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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

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

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

Filming begins on blockbuster thriller The Ghouls

  August 25, 2014  
Filming has begun on Chinese blockbuster The Ghouls, based on the immensely popular online novel series Ghost Blows Out the Light by Zhang Muye (a.k.a. Tian Xia Ba Chang). The original story is told from the point of view of Hu Bayi, a former soldier turned grave robber who traverses throughout China looking for hidden treasure with his friend Wang Kaixuan. When the grave robbers come to be afflicted by a mysterious curse, they team up with Chinese-American archaeologist Shirley Yang to search for clues that will help them break the curse.

Directed by Wuershan (Painted Skin: The Resurrection) and produced by Chen Kuo Fu, the film is one of two competing adaptations of Ghost Blows Out the Light; the other will be directed by Lu Chuan. The Ghouls' all-star cast includes Aloys Chen (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate) as Hu Bayi, Huang Bo (Lost In Thailand) as Wang Kaixuan, Shu Qi (Journey To The West: Conquering the Demons) as Shirley Yang and Angelababy (Tai Chi 0) as Hu Bayi's first love.

The film is set to be released in China on December 18, 2015.

Text / Frood

3D Doraemon film moves audiences in Japan

  August 22, 2014  
With one feature film release a year, the Doraemon animated film franchise has been one of the most consistently profitable anime series in Japan. Despite coming just several months after the previous Doraemon animated adventure, a new film featuring the futuristic robotic cat and his human friends has brought audiences into cinemas across Japan – and it's not only because of the 3D.

Co-directed by Yamazaki Takashi and Yagi Ryuichi, who last collaborated on Friends – Naki on the Monster Island, Stand By Me Doraemon has earned over US$30 million after being in the cinemas for just ten days, already making it one of the highest-grossing Japanese films this year. Produced to commemorate the 80th anniversary of co-author Fujiko F. Fujio's birth, Stand By Me is the first film in the franchise to be produced in computer-generated animation.

Unlike the other animated Doraemon adventures, which were based on special extended one-off issues of the manga, Stand By Me is based on seven popular episodes from the original manga, including first episode Mirai no Koku kara Harubaru to, two episodes about Nobita's love story with Shizuka and Sayonara Doraemon. According to a survey conducted on the film's opening weekend, the film attracted audiences of all ages, from children to nostalgic adults in their 40s.

The film's producers announced last week that distribution rights for Stand By Me has already been sold to 21 regions around the world, including South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain and Italy.

Text / Rockman

Roaring Currents breaks Korea's all time box office record

  August 20, 2014  
Historical blockbuster The Admiral: Roaring Currents has become Korea's most watched film of all time with over 15 million admissions and box office gross of over 110 billion won to date. The film passed the 13.6 million ticket sales of previous record holder Avatar on August 16, and became the first film ever to cross 15 million admissions at the Korean box office on August 19.

Directed by Kim Han Min, whose previous period actioner War of the Arrows was also a big hit, The Admiral: Roaring Currents stars Choi Min Sik as 16th century admiral Yi Sun Shin, one of the most revered national heroes of Korean history. Set in 1597, the film focuses on the storied Battle of Myeongnyang in which Yi led a fleet of 12 warships to victory over an invading Japanese fleet of over 100 warships. Ryu Seung Ryong, who played the leader of the Mongolian invaders in War of the Arrows, co-stars in Roaring Currents as the opposing Japanese navy commander Gurujima.

Roaring Currents opened on July 30 and promptly set new records for first day, single day, opening weekend and opening week box office in South Korea. The film needed only 12 days to reach the ten million admissions benchmark and 21 days to reach 15 million admissions. Without the benefit of 3D ticket prices, Roaring Currents is still behind Avatar's 124.9 billion won in all-time box office gross, but it is likely to beat that record soon as well.

Text / Sanwei

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

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

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