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Tokyo Film Festival announces Thai, Anno Hideaki program

  August 28, 2014  
Earlier this week, the Tokyo International Film Festival held the first press conference for its 2014 edition. After announcing its opening and closing films last month, organizers have outlined several of this year’s major programs.

As announced earlier, the festival's filmmaker in focus this year is Anno Hideaki. Titled “The World of Hideaki Anno,” the retrospective features a line-up of 42 Anno works, including feature films, excerpts of television anime series, advertisements and short films. Studio Ghibli producer Suzuki Toshio, who has called Anno the most suitable heir for Ghibli, was on hand to introduce Anno.

The festival is also launching the "Crosscut Asia" program, a showcase that shines the spotlight on a specific Asian country's hidden gems. The first edition of the program will focus on Thai films.

In the footsteps of Busan and Hong Kong's film festivals, Tokyo will produce Asian Three-Fold Mirror, an omnibus series that features short films made by up-and-coming Japanese and Asian directors. The first installment of the series – made by one Japanese filmmaker and two overseas filmmakers - will go into production this year and make its world premiere at next year’s festival.

The 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opens on October 23 with Disney's Big Hero 6 and closes on October 31 with the first part of Yamazaki Takashi’s adaptation of Parasyte.

Text / Rockman

Yamada Ryosuke to star in live-action adaptation of Assassination Classroom

  August 28, 2014  
Hey! Say! JUMP member Yamada Ryosuke has been revealed to be the leading man of the film adaptation of mega-popular manga Assassination Classroom. Written by Matsui Yusei, Assassination Classroom has been serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump since 2012 and has sold over 10 million copies. The story begins when a mysterious creature destroys 70% of the moon and threatens to destroy the earth within the year. Strangely, the creature then offers to become the homeroom teacher of Kunugigaoka Junior High School's class 3E, notorious for being the home of the school's least academically-inclined students. In reaction to this, the world's leaders task class 3E with assassinating the creature, offering ¥10 billion as a reward for whomever succeeds.

First-time film leading man Yamada will play Shiota Nagisa, a 3E student whose friendly exterior masks a dark and dangerous disposition. Physically unimposing and weak, Shiota nevertheless proves to possess the skills of an assassin. The film will also star veteran Shiina Kippei (The After-Dinner Mysteries) as 3E's P.E. teacher Tadaomi Karasuma, and Suda Masaki (Daily Lives Of High School Boys), Yamamoto Maika (Kamen Teacher: The Movie), Taketomi Seika (Hot Road), Yuki Mio (Kami-sama no Iu Toori) and Uehara Miku (Kimi ni Todoke) as Shiota's fellow students.

Filming will begin on August 31, 2014, and the movie is set to be released in March 2015 in Japan.

Text / Frood

Filming begins on blockbuster thriller The Ghouls

  August 25, 2014  
Filming has begun on Chinese blockbuster The Ghouls, based on the immensely popular online novel series Ghost Blows Out the Light by Zhang Muye (a.k.a. Tian Xia Ba Chang). The original story is told from the point of view of Hu Bayi, a former soldier turned grave robber who traverses throughout China looking for hidden treasure with his friend Wang Kaixuan. When the grave robbers come to be afflicted by a mysterious curse, they team up with Chinese-American archaeologist Shirley Yang to search for clues that will help them break the curse.

Directed by Wuershan (Painted Skin: The Resurrection) and produced by Chen Kuo Fu, the film is one of two competing adaptations of Ghost Blows Out the Light; the other will be directed by Lu Chuan. The Ghouls' all-star cast includes Aloys Chen (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate) as Hu Bayi, Huang Bo (Lost In Thailand) as Wang Kaixuan, Shu Qi (Journey To The West: Conquering the Demons) as Shirley Yang and Angelababy (Tai Chi 0) as Hu Bayi's first love.

The film is set to be released in China on December 18, 2015.

Text / Frood

3D Doraemon film moves audiences in Japan

  August 22, 2014  
With one feature film release a year, the Doraemon animated film franchise has been one of the most consistently profitable anime series in Japan. Despite coming just several months after the previous Doraemon animated adventure, a new film featuring the futuristic robotic cat and his human friends has brought audiences into cinemas across Japan – and it's not only because of the 3D.

Co-directed by Yamazaki Takashi and Yagi Ryuichi, who last collaborated on Friends – Naki on the Monster Island, Stand By Me Doraemon has earned over US$30 million after being in the cinemas for just ten days, already making it one of the highest-grossing Japanese films this year. Produced to commemorate the 80th anniversary of co-author Fujiko F. Fujio's birth, Stand By Me is the first film in the franchise to be produced in computer-generated animation.

Unlike the other animated Doraemon adventures, which were based on special extended one-off issues of the manga, Stand By Me is based on seven popular episodes from the original manga, including first episode Mirai no Koku kara Harubaru to, two episodes about Nobita's love story with Shizuka and Sayonara Doraemon. According to a survey conducted on the film's opening weekend, the film attracted audiences of all ages, from children to nostalgic adults in their 40s.

The film's producers announced last week that distribution rights for Stand By Me has already been sold to 21 regions around the world, including South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain and Italy.

Text / Rockman

Roaring Currents breaks Korea's all time box office record

  August 20, 2014  
Historical blockbuster The Admiral: Roaring Currents has become Korea's most watched film of all time with over 15 million admissions and box office gross of over 110 billion won to date. The film passed the 13.6 million ticket sales of previous record holder Avatar on August 16, and became the first film ever to cross 15 million admissions at the Korean box office on August 19.

Directed by Kim Han Min, whose previous period actioner War of the Arrows was also a big hit, The Admiral: Roaring Currents stars Choi Min Sik as 16th century admiral Yi Sun Shin, one of the most revered national heroes of Korean history. Set in 1597, the film focuses on the storied Battle of Myeongnyang in which Yi led a fleet of 12 warships to victory over an invading Japanese fleet of over 100 warships. Ryu Seung Ryong, who played the leader of the Mongolian invaders in War of the Arrows, co-stars in Roaring Currents as the opposing Japanese navy commander Gurujima.

Roaring Currents opened on July 30 and promptly set new records for first day, single day, opening weekend and opening week box office in South Korea. The film needed only 12 days to reach the ten million admissions benchmark and 21 days to reach 15 million admissions. Without the benefit of 3D ticket prices, Roaring Currents is still behind Avatar's 124.9 billion won in all-time box office gross, but it is likely to beat that record soon as well.

Text / Sanwei

Guey Lun Mei appointed this year's Golden Horse ambassador

  August 15, 2014  
Taiwan's Golden Horse Film Festival announced this week that Guey Lun Mei has been appointed as this year's festival ambassador.

Guey won the Best Actress award in 2012 for her performance as a woman caught in a complicated love triangle in Yang Ya Che's GF*BF. She was nominated for a second time last year for her performance as a sexual abuse victim in Christmas Rose. Guey recently starred in noir mystery Black Coal Thin Ice, winner of the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival.

As ambassador, Guey will star in this year's festival promotional video, directed by Yee Chih Yen. This marks a long awaited reunion for Yee and Guey, who first worked together in 2002's Blue Gate Crossing. The high school drama was Guey's first acting role and considered her breakthrough project. Yee returned to feature films earlier this year with youth comedy Meeting Dr. Sun, which won Best Screenplay at Taipei Film Festival.

The 2014 Golden Horse Film Festival runs from November 6 to 27.

Text / Rockman

Live-action Attack on Titan announces cast

  August 13, 2014  
The producers of Higuchi Shinji's live-action adaptation of Attack on Titan has announced the rest of its main cast.

In addition to the previously announced Miura Haruma, the two-part science fiction extravaganza also features Hasegawa Hiroki (Why Don’t You Play in Hell), Mizuhara Kiko (Norwegian Wood), Hongo Kanata (Gantz), Miura Takahiro (Ninja Kids), Ishihara Satomi (Sadako 3D), Taki Pierre (The Devil's Path), Kunimura Jun (Like Father Like Son) and Takeda Rina (High Kick Girl). The producers did not announce the actors' roles in the films.

To be released in two parts, the live-action version of Attack on Titan is set to complete production this month after shooting in Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Ibaraki and Toho Studios. Both parts will be released back-to-back in summer 2015.

Text / Rockman

Ikuta Toma and Oguri Shun to star in TV adaptation of Ouroboros

  August 13, 2014  
Working together for the first time since 2007's Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, Ikuta Toma and Oguri Shun will be starring in the live-action drama adaptation of popular manga Ouroboros by Kanzaki Yuya. The ongoing manga, which began serialization in 2009, tells the story of Ryuzaki Ikuo and Danno Tatsuya, two orphaned young men who vow to avenge a beloved person from their childhood murdered by a mysterious organization. The two embed themselves on opposite sides of the law and secretly work together to uncover the truth.

Ikuta is set to take the role of Ryuzaki, on the surface a gentle soul with no athletic ability, but in actuality a strong and competent man who uses his position as a police officer to eliminate criminal factions. Oguri will play his partner Danno, a calm and intelligent man who has infiltrated the yakuza and become the leader of a gang.

Ouroboros will begin filming in November 2014 and air on TBS in January 2015.

Text / Frood

Kara to return as four-member group in August

  July 31, 2014  
Korean girl group Kara is gearing up for a comeback with a new lineup in August. The popular K-pop group will be releasing their sixth mini-album Day & Night. The new album marks the group's first release and official activity since the departure of members Nicole and Kang Ji Young, who chose to not renew their contracts with DSP Entertainment earlier this year.

Park Gyu Ri, Goo Ha Ra and Han Seung Yeon are joined by new member Heo Young Ji to form the new-look Kara. The 20-year-old Young Ji is the winner of the Kara Project audition show, which aired from May 27 to July 1 on MBC Music. She emerged victor amongst seven DSP trainees, dubbed "Baby Kara," competing for the Kara member spot.

Kara will hold a showcase in Seoul on August 18 to unveil the new lineup and album, for which the group worked with hit producing team Duble Sidekick. Besides the album comeback in Korea, Kara will also restart activities in Japan with a single release in August and a nationwide tour starting October 24.

Text / Sanwei

Fukuyama Masaharu joins cast of Rurouni Kenshin sequel

  July 31, 2014  
Days before the theatrical opening of the highly anticipated Rurouni Kenshin sequel, the film's producers have confirmed that singer-songwriter Fukuyama Masaharu is appearing in both Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends.

Producers haven't revealed Fukuyama's role, only divulging that the character has closed ties to protagonist Kenshin. However, many Kenshin fans have speculated that Fukuyama is playing Hiko Seijuro, Kenshin's stern swordplay teacher.

The film reunites the rock star with director Otomo Keishi three years after NHK's 50-episode Taiga drama Ryumaden, which starred Fukuyama as the title character.

In a statement to the press, Fukuyama wrote that he had to take on very intense action scenes for the film. He also revealed that his character's meeting with Kenshin in the film is "strongly beautiful."

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno opens in Japanese cinemas on August 1, 2014, while Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends opens on September 13, 2014.

Text / Rockman

Shim Eun Kyung and Joo Won to star in Nodame Cantabile K-Drama adaptation

  July 29, 2014  
After a long round of casting rumors, Shim Eun Kyung has reportedly been confirmed for the leading role in the Korean television adaptation of the manga Nodame Cantabile. Returning to television after a string of successful films including Sunny and Miss Granny, the 20-year-old actress joins the previously announced leading man Joo Won for Cantabile Romance, which is slated for broadcast on KBS in October.

Serialized from 2001 to 2009, Ninomiya Tomoko's Nodame Cantabile revolves around the quirky relationship and musical dreams and trials of two aspiring classical musicians, messy and eccentric piano student Noda Megumi and aloof perfectionist Shinichi Chiaki. In Japan, the popular manga has been adapted into anime as well as a blockbuster series of television dramas and movies starring Ueno Juri and Hiroshi Tamaki.

Korea's take on the musical campus romantic comedy will be produced by the production company Group Eight, which has plentiful experience adapting comics for television including Boys Over Flowers and Playful Kiss. Besides the leads, award-winning veteran Baek Yoon Shik has been cast as oddball conducting maestro Franz Strezemann and Answer Me 1994's Min Do Hee as a member of the student orchestra.

Text / Sanwei

Okura Tadayoshi, Ono Machiko and Ashida Mana star in 24 Hour Television drama

  July 28, 2014  
During Nippon Television's annual 24 Hour Television charity telethon, the station airs a drama special that aims to touch the viewers' hearts. For this year's telethon, NTV is adapting Hana-chan no Miso Shiru, a collection of blog entries written by the late Yasutake Chie.

Risking the danger of her breast cancer returning, Chie gave birth to her daughter Hana and spent her final days teaching daily household chores to Hana. The blog entries that make up the book chronicle Chie's battle with cancer and her messages to Hana.

Adapted by Nishida Masafumi (Yokai Ningen Bem) and directed by Mizuta Nobuo (Woman), the television adaptation of the book stars Ono Machiko (Like Father Like Son) as Chie, Kanjani8's Okura Tadayoshi as Chie's husband and popular child actress Ashida Mana as Hana. Kanjani8 is also serving as the main personality of this year's 24 Television Telethon.

The 2014 24 Hour Television Telethon takes place on Saturday, August 30, 2014.

Text / Rockman

Asian Films at 2014 Venice and Toronto Film Festivals

  July 28, 2014  
The 71st Venice Film Festival, which will run from August 27 to September 6, will feature seven films from Asia. Japanese auteur Tsukamoto Shinya's Fires On The Plain, a gripping tale of survival based on author Ooka Shohei's seminal 1951 novel, will be screening in competition. The novel was previously adapted to film by Ichikawa Kon in 1959. Also screening in competition is Red Amnesia, Chinese art house director Wang Xiaoshuai's first thriller which stars award-winning actors Feng Yuanzheng and Qin Hailu.

Screening in the Orizzonti section are Korean director Hong Sang Soo's Hill of Freedom starring Japanese actor Kase Ryo and Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane's Court. Asian films screening out of competition include Hong Kong director Peter Chan's child abduction drama Dearest starring Vicki Zhao, Huang Bo and Tong Dawei, and legendary Korean director Im Kwon Taek's 102nd film Make Up, which is based on author Kim Hoon's Top Literature Award-winning novel. Hong Kong director and Orizzonti jury president Ann Hui's The Golden Era, which stars Tang Wei as radical female writer Xiao Hong, will close the festival.

The 39th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), to be held from September 4 to September 14, will feature the world premiere of Ning Hao's raunchy road comedy, Breakup Buddies, which stars Huang Bo and Xu Zheng. The two actors are reuniting once again after successful collaborations in Lost in Thailand and No Man's Land. Three other Chinese films are having their North American premieres at TIFF: Zhang Yimou's Coming Home starring Gong Li and Chen Daoming, Dearest and Red Amnesia.

The festival will also hold gala screenings of Indian biopic Mary Kom starring Priyanka Chopra as the titular female boxer and the Bong Joon Ho-produced Sea Fog, a high-seas thriller starring Kim Yoon Seok and Park Yoo Chun.

Text / Frood

Chinese horror film The House That Never Dies breaks record

  July 24, 2014  
Directed by Raymond Yip (Blood Stained Shoes) and written by Manfred Wong (The Last Tycoon), The House That Never Dies has become the first Chinese-language horror film to break RMB$100 million at the box office. Released on July 18, 2014, the unexpected mega-hit reached the RMB$100 million benchmark after being in theaters for just 44 hours and shows no signs of slowing down, as it is set to break RMB$200 million in the coming days.

Starring Francis Ng (Turning Point 2) and Ruby Lin (The House), the 3D horror blockbuster revolves around reincarnation and the history of a mansion at 81 Chaoyangmennei Street, a real house in Beijing said to be haunted according to urban legend. The story begins when courtesan Lu Dieyu mysteriously becomes pregnant after unintentionally marrying the recently deceased second son of the powerful Huo family, leading to the family's destruction. One hundred years later, the appearance of the reincarnated version of Lu Dieyu awakens the horrors of the mansion.

Text / Frood

Ayase Haruka to star in drama adaptation of Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu

  July 24, 2014  
Ayase Haruka (Yae no Sakura) has been announced as the lead for the Japanese drama adaptation of popular josei manga Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu. Written and illustrated by Fujimura Mari, the manga has consistently won accolades since its debut, including the distinction of being one of the top 15 manga recommended by Japanese bookstores in 2013. The six volumes of the manga released so far have sold over a million copies combined.

Ayase will star as Aoishi Hanae, a 33-year-old office worker who has never had a boyfriend. This changes after an evening spent drinking with the handsome 21-year-old university student working part-time at her company. Thus begins the relationship between the 21-year-old with plenty of love experience and the 33-year-old with none.

The drama is set to air in October 2014.

Text / Frood

Panna Rittikrai (1961-2014)

  July 23, 2014  
Renowned Thai action cinematographer and director Panna Rittikrai passed away on July 20, 2014 due to complications from liver disease. He was 53 years old.

Rittikrai entered the film industry in 1979 as a physical trainer for actors. After several years of working in films, Rittikrai formed a stunt team in his hometown. In 1984, he made his directorial debut with Gerd Ma Lui, which Rittikrai would remake in 2004 as Born to Fight.

Besides having 50 films under his filmography, Rittikrai is also well known as the mentor of action star Tony Jaa, who joined Rittikrai's stunt team at the age of 15. Rittikrai co-wrote the story and served as choreographer on Ong Bak, Jaa's breakout film. He also helped complete the production for Ong Bak 2 as co-director after Jaa resolved his long dispute with his investors. He reunited with Jaa last year for Tom Yum Goong 2. In addition to his work with Jaa, Rittikrai also recently directed Bangkok Knockout in 2010.

After the news of Rittikrai's death was announced, Jaa posted a photo of the two on his Twitter account. "No matter the difficulties in relationships, people should be happy at the end of the day. Rest in peace, old friend," Jaa wrote.

Known for his insistence on creating real stunts without the assistance of wires or special effects, Rittikrai is remembered as one of the forefathers of contemporary Thai action cinema.

Text / Rockman

SM Entertainment to debut new girl group

  July 23, 2014  
Leading K-pop label SM Entertainment has revealed plans to debut a new girl group in August. The group will have four members including Seul Gi, Irene and Wendy, who have been introduced to the public through the agency's pre-debut team SM Rookies.

Seul Gi recently featured on Super Junior-M member Henry's solo album and appeared in the music video of his song Fantastic, while Irene previously appeared in Henry's 1-4-3 music video last year. A video featuring Seul Gi and Irene dancing that was published on SM Entertainment's official YouTube channel on July 16 has attracted over 400,000 views in less than a week. Wendy has participated on the soundtrack for the 2014 Mnet drama Mimi.

The highly anticipated group will be SM Entertainment's first new girl group since f(x)'s debut in 2009. The final member as well as the group's name have not yet been announced.

Text / Sanwei

YoonA to make big screen debut in Goodbye Ani

  July 18, 2014  
Girls' Generation's YoonA will be making her big-screen debut in the Korean-Chinese co-production Goodbye Ani to be directed by Kwak Jae Yong, the romantic comedy master behind the classic My Sassy Girl. The film casting news came out shortly after the announcement that she would not be taking the role of the titular character in the Korean drama adaptation of Nodame Cantabile.

Goodbye Ani features a script by Hwang In Ho (Spellbound) and is reportedly based on the screenwriter's 2007 movie The Two Faces of My Girlfriend, which depicted a hilarious love story between a normal guy and a girl with split personalities.

YoonA, who has previously starred in several TV dramas including Love Rain and The Prime Minister and I, will be playing the title role of Ani, a sweet and bubbly zookeeper. Popular Taiwan actor Eddie Peng is in talks for the leading man role.

Filming for Goodbye Ani is set to begin later this year.

Text / Frood

Filming begins for Nichkhun-Jiro Wang idol drama

  July 14, 2014  
Filming has begun in Shenzhen for the idol drama Wish List helmed by Korean director Lee Chang Han, whose previous credits include such dramas as She is Nineteen and Wish Upon a Star. Wish List stars 2PM member Nichkhun in his second Chinese drama after this year's One and a Half Summer, Taiwan idol Jiro Wang (Absolute Darling) and Chinese actress Zheng Luoqian (Fighting 5th Space).

The three primary actors will form a love triangle in the romantic melodrama. Plot details are being kept under wraps, but various entertainment news sources report that Nichkhun plays a wealthy man from the United States, while Zheng Luoqian plays a girl-next-door type.

Text / Frood

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