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Choi Min Sik and Na PD win Grand Prizes at 51st Baeksang Arts Awards

  May 27, 2015  
Korea's 51st Baeksang Arts Awards, which presents awards in both film and television, were held last night in Seoul.

Veteran actor Choi Min Sik won the Grand Prize in Film for his commanding performance as admiral Yi Sun Shin in the record-breaking naval blockbuster The Admiral: Roaring Currents. Best Film, however, went to a relatively smaller work in Im Kwon Taek's Revivre which also won Best Supporting Actress for Kim Ho Jung. Kim Seong Hoon and his crime hit A Hard Day continue to do well in the award season, winning Best Director and dual Best Actor prizes for Lee Seon Gyun and Jo Jin Woong.

Yeom Jung Ah won Best Actress for her role as a mother and labor activist in the human drama Cart, which was also recognized for Best Screenplay. The Pirates' Yu Hae Jin followed Daejong with another Best Supporting Actor win.

Han Gong Ju director Lee Su Jin lost out on Best New Director to July Jung (A Girl At My Door), but his leading actress Chun Woo Hee did win Best New Actress. Haemoo's Park Yoo Chun, meanwhile, completed his sweep of Best New Actor awards. This is also the singer-actor's second Best New Actor trophy from the Baeksang Arts Award, as he previously won in the Television category in 2011.

In the Television section, influential variety show producer/director Na Young Suk took the Grand Prize on the strength of his popular series of Grandpa Over Flowers and Three Meals a Day programs. SBS's family black comedy Heard It Through the Grapevine won Best Drama and Best New Actress for Ko Ah Sung, while tvN's office drama sensation Misaeng swept three prizes – Best Director, Best Actor for Lee Sung Min and Best New Actor for Im Si Wan. Mama's Song Yoon Ah beat out co-star Moon Jung Hee to win Best Actress.

In the Variety categories, Non-Summit took Best Variety Program honors, and Jun Hyun Moo and Lee Guk Joo were named the Best Variety Entertainers. Popularity Awards went to Lee Min Ho (Gangnam Blues), Park Shin Hye (The Royal Tailor), Lee Jong Suk (Pinocchio) and Krystal (My Lovely Girl).

Text / Sanwei

Asian winners at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival

  May 27, 2015  
With a significant Asian presence at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Asian cinema left its mark on the Croisette with several major prizes.

Seventh time proved to be the charm for Taiwan's Hou Hsiao Hsien, whose first wuxia film (and seventh film in the competition) The Assassin earned the auteur his first Best Director award at the festival. The second Taiwanese recipient of the award after Edward Yang, Hou last won the Jury Prize in 1993 for The Puppetmaster. Acclaimed for its breathtaking visuals, the film was a strong favorite to win the Palme d’Or. However, the jury – led by the Coen Brothers – chose Tamil-language French film Dheepan for the top prize.

Meanwhile, Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart and Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Our Little Sister were well-received by many critics, but did not receive any awards.

In the Un Certain Regard sidebar, Japan’s Kurosawa Kiyoshi won the Best Director prize for his dreamy drama Journey to the Shore. The film stars Fukatsu Eri as a woman who takes a journey with the spirit of her dead husband (Asano Tadanobu).

Despite being met with an extended standing ovation following its premiere, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour went home empty-handed, as did Kawase Naomi’s An, Korean indie drama Madonna and noir drama The Shameless. Indian drama Fly Away Solo was one of the two winners of the Promising Talent award.

Outside the main festival, Miike Takashi’s Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld and Korean crime drama Coin Locker Girl played as special screenings in the Director's Fortnight and Critic's Week programs, respectively.

Text / Rockman

Fukushi Sota cast in Fuji TV getsuku drama

  May 22, 2015  
Fuji TV has announced that Fukushi Sota has been cast as the lead in its new getsuku drama, Koinaka. Despite having debuted just four years ago, the popular actor has been handed the reins to one of the most coveted timeslots on Japanese television. The drama will be Fukushi's first "golden time" drama. Most recently, Fukushi was seen co-starring in Kyo wa Kaisha Yasumimasu alongside Ayase Haruka. The drama was a smash hit, averaging 16% in week-to-week ratings.

Koinaka follows Fukushi's Miura Aoi, a former high school swimming star who's become an unmotivated young adult. Despite claiming to have the goal of becoming an architect, Miura whiles away his days by coasting through his job as an assistant at a small architectural firm. One day, he re-encounters his first love Akari, and old feelings are stirred up, but she has a new love – whose name is also Aoi.

Koinaka will begin airing in July 2015.

Text / Frood

26th Golden Melody Award Nominations

  May 18, 2015  
Nominations for Taiwan's 26th Golden Melody Awards were recently announced. Jolin Tsai's Play leads all artists with nine nominations, though she missed the shortlist for Best Mandarin Female Singer.

A-mei Chang (Only the Paranoid Survive), A-Lin (Guilt), Lala Hsu (Missing Person), Waa Wei (Hai Shi Yao Xiang Xin Ai Qing a Hun Dan Men) and Karen Mok (Departures) are nominated for Best Mandarin Female Singer, while Jacky Cheung (Wake Up Dreaming), Eason Chan (rice & shine), Khalil Fong (Dangerous World), William Wei (Journey Into the Night) and Yang Pei An (Beast in the Dark) are nominated for Best Mandarin Male Singer.

Jay Chou is not in the running for Best Male Singer, but he is nominated for Best Album Producer, and his Aiyo, Not Bad is up for Best Mandarin Album alongside Missing Person, Wake Up Dreaming, rice & shine and Play. The songs "Missing Person," "Wake Up Dreaming" and "Play" are also competing for Song of the Year along with "Face of Paranoia" and Fire Ex.'s "Island's Sunrise."

New Formosa Band (No. 10), MJ116 (Fresh Game), MURMURSHOW (MURMURSHOW), PiA (Sheng Huo Bu Jiu Shi Zhe Yang) and Gentleman (Imperfect Gentleman) are nominated for Best Group, while Chthonic (Timeless Sentence), Trash (Start From Zero), Chairman (One World), Buddha Jump (Gei Ni Kan), Magic Power (Fighting For Love) and Boxing (Wild Boxing) are nominated for Best Band. Boxing is also nominated for Best Aboriginal Singer, Best Aboriginal Album as well as Best Newcomer with Adrian Fu (Good Morning, Hard City), Shi Shi (Girls), Chen Hui Ting (21g) and Wang Hui Zhu (A Voyage of Vera). Best Composer, Lyricist and Arrangement nominations are filled with familiar faces, with lyricist Lin Xi in particular receiving double nominations for Eason Chan's "Listen Up" and Karen Mok's "It's All Good."

In the Taiwanese-language categories, Lo Shih Feng, Hsu Fu Kai, Shih Wen Pin, Hsieh Ming You and Ricky Hsiao are nominated for Best Taiwanese Male Singer and Li Ai Qi, Zeng Xin Mei, Guo Ting Yun, Zhan Ya Man and Sun Shu Mei for Best Taiwanese Female Singer. Chthonic's Timeless Sentence, New Formosa Band's No. 10, Ricky Hsiao's The Most Beautiful Flower, Hsieh Ming You's Ye Shou and Zhan Ya Man's Polaris are up for Best Taiwanese Album.

The 26th Golden Melody Awards will be held on June 27 at the Taipei Arena.

Text / Garden
Translation / Sanwei

Former Kara member Nicole to make Japan solo debut

  May 13, 2015  
Six months after making her solo debut in Korea, former Kara member Nicole Jung is ready to make her solo debut in Japan.

A pop-dance song based on Nicole's experiences training in the United States, Something Special comes almost exactly a year and half after the Korean-American idol officially left Kara. To coincide with the launching of her solo activities, Nicole is also launching a Japanese fan club at the end of May. She will also attend solo live events in Japan for the first time soon after the single's release.

Last October, Nicole released First Romance, her Korean-language solo debut. She announced the news of her Japanese debut during her performance at KCON 2015 Japan late last month.

Kang Ji Young, another former Kara member who left the group last August, is also active in Japan, acting in several television dramas and the hit sci-fi film Assassination Classroom.

Text / Rockman

Asian trio enters Cannes' Un Certain Regard lineup

  April 30, 2015  
The latest films by three Asian Cannes regulars complete this year's Cannes official selection, festival organizers announced last week.

This year's Un Certain Regard section will open with An, the latest film from Japanese auteur Kawase Naomi. Starring Kiki Kirin as an elderly woman who brings her expertise in making red bean snacks to a local dessert shop, An marks Kawase's sixth film in the festival.

Also in the festival sidebar section are Apichatpong Weerasethakul's dreamscape fantasy drama Cemetery of Splendour and Brillante Mendoza's Taklub. Weerasethakul won the Palme d'Or five years ago with Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and Mendoza's kidnapping drama Kinatay won the Best Director prize six years ago.

New digitally remastered prints of King Hu's A Touch of Zen, Mizoguchi Kenji's The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum, Fukasaku Kinji's Battles Without Honor or Humanity and Kurosawa Akira's Ran will also be screened as part of the Cannes Classics section.

Outside the main festival, Miike Takashi's Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld will have its world premiere in the Director's Fortnight section as a special screening. Korean noir thriller Coin Locker Girl will also have its international premiere as a special screening in the Critic's Week section.

The 2015 Cannes Film Festival and its sidebar programs run from May 13th until the 24th.

Text / Rockman

51st Baeksang Arts Awards Nominations

  April 27, 2015  
Nominations for the 51st Baeksang Arts Awards, which gives out awards in both film and television, were recently announced.

In the Film section, smaller movies came up big with July Jung's small-town drama A Girl At My Door, Lee Su Jin's indie hit Han Gong-ju, Kim Seong Hoon's sleeper hit A Hard Day and Im Kwon Taek's 102nd film Revivre vying for Best Film against Kim Han Min's naval blockbuster The Admiral: Roaring Currents, Korea's biggest film of all time. The Best Director race also offers a diverse range of filmmakers in veteran Im Kwon Taek, Daejong winner Kim Seong Hoon, hitmaker Yoon Je Kyun (Ode to My Father) and indie auteurs Hong Sang Soo (Hill of Freedom) and Zhang Lu (Gyeongju).

In a departure from other award ceremonies, Baeksang nominated both Lee Seon Gyun and Jo Jin Woong from A Hard Day in the Best Actor category, along with Choi Min Sik (The Admiral: Roaring Currents), Ahn Sung Ki (Revivre) and Sol Kyung Gu (My Dictator). Similarly, both Bae Doo Na and Kim Sae Ron from A Girl At My Door are shortlisted for Best Actress with Shin Min Ah (Gyeongju), Yeom Jung Ah (Cart) and Daejong winner Son Ye Jin (The Pirates).

Best Supporting Actor nominations went to Lee Kyung Young (Whistle Blower), Park Sung Woong (The Deal), Song Sae Byuk (A Girl At My Door), Yoo Yeon Seok (Royal Tailor) and Daejong winner Yu Hae Jin (The Pirates). Han Ye Ri (Haemoo), Jo Yeo Jeong (Obsessed), Kim Ho Jung (Revivre), Lee Jung Hyun (The Admiral: Roaring Currents) and Moon Jung Hee (Cart) received nods for Best Supporting Actress.

July Jung and Lee Su Jin cap off their films' strong showings with Best New Director noms, along with Lee Byeong Heon (Twenty), Hong Seok Jae (Socialphobia) and Jin Mo Young (My Love, Don't Cross That River). The Best New Actor category is loaded with stars in Lee Min Ho (Gangnam Blues), Park Yoo Chun (Haemoo), Kang Ha Neul (Twenty), Byun Yo Han (Socialphobia) as well as Jo Bok Rae (C'est Si Bon). Meanwhile, Chun Woo Hee (Han Gong-ju), Esom (Scarlet Innocence), AOA's Kim Seol Hyun (Gangnam Blues), Lee Honey (Tazza: The Hidden Card) and Lim Ji Yeon (Obsessed) are up for Best New Actress.

In the Television section, a few titles dominate the nominations. SBS family black comedy Heard It Through the Grapevine and MBC romance psychodrama Kill Me, Heal Me are nominated for Best Drama, Director and Screenplay, SBS legal thriller Punch and jTBC slice-of-life series Yoo Na's Street are nominated for Best Drama and Screenplay, and tvN office drama sensation Misaeng is nominated for Best Drama and Director.

Punch scored doubled Best Actor nominations for Cho Jae Hyun and Kim Rae Won, along with Ji Sung (Kill Me, Heal Me), Jo In Sung (It's Okay, That's Love) and Lee Sung Min (Misaeng). Mama's Song Yoon Ah and Moon Jung Hee share Best Actress noms with Kim Ok Bin (Yoo Na's Street), Lee Yoo Ri (Jang Bo Ri Is Here!) and Park Shin Hye (Pinocchio).

The Best New Actor race will be of great interest with four idol-turned-actors – D.O (It's Okay, That's Love), Lee Joon (Heart It Through the Grapevine), Park Hyung Sik (What Happened To My Family) and Im Si Wan (Misaeng) – in the running, while Heard It Through the Grapevine's Ko Ah Sung and Baek Ji Yeon, Han Sun Hwa (Rosy Lovers), Kim Seul Gi (Discovery of Love) and Nam Ji Hyun (What Happened to My Family) are nominated for Best New Actress.

In the Variety categories, popular shows Infinite Challenge, Non-Summit, Running Man, The Return of Superman and Three Meals a Day will compete for Best Variety Program honors.

The 51st Baeksang Arts Awards will be held in Seoul on May 26, 2015.

Text / Sanwei

Tiny Times 4 set for release in July

  April 24, 2015  
After months of speculation, writer-director Guo Jingming finally announced that the fourth and final installment of his successful Tiny Times film series is set for theatrical release on July 9.

As indicated in the final moments of Tiny Times 3, the youth drama was originally set for theatrical release during the Lunar New Year holiday. However, the release was reportedly affected when Taiwan actor Kai Ko, who has a major supporting role in the series, was arrested for drug use during Chinese authorities' crackdown on vice-related crimes in the entertainment industry. The film's distributor confirmed late last month that Ko will be cut out of the film.

Ko has also been replaced by Jing Boran in fantasy adventure Monster Hunt, and the release of his romantic comedy A-Choo has been stalled.

The teaser poster that Guo released on his Weibo account comes with the tagline "I suppose this is good-bye then," hinting that this will be the final film of the hugely successful franchise. Guo confirmed this on his post, writing, "On July 9th, let us spend our final two hours with them. When the lights come on, let us whisper our farewells. I suppose this is the final farewell."

Based on Guo's own novel series of the same name, the Tiny Times series follows the trials and tribulations of four girls living in contemporary Shanghai.

Text / Rockman

Asia makes strong comeback in Cannes 2015

  April 24, 2015  
After a weak year in the line-up last year, Asia is making a strong comeback at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Most of the line-up in the main festival was revealed at a press conference held in Paris.

South Korea will have the biggest presence on the Croisette with three films: Hong Won Chan's mystery-thriller Office will have a midnight screening, while Oh Seung Wook's noir drama Shameless (starring Jeon Do Yeon) and Pluto director Shin Su Won's Madonna will screen at the Un Certain Regard section. This is the third consecutive year that Korea does not have a film in the main competition.

India also has two films in the sidebar section: Fly Away Solo by former Anarug Kashrap assistant director Neeraj Ghaywan (Kashrap is also a producer on the film) and Gurvinder Singh's The Fourth Direction.

Two of Japan's most renowned auteurs will make their return to the festival. Kurosawa Kiyoshi, who won the Un Certain Regard prize with Tokyo Sonata, will return to the Debussy Theatre in the Un Certain Regard section with Journey to the Shore. Starring Asano Tadanobu and Fukatsu Eri, the film is about a woman who goes on a road trip with her husband, who suddenly returns home after a three-year absence.

The winner of the Jury Prize in 2013 with Like Father, Like Son, Kore-eda Hirokazu will be several hundred feet away in the Lumiere Theatre as part of the competition section with Our Little Sister, a manga-based family drama about four sisters in the seaside town of Kamakura.

The festival organizers saved the most exciting announcements for last, finally revealing that Taiwan's Hou Hsiao Hsien and China's Jia Zhangke are both in the competition with their latest films. In the works for over two decades, The Assassin is Hou Hsiao Hsien's first foray into the martial arts genre. The film stars Shu Qi as a professional assassin who falls for one of her targets.

Announced during last year's Cannes Film Festival, Mountains May Depart is a multi-generation story about a mother and son. This is Jia's third consecutive appearance at the festival, after attending in 2013 with A Touch of Sin and in 2014 as a jury member. Jia will also receive a lifetime achievement award at the Director's Fortnight sidebar.

Festival director Thierry Frémaux said that the remaining 10% of the festival's official selection (likely the Cannes Classics line-up and possibly other competition titles) will be announced this week. The Director's Fortnight and Critic's Week sidebars will also announce their selections this week

Text / Rockman

Ann Hui's The Golden Era wins Best Film at Hong Kong Film Awards

  April 20, 2015  
Ann Hui's period drama The Golden Era emerged as the big winner of the 34th Hong Kong Film Awards (HKFA) held on April 19. The biopic won five awards including Best Film, Best Director and technical prizes in Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume & Makeup Design.

The twice-nominated Lau Ching Wan picked up his second HKFA Best Actor for Overheard 3. Alan Mak and Felix Chong's surveillance thriller also won Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for veteran Kenneth Tsang. Vicki Zhao beat out Sandra Ng, Tang Wei, Charlene Choi and Zhou Xun to win Best Actress for the first time with her role as a distressed mother in Peter Chan's abduction drama Dearest.

Singer-turned-actress Ivana Wong, who received a record-setting five nominations, went home with two trophies, Best Supporting Actress and Best Performer for her role in Golden Chickensss. David Lee won Best New Director for his psycho drama Insanity.

John Woo's wartime drama The Crossing 1 took two technical prizes: Best Sound Design and Best Editing. Donnie Yen's Kung Fu Jungle won Best Action Choreography while Wong Fei Hung reboot Rise of the Legend won Best Visual Effects. In the music categories, Best Original Film Score went to The Midnight After and Best Original Song to Anthony Wong's "Destination" from Aberdeen. Zhang Yimou's Coming Home was named the Best Film from Mainland and Taiwan.

This year's Professional Achievement Award was given to veteran propman Lee Kwun Long, who began his career at Shaw Brothers and has worked in the Hong Kong film industry for over four decades.

See full list of award winners here.

Text / Sanwei

Kim Soo Hyun returns to the big screen with Real

  April 20, 2015  
Three years after his last starring role in a film, Kim Soo Hyun is set to return to the big screen with Real in 2016. The actor was last seen in cinemas in 2013's Secretly, Greatly, an action dramedy in which he played an undercover North Korean spy. The film was massively successful and broke several box office records. Kim subsequently achieved even greater recognition for the 2013 drama You Who Came From The Stars, which became an international mega-hit. He also made a cameo appearance in the 2014 hit comedy Miss Granny.

Real tells the story of a reporter attempting to seek out Jang Tae Young, a brilliant, infamous criminal consultant who solves problems for the leaders of Seoul's underworld. Kim will take on the role of Jang Tae Young, and the film will be helmed by writer-director Lee Jung Sub.

Real will begin filming in October 2015 and is set to be released in the latter half of 2016.

Text / Frood

YG hip-hop duo Jinusean makes comeback after 11 years

  April 17, 2015  
One of YG Entertainment's first artists, legendary Korean hip-hop duo Jinusean made a comeback after 11 years with the new single "Tell Me One More Time" released on April 15. A follow-up to the duo's classic nineties hit "Tell Me," the uptempo electronic hip-hop track featuring K-pop Star 3 contestant and YG trainee Jang Han Na is jointly written and composed by Jinusean, Epik High's Tablo, P.K. and Fraktal. "Tell Me One More Time" topped major digital charts soon after its release, and the song's music video, which is filled with nineties references and celebrity cameos, has attracted over 900,000 views on YouTube in three days.

Formed by namesake members Jinu (Kim Jin Woo) and Sean (Noh Seung Hwan), Jinusean debuted in 1997 with the single Gasoline, and quickly found success with their second single "Tell Me." Regarded as one of the early pioneers of Korean hip-hop, the Korean-American duo released four albums from 1997 to 2004 before shifting to working mostly behind the scenes in production, management and charity. Both Jinu and Sean hold high-level positions in YG Entertainment.

Jinusean's comeback is the first Korean release from YG Entertainment this year, and will be followed by Big Bang's long-anticipated new Korean album. The label's notoriously delay-prone schedule for 2015 is also expected to include Ikon's debut and CL's US debut.

Text / Sanwei

Mei Ah announces 2015 lineup at HK FilMart

  April 8, 2015  
Mei Ah brought out a strong lineup of actors and directors to announce their 2015 slate at the Hong Kong FilMart last week.

The closing film of this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival, Port of Call stars Aaron Kwok as a middle-aged detective investigating the gruesome murder of a prostitute. The film is the third feature film by writer-director Philip Yung (May We Chat?).

The company also announced that it has signed a long-term partnership with Wong Kar Wai's production company Jet Tone. The partnership's first production is Drive Me Crazy, a romantic comedy starring Chang Chen and Wang Luodan that is produced by Wong. The director has not been announced.

Jet Tone is also working on a secret project that will begin shooting next year with Tony Leung Chiu Wai in the lead, but no additional details have been revealed yet. Mei Ah also announced that it has acquired distribution rights for Jet Tone's Ferryman, the directorial debut of writer Zhang Jiajia.

Encouraged by the success of films by Hong Kong directors in China, Mei Ah announced several co-productions by Hong Kong directors. Wong Jing will direct a Home Alone-esque family comedy starring Francis Ng and Angela Wang (from Where Are We Going, Dad). Gordon Chan and Chan Hing Kai will co-direct a comedy about three young men chasing their dreams in England. Joe Ma (Love Undercover) will direct a fantasy thriller based on a popular novel. Finally, Manfred Wong (Young & Dangerous, The Storm Riders) will produce a Boyhood-esque drama shot over the course of 15 years.

Meh Ah's plans also includes actress Carrie Ng's second directorial effort Knock Knock Who's There, as well as Taiwan erotic comedy Sashimi starring adult film actress Hatano Yui and Lee Kang Sheng.

Text / Rockman

Director Ringo Lam returns with Wild City

  March 31, 2015  
One of the most respected filmmakers in contemporary Hong Kong cinema, Ringo Lam returns to the director's chair for the first time in seven years for the action-thriller blockbuster Wild City. The film was introduced to the public at the 2015 Hong Kong FilMart on March 23. The big-budget production's press conference featured the star-studded cast, which includes Louis Koo (Overheard 3), Shawn Yue (As The Light Goes Out), Tong Liya (So Young), Joseph Chang (GF*BF), Simon Yam (Election) and Michael Tse (Turning Point 2).

As is the director's signature, the film is set in a gritty Hong Kong where individuals live to vie for money, power and sex. The story begins with bar owner Man (Louis Koo) escorting drunk female patron Wan (Tong Liya) home. However, when Wan sees her boyfriend George (Michael Tse), she goes into a fit and begs Man to take her away. Wan then asks Man and his brother Chung (Shawn Yue) to help her escape her boyfriend and return home. Man and Chung agree, unwittingly placing themselves in the middle of a dangerous and destructive gang war.

Wild City is set to be released in summer 2015.

Text / Frood

HK Film Festival hosts lavish opening ceremony

  March 27, 2015  
The Hong Kong International Film Festival hosted a glamorous opening ceremony this week on March 23 for its 39th edition.

The star-studded opening ceremony was attended by the cast and crew of opening film Murmur of the Hearts - director Sylvia Chang, Isabella Leong, Angelica Lee, Joseph Chang and Lawrence Ko – festival ambassador Louis Koo, Taiwan actress Iri Cheng and Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. During the ceremony, Wilfred Wong, the Chairman of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, thanked the festival's staff and volunteers for making this year's festival possible.

In her first major acting role in seven years, Isabella Leong stars as a painter who is trapped in a dead-end relationship with a self-absorbed boxer (Joseph Chang) in . Lawrence Ko plays her estranged brother, and Angelica Lee appears in flashbacks as her mother. Sylvia Chang and her three actors attended the screening and appeared at a short Q&A session following the film.

This year's HKIFF features over 280 films from 50 countries and regions around the world. It closes on April 6 with the world premiere of Port of Call, starring Aaron Kwok.

Text / Rockman

Blind Massage tops 9th Asian Film Awards

  March 27, 2015  
Following its win at the Golden Horse Awards, Lou Ye's Blind Massage took home the top award at the 9th Asian Film Awards, held on March 25.

In addition to Best Film, the critically acclaimed drama also won Best Cinematographer for a total of two awards. Lou previously won the top prize two years ago with the marital drama Mystery.

China was the overall winner of the night, winning ten out of fourteen categories. Along with Blind, The Golden Era and Black Coal, Thin Ice each won two prizes. The Golden Era won Best Director (Ann Hui) and Best Supporting Actor (Wang Zhiwen), while Black Coal, Thin Ice won Best Screenwriter and Best Actor (Liao Fan). In addition, Jiang Wen's Gone with the Bullets won three technical awards.

Other Asian countries took only one award each. Korea's Bae Doo Na won Best Actress for her performance as a troubled police officer protecting an abused young girl in The Girl At My Door). Ikewaki Chizuru won the Best Supporting Actress award for Japanese drama The Light Shines Only There. Indonesian action film The Raid 2 won Best Editor while Mikey McCleary won Best Composer for India's Margarita, With a Straw.

As previously announced, legendary Korean filmmaker Im Kwon Taek was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for his long and prolific career. Japanese actress Nakatani Miki won the award for Excellence in Asian Cinema.

A joint project between Hong Kong International Film Festival, Busan Film Festival and Tokyo International Film Festival, the AFA has been held in Macau for the past two years.

Text / Rockman

Media Asia presents blockbuster lineup for 2015

  March 26, 2015  
Chinese film production company Media Asia presented its production lineup for the coming year at a press conference held at Hong Kong FilMart on March 24. Besides the anticipated all-star crime action thriller Helios from Cold War directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, Media Asia announced many new works including films from Johnnie To and John Woo.

Johnnie To unveiled two projects including his new film Three, starring Louis Koo, Vicki Zhao and Wallace Chung, about a doctor who finds herself caught in a conflict between the police and gangsters. The other project is Three which To co-produces with Yau Nai Hoi. The heist movie, following three gangsters played by Richie Jen, Gordon Lam and Jordan Chan, is helmed by three new directors who are each responsible for one actor's portion of the story.

Richie Jen and Gordon Lam also brought their own projects to the Media Asia Presentation. Jen showed clips from his directorial debut All You Need is Love with co-director Andy Luo. The balmy romance stars Shu Qi and Jen himself as two people who cross paths on the island of Penghu. Gordon Lam will produce and star in An Office and a Panderer with singer Ivana Wong, who garnered a record-setting five nominations at this year's Hong Kong Film Awards. Lam described the romantic comedy as a romance on Portland Street, referring to Hong Kong's red light district.

Adam Wong, who made a splash with the 2013 indie hit The Way We Dance, follows up with She Remembers, He Forgets starring Miriam Yeung and Jan Lamb. Wong works again with writer/producer Saville Chan, who started developing the script five years ago, and producer Teddy Robin. In the film, a high school reunion prompts a middle-aged woman to flash back to memories of her youth when she was close with two boys, one of whom she eventually marries. Wong likened the story of nostalgia and mid-life crisis to present-day Hong Kong, which can also be seen as going through a mid-life crisis period. Miriam Yeung and Jan Lamb revealed that the film is actually carried mostly by the younger cast of newcomers, with Lamb joking that he couldn't remember if he's even in the film.

The final highlight of the presentation was a video message from John Woo in which he discussed his intention to remake Takakura Ken's 1978 classic Manhunt. Besides paying homage to the late Japanese legend, Woo remarked that the film would also satisfy the yearnings of people who miss his earlier works about brotherhood.

See photos from the 2015 Media Asia Presentation on YesAsia Facebook.

Text / Sanwei

Nick Cheung tackles horror again for second directorial effort

  March 26, 2015  
Award-winning actor Nick Cheung introduced his second directorial effort Master Fat at the One Cool Film Production press conference held on March 23, 2015 at the Hong Kong FilMart. Like his 2014 directorial debut Hungry Ghost Ritual, Master Fat is a horror film, and principal photography already started on March 9.

Nick Cheung said that he was inspired to make Master Fat after watching YouTube clips about supernatural occurrences. Besides Cheung himself, the film also stars Karena Lam, Amber Kuo, Philip Keung, Louis Cheung and Shi Yanneng. The film is co-produced by Law Chi Leung, whom Nick Cheung credits with helping him stay on track when he gets "too rebellious" in the filmmaking process.

One Cool Film Production also announced other works on their slate this year including a romance with action and black humor produced by Sam Lee and directed by Leung Tak Sam; a crime film about the Internet, deception and how they connect to daily life produced by Soi Cheang and directed by Jonathan Li; an inspirational comedy about a soccer coach directed by Lam Chi Chung; a crime mystery directed by Cash Chin; and the Gordon Lam-produced Get Outta Here, starring Alex Lam, J.Arie, Louis Cheung, Ng Yuen Yi and Gregory Charles Rivers, which recently wrapped filming. The press conference's final highlight was a clip presentation of the in-development scifi robot project Virtus.

See photos from the One Cool Film Production press conference on YesAsia Facebook.

Text / Sanwei

Director Soi Cheang and stars Tony Jaa and Wu Jing at SPL 2 press con

  March 26, 2015  
Ten years after the first SPL with Donnie Yen became a big genre hit, the Hong Kong action extravaganza returns to theaters this year with SPL 2. Director Soi Cheang, producers Wilson Yip and Paco Wong, and the film's cast, including Thai action star Tony Jaa, returning stars Wu Jing and Simon Yam, The Grandmaster's Max Zhang and Louis Koo, gathered for the SPL 2 press conference held on March 23 at the 2015 Hong Kong FilMart. The film's trailer was unveiled at the press conference, giving audiences a taste of the bone-crunching action to come.

SPL 2 stars Wu Jing as undercover cop Kit who is planted in a crime syndicate, but he disappears after his cover gets blown and the operation called off. Kit ends up in a Thailand prison that acts as a front for organ trafficking. The prison warden, played by Max Zhang, wants Kit dead at all costs, while a prison guard, played by Tony Jaa, goes all out to keep Kit alive because he is a bone marrow donor match for his sick daughter.

During the press conference, the keyword "challenge" was used to describe the film and its production. Director Soi Cheang stated that just taking on SPL was a challenge in and of itself because of the pressure from the original film's fame and the great action actors onboard. For producer Wilson Yip, who directed the first SPL, the challenge was "letting go" and handing off the directing reins. Action director Lee Chung Chi revealed that his big challenge was integrating wushu and Muay Thai and handling the film's long single-shot fight scenes.

Tony Jaa said that SPL 2 is very important to him as it is his first Hong Kong film, while Wu Jing went as far as to call it perhaps the most memorable film of his life. Wu shared that he experienced marriage, the birth of his first child and severe injuries during the film's production time. On set, he was constantly getting hit by Max Zhang in fight scenes and even got knocked out twice. Zhang expressed that having to deliver lines in Thai was his great challenge, to which Tony Jaa quipped, "He speaks Thai better than me."

Other cast members also shared anecdotes about the film's grueling shoots: Philip Keung recalled one day when he had to jump off a building seven times and into water nine times, and Simon Yam said that he was hung upside down for days to shoot a particular scene involving his police officer character trying to save his family from Louis Koo's kingpin. Koo, taking on the antagonist role billed as a special appearance, joked that the special part of his role is that he's covered with a face mask most of the time.

SPL 2 will open in theaters on June 18.

See photos from the SPL 2 press conference on YesAsia Facebook.

Text / Sanwei

Emperor Motion Pictures announces 2015 production slate

  March 26, 2015  
To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Emperor Motion Pictures (EMP) introduced the 15 films it has under development on March 23, 2015 at the Hong Kong FilMart. The star-studded press conference saw EMP present a diverse collection of films that range from raucous comedy to understated drama and exhilarating sports drama to intense thriller.

Leading the pack is To The Fore, a Dante Lam-directed drama set in the world of top-tier cycling. The film boasts a cast of young talents like Eddie Peng, Wang Luodan, Shawn Dou and Super Junior's Choi Si Won.

Veteran heavyweights Francis Ng, Simon Yam, Leo Ku and Patrick Tam star in Lau Ho Leung's crime dramedy Two Thumbs Up, about a group of criminals who rediscover their sense of justice while posing as policemen for a robbery.

Starring Lee Jun Ki, Zhou Dongyu and Ethan Ruan, Jump Ashin! director Lin Yu Hsien's latest Love in Sicily follows a woman as she tries to discover the truth behind the breakdown of her relationship with her fiancé.

Lauded provocateur Fruit Chan helms Kill Time, a thriller starring Angelababy and Ethan Ruan about a woman who finds that a purchase she makes on a mysterious website might be the key to solving a murder. Chan also directs Hins Cheung in We are the World, a drama about a group of 8-year-old aspiring ballroom dancers and the people trying to coach them to victory.

Irene Wan, Patrick Tam and Zhao Bingrui form the three corners of a love triangle in Lim Kah Wai's romantic drama Love in Late Autumn, which finds a woman caught between an inattentive husband and a gentle cab driver.

Fresh off their collaboration in Sara, Chapman To and Herman Yau are reuniting for The Mobfathers, a gangster comedy about five gang leaders vying for the top spot in the Hong Kong criminal underworld.

Kara Wai and Carlos Chan headline Happiness, Law Yiu Fai's touching human drama about an unlikely friendship that develops between a middle-aged woman with Alzheimer's and a young slacker.

Young guns Carlos Chan, Ken Hung and Deep Ng live it up in Takkie Yeung's Drink Drank Drunk, a comedy that follows a rich kid and his two acquaintances as they stumble through a night of hilarious debauchery on the streets of Hong Kong.

Fourteen years after July Rhapsody, Jacky Cheung and Karena Lam reunite for Steve Yuen's Heaven in the Dark, which explores the aftermath of a woman's sexual harassment accusation against a pastor.

In addition, Yuen Wo Ping is in the midst of developing a martial arts comedy, while Derek Kwok prepares to helm legal drama War of Injustice.

See photos from the EMP press conference on YesAsia Facebook.

Text / Frood

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