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Matsuda Shota and Maeda Atsuko to star in Initiation Love adaptation

  October 17, 2014  
Matsuda Shota (Liar Game series) and Maeda Atsuko (Tamako In Moratorium) will be working together for the first time in director Tsutsumi Yukihiko's (SPEC series) adaptation of popular author Inui Kurumi's novel Initiation Love. Matsuda and Maeda were previously slated to work together in 2012 in director Kurosawa Kiyoshi's 1905, but production on the film was halted.

A perennial bestseller, Initiation Love was published in 1998 and is Inui's most venerated work to date. The novel documents the love story of Ta-kun (Matsuda Shota) and Mayu (Maeda Atsuko), two young adults in 1980s Shizuoka. When Ta-kun gets a job in Tokyo, the two must find a way to carry on their relationship without falling victim to the pitfalls of long-distance love. One of the major reasons Initiation Love is so well-regarded is due to the shocking twist Inui delivers in the last two sentences of the novel. The same twist will play out in the last five minutes of the film version.

Initiation Love will be released in Japan in 2015.

Text / Frood

Yoshitaka Yuriko and Arashi to co-host 2014 Kohaku

  October 14, 2014  
NHK announced today that this year's Kohaku Uta Gassen will be hosted by actress Yoshitaka Yuriko and Arashi.

Yoshitaka has been in the spotlight this year as the star of popular morning drama Hanako to Anne, the fictional story about the life and times of the woman who translated Anne of Green Gables. The drama received the highest average rating for a NHK morning drama in a decade. Last year, Ayase Haruka – the star of NHK's 2013 Taiga drama – co-hosted the show as the leader of the red team.

Hosting the show for their fifth consecutive year, Arashi sets a new record for the most number of years a non-NHK announcer has hosted the show. As always, the Johnny's Entertainment group will represent the white team.

An annual event since 1951, the Kohaku Uta Gassen brings Japan's biggest musical acts together for a friendly musical battle on New Year's Eve. Even though average ratings for the show has fallen steadily over the years, it remains one of the highest-rated television programs of the year in Japan.

Text / Rockman

2014 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival to open with Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2

  October 9, 2014  
The 2014 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival has announced its full line-up. This year's edition will open with Johnnie To's Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 and close with Roy Chow's Rise of the Legend.

Once again written by Wai Ka Fai and his team of Milkyway writers, To's romantic comedy sequel sees Louis Koo's character caught between his old flame from the first film (played by Gao Yuanyuan) and his new girlfriend (played by Miriam Yeung). The film also co-stars Vic Chou and features a cameo by Daniel Wu, reprising his character from the first film.

A re-imagination of Wong Fei Hung folklore, Rise of the Legend serves as an origin story about the kung fu master's path to becoming the hero of Guangdong. The film stars Eddie Peng as the young Wong Fei Hung.

Screening as a special gala presentation is Peter Chan's Dearest, the child abduction drama starring Huang Bo, Tong Dawei, Vicki Zhao and Hao Lei. The film has played in the Venice Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival.

The festival's line-up also includes high-profile titles like Palme d'Or winner Winter Sleep (part of a retrospective celebrating 100 years of Turkish cinema), Kim Ki Duk's One On One, Sono Sion's Tokyo Tribe, Kawase Naomi's Still the Water, Ning Hao's Breakup Buddies, Nakashima Tetsuya's The World of Kanako, Hong Sang Soo's Hill of Freedom and Miike Takashi's Over Your Dead Body.

This year's Filmmaker in Focus is Pema Tseden, a leading figure of Tibetan cinema. The festival will screen five of his feature films and two short films, including his latest film The Sacred Arrow. Tseden will also appear at two events during the festival to discuss his work.

The New Talent Award competition features six films by first- or second-time directors: Turkey's Sivas, India's Court, Indonesia's In the Absence of the Sun, Japan's The Furthest End Awaits, Singapore's Revelation of Ghost Marriage and South Korea's Han Gong Ju.

The 2014 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival runs from October 24 to November 14.

Text / Rockman

Nominees announced for 2014 Golden Horse Awards

  October 3, 2014  
The nominees for the 51st Golden Horse Awards were announced in Taipei on October 1, 2014. Diao Yinan's Black Coal, Thin Ice, a neo-noir about a disgraced detective investigating a string of grisly murders, leads with eight nominations, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actor (Liao Fan), Best Actress (Guey Lun Mei) and Best Cinematography. The film previously won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, with lead actor Liao Fan taking home the Silver Bear for Best Actor.

Following Black Coal, Thin Ice is Lou Ye's Blind Massage with seven nominations, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Based on a novel by Bi Feiyu, the film is a human drama about the loves and lives of blind masseurs. Baseball drama Kano and military/romance drama Paradise in Service each earned six nominations, with Kano nominated for Best Feature, Best Actor (Nagase Masatoshi), Best New Director (Umin Boya), Best New Performer (Tsao Yuning), Best Makeup and Costume Design, and Best Original Film Song, and Paradise in Service nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Chen Jianbin), Best Supporting Actress (Ivy Chen and Wang Qian), Best Art Direction, Best Makeup and Costume Design, and Best Sound Effects.

Other nominees for Best Feature include Chen Jianbin's A Fool and Ann Hui's The Golden Era. Hui is also nominated for Best Director, along with Midi Z (Ice Poison), Wang Xiaoshuai (Red Amnesia) and the aforementioned Diao Yinan and Lou Ye. In the Best Actor category, Nagase Masatoshi and Liao Fan are joined by Chen Jianbin (A Fool), Lau Ching Wan (The White Storm) and Chang Chen (Brotherhood of Blades). Lead Actress nominees include Gong Li (Coming Home), Tang Wei (The Golden Era), Vicki Zhao (Dearest), Chen Shiang Chyi (Exit), and the aforementioned Guey Lun Mei.

The awards ceremony will be held on November 22, 2014 in Taipei.

Text / Frood

Second Legal High drama special coming in November

  September 29, 2014  
A year after its hit second season, Legal High is back for its second drama special.

This time, Komikado the undefeatable lawyer and his idealist assistant counsel Mayuzumi are defending a hospital accused of medical negligence. Komikado's opponent will be another brilliant lawyer whose goal is to rip off the hospital. Both Sakai Masato and Aragaki Yui are returning to reprise their roles for the fourth time. The rest of the cast has not been announced.

"It's a joy for any actor to be able to participate in a work that can last for so long. Once again, my gratitude to those who love this series," Sakai said in a statement.

The second Legal High drama special will air on Nippon Television on November 22.

Text / Rockman

Sun After The Rain leads 49th Golden Bell Awards nominations

  September 22, 2014  
Nominations for Taiwan's 49th Golden Bell Awards were recently announced. TTV's period drama Sun After The Rain leads the pack with 12 nominations including Best Television Series, Directing, Leading Actor, Leading Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Writing, Cinematography, Lighting and Art Design. Two other nostalgic dramas, SETTV's In A Good Day and Hakka TV's Lonely River, as well as PTS's Boys Can Fly and Amour et Pâtisserie join the race for Best Television Series and Best Writing. Boys Can Fly and Lonely River follow Sun After The Rain with eight nominations each.

Competition in the acting categories will be heated this year. Christopher Lee (, Sun After The Rain's Junior, Chocolat's Blue Lan and Boys Can Fly's Hans Chung and Chang Ting Hu are in the running for Best Actor in a Television Series, while Queen!'s Cheryl Yang, Amour et Pâtisserie's Sandrine Pinna, A Good Wife's Tien Hsin, Sun After The Rain's Chung Hsin Ling and Lonely River's Yan Yi Wen are nominated for Best Actress. Best Supporting Actor nods go to Sun After The Rain's Chen Bo Zheng and Yankee Yang, Lonely River's Wang Jing Guan, Boys Can Fly's Gu Li De and In A Good Way's Jay Shih; Supporting Actress nods to Sun After The Rain's Riva Chang and Qiu Nai Hua, A Good Wife's Si Man Ning, Once Upon a Time in Beitou's Joelle Lu and Lonely River's Isa Hsieh.

In the Mini-Series section, PTS's "Life Story" mini-dramas dominate the nominations, taking four out of five spots in the Best Mini-Series, Leading Actor, Leading Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress categories. As for variety, Super Star (hosted by Mickey Huang), Take Me Out (Harlem Yu and Ella), Super Night Club (Peng Qia Qia, Hsu Hsiao Shun) and Wan Xiu Zhu Wang (Zhu Ge Liang, Chan Ya Lan) are nominated for both Best Variety Program and Best Variety Program Hosts, along with Super Citizen and Hsu Nai Lin and Tseng Kuo Cheng (of Genius Go Go Go).

The 49th Golden Bell Awards will be held on October 25 in Taipei.

Text / Garden
Translation / Sanwei

Sato Takeru and Miyazaki Aoi to star in film adaptation of Kawamura Genki novel

  September 19, 2014  
Sato Takeru (Rurouni Kenshin series) will be working with Miyazaki Aoi (In His Chart series) for the first time in the film adaptation of Sekai kara Neko ga Kietanara (If Cats Disappeared from the World) by Kawamura Genki, who is perhaps more well-known as a film producer (Parasyte, Love Strikes).

Kawamura Genki's debut novel, Sekai kara Neko ga Kietanara was nominated for the 2013 Japan Booksellers' Award and has been adapted for a radio drama starring Tsumabuki Satoshi. The story follows a courier (Sato Takeru) who is told of his impending death. Soon after, he meets a demon who looks exactly like him, and the two strike up a deal: the courier's life will be extended one day for every one thing that disappears from the world. Miyazaki Aoi will play the courier's first love.

To be directed by Nagai Akira (Judge!), the movie will begin filming in October 2014 and is slated to be released in spring 2015.

Text / Frood

Yamada Takayuki joins the cast of Nobunaga Concerto drama adaptation

  September 19, 2014  
Yamada Takayuki (Arakawa Under The Bridge) has been cast in Fuji TV's drama adaptation of manga Nobunaga Concerto, joining the previously-announced Oguri Shun (Rich Man, Poor Woman) and Shibasaki Kou (Galileo).

Written and illustrated by Ishii Ayumi, the Shogakukan Manga Award-winning Nobunaga Concerto began serialization in Monthly Shonen Sunday in 2009. It tells the story of Saburo, a non-academically inclined high school boy who finds himself transported back to Sengoku Era Japan. He meets Oda Nobunaga, the celebrated warlord who would one day unite Japan, and is shocked to discover that Nobunaga looks identical to him. Nobunaga, who has been plagued by illness since birth, asks Saburo to take his place, while he disguises himself as a general serving Nobunaga. Oguri plays both Saburo and Nobunaga, Shibasaki plays Nobunaga's wife Kicho, and Yamada plays Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a spy working for Nobunaga's enemy, Imagawa Yoshimoto.

The getsuku drama will start airing on October 13, 2014.

Text / Frood

Star-studded cast unveiled for Murder on the Orient Express J-Drama special

  September 19, 2014  
On September 14, 2014, Fuji TV held a press conference announcing a special drama adaptation of British author Agatha Christie's seminal novel Murder on the Orient Express. Scripted by renowned screenwriter, playwright and director Mitani Koki (The Kiyosu Conference), the drama is part of Fuji TV's 55th anniversary celebration.

The drama's mega-watt cast includes Nomura Mansai (The Floating Castle), Matsushima Nanako (Kaseifu no Mita), Arashi's Ninomiya Kazunari (Platinum Data), Anne (Platinum Data), Tamaki Hiroshi (Nodame Cantabile series), Sawamura Ikki (Thirteen Assassins) and Takahashi Katsumi (The Apology King), among others.

First published in 1934, Murder on the Orient Express tells of Belgian private detective Hercule Poirot's investigation into the murder of a sinister American named Mr. Ratchett aboard the Orient Express, a train traveling from Istanbul to London. For Fuji TV's adaptation, the setting will be moved to Japan during the early Showa period. The special drama will consist of two episodes, the first of which will relay the events depicted in the novel, while the second will be a reconstruction of the crime from the perspective of the culprit.

The drama will be aired over two nights in spring 2015.

Text / Frood

John Woo's The Crossing set for December release

  September 11, 2014  
The production team behind John Woo's The Crossing announced that the first part of the US$40 million historical epic will finally hit Chinese cinemas on December 2, 2014.

Based on the sinking of the Taiping in 1949, The Crossing tells the story of three couples caught in the chaos of the Chinese Civil War and how they ended up on the Taiping's final voyage. The couples are played by Zhang Ziyi, Tong Dawei, Kaneshiro Takeshi, Nagasawa Masami, Huang Xiaoming and Song Hye Kyo.

The Crossing is one of the three 3D Chinese blockbusters set for release in December, the most competitive release slot in China. Jiang Wen's Gone With the Bullets will be in cinemas on the 18th, and Tsui Hark's Taking of Tiger Mountain is set for release a week later on the 24th.

As of last month, Woo was still working on reshoots for the film, which caused the filmmaker to miss the Museum of Moving Image's tribute to director Patrick Lung Kong in New York City. Woo recorded a video message for his mentor from the set instead.

The release date for the epic's second part has not been announced.

Text / Rockman

Derek Yee, Tsui Hark wrap production on The Sword Master

  September 11, 2014  
After five months of production, director Derek Yee has finally completed the shoot for The Sword Master, a 3D wuxia epic co-written and produced by Tsui Hark.

Based on the novel by Gu Long, The Sword Master stars Lin Gengxin as a retired swordsman who is forced to return to the martial arts world by a longtime nemesis, played by Peter Ho. The film also co-stars Jiang Yiyan and Jiang Mengjie.

Tsui, who taught Yee how to use 3D for the film after making two films in the format, was on the set on the final days of shooting in Hengdian Studio. The two Hong Kong filmmakers had been discussing the project for 15 years before finally starting production in April of this year.

2014 has been a very prolific year for both Yee and Tsui. In addition to directing Master, Yee produced Overheard 3 and the sequel to The Bullet Vanishes. He is also putting the finishing touches on self-financed drama I am Somebody, about small-time actors who work in Hengdian Studio. Tsui is busy on the post-production of Taking of Tiger Mountain, currently set for a Christmas release in China.

Text / Rockman

Media Asia and S.M. Entertainment signs cooperative pact

  September 10, 2014  
Earlier this week, Hong Kong entertainment firm Media Asia signed a cooperative pact with South Korea's S.M. Entertainment.

The two companies will form a fund called Dragon Tiger aimed at producing films and television programs for Chinese-speaking audiences. Already the China talent representative of Super Junior, Media Asia will now also act as the exclusive representative of S.M. artists f(x), EXO and Zhang Liyin. The agency will help them arrange television and film appearances, as well as endorsement deals and live performances.

Media Asia star Leon Lai and a number of S.M. Entertainment artists appeared at the press conference earlier this week, held in Beijing. Emphasizing the importance of the China market, Lai said that China is already the world's second biggest market for films. Kangta added that filmgoing is one of South Korea's favorite activities.

The Dragon Tiger Fund will begin raising funds later this month.

Text / Rockman

2014 Seoul International Drama Awards

  September 5, 2014  
The 9th Seoul International Drama Awards were held on September 4 in Seoul. Out of 225 entries submitted from 48 countries, France's Kaboul Kitchen 2 about a French expat who runs a restaurant in Afghanistan emerged as the Grand Prize winner. Korea's own period epic Empress Ki won the Golden Bird for Serial Dramas, and Kim Hee Ae was named Best Actress for her role as an arts executive in an affair with a younger pianist in Secret Love Affair. Best Actor went to Edgar Selge, who played the title role in the German docudrama A Blind Hero - The Love of Otto Weidt.

Norwegian thriller Mammon won both Best Director and the Golden Bird for Mini Series, while the Korean medical series Good Doctor, which has an American remake in the works, took the runner-up Silver Bird prize. For TV Movies, Spain's Barefoot on Red Soil, a biopic of bishop Pere Casaldàliga, picked up the Golden Bird and Best Screenwriter. Turkey's Medcezir and Sweden's The Fat & The Angry won the Silver Bird for Serial Dramas and Mini Series, respectively.

In the "Outstanding Korean Drama" categories, the immensely popular You Who Came From the Stars took the top prize of Excellent Korean Drama as well as Outstanding Korean Drama OST and Outstanding Korean Actor for Kim Soo Hyun. Rivaling Stars in Korean Wave popularity, the youth drama The Heirs was named Outstanding Korean Drama. Kim Soo Hyun was also one of the winners of the online-voted People's Choice award, along with Chinese actor Hu Ge (Life Revelation) and Taiwan actor Joe Cheng (Love Actually).

The 2014 Seoul International Drama Awards were hosted by Shin Sung Rok and Jin Seo Yeon and featured guest performances by K-pop artists Sistar, Lyn, Block B and B1A4.

Text / Sanwei

YG Entertainment launches reality competition program for new group

  September 4, 2014  
YG Entertainment recently announced that the members of the K-pop label's upcoming boy band iKON will be determined by the new reality competition program MIX & MATCH. On September 2, more details about the program and new group were revealed at a press conference hosted by Yoo In Na and Big Bang's Dae Sung and attended by YG Entertainment CEO Yang Hyun Suk and the participating contestants.

YG Entertainment is not new to reality competition programs. The agency employed the same strategy last year with the program Who is Next: WIN, in which two teams of trainees competed for the chance to debut. The winning Team A became YG's newest group Winner whose chart-topping debut album was just released in August.

The six members of WIN's Team B, who already have a significant fan following, will participate again in MIX & MATCH along with three more trainees. The core trio of B.I, Bobby and Kim Jin Hwan are already confirmed as among the seven members of iKON. Team B's remaining Kim Dong Hyuk, Song Yun Hyeong and Koo Jun Hoe will compete with new faces Jung Jin Hyeong, Jung Chang Woo and Yang Hong Seok for the other four spots in the group. While the outcome of Who is Next: WIN was determined completely by viewer voting, the winners of MIX & MATCH will be decided by 70% viewer voting and 30% YG artist voting.

MIX & MATCH will air simultaneously on Mnet and Naver. The program premieres on September 11.

Text / Sanwei

Park Chan Wook to adapt Fingersmith

  September 4, 2014  
Following his English-language debut last year with Stoker, Korean director Park Chan Wook's next film will be an adaptation of the 2002 crime fiction Fingersmith by British writer Sarah Waters. Set in 19th-century Victorian London, the novel is about a young woman drawn into a plot to help a man seduce and con a sheltered heiress, but she begins to have second thoughts when she and the heiress fall in love. Park's adaptation will transplant the story to early 20th-century Korea during the Japanese occupation period.

The adaptation, titled Agassi ("Young Lady") in Korean, will be Park's first Korean-language feature since 2009's Thirst, though he has made several short films in between and served as producer on Bong Joon Ho's Snowpiercer. According to the production company, casting for the lead actresses starts this month, and filming will begin in the first half of 2015.

Fingersmith was previously adapted in 2005 for a BBC mini-series starring Sally Hawkins and Elaine Cassidy.

Text / Sanwei

Hong Kong director Patrick Lung Kong passes away at age 79

  September 3, 2014  
Legendary Hong Kong director Patrick Lung Kong passed away at the age of 79 in New York on September 2.

Born in Hong Kong in 1935, Lung was the son of a Cantonese opera actor under the tutelage of opera legend Sit Kok Sin. From the age of ten, Lung began acting as an extra. Through his acquaintance with director Chow See Luk, he joined the Shaw Brothers studio in 1957 and appeared in his first film Crime of Passion in the Hotel. Besides acting, usually in antagonist roles, Lung also served as assistant director and writer for many films in the early years of his career.

In 1966, Lung made a big splash with his directorial debut Prince of Broadcasters. His second film The Story of a Discharged Prisoner (1967) about the struggles of an ex-convict inspired John Woo's A Better Tomorrow. Regarded as a boldly creative and visionary director who brought Cantonese-language cinema back to life, Lung readily challenged new cinematic styles and sensitive topics in films like Teddy Girls (1969), Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (1970), The Calls Girls (1973) and Hiroshima 28 (1974). The Call Girls, which explored the issue of prostitution, won him Best Director at the 19th Asia Pacific Film Festival. Known as a pioneer of Hong Kong cinema, Lung influenced many filmmakers who followed including John Woo and Tsui Hark.

Lung Kong emigrated to the United States in 1977, though he would continue to occasionally make film cameo appearances. His last public appearance was on August 15 at the opening of a retrospective of his films in New York during which Tsui Hark presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Text / Garden
Translation / Sanwei

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

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