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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former AKB48 member Ono Erena to leave entertainment industry

  July 10, 2014  
On July 3, Japanese idol singer Ono Erena announced on her blog that she is retiring from the entertainment business starting on July 15, 2014. In the blog entry, Erena writes that she has been in the entertainment industry since she was 12 years old and that she would like to pursue a new dream as she approaches her 20s. However, she has not specified her plans.

Erena entered the entertainment business in 2006 at the age of 12 as a member of AKB48's Team K. She was voted one of the twenty most popular members of the group for three consecutive years in the annual Senbatsu Elections. She graduated from the group in November 2010 to pursue her studies abroad. In June 2012, Erena signed with a new agency and returned to the J-pop scene as a solo singer, winning the Japan Record Awards for Best New Artist that year.

During her brief solo career, Erena released a total of five singles – including the opening theme for the first season of television drama Legal High – and one studio album.

Text / Rockman

A-yue Chang, JJ Lin, Penny Tai win at 25th Golden Melody Awards

  June 30, 2014  
Taiwan's 25th Golden Melody Awards were held on June 28 at the Taipei Arena. A-yue Chang's album Ayal Komod, which had led in nominations, won Best Mandarin Album for the singer-songwriter, who wore traditional Amis clothing to the ceremony to highlight his aboriginal roots.

Having been nominated multiple times, JJ Lin finally picked up his first Best Mandarin Male Singer trophy. Four-time nominee Penny Tai also won Best Mandarin Female Singer for the first time, as well as Best Album Producer for her work on newcomer Koala Liu's Embrace. Chen Jian Wei swept Best Taiwanese Male Singer and Best Taiwanese Album (Around 30), while Huang Yi Ling was crowned Best Taiwanese Female Singer for the fourth time

Veteran Jonathan Lee's single "Hills" won three awards – Best Song of the Year, Best Lyricist and Best Album Packaging. Li Ronghao emerged victor in the highly competitive Best Newcomer category, and Mixer and Light Engine Band were named Best Band and Best Group, respectively. Best Composer went to Debbie Hsiao for Musicians, Best Single Producer to Jeffrey Kong and Derek Nakamoto for "Old Fashioned Love," and Best Arrangement to Zhao Zhao for Li Jian's "Wind in the Rye."

Late musician and producer Peng Guo Hua was honored with the Special Contribution Award, which was accepted by his wife, Chang Hsiao Yen.

Text / Sanwei

Ayase Haruka and Nagasawa Masami co-star in new Kore-eda Hirokazu film

  June 24, 2014  
Two of the most popular twenty-something actresses in Japan, Ayase Haruka and Nagasawa Masami are sharing the screen together for the first time in Umimachi Diary, the latest film by director Kore-eda Hirokazu.

Based on the award-winning manga by Yoshida Akimi, Diary depicts the lives of three sisters in the seaside city of Kamakura and the changes they undergo when they meet their 13-year-old half-sister at their father's funeral.

In addition to Ayase playing the eldest sister and Nagasawa playing the office worker second sister, the film features Kaho (Blindly in Love as the 19-year-old third sister and newcomer Hirose Suzu as the half-sister. This is the first Kore-eda film for three of the actresses – Nagasawa had a small role as a schoolteacher in I Wish.

Diary has been serialized in a manga magazine since 2007, and five volumes have been published so far.

The film will be shot over the course of the summer on location in Kamakura. It is set for theatrical release in Japan in 2015.

Text / Rockman

Director Ann Hui's newest to close Venice Film Festival

  June 19, 2014  
The Golden Era directed by Ann Hui, Hong Kong's most prominent and lauded female director, has been selected to close the Venice International Film Festival. While the film will be screened out of competition, Hui previously won four prizes at the festival with her 2011 film A Simple Life.

Starring Tang Wei (Lust, Caution), The Golden Era tells the story of radical female writer Xiao Hong (1911-1942), who was one of the first Chinese writers to portray life under Japanese imperial rule. She eventually moved to Hong Kong and died in the city at the age of 30.

Aside from having her film serve as the grand finale to the Venice International Film Festival, Hui will also chair the Orizzonti section of the International Jury at the festival along with seven other distinguished figures in the filmmaking world.

Text / Frood

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