at gambling." Warehouse worker Goni (CHO Seung-woo, The Sword With No Name) loses not only his money but also that of his family in a game of hwatu, a Korean card game also known as "The War of Flowers." He decides to become tazza in order to recoup his losses. To achieve this he implores a professional gambler, Mr. Pyeong (Baek Yoon-sik, The Taste of Money) to train him.

Goni, as portrayed by CHO Seung-woo

Pyeong, who raised hwatu to an art form, was the best gambler in Korea but is now retired and lives a quiet life. Initially he turns Goni down, but ultimately becomes won over by his determination and agrees to teach him. Besides the standard tricks, he also imparts to Goni his four "Rules of Gambling":

1. Become a beast.
2. Watch out for your own back.
3. Don't be too selfish
4. There are no friends for life, just as there are no enemies for life.

Mr. Pyeong, Madam Jeong, Goni, and Jeong's "inside man" leave after a successful "operation."

For a time the two join with Madam Jeong (the lovely and voluptuous KIM Hye-soo, the "Memories" segment of 3 Extremes II) and Gwang (YOO Hae-jin, Moss). But in the world of professional gambling, allegiances often shift and betrayals can be common and vicious. Who will survive, who will not, and who will be on top when the last hand is dealt?

Gwang, left, and Goni

Tazza: The High Rollers is based on an epic manhwa (comic) of more than ten volumes by HUH Young-man and KIM Se-young. Director CHOI faced several challenges. One was whittling down the material to feature film length and crafting a coherent story with a reasonable number of characters. Also, since gambling is basically a sedentary activity with minimal movement (dealing cards, placing bets and raking in one's winnings), he had to, as he put it in one of the extras on the second disc, "to breathe an air of vigor into the movie," which meant that either the people in frame or the camer, or both, had to move. He achieved this by shooting with two cameras, face-paced cuts, panning, tracking, and zooming when necessary.

Madam Jeong demonstrates the "show panties" trick used to distract the mark.

Once again CJ Entertainment has gone out with an abundance of outstanding special features:

- "Comic vs. Movie"
- "Adaptation of the Comic"
- "The Making of Tazza: The High Rollers"
- "Curiosity About Anti-Social People"
- Cast discussion about Tazza
- Documentary about the action sequences
- Art and set design documentary
- "Hwatu: The Gambler's Tricks and Techniques" - former professional gambler JANG Byeong-yun demonstrates the tricks gamblers use in shuffling, dealing off the bottom of the deck, etc., tricks he taught the cast and the director
- Deleted and alternate scenes with on/off director commentary
- Promotional footage - five Tazza: The High Rollers trailers
- 5 Points Pictures trailers - other CJ offerings from 5 Points Pictures

The only thing that I would have liked included would have been a brief tutorial about the rules of hwatu. But you can't always get everything, and I don't think anyone could legitimatize complain about the extras.

An accomplice suggests a mark touch her breasts for good luck.

Tazza: The High Rollers is a most entertaining film that offers some insight into the rough and tumble world of professional gambling in Korea.

ACF Ratings: 3 out of 4 stars for the film (solidly recommended); 3.5 out of 4 for the extras (superior).

Monday, September 17, 2012

ACF 1625: MOSS - DVD review

CJ Entertainment
and 5 Points Pictures
presents
Moss / Iggi
Directed by KANG Woo-suk
South Korea, 2010, 163 minutes

CJ Entertainment and 5 Points Pictures recently released this terrific 2-disc Special Edition DVD of Moss, an award-winning mystery thriller based on an online comic by YOON Tae-ho.

RYU Hae-guk (actor PARK Hae-il, Memories of Murder) is a recently divorced young man who travels to an isolated village where his elderly father has died. RYU senior was the spiritual leader of the village, and though father and son were estranged for some time, Hae-guk take his filial duties seriously. When certain shortcuts are taken with regard to the cause of death, he becomes suspicious. This feeling grows when it becomes clear that the village chief, CHUN Yong-duk (a fantastic JUNG Jae-young, Silmido), and his three cronies would prefer that he leave immediately.

RYU previously had exposed improper behavior by public prosecutor PARK Min-wuk (YOO Joon-sang, seen in HONG Sang-soos The Day He Arrives and Like You Know It All). PARK was consequently demoted and, understandably bearing a grudge, warned RYU to "Stay low and live like the moss...quietly."

But Hae-guk is not one to live quietly and let well enough alone. His insistence on "getting to the truth" about his father's death sets in motion a chain of events that threaten his father's reputation, the village chief and his cronies, as well as Hae-guk himself.

Can Hae-duk force the truth to be revealed, and if he can, will he be able to handle it?

RYU Hae-guk, left, faces the village chief, CHUN Yong-duk

In 2010 the cast and crew of Moss won several various awards at the Blue Dragon Film Awards, the Daejong Film Awards, the Icheon Chunsa Film Festival, and the Korean Film Awards ceremonies. Such accolades are well-deserved testimony to the film's attributes.

One would expect a Two-Disc Special Edition have an ample number of extras. Well, those expectations are more than met with the almost 90 minutes of video extras. The first four listed below are particularly worthwhile:

- "The Making of Moss"
- "The Beginning of the Story - The Comic Behind the Story"
- "The Birth of the Village" - a documentary about the film's art and set design
- "Come Out to the Real World" - a featurette about its make-up and effects
- Poster shoot video
- Original South Korean teaser and trailer
- Cast and director bios
- 5 Points Pictures trailers

I first learned of Moss when it was shown as a special Halloween screening of Korean Cultural Service's Korean Movie Night series back in October, 2011. (The AsianCineFest announcement post about that screening is here.) As one of the co-hosts of the VCinema Podcast, I participated in our review of it in Episode 37 in November. (The Moss portion of the episode begins at time-code 44:42.) Coffin Jon and Josh didn't care for it, at least not much, and I gave it a moderate recommendation for a rental, but said definitely don't buy it. So much for a first viewing.

When I heard of this 2-disc release, I thought it would be interesting to give the film another shot, and I'm so glad I did. My opinion of it changed dramatically. I now recognize it as a really fine movie, a taut thriller that's well structured, extremely well acted, and full of suspense. And the bonus disc is like delicious icing on an already tasty cake.

I think this special edition DVD release of Moss is worthy of a place in your collection. It doesn't merely hold up to but gets even with repeated viewings. ACF Ratings: 3.5 out of 4 stars for the film (very highly recommended) and 4 out of 4 for the special features (outstanding).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

ACF 1624: Korean drama SILENCED on DVD this Tuesday, September 18th

CJ Entertainment
Presents
Silenced / Do-ga-ni
Directed by HWANG Dong-hyuk
South Korea, 2011, 125 minutes 
Presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio
Korean 5.1 Dolby digital sound
English subtitles 

Silenced has had an extraordinary impact.”
— The New York Times

Silenced is harrowing.”  
—  L.A. Times

“… an incendiary and compelling conclusion …
[exposing] deep-rooted and far-reaching social injustice …”
— The Hollywood Reporter

“… Silenced will haunt a viewer for a while.”
— Seattle Times

“… a gripping account …
— Film Journal International

“… Nothing short of earth-shaking.”
—    The Economist

“Truth is being neglected throughout the world
… I hope this film awakens people ...”
— Director Hwang Dong-hyuk

The hideous truth – concealed for far too long – is revealed in Silenced, the real-life story of one man’s battle for justice, available on DVD on Tuesday, September 18 from CJ Entertainment America.

Based on the book Dogani – which elicited outrage across South Korea – Silenced is the heart-wrenching true story of horrific child abuse and the shocking human rights issues that continue to plague activists today.

When widower Kang In-ho becomes a teacher at the Ja-ae Academy for deaf children in Mujin, far from his home and family, he is thankful for a new start for himself and his young daughter, who is sick and requires surgery he can’t afford.

But all is not as it appears at the esteemed school and, as the gentle-natured In-ho slowly gains the trust of his reticent students, he uncovers a dark and shocking secret.  Though he is reluctant to step forward and lose the income he so desperately needs to help his daughter, he cannot turn his back on his tormented, young charges.

With the help of activist Seo Yu-jin, they risk everything to give the kids a voice and to challenge a system darkly intent on protecting the privileged perpetrators … not the children.

A powerful and moving tribute to great strength and heroic conviction …The story of one man – and one people’s – unwavering hope for change.

POSTSCRIPT: Although the accused received woefully minor sentences prior to the release of Silenced, the film – which sold 2.7 million tickets within two weeks of  theatrical release in Korea – elicited positive real-life results. President Lee Myung-bak publicly attended a screening and, amid much public outcry, revisions to national laws were put into effect.

Silenced won the “Black Dragon Audience Award” at the  2012  Udine Far East Film Festival; “Best Film” at the 2012 Film of the Year Awards; “Best Music” at the 2011 Blue Dragon Film Awards; and was an official selection at the 2012 Fantasia Film Festival.

Special features include: “The School” “The Children” deleted scenes, poster photo shoot, still gallery and trailer.