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12th Korean Music Awards

  February 27, 2015  
Winners of the 12th Korean Music Awards were announced on February 26. Known to recognize more independent artists rather than popular idols who dominate other major award ceremonies, this year's Korean Music Awards presented Album of the Year, as well as Best Modern Rock Album, to W.A.N.D.Y by indie band Loro's and Artist of the Year to veteran singer-songwriter Lee Seung Hwan. 2014's biggest single, Soyou and Junggigo's "Some," won Song of the Year and Best Pop Song.

Singer-songwriter duo Kim Sa Wol x Kim Hae Won were crowned Rookie of the Year for their album Secret, which was also named Best Folk Album. YG duo Akdong Musician fell short on the rookie award, but won Best Pop Album with their debut effort Play.

Two of the most talked-about R&B artists of recent years, Crush and Zion.T won Best R&B & Soul Album (Crush on You) and Best R&B & Soul Song (Yanghwa BRDG, respectively. The Best R&B & Hip-Hop Album and Song awards went respectively to Hwaji's Eat and B-Free's Hot Summer. For Dance & Electronic, HEO won Best Album with Structure and Yoon Sang won Best Song with his comeback single "If You Wanna Console Me."

Other genre winners include Danpyunsun and the Sailors' Animal for Best Rock Album, Asian Chairshot's Haeya for Best Rock Song, 9 and the Numbers' "Hide and Seek" for Best Modern Rock Song, Kwon Tree's "When I Was Young" for Best Folk Song, Lee Sun Ji's The Night of the Border for Best Jazz Album, Han Seung Seok and Jung Jae Il's bari, abandoned for Best Crossover Album and Kim Chang Hyun's Oblivion for Best Jazz & Crossover Performance. In the netizen categories, Jay Park, HA:TFELT and Infinite were voted Male Artist, Female Artist and Group of the Year.

Text / Sanwei

Corpse Party to become live-action film

  February 27, 2015  
Survival horror adventure game Corpse Party is being turned into a live-action feature film.

The game follows several high school girls who travel to another dimension in their haunted school and must solve the mystery behind the curse on their school to go home. In addition to several sequels, the game also spawned a series of mangas and OVA's.

The live-action film will be directed by Yamada Yasashi, who has directed several low-budget horror films. The film also marks the first starring role for idol Ikoma Rina, the popular center member of Nogizaka46 and Team B of AKB48. She previously had a supporting role on television drama Bad Boys J.

The Corpse Party film is set for release in Japanese cinemas this summer.

Text / Rockman

Golden Era, Black Coal and Haider lead 9th AFA nominations

  February 26, 2015  
The Asian Film Awards Academy announced the nominations for its ninth edition this week in Hong Kong. A total of 42 films are nominated in 14 categories.

Ann Hui's biographical drama The Golden Era received the most nominations at five: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Tang Wei), Best Supporting Actor (Wang Zhiwen) and Best Editing. However, the film was not nominated for Best Picture.

Six films are nominated for Best Picture: China's Black Coal, Thin Ice, China's Blind Massage, India's Haider, South Korea's Ode to My Father, South Korea's Hill of Freedom and Japan's The Light Shines Only There.

Black Coal, Blind Massage and Haider earned four nominations each. Diao Yinan's neo-noir mystery is nominated for Best Pictures, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor (Liao Fan). Lou Ye's realist drama is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Qin Hao) and Best Cinematography. The Indian re-interpretation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Tabassum Hashmi) and Best Production Design.

Jiang Wen's dark comedy Gone With the Bullets also earned four nominations, but they were all in the technical categories: Best Music, Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Designer and Best Production Design.

In addition to Liao, Hill of Freedom's Kase Ryo, Overheard 3's Lau Ching Wan, Paradise in Service's Ethan Ruan, Roaring Currents' Choi Min Sik and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends' Sato Takeru round out the Best Actor race. Joining Tang Wei in the Best Actress race are Miyazawa Rie for Pale Moon, Bae Doo Na for Girl at My Door, Gong Li for Coming Home, Vicki Zhao for Dearest and Kaiki Koechlin for Margarita, With a Straw.

The Best New Actor nominees are EXO's D.O. for social drama Cart, Zhang Huiwen for Zhang Yimou's Coming Home, Ivana Wong for Golden Chickensss, Tosaka Hiroomi for Hot Road and Zhan Huai Yun for Meeting Dr. Sun.

The 9th Asian Film Awards will be held in Macau on March 23, 2015.

Text / Rockman

Lunar New Year films to pack cinemas in Asia during holidays

  February 23, 2015  
Lunar New Year is probably the best time of the year to go to the movies in Asia, as festive audiences across the continent flock to the cinemas to celebrate the holidays.

In China, a total of eight films are opening on February 19, the first day of the Year of the Sheep. Jackie Chan brings Hollywood stars John Cusack and Adrien Brody to China for period epic Dragon Blade. Aloys Chen takes on demons in fantasy adventure Zhong Kui, co-directed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). The second season cast of reality show Where are We Going, Dad takes a trek to Fiji in the show's second feature film, while the first season cast reunite for family comedy Emperor's Holiday.

Louis Koo, Francis Ng and Julian Cheung take to the skies of romance in the film spin-off of television series Triumph in the Skies, co-starring Amber Kuo, Sammi Cheng and Charmaine Sheh. Chow Yun Fat picks up his playing cards again in action comedy sequel From Vegas to Macau II, co-starring Nick Cheung, Shawn Yue and Carina Lau. France's Jean-Jacque Annaud (The Bear, Two Brothers) adapts a popular Chinese novel about a man who develops a bond with a Mongolian wolf in Wolf Totem, the director's first Chinese-language film. Finally, Xinnian is Coming: Uproar of Chuxi offers a fantastical animated adventure for kids.

In addition to Hong Kong co-productions Triumph in the Skies and From Vegas to Macau II, Hong Kong will see Louis Koo and producer Raymond Wong lead an all-star cast in offbeat detective comedy An Inspector Calls, which opened two weeks earlier in China. After the success of Golden Chickensss last year, Sandra Ng and director Matt Chow reunite for 12 Golden Ducks, which sees Ng putting on fake abs to play Hong Kong's top gigolo. Two weeks later, Eric Tsang and Wong Cho Lam give a belated new year's greeting to Hong Kong audiences with Lucky Star 2015.

In Taiwan, two local comedies and a unique animated film will face off against Dragon Blade. Following Night Market Hero, David Loman and Twa Tiu Tiann, popular comedian Zhu Ge Liang attempts for a fourth Lunar New Year hit with The Wonderful Wedding, co-starring Ruby Lin as his soon-to-be-wed daughter. Actor-director Peng Qia Qia is also back with comedy sequel Lion Dancing 2, a continuation of last year's hit film. Finally, a local puppet performance troupe brings their art to the big screen in 3D fantasy adventure The Arti: The Adventure Begins, created with a mix of puppetry and computer animation.

In addition to films from Hong Kong and China, Malaysia also has two homegrown comedies of their own. The first film of his new production company in Malaysia, Chapman To takes on Singaporean comedy star Mark Lee in Mahjong King, which also features many popular Hong Kong comedy actors. After setting box office records for The Journey, Ryon Lee aims for another box office hit with My Papa Rich, opening just one week after Lee's other new film The Dream Boyz.

My Papa Rich co-star Jack Neo also looks to retain his reign as Singapore's top commercial filmmaker this year with Ah Boys to Men: Frogmen, the third installment in his hit comedy franchise. The 146-minute comedy will face off against the Hong Kong films and Dragon Blade in Singapore cinemas.

While there is no major local film opening on New Year's day, South Korean audiences will likely keep period comedy sequel Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island at the top of the box office throughout the New Year holiday.

Text / Rockman

Katori Shingo and Ayase Haruka to star in Mitani Koki comedy

  February 17, 2015  
Known for his witty scripts and star-studded casts, Mitani Koki (The Kiyosu Conference) has revealed that his next project, romantic comedy Galaxy Turnpike, will star SMAP's Katori Shingo (Bayside Shakedown: The Final) and Ayase Haruka (All-Round Appraiser Q: The Eyes of Mona Lisa). In a break from his previous works, the new film will take place entirely in space and feature a cast of extraterrestrial characters.

In the year 2265, humanity has spread throughout the solar system, and situated next to Jupiter is a space colony called "Uzushio," which is home to a portion of a space highway that links to Earth. Once a buzzing area with numerous eateries, Uzushio's space highway has seen business dwindle in recent years. It's here that the story of Noa (Katori Shingo) and Noe (Ayase Haruka) begins.

Galaxy Turnpike will begin filming in March and is slated to be released in Japan in October 2015.

Text / Frood

Narimiya Hiroki to leave Aibou after three years

  February 13, 2015  
Actor Narimiya Hiroki announced that he will be leaving as the popular detective series Aibou's co-lead at the end of the show's 13th season in March.

The third actor to play the partner of Sugishita, played by Mizutani Yutaka, Narimiya joined the show in the beginning of season 11 as Kai Tooru, a rookie who met Sugishita after getting embroiled in a case during a trip to Hong Kong. Narimiya also co-starred in the series' third feature film.

Narimiya had initially been contracted to be in the show for only two seasons. However, the producers and Mizutani convinced Narimiya to remain for a third season.

Producers did not reveal the specific plot of Narimiya's final episode, but they did reveal that it would involve Kai's National Police Agency Deputy Director father, with whom Kai shares an antagonistic relationship.

The fourth actor to play Sugishita's partner for the show's 14th season will be announced at a later time.

Text / Rockman

Yamashita Tomohisa to star in drama adaptation of Flowers for Algernon

  February 12, 2015  
TBS has announced that Yamashita Tomohisa will be starring in a drama adaptation of Daniel Keyes's classic novel Flowers for Algernon. Originally published in 1959, Keyes's multi-award-winning short story follows a man with low IQ who is selected for an experimental intelligence-enhancing surgery. The surgery initially appears to be a success, but the man finds that as he becomes more intelligent, his interpersonal relationships start to deteriorate. When Algernon, the mouse on which the procedure was tested, dies following a rapid decline in its newfound intelligence, the man realizes that his intelligence is also temporary.

The story was previously adapted as a Japanese drama starring Yusuke Santamaria and Kanno Miho in 2002. In the new adaptation, the story will undergo a few changes. Yamashita Tomohisa will play Shiratori Sakihito, an intellectually challenged 28-year-old man who works at a flower courier company. After he receives experimental surgery to enhance his intelligence, he feels a disconnect with his friends and co-workers that eventually evolves into crippling loneliness and anxiety.

Flowers for Algernon will air in Japan in April 2015.

Text / Frood

34th Hong Kong Film Award Nominations

  February 5, 2015  
The nominees for this year's Hong Kong Film Awards, to be held on April 19, 2015 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, have been announced, and Alan Mak and Felix Chong's Overheard 3 has romped to the fore with 11 nominations, including the big-ticket categories of Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. The crime thriller is followed by The Golden Era and Rise of the Legend with 10 nominations apiece.

The Best Film and Best Screenplay categories share the same nominees in Ann Hui's Xiao Hong biopic The Golden Era, Pang Ho Cheung's family drama Aberdeen, Peter Chan's child abduction drama Dearest, Fruit Chan's satirical horror comedy The Midnight After and the aforementioned Overheard 3. Aside from Pang Ho Cheung, the same filmmakers will be vying for the Best Director trophy along with Dante Lam, who directed the psychological police thriller That Demon Within.

Lau Ching Wan is up for Best Actor twice with Overheard 3 and Insanity. He'll be competing with Huang Bo (Dearest), Eddie Peng (Rise of the Legend) and Daniel Wu (That Demon Within). Over on the Best Actress side, Tang Wei (The Golden Era), Zhou Xun (Women Who Flirt), Vicki Zhao (Dearest), Sandra Ng (Golden Chickensss) and Charlene Choi (Sara) will be contending for the trophy.

The battle is no less heated in the Supporting Actor category, with several veterans earning nominations, including Ng Man Tat (Aberdeen), Kenneth Tsang (Overheard 3), Alex Fong (Overheard 3) and Lam Suet (The Midnight After), who will be competing with youngster Wang Baoqiang (Kung Fu Jungle). Meanwhile, the Supporting Actress category will see Fiona Sit (Girls), Nina Paw (Insanity), Hao Lei (The Golden Era), Kara Hui (The Midnight After) and Ivana Wong (Golden Chickensss) engage in a spirited contest. Ivana Wong also received three nominations in the Best New Performer category (for Golden Chickensss, Delete My Love, Break Up 100) and a nomination for Best Original Film Song.

For a detailed list of nominees, please click here.

Text / Frood

Aiba Masaki to star in first getsuku drama

  February 4, 2015  
Fuji TV has announced that Arashi's Aiba Masaki will take on the starring role in a getsuku drama for the first time in the upcoming Welcome to Our Home, which will co-star Terao Akira (Gunshi Kanbei), Arimura Kasumi (Yowakutemo Katemasu) and Minami Kaho (Ume-chan Sensei).

Based on a novel by popular writer Ikeido Jun, whose Hanzawa Naoki, Roosevelt Game and Hanasaki Mai ga Damattenai have previously been adapted into highly successful dramas, Welcome to Our Home follows Kurata Kenta, a kind and honest office worker who witnesses a troubling event due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Soon after, stalkers begin harassing him and his family, and the Kuratas realize that they've become caught in a round of corporate warfare.

The drama is set to air on Fuji TV in April 2015.

Text / Frood

Son Ye Jin to star in Chinese film produced by Feng Xiaogang and Kang Je Gyu

  February 4, 2015  
Top Korean actress Son Ye Jin (Pirates) is set to make her Chinese film debut in an upcoming production co-starring Taiwan heartthrob Wilson Chen (Continent). Two of Asia's biggest hitmakers, directors Feng Xiaogang and Kang Je Gyu will serve as producers for the film, tentatively titled Huai Dan Bie Re Wo ("Bad Guys Don't Mess With Me").

The Huayi Brothers-backed Chinese-Korean co-production will be directed by Sun Hao who has worked on Feng Xiaogang's Aftershock and If You Are the One. In the film, Wilson Chen plays a Chinese youth who encounters a mysterious woman, played by Son Ye Jin, at Jeju Island in Korea. Their meeting will set off a series of comedic and romantic adventures.

Huai Dan Bie Re Wo will begin filming in Jeju in March.

Text / Sanwei

Louis Koo chosen as 2015 HK Film Festival ambassador

  January 28, 2015  
The Hong Kong International Film Festival announced that Louis Koo has been chosen as this year's festival ambassador.

This is Koo's second consecutive year as festival ambassador. In addition to appearing in the festival's pre-show advertisement, Koo will also act as the face of the festival by attending its major events. "I'm proud to act as the Hong Kong International Film Festival's ambassador again and do my part in promoting Hong Kong cinema," Koo said.

Renowned digital illustrator Jack Lee, who has designed illustrations for major global brands and participated in several animated films, designed this year's festival artwork.

The 39th Hong Kong International Film Festival will be held from March 23 to April 6.

Text / Rockman

Cast unveiled for film adaptation of Heroine Shikkaku

  January 28, 2015  
Fresh off her stint on the drama Hell Teacher Nube, Kiritani Mirei is set to take on the lead role in the film adaptation of manga Heroine Shikkaku. Yamazaki Kento (L DK), who will be starring in his third shojo manga adaptation with this project, and Men's Non-no model Sakaguchi Kentaro will play her character's love interests.

Written and illustrated by Koda Momoko, Heroine Shikkaku was serialized in Bessatsu Margaret from April 2010 to April 2013. It was nominated for a Kodansha Manga Award in 2012 and its individual volumes have collectively sold over 1.1 million copies. The story follows high school student Matsuzaki Hatori, who harbors feelings for her childhood friend Terasaka Rita. However, after realizing that she has a mean streak, Hatori feels that she's no longer qualified to be Rita's "leading lady." Embarking on a road to self-discovery, Hatori soon catches the eye of the school's resident Mr. Perfect, Hiromitsu Kosuke.

Filming for Heroine Shikkaku will begin at the end of January 2015 and is set to finish in May.

Text / Frood

Unfair series to end with third feature film

  January 28, 2015  
After one drama series, two feature films and four drama specials (including one spin-off), the Unfair series is officially coming to an end with its third feature film.

Starring Shinohara Ryoko, Unfair follows the crime-solving adventures of a tough and sexy female detective. Set four years after the second film The Answer, Unfair: The End sees Shinohara's detective character returning to her old division in Tokyo to take on a shadow organization that killed her ex-husband. Even though the two previous films were also promoted as the "finale" of the series, The End will bring the story full circle as it explores a mystery from the heroine's past.

Arriving just before the series' tenth anniversary, Unfair: The End began production in mid-January and is set to wrap some time in March. It will be released in Japanese cinemas in September 2015.

Text / Rockman

Ninomiya Kazunari and Beat Takeshi to star in drama special

  January 28, 2015  
TBS has announced that Arashi's Ninomiya Kazunari and revered director-actor-comedian Beat Takeshi will be working together for the first time and starring in a one-off special drama based on Akamedaka, a collection of autobiographical essays written by renowned rakugo artist Tatekawa Danjun.

Invented between the 9th and 10th centuries by Buddhist monks, rakugo is a type of verbal entertainment that involves a person sitting alone on a stage telling long-form humorous stories. Tatekawa Danjun, one of the most prominent practitioners of rakugo in Japan today, was trained by the great rakugo master Tatekawa Danshi, who passed away in 2011. Written between 2005 and 2007, Tatekawa Danjun's Akamedaka tells of his journey through the world of rakugo, from his dropping out of high school and becoming Tatekawa Danshi's student in 1984 to his triumph at the 6th Shinuchi Trial in 1997. The drama will focus on Tatekawa Danjun's relationship with Tatekawa Danshi.

Akamedaka has already begun filming. The drama's date and time of release have yet to be announced.

Text / Frood

Iwai Shunji's Love Letter to be remade into Korean drama

  January 28, 2015  
Korean production company HB Entertainment, the makers of the hit series You Who Came From the Stars, recently revealed intentions to remake the 1995 Japanese romantic film Love Letter into a Korean drama. With 2015 marking the 20th anniversary of the film, HB Entertainment plans to collaborate with Japanese agency Amuse and the production company of That Winter, the Wind Blows to adapt the classic melodrama for Korean television.

Directed by Iwai Shunji, the touching film about love and closure stars Nakayama Miho as a young woman coping with the loss of her fiance. She sends a letter to the old address of her late love and unexpectedly receives a response from another woman (also played by Nakayama) who shares the same name as her fiance.

Besides achieving massive commercial success in Japan, Love Letter was also well received in other Asian countries, in particular in Korea where it opened in 1999, one year after the domestic ban on Japanese films was lifted. It became one of the biggest box office hits of that year, and the Japanese phrase "Ogenki desu ka?" ("How are you?") from the film's first letter turned into a popular saying in Korea. Love Letter remains the highest-grossing Japanese live-action movie in Korea to date.

Text / Sanwei

Asian films at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival

  January 27, 2015  
The 2015 edition of the Berlin International Film Festival, to be held from February 5th to 15th, has announced its full lineup, with a number of Asian films in its ranks.

Three Asian films are to be screened in competition: up-and-coming Vietnamese director Di Phan Dang's Vietnamese-French-German-Dutch co-production, Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories, Chinese actor-director Jiang Wen's period comedy Gone with the Bullets and Japanese director Sabu's fantasy romance Chasuke's Journey.

Screening in the Panorama section are Josh Kim's Thai-American co-production How To Win At Checkers (Every Time), Anucha Boonyawatana's The Blue Hour, Chang Tso Chi's Thanatos, Drunk, Yoon Je Kyun's Ode to My Father and Doze Niu's wartime drama Paradise in Service.

The Forum section will see Kim Dae Hwan's family drama End of Winter, Takahashi Izumi's Dari Marusan, Jia Zhangke-produced Chinese-UK co-production K, Yamamoto Masashi's The Voice of Water, Funahashi Atsushi's Nuclear Nation II and three restored prints of films by the eminent Ichikawa Kon.

Finally, screening in the Generations section are Sonthar Gyal's Tibet-set River, Matsui Daigo's Wonderful World End, Li Rui Jun's River Road and Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's documentary on Buddhism, So Be It.

Text / Frood

J Soul Brothers, Takeuchi Mariya top Japan Record Awards

  January 20, 2015  
The EXILE Family and Takeuchi Mariya took the top awards at the 56th Japan Record Awards, held late last month in Tokyo.

EXILE vocalist Atsushi won the Best Vocal award for his performance on his two albums and two singles. His fellow EXILE Family group Sandaime J Soul Brothers' hit single R.Y.U.S.E.I. won one of the ten Song of the Year awards and the Japan Record Award Grand Prize. It is the pop-dance group's first Grand Prize win at the Japan Record Awards.

Fashion model-turned-singer Nishiuchi Mariya won the Best Newcomer award, beating out nominees Oohara Sakurako, Solidemo and Tokunaga Yuki. Nishiuchi released her debut single Love Evolution in August.

Trad, the first album in seven years by veteran singer Takeuchi Mariya, won the Album of the Year award. Disney's Frozen won the Special Film Music award, and enka singer Itsuki Hiroshi won the Special Ballad Award.

Golden Bomber vocalist Kiryuin Sho won the Best Songwriter award for the band's two 2014 singles, and Kitajo Makoto received the Best Lyricist award.

Text / Rockman

Southern All Stars, J Soul Brother, Sekai no Owari benefit from "Kouhaku Effect"

  January 20, 2015  
Each year, the most popular performers on NHK's annual Kouhaku Uta Gassen show benefit from a bump in sales in what is called the "Kouhaku Effect." This year was no exception.

Southern All Stars, who made an unscheduled appearance with a live performance from their concert, experienced the biggest bump. Peace to Highlight went from outside the Oricon chart to 69th place, and Tokyo Victory went from 84th place to 30th place. Their performance was also the most talked about because Peace and Highlight was implied as the band's criticism towards Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

J Soul Brothers, who won an award for R.Y.U.S.E.I. a few days prior at the Japan Record Awards, saw the award-winning single go from 39th place to 12th place on the Oricon chart. Following their first appearance on Kouhaku, Sekai no Owari's single Dragon Night rose from 41st place to 24th place.

As always, theme songs for NHK's morning drama also returned to the spotlight after they were performed at the show. Nakajima Miyuki's Massan theme song Mugi no Uta went from 45th place to 16th place, and Ayaka's Hanako to Anna theme song Niji-iro went from 119th place to 36th place.

Text / Rockman

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