With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, March 23, 2018

ALONG WITH THE GODS: THE TWO WORLDS debuting on Digital, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack & DVD on April 10

Well Go USA
Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds / Singwa hamgge
Written and Directed by KIM Yong-hwa
Starring HA Jung-woo, CHA Tae-hyun, JU Ji-hoon,
KIM Hyang-gi and LEE Jung-jae
South Korea, 2017, 140 minutes

ALONG WITH THE GODS: THE TWO WORLDS, the star-studded, action-packed fantasy epic about life, death, rebirth and the unseen forces that guide us through all, debuts on digital, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD April 10 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

After a heroic death, a firefighter navigates the afterlife with the help of three guides. Written and directed by KIM Yong-hwa (Take Off) and based on a wildly popular webcomic, the film is the third biggest box office hit of all time in Korea. ALONG WITH THE GODS: THE TWO WORLDS features an all-star cast, including HA Jung-woo (The Handmaiden), CHA Tae-hyun (My Sassy Girl), JU Ji-hoon (Asura: The City of Madness), KIM Hyang-gi (Thread of Lies) and LEE Jung-jae (Assassination). The bonus materials include behind-the-scenes footage and character intros.

After dying unexpectedly, firefighter Ja-hong is taken to the afterlife by three guardians, where only after passing seven trials and proving he lived a noble life will he be able to reincarnate.

Bonus Materials:
-- Behind the Scenes
-- Character Intro
-- Teaser Trailer
-- Main Trailer

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

UGETSU will be shown at Japan Society NY on Friday, April 6th

Japan Society NY
Ugetsu © 1953 Kadokawa
Ugetsu / Ugetsu Monogatari
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
With Machiko Kyo, Mitsuko Mito, Kinuyo Tanaka, Masayuki Mori
Japan, 1953, 94 minutes
DCP, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles

When: Friday, April 6th at 7:00 PM
Where: Japan Society NY
333 East 47th Street, NYC
Tickets: $13/$10 seniors & students / $5 Japan Society members

This new 4K restoration of Kenji Mizoguchi's towering masterpiece offers viewers an opportunity to appreciate the nuance of cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa's exquisite images. A haunting and elegant fable about the illusory nature of desire set during the civils wars of Japan's 16th century, Ugetsu seamlessly weaves reality and fantasy together with painterly images that unfurl like scenes from an emaki scroll. Among the film's many breathtaking moments, the waterfront picnic between a potter and the ghost of a noblewoman is reportedly the only scene Miyagawa shot for Mizoguchi (out of eight total films) for which the famously stone-faced director complimented him.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

ICHI THE KILLER reviewed; available today from Well Go USA

Well Go USA
Ichi the Killer / Koroshiya 1
Directed by Takashi Miike
Japan,  2001, 130 minutes

Takashi Miike’s classic yakuza gore-fest Ichi the Killer becomes available today in a gorgeous all-new 4K digital transfer special edition approved by Miike himself. The film can also be seen on big screens in select cities across the country. (Visit http://wellgousa.com/theatrical/ichi-the-killer for theater and ticket information.)

Based on Hideo Yamamoto’s manga series of the same name, Ichi the Killer stars Tadanobu Asano (47 Ronin, The Taste of Tea, Party 7) as Kakihara, a sado-masochistic yakuza who is manipulated into fighting other gangs in the wake of his boss's disappearance. The titular character, Ichi, is played by Nao Ă”mori (R100). The film also features actor/directors Shin'ya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo, the Iron Man and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, Gemini, Nightmare Detective), and SABU (Non-Stop, Postman Blues, Monday).

I first saw Ichi at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's "Focus on New Japanese Cinema" film series early in 2002. In my review in Asian Cult Cinema (number 35, second quarter 2002, page 62), I likened watching it to "having a powerful multi-stage rocket shoved up your ass and ignited. Imagine an incredibly gory yakuza splatterfest, done with the exuberant energy of Hong Kong Cinema at its finest and state of the art special effects; you'll begin to have an idea of what Ichi the Killer is like."

Well, the special effects still hold up and my high opinion of the film hasn't changed after subsequent viewings, including Well Go's new Blu-ray edition.

In the 15th Anniversary Issue of Asian Cult Cinema magazine (1st quarter 2008), Ichi ranked #1 in the "ACC Readers' Poll of Guilty Pleasures" (page 62). In my column in that issue (page 34) I ranked it a very close 2nd to Aachi and Ssipak, the also fabulous and mind-blowing South Korean animated feature film.

The bottom line is that Ichi the Killer is a must have and this 4K Blu-ray really does the film justice.

Bonus content:
-- Audio Commentary with director Takashi Miike & manga artist/writer Hideo Yamamoto
-- Still gallery
-- Trailer

AsianCineFest Rating: 4 out of 4 stars; most highly recommended

[Note: This new release from Well Go USA has the title in black letters, as seen in the image at the top of this review. Previously the film was available from Tokyo Shock, with the title in white letters and a slightly different image of Tadanobu Asano.]

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ryoo Seung-wan's THE BATTLESHIP ISLAND is available on DVD

CJ Entertainment
The Battleship Island / Gun-ham-do
Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan
South Korea, 2017, 132 minutes

The Battleship Island, a historical war film from director Ryoo Seung-wan (Veteran, The Berlin File) is currently out on DVD. The film stars Hwang Jung-min (Ode to My Father, The Himalayas), So Ji-sub (Always, Sophie’s Revenge), Song Joong-ki (Descendants of the Sun, A Werewolf Boy), and Lee Jung-hyun (Alice in Earnestland, Roaring Currents).

The Battleship Island is based on a true story during WWII when Korea was under the colonial rule of Japan. In 1944, 400 conscripted Korean civilians head out to Hashima Island. Nicknamed “The Battleship Island” after its resemblance to a war vessel, many were lured by false promises of high wages. Upon arrival, they found that workers are forced into slave labor.

As the U.S. launches a massive counterattack on Japan, the Japanese decide to blow up the island in order to bury the truth about their awful treatment of the Korean slave labors. A Korean independence activist discovers the plan and works with others on the island for a mass escape.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

RAMEN HEADS Opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday, March 16, 2018; wider rollout to follow

Gunpowder & Sky
Ramen Heads
Directed by Koki Shigeno
Japan, 2017, 93 minutes

In Ramen Heads, Japan's reigning king of ramen, Osamu Tomita takes audiences deep into his world by revealing every single step of his obsessive approach to creating the perfect soup and noodles along with his relentless search for the highest-quality ingredients.

In addition to Tomita, the film also profiles five other notable ramen shops, each with its own philosphy and flavor, exemplifying the various different aspects of the ramen world. Mixing in a brief rundown of ramen's historical roots, the film gives viewers an in-depth look at the culture surrounding the unique and beguiling dish.

Opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday, March 16

11272 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

657 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019

Also opening in:
Berkeley, CA - March 23
Santa Barbara, CA - March 23
Washington DC - March 23
Boston, MA - April 6
Lubbock, TX - April 18
Santa Fe, NM - April 20
Houston, TX - April 25
El Paso, TX - April 25
Colombus, OH - April 27
Dallas, TX - May 8
Kansas City, MO - May 23

For further information, go to the official Ramen Heads website.