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Ueno Juri takes on first Korean film role

  December 17, 2014  
Japanese actress Ueno Juri is set to join her first Korean film, The Beauty Inside, the directorial debut of Baek Jong Yeol.

Inspired by the Emmy Award-winning web series of the same name, The Beauty Inside is about a man who wakes up everyday with a different body, though his mind remains the same. Ueno will play one of the man's 20 appearances in the film. Actors playing the man's other consciousness include Park Shin Hye, Lee Bum Soo, Han Hyo Ju, Kim Sang Ho, Lee Jin Wook, Lee Dong Wook, Ko Ah Sung, Kim Joo Hyuk and Yoo Yeon Seok.

Ueno is best known in Korea for her performance in the live-action adaptation of Nodame Cantabile, which was also adapted into a Korean television drama this year.

The fantasy drama is expected to complete shooting in February for a theatrical release in the first half of 2015.

Text / Rockman

Line Walker wins top prizes at 2014 TVB Anniversary Awards

  December 16, 2014  
TVB, Hong Kong's leading broadcaster, held their annual TV Awards Presentation (TVB Anniversary Awards) on December 15. The biggest winner of the night, crime suspense drama Line Walker clinched five awards including Best Drama as well as Best Actress and My Favorite Female Television Character for Charmaine Sheh, who plays an undercover officer. This is her second time sweeping both top actress awards following her double win in 2006 for Maidens' Vow. Veteran actor Benz Hui won My Favorite Male Television Character for his role as a triad boss in the series.

Roger Kwok was crowned Best Actor for the third time for his antagonist role in Black Heart White Soul, matching Wayne Lai and Gallen Lo's records for highest number of wins. Best Supporting Actor and Actress went to Come On, Cousin's Rams Chiang and Tomorrow is Another Day's Josie Ho, while Most Improved Actor and Actress went to Louis Cheung and Priscilla Wong. Jinny Ng's "The More Difficult, The More I Love" for Line Walker was selected as the Most Popular Drama Theme Song.

The variety program Walk The Walk, Talk The Talk hosted by Wong Cho Lam and Nancy Sit scored double wins for Best Variety Program and Best Television Presenter, and Guardians of Life 2 was named the Best Infotainment Program.

This year's Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to 80-year-old actor Tam Bing Man. Veterans Walter Chu Wai Tak, Ceci So Yan Chee, Steve Lee Ka Ding, Law Lok Lam and Rams Chiang were also recognized with Professional Actor Awards. Bosco Wong and Charmaine Sheh were voted the Most Popular TVB Actor and Actress in Mainland China.

Per usual, the My Favorite Male and Female Television Character Awards were selected 100% by viewer voting, while the Best Drama, Best Actor and Best Actress Awards were determined by both viewer voting and judging panel. This year, 185,779 votes were cast in total. Of that, Charmaine Sheh received 75,171 votes for Favorite Female Character, while Benz Hui received 62,705 votes for Favorite Male Character. Charmaine Sheh and Roger Kwok led for Best Actor and Actress in both public votes and judge votes. For Best Drama, Line Walker received 41.6% of judge votes and 20.3% of public votes.

Text / Garden
Translation / Sanwei

Takahashi Minami announces graduation from AKB48

  December 15, 2014  
At a live show commemorating their theater's ninth anniversary, AKB48 member and General Director Takahashi Minami announced that she is graduating from the idol group in 2015.

Born in 1991, Takahashi was one of the idol group's 24 founding members along with Maeda Atsuko, Itano Tomomi and Kojima Haruna. In 2009, she was named the captain of Team A. Known for her elder sister persona, Takahashi was promoted three years later to General Director of AKB48 and its sister groups.

At the announcement, Takahashi also announced that current Team A captain Yokoyama Yui will take over as General Director after her departure exactly one year later.

Consistently one of the ten most popular members at the group's annual Senbatsu Election, Takahashi released a solo single in 2013.

Text / Rockman

Library Wars to return with sequel in 2015

  December 5, 2014  
A sequel has been announced for the film Library Wars, originally released in Japan on April 27, 2013. Based on the popular light novel series by Arikawa Hiro, Library Wars attracted over 250,000 viewers in its first three days of release and eventually went on to earn over ¥330 million at the box office. The film was directed by GANTZ director Sato Shinsuke and starred V6's Okada Junichi, Eikura Nana, Kuriyama Chiaki and Fukushi Sota, all of whom are slated to return for the sequel, Library Wars –The Last Mission-.

Set in a lightly dystopian near-future version of Japan, where the government has banned books it deems dangerous, Library Wars follows Kasahara Iku (Eikura Nana), a new recruit of the Library Defense Force, which was created to defend libraries and more broadly, the freedom of expression from the violent attacks of the government-armed Media Betterment Committee. Kasahara navigates through this dangerous world under the tutelage of her stern supervisor Dojo Atsushi (Okada Junichi), whom she eventually falls for.

Library Wars –The Last Mission- is scheduled to be released in Japan in October 2015.

Text / Frood

Kanjani8's Shibutani Subaru to make solo debut

  December 4, 2014  
Johnny's Entertainment has announced that Kanjani8's Shibutani Subaru will be making his solo debut with upcoming double A-side single Kioku/Kokoro Odoreba. Shibutani is the ninth Johnny's artist to make a solo debut while in a group and the first of Kanjani8 to do so.

The two songs on the single will serve as the theme songs for the film La La La at Rock Bottom, which will be released in Japan on February 14, 2015 and features Shibutani in his first solo big-screen starring role. Set in Osaka, the movie has Shibutani playing a gifted singer with amnesia who's taken in by a young band manager played by actress-model Nikaido Fumi. As the two get to know each other while living together, hints of the amnesiac singer's past emerge.

In support of the movie and the single, whose release date is yet to be determined, Shibutani will embark on a cross-country solo concert tour from January 18 to February 25, 2015.

Text / Frood

NHK announces Kohaku performers for 2014 edition

  November 28, 2014  
NHK has announced the performers for the 2014 edition of the Kohaku Uta Gassen New Year's Eve show. This year's list includes five performers making their Kohaku debut – two in the white team and three in the red team.

New in the white team are rock band Sekai no Owari and Johnny's Entertainment group V6. The former released three top ten singles in 2014, performed the theme song for Princess Jellyfish and is performing the set song for the middle school division of the 2015 NHK Nationwide School Chorus contest.

In the red team, HKT48 will join the rest of the AKB family on stage for the first time. May J., who released a series of hit cover albums in the past two years, will also make her debut on the Kohaku stage along with legendary idol Yakushimaru Hiroko. Even though Yakushimaru was on the show last year as part of the Amachan performance, this year marks her first solo appearance.

While performers often come and go over the years, this year's list sees the exclusion of Hamasaki Ayumi and aiko, who have appeared on the show for 15 years and 12 years, respectively. However, Hamasaki will hold her annual Countdown Live concert in Tokyo on the same night, as she has done since 2000.

Returning performers include Ayaka (7th appearance), Ikimonogakari (7th appearance), Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (3rd appearance), miwa (2nd appearance), EXILE (10th appearance), SMAP (22nd appearance), Tokio (21st appearance) and Porno Graffiti (13th appearance).

This year's show is hosted by Arashi (6th appearance) and Yoshitaka Yuriko, the star of this year's hit NHK Morning drama Hanako to Anne.

An annual tradition since 1951, the Kohaku Uta Gassen ("The Red and White Song Battle") features Japan's most popular musical acts (split into red and white teams) in a friendly competition that involves performing hit songs for viewer votes. The Kohaku remains one of the highest-rated television programs on Japanese television, and it's still the preferred New Year's Eve pastime for most Japanese families. The show can also have significant impact on music sales, as certain songs would experience an increase in sales after being exposed to a nationwide audience on the show.

Text / Rockman

35th Blue Dragon Film Award nominations

  November 27, 2014  
Nominations for Korea's 35th Blue Dragon Film Awards were announced on November 27. Acclaimed courtroom drama The Attorney again leads the race with ten nominations. Kim Han Min's historical blockbuster The Admiral: Roaring Currents, which just won the top prize at the Daejong Film Awards, and Kim Seong Hoon's action thriller A Hard Day follow with seven nominations each. Hwang Dong Hyuk's comedic blockbuster Miss Granny and Lim Soon Rye's Whistle Blower join the aforementioned on the shortlist for Best Film.

Kim Han Min, Kim Seong Hoon, Hwang Dong Hyuk and Lim Soon Rye are also all nominated for Best Director along with Pirates helmer Lee Suk Hoon. Best Screenplay nods go to A Hard Day, The Attorney, Miss Granny, Lee Su Jin's record-breaking indie Han Gong Ju and Shim Sung Bo's high-seas thriller Haemoo, which garnered six nominations in total.

Park Hae Il (Whistle Blower), Song Kang Ho (The Attorney), Lee Seon Gyun (A Hard Day), Jung Woo Sung (The Divine Move) and Daejong winner Choi Min Sik (Roaring Currents) will compete for Best Actor honors. In the Best Actress race, Son Ye Jin looks to repeat her Daejong win, but this time she's nominated for the crime suspense drama Blood and Ties instead of Pirates. The other nominees are Kim Hee Ae (Thread of Lies), Jeon Do Yeon (The Way Home), Chun Woo Hee (Han Gong Ju) and Shim Eun Kyung (Miss Granny).

Kwak Do Won (The Attorney), Yu Hae Jin (Pirates), Lee Kyung Young (Whistle Blower), Lee Sung Min (Kundo: Age of the Rampant) and Jo Jin Woong (A Hard Day) are nominated for Best Supporting Actor, while Kim Young Ae (The Attorney), Ra Mi Ran (My Love, My Bride), Jo Yeo Jeong (Obsessed), Honey Lee (Tazza: The Hidden Card) and Han Ye Ri (Haemoo) are up for Best Supporting Actress.

The Best New Actor category lines up popular young stars Kim Woo Bin (Friend, The Great Legacy), Park Yoo Chun (Haemoo), Im Si Wan (The Attorney) and Choi Jin Hyuk (The Divine Move), as well as Ahn Jae Hong (The King of Jokgu). For Best New Actress, the nominees are Kim Sae Ron (A Girl at My Door), Kim Hyang Gi (Thread of Lies), Ryu Hye Young (My Dictator), Esom (Scarlet Innocence) and Lim Ji Yeon (Obsessed), who won at the Daejong Film Awards.

The 2014 Blue Dragon Awards will be held in Seoul on December 17.

Text / Sanwei

Blind Masssage is top winner at 2014 Golden Horse Awards

  November 24, 2014  
Lou Ye's Blind Massage was the top winner at the Golden Horse Awards held on November 22, winning six out of the seven categories it was nominated in.

An emotionally intense drama about a group of blind masseuses living in Nanjing, the film won Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design, Best Screenplay, Best New Performer and Best Film. It only lost in the Best Director category, which went to Hong Kong's Ann Hui for The Golden Era.

Silver Bear winner Black Coal, Thin Ice, which had the most nominations, won only one award: Best Art Direction.

The night's other big winner was actor Chen Jianbin, who single-handedly won three awards: Best Supporting Actor for Doze Niu's Paradise in Service, as well as Best New Director and Best Actor for his directorial debut A Fool.

This year's awards were dominated by Mainland Chinese films, which represented over half the nominations. Kano, Taiwan's local favorite this year, didn't win in any of its six nominated categories. However, it did win the Audience Prize. Paradise in Service won two acting awards, Meeting Dr. Sun won the Best Screenplay award and frequent Tsai Ming Liang collaborator Chen Shiang Chyi won her first Best Actress award for Exit.

In addition to Hui's win, Hong Kong films won two other awards: Best Visual Effects for The Midnight After and Best Action Choreography for As the Light Goes Out.

This year's award jury was led by actress Joan Chen. Other members included Aaron Kwok, Stephen Fung and Stanley Kwan.

Text / Rockman

Roaring Currents wins top prize at 51st Daejong Film Awards

  November 24, 2014  
Korea's most watched film of all time, The Admiral: Roaring Currents claimed the top prize at the 51st Daejong Film Awards held in Seoul on November 21. The record-breaking historical epic about the 16th century Battle of Myeongnyang, in which revered admiral Yi Sun Shin led a vastly outnumbered fleet to victory over an invading Japanese fleet, won Best Film and Best Actor for Choi Min Sik, as well as Best Planning and Best Technical Award. Another seafaring period piece, the action adventure Pirates, also scored two major acting awards – Best Actress for Son Ye Jin and Best Supporting Actor for Yu Hae Jin.

A Hard Day helmer Kim Sung Hoon came out on the top in the crowded Best Director category. His police crime actioner was also recognized for Best Cinematography and Best Lighting. Courtroom drama The Attorney, which had led in nominations, won Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Kim Young Ae and Best New Director for Yang Woo Suk. Miss Granny (Best Music), The Divine Move (Best Editing), The Fatal Encounter (Best Art Direction) and Kundo: Age of the Rampant (Best Costume Design) all picked up technical prizes.

Singer and small-screen star Park Yoo Chun won Best New Actor for his feature debut in the high-seas thriller Haemoo, while Lim Ji Yeon won Best New Actress for her turn in erotic melodrama Obsessed. Im Si Wan (The Attorney), Kim Woo Bin (Friend, The Great Legacy) and Honey Lee (Tazza: The Hidden Card) received the Star Awards for popularity and veteran director and producer Jung Jin Woo was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Text / Sanwei

Hero to return with second film in 2015

  November 24, 2014  
Eight years after its first appearance on the silver screen, popular Japanese TV and film franchise Hero is set to return to cinemas once again. The announcement follows the recent conclusion of the second season of the TV series, which saw Hero continue its legacy of ratings supremacy with the last episode garnering a 22.9% audience rating.

First aired in 2001, Hero follows unorthodox public prosecutor Kuryu Kohei (Kimura Takuya). Known for eschewing the typical suit and tie in favor of an orange down jacket and impulsively purchasing odd gadgets from infomercials, Kuryu's behavior often flummoxes his colleagues at a public prosecutor's office in Tokyo. However, his slacker appearance and attitude belie a brilliant investigative mind, which helps him crack one impossible case after another.

To be directed by Suzuki Masayuki, who also helmed many episodes of the TV series, the film will feature appearances by Matsu Takako, making her return to the series after an eight-year absence, Kitagawa Keiko, who joined the series in the second season, as well as veteran actor Sato Koichi. Scripted by series regular writer Fukuda Yasushi, the film will have Kuryu and his colleagues trying to solve a case hampered by extraterritoriality.

The movie is set to be released in Japan on July 18, 2015.

Text / Frood

Additional cast members announced for Kore-eda's Umimachi Diary

  November 24, 2014  
Additional cast members have been announced for director Kore-eda Hirokazu's Umimachi Diary.

In addition to Ayase Haruka, Nagasawa Masami, Kaho and Hirose Suzu starring as the four sisters at the center of the story, the cast also includes Otake Shinobu as the matriarch of the family, Tsutsumi Shinichi as the physician boss of the eldest sister (Ayase), Kase Ryo as the boss of the second sister (Nagasawa), Lily Franky as the owner of a local café and Suzuki Ryohei as the coach of a junior high school baseball team.

Based on the award-winning Yoshida Akimi manga, the drama follows a year in the lives of the four sisters in the seaside town of Kamakura. Kore-eda began shooting the film on-and-off since April 2014 in order to capture all four seasons of the seaside town. Most of the film was shot between July and September.

Distributors Toho and Gaga also announced that the film is set for theatrical release on June 13, 2015, making it a possible contender for the Cannes Film Festival in May. Kore-eda has already been to the festival four time with Distance, Nobody Knows, Air Doll and Like Father, Like Son.

Text / Rockman

Takakura Ken (1931-2014)

  November 20, 2014  
Renowned actor Takakura Ken passed away from lymphoma on November 10, 2014 in Tokyo at the age of 83.

Born Oda Goichi in Fukuoka, Takakura began his illustrious acting career with the Toei Film Company in 1955. He made his official screen debut in 1956 with Denko Karate Uchi. Well-known for his brooding tough-guy roles, Takakura shot to stardom during the 1960s boom in Japanese gangster films. He would go on to make 180 films with Toei before leaving the company in 1976.

Takakura was also a go-to actor for Hollywood directors making films in Japan. He had roles in the 1974 Sydney Pollack film The Yakuza, the 1989 Ridley Scott film Black Rain and the 1992 Fred Schepisi film Mr. Baseball.

Well-recognized for his stellar performances, Takakura was awarded the Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor four times in his career: in 1978 for The Yellow Handkerchief, in 1981 for Doran and A Distant Cry from Spring, in 1982 for Station, and in 2000 for Poppoya. In 2013, he received the Order of Culture from the Emperor of Japan. His final film was Furuhata Yasuo's Dearest, released in August 2012.

Text / Frood

Filming begins for Bu Bu Jing Xin film adaptation starring Ivy Chen

  November 20, 2014  
Previously adapted into a blockbuster TV drama in 2011, Tong Hua's best-selling novel Bu Bu Jing Xin (a.k.a. Startling By Each Step) is getting adapted a second time into a feature film starring Ivy Chen. Filming for the new Bu Bu Jing Xin began on November 18 in China.

Published in 2005, Bu Bu Jing Xin is about a woman who jumps back in time to the Qing Dynasty during the reign of Kangxi and gets drawn into the romantic affairs and ascension struggle of the royal princes. The novel's 2011 television adaptation was a big pop culture phenomenon in China, launching the careers of leads Cecilia Liu, Nicky Wu and Kevin Cheng to new heights. The time-travel period romance series was followed by a modern-day sequel which was aired earlier this year.

For the film version, a completely different cast will be used. Taiwan actress Ivy Chen takes the leading heroine role of Ruo Xi. Actors Shawn Dou (Under the Hawthorn Tree), Tony Yang (Zone Pro Site) and Yu Bo (Saving General Yang) have also been confirmed for the film, but their exact roles have not been announced yet.

The new Bu Bu Jing Xin is being produced by HS Media, which has mainly been involved in television drama production, but scored a huge hit last year with their first film, Vicki Zhao's So Young. In response to online rumors that a major character may have been omitted from the film, the production company revealed that characters will be adjusted according to the film's needs, and that in addition to characters already familiar to audiences, new characters and story elements will be added.

The Bu Bu Jing Xin film is expected to open in the second half of 2015.

Text / Sanwei

2014's biggest Chinese blockbusters set to open in December

  November 19, 2014  
December is known as the most competitive month in the Chinese film industry as the year's biggest films arrive in cinemas, and 2014 is no exception.

In recent years, the month-long "year-end slot" has extended into the last week of November. This year, Edko kicks things off two weeks early with Rise of the Legend, director Roy Chow's reboot of the Wong Fei Hung franchise starring Eddie Peng.

After several shifts in the release schedule, Women Who Flirt, the latest romantic comedy from Hong Kong's Pang Ho Cheung (Love in a Puff) opens on November 28. Based on a series of Taiwan self-help books, the film stars Zhou Xun as a woman who must learn how to flirt to win her best friend (Huang Xiaoming) back from a Taiwan vixen (Sonia Sui).

A new international version of Roaring Currents, Korea's highest grossing film of all time, also opens in China that week.

After a year of production and a yearlong promotional effort, the first installment of John Woo's The Crossing finally opens in cinemas on December 2. The two-part historical drama – based on the sinking of the Taiping in 1949 – features a star-studded cast that includes Kaneshiro Takeshi, Zhang Ziyi, Huang Xiaoming, Nagasawa Masami and Song Hye Kyo. The film also opens on Christmas Day in Hong Kong.

Two other films open three days later: Zhang Yibai's romance drama Fleet of Time and romantic comedy Meet Miss Anxiety. Starring Eddie Peng and Ni Ni, Fleet of Time is the adaptation of a popular novel that follows the lives of four best friends from high school to adulthood. The latter, a romantic comedy co-stars Zhou Xun, Tong Dawei and Wallace Chung, is the first Chinese-language film by My Sassy Girl director Kwak Jae Yong.

December 12 sees the opening of actress Annie Yi's directorial debut The Queens. Based on an internet novel, The Queens is a Tiny Times-esque drama starring Song Hye Kyo, Joe Chen and Vivian Wu as three best friends with rocky love lives.

One week later, Gone With the Bullets, Jiang Wen's big-budget follow-up to Let the Bullets Fly, finally hits cinemas in China and Hong Kong on December 18. In addition to Jiang and his Bullets co-star Ge You, the period drama also stars Wen Zhang, Shu Qi and Zhou Yun. Clara Law's period mystery-comedy Shanghai Noir, starring Ethan Ruan, Yang Zishan and Zhou Dongyu, opens on the following day.

Returning to the year-end competition three years after Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, Tsui Hark will unleash The Taking of Tiger Mountain on Christmas Eve. Based on a popular Beijing opera play, the action thriller is about a group of elite soldiers doing battle against well-armed and well-trained bandits in the snowy mountains of northeast China.

Opening on the same day are Love in the Clouds, Gu Changwei's contemporary romantic comedy starring Angelababy and Chen He, and a new 3D version of Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle.

Another intense competition is already set for the first two months of 2015, as the Chinese remake of Miss Granny (starring Yang Zishan, Chen Bo Lin and Lu Han), Xu Jinglei's Somewhere Only We Know (starring Kris Wu and Wang Likun), ensemble comedy Crazy New Year's Eve, Wong Jing's From Vegas to Macau 2 and Jean-Jacque Annaud's Wolf Totem are all set to open between New Year's Day and the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February.

Text / Rockman

Kitano Takeshi's next film to be yakuza comedy Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen

  November 18, 2014  
Returning to a familiar theme, legendary entertainment renaissance man Kitano Takeshi (a.k.a. Beat Takeshi) has revealed that his next film again draws inspiration from the yakuza. Following 2010's Outrage and its sequel, 2012's Beyond Outrage, both yakuza films, Kitano announces that his next film will be yakuza comedy Ryuzo to Shichinin no Kobuntachi (a.k.a. Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen).

A riff on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the film centers on retired yakuza Ryuzo (Fuji Tatsuya, Snow on the Blades). When Ryuzo falls victim to a phishing scheme, he calls on seven of his old yakuza buddies to clean up the town, which leads to the old-timers facing off against young upstarts in the criminal world. In addition to serving as director, writer and editor, Kitano also makes a cameo in the film.

Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen is set to be released on April 25, 2015.

Text / Frood

The Attorney leads nominations for 51st Daejong Film Awards

  November 11, 2014  
Nominations for Korea's 51st Daejong Film Awards have been announced, and courtroom drama The Attorney leads the race with 11 nominations including Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. Record-breaking historical blockbuster The Admiral: Roaring Currents settles for second with nine nominations, followed by action thriller A Hard Day and period adventure Pirates with seven nominations each.

A Hard Day, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, The Attorney, Hope and Whistle Blower will compete for Best Film, while Kim Seong Hoon (A Hard Day), Kim Han Min (The Admiral: Roaring Currents), Lee Joon Ik (Hope), Lim Soon Rye (Whistle Blower) and Kang Hyung Chul (Tazza: The Hidden Card) are up for Best Director. Though he missed the Best Director shortlist, Yang Soo Wuk (The Attorney) is nominated for Best New Director, along with Shim Sung Bo (Haemoo), Lee Do Yoon (Confession), Lee Soo Jin (Han Gong Ju) and July Jung (A Girl at My Door).

Nominated again this year for The Attorney, last year's Best Actor winner Song Kang Ho is joined by Kang Dong Won (Kundo: Age of the Rampant), Park Hae Il (Whistle Blower), Jung Woo Sung (The Divine Move) and Choi Min Sik (The Admiral: Roaring Currents). For Best Actress, the nominees are Son Ye Jin (Pirates), Uhm Ji Won (Hope), Jeon Do Yeon (The Way Home), Chun Woo Hee (Han Gong Ju) and Shim Eun Kyung (Miss Granny) who won earlier at the Baeksang Arts Award.

Kim Young Ae (The Attorney), Ra Mi Ran (Hope), Yoon Ji Hye (Kundo: Age of the Rampant), Jo Yeo Jeong (Obsessed) and Han Ye Ri (Haemoo) are nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Meanwhile, the Best Supporting Actor category lines up some of the busiest names in Korean cinema: Kwak Do Won (The Attorney), Kim In Kwon (The Divine Move), Yu Hae Jin (Pirates), Lee Kyung Young (Whistle Blower) and Jo Jin Woong (A Hard Day).

Best New Actor will be a fierce race with popular stars Park Yoo Chun (Haemoo), Yeo Jin Gu (Hwayi: A Monster Boy), Im Si Wan (The Attorney) and Choi Jin Hyuk (The Divine Move) all making the leap to the big screen in the past year. Though they've appeared in many films already, top child/teen actresses Kim Sae Ron (A Girl at My Door) and Kim Hyang Gi (Thread of Lies) have been nominated this year for Best New Actress, along with Honey Lee (Tazza: The Hidden Card), Esom (Scarlet Innocence) and Lim Ji Yeon (Obsessed).

The 2014 Daejong Film Awards will be held in Seoul on November 21.

Text / Sanwei

Pale Moon wins two prizes at Tokyo Film Festival

  November 7, 2014  
The 27th Tokyo International Film Festival announced the winners of its competition sections on October 31.

Japan neo-noir drama Pale Moon was one of the top winners. The latest film from director Yoshida Daihachi (The Kirishima Thing) won the Audience Award and the Best Actress award for Miyazawa Rie. In her first leading film role in seven years, Miyazawa stars as a married bank employee who devises an embezzlement scheme to keep up a luxurious lifestyle with her young lover. Co-starring Ikematsu Sosuke, Kobayashi Satomi and Oshima Yuko, the film opens in Japanese cinemas on November 15.

American indie drama Heaven Knows What also won two prizes: The Sakura Grand Prix (the top prize of the festival's competition) and Best Director. Russian drama Test won the Best Artistic Contribution award and the WOWOW Viewer's Choice award.

The main competition jury was headed by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. It also included South Korea's John H. Lee (71 Into the Fire), Australia's Robert Luketic, Singapore's Eric Khoo (Tatsumi), Shinagawa Hiroshi (Drop) and casting director Debbie McWilliams.

In the Asian Future section, reserved for Asian filmmakers making their first or second feature film, Iran's Borderless won the Best Asian Future Film award, and Cambodia's Sotho Kulikar won the Spirit of Asia award for The Last Reel.

Take Masaharu's 100 Yen Love, starring Ando Sakura as a 100 yen shop worker who finds new meaning in her life when she takes up boxing, won the Best Picture award in the Japanese Splash section. Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday, the new comedy from Story of Yonosuke director Okita Shuichi, won a Special Mention from the jury.

Text / Rockman

Shibasaki Kou takes first solo lead role with Maru Maru Tsuma

  October 31, 2014  
Nippon Television announced that actress Shibasaki Kou will take the solo lead role in the the winter 2015 drama Maru Maru Tsuma. The drama is written by Kaseifu Mita creator Yukawa Kazuhiko and will be his first series since NHK Morning Drama Jun to Ai.

In her first solo drama lead role, Shibasaki stars as Hikari, the "perfect" wife of a popular newscaster (Higashiyama Noriyuki) who is completely devoted to her husband and their family. However, beneath the perfect wife image lies a shocking secret that is only known to Hikari and her husband.

Viewers won't have to wait too long to discover that secret, as NTV said that it would be revealed in the first episode. Asked about the role, Shibasaki praised Yukawa for his interesting script, despite her initial reservations about how to play Hikari.

Shibasaki can currently be seen on Fuji Television in Nobunaga Concerto, co-starring Oguri Shun. Maru Maru Tsuma is set to air on NTV in January 2015.

Text / Rockman

Arashi ties Oricon record for longest string of number one albums by a group

  October 29, 2014  
Johnny's group Arashi can add another accomplishment to their long list. With their latest album The Digitalian reaching number one on the Oricon weekly charts, Arashi has tied the Oricon record for longest unbroken string of number one albums in consecutive years by a male artist and a group. Released on October 22, 2014, The Digitalian sold 660,000 copies in its first week.

Arashi shares the achievement with EXILE whose 11-year streak ran from 2003 to 2013. Arashi's own streak began in 2004 with the group's fourth album, Iza, Now.

Having just returned from holding anniversary concerts in Hawaii, where the group debuted 15 years ago, Arashi is currently gearing up for their winter dome tour, Arashi Live Tour 2014 "The Digitalian". The group is also set to host NHK's annual music extravaganza Kohaku Uta Gassen for the fifth time, the most for a non-NHK announcer.

Text / Frood

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