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Jackie Chan teams up with Hollywood star for new Chinese historical epic

  April 23, 2014  
At a press conference in Beijing last week, famed action star Jackie Chan announced the production commencement of the new period actioner Dragon Blade helmed by Hong Kong director Daniel Lee.

Dragon Blade will give the world a peek into an enticing chapter of ancient Chinese history. Inspired by documented evidence of Roman descendants and ruins in a village in the province of Gansu in northwestern China, the film will star Chan as a commander in the Han Dynasty who encounters a Roman general in the Gobi Desert played by an as-yet-unnamed A-list Hollywood star.

As the first film investment of the Beijing Cultural Assets Chinese Film & Television Fund, the epic drama is backed by a generous budget and an expert crew. It will be shot in 3D in Dunhuang and the Gobi Desert.

The worldwide theatrical release for Dragon Blade is set for February 19, 2015 to align with the Chinese New Year season.

Text / Ivy Wong

Maggie Cheung to make debut at Chinese music festival

  April 17, 2014  
Music label Music Sky revealed earlier that renowned actress Maggie Cheung has been signed under the company, and is about to make her music debut at the Strawberry Music Festival in Beijing and Shanghai in early May.

According to the statement, Maggie is the lead singer of a five-piece band based in Beijing and they have been making preparations for their 40-minute gigs at the Strawberry Music Festival, one of China's biggest outdoor music festivals, where Maggie will perform her own works. Some other artists who will appear at the show include Anthony Wong, Crowd Lu and Song Dong Ye.

Since her career started in 1984, the 49-year-old award-winning actress has participated in more than 70 films to date. The international star showcased her low-pitch vocals and distinctive music style at a fashion show two years ago. She has also published a number of songs that were included in the soundtrack of 2004's Clean.

Text / Ivy Wong

Eita, Tsumabuki Satoshi, Mitsushima Hikari to star in television drama remake

  April 15, 2014  
To celebrate its 55th anniversary, Fuji Television is bringing together a stellar cast of talented young actors for a remake of hit television series Wakamonotachi.

Produced in 1966, Wakamonotachi chronicles the trials and tribulations of five siblings who lost their parents at a young age. With no one to rely on but each other, family deals with various social issues such as the student movement, poverty and Japan's post-war trauma.

Written by Muto Shogo (Family Game, the 2014 remake is expected to take a similar approach by tackling issues affecting Japan today. The five siblings are being played by Tsumabuki Satoshi (as the eldest son), Eita, Mitsushima Hikari, Emoto Tasuku and Nomura Shohei. Aoi Yu, Hashimoto Ai and Yoshioka Hidetaka are also in the drama with supporting roles.

Produced by Ishii Koji, the 2014 version Wakamonotachi is set to air on Fuji Television in summer 2014.

Text / Rockman

Jang Dong Gun in action film from the director of The Man From Nowhere

  April 14, 2014  
Korean superstar Jang Dong Gun stars as a hitman in the upcoming action film The Crying Man from director Lee Jeong Beom, whose last film The Man From Nowhere was both a critical and commercial success. The first teaser trailer and posters for The Crying Man were recently released. The trailer reveals the film's dark, moody tone and visuals as well as plentiful action scenes including shootouts, a car chase and a building explosion.

In the film, Jang Dong Gun plays a veteran professional killer struggling between feelings of guilt and the need to fulfill his mission. His latest target is a woman named Mo Kyung played by Kim Min Hee (Very Ordinary Couple).

The Crying Man opens in Korea in June.

Text / Sanwei

Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster sweeps the 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards

  April 14, 2014  
Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster swept a record-breaking 12 awards at the 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards on April 13, 2014. Adding to her long list of accolades for her role as Gong Er, Zhang Ziyi took home her second Best Actress title at the award after her 2005 win with 2046. Unbeatable star Nick Cheung managed to beat Tony Leung to receive Best Actor, also his second at the HKFA following 2009's Beast Stalker.

Winning 12 out of the 14 categories it was nominated in, the epic martial arts drama The Grandmaster took Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Action Choreography. Wong's longtime collaborator William Chang received Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Costume & Make Up Design. Mainland actor Max Zhang also beat Eddie Peng and Huang Bo to scoop Best Supporting Actor.

Juno Mak's Rigor Mortis landed Best Visual Effects and brought a Best Supporting Actress award to Kara Hui. Adam Wong's youthful dance film The Way We Dance, a surprise hit in Hong Kong last year, continued its fairy tale run with three wins: Best New Director, Best New Performer for new star Babyjohn Choi and Best Original Song.

The HKFA also honored famed director Chang Hsin Yen, the mentor of Jet Li, with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his longtime contributions to the martial arts genre in Hong Kong cinema.

Text / Garden
Translation / Ivy Wong

Miura Haruma to star in live-action Attack on Titan film

  April 9, 2014  
Popular young actor Miura Haruma has been cast in the lead role of the highly anticipated Attack on Titan live-action adaptation.

Even though the film's production company did not announce which role Haruma will take up, it did reveal that the role will be physically demanding with a lot of action scenes.

Director Higuchi Shinji (The Sinking of Japan) is set to begin production on the two-part sci-fi epic in the summer of 2014 on the uninhabited island of Hashima in Nagasaki Prefecture, previously a coal mining facility up to the early 1970s.

In addition to Miura, character designer Sadamoto Yoshiyuki (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Summer Wars) is also joining the production.

Text / Rockman

Eddie Peng and Ethan Ruan star in Dante Lam's new cycling movie

  April 9, 2014  
Director Dante Lam's latest movie To the Fore, a cycling drama starring Taiwan actors Eddie Peng and Ethan Ruan and Hong Kong actor Carlos Chan, will commence shooting in June.

Inspired by Hong Kong's cycling medalists Wong Kam Po and Sarah Lee, the film sees Lam again tackling the sports genre after the mixed martial arts drama Unbeatable. At the film's press conference on March 26, Lam revealed that he would put the stars through intensive athletic training in hopes of bringing out their best performances.

The film's shooting will take place in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Italy.

Text / Ivy Wong

Wang Tong's latest work stars Ang Lee's son

  April 2, 2014  
With a budget of NTD$1.6 billion, six-time Golden Horse-winning director Wang Tong's latest film Once Upon a Time in Taiwan will star Mason Lee, the son of auteur Ang Lee, as the supporting actor alongside Tony Yang, George Hu, Amber Kuo and Alice Ko.

American-born Mason Lee, who previously appeared in the Hollywood movie The Hangover Part II, will try his hands at a Chinese historical epic for the first time. Despite speaking fluent Mandarin, Mason admitted to still having trouble understanding what others are saying in Mandarin.

Once Upon a Time in Taiwan is set against the backdrop of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 when veteran soldiers from China flooded into the island of Taiwan. Tony Yang plays a young military officer and Alice Ko stars as his wife and they weave a heartbreaking romance during chaotic times. George Hu will play a soldier who follows Tony Yang from the Mainland to Taiwan.

The movie has begun its shooting in Beijing and Chiayi, Taiwan. The film is set to release in spring 2015.

Text / Ivy Wong

Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster sweeps top awards at 2014 Asian Film Awards

  March 28, 2014  
Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster swept seven awards at the 8th Asian Film Awards held in Macau on March 27. The martial arts epic won Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Composer, Best Production Designer and Best Costume Designer. Zhang Ziyi picked up her seventh Best Actress award for her role in the film.

India's Irrfan Khan beat out Tony Leung and Song Kang Ho to take Best Actor for The Lunchbox, which also won Best Screenwriter. Best Supporting Actor and Actress went to No Man's Land's Huang Bo and Ilo Ilo's Yeo Yann Yann, respectively, while So Young's Jiang Shuying was named Best Newcomer. Korean films Cold Eyes and Mr. Go picked up the technical prizes Best Editor and Best Visual Effects, respectively.

This year the Asian Film Award Academy also gave special Outstanding Asian Actor and Asian Actress prizes to Donnie Yen and Carina Lau, while Korean actor Kim Nam Gil and Japanese actress Kuriyama Chiaki received the Rising Star of Asia awards. Legendary Taiwan director Hou Hsiao Hsien was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Text / Sanwei

Media Asia unveils high-profile projects at 2014 Hong Kong FilMart

  March 26, 2014  
Hong Kong's Media Asia unleashed a slate of high-profile projects on March 24, the first day of Hong Kong FilMart.

The continuation of the 2011 hit romantic comedy, Johnnie To's Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 brings back Louis Koo as a womanizer who can't commit to one woman. This time, Miriam Yeung and Vic Chou join the cast.

Lawrence Cheng returns to the director's chair for the first time since 1994's He and She with Break Up 100, starring Ekin Cheng and Chrissie Chau. The romantic comedy is about a pair of on-and-off lovers who may break up for the 100th time.

After surprise hit The Way We Dance, Adam Wong is directing romantic drama She Remembers, He Forgets, loosely based on the famous Alan Tam song "The Root of Love." The film is co-produced by Teddy Robin.

Set to begin production in June is the feature film continuation of hit television series Triumph in the Skies, co-directed by Wilson Yip and his Bullets Over Summer co-writer Matt Chow. In addition to Francis Ng and Julian Cheung returning, Louis Koo is also joining the cast of the Media Asia-TVB co-production.

After their award-winning thriller Cold War, directors Sunny Luk and Longman Leung are now on post-production for the big-budget terrorism thriller Helios about a nuclear weapon crisis that breaks out in Hong Kong. The film stars Jacky Cheung, Nick Cheung, Shawn Yue, Chang Chen and Janice Man.

Leon Lai is involved in two major projects. He is making his feature film directorial debut with Wine War, starring Zhang Hanyu, and he is producing animated film Monkey King: Reloaded.

Also announced at the ceremony was director Andrew Lau's sequel to the live-action adaptation of Initial D, but the company did not provide further details.

See photos from Media Asia press conference on YesAsia Facebook.

Text / Rockman

ICAC crime thriller Z Storm to open summer 2014

  March 26, 2014  
The upcoming Hong Kong film Z Storm was presented at a press conference held on March 24 at Hong Kong FilMart. Director David Lam, producer John Chong, Pegasus Movie executive producer Raymond Wong and the film's main cast including Louis Koo and Gordon Lam introduced the crime thriller which aligns with the 40th anniversary of the founding of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption), Hong Kong's law enforcement agency that investigates corruption and operates independently from the police and civil service.

ICAC is a staple of Hong Kong television thanks to a long running series of RTHK-produced television mini-dramas based on actual corruption cases. Louis Koo, who himself previously starred in the 1997 TVB ICAC procedural I Can't Accept Corruption, noted during the press conference, however, that the topic is actually rarely covered in films. In Z Storm, Louis Koo will again play an ICAC officer locked in a battle of wits with Gordon Lam over a massive financial fraud case. The film's cast includes Stephen Au, Philip Keung, Derek Tsang, Michael Wong, Lo Hoi Pang, Joe Cheung and Felix Lok as well as actresses Dada Chan and Janelle Sing.

Z Storm marks the return of director David Lam, whose last film was 1999's Street Angels. Lam revealed that he actually worked at the ICAC for six years so he's very familiar with insider stories and the workings of the agency.

Z Storm is set to open in summer 2014.

See photos from Z Storm press conference on YesAsia Facebook.

Text / Sanwei

Pang Ho Cheung's Aberdeen makes world premiere at 38th HKIFF

  March 26, 2014  
On March 24, Hong Kong hitmaker Pang Ho Cheung unveiled his latest outing Aberdeen at a press conference, followed by its premiere at the 38th Hong Kong International Film Festival. Louis Koo, Miriam Yeung, Gigi Leung, Ng Man Tat and other cast members also attended the press conference and premiere.

Pang revealed that Aberdeen is inspired by his personal experience as he felt the need to give voice to the unexplainable distance between family members. He also transformed his childhood fantasies into reality in the movie including creating a model of the old town of North Point – which gets destroyed in a fantasy Godzilla attack scene (with the director himself in the monster suit) – and a 20-meter-long beached whale.

Taking five years to come into fruition, the heartwarming family drama set in the Hong Kong town of Aberdeen tells a story across three generations of the Cheng family. Returning to Hong Kong cinema, Ng Man Tat plays the widower patriarch whose romance with a club hostess (Carrie Ng) strains his relationship with his children, played by Miriam Yeung and Louis Koo. Eric Tsang and Miriam Yeung portray a married couple whose marriage is scarred by extramarital affairs and childhood traumas. Louis Koo is a celebrity tutor whose constant ribbing about the average looks of his young daughter reveals deeper insecurities and mistrust between him and his middle-aged model wife, played by Gigi Leung.

Aberdeen opens in theaters in Hong Kong, Mainland China, North America, Australia and New Zealand on May 8.

See photos from the Aberdeen press conference and premiere on YesAsia Facebook.

Text / Ivy Wong

Yoo In Na to star in Chinese movie Wedding Bible

  March 24, 2014  
Riding on the popularity of the Korean drama You Who Came From the Stars in China, Yoo In Na is set to make her Chinese film debut in Wedding Bible. She will be collaborating with director Heo In Moo for the second time after Little Black Dress.

Wedding Bible is a romantic comedy about the love of two couples and shooting for the film will take place in both Korea and China. Starring opposite Taiwanese-Canadian actor Godfrey Gao (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), Yoo will play an overseas-educated elite who returns to Shanghai from the UK. The other couple will be portrayed by Deng Jiajia (iPartment series) and Ahn Jae Hyun, who played Jeon Ji Hyun's younger brother in You Who Came From the Stars.

Text / Ivy Wong

Hyun Bin makes comeback in The Fatal Encounter

  March 18, 2014  
Over a year since his discharge from the marines, Hyun Bin will return to screens in the upcoming historical film The Fatal Encounter (a.k.a. The King's Wrath). Taking on the first period role of his career, the popular Korean Wave star plays King Jeongjo or Yi San, the 22nd monarch of the Joseon Dynasty.

Experiencing great tumult before and throughout his reign, King Jeongjo (1752-1800), whose life also inspired the 2007 television biopic Yi San, rose from the son of an executed crown prince to become one of Korea's greatest rulers. The Fatal Encounter is set during the first year of Jeongjo's reign when the young king, branded the son of a traitor, faced great challenges securing his throne against scheming political factions that wanted him dead.

Hyun Bin is surrounded by an all-star cast that includes Jung Jae Young (Confession of Murder) and Jo Jung Suk (The Face Reader) as undercover assassins among the king's royal guards, Han Ji Min (Rooftop Prince) as the powerful Queen Jeongsun, as well as Jung Eun Chae (Nobody's Daughter Haewon), Cho Jae Hyun (Moebius) and Park Sung Woong (New World).

The Fatal Encounter is Hyun Bin's first work in three years. It also marks the feature debut of television director Lee Jae Gyu whose hit dramas include The King 2 Hearts, Beethoven Virus and Damo.

The Fatal Encounter opens in Korea on April 30.

Text / Sanwei

NHK casts first non-Japanese star for new morning drama

  March 14, 2014  
For the first time in its 50-plus-year history, the NHK morning drama (known as "Asadora") will have a non-Japanese heroine.

Beating out 500 other actresses, 28-year-old American actress Charlotte Kate Fox has been chosen to play the lead role in Massan, based on the true story of Taketsuru Masataka, the founder of Japan's whiskey industry. Charlotte is set to play Masataka's Scottish wife Rita, renamed as Ellie in the series.

Written by Habara Daisuke (Hula Girl), the first half of the 150-episode drama – running 15 minutes each – concentrates on Masataka's journey to Scotland to learn about making whiskey and his encounter with Eille. The second half of the series will be about their life in Japan as they try to start their whiskey business in Hokkaido.

In a rare Asadora male starring role (Asadoras usually center on the adventures of a female protagonist), Tamayama Tetsuji (Norwegian Wood) stars as Masataka.

The pair will spend ten months shooting Massan, which begins airing on NHK in September.

Text / Rockman

miwa to make acting debut in Maestro

  March 14, 2014  
Japanese singer-songwriter miwa announced at a concert in Tokyo that she is making her acting debut in Maestro, the live-action adaptation of the manga by Saso Akira.

Miwa plays Amane, a brilliant flutist who was part of an orchestra that was forced to disband after its sponsor went bankrupt. Under the guidance of an eccentric, mysterious conductor (played by Nishida Toshiyuki), the orchestra reunites and takes the stage once again. The film also co-stars Matsuzaka Tori as a fellow orchestra member.

The film is directed by Kobayashi Shotaro (Kaasan Mom's Life) and it is set to go into production this week in Japan.

Text / Rockman

Jackie Chan's K-pop boy band JJCC to debut mid-March

  March 14, 2014  
The first teaser for the new Korean boy band JJCC, or Double JC, formed by internationally renowned action star Jackie Chan was released today following the unveiling of the member lineup on March 12.

Available on JJCC's official YouTube page, the music video teaser for the title song "Everyone Is Like This At First" shows four of the members walking in an abandoned warehouse.

JJCC consists of four Korean members SimBa, E.co, EDDY and San Cheong and Australian-Chinese Prince Mok, all of whom are in their early 20s and are all-round artists who can compose, sing and dance, according to the agency's representative. The band's name is a double acronym for "joining cultures," which signifies the group's effort to bring cultures together in Asia as well as to be the voice of music in the region.

Chan has been involved in talent recruitment in recent years after seeing the great potential of K-pop. He reportedly took part in the group's audition and training process and is managing the team.

Text / Ivy Wong

Great Passage wins big at Japan Academy Prize

  March 14, 2014  
Japan's representative at the Academy Awards may have lost the race for the Best Foreign Film award, but it became the top winner at the Japan Academy Prize this past weekend.

Ishii Yuya's comedy-drama The Great Passage, about a group of editors' long journey to compile a new dictionary, won a total of six grand prizes, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (star Matsuda Ryuhei) and Best Screenplay.

Actress Maki Yoko was also a big winner, becoming only the second person in the history of the awards to win two acting grand prizes in the same year: the Best Actress grand prize for The Ravine of Goodbye and the Best Supporting Actress grand prize for Kore-eda Hirokazu's Like Father Like Son. Lily Franky won the Best Supporting Actor prize for his role as Maki's husband in Kore-eda's film.

For the fourth time since the category was established in 2007, Studio Ghibli won the grand prize for Best Animated Film with Miyazaki Hayao's The Wind Rises. The hit animated biopic also won the grand prize for Best Score. Les Miserables won the grand prize for Best Foreign Film.

Text / Rockman

Aberdeen and Midnight After to open 38th HKIFF

  March 14, 2014  
The Hong Kong International Film Festival recently unveiled its selections for its 38th edition, and it is opening with two highly anticipated local films: Fruit Chan's The Midnight After and Pang Ho Cheung's Aberdeen.

Based on a popular Internet novel, The Midnight After is a sci-fi thriller about 17 mini-van passengers who find a deserted Hong Kong after traveling through a tunnel. Starring Wong Yau Nam, Janice Man, Simon Yam, Tsui Tien You and Sam Lee, the film recently had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Almost a decade in the works, Pang Ho Cheung's Aberdeen is a sprawling drama about a Hong Kong family and the troubles each member faces in their respective lives. The star-studded film features Louis Koo, Gigi Leung, Miriam Yeung, Eric Tsang, Ng Man Tat, Carrie Ng, Chapman To and Dada Chan.

The festival will also host the world or Asian premieres of many high-profile Asian films, including omnibus Three Charmed Lives – featuring shorts directed by actors Francis Ng, Jung Woo Sung and Chang Chen – Silver Bear winner Black Coal, Thin Ice, Lou Ye's Blind Massage, sex comedy Naked Ambition 3D, renowned writer Chip Tsao's directorial debut Enthralled, Jessey Tsang's documentary Flowing Stories, Tsai Ming Liang's Journey to the West and Hong Kong indie film Dot 2 Dot.

This year, Beautiful 2014, the latest installment in the short film anthology co-produced by HKIFF and Chinese video site Youku, will feature new short films by South Korea's Kang Je Gyu (Shiri), cinematographer Christopher Doyle, China's Zhang Yuan (Beijing Flickers) and Hong Kong film critic Shu Kei.

Ahead of the release of Gone with the Bullets in December, the festival is holding a small retrospective dedicated to Jiang Wen's directorial efforts. In addition to The Sun Also Rises and Devils on the Doorstep, the festival is also hosting the local premiere of the remastered print of Jiang's 1994 classic In the Heat of the Sun.

As previously announced, Dante Lam's That Demon Within is serving as the festival's closing film.

The 38th Hong Kong International Film Festival will be held from March 24th to April 7th, 2014.

Text / Rockman

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